Historical note: The action
in the story takes place shortly after "Heroes".
AS THE PAGE TURNS
by Evan Como
"Thank you, Cordelia, but
I think I can manage from here."
Rupert Giles stumbled through
the doorway of Angel Investigations in a hurry. He just had to get away
from the annoying girl who had driven him from the airport. Legendary Los
Angeles traffic played its own part in his misery--a jackknifed truck made
the normally 25 minute drive last well over an hour so Cordelia's usual
insipid ramblings included various comments on the traffic, as well. With
so apprehensive a beginning, Giles concluded that the weekend had no where
else to go but down.
And so it began.
Giles looked up into his
host's face while he placed his valise on the floor. He blinked, once,
to clear his thoughts. The young man he saw before him seemed somehow different
from the being he had known in Sunnydale. In this setting--an airy space,
filtered sunlight reflecting on polished wood--he could have sworn that
Angel had aged by several years. Of course, with Angel being vampire that
would not be the case. Still it took a moment for Giles to gather his wits
about him enough to finally say hello.
The smallest of smiles turned
up the corners of Angel's mouth. "Traffic?"
"Oh, my God! It was a truck!
They just shouldn't allow trucks on the freeways when regular people have
to get places. It's just not fair. You know, we would have been here so
"OK, then. Let's get you
all settled in." Giles' look of utter remorse prompted Angel to cut Cordelia
short of her tirade. He could only imagine what the ride from the airport
was like. "Why don't you go ahead and run to the store now, Cordelia? It'll
give Giles a chance to wind down."
"I was going to stay at a
hotel, actually. I don't want to be an imposition."
As the door slammed behind
Cordelia, Angel stood for a moment to consider his uneasy guest. It surprised
him that Giles had accepted the invitation to come in the fist place and
it seemed the traffic wasn't the best of omens for the start of the weekend.
With his guest's arrival, it was up to Angel to be a good host. The thought
that somehow seemed reasonable a week ago didn't seem so easy now and he
found himself missing Doyle's affable ability to put anyone at ease.
"It was the car ride with
"I beg your pardon?" Giles,
growing more uncomfortable by the moment, removed his wire-rimmed glasses
and wiped them with a cloth from his pants. He folded the cloth in half,
quarters, and then eighths before replacing it in his pocket.
Angel held the bag in front
of him with both hands, stepping back to stand eye to eye with Giles. Although
their difference in height was minimal, the other man still needed to obviously
raise his head. Plus, Angel realized that Giles' discomfort was probably
due to his sudden loss of personal space; he was the stranger in these
"I thought that since you
were only going to be here for three days, it might be more convenient
for you just to stay here. You know, closer to the project... But if you
would rather stay nearby, that's OK, too. Actually, even in this neighborhood,
there's a very nice place a couple of blocks away. When Cordelia gets back,
I can have her take you there."
There was a cordial, unassuming
manner that Angel used as he spoke and Giles found himself acquiescing.
He had come to Los Angeles on Angel's invitation to avoid yet another weekend
of boredom. His life had lost its edge--whatever edge an unemployed librarian's--a
decommissioned Watcher's--life could possible have, at least. Babysitting
the weakened vampire Spike was hardly the role he could have imagined for
himself although after the ride with Cordelia, Spike's company wasn't looking
His hesitation began to subside
with the remembrance of his current lifestyle's routine. "Perhaps, it was
Cordelia. Does she ever shut up?"
Smiling warmly, Angel replied,
"Cordelia does still have the tendency to use a dozen words when half will
do. But, when it comes right down to it, sometimes she has amazing insight."
When Giles chuckled at the absurd idea, Angel continued, "If you're around
her long enough you eventually learn to weed out most of the babble. In
the course of a few days you probably won't be able to get the hang of
it. But, really, she's not all that bad."
There was something odd about
Angel's change of heart regarding Cordelia. Giles had never remembered
the two of them ever getting along, and if memory served him correctly
it seemed as though Angel had deliberately avoided Cordelia in the past.
But then, in the past, Angel only seemed to really care for Buffy and merely
endured his relationship with the rest of the Slayer's team out of necessity.
It began to seem odder that Angel should extend an invitation to him, of
His curiosity finally got
the better of him. "You were going me to show me to my accommodations?"
