il_mio_capitano (capitano_fic) wrote,
il_mio_capitano
capitano_fic

The Devil You Know 4/8

Title: The Devil You Know
Author: il_mio_capitano
Chapter: 4/8
Length: 3100
Rating: PG
Setting: Post Chosen but AU. No Angel Season 5 and no comics.


Chapter Four

Buffy sat in the kitchen of Westbury farmhouse and watched the performance of tea, which evidently took a long time in England. The grandfather clock in the hallway kept a steady goading beat, drowning out the patter of sleety rain on the big windows. In exasperation, she pulled the small painting Robin had given her from her bag and showed it to her hostess.

“What can you tell me about this? How does this fit in? I know it’s important somehow. Who is she?”

Ms Harkness took the small oil work and considered it for sometime.

“Her name is irrelevant. I believe it’s allegorical and not meant to represent any one Slayer. It’s what you see in the picture that matters.” She handed it back rather dismissively. “What do you see, Buffy?”

“A Slayer and some vampires.”

“Then that’s what it is. There’s no magick on it. It’s rather crude in style. A Slayer and some vampires. Probably not a very common theme in European Art admittedly.”

“But it must mean something.” Buffy found herself waiting again while the woman produced mismatched tea cups and saucers. The teapot sported a design of a smiling black cat whose tail snaked up the handle although there was a chip on the left side. Buffy fought the urge to rise and pace up and down. She tried again. “Have you known Giles a long time?”

“Oh, only a couple of years. He’s been a guest in the house several times. Something of a walker. We often saw him out climbing the tors. We have some excellent viewpoints out the back behind the rental cottages.” She pointed to the distant hills behind the rain soaked windows. “Doesn’t paint though, more of a reader I suppose. Nice man. Keeps to himself mostly.” A sugar bowl and tongs arrived on the table. Buffy felt the conversation wasn’t quite going in the direction she’d hoped for. The woman seemed distracted to the point of downright evasion. It required a more direct approach.

“I’m Buffy,” she declared.

“You’ve said that already, dear.” Small plates and cake tins were added to the table.

This was ridiculous. Giles had been adamant about coming to the Coven. They had snaked across Europe to talk to these people and all she was getting was tea and some admittedly nice looking cakes. And all this time, who knew where Giles was and what was being done to him.

“Look! He considered you his friends. We were coming here to talk to you about what’s happening to him. That’s why I’m here. I’m trying to help him. I’m his Slayer.”

“I’m well aware of who you are, Miss Summers. There is no need to raise your voice.”

“I’m sorry,” Buffy fought to keep herself calm, “But please, just tell me what you know about Giles. Please help me.”

Ms Harkness leant with her back to the sink and folded her arms.

“We do not concern ourselves with Watchers as a rule. However the Council of Watchers are a powerful organisation and we have always found it prudent to take an interest in their affairs whilst staying well out of their way. I can tell you we first heard of Rupert Giles when he was assigned as the Watcher to the Slayer but he was no more than a name to us at that time.” Steam started to rise from the kettle and billow up the window but Ms Harkness ignored it. “We later heard that the Watcher had been fired and that the attempt to replace him had failed. We heard of your death and we grieved for you as we have for all the fallen Slayers.” She became lost in reverence for a moment. “We were somewhat surprised by your restitution though having since met Miss Rosenberg perhaps we shouldn’t have been.” The kettle became insistent and the woman grabbed a thick kitchen glove and poured hot water into the chipped teapot.

“That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?”

The kettle was replaced on the stove and the glove hung against the range before Ms Harkness finally sat at the table with Buffy.

“We also learned he had left Sunnydale after your resurrection, which was very unusual behaviour in The Watcher. To serve a Slayer is an honour they don’t usually turn their backs on. He appeared suitably devoted up till that point. But to answer your original question we didn’t meet him until Miss McKay died and Miss Rosenberg needed our help. We would never have associated with anyone from the Council ordinarily but we felt given his connection to Miss Rosenberg he would be best placed to prevent her from doing anything foolish.”

