It was him.
As the young boy slowly raised his face to meet her incredulous gaze, Buffy wondered how she could have been so blind and not noticed it right off. It was so obvious. There was something very unmistakably Giles about those eyes looking up at her.
Her brain buzzing numbly in shock, Buffy considered the bizarre concept of a young Giles. It was simply beyond her comprehension. Giles couldn’t be a kid. Giles had probably never even been a kid. Maybe she was suffering from some sleep deprivation induced fantasy, or was sleepwalking, or something. But one look at her friends faces said that wasn’t the case. That could only mean it really was him. Giles. Sitting in his chair there and big as life. Or maybe that was small as life, because there really wasn’t much of him to look at. In fact, Buffy thought to herself, the librarian was almost pathetically short, something she was finding even harder to believe than the fact that Giles had somehow become a young boy.
Willow and Xander had moved in closer, crowding around the young librarian with Buffy and Oz. The teens’ faces reflected an emotional range from doubt and disbelief to stupefied shock as each studied the boyish figure before them. After several minutes Giles began to squirm uncomfortably under their combined scrutiny, unsettled by the minutely critical attention to his person.
“Yes, it’s me,” Giles sighed, answering Buffy’s question. “And no, I don’t know how, or who, or for that matter even why,” he continued, frustrated by his inability to explain his strange situation. “It just…happened.”
“Wow!” Willow finally said, her jaw dropping in dazed awe as she stared at the librarian.
“Way wow,” Buffy agreed with her friend. “Really wow! Like Steven Spielbergesque wow.” Regarding the librarian with a curious look the blonde gave in to an irrepressible urge and giggled. “Gee, Giles, you’re so…”
“Young?” he responded sharply. A pout pursed his mouth in his displeasure at the girl’s laughter. “Yes, I am aware of that.”
“Actually, I was going to say small,” Buffy replied, her smile continuing it infectious spread across her face. “That must have been some wicked growth spurt you had.” She was overcome by another chuckle, and then her face softened with concern for her friend. “Do you feel okay?”
“I seem to be in a reasonably good state of health,” Giles answered, his brow knit thoughtfully. “Considering…”
“Considering you’re eight years old,” Xander interjected, his own grin gaping in amused delight.
“I believe I’m older than that,” Giles defensively countered in reply to Xander’s gleeful observation.
“Not much older,” Oz conjectured.
“This is really freaky,” Willow added as she leaned in closer to the young librarian for another long look.
“Freaky-deaky, that’s for sure,” Buffy nodded. Shaking her head the blonde teen perched herself on the arm of Giles’ chair next to him. “This one definitely qualifies you for parking privileges in the Twilight Zone. I’ve got to say, Giles, this one really sends the needle off the scale on that old Spook-A-Meter.”
“You have no idea,” Giles remarked with a pained grimace.
“Man, I can’t believe it’s you!” Xander blinked, his eyes trying to clear his vision of the strange image before him. He turned to his classmates, gesturing at the youthful Brit. “Look at him. Giles has hair!”
“And precisely what is that supposed to mean?” the librarian challenged, casting a suspicious glare toward the dark-haired teen.
“Nothing,” Xander shrugged. “It’s just, there’s so much of it, and there wasn’t, you know, before.” Giles’ expression slid from skeptical toward insulted, his eyes smoldering with his indignation as the teen continued. “Don’t tell me that lately you hadn’t noticed seeing a little more forehead in the mirror, Giles.”
“Well, I must in all honesty admit the gray had become a bit more…conspicuous,” the Brit muttered reluctantly, absentmindedly running his fingers through the thick hair growing at his temples. “But I thought it made me appear rather distinguished.” He glanced hopefully at the faces of the four students surrounding him. “No?”
“Distinguished. Yeah, sure,” Buffy echoed with a sardonic lilt. “As in old and ready for a room at the Wrinkle City Retirement Home for Over the Hill Watchers. Face it, Giles. You’re not as young as you used to be. Well,” she paused reflectively, grinning at the librarian. “Maybe you are now. But you weren’t yesterday.”
“On the bright side,” Oz remarked, seeing the frown of disillusionment crossing Giles’ youthful features. “I don’t think you’ll need to worry about filling any prescriptions for Rogaine in the near future.”
“You’re right about that,” Xander agreed with a chuckle. “You’ve got hair to spare now. Lots of it. Geez, Giles! You look like a girl.”
“I do not!” the librarian lashed out defiantly, protesting the teen’s critical observation of his present appearance. Crossing his arms over his chest Giles threw himself back in his chair, his features drawing into an expression that was undeniably characteristic of a sullen, pouting child. The four teens looked at each other, then almost as one burst into hysterical laughter.
“He’s so cute when he does that!” Willow squealed in delight, grinning at her friend Buffy.
“A regular little cutie patootie,” the blonde chortled, her voice automatically going into a high-pitched, saccharine dripping baby-talk mode. Reaching down, Buffy gripped the librarian’s cheek in a teasing finger pinch. Giles reacted instantly, sweeping her hand brusquely aside as he stared at her in horrified shock.
“What was that for?” he demanded, glowering at her accusingly. Giles rubbed at the spot her fingers had squeezed as if he were attempting to wipe away the memory of her brazen touch. “Have you gone barmy?”
“Sorry, Giles,” Buffy countered in mock apology. “Guess I couldn’t help myself. I was suddenly overcome by this strange urge to act all Grandma goofy and tweak something.”
“Don’t ever do that again,” the boyish librarian announced with solemn firmness. “It’s very disturbing. Not to mention painful.”
“Oooo! Someone’s pretty touchy about being touched,” Xander smirked with a wide teasing grin. “Hey! I bet Giles is ticklish. Who wants to find out where?”
The teen wriggled his fingers at the seated youth in a playful gesture. Immediately Giles shot out of his chair, leaping to his feet to posture with an aggressive display of his small fists as he scowled at the older boy. Xander hesitated and drew back, suddenly unsure as to how serious a threat this miniature Giles could be. He certainly looked like he meant business.
Facing the riled librarian, Xander quickly found himself beginning to regret his attempt to tease the small Brit. While not full sized, he had shown no indication that he didn’t remember everything Giles the adult knew, and that probably included all those years of hand to hand combat fighting techniques. Xander had on occasion watched Giles and Buffy throwing each other around the library during their training sessions. Buffy was invariably the decided victor in those mock battles, but the Brit was no slouch when it came to playing Power Ranger games with his slayer pal. Xander realized he didn’t stand a chance against someone with Giles’ years of experience in the martial arts. So wisdom being the better part of valor, and a less painful out as well, he quietly withdrew a step, nonchalantly tucking his hands behind his back.
“Feisty little guy, isn’t he?” the teen remarked, trying to hide the embarrassment he felt at cowering before the bluff of what looked like a eight year old child.
Xander’s words made Giles suddenly aware of how ridiculous he was behaving. It had happened to him again. He really had to do something about this temper of his. With a sheepish grin the young Brit unclenched his fists, meekly returning his hands to his sides.
