TITLE: London Games
PAIRING: established Giles/Anya; however, mostly Giles-centric gen
LENGTH: 3000 words
RATING: General audiences
SUMMARY: This is a future-fic for the Investigations and Acquisitions 'verse, but those unfamiliar with that just need to know that we're AU post-"Showtime" and with no comic canon. Giles and Anya live in London and run Investigations and Acquisitions in between spots of demon-intelligence gathering for MI5.
This story is set four days ago, the day of the Opening Ceremonies for the London Olympics; there's a question of identification and security, which only Giles can answer.
(And if it seems like this fic crosses over a character from the BBC series Sherlock... well, I couldn't possibly comment.)
When the front door opened on that Friday afternoon – Investigations and Acquisitions had closed at noon for the Olympics – Anya paused in the middle of checking her stores for their Opening Ceremonies party. “Hi, honey!” she called, as the dogs stormed in, barking madly – which she thought in passing was weird, because Rupert had been out walking them for over an hour. Then she went back to checking off the three kinds of crisps, the fresh veggies that only the adults would eat, the stocks of soft drinks and beer and wine, and the cheeses she preferred for parties.
But then Rupert appeared in the archway between hall and kitchen, and the look on his attractively weathered face made her put her favourite stinky cheese back in the fridge. “Honey! Are you okay? Did you fall and hit your head?” (The 'again' was implied.)
“I'm fine, darling,” he said, and then dropped heavily into a chair at the kitchen table. “But, er, well, it seems that I might not be available for the start of our Opening Ceremonies party after all.”
She slammed the fridge door with the vengeful power appropriate when other people made last-minute changes in her most carefully laid plans. “And why is that? Because we have Willow and Fred coming in from Devon any minute, and David and Tariq are making Team GB posters as we speak, and Dawn is flying in especially from Copenhagen, and Andrew and Ian--”
“You don't need to give me the guest list.” He took off his glasses and tossed them onto the table, then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
This, she knew, was the mark of a troubled, possibly headachey man, and she needed to tread carefully and possibly coddle. So she went to her knees in front of him, braced herself on his thighs, and said, “Honey, honey. Are you really okay? What the hells happened?”
“Well,” he said, as if searching for words. “It began with a phone ringing.”
“But you didn't take your mobile. I remember shouting at you about that as you went out the door.”
Smiling wryly, he opened his eyes. “No, darling, not my mobile. Er, the ringing phone was in a phone box....”
The first half of Giles's walk had been pleasant – nice weather, clouds and sun; decorations for the Olympics even here in his Islington neighbourhood; the dogs trotting along happily. Just an ordinary day, really. The rumblings of demon discontent he'd heard about yesterday from Nalph weren't evident.
There stood one lone phone box on the pavement near the Almeida Brasserie, which always served Giles as the turnaround point in his long Islington walks with Macallan and Cava. He was just a few steps away when the phone in the box shrilled.
He blinked, told the dogs to be quiet over their sudden mad barks, and then began to turn. The phone kept shrilling. He blinked again.
Pierre from the Brasserie bustled out, with a cheerful wave to Giles as he passed (Anya and Giles were among the place's most regular customers), and went into the phone box. Giles started back the way he came. Two steps, however, and Pierre called, “Pardon, but, Mr Giles?”
Giles looked over his shoulder. “Yes, Pierre?"
“The phone call is for you.”
The phone box itself smelled of cat piss and... no, that was all Giles felt comfortable in identifying. At least in Sunnydale the odd smells had usually been demonic in origin, he thought. Warily, with the dogs winding themselves around his ankles, he took the dangling receiver and said tersely, “Yes?”
“Mr Rupert Giles, hello,” said a posh, slightly over-precise male voice. “A black car without a number plate will be pulling up beside you. Please get in it.”
“Why would I? And who are you?”
“Let us say, 'Tommy,' that I am a friend of Harry Pearce and Jools Siviter. Oh, and you of course may bring your dogs.” The line went dead, just as a long black town car purred into view.
