ImMortal part 9: Deserving
"Simple slash-n-dash, people..." Angel ordered his troop of three as they waited outside the abandoned amphitheater, hiding in the shadows of the night.
"Go in quick, kill anything that moves and save those who seem the most innocent," Wesley clarified for Giles, handing him a crossbow. Giles nodded his understanding and appreciation for the weapon.
"Seem the most innocent?" Giles questioned.
"Never can tell with these WH assignments. Those you're saving just might stab you in the back." Gunn explained.
"Brilliant." Giles grumbled.
"Do we know the stats?" Gunn asked.
"Intel says 20," Wes shrugged.
"Then you can double that," Gunn grumbled. "The boys in intel need to have their eyes checked. Last hit was a zoo. I'm bettin' this is like an encore."
"You're probably right." Wes agreed.
"Perhaps the misinformation is intentional," Giles suggested, watching the reactions of his team carefully.
"You can count on it, Watcher." Gunn nodded. "You got enough R&R to make nice with the creepys?"
"I'll hold my own." Giles didn't know what to make of the lawyer, sometimes soldier. He seemed to have a good heart but there was anger there. The vampire decided he'd have to keep his eye on him.
"Wes and Gunn, I want you two to get the intended sacrifices out and keep them safe. Giles, you and I will be the front line." Angel waited a moment then got a nervous look crossed his face. "Giles, you okay with me... um... calling the shots? I mean, I know Buffy and you are used to handing..."
"I am at your service," he offered with a patient smile.
"Good. Alright then. Let's go do this thing!"
Angel kicked his boot to the gate and with a metallic clang, the gate swung open, announcing the teams arrival. They marched into the darkened arena with weapons displayed, no subtly and no surprise. The Trakindo attacked immediately, hearing the raucous entry and picking up on the scent of the intruders the second they stepped within the boundaries of the open air theater. The seven foot tall, skeletal like reptile demons charged Angel first, obviously recognizing the rising star of Wolfram and Hart. Giles moved in to help draw away some of the aggressors. The demons far outnumbered the four but they fell with the easiest strikes. A beheading here, a leg and arm lobbed off there. Soon, the numbers began to wane.
Gunn and Wes found little resistance as they made it to the victims bound on the main stage. They were alive though motionless and injured. There were three; a man, a woman and a child of no more than six years of age, all blindfolded and huddled together.
"Not the best family activity in town. They should have done Disney." Gunn guarded Wesley as he worked to untie the victims.
"I expected more sacrifices. Take a look off stage to be sure." Wes directed.
"You better watch your back, man. These beasties are quick and fight dirty." Gunn warned and hurried off. Wes worked the binds loose and tried to stir the man awake.
"Wha-what's happing?" he grumbled wearily and tried to open his bruised eyes.
"Can you move?" Wes asked hurriedly.
"Yeah... I think so. Where's Becca, Sarah?"
"They're here with you. I need your help, Sir, to get them out. Can you walk?"
Like verbal adrenaline, the father jumped to his feet with newfound strength and helped Wesley free his wife and daughter. Together, they carried the woman and child to the exit and Gunn ran to join them.
"No one else. Any trouble?"
"No. Radio in a request for a cleanup team and go keep watch over them until special ops arrives. I'll see to Angel and Giles." Wesley glanced back over his shoulder.
"Another clean sweep, eh Wes?"
"Yes, I suppose so," he mumbled and let the door shut behind Gunn. "Almost too clean."
On opposite sides of the stage, each Angel and Giles battled with a small brigade of remaining Trakindo. At Wesley's count, there were a little over twenty five with only ten surviving at the moment. He moved closer, watching the spectacle of the mêlée unfolding before him like some melodramatic drama. The beasts were faring quite well considering Angel's expertise at dispatching a variety of demons but what impressed Wesley most was Giles. He remembered the fighting style of the Watcher back in his Sunnydale assignment. He was the model of decisive, systematic and formulaic skill. But what he witnessed now was far from that. He tore, kicked, scratched, and outright devoured his opponents. And with a sweeping slash of the scarlet sword, Wes caught a spark of Giles' blazing yellow eyes and crooked brow, and he realized for the first time what had become of the man he once considered a reluctant mentor. Giles was a demon caged by its human soul, and somehow it seemed harder to accept than Angel's curse. He'd never known Angel as a man, only as a vampire. Seeing a Watcher, one of his own falling to darkness... it hurt worse somehow. With a guilty sigh, Wes moved in closer to help finish off the cult of Trakindo.
