This is a nearly canonical story I wrote in the summer of 2001; I made one mistake in continuity by forgetting that Lorne landed first in what became the location of Caritas. I was also Jossed; I didn't realize that Fred would start the next season insane.
BtVS and Angel are properties of Mutant Enemy Inc. and Joss Whedon.---
My ears were burning; Grifxa the N!Wan demon had just massacred “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and then I had to tell him that there wasn't enough love in his relationship for that to work. Anyhow, couldn't he have found anything better than The Captain and Tennile? Oh well, most people don't come to Caritas to show off their good taste. Still, occasionally this job has its good points. Not today, though.
Then, I noticed the newcomer. He looked human, but that doesn't always mean much. I've known some shapeshifters that could—well, I shouldn't go there. And then, there are the former humans. The temperature-challenged, you know. The beings really in need of a V-Chip. Hey—I heard that someone actually invented one; the grapevine, you know. Oh, I can name one or two of them I can stand, but not many. Still, I'm an equal opportunity bartender and psychic. You come in, you pay your money, you drink your drink, you sing, and I tell you some secrets. Kapish?
He walked in front of a mirror and passed the reflection test: no Really Bloody Marys tonight. He sat down at a table, set his guitar next to him, and then I noticed the Gnarg at the next table chug his drink, throw some bills on the table, and rush out. Ooo-kay. What's up here? Gnargs are about eight feet tall, 400 pounds, scared of nothing, and B'bob runs out like he saw his ex-wife.
We don't get many humans here anyway. We're not in the phone book, and the demon clientele tend not to talk with humans. Eat them, maybe, but not talk with them. Oh, sometimes a college student comes in on a dare. Sometimes a tourist wanders in; they usually think it's the DTs. Sometimes an exec at ConMagCo wants to know if he'll be promoted. Sometimes one of those lunatics from Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe—I mean W&H—wants to know if she'll be demoted. I always hope so.
In fact, we only have 4 human regulars now, and that's a bizarre story. But without them, I'd be a head shorter than I am now.
Then, I look at him. Don't humans have better fashion sense than that? Grey tweed, in July? In LA? Who'd be that stupid? What an atrocity. What an offense against common sense. I mean, even Wesley has given tweed up. Now, there couldn't be two Englishmen in Southern California who'd be comfortable walking into a demon bar, could there?
Oops. There could. Ah, shoot. And I thought that Broody was hard to deal with this last month. I know very little of what happened, but I can guess just how devastated this guy is. To think that you've won, that you're safe, that the woman you love as a daughter is safe, and then to have everything taken away because another demon decided to be whimsical—he must be burning up inside. Well, that's why he's here. I should have known he'd show up.
I pick up a bottle of Glenlivet and a couple of glasses, and I walk over to his table. “Welcome to Caritas.” He nods. I pour a couple of drinks and hand one to him. “Go ahead. First one's on the house.”
He takes the drink and stares at it a moment, as if he's forgotten what you do with a drink. Then he offers the toast, “To lost heroes.” I nod, and he knocks the drink back as if it were fake beer. I'll have to check him before he leaves—maybe call him a cab. I usually don't have to worry about that; my customers tend not to have driver's licenses.
I sip my drink and sit down across the table from him. I can tell he's in no mood for jokes, so I simply say, “I am very sorry for your loss, sir.”
“Thank you. I'm—”
I stop him. “I know. It's fairly obvious. Please, no names. Some of my other customers might find yours somewhat disturbing.”
“Ah. They would not appreciate my presence here?”
“No, they would. They just wouldn't like it. You and your colleagues have a reputation. I, on the other hand, wish to welcome you here.”
“So, tell me. How do you feel?”
“I failed her. I failed her. It was my responsibility—”
“Bubbie, I asked you how you feel. Not about the mistakes you think you made. It helps if I know what you're thinking; I'm reading your destiny, not your past.”
He stopped dead. I was probably the first person to ask him that question in that way. When he started talking again it felt as though he'd just escaped drowning. “I feel useless. I'm a Watcher with no one to watch. I walk the streets of Sunnydale, and I think I should be seeing her dancing, full of life, or hearing that teasing voice again. Everything reminds me of her, and I find it hard to face the memory. The others just don't understand.”
“Mourning is personal; we all do it in our own way. Of course they don't understand. And you don't know what Willow feels, or Dawn, or Xander, or even Spike.”
He glared at me when I said the last, but he couldn't hold it for long.
“The question for you is where you go from here, and right now that's about fifteen feet in front of you. Have you decided what you want to sing? Clapton, the Beatles, the Stones, or perhaps the Who?”
“Actually, I'd like to play a song by Mark Knopfler.”
