CHAPTER FOUR

Do not mistake your place in the scheme of things. When the chips are down the Slayer is the World's only line of defence against demonic onslaught and brutal apocalypse. It is however the Watcher's function to ensure the chips stay up.

Unpublished letter from US envoy. 1955. Source: Council Archives.

It was time to move out to watch the end game. Travers locked the motel room and the trio headed for the parking lot. Sunnydale nights were darker than most but at least the interminable heat had finally dropped.

"I've been thinking Uncle Quentin," began Henry. Travers thought it highly unlikely but waited to see what the idiot had come up with. "This plan of yours, it's not going to end terribly well for this Giles chap is it?"

Travers chuckled. "One cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs."

"It just seems like a lot of trouble to go to. Why not just make this Giles person a vampire? Properly, I mean. Jane is a great girl and all that but why use a witch to cast spell and have a whole charade to make some chap think he's a vampire? Why didn't we just let our captive vamp bite him and be done with it?"

Travers stopped walking in disbelief.

"My dear boy. Rupert Giles as a genuine vampire is a thought borne of nightmares. You have no idea what he's capable of at the best of times. Make 'Ripper' a real vampire? I've never heard of anything so ridiculous. Any Watcher turned is a bitter enemy but Giles would enslave or destroy the earth within ten working days. And our only consolation would be that we'd be lying in our motel room with our throats ripped out by now."

"But he was at Oxford."

"Standards slipped terribly in the early seventies."

"Gosh. I had no idea."

June looked diplomatically elsewhere as Travers' sarcasm just bounced harmlessly off his nephew. They strode on towards their van, Travers leading the way at about eighty miles an hour.

"I didn't realise we were going to be in any danger, Uncle," the boy whined, sweeping back his hair again and completely ignoring the basics of security and vigilance. So much so he actually walked into the back of Travers who had pulled up sharply at a most disagreeable sight ahead, his mouth wide open. June had also stopped. She was a powerful witch but her eyes only darkened in fear.

"We still are, Henry. We most definitely still are."

There were Rounds. There were actual Rounds to this contest and while Giles had first assumed it was just a ringing in his ears, or that maybe it was the shop bell and he was warm and safe and concussed on the Magic Box floor all along, it turned out to be a timekeeper with a bell signalling the end to hairiest and most painful three minutes in Giles' life. They actually abided to Rounds even though there were no other rules he could discern. He sent a grateful prayer to the Marquis of Queensbury and crawled back to his corner and a concerned Spike.

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Which hand?" he asked politely.

A huge bucket of water hit him in his face. Giles nearly swallowed half of it and he spat it out quickly. It tasted rather metallic which he hoped was the bucket but he had to concede it looked too alarmingly like a summer glass of rosé for that. He coughed up some more blood. It was going to spoil his leather jacket. He hadn't really hadn't had time had to think, let alone take it off his coat before he'd been thrown into this insane Thunderdome brawl.

Mitsy the landlady had been the one to swing the bucket his way. "I think you're tiring him out Slugger," she said not unkindly.

"Really?"

"Hardly," snapped Spike in frustration. "You need to not do this, you stupid sod. Throw in the towel. Say you are sorry and back the hell down."

His opponent 'Bluto', having no need for a rest between Rounds, was showboating for the crowd.

"Fee fie foe fum. I've spilt the blood of an Englishman," he bragged. There was much laughter and even applause from the demons in the audience that possessed hands.

Giles shook himself. "Is that a racist slur? I'm not standing for that..." He tried to get up to prove his point but his legs didn't seem to want to help.

"Oh for god's sake" muttered Spike. "Just stay down for a moment won't you?"

"No time," Giles declared. He grabbed the ring ropes to help pull himself up but Spike was quicker and evidently pissed off with him. He pushed back against Giles' chest in anger and frustration. Giles for his part heard a surprised cry of pain and found himself shoved backwards where he missed the stool and crashed ignobly to the floor. Spike was next to him, clutching his head in his hands, his pupils giving witness to the intense neurological pain. There was a great deal of laughter at Spike's apparent clumsiness but he and Giles just stared wide eyed at each other on the floor.

"I'm still alive," whispered Giles in wonder.

