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written by Ness


Rating: FRM for language
Spoilers: Parts of season 5 of AtS and season 7 of BtVS
Summary: Giles and Angel come to an understanding.
Thanks: Thanks to Tara Keezer for beta'ing this one for me. She made this a much better fic than it would have been without her. As always, any mistakes are mine. I'm not sure exactly where this one came from, but I'm blaming it on Kerrie. ;-) But I do owe her many thanks. I've said before she's my muse in human form and that still holds true.
Author's Notes: WARNING: This is angsty, not that that's any kind of surprise considering who wrote it. *G*
Feedback Author: Ness



Giles walked out of the pub, automatically feeling in his pocket for the stake he habitually kept there. As he moved down the rain-slickened street, he felt someone watching him. He didn't slow or in any way change his pace, but he surreptitiously observed his surroundings.

He couldn't see anything, but that didn't stop the nervous tingles running up and down his spine, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. He continued on his way, ever alert for the slightest movement that could constitute a threat.

* * * * *

A dark figure emerged from the shadows to watch Giles continue on. Angel sighed, and walked in the opposite direction from Giles.

With his hands shoved into his pockets and shoulders hunched against the chill of the night, Angel contemplated this latest development. For five years he had traveled across America and Europe, retracing the steps he'd trod as Angelus. He'd never been sure if it had been one more way to atone for his past misdeeds or simply a supreme act of masochism.

Either way, ending up in village where he'd grown up and died seemed to be a fitting end to his journey - as did the fact of Giles appearing in the same place. Finding the Watcher here meant facing one of the greatest mistakes, and regrets, of his life. He wasn't sure there would ever be enough repentance for what he'd done to the man.

He just didn't know where he was supposed to go from here. He'd lost almost everyone he'd ever cared about in the last battle with Wolfram & Hart, along with the dream that had sustained him for years.

The promise of humanity.

Angel shook his head at the foolishness of that dream. He should have known that the Powers-That-Be had something else in mind with that prophecy of theirs. They'd never done anything without confusing the hell out of it. The prophecy Wes had found was too simple for it to be true. Of course, hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

The vampire's throat threatened to close up at the thought of Wesley. The ex-Watcher had given his life to defeat the Senior Partners. His eyes filled as the names of the others came to mind.

So many dead or gone for good.

Fred.

Cordelia.

Wesley.

Gunn.

Lorne.

Even Illyria had been destroyed by the demon horde and he still wasn't sure how *that* had happened.

The only one left was Spike.

What the Powers had done next had sent both vampires into a tailspin.

* * * * *

Giles opened the door of the small cottage where he'd lived for the past four-and-a-half years. He closed the door and, after a moment's hesitation, he locked it. Without bothering to turn on the lights, he made his way through the house with sure-footed confidence.

He prepared for bed, and as he drifted off to sleep, he wondered what sort of trouble the person watching him tonight would bring.

He then wondered if it might be someone from the Council, from Buffy, but he discarded that idea almost immediately. If Buffy wished to contact him after all these years, she would do so without games. Though she had many faults, an overblown sense of pretense was not one of them.

Sleep overtook him before he could ponder further.

* * * * *

Angel had been watching Giles for almost a week now and he was fairly sure that he hadn't noticed him after that first time. Why the hell was he watching Giles every night? The demon inside raged against the unrelenting melancholy that bore down on him like the weight of the world bore down on Atlas. The brooding he'd done in L.A. was lightweight compared to what he was doing now.

He'd been thinking of all he'd lost and what he had to look forward to. The demon had been whispering to him, the first time it had tried in awhile. The evil that lived inside him felt more confident than it had in years. It whispered to him at night, the dark giving its words power that they never had in the light of day. It reminded him that the dream of humanity was a fool's pipedream he would never have.

The demon's whispers followed him into him into his dreams, dreams filled with the exhilaration and power of the kill. He still remembered the rapture he'd felt as the life's blood of an innocent had slid down his throat with the ease and smoothness of a fine, aged wine.

In his waking hours, he could tell himself how wrong what he'd done was. But his dreams never failed to remind him of who he'd been and what he'd done.

