"I've had better ideas in my life," Giles said out loud to the vastly empty clearing. "Regrettably, I've had few more foolish ones."
The birds were the only ones who heard him. He was out in the middle of nowhere, on a errand of madness. Returning to England to close his office at the British Museum, he had found the work moving slowly. His flat in Chelsea had been easy to close by comparison. He had boxed up the volumes that lived there and shipped them across the pond. But his office... that had been more his home than the flat. It was covered in dust and still not large enough to bring a cat in, let alone swing one, but no one had invaded it in his absence. There were no windows; there were no pictures on the wall. Every spare space was covered in books.
The difficulty was sorting out what belonged to him personally and what belonged to the Museum. Somehow, before, that had never been a problem. He'd always known it was his duty, his fate, to be a Watcher. But until he had been called to Sunnydale, it never really had infringed upon his life very much.
Now, all of a sudden, there was here and there, this and that, Watcher and librarian. His life was bifocused. He suddenly understood why Buffy had tried to deny her fate as Slayer. Two lives, two identities, and only one person to live it. It was exhausting, to say the least. Buffy, at least, knew which life she would rather have been living. She would have turned her back on her destiny, lived a normal, staid life if she could. But Giles... offered the choice, which would he choose?
The dismantling of his life in England had been a wearisome project, one that he tackled with a complete lack of enthusiasm. And one that made distractions of any sort welcome. When the director of the library had approached him to ask that he deliver a particular volume to a monastery in Ireland, Giles had accepted without thinking. Now, he was regretting his rash action.
It was well before sundown, half-three, just as the abbot had requested. Giles had followed the detailed directions out to the small henge out on the coast of County Clare, text in hand. Why a Christian priest would wish such a transaction in the middle of a pagan stone circle, Giles could not understand. The text itself was not extraordinary, a fourteenth century retelling of the legend of Saint Patrick's life. Giles could be grateful that the renowned saint had driven the snakes from Ireland. It made picking through the nearly waist-high grass surrounding the henge a little less hazardous.
He'd spent his plane trip to Dublin studying the Pergamon Codex, instead. It puzzled him endlessly. It was a font of knowledge, not complete, but most definitely not wrong. The prophecies in the Codex and the prophecy that Aurelious recorded dovetailed perfectly. And yet... there was no other way to translate, "Interfectrix non cogitabit eum" other than, "The Slayer shall not know him."
The Codex rested in a satchel slung over Giles' shoulder, along with three or four other volumes that needed his study, and a change of clothes. The *Life of Saint Patrick* that he was to return was clutched in one hand.
A half an hour passed, and there still was no sign of the gentleman he was to meet. The soft summer sun and gentle breeze swayed the grass and stirred the green scents of the earth. Curious, Giles wandered over to the well-worn stones that stood silent sentinel against the ages. There were faint markings on their surface, engravings once deeply cut and now shadows against the granite. Leaning closer, he braced one hand against the opposite stone and examined the marks carefully.
With a flash of coruscating light, he felt himself violently thrust into... nothingness.
It was dark when he woke up. Pitch-black without the faintest trace of light. Terror gripped for a moment before he remembered to open his eyes.
The sun was down, but it was not quite dark. Purple twilight lingered overhead, specked with only the most brilliant of stars and planets. Giles levered himself upright, his head spinning as dizzily has it had in his carefree youth when he and his fellows had sought to determine who could consume the most ale in one sitting. For the first time, he understood why henges were often referred to as dances. The blocks seemed incapable of remaining inanimate around him.
His hand fell on the satchel beside him and he gained his feet. Obviously, the abbot was not going to appear. He would make his way back to the rented car that he had left parked about a mile back on the road, drive into Shannon, and fly back to London in the morning.
He took two steps and landed back down in the short grass. Wisely, he decided to remain there for a few moments. A meteor glanced through the heavens above him, and it seemed that there was not another soul in the world.
Which meant that the approach of another person took him completely by surprise. "Are you well, sir? Sorry," she apologized when Giles turned sharply, eyes wide and startled. "I saw you sitting so still, and out here in the middle of nowhere, and feared you were ill."
Behind him in the dim light stood a young girl, not much older than Buffy. Long dark hair was tied at the nape of her neck into a loose ponytail, and she wore a plain blouse and a long loose skirt. "I fear... I am disoriented. I was waiting here for the abbot to come, but I have not seen him."
