Title: "What I Did On My Holiday".

Part: 1/1

Author: "A Gentleman Of Leisure" nemo1nemo@btopenworld.com

Summary: Giles goes on holiday while Buffy is in LA with her father. Takes place between S1 & S2.

Story Type: In Canon Adventure.

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Series 1.

Disclaimer: The-Powers-That-Be own everything. All other Trademarks and Copyrights acknowledged. It's all just a bit of good clean fun folks. 'Nuff said?

Author's Note: I'm a British writer, so there may be some terms (and spelling) not used in the US. OK? Now read on...

**********************************************

"What I Did On My Holiday".

1.

Rupert Giles trudged reluctantly up the hill from the West End Lane Underground station, old leather briefcase in hand. Although it was the height of summer, this was London, England, not a place famed for it's clear blue skies and burning sun, and after a year in Southern California he was really feeling the difference. There was a cool wind blowing, and he turned his collar up.

He was not entirely looking forwards to this visit. Although he loved his great-aunt dearly, perhaps most of all his small remaining collection of relatives, there was a very good reason he really wished he didn't want to have to call on her.

He had just spent the last two and a half days at the Headquarters of the Council of Watchers on the Thames Embankment near Tower Bridge, bringing the Council up to date on the current situation at the Hellmouth, and being briefed in return on all the latest predictions of potential apocalypses, which his Slayer, Buffy, might or might not be required to avert.

Now, his official business done, he was carrying out a private, but no less important errand, one which he would prefer his superiors never found out about.

On his way up the road, he stopped at the first newsagent's shop he came to and bought almost half their stock of English milk chocolate bars. You couldn't get English chocolate in Sunnydale, or anywhere else in Southern California for that matter, except possibly in one or two places in Los Angeles, especially imported at great expense for the British ex-pat film star community, who could afford to throw money ad-lib at any little desire they had. It was a secret little addiction of his that he was taking the rare opportunity to cater to.

Still smiling at the shopkeeper's dumbfounded expression, he walked on up the hill with his now bulging briefcase, past more shops, past where the buses terminated and turned round, and on up past the police station to The Green.

This was a small, odd, triangular shaped piece of grassy common land, only about two hundred yards on each side, barely worth the definition of Public Park, but it had a long history of battles between would-be developers and local residents, and it still survived, though much smaller than it had originally been, two hundred and fifty years before. There were trees all round its perimeter at intervals, and pinned to many of them he noticed small posters advertising the local annual fair, coming soon. At the top end he could see the gates of the side entrance to the Municipal Cemetery, and he felt sure he would be walking through them soon enough.

At the northwest corner of The Green he turned left, walked along one road of small two storey Victorian terrace houses, all neatly converted into flats (or apartments as he would have to remember to call them when he got back to Sunnydale and told his Slayer how he'd passed some of his summer vacation), and so on into Owl Street.

Half way along, on the right hand side, where the houses were all three stories high and their gardens backed onto the cemetery, he turned in at a rusty iron gate and walked up the short, tiled path to the front door. It opened just as he reached out to ring the bell, and there on the doorstep was his beloved little Great-Aunt Alice, youngest sister of his father's father, and the only relative still alive on the paternal side of the family, except for himself of course.

The tiny old lady of ninety had to stand on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek. He was her favourite, or more accurately only great-nephew. Once the customary ritual of greeting was complete, and he'd taken off his coat and made himself comfortable in the sitting room, he was asked if he'd like tea.

'Why do old ladies always offer you a cup of tea when you visit? Because it's an English custom of course', Giles thought. 'Exactly what our American cousins would expect of us. I wonder if I'm like that when I'm back in Sunnydale?'

Of course it wasn't just tea to drink. An English tea is far more than that. Along with the teapot and the best china came crumpets and Marmite and jam, and for a little while there was just small talk. It took a while for all the family news to be told; the doings of ever more distant relatives, and friends of friends, of whom he had no knowledge whatsoever, but you can't upset a favourite aged great-aunt, certainly not at a time like this.