“And so you supercharged him with mojo magick to take Willow down.”

It was Ms Harkness’ turn to look confused at the turn of the conversation. “Very possibly,” she rallied.

“Do you like Giles?”

“Yes.” She answered that one quickly enough. “He’s a good man but I’m not sure how I can help you. As I said, the Coven do not interfere in the affairs of the Council. We merely keep an eye on them.”

“He told me you’d discovered there was a spell on him.”

“Did he?” Ms Harkness raised an eyebrow at that.

“I’m not your enemy,” said Buffy with exasperation.

“Forgive me but you are The Slayer. Miss Summers. You are an emissary of the Council and it has long been our policy to view all such emissaries with suspicion. What exactly is it that you want here?” After her seeming vagueness, her flinty eyes challenged Buffy now. She was a woman who guarded her friends well.

“But that was the Old Council with Quentin Travers and his kind. The New Council is different.”

“With all respect, that remains to be seen.”

“You helped us before. You helped us to find the Potentials when the Old Council was destroyed,” argued Buffy.

“We felt it right to help to save the girls. They were innocent in all of this.” The Coven’s representative judged the tea to have brewed sufficiently and poured two helpings. Buffy ate a mince pie without thinking and heaped sugar into her tea cup.

“So what can you tell me about the spell on Giles? When did you find it?”

“Mr Giles asked us to help him with a protection spell during his skirmishes with the Bringers. It became clear that something opposed our helping him. Although we'd encountered no such resistance when we lent him our magick to help Miss Rosenberg, I can’t honestly say the spell wasn’t present then. It may have welcomed the additional power we gave it,” she added with a shrug.

“So this mystery spell could have been in place for some time? From before Willow’s rage? It could go back to when he was assigned to be my Watcher?”

“Possibly but its negative effects only seem to be have become apparent in the last couple of years. Something may have triggered it. He would be able to chart when the effects started better than I. You would be best asking him these questions.”

Buffy reached past the lemon for the milk.

“He has nightmares and Grade A paranoia. He can’t be with people because he thinks he’s dangerous. It’s like he doesn’t think he can trust himself to be Giles anymore,” she said sadly.

Her hostess poured milk into her own cup. “When you came back from the dead, did he seem different then?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t really notice him. I was having a difficult time of it myself,” Buffy admitted.

Ms Harkness nodded sympathetically. “I can only imagine how painful it must have been for you. What’s done is done but I’m happy to see you have come out of the experience well.” It was her first sign of encouragement. Of being human.

“Giles came back to Sunnydale when he heard I had returned. He tried to help with Dawn and money and stuff. He did help in fact. But one day he said I needed to be strong and deal with it on my own and he just left. Looking back he was uncomfortable around us then. I guess charging around the globe rescuing Potential slayers gave him an excuse to be elsewhere. No. that’s harsh. He needs to keep travelling doesn’t he? The spell makes him do that?”

“It seems likely,” Ms Harkness replied not unkindly.

“Then this is all my fault." Buffy took a deep breath. "It’s me isn’t it? The Council did something to him, I died and it broke the bond to the Watcher. It’s been dormant all this time and now he’s stuck in some sort of grieving loop.”

“That’s an interesting and, if you’ll forgive me, a rather self-centred perspective.”

Buffy stopped up short of biting her second mince pie. “Excuse me?”

“I said it’s remarkably self-centred, dear. How can this possibly be linked to you?”

Buffy was taken aback. “I’m the Slayer. I’m his Slayer and I died.”

“So what? I gather you’ve done that before.”

“But if the Council made him my Watcher.”

Ms Harkness interrupted brusquely. “The Council don’t have that kind of power. They train Watchers but they do not make them. They assign them to the post that’s all.”

“They make Slayers,” argued Buffy.

“You really have bought into the mythology of the Mighty Council of Watchers haven’t you? They do nothing of the kind.”

