Rupert Giles was sitting down for a hot cup of tea when there was a knock at his door. “One moment!” He worked his way up from the couch, slowly. He was still stiff in places. Most of the stitches had been removed from his back, but the deep tissue injuries and bouts of vertigo kept him mostly sedentary, except when either Joyce or Cordelia arrived to drive him to his physical therapy. Few people knocked on his door during the daylight hours, and it was nearly eight-thirty, he’d been awake for barely an hour. Finally levering himself with the help of his cane, he made his way slowly to the door and opened it.
“Good morning.” Rupert saw a feminine-shaped blur outside his door, and not recognizing it, he clumsily reached for his spectacles with his less damaged hand and attempted to right them on his face. The blur resolved itself into a lovely, long-legged brunette wearing a pinstripe gray wool skirt and deep purple silk blouse with exactly the right amount of cleavage to be tantalizing without being trashy. She carried a leather briefcase in one hand. Giles looked down at himself. He was still relegated to sweatpants and t-shirts, as he could not button his own and he would not humiliate himself by asking for help, and his shoes were house slippers. Rupert took a step back from the door out of habit, and young woman stepped inside his flat.
“Are you Rupert Giles of the Watcher’s Council?”
Rupert looked the woman over quizzically. Few people outside the UK knew he was part of the Watcher’s Council. For that matter, even within the UK, only the most senior knew he was an active field watcher. He’d been slated for black ops when Merrick died, and it was partly the organization’s disgust with him, and their anger that a slayer would have the brazen audacity to outlive her watcher that sent him to her. It was clear from the beginning that the assignment’s main purpose was to eliminate two headaches for the Council. Anyone who knew his secret wouldn’t bother to knock on his door or would be someone he recognized from London HQ. He finally answered in a stiff voice. “Who is asking?”
“Lilah Morgan. I am legal counsel for Elizabeth Anne Summers.”
“Ah. Buffy.” Buffy had been missing for nearly eight weeks, and for the last two weeks since leaving the hospital, he’d been unable to get any information on her at all. There were no leads, no spells that gave him any indication of her or her well-being. His initial concern that she had been hurt or harmed had eventually worn away to alarm that she was missing, and eventually anger that she was so selfish not to contact him or, at least, her mother, who was a complete wreck since she had left. Joyce called him, harassed him, nearly every day for word on Buffy, and for the most part, there was nothing to say. Buffy had vanished into thin air, and the very thought that she could have died (with no body to find) or been sent to Acathla’s dimension filled his heart with a cold dread. He had suppressed the thoughts of negative outcomes of the battle (the world was still here, wasn’t it) so deeply that his feelings for his slayer had become a slow burning fury, that she would willfully abandon him, her post, her mother and her friends for what? He couldn’t begin to guess. “So what has she done now?”
“I require your signature on some documents, that is all.” Miss Morgan made her way to his dining table, and finding a small spot clear of books, she set her briefcase down on the table. She retrieved a sheaf of papers and began to lay them in front of him. “Here.” She pointed to a line on one document. “And here.”
“A moment please.“ Rupert looked down at the documents, the nearest ones appeared to be primarily concerned with health care, and the latter ones with powers of attorney. As far as Rupert was concerned, it all appeared to be gobbledygook legalese so far removed from his daily life of demon research that he couldn’t begin to make heads or tails of it. “What is the purpose of these documents?”
“The first one is to approve payment of Elizabeth’s health care expenses.” Lilah pointed to the seal at the top. “It is the Council’s document, they require the Slayer’s personal Watcher to approve before they will release payment for medical care. No other Watcher can take responsibility for her medical expenses.”
“Quite right.“ Giles took a deep breath, and looked over the paper once more. He now recognized the form, and the Council seal. “Yes. I see. And the others?”
“Elizabeth is, for the moment, a minor in the eyes of the law. She has designated someone to make her health and financial decisions for her if she cannot, those papers simply allow her to do so. My understanding is that you are legally responsible for her well-being under British law, and per agreement,” Lilah rattled off some number, “also under US law. This document frees you of all obligations with respect to her. The other releases the assets within her Council trust to her.”
“I’ll do no such thing!” Giles looked Lilah in the eyes. “I haven’t abandoned her, she left us!”
“She has signed papers asking that someone she trusts make her decisions for her, are you going to deny her that?”
Giles groaned. “Are you implying that she does not trust me?”
“I did not say that, Mr. Giles,” Lilah said smoothly, “Nor did I imply that. She has individuals with her who are prepared to facilitate her care; they contacted me. I am here because your responsibilities, as they stand, are in conflict with her stated wishes.”
Giles crossed his arms, painfully, across his chest. “And how do you know what Buffy wants and why should I give it to her? I‘ll sign no such papers until I see her for myself.”
“That is not what she wants.”
“You will take me to her immediately and I will make her see reason.”
“No.” Lilah stood up, gathering the papers. “I will not cause my client further distress. It may take another forty-eight hours to get a court to agree to her wishes. But, I can accomplish this without your cooperation. Will you at least sign for her medical expenses? It will expedite some parts of this process.”
“Why should I help a selfish teenager who wants nothing more than to cut ties with her family and those who love her and hurt them as much as possible in the process? I will not be a party to her abandoning her post and leaving her family. She is being childish, pure and simple. Take me to her. Where is she?”