“I-I don’t know what I could have been thinking,” he mumbled in reparation. “This entire situation seems to have set my nerves a bit on edge. My apologies, Xander.”
“It is not to worry, G-man,” Xander responded, grateful to put the incident behind him. “I can understand why you’d be feeling a little short. Uh, tempered, that is. Not short, you know, like,” he said, gesturing to demonstrate the librarian’s present lack of height. This only earned the teen another scathing glare from the boyish Brit. “Maybe this would be a good time for me to shut up,” the teen lamely grinned.
“Perhaps that would be wise, indeed,” Giles remarked, his childish voice ringing with a slight bitterness.
“I didn’t know you were into football,” Willow said, nodding toward the librarian’s red jersey with the large number eight on its front, back and striped sleeves. “When did you become a Forty-niners fan?”
“What? Oh, this,” Giles grumbled, frowning at the sports shirt he wore. “Believe me, it isn’t something I would have chosen. I have never professed a burning desire to affiliate myself with any of your American sporting cults. Wesley’s the one who chose this for me.”
“Somehow, it’s oddly appropriate,” Oz noted, looking at the name emblazoned in white letters across the back.
“Oh, yeah!” Willow giggled appreciatively. “Young!”
“A mere coincidence,” Wesley retaliated, warding off the librarian’s churlish stare with a weak apologetic smile. “It was the one on the sale table with the keenest pricing. Though in retrospect it does seem quite amusing,” the Watcher chuckled. “Is this Young fellow famous?”
“More like infamous,” Xander quipped jovially. “He’s probably the only guy I know of who’s had as many head concussions as Giles here.”
“Yeah, well, the thing I want to know is,” Buffy mused with a curious look. “What is Wesley doing buying you clothes?”
“Because nothing in my cupboard seemed to fit for some odd reason,” the librarian replied. “I required something to wear when in public. You certainly wouldn’t have expected me to go about walking the school halls nude, would you?”
“Would’ve added a little interest to those candid shots in the yearbook,” Oz retorted with the trace of a droll grin. “They’re usually pretty lame and boring.”
“And think what it would have done for increasing sales,” Buffy gleefully continued the teasing. “I know I’d have bought an extra copy or two…thousand!” The four teens doubled over in raucous laughter at the librarian’s expense with even Wesley joining in this time as Giles scowled darkly at them all.
“Yes, well, while this is all very amusing,” Wesley finally announced, putting an end to the gaiety at last. “Rupert and I have a great deal of work to do. We can’t be wasting our entire day with idle chitchat.”
“Much as it pains me to say, Wesley is right,” Giles remarked, attempting to recover what was left of his bruised dignity. Dropping into his chair, he waved a hand toward the open book on his desk. “We’ve been at this for several hours now, trying to find a spell to reverse the effects of this condition. I’m afraid we haven’t made much progress.”
“You think this is some kind of spell?” Willow asked, her interest immediately piqued. Leaning over Giles’ shoulder she glanced at the page he had been reading. She was intrigued by the idea the librarian’s peculiar circumstances might be magically produced. “Maybe I could help. I still have that book I borrowed last week, the one on modern incantations. I think I remember reading something about a potion that makes you young. Only,” she smiled sheepishly, looking at the Brit’s youthful countenance. “That’s not exactly what you need, is it? But if we make a few changes here and there, maybe we could get it to add a few years.”
“The forces of magic are not something to be trifled with, Willow,” Wesley lightly scolded the perky red head. “I do hope you’re not experimenting with dangerous spells unsupervised.”
“Of course not,” Willow lied, feigning a look of complete innocence. “I only do the safe ones. Nothing dangerous. Not ever. Nope. Not me. Uh, uhhh!”
“Well, I certainly hope not,” the Englishman countered, but he seemed satisfied by the girl’s assurances. “For all we know, it was an errant spell casting that did this to poor Rupert in the first place. It does seem the most likely explanation we have for his, uhm, condition.”
“But who would do something like this? And why?” Buffy asked. No sooner had the words left her moth than she came up with a plausible name. “Ethan Rayne,” she muttered contemptuously. “This smells like it has his name written all over it.”
“Apparently not,” Giles answered, sitting back in his chair. “Wesley and I have already looked into that possibility. We’ve rung every accommodation in Sunnydale and several nearby communities. Not one of them has any record of him in their registers.”
“What if he used another name?” Buffy suggested. “Maybe one of us should go check things out in person. You know, show his picture around to the desk clerks at all the local dives and fleabags.” Her excitement grew with the anticipation of an assignment that would get her out of class. “We can make this into a real professional investigation, Law and Order style.”
“Or Starsky and Hutch,” Xander enthusiastically voiced.
“Or Cagney and Lacey,” Willow beamed as she added another vintage detective team to the list before turning to Oz to hear his favorite.
“Mmm, tough one,” the musician soberly brooded. “Scully and Mulder would seem the obvious choice here, but I think I’ll go with agents Jay and Kaye.”
“Good choice, Oz, my man,” Xander nodded approvingly. “Those Men In Black had way cooler weapons.”
“Not to mention the ultimate in shades,” Oz grinned.
“And you’d look so cute in a pair of those,” Willow told her boyfriend, giving him a quick hug. “Maybe we should get you some.”
“We could all get them,” Buffy exclaimed with fervid animation. “It’d be so great! Giles,” she said, accosting the stunned librarian and grabbing his arm. “You must have a picture of Ethan somewhere. Don’t you?”
“Why on Earth would Rupert have a photo of that man?” Wesley inquired, but before anyone could answer they were interrupted by the sound of briskly marching footsteps approaching the office across the main room of the library.
Everyone immediately froze. Six anxious sets of eyes turned toward the door, waiting to hear if the intruder would go away when they discovered no one was outside to help them. Most students weren’t even aware that the librarian was usually available at that early hour, so there was a good chance that whoever would hang around only a minute or so before leaving. But the trespasser was obviously intent on seeing someone and headed directly for the librarian’s private office.
A short, troll-like figure with prominent ears peered in through the open doorway and looked around, scowling darkly at the small room with its crowd of people. He was a nearly bald man with a square face and features that were blunt and severe as his disposition. They all recognized him as the loathsome and malevolent scourge that terrorized the classrooms and hallways of Sunnydale High School, Principal Snyder.
Snyder grunted, his face marred by an unpleasant frown as his beady eyes searching the room. He finally fixed his gaze on the only visible adult in the room and directed his question at what he grudgingly accepted as a suitable figure of authority, Wesley.
“Where is he?” the principal grumbled.
“I beg your pardon?” Wesley responded, momentarily confused by the other man’s abruptness.
“Mr. Giles,” Snyder sneered impatiently. When Wesley didn’t reply immediately, the principal’s frown deepened, cutting into his face with the permanence of carved granite. “The librarian. Have you seen him?”
