Sorry this took so long. I got little excited and caught up with some other things I'm writing...lol. Hope ya'll are still around! Please do let me know what you think! Thanks so much!
Mrs. Giles just looked at her for a moment. "Rupert. Rupert is your Watcher."
Buffy nodded a bit. "Sorry to just...drop it on you like that, but..."
"No, it's all right, I..." The older woman stood and began to pace slowly, and Buffy saw Charles's eyebrows go up. She wondered what he'd picked up on. "I knew he would be a Watcher," Mrs. Giles was saying.
Buffy blinked. "Wait. You did? I thought no one told him he was going to be a Watcher until he was ten."
"Yes, they're told at ten. They begin training then. But the selection process often chooses them much younger. I'm afraid I've known for some months now that Rupert was to be a Watcher." She let out a breath. "Oh, but he doesn't want it. The boy wants to be a fighter pilot, for goodness sakes, or-"
"Or perhaps a grocer," Buffy smiled. "I know. He told me once."
Mrs. Giles looked back at her, expression unreadable, and came back to her desk. But she did not sit down. She stood beside it, hands clasped in front of her. "I know one must not know too much of the future, but...is he happy? Is he suited for being a Watcher? I know he's brilliant, but..."
Buffy stood and took the woman's hands. "As far as Watchers go, he's the best of them as far as I'm concerned. And I've met a few. I uhm...I don't know a lot, about what happened before I met him; I know he didn't like it at first, but he's okay now. He'll be okay." She didn't mention how awful the Council had become in her time or what had happened to Giles just before she was dropped here. She didn't need to know that.
The older woman patted Buffy's hands and let go, sighing. "Well I...thank you, dear," she said quietly.
Mrs. Giles composed herself and looked at both of them. "Do the two of you have a place to stay here in London as of yet?"
"We have procured a hotel, yes," Charles offered in answer.
"Very good. However, if you don't wish waste on it any further after tonight, you are more than welcome to stay here. We have a room converted into a small dormitory for emergencies."
"Paying for a place to stay is not a concern, however, it will be up to Buffy; I'm sure she knows what would be best..."
Buffy didn't have to think about it long. "Actually it probably would be a good idea if I stayed here, at least. I may not even go back to the hotel tonight. I should be here as soon as there's news, and it'll be easier that way." She glanced at him. "You can stay in the hotel if you want, though."
Charles sat forward. "Nonsense. I don't mind staying here as well. In fact, I believe you're right; it would be better to be here if something comes up."
It was settled then, and Charles encouraged Buffy to stay while he went to fetch their bags from the hotel. While he was gone Mrs. Giles showed Buffy to the library where she could wait while the older woman gathered the rest of the Council board to inform them of what was going on.
Buffy glanced at the books, but knew Charles would have a much more enjoyable time looking through them than she would. So she sat in front of the fireplace, glad for the warmth, and she had just realized that there was a chess set on the small table in front of her when a voice spoke from behind.
"Do you play?"
She glanced around the back of the armchair she had sequestered herself in and found that Charles had returned, their minimal luggage in his hands. He set it down against the back of another of the chairs and came around to sit. He motioned to the set on the table. "Chess. Have you ever played?"
Buffy winced. "I don't know if 'played' would be the right word. Fumbled my way through a few games? Yes. Giles tried to teach me in his early Watcher days—thought it would help with the whole focus and strategy thing, I guess. I never really caught on. Sorry."
"Don't apologize. What you can do is much more valuable. You're able to make quick decisions in battle and determine the best way to handle real threats. Chess is hardly more important than that."
"To be honest I kind of hated it..."
"I see," he smirked. "Then I suppose you wouldn't wish to get any practice?"
"I wouldn't do that to you. It would be incredibly boring for both of us, and I have a feeling you'd rather be challenged."
He smiled wistfully. "Yes, I guess that is true." He studied the set for a moment and finally pulled it toward him. "I suppose I shall have to play myself."
"Have fun with that. I don't think that one spins."
Charles chuckled, and Buffy smiled as she watched him begin. Something told her that even being willing to play himself was progress, and the fact that he had asked her before that was even more encouraging. Okay's out there, Charles. You're getting there. She hadn't meant him to hear, and he didn't say anything, but his head cocked to the side just a bit when she thought it, and she wondered if he'd heard her anyway.
It was hours before Mrs. Giles came to find them again, thank to the board's debating, and by then Charles had finished his game and been through several books, Buffy had looked through a couple of them just for something to do, and they had already ventured a few blocks over to find food and come back. When she heard that she apologized quickly.
"Oh! I'm terribly sorry...we do have a kitchen here. You are more than welcome to anything in it. It's kept well-stocked."
"It's quite all right, Mrs. Giles, thank you," Charles assured her. "But we will keep that in mind from now."
