ImMortal part 1: Encore
Buffy cried out as Giles immersed himself within her, his breadth pushing its way through her slick flesh. He withdrew, his succulent tongue lapping across the sweaty skin of her throat, teasing her just before plunging in yet again. She convulsed with pleasure beneath him, his thickness drawing out a passionate moan as he lifted her with an arm to deepen their union. Their bodies writhed together, spasms rippling along their exuberant muscles as their rhythm hastened.
"Harder," she panted, grasping his hips and ramming his throbbing shaft inside her. She needed to feel him, craving every inch of him. To take away all the hurt and pain from him with every pounding thrust. He rumbled his delight along her neck as his rigidity dove forward with such intensity it stole her breath away. He moved her as no one before, going to a place so buried that she no longer knew where she ended and he begun. Again, his body pressed to hers, his flesh triggering a thunderous rapture ringing throughout her tensing form. She was so close, nerves singing, muscles constricting around him as her climax boiled to the surface.
"Don't leave me," she gasped, guiding his thrusts with her trembling hands. "I love you." Buffy squeezed her eyes shut, tears streaming down her cheeks as he dove into her.
"I love you," he whispered tenderly along her parched lips as his body stiffened, on the verge of release. Another thrust and she felt his flesh shudder, spilling his soul into her as his voice roared out in blissful agony, "Always...and... for...ev...er..."
But his final word was barely an echo, carried away on the ashen breeze. When she opened her tired eyes to take in the magnificence of his stunning green gaze, she was met instead by a blinding light. It was all that remained of him and then, in a sudden burst of energy, everything went dark.
The entirety of Wolfram and Hart was in a chaotic panic. Deafening alarms sounded down the endless corridors, heavy metal-link gates came crashing down to seal the exits as frantic employees rushed and collided into them to escape their fears that the unspeakable evil that lay dormant within the building was finally seeking out its ultimate control. The stench of smoke and burnt carpet filled the confined space of the overcrowded office as sickened onlookers rushed to be free of the noxious fumes.
Buffy was unaffected, still awestruck and kneeling before the source of the commotion as she woke from her daydream. Though her eyes saw what her heart had cried for since the fall of Sunnydale, she couldn't accept the possibility of his return. But he was there, her once lost and now seemingly found love, Giles.
"You're not real," she whispered breathlessly.
"I'm s-sorry," he said in a raspy voice, beads of sweat dripping from his brow to vanish into thin air beneath him. "It w-was the only way."
"You can't be here," she sobbed, trying to touch his face only to see her fingers flow through his vaporous features. "Do you see him?"
"We see him," Dawn reassured her. "It's not a dream." She knew Buffy assumed that she was dreaming about him again. The Slayer frequently had nightmares, just as they all did.
Willow and Wesley stood motionless, astounded by the vision before them. None of them could believe or understand what was happening. Angel was also stunned by the appearance of the man as he stood protectively at Buffy's side.
A mob of heavily armed security officers came marching in formation to Angel's office, stealing away everyone's attentions with the metallic clanks and snaps of guns at the ready to vanquish the intruder by any means necessary. Angel raised a hand to stop them.
"No! I'll handle this," he ordered.
"But Sir... we have a report of a code 3," the helmeted soldier warned sternly.
"The situation is under control. I said I'd handle it..." Angel insisted as his eyes fell on the nude and shivering body balled up on his rug. It was nearly impossible to comprehend but it was Giles. He recognized the artistic etching of scars on his back; souvenirs left behind from Angelus' visit with the Watcher so many years ago.
"I can't touch him," Buffy gasped, her tearful eyes refusing to look away from the specter of the man. "Why can't I touch him?"
Fred rushed forward, joining along side Wesley as he approached.
"Fascinating," Wesley muttered as he inquisitively reached out to touch Giles, only to have his fingers pass through the Watcher's shoulder as if he were mist. "It would appear Mr. Giles has indeed returned as a phantom."
Giles' exhausted stare held Buffy's, smiling tenderly at the sight of her concerned face seeking out answers to question he didn't care in the least about. Buffy was safe, it was all that mattered.
