Giles stammers. On television, it's one thing. In a story, it's far too irritating to both type and read. When you read this, add whatever level of stammer you feel comfortable with. When his stammer is worse than usual, I'll let you know.
This is the third in a series of stories about Giles and Dawn in the Anita-verse. The series starts with The Key's Watcher 1: Help Wanted
and continues with The Key's Watcher 2: Birthday Girl
. Since this story refers back to events in the first two, I suggest you read both before starting on this.
Special thanks to ChinaRaven for her beta.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 the plot for this fic and a ferret with a plastic fetish. Guess who won't
be buying a new G5 this fall.Part 1Journal of Rupert Giles
September 27, 2004
Ms. Pearce stopped by this morning to discuss the case against Abigail. Fortunately, Ms. Blake allowed Nathaniel to come in for his shift, so we were able to speak in the back with very few interruptions.
After all that she's done, it seems that Abigail still isn't finished with me. Her latest ploy was to claim that she was carrying my child. Ms. Pearce was kind enough not to say anything until they determined whether or not she is, in fact, pregnant. She isn't, but it raises the question of whether or not to add rape to the list of charges.
Ms. Pearce told me that in an interview with her lawyer present, Abigail stated unequivocally that she'd used a combination of magic and potions to make me susceptible to suggestion and to erase my memory of the event. I don't know whether to be angry or relieved that I can't remember it, but I do know I feel unclean again.
I think I'll get in touch with Charlotte Jackson tomorrow. She and the others of her coven were most helpful in releasing me from the last of Abigail's spells, including two I hadn't located on my own. They may know of a way to restore my memory. I'm not sure why I want to recapture it, but I feel the need to verify what she told Ms. Pearce. As unstable as she's turning out to be, it wouldn't surprise me at all if she were lying.
Perhaps meditation will help me to find peace and to determine whether or not to press charges. I wish I could say I have no problem with the notion, but I was raised in an era in which the rape of a man by a woman was regarded as well nigh impossible. It's disturbing to find that my disinclination to press charges is informed by those early and erroneous attitudes.
October 22, 2004
Abigail's trial ended a week and a half ago with the expected verdict of guilty on all counts of assault by use of magic, rape by use of magic and attempted murder by use of magic. She was also convicted of poisoning me following her use of potions in the food she'd given me at the shop and those which she'd given me after abducting me.
I'd been depressed since hearing the verdict, because all counts carried a mandatory death sentence. She's scheduled to be executed in three weeks' time, and I haven't quite been able to bring myself to believe it is the appropriate social response to her actions.
I'd remained disconsolate until today, when I had a conversation with Nathaniel about increasing his hours. He was turning out to be a natural in the field of retail, and on top of that, he was drawing new customers. The members of his fan club — all of whom spend money whenever any of them arrive — were the reason I asked him earlier if he would be interested in working full-time. He was so transparently excited that it was enough to at last lift my own mood.
At four o'clock, I left him to close the store on his own so I could go and get the ingredients for a dinner to celebrate my return to feeling a bit closer to normal. By the time I returned from Straithern's, my mood had lifted somewhat further, and I was even starting to look forward to the Chamber of Commerce's Hunter's Ball the next evening. Standing at the stove two hours later, I was lost in the haze of a contented mood when I heard the door slam open.
"Dawn!" I'm fairly certain I matched her inflection perfectly.
"Now is not the time for mockery," she said, coming into the kitchen and setting her backpack on the floor next to the table.
"If not now, when? If not I, who?" I said. I was making yet another attempt to master jambalaya, and I scooped up a bit for Dawn to taste. She took a cautious sniff, then blew on it a bit before accepting the sample.
"Getting there. But don't distract me." She leaned against the counter next to the stove and said, "You have to talk to Buffy and get her to straighten out."
"Oh yes, because that always worked so well when she was alive. What's missing?" I frowned as I did a mental run-through of the ingredients I'd used.
"It needs more salt." She snagged a piece of green pepper that hadn't made it in and, unfortunately, she returned to her original topic. "I mean it. You have to talk to her. She's out of control."
"I hardly think that's the case," I said. I added salt with all the care a munitions expert took when building an explosive device. Too much would ruin it. Too little would earn me Dawn's blah face. "She's just a bit giddy is all. She hasn't any obligation to save the world these days, and she's enjoying her freedom."
