Chapter Four: Another Harry's Bar

There was something sad in Giles eyes, almost tortured and Buffy had the feeling she was the one that had put it there. She hated it being there, hated the way it made this man appear pathetic, in his own eyes if no one else's. She hated that she was the one that put it there with her accusations and arrogance and her righteous indignation.

No matter how hard she tried to force the memories out of her head they just wouldn't go away. Repress and regress. Those were her two favorite coping techniques, only they weren't working. The memories of being a vampire, of craving blood, snuck up on her constantly. Thrilling her and disgusting her by turns.

Buffy had bullied Giles into his office so she could talk to him away from prying eyes; and Angel would make everyone would stay back, far enough so they didn't hear things they shouldn't.

Just because she was seriously contemplating sending Giles back to the Watcher Council in little boxes with a note saying, "Oops. I think I broke him, could you send me another?" Was no reason for the others to see him as anything other then her Watcher.

Do you know what I hate the most?

"Never knowing…" Giles said softly, Buffy frowned, a slight crease as Giles words seemed to answer her thoughts in a disquieting fashion. It took her a second to realize she had spoken out loud. "…if your thoughts are your own or what some bloody twit is shoving in your head. If the words coming out of your mouth are what you would say or a sound-bite for a laugh track. Not knowing if it's me that wants to sit, stand or do a belly flop off the stacks."

The barest glimmer of a smile graced Buffy's lips. She wanted to laugh out loud at the image, but refused. She was angry with Giles, enraged even. He didn't get to smooth it over with a little self deprecating humor.

Hearing his words echo her thoughts so similarly was eerie. It raised questions and doubts, forced her to acknowledge that for all their differences they were quite similar. Too much for her liking.

"I don't know if I'm ever going to forgive you," she said suddenly, tired of listening to the same thoughts regurgitate themselves.

Giles nodded solemnly as he said, "I quite understand. I can contact the council, I'm sure they could have a replacement some time next week. If you'd find that more—"

"I want to," Buffy cut in. A short bark of sardonic laughter followed. "Every time I stop thinking about what you did, it's like it never happened and then I think about it and it's like learning about it all over again. That fresh slap of, my god how could Giles just…" She wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed her bare arms.

"I'm not a…" He stopped quietly, as he searched for the words. "There's a part of me, a cold measured bastard that's bred into all Watchers. It is ingrained in us from the first word, the first step. All we are taught is the Watcher's way. For a time I managed to escape, I even managed to find love within a small group of friends, but in the end…" He paused for a moment. "My first duty, my loyalty, has always been to the Council Buffy…"

Again he stopped and Buffy can't believe she's never seen how much Giles feels, how deep his emotions run. Why would she, he was always distant, so emotionally detached from everything and everyone. Just keep telling yourself that. When'd you ever treat Giles like anything close to a human? When'd he ever act like he cared, she snapped at herself.

"The thought of something happening to you," he continued as he took off his glasses, tossing them onto his desk. "I don't think I would be able to abide that."

"I don't want to die," she breathed softly.

"My lord Buffy," Giles said coming round the desk, but stopping well short of her. His face straining with emotions, trying to put words to feelings he's never had to deal with before. "That is the very last thing I want for you."

"I'm only sixteen years old Giles, I didn't ask for this destiny, this death sentence hanging over my head. My whole life was planned out, I would fall in love, go to prom, college, get a good paying job doing something close to nothing but different from the day before, maybe acting, have a whirlwind romance, maybe three or four before settling down and getting married and adopting several underprivileged children from third world countries and dieing when I'm so old I'll be happy its over."

Giles smiled, a weak little grin, at Buffy's rambling rant. "If I could take it from you Buffy I would. I would make it so you were never burdened with any of this."

"Sure," Buffy said with forced playfulness. "Thanks. Take the knowledge with the power. You're just gonna turn me into vamp sauté."

Giles blanched at the statement and stammered, "I assure you Buffy that that is hardly my intention."

"Relax Giles," Buffy finally cut in sparing the Englishman any further floundering. "I know what you mean." She exhaled, seemed calmer then she had in some time. "I know you'd do what you can for me, but this is my job and I'll do it because nobody else can, and if I don't… People will die." She took another breath and appeared calmer. "About my impending death, what can you tell me?"

"Yes well," Giles murmured slipping back into a more comfortable role. "Fortunately we do have nearly three weeks, nineteen days to be precise, in which to formulate a course of action that's resolution doesn't culminate in your demise."

"I hope you do a better job sweet talking Ms. Calendar," Buffy said in a too innocent voice as Giles reached for his glasses.

