Disclaimer: Buffy and Harry Potter are not mine.
Giles gingerly placed the phone back in its cradle before turning to lean against the kitchen counter. Arms folded, he wore what Xander had long ago dubbed the "Giles-think face" but what Buffy recognized as a pensive, worried frown.
Buffy had made a half-hearted attempt not to listen in on what, for all she knew, was a private conversation. But two 'oh dears' and a handful of 'I sees' into it, she gave up all pretenses and sat at the bar watching him without even trying to conceal her curiosity.
And she wasn't the only one.
Though they hadn't made a sound, she was very aware that both Willow and Xander were standing just behind her…waiting, wondering, anticipating.
This is what destroying the Hell Mouth had turned them into - a bunch of over-eager, under-stimulated, eavesdroppers - and not for the first time Buffy thought that they could all use a hobby – preferably one that didn't involve the use of crossbows and God-hammers.
Or possibly what they each needed was some form of gainful employment.
Buffy snorted at that notion. Or not!
Giles removed his glasses and began to polish the already pristine lenses. "That was Rutherford Sirk."
"As in, head-watcher-guy?" Xander moved to sit on a stool to Buffy's right offering her a cursory grin.
"Only Rutherford Sirks I know." Buffy twisted her mouth, feeling the need to outwardly display her displeasure. Not that Sirks had ever been as much of a creep as the late Quintin Travers, she simple had decided that those involved with the newly rebuilt Watcher’s Council would be trusted only when they proved themselves moderately less awful than the originals had been.
But the truth was that she was also a little bit excited. Even before Giles had started polishing his glasses – a telltale sign that something was up – Buffy hadn't for a moment believed that Sirks would call Cleveland just to check up on them. Nope, he would have a purpose, just like Travers. And while Traver’s reasons were, at least half the time, to throw them all into a whirlwind with some apparently scheduled, wholly idiotic, and decidedly unnecessary task, there was a chance that Sirk had something important for them to do - slaying that needed to be done … a world that needed to be saved.
A purpose for the Slayer.
It had been a solid year since the fall of Sunnydale, and with its tumble into the abyss so went all of the worthwhile badness. Sure there were still vampires, not to mention the occasional Drokken Beast, Gavrok Spider, and Skilosh Demon, but without the constant threat of a rising super-evil, the rest seemed to almost give up.
Yup. The bad guys didn't have their hearts in it anymore. They were apparently done with the unscrupulous and had settle for the slightly dodgy. And while Buffy had spent a huge part of her teenage years lamenting her need for a vacation, at the ripe old age of twenty-two she was feeling restless.
Not that she openly hoped that there was sudden, world-endangering trouble.
Of course not!
Or maybe she did?
Okay, she definitely did…but she was pretty sure she felt bad about that fact.
Still, it wouldn't do to sound too eager about the fact that the lead Watcher had contacted them out of the blue with a potentially harrowing tale of possibly evil deeds; the kind that would require the particular skill-set that usually only one girl, in all the world had at any one given time.
Nope, that wouldn't do at all.
"He's not going to strip the Buffster of her power and throw her in an abandoned house with a crazy vampire is he? 'Cause I am so not on board with that."
Xander gave Buffy a nudge and received an eye roll in return. "I'd like to see them try that again."
"It…It wasn't about me?" Willow spoke tentatively, almost as though she feared the answer, and Buffy could have kicked herself for forgetting.
Willow had been attempting to become a full-fledged (not to mention paid) member of the Council since they had first settled in Cleveland. But they were hesitant, afraid even. Her turn to the dark side, brief though it was, wasn't working in her favor, and regardless of the progress she had made, regardless of the fact that she would be an asset with or without her magic, they were seriously dragging their feet with the whole process. And Buffy's support - her status as The One - wasn't doing a damned thing to help.
Suddenly all three of them turned to Giles, eagerly awaiting his response, and when he shook his head Buffy couldn't help but notice the instant sigh of relief that emanated from her friend nor the disappointed "oh" that quietly escaped her lips a mere moment later.
"I'm afraid not. This…this was something else entirely."
Buffy sighed dramatically. "Spill, Giles! What's the what…or, you know, the who?"
"Yes, yes…so sorry I just…" Giles replaced his glasses, and with a tweak of his eyebrow he took a deep breath. "Rutherford has requested our presence elsewhere. Apparently there is something which needs our…or rather, the Slayer's….attention."
