Giles wanted to pace but this wasn’t the library and his apartment didn’t have the floor space he’d need to work off his energy. They had exhausted all of his knowledge of Angel’s distant past, limited though it was, the day before and today all that was left to discuss was his time in Sunnydale. He didn’t like thinking about it at the moment, his emotions were all over the place and now that he was sober it was getting harder to hold onto the hate that was keeping him comfortably numb.
Angel’s days in Sunnydale were wrapped around all of them, and thinking about him brought up things better left fogged by alcohol. Buffy and her infatuation from the start, no matter how forbidden. Willow and her loyalist dogmatic fervor for seeing her friend happy. Xander and his jealous rage at the man that blinded him so easily. His own fascination with the idea of a vampire with a soul that blinded him just as much. They had all been complicit in some way with the forming of the status quo that made Angelus’ infiltration of their lives not only possible but simple. In fact the only one of them that managed to have an appropriate and prolonged response to the revelation that Angel was a vampire was Cordelia but they had all soothed away her instincts and lulled her into believing as they did.
Still this needed to happen, the line between Angel and Angelus could no longer be so easily blurred and with his likely return Cordelia needed to be able to distinguish between the two. Buffy would accept no less, and even he would not be able to sway her he was sure.
“So Angel comes to Sunnydale. Dun. Dun. Dun. Mwahahaha.” He was glad she was keeping her sense of humor up, if only a mocking form of it. She would laugh and smile but he could see the pain in her eyes and he wanted nothing more than to lie to her and tell her it would all be okay now. The monster had been chained and all was right with the world. The truth was however that they were still on the hellmouth and okay was rarely a descriptor that could be used here.
“Yes. We’re not certain how long he was here before he made himself known to Buffy on her first night in town, but it’s likely he wasn’t here overly long. The Master and Darla would have sensed him if he’d lingered in their vicinity and Buffy said that Darla was surprised to find him near.”
“So he came here for Buffy? Stalker much?”
“Yes.” He was afraid she was right. The timing of his appearance hadn’t seemed overly sinister at the time, but once his true name was known it should have. He had thought that like other vampires of his strength he was simply drawn to the power of the Hellmouth and not the slayer that guarded it. Then as time wore on he began to think that helping slayers was simply a part of his supposed atonement, but no other girl had ever even hinted at meeting him. Not even the girl who preceded Buffy, India Cohen.
“So he introduces himself to Buffy, bet that went over well, then what?”
“He began to help her in small ways. Information at first, then once he was revealed to be a vampire he began to help her fight.” He remembered the tumultuous times that followed that particular revelation. Buffy first began to question not only her duty as a slayer but his authority that day. If he was so caught off guard by this vampire with a soul, then he was of no true use to her. No one wanted to be dictated to by an equal, and for that one moment they were equal in their ignorance. Then Darla bit Joyce and Buffy came to her own conclusion and never swayed from it. Angel was her ally.
“Wait so she didn’t know? Isn’t she supposed to be the one who can always tell?” At this Cordelia rolled her eyes and he was heartened to see a bit of the old Cordelia in her mannerisms. So much so he did not reprimand her for her disrespect, he simply carried on.
“Some vampires can hide themselves, though it does take a large amount of power; only a Master of the species can even attempt it. To be honest since there is truly only one slayer at any given time until recently and she is one of a very few who can sense a vampire from any distance, the others all being witches of a certain power level, they see no need to hide.”
“Cocky much?” In some respects it was. While there was only one slayer, now two, there were other entities in the world that could sense them and hunted them for one reason or another.
“Indeed.” Vampires were in fact one of the few races of mixed breed demons that come into being thinking themselves invincible. The higher their power level the more self assured they were. Even minions who were arguably the lowest of the creatures had a remarkable capacity for self delusion. It was why when they found a slayer nine times out of ten they fought rather than run.
“So what else did he do with you guys before I joined the team?”
“Nothing overly specific, he acted as an almost counterpart to Buffy herself. When she needed someone to speak to that she thought would understand the isolation and depth of her calling she would go to Angel. There were times where his presence or knowledge was integral to completing a given task, but for the most part his help only served to speed things up a bit.” He knew he was being a tad unfair, Angel had helped on several occasions. He simply wasn’t feeling overly generous towards the man at the moment.
