Part 1: Lost and Found
Part 2: Early Morning Wake-Up Call
Part 3: Not for the Faint of Heart
Setting: Post-Chosen; no comics and no references to Angel Season 5
Notes: I got knocked down with a summer cold last week, so please excuse this fic's lateness and any typos I might have missed. On a historical note, this fic take place roughly sometime around 2004 or 2005. The first iPhone wasn't released unitl 2007. While there were BlackBerrys and other sorts of PDAs on the market, I'm assuming that both Giles and Buffy would opt, at least initially, for simple flip-phones.
Summary: Giles finds a bad day is much worse when his Slayer is missing.
It was an unremarkable row house in Bloomsbury. While what went on inside that row house was rather extraordinary, on the surface it looked very much like the others surrounding it. In fact, its only distinguishing feature was the agitated Englishman pacing outside. Rupert Giles, Head Watcher for the Slayer’s Council of Watchers, was in a dark mood. It had been a rather unbearable day and it was only just mid-afternoon.
Even on a good day, they were short-staffed, especially in terms of people who had actual first-hand experience in the field. In the weeks after the battle with the First, they had quickly re-established the Main Council Office in London with a second headquarters on the hellmouth in Cleveland. They had to put their plans for a possible slayer training facility on hold until more Watchers could complete their education, so new slayers and watchers both were trained in London, with the option of moving on to Cleveland for more field experience, if they so wished.
Willow had chosen to stay with Kennedy in Cleveland, serving as Watcher along with Robin. Faith was Lead Slayer, with anywhere from five to twenty slayers in residence at one time. The Cleveland hellmouth had become much more active since the destruction of Sunnydale, so there was plenty of action to go around. But most slayers eventually chose to return to the place that they called home, building their own support networks for themselves, much the same way that Buffy had. The Council was only a phone call away and Buffy and Xander would regularly fly to check in with them, so they were never truly on their own. The Sunnydale Slayers in particular were becoming so proficient that they would soon be able to take on apprentices of their own, making the training side of things that much easier.
But after Faith and Robin had called it quits for the final time, it seemed wise for him and Xander to switch posts. Andrew, having trained with Robson, had opted to go to Cleveland as well to take on the administration side of things. Willow reported that things were going much more smoothly now that they had someone dedicated to the task. It had only been a month, but it looked like the reassignments were working out just fine. Xander was happy to be back in the States and closer to Willow again and Robin seemed to be enjoying taking on a more active teaching role.
But all this shuffling happened just months after a small group of experienced watchers left to take posts with the slayers who had settled in other parts of the world. This meant that the London office was only staffed with two new watchers still in training, in addition to Giles, Robson, and Robin. There would be a few soon-to-be Watchers graduating from University in the spring and Dawn would likely go to UCL, so she would be able to do some work part-time. But, in the meantime, there was too much work and not enough hands. Most of the additional responsibilities would tend fall on Giles’s shoulders, though Buffy did try to take on as much as she could when she was in town. Another negative side effect of the reshuffling was that Robin did not know the slayers in the field the way that Xander and Buffy did, so he would not be able to make solo trips for a while. That combined with the extra visits to make sure that the new field watchers were settling into their posts meant that Buffy was constantly traveling.
It was fortunate that Buffy was in town at all. She had only recently returned from Argentina and was scheduled to leave for Malaysia next week. It was true that things did go much more smoothly if she was around. The slayers all looked up to her and the watchers were intimidated by her, which meant the Head Slayer was able to take on some of Giles's duties if he needed her to. In this case, she was able to take his place when he and Robson were to meet with the previous generations of watchers. Most of them were long-retired and made Travers look positively progressive in comparison. Yet they still insisted on having a say. Robson was of the opinion that it was easier to placate them with infrequent meetings and then ignore all their advice than it was to have to deal with whatever nonsense that they would try to throw their way in retaliation with over a snub. As much as Giles disliked these meetings, he did see the wisdom in the approach and Buffy was quite easily able to play the role of his “bad cop” to Robson’s “good cop”. Everything was working, if a bit precariously.
Therefore it was downright disconcerting when Giles entered the office this morning to hear Robson brief Buffy on meeting with the retired watchers alone.
“Robson, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“They are a bunch of old sexists, Buffy, and I shudder to imagine what they will come up with if you are by yourself. Just try not to murder them. Justifiable homicide or not, the paperwork will be a nightmare. Have pity on me.”
“Can I rough them up a little?”
“Well, I don’t personally have a problem with that. . .”
“What’s going here?”
“Morning, Giles! There has been a slight change of plans. Robson needs to fill in for Robin, so I’m meeting with the Old Fart Brigade by myself. Carol is going to take my afternoon training session, just in case we go long.”
