Here's your fic for July 15. I'd hoped to have two stories for you -- and I'd hoped that this one would be longer -- but encountered some major writer's block. Thanks again to katekat1010 and elizabuffy for organizing such a vibrant, fantastic community.
Title: Frequent Flyer Giles
Author: Alexa O
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Length: 4,390 words
Spoilers: All of Season 7
Characters: Giles, Dawn, Willow, various Potentials
Summary: Giles travels the world seeking Potentials.
Note: A few lines are stolen directly from canon. I've taken a couple of small liberties, mainly that I found it unrealistic that they believed Giles was the First because no one had even hugged him and he had completely failed to communicate with the Watchers' Council. Thanks to Jessi for the beta. You rock, darling.
Disclaimer: None of these characters belong to me. This is a work of fanfiction and not for profit.
"Gather them," Robson whispered. "It's starting."
Giles heeded Robson's advice. He left London and traversed England, then the globe, looking for Potential Slayers.
He'd stolen some documents from the Watchers' Council and had information on where a few Potential Slayers might be found. He only hoped that the information he had would be enough.
Later, Buffy complained that she had tried to call him when the First had first appeared to all of them, and Giles had failed to answer any of his numbers. He was busy, he told her -- he was out trying to save the other young girls.
The loss of the Watchers' Council left him sobered. Had he been there at the wrong time, that could just as easily have been him -- dead.
He didn't mourn the council, not really. Travers was such a pompous boor. But he wished they were still around. It would be much harder to do this work on his own.
Molly and Annabel were the first, and easiest, girls to find. They were both right there in England. Annabel lived in London itself; Giles knocked on her door soon after leaving the Watchers' Council. To get to Molly's, he had to take the train north. Neither girl had had a Watcher before, and neither really knew what she was. Giles had to explain, patiently. Annabel listened attentively, but Molly seemed inclined toward nervousness about it all. Still, they both agreed to go with him -- Giles wasn't entirely sure why. They both, he supposed, must have believed him when he said they were meant for a great destiny. After all, what girl wouldn't want to believe that?
The three of them flew together to the United States, the documents from the Watchers' Council in Annabel's backpack. Molly was a nervous flier, emitting small moans whenever the plane hit turbulence. Annabel put on her headphones and watched the in-flight movie. She was quiet except when the meal was served, when she piped up that she was a vegetarian.
They had a stop to make before Sunnydale. Another Potential Slayer, Kennedy, lived on the East Coast. Kennedy had a Watcher, so Giles assumed she was aware of what was going on.
But they arrived to find Kennedy's Watcher slain, Kennedy herself standing staring in shock at the woman's bloodied body. It was Molly who went and slung an arm around her, welcomed her into the fold. Then the four of them were off together, to Sunnydale.
Kennedy had taken even less convincing than Molly and Annabel. She had worked with a Watcher, and she knew the score. She packed with her a crossbow that she assured Giles was her very own. Despite the trauma of her Watcher's death, Kennedy was unemotional on the plane ride home, even flashing a grin at Annabel as they silently mocked Molly's terror.
Kennedy read a Robert Parker mystery on the plane, thumbing through pages rapidly. She hadn't struck him as a reader -- she didn't seem the type -- but she was clearly engrossed. Giles supposed it must be a distraction.
He'd hoped Buffy and the others would seem pleased to see him. Instead, they mostly seemed frightened. Willow, though, hugged him tightly. They had become close, during her time in England. He had shared with her some of his own life story, his delving into dark magic. He had watched her go from the fragile girl she had been immediately after that encounter with Xander on the bluff, to a stronger and more confident woman. Outwardly, at least. He suspected that emotionally she was still very raw.
Dawn, too, seemed pleased to see him. She diffidently mentioned that she was becoming more proficient at Sumerian and Latin. He was proud of her. He'd been away such a short time, but already she'd grown quite a bit.
The new girls blended awkwardly into the mix, and soon Annabel was dead. Giles mourned her despite their brief acquaintance. He remembered her on the plane, staring out the window at the clouds. He had brought her here thinking he was keeping her safe -- that, despite the very real dangers, she would be in the best place to learn how to fight those dangers. He felt that he had failed her. And he worried whether the same fate wouldn't befall the others as well.
But the mission continued.
