CHAPTER NINETEEN

They had gone about five blocks when Giles suddenly announced that he wanted to make a stop. Wesley voiced an immediate objection to the idea, citing their tight time schedule, but after a promise that the delay would be brief, he ungraciously gave in to the small librarian. Giles proceeded to direct him to one of the many local cemeteries. A pastoral expanse of monuments and headstones, the neatly appointed landscape was more than a mere graveyard, its winding roads twisting back around on themselves in endless loops. Were not for his passengers excellent directions, Wesley would have quickly become lost, but Giles thankfully know where he was heading, and after several confusing turns, he announced to the elder Watcher that they should pull over.


Prior to his arrival in Sunnydale, Wesley had discovered that the town had over a dozen such burial sites to its name, thought this was the first opportunity he'd had l to explore any of them personally. Normally, he would have thought it an odd place for his young companion to want to visit, but in their profession one spent quite a bit of time among the dead, though usually the forays took place at night. In fact, Wesley wasn’t sure just when was the last time he’d been to a cemetery in the daylight hours. It was almost pleasant motoring leisurely down the curving narrow lanes, enjoying the beauty of the few remaining streaks of the setting sun’s rays as they tinged the fading blue of the sky in vibrant hues of gold, orange and pink.


Parking the van at curbside near an old tree with a widespread reaching canopy, Wesley turned off the engine. He watched as Giles let himself out and walked across the manicured grass toward a small pond in the distance. Curiosity got the better of the Englishman and he slipped out of the van, discreetly following the young librarian. Giles had paused beside a simple gravestone with a round arched top that bore a rectangular brass plaque affixed to its face. His head bent in obsequious respect, the librarian’s expression was somber, his lowered eyes seeming to study the lettered relief marking the metal plate. Approaching quietly, Wesley moved up closer and read the engraved name.


Jennifer Calendar.


The name was only vaguely familiar to Wesley. He recalled coming across several entries in one of Giles’ earlier Watcher journals, a passing mention of a teacher in some affiliation with the demons Moloch and Eyghon, and a few connecting her to Angelus. He hadn’t been in Sunnydale long enough to have heard the stories or discovered the full circumstances behind the librarian’s need to visit this particular grave. Still Wesley was sure there was something more going on than meets the immediate eye. Perhaps another read on the matter once he returned from his trip was in order.


Wesley stood beside the shorter youth, waiting as Giles paid silent respect to the deceased. Everything about the boy’s posture indicated a great reverence for this mysterious woman, a point Wesley took in with ever increasing interest. It became difficult for the Englishman to hold back the growing number of questions forming in his mind. Who was this Jennifer Calendar? Certainly more than some mere passing acquaintance. Giles’ face reflected an unusual pain that was somehow out of place with his youthful countenance, especially the haunting intensity in the gaze of his pale eyes. It was a look that Wesley found disturbing.


After several minutes, Giles eventually turned aside and slowly began to walk away, heading back toward the parked van as Wesley shadowed along in his footsteps. In only a few strides the taller man overtook his companion, coming alongside the younger Brit. That was when Wesley noticed for the first time that Giles had been crying. Unable to restrain himself any longer, the Englishman asked the obvious.


“Who was she, Rupert?” Wesley inquired gently, hoping he sounded properly understanding and sympathetic.


Giles didn’t immediately reply. They had reached the van and as Wesley held the door open, Giles hopped up onto the seat and buckled himself in again. In a gesture that seemed typical of a child, the librarian ran his hand across his face to swipe at his sniffling nose. Wesley sighed, reaching into his pocket and offering his handkerchief to use instead. Giles shook his head, taking one from his own pocket and removing his glasses to dry the tear moist lenses. As he settled the frames back on the bridge of his nose Giles finally spoke, his child-like voice solemn and unpretentious in its tone.


“She was someone I met here in Sunnydale,” he stated simply.


“A colleague?” Wesley prompted, trying to get the boy to say more.


“A friend,” Giles responded. The hint of a smile crossed his face.


