ImMortal part 7: A New Old Beginning
Buffy had to rerun the entire conversation in her head to understand what Angel had just said. "Child? You?"
"Don't change the subject. This is about you and about you're child!" Angel slurred his words, dismissing her inquiry with a sweeping gesture of his hand. "And it's about that bastard who knocked you up. Your so-called Watcher."
"Knocked me up? This isn't some after school special, Angel, this is real."
"So what do you want, Buffy?" Angel threw his hands up, frustrated. "You want him?"
"You broke it off, remember?" She demanded with a stern finger.
"I didn't break anything off. I was giving you time. I've waited for you, Buffy. I always wait for you, hoping someday you'll wake up and come back to me. But there's something there between you and Giles that goes too deep, to a place I can't touch. I can't commit to you knowing I can't reach you. That you won't commit to me..."
Buffy agreed softly. "I thought I could move on, that I could forget, but I can't. He's always with me, in here." She pressed her hand to her chest, covering her heart. "And now he's back and it's amazing and I'm crazy and happy and don't know what to do..."
"What do you mean you don't know what to do? Make a choice," Angel demanded. "That's all there's left to do."
Her sad glance sent a cold shiver up his spine as he realized she'd already made her choice. "He died and returned for me, Angel..."
"So did I," the vampires eyes stared through her, challenging her to deny it. "But it's not the same, is it? If it had been me wearing that amulet...?"
"It wouldn't change how I feel about him. I love him."
"Enough to give up what we have together?" Angel's tone was filled with resentment. "Can you forget? Forget the nights we hold each other. The nights we touch each other, the gentle strokes, the kisses, the..."
"I know what we did," Buffy interrupted him, looking away toward the horizon of faint blue creeping above the city skyline. The night was slowly giving away into daybreak. She needed to get Angel indoors and soon.
"Does he?" Angel asked pointedly, verging on threatening. "Wonder how'd he take the idea of you and I falling back into the old routine."
"It's not the old routine, Angel."
"No... we came up with some new moves, didn't we. Figured out a few alternatives to get around that whole happiness clause. Alternatives you'll be using on him, I bet..."
"You don't mean this. It's the cursed drinks."
"I was just practice, wasn't I?"
"Don't say that..."
"Or was he just a substitute for me, like Spike... some perverse stand-in to satisfy your sick appetite?
"Were you thinking of me when you fu..."
"I don't know you anymore!" Angel shouted out so suddenly it startled her. He stood rigid, his hands curled in tight fists and his eyes shimmering with tears. After a moment, his features slowly softened, regretful. "I love you, Buffy. All I've ever wanted was to have you back in my life. But you aren't her. You aren't the girl I fell in love with."
"You're right. I'm not." Buffy agreed quietly with a helpless shrug. "I'm a woman now. You love what I was, Angel. Giles loves what I've become."
Angel could see the answer in her eyes before he even voiced the question. "And you?"
She wanted time to think about it, time to mull over the memories and the feelings of what she had with Angel and with Giles. She took in a deep breath and listened to the city's hum drowned out by the sound of the beating of her heart and its faint, fluttering echo. "I love what we had, Angel. I think that's why I wanted to marry you. I thought it would somehow magically take us back to the way we were. I love what we were."
Angel's lips curled to a wistful smile. "But do you love me, Buffy?"
"Always..." Buffy smiled reflectively, "...but he's my world. He's my happiness, my grief, and my love. Even though I know we can't be together, I love Giles and nothing will ever change that. Not even my love for you."
"You think they are alright?" Willow asked nervously. "It's almost dawn." Her eyes fell to Giles who lay motionless in the hospital bed, eyes closed and features sickly pale.
"If Buffy managed to get to him in time, I trust she can bring him back to his senses." Wesley assured her.
"Think I'll go upstairs and check in with Dawn. She's a nervous wreck." Willow began to hurry off.
"Actually, Dawn seems to be doing fine. It's Xander I'm most concerned about. Since the event, he's withdrawn from the others. Perhaps you should check in on him first."
"I hadn't notice," Willow 's forehead creased with concern.
"You were a bit preoccupied, as were most of us. He probably feels some guilt over encouraging the confrontation. I'm sure Gunn feels quite the same."
"Yeah, guess this kinda throws the whole teamwork playbook out the window." Willow heaved a sigh.
"We do seem to have a ways to go before reaching our high expectations for ourselves. It'll take time. Old wounds need time to heal."
"And new ones?" Willow asked regretfully. Neither Wesley nor Fred had a response and they let the question hang.
"I'm almost finished here," Fred changed the subject. "There's not much left to do but wait. If you want, I can let you know the minute he wakes up."
"Um... thanks. I'll... I'll be upstairs then, if you need me." Willow started again only to pause and glanced back. "Guys... I'm sorry this is going so rough." She hurried off down the empty medical corridor and disappeared around the corner.
