Buffy opened the door, her smile instantly turning into a look of surprise. Her mouth dropped open as she took in the man standing on the front steps.
Uther smiled, giving her a nod as he rested a gloved hand on the doorframe. “Hello, Buffy.”
“What are you…how…”
His eyes darted down her body, and then slowly drifted back up to her face. “I had a little help. I allowed magick to re-enter Camelot.”
“Yeah, I know.” She said, then gestured vaguely behind her. “The books, they…changed when you went back.”
“You’ve been reading about me?” He asked with a soft smile.
“I read what we could find. There wasn’t much written about you after your return.”
“Interesting. I wonder why that is?” He mused, mainly to himself.
“Not that it’s not great to see you, but…” She began, only to be interrupted by his warm voice.
“I wanted to see you again. I’ve…I’ve missed you.”
She inhaled sharply, his deep, rich tone taking her back to the day the three of them had shared together. “Oh…”
He glanced over her shoulder. “Is Rupert here?” He asked, a smile playing on his lips as she shifted slightly towards him.
“No, not yet. There was…”
“I don’t need to know.” He mumbled as his left hand grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him.
Before she could say anything, his mouth was on hers. When she gasped in surprise, he took the opportunity to push his tongue between her lips…his left hand moving to the back of her head as he kissed her deeply. She returned his kiss for a brief moment before placing her right hand on his chest and firmly pushing him back.
“Jesus, what the hell…”
“I came back…for you.” He whispered, his eyes looking darker than she had remembered.
“Uther…” She started, pausing when his eyes wandered slightly. “Hey! Stop it.”
“Your arousal is…increasing.” He said, licking his lips as he returned his eyes to hers. “Much like mine.”
“You travelled through time for a hookup?”
His brow furrowed in confusion. “A…hookup?”
“Tryst, rendezvous, liaison…sex.” She clarified, her fingers lightly rubbing the material of his cloak.
“Ah. No, not exactly.” He replied, then smiled. “But, I wouldn’t say no…obviously.”
She rolled her eyes, then she snapped her gaze towards the line of trees off in the distance. He followed her gaze, moving his hand to the hilt of his sword.
“What is it?”
“Vampire. Close by…” She curled her fingers in his cloak and pulled him towards her. “Get inside…”
He stumbled over the threshold, turning around quickly as she closed the door and locked it. He gestured towards the lock and chuckled softly.
“That will keep a vampire out? I thought they are rather strong.”
“They are – and no, a vampire could snap a lock without even thinking about it. But, they can’t come in unless they’re invited.”
“Oh. That explains it, then…”
She looked at him, her brow furrowed. “Explains what?”
“Hm? Oh…nothing. Something that I read once.”
“About vampires?” She asked with a slight chuckle. “How much did things change for you?”
“More than I can put into words, I believe.” He walked over to the bookshelf, gliding his fingers along the spines as he scanned the titles. “Have you been well?”
“Yeah. I’m pretty much retired now.” She watched as he pulled a book from the shelf. “Giles and I got married last year.”
“You found my gift?” He asked, sitting down at the table and looking at her.
She gestured towards a shelf that held numerous trinkets. He smiled, seeing the familiar box bearing the Pendragon crest.
“It’s beautiful.” She said, returning his smile. “Thank you.”
He tapped a finger against the table as he looked at her. “I remember you paying special attention to it. I thought you might appreciate it.”
“Uther…” She exhaled slowly and sat down at the table with him. “What are you doing here?”
“How long has it been for you? Since I was here?”
“Two years.” She answered, tilting her head slightly as she looked closely at him. “It’s been longer for you.”
“Yes. Six, I believe. Possibly seven.” He clenched his fist for just a moment. “The first year was difficult – without you. This confused me, how you could get under my skin so deeply after just a day. However, you did – and it was difficult to not think of you. I changed the laws, allowed magick back into Camelot – gained a vast amount of respect and trust from the villagers, as well as my son.”
He paused for a moment and then sat back in his chair.
“The second year, I found love – just as you suggested I should. I was happy, she was happy…we were…happy together. And Camelot flourished under our rule.”
“Nothing was mentioned about a new Queen in what I’d read.” Buffy replied with a warm smile. And then her smile slowly faded. “Were?”
“Her life was taken from her. Two years ago.”
“Oh, Uther…I’m so sorry.” She reached over and covered his hand with hers. “What…do you want to talk about it?”
He shook his head slowly, his eyes not leaving hers. “A band of demons have nearly decimated Camelot.”
Her eyes widened. “Demons?”
“Perhaps a band is the incorrect term to use. A demon has nearly decimated Camelot. One. One demon.”
“One? Can you describe what it looks like? Maybe we can help…Giles and I. We can figure out what you can do to stop it or – ”
Uther chuckled, pulling his hand out from under hers. “I don’t want to stop it.”
Before she could say anything else, his visage changed – his brows protruding, his eyes becoming a shade of yellow that she’d never seen before, his cheekbones elongating, and his teeth…
“Oh shit!” She screamed, clambering out of the chair and taking a few steps back from the table.
Uther stood, running his tongue over his teeth before grinning wickedly at her. “No Slayer in Camelot. But, I knew where to find one.”
* * *
Giles shifted the bag he was carrying as he slipped the key into the lock. His brow furrowed when he realised that the second lock was engaged as well. He quickly unlocked that one and cautiously pushed the door open, reminding himself not to call out for her.
She never locked the second lock – unless there was an issue.
He silently closed the door behind him, tilting his head as he listened. He could hear nothing – and that concerned him as much as the lock. After carefully placing the bag on the nearest surface – he’d stopped to pick up dinner from her favourite restaurant – he loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his shirt.
He desperately wanted to call out for her – to hear her respond in kind. But, something most certainly wasn’t right – and so, he took a deep breath and started down the hall. The doors were all closed, but the light was on in their bedroom…he could see it peeking out from underneath the door.
He paused outside and leaned close to the door, listening. He couldn’t hear her, but he did hear the sound of a piece of paper rustling. He steeled his nerves and slowly turned the doorknob. Exhaling a slow breath, he pushed the door open. His eyes widened when he saw Buffy on the bed. A…bloody…Buffy.
All caution was thrown to the wind and he rushed into the room without another thought.
He knelt by the bed, carefully lifting his trembling hand to the gash on her head. Her eyes fluttered open, then he saw the panic in them as she glanced across the room. Giles turned quickly, eyes widening as he saw Uther Pendragon sitting at the small table in the corner of the room – a piece of ancient parchment in his hand.
“Reading this does nothing but make me angry.” He growled, dropping the letter onto the table. “Would you like to know why?”
“No.” Giles replied, not moving from Buffy’s side as he glared at the King. “I would like to know why you’re here and why Buffy is hurt.”
Uther’s jaw twitched as he glanced at Buffy, her head wound was healing quickly.
“She’s hurt because she flies well when thrown – glass shattered, glass cuts flesh. I’m here because she needs to die. And if you’re in the way, you can die as well.” He stood, glaring at Giles. “Any further questions?”
Giles stood as well, anger flashing in his eyes. “Why? After everything she, we, did for you…why?”
“Everything is her fault.” He growled, his hand clenching into a fist. “Everything.”