“And dare I ask why Robin needs someone to fill in for him?”
Robson explained as Buffy left for her meeting. During patrol the night before the night before, a group of five slayers and Robin serving as Watcher executed a plan to take out a large vampire nest in Brixton with Hendricks shadowing Robin as part of his watcher training. The plan was well-designed and their intelligence was good. It all should have gone smoothly. However, rather than following in the noble Watcher tradition of getting knocked out or even the less noble tradition of cowering behind a tombstone or nearby bush, Hendricks was opted to set the bar even lower by losing his head and running through the fray in a fruitless search for a way out.
“I don’t have all the details, Rupert, but I take it that Wood had to tackle Hendricks to the ground before the useless git could endanger the Slayers. The poor boy got seriously injured in the process, but all the girls are unhurt.”
“Traumatized. We had to sedate him. I knew the boy was green, but I never expected this level of incompetence.”
“Nor I. Will Robin be alright?”
“Looks like it. Still in hospital, but I have no doubt he’ll be back on his feet before we know it.”
“So do you think that Hendricks truly is so incompetent or is there something more sinister at play?”
“Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?”
It took Giles the better part of the morning to unravel that one, but it fortunately did appear that Hendricks was just grossly unsuited to be an active Watcher. He, Robson, and Buffy would have to have a long, serious talk about how best to proceed from here.
He had barely had a chance to (finally) make a cup of tea, when Lewis called him to mediate a dispute between four slayers. As soon as he realized who the four in question were, he understood why the young Watcher had thought it beyond her abilities to manage and had wisely called for assistance. In the days after the fall of Sunnydale, the four newly-called Slayers were able to find each other before the reformed Council and its allies could find them. The Watcher who did finally reach them would refer to them as “the Lasses” so often that the name had stuck. The Lasses’ dynamic reminded Giles of happier times back in Sunnydale High. Buffy had once confided in him that she had to work hard to squash her tendency to be overprotective when it came to Lasses for the exact same reason. To see them yelling so bitterly was rather horrifying. Even more so, when it became clear after speaking with each Slayer separately that much of the discord had been acerbated by another slayer, Cathory, who Giles had already been keeping an eye on. Buffy had described her as a “Mean Girl” which, from what Giles understood, was something like the high school versions Harmony or Cordelia at their most cruel. The fact that Cathory made Buffy uneasy had been enough reason for Giles to be more watchful. That she was having such a dramatic influence was serious cause for concern. The Head Watcher assigned each of the four Lasses tasks that would keep them separated for the rest of the day and had waited for Buffy to return.
And here he was an hour later, pacing and still waiting for her to show. If he was honest, he had only begun to pace outside because he was hoping to catch sight for her that much sooner.
He suddenly became aware of where he was and realized that he had wandered much farther away. He was no longer in sight of Headquarters. Bother. He checked his jacket pocket to make sure his mobile was on. It would just be his luck that some other disaster would happen while he had been out wandering. Oh, of course! Buffy would have her “cell phone” with her. It was a statement to the level of his agitation that he didn’t think of it until now.
The voice that answered the phone was far too high-spirited.
“Buffy, where are you?”
“Hello to you too, Giles. What’s wrong?”
“Well, our Head Slayer has been missing for several hours.”
“I had that stupid meeting with the Old Guard, which took forever. They are all still alive and unharmed, by the way. But I so needed some fresh air after that, so I decided to walk back.”
Brilliant. Probably was planning on shopping while she was at it. She was likely in some store somewhere right at this moment.
“So where are you now?”
“I . . . don’t actually know.” Her tone was light. Giles couldn’t tell if she was serious or not.
“I think I took a wrong turn after Piccadilly Circus. I should have passed Chinatown by now. Your city is seriously lacking in the signage department once you get away from tourist central.”
“A street name would be helpful, Buffy.”
“You’re telling me!”
“Are you completely certain that you are even walking in the right direction?”
“Not even a little certain,” she replied airily. “But sooner or later I have to pass by some sort of landmark, right? This city has more than its fair share of historically happening hot spots. As soon as I find one, I can figure things out from there. Oh wait! Good news! I think that’s bookstore ahead! I’ll tell you which one it is and you can tell me where I am!”
“Buffy, I do not know every booksto—“
“Whoops! It’s a porn shop! A gay erotica shop, to be precise. I suppose you wouldn’t know where that was. Although the sign says it was established in the ‘70s, so maybe—”
“Sorry,” she replied, completely unrepentant. “I’m just saying, Ripper was more of a libertine. So theoretically. . . ”
Giles huffed in aggravation. He did not know where that particular bookshop was, thank you very much. But he did now suspect that she must be near Old Compton Street. His pacing had already taken him in that general direction, so he set out with more purpose.