"Is he real?" Dawn asked, taking a nervous step forward. The familiar voice was the only thing that could take Giles' attention away from the distressed Slayer and he looked over to see the bewildered face of the younger Summers.
"Dawn?" He choked out in disbelief, his eyes tearfully relieved to see her.
"It's me, Giles," Her bewildered expression gave way to a subtle smile and she moved forward to get a better view. She got much more than she bargained for as the Watcher staggered to his feet, revealing his sweat-glistening, au natural form to all who stood in view. Though her face flushed with embarrassment, she couldn't look away. Giles was there and it was amazing.
"What's with all the ruckus..." Xander came running into the office with Anya quickly in tow. They skidded to a halt at the sight of the fully naked man standing on display in the center of the room. "Yowza! Didn't see that one comin'." He rapidly diverted his eyes before acknowledging the identity of the exposed man.
"Giles?" Anya's face lit up and she tugged at Xander's arm to encourage him to look.
"Giles?" Xander's heart skipped with mention of the name and he risked another peek of the spectacle. Sure enough, the unlikely exhibitionist was the G-man himself. "Oh my God!"
"W-Willow?" Giles tired gaze searched the crowd, needing to see the final missing face of his family.
"I'm here..." she barely managed a squeak as she separated herself from the growing crowd. "We're all here, Giles."
"You m-made it out... you're all s-safe. Thank heavens."
"What's going on?" Angel interjected. "Fred, give me something."
The inquiring young lady took her own turn in trying a quick jab at the phantom. Giles patiently watched on as he was prodded ineffectually again. Xander and Anya gasped at the realization that Giles seemed to be ethereal.
"My first impression and very unscientific guess..." Fred said apprehensively, "Wesley is right, he's a ghost."
"How? Why?" Angel asked.
"And what's with the nakedness?" Xander said, his face blushing as he worked to keep his eyes focused on the upper areas of Giles' bare body.
"No complaints here," Lorne grinned, his eyes eagerly roaming the impressive view. "Loved the opening scene, by the way. Can't wait to see the next act."
The Watcher's unsteady stance swayed as he tried to clear the fog in his mind and comprehend what was happening. His exhausted gaze fell south, suddenly realizing that he was exposed to the world. He thought for a moment and did the only thing he could think of to remedy the awkward situation; he took a few steps back to vanish within the solid oak desk right behind him, masking the lower portion of his anatomy.
"What's happened to him? Is he real?" Buffy pleaded for answers, quickly growing aggravated with receiving none.
"All good questions..." Wesley knelt down and carefully took up the still warm amulet. "I'd suspect this is the culprit; triggered to release Mr. Giles at the opportune moment." He glanced over at Giles to catch sight of him focusing again on Buffy, absorbed with her concerned face. It was a bittersweet reunion.
"Is he safe?" Gunn spoke up and everyone turned to look at him. "I mean for us. After all the fire and brimstone introduction, is he safe for us to be around? Could there be radiation poisoning or something?"
"He's not an asteroid. He's a human being," Fred said a bit too harshly, causing her to wince regretfully at her tone.
"I'm neither, I'm afraid." Giles corrected, his voice growing stronger. "But you're correct in your consternation. I should be quarantined until you can deem me safe to be around."
"Certainly sounds like Giles," Anya said plainly. "Welcome back."
"I won't leave you." Buffy moved to him, absentmindedly reaching out for him again. Giles went to take her hand and immediately caught himself from another demonstration of his intangibility. He pulled away, trying to spare her from the bleak reminder of his condition.
"It's for the best, Buffy. Just for the time being."
"But I just got you back," she whispered.
"Buffy, please let us take some precautions. We don't want to risk loosing you and others due to some shortsighted mistake." Wesley motioned for the security team to leave. "We won't be requiring your services anymore. Return to your posts."
"Yes sir." The leader nodded and began to march away as his team trailed along. Angel rolled his eyes in frustration. Why did everyone listen to Wesley when he was appointed the guy in charge?
