Note: Set Post Season Seven BTVS.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of them – Buffy and the gang belong to Joss. The special guest who appears in this tale has a long and distinguished history, some of which I have taken a few liberties with - but I can’t lay claim to any of that, either.
Xander was comfortably ensconced in the bar by the time Giles emerged from his room, showered, changed, and looking decidedly more relaxed and comfortable than he had when he’d arrived at the airport. A bad flight and ill-mannered fellow passengers can have deleterious effects on a man already stressed and over-tired. Xander hadn’t taken the impatient manner with which he’d been greeted personally. He’d merely smiled, relieved his friend of his suitcase, ushered him into the Landrover and driven him out to the small hotel by the beach, letting the warmth of the sun and the glory of Africa work its particular magic. Giles had been apologising for his churlish behaviour almost before they’d arrived at their destination, and now he approached the younger man with a slightly sheepish smile on his face, clearly conscious that he hadn’t made the best impression at a reunion that had been far too long in the making.
He still looked tired – but then who wouldn’t, given the hassles of trying to run a headache like the new Watcher’s Council? Xander was just pleased to see him. Even more pleased to be able to share with him some of the wonders of the continent where mankind had been born; it had taken endless planning, a great deal of surreptitious plotting, more than a few resolve looks from Willow and at least one Buffy pout to prise their mentor from the book lined prison of his office and back out into the wider world. All of which might have failed in their purpose, had it not been for the discovery that Xander had used to add temptation to the promise of the trip; no-one could have persuaded the dedicated Watcher to leave his post merely for the opportunity to have a break and take some well earned down-time. But tempt him with hints of a mystery, the possibility of knowledge and an experience that only a few would ever be privileged enough to claim and he was there. Not quite on the next flight out, but close enough.
Sending him the book had probably been the thing that clinched the deal.
“So?” Xander asked without preliminaries, smiling at the way the man was cradling the volume in question. Giles blinked at him for a moment, then smiled back, his preparations for further apology melting into an even more sheepish embarrassment as he realised the reason for the younger man’s amusement.
“So,” he admitted reluctantly, sliding into the canework chair on the opposite side of the table, “you were right.” He reverently placed the battered book onto the tabletop, treating it with gentle care. Xander’s smile widened even further. He’d
had that volume tossed at him with casual unconcern, although he knew that the man who owned it valued it far more than the indifference of his treatment might imply. The guy just wasn’t too bothered about things
. People – especially his
people – were a different matter.
And since Xander now had the privilege of including himself among that number, he hadn’t been about to upset the man’s opinion of him by berating him over his treatment of a book. No matter how valuable the thing might be.
“It’s the real thing. Right?”
Giles sighed. “Yes,” he said, waving a hand to attract the attention of a waiter. “There’s no doubt it’s the genuine article. Scotch please. Xander?”
Xander ordered an iced beer, insisted the drinks go on his
tab, then grinned when Giles pointed out that – since he was the one paying Xander in the first place – that still meant he’d
be paying for them. Some things never changed, thank the goddess – and he’d missed that wry, pedantic wit which demanded that you work hard
to figure out how much was a joke and how much was genuine grumble. This one, fortunately, was all joke, and Giles backed it with the hint of a proud smile that said I’m impressed with the man you grew into
. Xander could hardly disagree with that, especially because the man sitting opposite him had been an important part of the process.
“Not so much with the ‘merely Council wages’ now,” Xander pointed out, leaning back into his chair now that the waiter had gone. “I got me an in on a diamond mine. And the owner’s paying me a retainer so he can call on me for demon type advice … which I will totally account for as Council income, since I will inevitably need to call you for stuff at some point of other.”
Giles smiled, relaxing into the comfort of his chair. “Like the matter of the Obambou?”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded, taking his turn to look sheepish. “Stuff like that. Hey – “ he went on, realising that Giles was teasing him. “We make a good team. You research, I translate into practical stuff, Nuala does her strong-arm act and … John … yeah, John, makes peace with a local tribe and everybody’s happy.”
“An excellent resolution,” Giles agreed accepting his glass of Scotch from the returning waiter and taking an appreciative sip. “Would that all my problems were so elegantly solved.”
