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The Key's Watcher 1: Help Wanted

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Key's Watcher & Dark Haven Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: *Complete* A new universe, a new city, a new store. All Giles needs now is a new employee.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Giles-Centered(Past Donor)elementalvFR15925,256475558,29016 Jun 0328 Jun 03Yes
CoA Winner

Part 1

Author's Note: This goes AU at the end of season five's The Gift. Also, I'm at least as tired of typing a stammer for Giles as I'm sure readers are of picking their way through it. When you read this, add whatever level of stammer you feel comfortable with. When it's worse than usual, I'll let you know.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and company own the characters and world of the Buffyverse. Laurell K. Hamilton owns the characters and world of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter. I own a cat, two ferrets and the plot for this fic. Guess who makes more money.



Part 1

Journal of Rupert Giles

May 31, 2001

We've been in this dimension for just over one week, and I think Dawn is finally starting to work through the shock of it. For that matter, I think I am as well. It's been difficult, but it could have been much, much worse. The money in my wallet is a close enough match to the currency here that we're not going to starve any time soon. Luckier still that I had emptied the till and the safe at the Magic Box just prior to our aborted run from Glory. I never got around to putting the cash back, so we're in fairly good shape for the next month or so. After that, I'll have to get creative.

No. Strike that. I'll have to get creative now if I'm to have any hope of providing for us in the long term.

I still can't adjust to the reality that Sunnydale is as closed off to us as a trip to the moon. I haven't had the heart to talk to Dawn about it yet, but I'm fairly certain we won't be able to find a way home. The portal that opened with her blood must have closed once we fell through it. I have to believe that, else I'll go insane with worry over the children back home.

Each night, I replay the fight, and each night, I think of a way that could have gotten Dawn off the tower before the demon — Dawn called him Doc — started cutting her. If I'm not obsessing over that, I'm obsessing over Buffy's still body as it lay at the foot of the tower. If only I'd taken the time to see if she had a pulse. I couldn't, though. There was no time left, and I absolutely had to get to the top of the tower to save Dawn.

Perhaps if I tell myself that enough times, I'll start to believe it.


~*~*~


September 13, 2004

"Dad!" The excited squeal that announced Dawn's arrival also made two of my patrons wince in pain. It was unfortunate that the upper ranges of her voice outed lycanthropes so easily, but I wasn't about to ask her to try to modulate the tone. Her voice was a defensive weapon, as far as I was concerned. Though this world is, in many ways, less dangerous than the world from whence we came, such dangers that do exist are, in many ways, far worse.

I excused myself to Abigail St. Clair, one of my favorite customers, and turned to Dawn with a smile. In all the ways that counted and for better or for worse, she was my daughter for now and always. Shortly after we fell through Glory's portal, I had a long talk with her about what had happened, and what needed to happen. The first and most important task was to ensure that we not get separated. I told her that becoming father and daughter would solve that problem, but she had to play her part as well. She would have to start calling me Dad — or Father, if she preferred not to intrude on whatever place Hank Summers held in her heart. It took a disturbingly short period of time for her to start calling me Dad, and the way she said it made it sound as if she'd been calling me that all her life. If we ever do manage to find our way home, I think I'll take the time to find Hank and introduce him to Ripper. No man should ever do to his child what he did to his daughters.

"Hello, pet. Why are you trying to frighten the customers away?"

She snorted, "As if," before dropping her backpack behind the counter. "Guess who asked me out for Friday night!" God, she had a lovely smile. It was enough to make all the boys come sniffing around her, and that was enough to make Ripper want to come out and play. I remember someone — Ethan? — telling me once that there was no one more protective of a young girl's virtue than an old reprobate.

"Presumably it's the same young man you're going to bring to dinner on Thursday night so that I have a chance to meet him," I answered in a reasonably calm tone of voice.

She scowled at me and said, "I told him Wednesday at seven. Thursday night is dance class."

"Oh! So it is," I said. I knew perfectly well that Thursday was out, but I wanted to find out if Dawn was serious about the boy or not. That she'd already made arrangements for the pre-date dinner with the family spoke well of her hopes for a relationship with him. Perhaps I would threaten only to maim, not kill, if he hurt her in any conceivable way.

She stuck her tongue out at me before pulling the day's receipts to compare them against our inventory. Dawn had a good head for business, and there were days when I thought I could detect Anya's influence on her. If so, I was glad. Owning a business was a fine way to make one's way in the world. If she maintained her interest in retail after she finished university, I would offer her a half-share in the shop. Or perhaps I would offer the shop itself. I had nothing against retail, but I longed to get back to research. I was starting to gain a good reputation in certain circles for translation services, and the income from that sideline was nearly enough to support just myself. The idea of getting out of retail entirely once Dawn was out of school was alluring.

Lost in pleasant thoughts, I didn't immediately notice the person who came in a short while after Dawn. It wasn't until my skin started to crawl that I looked up. Lord, but the woman had magic. It was enough to make my other customers — the ones who might have spent money here — put down whatever they'd been looking at and leave. Or maybe it was just her identity that made them run. When Dawn started to look uneasy, I gestured that she should go up to the apartment. She snagged her backpack and gave me one last unhappy look before disappearing into the back.

After Dawn left, I cleared my throat and said, "May I help you?" I kept my voice as innocuous and bland as possible. Her temper was legendary, and I had no desire to prove or provoke it.

She turned slowly, allowing her glance to linger on the merchandise. When she faced me, she said, "Rupert Giles?"