Buffy wasn't sure what to make of that ambiguous, and therefore very un-Giles-like statement. "But we just got settled here. Isn't it a little soon for an elsewhere?"
"We're not to leave permanently. At least, I don't think that's what he meant. There is simply a problem abroad – our kind of problem – and he wants us there right away."
Buffy could feel a little jolt, a slight rush, as she considered what that meant. "What kind of problem?"
Giles shrugged and Buffy scrunched up her nose an such an unhelpful response. "That's not vague at all."
"When do we leave?" Came Willow's soft voice and Buffy couldn't help but turn to look at her. There was a twinge of excitement in those simple words. Not just excitement, happy excitement; something that had been absent from the young witch's voice for far too long. Apparently Buffy wasn't the only one whiling away the hours, waiting for something to do.
Xander must have caught it too, for he wound his arm behind Buffy's back to rest a gentle hand on Willow's shoulder. "Yea, when do we leave? I'll need to get a couple of things; a suitcase, some of those little, travel-size bottles of dandruff shampoo…"
"Rutherford did not say for all of us to go." Giles made an attempt to look apologetic and failed. "Only Buffy and myself."
"That's not fair!"
"No way…Uh huh, Giles! I can't go to…." Buffy frowned. "Where are we going again?"
"London, at least to start." Giles replaced his glasses and leaned casually against the refrigerator. "Though I got the impression that we won't be staying there. According to Rutherford, we will be meeting a third-party at Heathrow and they will fill us in on the details as they take us to our destination."
Buffy leaned back, her watchful, green eyes trained on her mentor. London! She'd never been to London. She'd never been anywhere because the Watcher's Council never sent her anywhere.
Her eyes narrowed, never taking them from Giles. London? She got the distinct impression that he was leaving something out and as he squirmed slightly under her gaze, she knew she was right.
"Is that all he said?"
He shook his head. "He did offer a few other details." His eyes scanned briefly over Willow and Xander. "Very few. However, I think it best not to divulge the full extent of our conversation at this time."
Buffy understood that there was something he didn't want to say in front of the others, though she couldn't even begin to fathom what. After seven years of working side-by-side, the four of them help very few secrets from each other when it came to business. Emotional baggage could be shoved into closets, but Council stuff was open forum.
"Huh uh, Giles. These guys…" Buffy paused long enough to emphatically indicate her two best friends. "They're my loop. So you and me, we keep them…you know…in the loop. It's chi, or something." She frowned, uncertain if that had been the best way to make her point.
"Of course. How silly of me. Wouldn't want to interfere with your chi."
Buffy sighed. "Come on, Giles!" What could he possibly have to say that he didn't want the whole gang to know about?
Giles' eyes swept across the kitchen a second time, this time his gaze lingered on Willow. It was only for a moment, barely notable really, and Buffy doubted that anyone else would have noticed. "I don't know exactly why Rutherford has requested we go to London. However, he did say that our business was not with the Watcher's Council, but with a different sort of organization. An Order, he called it."
"More with the vague?" Buffy rubbed her temple, sighing. "So the Watcher's Order?"
"No, not Watchers." This time when Giles looked towards Willow his eyes lingered and no effort was made to hide it. "Wizards. And I believe the term he used was 'Order of the Phoenix.'"
That certainly got everyone's attention. Buffy let her hand fall back to the bar while fighting the urge to smile. One look at Xander, and she could tell he was engaged in a similar battle.
"Wizards? As in Gandolf?"
Willow, on the other hand, didn't look amused; she looked to be in awe. "No." Her voice came softly at first, but then she turned on Buffy so quickly that the Slayer was nearly knocked out of her seat. "No, no, no, no, no…. Wizard's, Buffy! As in the male equivalent of witches!"
Buffy sucked in a breath and suddenly understood Giles reluctance - he had been the most vocal about Willow's extensive skills as a witch, and even though she had, for all intents and purposes, redeemed herself, he still pressed her to be wary.
And though Buffy could never seem to verbalized it, she too wanted Willow to be careful; and not just for the witch's sake. Still, she found it hard not to smile at her friend's obvious excitement even while noting the discomfort of her Watcher. "I thought those were warlocks."
Willow nodded the affirmative even as she said "Not really." And with that, the red-head turned away from Buffy, hands clasped tightly under her chin and large, brown eyes pleading.
