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The Key's Watcher 2: Birthday Girl

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This story is No. 2 in the series "The Key's Watcher & Dark Haven Series". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: *Complete* A new universe, a new city, a new store. Dawn's turning 18 at last.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Giles-Centered(Past Donor)elementalvFR15927,18765649,48430 Jun 0316 Jul 03Yes

Part 9

Part 9

Journal of Rupert Giles

July 13, 2001

Dawn started calling me "Dad" about a month ago, and at first, I thought nothing of it. We had agreed to the necessity of outwardly becoming father and daughter, and the change in addressing me was necessary.

However, in the last week or so, I've heard a change in the way she says "Dad" — it sounds as if she's been calling me that since she learned to talk. And I? Well, it's odd. When I hear her say it now, I feel a certain primal satisfaction in knowing that she's claimed me as family. I'm not quite at the stage of chest-thumping, but I'm already glaring at any male who looks at Dawn for too long or in the wrong way. And all too many of them do. She's growing to be a beautiful young woman, and her long, brown hair and clear blue eyes are enough to draw anyone's attention.

I never knew being a parent was like this. I remember Tom Hawkins telling me how he fell in love with his son the first time he saw him in hospital, but until this moment, I had no idea what he meant. Dawn has become infinitely precious to me, and heaven help me, but I think I would kill anyone who attempted to harm her.



~*~*~


September 25, 2004

In the end, it took less than an hour to get Mrs. Forrester out of the house and on her way to hospital. Buffy's solidity from the bit of magic I'd performed earlier hadn't lasted long. When she realized she could control her visibility again, she chose to go with the woman, telling me that the first moments after death could be a bit confusing. If she did die, there was no sense in making it any worse than it needed to be. Just before the door to the ambulance closed, I heard one of the paramedics tell Mrs. Forrester that there was no woman in there with them and please calm down.

I decided to practice a bit of selective repression and not think about how it was that Forrester had gotten an ambulance here without involving emergency services or the police. There was some information that didn't need to be shared, and I felt I might be all the healthier for not knowing. I just hoped he didn't live in the St. Louis area.

Forrester came up to me after the ambulance left, but I wasn't surprised he was there instead of following his wife. I had stopped trying to anticipate how he was going to react to a given situation, and I found myself happier for it. He handed me a bag and said, "They got impatient with Frau Schlecter and took the manuscript."

"Is she dead?" I opened the bag and peered into it. There were still no street lights functioning, and the moon, though close to full, wasn't yet high enough over the trees for help from that quarter. I put my hand in the bag, instead.

"Yes. They came to me when they realized they weren't going to be able to get a translation done in time on their own," he said. I could feel his eyes on me and realized why the moment my hand touched what seemed to be a bundle of cash. It had been on the book, and there were at least two other similar bundles.

I pulled it out and said, "What's this?"

"Finder's fee." He held his hand up when I started to object and said, "I don't like to owe anyone. The money's in small bills. Do with it what you want. Just get rid of that book."

Exasperating man.

"What did you mean when you said they couldn't get a translation done in time?" Thankfully, there was no warding on the manuscript, so I'd be able to burn it without difficulty. Physical difficulty, that is. Emotionally, I doubted I would handle it well. Burning a book always seemed so Facist, even when it was necessary.

"They had a problem only a resurrection could solve. I don't think you want to know anything more than that," he said. He turned when he heard another vehicle pull up in front of his own car.

The back passenger door opened, and a young girl came tumbling out. She ran straight to Forrester and into his arms. If I understood nothing else about him, I understood this. He held her in much the same way I held Dawn when she was upset, and like Dawn, the girl drew strength from him. An older boy approached more slowly, but he seemed no less glad to see Forrester than his sister was.

I stepped away to give them privacy for their reunion, then approached Ms. Blake to ask, "Am I needed for anything else?"

"Is Lassie around?"

"No, she went with Mrs. Forrester," I said, not really paying attention. If I had been, I would have noticed the gun she pulled on me a bit sooner than I did.

