Rupert Giles lay back on the hillside and stared up at the sky, one arm crooked behind his head to support it. He could see a wide expanse of blue, drifting on forever, one or two small white clouds floating loosely in the emptiness. They looked random, without certainty or order, and he found himself envying them greatly.

"Rupert?" The voice was female, middle-aged, and extremely insistent. He closed his eyes, hoping to shut it out, but it merely called him again and again until finally he sat up.

"What is it?"

"Lunchtime." She walked up the hill to stand beside him, staring down at the slight, dark figure that was her only child. "It's past half past one, Rupert. You do have a watch, you know."

"Not hungry." He lay back down again, eyes closed, but she merely sat down beside him.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Huh?" He blinked up at her. "Talk about what?"

"You. The way that you've been acting recently. Listen, it's okay, Rupert. When I was sixteen I felt the same way; angry at everybody, confused…"

"I am not confused." He sat up sharply, moving smoothly to stand, and she was forced to look up at him now. It was strange, to see the way that he had grown these last few months. He was changing every time that she saw him, and she was missing so much of it. For the first time in years she regretted the decision to send him away to boarding school; although if the last few reports were anything to go by, he wouldn't be going there for very much longer. She considered whether to raise the subject, but thought better of it. There was plenty of time yet; they had the whole summer ahead of them.

"Then what is it? You want to explain the attitude? The sulking? The training sessions you've been missing lately? Rupert, I know--"

"Don't call me that." He interrupted her curtly, in a way that he had always been brought up never to do. "Call me Giles, like the others do. I hate Rupert."

"It's your name." Anger was creeping into her voice now, but he either did not notice, or didn't care.

"It's a sissy name. Rupert's what you call some chinless wonder. Or a bloody dog."

"Well if that's the only sort of response I'm going to get out of you today I shall go and eat lunch on my own." She sighed. "I thought you might like coming here; away from the city, a chance to relax after school." Her expression changed. "Although from what I've been hearing, you don't need to relax now. You've been doing plenty of that in the classroom."

"Yeah, well you know how it is." He shrugged, turning away. "I'm going for a walk."

"No you're not." She moved quickly, catching him by the wrist. "You are coming back to the cottage with me, and we're going to talk this through like civilised people. You're not a child anymore Rupert."

"I never was." He stared down at her hand on his wrist, his expression cold. "I could break your fingers, you know; without even thinking about it." She looked up, her eyes meeting his. There was something cold behind the green brightness of his stare, and it was something that she did not think that she recognised; although she had been seeing it develop over the course of the last year.

"What's wrong?" He twisted his arm, breaking her hold swiftly and painlessly. "It's been you sending me to all those lessons, mother. The swords, the staffs, the knives. Did you think I wouldn't learn how to hurt people?"

"Those lessons are your God-given duty." Her expression hardened. "It's not something for you to use against others; it's what you need to learn so that you can one day help your Slayer."

"Yeah, sure. Well you'd know all about that, wouldn't you. You never even laid eyes on a bloody vampire. This thing is from dad's side of the family, and it doesn't concern you." He bent, grabbing the leather jacket which had been lying on the ground at his feet, then threw it over his shoulder. "Be seeing you. Around."

"Rupert!" She took a few steps after him, but he did not look back or slow his stride. Instead he acted almost as though he had never heard her, and her shoulders slowly slumped. She didn't know him anymore. Her only child was walking away from her, and there was nothing that she could do; except, perhaps, for one thing. She turned about and hurried back to the cottage.


The Watcher Hierarchy was a small, secretive organisation based in Southern England, who spurned contact with ordinary members of the public and hid themselves away, surrounded by ancient texts and hand-written manuscripts dating from the days when most archaeologists did not believe mankind had had the ability to write. Elizabeth Giles hated them, and she knew that her son felt the same way. They believed that they knew everything; they had opinions on every subject; and they did not tolerate behaviour that met with their disapproval. Few of them were below the age of sixty, and few had ever done anything with their lives other than study their texts and watch over those who Watched. She did not understand the necessity of their existence, and she never would.

"Is there some reason why you've come to see us, Mrs Giles?" The leader of the Hierarchy, an old, long nosed man with thick-lensed glasses and a hawk-like expression, frowned at her from behind his large, oak desk. "When I was told that you were holidaying near here I never imagined that you would presume to come to us."

"I wanted to speak to you." She forced the quaver from her voice and stared back at him, determined not to be intimidated. "About Rupert."

"Ah." The old man nodded, and glanced at some papers on his desk. "School reports haven't been good, have they. You've let discipline slip since your husband died, Mrs Giles. Perhaps you should consider marrying again, or sending your son to live with a male relative?"

"I beg your pardon?" She stared at him, unable to believe what she was hearing. "I - Wait a minute. You have my son's school reports?"

"Of course." He looked surprised at her question. "He belongs to us as much as he does to you, Mrs Giles. We have to know how he's getting along."

"No you don't. It's nothing to do with you." She glared at him, her indignation growing. "Who the hell do you think you are?"

"Mrs Giles, really. There's no need to get hysterical." The old man rolled his eyes, clearly showing his opinions about emotional women. "Rupert Giles is destined to be a Watcher. Therefore we like to know how he's getting along at school. It's in all our best interests. He will one day guide the Slayer."

"No he won't." She took a deep, shaky breath, deciding that she had to put her trust in these men; there was nobody else to turn to. "He says that he won't be the Watcher. He doesn't want anything to do with the tradition."

"It's not a tradition." At the other end of the hierarchical table a slightly younger man, also of definite pensionable age, turned his head from out of his ancient-looking book to peer at her. "It's his destiny. There's no avoiding it."

"Well he thinks there is. He's gone, and - and I don't think he means to come back." She took a deep, shaky breath. "I came to you, because - because I didn't know who else could help. Nobody else knows, not even my closest friends. You have to help me to get my son back."

"Of course." The old man rang a bell standing next to him on the desk. "My dear woman, I can assure you that the Watcher Hierarchy will do everything in their power to recover the boy. It is necessary." He sniffed, looking somewhat imperious. "Of course, what happens next is for us to decide."

"For you to…" She gaped at him, incredulous. "You mean you want to keep him here, with you?"

"The boy must learn, Mrs Giles. He needs the sort of discipline that you clearly cannot give him."

"If you think I'm going to let you take away my only child, you have another thought coming." She took a step towards him, but felt a hand on her arm.

"Mrs Giles, you're obviously distressed." The voice was feminine, and filled with authority. "Why don't you come with me for a little while? You can sit down, have a cup of tea. Relax."

"No. No, I have to go and look for my son." She tried to pull free, but the grip on her arm was insistent, and she began to feel distinctly light-headed. Her vision swam.

"Mrs Giles? Are you alright?" The voice was filled with a concern that did not seem genuine, and she tried to move away from it, to shut it out. Instead she felt her strength begin to ebb.

"Mrs Giles?" Other voices were joining in, surrounding her with a blanket of concern that she did not trust. "We'll look after Rupert, Mrs Giles. You go to sleep. Relax, Mrs Giles. Relax. Relax…" She slumped into the arms of the waiting attendant, and the oldest of the men behind the desk nodded in curt satisfaction.

"Jolly good. See that she's made comfortable, and that she understands the situation. Then get out there and find that boy." His eyebrows closed together into a line of hard resolution. "I don't want a renegade Watcher out there; and I don't want to run the risk of there one day being a Slayer without a guiding hand. The coming generation has its Watcher; and if he refuses to accept his destiny there is only one possible course of action for us to take. The path must be cleared for a new Watcher to replace him." He rose slowly to his feet and crossed to a cabinet on the wall, opening a drawer beneath it with a small, silver key. Slowly he pulled a gun from within the drawer, and stared down at it. "If he will not come back to us, Rupert Giles must die."


