Title: Sea of Troubles
Rating: PG Spoilers: Set between First Date and Get it Done
Summary: A Season 7 Giles POV. He is travelling to France to pick up yet another SIT.
Author's Note: Let's assume that Sunnydale has an international airport, shall we? I don't really want to try to explain how Giles has been flying in and out of LAX without noticing the eternal night and hellish maelstrom of molten fire.
The Shakespeare quotations are all from Hamlet. So's the title.
Giles is reading, but every now and again he looks up to glance across the aisle.
The man sitting there has requested that all nearby windows be closed during the flight. Giles hears him talking to a blonde stewardess: a skin allergy, apparently. Acute sensitivity to the sun.
There is a stake in his carry-on bag. He'll tend to the matter after they land.
He's rereading Hamlet, a new edition with a shiny purple cover. Purple and Hamlet don't go together in his opinion (if one disregards the royalty angle), but Giles supposes this new look is the only reason the classic garnered shelf space. Cover or no, it's a better choice than the rest of the tripe the airport bookshop is passing off as fiction.
What he should be reading is Goddard's Demon Compendium, Vol. 32. It's one of the few items he managed to save from the debacle that was once the esteemed Council of Watchers, and while he's not entirely certain what he'd be looking for, at least he'd be doing something productive on this interminable flight. But it's too conspicuous, with its brown leather binding and crumbling pages. When he brought Volume 17 on the trip to Bangkok, the irritating person seated next to him noticed it, and rattled on for hours about something called "Dungeons and Dragons".
It never ceases to amaze him how willingly blind humanity chooses to be.
"I see how you could feel that way, I do—"
"No, you don't. You say that you do, but you don't see anything."
He removes his glasses, polishing them on a handkerchief.
"Drink, sir?" It is the stewardess. He replaces his glasses, pushing them automatically into optimum position on the bridge of his nose.
Physically the girl reminds him of Buffy. Giles has a sudden vision of his erstwhile Slayer as a flight attendant.
But the only place outside of the United States Buffy has been is the undiscover'd country. She always wanted to travel.
He glances involuntarily across the aisle.
The man is sipping from a thermos he has brought with him onto the plane, but watches the stewardess hungrily. It is not a man's hunger; rather, it is that of a predator. This one will need to be handled expediently; he'll go after the girl as soon as they disembark. But Giles will be there waiting. Small, achievable tasks—that's the key. Only then will the larger picture become clear.
He turns the page.
Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape …
This vampire is not the ghost of Claudius, and he's no vacillating Danish prince. He refuses to be drawn in by the veneer of civility that so many of these older creatures possess.
Spike has a soul now. That's what's gonna stop him from hurting people.
"I wanna be Willow," his witch said—was it only a few months ago?—when she was so worried about returning to her home. "You are," he remembers answering. "In the end, we all are who we are, no matter how much we may appear to have changed."
Rupert Giles will never think of a vampire as a person again. The devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape. He learns from his mistakes. In my years as ... Watcher ... I've buried ... too many people. But Jenny was the first I've loved.
Be thy intents wicked or charitable ...
Despite this certainty of purpose, he cannot lie to himself. The lines of black and white have long since faded into grey. And easy answers with them. If they were ever there at all.
He sighs heavily, leaning back in his seat. There was a time when Rupert Giles, eager new member of the Council, aching to make his mark, would not have hesitated. He would know exactly what to do—right or wrong. But this is no time for the faint of heart, for "being" or "not to being". Necessity dictates that he be a man of convictions.
Though he knows it won't be as simple as taking up arms against their sea of troubles and by so opposing, ending them.
The plane moves soundlessly through the void.
Never has Giles felt so adrift. Not even when he cut ties from his Ripper days, vowing to put them behind him forever. Nor when he severed ties with the Council—something he has no regrets about to this day, though he knows Buffy does not fully understand all that it has cost him.
But the Council of Watchers is no more. Robson in Cheshire—Trevelli in Italy—Wyndham-Price in L.A.—Bauer in Zurich—Rupert Giles in the very teeth of the Hellmouth; they are all that are left of a once-proud dynasty.
