Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making money.

Timing: Season 3, smack dab in the middle of 'Beauty and the Beasts', the same day as the conversation between Giles and Buffy after he found her sleeping in the library.

The Right Thing by Coast2Coast

Giles spent the morning in a state of unease. The conversation he had had with Buffy lingered on the edge of his awareness like distant thunder. He restlessly paced the library for awhile then settled in the chair at his desk. He held a book open in front of him more out of habit than any other reason, as he found it impossible to concentrate.

"Giles?"

He swiveled his chair around to face his Slayer. Although it was unusual for her to visit the library on her lunch hour he realized he had, on some level, expected her to appear. "What is it, Buffy?"

"I have to show you something."

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The fact that she directed him to drive to the mansion on Crawford Street should have prepared him for what he would see. Later, he could only imagine that his mind had been trying to protect him with a futile fog of denial.

He resisted the urge to smooth down the hair which rose on the nape of his neck as he stepped into the cool, dim interior of the building. By the time he had reached a point halfway across the living room he could see the form at the far end of the room and stopped short. He did not need to draw closer to identify it.

Buffy stood a few feet beyond Giles and was looking at the floor. "I found him last night, in the woods. I don't think he... He didn't have any blood on him."

When she remained there, silent, for some time Giles moved toward her. She was staring at the charred outline of a man's body. "I left the Claddagh ring Angel gave me here a couple of nights ago," she told him. "I was saying goodbye."

Giles' eyes slid shut and he let out a long, pained sigh. Her being was infused with mystical energy. This was the very room in which the statue of Acathla had stood and an inter-dimensional portal had been opened. Who knew the history or properties of the ring Angel had given her? Any combination of these things could have forced a supernatural occurrence – especially considering their proximity to the Hellmouth. And it was just Buffy's fate that such an innocent, heartfelt gesture would be rewarded with a dire consequence.

Giles opened his eyes and stepped toward the slumped figure. At his approach, the vampire lunged to the extent of the shackles which bound his wrists and snarled. He then scurried back against the wall and crouched there, shivering and moaning.

What denizen of hell had effected the return of the vampire? How many people had Angelus terrorized and tortured? How many thousands had he killed to sustain his undead existence? Why must their lives be troubled once more by his presence?

Buffy produced a stake from her jacket pocket and showed it to Giles. "I'll kill him if you say I should," she assured him.

Giles stiffened in shock. How could she not understand the cruelty of the mercy she was offering? The last time she had dealt this creature a blow she had fled from her Watcher. She had been gone for three horrible, desolate months of anguish and dashed hopes. He still felt her absence at times as the person who had returned was not the girl he had known before. What would be the result of his demand that she destroy him utterly?

"Or... or you can do it, if you want," she offered, misunderstanding the reason for his silence. She extended her hand to him and he accepted the stake without thinking. The feel of the rough wood grain against his palm, in his fingers, shook loose another train of thought.

He could feel the wine bottle slipping from his nerveless fingers, hear it crashing into shards against the hardwood floor. He could feel the bright, sharp agony that accompanied the sound of the bones in those same fingers as they were broken, one by one.

He could see his vivacious, quirky, sultry Jenny lying lifeless on his bed. Somehow, the smooth, unbroken skin of her neck was the ultimate insult. She had been nothing more than a prop - window dressing in a macabre diorama whose sole purpose was to drive the Watcher insane with rage.

"You want me to become him, then?" Giles queried softly.

"Wh... what?"

He turned his head toward her slowly, his grip tightening then easing on the stake over and over, convulsively.

"I should kill your lover?"

True, he and Jenny had not had even the one night of passion allowed to Angel and Buffy. Yet his body ached from the loss of a touch it had never known - and his tongue remembered every sweet secret her mouth had held.

The bleak emptiness of his gaze frightened Buffy more than grief or anger would have done.

"I didn't mean... You wouldn't be..." She fell silent again and Giles counted it a blessing.

If he could believe his Slayer, and he could see no reason why he shouldn't, the vampire was once again possessed by a soul in addition to his demon. Perhaps it was a benevolent power that had gifted them with this burden. There were likely prospects, possibilities and eventualities he could not fathom. He recalled the recovery of the Codex, the vampire's dedication to his Slayer, the benefit of two and a half centuries of experience in the demon world offered freely and the skilled fighter who came to their aid in battle time and again.

Giles could taste the coppery tang of blood in his mouth but was unsure whether it was another sense-memory or if he had bitten himself in his distraction. The clatter of wood on cement startled him as much as it did Buffy as the stake skittered across the floor. He had not even been aware of his own motion as he pitched the weapon away from his grasp.

Giles tipped his head back to assess the iron bracket through which the long chain that ensnared the vampire was threaded. "I'm not sure that will hold if he makes a concerted effort to escape. We should find another way of restraining him," he said, then turned and paced back across the living room and out the front door.

He paused when he reached the car and stood silently in the bright sunshine. He could feel its warmth on his hair and shoulders but the cold knot in his gut remained.

Her voice came to him softly, although he could sense she was standing quite near. "I shouldn't have told you."

He did what was expected of him. He said what he needed to say; what she needed to hear. "You did the right thing."

~ The End ~