Angel would wake up, drenched and shivering, fighting the urge to do what the demon wanted. He never had the heart to tell those closest to him that having a soul didn't preclude him from being what he had been. Buffy, Cordelia, Wesley and the others simply assumed that he wouldn't be able to repeat Angelus' deeds because he had a soul.

But a soul didn't stop evil -- human beings were living proof of this -- and they either hadn't or didn't want to think about that, so he never disabused them of their illusions. The daily battle with his demon had never been as difficult as it was right now.

Angel felt wetness on his face and realized that it had begun to rain hard enough to reach him beneath the overhand where he'd sought shelter. He sighed.

Just as he was about to return to the room he'd taken, he saw Giles leaving the tavern. He could tell by the older man's slumped body posture that something was wrong. For a moment he was tempted to go to him and try to help.

'You fool,' the demon inside chided him coldly. 'Why would he *ever* want your help?'

Angel drew in a deep, unneeded, breath and acknowledged the rightness of the brutal question. Giles would never want his help. He followed at a reasonable distance and observed as the Watcher let himself into his small cottage. Angel wondered what Giles would say if he knew that he was living on the same spot where Liam had been born and Angelus had killed his family?

The vampire sat down in a secluded spot within sight of the cottage and continued his self-inflicted punishment for sins only he could remember.

* * * * *

Giles sat in the armchair by the fireplace, sipping tea and contemplating his next move. He'd put up wards around the cottage this morning; tiring of whatever game the person watching him was playing. He had felt eyes on him for days now; it was time to bring it out into the open.

All he had to do was trigger the spell he'd embedded in the wards and whoever was watching him would be compelled to show himself. The hesitation he felt wasn't something readily explained. Perhaps it was fear of who it might be or why they were here. His mind continued to go back to Buffy and the Council. But if Buffy wanted to speak to him, why would she have this person hide himself?

He sighed; he was right back where he began. Raising his hand, he prepared to trigger the spell that would end this farce. Before he could finish, he was interrupted by a knock on the door. He rose and cautiously opened it.

* * * * *

Angel stood in Giles' doorway, rain dripping into his eyes.

"I never did get a chance to ask you something," Angel began without preamble. "I know you were pissed at me when we took over Wolfram & Hart, but is that really why you refused to help Fred?" He looked at the Watcher expectantly.

Giles stared at Angel, trying to process this bizarre turn of events. Why was the vampire here? And why in the bloody hell was he rehashing events that had taken place over five years ago. "Excuse me?"

"I want to know why you wouldn't help Fred. You, Buffy and the others are supposed to be all about helping the innocent; I guess I just didn't realize that you got to decide who was innocent and who wasn't." Bitterness coated each word.

"Why are you here, Angel?" Giles asked as calmly as he could manage. The creature standing before him, dripping and furious was not the Angel he knew. There was a rawness, and wildness, in him that hadn't been present before, not even as Angelus. Angelus had been sadistic and cruel, but he had been in control. The - Giles wasn't sure what to call him any more - man, for want of a better word, held himself barely in check and that worried the Watcher more than he cared to admit. This Angel was unpredictable and that made him extremely dangerous.

* * * * *

Angel saw the confusion, and expertly concealed fear, flit across Giles' face and he suddenly felt older than his years. He was confused and angry, but that didn't excuse frightening a man who had more cause than most to fear him. The vampire shook his head wearily and turned away.

"Angel?" Giles' voice stopped him.

"I'm not the one who Shanshued; Spike was," Angel said quietly, his words barely loud enough to be heard over the rain. He knew that Giles was aware of the prophecy, because Wesley had told the Council of it in an effort to protect him.

So immersed in his own pain, Angel almost didn't hear Giles speak.

"I know."

Angel spun around and looked at Giles, wondering if he'd heard right. "What?"

"I said, I know that Spike is the one who became human," Giles said quietly.

Angel slid down the wall of the cottage, unmindful of the rain pelting down upon him. "How?" was the next question. The answer to that would shake his foundation even further.

* * * * *

Giles stared as his words impacted, making the vampire flinch as though from a physical blow. He resisted the urge to invite Angel inside. He was still very wary of what was happening.