Yet never a formidable one. Giles remembers with a fond smile the way that an American teenager brought the Council to its knees, the way she made him fight, too.
Interestingly, I don't give a rat's ass about the Council's orders.
He misses his colleagues, friends and enemies both.
While those around him watch the in-flight movie, some ridiculous film purporting to be a comedy—the Americans don't know what comedy is—Giles ruminates on the fact that those closest to him believed him to be the First Evil.
It seems silly for a man of his years to admit that his nearest and dearest are a group of twenty-year-olds from California, but they are his family and his friends. His children.
Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father's love for the child, and that is useless to the cause.
Buffy made it clear to him only a few days ago that she no longer needs him to play the father. The lost little girl of the previous year is gone, replaced by a battle-hardened general. Giles feels the pride of a parent proud that his child is making her own way in the world. He feels the sorrow of a parent who sees himself replaced, for better or for worse, as the guiding influence in her life. He feels the impotent fury of a Cassandra—one who reads portents of tragedy, but whose words are not heeded.
They thought he was the First. Giles sighs heavily and rubs his temples. He remembers the frustration of being trapped in the body of a Fyarl demon. Only now, however, after being pounced upon by his family in the desolate California desert does he truly understand how Buffy felt when no one believed that Faith had stolen her body.
It hurts when those you love don't believe in you. When they don't believe it's you.
According to the pilot, the temperature in Paris is a chilly three degrees. Giles scrabbles for his seatbelt, pushes his tray back into place. He glances to the window before remembering that he is prohibited from opening it. Briefly he considers causing a scene, or rather, a fiery conflagration of demon, but decides against it. These matters are best taken care of quietly when possible, with tact. Which is far more likely the further he flies from the Hellmouth.
You can't leave me. I can't do this alone.
He has left her again. Who else can fetch the young potential slayers? But it's getting harder and harder to leave Sunnydale each time he goes.
Because leaving means coming back. And he's afraid of what he will find waiting for him.
"First time in France, monsieur?"
"Uh, well, no."
"Business or pleasure?"
"Business," Giles snaps, vexation overwhelming his habitual hesitancy. He's just broken the cardinal rule: if British and in Paris, don't deliberately antagonize the French.
The customs agent looks at him with the beginnings of thinly veiled hostility. Giles forces a diffident smile, inwardly cursing the delay. He wants to say, "Good god, man! Do your job! Each second you waste brings an innocent girl one step closer to her death!" But, of course, he doesn't.
He polishes his glasses, fumbling for some way to explain the stamps of fifteen different countries on his poor, battered, overused passport. All from within the last month.
Finally, he is past customs and into the baggage area. He catches a glimpse of his quarry standing behind a fat American woman and her husband. The woman is complaining loudly about the lack of English signage.
It appears he is just in time. The pretty stewardess is walking into a secluded little corridor where the bathrooms are located and the vampire is close behind. Giles knows to be wary: a fledgling would travel by cargo bay. This demon is clearly older and more sophisticated. Though, after five years of intimate acquaintance with Spike, Giles is aware that one characteristic doesn't automatically breed the other.
The stewardess disappears into the women's bathroom.
"Don't even think about it," Giles says loudly. The vampire rounds on him, growling.
He's never liked the quips Buffy insists upon before a slay. But one has to say something to catch the beast's attention. He's picked up a few California phrases during his time there, but he's happy with his old standard.
The vampire charges, already showing his true face. Giles palms the stake, allows the creature to grab him, to jerk his neck back, to expose his jugular. He lets his body go limp, and as it leans in for the kill, Giles shifts his arm upward, at an angle. The wooden point easily pierces the vampire's flesh, and the demon shatters.
He steps out of the alcove, back into the main luggage area. Nonchalantly brushing vampire from his jacket, he looks up to see the fat woman staring at the glittering cloud of dust yet clinging to him.
"Look, Herman," she whines. "Aren't these Europeans dirty people? Smoking in an airport!"
Giles removes his glasses and polishes them. He sighs.Girls are going to die. We may die. It's time to get serious.
It never ceases to amaze him how willingly blind humanity chooses to be.