Title: A Watcher's Word
Length of chapter: 3000
Setting: Post Chosen but AU straight away. So no comics and no Angel Season 5.
Giles raised the Slayer Axe over his left shoulder. It glowed a menacing red with the Shadow Caster’s magick but Buffy’s eyes never left those of her Watcher.
“Three then,” he said and swung the weapon in a vicious horizontal arc. The blade made contact with the Pokarroh nearest to Buffy and took its head clean off. Ariela would have been proud. The other demons reacted angrily to the surge of their colleague’s blood, orange eyes targeting in with aggression as they left Robin, Julia and Fallon unguarded in order to seek retribution of their own.
On ‘three’, Buffy, having made a mental note to ask him later what happened to ‘one’ and ‘two’, had dived immediately to the library floor. She skidded across the pentagram and retrieved the cutlass Giles had thoughtfully dropped earlier. She darted out the way of a blow from one of the demons and cut out at its leg. It howled as she pulled back the cutlass and she skipped up to put herself between Giles and his attackers. She held her back to him and faced down the Pokarroh.
Two of them lunged but Buffy parried and held her ground. The blade on bone made a sickening noise but she knew she couldn’t risk losing the weapon trying for deeper wounds. The first time she’d swung a broadsword in training she’d got it stuck in a tree in the school grounds and it had taken both her and Giles some twenty minutes to lever the thing out.
“Oh really, Rupert. This is all rather futile isn’t it?” de Groot said mockingly and, given the lie to his dandified appearance, he punched Giles in the face and made to take back the Slayer Axe. The two men wrestled for it and crashed into the points of the pentagram, the brass figures slipped and fell.
Buffy could only turn her back and leave them to get on with it. The Pokarroh worked in teams, she’d figured. There were five on them left and they were subtly spreading out in order to flank her. She risked a blow to her left to try to keep them honest. Giles breathed heavily behind her and de Groot laughed at his comparative frailty. The other shadows swirled about her, trying to obscure her view and the pentagram began to glow red from the magick, so she felt like she was fighting from the inside of a fire pit. Three of the demons leapt forward and she tried to use the momentum of one against the others, but then a fourth came at her from her unprotected side and hissed “Slay-er” in triumph
And then its eyes went out and it slumped to ground. Buffy looked up and saw Fallon armed with a long sword. “Hey, Captain Caveman, there’s more than one of us, you know."
In the confusion, Robin had released the girls and dug out appropriate weapons. The Pokarroh turned to see the three of them looking like a singularly determined group. Robin’s anger at being used as a puppet was about to be put to good effect. Even Julia, after having seen how the demons could be killed, wanted a piece of the action for herself. Buffy relaxed at the levelling of the odds and picking out the meanest looking one as her opponent, stepped out of the pentagram to join the melee
“You are being preposterous,” mocked de Groot haughtily. He shoved at Giles, his hands a fiery red as he held the Axe, and whipped the handle into the man’s face. Giles reeled, let go, and fell to the floor. “You can do nothing to harm us. Whereas I can do a great deal of harm to you."
He jabbed with the point but Giles had anticipated and scuttled to the last point of the pentagram. Buffy killed her demon and rushed to Giles’ aid, but was repelled from re-entering as if a force field had suddenly been erected. Even de Groot was a little surprised that he’d been cut off with only Giles.
“Really, Rupert? It’s a nice trick but you’ll have to do better than that.”
Giles sat up near one of the fallen brass figures. “You shouldn’t have underestimated my skill at skim-reading,” he said.
“I don’t think it matters.” Shadow Caster made no effort to hide his contempt. “There are only two ways this story ends: either you do the spell with us or you die.”
Giles grinned. “I've got a spell of my own.” He touched the nearest brass figure and the other four rose up and began to melt. then the axe in de Groot’s hands changed in colour from fiery red, to purple, and then a cold hard blue.
Having won their physical battles, Robin, Fallon and Julia joined Buffy in standing at the edge of the pentagram and watched in fascination.
“What’s happening?” asked Fallon.
Giles eyes had gone black and de Groot struggled to let go of the Axe. Its cold blue began to creep up his arms and the shadows and swirls of the other Shadow Casters moved frantically around him. By now, the brass figures had completely melted and the air about them began to grow cold. Even the pentagram started to shrink and look more and more like a desperate snow shaker.
“No,” said de Groot, as his face started to turn grey and return to the shadows from whence he’d come. His eyes lit up in realisation. “This is…this is…"
“Betrayal,” Giles confirmed brightly as the Shadow Caster lost his form.
“Get the hell out of there, Giles,” Buffy ordered.
“Not just yet.”
