Disclaimer: I own nothing. All Buffy the Vampire Slayer characters and Rawhide characters are the property of their original owners.
Author’s Note: Before the story begins, here’s a message to all smart-aleck Western historians and TV fans. I KNOW that the show was based around 1869 to a few years on, when the wagon train era had pretty much ended. Still, these journeys continued even into the 1890’s, when groups of people wanted to settle in remote areas where the railroads hadn’t yet reached. So, it’s entirely possible for Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates to have guided a wagon train, okay? Besides, this is the Buffyverse. Weirder things have happened, you must admit.
Sometime during the late afternoon, side by side, both men trotted their horses to the small grove that held the wagon train, a few days out from Independence, Missouri. Neither spoke to each other, as they’d already discussed the results of their scouting for the day earlier in their ride together, and also what was likely to happen in the coming days. Besides, Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates weren’t great talkers, anyway.
The casual reticence among each other continued, even when Rowdy swung his horse away from his friend, and headed towards a small group of covered wagons separated from the main cluster of wheeled vehicles further west. Gil just rolled his eyes, and blew out an exasperated sigh, that was mirrored by his horse’s snorting and then the turn of the animal’s neck to see its compatriot head off. Gil gave the reins the merest twitch to keep his mount moving straight on.
As he passed by the covered wagons, Gil approvingly eyed how they were situated, close enough for defense and for others to keep watch over their neighbors, but still far apart to permit a bit of privacy. People were making their campfires and preparing for the evening meal, keeping an eye on their children, and visiting each other. In some cases, they were joining with those working on their wagons, checking for any damage and making any needed repairs, and doing anything necessary to help endure a two-thousand-mile journey.
Gil nodded with satisfaction as he went on, tipping his hat to those women crossing his horse’s path. It seemed to be working out all right so far, his and Rowdy’s decision to pick up some money between trail drives by guiding a wagon train. It was their job to find out the best route, check it out, and warn the travelers of any dangers in their path, either natural or man-made. And, if necessary, help defend the band of immigrants making their way to their new homes further west.
Considering that neither he nor Rowdy would collect the other half of their pay until they got to their destination, Gil was fully determined that he’d get this wagon train to Sunnydale, California, come hell or high water.
At this moment, the guide was prepared to be cautiously optimistic. On his way to see the man who’d hired him and Rowdy, Gil saw more signs of a well-organized and equipped group of travelers, which made the grizzled cowboy even happier. Anything that made his job easier was just fine with Gil. It was going to be difficult enough to lead about a hundred people or so all the way west, without having to deal directly with everyone’s problems, which was the task of the wagonmaster, or captain.
Or, as Gil had in his mind dubbed that exact person, *Mr. Prissy-Pants.*
Still, even though Rupert Giles walked around looking as if he had a fencepost shoved up his ass, and talked to everyone in a voice that sounded like he had a whole potato lodged in his gullet, that man seemed to know what he was doing, which could make Gil put up with a lot, such as being bossed around by an over-educated, over-dressed limey.
Speaking of which, there was the man himself, standing beside by his own wagon, and talking with some kid whose name Gil didn’t know. It was still early days in their journey, and he hadn’t yet learned who everyone in the wagon train was, though Gil was sure that would change. Both talkers looked up at Gil’s approach, and as he stopped his horse and dismounted, tying the reins to a handy branch of a nearby tree, they finished their conversation.
“Okay, G-man, see you later.”
As Gil turned to face the pair, he saw a flash of irritation pass over Mr. Giles’ face, with that man taking off his little pair of glasses that didn’t have sidepieces, but rested directly on his nose. As the Englishman absently rubbed the lenses against his shirt, he glowered at the grinning young man in front of him, and frostily said, “Really, Xander, must you use that infernal nickname?”
“Oh, you betcha. Bye, Mr. Favor.” This was directed to Gil standing by, as this Zander fella turned to walk away from the older men, with a respectful nod also sent the cowboy’s way, as the teenager left. Gil just nodded back, unsurprised that his name was known. The wagon train would certainly remember who was guiding them. What did puzzle Gil was something that now produced the guide’s question.
“Why’d he call you that, Mr. Giles?”
A deep sigh came from the Englishman, who replaced his pince-nez. “Honestly, I have no idea.” He scowled after the departing boy now fifty feet away, clearly on his way to his own wagon, and continued, “I strongly suspect that it’s solely for his own amusement.”
“Oh,” shrugged Gil. Frowning, the man went on, “Zander? Is that his last name?”
“It’s short for Alexander,” Mr. Giles told Gil. “Alexander Harris, to be exact, though he insists on being exclusively called that shortened form of his name by everyone, including his traveling companions, Willow Rosenberg and Tara Maclay, two young women his own age.”
Gil felt his eyebrows rise to nearly touch his hairline over that information. “What, he’s a Mormon?”