Angel nodded and turned,
leading Giles into the elevator at the end of his office. The two men rode
the one floor distance in silence until Angel pulled back the grate from
the chamber when they reached the basement.
"My God." Giles looked out
into the sweeping expanse of the apartment. The furnishings were a mix
of kitsch, antique and classic--an eclectic hodgepodge of styles. Somehow
everything worked together to seem homey, although not quite lived in.
A chill traced his spine.
The decor of the apartment
had a distinctly masculine attitude, however the warm colors accented the
simple design shapes in such a way that it spoke more of the occupant's
need to be comfortable than anything else. Little touches of opulence were
visible everywhere, yet they were hardly the focal point of any one area.
Giles admired the elegance behind the stylish luxury, the feel for even
the smallest of details such as when Angel led him through the master bedroom
area and placed the valise on a valet table. The tour finally ended in
the simple kitchen where Angel began to fill a kettle with water.
A task as mundane as making
tea gave Angel a moment to collect his thoughts. He wanted Giles' short
visit to be a pleasant one. Over the past year, he had tried to find a
meeting ground for the two of them to be less hostile. He genuinely liked
Giles and every attempt in the past to convey that fondness had been less
than successful. He could never think of the right thing to do or say.
Under the stuffy British
veneer, Angel knew that Giles was a caring man who possessed a sharp wit
and an adventurous spirit. He had seen glimpses of that person revealed
to others but never to himself, doubting that in a few days' time he would
be able to become acquainted with that man. But, he knew that he wanted
to try. Doyle had shown him firsthand how important personal relationships
Giles leaned against the
counter trying to put everything into perspective. He, Rupert Giles--former
Watcher of the True Slayer, was in Los Angeles at the invitation of a vampire
who used to date the aforementioned Slayer and had caused him considerable
grief because of that relationship over the previous three years. The demon
restrained inside of the polite man making tea had caused untold pain to
those Giles cared most about. Mixed emotions of his relationship with Angel
began to resurrect the past.
"Ow!" Angel shook his right
hand for a moment before placing his burned finger into his mouth for comfort.
Giles watched the episode
with detached disbelief. "How is it that you do that?" he asked. He received
the offered cup as Angel continued nursing his injury, noticing the ring
he wore--two hands holding a heart, the tip of the heart pointed towards
the back of Angel's hand. His emotions were less mixed, more resentful.
Angel ran cold water over
his hand, examining where the burn should have been. "I'm sorry. Do what?"
"How you do that--act so
mortal all the time? I seriously doubt that you burned yourself." He examined
the afflicted hand, confirming his assumption. "This tea. The hospitality.
The grandeur of this basement dwelling. Upstairs--all that sunlight. Who
are you trying to fool?"
Angel was taken aback by
the sudden sharp words, unsure of how to reply. "I did burn myself. I'm
just as susceptible to burns as you know most vampires are. It hurt for
a second..." he wriggled his finger "...and now it's OK."
The two men stood in stoic
silence as each tried to decide what to do next. Angel strained to think
of something to say that would take the animosity away from Giles' harsh
indictment. Giles, for his part, didn't offer to help ease the mood, preferring
to busy himself with his cup, avoiding direct eye contact by fixating on
"I'm back." Cordelia called
from the top of the staircase. The plastic bags swayed wildly from her
fingertips as she bounded down the stairs.
Angel, relieved for the interruption,
met Cordy at the last step where she promptly discharged her purchases
to him. Without even pausing to see if Angel had control of them, she charged
ahead to the kitchen to pick up Angel's cup and continue her conversation
with Giles as if she had never left. "Pretty cool place, huh?" She raised
the cup to her lips, suddenly realizing that it was only half full. "Hey,
Angel, did you drink out of this?"
"Where's my change?" Angel
brought the bags into the kitchen. As he began removing their contents
to the counter he realized that it had been his own fault for giving Cordelia
too much money to begin with. She pretended not to hear him and he dropped
the subject to concentrate on what she had purchased. When he pulled out
the jar of peanut butter he felt troubled; the finger began to throb.
Giles bored his eyes on Angel's
back, noticing the sudden change in his posture. "No, Cordelia, he didn't
get a chance to drink out of it. It's not full because he burned himself
while pouring the boiling water," he finished. His cynical tone was lost
"Whatsamatta, Angel?" she
leaned over and playfully patted his arm, "dead guy reflexes just not up
to speed today?"
