Title: Magister 3: In the Season of Nightmares
Rating: FRAO (overall)
Parings: Vamp!Giles/Willow, Giles/Ethan (ur), Willow/Kennedy (kinda)
Timeline: Some weeks after the end of Magister 2. Mid Buffy season 7.
Summary: The First has begun its full scale attacks. And, while the Scoobies struggle to figure out how to fight this new threat, Giles and Ethan are off to find answers and save potentials. Nightmares are walking up and speaking to everyone. The lucky ones might survive.
Find series HERE.
Ch. 13 – Aftershocks
Ethan laughed again as the surviving Bringers seemed to filter away through unseen cracks and holes. He felt euphoric. The creaks and pains of his aging body were a distant memory. Strength and power coursed through him as freely as his own blood. This gift of the First was beyond anything he could have imagined or hoped for.
He turned to see how his vampiric friend was faring and was caught up by the throat. The powerful hand squeezed him pitilessly and slammed him back against a support pillar. Momentary terror melted into elation as Ethan felt no pain, no breathlessness, not even a pinch of discomfort. He couldn’t help another round of joyous laughter.
“Cackling hyena,” Magister rumbled. “You caged me in that mewling, pathetic corpse. Give me one reason I shouldn’t crush you like the insect you are right now.”
“I’ll give you three,” Ethan chuckled, unshaken. “I was not your jailer. Merely a simple battery that was tapped into. And, if you remember, at the time, you were on the verge of killing anyway. Not much incentive for me to resist. As for now, if you haven’t figured it out, I’m the one you have to thank for your release. You have no more cause to fear your other side. In fact, some appreciation might be in order.”
“And the third?”
Ethan’s elation came back full force, blossoming into a high-voltage version of his smuggest grin. “I don’t think you can.”
“You little…” Magister squeezed harder, but nothing happened. He picked the sorcerer up and hurled him bodily into a wall with such force some of the roof broke loose and tumbled down onto his victim. The vampire approached with a smirk, but it faded when he pulled Ethan from the rubble unscathed. Wrapping his fangs around Ethan’s throat, he bit and gnawed to no avail.
“Oh, Ripper,” Ethan purred with glee, grinding his hips into the bulge his assailant was still sporting, “If you want me, all you have to do is ask.”
Magister pulled back and spit the taste from his mouth for show. “I would sooner fuck a corpse,” he growled.
“Take your pick.” Ethan pushed out of his grip and spread his arms to indicate the carnage around them. “Young or old. Boy or girl. Friend or foe. I have to admit, your coming out was quite the affair.” He spun back to face the vampire. “I am now the living vessel of the First Evil. I have strength and power equal to and beyond your own. If you still crave your little witch queen, then have your pet, but there is only one you should look to, to stand at your side and rule this world.” Ethan’s eyes began to glow as he let the power swirl around him.
A blast of energy plowed into him and threw him across the room, punching another hole in the wall. He was right back inside and started pacing purposely toward Magister, a knowing smile dancing on his lips. “Feeling playful, are we?”
“Boys!” Buffy’s voice demanded their attention. “If you’re almost done with lover’s playtime… You might want to come with me. The two of you’ve done a good job of making swiss cheese of my building and one of you is about to get a little too hot under the collar.” The First turned and walked down a hidden staircase.
The two evil powerhouses glanced at each other, shrugged, and followed.
Buffy walked slowly through the intensive care ward of the hospital. In every room were familiar faces. Allies, innocents, friends. She stopped outside Xander’s room. Unable to force herself to go in, she watched and listened.
Willow was at his side, his hand tightly grasped in her own. Anya was at the other, uncharacteristically quiet and subdued.
“Shh. Slowly…” the redhead whispered to him.
“What…?” Xander ground out groggily as he came to.
“You’re in the hospital. You took a little knock on the head.” Willow did her best to hide the crack in her voice.
His unfocused eyes slowly roamed the ceiling above him for some time before he breathed, “I can’t see.”