"This was a nice change of pace," Angel yelled as he beheaded the final foe with his blade.
"As opposed to what, exactly?" Giles asked with a curious grin as his demon face softened back into its more human facade.
"To battling with ink and paper. It's nice to get into the down and dirty of it from time to time."
"Ah, but the pen can be mightier than the sword." Giles removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket, wiped his blade clean and slid it into the sheath strapped to his back.
"But not as much fun," Angel smiled mischievously.
"I tend to prefer a less bloody battle," Wes joined them on the stage. "Though ink can stain just as badly as blood."
“I’ve never told you before, but you’re a good fighter, Giles.” Angel smiled proudly as they all made there way to the exit.
“Yes, well… the Council produces good soldiers,” Giles explained.
“That they do, but those weren’t Council moves,” Wes suggests sharply.
“I had a bit of a troubled youth.” Giles dismissed easily. “Comes back to me at times.”
“I’d say your recent change has also aided in your fervor for a good fight.” Wes added.
“It does tend to amend ones outlook on things,” Giles responded softly, “On life.”
“I'm sure it does. Why do you protect him?” Wes asked and Angel seemed to know exactly what the younger Watcher was referring to.
“Who?” Giles asked, confused.
“We have the surveillance tapes from the medical wing,” Angel explained. “It shows Buffy disconnecting the video but she didn’t manage to unplug the audio.”
“She would have staked him had you not interceded. Most would agree she would be justified in it. You seem to be the lone holdout on the matter yet you are the one he hurt most. Why do you protect Spike, Giles?”
Giles considered the question for a moment and shook his head in frustration. “It wasn't me who Spike hurt most. As for why I protect him, perhaps you should ask Angel the very same question.” He stared at the dark vampire for a long moment then walked away.
Later that same evening...
"Marriage?" Cordelia squawked as Angel, Wes, Gunn and Giles came through the office lobby doors, returning from their victory. All eyes immediately fell on Angel.
"This should be good!" Harmony smiled excitedly and nudged Lorne.
"What?" Angel sought out an explanation from Buffy who seemed to shy away into the corner of the lobby. "No... we're not. Not now."
"Not ever," Buffy reinforced the opinion and saw Giles' eyes focus on her, realization changing his amusement to distress.
"Buffy?" he asked softly. "What... what are they talking about?"
"Giles, you were gone..." Angel started.
"Apparently Angel and Buffy were engaged to be married," Cordelia barked out, hands firm on her hips and a look of expectation on her face. "Explanation please."
Giles glanced down the line up of his friends, searching for denial on the faces of Willow , Xander, Dawn, Anya. Not one could offer him what he wanted.
"You don't understand. It was hard, Giles, really hard." Buffy pleaded her case but Giles wounded stare only served to send her spiraling into regrets. "I needed someone."
"Of course," Giles nodded subtly and let out a feeble chuckle. "What else could you do?"
"Stay the hell away from Angel. That's what!" Cordy demanded.
"I'm not a fanboy of the Angel Buffy equation either but why are you so bothered by this Cordy?" Xander asked.
"She loves Angel." Anya said easily. "Any vengeance demon worth her salt would recognize it."
"Love Angel?" Cordelia guffawed. "Pfft... not even! I mean maybe in a completely deeper exploration of friendship..." She paused, sighed and shrugged uselessly. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"You love me?" Angel's face lifted with the admittance.
"I need drink!" Lorne marched toward his office.
"Like it matters now, runaway groom!" Cordy pointed accusingly at Angel. "How could you?"
"I second that!" Dawn insisted. "But I'd also like to know what's with the freaking over the suggestion of marrying Giles?"
"What?" Giles, Angel, Wes, and Gunn all chirped in unison.
"So not happening," Buffy corrected. Fred came walking in to all the confused and upset faces.
"Oh no... what did I miss?" Fred asked nervously.
"That's why I'm pissed, excuse my French. I mean, one minute Buffy is jumping on the marriage train with conductor Angel and now that Giles is back, she's derailing and... and this metaphor is really stupid so I'm gonna stop right there." Dawn shrugged to Willow .