"She told me this afternoon she was going to start haunting the Cardinals' locker room," Dawn said flatly.
I looked up at her, a bit puzzled, because I could have sworn — "The regular season is over, isn't it?" I wasn't a complete baseball fan, but I was starting to enjoy the game a bit — enough, at any rate, to have a reasonable estimation of when the games were played.
"Yuh-huh, but that is so
not the point. The point is she's turning into a peeping Buffy. And when I told her baseball season was over, she decided to haunt the Rams' locker room instead." Dawn snatched another piece of pepper and added, "I'm serious. You need to have a chat with your Chosen One about the way she's behaving."
"And again, I say, 'Oh yes, because that always worked so well when she was alive.'" When her glare intensified, I took a deep breath and said, "Fine. I'll have a chat with her, but I doubt it will do any good. She's a ghost, she knows she's a ghost, and she's determined to behave like a ghost."
"And you're going to maintain that attitude if I tell you she's been checking you out in the shower, right?" Her voice and face were quite innocent, but her question was formed from the purest evil.
The spoon flew out of my hand, hitting the wall before dropping to the floor. I bit back one of my more colorful phrases as I picked it up. When I faced Dawn again, I said, "She isn't!"
She just lifted her eyebrows then went to pick up her backpack. As she left the kitchen, she said in a quasi-soothing tone of voice, "If you want to believe that, you go right ahead."
I'd known Buffy was getting a bit wild, but I didn't think she'd go so far as to — and there was no way to confirm or deny Dawn's allegation, because she hadn't actually made an allegation. All she'd done was ask the one rhetorical question guaranteed to make me completely paranoid.
First things first. I turned down the heat on the jambalaya then went down to the shop to pick out a few things to ward the bathroom against ghostly visitors. And since Dawn was the one who decided to try to make my nightmares come to life, she could drop whatever it was she planned to do and help me. I went back upstairs, stomping a bit to express my displeasure. The jambalaya would be fine at a simmer, but I doubted my nerves would be.
"Dawn!" It wasn't a shout. It was a bellow. And it had the desired effect. She shot out of her bedroom and barely managed to stop herself just outside the bathroom.
"What? Where's the demon?" She looked around, somewhat panicked.
I glared at her and said, "Standing right in front of me. Go get the matches and candles. We have a ward to put up."
The look of outrage on her face was reward enough for me. And fifteen minutes later, I was as certain as I could be that the late Buffy Summers, late of Sunnydale, California, would not
be able to enter the bathroom without an express invitation. Unfortunately, my certainty was tempered by the knowledge that wards against ghosts were notoriously unreliable. I could only hope that the addition of a strand of Dawn's hair would make the ward effective against Buffy.
By the time we sat down to eat, I was reasonably calm once more and said, "I'll talk to Buffy, but as I said, it's unlikely I'll have any effect."
"Just try. It's bad enough that she's a ghost. She doesn't need to be a pervert on top of it," she said, just before taking a bite of the jambalya. "I think you got it right this time."
"Did I?" I took my own taste and found I agreed with her. The tastes and textures all worked together the way they were supposed to. "You do realize, don't you, that in the normal course of events, you would have no idea what Buffy was doing as a ghost?"
"Says the man who just spent — how long? — building a ward that probably won't even work," she answered darkly.
"That's different," I said. It was a weak response, because she had a point. I hated it when she held a mirror up to show me that I was in the wrong.
"Believe me, I'd be way happier being clueless about her activities than I am with her popping in every so often to tell me what she's been up to," she said with a frown and the outrage only an eighteen-year-old can muster.
I hadn't expected to laugh, but really, it was just too humorous. She scowled at me and said, "What?"
"I was just thinking that a parent's best revenge is grandchildren who turn their children's hair gray. Only in your case, it's a sister who's behaving as badly as you once did," I told her. I tried to take another bite, but I was starting to giggle too hard. It really was the perfect revenge, and I didn't even have to wait for grandchildren.
"Laugh it up, funny guy. I'm sure you can find someone else to take tomorrow night," she said. Threatened, actually.
