Disclaimer in Chapter One
London, three months later.
The traffic along the Strand was as busy as might be expected for a wet Sunday afternoon. Most of the passers-by were hurrying, huddling under their umbrellas as they made their way to theatre lobbies for the matinee performances. The exception was the four figures that were strolling along the road, sharing three umbrellas between them. There were two young women in their late teens sheltering under a dark red one, a gawky looking young man with one hand clinging to the handle of one decorated with beefeaters while he balanced a guidebook in the other, and a tall, distinguished looking gentleman who carried his black silk umbrella with abstracted dignity, his mind obviously on other things.
"Hey, get this," the young man was saying, catching up with the two young women. "The road in front of the hotel? This says it’s the only road in Britain where it’s required by law to drive on the right hand side of the road. That’s so that – "
"-patrons of the theatre could step straight from their carriages into the theatre lobby," the older man interjected, reaching to pluck the book from the young man’s fingers. "All of which is unquestionably fascinating, but hardly relevant to the matter in hand. There is a time and place for research, Andrew. This
isn’t it. Do pay attention."
"Sorry, Mr Giles." The young man did his best to look contrite and the young women giggled at his expression.
"Yes, well." Giles sighed. "Let’s get on with this, shall we?"
He led the way down the road and turned into the side road in front of the hotel, sparing only a short glance for the theatre entrance as they passed it. The smile that touched his lips lasted a little longer, although he was all business again by the time they reached the hotel steps and the welcoming nod of the top-hatted doorman.
"You go ahead and order tea," Giles advised, pausing to shake some of the excess moisture from his umbrella. "I won’t be long."
The young women giggled again as the doorman stepped up to push open the door for them. Andrew followed them in, trying hard not to gawp.
"We’re here to collect a friend," Giles informed the attentive doorman. "I’m afraid he’s rather elderly, so there’ll be a private ambulance arriving shortly. Can you make sure it has space to park?"
"Of course, sir." The doorman tipped his hat, smoothly accepting the note that he was offered and pocketing it with a practiced hand. "Anything else I can do for you?"
"Not right now, thank you." Giles tucked his now furled umbrella under his arm and strolled into the hotel, that small smile resurfacing on his face as he took in the sight that awaited him.
The lobby and the dining areas were just as he remembered, and he made his way across to where Andrew and the girls had settled themselves, no doubt feeling very important and privileged as they ordered afternoon tea from an attentive waiter.
"Can we have cake?" the younger of the two Slayers asked as the Head of the new Watcher’s Council stepped up to join them.
"You can – and you may," Giles answered, peeling himself out of his Burberry coat and handing it – and the umbrella – to another of the attentive hotel staff. "A slice apiece, I suggest. Make mine a pot of Earl Grey, will you? And – um – crumpets. With lots of butter."
The waiter smiled as he added the request to the order. "Anything else, sir?"
The Watcher hesitated, giving the older of the two girls a chance to tug at his jacket. "Fig Newtons, Mr Giles?" she asked, her crisp English accent a sharp contrast to the other girl’s American twang. Giles smiled.
"Yes, of course. Can you provide fig biscuits?" he enquired of the waiter. "Our guest is … said to be very fond of them."
The waiter looked a little worried. "I don’t know, sir. But I’ll ask."
"Thank you." Giles casually perched himself on the arm of Andrew’s chair, watching while the waiter weaved his way back to the kitchens with their order.
"This is so cool
," Andrew declared, making himself comfortable in the over stuffed chair. "Tea at the Savoy. Dawn is going to be so
"I doubt it," Giles observed dryly, glancing round the room to assess who else was having tea among the art deco decorations. "I treated Buffy and Dawn to dinner at the Ritz, the night before they left for Paris. Dawn’s idea," he added distractedly, frowning at the somewhat noisy group of tourists who’d just arrived. "I did tell her there were far better places to dine in London, but … Ah!" He’d spotted what he was looking for, although it was unlikely anyone else had; the ginger cat that had stepped out of a mirror behind the potted palm had stepped back again almost immediately. "I’ll be right back."
"Be careful," the younger Slayer advised and he threw her a patient, if slightly pained, look.
