Wordcount: This part, 2770
Disclaimer: It's Joss's refrigerator, I'm just raiding it.
Notes: Making other people ask for it really works! I'm too excited to even be dissatisfied with how the chapter turned out!
The Watchers’ Council agreed not to keep Giles from his secondary job any longer, but as his job was centered in the library and the library was open to the public, he was unable to avoid their company the next morning. Quentin had no end of questions — about Buffy, about Angel, about everything the Hellmouth had thrown at them so far. Giles had already given him all information he had on the relevant topics, in his reports over the course of the last year, but Travers insisted on refreshers so as to cover anything that might have come across better vocally than it did through writing. The urgency of the situation had left Giles with little patience for the interrogation, but he couldn’t deny that there were benefits to having several trained researchers busy on the project instead of just himself and a few earnest teenagers.
Jenny stopped in before her first class of the day to offer them an online directory of occult history and ask if they had yet heard from Buffy, but her eyes, full of bland professionalism when they were on the Watchers and pure sympathy when they were on Giles, showed that her emotional support was the greater objective. She took his hand in hers when they were both hidden behind the counter, squeezed it gently, and then moved away again and went on talking about fourteenth-century mystics who might have been referencing the Judge.
Nobody seemed greatly surprised to see Buffy coming through the doors before the bell rang, but Giles couldn’t hold back a broad smile of relief at seeing her up and functioning. Her road to recovery had just barely begun, but it was the potential for an onset of depression that had really been worrying him.
Quentin said her name and Giles said nothing, waiting to see who she had come to see. Kendra wasn’t there, Quentin and his two helpers had none of her respect, and Giles himself wasn’t expecting reconciliation just yet. Still, he was taken aback when she ignored all of them and went straight to Jenny, cold fury painting her features. “What do you know?” she demanded.
Jenny stared back at her, lips pursed, before responding, “What do you mean?”
“Did you do it? Did you change him?”
All three Council representatives were standing up and drawing closer to the conversation. Quentin looked like he was about to speak, and then thought better of it. Everyone’s attention was on Jenny now.
“Why are you asking me?”
Buffy slammed the counter, open-handed, not needing Slayer strength to rattle everything sitting on it. “You knew, you liar, you bitch...”
As important as he felt it was to not interfere, Giles found this too much. “Buffy, get a hold of yourself! You can’t just—“
“Shut up, Giles.” She took another step closer to Jenny and repeated, “What do you know?”
The Watchers held their silence despite the unmistakable threat in Buffy’s voice, clearly more curious at the moment than they were intent on controlling her. Bastards. Jenny cast them one sideways glance and then lifted her hands in a pacifying gesture. “Okay, we’ll talk about it. Maybe in my office...”
“No.” Buffy choked out the word, and Giles could finally see the fear beneath her anger. “Now. What are you? What did you do to Angel?”
“I didn’t do it.” Jenny took a deep breath. “I didn’t know exactly what would happen, they just told me...”
“Who told you?” Buffy cut in.
“My people. I was sent to...to watch you, to keep you and Angel apart. He was supposed to pay for what he did to us.”
Giles stared at her, this woman he loved, this alien stranger. Her people? Who were her people? Had she lied to him about who she was, or had he simply never asked the right questions? And how could she, so firmly aligned with Sunnydale’s supernatural defenses for the past year, have caused such damage to his Slayer?
“And me?” asked Buffy. “What was I supposed to be paying for?”
Jenny shook her head. “I swear, if I had known I would have told you. But Buffy, wouldn’t you rather continue this conversation...later? Somewhere else?”
She looked at the Watchers. So did Giles. Buffy didn’t, and nobody spoke until she did. “Way to protect my secrets. I think we’re a little past that now.” She didn’t flinch. “Angel and I slept together last night. Is that what changed him?”
The sharp intake of breath that Giles heard was so closely concurrent with his own that he couldn’t tell who else had done it. Jenny’s eyes squeezed shut for an instant before she opened them to meet Buffy’s and said, “I think so. The curse said that if Angel felt true happiness, even for a moment, he would lose his soul.”
“Oh God,” said someone, whom Giles presently identified as himself.
Jenny looked down. “Is there...is there anything I can do?”
“Curse him again,” Buffy demanded without hesitation.
“I can’t. That magic is long lost, even to my people...”
“If you did it once—“
Quentin cut in unexpectedly, speaking over Buffy and giving Jenny a sharp look. “Who are your people?”
Giles’s guilt finally found an outlet, channeling into anger at the unwelcome presence and attention of the Council. “That’s nothing at all of your business,” he snapped.