Unfortunately at that moment the bell rang again and huge hands hauled him up and back into the centre of the ring and an opponent who raised him above his head and sent him crashing back to the floor head first .

"Not in another three minutes you're not." He thought he heard Spike say.

The rules of the bar fight ran to three minute Rounds, but sadly no further along the Gentleman's Code for the Noble Art. Giles would have been happy to concede, to lie on the floor and be counted out, but his opponent was having way too much fun to let that happen. He was grabbed by the hair again and thrust into a tight headlock. The noise of the baying crowd and jukebox grew muffled and he started to black out. Giles waved his arms to gain some sort of purchase and blinked wildly to keep himself conscious. As he did so, he saw a vampire in the front row explode into dust from a crossbolt. The muffled noise became silence and the audience parted and turned to see who dared fire such a weapon.

Buffy stood on a table near the only entrance. Wielding Giles' best crossbow and looking mean as hell.

"Ah. Hello Buffy," Giles managed to splutter from his undignified position beneath his opponent's armpit.

She was eyeing Giles coldly but her words were addressed to the eight foot demon holding him in the head lock. "Want to put him down?"

'Bluto' obliged and Giles coughed and felt to see if all his neck bones were still in the right place.

"I can explain," he began but she had loaded the crossbow again and was pointing straight at him.

"Making new friends are we, Giles?" she answered coolly. "Can't let you out of my sight for a moment can I?"

His opponent began to laugh rather heartily. His chest, already a formidable size, expanded in joyful appreciation of the way events were unfolding.

"We're having a fight to the death and you brought along a date?" he boomed. Giles smiled weakly.

A couple of vampires made to grab Buffy's ankles but she slipped from her table perch elegantly staked them without ever taking her eyes off Giles. The rest of the bar crowd backed off at her display. A whisper went round the room that she was the Slayer.

Having determined that no-one was going to try any rash moves she addressed the ringside contingent. "Now boys, I don't want any trouble, I've just have come for him," she said menacingly.

Giles gulped. It was a rescue of sorts but he hoped to god she didn't fire that crossbow at him. He couldn't really alert her to his non-vampire status whilst a good number of demons stood between him and the door. Somehow he didn't think they'd be terribly happy at the news.

"You," she ordered as if he were a dog. "Outside, now." She jerked her head to the door to back up her command. Giles dropped his head and took a step to obey.

"Oh no you don't little Vampire." Bluto put a great hand across his chest and stopped him. "I'm starting to like little Rupert here, he's very unpredictable and I like that." He pulled Giles to his chest, crushing him once more only this time with affection. "And the fact you want him Slayer, well, that just makes me like him a whole lot more."

Buffy's eyes had narrowed to slits and her finger wavered near the crossbow's trigger. The big demon moved decisively. He picked up Giles like he weighed no more than a paperweight and sat him down behind them on the bar top like a child whilst Daddy played.

"Get my friend a drink here."

The demons murmured with pleasure. One even bravely shouted 'Go home Slayer, nothing for you here'. Mitsy appeared at Giles' arm with the Glenlivet again. Giles ignored the shot glass and gulped directly. "No." He grabbed her hand a second time as she withdrew. "Please leave the bottle."

Buffy meanwhile was squaring up to Giles' newest best friend. The height difference made the confrontation look vaguely ludicrous, Bluto being about twice her height. "I'll go through anyone I have to," she hissed.

"I saw him first, I get to keep him," seemed to be the gist of the demon's argument. Giles watched in fascination as they vied as to which one had a greater claim to kill him. It was all a bit surreal.

Spike sidled up to him cautiously.

"What are you going to do, Watcher?"

Giles took another drink. "I don't think 'I say chaps, there's been a frightful mix-up and I'm human after all' will play terribly well in this room, do you? Not for either of us as you vouched for me."

"Bugger."

The bar crowd sensing in impasse started to find voice. 'Can't take all of us, girlie.' And 'We look after our own here, Slayer.'

Buffy was getting frustrated and shouted the hecklers down.

"Now I know it's Halloween and we all like to kick back with a few beers and take the night off. So I'll just take what I came for and leave the rest of you in peace."

The hecklers would not be silenced though. 'We're not giving up, whatshisname, Rupert.' Along with further cries of 'It's a matter of principle. Coming in here all WannaSlay.' A chant began of 'Ru-pert, Ru-pert, Ru-pert'. Even Buffy rolled her eyes at that.

