ImMortal part 10: Discoveries
"Giles, here's another volume on transitory humanification in analytical demonology. Not much to go on," Xander handed off the book to Giles who sat at a small table surrounded by piles of texts. "It's kinda dark in here. You want, I should turn on..."
"I'm fine. Thank you."
"I can't even make out the..."
"I can see it, Xander," he answered curtly, never letting his eyes wander away from the pages he scanned quickly through.
"Oh yeah... vampire. Must of slipped my noodle. Any luck with it?" Xander asked hopefully.
"The answer to the riddle that was your one night stand with humanity?"
"Not as such." Giles tossed his current book aside and reached for the volume Xander had just set beside him.
"So what's with this sudden inspiration into research mode? Not that I don't like seeing you channeling the old bookman but W&H have their own Q&A department. What gives?"
"Don't particularly wish to share at the moment, Xander."
"Anything I can do?" He asked, fingers flicking the edge of the book closest to him.
The Watcher's eyes lifted to his for the first time since he'd approached Giles. "Actually, yes. Would you check in on Buffy? I... I haven't seen her since..."
"Doing the space thing, I know. Buffy's good. She's under Willow , Dawn and Cordy watch at the moment. Girly stuff mostly; picking out the new wardrobe she won't need 'til five months from now. But you know Buffy and Cordy, any excuse to raid the local mall. Dawn's just along for the all expenses paid visit to the food court."
Giles pushed the book away and shook his head with regret. "I'm sorry, Xander. I'm not being much of a friend at present."
"No worries, Giles. I just want to help. Just feeling useless lately. I'm lacking the estrogen required to hang out with the Scoobyrettes. And I don't have anything to do here. Even donut duty is covered by Kevin in the warehouse."
"What of you and Anya? You seemed rather.... close, recently." He offered a reserved smile.
"Close? In the physical sense, yes. Absentee in the emotional department."
"I find it rather hard to believe that you, Xander Harris, are disappointed in the fact you are in a sexually active relationship with a carnally enthusiastic woman with no strings attached."
"I still have feelings for her, Giles. Deep, meaningful feelings and all I get from her is wham, bam, thank you Xand-man. I need more."
Giles' brow lifted with the admittance and he smiled. "Have you discussed this with her?"
"Not really. She's too busy with Lorne at the moment. It's like Spy vs. Spy with those two. I mean, they aren't trying to kill each other but there is some serious competition going on there. Forget retail, big business Anya scares the wiggins outta me."
"Ah, I hadn't thought of that. Anya does have pecuniary tendencies."
"Yeah and she really likes money, too. She has giant dollar signs in her eyes here, Giles. I can't say that I like it."
"Talk to her, Xander. Be truthful and tell her how you feel."
"Hate to break it to you Mister Pot, but the black Kettle's pointing fingers," Xander said teasingly.
"Touché," Giles said with an irritated grin. "Go away now." He reached out and pulled a text back to him.
"You sure blow hot and cold, Watcher. Good luck with whatever you're researching." Xander turned and began to leave.
"Talk to her, Xander." Giles called out, eyes buried back within the pages of a book.
"Same to you, Big Guy."
"Well, that was fun," Cordy smiled giddily as she came through the doors to Wolfram and Hart with Willow , Dawn and Buffy in tow.
"Fun doesn't begin to describe it. I think I see actual smoke coming off those corporate credit cards." Dawn snickered. "Angel will so want to kill you."
"Wouldn't be the first time," she shrugged easily. "Besides, this new leather jacket I got for him will win him over. And the etched flask for portable blood..."
"How could we forget the Princess of Procurement? I bow down before your expertise, Cordy. You still got it?" Buffy smiled, swinging her handfuls of department store bags.
"Still got it? Never lost it!" Cordy corrected. "And I think I even managed to convert Willow into the wide world of wealth dispersal as well."
"I must admit to a fleeting moment of glee with the purchase of that pair of sandals. But I've got a hold on my impulses now." She said smugly.
"But those earrings..." Cordy started.
"I know! They would so go with that bracelet and that necklace..." Willow stopped dead with the matching set of raised brows from the Summers sisters. Cordelia saluted her and marched on past.
"Welcome to the Sinful Sales Sect. You'll be given your name tag and key to the members lounge next week." Cordy gave a quick wave to Harmony as she hurried on toward Angel's office. "We'll talk khakis later."
"Thanks Cordy!" They all shouted after her as she disappeared.
