Title: You're Still You
Timeline: BtVS season 7
Notes: This is an answer to Challenge #116 at The Next Level. Let' make Giles Immortal! Crossover with Highlander: the Series.
Summary: Giles has been keeping a secret.
Disclaimer: The characters and concepts in this story belong to other people. Even the story idea came from someone else.
Archive: T_N_L and TtH. Anyone else who wants it, please ask and I'll be happy to give it to you.
Feedback: Happily accepted! E-mail: email@example.com
"Morning, Buffy," Willow greeted cheerfully. "You want some coffee?"
"Yeah, thanks," she responded as she accepted the mug her friend had poured. "Are we on for our strategy meeting with Giles this morning?"
"I think so. As soon as he gets up." Willow sat in a kitchen chair and sighed thoughtfully. "I don't think he's been sleeping so well."
"I know," Buffy said. "He feels responsible for all of us. Taking care of me, making sure you stay healthy. Not to mention all the girls."
"Yeah, I know. I wish there were some way we could take some of the pressure off him."
Further conversation on the subject was stopped as Giles wandered into the kitchen yawning and stretching. "Good morning, Buffy, Willow."
Willow jumped out of her chair and started bustling around gathering the makings for Giles' morning tea. "Good morning," she said brightly. "I'm just getting your tea started. You just sit down and relax. So, what do you want for breakfast today? You want some waffles? How 'bout an omelet?"
Giles looked at Buffy for an explanation.
Buffy simply shrugged and said, "She thinks you're burdened with responsibility."
"I chose to come back here. I understood what I would be entering into." Giles went to Willow and put his hands on her shoulders. "I assure you, I am perfectly happy to be here."
Willow leaned into his chest. "I know. Sometimes I just feel like we should work harder to take care of you."
"Thank you, Willow." Giles patted her back with genuine affection then turned toward Buffy. "Where are the Potentials?"
"Xander's got 'em on their Saturday training," Buffy responded as she refilled her coffee. "Do we have any special plans for tonight?"
"Just standard patrol," Giles said as Willow placed his tea in front of him. "Thank you, Willow. I think the girls should be about ready to hold their own in a fight."
"Let's hope so," Buffy said grimly, "Because The First is only getting stronger and we need all the help we can get."
"Yes, well," Giles said softly, "Let us hope that as strong as the evil gets, we will remain stronger."
That night's patrol was uneventful for several hours. The Scoobies had split up into small groups to patrol the streets of Sunnydale. Xander, Anya, Robin and several of the Potentials swept one section of town, while Buffy, Willow, Giles and the remainder of the teenage girls went another direction. But when it came time to check the cemetery, they decided to stick together. It turned out to be a good decision. The First launched its attack as soon as Buffy and her friends were firmly on its territory.
The fight didn't start well. The First had gathered as many forces as it could, including Ubervamps, several Bringers and other assorted demons. They managed to ambush Buffy and her friends. The fight started as a Bringer launched from its cover and landed a solid punch to Robin's kidney. As he toppled from the force of the blow, chaos erupted when the forces of evil jumped out of their hiding places and engaged Buffy and her friends.
Robin and the Bringer wrestled in the dirt, each trying to gain the upper hand in their fight. Giles pulled two swords from the weapons bag and tossed one to Buffy as he stepped up to engage a nearby Ubervamp. He took a kick in the ribs, but recovered quickly and dispatched his enemy. Turning to find another opponent, he stabbed a demon in the back before it could do serious harm to Willow. Everyone was engaged with at least one, and in the case of Buffy and Robin, several opponents. Giles moved quickly from one opponent to the next as he saw which of his friends needed the most help. In the course of the battle, everyone acquired injuries ranging from minor scrapes and scratches to more serious injuries that would require medical attention.
Eventually the tide turned in favor of the Scoobies. Buffy led by example, jumping into the fight, picking up weapons and losing them only to find more. She fought like what she was. The Slayer, chosen to fight against the darkness. The Potentials followed her lead and used all their recently acquired training to take on their enemies.
As the fight was winding down, Buffy saw a demon jump from behind cover with a crossbow. She watched him take careful aim at Giles and fire. Knowing she would be too late, she tried to get to Giles and push him out of the way.
Buffy got to Giles just as he fell, shot directly through the heart. "Xander," Buffy screamed, "Help him." With that, she jumped up and ran after the bad guy.