Giles jumped down from the lorry cab, grinning a last goodbye to the driver. They had driven together all night, the middle-aged long distance truck man having been quite happy to let his young passenger take over behind the wheel for a few hours in the early morning, so that he could get some sleep. Giles flexed his fingers as he walked away from the lorry. It had felt good to take control of the vehicle for a while, even it had been on mostly empty roads. He would have hated to have become at all out of practice during the long summer months.

"You watch where you're walking, young man." A tall, grey-suited individual carrying a copy of the Evening Standard pushed past Giles with a sour expression on his face. Giles glared up at him, seeing a pale, non-distinctive face and a high forehead.

"Sorry." He grinned at the businessman, his eyebrows raised insultingly, then pushed brusquely past him on his way to the underground station. It was only half full, and the train was already idling at the platform. He strolled on, his walk easy and casual, and sat down beside a window at the far end of the carriage.

"You didn't pay for a ticket." A small boy, no more than seven years old, was sitting on the other side of the aisle. He gazed at Giles with steady, brown eyes. "That's bad."

"Not as bad as getting your tongue cut off." Giles smiled at him, his expression coldly unpleasant, and the boy frowned. He seemed to be considering whether or not to be afraid.

"What if they ask for your ticket?" he asked finally. The older boy shrugged.

"So who gives a damn?"

"Who gives a damn." The small boy grinned, beginning to repeat the phrase over and over with clear relish. His mother sat down next to him, and he smiled up at her, eyes bright. "Who gives a damn!"

"Paul!" His mother looked shocked, and her eyes sought out Giles, clearly placing the blame on him without caring for proof. Giles rolled his eyes and moved on down the train to the next carriage. It didn't matter that she had been right about who to blame for her son's new vocabulary; what mattered was that she had jumped to the conclusion without bothering to find out the truth.

The next carriage was full of teenagers, mostly a year or two older than him. They wore jeans and leather jackets; but despite his similar attire he did not feel entirely comfortable sitting with them. Their eyes scanned his face, checking out the cut of his black leather jacket and his plain white T-shirt. The girls whispered to each other and the boys chewed gum or lit cigarettes, staring at him with eyes that burned with queries.

"What part of town are you from?" one of them asked him finally, running a hand through his lengthy black hair. Giles stared coolly back at him.

"Who wants to know?"

"Craig Shore." He smiled, taking a comb from the girl holding his arm, and running it unnecessarily through his already immaculate hair.

"That supposed to mean something to me, dandy boy?" Giles stood up, staring down at the older boy with clear contempt in his eyes. "Wherever I'm from, I'm from here now, and if I was you I'd accept that. It'd be healthier."

"Would it." Shore rose to his feet, his eyebrows closing into a menacing frown. "Well perhaps me and my friends here can change your opinion on that." He clicked his fingers and three other boys stood up, closing in on the newcomer. "This is my ground, and I take care of it. You want in, you have to come past me."

"That ain't much of an obstacle." Giles folded his arms, trusting in his balance despite the rocking of the train carriage. "A crowd of long-haired lily-livered comprehensive school boys? I'm scared."

"Get him!" Shore stepped forward, his expression changing from easy calm to clear anger. At the same instant the train came rattling to a halt, and the boys wobbled dangerously, losing their footing as the carriage jerked uncertainly. Only Giles remained steady on his feet. He grinned at the long-haired boys, raising a hand in farewell.

"Be seeing you."

He jumped from the train the moment that the doors allowed him access to the platform outside. There was quite a crowd gathering in the station, and although he heard the shouts and footsteps of the gang pursuing him, he saw no sign of them, and reached the street without incident. Once out in the open air he moved faster, dodging pedestrians and cars alike as he took off down the road. Horns blared at him as he cut across in front of moving vehicles, and he waved insultingly at the drivers, yelling back as they shouted their anger to him. Behind him he caught a glimpse of the gang erupting from out of the station, yelling and shouting at each other as they came in pursuit. He took a left down an alleyway, dodging a row of high-piled rubbish bins, and scrambled over the wall at the end. Beyond was another alley, as small and as dirty as the first. He increased his pace, easily swinging up onto the wall that blocked the way, and stared back. Far behind him he could see the gang of long-haired would-be troublemakers, lost in clear confusion at his sudden disappearance. For a moment he considered calling to them, to renew the chase, but he was already losing interest. Baiting gangs was a way to get a little adrenalin fix, but he became bored very easily, and was always ready for the next thrill. He jumped down from the wall, fixing the collar of the leather jacket in the way best suited to his new status. School was behind him, at least for a while; and so was his mother, for just as long as he was able to keep it that way. He sunk his hands into his pockets and started off through the alley. He should find some way to celebrate his new found freedom; some manner in which to illustrate the way in which he viewed the world. His fingers struck something at the bottom of his pocket, and he fished it out. It was a pen, silver in colour and smooth in design; one which had belonged to his father, and which he had been given when he had started at his current school; one of the hallowed halls of tradition. He flicked it through his fingers, toying with it like a gangster in a movie playing with a coin. Then he threw it up into the air, caught it, and tossed it into a rubbish bin. He didn't need pens anymore; and he didn't need reminders of his father. This was where it all began to change.


The weeks passed. London was alive in the summer, full of tourists who packed the shops, distracting the attention of the security guards with their incessant chatter and confusion over the English language. It was the perfect opportunity for an active minded young man, and Giles, who was more actively-minded than most, soon became an accomplished shoplifter. It began as a way of staying alive; stealing food and other small items; but soon he was practised enough to be able to steal anything, and his wardrobe grew accordingly. A new leather jacket to replace the old one that his mother had bought for him two years previously; expensive running shoes that helped him to stay ahead of trouble; and numerous other items that he took as and when he fancied them. His nimble, intellectual mind, which had allowed him to work out the intricacies of hot-wiring cars during a dare at school, allowed him to develop his lifestyle still further; and with the proceeds from a few stolen cars in his pocket he was able to get a room in a boarding house. It was small and dingy, with black marks on the walls from the damp, but it was infinitely better than living on the streets. It gave him a place to sleep at nights, and somewhere to take girls; as well as a place to hide his stolen gear until he could sell it on. Only his strange fellow boarders gave him cause for concern, for they came and went at odd times, keeping even less sociable hours than he did; and he heard them sometimes in their rooms talking in the voices of those for whom it was important not to be overheard.

One evening, when a warm wind made it too hot for a coat even at pub closing time, Giles strolled out of his favourite haunt; a disco bar frequented by those members of the younger community who looked for a little something extra in their entertainment. He ran a hand through his short dark hair, pausing for a second to let his fingers touch the cool metal of the gold ring he now wore in his left ear. He had seen people with one ear pierced, and it seemed to him to be the epitome of coolness and rebellion. His mother would hate it, and the teachers at school would no doubt recoil in abject disgust at such a flagrant disregard for the rules of acceptable conduct. He almost wanted to go back, just so that he could see their reactions, and play on their anger at his refusal to conform.

"Rupert Giles?" The voice was soft and oily, and he swung around immediately, leg muscles tensed in preparation for a quick getaway. A man stood in the shadows of a nearby shop front, the glowing tip of his cigarette the most visible part of his figure. A thin wreath of smoke drifted its way up into the air, catching the light from the streetlamps. Giles recognised the smell; a prefect at school had first introduced him to marijuana the previous Christmas, when they had been stuck together with nowhere to go at the start of the school holidays.

"Who are you?" He moved only slightly closer to the man, trusting that this was no figure of authority out to trap him; policemen did not smoke illegal substances on street corners; and members of the Watcher Hierarchy definitely didn't. All the same, he kept his distance. He knew enough about London, and especially the sort of society that he had been moving with recently, to be suspicious of anybody who knew his name.

"My name's Gareth. Gareth Cunningham." The man moved closer, so that Giles could see a little more of him. He saw pasty white skin and a black suit, old fashioned in design, with a grey shirt and a cravat of deep red. There was a pin in the cravat to keep it neatly in place, and he frowned at it. Illuminated as it suddenly was by the streetlights, he could see it clearly. It was in the shape of a pentagram, the five-pointed figure in a circle used by so many Black Magicians to work their spells. Something about it caught his imagination, and he found himself smiling.

