Transformations - Chapter 14

They had left him alone, and Giles understood perfectly well why: he was meant to be rescued, and to tell. Moira, who loved Slayers, was meant to see his condition and take it as warning--of what acts Helena had become capable, of what fate surely awaited Buffy. Giles himself possessed no illusions: the mad vampire had ordered her minions not to hurt his dear girl, and yet the pure cruelty of her own demonic nature could only cause him concern. She frightened him, as he was meant to be frightened.

That Moira should in fact stay entirely clear of this must be the only logical course of action; that she, or Giles himself, or any of them, should not attempt a rescue was utterly impossible. They could no more leave Buffy in Helena's hands than they could have left Willow in Mayor Richard Wilkins III's. Then, Giles's rational mind had known Wesley to be utterly correct. In war, regrettable as it was, even the best and bravest of soldiers at times were lost--but his rational mind no longer, apparently, ruled him.

The box of Gavrok ought to have been destroyed, at any cost, and yet, with sweet Willow's life in the balance neither he, nor his young friends, could have acted otherwise. If death and fear, pain and destruction, followed, Giles could still, in his heart, not find the price too high. For Willow, lovely Willow, with her kind nature and buoyant spirits, to have suffered and died was unconscionable. Shameful as it might be, for her to have lived meant more to him than that others, not so dear, had been lost.

His kids, at times, had thought him devoid of feeling. Giles knew otherwise. He wasn't fit to be a Watcher, either under the Council's current state of corruption, or under their old, stern rule, that sometimes seemed harsh and unfeeling, but was, in fact, dictated by necessity. Even as a boy, he'd known he could not be as they were, and as a man, that knowledge was only confirmed: he had the learning, the skills, but not the heart for it.

And, God help him, he still hadn't.

Giles didn't think he could move, but the image of Buffy in captivity was at last enough to drive him to his feet. Once up, the room continued to dip and sway alarmingly about him, a state of affairs that, combined with shock, pain and lack of clear vision, soon made him feel quite sick. For once he was glad he hadn't eaten, though perhaps that contributed to the trouble as well.

After several false starts, Giles made his way to a wall. He followed it along, his shoulder propped against the mortared bricks for support until, at last, he managed to find an exit clear enough to allow him passage. He fell several times on his way out, tripped up by rubble that, between the dark and his own short-sightedness, he could not detect. After each of these occurrences, painful as they were, the mental picture of Buffy imprisoned, perhaps suffering, had sufficient power to force him up again.

At such a late hour and in this deserted part of town, help from a passing motorist would be too much even to wish for. Giles stumbled along the street, hoping that by some chance he would happen upon a stray callbox. He took as careful note of the street signs he passed as he could, in order to be able to pinpoint his location.

Much as he desired to storm the gates and rescue Buffy immediately, Giles knew he was in no shape to be of any use at all. The need for delay galled him, and he cursed his own weakness.

He happened across the glassed-in booth almost without realizing what it was, and for a moment, could not remember how to open the rather complicated door. Once inside, Giles found he could not read the buttons on the phone, and that he barely possessed the strength to lift the receiver to his ear.

It took all his determination to eventually do so. He managed to locate the "0" only by touch.

A voice came on the line and though Giles could not make out the words it spoke to him, he told its owner that he wished to place a collect call. He gave his own home number, the only one, at that moment, he could clearly remember--though why he expected anyone to be there, he did not know.

To his shock, someone answered, and he heard the operator ask if that person would accept a call from Rupert Giles. The person, apparently, answered in the affirmative. Giles didn't recognize the voice--couldn't actually. Large dark spots ringed in yellow light swam before his eyes and his ears rang with a noise like a dozen alarm clocks. "Alder and Grove," he rasped. "Alder and Grove."

The receiver fell from his hands and he slumped against the side of the booth, only hoping that whomever he'd spoken with had heard and understood. He hovered in the grey place.

The booth rocked as someone made an attempt to open the door, and then Giles heard the most lovely sound: Willow's voice. Sweet Willow, saying, "No, guys, do it this way."

The booth gave a little shudder and cool night air touched his face.

"Giles, can you walk?" Xander asked him. For a moment he thought he was back at the mansion, and that a great many things that had seemed real had in fact been a mingling of wonderful and terrible dreams--but then he knew this was not the case.

"Mr. Giles," Wesley Wyndham-Price was saying to him. "Mr. Giles, you must get up. We can't carry you."

Willow's soft little hand stroked his cheek, and she sighed, "Oh, Giles. Guys, you'd better call an ambulance."