Spike suddenly appeared standing on a table near the main door behind Buffy and shouting for order. The bar chanting subsided to hear him.

"Thank you, thank you for order." Every eye was on him. "Now I know this is a very important debate on the ethics of Slaying on Halloween but can I just ask - what are the evacuation procedures in the event of a fire?"

There was a long pause before Bluto answered in puzzlement. "I guess we run out the door."

Spike nodded wisely and suggested, "Might want to start doing that now then."

There was a moment of genuine confusion in the bar; a moment of genuine puzzlement at Spike's words that had them all looking at him like he was insane. But it was a moment in which he held their complete and utter attention, a moment therefore that was just long enough for Giles to act. He pushed some cloth ripped from a handkerchief into the whisky bottle, lit one end and hurled it into the dangerous dry rafters. Gratifyingly it exploded on impact, knocking Giles backwards off his perch on the bar and diving for cover. Sparks and fireballs rained down, vampires screamed and turned to dust when caught. The electricity cables decided to join in the fun and shot flames along their lengths. In seconds the room was engulfed in flame and smoke and a great roar of demons crashing and fighting to the exit. Giles hoped to god that Buffy had got out the way of the stampede. He shook himself and pulled the leather jacket over his head to make his own way out. The timber of the barn framed a vision of hell on earth. One of the rafters fell and nearly hit him. The smoke was disorientating and turned him around. He was fighting a wave of panic at having lost direction to the exit when a firm grip took a hold of his sleeve and he made out Spike's sooty features.

"Come on old man, you are definitely unpredictable I'll say that for you." Giles allowed himself to be led through the inferno and outside where they blundered out through the chaos. Outside there was a frightened roar of engines and exhaust fumes whilst others took to simply running as fast and as randomly as their legs could carry them.

"You did this, Spike." Two angry demons attacked them. One of them Giles recognised as the door-demon. Giles hit the deck with no decorum as Spike lashed against the two attackers. Giles pulled himself up to help when he saw Buffy was fighting the barrel chested demon he'd known as Bluto. He was fast for a big chap and had much greater reach. Buffy made a move with an axe but sickeningly Giles saw it was mistimed. The big demon's open palm hit Buffy cleanly and sent her flying backwards like a rag doll. When she didn't move immediately, Giles forgot Spike and set off like a cannonball to hurtle into the broad back of his former ring partner.

"I believe this is still my dance," he grunted as made contact and, catching his opponent off balance, managed to actually knock the previously immovable object over.

Bluto kicked wildly, catching Giles on the arm but he knew he had no time to worry about minor injuries as both fighters scrambled to their feet. Giles was slower and almost caught in a headlock, but for the fact he creamed his heel down his opponent's shin and stomped as hard as he could on his foot. Bluto yelped in pain and anger, giving Giles just enough to wriggle free. He looked to Buffy who was still unconscious, and Spike who had his own problems with two assailants.

"Going to pull your head off clean off, little vampire." His opponent was angry now, really angry. The fight in the ring had been showing off, making Giles suffer for the entertainment of the crowd. This time he was serious.

Well Giles was pretty bloody serious too. He was also angry and in pain, and Giles who always thought too much in a fight and who was, by all accounts, too much of a softie to be really dangerous, had had enough of being threatened and taunted. No, Giles was damn well going to take this demon down. He smiled at the demon with all the insouciance he could muster. He mocked him with a smile, and stood upright, encouraging the wild attack. The demon didn't disappoint, he launched with his fists, confident in his ability, angry with his prey. Giles took the blows and buckled softly. Momentum meant they were suddenly both rolling in the mud again, but on the ground, Giles had negated the height disadvantage. On his side he aimed a right hook at the head and a sharp knee to what he judged to demonic crown jewels. His aim was rewarded with a howl but it wasn't enough. The demon caught first the sleeve of his leather and then widened his grip to pull Giles arm almost out of his socket. He couldn't work himself free. He was pulled round savagely and the demon grabbed his neck to make good his earlier promise.

Whether it was instinct or planning, adrenaline or fear Giles would never be able to say, but he couldn't remember any conscious thought to his next action. His free arm dived to his jacket pocket, flicked his grandmother's knife and impaled the blade through pocket, ribs and luckily demon flesh. He pulled up savagely; slicing any organs he could find until Bluto went very still on him and fell in a heap.

