ImMortal part 4: A Far, Far Better Thing...
Wesley brought down the statuary and it landed square on the amulet with a loud thump. He lifted it up to see the crystal still intact with no sign of damage. Not so much as a scratch. He looked up expectantly at Giles who shook his head in frustration.
"I believe there is more to this trinket than meets the eye." Wesley said regretfully. "Though I wouldn't be lying if I admitted to more than a bit of hesitancy in performing this task for you."
"I had a feeling it wasn't going to be so easy." Giles smirked. "But thank you for trying." He turned and began to walk toward the door.
Giles paused and turned back to face the younger ex-Watcher. "Yes."
"Which did you want?"
"I want only one thing," Giles said quietly. "Buffy's happiness."
"We'll find a solution." Wesley said confidently.
"I won't hold my breath," Giles smiled weakly and walked to the door, passing through it like it was vapor.
It had been a quiet morning for Buffy. For once, she was glad she woke up alone. She went about business as usual with only one slight alteration from her normal morning routine, she stopped in at a local drug store and picked up a pregnancy test.
Deciding to keep her trail clear from any eavesdroppers, she preformed the test in the cleanest public restroom she could find at the local park. It was the longest five minutes of her life. She spent all of it reading and rereading the directions, the Q&A, the warnings, the ingredients, the manufacturing and distributing information and then, when she was done, she flipped the paper over and read it all over again in Spanish. Even though it was called the "error proof test", she was certain she was the one person who could find a way to fail it.
Five minutes passed and she nervously lifted up the wand, held her breath and read the results.
"Does Giles know?" Xander asked.
"I hope not! It would totally ruin the surprise."
"Something tells me he's not up for surprises anymore. Sort of a side effect of Sunnydale syndrome." Xander warned.
"Are you saying I should tell him?"
"Anya... it's just a party," Willow shrugged. "Since when has Giles been a party animal? Besides, he can't really enjoy the food or anything. He's practically a ghost."
"Isn't it said that it's the thought that counts?" Anya objected. "I've put a lot of thought into this so Giles is sure to be pleased."
"I don't know about Giles, but the rest of the troops could use some frolicsome fun," Dawn smiled optimistically. "Besides, Lorne looks as happy as a clam getting the decorations and entertainment set up."
"Happy as a clam?" Anya looked over at Xander. "I wasn't aware of clams being happy. When did this happen?"
"Lorne, is Oz going to play at the party?" Willow asked.
"Afraid not Ruby Red, he and the Dingoes are truckin' it up north to a gig in Seattle ."
"He didn't say anything." Willow 's expression saddened.
"I think you two have had your fair share of goodbyes." Xander offered, gently giving her a hug.
"He'll be back soon. I'm sure." Dawn suggested.
"Actually, the Seattle concert is a launch to a nationwide road tour. He'll be spinning wheels for about four..." Lorne stopped when he saw the distressed look in Willow 's eyes. "I'm sure he'll stop in... in-between stops. I'll just go back to my... my... oh look, balloons." Lorne hurried off.
"I'm sorry Will." Xander said softly.
"It's just... Oz would want to know about Giles."
"Maybe. Or maybe he's better off not knowing," he said regretfully.
All of them went quiet, watching as Lorne directed some underlings to hang some streamers.
"Run it again." Fred passed off the clipboard to Knox whose forehead immediately creased with concern. "Only this time, widen the spectral analysis to include non-transitory sub-particle deformation and enhance the radiant heat signature to capture subzero temperatures."
"We've already done it five times, Fred. We're getting the same results." Knox said calmly. "I think we've done all we can do."
"Run it again," She insisted quickly.
"Fred, you've barely slept since he arrived. You've been pushing yourself, not to mention your whole crew way too hard. What gives?" Knox shrugged, confused. "I mean I know you're dedicated and I know you want to help but you hardly know this guy."
"So you're telling me to give up?" She shot him a hazing glare. "That he's not worth my complete attention and abilities because he's a stranger?"
"I'm just saying that we have done all we can do here." Knox saw Wesley come in and he tried to calm his frustrated supervisor. "Look, I'll run the tests again after I take a break and get some tea. And I strongly advise you to do the same." He marched toward the door, giving Wesley a sharp nod of acknowledgement as he passed him and left them alone.
"Did I interrupt something?" Wesley asked warily.