Naturally, Quentin went on as if he hadn’t even heard. “It’s unconfirmed, but rumor has the soul of Angelus being restored by Gypsies. Are you of Romani descent, Miss Calendar?”
“Yes,” she admitted wearily, “but that’s all I have, descent. None of the sorcery involved has been passed down to me.”
Willoughby and Quentin’s other assistant had still said nothing, but Giles saw with disgust that the latter had produced a small pad from his pocket, and was actually taking notes. “Even so,” Travers persisted, “if you were assigned this task, you have a connection to a source of power and knowledge that may be essential. With your aid, we may be able to unveil the rudiments of the spell work that allowed your ancestors to gain control of the soul’s journey. Pardon my forthrightness, Miss Calendar, but this is far too important to withhold.”
Buffy had been listening quietly, and now turned a studious look on Jenny. Her inclusion of the three Watchers, and even of Giles himself, in this most intimate conversation on her personal life had baffled him, but now he saw that she had been planning this all along. Last night, Quentin had suggested that Angel could be restored to his former self, and Buffy must have brought Jenny’s involvement into the equation and concluded that she had to probe them all for a solution, however unpleasant the discussion would be for her.
“You don’t understand,” said Jenny, shaking her head in frustration. “Whatever this spell was, it’s gone. We haven’t trained a real witch in generations. I’m sorry, Buffy. I can’t help you.”
Buffy’s tone of voice identified her as the real authority in the room. “Then take me to someone who can.”
On Miss Calendar’s recommendation, Buffy allowed Travers to accompany them to her uncle’s hotel room so that he could hear any vital information firsthand. On her own judgment, she told Giles that his company wasn’t needed. The junior Watchers were very firmly not invited. After all, they needed to keep the group small if they were going to get anything out of Enyos. Nobody questioned her, Giles least of all. Good.
Enyos’s hotel room smelled of pipe smoke and murder. Enyos himself was cut to ribbons on the bed, his face frozen eternally in sudden dismay. Buffy eyed the taunt that was painted on the wall as Miss Calendar cried out and ran over to the body. Even in the oversized letters in the medium of fresh blood, she could identify Angel’s handwriting. Any doubt about what had happened to him was gone, and so was any hope that the Kalderash people could reverse it.
The Kalderash people weren’t supposed to be her only hope, though. Buffy looked at Travers, who was still staring at the body, pale but stoic. “I should very much like to meet this Angelus,” he said in a low voice.
“I don’t know if you’re heartless or just insane,” replied Buffy, “but either way, you better mean that as a threat.”
Willow held open the door for Xander and Oz, who were following her into the library with the long box freshly stolen from the army base. Xander hadn’t quite been meeting her eye all night, which was fine with her. Oz had passed up what she thought was a prime opportunity for a first kiss, but did so with an explanation she could handle until things settled down. Both boys were a little too aware of the situation for her comfort level, but they let none of it into their interaction with each other. That was a relief: the box looked too heavy for Willow’s liking, and Cordelia was still complaining about being the one to help Xander get it out to the van.
The library was empty except for Giles and Kendra, who were in deep conversation about Spike and Drusilla. Books and weapons were everywhere, and Willow guessed that they had been preparing for a while now. “Where is everyone?” she asked as the boys set the box down on Giles’s desk and Cordy fussed with a small spot on her jacket.
“Buffy is, ah, investigating Angelus,” said Giles. “With Jenny. And...and Quentin.”
The implications of Giles being left behind on such an endeavor weren’t lost on Willow, but she was still having trouble finding any sympathy for him. Xander was too, apparently, as he replied caustically with, “And we’re just in time for the Sidekicks’ Convention. Well, she better come back soon. The Judge needs some investigation too, like the giant-hole-where-his-head-used-to-be kind of investigation.”
“Is dis a weapon?” asked Kendra, running her hand across the edge of the crate. “For da Judge?”
Cordy sat down in Giles’s chair and crossed her legs. “It’s a rocket launcher. Xander made me pretend I was a skank so he could steal it. The things I do to save the world for you people!”
Willow bit back a comment about Cordy’s questionable use of the word ‘pretend’. Xander’s plan had been a good one, and she was impressed that the two of them had been able to pull it off, even though she wasn’t quite ready to believe that Cordelia Chase could be more an asset than a liability in any kind of plan that didn’t involve shopping.
Kendra had taken a crowbar to the box and opened it up, and Willow, unable to help being curious, peeked into it with her. “I ken wield dis,” the Slayer proclaimed. “We must find de Judge and de vampires, quickly. Dere is no time ta waste.”
“Just a sec there, Trigger-Happy Jack,” Xander cut in. “We brought this here for Buffy, and we’re not going anywhere without her. If you want to do some slicing and dicing I’m sure you’ll get your chance, but Sunnydale’s already got a lady, and this is her fight we’re talking about.”