Giles watched as Cordy gulped
from the cup and offered the rest of its contents to Angel. Their exchange
was touching despite her reference to his lack of vital signs. Whatever
the meaning behind her ministrations, they seemed to do the trick. Even
Giles began to feel less bitter.
"So, what have you guys been
doing since I've been gone? Catching up on old times?" She peered up over
the top of the cup at the two men. Giles, in casual attire and with his
hair still a little mussed from the convertible ride appeared more attractive
than what she had remembered him to be and she could almost imagine him
quite the catch in his college days.
"No," Angel began, "just
showing Giles around, waiting for you to get back. Lunch?"
Cordy nodded her head enthusiastically.
"I'm on E!" She backhanded Giles' bicep, catching him off guard -- he bobbled
his beverage. "This guy can really cook, believe it or not. You're in for
Angel glanced over his shoulder
and noticed that his visitor seemed to be relaxing. "Cordelia, why don't
you show Giles the library and I'll throw something together from the things
you bought that weren't on my list." He gave her a scolding look
that she, largely, blew off.
"Ooooooh! C'mon, Giles. You
are going to freak! If you thought your piddley High School library was
good, wait until you see what Angel's got." She towed him the distance
between the kitchen and the false wall of the hidden book shelves, the
sleeve of his button-down shirt taking the brunt of her abuse.
At the false wall, Cordelia
slid her hand along the grained wood until she found the fastener. With
an almost inaudible click, the wall unlatched. She pulled the opened side
back easily, reached inside and flipped on a light.
Giles moved to the opening
and peered in to the cavernous space. The smell of fine leather and aged
parchment raised memories as he stepped in towards the shelves, mesmerized.
On almost two dozen shelves were hundreds of books, varying in size and
age. He breathed in the heady smell and reached out to trace the golden
lines on a binding. He lost all track of time trying to examine everything
all at once.
"I called you right after
the last trunk arrived a week ago."
Giles turned and watched
as Angel joined him. He could have sworn that Angel's reaction to the library
aroma had been the same as his own. "My God. Some of these titles had been
assumed lost forever. Where did you get them all?" He caressed a book,
the edges charred and fraying.
"I bought most of them,"
taking the book from Giles' hand, Angel replaced it on the shelf gently.
"Some of them I saved. Some were gifts. A few are stolen." The relief that
Giles' eager expression provided helped to dispel Angel's fears that the
invitation had been a mistake. His hope for a common interest seemed, for
the moment, to be found.
"It's an amazing collection,
Angel. And most of them already seem to be in some categorized order. So,
my question would have to be what, exactly, is this project that you invited
me for all about?"
Angel led Giles out of the
room to the table where Cordelia had already begun to dig into the meal.
Something smelled wonderful; rosemary in whatever Angel had prepared was
a warm compliment to the scent of the books. After placing Giles' plate
in front of him Angel sat, finally, with his cup of tea.
"I remember that your books
were catalogued. But, I don't remember how everything was sorted. What
the exact order was of certain subjects. So, what I figured is that if
you came you could help me file everything properly."
Giles savored a chunk of
the home fries. The mystery of rosemary was solved. "You want it in Watcher's
order? For what possible reason? I'm sure that any order you put them in
would be fine for you. The only true reason for organizing anything is
for ready reference, easy access." A burst of lemon peel in the tuna sandwich
accented freshly ground black pepper and parsley. He eyed Angel, trying
to determine if it was possible for someone who didn't actually eat to
have such an inclination towards cookery.
"It'll be easier for you
eventually." Angel's arms were folded across the tabletop. He looked into
the cup, only the overhead light reflected on its glassy black surface.
Mid-chew, Giles caught the
gist of what Angel was suggesting. Cordelia had left the table, rummaging
for whatever scraps of potato were still in the skillet but he lowered
his voice anyway, "are you suggesting that your death is imminent?"
Angel lifted his eyes to
meet Giles'. "It's always a possibility. In fact, if Doyle--my late assistant--hadn't
diverted my attention a couple weeks ago, then we wouldn't be sitting here
having this conversation."