"You were wondering how I came to know your name." Cunningham pulled a long, home-rolled cigarette from his breast pocket and offered it to Giles, who declined. He had already had a headful of other people's smoke at the bar, and he did not want to take things too far. Much more and he would be incapable of thinking for himself.

"Somebody told you," he answered curtly, dragging his eyes away from the tie-pin. "At a guess."

"A reasonable assumption." The man smiled, his hollow cheeks lending a rather skeletal appearance to his expression. Giles could almost see him as a skull, grinning inanely at the world. The man's eyes were almost sunken enough to be just empty sockets, except for the flash of pale grey in their centres. "In point of fact I've been looking for you for some time." He smiled wider, and his teeth caught the light.

"There something I can do for you?" His tone just arrogant enough to be insulting, Giles looked up at the stranger, wishing that he were tall enough to be able to look a grown man in the eyes. Cunningham smiled again.

"There just might be. Would you like to take a little walk?"

"With you?" Giles shook his head. "I don't think so, thanks. I value my health."

"Don't we all." Slowly Cunningham held out his hands, palms up, revealing long fingernails and a large black ring. "As you see, I am quite unarmed."

"Yeah, and I'm Pete Townshend." Giles frowned. "What are you so anxious to say to me?"

"Just… an offer. Of sorts." Cunningham raised one of his hands, and the skin on his fingertips glowed a faint blue. "I can show you things, Giles. Things that a Watcher is never supposed to know. Things that I see a longing for in your heart."

"What do you know about me?" His voice hot, Giles took a step back. "Listen pal--"

"No, you listen Giles. You know how it works?" The oily edge to Cunningham's voice had gone, and in its place was harsh reality. "Many are born destined to be Watchers, but in each generation only one is born who will one day partner the Slayer. If that Watcher denies his destiny, there can be no other to replace him until he dies. Another true Watcher will not be brought forward until the day you die, or until the next generation takes its place. The Hierarchy will not allow that. It could bring great danger to the Slayer, and it could cause chaos in this world. What if your failure to assist your Slayer caused her death? What then? The world could be swamped with demons and vampires. It would bring an end to the balance, and chaos would reign." He smiled. "The Watcher Hierarchy intends to kill you, Giles, if they can't get you to go back to them."

"I don't want to go back." There was heat in his eyes and in his voice, but all the same Giles felt afraid. If the Watchers wanted him dead, he could think of no way to stop them. They had magic at their disposal, and several millennia of knowledge and information. He could not hope to combat that. Unless…

"Who are you?" His eyes narrowing, he stared up at Cunningham. The skull-like face grinned at him again, and one long, grasping hand reached out for his shoulder.

"I am… one who likes the idea of chaos reigning in this world. One who would appreciate the chance to help a Watcher who does not wish to fulfil his destiny. I could find you another destiny, Giles. One that would fit you a little better, I think."

"You'd help me to stay ahead of the Hierarchy?"

"Of course." Cunningham's fingers reached for the boy's chin. "There is chaos in your heart, Giles. I see it. You would like to get to know a little more about the world that I come from. I can show you that, and I can teach you things. It is in my interest to see that the Watchers do not succeed in killing you. What do you say?"

"I have to think about this." Frowning, Giles turned away, relieved to get the cold clammy touch of Cunningham's hands away from his face. "I - I can't just--"

"You can do whatever you want to do, Giles." Cunningham was smiling at him, moving closer to him once again. "You do not have to follow the rules you were brought up to respect. Laws mean nothing in the world of darkness and chaos. I want to show you that world. You hate the people who are forcing you towards your destiny, am I right? Well this is your chance to get back at them; to show them how independent you are. To show them that you have a mind of your own that you are prepared to use for your own ends. Tell me, Giles, and tell me truthfully. Which interests you more; the chance to die fighting vampires for the sake of world harmony, or the chance to learn to use dark powers for your own gain; to take what you want when you want it, and to force the world to notice you? Which is it Giles? Which way does your heart turn?"

Giles was silent, staring up at the pale eyes above him. Even as he watched them, he saw them beginning to change. They grew darker and cloudy, until he was staring into twin pools of bottomless blackness. He saw clouds passing across the sun, and winds beginning to howl through the trees. Bats flew through the night sky in a great, dark swathe that settled upon the world. He heard whispering, and what sounded like a woman sobbing. His body felt cold.

"Giles?" Cunningham was smiling down at him. "You have advantages, my boy. You know about the dark side, and about magic and sorcery. You already know the names of the demons waiting to come here. Why not use that advantage? What do you owe the world, after all? What has it ever done for you?"

"Nothing." His voice sounded strange and detached, as though he could not quite recognise it. "I don't owe any of them anything."

"You hate them, don't you Giles. You hate them for trying to force you down the path that doesn't fit you; for trying to make you what you're not. You hate them for using your skills and intelligence for their own ends."

"Yeah. I hate them." It was hot now, no longer cold, and Giles ran a hand across his forehead. It came away covered in sweat. He could feel the hair on his forehead beginning to droop, and he pushed his hand through it, feeling it hot and wet in his fingers.

He was standing on a hillside, and it was dark all around. Stars filled the sky above him, and the full moon seemed to hang bare millimetres beyond his head, as though he could reach up and touch it. His feet felt light and strange, as though he were no longer resting his full weight on them. It was raining, and the rain grew more and more intense as he became aware of it, so that it was pouring down his face and body, soaking everything, and making his vision blur. He stared up at the sky, raising his arms to welcome the rain, feeling the growing wind beginning to tear at his clothes. His shirt flapped wildly, as though at any moment it would tear itself free and fly off, liberated and ready to fend for itself.

With a sudden, violent, ear-splitting roar of thunder, the view shifted and he was up above the world, staring down on London city, as sheets of flame tore through the streets, incinerating buildings and reducing the great landmarks that he knew so well to nameless dust. He heard people screaming; saw them in the roads below him as they ran for their lives, fighting to escape the huge, horned creatures that swooped out of the sky above them, claws slashing, fanged mouths agape. Giles stared down at it all, feeling his blood run cold despite the intense heat that was still pounding its way through his veins. He struggled, beginning to fight against whatever force it was that was holding him in the air. The demons came closer, heading straight for him until he could see the mad fires in their wide red eyes, and could see the slime on their skins glinting in the light of the million fires raging beneath them. The demons engulfed him, their grasping, slashing claws beginning to reach for him, attacking him, filling his body with fire and pain.

"Leave me alone!" He tried to fight them, but they were too strong, and as he struggled in their strengthening grip he saw deep into their faces. He saw behind the green skin and the blood stained fangs; he saw through the mad red eyes and the long, forked tongues. Instead he saw the faces within them; the human hearts at the centre of the unspeakable madness. He saw the Watcher Hierarchy grinning at him; their grey faces and their grey suits; their grey hair and their grey eyes; staring out at him from within the maelstrom. He heard them laugh; a loud, swamping sound of pure hatred and derangement. Blood filled his vision, and then he saw nothing at all.


"Giles? Hey Giles, you okay man?" The voice sounded distant, and not entirely familiar. Giles opened his eyes and looked up into the dark face of one of his friends from the disco bar, a tall, lanky kid of about his own age, with dark greasy hair and the first desperate strands of a moustache.

"Henderson what the bloody hell are you doing here?" He sat up, blinking about at the mostly deserted street. "Ouch. What the bloody hell am I doing here?"

"I just found you here, man. You were out for the count." Henderson frowned. "Were you mugged? 'Cause I think that's bang out of order man. Should I call a copper?"

"Don't be dumb." Giles stood up, brushing the street dust from his clothes. "I wasn't mugged. Who the hell would dare try and mug me? He'd be picking his teeth up off the tarmac for a week."

