“Yes… yes… of course…”
Giles held the receiver up to his ear as the Council member on the other end of the line prattled on, making sure that he gave a perfunctory answer whenever it was required; however, his focus was firmly on Buffy.
Not surprisingly, she had been asleep ever since her emotional outpouring, as though that release finally allowed her to take the rest she so desperately needed. It was why he had let her be up until this point, simply covering her up with a blanket on his couch, despite the fact that it was getting rather late in the day, the sun already beginning to set.
Now, however, it appeared as though she were caught in the throes of a nightmare, her face twisted in pain as she thrashed back and forth.
Deciding then and there that the conversation had gone on quite long enough, Giles turned his full attention to the insufferable man on the other end of the line.
“Yes… Yes… Yes, everything is in order for when Mr. Zabuto arrives,” he confirmed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have matters to attend to… Yes… Yes, I’ll be sure to pass on your best wishes to Ms. Summers. Good bye.”
Giles glared at the phone as he hung up. Any doubts he had about his decision regarding Buffy and the Council had evaporated in that call, and he needed to take a moment to calm himself before he turned his attention to Buffy.
To his surprise, she was sitting up, staring at him.
“So this is really it, huh? Out with the old, in with the new?” she asked, the bitterness in her voice unmistakable. "You'd think they'd jump at the chance of having two slayers for the price of one."
Giles got to his feet and made his way over to her. He didn’t immediately speak; he simply looked at her for a long moment, taking in the weariness and hurt he saw there. Buffy held his gaze for a moment before she looked away, almost as though she was embarrassed.
He wanted nothing more than to let it go, to leave her in peace. It was a luxury neither of them could afford, however, so instead he cleared his throat loudly and rather pointedly.
A long moment passed. Then her eyes slowly met his.
Giles gave her a small smile. “That is precisely why I haven't told them the truth.”
Buffy’s jaw dropped. “What? What do you mean?” she exclaimed.
“I’ve come to realization that the Council would take drastic measures to keep you in their employ, so to speak, if they knew that you still have your powers. I believe they might even try to duplicate your experience with others in the hopes of creating more Slayers,” he explained, remembering all too well the eagerness in Travers’ voice, the obvious direction of the Council Head’s questions when he had first learned that Buffy had in fact survived her encounter with the Master, despite the fact that another Slayer had been Called.
Ignoring the sudden bitterness in his mouth, Giles put his hand over hers. “Buffy, you’ve fulfilled your duties to the utmost. You are no longer the Slayer. If you wish to continue, that’s your prerogative, not the Council’s.”
He watched as she struggled to maintain her composure, a myriad of emotions flitting across her face. Then, before he knew what was happening, she enveloped him in a big bear hug, which he immediately returned.
They sat like that for a few moments before she pulled back, her expression serious.
“Do you think I should go ahead with this magical training? In England, like Dumbledore wants?” she asked quietly.
Giles hesitated. He had been thinking on the very subject all night, and he hadn’t yet come to a conclusion.
“I’m not sure,” he finally said. “Wizards, the British Ministry particularly, can be arrogant to the point of dangerous, their penchant for secrecy and tradition overriding good sense at times--”
“Yeah, I don't know any stuffy organizations like that,” Buffy deadpanned.
He pointedly ignored her, though inwardly he was heartened to see a bit of her old self. “You will
need some sort of training, however, and Professor Dumbledore does have a reputation for doing what’s right instead of what’s proper. He’s also one of the few individuals who could -- and seemingly would
-- protect you from the Council, should they try anything; not to mention the fact that he’s the Headmaster at one of the finest Wizarding schools in the world. You could have far worse individuals in your corner, as it were. That being said, I’d like to know what the ‘complications’ he was referring to before you make any decisions. In the meantime, I’ve also taken it upon myself to message an old acquaintance of mine for some information, so hopefully we’ll have a bit more clarity one way or another.”
Buffy’s brow drew together in confusion. “You’re getting info behind Dumbledore’s back? You don’t trust him?”
Giles chose his words very carefully. He didn’t want to give her the wrong impression, but he also didn’t want to hide anything from her. He wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice.
“I do trust him, but I don’t necessarily think he’s telling us everything, either. That may partly be because he doesn’t want to overwhelm you any more than he already has, or because he’s simply exercising caution on his part. We certainly haven’t told him everything about us. Just because he’s not forthcoming, however, doesn’t mean we don’t need to know.”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Okay… I can get behind that. What about going to Salem?”
“That is certainly an option, one that may be less disruptive for you,” Giles agreed. “And though I believe the American Ministry is a bit disorganized, that may actually work to our advantage. Of course, there’s... there’s also the matter of your family.”
