A huge thanks goes out to Adam, for giving me a crash course in Giles-speak.
Siamese Whispers - Chapter 2
London, England; September 2001
The ringing phone wakes me at what my internal clock insists is is an appallingly early hour, despite the bright sunlight streaming through the blinds. I'm momentarily confused, but quickly remember I'm back in England...and as quickly recall why. Renewed grief strikes like a blade, and I nearly forget to answer the call.
"Rupert Giles," I say into the receiver, cradling it on my shoulder as I reach for my glasses.
"Hello, Mr. Giles." The voice is soft and cultured, with a slight lisp. "My name is Howard Blaine. I don't know if you recall me from your brief tenure in Research...."
Blaine...an image comes to mind of a slight young man, years my junior, with the pale skin and dark under-eye circles that come from late nights spent researching. He had been studying to be a doctor. "Yes, vaguely. How are you, Mr. Blaine?"
"Please, call me Howard - may I call you Giles?" He ignores my question - must be a business call.
"Of course. What can I do for you, Howard?" I sigh, feeling the burden of Council responsibilities and old loyalties weighing yet again on my shoulders.
The tone of the dead air changes, sounding like a conchshell held to the ear; the phone has been covered. "I cannot speak any further at present." His voice has dropped to a whisper. He is not alone. "Can we meet?"
I answer in the affirmative and give the address of a nearby American-style coffee house. He agrees to meet me there for afternoon tea - quite amusing, really.
I fumble the handset into its cradle, still hurting from the previous night's binge. I begin polishing my glasses on my shirt only to realise that it's filthy and will make matters worse. With a sigh I put them on and look at the clock - two hours to my meeting with Blaine. Two hours in which to shower, find reasonably-close-to-pressed clothes that aren't too dirty, run a comb through my hair...
But first, get a drink....
I recognise Blaine easily when I arrive at the coffee house, only 20 minutes late and what passes these days as sober. He is already seated; the only man under 50 in the place with tea. I make my way over and sit, offering my hand out of habit more than courtesy. There is no need for introductions or pleasantries, and likely no time. He appears very nervous, his eyes constantly scanning the room and the pavement beyond the plate glass window.
Right - down to business. "What is so important that you needed to see me in person, Howard?"
"First, let me offer my condolences. Miss Summers was a Slayer of unparalleled strength and courage - a true hero in every sense. I was very sorry to hear of her passing."
The part of me that isn't taken completely aback by his sympathy wants to reach out and throttle him. Hearing these words from someone who never knew her is hard. "Yes, well...thank you," I force out. "Now, what do you want?"
"Yes...it's difficult to put into words, forgive me." His voice is horribly tense and he clears his throat. "It's...it's the other Slayer, sir...."
I'm suddenly struck by a chill and shiver, my hackles rising. I say as calmly as I can manage, "You'll understand when I say I want nothing to do with her."
"I understand as well as anyone who was not eyewitness to her exploits can. Please believe that I wouldn't have called if it weren't a matter of the utmost impor--"
"What I understand," I manage to grind out through clenched teeth, "is that a girl I loved as my own daughter is dead, and you wish to speak to me about another who caused her grievous emotional and physical harm! She's a vicious, cold-blooded murderer who should be put down!" I'm so furious that I'm shaking. How dare he?!
"That is roughly what Travers said. Her case goes before the Elders in a week's time."
What? "Hasn't he racked up enough of a body count trying to have her executed?" I ask, irritated.
"I'd say so, yes," he returned wryly. "There will only be one death this time, however: hers."
Now I'm intrigued, and disgusted at myself for wanting to be there to watch. I try to maintain my indifferent facade. "Oh?"
My face must betray some of my elation, for his shows disgust. "If you asked, Travers would probably give you first shot. This won't be an execution; it'll be murder."
"She deserves no less."
He looks horrified. "Good God, listen to yourself, man!" he hisses, standing, slamming a hand angrily on the table, causing our cups to jump and spill on their saucers. "She is not that same girl! If she were, they wouldn't have needed me to care for her!"
"Explain; but please, do sit. People are staring."
He blushes a deep crimson and seats himself quickly, ducking his head and folding his hands on the table, heedless of the slowly spreading puddle of tea.
I signal the waitress for refills and cleanup as I await his explanation. I can sense he wants to run. I'll be damned if I dragged myself down here to leave empty-handed.
We receive fresh cups. He wraps his hands around his, as if they're cold. He calms; his face returns to a normal tone. Finally, he speaks: "Shortly after you began your training, I began medical school. I was top in my class. I was awarded a fellowship in Neurology."
I pull off my glasses and begin polishing them out of habit and boredom. I didn't come here to hear his life's story! "That girl needs a psychiatrist, not a neurologist."
"Perhaps before she sustained severe trauma. Now...now I'm uncertain what she needs."
"Trauma? What?" What is he nattering on about?
A fat manila envelope is pushed across the table. "Everything is in there," he says, gesturing at it. "If you care - if you haven't forgotten your Watchers' Oath - you'll find everything you need to stop what Travers and his followers are trying to do. If you'd like to arrange a visit, my number is written inside the flap." He stands and dons his coat.
I stand as well, infuriated that this man, who knows nothing of Buffy and so little of me, dares question my fealty! "How dare you?!" I grind out. "I fulfilled my duties to my Slayer!"
He gives me a contemptuous look. "You swore your loyalties to the Slayer, not your Slayer. I'm certain I don't need to remind you that you did once swear allegiance to this very girl." With that, he leaves.
Left in solitude, I sip at my nearly cool Earl Grey, staring at a package that both intrigues and nauseates me. By the time I finish my drink, I've begun leafing through the various reports - prison, medical, school, child services and Council - that comprise Faith's file. The envelope also contains a few CDs labelled "security video;" I'll have a look when I return to my flat. I know they won't affect the decision I've already made.
God help us all.