"Cool." Henderson sounded blown away, as though he thought Giles to be one of the coolest people that he knew. It was quite likely, for he was a sheltered sort, who had run away from a huge family in Leeds in order to find a life for himself in the capital. Giles had no idea what the gangly kid did during the day time; he only knew that he was always in the bar at night, hanging onto every word that his arrogant, leather jacketed acquaintance said. He was mature-looking enough to pass for eighteen, and bought the alcoholic drinks that Giles himself could only get from the less responsible bartenders. "So what happened?"

"Daylight, man." Giles fumbled in his pockets, finally coming up with a somewhat battered packet of cigarettes and a lighter. He lit up, eyes shining through the smoke. "You ever wanted to rule the world, Henderson?"

"Rule the world?" The taller boy frowned, clearly not understanding. "You been having a bad trip?"

"Wake up and see the light of day." Rolling his eyes, Giles blew a long steam of smoke into the air, closing his eyes for several seconds. "What's wrong with you, man? I thought you were cool, right?"

"Yeah, yeah sure." Desperate to win the admiration of the toughest kid he knew, Henderson nodded hard. "Sure I'm cool, Giles. Really. Hit me."

"That's more like it." Giles wandered over to the stone bollards at the side of the road, and sat down on one. "I'm talking power. Real power. The chance to make every dumb klutz in this city sit up and take notice of us. You with me so far?"

"Yeah, sure." Henderson's eyes were bright and round. Giles gazed at him momentarily, as though wondering how much more to tell him.

"We'd be the coolest on the block. Nobody'd try to push us around. We could even have the Lords eating out of our hands."

"Huh?" Henderson frowned, shaking his head. "The Lords don't listen to nobody, man. They'd never--"

"You listening to me or not?" Giles stood up, sounding disgusted. "I don't like cowards."

"I'm not a coward, I swear!" Henderson caught his companion by the arm in desperation to make him stay, then caught the look Giles gave him and let go, stepping smartly back. "I'm with you, Giles, really. Honest. Whatever you say."

"Cool." Giles took a deep breath, throwing the last of his cigarette away, so that it skimmed across the tarmac and landed in the gutter. "First of all we're getting some better digs; then we're gonna go out there and start making some noise. Real noise." He threw an arm around Henderson's shoulders, beginning to walk with him down the street. "You know how to hot-wire a car, Henderson?"

"Hot-wire a--" Henderson shook his head. "No. Do you?"

"You are looking at the King Of The Hot Automobiles, sunshine." Giles grinned, his eyes glittering as they caught the light of the streetlamps. "Say, do you dig music?"

"Like at the bar?"

A silence was his answer, more eloquent than any words. Giles shook his head.

"That ain't music, Hendy. That's drivel. I mean sound. Real sound. The Who, Led Zepp, Cream."

"Oh." Henderson did not want to admit that he had never even heard of Cream. "Led Zepp… you mean Led Zeppelin?"

"No, I mean Lulu." Giles rolled his eyes. "Of course I mean Led Zeppelin, jerk."

"Oh, right." Henderson shrugged. "Sure, I like it. Why?"

"Oh, just 'cause…" Giles shrugged. "I was figuring I might get a band together. Play some noise, hang out. You know… dig the scene. It's a cool way to pull chicks."

"Chi--" Henderson stopped himself in time, catching on to what the smaller boy was talking about. "It is? Really?"

"The best, man. Nobody can say no to a guy with a guitar. You play?"

"Yeah, sure. I used to take piano lessons when I was a kid. Reckon I could play other stuff too, no problem." Henderson grinned, his face flushed. "We really gonna start a band?"

"Yeah…" Giles closed his eyes as he walked, his head tipped up to face the night sky. "I feel like hitting the hard side of town. Making myself known. You play your cards right, Hendy, and we're gonna rule the world."


Alan Henderson leaned back against the lid of his piano and watched the trails of smoke wind their way up to the ceiling. He felt sick and light-headed, but didn't feel much like admitting to it. Lately they had all been getting to him, calling him names, finding things at fault in whatever he did. He was beginning to accept that he didn't fit in here; but there was nowhere else for him to go.

"Play me something Alan." Angela Wray, a tall, willowy girl of seventeen, who had gravitated towards Giles the moment he had first strapped on his guitar, leant over the piano offering the boy an unprecedented glimpse down the front of her dress. He averted his eyes, unsure how to talk to her. Her eyes were well out of focus, and he could only imagine what she had been up to in the back room. She didn't just smoke marijuana, the way that the others did; he recognised the marks on her arms as though they were signs written in block capitals.

"Such as?" he asked her. She shrugged, struggling to keep upright, let alone to keep her eyes open.

"Something dreamy. Like you were playing the other night."

"That was Mozart. Giles doesn't like me playing that stuff." He frowned up at her, trying to see past the drug-induced fog and the spaced-out demeanour to the seventeen year old girl that was behind it. "Do you know where he is?"

"Giles?" She shrugged. "I don't know. He goes out, around; you know - he's probably digging London. Why?"

"Maybe I'm worried about him." The boy lifted the lid of the piano and ran his hands lightly over the keys; not hard enough to make any noise, but enough for him to feel the comforting sensation of the ivory against his fingers. It was solid and reassuring, which was more than he could say for anything else in his life right now. Angela giggled.

"Worried about Giles? Are you kidding? Nobody would dare try anything on with him. Just last week the Lords sent their best knifeman after him, and Giles left him in a heap in the gutter. He had to go to the hospital."

"Yeah, real cool." Closing his eyes, Alan began to play. "I don't know Annie, it's just… This is 1971, you know? Not 1871. Kids don't come to London on their own these days unless there's something really wrong somewhere. I was running away from something, so were you… but Giles… He never talks about anything, never opens up. I always get the feeling that there's something he's hiding from. Something big."

"Of course there is. He's Giles." She climbed up on top of the piano and curled up on it, staring down at him with nebulous green eyes. "What are you worrying about, anyway? He bought you this piano, didn't he?"

"Yeah, exactly. He bought the piano, and his guitar, and the instruments for the rest of the band. He pays the rent for this flat and wears clothes half of London can't afford, and none of us has got so much as a brass farthing to our names." He shook his head. "Do you understand all of this? I mean really?"

"Sure I do." She was too far gone to have understood anything that he was trying to say, and he sighed, abruptly changing the style of his playing. Bleak, almost tuneless music began flowing from the piano, matching his feeling of depression. He wanted to get up and walk out of the flat, but the only place he could think of to go to was the damp and cold little boarding house that he had managed to find for himself before. He couldn't face the thought of any more lonely nights huddled around a candle flame, with no money for food unless he risked the wrath of the landlady by not paying his rent. He knew that he wouldn't last long on the streets. It had been supposed to be a game; a roof over their heads, and a chance at making something from the music, but the other three members of the band were so out of their heads most of the time that they barely managed to string three notes together, and Giles clearly was not so much interested in the music itself as the doors that it could open for him. He liked to impress the girls at the clubs by announcing that he was in a band, and he liked to cruise the streets in the van with their name written on the side, painted in glorious Technicolor by some distant acquaintance. Street Demons, complete with a truly over-the-top picture of a long-toothed, spike-headed green monstrosity, was written in something approaching neon pink, and Henderson was not altogether sure that half of London could even bear to look at the sign, let alone read it and make a conscious decision to hire the band.

"Hey, Giles!" The shout went up from somewhere across the smoke filled room, and Alan ceased his playing to look towards the door. Rupert Giles, his jeans torn and a growing bruise covering his left temple, wandered through the crowd of his smoke-glazed confederates, a small glass bottle of beer in one hand, and a sports bag in the other. He threw himself down in a chair next to the piano, and grinned up at Angela. She smiled down at him, her eyes rolling up into her head mere seconds later. Alan watched her collapse into a sleep that was more akin to unconsciousness.

