Rupert Giles squinted into the sun as it set over Westbury. The coven had turned him out of their house, Triskele, for the evening, as they prepared some sort of cleansing ritual for Willow. It was simple enough; they would perform the ritual at midnight, so he needed to stay away until morning. Still, his thoughts were vague as he stepped out the door for the first downtime in nearly a month.
A cold wind bit through his leather duster as he started down the dirt path toward town. It felt like home. It soothed his nerves, worn from weeks of hard work with Willow. Her emotions were so raw and so powerful - and now she could project them. Rupert hoped the coven would find a way to control that particular power. It was tiring just to be near her when she was in that state.
Turning onto the main road, he found the local inn. A drink might not clear his head, but it would do him good regardless. He ordered a pint of stout and a bowl of stew, noting with pleasure that there was not a sprout nor an avocado to be seen. His thoughts lingered on Willow, who was as far from home as he had been in California. There is nothing you can do for her now. Relax, he instructed himself. "Whiskey, neat," he instructed the barmaid. "Keep them coming."
"Storm's moving in," said an entering old-timer.
"Impossible. It was clear just a minute ago," said Rupert.
"Bet your bollocks?" said the old man with a cackle.
"Rather attached, thanks," Rupert said dryly. It might be a mystical storm brought about by the coven. It didn't matter. A moment later, the door flew open and slammed against the opposite wall. He could see outside that the old-timer was right; the wind was howling and rain was beginning to spatter on the welcome sign.
With the wind came a girl, a bit older than Willow and Buffy. She was dressed lightly, but she didn't shiver in the cold. She spoke to the bartender, who shook his head. Then she spoke to each of the barflies in turn, but it seemed that none of them could help her.
My turn, thought Rupert, watching her approach. "How do you do?"
"Pardon me, sir. But could you tell me where I could find -" she stopped dead, with a little gasp. She had a gentle Irish brogue.
"Begging your pardon, sir. 'Twere nothing. Do you know a Cormac O'Grady?"
"Sorry, no. I'm not from here."
"Do they have them here?"
"No, no. I - I must have the wrong person, please excuse me."
"Oh, Bath. As in my hometown, where I nearly forgot that I lived for a number of decades before moving to America." He smiled ruefully. Although his time in Sunnydale comprised only a small percentage of his total lifetime, it somehow loomed larger than the rest, even now.
The girl stared at him for so long he became uncomfortable. He smiled again, awkwardly. "You may as well stay in for the night, eh? No use going out in a storm."
She shook her head as though clearing away cobwebs. "But I must. I have a message for Cormac O'Grady."
"No message could be so important as to risk your life, could it?"
She gazed into his eyes for another long spell. "Maybe - maybe it wouldn't hurt?" She settled into the pub booth next to him, an appropriate distance away, but never taking her eyes off his face.
This time the silence was so uncomfortable he had to laugh. "Do I know you?"
"No," she said quickly, looking away at last.
"What's your name?"
"Pretty. It means 'dream' in Gaelic, did you know that?"
She smiled shyly. "I've been told. And you are...?"
"Rupert. Giles. That means -"
"Now I'm sure you must have the advantage on me."
She hesitated. "I know your family, yes. Famous in Bath."
"A couple centuries ago, perhaps. What do you do, Aisling?"
"I am a keener, among other odd jobs."
"Fascinating. I didn't know those were still around."
"Fewer still where there aren't enough gentlemen about to keep us in from the rain." Her eyes sparkled. "What do you do, besides rescue fair maidens?"
He thought for a bit. "In all fairness, I must admit...sometimes the maidens rescue me."