Mercenary Hearts 15

Part 15

Scene 1: Giles’ house. (Mon night)

Following his evening at the Chase estate, Giles decided to make a phone call to Wesley and update him on the latest, truly incredible revelation acquired from the horse’s mouth so to speak.

His decision to reveal their findings had been in part made with the hope that a future door would be open if ever there was a need for assistance. After all, he was no longer in a position to freely access the Watcher’s Counsel’s vast resources.

Wesley had gasped aloud when Giles had told him, and then after a stunned pause has asked if he could call him back. He hurriedly explained that the revelation had set off a few bells that he now needed to sound out, as it were.  Giles naturally agreed, instantly curious.

Sitting back in his seat after the second call ended, Giles went over the new information with a fine toothcomb. Wesley had once come across a thick file full of information about an unnamed vampire duo known to be involved in mercenary work. Guns for hire; or as he weakly joked: ‘fangs for hire’. 

Listening with rapt interest as Wesley went on to read out the entries that had been infrequently updated over the past 80 or so years, Giles was inclined to agree. “I have come to the conclusion that these vampires are most definitely Angelus and Spike,” Wesley confided. “It makes sense to me that they would have to consider their options after such an event. I imagine that they would have quickly become pariahs to their own kind.”

Stuck between two worlds. Hated by their own kind and feared by humans. It would explain much, especially the vampires’ overt disinterest in becoming involved in the wider picture.  The current contract they’d obviously accepted had just happened to lead them to Sunnydale. 

He mulled over Wesley’s final comment: “As far as I can see, going by the data collected, all contracts taken on only involved the eradication of troublesome demons; including I might add, vampires”. This information gave him some hope.

The slight possibility that there might still be a chance of them agreeing to form a temporary alliance, as frankly, Buffy had so far come up empty regarding the Shousace’ purpose and whereabouts, and all he’d succeeded in doing was to find out the species of demons they were dealing with.

****

Giles’ House (Tues evening).

After yet another late night, Giles had woken up feeling tired and rather irritable.  It wasn’t helped by the constant thorn in his side waylaying him within seconds of arriving at the Library a few hours later than his usual start. It was beginning to feel like he was being stalked by the damned woman!

It had taken all of his willpower to keep his expression neutral when Ms Carling smugly told him how pleased she was that he’d taken heed of her ‘instructions’ regarding Xander and Oz. She then went on to comment on the fact that he no longer seemed to be around much in the evenings.

As she blathered on, Giles noticed Buffy had come in at some point and was hovering in the background with a humorous grin on her face as she openly eavesdropped. Using her appearance as an opportunity to end the one-sided conversation, he couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief as the librarian, with obvious reluctance walked away.

Buffy’s giggling comment of ‘somebody’s got a crush’ had made Giles blanch with horror at the thought and had him swiftly replying with, “well it certainly isn’t me!’  He then changed the subject, taking the opportunity to arrange a group meeting for that evening and directing her to kindly inform the others.

He then went on to ask her how patrol had gone the night before. Buffy had shrugged, looking disappointed. Besides a couple of vamps and a demon- not Shousace, it had been pretty much the same old. Wherever they were hiding out so far still remained a mystery.

The evening couldn’t come soon enough for Giles, spending most of the day avoiding Ms Carling- even at one point locking his office door and pretending he wasn’t in when she’d knocked on it shortly after lunch. Promptly at 5pm he’d snuck out, relieved to see the woman talking to a small group of students with her back conveniently turned towards him.

Although not unattractive, there was something about her nature that Giles found deeply unpleasant. As he pulled out his car key and pushed it in the lock, he seriously considered the idea of following a different career path. The Magic Box had lain empty for well over a year now since the previous owner had been killed by a vampire as she’d exited the building. Hmm Maybe he’d look into it when things had quietened down.

Buffy promptly arrived with the others at around 6pm, informing him that Cordelia and Tara would be coming a little later, saying something about one of them having to make a quick stop at her dorm first.  Giles took the opportunity to share the details of the events related by both girls the previous night. 

Cordelia and Tara arrived as the others were still digesting the news with varying degrees of amazement, cutting short Xander’s opening response.  Giles quickly informed that he’d related the news, and that they were just in time to hear new information he’d been made aware of after talking it over with Wesley.

As Cordy and Tara squeezed into a gap left on the sofa, Xander spoke. “As I was saying- until you came in and interrupted—” he got a Pfft from Cordy— “that if Dead Bat and Robin have souls, why won’t they agree to help out?”

Buffy scoffed, “Just cos they have souls doesn’t mean they’re gonna be all sweetness and light.” Shrugging; “look at Charles Manson. He has a soul.”

“As far as we know,” Willow piped up, then blushed a bit as she suddenly became the center of attention. “How else can you explain all his evil deeds?” she asked in her defence.

“Unfortunately, having a soul does not automatically mean you’re a good person, Willow,” Giles responded. The others sat back with a touch of resignation: Giles was in lecture mode. “While it is true they give us the ability to experience emotions; to basically have a conscience, thus be able to feel remorse and such, there are anomalies- certain psychological imbalances- some very extreme.  Sociopathy for instance.”

Cordelia found herself leaning forward, actually finding his explanation interesting for once.

“Most of what we think we know is ecclesiastical- based on religious teachings and esoteric studies” he elucidated when noting that Xander’s eyes had begun to glaze.

