Giles gazed into the loving eyes of his son, knowing that he had been so very wrong in his past. As soon as he realised just who it was his beloved boy would become, the watcher spent every spare moment in study. Research became his catch-phrase, and not surprisingly, the young and agile mind that belonged to a boy that seemed to feel that Rupert had hung the moon, followed eagerly in his footsteps.
It had taken years of study to uncover the truth. A truth, that, had he known it at the time, would have changed not only his interactions with a soulless vampire, but that of the children, too.
The great tomes that Giles had emersed himself in, had told of rare and special demons. Demons that clung to the remnants of humanity, desperate to return to a place of Grace they had once known; non-corporeal spirits that grasped onto a sliver of soul and then clung to it jealously and made it their own. These remarkable beings, revelled in their humanity, learning, then embracing, the plethora of emotions that mankind took for granted. These demons, these vampire demons: loved, hated, felt joy, felt pain, matured, developed, and finally, if they sought the return of the rest of their soul, they were blessed.
Angel, regardless of the soul, was not one of these remarkable beings. To Angelus, the soul was a curse; and once the beast was free of the curse, he returned to being an atypical vampire of the kind that plagued the world. There was nothing special about him. There was no redeeming quality. He was quite simply - a monster who had been cursed; and without the soul no trace of humanity remained at all.
It had been their mindset that had laid the foundation for the betrayal that the loss of the soul had caused them. They had made the mistake of thinking of him as a vampire with a soul, rather than what he actually was; a vampire with a curse. They had been such ignorant fools; and, in their arrogant, self-righteousness, they had dismissed, or worse been contemptuous, of the truly remarkable individual in their midst.
Rupert Giles prayed with every fibre of his being, that when he returned to his original time, he could undo the wrong; re-educate the others; then perhaps his son would forgive him. But, first, he needed to talk to the dear boy that was seated by his side.
"Spike," Buffy began hesitantly, as she faced the now attentive vampire. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable, but can I ask you some stuff about the soul?"
Spike looked wary as he parried her question. "Like what, Slayer?"
"Well, it's just that," she paused for a moment, as if looking for the words she wanted to use. "Well Anya said that the demon had to really want it, and I was just wondering what would be, you know, enough, to make the demon want it?"
Spike titled his head to the side, considering the blonde, vaguely wondering if maybe this time she would ‘get it'. "You, pet," he offered with absolute certainty. "You and the Li'l Bit."
At her clear look of incomprehension, he elaborated. "I made you a promise, Buffy; before Glory. I promised to protect her. And if I'd managed to do my job on the bloody tower, we prolly wouldn't be even havin' this convo. I failed once, luv, wasn't about to fail you a second time. So when your watcher told me he wouldn't trust me without the soul, I knew I had to do somethin' about it," he offered with a shrug. "Asked around; did the trials; paid the piper and all that."
He smiled softly as he remembered, "I got forgiven and before I knew it, William was back."
"But, you're not all, you know, angsty and guilt laden, and, well, tortured, or anything?" Willow piped up, unknowingly asking the question that Buffy had been thinking.
"I got forgiven," he repeated slowly. "You know? Clean slate?" Suddenly realising the source of their confusion and the blond's expression closed off. "I admitted my crimes and then paid for them. I was completely cleansed and given a new start. It's my soul and it's permanent. It's not the bloody result of a vengeance curse."
Willow gasped, horrified at his blunt delivery of the facts. Her eye's darted immediately to her friend, fearfully anticipating the usual meltdown over her ex-lover. She was startled to see Buffy directing a lopsided smile at the bleached blond.
"And, strange as this may be to hear, I wouldn't have expected anything less from you," the slayer gave a soft chuckle at the startled look on Spike's face. "I get it, Spike, I finally get it. You are nothing like Angel. And if I'm gonna be all honest-girl here, I have to say that I'm glad." As his expressive eye's widened slightly with her declaration, she had the sudden internal urging to really make his day. "I'm so unbelievably of the glad that we got to keep the better vamp."
Dawn, Xander, Anya and Tara, joined Buffy in her giggle-fest over the gob-smacked vampire's expression.
Willow once again relaxed.
"My boy," Giles whispered as he reached up with a shaky hand to cup the cheek of his child. "There is so much to tell you and so little time in which to do so."