No one spoke up to answer the question. The teens exchanged furtive glances, which the principal interpreted as signs of guilt. Known as a man who cared little for the students he was appointed to watch over, Snyder particularly disliked the four that he saw standing before him. Everyone in the room, with the possible exception of Wesley, had at one time or another had an unpleasant run in against the nasty little man. And Snyder made it no secret he considered children, especially teenagers, nothing more than irritating annoyances he was forced to deal with on a day to day basis in his work. He trusted none of them, and held a contemptuous disdain for the youth under his charge. His personal opinions of a certain English librarian weren’t any more favorable, and at that moment he seemed very irked to discover that Giles was not there.
As Snyder’s glower continued to scan the office he didn’t seem pleased to see the teens or Wesley. In turn, the students weren’t any happier their administrator had decided to pay an unannounced visit that morning. This was not a good time for anyone to be nosing around the library, and Principal Snyder could make trouble for them.
“He’s not in?” the principal questioned Wesley again.
“Who?” the Brit asked.
“Mr. Giles!” Snyder snarled in irritation, his lips curled back to expose his tiny teeth. At the mention of his own name in such an unpleasant tone, Giles felt the hairs at the back of his neck rise. Quickly spinning his chair around, he tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, tilting up the book on his desk and enshrouding his face in its pages.
“Gile-Mr. Giles is…out,” Buffy replied, seeing Giles’ odd reaction. She didn’t blame him for avoiding the man. It wouldn’t do to make the principal suspicious. He could ask too many questions, questions for which there were no easy answers. It made sense to her that the librarian wouldn’t want to attract any undue attention to himself. She would go along and cover for her friend.
Snyder was staring at the blonde teen with narrowed eyes. Her polite answer was disconcerting. It was uncharacteristic of the girl to be helpful, at least to him. Regarding the petite teen with an unwavering, penetrating gaze, he tried to figure out what was going on in her mind.
“You’re up to something,” the principal finally declared. “I’m not sure what it is yet, but I intend to make it my business to find out. Don’t think I don’t know what goes on in my school.”
Buffy sat meekly silent on the arm of Giles’ chair, doing her best impersonation of a wrongly accused innocent. Snyder continued his incriminating glare until his eyes dropped slightly and noticed someone new in the usual crowd that followed the Summers girl around. Shouldering his way through the protective wall of teens, he made his way to the desk where a young boy sat hunched over a thick book, his face hidden from view. When the youth didn’t immediately acknowledge his presence, the principal grasped the back of the swivel chair, turning it around to force the boy to look at him. Frowning down at the small child, Snyder gave him his most scathing look of authority.
“Who are you?” the man demanded. “You’re not a student here.”
“Him?” Buffy attempted to divert the principal’s attention, offering him an innocuous piece of information. “He’s, uhm, visiting.”
“Visiting, huh?” Snyder wasn’t sated by the meager confidence the blonde had given. He scowled at Giles, who cringed back into his chair as the principal thrust his face in close.
It was painful for Buffy to watch as Snyder bullied the little librarian with his overbearing Gestapo tactics. She had to fight to restrain her impulse to punch the man’s lights out and then take him apart piece by piece. But that would call attention to Giles, something he didn’t need, so she clenched her teeth tightly, held her breath and prayed for strength. She only hoped that with the extremely personal viewpoint the administrator was getting at such close range he wouldn’t see what seemed at that moment glaringly obvious. The last thing they needed was to explain to Snyder why one of his teachers was only eight years old. Luckily the uncanny resemblance between the librarian and the boy before him was lost on the administrator. With a disgusted snort the man slowly straightened, his short stature somehow managing to tower imposingly over the seated Brit.
“Just what I need,” the principal snarled, glowering menacingly at the strange youth. “A little kid. As if I don’t have enough headaches keeping track of the bigger ones around here. I’m not running a babysitting service, you know. This is a school. Is he yours?” he grumbled at Wesley.
“Mine?” the Englishman replied in astonishment. “Good heavens, no! He’s…”
“He’s here with Mr. Giles,” Willow jumped in, interrupting Wesley before he could let something inadvertently slip.
“That’s right,” Buffy nodded in agreement, embellishing on the idea her friend had started. “He’s Mr. Giles’, uhh, nephew. Yep. That’s it.”
“His nephew?” Snyder harumphed. “And I suppose you’re from England, too?” Giles nodded a curt affirmative and wordless reply as he shrank deeper into his chair. The principal glanced toward Wesley. “It’s beginning to look like a damned British invasion in this school,” he muttered sourly.
“Yeah, that pesky foreign element can really ruin a good dictatorship,” Xander sneered sarcastically. “Too bad that Paul Revere guy isn’t around anymore to warn us about these things. One if by land, two if by sea.” The teen fell silent as Snyder momentarily directed his unimpressed mirthless evil-eye in his direction before turning it back on Giles again.
“I didn’t get your name, boy,” Snyder groused snidely. The librarian stared wide-eyed at the school administrator, mentally debating his reply. It wouldn’t be prudent to give the man his own name since it was unlikely a nephew would share the same alias. He was rescued as Willow quickly provided an answer instead.
“Robert!” the red head blurted out, nervously smiling at the principal. “His name’s Robert. Robert Giles. You know, just like Mr. Giles, ‘cause they’re related.”
“I could have figured out that part,” Snyder snarled at the girl. “Robert, huh? Well, I’ll give you warning right now, Robby Boy,” he threatened, jabbing an intimidating stubby finger at the young librarian. “I don’t tolerate troublemakers here in my school. And you, you look like a prime candidate for detention if I ever saw one. I’m going to be keeping an eye on you, so watch your step!” He snorted disdainfully at the youthful Giles. “I bet you’re a lot like that obstinate uncle of yours.”
“You have no idea how right you are,” Xander grinned, unable to resist the temptation for an opportune comeback. The comment earned him an irritable grumble from Snyder as well as a disapproving glare from Buffy, who urgently signaled warning he had better keep his mouth shut if he knew what was good for him. Faced by the twofold threat, Xander strategically retreated into a corner of the small office to sulk.
“So, how come your uncle got stuck with you today?” Snyder asked, returning to his questioning of the youngster. “Don’t your parents know we expect our employees to work around here? I can’t have my teachers hauling their brats to class with them. School is no place for kids.”
A strangled noise came from the corner where Xander was standing. The teen looked toward his friends, his eyes pleading in agonized desperation as he fought to hold in the obvious rejoinder that Snyder’s comment had brought to mind. But another piercing stare from Buffy managed to keep the temptation under control as Willow attempted to satisfy the administrator with an answer to at least one of his questions.
“Robby’s parents had to go somewhere, somewhere, uhmm, out of town,” she vaguely supplied. “I think it had to do with business, or something, and they couldn’t bring him because, because...”
“Because he’s too young,” Buffy injected helpfully.
“Yeah, too young,” Willow nodded.
