It took Buffy some three hours to drive to the Coven in Westbury. The roads had been narrow and unfriendly and she’d got lost on several occasions. Maps and road signs seemed to perpetually disagree and have no interest in settling their differences amicably. Buffy found herself constantly being spun to the same roundabout system. The heating in the car didn’t seem to work properly either, which didn’t help as she wiggled her toes in between bouts of acceleration and inevitable breaking on the slow roads. It felt like dumb chance when she finally spotted a half hidden sign for Westbury Farm. She hopped out and pulled back the shrubbery to be sure. The metal sign was so old and covered with ivy she could have driven past a dozen times and not seen it - in fact she probably had. But finally confident of her target, she climbed back to the car and puddled up the muddy farm track into the warren of buildings. Picking the largest, she walked to a promising door and pulled a lever that she hoped was attached to a summoning door bell.
Everything was going to be OK. She just needed to do the research and solve the puzzle. The Coven had come through before when
“Hi, I’m Buffy,” she said brightly despite being half buffeted into the porch. The woman was thin and tall, with straight grey hair and rather demanding dark eyes. She didn’t look impressed and pulled her cardigan closer around her, waiting for more information.
Buffy faltered a little; perhaps the sign had been wrong somehow. “This is Westbury Farm isn’t it?”
“That’s correct.” The lady looked up the drive to where Buffy’s borrowed Range Rover looked ever so slightly threatening. Robin had insisted she take a sturdy car though Buffy would have preferred something less Men In Blacky.
“Buffy?” the lady said uncertainly.
“Yes, Buffy. Summers, Buffy Summers.”
“Oh!” The stern face lit up in recognition. “You must be Dawn’s sister. I’m Peggy Harkness, please do come in.”
She led the way to the farm’s kitchen through a dark and cluttered hallway. It took all of Buffy’s agility not to disturb the stacks of boxes and riding equipment. Buffy thought herself a relatively untidy person but she felt like Howard Hughes compared to the farmhouse. A large grandfather clock guarded the entrance to the inner recesses. “I was just about to make some tea, would you care to join me? How is Dawn? We’ve spoken on the phone a lot. Bright girl. We’re all very fond of her. She is alright isn’t she? Nothing wrong I hope?”
“She’s fine. This a working farm? I wasn’t really expecting that.”
“Oh absolutely. We’re a little too small for the supermarkets but local farmers markets have been a saviour and the pony treks are always popular. We’ve diversified into letting out some of the cottages to seasonal visitors for the extra income and we enjoy having guests staying from time to time. Lots and lots of walkers usually, but also Artists working on creative projects or stockbrokers looking for some sort of escape. Some of them paint, or write poetry. We have some spectacular scenery around here. Very desolate. The tors are well worth climbing. Are you creative at all, Miss Summers?”
“We don’t tend to take guests over the Christmas to New Year period. Were you looking for a room?”
“No, er, excuse me, this is Westbury Farm isn’t it? You are,” she lowered her voice; “you are the Coven aren’t you?”
Ms Harkness leaned forward and spoke softly, “Well, I'm not all of the Coven, but we are all connected.”
“Telepathy?” whispered Buffy.
“Email, dear.” The lady bustled up to an aga stove and heaved a cast iron kettle. “Tea or would you prefer coffee perhaps?”
“Tea. Thank you. I prefer tea.”
“Really? Well what can I do for you? Any sister of Dawn is always welcome here.”
“I wanted to ask you some questions about Giles.”
"Rupert Giles?" Ms Harkness turned her back on Buffy and filled the iron kettle at the sink. “We haven’t heard from Rupert Giles for some time. Biscuit? Or I’ve got some Mince Pies, or a slice of Christmas cake left over? All homemade.”
Buffy felt she was vying with the entire kitchen range for her attention. “I need you to tell me what’s wrong with him.”
Ms Harkness lit the gas stove with great concentration. “Is he ill? I’ve got scones if you prefer? As I say, he’s not phoned for a while. I’m not sure how we can help you. Have you seen him recently?”
“Yes. We were both coming to here to speak with you. Only there was a car accident and now he’s disappeared again.”
Her hostess sucked on her teeth. “Perhaps that’s for the best.”