"You going to tell me where you've been?" he asked. Giles frowned up at him.

"Huh?" he inquired, somewhat less than eloquently. Henderson shook his head, frustrated.

"We were supposed to be having a rehearsal," he prompted slowly. "Remember? You said you were going to get us a gig?"

"Oh yeah. That." The smaller boy shrugged, reaching to his pocket for a cigarette. Henderson caught his wrist, preventing him from lighting up, and he frowned.

"You want something, Hendy?"

"Yeah." Henderson let him go, his glare warning that Giles should not reach for the ever-present smoke, or try to deflect what was coming in any other way that came to him. "We have to have a talk, Giles."

"About what? Look, I'm sorry I missed the rehearsal, okay? It happens. I'll make it up some other night." He rolled his eyes. "Man, you are like some kind of mother. Do you have to be so eager?"

"Yes!" Exasperated, Henderson sat back down, half turning to his keyboard; then stopping and swinging back to face his friend. "I thought you were cool, Giles. I really did. I thought this was going to be fun."

"And it isn't?" The smaller boy sounded confused. "Hendy, man; you have got women, cool clothes, a place in every disco bar in town, and the street gangs don't dare touch you if you walk out alone. Even the Lords know you're with me, and they won't dare touch you, man. We rule."

"What we are doing, is heading for trouble. Big trouble." Henderson shook his head. "I always knew you were into stuff you shouldn't be, but I didn't realise how bad it was. I mean come on; stolen cars? shoplifting? What else is there that you're not telling me, man?"

"You are such a drag." Giles stood up, only to be pushed back into his seat again. His eyes glowed. "You better watch it, Hendy. I've taken kids apart for less."

"Yeah, I know. My point exactly. There's some guy in hospital because of you, man. That guy the Lords sent after you? He wasn't the big noise he made himself out to be; he was some kid on an initiation thing. You left him in the gutter with three broken ribs and a concussion! The police are after you!"

"Yeah, well they're not gonna get me. I've got a limitless license, so stop worrying. Man, it's like being back at school."

"What do you mean, you've got a limitless license? Do you have some of the local coppers in your pocket?" Henderson rubbed at his eyes, feeling stressed and tired. "Forget it. I don't want to know."

"Local coppers?" Giles laughed. "It's bigger than that, man. I'm bigger than that." He shrugged. "If you don't want it, that's up to you, but you're not talking me down. I need this, and I'm not going to let some beanpole take it away from me." His hand slid to his pocket, coming back with a flick-knife held lightly in the fingertips. "Don't cross me, Hendy."

"What are you so scared of?" Henderson watched his comrade's expression change from surprise to outright anger, and realised that he had struck a nerve. "What are you running away from?"

"Don't ever ask me that." Rising suddenly to his feet, Giles stared up at the taller boy, able to hold his gaze even though they were not on a similar eye-level. "Don't ever talk to me like that again."

"Or what, man? What'll you do? Take me apart like that kid the Lords sent after you?" Henderson shook his head, feeling deflated and spent. "You can look for somebody else to hang with, Giles; I'm out of here. Maybe somebody from the local home for delinquents will take my place. I think they're a little more suited to you there." He turned to leave, aware that Giles was taking a step after him. The entire room had fallen silent in expectation, waiting for the storm that seemed sure to break.

"If you walk out that door, Henderson, you're never coming back."

"Yeah, like I'd want to." He slowed his stride, turning back to face his friend. "Giles, I don't care about why you came to London, or about what you've been running away from; and I don't care if you want to smoke marijuana or go joy-riding once in a while. What I care about is the way you're going, man. Street fights, acting like a real jerk - that isn't cool, man. You're really going to hurt somebody one day."

"You finished?" Without waiting for an answer, Giles walked towards Henderson, meeting him in the middle of the floor with his knife held out, the tip flashing in the muted light from the ceiling lamps. Alan shrugged.

"Sure, I've finished. What else is there to say. You're a jerk, Giles. A real jerk. You can't function without chaos and madness, and you're dragging everybody else into your own little downward spiral." He stared at the knife blade, now mere inches from his face. "If you're going to use that, you'd better use it now. I can't fight you, so just get it over with."

Giles stared at the tip of the blade, his bright green eyes seemingly focussed on something far beyond it. Finally he lowered the knife, his expression changing from venomous to just plain tired.

"You don't know anything, Alan," he said softly, his voice so quiet that Henderson himself could barely hear it. "You don't know a thing about what's out there; hiding from the world that you see. You don't know what's within it, beneath it; what runs right through it and through all of us…" He shook his head. "Get out of here, man. Go."

"You want to get some clear air in your head, man." Henderson turned, heading back towards the door. Giles' last words to him echoed through his head as he stepped out of the warm, comfortable flat, with its collection of familiar faces, and they stayed in his mind even as the cold air of the evening rushed about him, snatching away the last vestiges of the warm air from inside. He shivered. Maybe Giles hadn't been smoking something; maybe he had meant what he said, about there being something out here… He smiled to himself, amazed that he could seriously entertain such thoughts. Maybe it was time that he got out of London, so that his head had a chance to clear more fully, more permanently. For the first time in nearly three months he wanted to walk the streets of Leeds again. Somehow the memories of what had brought him to the capital no longer seemed so real. Nothing seemed to matter quite so much, or to hurt quite as much as it had done. He wanted to see his younger sister again, and to tease her when she tried to balance on her roller-skates. He wanted to watch the little kids playing football in the streets, and hear the yells from Elland Road. He wanted to go home.

"Excuse me, do you have the time?" He turned, surprised that somebody else should be out so late, and looked up into the pale grey eyes of an almost skeletal figure, dressed in a black suit with a deep red cravat. He was smiling, and Alan smiled back.

"Yeah, sure." He glanced at his watch. "It's three thirty."

"Ah. Nearly dawn." Gareth Cunningham smiled down at him, his eyes soft and docile, his long fingers reaching out for the boy's wrist. "You know, my boy, the darkest time of all is just before the light begins to shine."


Giles tossed and turned, unable to sleep, pictures of Alan Henderson's face swirling through his mind. He opened his eyes, staring up at the ceiling, gazing at the psychedelic patterns on the posters he had fastened there. They rushed in circles around him, confusing them with their teasing symbols, and their patterns that he could not quite connect. He sat up, running both hands through his unkempt hair, creating small tufts and spikes that made him look even younger than his sixteen years.

"Dammit," he muttered to himself, grabbing his pillow and throwing it across the room. "Dammit! Why'd he have to go and bloody well walk out on me anyway?"

"Language, Rupert." The voice was sharp and filled with authority, and he swung about, startled. He could see nobody.

"Who said that?"

"I did." At first it was just a small patch of light in the centre of the room, but gradually it grew, resolving itself into the vague shape of a man, tall and commanding of presence. Giles frowned at the shape. He could see no facial features, and could recognise nothing save the sensation that the nearness of the light gave him, deep inside his soul.

"Who are you?" He moved closer to the light, reaching out to touch it. His hands went straight though, and he jerked back. "What are you?"

"You don't know?" The light moved towards the window, and the curtains drew themselves back, flooding the room with light. "You shouldn't be in bed at this time of day, Rupert. You've been turning into a real creature of the night recently, and that's worrying for people in our line of business."

Giles leaned against the wall, trying not to show how much the light was hurting his eyes. He had a hangover, and his eyes still stung from all of the smoke in the room downstairs. He knew the voice, and its very existence hurt his head. He knew every resonance of the deep, rich sound; knew the way every vowel sounded, every perfect pronunciation, and the way in which it contrasted with his own favoured East End tones.

"Dad." The one syllable hurt his throat, burning it with its touch. "You're…"

"Dead." The light appeared to be nodding. "But not gone, Rupert, at least not while you're in this mess. It is my intention to help you."