The girl cocked her head curiously. A feeling of familiarity overwhelmed Giles. Something whispered that he should know this girl. "Father Ambros would not leave a sheep to linger alone at night. Not here. You must have been misdirected. And he had services to conduct today. It was St. John's Day."
"Midsummer's Eve," Giles murmured, checking his head for a lump. Surely a blow to the skull would explain his dizziness and confusion, as well as the persistent notion that he knew this girl. There was no swelling, however. An energy discharge? If a bolt of lightening had struck nearby, it might have stunned him. But it had been a clear, sunny day. No clouds in sight.
The girl came forward to kneel beside him, helping to steady him. "Aye, 'tis the sun feast." She grinned suddenly, pale eyes gleaming in the low light. "Father Ambros has no quarrel with the Old Ones, but for the sake of his position, he can hardly acknowledge such things." With easy strength she helped him rise, and supported him when he wobbled. "I'll take you to him, won't I, and he can have Brother Rugh look you over. Rugh is a fine healer."
"My car is on the road. I walked here."
"I saw no cart on the road, sir, and I came that way. What's your name?" she asked, chatting away as they walked. "You're obviously British. Father Ambros has letters from England often, I assume you are one he contacts there? Or...," her voice trailed away. "Or did they send you to replace Henry?" she continued after making an obvious effort to steady her tone.
"I am Rupert Giles. As for Henry --" Giles stopped dead. Being upright and mobile had done wonders for his aching head, and the clear night air had swept away the rest of the cobwebs. The girl did not seem familiar because he had met her before. To the best of his knowledge, they had never come face to face.
But she was, undeniably, a Slayer, something that he sensed on a level that he could not even begin to explain.
He was incapable of speech for several long moments. Buffy was the Chosen One for her generation. There was only ever one Slayer at a time. The only way that this girl could be one was if Buffy had been killed.
In the silence, the girl let go of his arm. "You are a Watcher, aren't you?" she asked in a low, husky voice. "I knew when Henry was killed that they would have to send another. But I--are you well?" she asked urgently as Giles sank again to the ground.
"No, I do not think so," he said, dazed. "Tell me, was your Watcher named Henry Wadsworth?"
"Yes. Did you know him?" The girl settled on her knees on the ground in front of him.
"No, I didn't. For the very good reason that he died two hundred years before my birth. Dear God, I've traveled back in time."
"It was the stones," Deirdre said finally.
She and Giles had spent nearly an hour unraveling the threads that tangled them in confusion. The revelation that it was the year 1778 had first stunned and then intrigued Giles. Certainly in a year when he had finally taken up his duties as a Watcher, had encountered vampires, witches, giant bugs and alarming technopagans, and had cast spells for the first time, a trip through time was not quite as alarming.
"I quite agree. There are legends of fairy hills, where people fall asleep and wake a few hundred years later. I'm not sure I've ever heard of anyone moving *backwards* in time before."
"Well, I would say that it did happen tonight." Deirdre stopped within sight of the monastery. "The question then, is, how do we get you back?"
"I don't know," Giles said heavily. "Return to the stones? But I would think people wander through them every day, and not all of them go missing."
"But it was a holy night tonight. Perhaps the door opens briefly... but if you step through again, will you go back farther? Or return to your own time?" She sighed in frustration. "I wish I knew what to do! Henry was the one who guided me. I've missed him dreadfully."
"How did he... die?"
"As you'd expect," she said shortly. "One of the demons found him and murdered him." In the hard words was a wealth of pain. "I hate them!" she said fiercely. "They maim everything they touch, polluting and desecrating what they cannot simply tear limb from limb. I wish...."
"You wish that you were not the Slayer, that you did not have to know that such things existed, that it was not your duty to fight every creature that threatens what you know and love," Giles said quietly.
"Aye." Tears stood in her eyes. "I want to marry and have children and grow old... Liam can't understand why I refused him, and I dare not explain. But how can I put him in danger?"
Giles was at an awkward loss for words. Before his helpless silence dragged and became obvious, Deirdre took a deep breath and favored him with a strained smile. "Well, it cannot be helped, then. I am the Slayer. It is my duty and my fate, and no tears will change it. I will do what I must. Come, we must get you inside, even if few vampires are out tonight. They loathe Midsummer's violently. The shortest night of the year offends their sensibilities. Father Ambros will make you welcome, and Brother Rugh will make sure that you took no lasting harm."