"I don’t know why I should," he muttered, climbing back to his feet. "You lot never are …"
"That’s because there are so many of us," the older girl smiled. "You have
to be careful. There’s only one of you. That makes you irreplaceable. "
He snorted, expressing disbelief at the sentiment while being deeply touched by it; there were days when he suspected that most of the new Slayers that Willow’s spell had awakened saw him only as some kind of outdated and ineffectual figurehead – a symbol rather than a useful contribution to their cause. It wasn’t true, of course, and he was used to being taken for granted most of the time, but it was nice to occasionally have his place in the scheme of things affirmed by something other than one of Buffy’s interminable speeches.
Much as he loved to listen to her make them.
"Back in a moment," he promised, making his way across to the far side of the room. Once there he reached to push open the polished wooden door with the discrete male figure painted on it, and heaved a small sigh of relief on finding that there was nobody using the facilities behind it.He’s ready,
a soft voice announced from down by his feet. The small ginger tom padded over to weave its way round his legs in greeting, and Giles suppressed a momentary wince. He’d come to love the Walkers dearly, but it was taking a lot longer to get used to living with cat hair decorating his clothing.
"Good. Hopefully this won’t take long." He gestured towards the floor length mirror inset beside the urinals. "After you."
The young tomcat flicked its tail and stalked into the glass, vanishing into its silvered depths.
A moment later, the Watcher stepped up to the mirror – and followed him.
"You think he’s all right in there?" Melanie asked anxiously, fiddling with her slice of cake and trying hard not to stare at the toilet door.
"He’d better be," Helen muttered, doing much the same. Melanie threw her a sympathetic look, knowing how proud she was of the position she’d been assigned and how seriously she took her duties. Melanie took them pretty seriously too, even if she wasn’t on the regular roster. Buffy Summers’ induction lecture had been very clear about that aspect of their responsibilities. Whenever a Slayer was acting as official bodyguard to the Head of the Council, she became the one who’d be held to account if anything happened to him. Whether it was her fault or not.
"Just relax," Andrew advised breezily. "He’ll come back. He always does. I mean – it’s not as if either of you could follow him in there, is it?"
"No," Helen acknowledged sulkily. "But it’s been fifteen minutes. His tea’s getting cold."
"Twelve and a half," the self styled Watcher-Apprentice corrected, pulling out his pocket watch to check. "And the waiter only delivered our order seven minutes ago, so it’s hardly likely that the tea pot would have lost sufficient heat to cause concern. Of course," he added a little more worriedly, "it will still be brewing, so it might be getting a little strong …"
Helen rolled her eyes and Melanie stifled a giggle. They both knew – all
the newly recruited Slayers knew – that Andrew had been in the final battle with the First, and that he’d adopted Mr Giles as his role model with a fervour that the man concerned despaired of from time to time, but that didn’t stop him from acting like an idiot on regular occasions.
"Mr Giles likes
it strong," Melanie pointed out, reaching to pour herself a second cup. "Oh, gosh.
The teapot halted in mid-air, the action of pouring forgotten in an instant. She stared across the room instead, her eyes wide and her breath caught in her throat.
The Head of the Council had finally re-emerged from behind the toilet door, still looking as smart and business like as he had been when he’d left – but he wasn’t alone. There was a man clinging to his arm, seemingly holding onto him for dear life.
A very old
"Gosh," Andrew echoed, his own eyes going wide as he registered the Watcher’s company. Geoffrey Davenport looked as withered and as ancient as Yoda himself, with little more than wisps of hair clinging to his skull and his body thin to the point of emaciation. He was wearing a pale grey suit, a plain white shirt – and a pair of dark green velvet carpet slippers. "He looks just like Grand Moff Tarkin."
"So he does," Helen blinked, then recovered herself with a effort. "So call up the evacuation shuttle, already. That guy needs
an ambulance to go home in."
"Ah – right." Andrew scrabbled in his pockets for his mobile phone, pulling it out and hitting the speed dial so that he could call in the support team. Melanie was already on her feet, her heart beating a little wildly as she stepped across to offer the old man her support from the other side. She’d spent days
preparing herself for this, and it had still taken her by surprise. The gesture earned her bemused look from the old man and a perceptively grateful glance from his solicitous escort.