“Yes?” Wesley waited, but the librarian had retreated into some private memory. Sensing he would get nothing more out of the youth, Wesley closed the door and moved around to the driver’s side of the van, sliding in behind the wheel. Throwing the vehicle into gear he drove off, retracing the winding roads to exit gate, leaving the cemetery and continuing on toward the main highway that would eventually take them out of town. Wesley told himself he would have to make a point to speak to Buffy and the others about all this when he returned tomorrow. They would surely be able to fill him in on this Jennifer Calendar woman.


The next ninety minutes passed without words between the two Brits as they traveled the busy California interstates toward Los Angeles. Giles seemed to grow more despondent the further away from Sunnydale that they got, sulking pensively in the far corner of the front seat. For his part Wesley chose to ignore the boy, concentrating on the heavy traffic with its erratic lane changing drivers. He was still somewhat new to the idea of driving on what felt like the wrong side of the road, though the disturbing sensation was less pronounced on the multiple-lanes of a freeway than on the smaller streets in town. Just another of those strange American idiosyncrasies he’d have to get used to, Wesley thought to himself.


As they approached the turnoff to the airport exit their progress began to slow considerably. The van soon became one of the hundreds of vehicles trapped in a major traffic jam, joining the tidal wave of denizens seeking to escape the city. Wesley fumed nervously, irritated by his inability to gain any headway through the parking lot snarl of cars around him. He kept checking his watch every few minutes, assuring himself that they weren’t running late. Frustrated, the Englishman glanced over at his younger passenger who was calmly staring out the window at some impatient driver making rude hand gestures their way.


“This is simply impossible!” Wesley exclaimed, his hands clenched around the steering wheel tightly. “We’re not even moving. What could possibly be the hold up?” He sighed, looking at the time yet again. “Well, fortunately I thought to allow for just such a contingency,” he said smugly. “I believe we should still be able to make it to the airport in good time.”


“Yes,” Giles responded glumly without turning around. “We certainly wouldn’t want to miss our flight.”


Wesley regarded the youthful librarian sitting beside him. If asked to describe the other Brit’s behavior the Englishman would have characterized it as moping. Their unscheduled stop at the cemetery had seemed to set off an emotional downslide that only added to the boy’s already darkly brooding mood.


“I realize this trip isn’t a pleasant bon voyage for you, Rupert,” Wesley remarked, keeping his eyes on the traffic ahead for a possible opening in the next lane over. “But surely you understand it’s for the best all around.”


“I understand quite well,” Giles groused bitterly. “You’ve found a most convenient way to relieve yourself of a bloody irritating thorn in your side by packing me off to some grotty borstal where they undoubtedly know the proper way to deal with a sodding little bastard such as myself.”


“See here! You’ve no call to speak with me like that,” Wesley chastised, frowning in his displeasure. “I can’t imagine your parents would be any too pleased to hear such language either.”


“Wesley, I’m forty-five years old,” Giles whined in angry exasperation as he turned to glare at his companion. “I’ll talk any way I bloody damn please!”


“You are quite the little rip, aren’t you?” Wesley remarked in scolding disapproval. Muttering under his breath Giles faced the window again. A shudder of revulsion crept up his spine as he inadvertently caught sight of his own reflection in the darkened glass. Was that horrid pouting child he saw staring back really him? With a weary sigh Giles composed himself, pushing aside the disparaging mood that clouded his thoughts with petty malice.


“I suppose it might be nice to see London again,” he said aloud in resigned admission. “It’s been some time since I was last at The Museum. I hear they’ve acquired an interesting collection of druidic artifacts recently. Perhaps I can convince the Council to allow me a short holiday to pop over and have a look. Do you think they’d go for it?”


“I’m sure something could be arranged,” Wesley replied, his own disposition softening. “It’s not like you’re to be a prisoner, Rupert. You’ll be allowed to come and go with some freedom once your situation has been evaluated.”


A hushed silence fell over the vehicle. Maneuvering into his desired lane the Englishman settled back in his seat, waiting for traffic to begin moving forward again. They could see the lights from the airport a few miles ahead of them, indicating their destination was near.


“I envy you,” Wesley said to the youth beside him as their vehicle advanced slightly in traffic. “I dare say there wouldn’t have been such a fuss raised if it were I who were leaving.”


“You never know with those young people,” Giles replied and allowed himself the luxury of a brief smile. “They do enjoy their parties. At times it would seem that any excuse will do to throw one.”