Mrs. Giles showed them the aforementioned kitchen and then brought them to the dormitory. It was nothing more than a large-ish room upstairs that had been cleared for a row of four or five cots on each side. They would be comfortable enough, but this was not about comfort. It was about finding the Kaltar demon and taking care of the threat.
"I am sorry we only have the one space," Mrs. Giles trailed, glancing at the two of them. "Buffy, you are more than welcome to move one of the cots into my office and sleep there if the two of you are not comfortable in the same room..."
"It's fine," Buffy told her. "I doubt I'll spend much time sleeping, anyway, and that's all we'll be doing in here." She glanced at Charles, and he shrugged. "It's not a problem," Buffy finished. "Thank you so much for everything."
Mrs. Giles nodded and left them to settle in. Charles, who was holding both of their bags, handed Buffy hers and motioned her in first. She went, and simply took the first bed she came to. Better to be by the door and able to get up and get moving if needed. She almost expected Charles, with his gentlemanly manner and 1960s sensibilities, to go to other end of room or to the other side, or both, or something of the sort, but he didn't. He set his bag on the bed next to hers. It didn't seem to be particularly deliberate though, especially considering that it took a moment before he noticed that she was standing there raising an eyebrow at him.
He looked at where he was and where she was, and colored a bit. "I'm sorry; does that make you uncomfortable? Would you rather I—"
"No, it's fine," Buffy smiled easily. "It's just more fun giving you a hard time."
Charles huffed and pushed his bag to the foot of the bed. "You really are too much like my sister," he grumbled. But as Buffy turned back to her own things she caught him smiling to himself.
As the Council's wiccas worked on a way to successfully alter a location spell to track one demon from the future anywhere on the planet, Buffy and Charles were left to wait.
There was enough for Charles to do, when he wasn't spending time talking to Buffy. The library, full of occult books and things the Council needed, mostly, were things he never would have touched before, but fascinated him now because of what he now knew. Because he didn't know how long they would be there he devoured them as quickly as he could. Sometimes he forgot about food and would look up to find a sandwich beside him, and after searching his memory would realize that Buffy had brought it to him. She didn't seem to mind his inexhaustible thirst for knowledge.
"I guess I kind of appreciate people like that now. Giles and Willow are both like that, and we've actually won a lot of battles thanks to their mad research skills. I have to appreciate it. So it's kind of homey to have you around being all bookish," she told him. And she told him more about her friends, and her told her more about his, though she already knew them. He told her more about his earlier days, before Cuba and before Erik, and she told him more of how ridiculous she had been before she was called.
And he told her about Moira, because that was the part he'd left out before, and tentatively she told him about the young man he'd seen in her mind on the plane. Riley Finn. He had a last name now.
"I ignored the million warning signs I realize there were now that not everything was right between us. I ruined it, and...I guess I wouldn't blame him if he hates me."
And that, roughly, was just what had happened between himself and Erik, himself and Raven. Charles knew now that he had ignored the signs that Raven's issues with her self-image and his failure to support her properly were coming between them. He had too often ignored Erik's many darker issues to focus on the good he saw in his friend, and that had not been bad in itself...but perhaps if he had better addressed the other things instead of being afraid of pushing Erik away everything would not have come to such an explosive conclusion.
No. Not conclusion. There was always hope. He had to believe that.
He said so to Buffy, quietly, as they sat by the fire in the library one night having that discussion, and in response she only took his hand. There was nothing, really, for her to say to that, and he appreciated that she didn't try to reassure him again as she had on the plane. They were coming to know each other even better now, and she understood that he was only voicing thoughts; he didn't want someone to tell him that it was all right, because it wasn't. Perhaps Raven and Erik were making a horrible choice in wanting to fight the humans that feared them, but he had made bad choices of his own. So had Buffy. They were not perfect.
To keep spirits up they ventured away from the Council building some days, hoping to put the frustration of waiting behind them. Charles had lived at Oxford while he was in England, but he had been to London enough that he was able to show Buffy around a bit.
"I know it will be a tad different in your time, but I would assume the major points are the same. And you might as well see it while you're here."
Buffy didn't protest; she seemed eager, really, to see something of the country her Watcher hailed from. Mrs. Giles had informed them that they would be warned if the wiccas were close to working out the problem and determining a method for finding the demon, and that leaving the Council building for a few hours or so at a time if they weren't would not present a danger of missing anything. So they went.
As for the boy they had met the day they arrived, Buffy seemed to spending the time that Charles spent with the books with Rupert. His mother apparently, had actually gone to stay with friends for a while, that she had not seen in some years, which left her husband with no choice but to bring his son with him when he came to the building daily. Rupert had apparently begun homeschooling recently, and it was put on hold while his mother was away. Charles wondered if the homeschooling was because they knew he was to be a Watcher, so he would not get used to regular schooling. But anyhow, as everyone else at the Council had their duties, Buffy and Charles were the boy's only options for companionship during the day.
