For the first time ever, I'm posting a new part here first.
Stupid me. I accidently started a kerfluffle on the test list by posting information about High Stakes 2004, simply because Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, J. August Richards, Tom Lenk, Danny Strong, and Julie Benz are confirmed for the event. Rumor has it that Nathan Fillion and Amber Benson will also be there.
[*sob* I can't go to the Boston parties because of family stuff *sob*]
Note to self: Never, ever, ever post something like this on a list with such a huge freakin' membership in a heated election year. Even if you post without comment. Even if you make it clear that you are not going to debate who's the best candidate. Even if you don't even mention your political views.
So, when the latest kerfluffle dies down (along with the now-way-too-long Spiderman wank), I'll post this there.
By George! I think I may actually finish posting this thing in the next two weeks. It helps that almost everything from here on out is written and complete. Just a couple of scenes that need to be fleshed out and I'm home free on Living History.
You know the drill:
Up to part Part 64 is here.
Previous part (Part 65) is here. (Side note: Thank you all for the warm fuzzies and praise on Kennedy. I wasn't sure how her interview would go over. Given my crazy weekend and my burning desire to get this story finished so I can more fully concentrate on a certain birthday fic, I can only to promise I will answer later.)
Part 66: Giles on the Edge of Forever
The plan to get Charlie was simplicity itself.
While Giles sat there and tried desperately to absorb what Faith and Xander told him, the two of them were already debating a plan. Somehow they had reached an agreement without his intervention: drag Charlie in for further questioning. They even came up with a believable excuse.
While he desperately scrambled through his memory to find anything—there must be something I’m forgetting, there must be—that even sounded even remotely like this Polgar Syndrome, Xander was off to lure Charlie to Giles’s sanctum using the excuse that Giles wanted an update on Willow’s condition.
Faith stayed behind and nervously paced the room. She’d occasionally look at Giles with worried eyes, but didn’t saying anything.
After all, what could she possibly say? There were simply no words.
And he had nothing to offer. No comfort. No assurances. No nothing. He couldn’t even pick up the phone and bother a non-existent Council to check its turned-to-ashes books for something in the record that hinted that such a calamity was even possible.
There was a knock.
Faith immediately positioned herself so she was out of sight as the door swung open. Against all reason, Charlie had bought the excuse. Giles wondered if the good doctor realized that Xander was looming behind him, standing in such a way that he could grab the man if he decided to bolt.
“Giles,” Charlie nodded as he stepped over the threshold. “I understand you wanted to speak to me about…”
His greeting was interrupted by the sound of the door shutting behind him, which was Faith’s signal to grab the doctor and roughly seat him in a chair. She easily held him in place by placing a single hand on his shoulder and squeezing slightly.
“Ow. Let go. What’s going on?” Charlie protested. “What do you…”
“This shimmy-shakes,” Faith stated lowly. “We’ve decided we need to know all about it. So spill or we make you spill.”
“Faith,” Xander said quietly from his position in front of the door, “he’s not one of the bad guys here.”
“No. No bad guy,” Charlie fervently agreed with much vigorous nodding.
Faith didn’t take her eyes off the doctor, nor did she let him go. “He’s got the goods, though. Good enough for me.”
Giles snapped out of his surprised paralysis as he realized he needed to take control of the situation and quickly. “Faith, do let the good doctor go. I highly doubt he’ll be able to escape with both you and Xander standing in front of the door.”
Faith hesitated a moment before reluctantly stepping back and joining Xander.
Charlie rubbed his shoulder as he looked at Giles with a confused, hurt expression. However, he didn’t say anything, which was probably his wisest move.
Giles folded his hands and leaned forward onto his desk. “I heard some most disturbing news from my esteemed colleagues and I am very much hoping you might illuminate the dilemma I find myself wrestling with.”
Charlie’s eyes narrowed into a glare.
“It appears that Faith and Xander are under the mistaken impression that there is a disease that exists that is specific to Slayers.” Giles kept his voice even.
“There’s no mistake,” Xander flatly said.
“Harris,” Faith hissed.
Xander pursed his lips and squared his shoulders, but didn’t add fuel to fire by saying more.
Charlie’s glare collapsed into confusion. “But you know about this.”
“I assure you, I know no such thing,” Giles said. “Although I am not blessed with the resources of the Council, I am well aware of most poisons, toxins, and spells that are capable of killing a Slayer. However, to my recollection, there is no bacteria, virus, or genetic disease that can attack a Slayer and win.”