“Yes, but in my case it would have been a victory celebration,” Wesley responded with embittered sarcasm. “I’m not the fool you think, Rupert. It’s obvious Buffy and her friends haven’t taken to me. She makes no effort to hide that fact. But I’m not here to be a friend. I’m here as her Watcher.”


“If that is how you feel, Wesley, then you have my deepest sympathy,” the librarian said to his traveling companion. “You’re going to miss out on something quite extraordinary, you know. They’re a very unique group of young people, and I’ve found myself truly blessed to have been called upon as friend by each and every one of them, especially Buffy. And as for them not taking to you,” he remarked, giving the man an encouraging look. “Just give it time. They didn’t shine to me at the start either. As I recall, Buffy and I went through a bit of a bad patch at our first meeting.”


”Yes, I’ve read your journals,” Wesley chuckled softly. “You must have had quite a job of it turning her around to your way of thinking.”


“She can be very headstrong at times,” Giles agreed. “And quite the handful.”


“So I’ve noticed,” the other Brit replied with an exasperated sigh. “A most unusual girl.”


“More than a girl,” Giles corrected the other man. “I’ve watched her become an amazing young woman. They’ve all matured. Soon they’ll be putting their school days behind them, moving out into the world on their own, accomplishing great things. And you, Wesley, shall be there too, guiding them through it all.”


With a pensive sigh, Giles leaned back, resting his cheek against the cool window as he fought to keep his poise. The thought of not being there for Buffy when she needed him suddenly filled the librarian with a disheartening dread. His life’s work had been protecting the young slayer, preparing her so that she could battle evil. Now someone else would have that job, that someone being Wesley. Would the man be up to it? He certainly hoped so. Buffy’s very life would depend upon it.


“You make it sound as if being a Watcher were rather like, well, parenting,” the Englishman remarked, the librarian’s wistful sigh not having gone unnoticed.


“Isn’t it?” Giles asked. “Think about it, Wesley. As a Watcher, we are charged to train our young girls. We teach them discipline, sharpen their fighting skills, hone their instincts for battling evil. We assist with research and counseling, and hope our contributions will make the difference in a moment of crisis and allow her to live and fight yet again.”


Wesley glanced at the youth beside him. As he spoke, Giles seemed to come alive in a way he’d never seen before, drawing out of the depression that had haunted him the last few days. That he believed the words he spoke was obvious to the Englishman. And Wesley found himself silently nodding in agreement as the boy continued preaching his personal views on what it meant to be a Watcher.


“The Slayer becomes a reflection of ourselves,” Giles was saying, his eyes flashing with the fire of his convictions. “She is the sum of everything we have given her as well as that which she herself brings into the marriage of student and teacher. Her power, the passion she has for her calling. These are tangible proof of our success. But there is more to it than that. She is not just the Chosen One. She is the culmination of all we are and hope to ever be. Our ‘magnum opus’, if you will. Our child.”


“But,” Wesley hesitantly remarked, his own personal beliefs now being stretched further than he cared. “Surely you can’t expect me to think of her as ‘my’ child, Rupert. Buffy has a real father, one of her own flesh and blood.”


“Her real father may never know how special Buffy is,” Giles countered in a defensive reply. “But you, as her Watcher, will be the third of us to have that honor. Treasure the experience while you can, Wesley. There is so much you can learn from her. She’s a bright, lively handful, but well worth the occasional headache she’ll give in return. Take the time to truly know her, and you will find it impossible not to love her as I do.”


Wesley had listened skeptically to the young boy’s speech. This was the type of emotional nonsense that had gotten Rupert fired. A Watcher’s sacred duty precluded any type of involvement with his slayer. A mutual devotion to one’s exalted vocation was all the Powers That Be allowed between The Chosen One and her Watcher. Intimacy was expressly forbidden and casual friendship heartily frowned upon. It was a strict standard that had been adhered to for thousands of years by generations before him. Those foolish enough to circumvent these rules had been severely and accordingly punished by the Council, stripped of privileged station and rank, exiled from their former position and cut off from the life they had come to know. It was a fate Wesley had no intention to ever experience. And yet, discouraging and miserable as the punishment sounded, the folly of which he had seen demonstrated in the difficulties encountered by Rupert Giles, there was a certain ethereal connection that existed between Buffy and her former Watcher that made him inexplicably jealous.


