Length: 3800. Grand total comes to 22,600.
Rating: Let's say PG but I don't think it gets too bad.
Setting: Post Chosen but we go AU almost immediately. Forget Angel season 5 references and certainly forget the comics.
Disclaimer: Bite me Whedon.
What was it with Watchers? They were a tricky breed. Annoying but knowledgeable, they got under your skin even Wesley had had his moments, Merrick was quite possibly the strangest man she ever knew but he gave her confidence and hope. Her first watcher had believed in her and gradually she started to believe in herself too. And Giles, oh god it was complicated with Giles. Could she trust him again? The local Slayer Zara had actually thought Buffy herself was a Watcher at first. Being a watcher meant taking a backseat: looking out for someone else for a change. Buffy had never been backseat material. She was a wheel spinning, horn blowing, gear crunching front seat gal, and to hell with who got left behind.
Having actually witnessed a cold blooded killing, no police force in the world likes to be deprived of both the murder weapon and the victim. They had felt cheated and were deeply suspicious of Giles even though they no longer had any evidence. Despite Buffy’s reasoned arguments, they had resorted to the time honoured police practice of arresting everyone they found and taking them back to the station to await someone more senior. It took her much sweet talking to convince them that they were not a threat during the journey and did not require restraints. The police sergeant in particular seemed to have a personal grudge against Giles but reluctantly acquiesced. It was Christmas Day and something very strange had obviously just happened. At the police station therefore, they were locked in the relative comfort of an office rather than the cells. Their passports and possessions from the house had however been confiscated.
Buffy knew they couldn’t hold them for ever and so was calm. Giles however was pacing. It was a slow pace and to the untrained eye it could pass for indolent stretching but after twenty minutes of watching him pass by the windows and oh so casually inspect the solid iron bars in the frame, Buffy knew the difference. Normally she’d be the one resenting being cooped up and Giles would be reassuring her, but neither of them seemed to be in the mood for conversation. He didn’t look at her the whole time after the police arrested them. He was back to being a stranger to her. A stranger sporting cuts and bruises and seriously in need of a shower and a change of clothes. He’d just shot someone and Buffy didn’t know if he’d known Paul was real or not. Worse she couldn’t ask him as the police were always about and neither of them trusted the office to be free of bugs. He’d taken lives before so maybe it was all the same to him? She kept remembering back to the snake in the sewer and band candy. She hadn’t liked the look in his eye when he held the gun to Ethan’s head. Teenage Giles looked for all the world like someone who could pull the trigger just for the excitement. He’d looked psychotic and dangerous that night and it was hard to reconcile that side of his nature with the steady, reliable Giles she thought she knew. Was that what had happened to Ben? Just how dangerous was this guy who was currently shambling around with his hands in his pockets refusing to look at her?
Since Sunnydale Buffy had refused to discuss the Giles situation. She always knew she’d find him one day and that maybe she’d have to stop him in some way. Robin was the only one who dared to mention his name. Giles was going to be a problem he’d told her and problems never just go away. Part of her restlessness of the past six months was in waiting for Giles to reappear. She had sped around the world at the first sign of trouble looking to confront it head on, but at the back of her mind, she’d been waiting for the other shoe to drop. She’d said she didn’t want a 9 to 5 job in the new organisation because she wasn’t good behind a desk. Robin knew Watchers; he'd probably understood all along.
“Sit down Giles, you’re making me nervous.”
He sat to oblige her on a horsehair stuffed armchair, sprawling slightly, an outward picture of calm, and maybe a little boredom. Except that he really, really wasn’t. As a Slayer Buffy had hunter’s instincts. It was an unpleasant feral aspect of the job that she could smell weakness and fear. For all his outward calm Giles was terrified. She’d never seen him so scared. She wasn’t sure if the police knew, they were hunters in their own way too of course. She wished to god he’d look in her direction.
The First had played on all their fears. Well, fears and her anger over Spike really. But there was something wrong at the root of the relationship with Giles to exploit. He’d told her that he was under some unspecified spell. Some bad magick that could even throw Willow around like a rag doll. God it was just so confusing. She should contact Robin, use her customary phone call and call in the troops. Make this someone else’s problem.
The door unlocked sharply and a small grey haired man appeared. He wore a green felt hat and an overcoat which didn’t adequately cover a brightly patterned seasonal jumper. His jovial smile was equally dazzling. He was the local Inspector of Police and extremely pleased to make their acquaintance. They were not under arrest he assured them. It was a misunderstanding. His men were sometimes a little zealous in their duties. He offered them refreshments and the use of the telephone which they declined. He had brought in their papers and visas which immediately held Giles’ attention. “That house has been dreadful to my career,” the dapper Inspector explained, “so many tragedies at Christmas, but you have stopped it. You have survived. We can all go on with our lives.”
He explained, with a macabre happiness, that on Christmas Eve 1912 Anton Popov had murdered his wife and her suspected lover. He had been arrested but had refused to give evidence at his trial. There being no doubt of his guilt, the State had had no choice but to execute him, especially as the affair had elicited the attention of the international press. Since then some sixteen couples had then been found dead at the property at Christmas. It was thought at first they were lovers engaged in macabre suicide pacts, attracted by the notoriety of the house, but it quickly became apparent that they were often strangers. There had been attempts to turn the house into a barracks for the Red Army and to fell the trees and cultivate the land but these had always failed. There was no records kept as to why but then, in the Soviet Union such failures were never documented. That Anton had been re-enacting the scene of his disgrace whenever possible had not occurred to them, though it made a gruesome sort of sense.
Buffy thought it time to be going, she smiled her brightest at the Inspector. “We’d really just like to put this behind us now.”
“Of course, of course.” The Inspector immediately returned her passport to her. “We have brought your rental car here Miss Summers and put your belongings inside. I have arranged accommodation at a hotel in Riga. It is quite a drive but the best I could do. My brother in law is manager there. I didn’t think you’d want to stay at the house.”
“No,” she agreed, “And Dr Jones? I’d like Dr Jones to help me find the place. I’d feel safer to have a travelling companion.”
“Really?” The Inspector looked through Giles’ passport as if he’d never seen English papers before. It was a fake of course. Buffy hoped it was a good one.
“Do you have a reason to keep him? No-one actually died,” she reminded him sweetly.
“No. Not really. There is much I’d like to ask Dr Jones, but nothing concrete,” he conceded.
“Good. Then we can go now?” She was pressing her luck, but she gambled the man would want to return to his family on Christmas morning rather than try to figure out Giles. Hell, she’d spent enough years on that project with little enough to show for it.
The Inspector went outside with them to her car. Two of the uniformed officers were guarding it as Giles dived to the trunk and retrieved his bag. He then started to check through the contents thoroughly; seemingly oblivious to the resentment he was stirring. The Inspector had still not handed over his passport.
“Just one last question if you please Dr Jones.”
Giles turned to the man cautiously.
“Of the sixteen couples dead: some of the men were academics, two were even from the military. There was also a notorious gambler, another a thief. Some were men of adventure, some were respected men with families. Men with such backgrounds that I would have expected them to have put up a stronger resistance. I was wondering why you? Why were you not affected by this drama?”
“I don’t know,” Giles answered carefully.
“And why did you fire? My men reported they had just gained entry to the room when you raised the revolver and shot the man at point blank range. What made you do that?”
Giles had gone quite pale. Buffy thought she knew the answer to that question, but it was hardly something they wanted to discuss. She was worried it might be the same answer as to the previous question. Maybe he hadn’t had a reason to shoot. She thought of Ripper and the candy night, but was that the magick or was that his true self? And then was he not affected by magick now? This spell could be anything. He could be anything. She felt a strong need to get Giles out of there.
“He was protecting me,” she said defiantly, “Popov had made threats, Gil- Jones was acting to protect me. He saved my life Inspector. I wouldn’t want that overlooked.”
The senior officer considered this for a while.
“The perfect English gentleman? Always putting the lady first?”
Giles muttered, “Something like that.”
“There is something more to this but well, I shall not be ungracious. You have solved a great problem for me today. No one likes to clean up the deaths that house caused on Christmas day. I can make the arrangements with my brother-in-law for you both. I suggest you leave now.” He held out the passport but it was Buffy who darted swiftly to take it from him. She smiled sweetly at Giles and motioned for him to get in the car. He looked even more like a condemned man as he did so.
Buffy drove her hire car back towards Riga in silence. There was daylight but it was meagre and thin. Ostensibly Giles was navigating but he’d not offered any suggestions since leaving the police station so Buffy was largely trusting to instinct. They seemed to be on a major road to somewhere but that was all she knew for now.
Since the talk with the Inspector Giles had withdrawn even further into himself. Buffy was relieved that he no longer seemed afraid but couldn’t figure out what was going through his head now. When he made no objection to her driving she seriously started to wonder how far their relationship had deteriorated. He hadn’t made a single joke. Maybe he had a death wish after all.
She looked across the car to him and was startled to find him asleep. She skidded a little in the ditch in surprise, but quickly regained tarmac. That he was still asleep probably wasn’t a testament to her driving skills. She wondered how he could sleep after what had happened, but then they had both been through a lot over the years. She had not expected him to fire first and she honestly had no idea what had made him react. But if he hadn’t what would have happened?
She looked across at Giles again. He was twitching his right hand slightly. Like a dog dreaming of rabbits she thought almost fondly. She drove on in silence. She’d tried the radio before but the music stations were light and fluffy and played only dated American jingle bells. Some of the tunes had seemed ancient even when she was growing up. Buffy had no place in her heart today for Andy Williams, she wasn’t in the mood. Giles shifted uncomfortably and nodded his head against the side window. The road was pretty straight and seemed very different in daylight. The skyline opened out to weak grey daylight and the temperature started to drop. There were very few cars, a few international trucks to whom Christmas Day meant another working opportunity. Giles muttered something and jerked slightly. The other cars that Buffy did see were laden with families. Children pulled playful faces at her as they crossed. She couldn’t help but smile back; they were just young and excited. She probably should have called Dawn from the station, but she hadn’t decided what she was going to say.
Giles was suddenly violently shaking in a nightmare. “Giles, wake up,” she said in alarm. His arms started to claw at the seatbelt and the car door. “Giles!” she punched him, “stop it, wake up.”
Possibly the physical contact did it as he snapped his eyes open, “Christ, stop the car, stop the car” he shouted. Buffy turned the car into a side road and pulled into a verge as best she could near a gate in the wall. Giles flipped open his seat belt and bolted out, leaving the car door open. He was on his knees by the time he’d reached the gate and crawled round the wall for dignity.
Buffy calmly pulled his door closed and waited. Eventually, she killed the engine, retrieved a heavy coat from her bag to wear and went to sit on the stone wall. She looked back across the road and the horizon, giving him his privacy.
There had been many times in Buffy’s life when she didn’t know what she was going to do next. Usually these were short-lived as another crisis rose up and she could grab weaponry to meet it head on. But now as she watched the sky she really didn’t have a plan at all. Robin was right that she didn’t even need to be here. Zara could have managed that demon sect without her. She’d bullied her way in as head slayer and made mistakes. Zara was lucky to be alive.
Was she some sort of apocalypse junkie? Xander had joked ‘no-one ends the world on Buffy’s watch’ and she’d thought it a compliment at the time. She wasn’t so sure now. Being possessed and forced to play an alien role to herself was sobering. Kristina had taken risks with her marriage for the excitement. She had thought she was in control of her situation when she was clearly not.
Eventually Giles reappeared, wiping his face.
“You OK?” she asked.
“Oh. Yes. Fine,” he said sheepishly and walked back through the gate to her side and leaned on the wall. He looked across away from her.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I’m sorry I – I seem to have done it again haven’t I? Your fiancé. You thought you were engaged and I’ve taken that away.”
Buffy frowned, that wasn’t the issue, “He wasn’t real.”
“No but, I’m sorry.”
“No he really wasn’t real. We weren’t engaged. He was lying. He just said that to protect my virtue or something.”
Giles looked surprised, “From what?”
“From you I suppose.”
“Oh. It’s been a while since anyone felt they should do that.” Buffy smiled a little encouragement but despite having cleared that up, Giles still looked morose.
“So Dr Jones,” she began only to be distracted by a sudden thought, “is it Indiana by the way?” The corners of his mouth smiled ever so slightly, giving her hope.
“What was that just now in the car?”
The smile quickly fled. “Just a bit of travel sickness. I’m fine now.”
“And the terror at the police station?”
He stood upright, “It’s been a long couple of days Buffy. Can we go to the hotel now please.” He started back to the car but Buffy flicked the key fob and the hire car obligingly crunched its door locks and flashed its lights. After a half a minute, he dropped his head wearily, turned and walked back to the wall she was sat on. He leaned his back against it this time and they both looked at the car for a bit.
“Can we make a deal to stop lying to each other Giles?” He nodded very slightly. “So what was that in the car?” He was finding his shoes far more interesting then the open Latvian countryside or the slight chill that was threatening imminent snow in the air.
“How long have you been getting these nightmares?” she persisted.
“Don’t know. Not sure.” He could be amazingly hard work at times.
“Since I died?”
“Possibly. You were jumping off that bloody tower an awful lot at first. Though that could be, for want of a better word, natural. Now it’s just everything – Bringers, Jenny, - seems like every time I sleep. Sometimes when I’m awake even.”
He’d been through a lot of the years. What was it that watchers felt when their slayer died? Zara had been so grateful there was someone there who understood. Buffy had felt that with her first Watcher more. Giles had his moments. In his way he’d made her feel safe. When he reversed the spells of Amy’s mom and saved her life: it was an eye opener. She didn’t know watchers did stuff like that. For about a day and a half he was a God, and then he annoyed her over training and things returned to normal. But what did she make him feel like?
“Is this the spell the Coven found? Is this what it does?” Damn Kennedy and her zealotry in reading the Watcher Handbook. And damn the Watcher Handbook and damn The Council of Watchers.
“Not found anyone alive to ask,” he mumbled.
“And the fear at the police station?”
“We could freeze to death out here,” he grumbled.
“Depends on how stubborn you are,” Buffy sat quietly. She was a Slayer. A hunter, and as such she knew patience played a large part in what she did. She could get her answers here. She didn’t need to chase around the world.
“There are no warrants for my arrest if that’s what you’re thinking. I don’t seem to cope well with being locked up and it’s just difficult being around people, being with you even. I’m sorry. I can’t explain it. People seem to get hurt when I’m around. And the nightmares aren’t exactly endearing. It’s better if I keep moving. Better for the people around me, and sometimes I can outrun it and rest.”
“This really isn’t natural is it? Or Medical I mean. This is the spell. Can we find you a doctor or a mystic?”
“No. Doctors, police, Slayers…They’d lock me away. It’s Eastern Europe Buffy. We can’t stay here. Please. I can’t cope with other people. I just need to be by myself. I will figure out what has happened to me, fix it and come back to you. I promise.”
“I want you back in my life.”
“I will be. I promise.”
His hands had reached for comfort of tobacco again, but instead of a packet, he produced the gold cigarette case again. Giles looked at it with horror and disgust: Kristina’s thoughtless gift to her lover. “Sodding thing,” he said and made to throw over the wall.
“No don’t,” Buffy stopped him and explained, “He wants you to keep it. I think he’s grateful. He got what he wanted didn’t he?”
The sky had turned paler as they’d talked and the first snow flakes started to shroud them.
“It wasn’t forgiveness,” Buffy reasoned, “and it certainly wasn’t Punishment because I’d say if he was executed by the State then that’s punishment enough for most people.”
“He wanted to take it all back,” said Giles flatly. “He wanted not to have killed her. He wanted to not be a murderer.”
“Hmm,” he nodded, “He’d have given anything not to be a killer. To have not disappointed her like that.”
“And for that,” said Buffy quietly, “he needed someone to shoot first. But the people he chose all ended up re-enacting exactly what happened. Why did you fire at him?”
The snow was getting heavier and colder. Conversely the sky was lighter than it had been all morning.
“I felt I had to. I felt I could. It might have been the spell, I don’t know.” He folded his arms and said bitterly, “Anyway, that’s what he’d been looking for all these years: a monster that could pull the trigger first.”
She put a hand on his shoulder, “You’re not a monster and I don’t believe it was the spell. You did what you had to do to protect me. He would have killed us both. I don’t hate you Giles. You were wrong about that. Come on. Whatever this thing is that’s affecting you, we will figure it out together and fix it OK?”
“I’m not going anywhere Giles. You can’t do this on your own.”
He was shaking again and it wasn’t the cold. From her seat on the wall she had a slight height advantage over him. Buffy moved her hand to the back of his neck. He was on fire and sweating freely. She leaned forward instinctively and kissed his forehead. “What am I going to do with you, my Giles?”
The shaking grew more pronounced, so she pulled him into a tight hug. He fought to get free at first but she refused to let go. She was hanging on to her seat on the wall but if he wanted to roll on the frozen ground she could do that too. She was always going to win and he just needed to remember that and calm down. Eventually he stopped pulling away and put his arms around her and hugged her back just as tightly. She rocked him gently.
A truck passed and hooted, a Scottish accent called out “get a room”, but then it was gone and they were alone again. The snow started to fall in bigger, slower patterns, twirling to make contact, turning everything the purest white, and she rocked him gently until the trembling finally stopped.
“Merry Christmas Giles.”
“Merry Christmas Buffy.”
End of Part One.
Part Two now begins here...