Giles took a deep breath and turned the page of the book spread before him. It was another fruitless search. His attention was not focused. The library around him offered no respite for him, no peace. He kept seeing Buffy embracing the two monsters. The Council would label her as corrupt, evil. The order to terminate her would come soon after. He tossed his glasses down on the desk and pinched the bridge of his nose. He thought of her broken, begging as she held him demanding he stay with her. Her need and affection laid bare.
Sophie walked into the room and sighed. He knew she was trying to be useful, but it made him angry. This creature would be the ruination of his slayer, the proof needed to illustrate his beloved warrior's descent into evil.
"You hate me," Sophie said quietly. "You've been avoiding me for days. The others tolerate me, but you refuse to look at me."
"I hate what you represent. It isn't the same thing." Giles let honesty flow despite the brutality of it. He looked up at the pretty blonde. She was lovely, demure and sweet. How did an evil thing develop such characteristics?
"What do I represent?"
"My slayers's end. They won't let her live." Rupert looked away from the sad grey eyes. "All her victories, her bravery, her beauty, her determination will be lost to the world because of you."
"I won't hurt her. She's my family." Sophie looked at him. "You have all become a part of me. I will offer my existence up easily and with joy if hers is assured. Everyone of you is my family now."
"Your vampire family. We are human, most of us. How many humans have you killed, Sophie?"
"Hundreds, before I was cursed, three after." She looked at him with sorrow in her eyes. "Unless you count my sire's kills as mine. I didn't attempt to save them, so I suppose their deaths can be laid at my feet. How many vampires have you dusted?"
Her bit of spark faded and he watched her collapse in on herself.
Giles felt a moment of guilt as he stood and looked at her slumped form. She had come to Spike for a merciful dusting. Buffy had chosen this course. Sophie was not to blame. He spun the pencil in between two of his fingers.
"Use it. They will forgive you." Her voice was strong, certain. "I can not hurt them. I won't be used against you, any of you."
"Don't, Giles." Willow looked at him from the door, her haunted eyes locked to his. "Buffy would never forgive you."
"The Council will kill us both. Buffy and I will die at their hands for this abomination." Sophie's body jerked at his harsh words. "They might kill us all."
"If you kill me, will it make a difference?" Sophie looked up at him. Her careless beauty was an artifice, a cloak for the demon within. He knew it, had been taught from childhood to abhor it, but staring down at her all he could see was the fear and pain in her. It was real. She had emotions, a whole sparkling spectrum of them.
"No," he said and tossed the pencil onto the desk. "Our lives are forfeit. There are rules and she has stepped outside the bounds with Spike and with you."
"The Council can't know about Spike and Sophie." Willow said quietly. "You'd have to report it for them to know."
"They have seers, Willow. They know." Giles rubbed the back of his neck with his long fingers.
"Then why haven't they come to do us in?" Willow looked at him with her jaw jutting out. Sophie looked from his face to the young witch's.
"They'll let us fight the battle and hit us when we're weak." Giles shrugged. "I might have been able to make an argument for the mating, but Buffy is creating a vampire order. They won't bend on this."
"Then why are you looking through all these old books for a solution? If you're so sure they are coming, why are you here?" Willow demanded.
"If I can find the prophecy that made the master fear Spike, it might be enough to stay their hands." Giles eyes dropped to the lush carpet under his feet.
"Then why are you in here alone? Am I too broken to help?" Anger and desperation warred in her words.
"He doesn't want to worry the others. The brewing battle is going to be hard enough. Survival isn't a given. If the knowledge that we will face another threat immediately demoralizes the others, both battles could be lost." Sophie tilted her head down and reached out to grab his hand.
Her cool touch drew his eyes. Their gazes locked and he heard Willow harping on distantly. He saw something spark in Sophie's eyes and his mouth went dry. Bits of prophecies and old folk lore twisted in his mind trying to find a new form. Her hand trembled on his.
"Willow, go to my room and bring the small wooden box on my desk here, and get Spike and Buffy." His command was strong and the young witch complied. Her retreat sounded rhythmically in his ears.
He pulled Sophie close and stared deeply into her eyes. She was breathing erratically, the cool wash of it was soothing his flushed skin. He brought one hand up and stroked the pale perfection of her cheek. She was truly beautiful. He felt something stir within him, something that had been dormant for a very long time. His eyes slipped from hers to fall to his arm. The edge of his tattoo showed, but it didn't bother him this time.
"What?" Her voice was tremulous and he could sense her confusion. His eyes snapped back to hers. "Tell me."
"You just became my hope for the future, Sophie."