During his speech, Giles watched the expression on Charlie’s face transform from a look of confusion to one of out-and-out revelatory wonder. “You know about this,” he repeated.
“As I explained, no we don’t,” Giles replied. “According to the information I received, this illness does not strike until 30 or so years after a Slayer is called. As far as I am aware the oldest Slayer on record was 32-year-old Jane Smythe and she was killed during the Blitz. According to my math, that is a mere 17 years of active duty.”
“Day-um. Thirty-two,” Faith echoed with admiration.
Giles could see the information soaking into Charlie’s brain.
What he didn’t expect was the doctor’s reaction.
Faith furiously took a step forward but was held in check when Xander placed a hand on her arm. The Slayer whirled to face him, only to see her temporary partner shake his head in an emphatic, “No.”
“I fail to see the humor in this situation,” Giles said tightly.
“No, no I don’t suppose you would,” Charlie said between guffaws.
“Feel free to share the joke. I am certain both Xander and Faith would be most appreciative.”
At the mention of their names Charlie stood and bowed in the direction of Xander and Faith. “Well played, you two. Very well played.” He was soon chuckling again.
“I am pleased you’re amused,” Giles said dryly.
Charlie waved it off as he brought himself under control. “Entirely my fault.” He gave Xander and Faith a look that could actually be described as affectionately exasperated. “I forgot who I was dealing with. I should’ve realized.”
At that statement, Xander went white as he leaned back against the door. Faith merely crossed her arms and scowled.
Charlie took his seat again and crossed his legs. Giles had the distinct impression that the doctor had taken stock and was now firmly in control from here on out. Even so, the Charlie added with a sardonic grin, “That’ll teach me to match wits with Catherine’s Founders.”
Giles cast a quick glance at the Founders in question—and yes, even he heard the capital ‘F.’ Faith had finally gone pale herself and her dark eyes glittered dangerously by contrast. Xander was standing ramrod straight, as if it took every ounce of willpower to stay in one spot.
“Actually, I have to be honest,” Charlie said as he regarded Giles was amusement. “I thought you always knew about Polgar Syndrome.”
“Why on earth would you even think that?” Giles asked.
“Ahhhh, you see, I am a proud member of the Key Medical Order, which means my area of expertise is Slayers and the people who work with them,” Charlie explained. “That means I know everything there is to know about Polgar Syndrome.”
“I don’t follow,” Giles said.
Charlie leaned forward with a conspirator’s air. “You see, when the first case post Sun’dayl was reported, no one at the time seemed at all surprised by its existence. In fact, it was merely duly recorded that a Slayer had it. Polgar Syndrome is the name it was given in that very first report.”
Giles lost the ability to breathe. He didn’t dare look at Xander and Faith to see if they’d picked up on the possibility hinted in Charlie’s confession.
“Yet, here you are saying that, as far as you know, there’s no such thing.” Charlie was clearly about to hammer it home, in case anyone in his captive audience missed it. “Well, you had to learn about it from somewhere, didn’t you?”
Giles kept his eyes locked on Charlie.
“It appears, Wise Rupert Giles-rah, that history is right on track.” Charlie relaxed into his chair with a confidence that Giles had not seen in the doctor since his arrival. Charlie added in a professional tone, “You ask the questions. I’ll answer everything I can.”
They’d held conference for three hours.
Faith and Xander were silent as Giles pelted the doctor with every question he could think of. Charlie answered everything completely and fully, even pausing long enough to let Giles take notes.
When Giles had finally run out of questions, Charlie stood and made the most astounding offer: any more questions about Polgar Syndrome and Polgar Syndrome only, he would be more than happy to answer them. He then excused himself since, as he put it, he needed to check on Willow, and swept out of the room.
Which left Giles and Xander and Faith staring shell-shocked at each other.
Xander was the first to speak. “We can’t tell Buffy.”
“It’ll fucking kill her if she finds out,” Faith agreed.
“She may find out about it if…” Giles couldn’t bring himself to say, “If she lives long enough.”
Faith’s expression softened. “We’ll deal if it comes to that.” She bit her lip as if she knew she that what she was about to say would result in a battle. “We gotta tell Willow, though.”
“No.” Xander was emphatic.
Faith turned to look at him. “I know you want to protect her, but Jesus, we need every brain on this we can get and they don’t get brainier than your bud.”
“At the very least, we need to reach the Coven in Devon to see if they can help,” Giles said.