“I…I don’t understand.” Giles said, doing his best to control his anger and diffuse the situation as much as possible. “What has happened?”
“Her love…my desire for her to be proud of me…has been the undoing of everything I have ever stood for.” Uther’s eyes narrowed as he pointed to Buffy, who was cautiously pushing herself up into a sitting position. “I have never cared if someone was proud of me.”
“But, I’m not understanding what that has to do with your very obvious anger.”
“He’s a vampire…” Buffy said, lifting her hand to the side of her head.
Giles took a step back in order to keep Uther in his peripheral vision as he glanced at Buffy. “What?”
“He’s a vampire. I…I don’t know why I didn’t sense it. I mean, I sensed a vampire…but, I thought it was in the woods. He was standing right in front of me and I didn’t know…”
Uther chuckled. “Not even when I kissed you.”
Giles’ eyes snapped back to Uther. Uther grinned, then shrugged a shoulder.
“I may hate her for what she’s done, but she’s still very…enticing…” His eyes blazed a near orange before settling into the pale yellow Buffy had seen earlier. “Have a seat, Rupert – I’ll tell you the true story of The Fall of Camelot.”
“Fall? Camelot didn’t fall, it just…drifted once the Pendragon line came to an end.”
Uther laughed, a deep menacing laugh that caused the hair on the back of Giles’ neck to stand on end.
“You haven’t read the latest edition, have you?”
Buffy shifted, reaching up to take hold of Giles’ hand. He didn’t break his stare with Uther, but did squeeze her hand gently. Uther glanced at their hands, his smile fading somewhat. He sat back down in the chair at the table and gestured towards the bed.
Giles bit back any retort he was going to give and sat down next to Buffy, lovingly sliding his arm around her. Uther gave a slight nod, then stretched his right leg out as he leaned into the arm of the chair.
“This…is all your fault, Slayer.” He grumbled. “Every single aspect of it.”
“You’ve said that, but I still don’t understand how that can possibly be true.” She replied, glaring into his eyes. “Even if you did love me, how can I be held responsible for anything that you did in Camelot?”
His eyes darkened slightly and he bit his lip hard enough that a drop of blood appeared. He wiped it away with his thumb, then licked the blood from his skin.
“I went home and the first thing I did was discuss the changes that needed to be made. Magick was to be allowed within the walls of Camelot for the first time since Arthur was born. And I was heralded for my choices. The villagers respected me, trusted me, did not fear me. Camelot flourished – crops were abundant, the population was increasing, and I took a queen who loved me. She truly loved me – and I, her. More than I thought possible.”
“And for that, you’re angry with Buffy?” Giles asked, narrowing his eyes in confusion.
“Perhaps if you remain silent and let me continue, you’ll understand.” Uther snarled.
Buffy placed her hand on Giles’ thigh. Giles said nothing, merely continued staring at Uther.
Uther took his right glove off and placed it on the table. He looked at his wrist for a moment and then continued speaking.
“With magick reintroduced, the lower classes began venturing out and bringing new people into the village. Nomads, spell-casters, potion-brewers…and eventually, vampires.”
“Vampires aren’t magickal beings…” Giles stated quietly.
“No, they’re not.” Uther agreed. “But, while magick was unlawful and punishment was death, the vampires held a fear about Camelot and did not attempt to venture within my Kingdom’s limits. Once those laws were abolished, the fear began to dissipate. I’m not sure how long they were in the Kingdom before they entered the Castle. But, they didn’t seem to have interest in hurting my people – they fed on cattle, goats, rats in the street. They had one target – the King of Camelot.”
“Why you?” Buffy asked, shaking her head – then wincing at the residual pain.
Uther looked concerned for a moment, nearly remorseful at her having been hurt. But, only for a moment.
“Kill the King, take the land – control the Kingdom, overtake others…it would be a cascade of battles and changes of government.” Uther smirked and placed his hand flat against the table. “They turned me, but it did not proceed the way they had anticipated.”
“You turned on them?” Giles asked, watching as Uther removed his left glove and placed it with the other one.
“I slaughtered every single one of them.” Uther replied coldly. “And then my Queen tried to reason with me, much as the Slayer had attempted to reason with me years earlier.”
He turned his gaze to Buffy, staring into her eyes as he continued.
“The last I saw of my love was her head rolling down the staircase after I drained her of her last drop of blood.”
Buffy’s eyes widened, Giles’ breath hitched in his chest. Uther’s jaw twitched.
“Arthur went into hiding – with his lover, his manservant, and my physician. I searched for ages for them – but, Merlin…he’s a sorcerer. He had cloaked them well. And so, I turned my attention to the citizens of Camelot. And my rampage was fierce and town was drenched in blood. But, humans are fools and news does not travel quickly when the town crier is dead. As such, there was a steady stream of people to take the place of the dead. They would tend to the crops, the animals…and provide a means for the humans to survive. Until I tired of them.”
His finger traced indistinct shapes on the piece of parchment that he had dropped onto the table.
“For two years, I searched for my son and his band of traitors. And during those two years, my thoughts were consumed of what once was…and what it had become – and the reason it had become. And that reason falls on your shoulders, Buffy.” He picked up the letter and scrunched it in his fist. “Because of my love for you, my Kingdom has fallen.”
“Your Kingdom has fallen because you’re a demon who went on a fucking rampage! That has absolutely nothing to do with me.”
He dropped the scrunched letter and pointed his finger at Buffy. “You should do well to hold your tongue, Slayer – or else I’ll hold it for you.”
“This?” Buffy continued as though Uther had said nothing, gesturing vaguely in his direction. “This is not Uther Pendragon. This is a demon wearing the guise of a King. You may have his memories, but you don’t have his soul. You are not him.”
Uther lifted his chin at her defiance.
“You kissed me as if I were him.” He smiled as he noticed Giles’ eyes flinch – the movement was so very slight, but he noticed it. “Your mouth still tastes of warm summer fruit, sweet and succulent…and wanting of so much more.”
“Shut up…” Buffy said, sitting up straighter.
“I wonder if the rest of you tastes the same…”
Giles was up without hesitation. Uther stood slowly, laughing as he glanced at Giles’ hands.
“You face me unarmed, Rupert. Your fate will be the same as every one who has faced me. Your blood will soak the floor – and you won’t live to see what becomes of your Slayer.”
Buffy slid to the edge of the bed, inhaling deeply as she pushed herself up to stand next to Giles. She looked at Uther, sadness in her eyes, and then shook her head slowly.
“I wasn’t the catalyst for what happened, Uther.”
“I beg to differ.” He replied with a grumble. “If not for you, I wouldn’t have – ”
“Oh, shut up!” Giles complained, rolling his eyes as he took a step to his right. “Is that the only argument you have?”
“It’s the only one I need – because it’s the one that’s true.” Uther countered, his eyes narrowing dangerously.
Buffy glanced at Giles as he took another step. Giles shook his head as he gestured vaguely.
“Let’s say it’s true – that the love you felt for Buffy Summers somehow forced you to become an honourable, kind King. Buffy was here, with me – marrying me, making love with me – while vampires made their way to Camelot. That isn’t her fault. That’s not your fault. You know who’s to blame?”