Wes refocused his attention on Fred as she expertly worked to bandage Giles' wound. He remained still, looking close to death. "How is he?"
"The cells are regenerating at slightly decelerated rate for a vampire." She finished with the final piece of tape and examined her work with a critical eye. "It's healing but slowly. I'd venture a guess that it's due to his lack of adequate sustenance."
Wes lifted his brows with confusion. "He and Angel had been drinking blood all evening."
"But it wasn't pure. That's one reason the effect was so strong with them. The alcohol tainted the blood, made it sour, which actually intensified the intoxication by sucking out what little nutrients they had. Vampire physiology is actually quite fascinating..." She paused when she noticed Wes staring blankly at her, as if lost to what she was saying. She blushed and went back to fixing a crooked piece of medical tape along the unconscious Watcher's ribs. "But only to me I guess, sorry."
"Don't be. I'm just astonished you've managed to learn all this in such a short amount of time. The whole subject's beyond me." He smiled, pleased.
"Well... when we suddenly went from one to three vampires on the roster, I figured I'd better brush up on my undead medical."
Wes glanced over at the blonde vampire in the adjoining bed. "Three? But Giles only recently arrived..."
"I meant Harmony." She shrugged. "I know, she doesn't get a piece of the action very often but still she's part of the gang. Just like Giles is now. Guess I'm just obsessive." Fred finished with straightening the tape and moved quickly to adjust another, avoiding eye contact with the young ex-Watcher.
"Yes..." Wes stopped her fiddling hand with his. "But you're also more prepared for this than any of us are. I only wish I had your insight..." He nudged closer to her, slipping his gentle fingers within her hand. "Or your patience....or determination. You're simply amazing, Fred." He lifted her delicate hand from the bandage and slowly drew her away from her patient towards him, craving to be closer to the shy beauty. She gazed up into his eyes with hesitant curiosity, not knowing just what was sparking between them. He gently dipped his head down, lips parting as he inched nearer. She felt herself leaning forward and up to meet him, her mouth creeping open, waiting.
The soft voice hit them like a jolt of lightning and they jerked apart, anxiously returning their attentions to the bed stricken vampire.
"Is she back?" Giles eyes cracked open, fluttering under the harsh white lights shining down from above him.
"N-no word yet," Wes stuttered, feeling his pulse pounding out of control as he tried to settle his nerves. "But we mustn't worry just yet."
"How are you feeling, Giles?" Fred asked, quickly snapping up her clipboard and scribbling down some notes as her eyes darted between it, Wes and Giles.
"Much like a shish kabob with a hangover," he grumbled faintly. "Any word yet on the supply of the cursed liquor?"
"Right down to business," Fred giggled nervously, face flushed with embarrassment. "We're still working on it. Lorne has safely contained the contaminated bottles."
"Gunn took a look at the case files of the particular client in question. Seems Tony the Shadow is the executor of his grandfather's estate and recently lost his savings and his fudiciary duty due to a rather thorough tax audit. Wolfram and Hart was in the process of reclaiming the lost funds and authority on his behalf. Perhaps the higher-ups asked him to provide this service as a good faith payment for services not yet fully rendered." Wes shrugged. "Or it could be that Anya didn't make herself very clear with her order."
"Anya has never once failed to place or receive the proper order," Giles smiled with fond recollection of his Magic Shop days. "There was something more to this."
"You think someone knew you and Angel were going to go medieval?" Fred asked.
"The chemical interactions you mentioned leads me to believe this was intentional." Giles' face tensed with a tinge of pain as he tried to sit up in the bed.
"Oh... you heard that, huh?" Fred's face reddened even more.
"Part's of it." He offered a sly smile and glanced over to Wes. "But what came after was somewhat unclear. Bloody potions left me in quite the fog. Was there anything you'd deem relevant for me to know?" Giles' smile grew smugger as he cautiously crossed his arms over his wound in front of him, and waited for a response.
Fred's eyes looked confusedly to Wes who stood for a moment then crossed his arms, mirroring the older Watcher's smugness. Wes' lips lifted to a knowing grin. "I think I preferred you as an apparition."
Giles' smile evaporated as his eyes shifted down the familiar stretch of hall. "I'm afraid you're not alone in that."
Wesley's cell phone began to ring and he quickly dug into his pocket to retrieve it.
"Pryce..." he answered and listened. Fred smiled down at Giles as Wes carried on his conversation. "Are you quite sure?" Wes' voice rose with concern. "Yes... I'll get a hold of him this very minute." Wes slapped his phone closed.
"What is it?" Fred asked anxiously.
"I have to get a hold of Angel. Did he take his cell with him?"
Fred shrugged. "I don't know. You can try calling him?"
"Are we through?" Angel asked; face hardened and void of any emotion.