Giles pulled the knife clear and sat back on his knees. It was by far the biggest thing he'd ever killed by hand. His fourteen year old self was tremendously impressed. The forty seven year old had to admit it was pretty cool too.

He looked up to see Buffy standing menacingly above him with her axe. He had the knife still and in an instant he calculated he could throw it at her, to slow her down, and stop her from decapitating him before he had had a chance to explain. He saw it all; saw it wasn't checkmate to her if he wounded her enough with the knife. But instead he dropped his grandmother's blade and smiled at her, offering no defence. He would let her kill him rather than hurt her in turn. He grinned. Even at fourteen he knew he couldn't hurt girls.

"Buffy, no!" Spike had despatched the last of his assailants and shouted again. "Don't kill him. He's not a vampire."

She rolled her eyes theatrically. "Well duh."

"Duh?" repeated Giles, still on his knees in front of her. "What do you mean 'duh'? How do you know it's 'duh'? I didn't even know it was 'duh' until about five minutes ago."

She smiled at his breathless indignation. "You should have done the research more thoroughly," she said cryptically before opening the slide door of a grey van. A young man with floppy hair stepped out gingerly followed by the tourist lady with the camel coat and, and, Giles could not believe his eyes, and Quentin bloody Travers.

Travers straightened his jacket and eyed Giles condescendingly.

"How are you feeling, Rupert?"

Giles actually growled as he jumped to his feet. Vampire or no, predator or no, he was going to kill this man who had put him through the night's suffering. Buffy caught him as his hands were almost around the older man's neck. She pulled him roughly back though Giles took a final wild swing and managed contact with Travers' chin at least. There was a satisfying crunch as he hit the body work of the van and blood erupted from his lip as Giles tried to break free of Buffy's grasp.

"Protect me, Henry," demanded Travers but his young associate with the hair merely shrugged.

"You did rather deserve that, Uncle Q," he said and smiled an apology towards Giles who stopped his ineffective wrestling with Buffy to snarl some more.

Spike sauntered up to the party and said, "And a whole lot more I'd wager." He grinned at all the attention and held up the chain from which dangled the Lazarus Stone. "Looking for this were we?" He took the Stone in his hand and squeezed. "Seems rather fragile don't it? What do you want it for anyway? Going to be a devil of a job to find earrings to match."

Travers dabbed at his mouth with a handkerchief. "Hand that over right now," he ordered.

Buffy folded her arms. "Change Giles back first. Undo the magick and maybe we don't destroy this rock you want so badly."

"I haven't come to bargain, Miss Summers."

"Did you come to bleed then? Because I might not be able to stop him if he launches another attack." Sensing his cue Giles smiled the smile of a man with a plan.

Travers became indignant. "That artefact belongs with the Council. It's in neither of our interests if it falls into the wrong hands."

Buffy snorted. "Yours are about the wrongest hands I can think of."

"Enough. It's over Sir." It was June that spoke. The witch in the camel coat had already begun a spell that that attracted hundreds of particles of light about her head. At the end of her incantation, the particles shot forward, Giles felt a surge of magick invade his body and then harmlessly dissipate through his pores. He gasped, breathing in huge lungfuls of air. He felt better, warmer even. His hands had returned from the deathly blue pallor to a healthy pink. He felt for a heartbeat and grinned stupidly when he found one. Buffy smiled warmly at him in confirmation.

"Back to tall, dark and gormless, mate," said Spike helpfully, tossing him the Lazarus Stone. Giles walked up to Travers very slowly and thrust the black stone into his chest rather pointedly.

"If you ever do anything to me or Buffy or one of our friends again," he spoke very softly. "I will look you up, Quentin. You and your family."

Travers tutted his patronage. "Yes yes yes. You were never really a vampire, Rupert. There's no need for the hyperbole now."

Giles took another step forward and smiled dangerously. "It's not the vampire that's threatening you."

Travers' eyebrows betrayed his fear for a fraction of a second before years of training returned him to his insufferable composure. It was enough and Giles knew it.

"It's a bloody fake." Henry suddenly exclaimed.

