Summary: Set during Intervention. When Buffy becomes lost in the desert, Giles must find an unlikely hero to save her. Fresh from being pummelled by Glory, Spike finds that Buffy isn't the only one searching for answers and embarks on his own spiritual journey. But can he find her in time?
Betas: Many thanks as always to the incomparable Holly, and enthusiastic hugs of welcome to my new beta, dawnofme. Between the two of you, you've beaten me well into shape!
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon. I claim no financial reward from trying to emulate him.
Author's Note: This fic was first written in honour of Nikilicious, a fellow spuffy writer, reviewer and friend. I hope she enjoyed the fic as much as she was able. I will always remember her bravery and courage in the face of such unbearable pain. I miss her greatly.
The red and blue cruiser lights flashed so brightly it hurt his eyes. Too many hours in the desert had dried them intolerably and as his foot slid heavier on the gas, Giles prayed under his breath that the police car screaming toward him wouldn't catch how fast he was driving, spin in its tracks and pursue him instead of the nasty it was currently chasing.
He was a fool.
He paused at that thought, but no amount of time could give him the reprieve he needed to deny the truth. He was a bloody fool for taking his slayer to the sacred place when they were at war. Her fear that she was losing something of herself in light of all the tragedy that fell around her had touched him, but in reality, it had never been his job to be touched. It was his job to train, to guide, to instil the instinct in Buffy that she didn't always have on her own to protect the world.
Yes, he was a fool. He'd cowed under the girl's fear and had taken her out of one crisis and into another. He'd stood, shaking his ridiculous gourd while Buffy wandered into the barren landscape—without a bottle of water or an energy bar to keep her going. He'd expected the process could take a day—or possibly two, depending on how worthy the guides thought her plight. But by the second night, Giles panicked. He'd lost her and his only hope now while he sped back to Sunnydale for backup was that the silly girl had at least found the ability to love that she was so sure she'd lost. That she might reconnect with something and came back to them in her right mind.
As he roared back into town, Giles was hit with a premonition of doom—or it might have been the streak of black that hit his bonnet and ended splayed in the road more than a dozen feet from where he managed to screech to a stop. He was smart enough to stay in his car and fumble in the glove box for his stake and cross, but once he saw the brilliant hairstyle of the vampire struggling to stand he threw it back to the floor and exited in a rush.
"Spike! What the devil do you think you're doing?" His harsh tone completely disguised his relief at so quickly finding the backup for which he'd returned, not immediately processing that the vampire was obviously struggling to stay conscious.
Spike didn't even bother to offer a reply, barely raised a brow—that was immediately understood by Giles as disdain for the inquiry before he promptly passed out. That was when Giles was able to really look at his road kill—the vamp had definitely seen better days, looking more thrashed than the watcher had ever seen him.
A rush of concerned voices from behind him had Giles pushing his tired legs to a stand, his weary eyes beyond relieved to see the children that were always there in a fix; this fix being rather more alarming than usual. When his eyes rested on Buffy he almost collapsed in relief, but he quickly recovered, burning irritation making his eyes glint in the darkness. As they drew closer, however, he could see that his anger was misplaced, as this girl was no more his slayer than the vampire in an unnatural repose on the roadside.
"We need to get out of view fast…like yesterday," Xander panted as they finally caught up to Giles's car, the lot of them collapsing against it like their puppet strings had been violently severed. Except the girl that was Buffy—but not. She stood with the most serene smile on her lips. It was a smile Giles didn't think he'd ever seen the real Buffy display. Her gaze fell to the vampire that stirred with a raw moan and she fell to her knees at his side, cooing with concern in a way that would have Giles spluttering in horror had he even for a second believed this girl was his slayer.
"Oh, Spike," oozed from her lips as an efficient rather than a tender hand rapidly flicked across his peroxide cap. She turned to Giles, her eyes seeming to flicker in a rather startling manner as she processed the situation. "You are Giles," she stated automatically, as if he had no bloody clue who he was. "You are my Watcher. Please help Spike."