He hated to bring it up, but it had to be said.
Just as he suspected, it hung in the air between them, filling the room with an oppressive silence. He could practically see Buffy shutting herself down emotionally. Before he could say something, anything to keep her connected, the phone rang.
He fully intended to ignore it. From Buffy’s body language, however, he could see that she was firmly out of his reach.
Cursing under his breath, Giles stood. In three large strides, he reached the phone and yanked it up to ear none too gently. “What is it?”
The voice on the other line was not pleased by his tone.
“Mr. Giles, this is Principal Snyder. You need to come to the school immediately
Then, without waiting for his reply, Snyder hung up.
“Dammit,” Giles swore again. He ran a hand over his face and looked at Buffy. “That was Principal Snyder. I’m guessing he made an unpleasant discovery in the library.”
All the blood drained from Buffy’s face. “You mean--”
Giles rushed to reassure her. “No, no. I made sure to take care of that
. I cannot say the same for the rest of the library, however. I had hoped for more time to fix what I could, but apparently that is not going to be possible.”
He could see the conflict in her eyes, the worry. There was nothing she could do, however; they both knew that, and after a moment, she acquiesced.
“Okay, I should go home anyway,” she said as she glanced over at the clock. She jumped to her feet when she saw what time it was. “Oh my god! I’ve got to go!”
Giles winced. “Yes, I’m sorry about that. I had thought to wake you, but you looked... peaceful,” he said quietly. “As though you needed the rest.”
She gave him a small smile, one that almost reached her eyes. “I did,” she admitted.
She hesitated then, as if she were on the verge of saying more, but she remained silent.
Giles put a hand on her shoulder, but she pulled away. “Will you be okay? Do you want me to be there with you?”
Buffy thought about this before replying. “Not at first,” she said slowly. “But maybe after? I’ll have to explain everything to her. Magic, vampires, and everything in between. I’ll probably need your help there, considering what happened the last time I tried to convince her...”
She trailed off. She gave a big, fake smile and quickly walked over toward the door. As she pulled it open, she called out over her shoulder to him.
“So I’ll call, okay?” she called out.
Before he could answer, or even offer her a ride home, she was gone.
Giles was tempted to follow her, but he knew it would do no good. She would only brush him off again, so instead he quickly gathered together a few things and walked out the door himself. Soon, all his thoughts were on the library.
No matter how much Snyder might have suspected him of having knowledge about what had happened there, Giles was fairly certain the principal could not implicate him in any wrongdoing. Still, when he approached the officer standing at front door to the school, he prepared himself for the worst.
Giles gave a start of surprise at the figure rapidly ascending the stairs. “Jenny? What are you doing here?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I just received a summons from His Royal Highness.”
Giles frowned, wondering if perhaps Snyder knew more than he had originally thought. If so, he dearly hoped he hadn’t dragged Jenny into this mess. Unfortunately, with the police officer in front of him, he couldn’t ask.
Feeling a bit frustrated, Giles turned toward the man. “Rupert Giles, the school librarian. This is Jenny Calendar, the computer teacher. Principal Snyder requested that we come down.”
Giles immediately produced his. After a moment of fishing through her handbag, Jenny did the same.
“Wait here,” the officer grunted, before taking their licenses and disappearing into the school.
Giles immediately turned toward Jenny.
“Jenny, if I in any way--”
But she cut him off with a wave of her hand. “You worry too much, Rupert,” she said, a teasing look in her eye. It quickly evaporated, though. “How’s Buffy?”
Giles hesitated. He hated lying, but if he wanted Buffy’s cover story to stick, he had to, for both Buffy and Jenny’s safety.
“As well as can be expected, I suppose,” he replied. Then, speaking barely above a whisper, he added, “Buffy’s no longer the Slayer, however. Another girl has been Called.”
Jenny’s eyes grew round. “But how? She killed the Master.”
As she spoke, the most peculiar look entered her eyes at that, one that Giles couldn’t quite decipher, one that was gone almost as soon as it had appeared.
Though he was a bit mystified by it, Giles continued on as if nothing were amiss. “I’m not entirely sure. She may have simply experienced some residual effects, coupled with some incredible luck. But her powers have most definitely passed on to another.”
“That’s great… right?” she asked.
He nodded. “Indeed. In fact, I’m wondering if it might be in her best interest to leave the Hellmouth for a bit,” he said. When she began to smile her approval at this suggestion, he quickly added, “Of course, I will be leaving as well, as my services are no longer needed here.”
