The long night of research proved an exercise in futility. Hours later, the cupboards were empty, the fridge almost bare, everyone was tired and surly, and the Scoobies were none the wiser about what species of demon the Watcher was or how to change him back into a man. Buffy sent Dawn to bed around midnight. The teen had protested, but her sister reminded her that she had school, so with a resigned grumble the younger Summers had trundled off, leaving the others to pick up the slack. The research marathon continued until around two o’clock in the morning when Xander and Anya made their apologies and left. Shortly after that, Tara and Willow cited sleep deprivation and impending tests in their Sociology course as their excuse to turn in and get some well needed rest.
Finding herself alone with Giles once again, Buffy was anxious to make a getaway too.
“I don’t know about you,” she cheerily forced, flashing an uneasy smile at her Watcher. “But I’m bushed. I think Tara and Willow have the right idea. A little shut eye to help renew those tired, old gray cells, and we can tackle this anew in the morning.”
Giles frowned as the slayer tiredly rose to her feet. “I’m sorry. You must be quite exhausted.”
“It’s been a long day,” Buffy admitted, stifling a yawn. She swept back a lock of hair that had fallen across her cheek, and tucking it behind her ear, began to stretch out a few muscles that had gotten tight over the last hour of sitting.
“Long, and peculiar,” the Brit amended.
“You’re right about that,” Buffy sighed. “I’ll say one thing about living on a Hellmouth. Things are never boring.”
“Indeed, not!” the Watcher jovially agreed. “Though, I do think I could have done with a little less excitement today.”
Buffy smiled at her friend again, and this time the sincerity in the simple gesture was genuine.
“Giles, I’m sorry you got turned into a demon. Again. Right about now, I guess you must feel like your life really sucks.”
“The sentiment has crossed my mind a time or two.”
Chewing thoughtfully at her lip, Buffy found herself feeling sorry for her Watcher. Giles had come back to Sunnydale because of her. She couldn’t help imagining that he had been happy back home, in England, and that she was somehow indirectly responsible for ruining his life. But that was nothing new. She’d been doing that even before she was born. Giles had told her once that he hadn’t always wanted to be a Watcher. When, at the age of ten, his father had informed him that he was expected to carry on the family’s legacy with the Council, Giles had been very disappointed. His boyhood dreams hadn’t counted on destiny. He wanted to be a pilot. Or a grocer. But fate forced him into the role. He fought it at first, rebelling, leaving his family and his education to hang with a bad crowd of wannabe black sorcerers. Eventually, however, he saw the error of his ways, and accepting the mantle of responsibility and destiny, he returned to the fold, and devoted his life to the business of becoming a proper Watcher.
Though he spent years training and learning the expected duties of a Watcher, little did Giles know that one day he would actually attain the coveted assignment of being assigned to an active slayer. And on a Hellmouth! Packing up the trappings of his unpretentious life, he’d moved to Sunnydale, California, and assumed the position of librarian at the local high school. There were a few rocky moments between the Watcher and his new charge at first, but over time, Buffy and Giles slowly developed an understanding between them, and a mutual respect for each other. And something else, too. Friendship.
As the years passed, one apocalypse after another tested the bonds of that precious partnership. Buffy wasn’t your typical ‘follow my orders blindly’ slayer, and Giles had been forced to throw out a lot of what was accepted Watcher tradition in order to manage his unruly student. His willingness to chuck aside the handbook of rules and just “go with the flow” resulted in a longer than average life span for his slayer, and an almost familial-like relationship with not only Buffy, but her mother and her sister, as well as the close knit circle of young people that formed the Scooby Gang. They became his family, and he happily fostered the unofficial patriarchal position the others assigned to him.
But things began to change. The teenagers that once looked to him for advice became young adults eager to test the challenges of growing up on their own. Where once he had been a voice of adult reason, Giles found himself drifting further apart from the others because of his age. His interaction with the gang began to take on new dimensions. He was still a friend and mentor, but the younger people were less dependent upon him and more involved with their own exiting lives. Giles began to have doubts about his place in Buffy’s life. She had proved on several occasions that she no longer needed his constant watching, that she could handle her slayer duties on his own. A disagreement with Council policy led to him being fired as Buffy’s Watcher, and while he continued to help out his replacement with the research and training, by then the others were almost as capable of assuming those duties, too, and Giles began to feel redundant. When the school blew up, and he lost his job as librarian, he entered a period of unemployment. For a while, he considered going back to England, but something kept him in Sunnydale long enough that a new opportunity managed to present itself.