“And you know how little kids can get,” Buffy blithely continued, draping her arm around the librarian’s slim shoulder. “Only ten minutes into the trip they’re totally bored. And then the whining starts.” Mimicking a small child, Buffy began a litany of complaints, her voice a singsong wail that grated on the ears of everyone in the room. “‘Do I have to go? Are we there yet? Can we eat? What time is it now? When are we going home? I want-’”
“Yeah, yeah, I get the picture,” Snyder grimaced as he interrupted the blonde’s all too convincing impression of a restless child. Shuddering in revulsion, he tried to expunge the loathsome image her impromptu performance had brought to mind. The principal frowned, uttering a malevolent growl as he fixed his disdainful glare on the teen and the librarian beside her. “Why is it other people’s kids end up being my problem all the time?”
Buffy met Snyder’s gaze with a “you mean me?” look that only made the man seethe with contemptuous ire. Seeing that the girl wasn’t going to bow before his authority, the principal decided to direct his efforts toward a fresher target, one in which he could instill the fear and respect his position deserved. Narrowing his eyes to a sinister vermin-like bead, he lowered his sights on the small child that until then had been sitting quietly in the librarian’s chair.
“You!” Snyder pointed at Giles. “This is my school. If you know what’s good for you there are certain rules you’ll obey. You will remain at all times in this room, and this room only. You are not go wandering about where you don’t belong or in any way disturb my teachers or the other students. This is not a playground. I will not have any running or yelling in my halls. There will be absolutely no fun of any kind had here. Got that?” When Giles didn’t immediately reply, the man snapped at him, the librarian jumping in his seat. “Well? Did you understand what I said? Speak up!”
“Y-yes,” Giles stammered, working to compose his ruffled nerves. Usually the Brit had little trouble mentally turning off the man’s dictatorial ranting, but for some reason Snyder seemed to be intensely intimidating that morning. It was all the librarian could do to find the voice to respond. “You’ve made your views perfectly clear,” he finally choked out in a meek mewling tone that he couldn’t believe came from him. “I assure you I will do nothing that will cause any disruption in your school.”
“You’d better not,” Snyder continued in his hostile grumble. “Because not only will it be the sorriest day you’ll ever remember in your miserable little life, but I can make things pretty tough for that uncle of yours, too.” The principal paused, straightening to look at the others as he questioned them about the absent librarian. “Speaking of which, where is he? I haven’t seen him around. In fact, no one I’ve talked to has.”
“Oh, he’s here somewhere,” Buffy wisecracked as she slyly jabbed the librarian in his back and earned a scathing glance. She smiled at her new Watcher, her eyes betraying the trap she was about to set for him. “Wesley’s been with him all morning. Haven’t you, Wes?”
“Well, I, uh,” the Englishman swallowed, unprepared to be thrust into the conversation as its subject. He’d been much more comfortable standing unnoticed, watching the scene unfold as he tried to follow it along. “He-he is here. Or rather, was here. Earlier, that is.” Finding a successful train of thought at last, Wesley’s confidence grew and he added further embellishment to his tale. “We were working together on a very important project. Mr. Giles was kind enough to allow me access to his personal library resources. Unfortunately, he had to run out on an errand, or some such thing.”
“That’s just great,” the administrator muttered with unveiled sarcasm. “Sometimes I wonder what that man thinks we pay him to do around here. Well, never mind. When’s he supposed to be back?”
“He-he didn’t say,” Wesley replied, flashing a wan, deflated smile. “But rest assured, he will be back.”
“You know Mr. Giles,” Willow interjected, babbling nervously in and attempt to cover for their friend. “He never would have left Robert alone with Wesley if he wasn’t coming right back. Robert’s his favorite nephew. Isn’t he?” she asked, turning to her classmates to back up her story. They all nodded enthusiastically.
“That’s right,” Buffy heartily agreed. She playfully tousled the mop of shaggy hair on Giles’ head. “Robby here is Giles’ special little buddy. And he’s simply crazy about Giles, too. That’s why he wants to grow up and be a librarian, just like his big Uncle Rupert. Isn’t that right, Robby?” she teased. Giles pretended to ignore her, looking instead to Wesley for help in bringing an end to the increasingly uncomfortable situation with Snyder.
For once the Englishman took the hint and made an effort to intervene on the librarian’s behalf. “I’m sure that you’re a busy man, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for detaining you from your duties,” Wesley effused amiably. “You have my word that Robert will not be any trouble. I promise to keep an eye on him at all times.”
Apparently satisfied with the Brit’s guarantee, Snyder took a final reproving look around the office at the students then turned to leave. They tension that had filled the air began to dissipate slowly and they all heaved a collective sigh of relief. Suddenly the principal stopped in the doorway, turning to face them, his scurrilous eyes seeking out Giles.
“When you see your uncle, give him this message,” he said to the boyish librarian. “Tell him today’s teachers’ meeting has been cancelled. It’s been moved to Monday, after school.”
Giles nodded. “I shall let him know it’s been re-scheduled,” he replied in his distinctive accent.
Snyder winced and shook his head, cringing at the Britisher’s unusual pronunciation of the word as re-shed-yuled. “You would think if you people came here you would learn to talk normal, like the rest of us.” the principal sneered in disgust. Then with a sharp revolution on his heel, he stalked out of the library, a firm, deliberate purpose to his step.
“That was certainly a rude thing to say,” Wesley complained once the principal was out of earshot. He looked toward Giles and gave a haughty sniff. “We happen to speak perfectly normal English.”
But Giles was frowning at Willow. “Robert?” he asked the red head quizzically. “Why Robert?”
“It was all I could think of,” Willow replied. “Anyway, I think you kind of look like a Robby.”
“Yeah, Robby Boy,” Xander snickered. “And it sure looks like Snyder had your number, you little ol’ troublemaker, you!”
“Well, thanks to Willow’s quick thinking I believe we’ve managed to establish a rather convincing undercover identity for you, Robby,” Wesley smugly grinned at Giles. “We no longer have to keep you in hiding. You may move freely about the school without suspect.”
“Nice save,” Oz said, proudly acknowledging his girlfriend’s contribution. Willow blushed, pleased by the compliment.
“Hey! What about me?” Buffy queried, reminding the Englishman of her part in the conversation. “Don’t I rate an Atta-Boy? Just who was it decided Giles needed an instant relative visiting him? Huh?”
“Yes, Buffy,” Wesley nodded, tipping his head in thanks to the blonde. “That was an excellent idea as well.”
“Oh, Boy! I get a gold star!” Buffy cheerily exclaimed.
“You receive our sincerest gratitude,” the Brit responded with a straight face, the girl’s sarcasm lost on him. Buffy made a face behind Wesley’s back as he continued. “I suggest we return to our research efforts post haste, Rupert. There is still much we have to do and,” the Englishman paused, his face reflecting a self-pleased humor as he regarded the young librarian. “Some of us aren’t getting any younger.”