"Fred will look after you while she runs some tests," Wesley directed his attentions to Giles then turned to Buffy. "As soon as she verifies Mr. Giles is safe to have company, we'll escort him to my office and call for you."
"Buffy, he'll be alright," Angel urged, offering her reassurance with a gentle smile.
"I'll be waiting in Wes' office," she said directly to Giles, her face still dazed with confusion. Giles nodded, the hint of a smile curling along his lips.
"Don't worry. I'm not going anywh..." In an instant, he vanished before her very eyes.
"Giles!" Buffy reached out, slashing at the air for some sign of him.
"Where did he go?" Dawn looked to Wesley.
"I don't know." Wes answered, twisting around to check behind him.
"Perhaps he decided to go to the lab. Making himself invisible so he didn't scare the natives?" Xander said uneasily.
"Maybe he's gone for good." Anya's pessimistic suggestion made everyone worry.
"...where..." Giles reappeared in the very same spot, eyes wide with shock. "Bloody hell," he whispered.
"Where'd ya go?" Xander shouted, startled.
"Don't do that again!" Buffy pleaded.
"It wasn't me. At least I don't believe it was. Perhaps we better get on with the tests," He suggested nervously to Fred and moved forward.
"Hold it!" Wes rushed to stop him. "Maybe we should attempt to cover you up."
"How? He's a ghost?" Xander shrugged.
"I'm not letting you out of my sight!" Buffy said resolutely.
"Well... maybe if we all encircle him and move together..." Wes suggested.
"Where is this laboratory located?" Giles directed the question to Fred.
"Follow me," she smiled shyly and began to walk. The gang took up places surrounding Giles and the moved to follow along. Buffy kept her eye on him, unwilling to turn away for fear he'd vanish again. Rattled observers raised curious brows at his passing.
"This is bloody ludicrous," Giles grumbled as they made it to the elevator.
"Well, if you'd had the common decency to reappear with the proper attire, this wouldn't be necessary," Wes teased.
"If I had it within my power, I would be fully dressed, I assure you."
They'd been at it for hours, Wesley with his numerous books and Fred with her humming gadgets and lively apparatuses. Buffy felt no closer to understanding why or how Giles had come back. What she did know was that she was a jumbled mess of raw emotions, an explosion ready to erupt with the tiniest of sparks. She had to hold it together, not only for herself and the others, but for Giles. As she stared with eager anticipation into his tender green eyes, she realized he didn't care what was happening. He was contented to simply be with her and she took comfort in that.
"Do you remember anything?" Xander asked. "I mean during the... the event?"
Giles stood off to the side of a lab table, positioned behind a small curtain offering him some modesty and the others some relief from the difficulty of keeping their eyes from straying south. The crowd had dwindled to a more reasonable number. Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Xander, Anya, Angel, Gunn, Fred and Wesley were spread out within the spacious room.
"I remember light..." he started, his gaze never leaving Buffy, "Crumbling earth and ash."
"Did you feel anything? Can you describe any sensations?" Wesley encouraged him.
"There was pain. Searing heat welling up from inside me as the light grew." He saw Buffy's eyes tear as he spoke. "Then there was... peace. No noise, no pain. Then finally, nothing."
"Nothing? What do you mean?" Angel asked uncomfortably.
"Absolute emptiness of space and being." Giles' eerie tone sent a chill up Angel's spine, causing the vampire to shift uneasily in his spot. "I didn't exist, formless and meaningless. Nothing."
"Freaky," Harmony said bluntly, drawing all focus to her sudden appearance. "It must have been horrible."
"It wasn't," he looked down to the amulet beside him and Buffy thought she could see regret in his eyes. Perhaps he'd been torn from heaven as she had been.
"Harmony, desk... now!" Angel rumbled.
"I know, I know, Geez... can't kill a girl for being curious," she sighed and moved to the door. "Besides, I'm already dead."
"Do you remember anything after that?" Willow 's curiosity got the best of her.
"More pain and fire. Then... " he slowly looked up to her and inspected the faces surrounding him, "...then I was here."
"Were you in another dimension?" Fred asked.