They walked along a few more steps before Deirdre spoke again. "Aine will dearly love to speak with you. He is fiercely hungry for knowledge of the outside world." Deirdre sighed again, with regret. "'Tis irony that he should best find freedom within cloistered walls. He should be in Dublin or Oxford. But even if the entire village gave up their savings, we would have not a tenth of what he would need to study in such places." She smiled fondly. "Aine is Liam's brother, and a dearer, kinder boy I've never known. If you feel he is plaguing you unduly, tell him to go away. Curiosity will be the death of him someday."
By that point they had reached the small gate that connected the monastery with the outside world. Deirdre rang the bell that hung beside the wooden door, and within a few moments, it opened to reveal a tall, gaunt looking man. "Brother Rugh!" Deirdre exclaimed in relief. "Just the one we needed! I found this traveler in the dance. Perhaps thieves set on him. Regardless, he is dazed and in need of shelter."
"My good man." The tall monk had a surprisingly mellow voice. He came around Giles' other side and supported him. "Come with me."
Within short order, Giles found himself examined and pronounced in fit health. A bowl of hearty broth and a hunk of brown bread took the edge off his hunger. Deirdre bid him a good night and returned to her family's home, promising to return the next day. Giles was given a bunk in an empty cell. Weary with the day's events, he immediately fell into a deep sleep.
The sleep was broken a few hours later by a mild commotion. Giles stumbled out of his cell, putting his glasses on and looking blearily about. "What's the matter?"
"There is a band of travelers outside seeking shelter from the night," Brother Rugh told him. "Five men and one woman. From their speech, I would say they are aristocrats and French."
"But why the commotion?" Giles' question was answered by Father Ambros' quiet declaration.
"She is a female and she may very well be as ungodly as the rest of the French. But she is still a traveler in seek of shelter. Brother Fegin, let them in."
One by one, the sumptuously caped and shod men filed in through the narrow door. Without exception, they were young and Adonis-like. Following them was a woman whose velvet hood shielded her face. She stepped into the circle of torchlight and moved unerringly to the abbot.
"Thank you most kindly for your hospitality. We are grateful that you allowed us to rest our weary bones in your house. And if there is any way that we can repay you, I would seek most strenuously to discover it."
Even before the woman lowered her hood to reveal sleekly styled blond hair and a delicate face, Giles recognized the voice. "Dear Lord. Darla!"
"Vampires have been drawn here since before my birth," Deirdre explained. She had returned the monastery as soon as the sun rose, dragging Giles away before he had even had a chance to reach the communal dining room for a morning meal. To compensate, she had brought fresh-baked bread and sweet butter. The morning had dawned with a glory to hurt the eyes, cloudless and shining. Giles and Deirdre occupied the monastery garden, sitting on wooden benches and letting the sunlight pour over them.
"The stones," Giles hazarded a guess.
Deirdre nodded. "Aye. They seek to harness the power there for themselves. And, as we discovered last night, they might very well be a portal between different times. Imagine if a vampire had that kind of power."
"If it is all the same to you, I'd rather not." Giles shuddered. "We must prevent them from controlling it."
"I've been trying," Deirdre said impatiently.
"But you are only one, even though you are the Slayer," Giles put his hand on her shoulder in comfort. "No, we must find a way to keep the power from their hands -- permanently. Speaking of which, we have some visitors in the monastery today. One of whom I recognized. Her name is Darla, and I doubt we shall see her out in the sunlight."
"Are you sure she was a vampire?" Deirdre asked urgently. Giles' words shattered Deirdre's peace, as his sleep had been shattered by Darla's appearance the night before.
"Believe me, I know her quite well. She nearly tore my throat out once," Giles shuddered in memory, rubbing the area in question.
With a frustrated sound, Deirdre pushed to her feet and began pacing amidst the rows of cabbages and potatoes. "What incredible gall! To take rooms in a house of God! They will die for it," Deirdre muttered darkly.
"Darla is very old and very powerful," Giles warned her. "And I would assume that her traveling companions are her progeny, willing to defend her to their deaths, if need be."
"And I'm willing to defend me and mine --" Deirdre focused her gaze over Giles shoulder and cut herself off quickly. "Aine! So you do know the way out of the scriptorium!"
"Once in awhile, Brother Colm pushes me out for my own good," a humorous voice returned. "I was told that you were in the garden with the visitor from England, and so I thought I'd come beg an introduction."
Despite the brilliant sunlight, Giles felt very, very cold. The voice was warm and husky with laughter and love. And most unmistakable.
Deirdre led the young man in a monk's robe to where Giles sat. Dark hair, long enough to nearly be considered shaggy, covered the untonsured head, declaring him to be a novice, rather than a monk. And the face...