"I think I'll go check in with Wes. He said he found something that may be of interest to..." Willow paused and shook her head in frustration, "... only to a nerd like me. I'm off into the land of the Lost Watcher."
"Toodles, Wil." Dawn waved her off. "You're on your own, sis. I promised Lorne I'd help him with his redecorating dilemma."
"Redecorating? Dawn, since when do you know about redecorating?" Buffy rolled her eyes.
"Since never but he says my aura has just the right amount of puce."
"So you're acting as a mystical paint chip?"
"Yep! Neato, huh?" Dawn smiled broadly. "So I guess this gives you a chance to go do a one on one with Giles?"
"Hey, I told you to..."
"Later. I have a date with a demon." Dawn hurried off and Buffy stood there, alone in the lobby with her armfuls of department store bags. After a moment of contemplation, Buffy made her decision on what to do next.
"Hey Harm." Buffy walked up to the reception desk, dropped all the bags to the floor and gave a half-hearted wave. "You seen Giles?"
"You bet!" She responded cheerily.
Buffy waited a moment to see if Harmony would continue on but when the blonde vampire returned to the task of filing her fingernails, Buffy grew impatient. "And?"
"He's in the stacks." She answered with a shrug.
"Stacks? Wolfram and Hart has stacks?"
"Yep. Archives. Kinda like the library in Sunnydale only way, way bigger and mucho confusing." She continued to work her nail. "He's been there a lot lately. Actually, I think he slept down there last night."
"How do you know?"
"Angel has me tracking him."
"Tracking... it means keeping an eye on Giles and reporting back to Angel on his whereabouts and activities. I don't remember that as being one of my listed duties but..."
"Does Angel request this often?" Buffy's eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"Nope, first time. Which sucks 'cause I'm sure there would be many more interesting people or demons to watch than Giles. He may be different on the outside, but he's still a librarian in the nutty, gooey center. Been researching or something for four days straight."
"Researching? Do you know what he's researching?"
"Clueless. Alls I know, he's been buried crumply brow deep in manuscripts and books and hasn't come up for air since he talked to Wes a few days ago." Harmony paused her grooming and her eyes went wide with excitement. "You think something big is happening?"
"I don't know. If it is, apparently no one wants me involved."
"Well of course, silly. You're 'with child', remember. They aren't gonna let you anywhere near anything that could be dangerous."
"I'm not handicapped, Harm. I'm just pregnant," Buffy grumbled defensively.
"Actually, you could be, technically," she gestured to Buffy's disfigured hand. "But the degree varies from state to state. Hey, maybe you can claim L&I. Injury on the job..."
"I know they just want me out of harms way."
"You're not in my way. But I think they want to keep you safe."
Buffy smiled. "Thank you Harmony."
"The Cup of Perpetual Torment, ever heard of it?" Giles asked Wesley as the younger Watcher reached out for the text Giles offered him.
"Great. Couldn't be the Cup of Everlasting Happiness, could it?" Angel grumbled, trailing a finger along one of Wesley's odd trinkets decorating the Watcher's office.
"I'm not familiar with it." Wes answered, skimming the pages.
"Prophecy holds that the vampire which drinks from it will have its past washed clean. He will have the weight of worlds upon him, binding his limbs, grinding his bones to meal until he saves creation... or destroys it."
"So what's new," Angel grumbled.
"It will make him mortal," Wesley said soberly, eyes lifting from the page to meet Angel's. "This could be the..."
"Shanshu," Giles whispered with a nod of reserved excitement.
"I thought it would happen after an apocalypse?" Angel asked, suddenly interested.
"We've had a few now, remember." Wes suggested with a smirk. "How did you come across this?"
"I looked," Giles said tersely and Wes immediately took exception.
"I've been all through those archives; there was no mention of this 'Cup' before." Wesley responded defensively.
"Perhaps inventory has recently been increased without your knowledge." Giles shrugged it off.
"So what else could have been slipped past us? Wes, you better start asking questions. I want to know where this came from." Angel pointed a finger at the text Wes held.
"Does the source look reliable?" Wes continued.
"As any other. I tried translating it myself then had a gentleman by the name of Sirk verify my translation with his own. For all intensive purposes, it looks to be genuine."
"Have you deciphered the location of the Cup?" Wes asked and after a moment, Giles eyes shifted nervously from Wes to Angel and back again.
"That's just it. It's highly unlikely but it claims to be Nevada , of all places."
"How'd it get there?" Angel asked.
"I'm not sure. It seemed to bounce around over the years. One entry I found states that 'the desert will swallow cup and house whole and the fat lady will sing no more." Giles shrugged. "I can't help but assume this refers to an..."
"Opera," Angel finished.
"My thoughts as well."
"The Columns was an opera house in Death Valley . It was buried in an earthquake in '38. Made headlines in Los Angeles . That's only a few hours away."
"Care to accompany me on a visit to a dusty wasteland?" Giles asked half-heartedly.
Wesley shook his head. "Wait a minute. I don't think it wise..."
"Destiny already booked my ticket. I'm game." Angel responded confidently.
Wes tried again, "Are you sure you two can..."
"Then we're agreed. Tomorrow night, then?" Giles asked flatly, showing no sign of emotion.
"Tomorrow," Angel agreed and with smirk, added, "I'm feeling awfully thirsty."
"Seems everywhere I go, I get grumpy face," Cordelia said with a gentle smile as she entered Angel's office and quietly closed the door behind her. The dark vampire stood in the shadows just off to the wall beyond his large office windows, arms crossed before him and face stern as a gargoyle. "Hello to you too." Cordelia huffed softly.
"Do you believe in redemption?" Angel asked in a tone void of inflection and cold.
"Depends on your definition, I guess." She moved toward the desk and took a seat on the edge, crossing her legs casually, teasing the edge of her skirt back into place.
"Can someone who has committed terrible crimes against man and beast ever be redeemed for his sins?" Angel's eyes stared out into the night for his answers.
"I think even the most stained soul can be washed clean. You only need some super duty Tide with colorfast formula so you don't fade your brights."
"Are we talking laundry or atonement?" He finally glanced over confusedly at her and she smiled at the crumpled concern in his brow.
"What's got you in your broodsomey mood, Angel. Talk to me."
"Wes told Giles about the Shanshu prophecy."
"You think he shouldn't have?" Cordy asked sympathetically.
"Don't you?" He was pleading for her to agree. She responded only with a mild smile. "Now ex-Watcher slash librarian is on a mission. He's been researching like the man of his past, trying to beat me to it and he might do it, Cordy. He's found something... out in the desert that could be the real thing. We're going to check it out tomorrow, together. I don't know what to expect but something tells me he isn't simply going to hand over a chance to become human again."
"That could be interesting. A trip to a sunny desert. You better make it a night trip or you're gonna need a vat of sunscreen."
"I have a garage full of sun proofed cars."
"You think Giles would try and take this from me?"
"It isn't about taking anything from you, Angel." Cordelia sighed. "Look, I wasn't there for the big showdown in Sunnydale." She continued softly. "I didn't see the battles or the day to day struggles to survive. I didn't see these young girls... these Potentials dying on a daily basis or close friends being turned into vampires or monsters regaining their souls. But I know there is an overabundance of apocalypses out there and there's room enough to share in stopping them. There's a story out there for each and every one of us. Sometimes it's hard to tell who all the players are but we all ultimately play a part in it."
"You think the prophecy is meant for him?" His face fell sad.
"I don't honestly know, Angel. You've spent one lifetime doing evil only to spend many more trying to make amends. You have the bravest soul I've ever known. And I hate to admit it, but despite all your evil or good ... I love you." His eyes perked up with the admission. "I love you with all my stupid heart. You're a champion if there ever was a champion and you deserve happiness and love and all that you could ever want and more," she said with vehemence. "But you gotta ask yourself why you want this prize."
His face cocked sideways, displaying his confusion.
"You work so hard trying to clean that stained soul of yours, scrubbing your fingers to the bone doing all the good deeds you can to erase your past." She reached out and took his hand I hers. "And you've saved so many people. You are a true hero, Angel. But Giles has always fought the good fight, without the aid of superpowers or immortality. He made it his life's mission to spare humanity its gruesome end and even after death he still gives all he has and ever could have toward that cause. And even now, when he realizes that prize may be out there, he doesn't want it for him or to take it away from you. He wants it for her, for Buffy. That's what makes him worthy, Angel. Not the measure of numbers and scores... that in the end, his heart demands it of him."
"And what if I said..." his eyes lifted to meet hers, "... that I also had someone I want to win the prize for?"
"Sorry stud, I think Buffy has her heart set and..."
"I wasn't talking about her." He took a step closer, coming out of the shadows with dark eyes sharply focused on her. Before she could utter another word, he leaned forward to catch her lips with his own in a sweet, longing kiss. After a moment, Cordelia pulled away, face flushed and chest heaving.
"Then I'd have to say..." she smirked faintly, "...kick his ass!"
"Giles? You in here?" Dawn called into the darkness of the archives.
"Here..." Giles shuffled quickly out from the stacks, making his presence known to her.
"You look tired," she smirked and took a seat on the edge of the table covered with books.
"That's most likely a side effect of the death," he responded callously, glancing back down the aisle of books.
"Don't do that."
Giles paused to look back, oblivious. "Pardon?"
"You're not like him."
"Like Spike... or Angel, for that matter. You're not one of them."
"Then what am I?"
"Dammit, Giles... you are my friend... my close friend and practically the only father I've known. No yellow eyes or wrinkled brow changes that, or changes how Buffy and I feel about you."
"It's not as simple as that, Dawn."
"Yes... yes it is Giles but you won't accept it. So what if you go all demony from time to time. I do every 28 days or so, too. And Buffy with the mood swings lately... yowza!"
Giles shook his head in amused frustration. "Why are you here Dawn?"
"She loves you, Giles, and you love her. Why can't you be together?"
"If I'm with her as she wants me to be... as I so want to be... I will lose my soul."
"I know the curse, Giles. I know what happened to Angel and the circumstances required. The chances of that happening are as slim as..."
"I cannot allow that to happen." Giles' voice grew intense as his sharp green eyes. "No matter how slim the possibility, I can't take that risk. I will *never* hurt you or Buffy again."
"So what... you keep your self locked away down here. It's the basement in Sunnydale all over again."
"Dawn... now isn't a good..."
"You shouldn't have left us." She admitted softly. "There was another way. There are always alternatives."
"She died that day." Dawn's voice cracked with sorrow. "She watched you leave her in flames and she died all over again. Only this time it wasn't voluntary. You chose for her and she can't forgive you for it."
"I did what..."
"... had to be done. I know the Watcher credo, okay. It was wrong, Giles. We needed you."
"I'll never leave you again, Dawn."
"How do we know that, Giles?" She grimaced with her words. "You've left before."
"There's hope, Dawn. I can't say what as of yet but soon, things could be right again... will be right again."
"She loves you. You need to know that." She demanded with a resolute finger to the table top. "I love you." Her stern expression broke into tears and he moved forward to take her into his arms.
"I know. I'll never leave you again. I promise." He consoled her as he held her closely. "I promise."
It had been far too easy, scaling the outer wall of Wolfram and Hart to find Buffy's quarters. With a bit of Council training and knowledge of W&H security measures, the vampire made short work of breaking a silent entry to the Slayer's room. He would have to discuss the lack of sufficient precautions with Wes.
Giles stood across the room, draped in shadows and simply watching as he used to do; watching Buffy in all her splendor sleeping soundly within a sea of pale silk and plush pillows. He shut his eyes and listened, taking in the sound of peace presented there. After a sigh of breathe from his love, he heard it, the precious beat of a delicate heart determined to be heard and he smiled with wonder. There was more of a joyous cry for life before him than he'd ever known and it fueled his sense of purpose.
"You made me the man I was before." Giles whispered to the sleeping woman drenched within silken sheets. "And you will again." He silently moved to the bedside and bent down to place a ghostly kiss to Buffy's forehead.
Buffy stirred from her sleep and cracked open her eyes to gaze sleepily around the room.
"Giles?" She could sense him in the air but there was no answer, only shadows of the night and a breeze from an open window tricking her to her hearts longing. Her face dropped in disappointment and she slipped back within her blankets, begging for sleep to take her once again.
"You did good work today," Fred smiled gratefully as she collected her notes together.
"Thanks. You weren't so bad yourself," Knox grinned, typing his final notes in the nearby computer. "So I'd have to say Mr. Giles looks like the real deal. Case closed. End of question. We have ourselves an honest to goodness vampire, ladies and gentlemen, and he seems to be remaining corporeal and earthly bound."
"Thank god. I was so sick of staring at his samples. Not that they weren't interesting or anything but a girl can only handle so much investigation into the chemical structures of intimate internals to the undead, if you know what I mean."
"I always do," Knox smiled warmly and stood up to cross the room to the sarcophagus position in the center of the lab space. "Now that we've completed objective a number one, can we move onto what's behind door number two?"
"I guess we did wrap this up pretty well." Fred shrugged.
"I'm sorry. I'm pushing, aren't I? I don't mean to... it's just... I can't wait to see you open this thing."
"I'm kinda curious, too. It's like its calling to me or something." She gave a little shiver of excitement. "Tell you what, first thing tomorrow morning, we open our little present."