“Or, as might be more concisely expressed in the local vernacular,” intoned a very deadpan Ethan, who next delivered in an entirely different (not to mention quite incongruous) black rap style,”Yo, homes, don’t go dissin’ the Slayer bitch like she be some skanky ho, ya dig?”
Rupert Giles speechlessly sat there for a while, trying to wrap his brain around how his companion had just preposterously concluded their solemn ceremony in once again affirming their loyalty to the Slayer. Eventually, the librarian felt a flash of sudden suspicion pierce his dazed mind, causing him to send a truly dubious glance across their table at where he noticed the faint twinkle of actual humor in Ethan’s eyes--
“You bloody bastard,” huffily retorted a somewhat offended Giles.
Ethan let his serious face relax into a wide grin, before telling the indignant man before him, “Now, now, Nikki and Robin always found it hilarious when I did such a dead-on impression of the ’hood dialect back when we spent some time in Los Angeles during the late seventies. It was our own private joke, which she made clear she never minded. My Slayer and her son also knew it was merely meant to lighten the mood or break the tension between us whenever necessary. There were even one or two times when it served as a quite effective distraction against our foes, as a matter of fact. That’s why I’ve kept up on it, partly because Nikki enjoyed it so much.”
Chuckling at seeing how peevish Giles still remained despite that explanation, Ethan chided, “Good lord, Rupes, can you honestly tell me you
don’t occasionally play up to the most heavy-handed extent possible the cliché of the stuffy Brit with the stiff upper lip, pining for the home country with proper tea, buttered crumpets, God save the Queen, and all the rest of that hackneyed nonsense?”
The two men sitting in the apartment kitchenette held each others’ intent gazes for a good couple of seconds, before simultaneously breaking into noisy peals of delighted laughter together.
This mirth continued even when Giles in his newly-altered happy mood wiped away the trace of an amused tear from the corner of his eye. He gladly confided, “It’s particularly effective here, Ethan. Perhaps it’s something to do with a combination of decades of Masterpiece Theatre television and the Merchant/Ivory films. In any case, I must say our lot seem to have very little difficulty in securing the gullibility of the native populace. All it apparently takes is a suitable accent plus the right air of aloof decorum, and we can get away with virtually anything. God knows, I would’ve had a much harder time with Buffy if I didn’t act a trifle excessively that way.”
Ethan smilingly nodded in agreement. He watched with added interest as his host’s own gleeful expression quickly changed into thoughtful contemplation, surely due to something which had just now occurred to Giles. Therefore, the older Englishman wasn’t surprised at the question he was then asked, “Ah, is-- Do you recognize the name? Buffy Summers, I mean.”
Shaking his head, Ethan further replied in the negative, “I’m afraid not. The current Slayer for my dimension’s Council is Petra Onodi, from Hungary. She’s been at it since taking over from Nikki, and we’re still providing the needed support for her. Unlike in my past and how your own Council behaves now. Something I also put a stop too was the seizure and brainwashing of the Potentials. Though, we still keep an eye on them from a discreet distance should it ever become their assigned duty as the Slayer. In which case, I’ll visit in person and explain to both the girl and her family what this means for everyone. That is
my responsibility, after all.”
The atmosphere in the room abruptly shifted into seriousness again.
This was marked by Ethan’s stern glance and cold tone both directed at Giles. “Quite different, I believe, from how your Quentin Travers acted with this Hellmouth’s Slayer. I’m definitely not pleased with the berk, considering how Miss Summers had to solely deal with the resulting traumas in her life after becoming the latest daughter of Sineya.”
Beginning to build up steam, Ethan forcefully continued, “How idiotic was that, being informed about what she was now completely out of the blue by a clearly eccentric Watcher? Not to mention getting absolutely no help from the Council over the master vampire she had to face, which lead to the disaster of burning down her school gymnasium. Then, of course, nobody bothered doing anything to prevent this young lady’s stay in a mental institution.”
Feeling his face heat up in real shame, Giles knew better than to offer excuses. He did feel the need to carefully point out, “Buffy was
a missed Potential, which caught the Council completely off guard.”
This produced a dismissive grunt from Ethan. “Perhaps. It was still a total fiasco in my opinion, saved only by the girl in question. I find it most interesting she hasn’t yet told you perishers to bugger off.”
Giles sensibly kept quiet rather than rising to the irascible bait. Regardless, he couldn’t help wondering to himself if Buffy’s recent closeness to Angel might be an unconscious act of rebellion against a bunch of old men thousands of miles away in London ineptly seeking to control every aspect of her life. It was all too likely. Making it even more unpleasant was the glum Watcher’s dread concerning Ethan’s forthcoming livid reaction over even now another failure by the Council to properly guide the Slayer.
The high school librarian’s troubled thoughts were interrupted by Ethan musing out loud, “It’s wholly possible that Miss Summers was never found by us either in my dimension. Obviously, I or anyone else in the Council wouldn’t know for sure. Even if we did find her like the others, however, unless there was something really unusual about the girl or her situation in California, it’s unlikely this would’ve come to my direct attention. There are just too many Potentials for me to be involved with or even remember them all.”