"Hand over the Glock." I couldn't really see her eyes, but I imagined they were as flat as I'd ever seen them.

I reached carefully into my pocket and took hold of the gun by the barrel. As I handed it to her, I asked, "Is this really necessary?"

She tucked the gun into her jacket and said, "Shut up and get in the Jeep. You're driving." She pointed her gun in the appropriate direction, and I did as I was told, grumbling all the way. My mood wasn't helped by the fact that I very nearly emasculated myself on the steering wheel, because I hadn't moved the seat back before getting in.

When we were both settled, I said, "Where are we going?"

"Just drive, Giles. You and I are going to talk," she said with her gun still pointed at me. I wondered if she realized how pointless that gesture was. I doubted it. She seemed to react first and think later. I had no doubt it would be her downfall.

I pulled away from the house and set a sedate pace through the neighborhood before saying, "Really, Ms. Blake, if you'd wanted a date, all you had to do was ask. Of course, I would have turned you down, so perhaps this was inevitable after all."

"What the hell is Lassie?" Ah. She'd been faced with something that turned her reality sideways a bit. No wonder she seemed a bit out of sorts.

"Her name is Buffy, and she's a ghost," I answered, enjoying the chance to state the obvious. I perhaps should have taken her more seriously, but I was still a bit giddy from having survived the evening without getting a scratch or a concussion or even a threatening look. Until now, that is.

"Who. Is. She. And don't tell me she's Dawn's sister. I got that," she said. She was reaching the end of her rope.

"Then I don't know what more to tell you," I said, making sure my voice remained calm and steady.

"Why does she call you Giles?"

"Because she's always called me Giles," I said. It was a perfectly good and true answer, but she still released the safety on her gun. I sighed and said, "Ms. Blake, my relationship with Dawn and Buffy is, frankly, none of your concern."

"Is Dawn your daughter?"

"What? Of course she is," I said. Honestly, I couldn't understand what she was driving at.

"Just how close are the two of you?" Her tone of voice left no doubt as to her meaning. The question was rude, nasty and completely uncalled for. I pushed down hard on the brake peddle. We came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road, and my magic rose quickly. I allowed a whisper of power to reach around her gun and turned that one into a toad. Though I enjoyed the screech she made as she half threw, half dropped the thing, it wasn't one of my better decisions. I needed to get myself under control again. I just hoped she wouldn't say something even worse than she already had to set me off again.

I looked at her as she reached for another weapon and said, "Don't. Unless you want to add snakes to the mix and have to replace every last weapon you own, just don't. Your question was completely out of bounds. What on Earth could make you ask such a thing?"

"Edward said your background check didn't quite add up. And the way you talk to her —" She stopped speaking, so I was again left to respond to a nonsensical conversation.

"Yes? What about the way I talk to her?" I thought back to the conversations that we'd had in her presence, but I couldn't recall anything that was said on either side that might possibly have led to Ms. Blake coming to such an insane conclusion. I ignored the comment about our background — there was nothing I could do about it at the moment. In any event, her insinuation about my relationship with Dawn raised my hackles, and I wanted that dealt with immediately.

"You told her you adore her," she said, sounding as if she was biting each word off precisely and carefully.

"Of course I did. I would have to be a right bastard not to tell my daughter how much —" It came together, then. Her attitude toward me, the expression on her face when Dawn and I spoke or when I spoke of Dawn to her — it all made horrid sense.

"I'm sorry for you, Ms. Blake, that your own father is such a complete prat that he never made you certain of his love. I truly am. But I will be even sorrier for you if you don't find a way to put his idiocy behind you," I said as gently as possible. I didn't want her to think I was mocking her.

"You don't know anything," she said, her face turned away from me.

I sighed, then, wondering if it was to be my lot in life to pick up stray and abandoned children. I didn't dare bring her in for a hug — if I did, I would pay for that kindness, either immediately or down the road. Ms. Blake was not the type of woman who received comfort easily. On the other hand, if she and Buffy could find a way to get along, they would find they have much in common. After a few minutes of tense and unhappy silence, I asked, "Was there anything else?"