Xander pinched the bridge of his nose and winced as if he had a massive headache. “If the Coven knows, it’s a matter of time before Willow finds out.”
“Perhaps not. Perhaps we can avoid it if we stress that she is not to know,” Giles offered.
“Don’t matter if we tell ’em or don’t,” Faith insisted. “We need her too much to let just her slide.”
Xander wavered a moment and, to Giles’s complete surprise, he relented. “Fine. But we wait until she’s stronger. Telling her right now might not be the best thing we can do.”
Faith nodded, as if she realized that this was the best she could hope to get. “You don’t get to decide that alone, Cyclops. I know you. You’ll be digging up excuses from now until Gabriel blows his horn to put it off.”
“Fine.” Xander sounded defeated. “How about we let Giles decide.”
“Well?” Faith asked the Watcher.
“I’ll inform the Coven first,” Giles said. “I think it’s best if we put off telling Willow until Catherine leaves, that way we’ll be certain she’s completely healed from her ordeal.”
“But we need to get her on this as in yesterday,” Faith insisted.
“I understand your urgency,” Giles said calmly. “However, a day or two is not going to set back our efforts. Furthermore, I do hope you’re not suggesting that the Coven, a Coven I might add that taught Willow the proper use of magic, will be unable to collectively come up with more questions for Charlie.”
Faith looked mutinous for a moment before something in her gave in. “Fine. But if they got questions…”
“I assure you, I will be pestering Charlie,” Giles promised.
“Fair enough. Fuck. I need to get some shut-eye. I slept maybe five minutes last night.”
“By all means,” Giles said.
Faith gave him a nod and she was out the door. Xander hesitated a moment.
“Giles,” he sounded uncertain, “I’m sorry.”
Xander looked helplessly around the room. “For dumping this on your lap. I…we…didn’t know what else to do.”
“I would have been furious if you didn’t come to me with this,” Giles assured him quietly. “You did the right thing.”
Xander half-smiled at that. “You’d think that would make me feel better, but it really doesn’t.” He shook his head. “I gotta go.”
Which left Giles alone.
He wasn’t entirely sure how long he sat and shuffled through his notes, hoping against hope that he could find that one question that needed asking. The clock told him that it was too late to call the Coven, given the time difference.
Eventually the need to get up and just move drove him out of his room.
The change in scenery wasn’t much better.
As he wandered the house, he couldn’t resist studying the girls. Charlie had assured him that none of the Slayers would show any signs or symptoms so soon after being Called. At best they wouldn’t see hints of who’d be hit for another 25 or so years, with full onset at 30 years.
He studied all the young Slayers just the same, hoping against hope that he could prove Charlie wrong.
During his wanderings he was able to hear someone making a lot of noise in the basement as they trained. A quick inquiry with some of the worried younger Slayers yielded a most unsurprising answer: “Faith.”
His path also took him past Willow’s room just as J’Nal emerged. For a brief moment he could hear the witch’s clear giggle and how it was cruelly muffled as J’Nal shut the door. He nodded tiredly at Giles. “She’ll be fine. She’s playing some kind of game with Alexander and Buffy.”
“Thank you,” Giles said absently.
As J’Nal moved off, Giles could hear Xander’s muffled voice say something. There was the sound of a sharp thwack, Xander’s “ow” of protest, and Buffy’s scolding response while Willow’s giggle threatened to get out of control.
Giles leaned his forehead against the door, absorbing the sounds from the other side. He often forgot that the three of them were barely out of their teens. People their age should be just out of college and living in crowded cold-water flats with their forever-friends. There should be raucous parties with loud music and just a little too much weed available for the toking. There should be casual jobs until they stumbled into well-paying careers and even more casual intimate partners to share nights of open promise.
Yet, they had been somehow crammed into the roles of adults and leaders before their time by circumstance and—much as he hated to give credit to it—fate. And yes, he was now including Xander in that select company.
It truly wasn’t fair that so much had fallen on their young shoulders, but then the world is rarely fair, he reflected. Yet, despite all that was asked of them, all three had borne it. Perhaps not well at times. Perhaps grudgingly at other times. And he certainly remembered kicking and screaming when insurmountable odds seemed poised to overwhelm them all.
But still they did it.
Because they had to.
Because there was no one else who would.
He stepped back and listened to jokes where he couldn’t hear the words and pictured the laughter he couldn’t see. They all needed this too brief moment to be children again. The adult world would be waiting for them when they opened the door and that would happen soon enough.