"Please Giles, please! I have to go! I can't… not go! If ever there was a chance for me to learn how to control my magic; how to not get all black-eyed and, well, grrrrr….. I have to go, Giles! I…I just…" Her shoulders slumped and she let out a rather haggard breath. "I have to."
Giles opened his mouth, probably with some well-planed and beautifully articulated argument, but Buffy wasn't about to let this go. If they could help Willow, then regardless of anything else, the trip would be worth it. "So Rutherford said only you and I can go?"
"He certainly indicted as much."
"Indicated? Giles, what were his exact words?"
"He said for you and I to arrange a flight into Heathrow as soon as possible and to contact him the moment we have our itineraries. And honestly..." He turned to Willow, looking uncertain. "We know very little about about these wizards. They are very secretive. I cannot promise that they would be able to help you and..." Giles shifted, turning his gaze briefly to the floor before meeting Willow's face once more. "They may not even be willing. Dark magic, once invoked, never goes away. Considering who they are, they are bound to notice."
Willow waved her hand, seemingly unperturbed by the notion of clingy dark magic and unhelpful wizards. "If there is even the smallest chance...the slightest possibility Giles, I have to take it."
He seemed to consider her words, looking both contemplative and worried, before sighing. "That doesn't change the fact that Rutherford mentioned only Buffy and myself."
A sly smile tugged at Buffy's lips. "But he didn't say that Willow and Xander couldn't go?"
Giles' mouth formed a thin, straight line. "He did not expressly state as much, no."
"However, he was still fairly clear."
Buffy narrowed her gaze and chewed momentarily on her bottom lip. "But, as you said, he didn't explicitly forbid it, which – and, correct me if I'm wrong – could leave his instructions open to the teensiest bit of interpretation."
Giles removed his glasses yet again and began to rub the bridge of his nose. "Buffy…"
"I need them! Willow's always so helpful with the research. And, then Xander…with…with…" She sighed, tossing a flippant hand in the air. "Well, you never know when I might be in need of a new weapon’s chest."
"And besides, I tend to wrap these things up pretty quickly and who am I supposed to sight see with once the slaying’s done?" Buffy stood from her seat to stand in front of her Watcher, green eyes imploring. "Europe, Giles! I want to do Europe-y things and I want to do them with my friends!"
There was a moment where Buffy was certain that Giles would deny her plea. He looked down at her, face sternly set, looking every inch the hard-ass. But then she saw it, a shadow of doubt in his otherwise steely eyes, and she new she had a chance.
"Very well." Giles replaced his glasses, looking pointedly away from Buffy. "And how do you expect them to pay for their tickets?"
Buffy’s lips drew down into a frown. She hadn't thought of that. And from the silence coming from Willow and Xander, they hadn't either. The two of them had pretty much been mooching off of the Watcher expense account, justifying it because they really did sometimes help with the whole world-saving business.
Then she had another thought, one that made her mouth widen in a smile and her eyes crinkle mischievously as she once again beamed up at Giles. "I assume that you still have that shiny, platinum-colored card hiding in the top drawer of your desk…"
"How….how did you…"
"Which, if I'm not mistaken, is set aside for expenses associated with my Slayer stuff?" She wiggled her eyebrows.
Giles blinked several times in quick succession, opening and closing his mouth as though to speak, but apparently her dear Watcher had nothing to say.
"The carp look, Giles, doesn't really do anything for you."
His jaw snapped shut and he cross his arms tightly over his chest. Xander clapped his hands together triumphantly, and Willow couldn't help the huge smile that took over her face as she leaned to whisper in his ear. "By Jove, I think she's flummoxed him."
"Bothered and bewildered." Xander added, his expression matching Willows.
"So what do you say, Watcher mine?" Buffy suppressed her own, smug grin and opted instead for fluttering eyelashes and bated breath. Giles had always been a sucker for sweet-and-demure-Buffy.
Giles looked from Willow to Xander before his eyes finally lighted on Buffy and there he sighed. It was in that moment that they knew they had won.
"Fine!" He said, but not without pointing an accusing finger their way. "But I expect you all to conduct yourselves appropriately and to remember that this is hardly a vacation."
The three nodded at him like over-excited bobble heads.
"And you will listen to me. I know very little about wizards or their culture, but I do know that of the four of us I have a lot more experience and am far better versed in cross-cultural interactions. You will behave and you will defer to me. Am I understood?"