"Naw. Just a little difference of opinion," Fred smiled.
"Really?" Wesley moved up to her and glanced down at her notes. "Over what?"
"Take a guess..." she motioned toward the amulet.
"Same results then?" Wesley's expression fell. "I'd so hoped it was the other theory."
"I'd like to run some more tests on Giles but he hasn't been around yet today. Which is odd because he seems to like watching me work."
"I'm not surprised." Wesley's face blushed. "I meant about Giles being absent. He seemed quite despondent," Wesley said drearily. "I feel I should have a talk with Buffy. Encourage her to speak with him but I fear I'd be overstepping my bounds."
Giles' head peeked through the wall and he noticed the two talking. "I'm sorry. I would have knocked if I could. I don't want to interrupt anything."
"No! Come in. I'm so glad you came by." Fred rushed over to Giles with a friendly and enthusiastic smile. "Please come in. We weren't talking about anything important." Wesley gave her a look before moving toward the door.
"Good morning, Wes." Giles said politely as he slipped the rest of his body through the wall and moved to the center of lab.
"Good morning, Giles." He pushed open the door and glanced back. "I'll just leave you two to your tests then. Let me know when you get the results." He left.
"Good morning, Fred." Giles smiled pleasantly. "More tests, I see. You haven't slept yet, have you? Is this some kind of illness going around?"
"No illness. I'm just eager to figure this out. Mind if I..." she waved a handheld lab instrument and Giles smiled patiently.
"Please, do as you like. I've nothing better to do." He could see the weariness in her eyes. "But promise me you'll try and get some rest."
"Only if you promise me you won't ask Wesley to destroy the amulet again." She continued to take her readings.
"He told you?"
"He tells me everything."
"I very much doubt that."
"Almost everything." She paused, looking determinedly up into his green eyes. "Giles, I can fix this. Give me time to figure this out. Don't go off and do anything rash like smashing the amulet in a total gamble. We don't know what we're dealing with here."
"I appreciate your concern but there is no need..."
"You think this is about you?" Fred snickered. "Not that I haven't taken a liking to you but we just met. This is about Buffy and Dawn and Xander and Willow and everyone else here whose lives have been turned upside down and inside out because of your little encore. There are a whole lotta people that are glad you're here and I intend to keep you that way... here, with them. So if I find out that you've been off trying to get someone to smash all my chances in fulfilling my goals then I get a bit miffed. So I'll get some sleep if you promise me you won't ask Wesley to destroy the amulet."
Giles grinned and nodded subtly. "You have my word."
Buffy made her way through the lobby of Wolfram and Hart and saw Harmony busily correcting a chipped nail.
"Buffy!" The blonde vampire jumped to her feet and rushed out from behind her desk. "Wesley would like to see you in his office."
"What about?" Buffy continued moving.
"I don't know. He looked kinda worried. But then again, he always looks that way when budget reports come in." She shrugged. "You want some coffee or cocoa? I have chai tea..." Harmony began to head off toward the lounge.
"Thanks Harm, but no. I think I'll just go see the gang."
"They're hanging in Willow 's office." Harmony nodded.
Buffy paused. " Willow has an office?"
"She's been appointed Director of the Division of Magicks."
"Wow... Angel hired her on?"
"Actually, I think it was Wes' idea. They've been working together a lot lately. He was probably getting sick of that whole post-breakup moping routine Willow was doing and decided to get her mind off things by putting her to work."
"Good on Wes. It's about time Willow got over Kennedy." Buffy smiled.
"Yeah... well, it's hard for some people to get over relationships and move on." Harmony nodded and began to examine her nail again, staring off as she continued. "It can be hard to let go. Even when the people involved just aren't good for each other and they only end up hurting each other."
"Yep." Buffy nodded.
"Even though it would never work out because everything is against them, they can't get out from it. And it doesn't matter how much pain and hurt they go through, they will just keep on going back, over and over and over..."
"I think I get the point," Buffy interrupted.
Harmony cringed. "Sorry. I know I shouldn't talk about this. I know you and him were so close and all."
"It's okay. I just don't want to talk about it."
"I totally get that. But I can't help but remember what we had together."
Buffy raised a brow. "Harmony... who are you talking about?"
"Spike..." she said plainly, "But don't worry. It is so over."