Traffic was gradually beginning to let up. The van resumed speed, eventually turning off at the airport exit. Negotiating the confusing maze of lanes that wound past the various terminals, Wesley pulled into the long-term parking lot and found an empty spot available on the lowest level. He quickly unloaded Giles’ suitcases, then carefully locking his vehicle the Englishman led the way at a brisk pace toward the baggage check in area.


The pair joined a long line that had formed in front of the ticket claim window, taking their place among business travelers and excited vacationers. Wesley studied the overhead monitors displaying arrivals and departure times as he checked his watch once again. They were right on schedule in spite of all their delays. He could finally relax, assured that they would not miss their flight.


Not a word passed between the two Brits as the line slowly advanced and they made their way to its head. When their turn came, Wesley unceremoniously handed over his bags to the woman behind the counter to be weighed and checked in. There were no problems with Giles’ fraudulent documentation, for which Wesley was relieved. The clerk chatted cheerily with the Englishman as she stamped and checked their tickets, giving them their seat assignments.


“That’s two tickets for New York, one going on to London via British Airways and an open return to L. A. tomorrow morning,” the woman remarked, handing the paperwork back to Wesley with a flirtatious smile. “If you’d like, I could reserve your seat for the return flight now.”


“Perhaps I should wait, in the event of some unforeseen delay with the connections,” Wesley frowned, waffling uncertainly. He gave Giles a sidelong glance. “We wouldn’t want you getting stranded somewhere.”


“We can have an attendant stay with your boy,” the clerk offered helpfully. “One of the stewardesses could watch him until someone from your party arrives to pick him up.”


“My boy?” Wesley’s eyebrows shot upward, following his voice. This was the second time someone had made that same mistake. “Good Heavens! He isn’t mine,” he corrected the clerk. “I-I haven’t any children.”


“Thank God for small favors,” Giles grumbled.


The mutter had been audible only to Wesley. Scowling disapprovingly, the affronted Englishman stifled an urge to reprimand the boyish librarian. After all, it wouldn’t do to raise a scene in public and draw any undue attention. But it was too late. His vehement denial had earned him a less than sympathetic look from the clerk behind the counter, and Wesley found himself lying, forced to come up with some plausible explanation for this critical stranger.


“I, er, work with the boy’s uncle,” he stammered nervously, his face heating under the woman’s sharp gaze. “He-he was unable to break away from his duties and escort the lad himself, so I, uhm, promised to see Rupert as far as his connection in New York.” He flashed the clerk what he hoped was a convincingly suave grin. “Wouldn’t want the boy to get lost. All alone. Big city and all. Everyone back home would be quite upset if that were to happen.”


This seemed to effectively placate the woman. Directing her attention to Giles, she smiled sweetly.


“You must be anxious to get home,” she announced, and continued to ramble on with friendly, innocuous patter. The librarian nodded distractedly, not really listening. He had already reached his limit with this tiresome pretense of being an excited eight-year-old child. All he wanted was to get on his way. “Well, you have a pleasant trip,” the clerk finally finished as she handed the tickets back to Wesley. “And thank you for flying with us. Next, please!”


Waving his smaller companion onward, Wesley and Giles headed down the wide carpeted corridor and joined the crowded throngs making their way through the busy airport. Giles felt lost, overwhelmed by the tall sea of humanity swarming around him. His apprehensions grew, unnerved by this strange new perspective of the world. It was as if he had become invisible to adults. People bumped into him without apologizing, banging him with their briefcases and bags. They stepped on his heels and cut in front of him as he hustled along beside Wesley, his short legs jogging along at an energetic clip. By the time they reached the checkpoint where everyone had to stop and pass through a metal detector, Giles was panting, as much from anxiety as from the physical exertion of just trying to keep up.


They encountered a brief delay. The bulky metal amulet Wesley carried in his jacket had set off the alarms as he walked through the detector. Giles was pulled aside as the other Brit was asked to empty out his pockets and submit to a security guard’s scrutiny, but eventually Wesley was allowed to collect his things, and they proceeded beyond the station, the amulet still in their possession.