Giles paused, his hand hovering inches above the desktop. "That is one, among many topics, you and I shall never discuss."

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Cordelia Chase, queen of Sunnydale High School, strode down the wide halls with an imperious glare cast at all of the miscreant's filling the corridor without seeing any of them. Her usual entourage, of socially elite, was oddly absent. She didn't want to say her flock was avoiding her, but there was a definite feel of abandonment in the air.

Nobody had said anything to her, but recently there had been a few too many occasions of being forced into too much contact with Buffy and her band of freaks. Each time had been necessary. Each time things at school had started to get strange and when things started to get strange at Sunnydale you knew things were bad and Buffy seemed to know about all the weirdness.

Cordelia didn't know if the weirdness was drawn to Buffy or Buffy to it. What she did know was that Buffy had a way of dealing with it, so she did what any community conscious person would do. It was really no different then somebody witnessing a crime and calling the police. Only the police in this case was a transfer student from Los Angeles, who was successfully de-evolving socially. And because she had an over develop sense of responsibility she was being ostracized.

She felt, rather then saw, the two people fall in beside her, her gaze took them in with barely a flicker of dark eyes. She suppressed the urge to be violently ill by their presence and actually sense Willow cringe away from her. A warm, fuzzy feeling suffused her and she smiled knowing Willow was still completely terrified of her. "Whatever it is make it quick. Your mere presence in my vicinity could lead to a communicable infection by the social disease you two carry. I'm gonna have to skip next class just so I can go home and burn this outfit."

Willow shot a glare past Cordelia towards Xander. "I told you this wasn't going to work," she said accusingly.

Xander's eyes had a vaguely glazed overcast to them. Cordelia frowned and said, "Ew. If you don't stop imagining me naked I'm gonna have Buffy do whatever it is she does and have her do it to you." Xander's smile widened briefly, just until he doubled over gasping. "Shouldn't think about any girl naked. No girl thinks about you that way, present company excluded, so do us a courtesy. Kay?" She looked at Willow. "So?"

"We found a prophecy that says Buffy is going to die at the Spring Fling and that you're going to be involved so we all thought, and by we I mean Xander not me because I don't believe you would want to help research with us, but Xander thought you might so we came to ask if you would. Help research so we can figure out a way to keep Buffy alive."

Cordelia waited a moment, making sure Willow is actually done after that rapid fire delivery. The words had come out so quickly, so close together that for a moment Cordelia thought she was listening to a human Gatling gun. "You mean," she blanched at the thought of giving voice to the next words, "Voluntarily spend time with you people." She shuddered. "I'm gonna need to get vaccinated for social rabies," she muttered darkly before turning her attention to Willow. "I may drop in unexpectedly with some vital piece of information from time to time Blue Light, but it'll be a cold day on Rodeo Drive before I start spending quality time with the Wal-Mart shoppers."

"Angel's going to be there," Xander added as he shambled up to the two girls.

"I'll be by at six," Cordelia said and then turned away from them.

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Cordelia stared at the darkening screen with blank eyes. In a way, she had been impressed by Giles' apartment; it wasn't bad, better then what she expected somebody to afford on a Teacher's salary. The books she expected, the drab British décor had been a no-brainer; the top of the line plasma screen television on the other hand had been a major surprise. Obviously Xander must have picked it out, and so much as she hated to admit it, he actually had a touch of taste, and if what she saw was any indication he was a bit of a hero. He actually resuscitated Buffy.

She could feel everybody's eyes on her; Angel and Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles and Jenny. They weren't really on her, but there was a sense of waiting of needing somebody to get the ball rolling. "That was way disturbing," she said.

"You have no idea," Jenny mumbled.

"Yes, I think we can all agree that watching ourselves—"

"I never realized my beauty mark was so visible before," she said touching the small mole. "I've been thinking about having it lasered—"

"Only if they start at the neck," Xander supplied with a broad smile.

"At least they'd have to remove my head to classify me as brain dead."

"Quite," Giles murmured cutting off their interplay. In a louder voice he continued, "If we could please concentrate on the matter at hand. Ideas on how we can prevent Buffy's death."

"I got it," Xander said suddenly with a boundless sort of enthusiasm. "We load up a bunch of water-guns with holy water, get a lot of crosses, paint them on the back of our shirts or something. Ooh maybe get a priest to bless our golf clubs." He looked around at everybody's less then ecstatic faces. "What? It worked in Dogma."

"Ooh, I know," Cordelia starts in imitation of Xander's tone. "Buffy, Willow, and me can invite them over for blessed tea and holy wafers."