Giles sent the adult Watcher a nasty look as Wesley chortled appreciatively at his own joke. The librarian didn’t find the remark even remotely amusing. He fought back the impulsive desire to speak out in anger, keeping his outward composure calm as he submerged the scalding comeback he wanted to throw at Wesley and opted instead for a reserved, seething silence.
As Wesley started toward the office doorway, he glanced back over his shoulder to make sure that Giles’ was following him. But Giles hadn’t moved, and seemed firmly entrenched in his chair.
“Aren’t you coming, Rupert?” the Englishman asked.
“In a moment,” Giles replied, waving the other Brit on. “I’d like to speak with Buffy.”
“Of course,” Wesley remarked, his smirk still highlighting his smug countenance. “But don’t be too long. We haven’t time to waste on school boy dalliances.”
“It’s concerning last night’s patrol,” Giles irritably deadpanned. “I would like to hear if she found anything of interest at the pond.” When it appeared that the Englishman was considering staying to listen to the report as well, Giles quickly added “But you go on ahead with the spell research. You seem to be having a bit more luck at that than I at the moment. I can fill you in on the pond situation later.”
“Very well, then,” Wesley agreed, leaving the office to the librarian and the teens and returning to the main room. The Watcher was settling down at the table with his books when Giles suddenly launched himself up from his chair, scurrying for the office entryway. He took a moment to assure himself that Wesley was occupied before quickly closing the door.
“That man is positively impossible!” the librarian complained with a grumble of frustration. He crossed the office and flung his small form into the chair at his desk, slumping dejectedly down into the seat. “He’s been like this all morning. Thinks he’s some kind of bloody comedian.”
“What’s the matter, Giles?” Buffy grinned, looking down at the librarian as she slid from her perch on the arm beside him. “Not man enough to be a kid? Isn’t as easy as it looks, is it?”
Giles ignored her comment, turning his chair around to pull himself up to the book he’d been reading. “And what did you find last night?” he asked, abruptly changing the subject. “Anything interesting?”
“Met up with two vamps out for a bite to eat,” Buffy told him as the others began to mill about and find seats for themselves in the small office. It was a bit crowded, but they all eventually located a corner somewhere to settle in and listen.
“And?” Giles probed for further details, but Buffy was not one to waste words during her reports.
“Staked ‘em,” she continued succinctly. “And as for the pond, it was a total no scene kind of scene. Nothing there but frogs, ducks, and a couple of college kids I caught making out in the bushes.”
“Nothing of interest then,” the Brit sighed in disappointment.
“Speak for yourself,” Xander retorted, perking up and grinning at the boyish Brit. “You may be too young to care now, but wait a few more years and you’ll find that kind of thing lot more interesting, believe me.”
“So, what was I supposed to find?” Buffy questioned the young Giles, diverting his attention from Xander’s smart remark. “Demon? Trolls? A giant kalamari?”
“It’s difficult to say at this point,” Giles replied, taking off his glasses to fuss with them in an all too familiar gesture. The movement for some unexplained reason gave Buffy a sudden case of the creeps. It wasn’t easy thinking of this small boy as Giles. And yet, even though his voice was strangely high-pitched, the accent was familiar and he certainly talked like the librarian they all knew.
“Giles, if you expect me to find this mysterious Loch Ness monster thing, you’re going to have to give me some idea of what I’m out there looking for, or I won’t know if I’ve found it,” Buffy frowned. “Can’t I get even a little hint?”
“There are dozens of demons that exist in and around water sights,” Giles answered, his childish face seeming out of place with his serious attitude. “Not to mention the various sprites, spirits, nixies and the like. Then there are nymphs, fairies…”
“Okay! We don’t need the entire L.A. phone book listings,” Buffy interrupted, calling a halt to the librarian’s expanding laundry list of supernatural beings. “Isn’t there something in one of your books that can tell us what to look for?”
“The problem seems to be there are too many somethings,” he said to her, rubbing his eyes in a gesture of tiredness. “I require more specific information to separate what is useful from what is not. That was the purpose behind your reconnaissance efforts last night.” He put his glasses back on his nose and pushed them up into place. “Perhaps you’ll have better luck tonight.”
“No! Not tonight!” It was Willow who raised the protest for her friend. Giles gave the red head a quizzical look. “Tonight’s bad. She can’t go tonight.”
“We’re going to the Bronze,” Buffy explained, indicating herself along with the other teens. “The Dingoes are playing.”
“Buffy,” Giles sighed wearily, looking up at the blonde. “We’ve had this discussion a hundred times before. What is more important here? Duty or dancing?”
“An honest opinion?” the blonde queried, her remark meeting with the librarian’s cool disdain. “Come on, Giles,” she pleaded with the Brit. “All work and no play makes Buffy a cranky Slayer. And you wouldn’t want that, now would you?” Putting on her best begging face, the one with the wide innocent eyes and pouting mouth that she knew could melt the librarian’s firmest convictions, Buffy began to chip away at Giles resolve. “I won’t stay that long,” she told him earnestly. “Just a couple of sets. And I’ll go straight to the park afterward. Promise!”
Giles knew he should say no, but Buffy was very persuasive. She had this uncanny knack for making him feel so bad about being right. Flipping through the pages of the book on his desk, he tried his best to ignore her irresistible expression with its heartrending gaze. Finally he could stand it no longer and dissolved into meek acquiescence.
“I suppose that would be an agreeable compromise,” he mumbled, then quickly added. “But I expect a thorough search, and a full report in the morning!” His tone was solemn and grave, meant to convey the firmness behind his words, but the effect wasn’t quite as strong as he’d intended with his youthful features. Buffy had to bite her tongue to keep from laughing out loud. It wasn’t easy listening to someone over half her age scold so somberly.
Buffy was smiling, proud that she had once again managed to negotiate her way with Giles, when she heard someone talking just outside the office. Wesley’s muffled tones came through the barrier of the closed door, interspersed with another that Buffy couldn’t immediately identify.
“Oh, God! Is Snyder back again?” the teen groaned. “Now what does he want?”
Giles sat up, his expression anxious as he braced himself for yet another unpleasant confrontation with the principal. The voices continued their indistinguishable whisperings and it finally became apparent to those listening from inside the office that the second person was not Snyder at all. It was somebody female.
Stealthily rising from his seat, Giles approached window that looked out into the main room, cautiously parting the closed blind slats to peer through them. He couldn’t see anyone out there. Moving toward the door he leaned forward, pressing an ear to the wood surface in an attempted to eavesdrop on what was being said. The sight of the boy librarian in such a stereotypical Hardy Boy pose caused an infectious giggle to erupt from Willow, and she had to clap a hand over her mouth to contain herself when Giles quickly shushed her.
“So? Who is it already?” Buffy asked, her voice seeming unnaturally loud in spite of the fact she had spoken in a whisper.
“I’m not sure,” Giles frowned, chewing on his lower lip as he strained to listen. “Perhaps it’s Miss Barton. She had said something yesterday about popping by for…”
They were all taken by surprise when the door suddenly jerked open. Giles jumped back, stumbling as he tried to get out of the way. He bumped into Xander who was standing nearby and it was only the older teen’s quick reflexes that allowed him to catch the librarian as he was thrown backward onto his bottom by the impetus of the swinging door.