Instead, he pulled a chair closer to the open doorway and sat down. "I know Spike is human because his change is what precipitated my departure from the Council." He watched as shock spread over the ex-Champion's face. He knew the feeling well. "Your next questions will most likely be 'what happened' and 'why'."

Angel nodded.

Giles drew in a deep breath and began.

//"Buffy, you can't leave, you are needed here." He cursed as he watched his Slayer haphazardly throwing clothes into a suitcase. "What about the Slayers who look to you for help and guidance?" The results of Willow's spell to turn all potentials into Slayers had been disconcerting, to say the least. There had been several who hadn't handled the change well at all and others who had used their powers - well, to say unwisely would be putting it mildly.

Those who were left, when found, looked to Buffy for teaching and support. Even though Faith had stayed to help, Buffy was the one who was legendary in her exploits and experience.

"I have to go, Giles. He needs me." Buffy never paused in her packing.

Any other time, the man standing across from her might have admired her single-mindedness, but this time he was only confused and heading to angry. "Why, Buffy? Why does he need *you*?"

Buffy finally stopped and looked at him for the first time since she'd announced her plans to leave for America. "I have to go to L.A., Giles. Spike sounded on the verge of hysteria, and that's not like him."

"How do you know it's not an act?" The question was met with fury.

"He would never do that," she exploded. "He wouldn't lie about this."

Giles merely lifted a brow in mute question.

"He wouldn't," she reiterated. "He said that the prophecy that we all thought meant Angel was actually him." She stopped and, for the first time, lost the harried look she'd been wearing, only to have it replaced with a look of wonder.

"You're truly in love with him," Giles said, his voice accusing despite his efforts to the contrary.

Buffy hesitated for a moment before shrugging. "I guess I am." She turned back to her suitcase as she continued, "I never let myself admit it because it seemed wrong on so many levels, and," she rushed on before he could interrupt, "it was. But I've been talking to him for almost a month on the phone, and he's changed, Giles, he really has."

Giles exhaled a deep breath he'd taken in an effort to calm himself. "So you are ready to forgive everything?"

Buffy stopped once again. "He's not the only one who was wrong about what they did, Giles." She looked at her Watcher and he saw genuine regret in her eyes. "I was wrong too."

With that, she snapped her suitcase shut and headed for the door.

"You really plan to leave all your responsibilities behind to go hold his hand?"

Buffy sighed, and never turning, answered. "I have to do this. I can't let him down."

"What about those whom you're letting down here, Buffy? What about those who depend on you?"

Buffy hefted her suitcase a little higher. "You can handle it Giles, you're good at handling things."

"If you do this, Buffy, I won't be here when you return," Giles said with a certain finality.

She turned slowly. "You're leaving me again?" she asked carefully.

He gave one, short nod.

"For my own good, I suppose?" she sneered disdainfully before turning to the door again.

"No," he answered quietly as he watched her leave, "for mine."//

* * * * *

"That was five years ago," Giles finished softly. "I've not been back." He looked at the vampire leaning against the side of the house as rain pelted Angel's face to run down in rivulets like tears. Angel's eyes had closed partway through Giles' narrative and now the Watcher wondered if he had even heard all of it.

"They never asked you for help?" Angel asked, letting Giles know he'd been paying attention.

"Only once." A shaking hand ran through gray hair. "Willow had written for information; Buffy sent a note immediately after the letter informing me that, since I had, in her words, 'taken myself out of the game', my help was no longer wanted or appreciated." He didn't try to contain the acrimony in his voice. His eyes jerked to the vampire when he heard a half-hidden snort. "You think that was funny?" he asked slowly.

"If you're asking, do I think what they did to you was funny, then, no, I don't." Angel opened his eyes. "I do, however, think that Buffy's blindness verges on moronic, and that struck me as amusing." He closed his eyes again.

"Blindness?"

"She was blind to the fact that you are too much of a warrior to ever take yourself 'out of the game'. Hell, the only way you'll quit is when they carry you out feet first." Angel shook his head at the sheer obtuseness of his ex-lover.

"And how would you know that?" Curious in spite of himself, Giles couldn't stop the question.