Bloody hell. I doubted anything shown on my face, but inside I was cringing and making plans for a midnight escape to somewhere far from St. Louis. For three and a half years, I'd been hounding Dawn about the necessity of keeping a low profile, and now the human servant of the master of the city was in my shop — asking for me by name. I wondered which god had decided to play dice with my life this week.

"Yes. May I help you?" I stammered out the greeting. It was perhaps slightly worse than usual as the result of her presence. I could probably eliminate it with the help of a speech therapist, but it served a purpose. People generally underestimated me once they heard me speak, thinking the stammer indicated a lack of confidence and strength. I doubted it would work this time, but there was still hope to be had.

She held out her hand — something to do with business, then, not the law — and said, "Anita Blake."

I shook her hand and said, "Ms. Blake," then waited for her to explain herself. I'd already asked twice, and I had no intention of asking a third time.

We stared at each other for long enough that I began to wonder if we'd still be there in the morning when Dawn came down for school. I might have taken pride in the fact that she broke first, but this particular patience evolved as a result of the attentions I received from Angelus some years earlier. Since I learned it under his tutelage, I had no desire to celebrate it when it turned out to be useful. Petty? Perhaps. But I get that way about torturers.

"You have a reputation in town," she said.

All in all, it wasn't a bad opening gambit. If I hadn't spent so much time with the authorities, first in my youth and later as Buffy's Watcher, I might have asked what she was talking about. Instead, I raised my eyebrows to express polite interest and said, "Really?"

She looked at me for another long moment, then must have found whatever she was looking for, as she elected not to continue the pissing match. I was profoundly grateful. "The lycanthropes in town like you. They say you don't discriminate. Ever."

Blast. My low profile was shot to hell and gone by my insistence on treating everyone the same — with civil good humor. Had I realized my behavior was such a rarity, I would have made more of an effort to modify it. No use in crying over spilt milk. The damage was done, and any attempt to rectify the situation would only make it worse.

"I've never found discrimination to be good for business, Ms. Blake," I answered. The stammer hadn't eased up as yet. Given that I was getting more and more tense by the minute, it was hardly a surprise.

"You really are a peach, aren't you?" The hostility was there after all, just below the surface. Since I knew for a fact I'd done nothing to engender it, I ignored her attempts to bait me. I simply kept the same gentle half-smile on my face and waited.

"Not going to answer me?" God, no.

"It was a rhetorical question. I didn't see any need to answer," I said. Personally, I thought I sounded quite reasonable. Especially since my temper was starting to rise a bit. I didn't ask her to come to my shop. She came here of her own volition, but she was acting as if it was all my fault, somehow — that I was the one putting her out.

Inexplicably, she backed down. And I still didn't know what she was doing here. I didn't think pushing her to answer that question would do any good, so I kept quiet. She would get around to explaining herself eventually. I just hoped it would be at some point in time before Dawn graduated from university.

"I heard you're looking for part-time help during the day," she said. I allowed myself to show puzzlement, but nothing more. My mind was racing through the possibilities. She was here for a job? No. It was an absurd notion brought on by the stress of her presence in my shop. Aside from her obligations to the master of the city, she was an animator and a Federal Marshall. She was also intimately involved with at least two groups of lycanthropes. She already had too much on her plate, which meant that she was asking on someone else's behalf.

"Yes, I am," I said. I didn't volunteer the fact that I needed the help because my daughter was back in school. If she'd gone to the trouble of finding out I needed an employee, I had no doubt she'd gone to the trouble of finding out why I needed an employee.

"A friend of mine needs a job. He doesn't have much by way of — traditional skills, but he's a fast learner and pretty good with people," she said. I wondered if her friend was wolf or cat — her comment about lycanthropes was the tip off — but I was more curious about why she hesitated over the word "traditional".

"Is there a reason he can't come in to apply for himself?" It was a good question, and if she had any hopes at all of her friend being employed here, she would answer it. Whether she wanted to or not.

"Nathaniel is —" It didn't show on her face, but it was clear she was having a long and fairly drawn out argument with herself over what and how much to tell me. I'm still not sure why, but I took pity on her.

"A lycanthrope?" At her look of surprise and narrow-eyed assessment, I added, "Hardly a difficult thing to determine, given the way you started the conversation. I suspect, however, that if lycanthropy were the only issue, you wouldn't be here. Am I correct?"

"You are," she said, all business, all at once. "Nathaniel is completely submissive. I've been working with him to help him become more independent, but he needs to get out in the real world. In a store like this, with an understanding employer, he might learn enough to be able to take care of himself one day."

I wanted very much to say no to her, but that required a valid reason. I didn't have one, because I'd already made it known I was willing to train someone. The fact was I wanted nothing to do with her or her friends. To become involved even peripherally with The Executioner was to stray into circles that garnered far too much of the wrong kind of attention. I'd paid well for our paper trail and history in this world, and I continued to do whatever I could to strengthen our back stories even further. But a determined investigator or government agency would be able to find more holes than I could ever hope to fill. My lectures to Dawn about keeping a low profile all stemmed from a nightmare of interrogation about how, precisely, we came to be in this world.

To put it crudely, she had me by the short hairs.

"Very well. Dinner is at seven. Bring him around this evening, and we can talk while we eat. There's an outside entrance to the apartment through the alley in back," I told her. I watched the subtle play of emotion on Ms. Blake's face. She didn't want to accept the invitation. However, if she was serious about her Nathaniel working here, she would have to accede to my wishes with regard to the manner of the interview. It would be an uncomfortable meal if she didn't rein in her power, but Dawn and I had survived worse.
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