The comic scene was not lost on the four teens. They broke into guffaws and titters at the sight of the young librarian’s astonished expression. Xander helped tilt the young Brit upright, setting him back onto his feet again as Giles’ face colored red with humiliation. Struggling for composure, the librarian adjusted his skewed glasses on his nose and looked up to see Wesley frowning
disapprovingly at him from the open doorway.
“What are you doing?” the Englishman complained, taking in Giles’ expression of guilt. The smaller Brit opened his mouth to defend himself, and then noticed the girl that was standing with Wesley. She had long, dark hair, every strand of which was perfectly in place. Her well-developed figure was attired in an expensive designer name sheath dress that was the epitome of haute couture styling. It was obvious the girl put a great deal of emphasis on her personal appearance, and it showed in every inch of her near flawless beauty. For she was Cordelia Chase, the Queen of the Popular Cliques, Supreme Fashion Maven and Style Trendsetter of Sunnydale High School, and as of recent, Xander’s ex-girlfriend.
Cordelia had been one of the first people to come forward to extend the hand of friendship to Buffy on the blonde’s first day in Sunnydale several years back. But when Buffy decided she preferred to hang with all the so-called losers, namely Xander and Willow, the snobby clique leader quickly dropped any interest she had in the new girl. Eventually, in spite of herself, Cordelia found herself drawn into the odd group of friends when she was forced to turn to Buffy for help on several occasions. And if only by constant association, she came to be known as one of them too, a part of the “Scooby Gang” lineup. Within their private little circle Cordelia was their Daphne, the pretty one.
Even after the three friends accepted Cordelia officially into their select group the derisive barbs about her obsession with her superficial social life and self-absorbed personality continued unabated. Cordelia took it all in stride, giving with the insults as well as she received, barely tolerating the others as she went through great pains to hide her all too frequent fraternizations with them from her cooler friends.
The desire for social disassociation was mutual. Since grade school days Xander had been the self-appointed president of the ‘I hate Cordelia’ Fan Club with Willow a lifelong member of equally esteemed standing. But somehow, because of the tensions of constantly being thrown into dangerous situations together, Xander and Cordelia found things developing into a much closer relationship, one that led to a very strange period of dating and increased hanging as an official couple. But when Cordelia had caught her ‘boyfriend’ in a compromising position with Willow, the crushed beauty quickly turned into an angry, venomous ex-girlfriend. She still occasionally showed at the gang’s favorite haunts, but considered herself an outsider, no longer one of the Slayerettes. That was until Mr. Wesley Wyndham-Pryce came along. Suddenly, Cordelia had a new reason to associate with the group and once again she found herself putting up with those she considered pathetic losers.
Standing at the Englishman’s side, Cordelia Chase was actively engaged in an attempt to charm Wesley. This had become her primary goal since meeting the British Watcher a short time back. She found Wesley interesting and mature, and he was undeniably handsome in those stylishly cut suits he wore. The two of them made a perfect looking couple when together. At times Wesley could be an embarrassing wuss, but that only meant he was easy to manipulate. Cordelia took great delight in how a mere look from her could disarm the Englishman, causing him to go all flustered and nervous.
She had dropped by the library that morning specifically because she had seen Wesley. She had no desire to be with the four teens they now confronted within the tiny librarian’s office, and she dismissed their presence with her usual cool disdain. Then she noticed the stranger among them, the boy to whom Wesley had addressed his remark. Cordelia acknowledged the youngster with mild curiosity and a sharp, tactless comment that was so typical of her.
“What? Are they sending up grade-schoolers now?” she frowned, seeming offended by the presence of the small boy before her. “Isn’t it enough we have to deal with freshmen? What’s he doing here?”
There was a pregnant silence as Buffy and her friends exchanged questioning glances with Wesley. No one had said Giles’ odd situation was a secret, but it had been understood by the teens that it was not news for the general public either. Buffy gave the Englishman piercing look, and he smiled weakly back in return.
“Perhaps it would be best if we filled Ms. Chase in on what is going on,” Wesley said. “She is one of the ‘gang’, is she not?”
“I am so not one of their ‘gang’,” Cordelia corrected the Englishman in defiant protest. “Do I look like a gang person to you? A clique, maybe. A coterie, possibly. But never a gang. No way. Especially not with them,” she added, tossing a dark look toward Xander. She was still angry with her ex-boyfriend and his stupid posse of cohorts. If it weren’t for Wesley, she would have nothing to do with any of them. Suddenly, her desire for gossip kicked in as she realized what Wesley had said. “Tell me what?” she asked the Englishman in curious interest. “What?”
“I believe we have enough people involved in this insanity already,” Giles frowned at his countryman. “You do understand the concept of the word secret, don't you Wesley? It involves not telling what you know.”
“Hey!” Cordelia grinned, noticing the boy’s peculiar speech. “He talks just like you,” she remarked to Wesley. “Is he like some kind of little English person?”
“Just can’t sneak those fast ones past you, can we, Cordy?” Xander dissed the beautiful teen. “What was it that gave it away? The accent, or the way he talked?”
Pointedly ignoring the boy’s barb, Cordelia turned back to Wesley and asked her question that had been interrupted earlier. “What was it you were you going to tell me?”
“It’s about Mr. Giles,” the Englishman began.
Giles muttered several angry sounding adjectives under his breath. This upset Cordelia, who took offense at the attitude the boy was displaying toward her Wesley. She didn’t like other people making the Brit look bad.
“Look here, little guy, whoever you are,” she scolded, shaking a finger at him. “There’s no need to talk rude to Wesley like that. Just because you both come from the same continent, it doesn’t mean you can act like that toward him. He’s a lot older than you, so you’d better treat him with some respect!”
“Surely she isn’t serious?” Giles quipped, raising an eyebrow as he looked toward Buffy.
“Oh, she’s serious, all right” Buffy replied in warning. The other teens nodded their confirmation of the assessment. “Very serious,” Buffy added for emphasis.
“You’re darn right I’m serious,” the dark-haired girl continued smugly. “No pint-sized brat is gong to dictate to Wesley what he can do. If he wants to tell me something about Mr. Giles, though I can’t for the life of me wonder what could be even remotely interesting about that man, well, then he’ll tell me.” Turning to the Englishman, her expression instantly melted into a cloying sweet smile. “So what was it you were going to say?”
Wesley was momentarily taken aback by Cordelia’s abrupt about face from attack mode to interested companion again, but he recovered quickly, making his announcement. “Something has happened to Mr. Giles,” he said to the girl.
“That’s terrible!” Cordelia replied, her voice registering proper sympathy already. “Did he die, or something?”
“No, no,” the Brit assured her. “Nothing quite so drastic as all that.”