"Giles, please meet my childhood playmate Aine. He has yet to forgive his mother for naming him Aingeal, so woe befall anyone who calls him by his full name."
"Or you could simply call me by the name I shall be known by when I take my vows. Brother Angelus, at your service, sir." The man who would be the vampire Giles knew as Angel bowed, with a courtly grace that would have been amusing in his monk's robes if Giles was capable of amusement.
"I'm... ah, pleased, of course... do forgive me." Giles rose, swaying on his feet. "If you will excuse me..."
"Are you ill?" Deirdre asked. "You've gone white. Shall I call Brother Rugh?" She took one arm to support him, while Angel... Aine... Angelus took the other.
"No, I... merely need to rest for a moment. I think I shall... yes..."
Without thinking, Giles found his way to the chapel. He was not a religious man by habit or inclination. His knowledge of the world's darkest creatures tended to make him look at Christianity's God of Love and Hope with a rather jaundiced eye. But the chapel had silence and peace, things he desperately needed.
One monk knelt on the stone floor, telling his beads. Giles ignored him, sinking down onto the front pew, staring without seeing at the flicking light of the Presence. What should he do? What *could* he do? He could tell Deirdre what he knew, all of it. That her Aine was destined to become a vampire. And she would, without a doubt, destroy Darla or die trying. They would be striking a blow to the dark ones to do it, to rescue one soul from the demons.
And Buffy would die in 1997 at the hands of the Vessel, without Angel's cross to save her. She would die when the Three set upon her, without Angel to defend her. She might have walked blindly into the Master's trap, without the Codex to lend its dubious guidance, from Angel's hand.
Or would she? It was all very confusing. Giles knew what *would* happen, should events go forward as planned. But if he changed them, if he revealed his foreknowledge, could he alter history?
"Mr. Giles. Deirdre told me I could find you here."
It was the abbot, Father Ambros. Giles turned to face him. "I... can I be of service?"
"Perhaps I can." With a nod, the abbot indicated that the watching monk should leave. When they were alone, Father Ambros moved forward. He genuflected and sat beside Giles on the pew. "You should know that Deirdre has long since confided in me about her calling," he began calmly.
"She has told me of many fantastic things. Not the least being about a man who came through the stones to aid her."
"Deirdre is... talkative."
"Deirdre is very lonely, and very alone," the abbot said quietly. "When Henry was killed, she had no one but me to guide her. And, simple man that I am, could only offer support and love." Father Ambros spread his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "Henry was my friend. Although he came here to guide Deirdre, he became a part of our community, despite being English. He is sorely missed."
For long moments, the hissing of the flames in the candles was the only sound. "Father Ambros... if I felt that I could stop a tragedy from occurring, if I thought I could change fate...."
The father leaned forward, watching the face of the crucifix before them. "God gave men -- and women -- free will, to exercise as they see fit."
Such simple faith. And so easily betrayed. Giles turned once to look back at the face of the suffering Christ on the Cross behind him. "It's Angel... Angelus. Darla will take him. Soon, if I'm any judge."
The hiss of indrawn breath was loud in the chapel's silence. "Don't tell Deirdre," Father Ambros said finally, wearily. "She's like to act before thinking. If she dies... then we are all in terrible danger."
"But... if she *could* kill Darla, if we stop her from turning Angel --"
"Then she's like to die at the hands of the others," Father Ambros said. "I know the girl. Before Henry died, she accepted it as her duty to kill the creatures who came here, who threatened her home, her family, her friends. But since Henry's death... it is a bitterness that has grown stronger in h er. Hatred blinds her, blunts her. I love her dearly," the abbot said emphatically. "I baptized her as an infant, watched her grown into a strong and beautiful woman, hoped that I would preside at her marriage to her beloved. But if she is to fulfill her destiny, she must not let rash emotion destroy her."
"But the consequences could, literally, be deadly," Giles argued. "Worse. There's another girl, another Slayer, whose fate it was -- is -- to prevent Hell on Earth. If I act now to prevent one demon from rising, I might destroy any chance she would have of succeeding."
Father Ambros rose, putting one hand on Giles' shoulder. "I cannot advise you. All I can tell you is follow your conscience -- and forgive yourself for whichever decision you make. Come. We must find a way to prevent anyone from using the power of the stones for evil."
Giles got to his feet before the words registered. "We?"
"Of course." The abbot smiled. "Surely between a Watcher, a Slayer and a man of God, we shall prevail?"