"Like recognizes like, Giles." He continued as he felt, more than saw, the other man's body stiffen in outrage. "And before you get pissed off, I only meant that one warrior knows another warrior." An edge crept into his next words. "I would never *dream* of comparing you to me - you, after all, are a hero, I'm just a bloodsucking vampire." Angel swallowed the bitterness and began to push himself away from the wall.

"You never did tell me why you are here," Giles asked, stopping the vampire's departure.

Angel looked at him a moment before settling back down against the wall. "Let's just say that I was reliving my history." He chuckled without mirth at the shock on Giles' face. "No, that doesn't mean that I decided to relive Angelus' glory days." He slicked his hair back against his scalp in an effort to stem the water streaming down his face. "It only means that I' m trying to learn, all over again, how to live with the demon inside me - the one that will *always* be inside me." This time, when Angel stood to leave, Giles did not try to stop him.

Somehow, they both knew that they would meet again and soon.

* * * * *

Giles sat in the doorway long after Angel's departure. The rain continued to beat incessantly against the already saturated ground and he wondered if there was some sort of message in the weather.

Never in his lifetime would he have thought that he would have sat in the doorway of his home and confided to Angel, of all people. He stopped at that thought. The hesitation he'd had about not being able to describe what Angel was seemed to have faded away. The emotions he'd shown when describing his confusion and pain seemed to have humanized him, for want of a better word. The vampire no longer was a creature with no redeemable qualities.

Giles wasn't sure what exactly he thought of Angel now; he simply knew that the horrifying memories he still held of the nights Angelus had tortured him and killed Jenny had been tempered by the events of today.

He stood and moved the chair back to its original position and closed the door; on both the rain and the memories.

He poured himself a stiff drink and walked into his bedroom and closed the door.

* * * * *

When Giles opened his door the following night after a single knock, he was not surprised by the rain or by the sight of Angel sitting on his doorstep.

"How long have you been here?" the vampire asked without a greeting.

Giles dutifully pulled up a chair and sat down. "Four and a half years."

"Why here?"

"Why not?"

Angel shifted slightly and Giles wondered just how long the vampire had been sitting there before his knock.

"Why Ireland? Why this village? Why this cottage?"

"Why the persistence?"

The verbal dueling could have gone on for much longer, but Angel seemed to suddenly tire of it. "You know this is where I was born, right?"

"Yes, the village of your birth is recorded in your history at the Council."

"No, I mean *this* is where I was born." Angel could see that Giles still didn't understand. "This land, this cottage - well, probably not *this* cottage - but you get the idea; this is where I came into the world." His mouth curled in self-derision. "Where the Scourge of Europe was born."

Giles couldn't speak for a moment. Why he'd chosen this village he couldn't say. He'd known about it when he'd first found it; perhaps he'd done it because something in him knew that Buffy wouldn't come anywhere near him as long as he lived somewhere that had such close ties to Angel. Then again, he didn't know why he thought she might avoid the village; sentimentality had never been Buffy's strong suit.

But this cottage -- the cottage where he'd finally found some measure of peace -- to know it was where his greatest enemy had been given life - well, that was definitely an interesting turn of events.

Even that phrasing had him pausing. 'Interesting turn of events'? What was happening here, and what did it mean for him?

* * * * *

Angel watched the expressions play over Giles' face and wondered what they meant. Surprise, and a bit of curiosity, seemed to be the strongest.

The vampire felt the rain pelting him again and wondered if he would ever dry out. But something wouldn't allow him to seek dryer shelter - not while he had Giles listening, and talking, to him.

He looked out into the dark night and wondered at the events that had brought him to this place. Never in a million years would he have thought that coming home would have brought him face-to-face with Rupert Giles again.

"To answer your question about 'why here', it was simply because this felt right; felt natural, for lack of a better explanation," the ex-Watcher said awkwardly.

Angel nodded. He was the last to question someone's decisions; he'd been running for five years. Sometimes he wondered if he ever would stop.

"Angel, why are you asking these questions?" Giles asked softly.

The vampire wasn't ready to answer that question; mostly because he wasn't sure of the answers himself. He only knew that something was happening here that he desperately needed - both to soothe his soul and to keep the demon that was dangerously close to the surface in check. But he wasn't ready to tell Giles that.