He turned down the hall, fully intent on going back to take another look at his notes, but as he passed by the room where their guests were staying he was brought up short by a soft, musical murmur that could be heard through the slightly ajar door. He hesitated a moment before inching it open and peeking in.
Catherine seemed to be in a world of her own, her eyes focused on some midpoint between herself and eternity. Her eyes were narrowed and her chin rested atop her folded hands she continued to murmur to herself.
For a moment Giles froze, transfixed by the silver language rendered in a near-alto voice. It was a language that promised that humanity’s golden age was not in the past, as so many cynics might suggest, but in a distant time yet to come. It was almost enough to make him forget that the future, no matter how bright, still had its share of shadows.
Then again, he knew that. Everyone single one of Catherine’s people told him that was the case. That was why they were here, after all. But the genuine happy nature of this merry band was enough to distract from that and focus everyone on the good.
Or maybe we’re so bloody desperate for the good that we’ve chosen to believe in a happy ending.
He must’ve made a noise because Catherine’s head shot up and she ceased speaking.
“I do apologize,” Giles stepped into the room and closed the door softly behind him. “But I heard and…your language is quite beautiful.”
He could see Catherine’s mind mentally switch gears to English before she answered, confusion evident on her face. “It’s just Lingua Commonality.”
“Just?” Giles asked, unable to grasp that something so lovely could ever be “just” anything short of extraordinary. “I am curious about what it means, that is if you don’t mind telling me.”
Catherine slowly blinked as she thought about it, before giving up in a shrug. “I don’t think there’s a direct translation to English but it sort of means, ‘I lay this upon you and your children and your children’s children from now until beyond the end of time.’”
Giles leaned back against the door. “Sounds like a curse.”
“Or a charge,” Catherine leaned back, teeth worrying her bottom lip. “Honestly, though, I’m not sure anymore. I’m trying to work it out, but…” she shrugged. “I thought remembering to the Founders would help me figure it out, but it’s just made it more confusing.”
“‘Remembering to?’” Giles asked. He shook his head with a chuckle as he recalled just who Catherine’s Founders were. “I suppose you could ask Xander and Faith and see what they think.”
Catherine’s eyes widened. Her mouth opened—probably to protest, Giles thought—but only a slight squeak escaped.
“Don’t worry. Xander’s connection to you is public knowledge,” Giles quickly assured her. “Unless Faith’s connection also becomes public knowledge, I promise to say nothing. You’ll find that I am very good at keeping secrets.”
Catherine continued to blink rapidly as she rendered a shaky, “Thank you.”
“‘Remembering to,’” Giles mused. “Is that like praying?” To be honest, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with the notion that someone in some distant future might be praying to anyone in this house.
“What? No. Oh, no. No,” Catherine shook her head. “Nothing like that. I think. I’m not sure.”
What we have here is, once again, words not meaning what they’re bloody well supposed to, Giles thought. “Why don’t you explain ‘remembering to’ to me and I’ll tell you.”
Catherine frowned in concentration. “Not sure I can, but…” She brightened. “I know. How about I give you an example?”
“Are you sure that’s wise?” Giles asked. “I don’t think you should be giving away the future to the likes of me.”
“I’m not because this has already happened to you,” Catherine grinned. The smile quickly disappeared before she added, “Maybe. Given what I know now? I’m not really sure. So how about a deal: I give you an example, and you tell me if it’s true. Is that fair?”
Giles crossed the room and sat next to her on the loveseat. “Provided it’s not about something that hasn’t happened yet, then, yes, I believe it would be eminently fair.”
“Right,” Catherine said softly. She gave Giles a look that telegraphed that she still wasn’t sure this was the smartest thing she’d ever done, before saying, “This is remembering to. It’s about the First Battle of Sun’dayl.”
Giles nodded and waited.
The Watcher Honoria took a deep breath and began:
“And the day came to pass when the Seven sent They-Who-Wait into hiding, along with the sister of Summers-rah and the one who was beloved by Harris-rah, for in those days, the Darkness was stirring in its power to erase the Slayer bloodline from humanity’s memory.
“Once those under their protection were secure in a secret place, the Seven in their desperation engaged in ritual to call forth the First Slayer to petition Her for Her strength to save not just They-Who-Wait, but humanity entire.”