"I'm afraid I do not share your optimism," Giles said heavily. He paused, torn. "I led one Slayer into her destiny blindly. I cannot do the same to another."
"As you will," the abbot said quietly. "But might I suggest you wait until we have bound the stones? We shall need her full attention for that."
It was still early. The sun was barely above the horizon. They had until nightfall to deal with the vampires who had made their unholy lair in a holy place. Giles nodded. "I will."
Before the sun had completed its rise to the zenith, Deirdre, Giles and the abbot were on their way to the standing stones. "A binding ritual should be fairly simple," Giles explained. "The difficulty is, I need to be able to return through the stones -- if such a thing is possible."
"It should be." Father Ambros assured him. "You were brought through the stones for a reason. Presumably, once that reason is fulfilled, then you shall return."
"Let us hope," Deirdre murmured.
In the sunlight, the stones looked like what they were, worn lumps of granite, blasted by sea winds into random shapes. Giles crossed to one of them, the one he had been standing by when he had taken his sudden, unscheduled trip. Tentatively, he placed his hand on it.
Deirdre turned to Father Ambros. "What should we do?"
The abbot opened his Book and began to recite prayers, calling blessings down upon the place, asking for intercession from Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget. While he spoke, Giles searched his memory for rituals, rites, anything that he could use. Drawing on his limited practical experience, he began to cast a Circle whose purpose was much the same as the monk's prayers: an appeal to whatever Powers to protect this place, to keep creatures of darkness from using and exploiting it.
Deirdre said nothing, merely wandered from one stone to the other, pausing here to think, there to lightly brush her hand over the weathered rock. "I feel it," she said finally, haltingly. "Whatever is here. I... *know* it." She shook her head in confusion. "I don't understand. But the power is here."
"We're ready," Father Ambros said.
"For what?" Giles snapped. "To bind the power of the stones? To what? I've seen a demon bound to a book and a mechanical body. I've seen a vampire bound to a mystical portal. But to what do we bind this power to that will still let me use it?"
"The sun," Deirdre said quietly.
Both men immediately looked up, and automatically blinked against the bright light. "Don't you see?" Deirdre continued. "The power in and of itself is not evil, but the *purpose* that it might be put to if the greatest evil we know could harness it is what we fear. But if we linked the power of these stones to the one thing that they cannot tolerate...." She spread her hands in an all-encompassing gesture and shrugged.
"Well done, lass," the abbot said. "Well done. Now then, Mr. Giles, since I freely admit that this is quite outside of my own experience, I'll defer to you to your greater experience."
"All right then." Giles took a deep breath. "Father, if you would be so good as to stand opposite me. And Deirdre, over there, to make three points of a triangle...."
The shadows were lengthening by the time the three returned to the monastery. Giles began marshaling his arguments. Deirdre needed to know what she was fighting. But... would it help or hinder her to know precisely how close to her heart Darla would strike? Would it give her the will to survive, or would it, as the abbot had said, drive her hot-headed temper into a blind fury that would result in her death?
Before Giles could even begin to try to explain, a young man with dark hair intercepted Deirdre. "Liam, no --" she said, automatically pulling away.
"Deirdre, listen to me. I need to talk with you. Please." He was a year or two older than his brother, Aine, and bore a strong resemblance, although did not quite have the otherworldly beauty of his brother.
"I've given you my answer already," Deirdre said quietly.
"And it makes no sense!" Liam burst out. "You *can't* marry me? Explain it! You have no calling to the Church, you do not love another --"
"You know I love you," she said, her voice fierce with her emotions.
Father Ambros touched Giles' arm. "Let's leave them," he murmured low. "It is an argument that will never be settled, yet they must fight it whenever they meet. They are well-matched... perhaps too much so."
Slowly, with a heavy heart, Giles made his way back to the garden. He pitied Deirdre, for being so young and in love and completely lacking any choice in her life. Yet she was strong enough to try to protect Liam, to try to keep him far enough away that the demons she fought couldn't touch him --
Giles froze in the entryway of the garden, hidden from view. Angel knelt before a vegetable patch, halfheartedly pulling weeds.
And, carefully keeping out of the sun's rays, was Darla.
"Greetings," she called. Angel turned towards her, startled. A brilliant shaft of sunlight touched his face and turned his shining dark hair into a gleaming pelt. "I hadn't seen you here today."
Rising politely, Angel bowed to the woman who was a guest of the abbot. "I am Brother Angelus. Or will be, when I take my vows. I've been inside most of the day. In the scriptorium."