"With that phone?" Xander asked. "It's all--ugh--bloody."

"I have my cell phone in my purse." Willow sounded a bit sharp with her friend.

"No, no." Giles lurched upward. "I'm fine. I'll be all right. Buffy."

"I think we need to get Giles a dictionary with a better definition of 'fine,'" Xander said, drawing Giles's uninjured arm around his shoulders, while his own arm went round Giles's waist. Willow held up his injured hand very gently, her touch so light that it could hardly be felt. "There's no way we're gonna be able to get him into the van."

Clever Willow worked out a way, seating him on the edge of the opened rear area, and more or less rolling him inside. "Wesley, can you drive?" she asked.


Giles heard the engine start, as Willow and Xander tugged him into the open cargo space, allowing him to lie on the floor. The door slammed shut, and then the van was in motion, the vibration going painfully through his bones. He could imagine Wesley's consternation when he discovered all the blood permanently soaked into the carpeting of his newish vehicle.

"Xander, you hold the flashlight," Willow said. Her hand covered Giles's eyes from the brightness as she rolled him, with some effort, onto his left side.

"Okay," Xander said, "Oh, yuck. Now I'm gonna barf."

"Don't you dare," Willow told him, snapping open a First Aid kit. Something stung against the back of Giles's head and then a pad pressed to the wound. "Xander, I need you to hold this."

"And the flashlight?"

"And the flashlight," Willow answered. "You have two hands." With the same gentleness, she took Giles's injured hand by the wrist, splashed on some of the stinging stuff and pressed the wound firmly with another pad of gauze. "Wesley," she said, "Speeding might be a good idea at this point."

Giles shut his eyes. The grey place came over him again.

He woke feeling utterly wretched in a bright white room, and groaned, knowing from experience that such awakenings never meant anything good. Willow slept in a chair beside him, her legs tucked up beneath her, her cheek on the edge of his bed, so that her lovely, fiery hair spilled over his shoulder.

His slight motion woke her at once, and she gazed down on him, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Giles? How are you?"

He tried to speak and found that he couldn't. Willow spooned crushed ice into his mouth, and he settled back, letting it melt on his tongue.

"They shaved a little space on the back of your head. Like a monk's thing. What's that called?"

"A tonsure," he managed, in a weak, rasping voice.

"I knew you'd know. I was trying to remember." Willow touched his cheek with the backs of her fingers. Her hand trembled, and the threat of tears brightened her eyes. "You were in surgery for hours. For your hand. They think they got everything put back together, but you have to be really careful, about infection, or shaking something loose, or anything. They gave you a lot of blood, and you're on stuff now, for the pain." She fed him a little more ice. "They said it would make you thirsty, but that's not a bad, because you're supposed to drink lots anyway. You have a pretty nasty concussion, too. Good thing you have such a hard head; you should see the dent in your wall."

"Willow," he whispered, and tears started to leak from his eyes. He felt so weak, and so horrible, and yet there was so much to be done.

"Oh, Giles, we'll get her back." Willow wiped his face gently with a tissue. "We'll come up with a plan, and we'll get her." She had begun to cry too, and she flung herself across his chest--which, even with her slight weight, hurt abominably--and flung her arms round his neck. "We will," Willow sobbed. "We will."

As well as he could, Giles lifted her away, forcing himself to sit. The room spun, and his sight kept alternating between doubles and trebles.

"Ooh," Willow told him, guessing at his intent. "You're not really s'posed to do that. And besides, you don't have any clothes except for your hospital gown thingy." She pushed him back easily; a baby could have done it. "Lie still, and I'll call everybody together, and we'll come up with a plan, okay?" Keeping one eye upon him to make sure he obeyed, Willow picked up the telephone receiver, dialing from memory.

Giles was too dizzy to keep track of her brief conversation; his head pounded. However was he going to manage? Buffy in danger, and he could only lie here, uselessly.

"Okay," she told him, "I sent out the bat-signal. They--" She fell silent as a nurse entered to take his vital signs.

"Try to relax," the nurse told Giles when she'd finished, shooting him a sympathetic look. "From that pulse, I'd think you were halfway through running a marathon. You're safe, and your daughter's here. It's okay." She left, her sensible shoes squeaking faintly on the linoleum.

"I'm your daughter," Willow whispered. "Xander's your son. Moira's our mom. `Cause, you know, of the red hair." She paused, then said, "Actually, it's weird how Xander and Moira do look alike, a little bit. They have kinda the same profile."

"Celtic blood," Giles murmured. "What's Wesley? My long lost brother?"