Two guards entered with plastic chairs, cups, and a jug of water but despite the heat and his thirst, Giles couldn’t take his eyes off Quentin Travers. He looked as dapper as he'd always done and was currently favouring his goatee beard. Instead of thick heavy tweed he wore a linen suit, the type Giles’ father always wore when he came back from trips to the
Giles been taught from an early age never to be certain of anything or anybody. Vampires looked human and Slayers looked frail. The key was to look beneath the surface. He’d been taught that by the Council and men like Travers. He continued to sit on the floor of the interrogation room, hugging his knees and waiting for his heart rate to return to normal. It was impossible to accept the older man looking so healthy and supercilious could be Quentin Travers. The Council headquarters had been destroyed. The man was dead along with hundreds of others. This thing in front of him was a sick joke.
The guards withdrew leaving the two men alone. Travers smiled indulgently. “Sorry about the heat but I needed somewhere we wouldn’t be disturbed. You must be thirsty." He gestured to the water jug. "Shall I be mother?”
“Can you look like my mother?” asked Giles with sarcasm. “She was taller for a start.”
Travers smirked and poured two cups of water. “I’m not the First Evil if that’s what you think.” He drained his cup and proffered the second.
Giles rose and cautiously reached for it with his right hand. “Maybe you’re just the latest evil,” he suggested and took an impulsive swing with his left at Travers’ jaw. He struck pure magick and the pain shot through his arm like an electrical current, and sent him flying back to the wall. His shoulder took the brunt of the impact but mainly it was his pride that was hurt.
“That was rather stupid, Rupert. Of course I’m going to take precautions when we are all so worried about you. I advise you to keep your homicidal tendencies under control in this room.” He looked at the manacles pointedly. “I’d hate to have to call the guards back.”
Giles stood again more shakily. “You’re dead,” he stated.
Quentin Travers treated Giles to one of his indulgent smiles. “And yet I look a lot better than you do right now.” He lifted one of the manacles with some distain and moved it to one side, muttering, “So crude this day and age.” He busied himself pouring more water before taking off his jacket off and hanging it across the back of one of the plastic chairs. His shirt was sweat stained from travel and his tie already loose at the collar.
Giles flexed his shoulder; it stung but didn’t seem to be broken. “You could be a robot I suppose. Actually I always wondered if you were a robot: probably the lack of people skills.”
“Rupert, do shut up and listen for once.”
“And the lack of a sense of humour,” muttered Giles sitting down but ignoring the water. “It is not possible for you to be alive.”
Travers sat casually opposite him. “You always underestimated the power of the Council. I suppose it’s because you never really became one of us. I am flesh and blood I assure you. What would it take to convince you of that?”
Giles sniffed. “I have a strong urge to rip your head off. Maybe that would put both our minds at rest.”
“Interesting. It’s almost as if Ripper were back with us. Wasn’t that your ridiculous nickname? The one you thought made you a man? Before you came snivelling back to the Council. 'The Giles boy: such a disappointment'. Your poor father would be so unhappy to see what you’ve become.”
“Leave him out of this,” Giles warned but Travers had struck a nerve and he knew it.
“The Council has always had excellent medical and mystical staff. I was fortunate. Indeed, they fixed you up after that reckless business on the road. Or did you imagine you walked away from that without a scratch?”
He had forgotten. How could he forget her? “Buffy…where’s Buffy?”
Travers dipped his head in apology. “I’m truly sorry about that, Rupert. We didn’t know she was with you. We’d made no provisions for passengers, you see.”
Giles was incensed. “Liar. She’s not dead. I always know when she’s dead.”
“Really?” Travers rolled his eyes at that statement, “I would like to know how.”
“Because I’m her Watcher,” replied Giles with belligerence.
Travers sighed. “’Was her Watcher’ I’m afraid the past tense applies. No No.” He held up a conciliatory hand. “She’s not dead but I’m afraid it was a rather serious accident. The car you crashed landed on the passenger side. Your Buffy bore the full force of the impact. Her spine was badly damaged.” He pursued his lips. “I’m afraid she’s lost one leg and the surgeons are fighting to keep the other. There are other traumas I won’t upset you with. She’s very strong though. We are all keeping a good thought.”
Giles took up the water and drank. He didn’t want to believe any of it. “You ran us off the road,” he snarled.
“I’m afraid the British police were a little too zealous. I have said I am sorry. You’re a hard man to track down and we only want a little chat.”
“What do you want, Quentin?”
“To business then? We are here today to discuss your present situation. The Disciplinary Committee are assembling and you need to understand the gravity of the position you are in. Formal charges have been drawn up and we don’t have much time to review your defence.”