Uther’s eyes slid towards Buffy. Giles took the opportunity he was presented and moved forward quickly, grabbing the front of Uther’s tunic and shoving him backwards with all of his strength. At the same time, Buffy grabbed Uther’s sword that he had leaned against the bedside table and tossed it to Giles, who caught it effortlessly and pushed the point against the side of Uther’s neck.
“Buffy is not to blame for this. The vampires are to blame for this.”
Uther merely stared at him, silently daring Giles to continue. Giles increased the pressure of the blade, his jaw tensing as the blade pierced Uther’s skin.
“How did you get here, Uther?”
“Magick, how else?” Uther responded in a tone that stated Giles had just asked the single most stupid question he’d ever heard. “I found the sorcerer who created the time fold the first time. I…asked…him to repeat the task. He very kindly agreed – after I ripped his sister’s throat out.”
“Buffy should have been able to sense you. As soon as she opened the door, she should’ve known you were a vampire.”
“She did mention that she was semi-retired. Perhaps her gifts are…failing her.” Uther grinned, then glanced at Buffy. “But, that’s an untruth. My sorcerer did a small spell, simulated warmth…a few other things. Obviously, I’ll pay him handsomely upon my return.”
“Yes, job bloody well done and all.” Giles muttered.
“Quite.” Uther replied. “However, this is becoming tedious rather quickly.”
“I tend to agree.” Giles said, his hand tightening on the sword briefly.
Uther smirked, his eyes drifting down the front of Giles’ torso. Giles pressed the blade a bit harder as he shook his head.
“If you’d stayed a day longer two years ago, then perhaps…but, not now.”
Uther gave a brief nod and then turned his gaze back to Buffy. “Your head has healed a great deal.”
“Slayer perk.” She said, crossing her arms over her chest. “Also…fuck you.”
His smirk disappeared, his eyes darkening another shade. And then suddenly, he knocked the sword to the side with his right forearm and stood up. He lashed out, the palm of his hand connecting with Giles’ sternum – he pushed with all of his strength, watching Buffy as Giles flew backwards into the door. He reached out with his left arm, grabbing Buffy’s throat as she started towards Giles.
Giles fell heavily to the floor, blood oozed steadily from Uther’s arm – the blade of the sword having ripped through his cloak and tunic, slicing into his flesh. His hand didn’t tighten, but he held her still…forcing her to look at him and not her husband.
“Your tongue is going to be your final undoing. I would have preferred for it to be used in a more pleasurable manner.”
“I think of your last visit with so much fondness – and now all I’m going to be able to think of you as is a fucking monster.” She narrowed her eyes at him, lifting her right hand to his wrist. “If you’re going to kill me, can you just fucking get it over with. This is getting really boring – and predictable.”
“Where’s the enjoyment of killing you when he’s not awake to watch. After all, he’s the Watcher.”
She forced herself to not look at Giles, instead keeping Uther’s full attention on her. “So, what’s the actual plan, Pendragon? Kill me, kill Giles, fuck off back to Camelot?”
“That is, seemingly, the plan.” Uther replied, his thumb gently stroking the side of her neck. “Though, I must confess that I’m considering taking you back to Camelot with me – my son should meet the woman who changed his father’s life.”
“I thought you didn’t know where he is.”
He shook his head, his eyes darting to her lips. “I don’t. But, my sorcerer is working his magick. He’ll find him – and his idiot manservant, too.”
Despite the situation, Buffy snorted a laugh. When Uther merely stared at her, she shrugged a shoulder.
“Reminded me of The Wizard of Oz.”
“Where is Oz? And who is this…wizard?” Uther asked, taking a step forward…ultimately, pushing her a step backwards.
“It’s a movie…well, a book then a movie. A fantastical adventure where – ”
“I don’t care.” Uther interrupted, his eyes glowing hotly for just a moment.
“Then why did you ask? You know, that’s just rude – you were rude to me once before, do you remember what happened back then?”
“This chattering is incredibly infuriating.” He growled.
“And distracting, I’d imagine.” She said, tightening her hand on his wrist. “I’m good at that. In fact, it’s one of the things I excel at. It used to drive vampires crazy back in Sunnydale. They’d have no idea what’s going on.”
“I know what’s going on.” Uther countered, taking another step forward but pulling her closer to him. “And it’s not going to work.”
“What do you think’s going on, Uther?” She asked, her thumb applying more pressure to his inner wrist.
“You attempting to force me to drop my guard, enabling you to escape my grasp.”
She stared at him for a long moment and then smiled. Before he could question her, a large hand grabbed the back of his cloak and jerked him backwards – Buffy twisted Uther’s wrist at the perfect time and stepped back as Giles threw the King to the ground.
Uther scrambled to get up, but Giles was quicker – brandishing the sword once more, rage swirling in his green eyes as a bead of blood rolled down the side of his face.
“If I’d had a stake, you’d be dust right now.” Giles growled, staring into Uther’s eyes. “You talk too much Uther – seems to be the way of the vampires. Talk, talk, talk.”
Uther glanced towards the open bedroom door. “Seems as though Watchers excel at talking as well.”
In seconds, a young man in Medieval attire stepped into the room, chanting in a language Giles had never heard. Uther smirked, scrambling backwards on the floor before rolling to his left and standing. A shimmer could be seen behind Uther, growing in size…fluttering like a flag.
“A fold!” Buffy cried, grabbing hold of Giles’ arm.
Uther chuckled menacingly and took a large step backwards…then disappeared. The sorcerer followed him quickly, turning to give them both a barely perceptible nod before slipping away as well.
“FUCK!” Giles screamed, tightening his grip on the hilt of Uther’s sword.
“Can you get us back here?” Buffy asked quickly, watching as the shimmer began to slowly shrink.
“If we follow them, can you bring us back?”
Giles stared at her and then gave her a nod. “Yes…go, I’m right behind you.”
“No, we go together or we don’t go at all.”
“Jesus, Buffy…why do you always have to – ”
“The fold is closing, Giles. Can we argue about this later? In Camelot? Preferably after we dispose of a Vampire King?”
He shook his head, quickly grabbing the book that Uther had brought into the bedroom. He threw it into a leather satchel and slung it across his chest. Then he exhaled a deep breath and took hold of Buffy’s hand.
“Fucking Camelot…” He muttered…then jumped through the fold with Buffy.
* * *
Giles stumbled as he stepped onto the grass, Buffy tightened her hold on him as she looked around.
“Not exactly what I was expecting.” She said, turning to look up at him. Her eyes focused on the blood trail on the side of his face. “You’re bleeding…”
“Mm. Hit my head when he pushed me.” He said, touching his fingertips to the laceration and wincing. “It’s a bit tender.”
She led him over to a large rock and gestured towards it. He rolled his eyes and sighed, but sat down…leaning Uther’s sword against it.
“We don’t have time for this, Buffy.”
“We do have time for it. He doesn’t know we came through as well – and we don’t even know where we are in relation to the castle. So…we have time for me to check this out.”
“Are you alright?” He asked softly, closing his eyes as she pressed around the cut.
“Slayer healing worked its wonders. I’m fine.” She replied, exhaling in relief when she realised that the cut didn’t seem to be as bad as she had originally feared.
“I meant emotionally, love.” He said, opening his eyes and looking into hers. “Uther…well, he meant something to you.”