"I don't need your help." Somehow this new development did not surprise him, as though it were nothing at all compared to the general bizarrities of his destiny, and all that went with it. He turned away from the shape, feeling his rage grow. He was angry with everything and everyone recently, and he saw no reason why his father's being dead should merit special treatment. "I'm doing just fine."


"And don't call me Rupert!" The boy whirled about, his green eyes flashing with all of their long-held fury. "You gave me that damn name. I didn't choose it."

"None of us chooses our names, Rupert. I was never all that enamoured of 'William'. But we live with these things." The vaguely man-shaped patch of light seemed to be resting its hands on its hips, which frustrated the boy all the more. His father had been dead for three years, and yet here he was chastising his son as though he had never been away.

"Some of us get to choose a whole lot less than just our names." Slowly Giles sat down, feeling the recent explosion ebbing away from within him; although it took none of his fury with it. His father made a strange sound, much like a short, bitter laugh.

"Is that what this is all about? Rupert Giles doesn't get what he wanted out of life so he's going to go off the rails instead? That's not the way that I brought you up."

"You didn't bring me up, dad. You left that to the boarding school, and the tutors, and the fencing instructor, and--" He broke off. "What's the point? Fact is, I'm not going off the rails. For the first time in my life I think I've finally found them." He stood up again, beginning to pace. "What is this? Jealousy because I'm getting on so well with Mr Cunningham? Do you know how much he's taught me, dad? I can change ice into fire. I can make blood pour from a stone." He grinned. "I can make people scream and run away. They're scared of me out there; really scared. Not like people are scared of vampires, 'cause most of them don't believe they exist outside of Hammer Horror films. They're really scared. Of me." He thumped his chest. "Mr Cunningham says he's going to show me how to make the Watchers afraid of me too."

"And you want that? You want people to be scared of you? You want to hurt people like your friend Alan Henderson?" The light moved back across the room, away from the boy. "I see a darkness in you, boy, that I've never seen before."

"Maybe you never looked before." Giles picked up a piece of chalk from the table beside his bed, and chalked a rough pentagram on the wall. The light that was his father backed away from it, seeming to tremble.


"I said don't call me that. Never call me that." He pulled his cigarette lighter from his pocket and touched the flame to the centre of the symbol, muttering a few lines of Latin under his breath.

"Rupert…" His father's voice sounded small and frail, and for a second Giles frowned, turning back to face the glow. Voices seemed to echo about inside his head, and his resolve strengthened.

"Get out of here, dad. I can only make things unpleasant for you, but I have friends who can do a whole lot more."

"I came to warn you, Rupert." The voice was faint, split by signs of deep anguish. "You don't know how close you are to a chasm you won't ever find your way out of."

"I'm not listening."

"Damn you Giles!" The words that he had never before heard from his father's mouth startled the boy, and the lighter slipped from his fingers. For a brief second the voice became louder, stronger, before both it and the light faded completely away.

"He has Alan Henderson, Giles. Will you fail your friends as well as your destiny?"

"Dad?" There was silence, and the light was gone. Giles ran to the centre of the floor, staring about. "Dad? What do you mean, he has Alan? Who? The - the Lords, the police, what?" There was no answer, and he wandered back to the bed, sinking down into its soft embrace. He rubbed his eyes, knowing the answer to the question deep within himself, before he was willing to listen to his own instincts telling him. "Gareth Cunningham." He saw the skull-like face of the man, staring at him through clinging mists, and felt a chill run through him. "No. Not Alan."

"Come and get me, Giles." He could hear Cunningham's voice inside his head, and felt fear run through his body. He was suddenly no longer sure of himself, and the flick-knife in his pocket seemed to be trying to burn a hole through the cloth. He fumbled for it with his fingers, drawing it out into the light, staring at it with large, round eyes. His head hurt.

"I'm coming." The words were like razors in his throat, and he stood up, heading straight for the door. Angela reached up a hand towards him as he walked past the piano where she still lay, stoned; but he pushed her arm aside and strode out into the early morning stillness. For the first time in his life, as he stood on the street corner staring into the clear uncertainty of it all, he did not know who he was.


"How do you feel?" Gareth Cunningham, his long fingers grasping the stem of a wine glass, smiled paternally at Alan Henderson, who lay on a thick Oriental rug beside a roaring fire. Henderson gaped up at him, his eyes fading in and out of focus, before finally he managed a smile.

"I feel… wonderful."


"Very alive." Henderson stretched out his fingers and his toes, feeling something flow through them that he had never experienced before. "I feel… fulfilled."

"My blood is inside you. For the first time your darker side is awake."

Henderson frowned.

"Is - is this what you did to Giles?" He was unsure why the question seemed important, but strangely it did; as though he were determined that there should be some explanation to it all. Cunningham laughed.

"Me? No. His darker side needed no awakening. It is a part of him that he will never lose, no matter where he goes, or what he becomes… if he survives. Dear Rupert is so filled with fury that it threatens to consume him, and it will do so one day, if he doesn't learn to control it."

"Will he?" The question no longer seemed important, for Henderson was having a hard time caring about anything, as though all his worries and fears had faded out of sight. Cunningham shrugged.

"Who knows? Who cares? He certainly won't learn to control it while he's still growing. While he still grows, so does the fury. He'll have to reach manhood before he can contain his demons; contain, mind you, not tame; never tame." He smiled, revealing all of his white, gleaming teeth. "It doesn't matter to us, Alan, my boy. Does it."

"No." Alan frowned, sure that he should care, but certain that he did not. "No, it doesn't."

"Good." Cunningham smiled cheerfully, handing over the glass of wine. "Drink this. I have preparations to make."

"For what?" Alan took the glass, sipping gently at the rich dark wine. It was stronger than anything he had drunk before, and it seemed to relax him completely from heat to foot.

"For Rupert. He's coming here." Cunningham lit a cigarette, gazing into the smoke which rose from the tip. In its curling, twisting whiteness he could see the figure of a boy, hurrying alone through the streets. "He wants to talk to me."

"Are you going to kill him?" Henderson's voice was off-hand, for he found that he had no care as to whether Giles lived or died. Cunningham laughed.

"No. I merely have the next part of my plan to put into action. The next step in sending the dear fellow in the right direction." He went to the window. "Keep out of sight when he comes, Alan. He's apt to object to your presence here."

"Figures." Alan rolled over and climbed to his feet, heading for the thick velvet curtains at one end of the room. He hesitated before he went through them, and looked back at Cunningham. "Why am I here?"

"Why not?" Cunningham gestured with his hands, and Alan obeyed the unspoken instruction, slipping through the thick curtains. Beyond them was a bed, piled high with cushions and surrounded by candles, and he lay down, drawing a heavy woven bedspread over his body. It was cold away from the fire, and there was a certain uneasiness that seemed to come with his sudden separation from Cunningham. He closed his eyes, trying to tell himself that he was warm, but there was nothing but shadow in his mind, and he could hear nothing but the heavy pounding of blood in his ears. It was a blessed relief when he finally heard the sound of the outer door opening, and his ears pricked up to listen to the sounds of footsteps down the corridor. A second door opened, and Alan felt a presence entering the room. He could see and hear no one, but his senses told him that he was no longer alone; as though his mind and all its jumble of thoughts had suddenly been cut off, leaving only the instincts that hid beneath. It was a sensation that brought new strength to his body, and he stood up, stretching his arms and his legs. His fingernails, he was surprised to see, appeared to be longer than he remembered them, but there was no part of his mind that seemed able to dwell on that point. His consciousness was fading, and it was bringing something else with it. He went to the curtains and peered out between them, his bright eyes staring straight at the person in the room beyond. Rupert Giles.

Giles gazed about at the room, seeing the paintings and the tapestries as if for the first time. He had spent a great deal of time in the room since meeting Gareth Cunningham, and it should have seemed like a second home to him. Instead he saw only menace in the shadows on the walls, and even the black and white floor tiles seemed to possess some strange hint of danger; some notion that darkness was barely a heartbeat away.

