LENGTH: 625 words
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: That Joss Whedon guy et al.
SUMMARY: A small canon-compliant fic, set post-"Checkpoint" in Season 5. The structure is based on book-formats (how many times a standard printing sheet is folded in order to make up a leaf -- folio 2, quarto 4, octavo 8, duodecimo 12).
Giles is left a special book when the Council leaves Sunnydale.
Before the Watchers had left Sunnydale, Lydia Chalmers had put a large folio volume – golden leather covers, no identifying words or marks; sewn leaves; crimson-edged pages, seemingly uncut – on the table in the Magic Box, and said to Giles, in a voice too low for Travers to hear, “I think this was what you were looking for.”
The next evening at closing time, he inserted the tip of a Hegallian dagger (which he usually used as a letter opener) into the first sealed leaf; he smelled blood; even so, he cut.
“Giles, that book just... shrank in half,” said Anya, who was hovering over his shoulder.
“Yes, thank you, Anya,” he said, staring at the now quarto-sized volume, “I'd never have noticed.”
“Don't be all sarcastic and British, okay,” she said, “this is some bad magic going on.”
The scent of blood spilled over the table, and old smoke rose, and he knew that it was magic indeed, of a kind he'd seen before.
“Just set the candles as you see fit, please,” he said, and Willow and Tara placed the four pillars at each corner of the book.
He brought out his lighter, and touched flame to wick, once, twice, thrice, and then with the leaping spiral of the fourth he drifted into the past.
“Come on, Ripper,” Ethan said, leaning on his arm, candlelight and magic-lust flickering in his eyes.
“Yes, do come on, Ripper,” Randall said, and let his finger drift through the nearer flame, and laughed drunkenly at the burn.
Ripper saw sparks like stars in the fire, saw power in the book, saw his hands white as bone. He cut the page anyway, and the hell-wind gusted as the ancient vellum shrank, and he laughed too.
Unsmiling, Giles cut with one hand, opened with the other, flattening the book until its spine cracked. Even as the text contracted again, he saw sparks like stars, hands white as bone, and blood-red words.
“So, Glorificus is waiting for an alignment of stars, as well as trying to nab the Key,” Spike said through a mouthful of smoke.
His hands in his pockets, his gaze turned to the night sky, Giles nodded absently.
“Well, then, Rupert, reckon you'll have to make some choices,” Spike said. He threw away his cigarette end, crushed it under his foot, and stood taller – what passed for taller, anyway – as Buffy came out of the Magic Box backdoor.
“Choices about what?” Buffy said, and then, “Never mind. Let's go hunt some hell-goddess minions, Spike.”
“Right,” Spike said, but flicked a glance in Giles' direction. “Have a care, old man, because crazy birds who watch the stars can't be trusted.”
“Glorificus isn't Drusilla,” Giles said quietly, and watched the battered black duster shudder with old pain before its wearer managed to swagger after Giles' Slayer.
Then Giles brought the book – now almost too small to read, after its last contraction – out of his pocket and into the starlight.
He had told Buffy and the Scoobies of the book's information about Glorificus, but he hadn't shared the prophecy that had scrawled itself in blood underneath the printed text.
He who watches must act; he who opens this book must use his hands in a dark hour.
There, under stars like sparks, he looked at his hands – white like bones, but strong enough to do what must be done.