“Any landmarks other than pornography stores?”
“No. . . Wait, I think that restaurant looks familiar. I might have led a patrol around here a few weeks ago. . . Just a minute. . . No, I’m wrong. It’s. . . Oh! I know where I am now!! I’m right off of Tottenham Court Road! I should be back at the office soon!” she cried, triumphantly.
“I really did take a wrong turn. How did I even do that?” Buffy’s voice was soft and bemused. He felt his heart twist a little. He had forgotten that, under normal circumstances, when Buffy was this impossible, it was usually because she was worried. It was just that it had been so long since things had been relatively normal. Since before Glory.
He took a small side street to Tottenham Court Road, crossing at the intersection without looking around him, as he listened to Buffy try to work out how she wound up where she wound up. Just as he was about to ask her what landmarks she was near, there she was, emerging around the corner, two blocks down, like it had been bloody choreographed. She spotted him right away and her shocked and relieved expression made him smile.
“How on earth did you find me?” she asked in awe.
“I rather think that was you.” He likely had been drawn in her general direction from the moment she first realized she was lost. What he had thought was merely frustrated pacing was the urge to find his Slayer. There was a fair amount of evidence that slayers could often unconsciously call their watchers to them in moments of great distress. Buffy had done so numerous times on in Sunnydale without either of them realizing the significance.
“Are you alright?” he asked, as soon as she approached, both of them putting away their phones.
“Better now. Robson totally called it. They were every bit as terrible as he was imagining. I really wanted to do some violence, but their arguments were so pathetic that I figured using my brain as a weapon was going to hurt them more.”
“Good show,” Giles said, feeling a proud grin spread across his face. “I hope you massacred them.”
“Total carnage,” Buffy said, with same quiet pride of when she defeated a particularly nasty foe. “But that left me in a pretty rotten mood. And it was gorgeous out. So I walked back. But then the clouds started matching my mood. And. . .” Buffy waved her small purse.
“No brolly,” Giles noted, sympathetically.
“And then I realized I was lost and really I’m just done. What about you? How are things back at the ranch?”
With a groan, Giles described everything that had occurred that morning first with Hendricks and then the problem of the Lasses and Cathory.
“And the whole situation situation must have reminded you of how Spike played us all my Freshman year,” Buffy observed.
“Yes, well.” Giles eyes drifted off, thinking of much unhappier times and the even worse times that were to follow. He felt a tug on his tie. He looked down at Buffy’s face and read the mixture of empathy and exhaustion.
“Hey! I got lost today. Buy a girl a cuppa?”
Without conscious thought, Giles swept her up into a hug. For a moment, he just took comfort in her embrace and then it occurred to him how unusually agitated he had been until that very moment. Even taking into account that he was unconsciously answer his Slayer’s distress signal, he was still far more upset that the circumstances had warranted. You would think it had been the end of the world, given the way he was now clinging to the one he loved.
The one he loved.
Well, that was it, wasn’t it? The reason for his unease and the truth he had been avoiding for far too long. He was in love with his Slayer. No, he was in love with Buffy Summers. How could he not be? And he had very nearly ruined things between them those last years in Sunnydale because he had been running from that truth.
Well, that was then and this was now. He was not going to repeat the same mistakes. He stroked her hair and let Buffy hold on to him as long as she thought she needed to.
“Have you eaten anything?” he asked, once she had released him.
“You mean since breakfast? No, I guess not.”
“Neither have I. What would you say to afternoon tea?”
“That sounds like heaven! I suppose I couldn’t talk you into the restaurant at the top of the Great Court?” Buffy teased. Giles knew she had been yearning to go, but couldn’t justify the expense to herself when there were so many nice tea shops close by for a fraction of the price.
“Actually, that was precisely the place I was about to suggest.”
“I think we both deserve a little spoiling,” he replied, offering her his arm, and then leading his love toward the British Museum.
The way things were now, what did it matter if he loved her? A few years ago, after her resurrection, things were too unequal. She still looked to him to be her caretaker and he no longer knew how to fulfill that role.
But now, Buffy had a confidence in herself and her choices that came from hard-earned experience. She was had become so self-reliant, that she was both grateful and surprised when he would try to assist her with something that she felt she could handle on her own. Which, at this point, was most things and, to be fair, she was mostly right. But more than that, she would actively seek to share his burdens in return, simply as a way to show him that she cared. She had become his partner fully.
It wasn’t exactly a romantic partnership, but it was something close to it. As long as he could keep her near him, he would be satisfied.
Go to Part 2