One perturbed glance at the Scoobies confirmed his worst suspicions. They'd all lost their minds.
The why of it all mattered not to him for the moment. What mattered was getting Spike relatively useful so he could help search for Buffy, and for that to work, they'd have to get out of the middle of the main street of Sunnydale.
"Right then," he said in his most inspiring voice. "Let's get it done then."
He all but shoved and pushed them into his small car, completely ignoring the illegalities of it all in his drive to be somewhere less conspicuous. And when he got them there, he'd think better on how to explain the mess they were in—and work out where the other Buffy fit in.
Giles pulled off the road into the exact spot he'd parked when he'd brought Buffy here two nights before. It was a disconcerting déjà vu. He still wasn't certain he'd made the right decision to bring Spike along, but his choices were limited. He couldn't send anyone else out after Buffy; Spike was there only chance, despite his worrying condition.
It was more than a little disconcerting to find the cougar waiting exactly where Giles had left it. Though they stood in the blackest pitch of the desert, the moon—glowing almost spitefully in the sky—leant so much light that for a moment Giles worried about Spike's flammability. Particularly as the vampire looked like he barely needed a legitimate streak of sunlight to cart him off to his rightful place in Hell.
"Friendly beastie, I hope," he croaked and Giles winced. The vampire wasn't really up for use as a bloodhound right now, but beggars couldn't be choosers in such slayerless circumstances and he refused to feel guilty. For all he knew the vampire had revealed all their secrets to the hellgod and retrieving Buffy would mean nothing to the carnage they would return home to.
"I must confess that I ran to the car trying not to squeal too much like a slaughtered pig to actually notice if the animal planned on spilling my blood." Giles contemplated said animal and noticed its calmness. He accepted his own slowing heartbeat as trust that this guide was here to relay something crucial rather than cart either of them off for its family to feast on.
Spike hobbled forward and again Giles swallowed a lump of regret that had risen in his throat. The vampire hadn't even offered his predictable snark about accompanying him to the desert. As soon as Giles had confided that Buffy was missing the Scoobies had exploded into a cacophony of activity. Spike had pushed himself to unsteady to his feet—collapsing comically onto a passing Xander and being shoved back to vertical abruptly as if he were covered in maggots. He'd lurched toward the door with a directive for the watcher to, "get his arse into gear and get us back to the desert as fast as bloody possible."
Giles was too relieved to feel resentful, helping the sagging figure into his car and detouring only once for blood before abandoning every other problem so as to focus entirely on Buffy. Spike was finishing off another bag of plasma as he stared at the enormous cat, reading the animal in ways that Giles assumed only ones with a claim to the nature of the beast were able.
"I think it wants me to follow it somewhere," he said at last and Giles felt his insides tighten. Did he want to be left alone again, to worry and panic when hours lead to yet more hours and still no Buffy appeared?
The sleek animal turned soundlessly and Spike took a step toward it, then another before Giles grabbed at his arm.
"I think I should come with you," he announced with urgency, quickly following after the animal but pulling up short as the great cat stopped and turned to glare at him.
"Think this one's mine, Rupes," Spike said with a pained smirk and once again, he put one foot ahead of the other and slowly followed the cat into the unknown.
Giles watched them go, agitated as hell and again cursing his lack of foresight to bring along food. He felt sure his gourd was well past its use by date, and he'd been too flustered by the surrounding disasters to think of his stomach while he was hunting down an ally to rectify his foolhardy mistake.
The night turned to chill and Giles thought there was nothing left to do but to make himself comfortable for what promised to be a long night. He had brought a blanket at least, anticipating a need to cover Spike from the sun if this search wasn't complete until the breach of a new day. Getting back in the car and struggling to find some small comfort inside, he snuggled up under the blanket and diligently turned to thinking happy thoughts.
They took longer to appear than he'd hoped.