D.M. Evans

Disclaimer - the characters are not mine. We all know they belong to Mr. Whedon.

Rating - Pg-13

Time Line - Pre Welcome to the Hellmouth and through to The Harvest.

Feedback - yes please, - None, Giles-centric fic

Summary - Giles is confronted with his destiny

Author's Note - this started life as a quartet of drabbles, so well received everyone was asking for it to be forged into a longer story. And for Blueswan 's Christmas wishlist, it was completed. Hope you all enjoy.

The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.

Sir Winston Churchill

Watching, somehow that term made his job seem much kinkier than it was. Much of the time it was pure tedium, a penance for what he had done with Ethan, Eyghon and the others. Giles tried hard to suppress what had happened and, over the years, he had gotten rather good at it. Everything that was Ripper had been locked away deep inside him and occasionally on nights like tonight he went to Ripper's grave to mourn him.

For the most part Giles had sunk into his routine, slowly but surely evolving into his own father; something he promised himself he would never do. Clear as day he remembered how his oft-times absent and always emotionally distant father had broken the news to him about his heritage. Giles had been only ten years old and they had spent the day at the British Museum, something up until then he had enjoyed. Giles loved the museum's collection of arms and armor, daydreaming about being a knight; or the modern equivalent, a fighter pilot. After the outing, his father had explained in detail about why he was so often absent and all about the great family tradition of being a Watcher.

Oddly, the lure of magic and goblins and ghoulies hadn't appealed to his ten-year-old self, after he found out he wouldn't have the exciting part of fighting them but rather the tedious part of memorizing lore and spells. While he would get weapons-training, it would only be so he could pass on this information to a girl. At that stage in his life he was just getting over believing girls were icky and wasn't ready to accept there might be some girls who could toss him about like a rag doll if they set their minds to it. Giles had pestered his father for some time to see if there was a way to do some fighting himself and eventually it was his grandmother who let slip about the special ops who did just that. She and his father had riled for days after that and his father came down on Giles firmly; he would not be dealing with the ruffians who made up that particular branch of Watchers.

The disappointment stayed with him for years, becoming keener as he got lost in the usual teen-aged angst. Eventually he had tried to escape the family legacy and failed miserably. Giles knew he could never repay the loss of life that he and his friends had inadvertently caused. He knew there would always be that nagging desire deep within him that wanted to play with the more powerful magics and he had to inter those desires with the rest of Ripper. It hurt to divorce a part of himself but Giles was determined to do it, to make amends. The only way he saw to do so was to embrace his Watcher heritage. Sadly, he was actually good at what he did. Sometimes he could immerse himself in the museum where he was a curator and pretend he was just a normal man.

Still, he could indulge in nights like this, sitting in the pub, playing darts, pretending his dreams hadn't died. Watching, no, it that wasn't a good term for what he did, for what his life's work was. Slow suicide was a better term for it. At least he was able to find some solace in his books, a modicum of joy in learning something new and hopefully bizarre. That helped him to look in the mirror and not see a middle-aged man with crow's feet and thick lenses. If he tried hard, Giles could see the rebellious young man in black leather with his unruly, wonderful hair. He could feel the guitar strings under his calloused fingers and feel the power moving through him as he cast a spell. When was the last time he had actually done either? Far too long ago, that's why he was in this pub, reminiscing.

A shadow fell over Giles as he reached for his pint of Newcastle Brown. He looked up at Nuala. He had always found her to be an attractive woman, petite, almost elfin, with a wild mane of fiery curls. She still had the fire a good Watcher needed. Giles had long since lost his taste for watching, if he had ever really had one. Yes, he excelled at the research but if only to prove his father wrong. He hadn't wasted his life and he could make a contribution. "Here to play darts?" He gave her a hopeful look.

She shook her head, those red curls bouncing. "I've been looking all over for you. You've been selected, Rupert, you lucky dog."

He plucked off his glasses. "What are you on about?"