"We just became an army," Buffy said soon after Annabel's death. And it was up to him to bring in the new recruits.
He had the coven in Devon scouring the world to find out where he should go next. Those few Watchers who still survived were all out looking too, each of them taking different countries. The work was difficult: how, after all, could you convince a teenage girl to leave her family and everyone she knows to come face a strange destiny?
With some he tried gentle persuasion, with others insistence. Sometimes he spoke directly to the parents, trying to reassure them that he had their daughter's best interest at heart. In a few cases he failed despite his insistence -- the girls in question simply would not go with him, and he had to leave his address and phone number in the hopes that they would change their mind. Some did. Others, he feared might soon meet a dark end at the hands of the Bringers.
It was unproductive at this point, he thought, to assign blame. But he couldn't help but feel a shudder after he and Anya visited Beljoxa's Eye.
"We're the reason the First is here, the reason those girls were murdered… It's our fault," Anya said.
Giles didn't ask whether or when she broke the news to Xander and Willow. It must, he thought, be a heavy burden to bear. And while he wanted to be angry -- he still thought that their decision to resurrect Buffy had been reckless -- he couldn't help but feel compassion for them. He, too, knew what it was like to feel responsible for something dark and malevolent.
So he resolved not to lecture. It wasn't like it would do any good.
But later that evening, when he was in Buffy's kitchen getting a snack before bed, Willow approached him quietly.
"It's our fault," she said, without preamble. A single tear made its way down her face.
Giles didn't pretend not to understand what she meant.
"Anya told you, then?" he asked lightly.
"Anya told Xander. Xander told me. It's our fault. It's my fault. If it weren't for me, the First wouldn't be active right now. If it weren't for me, Eve -- the real Eve -- would still be alive."
"You couldn't have known," Giles said quietly, hating the words even as he said them. She should have known, that was what he had tried to tell her back in that same kitchen that night -- oh, it seemed so long ago. She should have known that there could be consequences.
But it was too late now to undo it. Gently, Giles put an arm around Willow, who was now sobbing in earnest.
"I don't think I can do this," she sniffled.
"This. All of this. How can I fight evil when I'm the reason that the evil is active?"
She rocked back and forth like a child, and he held her as she cried. It was a familiar ritual of theirs, one they'd enacted many times back in England. At last she was all cried out.
"Feel better?" he asked.
"A little," she sniffled.
"Good. Remember this, Willow -- you can't undo what's been done. All you can do is move forward from here. And I believe you have an important role to play."
Willow and Dawn insisted that he get a hotmail account so they could contact him wherever he went. Giles had never been a fan of computers, but he admitted that it sounded like a good idea. Sending letters would take too long, and he didn't always have a reliable phone number. And so he e-mailed them from Shanghai, where he was picking up Chao-Ahn: "Arrived safe. Home soon." He wanted to put "Stop" at the end, like a telegram, but thought better of it.
Chao-Ahn was an even more nervous flyer than Molly, though Giles thought the language barrier might have something to do with it. He was flummoxed at trying to communicate with the girl, and resorted to drawing pictures on the napkin the flight attendant had given him. She had little in the way of luggage, which meant that as soon as they arrived in Sunnydale he would have to take her to the mall.
They arrived, and the trip to the mall did indeed take place. Giles relied on hand gestures to make his points clear to her. He hoped she understood. He hoped he hadn't just brought her to a foreign country where she didn't speak the language only to get her killed.
Soon after that he learned of Willow's relationship with Kennedy. He didn't disapprove, exactly -- they were both adults, and Kennedy was a nice enough girl, and Willow certainly could use some companionship -- but he worried that it would end badly. He just wasn't sure that Willow was ready. He thought of that fragile girl who had cried in his arms, and worried that Kennedy, too, would make her cry. At the same time, he badly wanted her to find happiness, didn't want her to have to go through this scary time alone.
After depositing Chao-Ahn it was off to Europe. The coven had located a potential named Tiphaine in Rennes, France. Giles met her at the city's cathedral, an eighteenth-century structure. This was what Giles missed about England when he was in the United States. The United States had no history compared to Europe. He loved the feel of old cathedrals, old buildings.