"The others times Mother's gone away I've been so horribly bored here all alone. The older kids who are training won't play with me," he complained. So he was glad to have them there, and took to them both quickly, though Buffy, of course, had more time for him seeing as Charles's nose was often buried in a book. But Charles didn't feel guilty about it; he knew without reading her mind that Buffy didn't mind it at all when he stayed out of the way.
This was Rupert Giles, after all, and even though she confessed that she had to do her best to think of him as someone separate entirely from her Watcher to keep herself reasonably sane, the fact of who he would become was always in the back of her mind. She liked the boy anyway, as did Charles-he was intelligent and funny and enthusiastic and all over a joy to have about-but knowing he would be the man she knew made it all the more enjoyable to her to spend time with him. Charles saw it on her face as she lit up when he arrived with his father every morning, and as she laughed when they streaked through the library playing tag or hide-and-seek. The very proper Watchers that peppered the building frowned at them, and Charles noticed but they did not or didn't care.
Mrs. Giles trusted the two of them with her grandson, and Rupert sometimes came with them on their excursions into town. He and Charles fought good-naturedly over who was to point what out to Buffy as they rode the upper decks of the buses, and though for Buffy and Charles the threat of the Kaltar and what it might be planning was always with them...it was good to put it aside for a few hours. It was healthy. Despite the possible size of the threat one could not worry twenty-four hours a day and each day.
That, and Charles couldn't remember the last time he had ever enjoyed himself this much with anyone who was not Erik or his sister. Had he ever? Certainly not since Cuba. He and Hank and Sean and Alex were growing closer and there were amusing moments enough in living and training together, but...they were his students. And he had not been one much for fun since being trapped in a wheelchair and forced to learn to deal with it.
Charles promised himself that he would make more of an effort to bond more with his friends when he returned, rather than focusing on his own troubles or on readying the school or helping them train. They needed it.
"Wish I could help you more with that one, but I have no idea how grown men bond," Buffy laughed when he mentioned it. "Willow and Xander and Giles and I just have movie nights and do a lot of hugging and sometimes crying when we need to re-bond. Giles less on the hugging and crying. But overall it's very simple. We just trick ourselves into thinking it's complicated sometimes. That's what screwed us up last year. But we're good now." She winced. "It's our other relationships we're kind of stumbling through at the moment. You heard my side of that. The rest probably isn't your business since it isn't even mine, really."
"Of course," Charles said quickly.
They were strolling down a sidewalk downtown, and Rupert wasn't with them today. His father had wanted him to stay in the building and do a bit of schoolwork his mother had left for him to keep him on his toes until she returned. Charles had offered her his arm as they walked, and she'd taken it.
"You're sweet, thank you," she'd said when she did, smiling. "You know, my first serious boyfriend was technically even more old-fashioned than you and we didn't do this."
"Technically?" he'd asked curiously.
"Older than I am? Wouldn't my age, even, be pushing it a bit?" And that, of course, had felt funny to say considering he still thought of himself as young. He had to remember how young Buffy really was. It was still difficult, because she seemed so much more mature much of the time.
She'd shrugged and grimaced a little. "It's hard to explain. Sorry, but that's one story you will not be hearing."
"That's quite all right..."
Now this business of friends and keeping close to those one cared about, and his thoughts could not help but go to Raven and Erik and Moira, as they always did. Charles wondered if it would ever hurt less. Perhaps it didn't quite feel as if Cuba were yesterday anymore, but it was awful enough.
"Perhaps I should take them somewhere," he mussed aloud, speaking of Hank and Alex and Sean. "A vacation might do us good. We've done nothing but train and such since I was well enough."
"Yeah. That's an idea." Buffy went off with suggestions, but Charles was suddenly distracted by something he saw ahead of them.
Something he thought he saw, but he couldn't have seen it. But...no, there it was. A flash of straight, dark auburn hair.
Charles stopped in his tracks. "It can't be..."
Buffy stopped with him, frowning. "What?"
He didn't answer, reaching out with his mind to search for another that was familiar. It his utter shock it was there, ahead of them and moving away, and completely unaware of them in the crowd on the sidewalks.
Charles pulled in a breath and tugged Buffy forward to the entrance of a small shop. "Buffy, I'm sorry, but may I ask you to wait here? I will try not to be long, but I don't have time to explain now. I will when I return."
"I-I uhm...okay. Okay, I guess..."
He only nodded in thanks before hurrying after the figure that was too far away now. He was going to lose her, and he called out with his mind as he walked quickly, unwilling to run and draw too much attention. He didn't want to put anyone in danger.
Moira...please slow down. I'm behind you.