“I’m not having fuckable thoughts here, Giles.” She said quickly, shaking her head. “Even before I realised he was a vampire. It didn’t…I wouldn’t have…”
“But, you kissed him. I mean, that’s what he said – you didn’t correct him.”
“He kissed me – and it caught me off-guard. I didn’t exactly kiss him back, but it did take a minute to push him away.” She admitted, placing her palm against his cheek. “For that, I’m guilty – and for that, I’m so sorry.”
A small smile appeared on his lips and he leaned forward to kiss her. He kept his kiss light, more of a brush against her lips – the last thing they needed was to be caught up in a passionate union in the middle of Medieval England with a rampaging vampire King on the loose.
“Is this all my fault?” She questioned, her eyes glistening as he shook his head immediately. “I mean…he’s kind of right, isn’t he? If I hadn’t…he wouldn’t have…and the vampires would have continued to stay away from Camelot.”
“And he would have become even more of a tyrant and…” He sighed heavily, holding her hands in his as he gazed into her eyes. “Your compassion wouldn’t have allowed yourself to not give him a chance. He needed to give himself a chance – and, if what he says is true, you enabled him to become a very happy man…and a just King.”
“Do you think he was telling the truth?”
“I have no reason to think he wasn’t. There was no reason for him to divulge that information. Of course, I’ll have to consult my books once we get home to confirm, but…I believe he was happy, Buffy. And that was due to you.”
“I’m going to have to stake him…”
He nodded slowly. “You’re not here alone. If you…can’t…”
“I’m not in love with him, Giles.”
“I know.” He replied in an understanding tone. “But, you do care for him. And that can make the situation…difficult.”
“He forced a sorcerer to create a fold in time so that he could kill me while you watched – and then he was going to kill you before coming back here to finish annihilating Camelot. That’s not the person I cared for. The person I cared for is dead – and he was killed by the demon wearing his face. I can do this, Giles.”
Giles regarded her closely for a moment and then gave her a nod. “Alright. Let’s find out where we are and where we need to be.”
She nodded in agreement and looked around. “I say we go through the woods…considering that I see nothing else in any other direction.”
“Sounds plausible.” He picked up Uther’s sword and handed it to her. “Let’s go find a Mad King.”
She pulled him up from the rock and gestured towards the satchel slung across his chest. “Don’t fucking lose that book.”
“I’ll guard it with my life.” He promised, giving her a wink.
She turned towards the line of trees and twirled the sword in her hand. “Fucking vampires…”
* * *
Arthur stared at the box sitting in front of Merlin. “What is it? And…how did it get here?”
“Well, I haven’t opened it yet, so I can’t say. However, it’s from Caradoc Peverell – so it could have just…appeared.”
Arthur arched an eyebrow at Merlin. “Just…appeared?”
“The Peverell family is steeped in magick, Arthur. They are true wizards.” He smiled at the Prince, his fingers pulling at the twine holding the box closed. “It would have been very easy for him to use magick to get it through the castle walls.”
“How does he know where we are?” Arthur asked, suddenly concerned. “Would he tell anyone how to find us?”
“Caradoc always knows how to find me and there’s no way he’d tell anyone. We can trust him, Arthur.”
Arthur glanced at Gaius, who merely gave him a nod of confirmation. Arthur sighed heavily and sat down next to Guinevere, before gesturing to the box.
“Alright, let’s see what is so important that he’d risk this…”
Merlin quickly, but carefully, untied the box and lifted the lid. His look of confusion caused Arthur to lean forward to peer into the box.
“Clothing?” Arthur asked, glancing at Merlin. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I.” Admitted Merlin, pulling out the item and shaking his head.
Gaius’ eyes widened in disbelief as he stared at the item. “No! No, it can’t be!”
Merlin and Guinevere exchanged a quick glance as Arthur turned his attention to the physician. “What can’t it be?”
“Well, it’s a cloak.” Gaius replied, reaching out to take the article from Merlin.
Merlin handed it over, glancing at Arthur before looking at Gaius. “The weather is warm, it’s an odd time of year to be sending a cloak. Also, it’s an odd gift – a cloak?”
Gaius rolled his eyes and then smiled. “This is no ordinary cloak, Merlin.”
“Okay…” Merlin began, then stopped talking. His eyes grew wide as he Gaius slipped the cloak over him. “OH…what?”
Arthur pushed his chair back and stood up quickly, his eyes nearly as wide as Merlin’s. “A magickal cloak…”
Gaius slipped his head out from under the cloak and grinned. “It’s a cloak of invisibility. I’ve heard rumours of the Peverells inventing such a thing, but I never thought it was a possibility.”
Merlin smiled in wonder. “It looks like it’s very much a possibility. I’ll go out this evening and see what I can find out.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Why you?”
Merlin raised an eyebrow at him. “Because it was sent to me, not you. Also…you’re the Crown Prince of Camelot. If something were to happen to you, Camelot dies.”
Arthur sighed, walking over to the window. He looked out over the once bustling market area.
“Camelot is dying already, Merlin.” Arthur said, a sadness in his tone that caused Guinevere’s eyes to glisten.
She stood up and made her way over to him, rubbing his back tenderly before leaning forward and placing a kiss on the back of his shoulder. “We’ll figure it out, Arthur.”
“This would be so much simpler if my father was just – ”
“He’s not your father any longer, Arthur.” Gaius said gently. “The vampires saw to that.”
“It’s not him, is it?” Arthur agreed, turning to look at Gaius – tears in his blue eyes, but not spilling over his eyelids. “My father was never…evil. Misguided, misunderstood, scared…but, never truly evil.”
“I found him to be quite intimidating and fearsome.” Merlin said with a shrug.
“But, not after he returned from the fold. He came back from that experience…changed. He had so much love and understanding – tolerance that I’d never witnessed in him before.” Arthur said emotionally, slipping his arm around Guinevere.
“That was…bizarre.” Merlin replied, before clearing his throat. “At first, I mean. Once he changed the laws and began to settle into this new way of thinking…” He offered Arthur a kind smile. “He was an amazing King. The kind of King that I always imagine you’ll be.”
Arthur was quiet for a very long moment before inhaling deeply and meeting Gaius’ eyes. “And you’re sure there’s no cure for this affliction?”
“I’m sure, Arthur. The only cure is death. And there are only a few ways a vampire can die.”
Arthur closed his eyes, resting his cheek on top of Guinevere’s head. “Then I must find a way to kill my father.”
Merlin and Gaius exchanged a look – and Gaius handed him the cloak.
* * *
Uther Pendragon turned into the corridor that led to the Castle’s Great Hall. The leather soles of his boots sounded very loud within the otherwise quiet castle. He ran a gloved finger along the wall as he walked, a smile on his face.
He paused outside of a door and then pushed it open. He walked into the chambers and walked over to the bed…the gown still laid out, waiting to be worn. He had asked Morgana to join him, but she had defied him one more time – for the last time. She had said that she was nothing like him, her true father. That had angered him – because those words were not true. She was more like him than she could have ever imagined.
He wondered, not for the first time over the years, if Gorlois had known. Morgana looked very much like her mother – and Gorlois had been an incredibly proud father. Uther hadn’t known the truth until many years later. It wasn’t as if he had actually loved Vivienne – their time together had been a brief, passionate interlude while Gorlois had been away in battle.