"Really?" Darla tilted her head in an almost cartoonish parody of interest. "Now why would you want to spend the day trapped in a room full of dusty old books?" she purred.
Angel smiled slightly, and took one step towards her, not immune to the lure of a beautiful woman. The wind played in the trees, casting dancing shadows over him. "Ah, lady, but they are not. They are the key to the world for me. The closest I shall ever come to seeing that world for myself." Giles flinched at the bitterness in the boy's voice, a bitterness that he had obviously hidden from those he had loved.
Darla's lips curled into a smile. "So... you do not wish to become a monk to serve God?" she asked delicately.
"If I had a choice..." Angel's voice trailed off.
"Yes. If you had a choice, what would you choose?" Diffuse light danced in the golden threads of her hair, brightened the china blue of her eyes. Giles knew better, and still wondered how a creature so innocent-looking could be so deadly.
"I would choose... everything." Angel's voice was low and strained with want.
Darla watched him for a very long moment. ~I must warn Deirdre,~ Giles thought. ~It will be tonight, sooner than I had hoped.~
Without altering her gentle, sweet smile, Darla raised her hand and beckoned. "I can give it to you. Everything your heart desires. Power, knowledge, wealth. Enough to rule the world. Come to me."
Slowly, Angel moved forward. His hand slid into shadow, took hers, and then he fell to his knees at her feet. "Lady," he said, bringing her hands to his lips, his head humbly bowed. "I will serve you as best I may. Your patronage means the world to me."
"I know." The voice was no longer sweet. Angel looked up -- into her demon face.
He did not even have time to scream before her teeth were in his throat. It happened so quickly, so very quickly, that Giles was frozen in horror. Before he could react, Darla lifted her blood-stained mouth from Angel's neck. She tore at her wrist with her own teeth, and pressed it to Angel's mouth. "Drink, my Angelus, my angelic one. Drink, and wake to your new life."
Before it was done, Giles finally forced his paralyzed muscles to move. He stumbled away, into the courtyard proper of the monastery, before being violently ill. The heaves wracked his body for long minutes, but nothing was worse than the thought that pounded in his brain. ~Too late. Too late. Too late.~
When his mind began working again, he forced his body to move. He didn't want to. He wanted to remain curled on the ground, time halted, so that the destruction he knew was coming would not come. But his cowering would not stop it. He had to find Deirdre, to warn her. Tonight, the vampires that the abbey had so trustingly sheltered would repay their hospitality with slaughter. And Angel would be among them.
He found her, finally, in the chapel. A monk was changing the candle in the Presence, fitting a new one to burn red into the night. Its flame was invisible in the last slanting rays of the setting sun.
Deirdre sat, head bowed, before the altar, hands listlessly clasped in her lap. Alone. Her averted face was a study in gentle grief, in wistful dreams. For a moment, Giles' voice simply deserted him. He was struck by a sudden memory of Buffy sitting on the edge of a fountain, watching her last hope of a normal life walk away from her. Not her true love, not even a friend of her heart. Merely the desire for something other from what fate had called her to.
Fate had chosen not to hear. And instead, called her to another, by whose very nature she was inextricably bound to her destiny.
Giles shook the thoughts away. There was no time. *No time.* "Deirdre." He came more fully into the chapel, crossed to her side. "Deirdre, we must hurry. Darla has risen."
Deirdre's head snapped up, looking first at Giles then out to judge the slant of the setting sun. "What? How can that be? It's not dusk yet!"
She rose as Giles spoke, taking up a flask and filling it with holy water from the font, murmuring a prayer as she did. "I saw her. She was careful to keep in the shadows."
Deirdre turned, catching up a sack that rattled slightly as it was lifted. Full of stakes. "She took a chance in doing so. Why?"
Giles took a deep breath. "She gained something in return. Deirdre... she made another."
Deirdre barely halted as she moved toward the door, although her lips shaped Gaelic curses older than the God on the cross behind her.
"Deirdre. It was Angel. Aine." Giles heard the hoarseness of his own voice. "She took Aine."
That stopped her. She did not look around, though, merely stared ahead of her. "Then she will die. And the demon that took my friend's body will die as well." The words were low and fierce.
Giles caught her arm as she started to leave the chapel. "Darla was alive in my time. I do not know if you can kill her," he said bluntly. "But you must promise me one thing. You cannot kill Angel."
"Aine is already dead," she said bitterly, the unnatural coldness beginning to break through to wild pain.