"Couldn't have said it better myself." Willow smiled.
"Did I miss something? When did Giles propose to Buffy?" Wes asked.
"You're getting married?" Fred smiled. "That's just wonderful. Congratulations."
"What do you mean congratulations? Why congratulations with Giles and not with me?" Angel objected. "Where was congratulations when I announced Buffy and I were getting married?"
"I'm not marrying anyone!" Buffy screamed and all eyes shifted to her, startled by her outburst.
"Sorry, I... I just... I gotta... I gotta be somewhere else." Buffy hurried through the lobby and rushed out the doors leaving everyone confused.
"Buffy!" Giles hurried after her. As the doors closed, Angel turned to face Cordelia.
"Can we get back to this love thing?" He gestured to Cordy and then motioned toward his office. "When you say love..."
"Buffy, wait." Giles caught up with her at the vending machines. "Wait a moment."
"I thought you were good with it, Giles." She waved her hand excitedly. "You said you understood and that you wanted me to have a normal life. What did you think I meant?"
"Good with it? Not even remotely. But I came to the realization long ago that you and Angel have some strange disillusion in regards to what you might have together; marriage being the definitive example of this fact."
"Like I don't know how weird it would be. Weird is my middle name, hyphenated with peculiar and strange and off."
"I want better for you, Buffy. What did you honestly believe would come of this... this matrimony? He's a vampire. Such a holy union is only a worthless vow when spoken by the likes of a demon."
"I don't know. Some impression of commitment, to know that we were together forever, unlike someone who used that same word so easily then vanished on me."
"I did what was necessary." Giles said pointedly.
"It was Spike's duty to perform, Giles." She demanded. "A duty I assigned him and you ignored."
"The amulet wasn't working for him."
"Maybe just not then," her voiced cracked with anger. "You even give it an opportunity before you jumped on the chance to abandon me?"
"Had I thought there was another option, I would have taken it. But what's done is done and it still doesn't change the fact that you insist on believing in some fairy tale notion of what Angel can provide you."
"I'm not marrying him, Giles! It's so over, so get over it." Her anger was churning in her stomach, pulse quickening with emotion.
"Why should I when it's quite apparent you never have yourself?"
"I love him. He loves me. You know that. You've always known that. So Angel and I fell back into things. For better or worse, it was all I had then. Or would you rather we were just fucking?" She slapped her hand over her mouth, completely shocked at what she'd revealed in the heat of the moment. "Oh my god, Giles..." she reached out for him and he took a step away.
Giles face went stiff with anger, his jaw tensing, fists clenched, a flash of yellow burning in his eyes.
"I didn't mean..."
"Yes you did," he growled in a low tone.
"I love you, Giles. I do. But I'm sure as hell not going to justify my actions or explain myself to you when you know damn well you weren't here. End of story." She turned and began to walk away. As she reached the first doorway, she paused and turned back towards him. "You left. I didn't. He was there for me and I accepted. But all that is gone now because you're back. So, now what, Giles? It's your move, so make it." She turned and walked away.
Buffy avoided Giles all the following day; recruiting Willow , Xander and Dawn to cover for her with weak excuses of shopping for a maternity wardrobe. Of course Anya supplied the real reason for the evasion and offered her own advice on the matter, to give Buffy some space for the time being. So Giles did his best to comply, asking Dawn to keep an eye on Buffy for him as he considered just what his move should be. She agreed enthusiastically, offering him a hug of encouragement and hurrying off to join her sister.
Early that evening, Giles stepped inside Angel's office and left the door open behind him, hoping to be quick about this meeting so he could get back to his more troubling issues of how best to proceed with Buffy.
"Cordelia, Wes said you wanted to see me?"
"Yeah. Haven't seen much of you at all. It's been such a long time I figured we should take a moment to get reacquainted." She stepped out around the desk and moved to the door.
"What can I do for you Cordelia?" Giles asked as she closed the door to Angel's office and strolled toward the desk.
"Cordy. Call me Cordy, Giles. I think we've know each other long enough to go that far, don't you?"
"I wouldn't presume to know you as well as that, but if you insist."
"I prefer to stand."
She gave a discomfited shrug. "What's with the grumbly attitude? Did I do something to warrant the Oscar the Grouch treatment or are you being Mr. Snippy today?"
"I apologize, I'm just a bit... um, hungry is all. And I'm not entirely sure of what to say to you, things being as they are."