"What about Doyle?"
Giles watched as Cordelia,
her plate piled high, retook her seat.
"You know, you're not the
only one who's eating. Maybe Giles wanted more."
Cordelia indignantly shoveled
a bite into her mouth. "I'm sorry, Mr. Giles, did you want seconds?" she
asked sarcastically, lifting her plate to push some of its contents to
Giles motioned 'no' with
his hand. "Thank you, though. I'm fine."
Cordelia scrunched up her
face at Angel who cut his eyes at her. The mimed exchange was brief, but
Giles understood every unspoken moment of it.
"Nothing about Doyle."
"You know, Angel, it's OK
to talk about Doyle. I realize that he's never going to walk through the
door again, but we can't keep pretending that he is or that he didn't exist
at all. I miss him. He was a much better listener than you'll ever be."
Angel rested his cheek on
his fist, twirling the cup by its handle. He thoughtfully explained, "I
don't pretend that he's coming back, Cordelia. Just because I don't go
around emoting all the time saying 'oh, I miss Doyle so much' doesn't mean
he wasn't my friend, too."
The exchange fascinated Giles
who suddenly began to wonder when the intimate connection between Angel
and the young woman had formed. Cordelia was as obstinate as ever, but
her patter with Angel had less of the childish tone of her High School
days. Angel, for his part, didn't belittle her opinion as Giles had remembered
doing so many times. Their discussion bordered on mutual respect as opposed
to mutual condescension.
"I don't mean to pry, but
who, exactly was Doyle? Oz mentioned someone was helping you--could that
have been him?" Giles began to rise from the table with his plate, but
Angel took it from him quickly and withdrew to the safety of the kitchen.
He had always known Angel to be moody never fully realizing that, perhaps,
the vampire's evasive nature was just a reflex against exposing how much
he cared about certain subjects.
"Doyle was our associate,
this half-demon guy who used to have these visions sent through him by
the PTB--the Powers That Be, ever heard of them?--that would let Angel
know where all the trouble was going to be so that Angel could go out and
vanquish all the bad guys--or whatever--and save, like, the person or demon-people
"You done with that?" Angel
loomed over Cordy, with his hand out for her empty plate. Instead of handing
it to him, she scooted her chair towards Giles. Angel removed the plate,
"He ended up being, like,
Angel's best friend," she leaned towards Giles conspiratorially, "I don't
think that he's ever had a best friend before so Doyle's death hit him
pretty hard. He kissed me."
Giles tried to shake off
the deja' vu he was experiencing from Cordelia's explanation, even to feeling
slight motion sickness. "Angel kissed you?"
Disgust wrinkled Cordy's
features. "Why would Angel kiss me? Get with the program here, Librarian.
Doyle kissed me." She sighed at the memory. "That was some kiss."
Giles paused for a moment
to consider Cordelia's dreamy look. He found it difficult to believe that
Cordelia--the original debutante snob--not only allowed herself to be kissed
by a demon, but she seemed to relish the memory of the experience. He pushed
back from the table quickly and rose to follow as Angel passed by on his
way to the shelves. "I believe I'll get to that project now," he called
Cordelia didn't notice him
leave, preferring to hold onto the memory of Doyle's kiss for a moment
longer before returning to work.
"I actually find it quite
unusual that your friend Doyle was half-demon. It's not something that
one would expect in modern times and would probably prove to be quite a
fascinating study." Into the second day with the cataloguing already 2/3rds
finished, Giles was giddy with excitement. It felt good to be in his element
again, even better to feel productive.
Almost the entire contents
of the chest had been emptied since late morning, tingeing Angel's portion
of the day's project with a melancholy that he hadn't expected. Glancing
around at the almost full shelves, he realized that during the course of
the past decades his life had been so transient that it seemed pointless
to keep all of the books in one place.
His collection was nearly
assembled for the first time ever, giving Angel a sense of permanence that
he'd never felt before. In less than a year, this apartment already held
so many memories. Although he was sure that his immortality precluded him
the right to call any place a home, this was probably the closest he would
ever come to one.
Cordelia, standing next to
Angel, bent over and whispered, "Does he ever shut up?" When Angel responded
to her with an amused smile, she continued, "I mean it. I don't think he's
stopped talking once since lunch."