His eyes drifted from the gown on the bed to the large dried bloodstain near the window. He had drained Morgana under the light of the full moon – and he had dropped her corpse to the floor, after dismissing the thought of turning her despite her adamant refusal to join him. If he had, she would have turned on him…he was sure of it.
And there was no way that he would be brought down by his vengeful daughter.
It had been Morgana’s death that had sparked his obsession with finding Buffy again. He couldn’t pinpoint the reason why -- there was no correlation between the two, other than they were both young…beautiful…defiant to the bitter end. He had loved them both – had been hurt by both. Intentionally hurt by Morgana, innocently hurt by Buffy. To this day, he didn’t understand how he came to love Buffy so deeply, so quickly. But, he did.
And he wanted to kill her. The desire to watch her die edged on desperation.
He couldn’t explain that either.
But, it was something else he had failed at. Because she still lived…centuries in the future, she was living happily with her husband.
He closed his eyes as the anger surged through him. It was irrational, hot…deadly.
He opened his eyes and ran his tongue over the sharp point of his right canine tooth. Night had fallen, the moon was rising…and he was hungry.
It was time to restart the hunt.
His son was clever, wily – his son’s manservant had the gift of magick. The two of them together had made a formidable union.
But, he would find them. He was close, he could feel it.
He’d find them.
And he’d drain them – and then he’d watch Camelot burn.
He turned on his heel and stormed out of Morgana’s chambers, slamming the door shut behind him.
The hunt was on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The sun had already set when they stepped out of the forest. The light from the full moon gave them plenty of light to see by, though. Giles’ eyes looked around the seemingly deserted village, but Buffy’s were locked onto the castle sitting high above the village.
“Wow…” She whispered, moving closer to Giles. “So, the drawings don’t really do it justice, huh?”
“They rarely do.” Giles replied, narrowing his eyes. “I am seeing no activity. None at all.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure he went on a rampage right before coming to us. So, if that’s the case…then the only people alive would be Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, the doctor…”
“Gaius.” Giles supplied, taking her hand and leading her through the village streets – under as much cover as possible…in case there were eyes watching out.
“Yeah, him…and the sorcerer who’s working for Uther.” She looked at him curiously as he paused, using the tip of the sword to carefully push the door open on a small dwelling. “What are you doing?”
“We need a place to sit down…and plan out what the hell we’re going to do.” He glanced towards the castle and shook his head. “We can’t just rush up there and declare war on Uther Pendragon.”
He pulled her into the home and closed the door before looking into her eyes. “I intend on getting us both home alive. I can’t do that if we go up there without a plan.”
She nodded slowly and placed her hand on his chest. “Okay…so what’s the plan?”
“What? I have to come up with the plan?”
“I’m the ideas person…you’re the plan guy – with maps…and stuff.”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, he chuckled and pulled her into his arms. “I love you, Buffy.”
“I love you too, Rupert.” She grinned as he snorted a laugh.
She pulled back just enough to lean up for kiss – he didn’t hesitate to give her one. He kissed her deeply, slowly…warmly. And then he ended it slowly and pressed his forehead against hers.
“Yeah…” She breathed, fingertips lightly stroking the material of the shirt he was wearing. “We should stop, huh?”
“Not the best timing…” He whispered, an air of disappointment in his tone. “Not something I want to do, mind you.”
“Hm?” She murmured, sliding her arms around his torso.
“Stopping – I’d much rather…not. But – there’s a much more important issue at hand, right now.”
“Always the voice of reason.”
He laughed at that and pressed a kiss to her forehead before pulling away from her. “Oh, not always, love.”
She smiled and then sat down on an upturned bucket. “Okay, so how do we do this?”
They both looked towards the door quickly as it slowly opened, then stopped. He held up a finger in front of his lips as he looked at her, then silently made his way over. He took a deep breath and then looked through the opening. Then he chuckled softly and pushed the door closed again – this time, applying enough pressure that it actually latched.
Buffy exhaled a sigh of relief as he rubbed the back of his neck, picking up the conversation where he’d left off. “I think we try to find a way in through the back – stay clear of the Great Hall.”
He sat down on one of the ricketiest chairs she had ever seen and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. “Uther is pompous and pretentious. What’s more grandiose than a huge open room with ornate thrones to sit upon?”
“Precisely.” He nodded slowly. “I’d be very surprised to find him not using the Great Hall.”
“It’d be nice if we had a blueprint of the castle.”
“I can help with that.” A voice said from the corner of the room.
Giles and Buffy both jumped up – Giles held Uther’s sword towards the voice. “Who’s there?”
“Oh…sorry, I forgot.” The voice said.
Then there was a rustling sound and a young man appeared in front of them, holding a cloak. He smiled warmly at them both before placing his palm on his own chest.
“My name is Merlin – and if you’re really here to get rid of Uther, I can help you find him.”
Buffy’s mouth dropped open as she stared at him. “You’re Merlin?”
Merlin tilted his head slightly, obviously surprised by her tone. “You’ve heard of me?”
“What? Of course I – ”
Giles put his hand on her shoulder, interrupting her quickly. “Uther spoke of you when he was in our time period. We followed him back, hoping to help.”
Merlin’s eyes darted back and forth between Buffy and Giles and then he snapped his fingers and gestured to Buffy. “Oh…OH. You’re…Buffy. The, uh…the…”
“Slayer…” Buffy supplied, narrowing her eyes when he shook his head.
“No, no that’s not…um…” Merlin cleared his throat, glancing at Giles. “The King spoke of his time in future England – not many specifics, of course. But, it was obvious that he had…met someone while there. He confided in Morgana about an affair of the heart…”
“It doesn’t mean the same thing, love. It’s literally…an event, something that took place.” Giles said softly.
“Yeah, well…things…definitely took place.” She said without thinking.
Merlin’s eyes widened almost comically. “Oh, ah…yes, so…when Uther started talking about changing laws, we were all very confused. Extremely relieved, especially me…but, confused. That’s when Morgana told me about the love he felt for Buffy…um, you, apparently. The Lady who thawed the King’s heart and ultimately saved hundreds of lives – the Lady he’d never be able to see again.”
“Except for when he forces another sorcerer to create a new fold in time so he can hunt me down and try to kill me.”
Merlin’s brow furrowed in thought. “You said…Slayer? What is it that you…slay?”
“Vampires, mainly. That’s my full title…Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Buffy nodded slowly. “And unfortunately, you have a major vampire problem.”
“I’ve been trying to come up with a cure, but Gaius says there isn’t one – that it’s not an illness…that the King is already…um…”
“He’s already dead.” Giles said gently. “Gaius is correct – there is no cure for vampirism.”
“So, you’re here to…slay him?” When Buffy merely looked at him, he noticed the sadness in her eyes. “But, that’s not what you want to do.”
“My job is not always what I want to do.” She admitted with a shrug of her shoulder. “But, it’s what I have to do.”
Merlin was quiet for a long moment and then nodded. “I can get you into the castle. But, he’s right…you need to stay away from the Great Hall.”