Tiphaine turned out to be a student of languages at the university. She was 18, older than most of the Potential Slayers, though then again Kennedy was 19. She had short dark hair and big brown eyes. Giles walked with her out of the cathedral. They traveled together to the jardin, a beautiful park with statues of angels, where Giles explained to her what she was. Thank God his French was fluent -- Tiphaine was easier to talk to than Chao-Ahn. Still, she was looking at him with a furrowed brow. At last, she said, “Je viendrai.” (I will come.) She still looked skeptical, but she was willing to come, and that was all Giles needed to know.
There had been another Potential in Frankfurt, Germany, according to the Watchers' Council records. She had been killed. Giles vaguely remembered that Buffy mentioned dreaming of her death. And, though he wouldn't talk of this in front of the others, again he mourned. He thought of this young girl, just starting out in life, a life so soon snuffed out. He hoped he could save more from that fate.
Another surviving Watcher was handling eastern Europe. Giles had heard of Potentials in Denmark and in Portugal, but they'd apparently made it out on their own. Still, he was sure there must be many more girls in western Europe, if only they could locate them.
He checked the hotmail account at an Internet café in Rennes. Willow had left him a message. “Before you jet back across the pond, can you go to Helsinki? Althanea located another Potential Slayer there. Her name is Pihla Manninen.”
And a note from Dawn, who had become almost more of a linguist than he himself was, with instructions on how to say, "Do you speak English?", "Where's the bathroom?" and other helpful phrases in Finnish.
Of course, he scarcely needed them. He'd barely finished the sentence "Puhutteko englantia?" when the woman at the airport said, with just the faintest of accents, "Yes, I speak English."
"I told you," Tiphaine said with a smile.
Dawn had cc’ed Willow on her e-mail to Giles, and Willow had done the same. It was good to see them working together. Giles knew the friendship between them had been strained after Willow's actions, and he'd heard Dawn was particularly skeptical of whether Willow had truly changed. He was relieved to see that these two young women, both dear to him, were once again getting along with one another.
Despite the seriousness of their situation, the e-mails sent to him included jokes, including a particularly bawdy one that Anya forwarded to seemingly everyone she knew. Xander kept him posted on the progress of the house reconstruction -- it did seem as if, as soon as he rebuilt the windows, some other beast or monster destroyed them. Buffy was truly fortunate to have a carpenter among her friends -- in his own way, Xander was just as useful as Willow.
Willow, meanwhile, was continuing as a student, for now at least She had written to him back when he was still in England to let him know she was starting again at UC Sunnydale. College life seemed to agree with her, and she was determined not to let fighting evil get in the way of maintaining a good grade point average.
They were all so young. Not just the Potentials, but Willow and Buffy and Xander too. So young, considering what they had to face.
It was appropriate, he thought, that he was having this thought while plunged entirely in darkness. Finland was, in summer, land of the midnight sun. This time of year, it was dark nearly 24 hours a day. Giles could only imagine what a vampire feeding frenzy it must be.
And sure enough, Pihla was all too familiar with fighting vampires. She had evidently been doing it for several months now.
She led Giles and Tiphaine through downtown Helsinki to the train they would take to her Watcher's home. Giles had never been to Finland before and longed to return at some point to play tourist. There was a modern art museum, and some lovely parks, and a lot of history. Of course, it probably all looked a lot more interesting when there was some sunlight.
Giles tried out his limited Finnish -- Dawn had helpfully written down how to pronounce the words phonetically -- but Pihla, too, spoke flawless English. She had light brown hair and glasses, and was wearing jeans. She told Giles she was seventeen years old.
Her Watcher, Tuomas, spoke perfect English as well as French. They had discovered on the plane to Finland that Tiphaine's English was as fluent as Giles' French, although he insisted on still conversing in French as much as possible in order to practice. If nothing else, this round-the-world trip to pick up Potentials might be helping him regain his language skills.
Tuomas invited them into his home, where they spent the night -- Giles in the guest room and Tiphaine on the couch. He made them strong coffee in the morning, and saw them to the airport. Pihla hugged him goodbye, and Giles wondered if she'd ever see him again.
Giles, Tiphaine and Pihla arrived back in Sunnydale, where Buffy quickly cleared a space for the girls on the floor. By now they'd invested in extra sleeping bags and pillows. Girls were arriving faster than ever at the Summers house. They even had a few staying in Xander's apartment.
