Chapter 23

Buffy walked into the library. She heard something in the stacks. A shadow moved across one of the bookcases. She went up the stairs and through the French doors. Slowly, she walked down the main aisle, looking around. She passed an aisle.

A bookcase was pushed over. She looked up, saw Ethan, and dashed out of the way just in time. He tried to escape, but he was limping. She grabbed his arm and turned him around.

"I know you! You were in that costume shop."

"Oh, I'm pleased you remember."

"You sold those costumes for Halloween and nearly got us all killed!"

"But you looked great." She punched him. "Owww! So now we're even?"

"I'll let you know when we're even. What're you doing here?"

"Snooping around."

"Honesty. Nice touch."

"It's one of my virtues. Not really."

"I've got a great idea. Why don't I just call the police and have you arrested for breaking and entering, and then I can get back to my Saturday?"

"Yes, the police. Well, they'll have all those questions, and they'll really need Rupert to answer them all."

"What does Giles have to do with this?"

"We go back. Way back. You don't happen to know where he is, do you?"

Giles was having another nightmare. The tattoo. Visions of a demon. Deidre rotting, with yellow eyes.

His phone rang. He stirred at his desk and fumbled for the phone, and picked up the receiver. "Hello."

"Mr. Giles."

"Kendra, unless this is an emergency-"

"What's the Mark of Eyghon?"

He was stunned to hear those words from her.

"Giles?" Buffy's voice. "I'm in your office with Ethan Rayne."

"He's there with you? Listen, Buffy, you're... you're in grave danger while Ethan's there. I want you to put the phone down and get out of the library as soon as possible."

"I'm not going anywhere until you give us some answers!"

He heard a crash in the background. "Buffy?" He grabbed his glasses and ran from the apartment.

Phillip came crashing through a window in Giles' office. Ethan stepped behind Buffy and held her in front of him. Phillip came out of the office and went straight for Buffy.

Kendra kicked him in the chest and rolled over the counter. He came through the door.

"Ethan!" Phillip said.

Xander came in, followed by the others.

"Don't let him get away!" Buffy said.

Xander pushed Ethan up against the counter, but got pushed aside. The doors were held wide open by the women, and Ethan tried to make his escape past them. Cordelia kneed him in the crotch and he collapsed.

Kendra looked around for what to do with Philip and spotted the open cage door. She backed toward it, then turned and made like she was running in. Phillip followed, but she sidestepped the door and kicked him into the cage, then slammed the door shut and locked it.

Ethan was still in pain on the floor.

Later…

Ethan was sitting on a chair at the table with Kendra watching him. The others observed Phillip. Willow went to Buffy.

"I'm not gonna get close enough to feel his pulse, but…he looks dead."

"Except for the walking and attacking part."

"He's dead. Sorry, Phillip. Really I am," Ethan said.

Giles barged into the library. "Is everyone alright?"

"Super! I kicked a guy!" Cordelia said.

"We're okay," Jenny said.

"Dead guy here interrupted our tutorial. Been meaning to thank you for that." Phillip jumped at Xander and he backed off.

Giles walked over to have a look. "It can't be!"

"Yes, it can. Hello, Ripper."

"I thought I told you to leave town."

"You did. I didn't. Shop's lease is paid 'til the end of the month."

"Uh, why did he call him 'Ripper'?" Cordelia asked.

Giles grabbed Ethan by his hair and lifted him out of the chair. "You should've left when I told you."

"Ohhh…"

"Giles?"

"You put these people in danger. The people I care about."

"If you cared so much about them, why didn't you leave town?" Ethan pushed Giles' arm away. "You've been having the dreams, I know. I have. We both know what's coming."

"What dreams?" Buffy asked.

"What is going on here?" Kendra asked.

"Tell them, Ripper."

"Giles…"

Phillip broke the cage door and threw it open into Jenny, knocking her out. Xander pushed Cordelia out of the way.

"Jenny!" Giles scrambled to her aid.

Kendra kicked Phillip in the chest three times, forcing him back against the cage. He slid down to the floor, but got back up and came at her again. Before he could reach her, his eyes went wide, he began to convulse, and collapsed on the floor. His body disintegrated into a puddle of slime.