The death of a local merchant marked a mid-life career change for Giles. He bought the deceased man’s small occult magic shop, and setting up the back room for Buffy to train in, resumed his Watcher duties. There were new threats to fight, and expanding challenges in everyday life to conquer, not the least of which was a sister for Buffy. The slayer’s mother became ill, and eventually died, leaving the two young Summers women to muddle on together though some difficult and emotional times. For a while, Giles had tried to help out, but when Buffy died trying to save the world, I had marked and end to a part of the Brit’s life, and even though the others were sorry to see him go, he returned to England, and set about finding a way to fit into a place that had long ago been his home.
He’d been back for only a day or so when the call came. Buffy was alive again. Willow and the other Scoobies had resurrected her from the dead. He’d greeted the news with mixed emotions. Part of him was ecstatic beyond words at the thought that his dear slayer lived. He couldn’t wait to see her, to talk with her, and reassure himself that it was indeed true. But it was confusing for Giles, too. It had taken so long to decide to leave, that going back wasn’t comfortable, or easy. But his Buffy needed him, and he was a dutiful Watcher and a caring friend, so once again he put his own life on hold, and flying back to California, he began the difficult task of sorting through the mess he had left behind him.
Now, here it was, only a few weeks later. Buffy was still recovering from the dramatic shock of having to dig herself out of a grave and continue on with her life. Willow and Tara were living in the Summers house, helping to pick up the slack and helping the two sister’s out. Xander and Anya, Giles’ silent partner and co-worker at the Magic Box shop, were excitedly making plans for their imminent wedding. Dawn was going through a bout of adolescent trauma - dating a vampire, cutting classes at school, breaking rules and testing everyone’s patience. And Giles? Well, he was still trying to figure out just where and how he was best needed, without interfering with anyone else’s busy lives. At the moment, he was staying in the Summers house, and sleeping on the couch in the living room. He had intended to move out and take a hotel room, but now, with recent developments being what they were, those plans would have to wait. Even if he was in Sunnydale, he suspected that it would be next to impossible to find an establishment that rented rooms to a demon.
“Maybe you should think about getting some sleep, too,” Buffy suggested, regarding her Watcher with his pensive expression.
“I will,” the Brit promised. “Later. I’d like to finish this book first. I’ve only a few chapters left to look through.”
“Well, don’t stay up too late,” the slayer yawned. Shuffling sleepily, she started toward the center hall stair. “‘Night, Giles.”
“Good night, Buffy.”
Giles watched his slayer tromp up the stairs and disappear into the floor above him. He could hear her moving around for a while, the floorboards creeking softly, betraying her every step as she got ready for bed. Her muffled footfalls glided toward the window that had served as the portal for his earlier escape attempt. Shutting it, she padded over to her bed, and Giles smiled as he listened to the gentle squeak of the mattress as Buffy settled in and got comfortable.
Sitting back, Giles returned his attention to the book in his hand. The house was quiet. Everyone was asleep, and he was alone at
It didn’t take long to finish his work. With a disappointed sigh, Giles closed his book, and put it aside in a pile on the floor with several others. He had gone through quite a few volumes that night, and not one had contained any information that would solve his problem. It seemed he would have remain a demon, at least for a little while longer.
Giles knew that his slayer’s parting advice had been wise, that he should get some sleep. Lord knows, he needed it. But he felt strangely anxious, and though he couldn’t say what, he knew that he needed to do something before he could turn in for the night.
A drink is what you need, the Brit told himself. Something hard and with plenty of fiery tooth. A good Scotch should do nicely. But the Summers' liquor cabinet was dry. That meant that if he wanted something, he would have to go out for it.
Collecting his leather jacket from the front hall, Giles was about to shrug it on, when suddenly, his wings started to flutter. Swearing under his breath, the Brit frowned, and contemplated how to handle his dilemma. It wouldn’t do to call undue attention to himself, so he had to figure out a way to hide his wings and keep them under control. A flash of inspiration struck him, and padding to the kitchen, he searched through the drawer that was reserved for odds and ends of collected useful junk. Among the pencils and scissors and the multitude of loose rubber bands, he found what he was looking for: a roll of silver duct tape.
Removing his sweater, Giles proceeded to carefully bind his wings. Folding the feathery appendages back on themselves, he used the tape to fasten them into compact bundles that he could strap to his back. Next, he wound several strips of duct tape around his ribs, effectively capturing the troublesome limbs, and flattening their profile considerably. Finally, he tucked the long ends down into the back of his pants, and slipping on his sweater, he carefully apprised the results in the dark, mirror-like surface of a convenient window, and judged them passable.
After a final adjustment, Giles threw on his leather jacket. Perfect! Checking through his wallet, he made sure he had sufficient funds. A brief hunt through his luggage offered up an earing to wear, and then heading to the front door, Giles stepped out into the night in search of adventure.