“Rupert.” Buffy said, gesturing to Giles when Merlin eyes silently questioned her. “His name is Rupert. Rupert Giles.”
“Oh…of course.” He reached out, firmly shaking Giles’ hand. “Very nice to meet you, Mr Giles.”
“Rupert’s fine.” Giles replied, glancing at the cloak held in Merlin’s other hand. “So…tell me about that.”
Merlin smiled brightly. “A friend of mine sent it to me – Caradoc Peverell. It’s pretty amazing, huh?”
“Peverell?” Giles asked, murmuring a soft ‘hm’ when Merlin nodded.
“What is it?” Buffy asked, looking up at him.
“Oh, nothing – it’s just…that name rings a bell, I just can’t place it.”
“The Peverells are a family gifted with magick.” Merlin said with a bright smile. “I stayed with them for a while before coming to Camelot.”
“It’s intriguing.” Giles said. “And certainly something I’ve never seen before.”
“Not all of us are going to fit under that though.” Buffy said, glancing at Giles before meeting Merlin’s eyes. “Can Giles go with you?”
Giles looked sharply at her. “Excuse me?”
“We’re not splitting up, Buffy.” Giles said urgently.
“We’re going to the same place – ”
He shook his head quickly, lifting his hand to her cheek. “It’s too dangerous…”
“And, if we’re invisible…how are you going to follow us?” Merlin asked.
“I can hone in on Giles. I can find him anywhere.” She replied, not breaking her gaze with Giles. “I’ll be fine, babe. Literally, right behind you.”
“Hone?” Merlin tilted his head slightly. “And…babe?”
“He’s my Watcher, as well as my husband.” She said, glancing over at Merlin. “Babe…it’s, um…a term of endearment where we’re from.”
“Oh.” Merlin nodded slowly, then shook his head. “What is a Watcher?”
“He trains me, teaches me…”
“Oh, like Gaius for me.” Merlin grinned happily. “Only…with magick, not slaying. And, well, I’m not married to him.”
Buffy laughed softly. “The married part is Buffy and Giles. The honing part is Watcher and Slayer.”
Merlin nodded with a warm smile, then gestured towards the door. “We should get going. The King may come into the village soon.”
Giles lowered his hand and cleared his throat. “I thought the village was deserted.”
“No. Oh, no…not entirely. The citizens are in hiding, but there are quite a few still here. King Uther will find them. And he’ll find you if we don’t leave soon. You can come with me, I promise we’ll be safe.”
Giles hesitated in responding and Buffy reached up, placing her hand on the side of his neck. “Hey…”
He looked at her, uncertainty showing clearly in his eyes. “You come to me – as soon as we’re safe within the castle walls. You find me, Buffy.”
Before she could reply, he bent down and captured her lips with his. Merlin smiled, then quickly looked away.
* * *
“Alright, we’re here…” Merlin whispered, placing his hand on the outer wall of the castle. “When we go in, don’t make a sound. Two steps to the left, then across the hall.”
“That doesn’t sound very secretive…”
Merlin grinned, then whispered a word in what Giles assumed was a long-forgotten Druidic language. When Merlin’s eyes glowed, Giles raised an eyebrow.
“Interesting.” He murmured as part of the wall began to shimmer, much like what the fold in time looked like.
“Let’s go.” Merlin said quietly, leading Giles through the shimmer.
They paused just in the hallway, Merlin tilting his head as he listened. With a gentle nod, he took a step forward and then stopped abruptly. Giles lifted his eyes to see Uther striding through the hall, his red cloak billowing behind him. He held his breath as Uther walked by, turning his head slowly to watch the King.
Uther took a few more steps, then stopped and looked behind him. After a few long seconds, Uther clicked his tongue and tapped his finger against the stone wall. He looked as though he was going to say something, then turned his head quickly towards the adjoining corridor. He smirked, then quickly walked away.
As soon as he was gone, Merlin grabbed his arm and pulled him across the corridor – another whispered spell, another flash of orange glow, and he simply pulled Giles through the wall.
Gaius’ eyes widened when Merlin pulled the cloak away, revealing their visitor. “Merlin!”
Giles looked at Gaius, then quickly turned towards the sound of wood scraping against stone. Arthur was already walking around the table before Giles could say anything, his hand on the hilt of the sword at his side.
“Why do you have my father’s sword?” He asked, standing directly in front of Giles and staring into his eyes.
Giles glanced down at the sword in his hand. “He, uh…left it at my home – when he came to kill my wife.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes, staring at Giles dubiously. “Where are you from? I’ve never seen you before.”
Giles turned suddenly, staring at the wall behind him. “Merlin…Buffy.”
Merlin didn’t hesitate, slipping back into the corridor. Arthur looked at Guinevere, mouthing the name ‘Buffy’. Gwen nodded, coming over to stand next to Arthur.
“Buffy?” Arthur asked, stepping into Giles’ peripheral vision.
Giles nodded slowly, still staring at the wall. “My wife.”
“The same Buffy who – ”
“Yes.” Giles interrupted swiftly. “The same.”
Giles exhaled a deep sigh as Merlin returned, Buffy following him into the room. “Oh, love…”
Buffy moved to him, slipping her arms around his waist and resting her head against his chest. “He nearly went back for you.”
Giles smiled brightly. “That was you he heard…”
“Had to get him to go a different way…”
He leaned down and tenderly brushed his lips across hers. Then he looked at Merlin and gave him a nod of appreciation.
“It won’t be long before he finds this place, though.” Buffy said softly. “He’s very close.”
“We’ll need to relocate.” Arthur said, rubbing the back of his neck.
Buffy turned her head, her eyes widening slightly as she looked at the young man with the piercing blue eyes. “You…must have your mother’s eyes.”
“So I’ve been told.” Arthur said, regarding Buffy closely. “You are she. The woman who lightened Father’s heart.”
Buffy hooked her left index finger around Giles’ right pinky. “So I’ve been told.”
“Thank you.” Arthur said sincerely.
“You don’t…blame me? For what’s happened here?”
Arthur looked surprised and confused by her question. “You helped him become the man, the King…the father…he always could have been, but never was because of his fear, his hatred. How could I blame you for what he is now?”
He reached out and gently took Buffy’s hand, lifting it to his lips and pressing a soft kiss to her knuckles. “I’m honoured to meet you, Buffy. I am Arthur, Crown Prince of Camelot. You’ve met Merlin, my true friend.” He gestured towards the older man standing next to Merlin. “Gaius, the Royal Physician.”
He slipped his arm around Guinevere’s waist and smiled. “This is my Guinevere.”
“It’s lovely to meet you all and I wish that we had time to sit down and really get to know one another. But, we really, really don’t.”
Arthur’s smile faded. “I don’t really know what to do in this instance. We’ve been told that a piece of wood piercing the heart, but I’m unsure if that would actually work. I’ve never battled such a demon – and he wears chainmail.”
Buffy swallowed, sadness seeping into her eyes. “There are other ways to slay a vampire.”
Arthur’s eyes widened. “You know about vampires?”
Merlin nodded, gently biting the inside of his bottom lip. “She’s the Vampire Slayer, Arthur.”
“There’s no cure for this malady, is there?”
Buffy’s eyes glistened lightly. “No. No, there’s not.”