She turned back to me finally and asked, "What are you?"

"A man, Ms. Blake. I'm just a man who has a daughter and who owns a shop," I answered, suddenly sick of it all. I wanted to get home and see Dawn. I wanted to go to bed.

"I've never heard of anyone who can do what you can do," she said. "The magic you call up — you don't need the rituals, but you do them anyway. And the rest of the time, you're so controlled, I can't even tell you have that much power in you." Her tone was still aggressive, but it was leaning toward neutral. She seemed to be hearing what she was saying.

I also heard the words and said tiredly, "Perhaps, then, you should consider that if you have future dealings with me. I'm driving back to get my car, then I'm going home." After a short pause, I added, "I hope you'll allow Nathaniel to continue working for me. He's good with the customers."

Her pause was even longer, but she finally said, "Maybe."


~*~*~


"Mon ami."

Perfect. What a perfect ending to a perfectly horrible day. I stopped at the foot of the stairs leading up to the apartment, and I said, "I'm not your friend."

"But you could be," he said as he emerged from the shadows. He was wearing a skin-tight vinyl suit this evening, and it looked like it might be electric blue. The shirt, no doubt silk, was white. He wore his long hair loose and in an artful tumble around his shoulders. His bill for hair care products must be astronomical.

I briefly thought of the advantages of adding UV lights back here for the night hours just to keep my alley clear of unwanted visitors, but it was likely I'd just have to take them down again. It wouldn't do to trample on the rights of the undead, after all.

"No, Monsieur, I could not be," I answered. To hell with him. I was tired from too much magic, anxiety and anger, and all I wanted out of life at the moment was a cup of tea. I put one foot on the first step, but I didn't get very far.

He covered my right hand on the rail with his own and said softly, "If you chose it, you could be my friend."

Bloody vampire. The way he made it sound, I would break his heart, then grind it into a million pieces if I decided I didn't want to play.

"If I chose it, I could pursue a career as a rock musician, but that's not likely to happen either." I glared at his hand, and when he didn't remove it, I tried to tug mine out from underneath. He held onto it without any effort at all. My hand might as well have been encased in cement for all the mobility he allowed it.

"I've heard you sing and play your guitar, Rupert. You are very fond of Clapton, are you not? Should you wish to be a rock musician, I will happily arrange to get you started in one of my clubs," he answered with a hint of enjoyment at my obvious discomfort.

"I don't wish — Dammit! Give me back my hand," I said as I tugged even harder.

"Someone went to a great deal of trouble to break every bone in it, mon cher. I would guess it was the same someone who claimed you." I risked a glance at him and found him looking at the remnants of Angelus' attempts to break me. The look on his face was indescribable, and I very much wanted to describe it. If I could, then perhaps I would be able to identify the emotion behind it. I suspected it might be very important.

"Yes. Someone did go to a great deal of trouble," I said at last, keeping my voice inflectionless, as I was unwilling to give him any more information than I had to. I thought about objecting to the endearment, but to me, it was marginally better than him calling me his friend. An endearment could be brushed off as so much meaningless chatter. A claim of friendship couldn't.

"It is curious that I cannot feel him through his claim on you," he said, even as he continued to examine my hand. "I cannot even tell if he yet remains or if he has found true death."

"Yes. Curious indeed. If you'll excuse me." I took another step and tugged on my hand again. "Please, Monsieur, release me," I said, not unaware of the irony of sounding like a nervous virgin in a bodice-ripper. That he made me sound like one made me long for the days when any pointed wooden object would relieve me of the burden of a vampire's company.

He didn't release me, of course. He just moved around the end of the railing and stood on the bottom-most step. Right next to me. He was starting to rub my emotions into a state even more raw than they'd been earlier. I didn't need this particular trauma on top of everything else.

Before I could say anything further, though, he said, "An open, untended claim such as yours is to a vampire much like catnip is to a cat. One wonders first why the human was claimed and second why the claim was abandoned."

Reluctantly, I asked, "What are you saying?"