“Basically, what would be unconscionable to one may be acceptable to another. I could go on,” pointedly ignoring the muttered, “I just bet you could,” from the young man in question, he continued; “but no one really knows enough about it to truly answer all the questions pertaining to the soul’s purpose.”

 “If that’s the case, Giles, how can we state that monsters don’t have souls?” Oz asked, with a trace of edginess in his voice that most in the room instantly picked up.

Giles considered his reply carefully, as he would have been blind not to realize why Oz, of all people had asked that question. Since his affliction meant that once every full moon phase his physical body and mind were taken over in the form of werewolf, he sensed his answer had to be as specific as possible.

“We throw around the word ‘soul’ so easily- omitting to add ‘human’,” Giles pointed out. “Because that in essence is what it is- a human soul. Specific – normally,” he added, on thinking of the two vampires, “only to human beings.” He leaned forward in his seat before continuing.

“As for demons, what do we really know?” he asked. “When we call them soulless beings, maybe we are doing a disservice along the line. What we probably should be saying is “Demons do not possess  human souls.” Unfortunately, this explanation didn’t seem to impress Oz much.

“So, what happens to mine when I change? Does it just disappear?” Oz asked, adding, “I have no memory of being the wolf, but I realize after that I was dangerous- evil even.” Taut silence settled over the room like a cloying blanket.

Willow reached out to clasp his hand. “Hey, you’re not evil either way, don’t say that.” she squeezed his fingers softly with her own as the others murmured agreement.

Giles felt a twinge of relief that he’d actually taken the time to read whatever was available about werewolves, and was thankful to be able to put the young man’s mind at ease.

“Willow is right,” he began. “You’re not evil- or soulless, I might add.” All eyes now turned to him, with hopeful anticipation in their eyes. “Just remember, it isn’t just a physical change. Your mind is also overtaken by the primitive urges of a-a rather extreme version of a feral wolf.” He sat back relaxing by degrees as Oz’ tense expression began to soften with dawning understanding.

“A feral wolf has but a single purpose: the hunt for sustenance. Wolves aren’t capable of human rationale, although there is no doubt they are skilled when it comes to the hunt. There are some extremely well researched essays at the watcher’s council that points to an idea that the human brain temporarily reduces in both size and capability to that of the animal you become.”

Staring directly into the young man’s eyes he strongly assured, “That is why you do not retain the memory of your brief interlude as a werewolf. Naturally you have a human soul, Oz.  ‘Monster’ is an ambiguous descriptor used for both demons and humans alike, and Lycanthropes are not demons.”

*

Once certain that Oz understood and was thankfully reassured, Giles went on to reveal the content of his phone conversation with Wesley with regard to Angelus and Spike- “Or ‘Angel’, as Cordelia has informed me, is the moniker the vampire now uses,” Giles corrected.

“No difference either way in my opinion,” Buffy declared with a frown.

Cordy noted the unknowingly part-repeated words. Almost exactly the same ones she herself had said the night before.  Although, Cordy reminded herself, it had been before she’d found out about them having souls.  She still wasn’t sure how she felt about it.

“Yes, well,” Giles cleared his throat. “This slight change of moniker was most likely seen as way for Angelus to partly distance himself from his pre-soul activities,” he said. “It actually makes some sense, I suppose.”

“Spike didn’t,” Xander reminded him.

“Maybe he didn’t feel as much, you know, remorse as Angelus did?” Willow considered. Buffy shot her a quick look, her mind going back to the moment she’d seen that odd look in his eyes. Thinking on it now, she felt positive it had been such an emotion, but was unwilling to bring it up.

Giles removed and polished his glasses as he responded. “He was known for quite a while as William the Bloody, whereas the name ‘Spike’, surfaced not long before his last exploits in Romania.”  Everyone cringed on recalling just why he’d obtained that nickname.

“Still, you’d think he’d want to change it to something less…railroad-y,” Cordelia eww-ed. The rest agreed even as Giles reminded them that the Billy Idol lookalike was also known to be ‘rather rebellious’.

“Or maybe he didn’t want to forget what he’d once done?” Tara quietly suggested. The surprise of her unexpected input didn’t last as the girl’s insight gave everyone pause for thought.

After another thirty minutes of discussion, Giles wrapped it up by stating his earlier consideration of broaching the subject of an alliance.

Buffy instantly baulked at that. “They’re still vampires, Giles. I don’t trust them,” she stated stubbornly and thinned her lips as she added, “especially Angelus!”

Cordy pffted and rolled her eyes. “If I recall rightly, a certain slayer had the idea first,” she said with a disdainful curl of her full lips. “You’re only saying that now ‘cos you don’t like him.” She pointed a slender finger at her before folding her arms.

“Why do you care?” Buffy demanded, a single dark brow rising with mild interest at the sudden soft flare of color that emphasized the brunette’s cheekbones.

Shrugging casually, Cordy glanced away. “I don’t.”

Giles regarded her with a flicker of concern darkening his eyes as he suddenly recalled the softening of Cordelia’s face, and briefly averted gaze as she related their unexpected meeting with Angelus.

As far as he was concerned, the sooner the Shousace were dealt with the better, as right now, all he could envision was possible future pain and heartbreak for Cordelia chase.

PART 16

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