"You have no idea how over." Buffy glanced around. "So where's the office of the Director of the Division of Magicks located?"
"Across from Wes'. It's kind of a small division. You see, the previous Department of Mystical Antiquities and the Division of Supernatural Contracts had this turf war on the third floor over the super sweet executive restrooms..."
"I don't need the corporate record, Harmony." Buffy smiled patiently continued toward Wes' office. "But thanks."
Harmony returned to her desk. "Giles is with Fred."
Buffy stopped. "Fred... again?"
"Uh-huh. Fred was all excited. Said she and Wes found something. But I think she just likes talking with Giles. Those brainy types always seem to migrate together." Harmony shrugged and continued fixing her nail. "He sure cleans up nice, though. I mean in a tweedlessness fashion sense. Too bad he didn't sport the blue jeans and leather back in high school. A lot more of the female student body woulda visited the library."
"Thanks Harmony." Buffy walked onward, her face set with contemplation. As she reached the double doors to the office, she didn't stop, continuing on toward the elevators.
"Yeah," Fred smiled shyly to Giles. "I have. But nothing like you. I only wish I could."
"So everyone has done it, then?" Giles asked.
"Well... almost." Fred returned to her tests.
"Define almost." Giles said suspiciously.
"Angel decided that Buffy and the other survivors shouldn't have to. At least not right away."
"Ah-ha!" Giles waved a challenging finger. "I knew it. They didn't sing, did they? It was all a rouse..."
"You still stuck on that note, Giles?" Buffy said as the lab door shut behind her. Fred's face perked up at the appearance of the Slayer.
"Hello Buffy. How are you feeling today? Angel said you finally got some rest yesterday."
"Yep. A wopping four hours.Totally spoiled." Buffy smiled softly. "I'm doing alright. Just needed to see my... to see Giles."
Giles stood up, offering a welcoming smile.
"I'll just go. I have to report back to Angel and Wes anyways. You guys just take all the time you need." Fred quickly gathered up an armful of papers and shuffled toward the door. Buffy held the door for the accommodating young lady. As the door shut behind her, Buffy slowly turned to meet Giles' gentle gaze.
"You aren't getting any better at lying," Giles teased tenderly. "You are far from 'doing alright'."
"Actually, I think I'm good. Cleared head and finally focused."
"That's good." Giles smile pleasantly. "The rest must have helped."
"In a strange way, it did." Buffy started nervously, still standing just beyond the lab door. "I have something to tell you."
"You can tell me anything, Buffy. You know that."
"I'm sorry I doubted you."
"You were only doing what was necessary. It's what I taught you to do."
"I missed you."
Giles eyes shifted to the tiled floor. "I know."
"I still can't believe you're here. I mean, I never thought..."
"You don't have to..." Giles sighed. "Buffy, I'm well aware of your relationship with Angel. I understand, I honestly do."
"It hurt so much for so long. I wasn't sure I could go on..."
Giles raised up a hand, pleading to her. "Buffy, please don't."
"I have to, Giles." She swallowed back a sob. "I've watched those I love leave me over and over. Each time, I rebuilt myself only to have it crumble again when the next one leaves. I can't do it anymore, Giles. I just can't."
"Then you come back... again. But even though you're here... you're not. Not really."
"Yes," he agreed softly.
"Things have changed, Giles, for all of us. I'm starting a new life here... building a new life. Now more than ever, I need to know that those I love won't leave me."
Giles eyes lifted to meet hers and she went silent with the hurt aching there. "I want you to have your new life, Buffy. And I promise you will." He turned and stepped toward the wall and stopped, keeping his back to her. "Of all the things I regret in my life..."
"Giles..." she whispered, moving toward him, needing to be closer to him.
"...the one I regret most is knowing that if I could relive that night we had together, I wouldn't change a damned thing. And for that... I'm sorry." He vanished.
"...I love you," Buffy whispered, her hand reaching out to where he'd once stood.
"We've discovered evidence supporting the battery theory." Wes said disappointedly.
"So the amulet is what's keeping Giles here." Angel clarified.
"And the phasing?"
Wesley and Fred exchanged distressed glances. "Angel, I'm afraid the charge is waning."
"You mean he's running out of time," Angel rephrased.
"We might be able to recharge it somehow," Fred suggested brightly. "We don't know how or with what but that doesn't mean we won't find out. I can put all my guys on it."
