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Patience. He only had to be patient for a few more minutes, to be subtle, to be crafty, to be clever, to be Giles. Patience. He had wanted to do this for so long, though. He could blow them off now, he no longer had to listen to innocent prattle, to hear about their petty unhappiness or their ever so fascinating love lives, never again tolerate their sanctimony. Never. Again. The thought thrilled him, bubbled through him like hot, warm, fresh human blood. He was free of the Slayer now. Free of the Council. He was free of myopia and free of Cordelia, and if he were careful for another moment… they wouldn't want to believe. He'd have to count on that, to remember that they cared about him, that they wanted him staid and predictable and unchangeable. He laughed to himself, took off his glasses for a minute to enjoy the freedom of not needing them to see. He walked through the halls of Sunnydale High and chortled, almost cackled.

His library was waiting for him, just as he’d left it last night. The Slayer and her friends sat around a table, books open in front of them, the endless books, the endless study. Why hadn't he realized how easy it would be to toss those books aside?

Willow leapt up when he entered the library. “Giles! Oh, thank goodness. We were so worried. We were calling your house all last night and when you weren't there, we were beginning to think something had happened!”

“I’m glad I’m here to correct that misconception,” he said. “Now, unfortunately, there’s nothing in any of these books that can possibly help us against the evil that’s looming.”

“And he couldn't have told us this before we spent all day looking?” Impudence. He’d put up with this for long enough, never saying a word, because they were in his care, because they were good, because they were human. Only a few seconds longer. Only until he got what he'd come for.

“Buffy, I'd like you to go on patrol immediately. The rest of you must stay here and compile the data in this volume,” he produced one from under his overcoat, a nice touch, he thought, “and Willow, you’ll come home with me and help me with a spell.” He knew the name of the spell, and he had more advice for all of them; he’d practiced his lines on the way to the school, but no one thought to question him, so his preparation went to waste. Silly children. Someone ought to warn them to be more careful.

He'd spent most of the afternoon trying to decide which would be cruelest, revealing himself or not, and he finally decided that the cruelest blow would be for them to think that all was well. He imagined the look of shock on their faces, the way they would berate themselves. “If only we'd been more careful,” they'd say. He could hardly prevent the smile from creeping onto his face. “Well then, carry on. Willow, gather your things and come with me.”

He allowed her to kiss Oz first, and to wave to her friends, to grab her books and her coat. He was cautious, though it burned at him. He knew he was strong enough now to take them all (excepting, of course, the Slayer). Which reminded him.

“Buffy, would it be all right if I stopped by after your patrol? I’m sure you'll want to tell me about any unusual vampire activity, and I'll let you know how Willow and I did.”

“Sure, no problem. Come by whenever; Mom'll let you in.”

He waited for the inevitable, “Unless of course you’re a vampire,” followed by a staking. But there was none, just Buffy waving impatiently and Willow getting yet another goodbye kiss from the werewolf. Last week he would have chastised her for her carelessness.

Spike had been wrong about one thing. Spike had said that when he awoke, he wouldn't care about any of the Scoobies, that they'd all just be food to him. But when he woke up, the horrible ache for blood had been paired with other pains, too familiar and too horrible to dismiss. He had cursed, and Drusilla had let him drink from a high school freshman who'd wandered away from Mummy and gotten lost, and Giles had drunk, and been grateful.

He longed to kill the Slayer, and he wanted to torment the high school students, whose welfare he'd cared about, and he wanted to exact revenge. But mostly, he wanted Willow.

He knew, because he had read it in books, and everything he read was accurate, so true, that personality is retained when someone is turned. So he must've wanted Willow when he'd been alive. But not like this, not with this aching longing. He hadn't wanted to taste her, to touch her, to demoralize her and debase her, to own her and to love her.

Spike said vampires could feel love and hate and jealousy same as anyone else. He'd cast a pointed look towards Angel when he'd said that, and Angel had smiled at them and clapped Giles on the shoulder. “How's it coming, old man? Or should I say, my son?” he asked, half-sarcastic.