"You must not kill him," Giles said again, urgently. "He must survive. In a century and a half, he will receive a gift -- or curse -- that no vampire has ever received. His soul will be restored to him. And in two hundred years, he will save the life of another Slayer. One whom he loves and who loves him. Deirdre, listen to me. I don't know if you change change what is to come. But if you can, if you kill Angel now, then the world *I* know will be destroyed."
Deirdre's hand tightened convulsively on the one stake she carried. After a very long moment, she said, "Damn you. All right."
She stepped across the threshold of the chapel, outside, as the first terrible scream shattered the newborn night.
Giles endured that cry, and the ones that followed. In the chapel, he was safe. If nothing else, between the holy water and the holy images, he had weapons. But... his Slayer was facing seven vampires. One wearing a face as familiar as her own, and yet so horribly different. He couldn't allow her to challenge them alone. He couldn't let her be alone.
Shattering a lone chair that leaned against the wall, he collected splinters of wood to use as stakes. He snatched a cross from the wall, and remembered he had a drinking pouch that would hold holy water in his small cell. Carefully, he made his way to the room he had slept in the night before, snatching up the pouch that rested beside his satchel.
He turned to dash from the room -- and found his way blocked by Angel.
His mind, oddly enough, turned clear and cold. Emotion disappeared, logic ruled. He had failed, if such could be considered a failure, to stop Angel from becoming a vampire. Whether or not fate was an absolute, events had moved forward in their accustomed way. Which meant....
Giles raised the cross he carried in his hand, and fumbled behind him for his satchel. Angel flinched violently away, giving Giles the precious moment he needed to extract the correct book from the bag. When Angel tried to advance on him, Giles lifted the cross again. "Listen to me. This book --" he held up the Codex "-- you must take it. I give it to you." Kneeling, he carefully laid the book on the ground.
Although he still cringed from the cross, Angel laughed, a hideously smug sound. "What do I care of books now? I'm immortal! I have power that your puny mind could never dream of!"
"Listen to me!" Giles said fiercely, rising. "There will be a girl, a Slayer. In two centuries, at the time of the Harvest, a Slayer will come to where you live. When Buffy does... when she does, then someone will ask you for this book. Give it to him. Do you understand me?" Giles was gambling on fate. If fate was immutable, then Angel would keep the book -- if only out of arrogance and greed when he was ruled by the demon in him rather than by his soul.
If not... then they were all doomed.
"I care nothing for your books," Angel said again, scornfully. He advanced on Giles, but had to retreat again from the image of the cross. Giles managed to circle around him and flee from the room.
Leaving the Codex behind.
Giles spent the hours before dawn pulling as many of the brothers of the monastery into the chapel as he could find. Many were limp bodies left to sprawl where they fell, pale and bloodless from a vampire's hunger. Giles knelt beside Father Ambros and closed his eyes. "I hope your faith was as true in the end as it was in your life," he murmured, the one prayer he could give.
Near dawn, the faint sounds of fighting faded and died away. It was in the scriptorium that Giles found Deirdre. She was curled on the floor near one of the wide windows, where the pearly light in the east was strengthening. Her arms were wrapped around Liam, and she rocked him slowly in her arms. Tears streaked her cheeks, catching the early light and giving her the radiance of grief, a Pieta for a beloved.
Giles knelt beside her. Words were useless. Helpless, he put his hand on her shoulder, tried to convey with hesitant touch all his heart could not say.
With a wordless cry, she turned into the shelter of his arm, pressing her face to his chest. Keening for the dead.
Day was full and bright before her wails ceased. Deirdre raised her face to his. "Did... did anyone survive?"
Giles nodded. "Yes. Some. They are in the chapel. It was... it was the only place I could think of that would shelter them."
"Meager shelter it is. And yet you did not avail yourself of it?"
"It was my duty --" Giles began, but Deirdre pushed violently away.
"Duty be damned!" she cried, her heart bleeding pain into her voice. "There lies my duty." She turned her gaze back to Liam. "My love, and I could not save him. He walked to his brother with perfect trust -- and the demon killed him. And I could not save him!"
She covered her face with her hands, her shoulders shaking again with sobs. After a moment, she dropped them. "I killed five," she said in a dull voice. "The five that accompanied Darla. I never saw her at all. And Aine...." Her voice broke. "I saw him fling his brother's body from him as though it were so much refuse, and yet even then I could not kill him. I wanted to," she said savagely. "Despite my promise to you, I wanted him dead. But... oh, but he was my friend!" Deirdre turned pleading eyes on Giles, washed as clear as rainwater by her tears. "How could I kill him?"