"You wouldn't — Dawn, you promised you'd go with me," I said with a tinge of panic in my voice. I'd gone with Michelle last year, and we'd had an enjoyable evening of it. This year, following Abigail's trial, I simply wasn't up to facing my fellow business owners without someone at my side to help deflect the inevitable questions.
She stared at me for a long moment, then said, "Alright, I'm bluffing. I'll go. But no more jokes about Buffy's criminal tendencies."
"If she were alive, it would be a problem," I said. "As she isn't, there isn't much either of us can do other than attempt to appeal to her better nature."
"I know. I get it," she said staring down into her plate. She seemed far more upset than the situation warranted, and I wondered if perhaps something else might be going on.
"Hm?" She hadn't looked up. Not a good sign.
"If you'd rather not go with me tomorrow night, you don't have to. I'll understand if you and Brian might have something else you'd rather do," I said somewhat hesitantly. I hoped with all my heart that wasn't the issue — I most decidedly did not want to go to the Hunter's Ball on my own. But if Dawn had other things she might prefer to do, I wasn't going to hold her to this particular commitment.
She mumbled something, and I asked her to repeat herself. She looked up and said, "Brian and I broke up."
"What? When?" She certainly wasn't acting the way she had when she'd broken off with other boys. She seemed almost embarrassed.
"Last Thursday," she answered, looking guilty.
She had every reason to look guilty. She knew full well how hurt I would be that she hadn't told me immediately. It wasn't that I expected to know every single detail of her life, but I had
come to expect to hear about the major events. Breaking off a relationship, even one that was relatively new, definitely fell into that category. Still, she must have had what she thought was a good reason for not saying anything. I took a deep breath and tried not to sound terribly pathetic when I asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"
She rolled her eyes, but I had the impression she was rolling them at herself, not me. "Because I felt like a complete idiot — and you want to hear the whole story, don't you?"
"Only if you —" I couldn't choke out the lie. "Actually, yes, I want to hear the whole story."
"I'll tell you, but you have to swear on your honor that you won't hex him or call up a vengeance demon to do it for you," she said, staring me straight in the eye to let me know she was serious.
"I have no idea how to call up a vengeance demon, and even if I did, it would be useless, because I would want to handle it on my own," I said. I was already building up a good head of anger, given the fact that she'd felt the need to extract such a promise from me.
"Promise," she said. She wasn't allowing me to distract her, which wasn't a good sign.
I sighed to make sure she knew I felt greatly put upon, then scowled as I said, "I promise. Now what happened?"
"This is so stupid," she said, looking down again.
"Did he do
"No! Nothing like that. Chill, Dad. It's just — he had me fooled. He had both of us fooled, I guess." She was playing with her food, and I could see a faint blush rising on her cheeks.
"How do you mean, fooled?" I was getting more than a little concerned by now. Dawn had far too much confidence in herself to be stalling to this extent. The fact that she was evading the issue meant that Brian had somehow shaken that confidence, and I wanted very much to shake him. Unfortunately, she had already made me promise to do nothing to him.
"He tried to get me to go to that big tent revival tomorrow," she said as her blush deepened.
"A tent revival? Perhaps for a class project?" Foolish of me to hope there was a reasonable explanation, I know, but I was confused, and Dawn was being miserly with the details.
"No," she said on a deep sigh. "Not for school. For me. He wanted me to be 'saved'."
That made me blink. In fact, I blinked several times before saying, "But he knows we're Wiccan. We talked about it at dinner, and he said he had no problem dating outside his faith." I felt a bit stupid saying it, but I was having a hard time understanding how he could have imagined that Dawn would agree to going to a revival for any reason other than academic.
"He lied. He lied about it not being a problem, and he lied about why he wanted to date me," she said. Lord, but she sounded so sad and disgusted I was ready to break my word and go after him that moment. "He told me he wanted to save my soul — that it was part of some project his youth minister dreamed up."
"And to do that, he lied
," I said in an effort to ensure that I heard her correctly.
"Yeah. Apparently, it's okay to lie if you're trying to save someone from eternal damnation. At least, that's what his youth minister told him." I had promised to do nothing to Brian, but perhaps the youth minister might get a visit.
"And he thought you would actually —" I broke off when tears welling up in her eyes. I stood, then tugged on her arm until she, too, was standing. I pulled her in close, and with that, she was finally able to let loose a storm of weeping.