Guinevere tilted her head and glanced at Giles before addressing Buffy. “You…cared for him.”
“Yes. Yes, I did. I suppose I still do, but Uther is…”
“He’s dead.” Gaius finished for her. “His heart no longer beats.”
Arthur took a step back and sat heavily on the wooden table. “How…how do we do this, then?”
Giles slid his hand to the back of Buffy’s neck, lovingly rubbing his thumb over her skin. Buffy took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“Okay, crash course on vampire slaying…”
Giles placed Uther’s sword on the table next to Arthur. “And this belongs with you.”
Arthur moved his slightly trembling fingers over the lion on the pommel.
* * *
“This sounds like…not a great plan.” Merlin said, darting his eyes between Arthur and the Watcher/Slayer team.
“I’m inclined to agree.” Arthur replied, shaking his head. “But, I don’t know of another way to take care of the problem.”
Arthur swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and looked at the physician. “Gaius?”
Gaius shook his head sadly. “I wish there were another way, Arthur.”
Arthur nodded silently. Then he turned his attention to Buffy, who was currently leaning against her husband as he was sharpening a blade.
“You’re sure about this?”
“Look, I could probably push a stake through a layer of chainmail. But, this will be the less risky option.”
“You’re going to behead my father.” He said, then gave a sad chuckle. “Fitting, I suppose – considering the number of people he condemned to beheading.”
“These halls have seen so much blood in the past few years.” Guinevere whispered.
“There’ll be no blood…” Buffy stated, continuing quickly when the four of them stared at her in disbelief. “Vampires turn to dust when they’re killed. No blood.”
“Oh.” Arthur cleared his throat and then stood up, looking at Guinevere. “You and Gaius are not to leave here until Merlin and I come back.”
Gwen nodded and then gave him a warm kiss. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He whispered, then looked at Gaius. “Take care of her.”
Arthur shook his head slowly and picked up his sword. “Merlin…open a doorway.”
* * *
“He’s up ahead, around the corner.”
Giles looked down at her and handed her Uther’s sword. Merlin narrowed his eyes.
“Are you sure? I don’t see anything…”
“I’m positive – he’s not cloaking his vampirism now…I can sense him.”
“That’s a clever power to possess.” Arthur said softly, obviously impressed. “Considering your title.”
Buffy shrugged a shoulder, then looked at Giles. “One…I need you to hang back with Arthur and Merlin. Two…I need you to be ready if I need you. Three…I love you more than I can even begin to put into words.”
He offered her a warm smile and bent down to give her a kiss. “I love you too. We’ll be here, at the ready. Come back to me, love.”
She took a deep breath, then stepped back. Twirling the sword in her hand, she gave Giles a wink and then stepped into the main corridor.
Giles watched Buffy slowly make her way further up the corridor. His hand tightened on the dagger that had been lent to him. Arthur looked over at Merlin as he pulled a piece of parchment from his pocket.
“What do you have there, Merlin?” He asked, leaning over to take a closer look.
“A spell.” Merlin replied, his brow furrowing as he read through it. “It’s from Caradoc.”
Arthur stared at him for a moment. “It’s a bit disconcerting that he just magicks things to you.”
“But, helpful.” Merlin said with a smile.
His smile faded as Uther Pendragon entered the corridor.
“Show time.” Giles muttered, shifting his weight nervously.
Uther stepped into the corridor, stopping instantly when he saw her.
“Well, this is intriguing.”
His eyes were drawn to the sword in her hand when she tightened her grip.
“And I believe that belongs to me.”
Buffy shook her head, lifting the blade. “No. This belonged to King Uther Pendragon of Camelot. You…are a demon pretending to be him.”
Uther rolled his eyes and waved his hand. “Semantics, child.”
“Pretty sure we’ve confirmed I’m not a child.”
He smirked as his gaze dropped slightly. “Definitely not a child. My apologies.”
He lifted his hand to the clasp holding his cloak closed, licking his lips as he quickly removed the cloak from his shoulders and allowed it to drop to the stone floor.
“The last time I undressed for you, you assisted me.”
“The last time you undressed for me, you were more careful about where you placed your clothing.” She countered, not allowing herself to fall down a rabbit hole where Uther was kind and caring and…arousing.
He spread his arms out and narrowed his eyes. “As you can see, I am unarmed.”
“Don’t really care.” She muttered, gripping the hilt of the sword with both hands. “No such thing as a fair fight when dealing with vampires.”
Uther thought about that for a moment and then gave her a quick nod. “Fair enough. Let’s dance, Slayer.”
Arthur’s eyes widened as Uther kicked the sword from Buffy’s grasp. Giles grabbed his arm, stilling him as he started to run into the corridor.
“We should help her.”
Giles shook his head slowly. “Not yet.”
“But – ”
“Her loss of the weapon was intentional – meant to throw Uther off a bit.”
Arthur couldn’t help but notice the proud smile on Giles’ face as he continued speaking.
“It’s a lure. Let him think he’s winning, reel him in, then knock him down when he least expects it. She’s actually very brilliant at using this technique.”
They watched closely as Uther and Buffy traded blows – punches, kicks, blocks. If it hadn’t been such a crucial battle, it would have been beautiful to watch.
And then Giles’ eyes widened in fear as he watched Uther’s hand grip her throat and pin her against the stone wall.
Uther’s eyes blazed yellow as he glared at Buffy. His gloved fingers around her throat, firmly but not cutting off her airflow.
“How are you even here?” He growled.
“Same way you got here. Fold in time.”
“The fold should have closed once he followed me back.” Uther said, narrowing his eyes.
Buffy stared directly into his eyes, not showing one ounce of fear. “Well, it didn’t.”
“Idiotic sorcerer. I’ll have his head for this.” His eyes dropped to her lips momentarily. “You’re prepared to kill me, aren’t you?”
“It’s kind of in the title, Uther.” She replied, curling her hand into a fist and extending her index finger – a sign to Giles that everything was progressing as planned. “Vampire Slayer…”
Arthur saw the gesture and looked at Giles. “What does that mean?”
“She’s still in control, hold back.”
Merlin was busy reading the parchment that had been in his pocket. His eyes widened as he finally understood what it was he was reading. He took a deep breath and read the words again, this time aloud and concentrating on the magick within him. His eyes glowed orange as he spoke with clear purpose.
Giles turned to look at him. “What are you doing?”
Arthur shook his head. “I trust him, Rupert. He wouldn’t implore magick if he didn’t think it would help.”
Giles looked back at Buffy and Uther…just in time to see Uther stumble ever so slightly.
Uther’s eyes flashed orange for a brief moment and he swallowed hard. He looked at his hand on her throat, then lifted his other hand to his mouth. He pulled the glove free with the help of his teeth and allowed it to drop to the floor.
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Uther?”
He looked into her eyes, a soft smile on his lips as he gave her a nod. “I think…I don’t have much time here. The demon is doing its best to oust me again. However…I have time enough to say goodbye.”
“How is this…”
“Merlin, I assume.” He whispered, gliding his ungloved fingers along her cheek. “I’ve missed you.”
“We can figure this out, Uther. If he’s been able to get your soul back, we can figure out how to keep it there.”