They hadn't turned Giles because he was good vampire material. They’d turned him to get at the Slayer. It was his good luck, though, his incredible good luck.

He was free.

Once he was in his car, he knew she couldn't run, couldn't hide, could only do one thing: die. He could almost taste her blood, and her scent—the scent of her blood, so young and ripe and innocent. He'd never thought that innocence could be so palatable. She was babbling about something, about incantations and about incense, and her discussion was so inane he wasn't sure how much longer he could endure it. But the cadences of her speech, the way words tumbled out of her mouth; he wanted to have her there. Why did he have to be patient, when he was immortal, when he could take whatever he wanted and when the little witch was his? All that innocence, all that sweetness.

He invited her into his flat (and was glad he shared it with no one; its inhabitant was dead and he was free to enter as he pleased, to listen to his records and to drink his whiskey and to keep humans chained in his bedroom to eat when he was hungry and worn from sampling Willow) and thought about the moment when his face would turn and she would realize who he was.

When he'd been alive he'd thought he couldn't endure it if she didn't love him back. He'd thought about making love to her, about not touching her unless she begged him, about earning her trust. The foolish thoughts of a foolish human. He wanted her unwilling, gagged and tormented, he wanted the moment of shock that would light up her face with fear and disgust.

He kissed her roughly as soon as she shut the door, savoring the way her mouth tasted, feeling her relax against him, the way she stopped struggling. But oh, the way she struggled, the way her lips and hands and arms and breasts all pushed back against him, pushing him away. It was with reluctance that he let her go for a minute, allowed her to say “Giles!” with a reproving glare and a pitch of panic, then

she tastes deliciously tart-sweet. Her blood streams crimson, her eyes glow with fear and suppressed lust. He takes a moment to lap at the place where he’s bitten her neck. It’s curious, how once vampirism takes hold, simple orgasm isn't enough. “God, Giles,” she whimpers, “why are you doing this? Aren't you in there, somewhere, please?” He trembles and wouldn't gag her for the world. The sound of her voice is like the taste of her blood: tremulous and full, ebbing and swirling and bright-hot and beautiful.

“Willow, surely someone as bright as you must realize what's happening here.”

“Oh? Really, Giles? And what is happening here?”

“I’m making the one thing you've always dreamed of happen. You have desired this, haven’t you? Haven’t you thought you just wished that Giles would just once violate his precious moral code long enough to shag your brains out?”

“I thought no such thing,” she said with a delightful taste of self-righteousness. She should be reaching for a cross right about now…

“Ah, but you did. Don't you see, Willow? There's no point in being afraid any longer. I know all about it, and you must trust the Watcher. It will all be fine.”

And he sank his fangs into her neck, tasting her pain and her fear, knowing that in just a few hours she'd neither be hurt nor frightened.

“Willow, don't worry. It will all be fine. Trust me.” The mingling of paternal protection and a lover's compassion: he was going to be her sire. Her fear was wonderful, feral and raw, but her fearlessness would be even more delectable.

He slit his own throat with one of her fingernails, painted pearly pink, and she pressed her lips to the wound before he had a chance to tell her that she knew what to do. Then, realizing what was happening, she panicked, struggled for another wonderful moment, and Giles grew hard against her, realizing that she was trying to heal him with her tongue, that she had moved beyond reason and fear and joy and hope and was simply Willow, Willow trying to do what is right, Willow lapping at his blood, her nose puckering at the taste, the thought, but moving on instinct now. She wasn't afraid any longer.

He drew her lips from his neck, swooped to kiss her, to drink and drink and drink from her until she was dry and dusty and empty, a sweet cadaver of a girl who once brought him apples and incense, a girl he once thought of as an English rose, but whom he now realized was a grape grown in a California vineyard, exquisite vintage while still in the last bloom of youth, the last bloom of her life.

In the morning, her hair was rose-red and her skin pale as whitewashed walls, and she smiled at him and asked, “Have you got anyone to drink?”