Giles’s eyes narrowed as he listened to the almost singsong nature of the recitation. This story was not familiar to him in the least. The Seven? Who were the Seven? And if They-Who-Wait were the Potentials, he didn’t recall Buffy ever sending them into hiding. If anything, she tended to push them very hard on learning how to fight on the front lines. As for Dawn and Anya, since she was the only person who fit ‘beloved by Harris-rah,’ they most certainly weren’t cowering in some secret bolthole while everyone else did the heavy lifting.
“And in the fire the First Slayer came unto them and She was greatly angered. ‘Who be these foolish mortals that rouse Me from the Life After? Are not all answers to your ills in the land of the living?
“And the Seven were afraid, but they kept their backs straight and refused to show fear. ‘The Void is upon us and the Darkness would consume us. Your Children shalt be killed and Your Life After shalt be for naught. You shalt be forgotten and Your Bones be left to dust.’
“But the First Slayer was not mollified and She thundered at them for their foolishness, for playing with forces unseen as children would play with a toy. ‘The answer, if answer there be, lie amongst those who yet live, not in the Life After. It is not fit that you call Me forth and demand of Me My aid. I shalt not help you, for it is your world to save or not.”
Giles shivered, remembering too clearly the spell that linked Xander, Willow, Buffy, and himself. He could still feel the murderous fury in the dreams that followed and how he couldn’t escape the notion that the First Slayer was offended by the fact that three out of the four of them tasted power they had no right to taste.
Catherine didn’t seem to notice and she kept speaking. “As the First Slayer laid Her refusal before them, Harris-rah protested, ‘Then it is right Your name is forgotten and that Your Children be wiped from the face of the Tara. Let the living die. What are they to You? Let Your Children cease, for they are nothing before Your eyes. Let it be known henceforth that we are braver than You for standing before the Darkness. We fight, while You scold from the sidelines like a fishwife. We’ve no need of You, for You are nothing but shadow and dust.”
Now that, Giles mused, sounds exactly like something Xander would do, complete with moving his mouth without thinking because he’s furious. Although I’m fairly certain that there’d be copious amounts of swearing mixed in with a protest that would be very much less poetic. He had a feeling that ‘Harris-rah’ was going to dearly pay for that outburst and was curious about the price.
“As he shouted his defiance in the face of the First Slayer, Summers-rah and Lanoire-rah attempted to pacify him. ‘Leave it be before She strikes you dead. We shalt find another way as She hast abandoned us in our hour of need.’
“The accusation angered the First Slayer and with a wave of Her hand, She sent the Seven hurtling to the ground, forcing them facedown in an attitude of supplication. Her eyes blazed at the challenge and great was Her fury. ‘I have attempted to spare you the price of dealing with Me, but as you insist upon a Bargain, then Bargain I shall, but My price is not small.
“And the Seven trembled at the tone of Her voice and the force of Her power.
“‘What is it you demand of Me?’ she asked.”
“Frankly, I’m rather curious about what we wanted myself,” Giles murmured.
Catherine’s eyes widened. “You mean you don’t even know?”
Giles winced. “Not really, although I might hazard a guess.”
“The Empowerment Spell?” Catherine prompted.
“Ahhhhh.” Giles nodded. He was wondering what Catherine thought happened. Now he was about to find out. “Please, do continue.”
Catherine’s voice was less sure as she began again. “And Summers-rah said, ‘We wish for an army of strong right arms.’
“And Lanoire-rah said, ‘We wish that Those-Who-Wait be strong.’
“And together Summers-rah and Lanoire-rah said, ‘We wish for Many where once there were Two.’”
Interesting, both Faith and Buffy are presented as making the same request, even though the idea was Buffy’s alone. Giles couldn’t help but wonder if the details of the story changed, depending on who told it.
“The First Slayer considered their request, moving amongst their still-prone bodies. ‘If I grant this to you, what shalt you give Me?’
“‘Our lives,’ the Seven vowed, ‘We offer our Spirits, our Minds, our Hearts, and our Hands.’”
Bloody hell! That damn well sounds like the spell we used to defeat Adam, Giles thought.
“And thus the First Slayer walked amongst the Seven and She laid Her price upon them. Of Wise Giles-rah…”
Giles started at the mention of his name.
“…she said, ‘I charge you to use your Wisdom in service of Me, to be the Guiding Light for all who come after, but though you be the One Who Unites, you shalt plant the seeds of Division amongst all those who come after you and yours.’
“Of,” here Catherine paused with a look of distaste before continuing, “Wood-rah she said, ‘I charge you to use your Intelligence to bring forth and train Mine in the ways of Righteousness, but though you may give them knowledge, your heart shall evermore be hardened to humanity within my Children.’”
