Getting to Know You 18

Part 18

Four Months On…

“He was cured.” Giles looked up from the book he was perusing, at Buffy’s blunt statement.

“I’m sorry?” he asked, confused as he stared over at her. “Who?” Glancing back to the pages of the book with a frown, Giles wondered how this pertained to the latest demon issue they were researching. Had he missed something?

Willow, sitting across from the blonde at the library table reacted in a completely different manner; staring with wide anxious eyes at the girl in dawning realisation – sadness at the sheer heartbreak in the girl’s eyes.

“When I killed him, Angel was cured.” Buffy turned to look at her friend. “The spell finally worked. At the last minute …” Willow swallowed tightly, glanced awkwardly at the  Watcher’s darkening expression then looked down at the table.

“I was about to take him out, and, um… something went through him… and then he was Angel again. He-he didn’t remember anything he’d done.” He just held me, “she explained raggedly. “But… i-it was… it was too late. Affalfa was already starting it’s whole sucking into Hell thing, and I, I had to do it to stop it. So I, I told him that I loved him… and I kissed him… and then I killed him.” Buffy’s eyes glossed with unshed tears and looked down at her hands for long moment, her slight frame trembling.

Stunned silence pervaded the room, no one knowing quite what to say.

Rupert Giles was eternally grateful that he hadn’t confronted his Slayer when being made aware of the spell casting. Wasn’t she aware that the first attempt failed? He doubted she even knew of the second attempt. how could she have? Willow had been in hospital at the time of Buffy’s fight with Angelus.

Being kidnapped had taken him out of the loop. The youngsters left to pick up the pieces. Guilt flooded in. Not exactly his fault… except in a way, it really was. If the ritual had been completed before the interruption … Well, he wouldn’t have been tortured for a start. The outcome would have definitely been different for them all. But not all in a good way.

For a start, the vampire would have survived.

“I’m so sorry.” Willow finally broke the dreadful quiet that ascended, her voice thick with sympathy. OHMIGOD! I knew it! It did work… but I was too late. She averted her gaze and swallowed the lump that had formed.Life just wasn’t fair.

Taking a deep breath and attempting to shake off the almost debilitating grip of pain, Buffy husked “It’s okay,” completely unaware of the deep guilt that swamped the two people listening to her confession. She gave a small tight smile and and attempted a casual shrug.

“I’ve been holding on to that moment for so long. Felt good to get it out.” The lie slipped almost effortlessly from her tongue.. Nothing felt good anymore. She’d just felt it was the right thing to do, to tell them. Maybe now they’ll understand why I ran. So sick of feeling guilt every time she looked at them.

The smile thinned as she rose to her feet and glanced briefly towards Giles. Then grabbed the stake she’d earlier tossed onto the table and turned, almost eager, towards the exit.

“I’ll, uh, see you guys later.” With a half hearted wave of her hand, Buffy walked out of the library, her eyes fixed to the floor in front of her.

Willow watched her friend leave, the sadness and guilty feelings she felt almost making her want to cry at the injustice of it all. The heavy scrape of a chair turned her attention towards the sound.

It must have been so hard for him to stay schtum considering how annoyed he’d been when she’d confessed all. Especially now, since it had, after all, worked. If Acathla hadn’t been ‘activated’, Angel would still be here. And after the reaming out given by Cordelia; the  disbelief seen in the older man’s face at what he’d called the ‘romanticising of the whole sorry affair‘, she was just a tiny bit relieved it HAD been too late.

Waiting until he’d closed his book, picked it up then turned to across the library, Willow finally spoke. “Should we, um, tell the others? Xander, Oz?”

Giles’ hand paused on the door handle of his office;  lips pursing thoughtfully before replying.

“Did they know about the spell?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder. At Willow’s hesitant nod he sighed wearily. Everyone but me, it seemed.  And a certain brunette.  “As long as they are discreet, then I see no reason why not – but” he added as the redhead gave a wan smile. “I  see no reason to divulge this to Cordelia – no need to reopen old wounds.”

Except for her occasional need for books from the Library for school project purposes, Giles had hardly seen the girl the last couple of months. Only once had he attempted to engage with more than ” Hello, Cordelia. What book do you need?” and had received an irritated, slightly guarded glare for his trouble. No, she should definitely not be told.

Willow concurred a little too eagerly. “Oh, sure! I mean, it’s not as if he’ll be, you know; around – so why bring it all up again?” and remind her of my faux pas. Flushing a little at the memory. She hadn’t even connected eyes with Cordelia, never mind spoken. Not since that humiliating afternoon.

“Quite.” So much left unsaid in that one word.

The flush quickly spread down her throat.

***

Twisting the silver ring on her finger, Buffy glanced around now wondering why she’d even come here. Shivering with memories best forgotten.

The large room was thick with dust; motes floating in the odd spear of sunlight that penetrated the darkness.  The place looked like it had been abandoned for decades. No one had lived in it for even longer than she’d arrived in Sunnydale. What had she expected? A few nik naks lying around, left behind by the last occupants?

She sighed when her roaming eyes stopped to rest on heavy chains attached to the wall next to the cavernous fireplace. Check. And the still visible outline of where Acathla had rested.

It was time to move on. Turn the page and begin a new Chapter of her life.  Sounded easy in theory. A small sob caught in Buffy’s throat as she gently stroked the claddagh ring, before pulling it off her finger.  Then slowly crouched down to place it on the floor in the centre of the room.

Ashes to ashes, Dust to dust...

Straightening up, the Slayer took one last look around. Her trembling mouth tightened with resolve. Then she turned and walked away without looking back.

********

A Month Later...

A bright beam of light illuminated the Claddagh ring on the floor of the room, causing it to sparkle so prettily.

The beam glowed with more and more intensity until the ring began to vibrate, clinking madly against the marble. Suddenly the room was awash with a blindingly bright white light emanating from a dimensional portal opening above the ring.

A large body fell through and hit the stone floor hard. The light faded as the portal closed, and a naked man was left lying there. He was unsteady as he tried to get up, but was too weak to do more than lift his face. His breathing was shallow and laboured, and he shivered violently as he looked up hazily at the room around him…

TBC

nb: I had real problems with the last couple of Chapters posted. It had been so long since I’d first written the fic (or watched the reruns) that I bloody well forgot Giles was supposed to be ignorant of the resoulling ritual in this fic. … aaagh! Anyhoo, please forgive the editing and shakiness that’s hit the flow.

Posted in TBC

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