He stood. "Good night, Giles." He turned and walked out into the darkness and rain, leaving a bewildered man sitting behind him.

Angel continued to show up on Giles' doorstep for several more days, talking about nothing and everything. The weather and landscape seemed to be his two favorite topics. Giles wasn't sure where this was heading, but his curiosity was aroused enough that he was willing to play Angel's wait-and-see game.

He still didn't trust him enough to invite him inside, however.

Giles was sitting in the armchair in his living room when he heard the familiar singular knock. When he opened the door, he wasn't surprised to see Angel sitting there. He was, however, surprised to see what looked like a bottle of liquor resting on the stoop near the vampire.

"Got a couple of glasses?" Angel asked.

Giles nodded in bemusement and went back inside to fetch two glasses. He handed them out to Angel and watched him pour two fingers of whiskey in each glass. When the Englishman sipped the amber liquid, he was surprised to find it to be a very good year.

Very good.

"I got it from an old man in town," Angel replied to the unspoken question of 'where'.

"Excellent quality," Giles responded.

Angel nodded and quietly sipped his drink. Giles had resigned himself to another nonsensical night when the vampire broke into his thoughts.

"Do you think that having a soul makes you incapable of evil?"

The man sitting inside the house choked on the drink he'd just taken. It took several moments for him to catch his breath well enough to answer. "If you're asking, do I think that evil can't done if you have a soul, then I'd have to answer no."

"Then why does everyone assume that I'm as harmless as a neutered puppy because I have a soul?" Angel looked at Giles for the first time that night and the other man could see the turmoil in the vampire's eyes. "Why does everyone assume that the demon isn't a problem as long as I have a soul?"

The man who considered Angelus his greatest enemy pondered that question for a moment. "Perhaps they assume that the soul controls the demon."

"But it doesn't." Angel killed his drink and poured another one. "I fight with it every single day, Giles. Every day I have to push it back into the box where it lives and hope that I'm strong enough to keep it there. Every time I drink blood, even if it's from a bag, the demon is allowed to come out of that damned box; even if it's only for the length of time it takes to swallow. The blood doesn't just keep me alive, Giles; it keeps the demon alive too. The demon has power over me."

Giles sat quietly, waiting for him to continue.

"It knows my darkest desires. It knows things about me that no one else does, or ever will. It uses the pleasure that I used to feel in the kill against me." Angel leaned his head against the wall with a weary sigh. "No matter how I tell myself that it's wrong, I can feel the exhilaration of the kill in my dreams. I can't control my dreams, Giles and sometimes, it feels like I'm going to lose my mind." His voice broke on a barely-concealed sob.

Giles sat quietly for a moment, trying to find the words that Angel seemed to need. "But you control the demon every day. That must tell you something about your own strength."

The vampire opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Giles. "I control it now but I'm so damned tired. I just don't know how much longer I can hold on."

"You can do this as long as you need to." Giles' could hear the utter despair in Angel's voice and he wondered how he could possibly help him.

"You don't understand."

"You'd be surprised," Giles whispered; half to himself.

Angel stared out into the foggy night. He acknowledged Giles statement with one nod and lifted his glass to his lips again.

They finished the bottle just before dawn.

* * * * *

Weeks went by and their meetings became something that both looked forward to. Their talks turned from the paranormal and earth shattering to literature and philosophy. They even discussed their favorite music and movies.

Giles liked classics, both in movies and music, although Angel wasn't surprised to hear that the Watcher had a rock-and-roll side too.

Angel, on the other hand, leaned more towards comedy and action; and his music was definitely the hard-driving rock variety, Barry Manilow notwithstanding.

Giles still hadn't invited him inside.

* * * * *

Giles opened his door one evening, finding Angel standing there as expected. However, the vampire wore a serious, haunted look. "I'm sorry for what I did to you as Angelus." Angel whispered huskily. He closed his eyes and swallowed hard in order to finish. "I'm sorry for what I did to Jenny." He abruptly turned and walked into the night.

"Angel?" Giles' voice stopped him. "I'm sorry I didn't help Fred." Angel nodded once and resumed his steps.