Giles replaced the receiver with care, but he was thinking furiously. The use of his MI5 code name certainly suggested someone who knew about him and the demon-intelligence work he and Anya now did. Jools had upon occasion (drunken occasion, usually) mentioned a shadowy, unbelievably powerful government figure who (among other things, including but not limited to running the Inland Revenue and Special Branch) specialised in terrifying, stupidly dramatic rendezvouses in which he gave top-secret instructions to persons of interest. “Angel of Death, swooping down,” Jools had chortled, “but at least he's on our side.” Then, when Giles had asked for further details, he'd pretended to pass out in his single-malt.
Why such a person with such a ridiculous nickname needed to talk to Giles, of course.... Well, he thought, as his usually suppressed Ripperish love of chaos bubbled up, one would only find out by going, right? And surely he'd be back before Anya even knew he was gone.
He got in when the backseat door was opened for him – with Macallan and Cava leaping in on top of him. The resulting canine collision left him blind and breathless for a moment, and even when they'd settled and he'd readjusted his glasses, he saw little beyond a well-tailored suit and a furled umbrella. The man had turned to look out the opposite window, although Giles couldn't tell if this was boredom or good manners.
“Right, and you are?” Giles said somewhat aggressively.
“That's of no importance at the moment. I have a small identification job for you, Mr Rupert Giles – oh, I beg your pardon, 'Tommy Beresford.' If the sign on the Euston Road entrance to Kings Cross Tube station is what I think it is, there's danger abroad, but it's not entirely impossible that I'm wrong.” The man's tone, however, suggested that his being mistaken was indeed impossible.
“What do you think it is, then?”
The man smiled and said nothing.
Giles felt he had to pursue his line: “Right, then if this is an intelligence operation, why haven't I been contacted by someone at Thames House?”
“My good man, they are rather busy. Opening Ceremonies and all.”
“And you're not busy?”
“Oh, you know. One does what one can to fill in these little gaps in staffing.” The man smiled again, coolly. “Not just in the intelligence services. I offer support to whoever needs it.”
Giles told himself that just because this person was as annoying as the late Quentin Travers, he, Giles, didn't need to be as foolish as he'd been in the last days of the old Council. Aggression wouldn't work here. Conciliation might: “Then am I speaking to the, er, 'Angel of Death'?” He couldn't help his distaste in forming the word 'angel.'
“That Julian,” the man said, nicely mixing irony and resignation. “You'd think a spy would be more discreet, wouldn't you?”
“Yes, but we're talking about Jools,” Giles said.
The man laughed, as if Giles had pleasantly surprised him. “Yes. He can be so limited, can't he.” Then the mobile half-hidden in the man's hand buzzed, and he said, “If you'll excuse me.”
For the rest of the ride to Kings Cross, the 'Angel of Death' paid no attention to anything besides his BlackBerry – mostly texting, with a frown on his face; one phone call, however, with Giles only catching the man's murmured, “My dear, tell me all,” and then “Yes, tell Osborne to stop being an ass. Or I will, once this is sorted.... Right, my dear, thank you.” For this phone call, the man relaxed. It was actually more alarming than his frown. Macallan and Cava certainly seemed to think so: Cava arranged herself in Giles's lap and Macallan on his feet, protectively.
As the car pulled up beside the Kings Cross entrance, however, the man put his phone away. “Look at the graffiti on the wall, please – just under the Underground sign,” he said, as the tinted window slid silently down into the depths of the door.
Giles (having to push aside Macallan and Cava first) looked out and scrutinized the graffiti. Ordinary stuff, really, except –- No. His heart sped up, and trying to control his voice, he said, “That glyph, er....I assume you mean the Mark of the Fang?”