“Huh. I always thought he came in and changed everything. The way Buffy and the others talk about him it always sounded like he was a hero.” He thought about it for a moment. Was there more harm in letting the myth of Angel’s heroisms die or trying to balance them with reality? While the man could and did help the innocent and fight the forces of darkness he was not human and never would be. She would know that better than most. However, there may be times in the future where she was forced to rely on Angel for help and he didn’t want her to second guess it when help was offered.
Sighing he tried to be as fair as he could. Good lord, he needed a drink.
“He has managed to save countless innocents and offered advice and insight we would never have been able to gain without him. I do not wish to diminish his influence over the group but he was prone to self isolation. He would show up when a crisis was imminent then disappear again once it was averted. The longest he would ever remain was during patrol and even then he would only participate occasionally.”
“Must be a guilt thing, the soul poking at him if he’s around humans too long.” He had never thought of his soul playing a part in his antisocial behavior. As a scholar the idea intrigued him but as a man who simply wanted the vampire to go away he didn’t care why he did it just that he did. He only hoped that pattern would hold true on his return.
“It is a possibility, but one that has never been explored.”
“Yeah, talking to the guy was usually like pulling teeth. Hey, even I only really got him to laugh like twice and I’m beyond charming.”
Part of him wanted to ask how she had managed to make him laugh, he had never even seen the chap truly smile, but a larger part just wanted this conversation to end now. He had been forced to think about Angel for longer than he could stand.
“I believe that is all for today. When you come back again we can go over some of your questions.” He didn’t mean to be abrupt, but he needed to be alone now. She didn’t seem offended, but then again it took more than a forthright personality to offend Cordelia Chase. The girl was as brutally honest as they come.
“Okay.” Rising to walk her to her car, even in broad daylight he worried for her, he tried to project confidence and contentment to some degree. He didn’t want her to worry for him.
Xander was making his weekly stop off to try and see Giles, he had been coming by since everything happened but he hadn’t managed to lay eyes on the guy yet. He felt bad for him and everything but he needed to snap out of it now, this was getting ridiculous. Plus he was starting to really worry and everyone knew that worry wasn’t good for you. Cordelia always said that it gave you premature wrinkles. Thinking about Cordelia only made his head hurt even more, if what he felt for Giles was pity and guilt then what he felt about Cordelia had no name. It was a soul deep chasm of every emotion in existence piled up on top of each other. The most powerful emotion being guilt. He wished he’d done more or said something sooner or anything really, anything but stand there while his friends trashed her life even more than it already was. Now he couldn’t even make himself even try to see her, he couldn’t even do as much for her as he was doing for Giles. He was such a coward. He didn’t want to see the judgement in her eyes, the rightful judgement, it would rip him to pieces. Or worse she wouldn’t answer the door either.
He was about a block away from the apartment complex when he stopped. Cordelia’s cherry red convertible was parked outside on the street and the sight of it was enough to freeze him in place. Was Cordelia trying to see Giles too?
He had just started to pull himself back together and douse the quivering fear flaming up in his belly at the thought of having to face both people who had every reason to hate him at the same time when he saw it. Giles was walking Cordelia to her car. Giles was outside. Giles was a little rough around the edges and had a respectable scruff on his face that was still a week away from being called a beard, but Giles was semi back among the living. He had a small lifting of his lips that could sort-of be called a smile in the face of the full force pageant beam that Cordelia was aiming his way.
Turning around he all but skipped back the way he came from taking the well worn route to see Willow. He had to spread the good news. All the worry he’d been denying and pushing down since the hospital started to melt away. He might never be the same again, but Giles was going to be fine. Cordelia would make sure of it.
Willow was furious and every word out of Xanders mouth just made her madder. Giles let Cordelia into his apartment. Cordelia! She and Xander and Oz had been stopping by practically every day to try and get some kind of an answer from the man and Cordelia just walks up and gets let inside on the first try. It had to be the first try too, since no one had really seen the prom queen since everything that happened the night Buffy and Angel left.
It made her so mad. Even when everything goes wrong it all seems to turn out okay for Queen C. Sure Angel left with Buffy but Cordelia was instantly forgiven by Giles for everything while she was left outside in the cold. Everything that happened could be traced back to her and she was the one that got to start over probably without even having to ask for it.
It wasn’t fair.
She had tried to talk to Giles all along, ever since she realised that her magic wasn’t working and Xander let it slip that Giles had put some kind of mystical training wheels on her. She had spent days at his door knocking until her hand all but bled, pleading with him through the door to just let her in so they could talk. She was the one who called him every single day, even if he didn’t pick up and she even tried putting a letter in his mail slot but that didn’t get a response either. She had tried everything and been ignored but Queen C just strolls up and practically has the red carpet rolled out for her.