“I assure you, Mr. Giles, Elizabeth is the most selfless person I have ever met, and she wishes only to save you pain, not cause it.”
“Don’t tell me you agree with this crazy plan? Why does she want to have the Council pay her expenses. She has a mother. Her mother has insurance, does she not?”
“Her mother has not insured Elizabeth since she threw her out of her house. Elizabeth has some insurance from her job, but it is going to run out soon. She has not been working for her employer long enough to have any more than minimal coverage.” Lilah sighed. “I assure you that I agree completely with this plan, and I believe it in Elizabeth’s best interest.”
“Joyce did not throw Buffy out of her home! That’s ridiculous! We’ve both been searching day and night to find her. I will not sign any papers until Buffy comes home and explains herself.”
“Very well.” Lilah zipped up her briefcase, and headed to his door. “I am afraid our next meeting may be in court. I hoped to avoid this. Here‘s my card in case you change your mind.”
“I will not.” Rupert took the card from her. “Tell Buffy when she’s ready to grow up and take responsibility for her actions, her family is waiting for her.”
Lilah took a final look around Giles’ apartment. “I cannot believe you can put your self-righteous anger above Buffy’s best interests. Why would you needlessly refuse? You gain nothing by refusing.”
Giles growled at her. “I always have Buffy’s best interests first and foremost in my mind. No one in this world cares more for that child than me! You would do well to remember that when my attorney contacts you.” Giles groaned and collapsed on his sofa.
Lilah nodded and turned to leave.
Rupert called out as she left the apartment. “Wait. How is she? Is she happy wherever the hell she is?”
Lilah shrugged. “She’s suffering. I wouldn‘t say she‘s happy.”
“Then why doesn’t she come home?”
“She cannot. I am trying to help her, but you are making it more difficult for her to get proper care.”
“I am sick and tired of you hints and innuendoes! Where is my slayer? You are legally obligated to take me to her under more laws and international agreements than you want to mess with! I can have you arrested!”
“I am protected by attorney-client privilege. But,” LIilah turned around to face Giles, “I will tell you what she hoped would persuade you. She is in grave condition. She is in pain. The doctors have revived her four times in the last three days. The doctors will not remove her ventilator or proceed with home hospice care until you sign those papers. Because of your stubbornness it will be at least two more days until the ventilator is removed and the DNR that she requested is in place. She cannot even receive sufficient painkillers to dull her pain, for fear of addiction -- and she is not going to live long enough to be addicted. It will be at least another four days before she can go home to rest privately as she wishes. She must endure four more days of being poked, prodded, and generally treated like a piece of meat, solely because of your small-minded idiocy. The people who want to be with her and whom she wants by her side must wait in a waiting room to visit for five minutes every hour.”
“Do not resuscitate.”
“She is not dying.” Rupert refused to believe what he was hearing.
“She is a slayer -- and yes, I know what a slayer is. She may die; she may not. But there is little doctors can to now but shock her every time she goes into cardiac arrest. She is unable to refuse treatment on her own behalf, and she is not being treated with the dignity she deserves. She has very little will to live right now. My personal, unsolicited opinion is that she is more likely to die in the hospital than in her own home with the people she trusts to love and care for her.”
“I can care for her. How could she possibly want anyone else?”
“Rupert, every single person who is with her is grieving terribly, utterly exhausted, and yet totally devoted to her care and comfort, however long it takes. No one is blaming her for her predicament and they all wish her to be allowed to either die or heal with dignity and in private.” Lilah looked over at Rupert. “You, Mr. Giles, appear to be in no shape to care for an dying invalid, and you have a chip on your shoulder a mile wide when it comes to Elizabeth. You cannot begin to convince me that you can help her, either physically or emotionally, by being there.”
Giles felt a small chip forming in his self-righteousness. “I can help, I want to help. I cannot believe she would dismiss my right to be there.”
“Mr. Giles, your animosity towards Elizabeth has been staggering. Your behavior this morning only further confirms my belief that you have no business around her. You can help her by signing those papers and leaving her alone.”
Giles tried one last time to convince the woman. “I must see her. Surely she doesn’t want to die. She’s far too young.”
“You presume too much. She is a warrior, she has fought your battles for you for three long years, since she was fourteen. She is weary. She has died -- four times in the last few days. She is tired of living. And she is prepared to die. Can she really tolerate life with further damage to her brain from the constant resuscitations? Each time the doctors force her back she loses more of herself.”
“It is my duty to care for her, to guide her. It is her duty to fight. She must live. She must return to her post.”
“You have failed spectacularly in your duty.” Lilah gave him a grim smile. “From what the doctors say, I doubt she will ever return to her post.” Lilah spat the word out. “Even were she to survive the next forty-eight hours, that is not even in the realm of possibility, Mr. Giles.”
“She must. If I am there, I can convince her.”
“Be thankful for small mercies. You will never know what you have cost her. No revenge you might imagine taking for those minor scratches you have can begin to compare to her present condition.”
Rupert Giles signed the papers. All of them.
Lilah Morgan recited a small memory spell on her way out the door. Rupert Giles forgot all about the morning visit from the pretty brunette in the pinstripe skirt.