There obscuring yet another Olympic-themed advert, the Mark of the Fang was a smudge of red, as if a giant bloody fingerprint, with one sharp white slash down its middle. It was the sign of an infamous outlaw European were-clan, one unburdened by ethics and unconstrained by the moon, fond of killing parties during large gatherings of humans; according to his research, however, they hadn't been active since a Slayer raid during their depredations during a previous Glastonbury festival.
“I hadn't known the name. Merely the fact that it shouldn't be here,” the Angel of Death said smoothly. “Perhaps you'd care to inspect the glyph more closely? We'll be happy to wait.” His hands went to Macallan's and Cava's dangling leads, and with one practiced movement he had them under control.
Giles silently sighed – but yes, he did want to inspect it, this find was quite exciting...no, awful. Sodding dreadful. That was what he meant.
The Mark of the Fang was, once he got close to it, clearly fresh, and – he took a breath – actual blood. Written small at the heart of the white streak, which he tentatively identified as a particular demon-bone paint occasionally available at Nalph's Emporium, there was the following message in an ancient language often associated with this strain of weres: Howl and feast, 10 pm, at the Circus--
“Know you the sign of the clan?” came a growl, alarmingly close to his ear.
“I'm sorry, what?” Giles said in his best bumbling-Watcher manner, as he turned and looked at... Oh fucking hell.
There, breathing heavily and fangs already descending, stood Pack-guard the Second, six-and-a-half feet of annoyed were-clan security whom Giles had heard about from Nalph. The Mark of the Fang was clearly being monitored for unapproved interest – and Giles was, equally clearly, unapproved. And weapon-less.
“Tommy, could you use this?” the Angel of Death said.
Giles risked a glance. The man was now out of the car, Macallan's and Cava's leads wrapped around one wrist, his very presence clearing this busy pavement. Even more to the point, he was holding out a silver dagger Giles had personally identifed last week in a cache he and Anya had found during a MI5 sweep.
A dagger specifically crafted for weres.
Pack-guard the Second growled, “Oh no you don't–“
But Giles got to the dagger first. It was a pretty weapon: heavy, well-balanced, sharp in the best way. Holding it in his left hand, he turned back, and Pack-guard retreated a step. “Which Circus?” Giles said.
Pack-guard growled again, stumbled back –
And was tripped by the Angel of Death's umbrella.
Giles glanced around, whispered a glamour to cloak the immediate vicinity, and then kicked Pack-guard in the balls. “Which Circus?”
The were-creature flipped himself up and charged. Giles only just had time enough to position the dagger, and the silver blade stopped Pack-guard's rush. The were-creature's eyes widened in pain, and then, in a whine, breathed, “Dishonour!” The dagger was plucked out of Giles's grasp, but only so that Pack-guard could turn it on himself.
Within a moment, the were was crumpled dead on the pavement, blood his only cushion.
“Well, that's the hazard with these types. Good intel gone to waste,” the Angel of Death said, completely unmoved. “You might collect the dagger, Mr Giles. I recommend you use your handkerchief to protect your hands.”
“I, er... don't have one with me.”
“A gentleman should always carry a handkerchief,” the Angel of Death said reprovingly, in a manner very like Giles's father years ago. But he handed over a square of white linen before returning to the car and speaking softly to the black-clad men in the front seat.
Giles, meanwhile, did pull the dagger from the bloody corpse. The blood on the silver was itself moving, the metal's magic revealing itself in the glyphs. He'd need one of his books – perhaps Remus Partridge's Encyclopedia of Sorcerous Writing – to interpret them correctly.
“This will preserve the evidence,” the Angel of Death said, and Giles looked up to see a proper specimen sack. Beyond that, the boot of the town car was open and the black-clad men already efficiently wrapping up the late Pack-guard in a bodybag.
Giles took the specimen sack, of course. But he couldn't help saying, mostly to himself, “We could have used your efficiency in Sunnydale.”
The man smiled faintly – polite, unamused, slightly bored – and then turned away. Macallan and Cava, oddly enough, were perfectly comfortable at his feet.