If she stopped, at least he would not have to explain how he was walking. She didn't remember that he had been paralyzed. She remembered the one kiss they had shared but...he had taken away the details that would have given that part away.
Thank god, she began to slow, and she turned, but also slowly, as if trying too hard to look casual. He wondered if someone she knew were nearby and could see. He wondered if this were a horrible idea already, but she thought nothing in return. She merely searched the faces behind her, and at long last her eyes found his.
Charles's heart raced, and he wondered what to say to her as he approached. Her eyes were wide now, and finally she began to walk back in his direction, also quickly, but nothing that could be misconstrued as suspicious. When they met in the middle she grabbed his arm before he could say anything and dragged him into the mouth of an alley.
"Shh!" she was saying.
It was certainly not what he had been expecting. "What...?"
"Shh!" Moira repeated, and she glanced back out into the street once more, looking both ways before pulling back into the alley and relaxing a bit. "Levine," she explained simply.
"Levine your partner Levine?"
"I'm supposed to be meeting him down the street soon. He could have come this way, and you know we can't risk him seeing you. The CIA is still looking for you."
Charles let out a breath. "You're here on business. Of course you are. I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to cause trouble for you, I-" But he was cut off when she latched onto him with a welcoming embrace. He fell silent and returned it. "I've missed you..." He felt that she returned the sentiment, even though she didn't remember that last week, when they had been at his family's estate in New York. Moira held on for a long moment before she pulled back.
Once she'd pulled back she slapped him.
"How could you do that to me! I wouldn't have told them where you were, Charles! Do you trust me so little?"
"I trust you, Moira; I only did it for your own safety. Do you think that I wanted to? Taking those memories from you meant I couldn't see you; do you think I wanted that?"
At first she didn't seem to know what to say to that. "I hope not," she said finally.
"I didn't," he said again, catching her eyes.
Moira held his gaze for a moment, but then looked away. "I'm sorry."
"No, no...you have every right to be angry. I didn't ask."
"That would have defeated the purpose."
He let out a breath. "I'm sorry, I just...couldn't bear the thought of anything happening to you because of me." He made a face. "I can no longer afford to underestimate what the government and security forces of this country are willing to do."
Charles sensed her confusion, and a quick search told him immediately that the CIA had not told her that the fleets had fired on the beach. He snorted in disgust.
"Of course they didn't tell you," he muttered. "None of the public knows."
"Charles, what? What are you talking about?"
He told her-that they had been fired on, and why-that Erik had stopped the missiles, but not that he had turned them around on the ships. Not that Charles had lost his legs in stopping him. Not that she had fired the bullet that did it. Not that Erik and Raven were gone and his heart was broken.
"Oh my god, I-how could they not tell me?"
"You were on that beach, Moira. They would have killed you too, if they had succeeded. I doubt they want you to know that."
Upset, Moira looked at the ground for a moment or two. "This is insane..." Then she looked out toward the road, and at her watch, more upset when she saw the time. "I can't stay much longer. I can't be too late meeting Levine or he might suspect something."
Charles swallowed. "I know."
She looked at him quickly. "Charles...you didn't make anything up, did you?"
"You erased or covered up my memories of wherever we were that last week, but did you make anything up?"
He frowned. "No, of course not."
"Then the flashes I get from that week are real."
It came to the front of her mind, and he knew what she was talking about. His expression softened. "Of course they are." When she started to lean forward a bit he knew what she wanted without any help from his powers, and he was more than willing to oblige. Charles kissed her.
"Will I see you?" she asked.
"Not unless something changes," he admitted. "It isn't safe for either of us."
Moira kissed him again, and this time he pulled the hand he had braced against the wall away from it so that he could take her face in his hands for the moment more that it lasted.
Then she was pulling away, swallowing hard and heading for the street already. "I have to go!" She almost didn't pause, but she did, and looked back, and Charles smiled and nodded her on.
Moira blinked more than once. "Goodbye."
Then she was gone.
Yes, I could have loved you. If things were different. But he thought it only to himself.
When Charles came back-and it wasn't too horribly long, just as he'd promised-he was quiet and frowning to himself. Something was wrong.
"Charles? What happened?" Buffy asked.
He blinked to clear his head before he looked at her. "Hmm? I'm sorry...ah..." He winced. "Moira. It was Moira. She and her partner are in London."
And why the hell was she suddenly kind of jealous?
"Is uhm...is she doing okay?"
Charles shrugged. "I suppose. She seemed to be. She didn't have long."
She looked at him closely. "Are you okay?" He nodded wordlessly, hands stuffed in his pockets, but she didn't believe him. Buffy wrapped her arms around one of his to her side and began to lead him back the way they had come, back toward the Council building, and after a moment Charles pulled that hand out of its pocket and held hers between their entwined arms.
He said nothing the whole way back, but she felt the thanks he felt for her being there.