“But the Watcher Slayer Bond,” began Buffy.

“We didn’t detect any Council magick in whatever is affecting Rupert. Whatever it is, it’s bigger than anything we’ve previously encountered. The Council don’t have that kind of power. And frankly, the Watcher Slayer bond is a bit of a myth. It helps if the two of you get along, and there are precedents for really quite close relationships, but there is nothing supernatural or magickal involved. It’s just a job with a salary and health care. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Watcher. Yours got fired and he didn’t go all to pieces. If this were an old spell it would have triggered then. Or when you died the first time.”

“I was only gone like two seconds,” she mumbled defensively.

“Buffy, the first Slayer had no Watcher. The mortal animals needed a champion so the Men sacrificed some of their humanity to gain the power necessary to forge a Slayer. She was a killing machine with no soul. She had no Watcher nor any need of one. She hunted and killed so the Men could sleep safely in their beds of a night.”

“And that wasn’t the Council?”

“No. No-one really knows the origins of the Men that created the Slayer. The Council came along much later. They latched onto the power that could be had in controlling the Slayer. Possibly at first the Council were people that saw the battle being waged on Man’s behalf and wanted to help. But over time they sought knowledge and wanted to control, and what started as a noble pursuit quickly became corrupted by the power they gained. Their ignorance garnered them both wealth and enemies.

“There is no great bond," Ms Harkness continued. "Nothing that protects Watchers or draws them to Slayers. They study, train and usually get brutally slaughtered for their naivety. The Bond to a Slayer, the glory of an association to a warrior is a bedtime story, that Watchers tell their young to help them accept that they have been forced into an unnatural way of life and will probably meet a brutally early death.”

It seemed pretty cynical and Buffy had to protest.

“But they picked Giles to go to Sunnydale.”

“They did but they didn’t have to send Rupert Giles. They could have picked any one of a number of candidates. They fired him for being unsatisfactory. It really is just a job.” It sounded horribly callous to Buffy and very, very wrong.

“But he stayed.”

Ms Harkness was relentless. “He’d have had no place else to go. To give up the myth of the sacred duty or to be removed from it is to become an outcast. Being a Watcher was all he knew.”

“No. You’re wrong. He stayed to help.”

“He’s a bit of a romantic and I think you are too. Nothing was keeping him there but his own free will.”

“But there were attempts to bind a watcher before. It’s in the Handbook.”

“Quentin Travers and his stupid handbook!” Ms Harkness was moved to clatter her tea cup on its saucer. “More fairy tales. I’m surprised Rupert made you read it. The Council has always attracted skilled practitioners of magick, but I wouldn’t let them perform at a children’s party. You cannot bind a human being to another. We always have free will - that always prevails in the end. Watchers choose to stay even if they don’t realise they are making a conscious choice. In your case he left and maybe you should just accept that.”

“But this spell that’s on him. Maybe that's why he can’t stand being around me.”

“Perhaps it’s time he moved on. Maybe you haven’t treated him very well. You seem far more concerned with your own welfare and how this reflects on you.”

“But it’s affecting me too. I’ve been unfocussed, restless since he disappeared after Sunnydale. I miss him when he’s not around. I need to know where he is and that he’s OK. You are wrong. There’s a connection. Otherwise why do I feel the way I do? God, why won’t you help me?”

***

He was proud of Willow really, proud of the capable young woman she’d become. There really wasn’t any need for him to say anything, so he hadn’t. He sat at the head of the dining table but that was just in deference to his age. Tara and Willow had thought of everything and were explaining to Dawn. Three seats clustered together, gentle hands offering solace. There was a need for secrecy, the Hellmouth needed a guardian and the plan to reactivate the Buffybot was suitably absurd that it might just work. Everything in the house reminded him of Joyce or Buffy. There was a bottle of wine still in the kitchen he’d brought over last Christmas. A catalogue from a gallery exhibition on the fridge door. A thoughtless postcard from Spain fading on the windowsill.

“I don’t get it,” Dawn was saying. His attention drifted back to the conversation at the far end of the dining table. “When mom died you told me it was important to hold a proper service to honor her. To say goodbye. And now we’re what?” her voice rose angrily, “we’re sweeping Buffy out with the trash?”

“No sweetie, no. It’s just we can’t afford the demons to know Buffy is dead.”

“And social services,” helped Willow, “they may want to find you some place else to live.”

“I want to stay here,” said Dawn, “with you guys.”

“No-one is sweeping Buffy out with the trash,” Giles was surprised to hear his own voice speaking. “We are holding a private ceremony tomorrow night.”

“How does he get to decide this?” Dawn’s fury was understandable: Giles had wondered the same question really. “Why is he making decisions? What about Spike? You’re not staying here are you?”

“Hush darling,” said Tara. “We’re all upset.”

“No I won’t hush. You’re done here. You’ve done Watching now, nothing left to see.” Her anger couldn’t sustain her and with the tears threatening to choke her, she ran upstairs, Willow and Tara scraping chairs immediately.

Tara turned at the banister in reassurance, “She doesn’t mean it Mr Giles. She doesn’t mean any of it.”

He smiled to show he understood but actually he knew she meant every word. He’d have to speak to Anya about the shop in the morning.

***

The Coven’s representative was very still at Buffy’s emotional outpouring. “Look at me. Look at me. Are you saying you care about Rupert?”

“Of course I do. He’s my Watcher, he’s my… my...”

Ms Harkness rose and swiftly returned with a box of tissues. She was noticeably flustered.

“I’m so sorry my dear. I didn’t understand the situation. Slayers are usually rather heartless little beasts. Not their fault of course, nature of the destiny. But it all tends to be one-sided. Rupert told me you despised him... though perhaps he’s not exactly a reliable witness in this... How very stupid of me. You must stay here of course, whatever you need. Child, you’re cold to the touch. I’ll put another log on the fire.”

She rose quickly to prod the open hearth. Buffy heard the grandfather clock in the hall chime the fifth quarter hour since she’d been there.

“I’m a Slayer." Buffy blew her nose rather noisily. "Point me at the bad guy and I’m all action. This thing with Giles, I can’t find what’s making him like this. He gets so distant. And I freak him out. He can’t stand being with people … and I just want to help him.”

“We’ll do all we can to research this spell. It’s just we don’t have any new leads to go on.”

“If I could only find him again.”

Ms Harkness turned hearth poker in hand. “I beg your pardon?”

“I’ve lost him. It took me six months to find him and that was by chance. And now he’s gone again and how can I find him? Someone’s taken him from me and since this spell he really, really doesn’t handle being in captivity well. God knows what they are doing to him. I have to find him.”

“What do you mean you lost him?”

“We were forced off the road. And I woke up at St Hubert’s and everyone says Giles wasn’t even in the car with me. That I was imagining it and that I was driving on the wrong side of the road. But he was there! And you can’t locate him with magick because that’s dangerous and…”

“Buffy, Buffy. Listen to me. Anyone interested in finding Rupert would have been alerted to seeing your name on the passenger list along with reports of an Englishman with post traumatic stress and rather put two and two together. We’ve certainly been tracking you since the disturbance on the ferry and keeping an eye on you ever since.”

“Oh great, so it could be anyone who's taken him.. he could be anywhere…”

“Buffy, focus. Child, I thought you knew. I am so very sorry. I thought this was just a callous clean up visit. I didn’t realise you felt this way.”

Her eyes bore into Buffy’s until she had her attention. “Oh god. You know where he is.” Buffy realised.

“Yes. That’s what I’m trying to say. After the crash you were both taken by a Council extraction team to St Hubert’s Rehabilitation Centre in Warwickshire. As far as we know, Rupert Giles is still there.”

Chapter Five

Tags: buffy/giles, xmasfic
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