Special thanks to spikeskat, who beta'd this even though she was Word-challenged *hugs kat*
Giles had long since given up hope of locating anything that might resemble food during the hours spent in his glorified baby-sitting duties at the mansion. All he'd managed to uncover was a neglected bag of crushed Bugles, most assuredly left behind by Xander. With his stomach protesting loudly at the unaccustomed inattention, the watcher couldn't help but admire Angel's steadfast constitution that had kept him from feeding, even with the end to his torment within arms reach. But the vampire merely left the animal blood congealing unpleasantly where it sat untouched on the floor next to him.
Spike had been correct from the very beginning, Giles realized. The deliberate starvation had demonstrated the influential presence of a soul. Idly, he wondered if that concrete knowledge would have done them any good beforehand, and quickly discarded that thought. He had done the right thing by locating Buffy, not only for his own peace of mind but also for the part Buffy had played in stopping Angel's slow self-starvation suicide attempt.
The hours had passed by slowly for Rupert. After Buffy and Spike had left earlier, the energy Angel had previously garnered through Buffy's second-hand blood had deserted him, causing him to fall into a chair with an exhausted sigh. The vampire had wanted answers to a myriad of subjects, but Giles wasn't in the mood for the repetitive questioning that came with Angel's fatigue and had ordered him to rest. His feelings were mixed. Though Angel had obviously been returned from whatever hell dimension he'd been sent to with his soul firmly intact, Giles felt that the vampire had an extraordinary amount to answer for, and it gave him a smidgeon of satisfaction when he saw the pain cloud Angel's face when he'd remembered Jenny's death... and the role he'd played in it. The subsequent pleas for forgiveness were easy to ignore.
Because it just wasn't going to be that simple.
When Giles had pointed the crossbow at the anguished vampire and coldly ordered him into one of the bedrooms where he could be easily guarded, his demand had been followed without hesitation, guilt making Angel amenable to his every word. Only, Giles hadn't expected him to slumber throughout the remaining daylight hours or he would've had the foresight to pack some food to see him through the day. Or at the very least - his cellphone.
Now, with dusk approaching, Giles decided it was time to wake the vampire. He'd been unwilling to leave the mansion without knowing whether he would be leaving behind man or monster, and even the lure of food paled in comparison to the firsthand knowledge of what type of devastation a homicidal version of Angel could extract upon an unsuspecting public. So, he'd endured, his stomach grumbling rudely
Apparently the setting of the sun tossed-off the cloak of Angel's need for slumber, and no wake-up attempt was necessary. Crossbow raised and at the ready, Giles watched as the previously deathly-still limbs began twitching and awaited the final verdict of mental acuity.
Amid the dusty but clean white sheets, Angel came to full wakefulness, his murky brown eyes combing the room and telling Giles their own story.
"I thought it was all a dream." The tortured voice didn't come as much of a surprise.
Anger surged through the watcher, unanticipated, but appropriate. "We all bloody well wish it had been a dream," he snarled, his hands tightening on the crossbow.
A pained sigh bounced throughout the room and Angel swung his legs over the edge of the bed, unable to look Giles in the eye. "I-I don't know what to say. Sorry doesn't even begin to cover what Angelus did -"
"Oh, go take a shower," Giles snapped, unable to listen to another word.
Twenty minutes later, a more sanitary version of Angel silently entered the large front room where Giles had settled once he had been reassured that the vampire would not be a threat. Giles regarded Angel where he stood in front of the fire, looking uncomfortable in the leather pants and flouncy shirt of his alter-ego, Angelus. The brief reprieve had allowed the watcher to get his thoughts and emotions under control, and his rationality was much improved, hunger aside.
"I trust you are feeling better?"
Angel nodded, eyes downcast as the full extent of the damage he'd inflicted as Angelus thoroughly saturated his conscience once more, making him feel sick. The years he'd endured seeking redemption were now null and void, completely obliterated with one second of pure happiness.
"Where is she?"
Not quite the first question he'd expected, but Giles wasn't completely surprised, given the protectiveness earlier. "She is at her mother's, I believe."
In a voice far too subdued and respectful to ever be mistaken for his evil substitute, Angel asked, "Is she ok?"
Giles nodded, knowing where this was leading, wondering how much of earlier he remembered before he'd fallen sleep. "As far as I know, she's quite well."
Angel's head snapped up and intense dark eyes captured Giles' own, letting him know that the vampire was completely lucid now, more so than he'd been earlier. "You let her go... with Spike. "
Giles palmed the crossbow he'd just been contemplating setting aside, his own expression hard. "Yes, Angel, I did. I don't feel the need to explain my actions to you, however."
