What makes a First Impression
“Mr. Singer, I assume?” Giles took a moment to assess the man in front of him- bearded, older than him and carrying a small arsenal. Definitely a Hunter and not a man to be trifled with. Giles forced a grin and extended his hand, prepared for the strong grip and calloused palms. For all that the man was fluent in dead languages, he certainly didn’t spend all his time with books and ciphers, if the scars on his hands were anything to go by.
“Mr. Giles. How can I help?” No small-talk, they were straight to business. Giles pointed out the reference books he needed to go through, searching for any reference to Kakistos- several of the texts were written in classical Latin, though not old enough for the language to be justified, which was frustrating. Scholars should not be allowed to compose the reference books, Giles thought, because they often assumed that only other scholars would wish to read them.
They worked in silence for twenty minutes, exchanging occasional words but otherwise focusing on the task at hand. Giles struggled to contain his curiosity and eventually it got the best of him.
“Mr. Singer, if you don’t mind me asking, how exactly did you discover that Kakistos is on his way here?” He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but there was a brief flicker of something in the Hunter’s eyes that told Giles that whatever he was about to tell him was a lie.
“Word on the grapevine- Kakistos didn’t exactly tidy up after himself in Boston.” It seemed to be almost true, but not wholly, and Giles met the man’s stare with a raised eyebrow.
“And yet I hadn’t heard of the deaths until your letter this afternoon. The Council were surprised, in fact, that I knew of them at all.” He couldn’t keep a hint of accusation from coloring his tone.
“Not my fault you don’t talk to your own.” And Bobby dropped his gaze back to the book he was studying, almost dismissively.
“No, I suppose it’s not. Perhaps I should make more of an effort to remain in contact with the Council.” He kept his eyes on the other man, regardless. “Has your grapevine heard any word on the new Slayer? Is there… could Kakistos have her, do you think?” The Hunter stilled and glanced up again, shaking his head slowly.
“Not that I know. Way I hear it, the Watchers looking for her in Boston found no sign of her. Girl hadn’t been there in years.” Giles breathed a sigh, relieved. He had been worried that the Vampire had already taken the girl; perhaps holding her prisoner. He would surely have been informed if she had been killed, but reading some of the stories of what Kakistos liked to do to his victims… he would have almost preferred she be killed quickly than live through the Vampire’s plans. He said as much aloud, not surprised when Bobby agreed with him. Clearly, the man was also aware of what their enemy was capable of.
Their tentative alliance continued, delving back into the books, searching for any more information that could help against Kakistos. It was interrupted by the loud and untimely return of his Slayer, along with her friends. Giles suppressed a sigh and stood to intercept Buffy before she got to the table. Singer, to his credit, glanced around only once and went back to his book, ignoring the teenagers with the ease of someone who did it regularly.
Buffy was demanding to know what one of the ‘old, Hunter guys’ was doing in her library and why Giles was all of a sudden making nice with the enemy. The hypocrisy of the statement didn’t seem to register with her and it was all Giles could do to stop himself from pointing out that it wasn’t as if he were snogging the man.
“Buffy, this is Mr. Singer. He’s here to help me with research and yes, he is one of the Hunters you saw the other night. I believe you admired his flamethrower?” Mentioning weapons was a surefire way to distract his Slayer, though Giles felt a little sheepish doing it.
“Oooh… can I see it? Did he bring it with him? Can I use it? Please?” Successfully diverting the girl toward the Hunter (who didn’t seem too pleased, either) Giles busied himself with giving the rest of the children their tasks- Willow and Oz he asked to check the morgue and see if there had been any increase in the death toll locally, while Xander and Cordelia were seated with musty books before they had a chance to complain about being forced to research.
They were barely seated before the library doors swung open and the man Giles hated most in the world strode in, sneer in place.
“Do I even want to know what you’re doing here after hours, Mr. Giles and what these delinquents are doing here, too? I know it’s not learning; it couldn’t be learning.” Sneer firmly in place, Snyder sauntered toward the table and Giles groaned, trying to think of a suitable lie.
“Principal Snyder, I assume?” And suddenly, the mulish Hunter expression was gone and in his place was a steady, solid blue-collar worker; hand outstretched. “Bobby Campbell, sir, at your service. I believe you know my niece and nephews?” Snyder blinked once and then, to Giles’ shock, he smiled.
“Of course, Mr. Campbell, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Faith and Sam are such charming children and Dean is a wonderful young man.” Giles stored the names for future reference and tried to get the children to stare less obviously. Xander was even asking Cordelia why the Hunter was calling himself Campbell when his name was Singer. Dear Lord, deliver him from oblivious idiots. “When Faith said they were here with their uncle, I knew I had to come and introduce myself. I am really looking forward to having them join us here.”
And that was when Giles noticed the two teenagers standing behind Snyder; dark hair, bright eyes and bland smiles firmly in place. To his experienced eye, their body language was somewhat… abashed. The Watcher was willing to bet that if Bobby had known they were there, he certainly hadn’t been expecting them to get caught- there had been no hint that there were more of them in town than just Bobby and John.
“The kids had only good things to say about your facility, sir. Now, I can’t say that they’re looking forward to going to school again, but your Mr. Giles here has assured me that there are plenty of other things to do here besides study.” That was certainly true, though likely not the way Snyder would think. “And I can’t help but think that my two will be such a good influence here.” And with a smile and a compliment, Bobby disarmed Snyder’s upcoming rant.
“Yes, well. I hope Mr. Giles is helping you fetch all the required texts? I wouldn’t want the children to fall behind unduly. I’ve seen their transcripts; I know they’ll be eager to get right to work.” Bobby assured him that, yes, Mr. Giles was being very helpful and for once, Snyder left the library with a grin of real pleasure on his face.
The second the principal was gone, the children turned to Bobby, stumbling over apologies and promises not to do it again and how they’d do whatever he wanted forever if he promised not to tell their father.
Giles was happy to listen and learn, entertained by someone else having to deal with teenagers for once, until Xander piped up.
“Hey- I know you guys. You just moved in down the street from me.”
Unfortunately, that brought the stranger’s attention to their table and Giles found himself stilled under two assessing gazes.
“Yeah, what of it, chuckles?” The girl’s- Faith, he assumed- voice was pitched low and full of scorn and Giles could guess what was going to happen next.
“Hey! Don’t talk to Xander like that. You’re the ones in our library, handling your little domestic.” Buffy even added a hand gesture for emphasis and Giles felt like groaning as Willow and Cordelia chimed in their agreement.
The girl glanced at her brother and something obviously passed between them because she forcibly relaxed, rolling her shoulders and shutting her mouth. The girls looked a little smug, and her Watcher hoped that was the end of it.
“I, uh, assume you’ll want to be heading home now, then? I can give you some of these texts to take with you if you wish-“
“You never let us take the books home.” Willow actually sounded offended. “And now you’re letting a complete stranger waltz in and take them? What if he doesn’t come back? What if his sinister, underhanded, Hunter-y plot was to come in here and take our books?”
For a moment, there was silence. Even Bobby looked stunned and Giles opened his mouth to hopefully diffuse the situation before anyone else could say something. But he didn’t get the chance. Instead, the door swung open again and, expecting Snyder to have returned, Giles pasted a pleasant expression on his face and turned.
But it wasn’t Snyder; it was a tall, burly man in denim and flannel and toting a shotgun and he looked more furious than Giles thought possible.
“Hi daddy.” If possible, the man’s face darkened even further and Giles felt the urge to grab a weapon. In fact, his grip tightened on the book in his arms and he suddenly wished that he still carried knives.
“Faith. Sam. In the car, now.” His children obviously caught something in his tone that the Watcher missed, and their expressions changed from wary to worried in seconds.
“The Hellmouth happened. Your brother is missing. Let’s go.”
Giles barely had time to blink before the three Hunters moved, throwing out questions and half-sentences that made little sense to the Englishman.
“Wait, wait- if your son is missing on the Hellmouth, surely we can help? We’ve been patrolling here for years and Buffy knows the territory here better than anyone.” The blonde girl nodded, all previous upset about strangers invading her territory gone in the face of a missing person.
John and Bobby exchanged a glance; Singer nodded and John seemed to relax a little.
“We were checking out the warehouses over near the docks, following word of a rabid animal in the area. I got knocked out and when I came to, Dean was gone. No blood, no trail, just gone.”