Mr. Giles looked perplexed at that last question, until he suddenly flushed at realizing how it might seem strange over a pair of unmarried girls sharing a journey with a young man not a family member. Hastily correcting Gil’s misconstruing of the situation, the British native explained, “They seem to have pooled their resources to come with us. Those young ladies apparently brought their wagon and belongings, and Xander does the driving and other work. He, er, sleeps under the wagon at night, while the other two occupy the wagon, of course.”
Gil nodded in acceptance of this, though another question occurred to him. “They’re on their own? No other family with them?”
A slightly stiff expression appeared on the Englishman’s face. “I believe, though it was not discussed at any great length, that there were family….difficulties among all three of them. So they each decided to take their leave, and in the course of this, they joined together, and then decided to accompany us.” A gimlet look was then directed at the guide, as Mr. Giles coolly went on. “Whatever else is their own business, as seems to be the custom in this region.”
Gil felt the back of his neck flush, especially since the man knew he honestly deserved the rebuke from the other. A lot of people came to the West to get away from their previous lives, and it was considered extremely bad manners to ask these individuals personal questions about their pasts. Not to mention occasionally being fatal.
Fortunately, Mr. Giles went on in a more self-possessed manner, as if wishing to spare Gil from further embarrassment. “Anyway, I presume you’re here to make your report, Mr. Favor?”
The guide nodded with relief at now being able to discuss something less awkward. “Yup. You said something earlier this morning ’bout a map. I think you meant one for our route?”
“Quite,” happily said the Englishman, showing off his newfound enthusiasm by moving off with a brisk stride towards the back of his wagon, with Gil accompanying the other man. “I picked up some maps, journals, chronicles, and other material concerning the journey at our last stop, and even before that. I would like to compare your knowledge with these.”
“Huh. ’Course, you got to keep in mind just ’cause someone draws up a map or writes a book, it don’t mean they weren’t lying ’bout what they put down on it.” Gil dolefully shook his head, going on at Mr. Giles’ alarmed expression. “I seen some pure-dee tall tales on some of ’em, right there in black and white. Anybody follering those directions and advice, they’re gonna be in a world of trouble.”
The Britisher was looking rather pale right now, as he stopped in front of the back of his wagon. While Mr. Giles took hold of the canvas sheet handing down from the top of the rear roof made of more canvas stretched over frames, he glanced at the other man, and a very thoughtful comment was spoken, “I’m really glad you’re coming along with us, Mr. Favor.” At these words, the sheet was thrown back, revealing the contents of the covered wagon.
Gil wasn’t paying all that much attention to Mr. Giles’ words, since he was now gaping at a wagon stuffed with more books, volumes, tomes, and manuscripts than he’d ever seen in one place before. “You got a whole liberry in there!” exclaimed the American.
“What?” frowned Mr. Giles, looking up from tying back the sheet to the side of the wagon. That man shook his head in bemusement, telling the still-staring guide, “Oh, no, this is just what I could bring along from my collection, the most important and rarest volumes. All the rest was sold to finance my trek.”
“I’ll be damned….” mumbled Gil. As he watched the Englishman search through papers inside a wooden box at the bottom inside of the wagon, a glint abruptly appeared in the guide’s eye, as a sudden thought struck him. Here was a perfect chance to get back at the other man for making Gil feel uncomfortable just moments ago.
Clearing his throat, Gil casually said, as if to the air itself, “Y’know, I think we can find a real use for all that stuff you’ve got there, Mr. Giles.”
“Yes, indeed, knowledge is always to be treasured,” absently spoke Mr. Giles, continuing his hunt for the desired maps and other items.
“I was talking ’bout the paper itself. It all looks nice and thin, should crumple up easy, be real soft when used. The whole wagon train would be really grateful to you, havin’ all this stuff on hand, if every one of us has the bad luck to come down at the same time with the drizzling shits.”
Rupert Giles froze in his tracks, not believing what he’d just heard. Then, he whirled around, a horrified look on his face, while also desperately throwing out his arms to hold these limbs horizontally, as if to shield his entire archives from the rampaging crowd of colonial Vandals rushing in his direction, with their hands outstretched and grasping, as they all demanded that one of the finest collections of magic and the supernatural knowledge in existence be reduced to bum-fodder….
There was only Gil there, blandly looking at the Englishman.
“Ha. Ha. Quite amusing, I’m sure,” coldly replied Mr. Giles, now finally realizing he’d been had, dropping his arms, and giving the other man an evil glower in return. Abruptly turning back around to return to his task, the stiff back of the British native announced to the entire world the man’s true feelings over what had just taken place.
This meant he didn’t see the wide grin appear on the face of the wagon train’s guide, as Gil Favor now understood something that Xander kid must have earlier figured out.
It was really fun to tease this guy.