His childhood friend caught the sob trying to claw its way out of her throat. “The, um… The doctors said this might happen. But don’t worry. They’re sure--”
“Willow?” Xander gripped her hand with fear.
“I’m right here. So is Anya.”
“Yes,” Anya placed a hand on his chest so he could feel it. “I’m exactly twelve inches to your left. You… you look better than you did before. Nowhere near the color of death.” She shrugged at Willow’s glare.
The ex-demon’s familiar bluntness brought a slight smile to Xander’s lips. “Tell me…” he swallowed hard around the thickness in his throat.
“You were hit by one of the casks at the vineyard,” Willow began softly. “There’s a small fracture above your left temple. The doctors say you’re lucky there wasn’t more injury to your brain.”
“So, not brain dead, just blind.” Xander said in a deadpan tone. “Yay,” he added with tired sarcasm.
“Temporary,” the Witch rushed to clarify. “There’s ninety-eight percent chance you’ll regain full sight in you right eye. They’re sure you’ll be okay.”
“And the other one?” he prompted, knowing his friend far too well and what it meant when she spoke in specifics.
Willow shook her head, the words refusing to leave her lips. It was Anya who finally spoke up. “They think there might be a crushed nerve in there somewhere. The odds are ten percent for that one. But, hey, Zxiplc demons are born with only one eye, and they’ve been terrorizing human sailors since time began. So, it can’t be all that bad.”
Willow huffed in shock, “Not that bad?!”
“I’m just trying to cheer him up.”
“Well… You suck at it.”
“She’s right, Will,” Xander said softly, halting the argument. “With one eye, I can still do research, and fight, and help Buffy. All of you have lost more in the past. Guess it was my turn.” Memories seemed to jog loose in his groggy mind. “Oh God... My eyes aren’t even the worst thing we lost last night. Willow, I’m so sorry.”
“Stop it, Xan,” Willow fought her tears as he reached to hold her. “I’m the one trying to comfort you right now.” She let him pull her into his arms and lay against his chest weeping.
Buffy had to turn away, unwilling to let herself follow suit. She noticed Dr. Pryce coming her way and continued down the hallway to meet her.
The older woman looked kindly at her fiercely stoic face. “Are you sure you’re ready now, Dear?”
“I don’t have the choice. Have you been able to get a count, yet?”
“After the confusion of the battle, clear reports have been difficult to put together. We were able to pull twelve wounded out, including young Xander. They are all here and resting now. Though, being purely human, it will take them a fair time to heal. Four girls are confirmed dead, and three more are still missing and most likely…”
“You can add principal Wood to that count,” Buffy mumbled.
“I am sorry, Buffy. I know he was a friend of yours.” The Slayer stood perfectly still, staring past her. “Listen. I’ve things in hand here. Maybe you should go home. The others are bound to need some guidance and reassurance after what’s happened. Perhaps you can get a bit of rest as well.”
Buffy finally focused. “You’re right. Call if anything comes up here.”
“I will, Dear.”
“You let him die!” Faith slammed Spike against the living room wall, pinning him there with her forearm across his throat. The surviving potentials gave them a wide berth while watching intently in morbid curiosity.
“What was I supposed to do?” Spike shot back.
She growled, “Is it true? Is it true you killed his mother?”
“Yes,” he shoved her back a step. “She was a Slayer. I was a vampire. That’s how the game is played.”
“Hey. Looks who’s suddenly high and mighty. Sure, I was once just a monster. I’ll freely admit it. But I wasn’t the only one. Things change. People change. You and I know that better than most.”
“And you still picked him.”
“He made that call,” Spike defended. “He was willing to die to protect you.”
“It wasn’t his call to make. I’m the Slayer. It’s my job to fight and die.”
“And he made it his job to make sure you kept on fighting.”
Faith was still flexing her fists in rage. “You could have done something to get him out of there. You just stood there.”
“Oh, like what? Wave my arse around like a bitch in heat? Besides, last time I tried to make a move on the Watcher in a fight, I spent the whole time pinned on the ceiling. And he was good.”