Well, that explains the dislike, Giles thought. As far as Catherine’s concerned, Robin has no heart. I suspect that makes him very much the bad guy in her mind.
“Of ca-Rosenberg she said, ‘I grant you the Knowledge to awaken the Power within They-Who-Wait when the time comes, but henceforth you and all who follow you shalt be bound to the service of Me and my Children, wheresoever they may be.’”
It was then that Giles realized that he was going to find out who the Seven in this story were. So far, he had Buffy, Faith, Xander, Willow, Robin, himself, and one mystery member. The First Slayer was giving them something, but was taking away something in return. Truthfully, he was half-afraid what his own reward and price meant.
It was then that he realized that he well and truly didn’t want to know.
“She stopped before Summers-rah and ordered Her Child to her feet. ‘As you stand before Me, I give you My Weapon,’ here the First Slayer held out Her hands and a Scythe of great power appeared in Her fists. ‘With this Weapon you shalt awaken the Power and wield it in service of Me…’”
“The Slayer’s Scythe,” Giles interrupted.
Catherine’s answering smile seemed to telegraph so much relief that Giles knew what she was talking about that he simply didn’t have the heart to tell her that the First Slayer had nothing to do with the Scythe or its creation, that is, if Buffy got her facts right about where the weapon came from.
Cahterine continued, her voice a little more sure “‘…but you shalt never be the source of the Power, for that is reserved to one of My choosing. And be warned: Should this Weapon be lost, I shalt retrieve it back to Life After and your life is forfeit.’”
Now that sounds like a prophecy, Giles felt his blood run cold. He half-suspected that this ‘price’ for ‘Summers-rah’ was much like showing the gun in the first act just so no one was surprised when it was used in the third. I think we may well lock the blasted thing up on the off chance this actually happens.
Why did he have a feeling that locking the Scythe away would ultimately do no good?
“Next She ordered Lanoire-rah to stand before Her. ‘I give you your strength, I grant you the gift of a true heart. As you have never been One, you shalt be known as leader and mother to the Many. From you they shalt draw their strength, from you they shalt see their example.’
“At this Lanoire-rah laughed, for she was greatly amused. It pleased her to hunt alone and it pleased her to stand solitude. She looked not at all favorably on the gift the First Slayer saw fit to bestow upon her.
“Her laughter angered the First Slayer, and She laid upon Lanoire-rah this curse, ‘You shalt never wield My Weapon and thus there will always be those who doubt your fitness. You and your children and your children’s children shall be bound to Me, but they shalt always remember that I saw fit to deny you My Weapon in your hour of need.’
“‘And what is it to me? Let the Other have Your Weapon, but let me use whatever weapon I see fit,’ Lanoire-rah said with good cheer. ‘Give me a strong right arm, give me an enemy to fight, and I shalt see victory yet.’
“The First Slayer relented in the face of such spirit, and granted her one blessing, ‘You shalt find allies in surprising places, and generations yet will bless your name. Use your gifts and you shalt never again walk in Shadow.’”
Giles couldn’t help but notice that there was more emphasis on what Faith and Xander were doing than on anyone else. So far, Xander and Faith were the only two allowed to defy the First Slayer in the story, although near as he could tell such defiance was pretty much in character for both of them. And once again, I find myself wishing to find out what someone who didn’t share Catherine’s beliefs would tell me.
“And so She came to William, the one they called the Bloody for his prowess in battle…”
“Spike!” Giles exclaimed.
Catherine frowned. “Yes, of course it is. You sound surprised.”
“No, no, I’m not. It’s just that he was better known as Spike and to hear him called ‘William the Bloody’ took me by surprise,” Giles explained.
“Really,” Catherine sounded intrigued, “I understood that he didn’t take on the mantle of Spike until after Sun’dayl.”
“After?” Giles swallowed hard. That could only mean one thing: Spike was still out there somewhere.
Catherine’s eyes narrowed. “You’re still sounding surprised.”
“I’m just surprised at where you’re placing the name change,” Giles covered. “By the time we met him, he was simply ‘Spike.’ The moniker William the Bloody was reserved for musty Watcher’s Chronicles. He was so known for several reasons, one of which he’d killed two Slayers before he met up with Buffy.”
Catherine looked positively flabbergasted. “You’re joking! He was a vampire without a soul with Slayer kills under his belt? And he was working with you? How? Better yet, why?”