Giles stared after him for the longest time and wondered how long it had taken the vampire to work up the courage to say those simple words. Words that settled into the Watcher's heart and healed a place he hadn't even known was still wounded.

He only hoped that his words had done the same.

* * * * *

Several nights later, Giles opened his door to find Angel waiting with another fine bottle of whiskey at his side. Instead of pulling up a chair to the doorway, he stepped outside and sat next to the vampire.

Angel's eyes got a bit wide, but he showed no other signs of surprise.

"Don't you think this has gone on long enough?" Giles began, and Angel's breath caught because he thought the Watcher was going to send him away. The next words however, filled him with both elation and fear. "Why don't we take this bottle of whiskey and go -?"

"Don't!" The vampire's voice stopped Giles before he could finish the invitation.

"Why not?" Confusion, and surprise, colored his words.

"Don't *ever* invite me in," Angel demanded hoarsely.

"But-"

"No!" Barely-restrained hysteria edged Angel's voice. "Promise me." He saw the hesitation in the other's eyes and demanded again, "Promise me!"

"I promise," Giles responded reluctantly. He saw Angel's shoulders slump in relief and shook his head. He stood and went back into the cottage.

Angel closed his eyes and sighed, wondering if he'd driven Giles away; as much as the thought hurt, he'd do it again if that's what it took to protect him. His heart sped up at the sound of the cottage door opening again. He opened his eyes as two glasses appeared beside the unopened bottle of whiskey beside him.

"Will you pour, or shall I?" Giles asked as he sat down again.

Angel said a silent prayer of thanks as he reached for the bottle.

* * * * *

A week later, Giles was pacing the floor; he was worried. It was hours after sunset and Angel hadn't shown up yet. This wasn't like him. Their routine had become as reliable as the sun. The vampire arrived within the hour of sunset and they talked, or not. But either way, he was here.

Why wasn't he here?

Giles resisted the urge to curse and continued to worry. Finally, he stopped in the middle of the room and nodded to himself. If something had happened, staying inside and pacing wouldn't do any good. He grabbed a stake and dagger, shoved both into pockets as he shrugged on his jacket and bolted out the door.

He'd gone into the edge of the woods when he heard a rustling in the underbrush. He reached into his pockets to grasp the stake and the dagger as he braced himself for what he might face.

Angel stumbled out of the bushes, weaving his way along.

"Damn it, Angel, you frightened me!" Giles began to berate him, before noticing the scratches on the side of the vampire's face. He started towards Angel. "What happened?" He was almost to the vampire's side when he noticed the dark stain spreading across Angel's shirt. "What the bloody hell happened?" he demanded again.

"I'm fine," Angel replied weakly.

"Of course you are," Giles responded sarcastically, even as he gently took Angel's arm to keep him from pitching, face-first, to the ground.

"I just need to rest."

"You need to tell me what happened."

"I was taking care of something," Angel hedged.

Giles was looking at the wound in Angel's shoulder as best he could with all the clothes in the way. What he managed to see stunned him. "You've been shot!"

"Well, yeah," the vampire responded with a weak humor that ended with a wince when he stumbled against Giles, bumping his wound.

"What happened? No, never mind. I'll find out what happened after we get you cleaned up." Giles slung Angel's uninjured arm over his shoulder and began helping him back to the cottage. When he started up the steps instead of lowering Angel to sit on them, the vampire protested.

"Leave me here."

"You need medical attention, Angel. I'm not sure why this wound isn't closing, but it's not and you're losing a tremendous amount of blood," Giles protested.

"It's not closing because I was shot with a blessed silver bullet," Angel explained with a grimace.

"But the bullet went completely through, there is an entrance and an exit wound."

"I'm guessing that there's shrapnel in the wound, Giles, that's why it won't heal."

"Then I need to get you inside so I can see to clean it and remove what remains of the bullet."

"I'm not going inside your house, Giles."

"Yes, you are, Angel." Giles hitched the vampire up to get a better hold on him. Angel tried to fight him, but the blood loss had made him weaker than he thought and he wasn't sure he could control what remained of his strength if he tried too hard to break free. He didn't want to accidentally hurt Giles.

"You promised me," he reminded the Watcher weakly.

