Summary: Giles arrives back in England, and reflects on his time in Sunnydale before receiving an astonishing piece of news.
Disclaimer: These characters are all the property of their owners/creators (not me).
Rating: PG-13, for themes and general intensity.
Time Frame: Immediately post-"Bargaining," at the beginning of season six. (spoiler warning)
Archiving: Please do. . .but e-mail me at email@example.com to let me know. . .I like to know where my stuff ends up. . .and I might want to see what else you have got.
Author's Dedication: To CB, on the occasion of her birthday, and also to Anthony Stewart Head, with thanks for his memorable portrayal of Rupert Giles. I hope he enjoys the additional time he is able to spend with his family, and that he will come back as his schedule permits. : - )
Giles spotted his luggage on the belt and grabbed it, then started walking toward the car rental counter at a brisk pace. The flight had been long, but he had no desire to linger in the airport: no one was waiting to greet him here, and he wanted to finish his journey and crawl into a soft bed.
After a few moments, he had obtained the keys for the car and was walking again, this time to where the rental car would be waiting. He sighed: he was going to miss the convertible, but the cost of shipping it overseas would have been prohibitive, and he had decided on leaving Anya power of attorney to sell it and send him the proceeds. He had briefly considered leaving the car for Xander or Willow to use, then realized that the cost to insure a new, expensive vehicle would be a bit prohibitive for either of them. He shook his head, then smiled a little as he walked through the front door of the terminal, the cool air rushing past him as he walked toward the blue sedan.
Fifteen minutes later, he was out on the road, watching the scenery whiz by as he looked for the turnoff sign. He had inherited a small cabin from his grandparents some time back, and he had chosen it as the perfect place to ease back into life in his native country. The caretaker had arranged for the phone and the utilities to be operating, and had stocked the place with enough supplies that Giles would not need to venture out for quite some time, if he decided to remain secluded. For the moment, seclusion seemed like the best plan imaginable to Giles: the most important period of his life had now ended, and he needed to decide what would come next.
The scenery continued to fly by, and Giles' thoughts wandered. Willow had developed remarkable leadership skills over the months. . .it was almost impossible to remember the shy, often frightened young woman who had walked into the school library nearly five years before when faced with the grim, powerful practitioner of the Arts who had joined the others at the airport to see him off. * Willow. . .please don't slip up: I'd hate to hear that you'd fallen victim to the magic you're wielding * He pictured the worried face of Tara, and frowned. * Tara's a brave young woman, but does she have the will to make Willow step away from the abyss at need? I'm not sure any of us do *
The turnoff sign appeared ahead, and Giles effortlessly made the turn, his thoughts moving elsewhere as he did so. Xander's mood had been odd in recent months, even considering the tragedy of Buffy's death. * Something's going on between him and Anya. . .something that has him uncomfortable and her more than a little angry * He shook his head in bewilderment, hoping that Xander hadn't landed in a new mess that would break up the relationship between himself and Anya: as infuriating as she could be, she had clearly been a large part of Xander's newfound maturity, and had undoubtedly been indispensable in keeping him functioning after losing Buffy. * Not to mention that she's been responsible for the Magic Box being an overwhelming financial success. . .she'll probably double the profits with me gone, though I really don't want to think of her means of doing so *
Giles turned down another road: the cabin wasn't far now. It would be nice to talk with people with experiences more in common with his own again; recently, the only conversations of that type he had been able to conduct had been with Spike, of all people. . .* Amazing to see "William The Bloody" as a committed fighter against the forces of darkness. . .not to mention a rather capable babysitter * Leaving Spike in such a crucial role in the group had been the factor that made Giles hesitate the most about leaving: recent changes aside, he was still a soulless vampire. Would he turn on the group without Giles there to keep an eye on him? Giles pondered the question for the hundredth time, then involuntarily shook his head. He recognized the look he had seen in the pale blue eyes of the vampire: it echoed what he had often seen in Angel's eyes, and in Riley's. Either of them would have cheerfully gone to his death to help Buffy, and Giles knew that Spike had taken Buffy's request for him to guard Dawn as a sacred trust that he would defend to the death.