He smiled sadly and shook his head. “I’m sure I can’t do that. The pain I feel at this moment for the horrors I’ve inflicted on so many innocent people…my daughter…I can’t recover from that.”
“I can help you.”
He looked at her for a long moment and then licked his very dry lips.
“I loved you.” He whispered, his gloved thumb gently rubbed the side of her neck. “We shared but one moment in time, but I loved you for the rest of my life. Even when I allowed myself to fall in love, to take a Queen, my love for you never died. I’m unsure how you managed that – causing my heart to feel love for you so quickly, so powerfully.” He smiled warmly, his eyes glistening. “No matter what I’ve said to the contrary, I was and am very grateful for the compassion you showed me those many years ago. Camelot was much better for what I became – and you are in no way to blame for what became of me.”
He leaned down and kissed her – once, softly…then again…and then once more. And then she kissed him back, placing her hand on his chest as his tongue slipped into her mouth. His hand finally left her throat and moved down her side, stopping when he reached her hip.
Merlin looked at Giles, who was watching – but, not seemingly upset by what he was seeing. That perplexed him, but who was he to question it.
“Arthur?” Giles said softly, not taking his eyes from Buffy and Uther.
“You need to get ready.”
Arthur then noticed Buffy’s hand on his father’s shoulder, two fingers extended instead of one. He silently removed his sword from its scabbard and took a deep breath.
“Wait until I give the word, yes?” Giles whispered.
Arthur nodded, watching his father kiss the Slayer.
Uther slowly ended the kiss, then rested his forehead against hers. “You need to tell me goodbye now, Buffy.”
She extended a third finger, but tightened her grip on his tunic. “I’d give so much to not have to.”
He smiled and chuckled sadly. “I’ll take that, milady.”
He shook his head and pressed another soft kiss to her lips. “Be happy, Buffy.”
A tear rolled down her cheek, even as she extended a fourth finger. “Be good, Uther.”
She extended her thumb, then curled her hand back into a fist as his eyes returned to the pale yellow of the demon. Giles inhaled sharply.
“Now, Arthur! Now…go!”
Uther grinned wickedly, running his tongue over a pointed tooth. Then he bent towards her, opening his mouth wide.
Arthur ran furiously down the corridor, Uther lifted his head at the sound of quick footsteps coming his way. He narrowed his eyes and laughed.
Arthur didn’t stop – instead he jumped and swung his sword in a neat arc, closing his eyes when he felt the blade connect. Tears were in his eyes as he feet touched the ground again. The demon screamed for just a moment before exploding in a cloud of ash. Buffy stumbled slightly – but was caught in Giles’ arms before she could slump to the ground.
Arthur knelt, the tip of his sword against the stone floor. Merlin ran over, skidding to a stop behind Arthur.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry, Arthur.”
Arthur shook his head, his trembling fingers brushing through the dust on the floor.
Buffy’s tears soaked into the front of Giles’ shirt as he held her tightly. He stroked her hair lovingly, whispering soft words that only she could hear.
The King was dead.
A new day would bring a new King.
King Arthur Pendragon.
For now, they’d mourn the fallen monarch.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When the sun rose, Arthur walked with Giles and Buffy to the stables…with Merlin tagging along. They had expressed their need to get back to the other side of the forest, where they had stepped out of the fold into this time period. Arthur smiled as he led a large black horse out of the stables to stand before them.
“This is Father’s horse, Pelleas.” He handed the reins to Buffy and exhaled a deep breath. “He now belongs to you. He’ll see you through the forest, he’ll jump through the fold without hesitation.”
The sound of a soft cough near the well caused all of them to turn. Merlin’s eyes grew wide and bright, Giles and Buffy moved closer together and stared at the newcomer.
“Caradoc!” Merlin cried, running over to the young man and pulling him into a hug.
Caradoc returned the hug fiercely, then looked to Buffy and Giles nervously.
“You’re the sorcerer who was helping Uther.” Buffy said, dropping Pelleas’ reins. “You helped him come to our time to kill me, us…you – ”
“I had little choice – and for that, I apologise greatly. But, I allowed you to follow us back – I gave Merlin the means to bring this to an end. I didn’t want to help King Uther.” His eyes glistened as he lowered his head. “But, what was I to do?”
“I’m not sure there was anything else you could have done.” Giles replied gently.
Arthur glanced at Giles, then Merlin. It was obvious Merlin had had no idea that Caradoc had been helping his father. And Giles was showing compassion for the man who had brought danger to the woman he loved.
And then he watched Buffy, who walked over to the sorcerer and placed her hand on his shoulder…then pulled him into an embrace. At that moment, he made a decision.
There would be a place in Camelot for Caradoc – and the rest of the Peverells.
Arthur caught Giles’ eye and then looked over the village towards the forest. “If the fold has closed…”
Giles smiled and patted the satchel slung over his chest. “I have the means to reopen it – we’ll be fine.”
Arthur nodded and looked over to the castle. Giles reached over and placed his hand on the young King’s shoulder, gently squeezing.
“You’ll be fine as well, Your Majesty. Camelot will flourish under your reign as it did during the last years of Uther’s true life. Have patience, compassion, and tolerance. But, most of all, have love. Your father learned too late.”
“I have great hopes of Guinevere becoming my Queen.” He admitted with a soft smile as he waved at Gwen, who had stepped out into the garden.
“Then make it so.” Giles replied with a smile, then turned his attention back to Buffy. “Love?”
“Yeah, I know…time to head out.” She walked back over to him and smiled at Arthur. “King Arthur…”
“Thank you, Buffy. I know this hasn’t been an easy journey for you, for different reasons to mine. But, the end result is the same – we both lost someone we cared deeply for. You will not be forgotten in Camelot. Neither of you.”
His eyes darted to Giles, who had easily mounted Pelleas. “Safe journey to you both.”
Buffy smiled, reaching up to take Giles’ extended hand. He lifted her up and she settled in behind him, slipping her arms around him.
After another round of goodbyes, Giles clicked his tongue and gently tugged on the reins. Pelleas took a step to his left and then they were off. Buffy rested her cheek against Giles’ back, watching the castle until it was out of sight.
* * *
The ride through the forest had been basically silent. A lot had taken place in the last twelve hours or so – a lot that needed to be taken in…a lot that probably would need to be discussed at some point.
Giles completed the spell, on horseback – as he’d not had the energy to climb down. Nor did he want to – not with Buffy holding onto him as tightly as she was.
The fold shimmered and grew and waved like a flag in the breeze. He covered her left hand with his, sliding his fingers through hers.
“Are you ready to go home, love?”
“Oh my god…so ready.”
He chuckled, lifting her hand to his lips and placing a soft kiss on her palm. “I love you, Buffy.”
She kissed the back of his shoulder, tightening her right arm around him. “I love you, Giles.”
And with a gentle click of his tongue, Pelleas gave a soft neigh…then jumped through the fold.
There would be so much to unpack when they got home – but, they’d do it over time. They wouldn’t brush it under the carpet and forget it. They’d learned many years ago that wasn’t the best course of action for their relationship. They’d talk it out, truly discuss it – and they’d get through it and be even stronger when they closed the book on this chapter of their lives.
Because they were Buffy and Rupert Giles.
Slayer, Watcher…wife and husband.
Not even a King of Camelot could break their bond.