Eventually, all these and other matters having been examined and discussed in microscopic detail, they finally got to the nub of the matter - the reason for Giles' visit.

"Do you want to tell me what happened, Great-Aunt?" he asked her gently.

"Not really, but I know I must", she told him. "I don't like to think about what it might mean, and I certainly can't tell anyone else, there's no one who would understand the way you could".

The old lady paused. Giles sat back, now comfortably full. He'd not had time for a proper lunch - the Council had shot him out of their front door at half past twelve with no hint of an invitation to stay, the selfish bastards, so he'd had to make do with a hurried sandwich while he did some urgent and very necessary shopping before travelling up to his great-aunt's home, here in North London.

He nodded, and waited patiently while Great-Aunt Alice gathered her thoughts.

"I have seen your Great-Uncle Cedric", she said eventually, looking out of the window down the garden to the high wall at the far end.

"You dreamed about him?" Giles said hopefully. "That's only natural".

"Don't be dense, Rupert. I've seen him in the garden, walking about. I've spoken to him".

"He died a good fortnight ago. He's safely buried in the cemetery".

"I know, Rupert. I was there - you were not".

"I'm sorry, Great-Aunt. The semester - sorry, term - only ended last week. I couldn't come any earlier".

"You know what I'm talking about, Rupert. Don't prevaricate. I have talked to him, and he to me".

Giles sat back and looked at her. Although she was only seven weeks shy of being ninety one years old, she could be a formidable old lady. She still had all her wits about her, and was able to look after herself. She certainly didn't sound as if she was imagining anything.

"I am not imagining it", she said firmly, as if she'd just read his mind. "He was there, as clear as you are. I think he had climbed over the wall from the cemetery".

"But he was ninety seven!" Giles protested.

"It doesn't matter what age he was when he died", she replied. "We both know that, don't we?"

"Yes. I suppose we do", Giles said slowly.

"No suppose about it, Rupert", she said tartly.

They both sat in silence for a short while, thinking about Giles' late great-uncle, until the distant sound of the oven timer out in the kitchen, brought them back to the present.

"I'm cooking something for your supper. You're staying, of course?"

Giles nodded. He thought to himself that it looked as if he would have to stay the night, not just to supper.

"Good. I usually eat at seven. I expect you'll be hungry by then. I don't suppose the Council invited you to stay for lunch, did they".

"Of course not, dear Great-Aunt", Giles said, laughing. "I suspect you know them rather too well for their own good".

"Oh, yes. I even know where some of their skeletons are buried, my dear boy", she replied, "but that's for another time. Now, I expect you'll want to go and have a little stroll in the cemetery - have a good look round, so to speak. I don't imagine it compares well in size to the ones in the United States, but it does have the advantage of age, and I think that's so important, don't you?"

Giles couldn't help smiling at that, and had to agree.

"Very important indeed, dear Great-Aunt", he said, and went out into the hallway to put on his coat.

*

The wind had not dropped, and it was still colder than he had become used to, though the sun shone brightly enough. The cemetery was the same scruffy place he remembered from when he used to visit the area as a much younger man, when his interests turned not towards the old dead, but the younger living - at university, in the disco's and band venues of the seventies, and in the pubs.

The grass was long and unkempt, with the grave stones overgrown with brambles and weeds, and all crowded together and leaning drunkenly at any old angle. The uneven ground sloped uncertainly away, and despite the profusion of rose bushes in bloom, they had been allowed to run riot, and not been pruned for many years. The place seemed sad and forgotten, a wilderness - not totally abandoned, the authorities were still managing to find spaces to squeeze in the newly deceased - but it was if they didn't care any more, as if they no longer had any time or respect for those in their charge. After all, the dead couldn't complain, now could they?