Angel shook his head firmly, his expression distraught at the dawning realization that every horror Buffy'd had to endure was because of him, merely because she dared to love him. "You don't understand."
"No, it is you who doesn't understand, Angel."
"I just... can't have her hurt anymore, because of me."
"I have been an idiot," Giles muttered suddenly, taking a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiping his moist brow. A chuckle escaped past his lips as he shook his head wryly. "I now see why Buffy did not wish to be found."
The confused, befuddled look Angel sent him set the watcher's teeth on edge.
"Found?" Angel echoed.
"Yes, that is correct. Found." His eyes were hard and determined as they regarded the vampire standing before him. "She left Sunnydale, because of you." He deliberately left out Joyce's involvement in Buffy's defection.
The anticipated pain crossed Angel's morose features. "Tell me," he asked quietly, lowering himself into a chair across from where Giles had been sitting. "Ineed to know."
"What do you remember?"
Angel dropped his head into the palms of his hands and sighed heavily, not wanting to think about it. "I remember fighting Buffy," he finally said, sickened that it had even taken place while trying to deny that there was another part of him that thrilled at the memory of almost having Buffy at his mercy. It made it that much harder for him, knowing that his evil side wasn't completely eradicated with the heavy cloak of soul he was wrapped in once more.
"So, you remember Buffy plunging a sword through you to send you to Hell?" Giles sat down, resting his weapon across his knee.
Angel nodded morosely. "What happened after that?"
"Buffy left Sunnydale."
Angel looked up sharply. "Why?"
"Apparently, because her mother informed her that if she left the house to save the world from your intent to send it to Hell, then she was not welcome back in it."
Mental agony like he'd never experienced sliced through Angel as he put together the missing pieces. "Oh god... and that's when Spike got to her."
Giles sighed heavily, deciding to get it over with quickly. "Yes, that was my immediate reaction when I learned of his involvement. However, I do not know the exact sequence of events, but evidently..." he paused, not sure exactly how to put it into words. "that was not the way it occurred. He didn't 'get' to her, as you put it."
"No, Giles, you don't understand..."
"Yes, Angel, I do understand, quite clearly. They... have a life together."
Shaking his head violently, Angel argued, "No, I just can't accept that. Spike is-"
"Quite frankly, I don't care if you accept it or not. As far as you're concerned, Buffy is no longer your business." He settled back in his chair, his expression grim. "Do you know that it was an entire year before we located them? A year, Angel. A year of worrying if she was suffering. A year of nightmares for her mother."
"Where?" the vampire asked quietly.
A look of surprise froze on Angel's face. "New England?" He'd been expecting something like New York... and couldn't help but wonder what evil Spike had found to get himself into in New England.
Giles nodded knowingly, it had been a shock for him as well. "Yes. And when Joyce and I were rude enough to just drop on her doorstep, we expected the worst. Truly, I expected to find a hollow shell of my slayer. Yet, I did not. Rather, Joyce and I found her with a job, a house, friends - and a man she referred to as her husband."
The growl was expected. "Spike," Angel bit out. "But you-"
"Yes, Spike," Giles interrupted, shifting the crossbow meaningfully. "Now, I am going to spare you the same mistake that I made, and that would be assuming the very worst of the situation. I most likely caused irreparable damage in my relationship with Buffy because of my unwillingness to believe in her ability to think for herself and I am not about to see her in any more pain if I can help." He leaned forward intently. "I am only going to say this once. Spike and Buffy are a couple. It took me longer than it should have to see that, but now that I have, I will not stand by while you cause her even more pain. The only reason she is back in Sunnydale is because I requested her assistance in dealing with you. I have no idea if they will be staying or not. But while they are here, you will not add to their problems, do we understand each other?"
Angel sat and regarded the Englishman, his brain working to process this latest bit of information. He knew Giles's mindset when it came to demons, and for him to support the relationship... Coupled with the words he remembered Buffy speaking to him earlier, a picture was beginning to form in his head. One that disturbed him greatly.
"I need to see her."
The watcher looked wary.
"I need to see for myself that what you say is true." Angel's face held a stubbornness that had not been present earlier.
Giles studied the vampire to gauge his sincerity. "Very well," he agreed, rising to his feet and gestured towards the ornate doors leading to the outdoors and to the car that was parked in the driveway.
As they walked out into the mild winter night, Giles hoped he was not making an error of huge proportions. But once his stomach reminded him again of the prolonged neglect, he found himself looking forward to the apple pie that Joyce had mentioned baking.
And maybe once his stomach was sated, they could begin to process why, exactly, Angel had been brought back.
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