Giles lectured the gang on frivolity -- there was no time, he told them, to be going on dates -- but in truth he envied them their ability to be carefree. Giles was restless. In his dreams the Potentials died bloody, their faces morphing with the face of Jenny, of Joyce, of Tara. He awoke teary-eyed but resolute.
So it was that soon after his arrival he found that there was really nothing he'd rather do but sit and sip tea.
Unfortunately, Dawn had a mission for him.
"Australia," she said. "Or Michigan. Take your pick."
"I beg your pardon?" Giles said.
"We've got Potentials that still need to be brought in. One in Australia, one in Michigan. We've sent letters to both but haven't heard anything back. And hey," Dawn said with a smile, "at least they speak English both places, right?"
He chose Michigan first, not wanting another long plane ride so soon after the last one. Zinnia Henderson was, apparently, a high school dropout. Giles circled downtown Ann Arbor, making a note of several bookstores where he'd like to stop again when he could linger and didn't have an apocalypse to worry about.
He made his way to the Diag, a large grassy square that separated the downtown area from the University of Michigan campus proper. It wasn't yet spring, and the area was fairly deserted. But Giles spied a few young people standing around, most of them smoking cigarettes. A teenage girl walked up to a man who had to be ten years older than her. She handed him money and received a small baggie of what Giles was sure was marijuana in response. He sighed. This had to be her.
"Zinnia Henderson?" he said.
"It's Z," she replied. It took him a moment to realize that she meant the letter, which he still thought of as "zed." For a moment he thought it was a nickname, spelled "Zi." "What do you want?" Her voice was sullen.
She had spiky blue hair with dark roots and, Giles, was sure, several tattoos that weren't visible under her winter coat. She wore seven studs in one ear and five in the other, as well as a nose ring. While there was no snow falling today, Giles still thought she must be cold with all that metal in her face.
She looked, in short, like a punk, like the sort of person Giles would have been easily able to relate to in his own youth. She couldn't be more than sixteen.
And she was clearly uninterested in any questions of destiny. As Giles tried to talk to her about the importance of coming to Sunnydale and learning to fight the vampires, she took a long drag on her cigarette -- this one just tobacco, judging from the smell -- and stared at him intently. Then she gave him the finger and walked away.
Giles chased after her, his coattails flapping behind him, feeling simultaneously outraged and silly. But it was no use. She ducked into a nearby building and disappeared before he could catch up with her.
Later, when he was back in Sunnydale, he learned that Z had been killed by the Bringers. She was homeless and slept in various parks in Ann Arbor. They'd set upon her one night when she was sleeping. She hadn't stood a chance.
But he didn't know that until later. From Michigan, he hopped a quick flight to New Mexico to pick up 15-year-old Josefina. She was an accomplished artist who showed Giles her paintings -- the earlier ones on flowers and nature themes, but more recently spooky paintings of the vampires she'd dreamt about -- and drew a sketch of him on the flight back to California. It was a good likeness.
It was while he was in Santa Fe that Dawn inadvertently made him furious. In an e-mail from Sunnydale, she made reference to the fact that Buffy was treating Spike like one of the gang "in spite of what he tried to do to her last year."
What, Giles inquired, had he tried to do?
"I thought you knew," Dawn began, awkwardly. He could hear her voice even in the e-mail, feeling uncertain about whether she should reveal this secret. But she told him.
And he plotted his revenge.
He was only too happy to assist Robin Wood in his plan to kill Spike. Giles had already thought Spike shouldn't be allowed to live, even without the knowledge of his attempted rape of Buffy. Now he was even more certain of the fact.
The prokaryote stone was just the beginning. He wanted to get into Spike's memories, certainly, but it was more than that. He wanted to rip him apart, limb from limb. Staking was too good for him.
And then Wood's plan failed, and Buffy shut the door in Giles' face, and he felt even more alone. The dreams were getting worse, and he would awake in a sweat, the sheets twisted almost in a knot.
Things were getting bad for all of them.
Willow told him of what had happened with "the exchange student." Evidently her eyes had gone black and she had sucked energy out of those who were near her. She was remorseful, stricken -- and clearly terrified. Giles felt, once again, that he had to talk her off a ledge. He tried to remind her that this wasn't necessarily the end of it all, that she could still learn to use her magic in appropriate ways. He tried to reassure her, but she was having nothing of it.