Her smile noticeably dimmed. “Oh. Well, I guess that makes sense.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Giles. On the one hand, he felt compelled to say something, to address the disappointment they both obviously felt. On the other, there was simply nothing left to say.
“It’s about time!”
Giles and Jenny both gave a little jump as Snyder approached, his face drawn into a scowl. As soon as he saw that he had their attention, he turned on his heel, clearly intending that they follow.
They silently marched past the main foyer into the hallway. When they reached the administrative offices, Snyder turned and pointed to Jenny.
“You, in there. The officer there will tell you what to do,” he barked. Then he turned to Giles. “You, follow me.”
Though his fists clenched in anger, Giles bit back his temper and did as he was told -- though not before watching Jenny walk away, feeling a distinct sense of regret as she disappeared behind a door.
By the time they finally reached the library, Giles had pushed away any lingering thoughts of what might have been and prepared himself for what lay beyond the double doors.
Then he moved past the officer guarding the door and entered.
The gasp that he let out was not even the slightest bit contrived. But then, the damage to the library was far more extensive than when he had left it.
“What happened?” he exclaimed.
Principal Snyder glowered. “Vandals, probably one of the miscreants that litter the hallways here,” he said. “You need to catalogue what’s missing or broken.”
Numbly, Giles nodded. “Yes, of course,” he murmured.
He only vaguely registered when Snyder left, muttering something about the sheer stupidity in banning corporal punishment. He was too busy looking at the ruins of his library.
It looked like the place had been ransacked. Books were scattered all about, chairs upended and bookshelves overturned. No area seemed to have been spared. His own office was particularly hard hit. All the drawers were open, their contents flung onto the floor. Most of the furniture itself lay in pieces.
Slowly, he began to pick through the wreckage.
He had only set his desk to rights when he heard Jenny call out, rather urgently.
With a frown, he walked out into the main portion of the library. The relief on her face was immediate, despite the fact that she was obviously peeved at the way the officer outside the library was obviously keeping an eye on her.
“I need to check the library computer.”
Giles felt his frown deepened. “Of course.”
He gestured toward the blasted thing, but Jenny didn’t move.
“I need you to type in the passwords,” she explained.
A sense of dread filled him. Jenny knew very well what the passwords were; she was the one who had set them.
Walking as quickly as he could, he made his way toward the computer. Jenny did the same. As she pretended to wait for him to log on, she turned slightly so the officer couldn’t see her.
“Rupert, someone broke into the administrative computers. The only thing they tried to access was student records, and even then, it looks like they were only interested in those with last names from S to Z.”+++
“Hello? Buffy?” Joyce called out as she walked into the house, tossing her keys and purse on the small table next to the door and kicking off her shoes with a sigh.
She had spent the whole day running errands, and she was glad to finally be off her feet. She wanted nothing more than to order some Chinese food for dinner and watch a movie with Buffy -- where she could then subtly try to pry some details about the dance out of her daughter.
After calling out a few more times and searching both floors, however, she realized that Buffy wasn’t home yet.
Joyce frowned and went to check the messages on the machine, but there was nothing there.
It was getting late. It wasn’t like Buffy not to at least call by now.
She picked up the phone and began dialing Willow’s number. Before she could finish, however, there was a knock at the door.
Joyce’s heart froze, her mind immediately thinking the worst, that something had happened to Buffy. It was almost a relief when she flung open the door and saw a little boy there -- until she noticed that he was crying.
“Can I help you?” Joyce asked, her voice full of concern.
“My mom said I could walk home from my friend’s house, and I thought I knew the way,” the boy sniffled, valiantly trying to fight back the tears. “But it’s dark out now and I... I think I’m lost.”
With that a fresh new set of tears started.
Joyce immediately reached out from the doorway and wrapped her arms around the boy, her mothering instincts in full swing.
“Oh, you poor thing,” she exclaimed. “Why don’t you come inside and we’ll try to call your mom?”
To her surprise, the sobs stopped. “Thank you, Mrs. Summers. That sounds like a great idea,” the boy said, his voice completely calm, carrying no trace of the fear that was there seconds before.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, a little uncertainly. Then she frowned and pulled back as it hit her. “Wait, how do you know--”
The words died in her throat when she caught sight of his face. Before she could scream, the boy pushed her back into her house with more strength than any person should have, let alone a child.
The last she she remembered before she hit her head against the wall was the look in his eye -- his eerie, yellow eye.+++
A/N: So I'm getting close to 2000 reviews! If I manage to break through that landmark with this chapter, I will randomly pick one of the reviewers and write a ficlet of his/her choice. Sky's the limit. :)