"I don't know where I was or what I was. It was nothing. I'm afraid I can't be of any more help. The whole thing seemed as if it where only seconds."
"Fred? Theories?" Angel asked hopefully.
"The good news is, you're not a ghost. The bad news, I don't know what you are, exactly." Fred discarded the scanner and jotted down some notes on her clipboard. The gang listened intently as she continued on to explain. "See, I'm registering brainwave activity which is highly unusual for spiritual entities. My instruments are reading electromagnetic signals consistent with those made by ghosts, but there's no ectoplasmic matrix. Since ectoplasm is what makes a ghost visible to the human eye, if he was a ghost, technically we shouldn't be able to see him. Lastly, ghosts tend to absorb light and heat energy making the area around them a few degrees cooler. Mr. Giles is actually radiating heat. That's what set off the alarms. My conclusion, he can't be a ghost."
"Then what is he?" Angel asked. "Some sort of demon? Is there some kind of ghost-like demon?" He looked to Wesley for an answer.
"Can't say I recall any references to such a beast." Wesley shook his head and glanced over at Giles, hopeful for a second opinion.
"Nor I." Giles agreed. "Though there was mention of a subspecies of K'thra which can phase in and out of their own plain of existence. But they can't survive in stable dimensions such as this one. Perhaps a..."
"Again, definite Giles talk." Anya concluded happily.
"Is he..." Buffy paused, cringing at the thought she was going to suggest. She knew it needed to be asked. "Could he be The First?" Her fretful stare met Giles' and his face fell somber.
"It's possible." Fred hesitantly agreed. "I'm sorry."
"Which would make him evil," Gunn said bluntly, noticing the Slayer's eyes fill with tears. He felt bad for saying it but she was the one who pointed out the comparison to begin with.
"We don't know that," Angel came to Giles defense.
"I'm afraid the evidence would suggest otherwise, Angel," Wes gently disagreed. "Though it would appear this amulet is somehow linked to Mr. Giles and I am unaware of any direct correlation of such a piece to The First. Perhaps focusing our attentions on the origin of the amulet would help us prove Mr. Giles is not a danger to us."
"He sounds very much like Giles, too," Anya suggested.
"Um..." Wesley cocked a curious brow at the perplexing comment. "Thanks?"
"I ain't waitin' around here to find out. I've got cases to attend to. Later," Gunn left in a bit of a huff.
Giles inventoried the worried looks of the friends around him. "We must find a way to determine whether or not I am the incarnation of The First." Buffy nodded, her features transitioning from concern to a hardened look of determination. She was shielding herself from her emotions, shielding herself from hope.
"We need to know," she agreed.
"Well, I can research the files we have on The First. See if there is any record of a previous occurrence similar to this one." Wes quickly moved to the door.
"And I can do some more tests. Maybe there's some other explanation to what he is and why he's here." Fred looked at Buffy, silently asking her permission.
"Do it. Do anything." Buffy commanded and regarded Giles' dismal expression with seeming disinterest. "Just make sure." She followed Wesley out the door. Xander, Anya, Dawn and Willow moved to follow.
"Take care G-man," Xander said.
"Let us know when you find something," Willow said to Fred. "Or if you need any help."
"I will." She nodded.
After the others had exited, Dawn paused at the open door and looked back at Giles. "No matter what you are, I'm glad you're back."
"Thank you." Giles smiled gratefully and watched the rest of the crowd empty out of the lab, leaving only Angel, Fred and himself behind.
"I'm sorry," Angel spoke softly.
Giles looked over at the vampire with a raised brow. "Pardon?"
"I'm sorry this happened to you," Angel repeated soulfully and moved closer, leaning on the edge of the nearest table. Fred returned to her preparations for the next series of tests. "It should have been me. If it wasn't for Buffy's insistence, it would have been."
"You couldn't have known. None of you could."
"I'll bet they knew." Angel gestured around the room. "Wolfram and Hart supplied me with the amulet. Someone knew. Someone was counting on it."
"Then it was for the best that it was me and Buffy may have unknowingly prevented yet another apocalypse."
