The well-armed librarian looked at him expectantly, while Angel smiled and tried to stall until he figured out just what exactly to tell him.
"Now that," he said, "is a very long story."
The librarian looked less than impressed with that response. "Of course it is. So why don't you give me a shortened version to start, then?"
Angel looked at the man, trying to get a feel for him. The fact that he hadn't shot Angel outright was a point in his favour, as was that he was protecting the books. He was smart -- even if he had been bluffing about the doctored bullets, it was a clever gambit and would have made any demon more cautious. And he was brave; he obviously knew what Angel was and what that meant he could do, and had still faced him down barely out of arm's reach without flinching.
"Are you the only one here or...?" Angel asked as he tried to make up his mind.
Angel also noted that while the man had lowered the gun from pointing directly at him, he still held it in such a way that he could aim and shoot in a split second if he was at all any good. "How about we stick with you answering my questions for now, shall we?"
Stubborn then, as well as cautious. Two more things to add to the list. All of these things gave Angel an idea of the kind of man he was dealing with here, but in the end the only way he could be sure he was trustworthy would be to trust him and see what happens.
As Doyle was fond of saying, sometimes you just had to close your eyes and make a leap of faith. Angel kept his eyes open, but leapt he did.
"Have you ever heard of Unity?"
The man frowned. "That's just a myth."
Angel shrugged. "People used to say that about vampires too."
"I don't think you'd be able to find a living human who would say it today." The rough voice had gone cold. "Those of us who survived have all seen too much. Besides monsters are far easier to believe in than a place where demons and humans live together."
"Oh, I don't know." Angel leaned against a bookshelf and gestured between them. "I'm a demon. You're human. So far we're managing to have a civil conversation without killing each other. Guns, and threats of magic bullets notwithstanding. If we can do this, shouldn't it be possible to carry it further?"
"What is possible and what is likely are two different things," the man replied. "And I'm not sure it would be possible in this world for such a place to exist. Both humans and demons can barely keep from killing their own; the only thing that ever seems to unite either side is the chance to annihilate the other. That is the reality that the Burning left us with. Faced with that, how could any community hope to create itself out of a joint peace?"
It was the question that everyone asked when first confronted with the idea of Unity. Angel answered it the same way he'd been given the answer. "I don't know," he said. "But it does. Sometimes hope is enough to build on."
The man looked at him closely, as if searching for the truth in Angel's face. "You're serious," he finally said slowly. "You're not speaking in metaphor or ideals. You're speaking of a real place."
"Well a lot of Unity is metaphor and ideals, but yes, it really is a real place," Angel confirmed.
"And that's where you were planning on taking the books? Unity?"
"That was the general plan, yeah. Of course we all thought this would be a scavenge mission. We didn't foresee that the library would still be...." Angel gestured at the books on the shelves and all the books and shelves and rooms beyond. "Intact. Your doing?"
The man looked at first taken aback by the question, then embarrassed. "Perhaps in some small part, but the library protects itself quite well without me."
Angel nodded, remembering the tingling touch of magic when he had entered. "The wards."
"The wards," the man confirmed. "They're powerful enough to keep most beings away, although occasionally some will slip through. That's where I come in."
"Shotgun and magic bullets," Angel said, nodding in the direction of the weapon that was now lowered at the man's side. "As you've so ably demonstrated." He paused. "You're not going to just let me walk out of here with the books are you?"
"I don't know. If what you say is true -- and I'm far from convinced that it is -- we may be able to work something out. But first you have to convince me."
And therein lay the problem. "I don't know if I can, if my words aren't good enough," Angel admitted. "It's not like I carry Unity around in my back pocket. Short of taking you there, I really don't know how to-"
Angel blinked. "Could I what?"
"Take me there," the man replied. "To Unity."
"I... Well, yes, I suppose so, but-"
"I'll make you a deal then," the man broke in. "I'll let you take the books you want -- I'll even help you find them. As long as I get to go along too. The library can take care of itself for a few weeks, perhaps even a few months if I cast extra wards. Perhaps, if what I've heard about Unity is true, we could even organise a... book exchange. Make this a public library in actuality as well as name again." He caught and held Angel's gaze, his own eyes bright and determined. "But first I need to see for myself that I wouldn't be sending them off to be destroyed."
Angel was a bit bewildered; this was the last thing he'd expected the man to offer. "You'd be willing to travel with me? To trust me enough to travel with me? A vampire?"
The man nodded. "I would."
The man spread his hands, the aim of the gun moving harmlessly along the floor as he did so. "Because you love books."
Angel thought about it. Doyle wasn't always happy when new people were brought in before he had a chance to check them out fully, but on the other hand Doyle was also the one who was so big on trying to get them all to listen to their instincts. And Angel's instincts were telling him to take the offer. Besides, having ongoing access to this library and someone who seemed to know what it contained and where everything was located was too good to pass up.
"All right," he finally said. "I'll take you." Angel paused, realising he still didn't have one very basic piece of information. "What's your name?"
"Wesley," was the man's reply, with something approaching a warm smile. "What's yours?"
"Of course it is." Wesley chuckled, the sound even rougher and more gravelly than his speaking voice. "Who else would be claiming to take me to the promised land but an angel?"
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