"Uh, your lawyer." Willow laughed. "I know, I know. You need a better lawyer."

The nurse returned a few moments later with something in a syringe, which despite Giles's protests she shot in through the odd little twisted nozzle-thing that led into his drip.

"What's that you're giving him?" Willow asked the nurse.

"Something to calm him down. His vitals were off the charts. Did he try to get up?"

Willow nodded.

"Big no-no, Mr. Giles. Lie still, and let the medicine do its work." She whisked out again.

"They always speak as if one were five years old," Giles grumbled. Whatever the nurse had added, he could feel it moving through his blood, spreading a false, dead calm over his panic. He fumbled for the button that would raise the head of his bed. At least, sitting, he felt marginally more in control.

"I know." Willow slipped her hand into his, her thumb caressing his palm in circles. "But she's right: you were hurt really bad, and you need some time to get better."

"We haven't any time," he answered.

"I know it seems that way," Willow said.

Giles lay quietly, trying to discover some hidden resource of energy where he knew none existed, thinking of magic, the only possible course of action he could see to escape this terrible situation. He began to shiver, and Willow unfolded the blanket to cover him, tucking it in tightly about his shoulders--but it wasn't cold that made him shudder, or not precisely. Any magic he summoned that was strong enough to be effective might be a case of the cure being worse than the disease, and what if, in his current state, he couldn't control it? Would Moira be able to step in?

The door opened with a soft creak. Xander, Wesley and Moira entered. Xander took a place by Willow's side, his hand resting on Giles's shoulder. Moira bent down to kiss his brow, then straightened, her expression bleak, as if she'd already guessed what he must reveal to her.

"Uh, here," Xander said, "I almost forgot." He took Giles's glasses from his shirt pocket, unfolding the stems. With his good hand, Giles put them on. Though still multiple, the images leaped into focus.

"Thank you, Xander," he said.

Moira moved to a position by the end of the bed, her posture terribly upright, the stance of someone braced for an unavoidable blow. Wesley lingered near the door, as if not exactly sure of his welcome, but Giles caught his eyes.

"Come in, Wesley," he said. "You are part of this team."

The younger Watcher nearly smiled, and he moved quietly to Moira's side, slipping his arm round her waist. Her eyes were dark, hooded, and yet she moved a bit closer to Wesley, as if welcoming the comfort he offered.

"First," Giles told them, "I must thank you all. I couldn't have made it any further, and the rescue was much appreciated."

Willow squeezed his hand a little; the others nodded.

"Last night--" Giles began.

"Uh, night before," Xander told him. "You've been out awhile."

"Buffy attempted a solo rescue. She was taken at The Factory, and is now being held either there, or at some unknown location. I was intended as bait to catch her, but she is not her captors' ultimate prize."

"Do you--" Wesley cleared his throat. "Do you know her captors' identity, Mr. Giles?"

"One, I knew by sight. Moira--"

"It was Helena, wasn't it?" Moira murmured, her expression more bleak than Giles had before seen it. "My Helena?"

"I'm sorry, Em," he answered.

She ran her long fingers over the bedrail, scowling in the general direction of Giles's feet, and then, all at once, folded, before Wesley had so much as an instant to react. By instinct, he tried to stop her fall, but his recent injuries threw him off balance, and they fell together into a heap on the floor.

"Dammit, Xander!" Wesley snapped. "Give a hand, won't you?"

"Oh! Sure!" The boy hurried over, got Wesley to his feet and then bent for Moira. It appeared to take all their combined strength to raise her--for she, who never wept, was sobbing wretchedly, horribly, as if she might never be able to stop again.

Giles felt a deep sorrow move through him--and guilt, about the things that, in his anger, he'd said to Moira in his kitchen. He'd known she loved Helena more than she had words to express. That time, so recent, really, seemed like ages before.

Stiffly, his braced leg stretched out before him, Wesley knelt, bringing his face close to hers and murmuring words that only Moira could, presumably, hear. He rubbed her shoulder gently with one hand, the other hand clasping hers.

"Wow," Willow breathed, catching Giles's gaze. He nodded his agreement. This, then, was Wyndham-Price's better side, the part that been hidden by all that nervous foolishness. He might never make a Watcher, despite all his loyalty to the Council and their ways, but that well-pressed exterior concealed a good heart.

In time, Moira quieted, and became herself again. Willow passed her a box of tissues, while Xander helped Wesley to rise.