Kendra was not at all happy to hear this. “Do ya not understand?” she snapped. “Dis is not Buffy’s battle, dis is Armageddon! Ahn-gelus mighta keeled har already, for all ye know!”
“Don’t say that!” Willow cried.
Cordelia, of course, had far less emotion behind her stance. “You know, Xander, Kendra’s kind of right. While Buffy’s sorting out her love life, the Judge could start pulverizing thousands of innocent people who might be us. Someone else wants to pick up that gun, I say pick up that gun.”
Oz had said nothing since bringing in the box. He kept his silence now, but placed a warm hand on Willow’s shoulder, and she knew that his own plan was to follow hers, whatever it was.
“Giles?” said Xander. “Tie-breaker.”
Giles looked surprised to be spoken to. Apparently he had no designs on regaining some kind of leadership over this group, but he accepted the inclusion of a fair vote that Xander had just offered him. “Hm? Oh. Yes, well. We wait for Buffy. Of course.”
Cordy’s complaints and rolling eyes didn’t move him, and Kendra was unlikely to protest a decision coming from anyone resembling a Watcher, so Xander reached over and made a show of setting the lid back down on the rocket launcher’s box.
Tensions were only increasing as minutes ticked by, and Willow was grateful for more than one reason when Buffy returned, followed by Quentin Travers and Miss Calendar, both of whom were visibly shaken. Buffy herself had a dead look in her eyes that disturbed Willow on a deeper level than the threat of the Judge did, but before anyone could ask her about it, she spoke first. “No luck with Angel. Did you guys come up with anything for the Judge?”
“I’ll say we did,” said Xander. He headed back into Giles’s office, beckoning, and Buffy followed.
“This is good,” she said, looking into the crate with him.
“You want me to show you how to use it?”
Buffy shook her head. “No. Show Kendra.”
There was a brief spark of surprise from both Xander and Kendra. Neither voiced it, but Buffy went on to say, “We don’t have time to talk about who deserves to be the one taking out the badness. This is a job for the Slayer.”
Willow felt like Buffy had undergone light years of change overnight, leaving the rest of them behind as the naïve teenagers that they were. The friendship they had was too strong to bend to that, though, so she went ahead and asked her question. “Buffy, what happened?”
Before answering, Buffy looked around to see who else was close enough to listen, and seeing Xander, Oz, and Kendra, she bowed her head and said, “Angel killed Miss Calendar’s uncle. The Romani leader guy who she thought might be able to get his soul back.”
Willow’s mouth dropped open. “That means...”
“That means he’s an enemy. We’re fighting him, we’re not fighting for him. If we see him tonight, and we will, if this is going to work, then everyone has to be ready to face him or stay away, because he’s going to kill again.”
Kendra nodded solemnly, arms crossed. Xander clasped a hand to his face. Willow took a deep breath. “What now?”
“We have to find them. We’ll check the factory first, but they might not be there. Kendra, you’re key here, are you ready for this?”
Miss Calendar appeared in the office’s doorway, Giles visible a few steps behind her. “Is there something I can do?” she asked quietly.
Buffy brushed past her as she walked out of the office, the others following. “Get out.”
Willow’s heart ached for her former favorite teacher even as she fumed over the betrayal, still too new to feel genuine. She wondered how close the woman had been to her uncle. As they all reconvened before the library counter, Willow was the only one whose eyes strayed back over her shoulder to the one who was still rooted to the spot outside the office door.
“I just want to help,” Miss Calendar added. Giles took a hesitant step in her direction but said nothing.
“You can’t,” Buffy replied. She turned her attention toward the others. “Oz, you’ve got the van outside?”
“Ready and waiting,” he said.
Giles finally spoke. “The rest of us can take my car.”
Buffy didn’t even have to hesitate to search for an answer to that. “We don’t need it. You’re staying.”
However he had felt about being excluded earlier, Willow guessed that it was nothing compared to this. “But Buffy--!” he cried, whipping his glasses off of his face.
She spared a second to look him in the eye, totally impassive. “This is not a test.” Then she turned away, silently giving her friends the cue to mobilize.
“Buffy,” said Travers, making Willow start. She had almost forgotten he was there. “You don’t have to go either, you know. You’ve strategized this well, and you’re right to say that Kendra should be the one handling the combat.”
“Yeah, well. I’m not a Watcher. Force of habit isn’t letting me leave the dirty work to someone else.” She gestured at Giles and Miss Calendar, who were as close to each other as Willow supposed Giles’s decorum would allow. “Keep them company.”
Start at the beginning.