As his great-aunt had suggested, it wasn't comparable in any way to the neatly laid out cemeteries patrolled by his Slayer and her friends back in Sunnydale CA, where there was room for graves to be several feet apart instead of only inches, where the ground was level and smooth, and the grass was cut to bowling green fineness at least once a week, and watered most evenings. The headstones looked similar though. He supposed that, if you thought about it, a gravestone was a gravestone was a gravestone, when all was said and done.

Giles shook his head as he wandered along paths that were overgrown with weeds. What had happened here was not really that surprising under the circumstances.

After about a quarter of an hour he sought out his great-uncle's burial spot. It was in a far corner, near the high wall that backed onto the houses, and almost out of sight of the footpath, behind a large area overgrown with brambles and saplings. There was just a wooden marker to identify it - too soon for a tombstone to be ready - and the earth had not yet started to settle. Giles knelt down and turned over a clod or two of earth, the heavy London clay that grave diggers hate, even though their job is now mechanized.

Yes, just as he suspected, the soil had been disturbed at the head of the grave, and it was obviously more recent than the burial. He sighed. It was clearly not going to be a fun evening.

When he returned to his great-aunt's house he said nothing of course. She was no fool, but there was no need to upset her any more than she had been already. However, for some reason she seemed to be in a much happier frame of mind. Perhaps it was the fact that he was here, he thought. She put her head out of the kitchen.

"Hello, Rupert. Did you have a nice walk, dear? Good. Have a little snooze in Great-Uncle Cedric's old armchair in the sitting room if you like - supper won't be for a while yet".

It seemed like a sensible idea. It might be a long night.

*

Giles woke suddenly from a dream of being with a shadowy figure in a darkened room. Great-Aunt Alice stood over him smiling.

"Nice sleep, Rupert? Good. Time to go and wash your hands, there's a good boy, and then we'll have supper. I hope you still like shepherd's pie - it used to be your favourite".

2.

At a minute or two after midnight, Giles climbed over the low wall from the main road into the cemetery. The tall, spiked gates were locked, but they might as well have not been there at all, because the railings that should have kept the public out at night had been requisitioned during the Second World War, and had never been replaced. They were supposedly wanted to build tanks, or aircraft, or possibly battleships, he wasn't sure which. By 1945 the whole nation had been completely stripped of iron gates and railings, and in many places they had never been restored, even fifty years later.

It was very different from the cemeteries in Sunnydale, where there were lights always on, and the gates always open, but even though there was no illumination here, he could still see where he was going because of the faint orange glow in the sky, created by all the tens of thousands of sodium streetlights in Greater London.

He was glad of it, because to have used a torch this close to the road might have attracted the attention of the police, and he doubted if they were quite as dumb as Sunnydale's finest. Smiling to himself at this thought, he walked slowly up the main avenue, through the archway and out of sight of passers-by, where he could safely turn it on. Except that he didn't. What he actually did was to walk on further, towards the far end of the cemetery, until he got to the great cedar tree where there were seats all round the base of the trunk, and sat down quietly in the deep darkness under its long low branches, to see what would happen.

It was a very peaceful place at night, even more so than by day, and the thought of all the bodies buried round about him bothered him no more than it would have in California. No, it was the bodies that were not in their graves that were the problem, just like in California.

He polished his glasses, checked the contents of his pockets, and settled down to wait, leaning comfortably back against the trunk of the tree, which had probably been planted at the inauguration of the cemetery, a good hundred and forty years before.

*

"Hello, Rupert. Room for another on that bench?" The voice was quiet and cultured, something from an earlier age.

Giles looked up at the speaker, who seemed to be a tall thin old man dressed in a rather tattered suit which had apparently seen better days, although Giles knew for certain that there hadn't been many of them, perhaps not more than fourteen.

"Please make yourself at home, Great-Uncle, though I suppose that from your point of view I'm the guest here".

The old man seemed to smile, and seated himself, though out of politeness, or perhaps caution, not too close.

"You're looking well, young Rupert. That Council of yours not working you too hard, I hope?"