Giles looked at him in astonishment. They wanted some sort of court martial? It was petty, it was absurd…it could actually be the Council.
He found his voice, “I don’t work for you anymore.”
“Nevertheless there are some serious charges. Failure to notify the Council of the death of the Slayer. Theft of Council property. Actively working to undermine the Council.”
“Actively working…? You were a big pile of rubble, there was nothing to undermine.”
“Desertion of your Slayer.”
“This is nonsense. You can’t do this. You have no authority to keep me here.”
“We can do anything we like, Rupert.”
“You fired me. And you only took me back because Buffy insisted. We both know it didn’t count.”
“Changes nothing. Your employment status isn’t the issue here. We have owned you since you were ten years old. Ours to raise, and ours to punish. No matter what you do you are still our responsibility and we take that very seriously when we get reports of an out of control Watcher, performing acts of violence against former friends and running scared from his Slayer.”
“I want to see her. I want to see Buffy.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. Her family and friends have some objections to you being there. Young Dawn seems the mightily unforgiving type. Just like her sister that one.” Giles poured himself more water. He was finding the heat unbearable. His shirt was clinging to his back. “Just what is the problem between you and Buffy? What did you do to upset her? Was it perhaps your conspiracy to kill vampire lover? Or perhaps,” Travers eyes sparkled, “perhaps I should say her latest vampire lover?”
Giles growled into his water. “Sod off, there’s a good chap.”
“Or is it because you killed that doctor in Sunnydale?”
Giles studied the maker’s name on the bottom of his plastic cup to give himself time to think. It was Turkish.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“The murder of a young medical Intern who, I believe, had earlier saved your life. We take the killing of humans very seriously indeed. You couldn’t possibly have expected us not to find out. You kill someone, we judge. You know how this works, Rupert.”
Travers sat up a little in chair; his hand strayed close to the manacles. “Oh, one last charge. I’m sure it’s nothing but there is the small matter of your stealing important Council documents from our headquarters just hours before it was destroyed by a time delayed incendiary device.”
Giles looked up sharply and said, “You’re not serious?”
“Can you account for all your time in headquarters?”
“Yes. And I didn’t blow the damn place up.”
“Do you remember it all clearly? I mean you do have a history of head injuries. Have you had any blackouts recently? Hallucinations perhaps? Any nightmares at all?”
Giles shrank back in the uncomfortable plastic chair. “I don’t have to talk to you. Travers is dead and you’re not real.”
“Let me be completely honest with you.”
“Ooh. Someone’s upgraded your software,” Giles snarked back.
“Something has corrupted you, taken possession of your soul. You are having nightmares. Sleepwalking? Find yourself in a place you did not intend to be?” Giles was silent whilst Travers was the cat that had got the cream. “We just want to help. We have always been the best placed people to help you. You came to us for assistance with the hell god Glory. You needed us then because there was no-one else in the world that could help you. We have always been your family and are not without resources. Let us help you again, Rupert.”
“You think I’m possessed?”
Travers nodded sadly. “We both know something happened to you the night when Buffy died.”
“Is it to do with Buffy? Did the Council do anything to me? Make me a Watcher, bond me to the Slayer? I know it’s not standard policy but there was a Watcher once that went crazy after the death of his Slayer, because the Council had forced magick upon him to serve her. The Watcher didn’t want to be a part of the Council or play nurse maid to a Slayer, but the Council decided he had to.”
Travers shook his head.
“I honestly don’t believe this has anything to do with the Council. Your father would have had to have authorised it. Do you believe him capable of that? Of allowing anything harmful to be done to you?”
Giles twisted away from the table and rested his elbows on his knees. He could believe anything of the Council, but his father had always supported him. He may have been a disappointment but his dad constantly showed his loyalty for his wayward son. He ran his hands through his hair and rubbed his neck. The bruising on his shoulder was starting to smart. He felt he needed to sleep someplace.
“Was the decision to return to the Council when you were twenty-one forced upon you?” continued Travers.
“Not to my recollection.” Giles felt warm and thirsty and very tired with everything.
“Do you feel your relationship with Buffy has been coerced?” persisted the older man. “Are you subservient to her? Do you feel there is something unnatural in being her Watcher?”
He did not. It was the one time in his life when things made sense.
“How does Buffy view you?” Travers asked.
“That’s easy. I’m a murderer, a deserter, a huge disappointment and she despises me for it. She feels a sense of responsibility towards me, but I disgust her. She’d rather I weren’t a problem.”