“Wouldn’t exactly call it elegant
,” Xander grinned, recalling the heat of the moment and the usual adrenaline rush of getting in over his head. Not to mention having to be saved by the local Slayer – except that she’d ended up in almost as much trouble as he had, and neither of them might have got out of it, if it hadn’t been for their new friend swinging to the rescue. Quite literally, in fact. “Hip deep in river mud and fending off amorous hippos? Not exactly front cover of ‘Vogue,’ if you know what I mean. Mind you,” he added thoughtfully. “Nuala in the wet tee? Very Pirelli.”
“Yes,” Giles acknowledged dryly. “Well, I am probably too old to be considering such things – and you shouldn’t be, given that the young lady in question is your Slayer. One of them,” he added, with the hint of a patient sigh.
Xander knew that sigh. Knew all the issues and the frustrations and the whole ‘no-one’s ever done
this before’ minefield that lay behind it. It was because of those sorts of sighs that Giles was here, right now, with him – giving him the chance to get the perspective of a little distance and the opportunity to be reminded of the reasons why it all had to be done, not to mention the very real wonders of the world he – and they – had sworn to protect.
“Never too old, G,” the younger man grinned, avoiding the lurking dangers of discussing current business and seizing the opportunity to direct the conversation towards what he really wanted to talk about. “And according to that
, “ he pointed significantly at the battered volume, “there’s some serious precedence for doing a lot more than just thinking. If you see what I mean.”
Giles’ affectionate frown – probably intended to protest the use of the nickname Faith had saddled him with – tightened down into a much more serious expression. “You -read it?” he asked warily. Xander shrugged.
“Bits and pieces. I know what it says. I know what it implies
. And if it really is genuine …”
“We matched the hand writing. And the paper. Even the ink – there’s no question of its authenticity.” Giles put down his glass and picked up the book instead. “But … that it even exists
… Xander – the Watcher who wrote this diary – and the Slayer it refers too – vanished without trace over a hundred and thirty years ago. Council records mention the date of her calling, and there’s a brief reference to their departure from English shores – without permission – some six months later. There is also a reference to certain ‘punitive action’ that was authorised by the then head of the Council. Since the ship they were travelling on was reported lost with all hands in a somewhat unseasonable storm, general opinion is that the ‘action’ in question involved some rather … unethical use of magic. The reason for their flight, and their subsequent … expurgation …” Giles grimaced over the word, clearly unhappy with this evidence of his ancestors’ less than sterling behaviour. “Was not
recorded. The next Slayer in the records was not called until a good year later. Official history fills the gap with one of the – lost – slayers. Assuming some poor unfortunate was called but not discovered in time to be guided. Or saved.”
He paused for a moment, tugging off his glasses to scrub a little wearily at his eyes. Xander suppressed a shiver. There’d been a few too many of those
kind of Slayers in the days after Willow had worked her mojo and turned every might-possibly-be into an absolute-is
. They’d found – and reached – a remarkable number of equally remarkable young women since then. More were turning up every day. But every now and then they stumbled over evidence of one they hadn’t found in time – and Giles tended to take those kind of losses very personally.
“But there wasn’t
a lost Slayer in this case.” Xander put down his beer and leaned forward to make the point, intent on re-directing his friend’s thoughts back to the matter in hand. “If the Council did
send that storm after them, they were nowhere near the ship when it hit. The crew mutinied and they were marooned - on the West African coast, not all that far from here. She had
the kid that the Council were trying to kill. Her Watcher’s
child. It’s all in the book. Every last damn word. Unless you think that he …”
“No,” Giles interrupted softly, laying the book back on the table so that he could open its pages and carefully begin to flick through them. “No, I-I don’t think he was lying. This is a true record. It reads
true, at least.”
Xander frowned, suspecting some of the things that lay behind that simple statement. Giles had written his own Watcher’s Diaries. Had watched his Slayer die … and while Buffy had come back, the voice of this
Watcher - a man driven to reckless and desperate action in order to protect his beloved Slayer, only to have her snatched away from him by fate - would have spoken to him with deep and undeniable certainty. And those last words – the very last thing that the author had ever written – were a cry of despair from the depths of a wounded heart.. My little son is crying for nourishment -- O Alice, Alice, what shall I do?
“He loved her very much, didn’t he.”
Giles nodded, pausing at one particular page - although his eyes were focused on something distant, rather than the text. “Yes. Yes, he did.”