Buffy returned a few minutes later feeling numb and exhausted. As she stared at the ground to avoid tripping over her feet from fatigue, she failed to notice what was happening around her. Willow was sobbing quietly with Kennedy trying awkwardly to comfort her. Anya, Robin, Dawn and the rest of the Potentials stood in groups of twos and threes crying and comforting each other as best they could.
"Did you get him?" Xander looked up as Buffy approached. She saw that he had been crying.
"No. He went underground. I decided not to follow. I'll get them all soon enough." She sat next to Xander. "How is he?"
Fresh tears started rolling down Xander's face. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he repeated over and over in a whisper Buffy could barely hear.
It took a moment for his words to make their way into Buffy's fogged brain. "What?" She asked. She had to have misunderstood what Xander was saying. "He's not- he can't be-"
Xander buried his face in his hands and sobbed. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
Buffy held him as they both cried. "It's okay. I know you did everything you could. We'll get through this. We'll find a way," she said between sobs.
"I tried, Buffy. I tried so hard to save him," Xander cried. "I pul-pulled out th-the crossbow bolt. I-I tried to stop the bleeding." He pulled out of Buffy's arms and looked at himself. For the first time, Buffy noticed that he was covered in blood. "There was so much-so much blood. I tried so hard, Buffy, but there was too much blood. I couldn't stop it." Xander saw that as they had held each other, he had gotten Giles' blood all over Buffy. "God," Xander breathed, "Now I got it all over you, too. I'm so sorry, Buffy."
As he started to pull away, Buffy reached for him and pulled him close. "I'm not afraid of blood, Xander." She held his face and kissed his forehead gently. "I know you did your best to save him. We'll find a way to get through this," she promised.
At that moment Giles drew in a ragged breath and sat up. "Well, that hasn't happened in a while," he said mildly. Many pairs of surprised eyes turned to him as he looked around. "I suppose some explanations are in order. I can assure everyone that I'm perfectly fine."
Buffy pressed him back down to the ground and tried to find his wound. She sat back; stunned as the only evidence of Giles' injury was the hole in his shirt.
She met each person's confused eyes in turn as she made her decision. "Let's get back home and get everyone patched up," Buffy declared. "And then, Giles, you can explain. And it had better be good," she added warningly.
When they returned to Buffy's house Xander, Willow and Dawn saw to everyone's injuries while Giles made tea. Anya set up a schedule for getting everyone into the shower. Buffy was annoyed that Anya wouldn't let anyone sit on the furniture until they were scrubbed clean and had changed clothes.
As Buffy opened her mouth to voice her displeasure, she felt Giles' hand on her shoulder. "She's dealing with this as best she can," he said quietly. "Let her feel in control of something."
"It's my goddamned house. If I want to sit on my own couch, then I think I should be able to," she whispered back at him.
"And then you will have a very permanent reminder of tonight's experiences. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to remove bloodstains from upholstery? Trust me, I've tried." He smiled gently and then drew her into his embrace. "This has been hard on all of us. I never should have kept this secret from you." Giles rubbed Buffy's back reassuringly. "As soon as everyone's settled, I'll tell you everything."
After everyone had showered and changed, they gathered in the living room. Giles handed out tea to everyone, the adult's drinks fortified with something a bit stronger.
He stood a bit apart from the rest of the group where they could all see him easily. As everyone settled themselves, Giles put down his tea and took off his glasses. He used the familiar ritual of cleaning the lenses to calm his mind and order his thoughts. Taking a sip of his tea and sighing softly, he began. "My given name is Annan Blaeny. The Gaelic roughly translates to 'He who is of the river', which is where I was found as an infant. I am over fifteen hundred years old. I cannot get sick, nor can I die. As all of you saw, I can heal even fatal injuries. I am Immortal."
Various gasps could be heard from the small audience. Giles looked down into his tea as he continued. "We make it a practice not to tell anyone this secret. If it got out, all of my kind could be put in great jeopardy."
"But if you're Immortal," Willow exclaimed, "What could possibly harm you?"
"Willow, what would an organization like the Initiative do to a person like me?" Giles asked in frustration. "I may be Immortal, but I certainly am not invincible. Let me tell my story and then you may ask any questions afterwards."
The men and women in the room looked at each other and then turned their attention back to Giles.
"I was found near the banks of the River Tweed," with a pointed look at Xander he added quickly, "And please, no jokes."
Xander concealed a chuckle behind his hand, but wisely remained silent.