"Now there's something you don't see every day," Willow said.

"I'm gonna be in therapy 'til I'm thirty," Cordelia said.

"Where's Ethan? Where'd he go?" Kendra asked. She ran off.

"Giles, move Jenny away from the slime," Buffy said. "That's mega gross."

He noticed it nearing her and slid her farther away from the puddle. She started regaining consciousness. "Are you alright, Jenny?"

"Ow." She cradled her head in her hand.

"Careful."

"Ohhh…"

"Can you stand?" He helped her up.

"I think so."

"This is what happens when you have school on Saturday," Cordelia said. Xander shot her a look.

Jenny was unsteady on her feet.

"Lean on me." Giles pulled her close. "It'll be alright."

She looked up at him. "Promise?"

"I promise."

"I believe you." She closed her eyes and leaned on his shoulder, hugging him close.

He got her into a chair. She rested her head on her hand. He stroked her hair. Kendra came back.

"How's your head?" he asked Jenny.

"Throbbing."

"I lost him."

"Giles, what's going on?" Buffy asked.

"It's complicated, Buffy, and quite frankly, it's private."

"I don't care from private! I care from dead guys attacking us. I care from you lost weekending in your apartment."

"I wasn't…I was just trying to find a solution."

"Giles, share! What is the Mark of Eyghon?"

"Hey! This is not your battle! I'm telling you unequivocally to stay out of it!"

"You're not my Watcher anymore."

"I have to get Jenny home." He helped her up.

"Mm. Thank you." She leaned her head on his shoulder as they walked out of the library.

"We have work to do. Will, I want you to find out anything and everything you can about the Mark of Eyghon."

"I'll try the 'Net, but 'Mark of Eyghon' sounds like Giles and his books sorta deal."

"Then we hit the books," Kendra said. Willow went up into the stacks.

"Xander, how do you feel about digging through some of Giles' personal files and seeing what you can find?"

"I feel pretty good about it. Does that make me a sociopath? Nah." He went into the office.

Cordelia hopped off the counter and smiled.

"What?"

"What about me? I care about Giles."

"Uh, work with Xander."

"Well, when I say 'care', I, I mean…"

"Cordelia…"

"Okay, okay!" She went into the office.

Giles took Jenny to his apartment.

"Thanks for bringing me here. Not quite ready to be home alone just yet." She accepted a drink.

He walked around the sofa and sat down next to her. She took a sip.

"Ooo!"

"Jenny, uh…I'm so very sorry about all of this." He set his drink down and removed his glasses. "I, uh…I never meant for you to be involved in, in, uh, any of this."

"So I got involved. That's what happens when two people get involved."

He looked at her and smiled. Started to move in for a kiss, then stopped himself. "I really am, however, gonna have to get you home. It's not, uh…I'm not a very safe person to be around at the moment."

"Nothing's safe in this world, Rupert. Don't you know that by now?" She stroked his hair behind his ear.

"Ah! Aha! It's not Egyptian, it's Etruscan." Willow brought her book to Buffy. "Mistaken for Egyptian by the design pattern, but any fool can see it predates their iconology. Look, the Mark of Eyghon, worn by his initiates. 'Eyghon, also called the Sleepwalker, can only exist in this reality by possessing an unconscious host. Temporary possession imbues the host with a euphoric feeling of power.'"

"Yeah, but what about non-temporary?"

"'Unless the proper rituals are observed, the possession is permanent and Eyghon will be born from within the host'."

"I'm guessing eww!" Cordelia said.

"Wait. Hey, listen. 'Once called, Eyghon can also take possession of the dead, but its demonic energy soon disintegrates the host, and it must jump to the nearest dead or unconscious person to continue living.'"

"Uh, wait a minute. The dead guy's all puddly now."

"So the demon's gone. There was no one dead to jump into. I mean, we're all not dead, right?"

"No, no one dead," Kendra said. "But someone unconscious."

Giles came out of the kitchen with a cup of tea. "Here. Drink that, and then I'll drive you home."

