You can't have an apocalypse without revelations
The Watcher's apartment, Sunnydale. Shortly after the Watcher's return to consciousness ...
“Ah …” Xander looked down at the stake he was clutching to his breast. “I don’t know,” he admitted, hovering between sheepish embarrassment and mind numbing terror. “We’re you … are you … dead?”
Giles’ frown deepened a little. He glanced around, registering his surroundings – and his lack of clothing, which seemed to throw him for a moment. “I don’t think so,” he said warily, lifting one hand – carefully, Xander noted – to press it against his chest. They both listened for a moment, which was absurd, since Xander wasn’t a Slayer and had no hope
of hearing a heartbeat from that distance. He listened anyway. The frown of concentration on Giles’ face rather demanded it. “No … yes, that one seems to be working all right …”
Xander knew – right there and then – that he’d taken a step right past the usual Sunnydale Twilight Zone and into the wide eyed impossibility of the Outer Limits. Because Giles just as carefully lifted his other
hand, and pressed that against the opposite side of his chest, listening just as intently as he had the first time. “ … as is that one. A little fast, perhaps, but that’s hardly surprising.” He looked up and offered his audience a slightly wry smile. “Something of a risk, going quite that deep, but … umm .. rather essential, I’m afraid.” The smile widened with a hint of amusement – and gratitude. “Very sensible,” Giles noted, nodding at the stake. “Unnecessary, but … sensible. I am very much alive, Xander – thanks to you. And … somewhat recovered, although … in less pressing times I might possibly have allowed myself a little longer to heal.”
The stake tumbled from nerveless fingers and landed on the carpet with a soft thud. Xander’s knees followed it, since his suddenly wobbly legs refused to hold him up. He put out a hand and caught himself before he went flat on his face. He was shaking, and he couldn’t tell if it were from terror, relief, laughter – or all three.
“Oh, heavens …” Giles was off the couch and on his knees beside him, reaching to offer him solicitous support … and him with broken fingers, and a naked body that was still black and blue, and purple and yellow …
Xander waved him away and let himself collapse all the way to the carpet. It was
laughter. Heaving, howling, hysterical
laughter, bubbling up past all the coiled tension and the fear, and the feelings of guilt and failure …. “You’re alive,” he snorted, then rolled onto his back and howled it at the ceiling. “He’s alive!
“Yes, well …” Giles seemed to have realised how ridiculous his instinctive offer of help had been; he carefully retreated back to the couch and recovered some of his dignity with the aid of the blanket. “You don’t have to sound quite
so happy about it.”
“Yes, I do.” Xander stared up at him with a face splitting grin. “Of course
I do. I thought you were dead
. The world was going to end, and I saw what that bastard did to you … and I cried, Giles. I cried
. I threw up and I wanted to scream, and you were just lying there, cold … “ He hauled himself round until he was sitting – still staring, still grinning – and he waved at the window, and then at Giles to make his point, struggling for breath against the shudders of laughter that were still wracking his frame. “World’s still here – go
Buffy! And you’re
still here, which is – yay, go
Giles. And Will’s okay and did I say the world’s still here? That’s good, That’s really good. Although … that feeling for two hearts thing? That’s creepy. Don’t do that. ‘Kay?”
Giles sighed and shook his head. “Oh, good lord
,” he muttered. “Xander – do please stop laughing. I’m sure you have reason to feel relieved, but – Buffy’s not here, is she. And until I have reason to know …”
“Oh, hey.” The subsided instantly. “Yeah. Sorry. We don’t know where she is. Oz is with Will – at the hospital. She’s okay,” Xander added hastily, as this creased a deeper frown across the Watcher’s anxious features. “She did the spell … hey – maybe Buffy and Angel went off somewhere, him with his re-souled self and all …” Xander didn’t like that idea – especially not after seeing the results of Angelus’ less than gentle touch – but he had to admit to the possibility. It was a better explanation than the one he’d been trying to avoid for a while …
“Willow completed the spell?”
Xander nodded. Giles looked – what was the word – nonplussed.
Another nod, this one a little less certain than the first.
“That could have been … risky.”
He’d thought so – but Willow had been determined, and a determined Willow was hard to stop.