"Cunningham?" He shouted as loud as he could, turning without surprise as the strange man walked out of the wall behind him. His form solidified as it stepped out into the air, as though somehow he had just moved through a portal that led to somewhere else. Giles had a pretty good idea where.

"Giles my boy!" Looking as though they had met by chance in the street, or in some café or bar, Cunningham raised his hands in greeting as though preparing to embrace the boy. Giles backed away from him, reaching in his pocket for something that he did not seem able to find.

"Looking for this?" Cunningham snatched at the air, then unfolded his fingers, revealing a tumble of silver chain bearing a crucifix. "Really Giles. Bringing something like this to see me? I'm quite upset. Was it something I said?"

"I came for Alan. I don't want to talk to you." Giles looked about, searching for any sign that Henderson might have been there. "Where is he?"

"Alan? Alan who?" Cunningham moved closer, idly swinging the crucifix on the end of its chain. "I don't believe that I know any Alan." His fingers caressed Giles' temple, where a large bruise threatened to turn the side of his head black and purple. "Have you been fighting again? Jolly good."

"It was nothing." The boy pulled away. "I've had enough of your games, Cunningham. I want my friend, and then I'm leaving. It was all okay when we were just having fun, but if you want to hurt my friends then it's over."

Cunningham laughed, the sound filled with insult. His softly caressing fingers touched for a single second more, then turned into a sharp, stinging slap that caught Giles on his bruised temple and sent him stumbling.

"Fool. What did you think the chaos and the destruction was going to be for, if not to hurt people? Did you think maybe you could keep your friends out of it? There are no exceptions, Giles. It's all or nothing. You need me, if you're going to stay ahead of the Watchers, and that means that you play this game by my rules. You do as I tell you, and I say that none are safe. Not your friend Alan Henderson, not your friend Angela Wray; nobody." He smiled to himself, like a child with a secret. "Do you want to go home, Rupert? I think they need you there. Your house is on fire."

"My--" He broke off, staring at Cunningham as though uncertain whether or not to take him seriously. The dark-suited man's eyes gleamed with something cold and mocking, and fear blazed for a second across the boy's face. He ran for the door.

"No!" With a single, powerful shout, Alan Henderson tore through the curtains, his feet leaving the floor as he bore down on Giles. "You stay here!"

"Alan!" Giles had barely a second to register the presence of his friend, before he was borne to the ground by the other boy's weight descending on top of him. They crashed to the ground together, Alan's fingernails tearing at Giles' shirt, his toenails bursting through the tops of his shoes and scratching at the highly polished floor tiles. Giles had a glimpse of a face, contorted by fury, long teeth hanging over the lower lip and the faint markings of scales on the forehead. He gasped, his strength draining away through sheer shock as he stared up at the figure above him.

"Alan, leave him alone." Cunningham's voice seemed to come from a long way away, and Giles was barely aware of having heard it. He jerked his head aside to dodge a slashing blow aimed for his neck, and heard Alan's voice, deepened somehow by whatever had been done to him.

"I want him."

"Alan, I told you I didn't want him dead. I need him." Cunningham came closer, but Henderson growled up at him. His breath was hot on Giles' face, and his tongue, elongated and darting, flickered in the air.

"I need him too." Henderson's fingers gripped Giles hair, scratching his scalp and drawing blood. It began to run in tiny rivers down his head, getting into his eyes and hampering his vision. "I need his blood."

"Alan…" Giles finally found some strength, and managed to push his friend back a short way. "Alan, what - You have to pull yourself together. I - I - You have to fight this."

"Shut up." Alan was on his feet in seconds, dragging his prize up as well. He ran a clawed fingernail across the other boy's cheek, drawing blood and seeming to become even more excited at its appearance. He licked one fingernail, tasting the blood, grinning manically. "I'm going to tear your head off."

"Alan!" Cunningham's voice, filled with authority, echoed about the room. "Let him go. I won't let you kill him."

"He has to die. He's not one of us." Alan glanced momentarily back at the older man. "He doesn't want to follow you."

"Obey me!" The voice thundered through the air, but Alan did not flinch. Giles felt powerful hands tightening around his throat, and he struggled against the force now threatening to strangle him. He no longer felt capable of speaking.

"Alan!" Cunningham moved like lightening, grabbing Henderson in a strangle hold, dragging him backwards and off balance. The boy let out a scream of rage, and without hesitation Cunningham slipped the crucifix into his mouth. He forced the boys jaws together, holding them closed and sealing the cross inside.

"No…" Giles scrambled upright, staring at the old man with the boy held firmly in his arms. Alan began to struggle, his eyes widening with fear and pain as the cross began to burn into him. "Let him go!"

"Keep back, Giles." Cunningham stared straight at him, and the boy found himself suddenly and inexplicably unable to move, staring helplessly on as Alan's screams of agony grew louder and more acute. The scrawny boy's fists flailed at the air, pounding uselessly against the old man's body, his eyes growing wider and wider, and Giles saw blood beginning to dribble from his eyelids, obscuring his vision and turning his irises red.

"Leave him alone!" Utterly helpless, and shattered by impotent desperation, Giles tried once more to move towards his friend. His limbs refused to work for him, and even his eyes would not move. He could not close them, and he could not look away. Finally, with a last, anguished scream, a river of blood erupted from Alan's mouth, pouring between Cunningham's fingers and onto the ground. The boy went limp and his struggling ceased. Cunningham released him, letting the body slide to the floor, the long nails and teeth receding to normality. All trace of the boy's former demonic appearance was gone.

"Alan." As his friend's body hit the ground, Giles felt movement return to him, and he collapsed to the floor and landed hard on all fours. He stared at Alan, the innocent, silent expression turned towards him. A shiver ran through him and he forced himself to his feet, staring at Cunningham with the greatest rage he had ever felt in all his young life.

"You killed him."

"It was your crucifix, Rupert. You brought it here." Cunningham raised it from the dead boy's mouth without needing to touch it. He sent it spinning through the air towards Giles, who caught it in one shaky hand. "You killed him, not me."

"You killed him." Giles stepped forward, his fingers closing tightly about the silver cross, feeling it bite into his palm.

"If it hadn't been for you, Giles, he would never have been here. You showed him to me, you sent him out into the night on his own. You brought the means of his destruction to me. The fault lies with you."

"You - you--" Unable to find the words he fell silent, staring at Cunningham as though somehow just his hatred alone could fight for him. "I'm going to--"

"You're going to do nothing, Rupert. Your house is on fire, remember? Or do you think that all your stoned and half-drunk friends can find their way out of the building? It's the strangest thing, but somehow the calls to the Fire Brigade just aren't getting through."

"But--" He stared from the old man to the dead boy, and his vision misted with confusion and indecision. Cunningham laughed.

"Take your choice. Avenge his death, or consider yourself responsible for theirs."

"You - you killed him on purpose. You led him astray just so that I would have to watch him die." The certainty was cold and clear in Giles' mind. Cunningham shrugged.

"This time him. Next time you. Remember that, Giles. Haven't you seen the way that it's going? You met him, you infected him with your darkness. All that you meet turn to the dark paths, with your drugs and alcohol, and your fights and stealing. This comes from you as much as from me."

"This isn't the end of it." He stared down at the body one last time, then back at Cunningham. He wanted to fight him; to have some chance of destroying him; but he knew that any such attempt would be futile. He could never be strong enough to defeat a man with such powers. Even to try right now would be to consign his other friends to a fiery death; and that would be something that he certainly would not live to regret. He turned about and ran from the room, leaving Cunningham far behind him. The silent back streets burned his ears with their lack of noise as ran through them. He could already see the smoke and the fire filling the sky up ahead.


The house was already approaching its last moments. Giles ran towards it, his lungs filling with smoke in seconds, the heat hurting his face from several paces away. There was nobody in the street watching the flames, nobody to come to his assistance or to answer his cries for help. He stumbled up the front steps, barely able to stand the heat, not feeling the hands on his shoulders and arms as somebody dragged him back.