"Children!" Giles fumed. "Intelligent ideas."

"Do you even know if it's real?" Cordelia asked.

Giles nodded, a bit of strain around his eyes that Cordelia doesn't recall seeing before. "The information's been verified Cordelia," Jenny answered.

"So you're sure it's not an elaborate hoax?"

Xander shoots Cordelia an incredulous glare as he demanded, "And how do you fake that?"

"You're kidding right?" Cordelia mumbled half to herself. "With the weirdness that's Sunnydale? Please?"

"What have we established so far?" Angel asked. His tone a little harsh as he tried to defuse the bickering teenagers. "The footage that we've just seen is real and if we do nothing to alter it Buffy will die."

"Does she actually have to go?" Cordelia asked sounding exceedingly bored.

Giles blinked, and most everyone else looked like they had been pole axed; everyone except Buffy. For the first time all night her eyes seemed alive, the specter of death was gone from them, and a small smile was playing at the corner of her lips. "I'm not quite sure I follow what you're saying."

Cordelia sighed extensively as she turned biting eyes on Giles. "Of course you wouldn't. Unless you pull it out of those big books you need everything spelled out in block letters."

"I'm sure you're quite accurate in your assessment of my shortcomings," Giles stated brushing aside the insult as if it was of no importance to him. "If you wouldn't mind expanding on your initial thought. I'm sure everybody here is highly intrigued by what you have to say. I can most readily assure you that you have my undivided attention."

For a moment Cordelia remained hard, impassive not daring to let her guard down even a little around these people. Only there's something in their faces, something honest, not at all like her normal friends who bob their heads and make appropriate noise at the proper place. These people wanted to know what she thought, even super smart Willow and king of clowns Xander. Still she couldn't keep the edge out of her voice as she asked, "Is something bad going to happen, if you know Buffy doesn't show up. You know, worse then dieing and being resuscitated by Xander. Who knows how many times Xander managed to slip Buffy the tongue while she was dead."

"I would never—" Xander started.

"Would it work?" Buffy demanded unconcerned by Xander defending himself. "Could I simply not show up for a prophecy."

"I'm not altogether sure," Giles answered in a soft murmur. "Most of the time we don't even know a prophecy has been fulfilled until after the fact. If then. We have several weeks, I suggest several hours of research each and every night, possibly a Saturday or Sunday afternoon." Giles glanced at Angel, "If it wouldn't be much of an inconvenience, perhaps you'd be able to provide Buffy with a bit of assistance at night?"

Angel's dark eyes drifted toward Buffy for a moment as the tiny girl approached Cordelia. He nodded saying, "It's what I should've been doing from the beginning."

Cordelia smiled as Buffy stopped in front of her. She looked as if she swallowed something that wasn't sitting quite right. Willow looked their way several times but as soon as she noticed Cordelia noticing her, she instantly found something else of interest.

"We're not friends, I doubt if we ever will be," Buffy finally said. If Cordelia wasn't just imagining things she could have sworn she heard a tremor of regret in Buffy's voice. "Thank you. I think you just saved my life…" The words sounded like they were drawn through a cheese grater. "… I'm not sure if anybody else here could've thought of something so simple. Willow and Giles with their way big brains, and Ms. Calendar with pagan computer mojo."

"But you're forgetting Xander," Cordelia points out.

"Please," Buffy said with a girlish giggle. "Did you hear what his idea was? Water guns with holy water… Where does he get this stuff?"

Cordelia smiled at Buffy before she realized it. The two of them were a lot more alike then anybody wanted to admit. If not for that destiny thing that landed squarely on her shoulders they could have been real friends. With how everything stood right now, they couldn't be further apart if they stood on opposite poles.

"How did you come up with it?" Buffy asked.

"You're kidding right? My parents are always holding these diners and other functions I have no interest in attending, so I always make sure I have other plans." She grabbed her purse from where she had been sitting. Her guts twisted into knots at what she was about to do, but it had to be done; she couldn't have people look at her the way they looked at Buffy. If word got out that she spent more then a few minutes in their presence that was exactly what would happen to her. "I'm glad that I was able to help, maybe even save your life. You've done a lot of good in this town even if nobody will admit it and you deserve way better then a memory of Xander's lips on yours; but like you said we're not friends, never will be. It was a mistake for me to even come here." With her head high, an imperious glare cut a path to the door.

The last thing she heard before closing the door behind her, was Buffy saying, "Don't Xander." She knew Buffy would understand even if no one else did.