The Slayer shoved him against the wall again. “I was trying to distract him long enough for you to get everyone out of there.”
“Yeah? Sure looked like an act from where I stood. One touch and Dr. Evil was playing you like a puppet.”
She grabbed his shirt, pulling him nose to nose with her as her whole body held him to the wall. “You ever had someone just brush against that little prick of yours and send lightning straight up through your chest, Spike? He wanted Robin to see me lose it. He wanted him to die thinking he could never make me feel…” Her head fell to Spike’s shoulder, hiding her face.
The vampire gently wrapped his arms around her and murmured into her ear. “The only thing he died thinking was that you were safe. Man Mountain cared about you, Pet. He did the same as any of us would.”
She pulled away slowly, whispering, “He didn’t understand what we were up against. There was no way any of them could know what Magister is capable of.”
“Don’t say that name.” Buffy was standing in the opened front door. “I swore to Giles that name would never be used again.”
“We all failed the Watcher there, Luv,” Spike frowned. “If I had left him where we found him like he wanted, maybe…”
“No,” Buffy shook her head slowly. “No one wanted to see Ethan’s betrayal coming. No one except Xander. He played us all.”
Unnoticed among the group of girls, Dawn began the cry and ran up the stairs to her room. Spike moved to follow, but halted on Buffy’s signal to let her go.
“How is Xan?” Faith asked.
“Alive,” Buffy said shortly. “He’ll recover.”
“So, I have a question,” Kennedy raised her hand after a few moments of heavy silence. “How come no one ever thought it might be a good idea to warn us that, for Mr. Giles, having a bad day means turning into Voldemort’s evil twin?”
“His soul was stolen,” Buffy replied sadly. “We didn’t think anyone could do it. And don’t blame Giles. We’d all be monsters if it happened to us.”
“I think most of us get what happened by now,” Kennedy tried to ease her usual harshness. “I’m not trying to say Mr. Giles did anything wrong. But, what I don’t get is why none of us even knew he could do the magick stuff. Ethan and Willow, sure. But your Watcher turns evil and suddenly he can throw the magick around, too.”
Buffy frowned, “Giles could always do magick. He just…”
“He just knows,” Faith continued to explain, “All magick comes at a cost. He’s careful about using it only when he has to. This demon, on the other hand…”
“Doesn’t care,” Kennedy nodded in understanding.
“Talk about your triple threat,” one of the girls muttered. “Watcher, vampire, and sorcerer.”
“Wait,” Andrew’s spoken thought came out louder than intended in the suddenly quiet room. “If Mr. Giles is the evil twin, that would make Voldemort…”
“The good one. Yes, we got it,” Molly sighed.
“Hey,” Faith rushed to Andrew, picking him up by the shirt collar. Buffy and Spike seemed to have the same thought and were right behind her. “You spent all yesterday with Magick Man. What exactly were you two doing?”
“Nothing. I didn’t do anything,” Andrew squeaked, looking from one intense glare to another. “We did go to the monastery like he told you.”
“Right,” Spike prodded. “Then tell us everything weasel-man did.”
“Well… When we got there the monks welcomed us in. They thought we were just travelers and it’s part of their doctrine to offer help to anyone who…”
“Andrew!” Buffy’s impatience made the boy jump.
“E-E-Ethan told them he’d been sent in search of something, and lead them to a hidden passage and the ancient inscription we told you about.”
“He already knew where to find it?” Andrew nodded briskly at Buffy’s question. “But, you guys where gone more than twenty-four hours. I thought you spent the day searching.”
“He found it right off. Come to think of it, he snickered a little after he read it, like he’d heard something funny, you know.”
Spike growled, “Been talkin’ to the First the whole time, whaddaya wanna bet.”
“Then what’d he do?” Faith shook the boy again.
“Then he…” Andrew crinkled his eyes as if remembering something he suddenly realized was odd. “He asked to see their library. Since they thought he must have been sent by someone important, the monks let him. He spent all day in there studying the books. Really old magick books by the look.” Andrew looked at Buffy with a sad pleading in his eyes. “I thought he was looking for something to help you. I really did.”
