Title: Winged Vengeance
Characters: Giles, Willow, Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, etc…
Timeline: Takes place three days after “The Gift”.
Summary: Glory is defeated. But, as her human host dies, she awakens just long enough to exact vengeance on the one who has killed her.Thanks: To my beta ashlynvance.
A/N: The Roman Scorpion, also known as the Ballista, was the artillery version of the crossbow for the Roman Empire. It was maneuverable, powerful, accurate, and deadly.
“Are you sure this is going to work, Wes?” Gunn asked as they moved the stolen Roman Scorpion into place at the top of a tall bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Wesley grunted with one last shove. “It’s the best I could come up with. Funnily enough, there isn’t very much written on how one goes about defeating this kind of thing. What there is, consists only of myth and legend.”
“Uh huh,” Gunn groaned. “And why is this suddenly our problem?”
“Because who else is there?” Cordelia joined them carrying the long wooden steel-tipped projectile for the weapon. “It’s not like the police are seriously going to look into reports of a dragon terrorizing the coastline of California. We give hope to the hopeless.”
“Yeah well… It’s a fine time, now that we’re champion-less.”
“Something that can’t be helped,” Wesley sighed. “Angel has suffered a huge blow and needs this time away to recover. We’ll manage quite well without him. If my calculations are correct, the dragon should be passing this area at any time now. A clean bolt to the heart should be enough.”
“And if it isn’t?” Gunn asked, ever the realist.
“If it isn’t,” Cordelia answered in her no-nonsense way. “We high-tail it outta here, refund our fee, and suggest they call in the army.”
“Help me with the crank. We don’t have much time,” Wesley said, preparing the weapon.
“Umm…” Cordelia was staring out over the ocean. “Make that any time. I think we found it.”
It still looked huge, even though it must have been flying a mile off the coast. Long, graceful wings carried its giant body effortlessly through the air. They watched as it turned its head, the impossibly acute vision of a high flying creature zeroing in on them instantly. Even after all they’d seen, the slow bank it made turning toward them was heart-stopping.
“Amendment,” Cordelia breathed, “It found us.”
“It’s coming!” Gunn yelled. “Shoot it!”
“Wait,” Wesley knelt behind the ancient machine. “This is a one shot deal. I need to wait for the perfect--”
The dragon opened its dagger-lined jaw and released an earth-shaking roar. All the humans could do was to cover their ears in defense against the deafening noise. It moved so fast, sweeping over them, its bulk tuning day into night.
“Wes!” Cordelia shouted as the monster headed out and banked again for another run at them. “I don’t think it likes us much. Take the shot so we can retreat in terror.”
“Steady… Steady… Show me that magnificent chest of yours… Yes!”
The dragon pulled up just off the beach, giving him a perfect shot. Wesley let loose the deadly bolt.
“Incendie!” a voice called from behind them, destroying the bolt in a ball of fire a moment before it hit its mark. With another rage-filled roar, the dragon spun off and headed out to sea once more.
The three humans leapt around, ready to fight this new threat. All eyes widened at the sight of…
“Willow! What the…?” Wesley exhaled.
The witch strode purposely toward the edge of the cliff, ignoring the others. She planted her feet against the incoming wind and called out with all she had. “I know who you are! I won’t let anyone hurt you! You can come down now! Please, we need you to come back!”
“Willow, what are you doing?” Cordelia yelled.
“Please… come down! I need you.”
The dragon banked around to their right and descended into the small clearing. It hit the ground hard, its limbs dragging ungainly along the ground until it slid to a halt. Hauling itself up, it reared up on its hind legs and began to snarl and growl fiercely, but Willow stood her ground in front of it, dwarfed by its black mass.
She called out, “Selvans, god of the woodland and all creatures of nature. I plead for your mighty help. Please grant this beast the tongue to speak the voice within.” With that she blew a fine powder at the dragon.
It continued to snarl. “Rawrrr gruahw rarr …should have let them kill me!”
Wesley stepped forward in tentative awe, “Mr. Giles?”
The next moment, the dragon dropped bodily to the ground, weeping huge tears from his giant eyes. Willow threw her arms around his face, most of her lithe body draped along his horned snout. She cried with him.
“I saw it…” his voice rumbled like low thunder. “I watched her fall and there was nothing I could do.”
“I know,” the redhead whispered soothingly. “We all did. Buffy jumped to save Dawn and the rest of us. There was nothing anyone could do.”
“I was her Watcher. It was my duty…”
“No! She was the Slayer. She did what she had to. None of it was your fault.” Willow squeezed him with all her might as his tears ran down over her arms, soaking them.
“Giles?” Cordelia was standing on the other side of his head, her hand tenderly caressing his ridged brow. “Is that really you?” He gave a huge, long-suffering sigh. The seer looked back at her male companions, still keeping a cautious distance, and called, “Oh yeah, it’s him all right.”