"You could start with 'Hello' and work your way from there." Cordy smiled. "I could call down and order up a sandwich or something. You want some tea? Angel said the cafeteria here is pretty good. Anything has to be better than the slop they served up in that nightmare of a cafeteria at Sunnydale High."
Giles raised a brow at the suggestion. "What exactly did they tell you of what's happened since you were... were away?"
"Don't worry about it." Cordy waved a hand dismissively. "I got the 411 on you and Buffy hooking up. Though I acted the part of little miss shocked and naive, I kinda knew there was something there."
Giles smirked. "Seems to be the common response. If only either of us had such insight as you all seem to have had, we could've avoided so much..." he seemed to fade off into his thoughts for a moment then refocused on her. "But that wasn't what I was referring to."
"Well, I know Sunnydale is gone. Angel is now the fearless leader of our arch nemesis, and you and Buffy are together and expecting. Congratulations, by the way. I was thinking about a baby shower. You think Buffy would like..."
"Cordelia..." Giles interrupted her, and then offered a subtle smile, "Cordy, did anyone tell you specifically what's happened to me?"
"Oh, is this gonna explain the improvement in fashion sense. Tweedless and contacts, big plusses in my book. Though you might rethink the dark colors. I mean black... way too goth!"
Giles stepped up to the desk and bowed his head with a regretful smile curling his lips. "Much has happened. There are... certain complications."
"Am I sensing some juicy gossip?"
"I've changed, Cordy. I'd hoped someone would tell you but it seems the topic isn't an easy one for most." He lifted his face to her and with a soft sigh, revealed the demon. Cordelia sat there for a long moment, her face like stone, emotionless. Then, she rose to her feet and moved unhurriedly around the desk, stepping up to Giles who watched her reaction. Her eyes explored the landscape of forehead, remaining emotionally detached. She lifted her hand and after a second of apprehension, gently touched her fingertips to his crumpled brow, as if needing to feel it to believe it. Such sympathy welled in her tearful eyes and Giles was stunned, more so as she pulled him into her arms and embraced him with such unusual affection. It moved him.
"I'm so sorry, Giles," she whispered genuinely and held him with unexpected tenderness. He finally accepted the warmth and wrapped his arms around her, enjoying the strange connection between two old friends.
"We need to get you some dinner," she pulled back and flashed her cheeriest smile, straightening his jacket like some doting mother. She slipped her arm though his and began to lead him toward the door. "Come on, let's see what this cafeteria has to offer."
Giles let his demonic features retract and nodded appreciatively.
"By the way, you do have a soul, right?"
"Yes." He smiled.
"Good, 'cause I really hate trying to wash vampire dust outta silk."
Later that evening, Giles caught up with Wes at Fred's lab and decided to accept invitation to share a drink in the younger Watcher's office.
"Buffy's still avoiding you?" Wes asked with a smile.
"Yes, but I'm not particularly pursuing her at the moment. Following the advice of a former vengeance demon on the matter and giving her some much needed space." Giles answered and swirled his glass in his hand.
"Sound advice indeed. On another note, Cordy came to see me earlier this evening. Did her best imitation of a census taker with endless questions on what happened to you and Buffy back in Sunnydale."
"Entertaining story, I hope?"
"I believe her immediate reaction was, 'how tragically romantic'." Wes smirked.
"I'm glad someone thinks so." He sipped his drink.
"Buffy will come around, Giles. She's going through a lot at the moment, with the pregnancy and your return. And I'm sure Cordelia's unexpected arrival only adds to the drama of the situation."
"She'd argue I was the one who needed to 'come around'."
"I don't think I follow."
"She's left the entirety of our future together in my hands and I dare say the outlook is bleak."
"She wanted a normal life yet those she seeks it from are the least capable of giving it to her. I have very little to offer her?"
"She's always had that in one form or another, but it can only go so far. Besides, she deserves better. I've always thought so." Giles sipped his drink and shook his head. "Not so long ago, I was ready to vanish into oblivion to spare her the pain of my existence. The moment I became whole, I ran to her in arms in selfish disregard for everything I believe in. I acted the fool then and continue to do so now."
"How, by loving her?"
"By remaining at her side."
"You wish to leave her?"