"You've made the final cut for the Slayer's Watcher. Merrick's been slain." Nuala handed him a piece of paper. "You'll report there tomorrow for testing. It's down to you or Travers. Isn't it exciting? Oh, what I wouldn't do to have a chance to be assigned the active Slayer. Not that training Potentials isn't rewarding but to really be out there, where it's all happening, that's what it's all about, isn't it?"

Giles didn't answer her at first, taking a long drink of his ale. Yes, it really was what it was about. A quiver of excitement tickled up his spine. He hadn't ever thought he'd be selected for testing. While no one ever admitted to knowing about Eyghon, Giles assumed that they did. There seemed to be a glass wall around his career, keeping him stuck at the museum. He wondered how this turn of events came to be. One of Father's friends finally putting a good word in for him? The head of the Council recognizing his good work at long last? "This is quite exciting," he admitted, trying not to think about his competition.

Travers and he never quite got on. Travers was older than he and while both of them came from long family histories in Watching, Travers seemed to think his family was better than Giles'. He had more ambition than Giles, that was true. That had to be why he was even being considered for the position of the Slayer's Watchers since he was already being groomed to take over the Council, something Giles' father had wanted for him and had been bitterly disappointed when that appeared not to be in the cards. Travers probably just couldn't pass on the allure of having his own Slayer. It was a good way to insure one's name went down in Watcher history.

Giles had thrown his name into the hat for the reasons Nuala had listed, the excitement of the action surrounding a Slayer. That's what had always intrigued him about Watching but he had only been mildly disappointed when Merrick had gotten the last Slayer. He had put his name on the list to be considered when Merrick's first Slayer had died. No one expected Merrick to find the newest Slayer and introduce himself as her Watcher since he was not supposed to be watching her. The Council had been intending to replace him as his judgement was obviously impaired. Giles had wanted the position and was saddened to hear that he might get it because of Merrick's death.

Giles looked at his pint glass, desperately wanting another to calm his nerves. He got up from the table. "I guess I'd best call it an early night then and prepare myself for tomorrow."

Nuala flashed a sparkling smile at him. "Good luck, Rupert."

Sweat trickled down his spine. Giles wished he knew what came next. He had already been through a battery of psychological exams, as well as several testings of his occult knowledge. He had gone through testing on his ability to handle swords, quarterstaves, and projectile weapons. He was puzzled, however, why he had been sent seventy odd miles outside of London to Blenheim forest in the middle of the night. Surely they didn't think he'd stumble on a vampire out here. They already knew he could kill a vampire. It was part of the Watcher's training.

After nearly an hour of blundering around on the paths making himself nervous, Giles paused looking around. He could hear the usual night sounds and could find nothing to explain why he was so jumpy other than he was expecting trouble. "Sod this," he muttered, deciding to head back to his car.

He heard a soft bark. Giles turned and saw a black, Labrador retriever-like dog on the path. He liked dogs but never had time for a pet. "Nice, doggie. Are you lost? Let's see if you have a tag, then."

As he neared the dog, its eyes flashed a very unnatural red and it growled at him. The dog lunged. Giles ran, knowing he couldn't hope to outrun it on the wooded path with only the pale light of his torch to guide him. The dog loped along behind him. He could hear its jaws gnash. It closed the gap and he swung his torch like a club. The dog yelped and the torch broke. It felt like the dog bit him even though Giles knew it hadn't. Something started moving through him but recoiled so painfully he was nearly taken off his feet.

What the hell was that? Giles ran and fell over something. As he tried to pick himself up, the pieces clicked. Red-eyed black dog, soul-wrenching pain, he was facing a Devil's Dandy Dog. Stupid name, but a formidable soul-eating monster. Was this his final test? It had to be. He only prayed that if he failed there would be Watcher mages watching, oh the irony, and could stop it from eating his soul.

