This made Giles warily glance up at where his supposed sibling was thoughtfully regarding him in turn. Summoning his courage, the Watcher for a California girl began to declare, “I can’t go against the Council--”
“I’m not asking you to do that,” brusquely interrupted Ethan.
At Giles’ startled look, a rather wry expression appeared on Ethan’s own visage, along with, “This is going to be an extremely high-level fight, Rupert, and you really don’t want or need to be involved in it. No, instead, of being an active participant, it’ll be best for you to stay passive. By that, I mean in doing your original job of guarding the Hellmouth with, ah, Buffy Summers and her friends. I never thought I’d say this, but Quentin, rot him, somehow allowed the situation to produce a better than expected outcome. Namely, a band of genuinely effective protectors of humanity on the Boca del Infierno. Despite having an exceedingly absurd appellation for your little company, I have to add.”
For the first time in their entire conversation, the corners of Giles’ mouth lifted in his sudden sad humor. “That was Xander’s idea, of course.”
Sympathetically smiling back, Ethan chuckled, “Myself, I’d never have guessed.”
He quickly became more serious with, “What I also want you to do is what Samuel Johnson famously defined as something anyone was capable of accomplishing: nothing. Don’t make any report of tonight’s events to the Council. Considering how All-Hallows’ Eve here, or Halloween as the natives call it, is usually the quietest night of the year for demonic activity, they won’t be expecting one, anyway.”
Giles hesitantly nodded, acknowledging the truth of this. He’d told Buffy and the others the same thing a few days ago in the school library, after all.
The Watcher was then further informed by Ethan, “As for me, I’ll make some anonymous arrangements with several discreet people I know in Los Angeles who should still be there in this dimension. They won’t have any trouble producing a new passport and anything else I need. After this, I’ll leave for England.”
To meet with the Council?” Giles blurted. Gazing in shock at where the other man was nodding in affirmation, Giles still had to protest, “But what can you do, all on your own?”
Fondly regarding someone he’d come to like for his particular quantities other than the fact that in another dimension they were related by blood, Ethan started to explain.
“I won’t be alone that long, Rupes. Remember, in this world, things aren’t that much different apart from me not being here. This means the Council still has the various internal groups vying to have one of their own as Director, as they’ve been doing for pretty much the last few centuries. I take it even the names are the same: the Conservatives or Traditionalists, the Moderates, and the Reformers? Or, as the latter are also known, the Mad Bastards.”
Notwithstanding the seriousness of the situation, Giles had to snort in acerbic agreement.
The skin around his eyes crinkling with amusement, Ethan continued, “Now, Travers and his Conservatives apparently got into power because nobody was around to weld together the other groups, which I did back then. At present, though, the Moderates and Reformers will be looking for any possible chance to eject the git and all the rest of those hidebound blokes the first time they get some decent leadership. Something which I’m definitely able to provide, all modesty aside.”
At those last words, Ethan seemingly did nothing but to steadily gaze at Giles. However, in the small room, an immediate change commenced in the atmosphere, resulting in the impression of overwhelming authority radiating from the older man.
A dumbfounded Giles swallowed hard, and he shrank back a fraction in his chair. As if reacting to this, Ethan merely nodded once, and the air of absolute command abruptly vanished.
A visitor from another dimension then watched Giles distractedly give himself an all-over shake. This was akin to recovering from the battering effects of a powerful storm by coming inside to shelter against the tempestuous weather. The Sunnydale High librarian took a necessary few moments in his recovery, to then feel a quick flash of unexpected jealousy. That surprising emotion was directed towards another man he’d never meet or even know. All simply because the other Rupert Giles had the colossal good fortune to have such an extraordinary brother.
Dragging his attention back to both his patiently awaiting companion and their talk, a reluctant Giles brought up an important point. This was something he’d just realized but hadn’t had a chance to broach until now. “Er, Ethan, not to make things difficult, but there’s the whole matter of you being from an entirely different dimension. Isn’t that going to make things a trifle problematical in gaining the support of those opposing Travers?”
Rather than answering that question right away, Ethan instead asked one of his own. However, this unanticipated inquiry surprisingly appeared to have nothing at all to do with what Giles had lately said and now heard: “Why can’t Watchers be turned by vampires?”
your pardon?” Giles raised eyebrows nearly touched his hairline in showing this man’s astonishment over such a baffling response.
Ethan simply gave a half-shrug, to then say, “There’s a reason for that, I assure you. Just tell me, please.”
Sending a very suspicious squint across the table towards the person there blandly staring back, Giles at length grudgingly admitted, “As part of the initiation ceremony for every new Watcher, a spell is cast upon their-- our souls as a security measure. This ensures that if the soul is indeed ever ousted by a vampire’s demonic essence after a successful attack, the bodies and memories of those stricken Watchers will be immediately rendered useless to the victorious fiend. Basically, all the vampire will gain is a futile, short-term existence inside an inert corpse with a blank mind.”
“Absolutely correct,” complimented Ethan, who went on to add, “As I’m sure you were told -- we all were -- it doesn’t mean you can’t be drained, killed in any number of additional agonizing ways by vampires and other demons, or be further affected by more spells and the like. Neither does the original spell affect your innate personality. You’ll still have the free will to make your choices for good and evil in the future. Oh, and because the ingredients for the soul spell are both incredibly rare and expensive, that’s why it can’t be used to protect the rest of humanity. There just isn’t enough for anyone but a few dozen Watchers a year. Does that cover everything?”
Giles cautiously nodded, sensing a trap in there somewhere.
The sudden smirk he received from Ethan soon bore out this. In a quite good-humored tone, the other man jovially continued to enlighten an increasingly fascinated Giles, “What you learned was carefully limited for the novice Watchers and the rest who never attain higher rank in their careers at the Council. When those chosen for increasing responsibility and more access to our secrets attain the next levels in our organization, these Watchers have the soul spell laid upon them again, as many times as necessary for every new position they achieve. This provides additional mystical protections to safeguard them from our enemies trying to possess or mentally influence them. Mind you, it doesn’t do anything more than that. Someone coming along and carrying nothing but a big rock can still bash in our heads with this.”
“And the whole point of what you’ve just said is…?” a confused Giles tried.
Ethan smiled at the younger man. “The soul spells always stay part of yourself throughout your life, including how many times you’ve undergone them. It’s an easy enough way for those in the Council’s upper levels who can tally them to recognize the rank of whomever they examine. Particularly since they can’t
be faked, altered, or added onto by anyone but the other Watcher participants in the ceremonies. I might be in a different body, but my soul’s the same. This includes still having the magical markers identifying me as none other than the Director of the Watchers’ Council.”