"Giles, take it easy man." He knew the voice, but it was several seconds before he could identify it. James Wraight, the drummer in his hastily constructed rock band stood behind him, accompanied by the others from the house. "Take it steady."

"You're okay?" He stared up at the boy, searching for signs of injury. "Everybody's okay?"

"We were at the Blue Horse. It stays open all night, when it's not being busted." He grinned, his almond eyes filled with good cheer. "Relax, man."

"Annie." Struggling away from the others, Giles scanned them with his eyes, searching the faces. There were the three from the band, their girlfriends, and a pair of taggers-on, who all stared up at the blaze in wonder. Clearly they had only just returned, and were seeing it for the first time.

"Annie?" Eyes suddenly wide, James stared towards the fire. "Bloody hell."

"Damn!" Throwing himself forward, Giles had reached the hallway before it became truly clear to him what he was doing. He stumbled down the corridor, dodging falling beams, one arm flung up to protect his eyes. He found his way to the front room through instinct alone, unable to see anything through the smoke, and struggled over what remained of the wooden floor. He could feel his shirt beginning to smoulder, and smelt his hair start to singe; but he could not turn back and he did not want to. He fumbled towards the piano, part of which was already on fire, his arms reaching out for Annie. She lay still, just as when he had left her, and her body was heavy and unmoving as he dragged it from the piano and stumbled with it back towards the door. Part of him already knew that she was dead, but the other part was unable to leave her there, where she would be burned by the fire until there was nothing left. He wanted to see her smile again, and to hear her laughing, the way it was when she was not high on some drug that was too strong for her.

"Giles!" He thought that he heard voices, but did not remember stumbling out of the house onto the street. He was not aware of falling down the steps, of hearing the roof of the house collapse behind him, or of seeing his friends melt away into the shadows. He was not aware of being alone, of being cold; of feeling as though he could never move or open his eyes again. All that he was aware of was Angela lying in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder, her smoke-blackened eyelids closed and buried in his shirt. He held her more tightly, and waited for reality to return.


"Giles?" The voice was gentle and soft, yet deep and masculine. At first Giles did not respond to it, until strong hands took him by the shoulders. He allowed the hands to sit him up, and then, slowly and delicately, to pull Annie's body away from him.

"Who are you?" He had been lying alone in the street for so long that he felt the presence of another to be disturbing. It distracted him from his misery, and from the brewing fury inside him.

"Graham Walsh." He was pulled to his feet, and found himself looking up into an ageing face, topped with grey hair. The man was wearing a grey suit, and there was a gold chain just visible above his collar, which almost certainly carried a crucifix or a cross of some kind. Giles lowered his eyes.

"You're a Watcher," he said, his voice sullen. The man shrugged.

"It is my honour to be that, yes. Why? Does that make us enemies?"

"You've come to kill me." Giles stared down at the body of Angela, as though wondering whether that would really be such a bad thing. Walsh shrugged again.

"That is only the last option; if you give me no other choice. So far I've seen no reason to kill you."

"Why? I'm not one of you, and I never will be. We're looking in different directions."

"Maybe. But maybe a different approach is just what the Watchers need." Walsh smiled, his eyes twinkling with a softly reassuring light. "We're not all mad devotees, you know. Some of us actually remember that we're humans, as well as Watchers." Giles made a disparaging noise, and Walsh laughed.

"You've had a rough couple of months, Giles. Hasn't that told you anything? Like maybe it's safer at school, or at home? Less danger, less cause for grief." His eyes drifted to the body on the ground by their feet. "Fewer temptations, to lead you down the other path."

"I don't need temptations." Giles knelt beside Angela, gently taking his crucifix from his pocket and slipping it around her neck. She felt deathly cold, despite the close proximity of the still smouldering remains of their house. The touch of her skin chilled him, and drove new furies through his mind. "But I don't have any choice, do I. You're taking me back whether I want to go or not."

"Gareth Cunningham tempted you, and you resisted him. Where else is there for you to go? You've seen that the dark path has no place for you." Walsh rested his hand on the boy's shoulder, gently standing him up. "Come on, my boy. I've a few rooms at a good hotel. Your mother is there, and she's waiting to see you. You've passed an important test of character, and the Watcher Hierarchy is pleased."

"They knew about all this?" He stared at the ruined house, remembering Angela's body lying curled on the piano. "They knew what was going on?"

"Not as such, no. They have ways of seeing things, of hearing things; but nothing is as real as it might be, with spells such as those. They're Watchers, not sorcerers. Ours is to Watch. Others make the spells, and fight the battles." With one, strong hand he began to lead the boy away from the ruined house, leaving the dead girl lying beside it. Giles did not resist; there was no point, and he was too tired to cause any trouble. He was going back home. He was returning to the studies and the struggles that would teach him things that he knew he needed to learn. Things that would open knew doors, reveal new things. A chance to rest, and await those certain opportunities that he was learning to exploit.

"I guess it'll be good to get back home." He smiled into the darkness, thinking about Walsh's words. You've seen that the dark path has no place for you. Walsh was right; Gareth Cunningham's way was not the one that Giles wanted to follow; but if he had learned anything from the last couple of months it was that the world was not about just darkness and light. There were many different levels of blackness, and many different paths to choose from. With his face showing nothing but fatigue, and his eyes filled with calm acceptance, Giles followed the lead of the older man; away from the life he had forged for himself, and back towards the places he had run from. But inside, where none of the Watchers could see; where none of the teachers at his school could look and where his mother could not pry, his fury still raged unchecked. All that he had to do, as he let them think that they were guiding him, was to watch and wait for the chaos to come; his chaos. All that he had to do was to decide which level of darkness he wanted to descend to. He would have his wild days yet; and the Watchers could go to hell. Given the opportunity, one day he would lead them there himself.


"Hey Giles! You have a good summer?" Quentin Forbes, a rather studious boy from Giles' Latin class, who was convinced that they were the best of friends, ran up to greet his classmate as he climbed from his mother's car on the first day of term. Giles smiled at him, watching his mother as she expertly roped the warden into carrying her son's belongings to his dormitory.

"Yeah, it was cool." His voice was in stark contrast to that of Forbes, who spoke the Queen's English with the best of them, his accent cut-glass and finely tutored. "I dug the London scene, you know? Played some music, got into some fights. Nothing much."

"Fights?" There was a mixture of shock and fascination in the other boy's eyes. "Really?"

"Sure. As a matter of fact, I've been wondering if you might like to tag along this term, you know? I could do with some help."

"With fights?" The shock and the fascination were still there, growing stronger with every word that Giles spoke. The young Watcher grinned, slipping his hand into the pocket of his blazer and withdrawing a book.

"Not exactly. More studying, you know? Only, I have some extra work to do; private study that I can't do alone." He pressed the book into Forbes' hands. "What do you think?"

"Black Magic And Forbidden Truth…" Forbes looked captivated. "You're really into this stuff?"

"Sure I am." Giles took him by the arm, beginning to lead him to the library. "Aren't you?"

"Well… I suppose it does sound rather interesting." Forbes turned the book over in his hands, surprised at the tingling sensation that ran through him, whenever his fingers touched the embossed pentagram on the front cover. "Do you just study it, or do you - you know - ever actually do anything with it?"

"Are you kidding? What's the point of knowing magic if you're not going to use it?" Giles grinned at him, ushering him towards the library block, with its collection of books that only he ever read. "As a matter of fact, I'm planning something rather big; but it's gotta be a secret."

"Of course!" Forbes' eyes were like saucers. "I'll do anything you say, Giles. Really."

"Good." Giles let the boy walk into the lead, still trailing his fingers over the gilded pentagram. He stared at his companion's back, and his eyes blazed briefly with a wicked, wild light. Then he chuckled, and quickened his step. This term looked like it was going to be fun.