Giles racked his mind. What stopped Dandy Dogs? Dawn, just like a vampire but he'd be not only ingested but digested by then. What was he forgetting? Something about birds. Unbidden a silly Mother Goose nursery rhyme popped into his mind. "One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl...damn it, Rupert, focus!" He winged a rock at the dog and only served to irritate it. "Counting crows isn't going...that's it. Crows!"

Giles didn't know if he could summon crows at night but he did pulled out of his memory a simple cantrip for summoning birds that his grandmother had taught him. The night exploded with the raucous sounds of crows. The dog shrieked as the black birds picked it apart.

Breathing hard, Giles managed to get to his feet. The woods suddenly came alive with foxfires and he saw a trio of Watcher's mages. They were smiling.

"Excellently done, Giles," one of them said.

"It's time to go back home," another added.

"Get a good rest. You'll need it for tomorrow," the third said.

"Sod off," he panted, not caring who heard. He stalked back to his car without another word. He had passed their bloody test but how well he couldn't tell. At this point, he wanted to smash a few faces so it was better to just go.

He drove off, shocked himself by getting back to London without falling asleep from exhaustion and the sudden drop in adrenaline, and collapsed into bed utterly buggered.

"Come in, Giles," Worthingham called with an expansive wave of his arm.

Giles glanced at the man's wrinkled face, trying to read it. Had he failed? Was he here to be congratulated? Worthingham gave away nothing. Giles took the seat Worthingham indicated. The head of the Council's inner office looked like something out of Dickensian gentleman's club, all dark wood, leather and books. It was somehow comforting and foreboding at the same time.

"I've been told you did very well in the tests, Giles, very well indeed," Worthingham said, leaning back in his chair, looking suddenly weary.

"Thank you, sir."

"No, thank you, Giles. You'll be expected to pack your things. You'll be heading to America with the new Slayer." Worthingham's eyes nearly disappeared as his smile scrunched up all his wrinkles.

Giles had to sit and let it absorb for a moment. For once, he had been rendered speechless. He had done it. He had grabbed the brass ring. Oh, if only his father had lived to see this day. "I...that's wonderful. I'll start packing immediately."

Worthingham's smile broadened. "Don't you want to know where in America you'll be going?"

"What? Oh, yes." Giles blushed at his enthusiasm. "Isn't she in Los Angeles?" His blue eyes widened even as he said it. He had heard the rumors, seen some of the movies. Los Angeles was weird enough without the demons. Still, he had survived London, which surely was one of the greatest, wildest cities in the world so he was prepared for L.A.

"Not any more. Or shall I say she won't be there for much longer. It appears they frown on young girls burning down their gymnasiums." Mirth touched Worthingham's grey eyes. "Ms. Summers' mother is moving them to a town called Sunnydale."

"Her mother? Then it's true? The Slayer was a wild card?" Giles has heard rumors to that effect. Usually the Council did an excellent job of rounding up Potentials and indoctrinating them into the life style they might be called upon to lead. Wild cards were dangerous. They still had friends and family and no training. All too often, they didn't live long as a result. Still, Giles wasn't sure that he bought into the Council's policy fully. Yes, friends could be a weakness, something for demons to exploit and innocent lives could be lost but on the other hand he didn't think total isolation was mentally healthy. He smiled a little realizing it would be his decision on what influences he'd allow in the Slayer's life.

"She is a wild card and Merrick said she was nigh uncontrollable. Still, he shouldn't have been there in the first place. I have much higher hopes for you, Giles," Worthingham said, all mirth gone.

"I'm sure I can handle it, sir."

"As am I. And you won't be reporting to me, Giles," Worthingham said, getting Giles' attention. "I'm retiring in two weeks. Travers will be the new head of Council."

Once again Giles was struck speechless. His win had been instantly tarnished. Had he actually won or were he and Travers actually being tested to see who was better to head up the Council and he had been found wanting? Then again it was probably all preordained, given how Travers was being groomed, and the testing a mere formality. Giles plucked his prize up and shook off the ashes. Yes, there was the lure of power of being head of the Council but there was power and glory to be had at the Slayer's side. All things considered, he was happy with how it worked out. "I hope you enjoy your retirement," he heard himself saying. How banal, but it was the best he could do without warning.