“Please,” the dragon moaned. “If you are my friends, you’ll put me out of this misery.”
“Not today, Big Guy,” Cordelia answered. “We may be willing to take down evil dragons, but friends with death wishes need to look somewhere else.” As she spoke, she continued to stroke along the sensitive skin of his flared ear.
Giles sighed again. The huge puff of air escaping his lungs nearly knocked Wesley over as he approached. “This is fascinating,” he poked at the tip of Giles’ snout. “How did you achieve it?”
“Wes!” the brunette hissed in reprimand.
Seeing a dragon roll its eyes was a sight to behold. “I didn’t. It was done to me,” he answered, as if to a slow child. “Do you really think I would choose…?”
“I apologize, Mr. Giles,” the younger Watcher frowned. “It’s just… Well, you’re a dragon. It is quite amazing.”
“You do look pretty bad ass,” Gunn tried to back his friend up. “Now that I’m almost sure you’re not gonna eat me.”
Giles groaned. Then, with resignation in his voice, asked, “How did you know it was me?”
Willow stood, but continued to run her gentle hand between his eyes and along his snout. She gave a small frown as she began, “That night… We were all in shock after Buffy… fell. But we knew it was all over. Then someone noticed you weren’t with us, so we searched for you. We found you lying in the tower next to Ben. He was dead. There was some heavy debris that fell and hit him. I guess he was too injured to get out of the way. And you were in a comma.”
Giles remembered, his mind replaying the scene, as it had so many times. He looked into Ben’s eyes as his hand covered the boy’s mouth and nose. It had to be done. There was no other way to be rid of Glory, no other way to keep those he loved safe. But, as the light in Ben’s eyes flickered out, they flashed one more time, changed into the hate-filled stare of the hell-god. With her last once of power, she took revenge upon her murderer. The next moment, he was looking down from far above. He watched as his Slayer jumped from the tower and was caught up in the chaotic energies that ripped the life from her body.
“We managed to get you to the hospital,” Willow went on. “And we took Buffy’s body somewhere safe until we figure out what… The rest of us were pretty banged up and scared. We’d just lost Buffy and we didn’t know what had happened to you. Dawn hasn’t left your… or your body’s side for the last three days. No one can get her to go home. The hospital even sent this huge orderly in to try to make her go, but you should have seen her back him out of the room, telling him that she was sick of losing people she loved and she wasn’t going to let you go, too. Of course, it might have helped that she had a snarling vampire standing behind her. Spike won’t leave her side. Even though he’s trapped in one corner of the hospital room for most the day. He just keeps muttering that he has to keep his promise. To keep Dawn safe.
“It was when Tara was well enough to go see you yesterday that she saw it. She said it wasn’t your aura. Your body had an angry aura, all black with red spikes. Tara explained that yours was always much more calming, gold and blues and greens. So we did the Inward Eye astral projection spell to try to find you and it showed us a dragon with your aura. Then Tara suggested I might need a spell to help us understand you, so we spent the rest of yesterday researching one. And that’s when they sent me to find you.” She took a deep breath. And, with a glare at Wesley, added, “Luckily, I got here just in the nick of time.”
“How were we supposed to know,” he sputtered. “I am sorry. I would have felt wrenched finding out…”
“Wesley,” Giles’ baritone rolled calmly from the beast. “I spotted you long before I was noticed. Do you think a real attacking dragon would have given you multiple chances at the perfect kill shot? I was trying to force you to unknowingly help me end my life. For that I am sorry. In my grief and selfishness, I’d forgotten there are those still here that care for me.”
“Oh, Giles,” Willow placed her cheek against his surprisingly silky scales. “It’s been a difficult time for all of us. And it would be even worse to go through it without you.”
“But how am I to exist in this world as a--” Giles’ ears perked and his nostrils flared. For the first time during the conversation his massive head began to rise. “Wesley, get the girls away--” His order was cut off when a huge, electrified net flew out of nowhere and pinned him helplessly to the ground.
His companions held their weapons at the ready as black clad humans and demons began to fill the clearing. “The Senior Partners want the dragon alive,” a voice blared from a helicopter hovering just off the coast. “The humans are of no consequence.”
Gunn and Wesley rushed forward to meet their attackers as Cordelia and Willow stood in protection of their friend. The dragon howled in pain at the voltage flowing through him and making his formidable strength useless. But the onslaught was overwhelming. Without help, there was no way the four heroes would be able to keep the oncoming force from claiming their prize.
Willow was throwing magick this way and that to help shield the men as they fought, but a couple of the larger demons easily pushed through. Gunn took a meaty backhand to the head and his axe flew from his hands. With everyone else just trying to survive at this point, it was Cordelia who ran up to retrieve the axe. She dodged one demon, then a second with Willow’s help, finally making it to her target. Swinging it down with all her might, she managed to sever a cord holding the dragon’s head to the ground. With the circuit broken, the electricity stopped flowing.