The temperature dropped further and the shadows shrank smaller and smaller. It was only when he finally deemed they could no longer be a threat did Giles comply with Buffy’s assertive hand waving and foot stomping. As he rolled out of the pentagram, the air popped and the shadows dissolved completely, as if they’d never been there. Buffy ran to hug him and he actually hugged her back somewhat briefly.
“Had to be sure,” he mumbled by way of apology and she squeezed into his chest harder.
“You closed their Portal,” stated Fallon.
“Are they coming back?” Robin asked.
“Oh no,” said Julia with a smile. “Because they shook on it.”
“You used the Seal against them.That was very cool,” Fallon said in admiration.
Giles grunted and stood up, forcing Buffy to reluctantly let go. “Do either of you know how to get the lights back on?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Julia happily. “We’re totally on it.” And the slayers rushed off leaving Robin, Giles and Buffy alone.
Some two hours later, Buffy tracked him down. She knew the city well and certainly every restaurant, bar and deli in a fifteen block radius. The Sports Bar surprised her initially but then a sign boasted English Breakfast tea, so she checked herself. It was crowded on a Sunday afternoon and the TV screens had a mixture of football, hockey and even some soccer. The seats at the bar were all taken and there was a lot of noise as the city unwound but she’d got the unmistakable sense of his presence as she walked in and smiled as she spotted him in far most corner booth, his eyes sensing her warily.
She ordered a club soda and sat opposite him, her back to the TV screens. He’d picked the darkest corner of the bar with the best view of the doors. Buffy felt vaguely like they were an adulterous couple. They certainly seemed destined to always meet in the shadows. She saw his travel bag was under the table and kicked it a little to give herself leg room.
“We're celebrating,” she began. Giles raised his eyebrow to invite further explanation. “I just resigned from the Watchers Council.” She thought and frowned. “Or just got fired. Depends who files the paperwork first, I guess.”
Giles produced a gold cigarette case from his pocket.
“You can’t smoke in here,” she challenged.
“I know. I quit. Killing myself slowly is less appealing these days.” He flicked the catch nervously a couple of time. He needed a prop to fidget with. She knew the signs so well.
“Why are you no longer with the Council?” he asked diplomatically.
“Robin and I had a difference of opinion on Policy. Mainly he was pissed that he wasn’t in on the plan.”
“I didn’t really have an opportunity to-”
“No,” she interrupted. “Our plan.”
Giles blinked. “We didn’t have one.”
She sighed. “I know. I just trusted you and he doesn't get that. And you did your customary disappearing act before I could explain it, and oh, things just got a bit heated with Robin after that.” She sipped her drink. “How did you know you could use the Axe against them?”
He flicked his cigarette case catch. “The Women that forged the axe for the Slayer meant it as a weapon against the source of the Shadow Casters power. That’s why Willow was able to use it to release all the potentials.”
Somebody scored some points somewhere on the TVs and half the bar voiced its displeasure.
Giles smiled playfully and said, “All the best people get fired from the Council.”
“I’m thinking Wesley, Gwendolyn Post?” she teased. The points evidently didn’t count and the bar settled again.
“Robin thinks I trust you more than I trust him.” Giles looked a little lost at her statement. “He didn’t accept that we hadn’t colluded in some way. He doesn’t understand how I could trust you so completely even in the face of the temptation to cheat the curse. That I knew you weren’t going to kill me.”
“He’s had to do a lot of things on his own. It’s understandable.”
“I saw you were tempted,” she whispered in a shy voice
"Not tempted. Never tempted." He looked pained. “de Groot’s offer was unexpected, that’s all. Council History says he was lost in battle. I didn’t know he was still alive so his role was surprising to me. Although from what I remember from Council records, they judged him a slippery bastard even then. Anyway, how could I live forever knowing I’d killed you? It would have been a very poor trade; Eternity without your disapproval? Hardly Heaven at all.”
He ordered himself another tea and they sat in silence for a while.
Buffy had argued with Xander over Giles some ten months ago. He’d accused her of using Giles as a project. Of deciding to love him so she could fix him. She hadn’t really understood love then. She’d known Giles since she was a child and he was most definitely not. She’d thought of him fondly from time to time, and often not thought of him at all. But being with him now sparked nothing but happy memories of his company. He didn’t smile at her very often. He misunderstood her motives and her warmth to him. He was convinced she despised him at worst and tolerated him as useful research guy at best. But when she looked at him, stirring his tea, watching the windows, she saw a kindred spirit. A survivor. A warrior in his own way and his own time.