"No... no, I couldn't. Not after all we've been through. But she must be realistic as to our situation. I am a vampire, as is Angel. There is no normal here. I only wish there were."
Wes considered the long face of the vampire suffering such universal relationship problems as the uncertainty of a future with the one he loved and couldn't help but pry further.
"You ever forget sometimes?"
"Forget?" Giles brows raised in confusion.
"That you are a vampire?"
"Only in my sleep. I dream of being human sometimes; able to walk with Buffy in the rays of a rising sun."
"What does it feel like?" He asked as he stared across his desk at Giles sipping his concoction of scotch and blood.
"To be a vampire, what is it like? Angel won't discuss it. I don't know if it's because the topic bothers him or perhaps he doesn't remember what it was like being human anymore. He's been a vampire for such a long time now. You, being so recently turned, might offer a unique perspective." Wes reconsidered his question and suddenly felt regretfully uncaring. "I apologize. I can't help but be curious..."
"Cold," Giles responded softly, gazing out to the sunrise glowing sky. "Unshakable cold. There is no warmth and we cannot touch the sun so the only warmth we know is that offered by others." He considered the question again. "It's also deafeningly quiet. All the noises of life related to the human body's functioning's; the heart pumping, the lungs wheezing, the stomach churning, the mind processing... all silenced. To be a vampire is to be hollow and empty. Everything about it is unnatural, so much so you can't help feeling that you shouldn't be."
"And when you feed?"
"What makes you think I've fed?" Giles glanced sideways at him.
"All vampires do at some point. It's what inspires their bloodlust. Makes them go on." Wes examined the Watcher's indifferent expression. "You've fed, haven't you?"
"Yes." Giles sipped his drink as his gaze returned out the window.
"What's it like?"
"An extraordinary heat, boiling in your veins. It's like a fever; feast or famine of heat with no medium to balance out. This couple with an unquenchable thirst that invigorates you yet leaves you unsatisfied. You always want more and the only thing preventing you from taking every last drop... the only thing stopping you from taking it all is..."
"Your soul," Wes finished and Giles nodded sorrowfully.
"You spend every waking second of your death seeking to recapture that which was taken from you, waiting until the next chance you get to taste that echo of life you remember but can never have again." Giles sipped his drink and his voice grew sharp as he continued. "Spike said some time ago that blood is life, and it is for us. It is as close to life as we will ever get."
"Except for that child Buffy is carrying."
That brought a smile to Giles face and a gentleness Wes remembered in the man he once knew. "It's unimaginable. I don't understand it, it's a bloody miracle."
"She's told me of your night together." Wes sipped his scotch. "That you appeared to be human. Is that so?"
"I believe I was." Giles shrugged. "All the telltale symptoms of life were present, heartbeat, breathing. I felt human, especially when she touched me."
Wes cocked his head sideways, curious. "Does it feel different now, I mean when she touches you?"
"Oh yes," Giles confirmed sadly.
The Watcher stared off into the slowly dawning sky, remembering. "When we touched then, I was excited and alive. I felt protective, compassionate, tenderness. I felt love."
"I feel..." Giles' gaze drifted to the glass in his hand, "I feel hunger." His green eyes rose to meet Wes, filled with remorse. "It's always there, you see; the beast lying in wait. No matter how much I love her and vow never to hurt her, that craving... that demon is there and I fear it always will be."
Wes nodded his understanding, let out a sigh, downed the last of his drink and reached for the single book on his desk. He whispered something to it, opened it, and handed over the text to Giles.
"What do you know of the Shanshu Prophecy?"
"You told him?" Angel yelled.
"It could be meant for him, Angel. There's no clear claimant presented in the prophecy."
"It's mine, Wes. It always has been."
"He's a champion, Angel, just as you are."
"But the prophecy said it was me!"
"The text doesn't name or mention what constitutes a valid candidate, only that a champion, a vampire with a soul will play a pivotal role in the apocalypse. Giles falls within those requirements."
"Wonder if it's meant for me and the higher-ups of Wolfram and Hart arranged for Giles to come back in an attempt to take it from me?"
"Or perhaps Giles was the intended all along. He's saved countless lives, Angel. Sacrificing himself in doing so. He's just as deserving to know of the prophecy as you are."
"You mean he's more deserving because he doesn't have centuries of death and blood on his hands."
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to." Angel said with a wounded glance and stormed out of his office.