Giles had no answer for her.
"Holy Mother save us." Brother Rugh stumbled into the room. He was dazed with shock and pain. "The village. Dear God, the village! So many...."
Three days later, it was time. Word of Henry Wadsworth's death had finally reached those who took care of such things, and another Watcher journeyed to Ireland to protect the Slayer. Giles explained as much as he felt he could to Harriet Wadsworth, Henry's sister. She promised to keep any mention of him out of her journals, and was blessedly incurious about who and what he was.
She took the sealed letter he wrote, promising that it would be held until the date indicated on it: June, 1997, before being sent to the abbot of the monastary who would call the British Museum and start the chain of events that would lead to Giles being called again to Ireland.
She also promised to take Deirdre away from the ruins of her life. The village had been savagely attacked by Angel and Darla. Those who remained alive cursed the place. The monks would be absorbed into another monastery, the villagers would settle elsewhere.
And this little spot of Ireland would become a place of ghosts, avoided by all.
On a bright, sunny morning, Deirdre walked with him out to the stones. "Are you sure this will work?" she asked anxiously. "What if they take you back another two hundred years?"
Giles shouldered his pack. It felt disturbingly light without the Codex. "Buffy needs me. I need to try."
Deirdre nodded. Grief had ravaged her young face, and its touch would never leave her. But it seemed, somehow, to emphasize her strength and determination. Giles had told her all he knew about Angel, all that Buffy had told him. That Angel's soul would be restored to him because of the death of a young foolish girl. That he would, so reluctantly, help a Slayer in her task. And that he fight with and for that Slayer.
And that Darla would die by his hand. Liam and Father Ambros and all who had slaughtered would be avenged.
Deirdre took a small silver crucifix from a pouch at her waist and gave it to Giles. "This belonged to my father. I want you to have it. After all," she said, with the faintest ghost of a smile, "you seem to need all the protection you can get."
"I... uh, thank you," Giles said, overwhelmed by the gift from a girl who should have no cause other than to hate him. He appeared in her life, and chaos followed.
Impulsively, Deirdre flung her arms around his neck and clung tight. "Godspeed," she whispered.
Eyes stinging, Giles returned the embrace. "And you," he managed.
And then he stepped through the stones and the world disappeared.
Giles' return to the twentieth century was heralded in the most prosaic of ways: a chip wrapper fluttering in the tall grass near his nose. Even before his head stopped spinning and his stomach stopped threatening to relocate to remoter parts of his body, he knew that the stones had returned him to where -- to *when* -- he had come from.
After a few moments, Giles found the strength to shove himself upright. And topple over in the other direction. He really had to remember to bring along some motion sickness pills the next time he traveled through time.
This time, the sense of another person's presence infiltrated his mind slowly, so that when he raised his gaze to the monk sitting on a fallenlintel, it didn't startle him. "Greetings," the monk said. Rising from the sto ne, he plucked the wrapper from the grass. "I'm afraid that's mine. It got away from me." He shrugged, humorously deprecating. "I got hungry while waiting."
"Waiting?" Giles said, pleased to hear his voice had, in fact, made the return trip with him. "Waiting?"
"Yes. You see, a letter was left at the abbey, years ago. Old and yellowed, and dated this month. I opened it on the first of June, and followed the instructions in it."
"Abbey?" Giles asked, putting his hand to his head as one would touch a glass that was vibrating to stop the sound.
The monk nodded. "Aye. They reopened it, oh, about a hundred years ago. A donation from a mysterious party gave us the funds, and periodic donations since then have made us able to help many. The letter was found in the old library of the abbey, and kept since."
"I, uh, well." Giles found himself at a loss for words. "This, uh, I believe is yours." On automatic pilot, he pulled the copy of ~The Life of Saint Patrick~ from his much-traveled satchel and offered it to the monk.
Accepting it, the brother chuckled. "This wasn't really necessary, you know. I just needed an excuse to have you here at this certain time on this certain day. It is still Midsummer's, you know."
"I... no, I didn't. How much *did* you see?" Giles asked, baffled.
The monk smiled. "Enough. And did you think that the power of the stones had never been discovered by anyone else?" Leather-bound book in hand, the monk turned to the same faint path that Deirdre had led Giles on a few days -- and two hundred years -- before.
"Thank you... ah, I don't know your name."
The monk turned back. "God bless you, Rupert Giles, for what you did. And as for who I am... call me Brother Luca."
Buffy's Story | Giles' Story | Willow's Story | Xander's Story
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