"Or perhaps it all went down exactly as planned." Angel glanced distrustfully over to the Watcher. "Tell me, Giles... are you evil?"
Giles lips curled back with a sly grin. "Are you?"
After an intense exchange of knowing stares, the two men looked away.
"If I am..." the Watcher spoke delicately, "...promise me you'll end it."
Angel examined the somber expression of the man beside him. "You have my word." With that, he left.
Silence fell over the room as Giles watched Fred set up a variety of beakers. Every once in a while, her dark eyes would peek over at him only to quickly dart away and return to her preparations.
"If memory serves, this is the infamous law firm Wolfram and Hart?"
"Yep, the one and only... I think."
"And when was it that Angel decided to sell his soul?"
"Oh... no, you don't understand. We're not working for them. They're working for us." She corrected proudly.
Giles eyes wandered around the room and fell back to the clipboard the young scientist was scribbling on. "Is that so? It appears to me as if you're the one doing the work. Or is this just a hobby if yours, determining the nature of all things otherworldly?"
"It's a really long and complicated story." Fred dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand. "Gosh, I'm sorry... we've never met. I forget because of Willow 's and Dawn's stories, I feel like I know you. I'm Winifred Burkle, but you can call me Fred. Everyone else does." She flashed a gracious smile.
"Nice to meet you Doctor Fred."
"Naw..." She giggled, "Just Fred. And you're Mr. Rupert Giles."
"Just Giles," he amended gently. "How is she?"
"Who? Oh, you mean Buffy," she continued gathering things. "It's been hard for her. She doesn't talk to anyone. Well... she talks to Angel but she doesn't really say anything. I don't know her very well yet, but I can tell she really missed you. By the way, thanks for saving the world and all. That was really swell of you."
"Your very welcome," Giles smirked. It sounded so odd but what else could he say.
"I don't mean to be nosey, but can I ask you a question?" Fred's mousey tone made Giles smile. He could tell she was painfully shy and it couldn't be helping matters that he was as revealed as he was.
"It is the duty of all good scientists to be nosey. Ask whatever you like."
"You were Buffy's Watcher?"
"And you were in love with her?"
He waited a moment before answering. "I am," he said softly, as if the words caused him pain.
"Of course... that's silly of me. You wouldn't just stop loving her, would you?" Fred nodded as if she'd received confirmation of a theory. "Does she know?"
"I've told her." He glanced down to the amulet positioned on a light box. "I wasn't sure she believed me."
"That's funny... Willow said Buffy thought the same thing about you." She could see the sadness in his eyes and decided to change the subject as she returned to setting up the next experiment.
"I'm sorry, I ramble on at times. Just tell me to shut up or something. So, we need to do something to make you more... um, comfortable. Maybe Willow can do some kind of spell to give you the illusion of clothes." Fred turned to look at the Watcher and was frozen in shock at the sight of him. Giles stood out from behind the curtain only now he was there fully dressed; tight, worn-in and shapely blue jeans, heavy, thick-soled dark grey boots, black, silken shirt and a dusty and crinkled mid-thigh length, black leather jacket. From her limited experience, he looked nothing like a Watcher. "Wow. You've created clothes."
Giles glanced down and shrugged indifferently. "I guess it's within my powers after all."
"Fascinating..." Fred fished around her desk for some notes, muttering aloud as she did. "You've shifted your appearance. If I remember correctly, The First also had the power of transmogrification..." She stopped cold, the meaning of her words suddenly making her hyperaware of who she was speaking to. Her eyes darted back over to the Watcher who remained motionless, offering no sign of emotion, only a distant, hollow stare. Fred's skin crawled with the expression on his face and she suddenly felt much too alone with him.
"Um... silly me... I forgot my, um... my notebook. It's in my office. I'll just run along and get it. Make yourself at home." She shuffled backwards toward the door, keeping a guarded eye on Giles the whole time. "I'll be right back."
"I'll be waiting," he said in a smooth, deep tone that sent a shiver up her spine. Maybe it was just her nervous tension but Fred would have sworn that Giles wasn't the same man she'd seen materialize just moments before.