"What?" Travers' composure hurtled to the rocks again. "Let me see."

Henry looked at him in disgust. "It's not the real stone. You did all this….You got it wrong, Uncle."

June slipped her hand over the jet black stone to assess it. "He's right. This has all been for nothing." She looked guiltily at Giles, then bit her lip but stopped short of apologising. She turned back to the van. Henry stomped after her too.

"I'm telling Mother," he declared.

Buffy commanded the keys to the Pontiac to drive them back to town. Spike had grumbled into the backseat —' I called shotgun you know It's not fair' – but his protests were ignored. Travers and his unhappy associates had driven off in their van in an angry silence and the demons had dispersed to the woods. It was all finally over with nothing left but to go home again.

Sitting next to Buffy, Giles watched the lights on the roads and the other traffic thoughtfully. "How did you know what had happened?"

"I went to your apartment and found the books you'd left out. Figured it was way too much of a co-incidence about this Lazarus rock. Also figured that the Council must be here in person so I kicked in some motel doors till I found them."

Spike sat forward between the two front seats. "That was a much better plan," he complained. He turned to Giles. "How come you didn't think of it?"

Buffy applied the brakes suddenly and pulled over. "And this is your stop, Spike."

"No it isn't."

"It is tonight," she answered firmly.

They were still a mile from town and no-where near his crypt. Spike reluctantly shambled out of the car. "I save your old man and this is the gratitude I get." He slammed the door and walked away.

Giles unclipped his seatbelt and set off after him. "Spike."

Spike carried on walking. "You were a rubbish vampire anyway. Next time, don't involve me in your hi-jinks and shenanigans."

Giles broke to a good a run as he could manage. "Spike."

"Wot?" he stopped and turned.

"Thank you," Giles said sincerely. "I know you didn't have the best of motives, but thank you all the same."

Spike nodded a terse acknowledgement. "Bloody boring boy scout of the undead. I should have known."

Giles grinned and Spike briefly did also before heading off into the night, muttering about the ruin of his good reputation.

Buffy started the engine as soon as Giles climbed back in the car. It would be sunrise soon: a time he thought he'd have to fear for eternity. Now all he needed to worry about was getting the shop tidy for Anya's Day of the Dead sales strategy the following morning. Well Anya was going to have to perkily manage that for herself. Giles had already resolved to go home, sit in his courtyard and wait for the sun to greet him with the warmth of an old friend.

"So how many cops are we going to find on the doorstep in the morning?" asked Buffy nervously, breaking into his reverie.

"What?"

"How many cops? How bad was it? Because one cursed candy bar and you were a teenage crime wave. You as a vampire makes me just shudder…"

"No. None." He sought to reassure her. He could tell something was on her mind. "Absolutely none. No cops I swear. I'm rather offended you should think such a thing."

She nodded and they drove some more into town and waited at the cross lights.

"Although I suppose we did just burn down that building," he mused and with a devilish air added, "And you might want to wipe your prints off this car when we dump it."

His words had the desired effect for Buffy skidded the tyres a little, taking the corner a little too sharply.

Giles chuckled. "The owner is fine. A little frightened but fine. I just needed to borrow his car for a while."

"Delinquent," she accused playfully. He tried to look suitably contrite but ended up giggling. Buffy joined in the light laughter before fixing her concentration on the road and saying quietly, "I'm sorry I tried to kill you before."

Giles shook his head. "You didn't."

"I know but I could've. It was close, in the Magic Box I mean…"

"No I mean you didn't try. Not really. You let me get away." Giles stretched back in the car seat and rested his head on his elbow. He should be admonishing her for her failure to take him out as a threat. Had he been a real vampire he would have made her pay for that compassion, but she was upset and he couldn't really criticise her when her inaction meant he was least still alive. He looked across at her, biting her lip, waiting for some chastisement. That he could do. "You're just a big old softie, Buffy Summers."

Her relief was palpable. "And you're a bad ass demon slicing-and-dicing machine, Rupert Giles," she countered.

He rested into the palm of his hand. "I won't tell anyone if you don't."

Now she laughed. "Deal."

She drove past the ruins of the High School and took the turn to West Street and Giles' part of town.

"Sunnydale and Halloween huh?" she declared, but Giles had started to snore ever so lightly.

The End