“He’s in the hospital again, right?” Cordelia guessed, sighing in disgust. “Don’t tell me it’s another concussion. I swear the man must have a metal plate in his skull to be able to live though all the head trauma he’s seen!”
“No, not an injury,” Wesley responded, glancing toward Giles. The librarian had retreated to hide among the other teens, sulking in quiet protest. Wesley continued his news, searching for an explanation of what had happened. “It’s more of a…a condition, actually,” he said thoughtfully. “Yes, I believe that would be how to best describe it.”
“Ewww!” The girl wrinkled her nose, stepping back and trying to not touch anything around her. “It isn’t contagious, is it?”
“Doesn’t her concern for her fellow man get you right here?” Xander quipped, his fist striking the area over his heart. He turned to Giles and added. “And I bet you didn’t even know how much she really cared.”
“Cordelia,” Buffy said, stepping forward to take the girl by the arm. “I’m going to make this short and simple as possible, so hold all questions until the end.” Pulling Cordelia with her across the office Buffy pointed to the young stranger standing among them. “This is Giles.”
The dark-haired girl rolled her eyes. “Very funny! Ha! Ha! Ha!” she said in an exaggerated parody of a laugh. “You really expect me to believe this is Giles? Why, he doesn’t even remotely resemble him. Well,” she frowned, considering the youngster before her. “Except for maybe the glasses. And the color of his hair. And maybe a little bit around the eyes and…oh, my God!”
Cordelia shrieked, the realization breaking through at last. She looked to Wesley, who gave her a curt, affirming nod. Turning back toward the librarian, her frown deepened into a tight scowl of disgust.
“Can’t you be like a normal person for once and just get the flu? No! You have to catch…this!” Cordelia waved in exasperation at the librarian’s altered figure. “Boy, this one really tops them all, Giles. So, I suppose you’re going to put him back like he was with some kind of hocus-pocus voodoo or something?” she asked Wesley.
“As soon as we find the correct spell, we’ll have Rupert back to his old self again,” the Watcher replied and then paused, a sheepish look crossing his face. “Though, so far we haven’t had very much luck in locating anything useful. I’m afraid that until we do, he’ll remain as you see him now.”
“Really?” Cordelia didn’t sound too upset by the news of the librarian’s unfortunate plight. In fact, she was smiling. “Then, I guess that means you’re now completely in charge. By yourself. Without him.” She directed her next comment to an obviously disconcerted Buffy. “You can’t possibly expect him to be telling anyone what to do,” Cordelia protested, glaring down her nose at the childish Brit. “I mean, look at him. He’s just a kid!”
“Why, you’re absolutely right, of course,” Wesley responded, his own smug grin broadening across his face as he contemplated the girl’s words. No more Giles and Buffy rushing off on their own and neglecting to inform him of their plans. No more interference when he gave a command to his slayer. He was most definitely going to be in charge. The thought bolstered his ego with a newfound confidence, and the Englishman lifted his head higher, addressing the librarian with a commanding tone as he spoke.
“Rupert, until such time as we find a solution to your problem, Buffy will report directly to me. Is that understood?” He looked from his Slayer to the young librarian, making sure both acknowledged his orders. “No more sneaking about behind my back and making other arrangements that I am not privy to, or there will be serious consequences.”
“What are you going to do, Wesley? Send us both to our rooms without dinner?” Buffy challenged the man. She gave Giles a conspiratorial wink. “I’d like to see him try.”
“I’ll have you remember that I am your Watcher, Buffy, and not Rupert,” Wesley curtly reminded the blonde. “It is only because of my good will that he’s been allowed to remain and assist us in our efforts thus far. The Council isn’t very pleased with this arrangement.”
“They’re not the only ones,” Giles mumbled under his breath. Buffy heard the librarian’s snide remark, and they exchanged a silent look of mutual agreement concerning their opinion of the Watcher’s Council. Aloud, the young Brit addressed his fellow countryman. “And what is it that you would have us all do, Wesley?”
“Well, to start,” the Englishman answered thoughtfully. “We shall continue with our planned cover story.” In an aside to Cordelia he explained. “We’ve decided that he is to be Mr. Giles’ visiting nephew, Robby.” Cordelia nodded in understanding and Wesley continued. “And we’ll divide our efforts between searching for a spell to reverse your condition, Rupert, and this matter of the unexplained drowning incidents at this Fuller’s Pond.”
“And how is this different than what we we’ve been doing?” Giles asked, his look one of annoyance. Wesley chose to ignore the librarian’s question.
“I assume that last night’s search proved less than fruitful,” Wesley inquired. The blonde’s tacit silence was an affirmative. “Well, then you shall return there for you patrol tonight. Perhaps you’ll have better luck on this excursion. You will report your findings to me afterward, of course. You needn’t bother Rupert with this matter any further. Well, I believe that about covers it for now.” Clasping his hands together, he turned to Cordelia for confirmation. “Can you think of anything else?”
“I think you’ve pretty much said it all,” the girl smirked, moving to stand at his side. Together they faced Giles and the other teens with grim smugness, two assured and cocky despots. And no one offered to challenge them, having been stunned into silence by the odd pair’s aligned authority.
“Very good, then,” Wesley nodded. “Carry on.”
With head held high the Englishman turned on his heel and walked out of the office. Cordelia added her own little sniff of disdain before following Wesley out of the room, never giving another thought to her classmates. For a long minute no one else moved. Then Giles snapped out of his shocked torpor, bursting into an emotional tirade.
“This is becoming an impossible nightmare!” the librarian groaned, leaning over his desk as a convulsive shudder climbed his spine. “Nothings can possibly make things any worse. First that execrable excuse for a sycophant Snyder starts in with his arrogant dictatorial intimations, and now that pompous idiot has gone soft in the head with ridiculous megalomaniac delusions of power. That man is going to drive me certified crackers!”
“Crackers?” Buffy wanted to laugh, but stifled the impulse to ridicule her friend. Cordelia and Wesley had been cruel enough as it was. There was no need to injure Giles’ pride any further. At that moment the librarian looked like he needed to hear an encouraging word or two. Maybe more. Buffy had seen Giles angry before. Somehow this was different. It wasn’t like him. This little boy looked despondent, helpless. It was kind of scary.
They were interrupted as the warning bell for first period class rang, announcing the start of classes. The four teens slowly moved to leave, gathering around to bestow parting words of encouragement for the librarian. Giles nodded when Buffy promised to come back later and talk, but he was distracted and unnaturally glum as he escorted them out into the main library room to see them off.
They filed out through the double doors, joining the throng of students heading for their lockers, and leaving Giles and Wesley alone to their work. Cordelia quickly took off on her own, splitting off in one direction to meet with her friends Harmony and Aura, not wanting anything more to do with the Scooby Gang that day. As soon as she was out of earshot, the four teens began to speak openly among themselves again.
“So far, this day has not ranked high on my list of fond high school memories,” Buffy grumbled morosely in complaint.
“I don’t think Giles cares much for it either,” Willow noted, glancing back over her shoulder at the library doors. “Imagine waking up and finding out your eight years old…again. No thank you!”