The two young women turned and smiled out at the advancing hoard. Loud twanging of snapping cords cut through the din of the fighting. Everything froze for a moment as the massive black beast rose up from behind his defenders with a fearsome roar.
It was enough to make a majority of the human attackers turn and run, but their large, brutish demons would follow their orders to the last. Giles lunged forward, protectively shielding his friends with his armor plated body. A long swipe of his fore-claw sent most of the remaining attackers flying off the cliff. One managed to make it through and Willow screamed as it ran ferociously at her. In the blink of an eye, all she saw was black as Giles’ head swooped in front of her. When it passed by, the demon was gone. A heavy stomp squished another and a whip of his tail cut the last in two.
“Try to bring it down with the gun,” the voice came from the helicopter.
Shots from a heavy machine-gun rang out from the aircraft. Most pinged off Giles’ thick scales, but a few found chinks in his armor. Still, these felt like no more than stings to the dragon. It was the humans he was protecting who were really at risk. He curled tightly around them, shielding them from the hail of bullets. But his frustration and rage grew as the helicopter stayed out of his reach. The constant bombardment was becoming intolerable, yet he couldn’t move to knock the attackers out of the sky without putting his friends at risk.
Giles’ began to see red, the instincts of the beast fighting to take over. He opened his jaw, thinking all he could do was roar at the pests, but a heavy, viscous fluid shot from the roof of his mouth. The stream covered the helicopter and began to eat away at its metal hull. Its pilot pulled away in panic, trying to save his disintegrating craft, but it wheeled away uncontrollably. The dragon’s enhanced vision saw it make a hard landing a few miles up the beach. He scanned the area thoroughly before letting his human friends out of their safe cocoon.
“Giles, are you okay?” Willow laid her hand on his snout worriedly as he brought his head down to inspect them for injuries.
“Yes,” he shook his whole body like a dog, his wings flaring out beautifully. “I believe this body’s physiology feels very conducive to rapid healing.”
“Fascinating,” Wesley murmured as he crouched by a smoking patch of ground where a drop of Giles’ final attack had fallen. “The tales told many times of dragons spitting fire, but acid…? How did you know it was possible?”
“I-I didn’t. You were all in danger, and there was little I could do. Instinct took over for a moment.”
“Well, I’m glad it did,” Cordelia stated. “Those guys came for you, and I hate to think what Wolfram and Hart want with a dragon.”
“Is that who that was?” Willow asked.
“I’d bet my last two cents on it,” Gunn answered, still scanning for danger. “They’re the ones around here that can pull together a big operation like that.”
“Luckily for us, they were expecting to capture an animal, not to fight a man in dragon form,” Wesley added.
“Yes,” Giles sighed. “But, if they want the dragon, they’ll be back for me. How am I to hide from them? I do rather stick out.”
“That’s what I was gonna tell you before,” Willow said excitedly. “Everyone back home is getting things all ready for you. Xander is hunting for a big enough sea-cave out by Kingman’s Bluff for you to stay in. And Tara is gathering everything we need to set up wards and glamours to keep you hidden. Hopefully, we can keep you safe long enough to put you back where you belong. They’re all waiting for me to bring you home.”
“And while you guys go through his library back home,” Cordelia put in, “We’ll see what we can learn from our resources in town.”
“Wow,” Willow smiled. “Thank you. Are you sure you can--”
“It’s not like we’ll be super busy, with our champion out on a walkabout. And, since we did technically solve the dragon problem, we’ll be keeping the large fee we just collected.” She put up her hand when Wesley opened his mouth. “And besides… It’s Giles.” The younger Watcher nodded his concurrence with her reasoning.
“Then it’s settled,” Willow chirped. “Let us know if you find anything.” She turned and looked up at the dragon. “Are you ready to go home?”
“There is nothing I would like better,” the dragon sighed. With a toothy grin he added, “Would the lady care for a lift?”
The four humans shivered. A dragon grin was truly a sight to behold. None of them had ever known that anything could be so frightening and so endearing at the same time.
“Are you sure?” Willow breathed in awe. “I mean… I don’t want you to feel like I’m treating you as some sort of…”
Giles laid the full length his massive body along the ground. “I offered freely, Willow. Besides, what fun is the ability to fly, if one can’t share it with his friends?”
She stepped forward, then hesitated once more. “You aren’t planning on another crash landing, are you?”
A loud chuckle rolled through the giant. “I believe I have sufficient control now. Do you think I’d risk harming you, Willow?”
The witch ran her hand along his neck as she walked back toward his shoulder, amazed at the feeling of the sensitive muscles beneath his silky hide twitching and dancing under her touch. “After everything we’ve been through? I think I can trust you,” she giggled.