Noticing how Giles started to open his mouth after hearing this, Ethan overrode the other man. “Please don’t bother asking. That’s a legitimate secret, the exact number and location of these girls. You and the rest of the lower rank Watchers in both versions of the Council might know first-hand about your own and some of the other Potentials, but only the very highest levels are aware of every one. It’s necessary for their security, and I make no apologies about those
“Yes, sir,” Giles humbly acknowledged the older man. He still asserted to Ethan, “Buffy is sure to bring this up, her treatment by the Council among other things. It’s only polite to warn you about that in advance before we leave to visit her and Willow.”
Ethan’s eyebrows rose in his sudden curiosity. “So, you’ve changed your mind? Those girls are to be told all we know concerning myself and also a missing Xander Harris?”
An expression of deep sadness swept over Giles’ face. “Yes, however much I regret this. It won’t be pleasant, not in the slightest. Buffy thought of Xander as a good friend, and Willow will undoubtedly take it the worse of them both. That girl knew and liked him ever since they started school together here in this bloody town. Their closeness became even stronger when another childhood companion -- Jesse by name, whom I’ve already mentioned -- was turned by a vampire. There’s the possibility of actual hysterics at some point of Willow’s grief when I explain what happened tonight.”
“I’ll provide what assistance I can, Rupert,” Ethan gently stated. An equally weary look appeared on his own visage when the Director of the Watcher’s Council went on, “There’ve been all too many times for myself when I had to break the same bad news to others, such as telling a Watcher’s family the distressing circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths.”
“Thank you, sir,” a very unhappy Giles responded.
Ethan nodded in his gravest manner, and silence then descended between the pair. They remained sitting at the table, both seemingly reluctant to begin with their painful task.
In due course, Ethan slowly spoke, “Rupert, you know best your Slayer and Miss…Rosenberg, was it? At any rate, what just occurred to me is something I’m not sure whether to mention it to them at all. Or, if I indeed do this, just when would be the proper time.”
A puzzled “Pardon me?” was Giles’ natural reaction to this. Following that remark had him seeing how Ethan gave a tentative half-shrug of his shoulders.
“It’s like this, Rupert. One thing the children you’ve been mentoring will certainly be insistent about is whether the boy known as Xander is in fact truly deceased.” Ethan wryly waved a hand in a vague gesture taking in both his mature face and body. “Making things even more difficult will be that I now look what that young man would’ve probably grown up to appear to anyone else a few decades into the future. However, I emphatically assure you, he’s not
in here.” This time, it was a finger being tapped against a grey temple.
Giles just stared in confusion, unsure of where this was going.
Noting this, Ethan grimaced, equally hesitant on how to best express it. “You could say it’s the absence of something which caught my attention, instead of what should or might be there. From what you mentioned before, this Xander lad incredibly survived a Primal possession a few months earlier, correct?”
“Yes…?” cautiously answered Giles.
“Well,” began Ethan, all while lifting up his hands in real exasperation and then dropping them again, “That should’ve left some
psychic traces in my brain, but I damned well can’t find anything like this around in there! It doesn’t feel like the magical remnants left behind from that possession were wiped out or otherwise erased by my personality taking over. No, it’s more as if what was present either got tidily removed or departed of their own volition, down to the very last thought and memory of the previous tenant.”
Giles’ jaw dropped, just before he managed to croak, “Are you telling me--”
“I don’t know, Rupes!” heatedly cut off the younger man. After his annoyed interruption, Ethan then sighed at the expression of authentic hope beginning to materialize on his host’s countenance. “This is exactly why I need to find out more about that sodding Chaos magic. Judging from how bizarre tonight’s events have already gone, virtually anything
might’ve come to pass as a result of your friend’s little prank. Some of those possibilities already have the definite prospect of giving me even more nightmares.”
“Er, why?” ventured Giles in between his growing eagerness. This sudden good mood was abruptly dampened by the icy glower sent his way from across the table. This nasty look was accompanied by additional elucidation delivered in a rather sour tone.
“For one, if Xander Harris is now residing in my
body in my
office at the London headquarters, things are about to get really exciting for him. In this case, mind you, ‘exciting’ is best defined as being in the biggest mess of his entire existence! But that’s not the most appalling situation, no indeed. What if he somehow managed to retain his youth and wound up again in my body when I
was also sixteen?”
Ethan’s steady, molten glare at a bewildered Giles abruptly shifted from genuine ire to the unexpected addition of actual evil amusement. “I know it’s not his fault -- well, mostly -- but if the latter option did occur, he’ll deserve all the suffering soon coming his way. Because young Mr. Harris will be the older brother of a six-year-old holy terror with serious mischief capabilities, whose main goal every minute back then was for Rupert Giles to make my life a living hell!”