William lifted his own hand to capture his father's, noticing the slight shaking of his elder's arm in his effort to touch. The curly haired man-child brought Giles' hand down to be clasped in both of his; both alleviating the stress of effort on his father, and his own desire for contact. "If part of what you wish to tell me refers to your adventures in time travelling, be still, Father, Mother told me of your journeying just after the onset of your illness."
Giles smiled softly at the thought of his beloved wife. "Your mother is a blessing that I have neither earned nor deserved. I dread the thought of returning to my own troubled time without the benefit of her soothing presence."
"Will we meet again in my lifetime, Father?" William asked softly, his eye's clearly showing his trepidation.
Remorseful eye's met the blue eyes of his curious child, "It would not be safe to tell you, my boy. However, I will tell you two things that, while what I say may appear cryptic in nature, there will come a time when the meanings will become clearer."
William smiled softly; his intelligent eye's alight with curiosity.
"A time will come when you will be in need of aide, not knowing who to turn to. At that time, you will not wish it, but you must seek out the one you know as family, even if they do not recognise you as such. Secondly, after that time, you need to hold on to your hope; you will be recognised as family, my son. You will be loved dearly and you will be asked for forgiveness.
"Not that I'm wanting a return to those times or anything, but what's with the non-angst-y-ness of a brood boy less-than-happy comment?" Xander asked when his curiosity demanded to be sated.
Buffy smiled sadly at her brunette friend. Looking down at the table, needing the inanimate wood grain to focus on, the blonde took a breath before starting to softly speak. "When I first came back, I was so incredibly confused, I had all these thoughts and memories that I just couldn't make sense of." Looking up at her friends, she, once again, gave them her sad smile before continuing. "You guys were all so happy that I was back, that I just couldn't tell you what was going on. I needed quiet. Some time to think."
"Why didn't you tell us, Buffy? We would have understood," Willow asked a little petulantly, part of her still a little miffed that Buffy had never thanked her.
"I was too angry, Willow. Angry and confused Buffy is not a good thing."
"Angry? About what?" Willow asked ingenuously, momentarily forgetting where she had brought Buffy back from.
Incredulous eyes focused on the redhead from all directions.
"I'd be guessing the yanking of a happy spirit-Buffy from Heaven and the having to dig her way out of her own grave would be up there in the top two of reasons," Dawn answered sarcastically.
Willow blushed deeply, hanging her head and remembering exactly why she'd been spell-casty-Willow that morning.
Buffy decided to regain the group's attention, releasing the embarrassed witch from their speculative gazes. "Anyway, whatever this spell is that's hit us, it's like it's been years for me; like I've had the time I needed to process everything and deal."
The other's nodded in understanding, while silently encouraging her to continue.
Buffy shrugged in slight discomfort, still not really comfortable with being all talky-girl. "The memories that I didn't recognise suddenly made sense." With a look of outraged indignation, the blonde seemed to completely change topics. "Why did no-one tell me that Riley was a human Angel?"
Dawn snickered, while Spike bit his lip and looked around the room, anywhere but Buffy's face, not willing to jeopardise the new peace between them by laughing at her.
"Pretty sure you're the only one not to pick up on that, Buffy. I'm guessing that nobody mentioned it ‘cause it was pretty big there with the obvious," the brunette informed her sister.
Willow and Xander nodded in agreement, both talking over each other while separately stating that they thought it had been a deliberate choice on her part."
Buffy rolled her eyes in self-deprecation, "You guy's aren't getting it, they were exactly the same. I mean; seriously, whatever he was telling himself, Riley left because he couldn't stand it that I didn't need his protection. Angel gets turned human when he gets some Mohra Demon blood in him, then as soon as he discovers he's no longer super strong and I'm the one doing the savage, he's all demanding-boy and gets the powers to take the day back." Buffy shook her head in disbelief before continuing, "The powers told him I could die, so he turns all protector guy and tells them he's willing to give up his humanity to keep me safe," she snorted indelicately, "then he stays in LA while I go back to Sunnydale - and die. Oh yeah! He was a big ol' help, what with the not being here and all. He might have got away with lying to the powers and to himself, but as soon as I died with him no-where around, they got pissed and let me know." Her expression turned hard and unforgiving. "When you cut to the chase, he couldn't handle a woman who didn't need him to protect her. Exactly like Riley!"
"You know," Xander began thoughtfully. "I have always genuinely hated Angel." The brunette carpenter smiled broadly at the group as a whole, "I love being right!"
In a bedroom in London, a young man closed his father's lifeless eyes before collapsing over his body. In his grief - he wept.