Giles turned the car onto a dirt road leading uphill, and thought about whether he was abandoning a trust by leaving Dawn behind with Buffy's friends. * The deception with the Bot is so fragile. . .Mr. Summers could come back and upset the applecart at any time. . .Buffy wouldn't want that * Giles blinked, then sighed: his presence would not serve to prevent that disaster: as a foreign national, no court would give him custody of Dawn over the objections of her "father." Giles shook his head, and his resolve firmed: he could lend financial support to the others if they needed it, but they didn't need him any more. . .they'd moved into their own lives, independent of him. * I'm slowing down. . .becoming a liability to them in fights. Sooner or later, one of them would have died trying to protect me, and I just couldn't live with that * Giles sighed: there was only one person who had needed him there in Sunnydale, and she was gone.
Giles pulled up in front of the cabin, grabbed his luggage, and secured the car before walking up to the cabin door. A brief impulse to turn around and go back seized him, but he shook it off and opened the front door, taking in his new surroundings. This would be his home, and he was just going to have to get used to it.
He put down the suitcase and turned on the lights, his eyes scanning the room to find all of the crucial items as the caretaker had placed them. A flashing light on the answering machine attracted his attention, and he walked over and pressed the button to play the messages.
The mechanical voice of the machine announced that the message had been left ten minutes before, and Giles frowned as he heard Dawn's terse voice request simply, "Giles, please call me back as soon as you get in."
Giles shook his head, concerned. What could have gone wrong so quickly? He waited for the machine to announce, "End of messages," then was reaching for the phone as it rang again. He picked up the receiver and asked, "Hello? Dawn. . .is that you?"
There was silence on the other end of the line, and Giles was preparing to coax the caller to reply when he heard a very familiar voice whisper on the other end of the line: "Giles?"
Giles blinked: what on Earth was wrong with the BuffyBot? She never sounded that forlorn. He felt a pang of concern in spite of himself and replied, "Is everything all right? Perhaps Willow should check your-"
* Oh my God *
Giles' thoughts rushed back over four years, to the library and a night when he and Angel were facing Buffy's accusing eyes. Her words and tone echoed in his head as if he had heard them seconds before: "So that's it, huh? I remember the drill. One Slayer dies, next one's called! Wonder who she is. Will you train her? Or will they send someone else?. . . They say how he's gonna kill me? Do you think it'll hurt?" Giles shuddered, then fought off the impulse to throw the receiver away like a venomous creature. He swallowed hard, then brought the receiver up as he spoke in a voice remarkably free of the confusion he was experiencing: "Buffy?"
The sound of soft crying came from the other end of the line, then the barely perceptible whisper again, "Giles. . .she told me you had gone. I need you here, Giles. . .please come back."
Giles heard the words, but he replied without thinking about them: "Of course I'll come back, Buffy. . .I just need to make preparations. . .I'll see you very soon. Hold on. . .please, Buffy, hold on." He swallowed hard, then asked gently, "Buffy. . .could you put Dawn on, please?"
There was no response, but after a moment Giles heard Dawn ask, "Is that you, Giles?"
"Yes, Dawn. . .it's me." Giles paused, then forced himself to ask the obvious question: "Dawn. . .how?"
"I don't know, Giles." Giles felt a pang of pride at Dawn's calm tone, though he could detect the undertone of shock and exhaustion in the young woman's voice as she continued, "Bad things have been happening here. . .the Bot was trashed by a bunch of demons, and everyone else is out dealing with them, I think. I saw Buffy and followed her back to the tower. . .we almost died there when it collapsed. Giles, I don't know what's happening, but it's really her. . .she's back. I don't know how to deal with this. . .but she needs you. Hurry."
"I'll be there in twenty-four hours. Don't let her out of the house under any circumstances. . .if you hear from the others, tell them I'm on the way." Giles didn't wait for Dawn to reply before hanging up and immediately phoning his non-Council contacts to arrange for the earliest available flight to Los Angeles. He didn't know why or how Buffy was back, but there was no way in hell he was going to let the Council know she was back until he made sure that they wouldn't decide the method of return merited terminating her.
The next few hours were a blur of activity, and Giles didn't pause for even an instant to deeply consider what had just happened. It was for this reason that it was not until the 747 was flying high above the eastern Atlantic as it sped westward that Rupert Giles, once and future Watcher to Buffy Summers, locked himself into the lavatory and began to quietly sob, in joy and with fear for Buffy and what she had gone through. After a few moments, he stopped and realized that he was feeling overwhelming relief and contentment. He pondered the source of the feeling, and after a moment, he identified it:
He was going home.
As always, comments are welcome and desired.