Giles turned his claw palm up so she could step into it and boosted her up into the dip between his shoulder blades. He held perfectly still while she nestled in between his wings, her legs curling down on each side of his neck.
“Damn,” Gunn sighed. “Can’t believe I’m having to miss out on free dragon rides.”
Willow squeaked excitedly as Giles carefully rose to his feet.
“This is not time for games, Gunn,” Wesley stated, clearly trying to convince himself as much as his friend. “He’s still in danger here. They must get going.”
“I Know. Just sayin’…”
Another dragon chuckle made to air dance. “Tell you what. You guys finish your homework, then, for better or worse, come for a visit. There is so little joy to be found these days, we should cling to the simple things. Friendship being chief among them.”
“We’ll find a way to help you, Giles.” Cordelia looked unflinchingly into his huge, penetrating eye. “It’s what we do.”
With a grateful nod, he shook his wings out, pulling another yip from Willow. “Ready, my dear?”
“As ever…” came out in a short, anxious breath.
“Then hold on tight.” In two long, powerful strides his wings caught the wind coming in off the ocean and they were lifted into the air, Willow screaming the whole way. Effortless flaps took them higher and farther out to sea. He was gliding easily through the air as, a couple miles out, he made a sweeping turn and headed for home.
The three left behind stood watching, frozen in awe, until the dragon was completely out of sight.
“I mean… This was the best I could find, but I could keep looking. If you’re not comfortable enough.”
The dragon, curled up and resting at the back of the cave, cracked open his eye to see the boy tending a bonfire at the center of the cavern. “It’s fine, Xander. I feel perfectly comfortable here.” With a slight smirk, he added, “Unless you can find me a pile of gold to sleep on.”
“Well, um, I don’t know where… or how… But, if it would help, I’m sure we could, maybe…”
“I was kidding,” Giles sighed. “Just a bit of dragon humor.”
“Oh,” Xander laughed. “Yeah, right… Sorry, just a little overwhelmed I guess.”
“You are all taking very good care of me in this difficult time. Thank you for that.”
The young man looked up at him and shrugged, “What else would we do? You’re family.”
“It’s us!” Willow called as she and Tara made their way along the rocky path deeper into the cavern. “We set everything up. No one will notice this cave unless they know it’s here. And you should be pretty well camouflaged if you go out. Unless you do something to draw attention, like attack a village or steal a mountain from dwarves, or something.”
“Thank you, Willow,” Giles groaned.
“I-it’s just your s-standard ‘don’t look at me’ glamour,” Tara elaborated.
“And look who we found sneaking around outside.”
“Wasn’t sneaking,” Dawn griped. “Just couldn’t find the entrance because of your stupid spell.” She looked up and saw Giles for the first time, his shadow dancing behind him in the firelight. For a long breath she stood petrified. Then, as he began to think he’d scared her, she rushed forward and threw her arms around his neck. “I was so worried about you,” she whispered into his hide.
“It’s all right, luv,” he purred softly. “I’m all right. And we’ll find a way to fix this soon.”
She pulled back to look at him, wiping the tears from her eyes. “I was just afraid that we’d lost… you, too.” He blinked and gulped, trying to swallow the lump forming in his throat. “But the new makeover…” she smiled shyly, “Pretty awesome.”
He chuckled, “Glad you approve.”
Everyone jumped at an angry sounding growl that echoed through the cavern.
“What the ever loving heck was that?” Xander reached for a large stick of firewood.
“I-it was me,” the dragon murmured, and if it were possible for one to blush… “Guess I shouldn’t have eaten that demon. Now my stomach is expecting more food.”
“You ate a demon? Ewww…” Dawn teased him with a look of disgust.
“You should have seen it,” Willow said excitedly. “One second this big, ugly demon was coming at me full tilt. Then snap, gone!”
“As long as you don’t get yourself a taste for demon,” Spike’s voice came from the back of the cave. “Sun’s up. Had to take the long way ‘round,” he answered the questioning stares.
“Don’t worry, Spike. I wouldn’t want to risk eating you. Probably end up sick.”
“Oi! This is grade-A demon right here…” The vampire was cut off by another roaring growl.
“How did we not think of this?” Xander shook his head. “Anyone got cash for a like million Doublemeat burgers?”
“I don’t think…” Giles’ head perked up and he sniffed at the air. In a flash, he whipped past his friends and out of the cave.
By the time they made their way outside, he was over a mile out to sea. As they watched, he rose high into the air. With wings folded back against his body, he dove like a shot downward and disappeared into the waves. Long moments passed with no sign and the onlookers began to murmur in worry. There was a collective sigh of relief that turned into true rapturous wonder as he erupted from the surface, flying straight up in a lazy barrel-roll as the water cascaded from his outstretched wings. The huge, setting sun framed him, making his iridescent scales glisten and sparkle. He was magnificent!