"I'm fine, thank you. And you're looking well too, all things considered".

"Oh, I am, I am. Never better, in fact". He gazed intently at his great-nephew. "In fact I haven't felt this good in decades. And the strength I have now..."

"...As of ten?" Giles finished the quote for him.

"Exactly. I could go on for ever. I really can't see what all the fuss was about - being dead is wonderful! I can't wait to have your great-aunt join me, I really can't!"

Giles looked at him.

"She was quite upset by your visit, you know. She believes firmly in what it says in the Bible - always has, hasn't she?"

"That all the dead shall rise at the Last Day? I know, I know. I was just never quite able see the necessity of waiting that long. I never argued about it with her, though, because there would have been no point. She had her beliefs, and I had mine. And on the whole I think mine were slightly nearer the mark, as it's turned out. Don't you agree?"

"Um, yes". Giles paused. "I... er... was wondering exactly what happened to you. _How_ it happened?"

The old man laughed.

"Oh, that's easily told, dear boy. Dull day, early evening, pretty girl looking for her dog in the alley between the fish-and-chip shop and the police station. I went to offer assistance, and as soon as we were out of sight of the street she turned to me and said she was hungry. Well, I thought I was being asked for money, but then she said 'You're skinny, but you'll do'. It's funny really, I didn't feel at all frightened. Then just before she bit me she paused and said 'You know don't you? Aren't you bothered?'

"'At my age?' I said, and it's true, I wasn't. I really wasn't. And then she did it. After that I don't remember anything until I discovered I was in my long box. Of course I realised right away what had happened and soon dug my way out. It wasn't at all difficult, but it was hell on the gents' natty suiting".

Giles looked at him, and couldn't help a slight smile. He'd just recognised one of the old man's favourite phrases, straight out of P.G.Wodehouse and the early 1930's, when his great-uncle had been a 'young chap', and the future was bright, and charmed, and endless. It was a rare thing for one of the undead to describe to one of the living how he'd been turned - and even rarer for the living to remain so after being told.

"When you visited Great-Aunt Alice the other night, was that really because you wanted to ask her to join you?" he enquired.

"Of course it was. I wouldn't dream of just biting her without her permission. You know her - she'd never forgive me".

"You know you'll never get it, don't you, Great-Uncle Cedric?"

"I have all the time in the world, Rupert - I can wait for as long as it takes. I know I may have to wait for years - your side of the family is even longer lived than mine, except for your unfortunate parents, of course. It was a shame about them. Still, I think Alice will come round to my way of thinking in the end".

The old man looked thoughtfully at his great-nephew, sitting safely just out of reach.

"She actually asked you to come and talk to me, didn't she?"

"Well, yes, she did", said Giles slowly, getting to his feet. " So what shall I tell her then? What would you like me to say?"

"Tell her I can wait. She knows where she can get in touch - I'll always be here or hereabouts. She can leave a message on my grave, I'll get it eventually".

The old man got up too. Giles cautiously put his hand out, and the old man did the same. Both hesitated.

"Remember to tell her there's no hurry. I have all the time in the world".

"I'm so very sorry, Great-Uncle", said Giles. "You don't", and stepping swiftly forwards he struck upwards with the stake he'd kept concealed in the sleeve of his jacket until that instant.

"You little b....."

The exclamation remained unfinished. A cloud of dust cannot swear.

*

As Giles climbed back over the cemetery wall a short while later, he was surprised to find himself thinking that he'd be quite glad to get back to California. He thought about his Slayer, Buffy, currently on vacation with her father in Los Angeles, and the other eager young Slayerettes, and wondered how to greet them when he saw them all again.

What about 'Hi guys! Did you miss me?'

He smiled to himself. Yes, that would do nicely.

THE END

***************************************************

A.N.2 : Readers may note that Buffy used the same greeting at the beginning of S2x1, before Giles had a chance to. He'd have sounded like a bit of a twit saying that anyway, wouldn't he?

A.G.O.L.