“Better him than us,” Xander remarked. As the critical stares of his classmates accused him of callousness, he continued. “Let’s be honest about this, guys. If one of suddenly dropped thirty or forty years overnight, we’d have a lot more serious problem than Giles. I mean, he could afford to loose a decade or two. Then there’s that whole thing about what we’d tell our parents, also not a big worry for him I might add.”
“He’s got a point there,” Oz admitted.
“Yeah, well,” Willow frowned petulantly, still upset by her friend’s comments. “Even though I wouldn’t want it to happen to me, it isn’t like Giles did anything to deserved it.”
“I didn’t say he did,” Xander countered defensively. “I just meant he’s probably the only one of us who could handle this thing without going completely off the deep end of the ocean. Come on, Will. This is Giles we’re talking about here. He’s like Logical Guy. The Mr. Spock of Spocks. He and Wesley have this thing covered from every angle. They’ll come up with something.”
“I suppose you’re right,” the red head reluctantly agreed. “Still, did you see the way Giles looked when Snyder was chewing him out? He seemed kinda scared to me.”
“Giles afraid?” Xander flippantly dismissed Willow’s worries with a gesture. “That was probably just an act, a way to get Snyder to shut up and leave. Giles has faced way scarier stuff than Snyder. Like, for instance, that demon he helped Buffy slay last week. You know, the one that was eating peoples’ brains by liquefying them with those weird Cuisinart appendages and then sucking them out through their nose. That guy was a pretty intense nine on the old one to ten scare scale. About the only things I could think of that might top that would be the Hellmouth opening again, or Cordelia having one of her hissy fits.”
“Maybe we should help Giles with his research,” Willow mused, her lips pursed in a thoughtful frown. “I’ve got second period free. I could drop by and lend a hand. And then we could all meet at the library at lunchtime!”
“Sounds pretty doable to me,” Oz responded, and the others quickly agreed to the idea.
“Then it’s settled,” Willow announced smiling, her guilt finally assuaged by their plans to help the librarian. Her satisfied expression swiftly changed to one of alarm as she noticed the time on nearby wall clock. “Ooops! We gotta run, or we’ll be late for class.”
Oz and Willow took off down the hall at a quick walk, heading for their first period classes. Taking their cue, Xander peeled off in the opposite direction, disappearing into another room down the hallway as he left Buffy to join the wave of students filing into her own first class of the day.
Dropping her books on a desk, Buffy took her usual place by the window, sliding tiredly into the uncomfortable plastic seat. Her teacher was at the front of the classroom, shuffling things on his desk as he prepared for the day’s assignments. As he proceeded to distribute test papers to the students, Buffy’s thoughts wandered, idly considering what Giles’ reaction had been when he’d discovered he wasn’t an adult. It must have been a real shocker for him. Well, there was no need for her to worry about these things. After all, didn’t Giles say he was feeling okay? And that’s all that really mattered for now.
The late bell rang and Buffy sighed, suppressing a yawn. Well, it wasn’t like there was anything she could do for Giles anyway, she told herself. Unless there was a vampire to stake or a demon to pummel, the problem was pretty much out of her hands. She’d join Willow and the others later at the library. Who knows? Maybe by then the whole thing will have blown over. Placated by that thought, Buffy dismissed the librarian from her mind, turning her attention to more immediate concerns. She had a test in English Lit.
Returning to the sanctuary of his office, Giles sat down at his desk and went back to his interrupted research. Now that Buffy and the others knew about his condition, there was a strange sense of relief. It wouldn’t have been an easy task keeping things hidden from the bright teen. Buffy might not have the desire to buckle down and study for the best grades, but she was not a stereotype dumb blonde. Sooner or later she would have caught on. Even Snyder could eventually prove to be a problem. Though the two of them rarely talked during the day, the librarian keeping to his domain and the principal purposefully avoiding him, they did occasionally cross paths professionally, like at the required teachers’ meeting scheduled for Monday. He was going to have to solve this thing soon or the despicable little authoritarian principal was going to notice something was wrong.
Giles sighed and bent over the open volume on his desk. He had barely read one line when he was distracted, his eye drawn by a sparkling of brilliant colors. It was the amulet that Buffy had found. He had taken it from his pocket last evening and put it there on his desk. A curious urge overcame him, and he picked up the piece with its gaudy stones, inspecting it closely. He turned it over and over in his hand, noticing how the play of light caught the various gem chips and reflected their multiple colors on the walls of the room around him. A childish smile of delight touched his lips, and for a brief moment of indulgence he amused himself by watching the light show the stones created as they cast dappled pools of changing color. That was how Wesley caught him when the Englishman popped into the office again.
“This is not the time for lollygagging about, Rupert!” Wesley scolded sternly, startling Giles out of his reverie. The young librarian blushed, embarrassed at having been caught at his daydreaming play. He shoved the amulet aside, hiding it under a nearby stack of papers as he straightened himself in his chair at the desk.
“Get knotted,” Giles grumbled under his breath at the man in return.
Wesley hadn’t heard the comment. He was smiling as he went back to his books, obviously pleased with himself. Giles shook his head. Ever since Wesley’s arrival in Sunnydale, the two of them had been at odds with each other. Wesley was a royal pain. With little practical experience at being a Watcher, he had absolutely no idea how to handle his headstrong American charge and Giles found it difficult to sit back and passively watch the man’s bumbling efforts. How could the man not see that Buffy was unlike any other slayer, or girl for that matter. No one would ever control her. She was fiercely independent, did things her own way. Even he never knew what Buffy was going to do next. It had been a great frustration for him at first, and was still at times, but he had come to realize it was that same unpredictability that kept her alive in the many dangerous situations she faced as a Slayer. Giles wasn’t sure that Wesley would ever understand that. The man was far too concerned with following protocol and reporting every little detail back to the Watcher’s Council in England.
An unpleasant thought came to Giles. Like all Watchers, including himself, Wesley kept a daily journal. What would the man write about him and this situation? And how would the Council respond when they found out about it. He tried to brush the disturbing idea aside and concentrate on his reading, but it continued to nag at him incessantly. Or was it just a lack of focus on his part that made his mind wander aimlessly when he should be working? Whatever it was, it had to stop soon or he would never accomplish anything.
The rest of the school day fared little better for the young librarian. Besides having Wesley’s to deal with for all those long, insufferable hours, Buffy and the others seemed to find an inordinate amount of free time from class to drop by and check up on him. Though they were there under the pretense of helping, these visits were full of good-natured ribbing, which under other circumstances he might have found mildly entertaining. But the amusement had worn thin. So had his nerves. And on top of all that, every time that he ventured out of the library he ran into Principal Snyder. The man was constantly following him about, waiting for him to do something wrong. By the end of the school day Giles was completely on edge. Only his stalwart dedication to his research kept him sane and struggling through his day, secured in the hope that everything would eventually work itself out in the end.