“Well, your straits are dire, and you are the local hero, but if you as much as mention MTV, I will be forced to expel you from these premises.”
“I have some taste. But I'd give nearly anything to have her back, training to that dance music.”
He got up and walked toward the stage; I had to stop him. “How should I introduce you?” “Call me 'Ripper.'”
We walk there together, and I introduce him. He sits down, and starts singing very softly. He's actually very good, though he really should sing louder.
These mist covered mountains,
Are a home now for me.
But my home is the lowlands,
And always will be.
Some day you'll return to,
Your valleys and your farms.
And you'll no longer burn,
To be brothers in arms.
I'm a bartender, first and foremost. I may have my powers, my flashes of insight, but I really don't need any today. I know exactly what he feels, and what he must do. I just hope his destiny will allow it.
Through these fields of destruction,
Baptism of fire,
I've watched all your suffering,
As the battles raged higher.
And though they did hurt me so bad,
In the fear and alarm,
You did not desert me,
My brothers in arms.
I've started to get flashes of his past. I see what must be his first meeting with his Slayer. I see Buffy punching him in the jaw before heading off to die. I see him and Willow searching through his library. I see him with a gangly teenage boy at a zoo. I see him visiting Princess at the hospital. I see him holding a bouquet of flowers about to hand them to a date; he's nervous. I see him looking upon—no, that's too horrible. I see him marching toward a mansion, intending to fight and to die, and Buffy stopping him.
There's so many different worlds,
So many different suns.
And we have just one world,
But we live in different ones.
I begin to see earlier parts of his life. I see him, much younger, part of a group ritual. I see him packing a bag and leaving a dormitory in the middle of the night. I see him arguing with his father, and I see him facing judgement by a group of old men. Then, the images shift; I see him looking at newspaper records in despair, and I see him staring at an empty whiskey bottle. Bad whiskey—I don't think he cared much.
Now the sun's gone to hell,
And the moon's riding high.
Let me bid you farewell,
Every man has to die.
But it's written in the starlight,
And every line on your palm,
We're fools to make war,
On our brothers in arms.
The theme is clear; I'm seeing him with Buffy, they spar, they fight monsters, they argue, spar, fight, and mourn.
The song is over, and three images appear in my head. One is of Giles and a man his age; the impression I get of the man is of wickedness. Another is of him sitting in a darkened room, drinking his life away. Finally, I see him sitting in a garden, overlooking a pasture; he seems to be at peace.
“That was Brothers in Arms, written by Mark Knopfler and originally sung by Dire Straits. Let's hear it for the Ripper!” He gets some cheers, but not many; this isn't the right crowd for that song.
“That song must have a special meaning to you.”
“It does. They never deserted me, you know.”
“What I see in you, my friend, is weariness. You've been tested nearly to destruction many times, and the marks are on you. It's like metal fatigue; you've been bent enough that you're almost ready to break.”
“Is that my destiny, or is that just a general idea?”
“It's where you are now. I see three possible futures for you; you're going to have a choice, and I hope you are wise enough to choose the right one.”
“And these futures are?”
“Do you know a man your age, someone truly wicked?”
“I see you meeting him again; I'm guessing that the wickedness is contagious.”
“Ah, but for the wicked, everyone is an enemy, but they know where they stand.”
“I see another future—you're sitting at home. How much have you been drinking? You seem like you're somebody's steady customer. It looks grim.”
“I've had my dark days. This has been worse than them all.”
“I finally see you sitting in a landscaped garden. You're at peace, or at least you're learning to be at peace.”
“An English garden?” I nod. “I can't go back. Somebody has to stay and fight the Hellmouth. I have a responsibility.”
“Rupert, Rupert, old chap. Do you know why I emigrated to this wonderful world? It's because I had a responsibility. It was to fight people, to kill, and probably to die. I rejected it; I ran away from it. I ended up here; I stepped through a portal by accident and ended up on Venice Beach. At noon. On July fourth.”
“You must have fit right in.”
“I did. And then I heard someone singing, and I discovered my Gift. Gifts come with responsibilities, as you know, and as she knew. But there are true responsibilities and false ones.” He nods. “Listen, Rupert. This is important. Responsibilities are not always what you think they are. What is the final responsibility of an old football forward?”
“To train his replacement.”
“Exactly. And, though you don't realize it, you've done that. Your colleagues, collectively, know what to do. You've taught them well. It's time for you to be selfish. Take the time to heal, Rupert.”
He looked at me, still dubious. Well, he'll think about it. I pray he'll do the right thing. Suddenly, we hear someone barging through the front door. We turn toward the door—it's Fred, and she's out of breath.
