Part 8Journal of Rupert Giles
June 30, 2001
Dawn is asleep with her head in my lap, and I'm twisted around to make this journal entry without waking her. God knows, we both need the healing that only sleep can provide, but I can't rest until I put my thoughts down on paper.
If I had to rate this day on a scale of bad to worst, I would have to put it several miles beyond worst. I can't think when I've had a more horrendous day, but at the end of it, I believe it's for the best. That she trusts me enough to use me as a pillow is far more than I could have hoped for even an hour ago.
She's so innocent, and she needs so much from me — from the world. I swear I'll defend her with my life. I never want to go through this with her again. ~*~*~
October 24, 2004
After Jean-Claude's revelation, Anita and I spent another few hours interrogating him in the matter of my exact status within his "family". Though his logic seemed unassailable, I was quite reluctant to accept his theory. For one thing, he made it very apparent that as human servant to the triumvirate, I would be expected to participate more fully in his undead existence than would have been the case had I been a simple possession. The upside to this situation, of course, was that I would retain full control of my faculties. I no longer had to fear Jean-Claude shutting down my mind and using me as a puppet.
Be that as it may, I was troubled when I realized they were both withholding something from me. When I attempted to pin one of them down, the other would break in and redirect the subject. It was done so smoothly that I didn't notice what was happening until the fourth or fifth time I failed to get an answer. At that point, I gave up. They had no intention of sharing information with me, and I didn't know enough to know whether or not I should force the issue.
I did, however, know enough to realize that I'd survived the night with my most important secret intact. Jean-Claude was so bedazzled by my power, that he hadn't thought to ask how or why Dawn and I had ended up in this world. That being the case, I was more than willing to continue distracting him with the potential of my magic.
A discreet glance at my watch told me that sunrise would be in an hour or so, and I indicated my desire to go home. Jean-Claude didn't want me to leave his side, but a look from Anita stayed his objections. Instead, he told me to go to Circus of the Damned one half hour before sunset. Jason would be my guide to his private quarters. I started to protest, but Anita directed the same look at me. I began to understand why Jean-Claude deferred to her so often, and I agreed to be at Circus at the appointed time.
I was guided back to my car by the same vampire who had shown me to Jean-Claude's office. I wondered if he'd been outside the door the entire time but not enough to trouble myself to ask. On the way home, I pulled into an all-night service station to fill my car's tank with petrol and to make one other purchase. The brief detour meant I arrived home about twenty minutes before sunrise.
Of the two women guarding Dawn, Della was awake and sitting near the door, and Mary was sleeping on the couch. I wasn't thrilled about walking into my home to find a gun pointed at me, but I appreciated the fact that Della was on high alert. When she recognized me, she lowered her gun and gave me a sheepish look. The best I could manage in return was a very brief smile and the whispered comment that I appreciated her vigilance.
"I'm making coffee. Would you like a cup?" When she told me how she took it, I went into the kitchen to make it. Coffee wasn't normally my drink of choice in the morning, but given the way the night had gone, I wanted its bitter taste as a complement to my mood.
After taking a cup to Della, I took my own cup up to the roof to greet the sun. And to smoke one of the cigarettes I'd bought that morning. Dawn would be able to tell in a moment that I'd taken it up again, but at least she wouldn't have to deal with the smell in our home. Restricting my newly-reacquired habit to outdoor spaces would, I hoped, discourage me from smoking to an excessive degree.
I sat at the table and unknotted my bow tie at long last. I'd wanted to open my collar for the last five hours, but I didn't want anyone to think I was getting comfortable in Jean-Claude's presence. I was facing eastward, and though I couldn't see the sun crest the horizon because of the surrounding buildings, I surmised it had done so when I felt Jean-Claude's presence slip from my mind. It was a relief to know he wouldn't always be in residence.
I tamped down the box in order to pack the tobacco more tightly — an old habit learned from Deirdre. I had removed the cellophane and torn off the foil when I heard from behind, "Did someone slip you some band candy last night?"
It was Buffy — with a rather odd question. "What does band candy have to do with anything?"
"The last time I saw you with cigarettes, you were taking a trip down memory lane's wild side, courtesy of Ethan Rayne," she said, having moved in front of me. She'd made herself visible, and, if I wasn't mistaken, she was near enough to me to become at least somewhat solid.
I nodded at her words, remembering, then said, "Actually, I started smoking again shortly after we arrived here."
She raised her eyebrows at that and said, "Oh? Then why am I only just now seeing you with a pack in your hands?"
"Dawn took exception to my decision to start. My little rebellion against common sense lasted all of five days before she wore me down and I quit again," I answered, smiling a little at the memory. She had not been in the slightest bit understanding about my need to relieve stress with nicotine. I doubted she would be any more so now.
"Well, apparently you're also doing drugs if you think either one of us is going to sit back quietly and watch you kill yourself," she said, taking a swipe at the pack. She wasn't quite strong enough or solid enough to snatch it from me, so I calmly pulled out a cigarette and watched her fume as I lit up.
Nonsmokers will never understand just how comforting that first acrid bite of smoke can be when it hits the lungs. I drew it in slowly, not wanting to choke, and held the smoke in for a long moment before exhaling — away from Buffy — and taking another drag. I doubted I would be able to have more than the one cigarette, so I planned to enjoy as much of it as possible before Buffy regained sufficient solidity to make smoking impossible. I ignored a small voice that reminded me I would be fifty years old the next month, so perhaps I should stop behaving like a teenager with an imaginary point to prove.
She glared at me before sitting on the table and saying in a conversational tone, "Did you know that ghosts gossip more than any other thing on this planet?"
I was too lost in the pleasure of the cigarette to pay any attention at first. When her words finally sank in, I frowned before asking, "What's that to do with anything?"
"Glad you asked," she said with a sunshine-up-your-arse grin. Lord, I hated that smile. It usually preceded a migraine-inducing statement. "The biggest news last night was that the master of the city managed to snag himself one hell of a powerful sorcerer."
Damn. I took a long, slow, deep drag of my cigarette and felt the chemicals hit my blood like a minor explosion. I enjoyed the minor high whilst I could.
"So imagine my surprise when I found out who Jean-Claude's newest acquisition was," she continued in the same gossipy tone of voice. She waited for me to say something, but I didn't feel like talking at the moment. Instead, I watched the smoke curl up from the lit end of the cigarette and form random patterns in the slight morning breeze.
I held out longer than she did, though I took no joy in winning that particular round. "Why did you do something so incredibly stupid? What's Dawn going to say when she finds out?"
I ignored her first question and answered the second by saying, "Most likely, she'll say, 'Good,' and then she'll challenge me to a round of Grand Theft Auto — which she'll lose, by the way. She just doesn't have the right instincts to run over pedestrians milling around an intersection. Pity."
"Grand Theft Auto? You two play video games together?" Her voice was rising with each question, and the last was quite shrill. "How come you never played video games with me?"
"Aside from the fact that neither you nor I owned a gaming machine?" I was quite willing to nurture her pique over the situation, as long as it kept her from the dangerous topic of Jean-Claude. I admit I was surprised at how easily I'd sent her scampering down another path, but thought perhaps now that she was a ghost, her ability to focus was no longer quite as strong as it once was.
"Fine. Bring logic into the discussion. And while you're at it, bring in an explanation for last night's stupidity," she said with a rather significant pout.
I sighed, wishing I could have diverted her. I wasn't entirely certain I wanted to talk to anyone about it, let alone my dead Slayer. Too, I wasn't comforted by the knowledge that dead men and women do
Her expression acquired a seriousness I hadn't seen for some time, and she said in a quieter tone, "Come on, Giles. Spill. How could you and Dawn possibly think this was a good thing?"
"I don't believe this is a good thing, actually," I said, finding my voice at last. "But I prefer that Dawn continue to believe that my — association — with Jean-Claude is a cause for relief, not anxiety."
"In other words, don't upset her. I get it," she said impatiently.
"That's it precisely," I said, suddenly realizing I had another opportunity to derail her train of thought. "For instance, at the moment, she's under the impression that you've become a spectral voyeuse
She interrupted with, "A spectral whozzits?"
"In Dawn's words, a 'peeping Buffy'. You wouldn't happen to know how she came to believe that, would you?"
She put on an air of completely insincere innocence and said, "I have no idea how Dawn's brain works. You know her better than I do these days — why not ask her?"
"I don't have to ask. She said you told her which locations you were planning to haunt," I said, taking another long drag and expelling it out of the corner of my mouth. Odd, how the old habits persist. Technically, Buffy was a coherent paranormal illusion of sorts, but I still refused to blow smoke in her direction.
"Alright — I may
have suggested that looking at naked athletes wouldn't fall into the realm of the bad, but that doesn't mean you're getting out of answering my question," she said, waiting expectantly.
I had one last card up my sleeve, and I played it for all it was worth. "Might you also have implied that you were watching me as I shower?" I glared at her over the top of my glasses, and my heart very nearly stopped when I saw her chin drop to her chest and a look of guilt cross her face. Bloody hell. I leaned forward as I cried out, "Buffy!"
She looked up with a sudden grin and said, "Gotcha! Now. Enough with the stall tactics. Start talking." Ghost or not, I very nearly tried to wrap my hands around her throat so I could throttle her.
"Have you considered that I might not wish to discuss this with you?" It was a last ditch effort to appeal to her sense of avoidance. I should have known it was doomed.
"Believe me, I get that you don't want to talk to me about it, but that doesn't get you off the hook. This was a bad move, no matter what the reason —"
"Angelus," I said softly, breaking into her incipient rant.
I stubbed out my first cigarette in a saucer I'd brought up as a makeshift ashtray. I briefly considered waiting for the second, but it was no contest. This particular addiction fit like a pair of well-worn slippers, and I lit up without another thought as I waited for her to consider the implications of what I'd just said.
After several minutes, she hesitantly said, "You never did tell me what he did to you."
"And I have no intention of doing so now. Suffice it to say that certain of his actions that night left me vulnerable," I said slowly, to prevent my stammer from worsening.
"If Dawn knew how bad this is for you —"
"She's aware that Angelus tortured me," I broke in. "But you are not to try to make her feel guilty for supporting a course of action that ensures her safety."
She looked as though she were about to argue the point, but I continued, "What's done is done, Buffy. This particular decision is irreversible, and I don't see any need to flog it to a bloody pulp. The important thing is that Dawn is safe."
"She wouldn't want you to pay this price for her safety," she said. So much for thinking she might start listening to me at this late date.
"She might not, but I would. You don't understand how important it is to me to ensure that she leads a happy, normal life," I said, taking a drag from my half-forgotten cigarette before stubbing it out. "Granted, at least some of my obsession is overcompensation brought on by arguing for her death —"
Buffy broke in with, "But she doesn't know about that!"
"She's not stupid — she confronted me not long after we found ourselves here. She asked if we had considered killing her before Glory was able to open the portal," I said. Buffy looked horrified, and I hastened to reassure her, "We worked through it and made our peace with one another. Granted, it wasn't the most pleasant conversation either of us has ever had, but it cleared the air and allowed us to move forward."
Buffy, who still looked shocked, said, "I can't believe you told her."
"Her question was unexpected," I acknowledged. "I hadn't planned on discussing it with her at all, but you must believe me when I tell you that in hindsight, talking about the situation with Glory was the best thing we could have done."
"So you'll tell her about wanting her dead, but not about what you did to keep her alive," Buffy answered. She was worse than a terrier at a rat hole.
"It's irrelevant." I was reluctant to admit to blame in the matter, but I wanted her to understand how this came to be. I said, "I was warned that there was a problem, but rather than dealing with it, I chose to ignore it. What happened last night is as much my fault as Angelus'. Jean-Claude chose to take the opportunity that was presented to him by my inaction."
"You could kill him — your magic is strong enough," she said, grasping for a different solution.
"To what end? Even were I to survive killing him — and I'm not entirely certain I would at this point — I would be just as vulnerable to the next vampire who came along. And that's assuming I'm not automatically marked for death." I could see how frustrated she was, but she needed to take a pragmatic look at the situation. I reminded her, "The first rule is 'don't die.' Would you have me give up my life and Dawn's?"
We sat looking at each other for quite a long time before she finally asked, "How are you gonna be able to live with your decision?"
"The same way I live with all my decisions — one moment at a time. Come, now, Buffy, it isn't all that bad," I said, as much to convince her as to convince myself. "I have a great deal of autonomy, and it isn't as if I'll become Jean-Claude's puppet. I won't be expected to live in his pocket, so I'll have a life quite separate from my obligations to him."
"I've heard stories about him," she said, stammering slightly. "He — what if he wants — other stuff from you?"
I knew what she was trying to ask, but I had no intention of answering that question — not if she couldn't bring herself to say it out loud. I played dumb and said, "What are you talking about?"
"I —" Her mouth worked a few times as she attempted to form the words, but in the end, she said, "Nothing. Never mind." I was pleased that at least some things hadn't changed; Buffy was still incapable of thinking about me and sex in the same context.
I was starting to relax at long last when another thought drifted up into my consciousness. I said, "Buffy, have you yet considered attempting a deliberate haunting with all the trappings?"
"There's a certain youth minister who desperately needs to examine his conscience. Interested?"
~ fin ~Author's Note: Hunter's Moon
is actually a two-part story, because the time has come to move Giles' relationship with Jean-Claude out of The Key's Watcher (prime-time network series) and into Dark Haven (after-hours cable series — for adults only). The two series will run concurrently, and it won't be necessary to read both to keep track of what's going on, as there will be brief mentions in each to keep readers up-to-date.
The spin-off is happening for two reasons. The first is that I want to keep The Key's Watcher stories in the PG-13 range. However, I also want to do a more complete crossover with the Anita-verse, which means writing stories in the NC-17 range. Dark Haven will allow me do that. The second reason is that not everyone is comfortable reading slash. Because I'll be keeping the Giles/Jean-Claude pairing in Dark Haven (with only passing references to the relationship in The Key's Watcher), readers can choose to ignore the stories if they don't like slash.
Dark Haven starts in a few days at my Web site and at Twisting the Hellmouth. Part two of Hunter's Moon
will focus on Giles' introduction to vampiric politics and society in the Anita-verse.
August 25, 2003