"I'm dangerous," she told him. "I always have been, and I always will be. I'm dangerous to the people I love."
"Willow," he said, truly exasperated now, "self-pity isn't going to help us win the fight here. We need you. The world needs you. Please, pick yourself up and try again."
Slowly she worked at it. Locator spells, simple things. She practiced in her room, when Kennedy was asleep, and gradually she gained a little bit of confidence. But it was two steps forward, one step back.
Giles worried that she wouldn't be ready in time.
The Potential in Australia still hadn't responded to any of Willow's and Buffy's attempts to contact her. Giles feared she was already dead, but agreed to fly out and try to meet with her in person anyway.
By this time he had accumulated enough frequent flyer miles that he got to ride first class. It was much more pleasant than a 15-hour flight would normally be. He was lucky too to have found a nonstop flight.
It was summer in Australia, sunny and warm. Giles, being from England, was deeply suspicious of warm sunshine. He knew there was often darkness lurking just beneath the surface.
Still, he found himself searching the Potential Slayer on the beach.
Kate was surfing, her strawberry blonde hair stringy with sea salt, her clothes too clinging to her. She was having a good time, and Giles wasn't going to change her mind. "I'm having fun here," she said airily.
Until he brought up the dreams.
"Have you been having dreams?" he asked her. "Dreams in which you were being chased by monsters, or attacked by men with long curved knives?"
Slowly, Kate nodded. "I have," she said. "But they're just dreams -- aren't they?"
"I think you'd better come with me," Giles said.
With a deep sigh, she picked up her surfboard and followed him down the boardwalk.
Back at the hotel, with Kate in another hotel room, Giles again checked his e-mail. Dawn had written to say that Faith was on the way. Dawn was less than thrilled. Vividly Giles remembered the last time the two had met -- and the way that Faith had beaten up Dawn while psychologically torturing Joyce. Except, of course, that Dawn hadn't been there. She hadn't existed, not as a human anyway. But the longer he knew her, the harder that was to remember.
Kate was the last of his charges, for a while anyway. He kept corresponding with the other Watchers, and he had to admit that the blasted e-mail was damned convenient. He could write to people in other time zones and they could write back while he was asleep.
He mourned Molly, when she was killed out at the vineyard. He knew some of the others had found her irritating, but he remember that plane trip from England, and Molly nervously staring out the window every few minutes, and he smiled at the memory. Buffy had told him that she had carefully taken notes when they drilled with Spike in the cemetery, so eager to lap up every detail.
As winter turned into spring, the e-mails included fewer jokes and more seriousness. Robson and the others were terse, sending logs of which Potentials had been contacted, which were on their way to Sunnydale, which had died.
Giles found to his surprise that he missed Anya's lewd jokes. He was having second thoughts about his earlier proclamation that there was no time for frivolity. What they all needed, he thought, was something to take their minds off it all. If only it were that easy.
He had to admit that he'd had fun pretending, with Willow, to be from Interpol. It was like something he might have done during his Ripper days.
"Scythe matters," Willow said, and he thought, for a moment, that the old Willow might be back again, the nerdy Willow, the pre-dark-magic Willow.
But she was clearly still terrified, as she confessed to him just a short time later.
"I can hardly do a locator spell without getting dark roots," she said.
"Do what you can," he replied. "That's all any of us can do."
He treasured his relationship with Willow as his relationship with Buffy had grown more fractured. Eventually, after Dawn threw her out of the house and she came back, they reconciled, but they didn't really talk about it, just kept on acting as if nothing had happened. Eventually, he knew, they would have to sit down and have a real heart-to-heart. Later. After they had saved the world.
It was funny, he thought, how adversity could stress people and drive them apart and yet it could also bring them closer. If Willow had not had her crisis, they would not have had the closeness they shared in England. The four of them -- he, Buffy, Willow and Xander -- had been through so much together. And Giles found himself filled with confidence in spite of the peril that faced them. He was suddenly sure that they would survive this too.
As they prepared to do battle, Giles smiled fondly at these three young people with whom he had shared so much.
"The Earth is definitely doomed," he said.
But despite the gravity of the situation, his heart was light.