Wesley brushed himself down, taking rather an annoying amount of time over it, until he realized that all eyes were upon him. " I beg your pardon." His hands moved upward, as if to straighten the tie that he could not wear because of his neckbrace, then dropped again to his sides--although the left hand soon found its way back to Moira's shoulder. "Mr. Giles, I believe you said 'captors,' in the plural?"

"Helena had a companion. A tall woman, about thirty years of age, dark-haired. Helena called her by the name 'Maria.'"

"Ah!" Wesley sat down sharply on the arm of Moira's chair, then bounced up again "Ma'am..."

Moira covered her eyes, leaning forward with her elbows upon her knees. "We lost a Candidate during our final examinations: Maria Del Ciello. Wesley and I weren't present, but I believe Helena's companion must be she. Although she may be newly-made, you ought to consider her extremely dangerous. She's been entirely through training, and it was only the languages preventing her from being ordained as a Watcher. Why have they taken Buffy, Rupert?"

"I think you know why, Moira," he answered, gently as he could. "Because they want you."

"You know that I would go, if I could," Moira responded, in a flat, dull voice.

"Gotta say, that kinda sounds like a copout to me," Xander told her.

"Alexander!" Wesley snapped.

"Well? Buffy's saved the world about a million times. I know it's rough on you, Moira, but hey--isn't that sacrifice thing what Watchering's all about. Bet Giles would do it in a heartbeat."

"Would you excuse us for a moment, please?" Giles said. The pulse throbbed in his temples. Even his teeth hurt.

"Giles--" Willow began, but she followed Moira and Wesley out.

"I know I was rude to your friend," Xander started, before the door even closed behind them. "But God, Giles, that totally pissed me off. That whole, 'Hey I'd really like to save your friend, but too bad--I'd much rather save my own ass...'" The boy slowly ran down. "Giles, why are you giving me that look?" He perched on the edge of the bed, his feet on the chair Moira had lately vacated. "What's up?"

"I would give my life for Buffy's in a heartbeat,"Giles told him--too tired, really, to pursue this line of discussion. "And if it meant only my death, then I'd gladly go. If it meant, however, that I inevitably would be turned, then I could not, in good conscience, do so."

"Because of your secret Watcher knowledge? Excuse me for saying so, Giles, but it's not that big of a deal. I mean, you're book guy, and all that, but half the time it's someone else who..." Xander stopped, his mouth hanging open. "Giles, I didn't mean..."

Giles shut his eyes and turned his face away, half out of weariness, half so that Xander would not see the strange cold color he could feel that his eyes had become. This is what they think of me, he thought. This is what I am to them: the bumbling prat with the books. Well, really, what else would they see? Old, stuffy, irritable--a figure of derision.

They'd come to rescue him because they were decent kids; they tried to do right. The only way he'd ever truly win their admiration would be to become this other thing, this being that his blood forever called out for him to be--and then all he cared for, the parts of himself that he still found of value, would be entirely lost.

"Giles, I didn't mean--" Xander repeated, with even greater uncertainty.

"It doesn't matter," Giles murmured. "Think what you like, Xander. Think that Moira and I are cowards if it pleases you. It is, as you say, not that big of deal."

"Hey." Xander touched his jaw, turning Giles's face back toward him. "They said, with a head injury like this, there might be some depression. Is this that, or is it something real? You know--" Xander cleared his throat. "Giles, you know how I am, Shut-up-impaired-guy. You know we respect the hell out of you."

Giles looked up at him, into the boy's warm, confused, chocolate-brown eyes. He realized that he knew Xander even better than he knew his own son, and could almost have predicted what his reaction would have been. Why had he chosen to take offense?

"Your eyes look weird." Xander glanced down, his hand still resting on Giles's chest. "How am I supposed to learn if you won't teach me?"

Xander couldn't know: to him, magic was nothing but the spells, the rituals he'd seen them perform. Spells like recipes, finite, predictable in their effect.

Without even realizing that he intended to do so, Giles told the boy a story, then, about Randall and Ripper, Ethan and the magic. The terrible, beautiful, addictive Wild Magic. He didn't leave anything out, and he half expected his young friend to be repelled, but at first Xander's face got a frozen look, then near the end he started to cry. By the time Giles lay silent and exhausted, the boy looked older--not so much a boy any more.

"I never knew," Xander said. "About you. About that...stuff. The magic stuff. It isn't what I thought."

"No, it isn't," Giles replied. "And I never wanted you to know."

Xander reached down and squeezed his hand; Giles knew he understood.

"Okay," Xander said. "So a great, big NO to making the scary witch lady a vampire queen. On to Plan B? What is Plan B?"

Back Home Next