Giles put the dagger in the specimen sack, sealed it appropriately, and then ventured, “I should be able to magick the blood into answering the question. About, er, which Circus –“
“Yes. I'll ring you this evening to hear your findings. It's four o'clock now. Shall we say seven o'clock?”
Giles inwardly sighed. Anya wouldn't be happy, but duty called. “Won't you need backup? I can offer a witch, a Watcher or two, and –“
“Yourself and your wife. I appreciate your offer, but I understand there's a group of Slayers in London to handle any mystical threats to the city during the Olympics. I'll call them and our Special Branch brethren once you give me the intel.”
The slam of the town car's door punctuated the man's nod. The boot had been shut on the dead were, the pavement only discoloured faintly, the busy world hurtling past as though nothing had happened.
In the midst of it, but suddenly seeming very alone, stood the Angel of Death.
“Shall we go?” he said. “I understand your wife has definite opinions about your solo adventures.”
“And that creepy pretentious kidnapper is well-informed,” Anya said tartly. “Would it do any good to remind you to take on your next run a mobile? And a handkerchief? And a weapon?”
“No good whatsoever,” Giles said, but kissed her swiftly as if to make up for his spousal intransigence.
She sank into the kiss – she always did – but then scrambled to her feet. “You didn't leave the dagger on the wish-candle table, did you? Because that would be terrible energy.”
He smiled at her. “No. It's still outside. Didn't want to bring it in until I'd updated you.”
“That's an excellent lie, Rupert,” she said. “We'd better get to work, though. We need to save lives and our party.”
Smiling, he let her pull him to his feet.
The next two hours were, in fact, busy ones. Rupert decoded the glyphs with relative ease, then conferred with Andrew and an only slightly travel-weary Dawn, who confirmed the Slayer presence; he also got a phone call from Jools, the substance of which he didn't share with Anya. Once Willow arrived, she with Anya's support managed a quick protective spell for the general London environs, not particularly strong but helpful in case of any stray Fang types. (Ian and Fred put out the food for the party. David and Tariq miraculously managed not to get in anybody's way, what with their capering and eight-year-old energy.)
When their MI5 phone rang at seven, Rupert answered. Anya couldn't hear what the other person on the line said, but Rupert confirmed that it was Piccadilly Circus, the Underground. Then he went quiet for a moment, and said, sort of stunned, “Er, yes. Yes, right. No problem.” Then he clicked off the phone, and smiled vaguely at everyone. “The situation's under control, Slayers and Special Branch on alert. So, er, right! Let's start the party.”
Yet she knew he was still attractively pensive, on the edge of brooding. Five minutes before the telecast began – with everyone else comfortably settled with food and drink in the lounge, with Dawn talking to Buffy and Spike and Xander via speaker-phone – she went out to the foyer and found Rupert standing in the open doorway, looking out at the falling night.
From behind she put her arms around him and rubbed her cheek against his sweatshirted back. “You okay? Worried about the op we weren't invited to?”
“Yes to the first question, no to the second,” he said, and covered her hands with his. They stood there for a moment until he said, “I was just thinking about Sunnydale. The first years I was there – before you came, darling – despite the Scoobies I sometimes felt so....”
“What?” she said, when his pause had stretched out a long, long time. Around them there were happy bubbles of noise, bright and sparkling family-sounds, crowd-noises on the television. Here, just a few steps away, they were in an island of quiet.
Then he sighed. “Let me put this another way. That man today--”
“Creepy Pretentious Kidnapping Guy,” she added helpfully.
His chuckle rumbled under her ear. “Er, yes. Anyway, I was just thinking how alone he was.”
She felt that the creepy if good guy appeared to have a full complement of helpful minions and a direct line to the New Council, but she knew that wasn't what Rupert meant. So she kissed him on the shoulder and said, “Luckily that's not one of your problems.”
“No. No, not any longer,” he said, laughing.
And then they went into the lounge together, and the music and festivities started, and no one was alone. Not any longer.