"Gently, Geoffrey," Giles was saying, guiding him to the empty chair on Andrew’s left. "No need to hurry. Just take it one step at a time."
"I will, my boy." Coming from anyone else that would have sounded rudely presumptuous and extremely disrespectful – but the man was so old, and the smile he wore so bright, that it seemed an entirely natural thing to say. Melanie tried to smother a grin. Never, ever
, in her entire lifetime had she imagined hearing the Head of the Watcher’s Council addressed as ‘boy’.
Nor to see him smile quite so warmly when it happened.
True, Rupert Giles didn’t exactly fit the mold when compared to previous Heads of the Council and he certainly wasn’t as old as most of them seemed to have been, but even so … she let the grin surface, imagining her grandfather’s reaction to the moment, had he still been alive to witness it. He’d have been totally outraged.
Her grandmother, on the other hand…
"There you go." Giles helped her lower the old man into the support of the chair where he relaxed with a look of relief. "That wasn’t so bad, was it?"
"That," Geoffrey Davenport announced with feeling, "was ab-so-lutely bloody brilliant. Oh." He suddenly seemed to realise he was in company. "Please – ladies. Excuse my language."
Helen giggled at his expression. "We’re not ladies," she denied, amused at his embarrassment. "We’re Slayers."
Davenport’s eyes went very
wide. Melanie winced and Giles frowned. "Helen," he growled softly, as much as rebuke as it was warning. She went a little pale.
"Oops," she offered apologetically, along with a wary half smile. Much to her – and Melanie’s – relief, it was returned with weary indulgence.
"Oops, indeed." The words were wry, and the small shake of his head spoke volumes. "Fortunately there’s no harm done, since Geoffrey is a member of the order, but – for future reference …?"
The weary smile grew a little warmer as Andrew leaned in to interject sternly. "Ix-nay on the ayer-slay when in public.
"I got it, I got it," Helen protested, ducking her head and looking even more embarrassed. Melanie grinned at her.
"It’s not her fault, Mr Giles," she said, sitting down to pour both men a fresh cup of tea. "She didn’t even know about you-know-what until you-know-when. It takes a little getting used to."
"Mmm. I’m sure it does." He didn’t sound completely convinced, but he accepted the proffered cup of tea without further comment.
"Slayers?" Davenport was murmuring, staring into his teacup with wary consideration. He lifted it to his lips with suspicious caution, took a small sip – and then relaxed with what sounded like a blissful sigh. "Delightful,
" he declared, his bright smile returning with extra mega-wattage. It almost immediately collapsed into a perplexed frown as he realised what Helen’s faux pas had revealed. "More than one?"
"Long story, Geoffrey." Giles sighed softly. "I’ll tell you all about it … once we get somewhere we can talk properly. Suffice to say, there are now almost as many Slayers as there are Walkers, and it would seem that I
have managed to acquire responsibility for all of them. Not entirely sure how that happened, but nevertheless …" He laughed suddenly, a soft chuckle that reminded Melanie just how deeply this man cared about what he did – and who he did it for. More than her grandfather ever had, that was for certain. "Let me introduce you. This is Andrew, my … um ...assistant."
"Hi," Andrew simpered, waving his fingers in greeting.
"Helen Nichols, my somewhat … blabbermouthed bodyguard …"
Helen had the grace to look abashed. "How do you do, Mr. Davenport."
".. and Melanie Travers." Giles’ smile curled into warm benevolence. He – like her - had been looking forward to this moment for days. "Your great-granddaughter."
It’s hard to be grateful to demons, especially ones that kidnapped unsuspecting Watchers and collected innocent potentials together in a place of danger so that they could feed on them without danger of discovery – but, looking at the old man’s face, seeing the wide eyed smile of delight that slowly settled there, Melanie decided that the visszatük’s escape into the world was something she could be thankful for.
Although not as thankful as she was to Rupert Giles for finding her great-grandfather and bringing him safe home from Looking Glass House …