ImMortal part 20: New Era
"Hello." Rupert smiled warmly, removing his glasses to give them a polish. "You certainly know how to keep a gentleman waiting."
"Where am I?" It looked to be Giles old apartment in Sunnydale, dark and musty.
"That would be better left for philosophers and physicians to argue over." He returned the glasses to their proper position on the bridge of his nose.
Buffy couldn't help but smile when noticing he was dressed in one of his old tweed suits. She knew it was wrong but somehow felt reassured with the sight of the stiff and layered fabrics. That coupled with the setting put her at ease, familiar and comfortable.
A nightmarish thought blossomed from somewhere black inside her and she glanced down at her abdomen, no longer feeling that internal bond, the heartbeat of life not her own. "Am I dreaming?"
"Perhaps, I'm not quite certain of the source of this particular reality." He busied himself with making tea, another familiar comfort.
"What do you mean?" Buffy asked, taking a seat on a stool at the counter and watching the preparations.
"I can't entirely rule out the theory that I am the responsible party for this… this… well, this whatever it is." He shrugged as he put the kettle on.
"Are you real?"
"As real as any other here, I suppose. You can pinch me if you like, or should I do the honors?" His mild smirk warmed her heart.
"Um… I'm kind of…" Her voice trailed off, lost in the sight of her Watcher as she might always remembered him, the stereotyped mentor. She wanted to rush into his arms, to hold him and never let him go but somehow it seemed as foreign to her as if another world.
In seeing her upset, he paused, concern etched along his brow. "What is it Buffy?"
"I don't know. I feel like I haven't seen you since this side of forever. You know?"
"I'd have to agree." He leaned forward, bracing himself on the countertop with his elbows. "It's as if we never find time for each other anymore. There's always some disaster to prevent, isn't there?"
"Giles, can I tell you something personal… like really super secret files, diary personal?"
"You can tell me anything, Buffy. I would hope you'd know that after all this time."
"I think I'm in trouble."
"How so?" His expression grew stern, readying to contemplate.
"I… I fell for wrong kind of guy and it's coming back to bite me on the dark side of the moon, if you catch my drift."
"All too well, actually." He grinned self-deprecatingly. "May I inquire as to who this misguided fellow is?"
It was almost welcoming, the thought of Giles being Giles, tweed clad librarian type and vigilante right hand man to her. The pillar of support a Slayer was supposed to confide in and there he was, in all his former glory, waiting for her.
"It's another vampire, isn't it?" His smile lessened for a moment until he worked to reinforce his non-judgmental expression. "I'm sorry. It's none of my business."
"It is, Giles, at least it is this round."
"I don't understand."
"What's to understand, you whimpering fool?" The confident, snarling voice introduced the beast as he strutted out from nowhere and approached the pair, shaking his head in frustration. "Your beautiful killer has grown up, Rupert, with all the womanly wiles and original sin to match. Insatiable little slut you've nurtured there." The demon's flaming eyes shimmered with delight in its taunting. "Must make you such the proud papa, knowing you made her into the brilliant fuck she is today."
In the blink of an eye, Giles ran the beast through, impaling him with a foil condensing solid out of mist before him. The vampire chuckled as he stumbled back a few steps. He quickly regained his composure, good-humoredly tugging the blade until freeing it from his flesh.
"And there it is, ladies and gents, the Watcher's response to the irresponsible. Ah, but your singing sword ,here, is belting it out to the balcony and beyond, Rupert. Papa wasn't the role you had in mind, was it soldier?"
"Shut you're mouth before I shut it for you."
"Buffy the Virtuous is much more than a lowly student; lowly Lolita, perhaps. She's your wet dream, isn't she, Watcher? Must eat away at you to know that an honorable man such as yourself can't get a second glance let alone a pity shag from her. Yeah, eats away at you as surely as I eat away her every moan, fucking her into nothing but another limp, spent corpse."
"Buffy?" Giles confused stare made her heart ache. "This isn't… you didn't…"
"I… didn't mean to."
"Didn't mean to?" the beast chuckled and licked his ruby stained lips. "I'll be belching your intimately scent for seasons, luv, and your excuse is that you didn't mean to. Pity."
"You, you let this… this *thing* have you?" Giles' hands clenched into white-knuckled fists.
"I was trying to make things right. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be…"
"Tell him truly, luv. The words don't flow so easily when you're face to face with the pathetic shell of a man standing before you. Admit your heart, Buffy. I think I deserve it. He sure as hell deserves it, and you might even find it to your tastes presently. It was always me you were after."
"No, no… you're wrong!" Buffy shook her head, sickened by the thought.
"I'm your last breath come calling, hero. Every Slayer has a death wish."
Buffy gasped as her gaze fell to the wooden stake in her hand. She looked up in time to see the crumbling face of Giles dust in the breeze before her.
Buffy awoke to blinding light raining down upon her face. The warmth was insistent, almost uncomfortable until she realized it was sunlight and that she was alive. Then the heat seemed like a tender reassurance. She squinted trying to examine her surroundings. Her heart quickened with recognition of the space. She was still in the cabin, the nightmare place. But it was a different room, the one closest to the road, the one Willow had claimed. The bed was plush with silken sheets caressing her skin as she shifted slightly. The down comforter hugged her closely as if to console her and a halo of fluffy pillows cushioned her aching head. She peeked beneath the comforter to see she was clothed in an oversized t-shirt that was just long enough to mask her bandaged torso. The sight of the bandages sent a swell of nausea to her stomach. Some one had seen her like this, pitiful and weak, victimized. Someone had tended to her wounds, tried to clean away the evidence of the brutal attack, but the stain went much deeper. Buffy tried to sit up only to have the throbbing pain in her head send her lurching back to the pillows below her.
"You have regained consciousness. You're subordinates shall be greatly relieved." It was hardly the reassuring voice Buffy would have preferred but it was satisfactory proof she wasn't dead and in some comforting hereafter. The cold tone of the Illyria was stark contrast to the warmth she still remembered from her brief stint in the heavenly realm.
"Is everyone…" she choked and tried to coax moisture back within her mouth. Illyria moved stiffly to the side of the bed, retrieved a bottle of water and offered it to Buffy. The Slayer sipped slowly at first, careful not to overwhelm her tender gut. "Thank you."
"Your gratitude is unnecessary. I require no such pleasantries." Illyria stared down, head cocked aside and curious. "Will you continue to subsist or should I gather your inferiors to grieve your coming passing?"
"I'm not dying, just wishing I would," Buffy grinned, wincing at the throbbing of her split lips.
"To desire death is unbecoming of a warrior, unless you aspire to it in battle?"
"It was sort of a joke."
"The concept of humor perplexes and irritates me."
"Yeah, I kinda got that. Is everyone alright?"
"No one else was injured. You were the sole casualty of the vampire's assault."
"Is he..." Buffy didn't know how to ask, any choice of words where offensive. "Is he dead?"
"Yes, that is the common biological status of such a beast."
"I mean, was he dispatched."
"The witch refused to allow such action."
"Where is he?"
"Buffy, thank Goddess you're awake." Willow rushed into the room, addressing Illyria with frustration, "I told you to come get me when she woke."
"The Slayer wished to idly confer. I obliged." Illyria stepped aside.
"How are you feeling?" Willow asked her friend.
"Let's skip that question and get to the bonus round. Where is he?"
Willow 's expression turned even more concerned. "Buffy, they've taken him."
Buffy sat up, heart pounding. "Who took him?"
"We don't know for sure," Xander answered, stepping through the doorway. "It was a highly trained extraction team. They coptered in, gassed the whole place, and infiltrated the cabin just in time to interrupt…um…" Xander hesitated. "Last thing I saw was Gi-." He fell quiet, swallowing hard to buy time in carefully choosing his words.
"Where's Giles, Xander?" Buffy urged.
"Wolfram & Hart took him," he answered. "They had all the right moves and some serious gear. Had to be WH backed."
"You mean Angel?" Buffy asked.
"We don't know that. We didn't see Angel or anyone from his team," Willow clarified. "We can't be sure it was Angel's call."
"Then who?" Buffy growled. "What the fuck is going on?"
"It was a set up, Buffy. The prophecy, the spell, the…"
"Hope," Buffy finished solemnly.
Willow sighed, reaching out to take Buffy's hand in hers. "Someone wanted this to happen. Someone with a wealth of resources and power."
"I'm not ready to rule out Dead Boy," Xander challenged.
"Angel wouldn't do this," Buffy insisted. "This goes deeper."
"If so, then we need to get back," Willow said. "There's no telling what all this means. What could they want Giles for and why would they want him soulless?"
"So we go willingly, frying pan to fire in hopes to what?" Xander challenged. "We have nothing, here. We don't know what's happening."
"That's why we need to go back. Angel and Wes and the others can help us figure this out." Buffy explained.
"Xander, if they're not responsible for all this, that means they are sitting ducks just like the rest of us." Willow said with a pleading look.
"You know what, Wes?" Angel said with a raised voice as he stormed into his office. "With all the crap that's going on around here, the last thing I need is to go on some wild goose chase for nothing!"
"Angel, we can't be sure it was for nothing. After all, we did recover a rather curious artifact. It could prove valuable in some way," Wes suggested.
"And it's mighty pretty to boot," Lorne added optimistically. "Axe accessory chic, gotta love the crimson curves."
"It does seem to be a weapon of some kind," Fred explained, examining the strange metal blade.
"A scythe and a peculiarly old one, if I'm not mistaken," Wes explained. "Obviously a centerpiece to a ritual of some sort or perhaps a weapon of an ancient warrior."
"I've seen it before. Point is, whatever it is, it wasn't worth wasting our resources on," Angel grumbled. "Buffy is still missing."
"We'll find her, Angelcakes. Don't you worry your broody brow over that strumpet." Lorne smirked.
Suddenly, the double doors to Angel's office burst open and a tall, dark haired, square-jaw brute of a business man walked in with a small escort of suited gentlemen.
"Sorry about the interruption, gentleman and ladies, but may I have your attention please," the stranger asked politely. Cordy shot Fred a questioning glance and received an uncertain shrug in response.
"Who the hell are you?" Angel growled.
"That's not important, Angel. What is important is that today marks a special occasion… a new era for Wolfram and Hart."
"New era?" Wes looked to Angel who was one snarl away from vamping fully.
"Angel, while we appreciate your months of questionable yet dedicated service, the senior partners have deemed it necessary to make a few executive adjustments."
"What sort of adjustments?" Angel growled.
"Well, we were going to save this for this quarters closing party but what the hell… let's all give a warm welcome to the new CEO of Wolfram & Hart. You know him and love him, former Watcher Mr. Rupert Giles."
Sure enough, Giles strutted in, dressed in a finely tailored designer suit and cunning stare. He stopped center stage of Angel's office and slowly studied his audience. "Thank you all. I'm sure it'll prove to be a match made in…" his steely gaze fell on Angel as he wore a snarling grin, "…heaven."
"Does this mean my application was denied?" Harmony whined.