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A Predatory Act

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Realization dawns on Giles not a moment too soon. Almost a moment too late. Almost. His tongue stops just on the edge of commenting on the extraordinary circumstance of the sacred circle having already been in place when the children arrived. His heart is beating fast now, but he's good at hiding his emotions.

The man has a very heavy stick in his hands, and Giles knows he needs to act fast. “Would you hand me that book?” He says evenly, surprised and proud that he has managed not to stammer. He shouldn't be. He's past that level of mere terror, in a different place. Dissociated. Primal. Calm.

The Zookeeper takes the bait. Not ready to arouse suspicion, he politely complies. Steps over to where the book lies. Stoops down. Turns his back.

Two to one Giles could knock him unconscious with one sharp blow to the back of the head. Ten to one he'd survive that. But the Zookeeper still has his stick firmly in hand, leaning on it for support. And only a brutal predator would want what this man wants. This is no time to play games.

The pocket knife may not look like much, but it has a four and a half inch locking blade. Because he knows exactly where to put it and he thrusts hard, it goes in deep enough. The space between too stunned to act and too weak is short for a man whose heart has been ripped open. Giles doesn't have to hold him down for long. But he has had time to scream. They both have. And Willow comes.

Giles hardly knows if he is shaking with fear or rage. Or excitement for that matter. Willow is horrified. Which makes him feel... embarrassed? The absurdity of that emotion amuses him, which (oddly) makes him feel a bit relieved, a bit more calm.

Half a dozen words are enough to explain, although she still looks ill. She trusts him totally, believes him completely. That's good. Anything less would waste time.

Suddenly, it doesn't matter anyway. Buffy is rushing towards him, pursuers hot at her heels. They pull her down five feet short of the circle. Next to the body. Excited by the scent of blood. They pile on and she isn't getting up.

The ritual needs to be happening now, and suddenly there is no plan at all. A predatory act, that's the main thing. Inside the circle. The children could not have known to do more than that. It must be enough. It has to be.

While he thinks this, Giles is in motion. He grabs the first attacker he can reach and sees that it is Xander. Only then does anything like a plan form. He has to knock the boy unconscious—a Liverpool kiss, it's called, sometimes Glasgow—before he can drag him into the circle. Where panic and frustration feel a lot like rage. A lot like excitement.

A predatory act. It has to happen now. The boy is already unconscious, and death is not what's wanted. Come on, an inner voice chides him, one he rarely listens too. You know what you want.

The boy is beautiful, even with a split lip and a bloody nose. Especially when he's quiet. Which has only happened just this once. He hides it well most of the time with his baggy clothes, lazy slouch and goofy expression. But the body Giles is holding in his arms belongs to a man, even if a child inhabits it. The body is warm and strong. Large and muscular. Fit. Toned.

Kneeling there in the circle, with Xander half draped across him, half lying on the floor, Giles lifts the boy's face and lowers his own. He doesn't close his eyes as he tastes him with a kiss. His hands on Xander's cheeks are gentle, cradling but his lips and tongue are rough, plunging in, exploring.

It's been too long since he tasted another man's mouth. It makes his blood pump, his breathing shallow and rapid. He wants to taste more than lips, more than tongue. He wants to put his hands in new places.

But the moment quickly passes. The children are making bewildered noises as Giles gently lays Xander's helpless form the rest of the way down on the floor. If anyone has seen anything, no one mentions it. The return of the hyaenas' spirits to their rightful seat, the dead man lying on the floor, the incidental injuries of Buffy and her erstwhile attackers; all of this is a sufficient distraction for anyone.

Soon Giles is explaining things, giving answers plausible enough for these desperate youngsters to grab on to. He blames as much as possible on the Zookeeper, which is true enough. Other truths go unsaid, but not unremembered. Kyle and the others owe him the loyalty due one who knows them guilty of murder and chooses not to speak. They afford him the same courtesy.

The body is lifted over the rails into the feeding area. It will look like an accident. At least, enough like an accident for Sunnydale.

Later on, Xander too is grateful for Giles not to speak. “Your secret dies with me,” Giles says with all the gravity he can muster, suppressing a smile but not the crinkle of his eyes. Not quite.

Gratitude, almost beyond words, and yet, “Shoot me. Stuff me. Mount me.” Giles is good at hiding his emotions, and thank God. When the boy turns and dashes off, he finally allows himself a smile. Okay, a smirk. Because, really, when you think of it, it's quite a thought.