“Put him down, Faith.” Buffy shook her head. “Blaming him is like blaming the puppy trying to babysit a tiger.”
“What do we do now?” Molly spoke up timidly when their leaders seemed to sink into their own thoughts.
“Yeah,” Kennedy glanced around, gaining strength from the other survivors around her. “You guys have dealt with this Mag… um, this demon of Mr. Giles’ before. What do we do to turn him good again?”
“We can’t,” Willow was now standing in the doorway.
“What are you doing here?” Buffy went to her. “I thought you were staying with Xander.”
“Anya’s with him.” Willow rubbed at her eye, still red and puffy. “Dr. Pryce sent me to tell you what’s going on.”
“She could have called.”
The Witch gave a sad smile. “I think she was hoping I’d get some sleep. She wanted me to tell you that the hospital staff has been ordered to evacuate Sunnydale. They already took all the other patients. The Doc was able to flash some kind of universal I-out-rank-you medical card from the Council and convinced them to let her take charge of the potentials and keep them at our hospital. But, as of this afternoon, it will be deserted except for us.”
“It’s probably better that way,” Buffy mumbled.
“Oi,” Spike stepped forward. “Whaddya mean we can’t save the Watcherman? I thought you were doing better with the power thing these days.”
“It’s not me. I could do the spell easy. But my spell depends on knowing exactly where Giles’ soul is. Ethan banished him to any one of thousands of dimensions. Even if all my focus could go to finding him, it would take a lifetime or more.”
“I think I heard some of the words…” Molly, having been in the nearest group, wracked her brain to remember the few things she could pick out from the chaos. “He said something about a well… And a place no one would search.”
Willow shook her head with a deep frown. “That’s the thing. Even if we knew exactly what Ethan cast, it wouldn’t make a difference. The magick depends more on the place his mind was focused on than the words he was saying. And no one but Ethan knows where that was.”
“This bites,” Rona spoke up, gaining nods from the girls around her. “I mean, it always seemed pretty obvious Ethan had some kind of thing going for Mr. Giles. Why would he do this?”
“Maybe the ability to pick up trees and cause earthquakes had something to do with it,” another girl muttered in a deadpan.
“His reasons don’t matter now,” Buffy announced. “He did it, and now we have to deal. We lost some of our best fighters today, and gained two new enemies who know us better than we know ourselves. I want everyone back in one house. I don’t care if you’re sitting on each other. You do anything, do it in groups. We need to close ranks and look out for each other right now.”
The room full of girls began moving to collect their things and reorganized themselves once again. Buffy watched as Willow wearily made her way up the stairs. She beckoned Spike, Faith, and Kennedy to her.
“Listen,” she whispered to both Slayer and Vampire. “I want you two to keep a constant eye on Willow.”
“You think he’s gonna strike up the old plan again?” Faith hissed back.
“I think there’s a good chance he’ll come after her. If only to make doubly sure she can’t bring Giles back.” They nodded understanding and she turned to Kennedy. “And I want you to stay with her. Willow’s comfortable with you. Despite the brave face she’s putting up, I know this is killing her inside.”
“Got it,” the potential responded and hurried up the stairs.
Dawn lifted her head from her soggy pillow. Even though her being still had sorrow to pour out, her eyes had no more to give. She was exhausted.
Slowly getting up, she crossed to her window and slid it open. The bright noontime sun lit the street full of pretty, little houses. The full-leafed trees held birds singing their happy songs to each other. The soft breeze caressed her face with a faint, blended hint of flowers. Dawn hated it all.
She pulled the crystal from around her neck and stared down at it, cradled in the palm of her hand. “Why?” she asked it with no voice passing her pale lips.
Her fist clutched tightly in anger. She turned and hurled the pendant out the window. Running back to her bed, the girl collapsed in a heap and cried herself to sleep.
Through the tiny crack in her door, Spike watched silently and stood his guard.