And Buffy had a small rather shocking epiphany. Rupert Giles may well be screwed up in many ways, but she realised she not only wanted to be with him, but rather surprisingly, she wanted all of him. She wanted this tall, sweet man who’d played so many different roles in her life exactly when she’d needed him to. And she didn’t want him to look after, nor to protect him. He was neither a pet nor did she did have a mother’s love for him. She wanted everything. She wanted the man.
“Are you alright, you look like you've eaten something disagreeable,” he asked solicitously.
Buffy snorted a quick laugh at which Giles looked puzzled and then a little put out. She studied his face intently till he ducked his eyes down and sipped his tea defensively. It was hopeless of course. They were long past the time when she could have done anything to act upon her thoughts. The revelation felt good though. It didn't feel like it had come from a dark place of pity or from guilt. There was no particular safety in knowing she couldn't have him and she did not did feel the idea elevated her love to something grander. It was what it was and she was who she was. She wasn’t a schoolgirl anymore and she wasn’t going to pout about the unfairness of it all. She studied him and her eyes widened in realisation. Hell, she was older than he was by about a hundred years. This wasn't the forbidden fruit of Angel pining for her, or the grand guilt of Spike winning his soul for her. This was about the man across the table from her, in all his complexity, the man she couldn't have. Cold, simple but tragically beautiful truth.
There was also the other side of the coin to consider. He’d never given her any reason to suspect that he was in love with her. She'd been a child when they first met, and even after she'd grown up beyond her years and possibly his, he'd never given her any indication that his feelings extended beyond a Watcher's calling. He'd been fired for exceeding that, but no, however much she thought about it, Giles had never once given her reason to suggest he that loved her in any way other than as his Slayer. He'd squawked when she'd implied he was her mother, but then most men would. He'd proposed rakish uncle, given her some money, and booked out of her life as fast as his fairly long legs could take him. That was after he’d been cursed of course, but apart from confirming the theory that she meant ‘something’ to him, something that meant she was the closest to him and why she wigged him the most, it didn’t explain what his feelings to her were. And of course, Giles wasn’t in any position to explain it then or now.
She took the spoon out of his hand and allowed their fingers to touch. He flinched as she’d expected, but in that split second before he pulled away, there was a clarity reflected in his eyes before the darkness and isolation took hold of him. She wanted the man and deep down, the man wanted her too, only he couldn’t process it with her so close. The curse distorted his perceptions.
Her serene smile provoked panic in Giles. “Have I done something wrong?” he asked nervously.
“No,” she smiled. “I was just thinking that I like the beard.”
“Oh.” She thought he looked so cute when he was confused as he started fidgeting with the cigarette case again. “How’s Dawn?” he asked suddenly.
Buffy welcomed the change of subject with a knowing smile. “Dawn is good. She’s looking to study medicine,” she replied.
“Good gracious,” he spluttered.
“I know, another Summers girl licensed to kill,” she joked.
“No I mean,” he began to stammer awkwardly. “I mean she’s not a little girl anymore. So much has changed,” he added sadly. Buffy wondered if he meant anything more by that.
“I don’t know if it was her time patching up the potentials in Sunnydale,” Buffy mused. “Or maybe because of mom’s illness. She was always the smart one. She takes after mom so much.”
“That she does.”
He was looking into her eyes now that the topic was on safer ground. Oh he loved her. She was confident of that in the same way that she’d been confident he wouldn’t execute her.
“I keep losing you to these private jokes.” He frowned.
“I was just thinking how we’ve changed over the years.”
Giles got the check and they left the bar together. It was starting to rain lightly.
“So now you’ve left the Council? What are you going to do next?” he asked as they waited to cross the road to the subway station.
“I feel like meeting Dawn, grabbing some Chinese, going back to our apartment, taking a long hot shower and going to bed. Care to join me?”
Giles looked strained. “Are you sure Dawn would want to see me?”
She had to work hard to stop herself from laughing. Innuendo just went right over his head.
“Of course she will. You could stay over on our couch.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea….” He broke off in panic. He had nightmares, of course, when he was near her. He was probably thinking of that rather than any sense of proprietary but she ached for a moment when they could both understand what was happening.
“Just for tonight. I’m not asking you for anything more. I know we can’t have more.”
The crossing lights changed and Giles stepped out to give himself space in the conversation. A yellow cab came hard around the corner and hit its horn. Buffy pulled Giles back by his arm and clung to him as if her world depended on it. He blinked in confusion at the intimacy and she released him and smiled.
“What’s the matter Giles? Don’t you trust me?”
“Always Buffy,” he blinked, unsure of her intention, but confident of the one constant in his world. “Always.”
End of Part Three
Click for part four - In the Morning Sun...