I wave her over here, and she says, “Cordelia had a vision; a big brute of a thing is going to shoot at one of your customers as he leaves. She has no idea who; she didn't get a look at the face.”
“Parking. I jumped out the car and almost rolled down the stairs; she's worried that somebody might be shot going in.”
“A brute? Eight feet tall, or thereabouts?”
“She didn't measure it. It seemed big.”
I turn toward Rupert. “It must be B'bob. He took one look at you; hate at first sight. Gnargs aren't known for self-control. But, why would he want to kill you?”
Rupert says, “Well, we have to have a plan. Is there a back way? What can we do to hurt a Gnarg?”
“Mon frere, pardonnez-moi. Do you always have to think of fighting? Demons have motivations and relationships, just like you humans do.” I get up and get my cell phone from behind the bar, and I dial a local number.
“Hello, is this the lovely Plurdarta?”
“Lorne, you fidxgra! Gifnag zim ahkle moch.”
“Plu, Plu. You know I'm not good at your language. Why don't you speak English? When in California, do as the Californians do.” I pause ten seconds for effect. “It's about B'bob.”
She pauses ten seconds too. “What about B'bob?”
“It seems that he's going to try to kill one of my customers, and I don't appreciate that sort of thing.”
“What should I care? I hope that he kills them all, starting with that tramp Kixkata Glomfe.”
“Plu, do you really want to deal with the LAPD? They'll certainly want to talk with you; that probably isn't a good idea.”
“All right. Who does he want to kill?”
“A Rupert Giles.”
I put my phone down as her curses scorch through the line. She's ridiculously loud, in a rare fury. My other customers turn toward us for a moment, then turn back to their drinks.
“Plu, Plu dear. I guess you know the man. So, what's the beef?”
“That bastard and his bitch killed my brood-mate and one of B'bob's cousins last year.”
Suddenly, Rupert grabs the phone from my hands and shouts into it, “One more word from you about Buffy Summers and I'll hunt you down like a dog!” Oh-oh. That tore it. I'm pretty sure none of this crowd ever met the Slayer, but demons don't like humans that kill demons. I mean, most demons dislike vampires, but they still prefer them to humans. And some of this crowd must have been here when the Slayer burned down her first high school.
On the other hand, any demon who goes to get power from the Hellmouth deserves to lose a few body parts. It is the humans' world after all; I'm just an immigrant.
I sign toward Brizzle, and he starts ladling out the drinks. As the joke goes, I lose money on every transaction, but I make up for it in volume. “Hey! This is a peaceful bar. Live and let live, okay! ‘Why can't we be friends?’ Don't make me have to throw any of you out.” I grab the phone from Rupert.
“Plu, and why were they in Sunnydale in the first place?” She's silent for a moment. “Right.”
“So, why should I care whether B'bob goes after Giles or not?”
“Because I like the man. Because if he actually succeeds, my bar won't be safe any more. And if he succeeds, Giles' friends are perfectly capable of giving him a fate worse than death.” I pause for a few seconds, and then I hit her. “And what happens to your alimony then?”
“Alright. I'll get him out of there. Ten minutes. Miznahg blik nutta.” I don't bother translating that last curse. She hangs up the phone with a crash. I tell Rupert, “Sometimes you have to have the strength not to fight.”
“Dylan, right?” Gosh, the man has taste. I get up for a bit, as Fred takes my seat. It's time for me to go counsel Pip. He's a Maxwell's Demon, and the energy crisis is running him ragged. Basically, I tell him to keep his cool.
A few minutes later, Plu walks in with B'bob. Both are grumbling as I meet them at the door. Plu says, “Here. Satisfied?” as she hands me a rifle case. “Not yet. Why don't the two of you shake hands with my friend here.” They glare at me. “Do you ever want to come back here?”
We walk over to Rupert's table, and they dutifully shake his hand. No games. They then rush out; I can hear Plu start to scream after they pass through the door. They turn the corner, I wait ten seconds, and then Princess comes in.
“Who were they?”
“The shooter, and his ex-wife.” She looks confused, and then she laughs. “Who was he going to kill?” I point.
“I believe I am in your debt, Miss Chase.”
“Giles.” She looks for a moment like she wants to cry, but she firms up, goes to Rupert, and squeezes his arm. They talk softly for a couple of minutes—not my job to listen, and then the three of them head to the door. “Thanks, Lorne.” “Yeah.” “Thank you for your help.”
I call back, “Just think about what I said.” They leave, and the bar slowly returns to normal. Just another day at Caritas, the best demon bar in town.
Brothers in Arms is copyright © 1984–1985 by Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits.