Disclaimer:The Slayer and her Watcher are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television and the UPN Television Network. 'The Lord of the Rings' was written by J.R.R Tolkien. The story is written for the pleasure of the author and readers, and has no lucrative purpose whatsoever. Please do not reproduce this story anywhere without the author's consent.
Author's note: this is bookverse LOTR, rather than movie verse. If you've only seen the films and not read the book, this may not make a lot of sense ...
Note to self,
Buffy thought morosely as she scrambled up yet another tussock strewn slope, next time Giles says ‘don’t wander off if the fog thickens up,’ don’t wander off. Better yet, stay in the car and let him poke at the mossy old stones all on his lonesome…
“See anything?” the man in question asked from behind her. The hopeful note he’d been trying to pack into his voice all afternoon was finally beginning to fade – rather like the daylight, which was well past late afternoon and on the home run towards dusk.
“Just more moor,” she reported, taking the opportunity to glance around while she waited for him to catch up. “Very picturesque moor, but – moor.
Too much more,” she added, half under her breath, and shivered, partly from the bite of the wind, and a whole lot more from memory of what lay beneath all the pretty bleakness.
“You all right?”
The look she gave him wasn’t meant to be withering – no withering, no siree, not after all that
– but with the long day, and the looming threat of night, and all those remnants of terror and adrenaline and Slayer stuff, it sort of came out that way. And it had been a somewhat stupid question from someone who was supposed to be an intelligent man. “No,” she said tersely. “I’m cold, and I’m hungry, and you promised me roaring fires and mulled wine and nothing dangerous …
and I'm trudging over endless moors in the vague of finding someone who can give us directions, although we haven’t got a clue about directions to where
exactly, and even that wouldn’t be so bad if the first thing we met here hadn’t tried to give us both the kiss of death. Because I am oh, so
fond of having the life nearly sucked out of me by something that died centuries before Angel did …”
“Yes, well,” Giles grimaced and glanced away, his hand lifting to absently massage the back of his neck. The gesture came complete with soft chinks
and chimes and his grimace deepened into a vague scowl. “I will – once again – assure you that I hadn’t meant
for that to happen. I’m still not entirely sure what did.”
Buffy sighed and took pity on him. It really wasn’t his fault, and he had warned her about wandering off among the barrows. “Sudden thick fog, cold chill, looming stones, creepy grasping hands – waking up underground with the weird glow and the whole Tut and Carmen heavy metal thing going on … ”
The scowl turned into a slightly pained smile at that, so she’d managed to say something
funny, even if she wasn’t entirely sure what.
“And then creepy hands turn out to be even creepier dead guy – who, by the way had the weirdest
idea of how to set up a first date – leaning over to kiss me with his grave mouth, and … here we are. Dead guy dead. Again. Me digging my way out of a grave. Again.
And nothing but downy type moorland in almost every direction, except for the side with the distant mountains – which ain’t getting any less distance-y by the way - and that glimpse of trees we had that you thought looked something like a road.”
“I was right about the ruins.” His voice had definitely lost that note of forced cheerfulness. Weariness had replaced it, adding extra gravel to the soft rasp he’d acquired from nearly being strangled by a furious corpse. If he hadn’t been wearing that – torque
- thingy at the time, it might well have succeeded. At least he’d kept it busy long enough for her to grab the nearest sword and lop its head off.
“Yeah. Hard to be wrong about those. Big hill, with all those looming walls and carved arches kinda just – sticking up outta the ground.” She set off down the slope, hunching into her ridiculously furry cloak and trying to ignore the way her semi-bare feet were starting to go numb with cold. “Hey – you think dead guy lived there? When he was alive, I mean?”
“It’s possible.” Giles clunked his way down behind her, the chainmail shirt he’d woken up in jingling with each heavy step. Lucky old him had got some musty leather gear and those nifty metal plated boots and gauntlets to go with it. All she’d got was a sweeping gown thing that did nothing as anti-weather gear, and the cloak, which was warm, but way too ornate and Hollywood epic in style. Even if Giles had said how striking she looked in it. “Of course, it’s equally possible that the two sites have absolutely nothing to do with each other – or that dead guy
as you call him kidnapped and devoured the tower’s builders. Hard to tell without a little dendro-chronology or a carbon dating test …”
“Yeah, yeah,” Buffy said, long used to her Watcher’s subtle sarcasm. “Twenty first century stuff is back in the car, which is also
back in the twenty first century, which we certainly aren’t anymore. If I’d known our expedition would go so far afield, I’d have grabbed the lunch bag before we left. Why do I never get the cryptic dream thing about sensible stuff like that?”
“Because if you did, they wouldn’t be cryptic. And we’d have probably headed straight on to the hotel rather than stop to take in the sights.” He nodded down the gully and she nodded back – one direction was probably just as good as any other, but they were still trying to find that road, or what ever it was, that he’d glimpsed earlier in the day. “The Fennadin stones have long been rumoured to mark a doorway of some sort, although no-one’s ever said what
sort – or to where, for that matter. Old folk tales sometimes turn out to have more truth to them than people think … although I would have expected them to be safe enough in daylight hours on a decidedly non
-mystical day. Usually those of kind of doors need a fairly complex ritual to open them.”
It was Buffy’s turn to grimace, her chagrin safely concealed by the fur collar of her newly acquired cloak. Maybe now was not
the time to mention how – bored and a little antsy from the place of power
vibe she’d been getting from the stones – she’d hopped and skipped and danced in and out of the prehistoric avenue, managing to circle the whole thing, Giles included, at least three times by the time he’d casually strolled from one end to the other. He’d been paying far more attention to the stones than he had been to her, so he probably hadn’t noticed. But it had been just after that that the fog had swirled in, and he’d advised her not to wander off, and she had done just that …
“You told me to stay close, and I should have done,” she said, deciding that a half confession of guilt would suffice for the apology she really ought to make. “And – hey - you didn’t have
to follow me. You should have gone back to the car.”
“And leave you to wander on the moors alone? In that
fog? Really, Buffy, what sort of friend would I be if I abandoned you like that? Besides,” he admitted, with the sort of embarrassed tone that suggested he’d be busy polishing his glasses if he hadn’t put his contacts in that morning. “I’m not entirely sure I could have found the car. The fog grew – very thick, very quickly. Better to follow you into it, than head in a completely different direction and get equally lost without you.”
There was a narrow stream at the bottom of this gully; one little more than a ribbon of dampness snaking through the grass and stones. But it was clearly heading somewhere
, which was more than they’d been doing for the past few hours. “If I wasn’t a slayer,” Buffy said, gathering up her gown and taking an agile leap across the miniscule waterway, “that would be an awfully gallant thing for you to say. Which it probably was, anyway. With you saying it, I mean. If you were Andrew –
“God forbid,” Giles muttered, crossing the water with a manly stride. The armour stuff – half romance novel, half biker gear – made it look even more
manly; it was almost a pity that he’d dragged the gold circlet from his head and stuffed it – along with the other random stuff they’d had barely time to grab – into the makeshift bag he’d made out of his
cloak. The one he’d been lying draped in when she’d woken up.
“ – he’d
have meant that he wanted to be with me so that I’d keep him safe. You – “ She turned to offer him a weary smile. “You’re still trying to keep me
safe. Which – after all this time, and all the other … stuff
we’ve been through – gives you a pretty big tick in the awesome box, you know? Or - maybe you don’t know.” She paused to give him a good long look, and he looked back, his expression hopeful, but wary in the growing dusk. Buffy had fled from that look once, right after Sunnydale when the wounds she carried were still fresh and raw - but time had mellowed memory and brought fresh understanding of just how cunning the First had been in its plans to undermine and weaken her. Her visit to England – her foray into things touristy and tagging along when Giles went on his Watcherly walkabout – had been intended to start repairing some of those damaged foundations.
If they were repairable, that was.
“I no longer have any certainty – or indeed, understanding – when it comes your feelings towards me, Buffy.” He sounded as if he’d become resigned to that – to accepting, not just that she’d needed time, but that the closeness they’d once shared might be lost to him forever. “I am, however, more than certain in my feelings towards you. You are, and always will be, important to me. I consider you a friend, even if you remain ambivalent in that regard, and – like any good friend I will do my best to support you, and to try to protect you if – and when – you need protecting … and I will also continue to apologise when my assessment of those situations fall short of your own.”
Had he been anyone else, she might have wondered how long he’d been working out what to say, how often he’d rehearsed and perfected that earnest sincerity – but she knew him too well for that. That had come straight from the heart. Which is probably why it sank straight into hers.
“Yeah,” Buffy gulped. “In that
getup, that’s gallant. Knightly, almost. Giles – we’re family.
It’s okay if we fall out from time to time. Screw things up a little. Especially
if the First is busy trying to screw with us at the time. I’ve forgiven Dawn for being a brat. I’ve forgiven Xander for being in pain, and scared and worried about all those girls and that responsibility – and I’ve forgiven Willow for … well, for being Willow, because who else is she going to be? As for you – I’m not sure there is anything to forgive. Stuff to be annoyed about, yeah, but … its stuff you do – you did
- because you’re a Watcher. Not an old-style council jerk, but my
Watcher. Watching out for me whether I like it or not. And because you’re Giles. Which is – a good thing to be. And there’s no-one else I’d rather have with me right now.
Except maybe Willow, because she might be able to figure out how to get us home again …”
He laughed, a soft chuckle of relief and release that had him dipping his head in quiet embarrassment – although the look that chased across his face before he looked away held a hint of tender affection that he clearly didn’t know how to cope with. Buffy turned the other way, seeking her own moment of composure. They’d never done much of this, either of them, laying out their hearts for each other to see – and the sheer depth of feeling such moments revealed could be a little overwhelming for all sorts of reasons. Love was the easiest bit. It was all the associated pride and the affection and the feeling of not entirely deserving it that neither of them was entirely comfortable with. There had been days when Giles annoyed her immensely. Days when she’d resented him. Days when his words and his advice frustrated her, and his attitude and opinions seemed almost incomprehensible. But he was Giles,
and he was anchored as deeply in her heart as any other member of her family – her sister, her mother, her best friends – and that meant, no matter what happened, she would always forgive him. In the end.
And she really was glad he was here, because wandering around on her own, on unknown moors with night approaching and with utterly no clue about where or when she might be? Not
top of her fun things to do
“Willow would be the better choice, I have to admit. Possibly better company, too. But – you’re stuck with me, so we’ll both have to make the best of it. Which may very well be a damp night under a rocky overhang at this rate. Perhaps we should consider returning to those ruins?”
Buffy was about to agree – because any kind of shelter would be better than a night on the open moor – when something
registered from somewhere ahead. It was distant and indistinct, but still an alien sound, intruding on the soft silences of their moss and grass muffled landscape. She cocked her head and listened, turning her senses away from the immediacies of gurgling water and a soft human heartbeat and focusing on what the wind brought her instead. “Someone – something
is on the move,” she announced. “Somewhere ahead.”
Adrenaline kicked in, driving back the onset of exhaustion and driving away the numbness of nose and toes. Buffy’s hand went down to grasp the hilt of the sword at her hip, and she felt the beat of her heart pick up with eager anticipation. The smile she threw in her Watcher’s direction was a Slayer’s smile - suddenly bright and just a little feral. “Let’s go see who it is …”