“And that’s why you’ve been staying out of her way? I see. When did you start to feel this way? The night she died perhaps? The night Buffy closed the portal that Glory the hell god had opened with Dawn’s blood.”
Giles eyed Travers with suspicion again.
“We have our sources Rupert, even if you neglected your duty to document the events for us. Why did Buffy chose to die?”
“That was my fault. I lectured her on having to make a sacrifice, so she did.”
“You feel responsible?”
“Getting one’s Slayer killed is what Watchers do best.”
Travers looked at him with warm eyes. “What happened before that? Tell me about the battle and the portal opening.”
“Why? Do you think something came through the portal? Something crossed over and possessed me?” Giles tried hard not to get excited at his idea.
“It is possible.” Travers rose and gently sat on the corner of the table nearest Giles. “What did you see that night?”
“Glory was dead and everything was going to be alright. We were going to win and then I saw her and...” His voice broke as he lost himself in the memory. “And there was Buffy only not Buffy. Broken. She’d broken her neck in the fall. Her eyes accused me like Jenny’s did. You didn’t protect me her eyes said. God, she was so beautiful.”
“She is a remarkable Slayer.”
“I want to go home.” Travers touched him gently on the shoulder.
“Soon I promise. We’ll get a flight back to
“She can’t be broken again.” Giles felt faint and slipped from Travers’ touch to the floor. The older man crouched at his side, speaking softly.
“I want to hear what happened that night. The final battle with Glory and her followers. The night your Slayer died and you neglected to tell us. Buffy deserved better than that didn’t she?” Giles nodded. “I only want what’s best for you. Your father and I were friends for fifty years. He hoped you’d succeed him someday. Did he ever tell you that?” Giles gave no response. Travers voice took on a slightly harsher tone. “And look what you’ve become. You’ve killed a man. You are running and hiding from your slayer and her friends. Snivelling on the floor of a Council detention centre and controlled by a demon. It is pitiable. Is this why you came back to the Council? To make a mockery of everything your father held dear?”
“You know why. It wasn’t, it wasn’t that.”
“What changed the night Buffy died?”
Giles hated to admit it but the word pulled out of him. “Everything.”
“Stand up there’s a good lad.” Travers hands were soft and pulled at Giles shirt. “Let’s sit back on the chair. Well done.” He pulled a clean white handkerchief from his jacket pocket and passed it to the younger man. “Make your father proud of you. I know you want me to help you.”
Giles wiped his face gratefully. “I just want to go home.”
“And you will. We can get a flight back to
Giles heart seemed to bang a tattoo in his chest in warning. He took some time to blow his nose and think about what Quentin had just said. He’d solved this particular part of the puzzle at least. Travers meanwhile touched his shoulder in a way that reminded Giles of his father. He wasn’t going to get derailed though.
“It’s over,” Giles said with a venom that surprised Travers. “I’m quite hard to fool these days with Magick so you must be good. I thought you’d deliberately chosen this room because of what happened here before, but you don’t know about that.” Giles glassy eyes sparkled with triumph. “You’re nobody. You're not Quentin travers and I’m not playing this game anymore.”
Travers resorted to bluster. “We have the authorisation to perform whatever procedure we see fit. I had hoped we wouldn’t have to attempt exorcism but you murdered Dr Ben Wilkinson. That alone gives us the authority to detain you. We are the Council of Watchers Rupert, and we own you.”
“Play another record, Quentin, I want to speak to your boss.”
“In this room you speak to me. You will tell everything to me.” Giles grinned broadly at him. Perhaps Ripper was back in the room after all. “Don’t test me, Rupert. I serve a greater good. I will do whatever is necessary.”
“Been tortured before ‘Quentin’ old chap, and by far scarier things than you. You wouldn’t actually hurt me.”
“To cut out the evil that has possessed you? In a heartbeat, boy.”
“But I’ve figured it out. I know exactly where we are. And you can’t frighten me about this place because I’ve been in this room before and the real Quentin Travers should know that. So let’s have the organ grinder and not the monkey. Come on Quentin, show me something really scary.”
The other man started to fluster. “But there’s no evidence of you ever being here.”
“That’s because my dad knew how to keep a secret. And Travers too evidently, may he rest in peace.” Giles tilted his head to one side. “I bet I can punch a hole in that magick defence of yours. You have shown me enough.”
Travers retreated. “I see we’re going to have to do this the hard way,” his voice betrayed his fear. “Guards! Restrain him.”