“Well, by the time we started fighting the First Evil he had a soul,” Giles weakly explained.
Catherine shook her head and muttered. “But you worked with him before he got…how did he get the soul? It was always assumed he received it at the same time as Angel and Drusilla.”
“Drusilla?” Giles was shocked to his core.
“The Triumvirate?” Catherine prompted. “The Three with Souls?”
“I…perhaps we should not follow this line of questioning.” Giles could feel his heart pounding. She knew about Angel, but he’d fallen into the arms of Wolfram & Hart so it was difficult to tell where Angel stood. He could easily deduce that Catherine believed that Drusilla had a soul, which meant…he didn’t even want to contemplate what that meant. And, she knew about Spike, she knew he was a vampire with a soul, but knew nothing about his past.
He very much could see the appeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’
“How Spike got the soul is a very long story but…well it does appear you know about the mystical ensouling,” Giles weakly explained.
“Well, that explains…” Catherine began before she snapped her mouth shut. There was a flash of understanding in her eyes that communicated Watcher-to-Watcher sympathy. She wasn’t going to give Giles any cause to say anything about William-who-was-known-as-Bloody to anyone. “I’m really…you know? I think I better stop right now because…”
“I won’t say anything,” Giles promised urgently.
“You’ve already given bits away about the future, you know,” Giles interrupted. “And I want to see how this story ends. After all,” he suddenly couldn’t resist a wry smile, “it appears I sow the seeds of dissention. Perhaps this is it.”
Catherine opened her mouth and drew a deep breath. In that moment, Giles could see that Catherine was desperately curious. So much of what she believed was right turned out to be wrong and she wanted—no needed—to know if this one story, the story of how her world began, was what really happened or if it was a pack of lies.
So far Giles was coming down on the ‘pack of lies’ side of the equation, but something in him also needed to know how the story turned out.
“Or perhaps Spike has nothing to do with my ‘price’ at all,” Giles gently pressed. “But the thing is, I really don’t know, do I?”
Catherine looked down and studied her hands.
“Somehow I suspect that your story will not solve the riddle, and to be blunt, I’ll be very relieved if it doesn’t. But perhaps I can solve your riddle.” Giles mentally crossed his fingers and hoped the dangling promise did the trick.
“I did make a deal,” now it was Catherine’s turn to smile wryly, “so I better stick to it.”
Giles let out a breath. Catherine’s curiosity won out over caution. He wasn’t sure if he should be worried or relieved.
Catherine picked up where she left off: “And so She came to William, the one they called the Bloody for his prowess in battle, and She laid this charge upon him, ‘You who have walked in Shadow shalt be My strong right arm, but who you were shalt be forfeit in the burning Light of the Sun. For in Shadow you have walked, and in Shadow you shalt fight to keep Night from claiming victory over Day.’” Catherine cleared her throat and added apologetically, “Ummm, that’s kinda why we thought he changed his name from William the Bloody to Spike after Sun’dayl.”
Giles looked up at the ceiling, “Perhaps he did change dramatically. We shall see, won’t we?”
Catherine nodded. “I have one more.”
“Yes. Xander.” He resisted the urge to pull his off his glasses and pinch his nose. He felt unaccountably guilty about looking forward to hearing about ‘Harris-rah’s’ punishment for telling off the First Slayer and accusing her of cowardice. It was too easy to forget that, as far as this story went, ‘Harris-rah’ and Xander were one and the same.
“And so the First Slayer came upon Harris-rah, and She ordered him to his feet. ‘As you see fit to look Me in the eye and accuse Me, so I shalt see fit to look upon your face and as I pass judgment upon you.’
“And Harris-rah looked upon Her and refused to bend his spine, although he was sore afraid. ‘If blood You want, then blood You’ll have, but I refuse to say that You Destined that it be so. My death will be my own.’”
“Well, that very much sounds like Xander,” Giles laughed. “Although I’m fairly certain he’d be saying the Yank equivalent of ‘get stuffed.’”
Catherine giggled. “Having met him? You are definitely right.” She settled down. “Right, I have to get through this part.”
Giles nodded for her to continue.
“The First Slayer said, ‘Your death is nothing to Me, and so I order you thus: Live, even if you would die. You believe you protect those around you with honor, I tell you that you have not yet begun. Only after you walk through the fire shall you be a weapon pleasing to Me. Your blood and the blood of your blood is now Mine to use as I see fit. You, and your children’s children, shall evermore be bound in service to Me, as heart, hand, mind, or spirit, as I so desire. I lay this charge upon you and your children and your children’s children from now until beyond the end of time.’”