It wasn’t fair!
She was a good person, a good student, a good friend, and a darn good witch. She didn’t deserve to be shunned like this. First Buffy left town, because of her. Then Giles locked himself away and only opened his door to her. Then Xander only came to see her because he saw her first. She bet even Oz still talked to her. She hadn’t seen Oz since he’d healed up from the fight. She thought they were getting somewhere, mending bridges or whatever, and then he just up and left saying something about needing space. Space!
All of this because of one little spell that didn’t even work right. Sure after Xander laid it all out for her she felt a little bad for Cordelia. He was right that no one deserved everything that happened to her, but that didn’t change the reason why she did the spell in the first place. Cordelia was wrecking everything, she just wanted it all to go back to the way it was before her new world revolved around Cordelia the same way the old one did.
She wanted it to go back to just her, Xander, and Buffy spending time in the library with Giles. Giles would tell them about the latest big bad and they would put their heads together and solve it, saving the whole town. They would never tell anyone but they would know that they were heroes. Buffy would be dating Angel and every day she would come to her with a new story about something he did that was just so romantic or so confusing and they would stay up most of the night on the phone talking about what it meant. She would be dating Oz and when people asked she’d say she was with the band. He would be silent around everyone else, kind of like Angel was, but when they were alone he would talk to just her. Xander would be snarking behind them with a witty comeback for everything but he would always be there for them even though he was only human. Then at the end of the week the three of them would go to the Bronze and just hang together. Like always.
She didn’t understand why everything had to change and as far as she could see the reason it all changed was clear. Cordelia. Everything was fine before she started coming around and twisting things around to suit her own needs over theirs.
She would go talk to Giles tomorrow, if he was letting people in again then he wouldn’t shut her out. She would tell him that she needed her magic back.
Everything would be fine.
Oz sat in his room strumming his guitar thinking, something he tried to do at least once a week. Just him and his music, nothing else around to interrupt his thoughts or make him lose focus.
Cordelia had managed to get through to Giles so now he had a minute to breathe and just think about himself and what he wanted for his life. It all used to be so simple, he wanted to learn a few chords on his guitar and play his music for the rest of his life. He didn’t even have to be in a band he just wanted to play. He knew he most likely wouldn’t be able to make a living at it, especially not in Sunnydale, but he figured the rest would just work itself out naturally. His path would present itself when he was ready to take it. He might be a teacher. Or a writer. Or anything really.
Then he met Willow and became a werewolf. After that his path shortened to a trail he was forced to walk and he clung to the one light spot in his new and terrifying life. Willow. She understood and didn’t judge him for sprouting fur once a month and he thought alright this was it. His happy ending had come early. He figured that was because his death was more and more likely to come early too. Being a regular human in Sunnydale had a danger factor to it but once you threw in a supernatural twist well then it just became impossible. He started setting small milestones for his life getting through a day, then a week, then a month, beating this next baddie. Small attainable things. His future became a thing of the past, at least in his mind. He was here, he was breathing, and he had Willow that was all he needed. He even still had the band. Life wasn’t great but it was good enough for him. Then things changed again. Willow changed.
Willow had always been this shining star of goodness in his mind. A sweet innocent girl who didn’t think about him in a certain way just because he was in a band or even just because he was a werewolf. Willow just let him be himself and he loved that about her. Hell, he just loved her full stop. Now though he’d seen a new side to Willow, a darker, meaner, more Harmony-esq side to her and he wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
Willow had never judged him and he felt wrong for judging her now but the two situations weren’t the same. She never judged him for being a werewolf, but as a werewolf with the proper precautions he wasn’t a danger to others, and anytime he was it wasn’t a sneak attack he was a fast moving bunch of slobber and fur he wasn’t sneaking up on anyone and surprising them. Willow was. Magically and verbally. She had proven that with how she dealt with Cordelia.
So how did he deal with Willow. The idea of just cutting her out of his life hurt, but if he couldn’t trust her how could he keep her close?
Shaking his head he decided to wait a little longer before he decided. Buffy and Angel were out of the picture for the moment so Willow had no excuse to fall back on. If she did something now, it would be all her and he would know. If she tried to be understanding and compassionate then he would give them another chance. He really didn’t want to give her up, but he would if she forced his hand.