Angel's stare moved to the amulet and he was lost in thought. "And if we destroy the amulet?"
"The bond will be broken and Giles' spirit would be vanished." Wesley motioned toward the amulet. "Luckily, it is practically indestructible."
"I found references to a 'Gem of the Sun' that seems to fit the description and properties of this amulet. Though it looks to be stone and metal, it more closely resembles a liquid in composition, making it impervious to almost all blunt force trauma. It normally remains that way, only becoming mineral while on holy ground."
"So if we keep it away from churches we should be alright." Angel smiled weakly. "Not a problem. I'll keep this with me." He reached out and took it up, slipping it into his pocket.
"You think that wise? It may be safer here."
"It's safer with me." Angel reassured him with a stern gaze.
"Are you going to inform him?" Wesley asked softly. "And Buffy?"
"No," the gentle voice sounded from across Angel's office and they all turned to see Giles standing at the door.
Angel began to object. "Giles, we can't keep her in the dark..."
"None of this leaves this room," he repeated sternly with a raised finger.
"I don't mean to be miss pessimist here..." Fred said anxiously, "But what if you just flicker out one day?"
"I won't let that happen," Giles said softly.
"Look... I know you've all been working long and hard on this and I do appreciate it. What I'm asking for now, is for you to leave it be." Giles waited for a moment, watching until he received apprehensive agreement from them. "Now, I don't understand why but there is a rather transparent attempt for a surprise party being prepared for tonight in my honor. I would appreciate it if you would all attend. And Angel, if I could get a moment of your time sometime after sundown?"
Angel nodded and Giles evaporated leaving Wesley, Fred and Angel to wonder.
"Anya, this looks..." Buffy circled around the office space, now transformed into a Hawaiian themed luau complete with an array of grass skirts, fragrant lei's, huge fruit platters, full fruity bar, and a pig on a spit roasting over an open fire, "amazing."
"I wanted a piñata," Anya grumbled.
"Doesn't go with the theme, my little bunny buddy," Lorne said as he quickly whisked buy to attend to more of the decorations.
"Don't call me that! Tell him to stop calling me that. I like piñata's. I've never had a piñata before."
"Why the piñata?" Buffy asked with a grin curling along her lips.
Xander stepped forward to offer up and explanation. "You remember that Halloween where Giles dressed up in the..."
"Señor Giles..." Buffy snickered. "How can I forget?"
"There you go." Xander shrugged in frustration.
"I requested a piñata shaped like a pineapple but that meddling green-faced demon insisted on these..." she motioned toward the grass skirts.
"Just you wait until the boys in security strap those babies on and nothing else." Lorne swiftly passed in-between them again, wiggling his eyebrows as he passed, "You'll be thanking me later."
"Where are Angel and Giles?" Anya asked.
"Angel said he'd keep Giles distracted," Xander said. "Can't even imagine the conversation those two are having."
Buffy moved to the window, staring out into the night sky with a concerned gaze.
"How can you say that!" Angel objected.
"It's just how I feel." Giles ran his fingers anxiously through his hair.
"But... but..." Angel shook his head in denial. "It's not right. I mean, you can't be serious."
"But I am."
"Sympathy for the Devil? Come on."
"You Can't Always Get What you Want..." Giles grinned.
"Are you telling me that or are you referring to the song."
"Both," Giles chuckled, bringing out a snicker from Angel.
"Not that the 'Top Ten Stones Songs' debate wasn't a riot but why exactly are we here?" Angel asked, scanning the cemetery for a sign of trouble.
Giles expression fell serious. "I need a favor."
"In a cemetery?" Angel grinned. "Kinky."
"Buffy's in pain, Angel." Giles spoke gravely and Angel's smile faded.
"I know she's having a hard time adjusting..."
"She's suffering... needlessly."
"Why do I have the feeling I won't like your favor?" Angel said guardedly.
"I can't bear to cause her pain and I know my being here is at the root of it. I need to go."
"You can't. You're attached to the amulet. The only way to break the bond is..." He stopped, his eyes shooting from gravestone to gravestone, noticing the crosses and angels etched there, surrounding them. Giles could have sworn the vampire's face grew even paler than usual. "No... Giles no!"
"She wouldn't want this. No one would."