Giles closed his eyes. He hoped he was reading more into it than was already there, but he couldn’t escape the notion that this mythical charge of the First Slayer would be Xander’s worst nightmare come true. In essence, the First Slayer just claimed not just his life, but the lives of all of his descendants, and demanded that they’d all be moved around some mystical chessboard.
Right then he knew he’d never tell a soul about this story, especially since according to Catherine’s tale, all of them will be forced to pay the butcher’s bill in ways that not one of them could ever anticipate or easily accept.
Frankly, according to Catherine, it sounded like none of them walked out of Sunnydale unscathed.
But then again, he already knew that.
“Her charges finished, the First Slayer became one with the fire and She challenged the Seven thus: ‘Do you think Me still unkind? Do you believe I have turned My back on you? Thus is it ever when you Bargain with those in the Life After. Tell Me yea or nay that My price is acceptable in your sight.’
“And the Seven assented, agreeing to pay the price as She so dictated, submitting themselves to the Bargain She demanded.
“‘Then go forth with My blessing, but mind this: I shalt hold you to your promises. I bind you now and ever more to Me and in exchange I shalt never abandon my Children again. Fear not, for what is curse shalt be blessing, and the price shalt be your wealth now and ever after. And when we meet again in the Life After, such tales you will tell Me of wonder and awe.’
“And with that final benediction, the First Slayer clothed Herself in flame and faded from their sight.
“The Seven could only stand in wonder and dread, pondering the meaning of Her left in their hearts. For now they had a chance at holding the line against the Darkness, even if victory was not yet secured in their uneasy minds.
“And so ends the Remembering. I tell this Remembering to you, so that you may tell it to others, that all may understand what once was and how we came to be.”
Catherine and Giles sat in silence for a long time after that, each lost in thought.
‘Rembering to’ was nothing more than telling a story over and over again until you knew it by heart.
I was there at the beginning and here I am listening to the end, Giles thought. How many changes were made to meet an agenda? Or how many details forgotten and replaced with details that seemed to make more sense? Would someone else tell the story in the exact same way? Or would it be radically different? Would there be villains or would someone be made to look villainous? Too many questions. Just too many.
It was enough to make him doubt every single thing he’d ever read in a Watcher’s journal or in a history book. It was like someone had yanked the carpet out from underneath his feet and left him fighting for traction on a polished floor.
Amazing the changes 834 years can effect on something he was so intimately familiar with.
“That story,” Catherine finally said, “is supposed to explain not just how the battle was won at Sun’dayl, but also why my family has always been so intimately involved with Slayers. Everything we’ve all done over the centuries.” She chuckled ruefully. “I told Alexander that no one in my family has ever not been involved with this,” she waved a hand around the room, “but I didn’t tell him that it’s because we’ve always believed that it was because the First Slayer chose us to do it.”
“Maybe you’re not entirely wrong,” Giles said, desperately scrambling for something to make Catherine feel better, even if he couldn’t find it in himself to lie. “Maybe we’ve all been marked by Sunnydale dying. Maybe all of us who were there were chosen to a certain extent, just not in a way we can see from where we are. Maybe it’s something you can see only in 20-20 hindsight.”
Catherine was back to studying her nails.
Giles knew that she just didn’t have the courage to ask: Is it true?
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there before he realized that every part of his body and mind felt numb because of the sheer weight of the future pressing down on him. He was bone tired and right now he wanted nothing more than to escape.
He stumbled to his feet and headed for the door, but Catherine’s voice interrupted him.
“Giles?” she asked.
The Watcher turned around and saw her familiar-but-not-really face. He could see Faith’s surprisingly expressive eyes and Xander’s desperately wanting-to-smile mouth. The lost expression really had no place there.
“Giles,” Catherine began again. “It really didn’t happen at all like that, did it?”
Giles realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised that Catherine did find the courage to ask after all. She was a Harris and a Lanoire. If nothing else, both Xander and Faith had a habit of calling bullshit on things that didn’t seem quite right to them, even if they both could cheerfully hide in delusion when it suited them. The only difference was that Catherine wasn’t sure what to think and, Giles suspected, she probably faced reality slightly better than her Founders.
He thought long and hard before settling on what he believed was the real answer.
“Factually, no, it didn’t happen like that at all. But I do believe you have the truth of it.”