“That’s our Will. Being contributive to the ‘saving the world again’ stuff. Me – all I could come up with was charging in with a rock …”
That earned him an irritated glare – which almost retriggered the hysterics, because – god
, that was good to see. “A good many apocalypses have been stopped with a rock,” Giles snapped. “Xander – I am well aware that you hold a low opinion of yourself, but I can assure you, there are very few people in this world with the courage to do what you did today. I – for one – am extremely grateful. Now – if what you say is true, then it’s highly possible that Buffy has taken Angel to a place of safety somewhere. But I need to be sure. We’ll have to go back to the mansion to check …”
“Back?” Xander scrambled to his feet, staring the Watcher in alarm. “Are you crazy? You want to go back
– after everything?”
The eyes that stared back at him still held that disconcerting weight of years. “I don’t want
to – but I have to. Buffy’s safety is my prime concern .”
“Screw Buffy’s safety.” There’d never been a time when Xander had imagined himself saying that, but he was saying it now, because – much as he cared about his Buffy-shaped friend, he cared about his Giles-shaped one, too. And he shouldn’t be thinking about going anywhere
right now, let alone that hellhole where he was beaten and tortured almost to death … “You need to rest.
Giles – I thought you’d died.
You’re in shock or something … you’re in no fit state to go anywhere.”
“Not dressed like, this, no …”
Xander threw up his hands in despair. “Oh, for heavens’ sake – you and Buffy … you’re as crazy as each other! And she’s
the Slayer. You’re only human …”
The look that chased across bruised features stopped his tirade in it’s tracks. A wary, reluctant, and slightly embarrassed look. Xander suddenly recalled that shimmer of golden light, and sat down again. Hard. “You’re not … Oh boy.” He swallowed discomfortedly and took a moment to catch his breath. “That …” he waved his hand helplessly. “Two hearts thing. That was for real?”
Giles nodded, a little apologetically.
“And the … mystic coma, cold as a corpse, scare me to death stuff? That come with the demon upgrade package too?”
“Not – demon. Alien.” The correction was even more apologetic than the nod. Xander’s mouth dropped open.
For how long?”
“Oh - ah,” Giles shrugged – and then clearly regretted it. “All of my life. Over – nine centuries, as it happens …” He sighed. “There are some days I feel every one of my years …”
” That was too much to take in. Almost
too much – Xander was busy discovering that having your world turned on its head wasn’t quite as frightening as thinking that you’d lost it. “No shit?”
“None – and don’t swear. It’s not necessary, and in some circles it could get you into a lot of trouble. I lost good friends to the Inquisition that way.”
Now that was
too much to take in. Although he could understand why the Inquisition might be on the man’s mind …
“Swearing leads to thumbscrews – check. Ah … does Buffy know?”
“About the Inquisition? I doubt it. She rarely seems to listen in history class …”
Xander stared at him. Hard. “That was a - joke, right? I meant about … “
“Oh – oh yes. Yes, she knows. In fact, she might be thinking … well,” Giles bruised lips twitched in a brief smile. “I can disabuse her of that notion when I see her.”
“She get the mystic coma too? No, wait … it’s the heart thing again, right? You come in, and she hears two people in the room?”
That brought back the smile. “Something like that. She’s the first in many years to pay me that much attention, actually but … I was quite impressed with the way she worked it out.”
Xander nodded, still letting his thoughts swirl around the revelation. “And Oz – he knows too, doesn’t he? That’s why – ‘no hospital’ made sense …”
“He’s a very bright young man. And lycanthropic senses can be very acute – even at the dark of the moon.”
“Am I the last
to know again?” Xander’s exclamation was chagrined – and Giles actually chuckled at it.
“Hardly,” he said. “There are very few people who do
know. Willow certainly doesn’t as yet – although if she’s going to start casting spells of that
magnitude about, it may be safer if I tell her … As for you, well – given what you probably saw, and … the questions you’ll undoubtedly have … yes, well. I’ll explain what I can. Once I’m dressed. I don’t like lying to my friends. I - I felt that you deserved to know.”
Xander stared at him in bewilderment. There was a lot about this that he didn’t understand. But he understood enough to know that he’d just been trusted with one of the Watcher’s deepest darkest secrets. And it felt ... well, okay so the secret itself was weird
– but being trusted with it? That felt good. Better than the earlier – and unexpected –compliment. And it was humbling too – knowing that, somehow, he’d earned sufficient trust and respect to warrant such a confidence.
“Alien, huh. Do you have …?”
“A spaceship. Yes, I do.”
“And can I ...?”
“No. You can’t. But see if you can find something to splint these fingers of mine before I try and get dressed – and Xander?”
, he wanted to say, because, shocks and revelations aside, he knew the man – or whatever he was – was still his friend, and still needed his support. He’d gone through hell in the last couple of days. “Yeah?”
“I could really murder a cup of tea, right now …”