Buffy stepped towards him with an apologetic expression. "I don't want to be through, Angel." She tried to reach out to console him but he backed away, keeping a short distance between them. "I do love you... and I need you. I hoped we could still be friends. Close friends. Work together. We've done it before we'll just have to try and do it again..."
"I meant, are we though... here? With this conversation?" he clarified.
Buffy was shaken by his indifference. "Oh, I... I guess we are. Are you okay?"
"Not really." He lifted his hand to his head, rubbing at his temple. "I have a pounding headache and my stomach is kinda upset..."
"I meant, are you okay with this... with us? Are we okay?" Buffy repeated gently as the humor of the moment caused a faint smile to cross Angel's lips.
"I don't know," he offered noncommittally. They stared quietly at each other, not knowing what to do or say next. The awkward silence was broken with the curious ring tone of "Another One Bites the Dust" sounding from Angel's pant's pocket. He reached in took it out his cell phone as Buffy chuckled.
"Nice ring tone," she smiled.
"Gunn's suggestion. I don't know how to change it," he explained embarrassedly, flipping open the phone to hold it to his ear. "Angel..."
Buffy waited, watching as Angel's dark, brooding eyes transform from stern to stunned.
"Are you sure? When?" his voice cracked with emotion. "I'll be there in five." He snapped the phone shut and began to march briskly away.
"Who was it?" Buffy asked, hurrying to catch up. He didn't answer, only quickened his pace. She was hard pressed to keep up with the vampire as he suddenly took off full speed back toward the law firm. Whoever and whatever it was must be really important to draw him away from the hard emotional scene just seconds before.
'I hope everyone's okay...' the thought, then her heart raced with a disconcerting thought. "Oh my god... Giles!"
A small army of Wolfram and Hart associates marched briskly through the sliding glass doors of the Los Angeles Memorial Hospital , including Angel, Buffy, Wesley, Fred, Willow , Xander, Gunn, and Lorne and a small swarm of unimportant lawyers and assistants. Hospital staff parted as the intimidating group made there way toward the end of the hall.
"Angel, will you tell me what's going on here?" Buffy pleaded as she hurried to keep up.
"He didn't tell you?" Willow asked, surprised, shuffling through the others to slip along side her friend as they continued on.
"No. Tell me what? What's going on? Why are we here?" Buffy's voice squeaked just as Angel took a sharp turn and burst through a door. The crowd followed, filing in after the determined vampire to fill the small quarters of the hospital room. Everyone stopped as Angel moved toward the closed curtain. With a grand gesture, he gave the material a tug and it flew open.
"Hey guys." The stunning brunette smiled brightly up at them, giving a quick wave as she adjusted the fitted sheet to her hospital bed in an attempt to gain some more room. "I'm way glad you're here..."
"Cordelia?" Buffy gasped.
"Angel, will you tell the very nice but overly concerned doctors that I'm just fine but would be doing much, much better, if not super peachy if I could just get back to my apartment, my job and my wardrobe?" Cordelia huffed with pleading eyes. Before she knew it, she was engulfed in Angel's arms and having the very life being squeezed from her body.
"You're back..." Angel sighed, astonished. "You're really back."
"Um... yeah! That's what I've been trying to tell these guys but will they listen? Nooo... they think their fancy diplomas and licenses give them the right to hold me here without my permission. I have things to do, Angel, places and people to see, food to eat. A life to live..."
"How... when?" Angel stammered, unable to release her yet.
"Little air, big guy..." Cordy strained, trying to pry her way out from his enthusiastic grip. "I couldn't care less how, when or why... let's just get outta here."
Angel glanced over at the approaching doctor. "Maybe they should keep you under observation...."
"Not on your unlife, buddy! I need outside, now!" Cordelia insisted, jumping out of her bed to reveal her fully dressed body and pulling out her already packed suitcase.
"Doctor?" Wesley caught the man by the arm and directed him back out of the room. "Might I have a word..."
"How are you feeling?" Fred asked, still in shock.
"Like a million bucks... give or take ninety nine thousand nine hundred and ninety nine." She said confidently. "I'll be a helluva lot better once I'm free of this harsh white lighting."
Once again, she found herself wrapped within the strong arms of Angel as Buffy watched on with a curious eye.
"I'm okay, Angel. Really..." Cordy tried to reassure him.
"I'm just so glad you back..." he said softly.
"You're free to go," Wesley announced proudly.
"Great!" Cordelia pushed her way through the crowd, smiling and greeting familiar faces as she went. "So what's new with you guys...?"
Buffy, Xander and Willow remained in the hospital room, stunned as they watched the precession head toward the hospital exit.
"Are you all okay?" Wes asked, peeking from around the doorway to the motionless Scoobies.
Buffy took in a deep, cleansing breath, trying to hold back her frustration. "What the hell is going on here?"