“It can’t have been easy when …”
“No.” The word was terse. The hand that closed the book was trembling slightly, although there was no hint of it in the man’s voice. “The next Slayer must have been called almost to the day. If the dates are accurate. And I – um – have no reason to believe they’re not.”
“You said,” Xander said carefully, aware that he might be treading in a minefield, but needing to ask the question anyway, “that Slayers can’t have
children. That it had never happened. Never
. But we know that potentials can, because Robin was born before
Nicki was called. And now this
“I don’t know
what this says,” Giles snapped, then sighed and threw him a look of apology. “Sorry,” he said, reaching for his Scotch and downing the rest of it with a gulp. “It’s just that - we’ve overturned so many bloody certainties and traditions in the past couple of years that … I just don’t know what is and isn’t possible anymore. I don’t suppose this one’s any different from the rest really. One Slayer, or a thousand Slayers? And a Slayer’s child
… If this is
true, then … there really is hope left in the world. And I’d like to think – had the boy lived – he might have grown up to be a very remarkable man.”
"He did.” Xander fought hard to keep the grin from his face. This was the bit he’d been looking forward to. Sounding Giles out on the implications
of the tale – and then rocking him back on his heels with the rest of it.
“What?” The look on the Watcher’s face was priceless. “Xander … it’s perfectly clear from the diary that neither father, nor son could have survived. The bloodstains on the last page …”
“Are those of an English Lord, right? The elder, not the younger. The boy lived. Was raised in the jungle and …eventually … made his way back to civilisation, reclaimed his father’s title, sold up his English holdings and settled down out here. Africa being his home, and all. I guess the family kinda kept the whole ‘reclaiming the title’ thing quiet. They musta known
the Council had tried to kill his dad, so …”
“Xander.” Giles finally succeeded in getting a word in edgeways. “You said … this John, you talk about … gave you the book. Are you implying he’s descended
from the original …?”
“Nope.” Xander sat back and let the grin escape. “He is
the original. One and only. And yeah. Very
Giles was staring at him. “I’d say so,” he said faintly. “If he’s managed to live over a hundred and thirty years. He is alive
, I take it. Not a – “
“Nope,” Xander said again, still grinning. “But it’s not that
surprising. Given that this is Africa. Which is full of surprises. And pockets dimensions. And lost cities, powered by ancient magics and filled with ancient Greeks, and folks from Atlantis and places like that. And I think
he said something about having lived at the centre of the earth for a while, but he may have been joking about that. Unless that tyrannosaurus tooth he wears is real …”
“Good Lord.” Had Giles been standing up, he would have had to sit down. “You’re saying that John Clayton … Lord Greystoke
“Has just walked into this bar,” Xander concluded happily, leaping to his feet in order to beckon the man concerned over to join them. Giles got to his feet and eyed the new arrival as he approached, no doubt registering the easy grace with which the man stalked through the crowd. His tangle of long dark hair was tugged back into a makeshift pony tail, revealing the sculptured angles of his face, but his loose white shirt and the canvas ducks concealed the equally sculpted muscles that lay beneath them. He looked more like a well-tanned homesteader than the Lord of the Jungle, but appearances can be deceptive; Xander’s good eye caught the moment his eyes narrowed in momentary assessment as he drew near – not to mention the way his nostrils widened and his mouth opened slightly to test the scents in the air. He must have liked what he saw – and smelt – because he greeted them both with a friendly smile.
“Grab a seat, ape-man,” Xander advised warmly, gesturing at the waiter to bring them another round of drinks. “This is Rupert Giles, my boss, and bestest guy-friend. Giles - this
Author’s note: If you’re wondering where this
bright idea came from, the seed of it was planted when – on watching the Disney ‘Tarzan’ and seeing the way they’d depicted his parents – the thought crossed my mind that if they were not
a Watcher and his Slayer, they damn well ought to be! The ape-man in this, however, is very much the Tarzan that ERB wrote about, born in a makeshift cabin on the African coast after his parents were marooned by mutineers. And since that
Tarzan and his mate were made immortal by a witch-doctor somewhere around book four or five, I felt there was every likelihood that he’d still be living somewhere on the Dark Continent when Xander arrived in search of newly awakened Slayers.
And before you ask - ‘Tarmangani’ is the word for ‘great white ape’ in the language of Tarzan’s adopted ape family.