"It's not for them to choose." Giles let out a fatigued sigh. "I've lived my life and gave my life to serve humanity. I honestly believed my time had come, Angel. I was meant to rest with the demise of the Hellmouth in Sunnydale. All I'm asking for now is a chance to have the peace I've earned." Giles eyes pleaded to the vampire.
"We will find a way to bring you back."
"I don't believe that possible. And furthermore, I don't want that. I've sacrificed everything to this world and now all I want is to be free of it." Giles' stare cut through the vampire. Angel could see the pain in the Watcher's eyes. "I know you understand."
"If Buffy ever finds out..."
"How would she?" Giles shrugged sympathetically. "Consider it your forgiveness, Angel."
"That's not fair."
"You're a bastard."
"Do this for me... please."
Angel's wounded features held Giles' gaze, cursing him for suggesting such a thing. But the vampire couldn't help the guilt he still held from so long ago. He slowly pulled out the amulet and set it upon a nearby headstone. The Watcher waited with anticipation as Angel knelt down, took up a weighty stone and held it above the crystal.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
Giles' jade eyes pleaded to him. "It's my time to bow out gracefully."
"She loves you, Giles." Angel needed him to hear it.
"That's just one more reason."
"I do love her."
Giles nodded gently. "And that's another."
"Thank you, Giles." Angel said it with such heavy regret.
"Thank you." Giles smiled and the stone came crashing down.
"Thanks." Harmony hung up the phone at her desk and turned to face the anxious crowd.
"Well?" Anya impatiently urged her to update them.
"Security says Angel is on his way up."
"And Giles?" Anya asked. "It won't work without Giles. He's the guest of honor."
"No sign of him." Harmony pouted just a little. "Maybe they took separate cars?"
"He's a ghost, Harm. He can move around as he likes." Xander said sardonically.
The crowd hushed quiet as the elevator doors opened across the way and Angel slowly stepped out. He turned to face the direction of the party and stood for a moment, staring despairingly at the crowd waiting there. Then his heavy, dark eyes focused on Buffy and he began to move forward, his gaze never leaving hers. Her smile faded as she saw the troubled look in his eyes. She'd seen that look before and it always meant something bad. A sparkling at his side caught her attention and she looked down, spotting the shattered remains of the amulet dangling in his fisted hand. Buffy's eyes began to tear and she shook her head in disbelief.
Xander's eyes went wide as he recognized the broken necklace. "Hey, isn't that the..."
"The amulet," Willow gasped.
"What does it mean?" Dawn asked anxiously as Angel stepped into his festively decorated office, slowly lifting up the broken and twisted amulet, his face wrought with emotion.
Wesley sighed disappointedly and began to explain, "It means that Giles is..."
"Buffy..." the soft cry called out from beyond Angel and all other eyes shifted past the brooding vampire to the tall figure standing at the doorway.
Buffy moved before recognition sunk in for the rest of the crowd. Instinct drove her onward. The awestruck gang watched breathlessly as she sprinted into the awaiting arms of Giles who accepted her with a joyous smile. There was a connection, he was whole. Their lips met in a desperate reunion, both eagerly matched in urgency and the crowd sighed with unanimous relief.
Dawn let out a silent prayer of thanks as Buffy wrapped her arms around Giles and pulled him closer, trying to cast out any possible space between them.
"Surprise!" Anya shouted out and trumpeted her paper party favor. Xander slipped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a gentle hug, wanting to share in the touching scene.
"It is," Xander smiled and gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead. "It's a perfect surprise."
Watcher and Slayer were lost within each other, locked in each others arms, mouths seeking out the touch both feared they'd never share again. They were together and it was wonderful.
"So much for 'Oh the Humanity', huh?" Gunn nudged Lorne, grinning with satisfaction. Lorne nodded with a hesitantly pleased smile.
"Here's to hoping," Lorne responded, feeling the atmosphere of the room change for the better with the passionate scene.
"Wanna explain this?" Angel shook the remains of the amulet at Fred and Wes, more than slightly annoyed.
But they were absorbed by the moment, as was every other person surrounding the Slayer and Watcher kissing deeply and holding on for dear life at center stage. Angel finally turned around to face the couple and watched as his teary-eyed girl smiled and hugged and kissed another man. She was so happy and he couldn't help but smile, though his heart was shattering into a million pieces.