She sipped it. "You could take me home." She set the cup down. "Or you could take advantage of me in my weakened state."

"Jenny, uh…I'm, I'm really very attracted t-to you."

"Good."

"But, um, now really isn't the right time."

"We did have a date tonight."

He fell into the chair behind him. She climbed onto his lap and kissed him.

Kendra kicked the door open. "Let him go!" Buffy followed her in.

"What are you girls doing?" Giles asked. Jenny moved off his lap.

"Saving you! Eyghon's in Jenny!"

"I don't think so," Jenny said.

"You would say that. Giles, she was unconscious next to the dead guy."

"Oh, God."

"Buffy, I'm fine. I little headache-y, but-"

"We can't take the chance," Kendra said, and held up a length of rope. "If you are Ms. Calendar, you will let us tie you up until Mr. Giles checks for the demon."

Jenny sighed. "Fine…" She sat in a wooden chair and Kendra got to work.

"Talk, Giles."

"I was twenty-one, studying history at Oxford. And, of course, the occult by night. I hated it. The tedious grind of study, the...overwhelming pressure of my destiny. I dropped out, I went to London... I fell in with the worst crowd that would have me. We practiced magicks. Small stuff for pleasure or gain. And Ethan and I discovered something... bigger."

"Eyghon."

"Yes. One of us would, um...go into a deep sleep, and the others would, uh, summon him. It was an extraordinary high! God, we were fools."

"You couldn't control it."

"One of us, Randall, he lost control. Eyghon took him whole. We tried to exorcise the demon from Randall, but it killed him. No. We killed him. We thought we were free of the demon after that. But now he's back. And one by one, he will kill us all."

"Then it's going after you and Ethan."

"Provided it found another…host, yes."

"How will we know?"

He rubbed his forehead. "By morning. If he's in there, he won't be able to play possum that long. Jenny, I'm so sorry."

"Rupert, it's alright. Not exactly what I had planned for the evening, but they say you should keep a person with a concussion awake anyway, right?"

"Right," Buffy said. "Everybody, get comfy."

Giles went to his books. Kendra opened the weapons chest and started sharpening her tools. With nothing else to do, Buffy joined her.

Watching. Waiting.

Lillian! The Guardians had to be able to tell her more. "Um, I have an idea. I'll be back."

"Buffy-"

"No, don't get up. I'll be back soon." She hurried out the door. When no one followed, she broke into a run to the nearest payphone.

"Hello?"

"Lillian! What do you know about Eyghon?"

"Buffy? What's going on?"

"I need to know if Eyghon is in Ms. Calendar. What happened in the old timeline?"

"I should-"

"Just tell me if it possessed her after Giles took her to his apartment."

"Yes. He was attacked within an hour of getting her there."

"Oh, thank God…"

"Buffy?"

"It's been longer than that. And I told him to move her away from the slime puddle in the library. Did I save her? Is it dead?"

"I don't know enough about this Eyghon to tell you, but what you say is different than what happened before."

"The book said Eyghon needs a dead or unconscious body to possess."

"I see. I think you did well, Buffy."

"Oh, good…I gotta go." She hung up and raced back to the apartment.

"That was quick," Kendra said when Buffy opened the door.

"I think we're in the clear."

"How, Buffy?" Giles asked.

"The slime puddle. It didn't touch her. It's, uh…a what-do-you-call-it, a transfer medium, right?"

"There was slime?" Jenny asked. "Ewww."

"Giles, the book said Eyghon dies without being able to jump hosts."

Willow and Xander arrived. "Where's the demon?"

"Think we're okay, guys."

Jenny said, "This is embarrassing."

"Well, that was a bit anticlimactic," Xander said.

"Still have to find Ethan Rayne," Buffy suggested. "I owe him for killing me."

"He's probably long gone, Buffy. Never facing the consequences is what he does." Giles went to Jenny and started untying the ropes.

Author's Note: This is the last of the pre-written chapters. Hope you've enjoyed the update. I can't give a timeline for new chapters - I have a chronic injury to my arm that makes computer work painful right now, so I haven't been writing. Chapter 24 is partially done, at least. Thank you for your patience.

Caro Mio