Before the Dawn
Author's Note: If this story looks similar to another posted at this archive, I'll just say that this was the ORIGINAL, and leave it at that.
It took Willow, Xander and Anya to keep Buffy restrained behind the police barricade outside Giles' apartment building. The blaze was almost entirely extinguished now. The firemen continued to hose the few remaining hot spots. For the most part, the building was now simply charred, smoldering ruins. It reminded Buffy of the way the high school had looked after Graduation. Only then, Giles had stood by her side. Now, she was looking at his burned out car next to his burned out home and fighting believing what everyone around her was trying to force her to. That Giles had been inside when it went up. That he hadn't found a way out. That some ridiculous malfunctioning electrical outlet or carelessly discarded cigarette had done what so many vampires and demons and creatures of pure evil had not been able to do. That Rupert Giles had perished in the flames.
As the fire engines and crowds of morbid onlookers began to disperse, Buffy turned to Willow. The tear tracks on the blonde's face had dried and her cheeks were smudged with soot from the air. "It's not true Willow. I won't believe it."
The redhead smiled sadly and wiped her best friend's cheek with her thumb. "There's nothing more we can do here Buffy. We should go home."
"Giles isn't here Buffy. If he got out, he'll know to look for us at the dorm. If he didn't...well, we'll worry about that later. Let's go? Please?"
Slowly Buffy nodded her head. The four friends left for the campus of UC Sunnydale.
At the girls' dormroom, Willow towel-dried her hair as she sat on the bed and kept a watch on the television reports about the fire. She continuously scanned the crowd for any signs of Giles but her hope was fading fast with each face that passed by the camera that did not belong to him. Soon, Buffy came through the front door wearing a robe and her hair wrapped up in a towel.
Willow shook her head. "No. Sorry."
"Xander check in yet?"
"He just called a few minutes ago. He said that he and Anya finished calling all the places on the list. They all said they hadn't seen him. Did you think of any other places he might have gone?" Buffy shook her head and bit her lip. "Well he says that they're going to all of them in person now with a picture of Giles, just in case the person they spoke to didn't know him that well. If he's out there, we'll find him."
Buffy nodded and moved to her bed. She started combing through her hair.
"Buffy. What if he's not out there?"
"We have to face the possibility that he was in there...when it..."
"Please," the blonde stood and began to pace. "I can't deal with that. I-I can't even think about it." She dropped her robe and crossed to her closet, pulling on jeans, boots and a tee-shirt in record time.
"Where are you going?"
"It's almost dark. I'm going on patrol. I have to do something. I can't just sit here and wait." Buffy lined her pockets with stakes and headed for the door.
"What if something turns up?"
"I'll be on my normal route. One of you guys come get me if you hear anything?"
Willow nodded. The blonde opened the door. "Buffy?" She stopped and looked to her best friend. "Be careful."
Buffy smiled half-heartedly and exited.
Buffy wandered the darkened cemetery. Her tears reflected in the dim light of the half-moon. Here in this place, she could not escape the thought of the authorities pulling Giles' blackened remains out of the remnants of his condo and laying them to rest in the empty plot beneath her feet. As she sniffled in the dark, she heard movement in the bushes behind her. Quickly she wiped her cheeks and produced a stake from her pocket. Her trained eyes scanned the greenery, waiting for something to emerge. Soon, something did. As it stumbled into the moonlight, Buffy dropped the stake and ran forward, her heart bursting with joy. A dirt-smudged and slightly disheveled Giles ambled toward her.
"Giles!" She threw her arms around him and held him to her tightly. "You're alive!"
"I e-escaped," he replied, holding her equally snugly.
Buffy moved her hands into his hair. "You were captured?"
He nodded against her cheek. "Vampires. They thought they could cripple the Slayer by turning her Watcher. Thought they would keep me there and use me, make me follow their will. But...I'm my own demon."
"What?" At that moment, Buffy felt the familiar slice of fangs sinking into her neck. Her eyes snapped open, wildly searching. She tugged at his back. He only embraced her closer. Her hand slipped down into her pocket and closed on the extra stake she had there. Her Slayer strength bought her a little extra time to decide what she wanted to do but she knew that advantage wouldn't last long. She knew she had to pick whether she was going to let this thing that both was and wasn't Giles destroy her or if she could live without Giles being in her life, knowing she was the one that had exterminated the last trace of him.
Buffy slowly pulled the stake from her pocket and gripped it tightly one last time before letting it fall to the ground. She could feel his lips curl into a smile against her skin. As she felt herself growing colder and weaker, she came to a very grim inescapable conclusion. Running Angel through with that sword had been the hardest decision she had ever made in her life. She knew now however that if it had been Giles who had turned then, killed her friends, tortured her, tried to use Acathla to send the world to Hell then Hell was where the world would have gone because she could never have brought herself to destroy him; no matter what the cost.
She felt all the strength leave her legs. He held her up using one arm to keep her pinned against his body. He leaned her back just enough so that she could watch him rip open his shirt and use his fingernail to slit his chest, just above his left nipple. As it began to bleed, he pulled her close again, pressing her mouth into the wound until she began to drink.
He kissed and stroked her hair, cradling her. "They wanted me to kill you because you were the Slayer. Because you'd taken out so many of them. But so have I. I couldn't go without you Buffy. You're my love. You always have been. Don't be afraid. Soon we will bring in Willow and Xander. We will keep our little family together. You'll see." He kissed her hair again. "I love you so much Buffy."
Buffy breathed in the smell of his skin as his lukewarm blood flowed down her throat. His skin was so cold and yet he still smelled so distinctly Giles. She began to black out and felt, rather than watched, him move her away from his chest. He kissed her slack mouth, a mixture of loving her and cleaning his excess blood from her face. He sat on the ground of the cemetery and pulled her into his lap, rocking her, kissing her forehead and humming to her softly.
As her life started to slip away, everything seemed so distant and dreamlike that Buffy began to question if that wasn't what was happening. Was she dreaming all this? Was this her subconscious telling her to admit how she felt for Giles, to stop taking him for granted, stop wasting time before it was too late. She wondered when she woke up if she would be a human with a brand new start or a vampire with a brand new life. Giles' whispered "I love you" was the last thing she heard before the blackness took her completely.
The next day, Buffy sat bolt upright when she awoke.
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