"I lied," Giles shot back, muttering an invitation as he carried the vampire over the threshold.

He led the Angel over to the sofa and sat him down.

"Goddamnit, that hurt!" Angel hissed as he landed on his wounded shoulder.

"Take off your shirt," Giles ordered as he left to go find his first-aid kit.

Angel got as far as unbuttoning his shirt before collapsing tiredly against the cushions.

Giles came back and sighed as he looked at Angel. He knelt down beside the sofa and gently peeled the shirt away from the wound, wincing and uttering a quiet, succinct curse at the jagged hole that still oozed blood.

"I can feel the shrapnel in the wound," Angel whispered. "It's like fire inside my shoulder."

Giles took out his instruments and began to lightly probe the wound, trying to ignore the stifled groans coming from the vampire. He found each shard and removed it, having to pause several times to sponge blood away from the wound so he could see. He wasn't sure he'd gotten all of it until he saw the wound begin to close along with Angel's sigh of relief. He quickly put the first-aid kit away and sat down in the chair opposite the sofa.

"Would you like to tell me what happened now?"

Angel sighed, his eyes only half-opened, and Giles knew that he was on the verge of passing out.

"Angel?"

Angel opened his eyes and looked at the man seated across from him. "I was trying to save a werewolf," he said quietly.

"A werewolf? Why were you trying to save a werewolf and how did you get shot? And how did you know the bloody bullet was a blessed?"

"I know it was a blessed bullet because the bastard who was planning on doing the hunting was bragging about it in the pub. He was convinced a werewolf was killing his stock, so he made some silver bullets and, just for good measure, had the village pastor bless them." Angel tried to shift to ease the pain, but only succeeded in making himself hurt more. Just because he had accelerated healing didn't mean it didn't hurt like hell *while* it was healing.

"Why did he think there was a werewolf in these woods?" Giles asked as he helped Angel into a more comfortable position.

"Because there is." Angel looked at the Watcher. "I knew about him, but he's not a threat to anyone. He's not killing anyone's stock. He's dying and all he wants is a place to rest until his time comes." He closed his eyes and sighed. "He's old and sick, Giles. I couldn't let that guy hunt him down and kill him like that," he whispered as sleep finally claimed him.

"Of course you couldn't," Giles replied quietly to him, his emotions for Angel smacking him in the face for the very first time. He'd never been the type of man to put limits on whom one could love.

As he studied Angel, he finally recognized the feeling that had almost overwhelmed him when he had seen him come stumbling out of the woods. It was pure, unadulterated panic. The type of panic that only happened a few times in his life - when someone he loved was hurt or in danger. He'd just barely managed to control it.

That brought him to his epiphany. He was in love with Angel. How in the bloody hell had he fallen in love with the souled version of his worst enemy? When had he stopped seeing Angelus and started seeing Angel? And what could he possibly do about his feelings? Even if Angel felt the same way, which was a huge 'if', there was no way for anything to come of it. Neither of them would take the chance of loosing Angelus on an unsuspecting world.

He was still pondering this turn of events when he dropped off to sleep.

* * * * *

Angel woke slowly, feeling an unfamiliar pressure on his hand. He turned his head and saw Giles asleep in the chair beside the sofa. His eyes drifted down to see the Watcher had taken hold of his hand sometime after Angel had drifted off to sleep. The innocent touch of Giles' hand had opened something in the vampire that had been closed for over ten years. He gently extracted his hand from beneath the Giles' and quietly made his way outside to sit on the steps while he tried to bring his emotions back into some sort of order.

He wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh hysterically or cry uncontrollably. It had been so long since he'd allowed anyone to get close enough to him for it to matter that he'd forgotten just what it felt like. That blessed forgetfulness had allowed him to cloak his feelings for Giles in the guise of friendship. That cloak had been ripped away when Giles had invited Angel into his home and risked himself in order to help him. An invitation that could lead to the Watcher's death.

That was something that Angel couldn't allow. He hadn't protected Buffy from Angelus, but he could protect Giles.

He cared about him too much to do otherwise. His demon snorted. 'Care, Angelboy? You do a helluva lot more than *care* about that old, broken-down Watcher, you're in love with him.' Its laughter mocked Angel.

Angel shook his head in stunned disbelief. How the hell had that happened? And how was he supposed to live with it now? Because there was no way on earth that Giles would ever feel the same. He had allowed Angel back into his life as a friend and that was as much forgiveness, and acceptance, as the vampire had any right, or hope, to expect.

No, he wouldn't burden Giles with his feelings. Angel could still hear the demon's cruel laughter echoing in his mind.

He closed his eyes and prepared himself for what he had to do next. Leaving was the only way to protect Giles, no matter how much it hurt.

It was the right thing to do, and Angel was going to do the right thing for Giles no matter what it cost him.

* * * * *

Giles woke up and saw that Angel was no longer on the sofa. The pillow still had the indention of his head, so he couldn't have been gone very long. The Englishman stood quickly and went to the door. He expected to have to search for the vampire, so it was a toss-up as to who was more surprised - Giles to find Angel on the front stoop, or Angel to see Giles awake so soon.

"I'm leaving," Angel said quietly, looking out into a clear night, the stars so bright that he could see the play of every emotion on Giles' face.

"Why?" Giles came to sit beside him.

"I can't stay now that you've invited me into your home."

"I could always uninvite you."

"But you won't."

"You're right, I won't."

Angel resisted the urge to shake him. "Why not, damn it!"

"Because I will not live my life in fear and neither should you."

"You don't understand."

Giles' heart broke at the utter helplessness in Angel's voice. He fought against the overwhelming desire to take his hand and reassure him that all would be well. Instead he fought his battle with his most formidable weapon - words. "You think I don't understand fighting your past? Fighting the demons that your own actions have spawned?" He shook his head sadly. "That particular battle is not your sole territory."

"But not everyone has to worry about their demons escaping and killing someone, do they?" Angel refused to look at the man beside him. He had to be strong and he couldn't do what needed to be done if he looked at him. "The demon destroys everything, and everyone, that I care about, Giles." He took a deep breath. "I've lost everyone else that I've ever loved, I can't lose you too," he finished in a low, husky whisper.

"You will not lose me," Giles reassured him, his heart lifting at the implications of Angel's quiet statement. He'd thought about the curse that Angel lived with and he had realized a simple truth.

Achieving perfect happiness was next to impossible. Now he only had to convince Angel of this. "Have you ever thought that your curse might not be as formidable as you think?" He hurried on before Angel could interrupt. "That perfect happiness, in the real world, is almost impossible to attain."

Giles reached out and gently turned Angel's head until he was looking him in the eye. "Most people live happy, contented lives with less than perfect happiness, but they love one another enough to make it work. You and I know better than most that nothing is guaranteed and that in itself means that it can't be perfect." He watched Angel fight against what he was telling him. "You will always know what would happen if you ever experienced a moment of perfect happiness, that knowledge, in and of itself, would virtually ensure that you never will."

"You don't know that for sure." Angel pulled away and stood. "Goodbye, Giles." His voice broke.

Giles quickly gathered his courage. "I'm in love with you and I don't want you to go." He never moved, but his voice was low and urgent.

Neither of them noticed that it had begun to rain.

Angel squeezed his eyes shut and fought the urge to give in to what they both wanted and stay. "I can't. I can't take the chance that I might hurt you if I stay here."

Giles sighed deeply. "Nothing I can say will convince you otherwise?"

Angel shook his head.

"What if I said that I would move? Leave this place and go to Scotland or England? You wouldn't have to worry about the invitation extended today."

Angel just shook his head again and stepped off the bottom step.

"Angel?" Giles' voice stopped him, but the vampire didn't turn. "I won't ask you to stay again." He took a deep breath. "Just remember one thing, if you ever stop running, I will be waiting."

Angel's shoulders slumped and then straightened as he walked away into the rainy night.

Giles never noticed as the rain soaked him through.

* * * * *

EPILOGUE:

CORNWALL - TWO YEARS LATER

Giles listened to the rain drumming on his roof as he set the tea tray down beside his chair. He walked over to the bookcase and chose a worn, leather-bound book and carried it back over to his chair.

He'd just poured a cup tea and settled down to read when he heard a single knock on his door.

END