"I grew up in a small village and lived quite happily for twenty-seven summers. I was hand-fasted to a lovely young woman of the village, but when she failed to catch with child after a year and a day, we parted and I remained alone. I didn't know then that I would never be able to have children." Giles stopped for a moment to sip his tea and collect his thoughts. It had been a very long time since he had allowed these memories to surface and he found himself nearly overcome with emotions he had thought long forgotten. The next part of the story would be the most difficult, and he cursed the Immortal ability of complete recall. The memories of his first death and the violence that followed swirled behind his eyes.
"My first death occurred during a summer rainstorm. I had been fishing and failed to get to shelter before the storm hit. Just on the outskirts of the village, a bolt of lightning felled a tree on me. It was quite clear to the villagers who saw, that I had been killed. They braved the storm to pull the tree off me and pull me into the healer's hut. When my wounds healed and I lived anew, I was declared to be a servant of the Devil and stoned by my friends and family as I fled from my home." He grimaced as he sipped his now-cold tea; then shrugged and gulped the remainder. He went to the liquor cabinet and, forgoing the pretense of tea, poured himself a triple shot of scotch. "Anyone else?" he inquired of the adults.
"I'll take some," Robin said.
"Me, too," Willow requested quietly.
After pouring and distributing the drinks, Giles continued. "I wandered randomly around Northumbria for a while and then drifted into Wales. There, I met another Immortal. He called himself Joseph and he became my teacher. I learned that there were others of us in the world and that we tried to take each other's heads in what had become known as the Game. Joseph taught me how to use a sword and how to defend myself from other Immortals who would take from me my head and my Quickening, my power. He told me that I could seek refuge on Holy Ground; that no Immortal would fight there. He showed me how to fake aging but even so, he warned me that I could never settle in one place for more than a few years at a time. We traveled the world together for more than ten years. From Joseph I learned not only how to stay alive, but how to live. I learned to read and write in several languages. Joseph gave me an appreciation for art and we visited the wonders of the world. When I gained confidence in my ability to take care of myself I decided to find my own way in the world. With Joseph's blessing, we parted company."
"Wow," Rona breathed, "whatever happened to him?"
"Last I heard he was traveling with a certain Scot who is quite a legendary fighter. They split their time between Paris and Washington State." Giles felt a smile tug at his mouth as he pictured the pair. "It seems rather an unlikely friendship as Joseph's past is somewhat checkered and MacLeod is known as an overgrown boy scout."
Kennedy leaned forward, obviously nervous, and asked the question everyone was dreading. "How many people- um, Immortals, I mean- how many have you, well, you know, killed?"
Giles met each person's eyes for a moment before he answered. "I have never killed when I didn't need to. I have killed far more than I ever wanted to."
He stood for a few silent moments allowing his friends time to absorb his story and come to their own conclusions about it. Robin looked him up and down appraisingly before meeting his eyes and giving an accepting nod. Giles subtly returned his expression while sipping his drink.
Willow stared at Giles thoughtfully. "But you're-you're still you, right?" Willow asked hesitantly, "You're still Giles, aren't you?"
Giles chuckled quietly. "Yes Willow. I'm still me." He approached her slowly and cautiously reached for her hand.
She took it and smiled at him. "I'm glad."
He squeezed her hand briefly and released it, stepping back. He looked to Buffy, whose decision mattered, perhaps most of all.
"Well," she started slowly, looking at the floor and thinking hard. She had the sudden realization that nothing really had changed. Giles was still the man she had known since she walked into the school library all those years ago. She now simply knew something more about him. "As long as you're still you--" She stepped over to him and gave him a warm hug.
With Buffy's acceptance, the tense atmosphere in the room faded. Giles found Anya and Dawn joining the hug. He looked up to see Xander smiling at him.
"Umm, so, does this mean we're okay?" Xander asked. "'Cause if it does, then I think we should all get some sleep." As if on cue, Dawn yawned hugely.
"Yes," Giles said, "Xander is right. We've all had a long day and quite a shock. I think it is definitely time for sleep."
"Hmm. Xander being right. I suppose there's a first time for everything." Buffy laughed as she dodged Xander's playful punch. "Okay, that's it. Time for sleep."
Gradually everyone dispersed, still giggling on their way to bed. Eventually only Buffy was left.
Giles, still with his arms loosely around Buffy's waist, sighed softly. "I'm sorry I never told you." He kissed the top of her head. "The time never seemed to be right."
"It's okay," Buffy said. "At least now I know I don't have to worry about you in a fight." She looked into his face. "You look tired." After squeezing his middle she released him. "Get some sleep. We'll talk more tomorrow."
As Giles settled himself for sleep, he tried to convince himself that nothing had changed. I'm still me, he thought as he drifted off to sleep.
© 2003 Leah R. Roman