He ran a gentle finger down the back of my right hand, tracing one of the surgical scars. "I am saying you are at risk, Rupert." He looked into my eyes with a disconcerting intensity, his pupils disappearing in the dim glow of the sodium lamps. I felt a slight tug on my mind, but nothing more. I wondered if my resistance had more to do with my emotional state than with any claim Angelus may have made. It was equally possible that my magic might have something to do with it. Or perhaps I was simply clutching at straws by imagining that I had any defenses against a vampire.

He continued with, "Not all visitors respect my position as master of the city. Should one of them meet you, it would be no difficult thing for them to take over that claim by force. To take over you."

At his words, I felt my stomach drop and my heart shift into my throat. "No. You're lying —" I was going to have to research what he was telling me, and I didn't relish resurrecting that particular cliche.

"I am not. You may ask Anita. She knows more about vampire politics and behavior than any human I've ever known. If you do not believe me, perhaps you will listen to her," he said with a faint smile playing around his lips. His eyes were back to normal. The bastard knew full well how I felt about his sodding ma petite, and here he was, telling me I should ask her for verification. On the other hand, she might be able to tell me why I was able to shrug off Jean-Claude's attempts to enthrall me. My frustration with him and the situation was increasing rapidly, and I could feel my jaw tighten in response.

I managed to say through clenched teeth, "What are you suggesting I do about the claim?"

"There's nothing you can do," he said, lifting my hand slightly. For a moment, I thought he was going to kiss it. In retrospect, I wish he had. It was a far better option than listening to what he said next.

"I, however, could help. For you, I am willing to take over the claim. You would no longer be vulnerable." It was lovely how he managed to make it sound like a burden he was willing to bear.

"I would be vulnerable to you. And in case it isn't quite clear, I have no desire to be a human servant," I said. I could hear the anger in my voice, and I felt magic starting to fill me. I would need to spend most of Sunday in meditation to regain my control. Strong emotions were never a good mix with strong magics.

"I already have one. I may not take another," he answered. "I can, however, claim a human without risk to his soul."

"And how, exactly, do you know that?" I had to focus on relaxing myself. If I didn't, all hell would break loose. Or, given the way my luck had been running in the last two weeks, I'd probably end up calling Buffy to me somehow. With Jean-Claude playing the aggressive suitor at the moment, I greatly preferred she remain with Donna Forrester.

"They were able to touch the cross. Holy water did not affect them," he answered. His mouth hovered over my knuckles, and I felt the faint puff of his exhalation.

"If they didn't have faith —" I hated my stammer, as I again reminded myself of a simpering virgin. Perhaps if I kicked him in the groin, I would —

"They had great faith, Rupert," he said in a low-voiced whisper. It reminded me nothing of faith and everything of the bedroom. He lifted my hand just a touch higher and paused.

His nose flared slightly, and I couldn't take it any longer. "Oh, for god's sake, Jean-Claude. Either lick it, kiss it or let it go, but do something with my hand other than sniff at it."

I startled him into laughing loudly, and he at last released me. "You are a very difficult man to seduce, mon cher," he said in a normal, though amused voice.

The laughter made him seem younger. Human. It added a sparkle of life to his eyes. I told myself, Don't go there, Ripper. Don't even think about it. It was bad enough that I was already calling him by his first name. I said, "I'll consider what you've told me. Good evening."

My hand once again mine alone, I headed up to the apartment. Halfway to my goal, I heard him say, "Do not think too long, Rupert. The danger to you is real, and it will soon get worse."

I turned to ask what he meant, but he'd already left.

Bloody wonderful.

~ fin ~




Author's Note: As always, my thanks to everyone who read this far, and my special thanks to those who responded with e-mails and reviews. ChinaRaven gets a round of applause for stepping in to beta for continuity and for making sure I got the Wiccan rites right.

If you're interested, I rewrote and reposted the last section of Part 6 to flesh out the evil Willow plot device.

The third story is in progress, and this time, it really will be a couple of weeks before I start posting it. The reason? I still haven't gotten around to reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Everyone else has, so it's my turn, now.

Thanks again,

Tara

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