"I intend to. The Council will be shipping you a nice little library of occult books to Sunnydale, Giles and we've already arranged your cover story."

"I won't be working as a curator there?" Giles felt a pang. He'd miss being a curator at the British Museum.

Worthingham laughed. "The town's small museum unfortunately had no openings and no way for us to get any leverage to create an opening. No, you'll be the librarian at the local high school."

Giles plucked off his glasses, squinting near-sightedly at his superior. "I'm what?"

"The librarian."

Giles kept his 'bloody hell' to himself. The last thing he wanted was to be surrounded by teenagers all day. It would only remind him of his own misspent youth that he still occasionally longed for and would highlight the gulf between then and now.

"And one more thing, Giles, Sunnydale is a point of mystical convergence," Worthingham said, excitement in his eyes.

Giles slid his glasses back on. "What does that mean, sir?"

"We don't know yet. It'll be your job to find out."

Giles' lips quirked up. "It'll be my pleasure."

He was melting under his tweed. California, this was no fit place for watching, his body argued. His mind disagreed. What could make for better watching than a place ripe with mystical energy? For the first time, he felt on fire for his calling. He finally felt the passion his job needed for him to do it well. He felt a little homesick, of course and he had no idea really how to handle teenagers. That didn't matter. He felt confident. He couldn't wait to meet his Slayer. His father would finally be proud of him. He had earned the ripest of plum jobs.

He glanced around the library, grimacing. Of course the plum job came with dozens of boxes of books to open and organize. He finished off his cup of tea and got started. Giles glanced up when he heard someone come through the swinging doors.

A girl with long reddish hair stopped seeing him and all the boxes. "Oh, hi. Are you the new librarian?"

He smiled. "Yes, I'm Mr. Giles."

She gave him puppy, eyes hearing his accent. "Ooo, you're from England right? That has to be so exciting."

Giles tried not to smile. Some of his friends in Special Ops had been giving him the shit about his accent being the ticket into beds once he got to the States. He saw they were right. Now if only it wasn't an under aged girl giving him that look, he'd be fine. "I'm sure it's quite exciting here as well Ms..."

"Willow. I'm Willow Rosenberg."

"Nice to meet you, Willow."

"It's not so exciting around here, except for an occasional earthquake," Willow shrugged. "The old librarian let me help out on my free periods. I was hoping...well, that you'd let me help, too." Her eyes went shy.

Giles looked around at the boxes. "Actually, I wouldn't mind that. Why don't you take the books out of the box and set the empties over there." He pointed at the far wall. "And I'll start cataloguing them."

Willow beamed. "Okay. Have you been to London? I would love to see the museums there." She enthusiastically started pulling books out of the box.

Giles smiled. "I was a curator there before coming here."

Willow bounced. "You have to tell me all about it."

He sat in his living room, listening to Pink Floyd as scotch burned down his throat. Watching wasn't supposed to be like this. His Slayer...she didn't need a Watcher, she needed a leash and a whip. She was mouthy, vain, flighty and a whole list of other things that if he thought about them, he'd be packing his bags and catching the first plane back across the pond. He had thought about finding the opening to the Hellmouth and tossing Buffy in, at least three times today alone. Still, she made him feel more alive and younger than he'd been in years. She was good for him, kept challenging him. It kept things interesting. Giles hadn't ever though much about having children but he knew, as much of a handful Buffy was, he'd want his children to have her fire.

The Council's warnings about not becoming emotionally vested in his Slayer bounced around his mind and Giles ignored them. It was far too late for that. He had started seeing her as his spiritual daughter and he had no intentions of changing that. Giles poured another scotch and let the music sooth his Scooby-jangled nerves. He and those children were going to do great things together. He felt that down deep to the bone. For once, being a Watcher finally felt like a skin that fit him.