In answer he received two very loud, very high-pitched girlish squeals and a single fist-pump.
"I'm going to go pack." Willow announced, jumping up and down. "Oh my god! Wizards!"
Xander moved out of the way of his bouncing friend as she darted quickly past him and out of the kitchen. "And I've got to go stock up on those afore mentioned bottles of shampoo."
"Ooo!" Buffy popped up from her seat and reached into her pocket, pulling out a twenty before whirling on Xander. "Can you grab me one of those electric, switch things?"
Xander gave her a quizzical look. "Ah, sure. Could you maybe be a little more specific?"
"One of those things that make it so that American electronics are metric."
Xander’s brows rose in consideration of Buffy's request. "They have different electricity?"
The two were interrupted by a heavy sigh. "I cannot believe what I am hearing. Metric?" Giles pushed himself away from the counter and slipped past Buffy as he headed out of the kitchen. "It's called a voltage converter and they have the same electricity, they only have a slightly different way of plugging things in." At the door he whirled, pointing a finger at the two. “This is precisely what I was speaking of, you’ve no concept of what it is like to be anywhere outside of the States.” Then he turned back and walked out of the kitchen mumbling to himself. “American youth! You'd think there was only the one country…"
Xander turned away from the grousing Watcher and snatched the twenty out of Buffy's hand. "Voltage converter...right…"
And as the door to Giles' room shut, they could all hear one last, frustrated grumble. "Metric!”
"Imagine, Buffy. A whole country full of Gileses!"
Buffy nodded, looking up the stairs and smiling broadly. "Tea, tweed and "Oh my's"?"
"That's what I'm talking about."
"Look on the bright side, Xander; maybe we'll finally learn exactly what he means when he calls you a prat."
Xander cringed. "Yea, I'm pretty sure I don't want to know that one."
"No worries.” Buffy offered her friend a sympathetic pat. “I’m pretty sure that Giles is extreme Brit of the super-starchy variety. I'm willing to bet that these wizards we're going to meet are far less stodgy and will be a lot more open to our supreme diverseness."
“And if not, I doubt it will take you long to win them over. After all, who can possibly resist the charms of Ms. Buffy Summers.”
She smiled broadly as she parted ways with Xander and headed towards her room. She shut the door silently behind her as she looked at the mess of partially packed boxes she’d been living out of. Not that there hadn’t been time to fully move in, Buffy simply hadn’t cared to. She had her bed, Mr. Gordo, and her trusty stake, everything else had, at some point, become irrelevant.
Eventually she’d get around to finding a home for all of her things, but for now, she had other things to consider - shiny, new things. Wizard-things. Not only would she be going to a new country but she would be working with new people. In truth, the idea made her a little nervous. As much as she’d seen and done as the Slayer, her experience had been limited to her back yard.
She gently nudged a box with her foot, sliding it out of the way, before moving to sit on her bed.
And wizards would mean magic.
Her experience with magic had been mixed at best, and ultimately she wasn’t sure how she felt about it. Her initial reaction at Giles revelation had been to laugh, but when she really thought about it she felt a twinge in her stomach. Things hadn’t been right for so long, and so much of that she could attribute to unwelcomed mojo.
But on the flip side, magic was, in huge, glowy part, responsible for the closing of the Hell Mouth.
…and for bringing her back.
With a shake of her head Buffy tossed aside the conflicting and confusing thoughts and made up her mind that she was going to enjoy this turn of events. Not only that, but she was going to walk into it with an open mind, which meant she needed to lose the trepidation.
She pushed herself off the bed and walked over to the closet, swinging open the door as a smile ghosted across her lips. She was typically known as tolerance-girl, not when it came to the new and wacky, and the fact that she wanted to trust the unknown was a true testament to how much she had grown. It really had been a long road getting to where she was now. She had faced all varieties of evil, including the First, and succeeded each and every time.
It was with that thought that Buffy wrestled her suitcase out from under a pile of shoes. She might have some trepidation when it came to magic, but the wizards were asking for help and she was determined to do just that. Besides, she seriously doubted that their Slayer-sized problem, whatever it may be, would be too big a deal in the end.
What possibly could be after what she’d seen?
~~~~~I don't know about you, but I'm guessing Ms. Summers is going to be a little surprised at just how big a deal wizard-problems can be. ~~~~~