“Perhaps you should take this.” Handing the jeweled piece over, Wesley sternly admonished the young librarian. “I’m entrusting you not loose that, Rupert. As soon as you arrive in London you are to hand the amulet over to the Council. They will be expecting it.”


“I certainly wouldn’t want to disappoint them,” Giles muttered dryly as he accepted the talisman. He looked at the round disk with its mysterious runic writings and the colorful array of glittering inset stones. In the airport’s bright lighting the gems appeared garish, almost hideously tacky, nothing like the fascinating magical rainbow that had so appealed to him before. With a sigh he tucked the charm away in one of his pants’ many pockets, the metal clanking as it settled in among several dollars in spare coins.


“A pity we couldn’t find out what sort of magic the amulet was capable of,” Giles remarked in undisguised disappointment. “I certainly could have made good use of it.”


“It would have proved a simpler solution to all of this,” Wesley agreed, starting off again toward the departure gates with the librarian following behind. “Alas, we’ve no way tracking our elusive bagman to ask him…”


His voice trailing off, Wesley came to a stop in mid-stride. It took Giles several steps to realize he was walking alone. For a brief moment the librarian felt panicked, searching the faces of the people passing him by, looking for his fellow countryman. Spotting the tall man, Giles made his way back to Wesley’s side. Puzzled, he approached the other Brit who wore a strange pained expression on his face, one the librarian thought looked suspiciously like he was suffering from some stomach related discomfort, but Giles had learned meant only that the man was contemplating something with serious concentration.


“What is it?” he asked as the crowd parted and swarmed around them. “Did you forget something?”


“Rupert,” Wesley frowned, considering the growing spark of a revelation that had come upon him. “The watch you gave to Buffy. Where did you buy it?”


“At a jeweler’s shop in the mall,” Giles replied with a shrug. “I believe it was Lazler’s. Why?”


Wesley discovered himself pondering a difficult decision. As he had been speaking, he realized that he had recognized Giles’ gift to Buffy. It was one of several watches he remembered seeing the other night in the sorcerer salesman’s display case. He was most certain of that fact. There couldn’t be two such unusual timepieces, and if there were, wouldn’t it be logical to assume they’d come from the same source?


A dilemma of conflicting alternatives plagued Wesley’s conscious. It was possible he possessed an important piece of information that would help locate the missing sorcerer. But to discover if he was correct, it required acting immediately. That is, if it wasn’t already too late. Giles had undoubtedly bought the watch yesterday during his trip to the mall. That meant the salesman had been there sometime between Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, a rather small window of time. Questioning the inventory procurer at this Lazler’s shop could provide affirmation of this point, and in addition might lead to tracking down the mysterious man himself. If luck ran with them, the sorcerer might still be in the area somewhere, peddling his wares to other local establishments. A few hours of simple detective work would prove his theory one way or the other.


But therein lay the quandary he faced. There simply wasn’t time to dash off and investigate any unsubstantiated possibilities. Their flight departed within the hour, and missing this particular plane would mean a significant delay in their scheduled itinerary. The next plane to New York wasn’t until late afternoon. Giles would never make his connection to London. Of course, he could always call the Council, notify them of a change in plans. No, it would be better not to keep them waiting, and to send Giles on alone. Then again, what if the librarian were to skip out? Not an unlikely possibility given his cheeky attitude. How would he explain the boy’s disappearance to his superiors?


“Wesley!” Giles’ voice intruded on Wesley’s thoughts. “They’ve announced our flight. We should be going.”


All around them, people were collecting their handbags, and gradually funneling toward the gate to form a line. But Wesley didn’t move. He was still pondering his options. It should have been an easy decision for him. He knew exactly where his loyalties lay. With the Council. They wanted Rupert Giles. It was his duty to see that the librarian got to his destination as arranged. However, a strange guilt continued to nag at him, and it made him question everything he thought that he knew.


Giles was about to prompt Wesley again, when suddenly the older Brit turned on his heel and began to walk away from the boarding gate. He gave no explanation, simply took off, leaving a startled Giles to stand amid the flowing crowd, gaping in surprise.


After a moment’s hesitation, the young librarian shook his head, and ran off after the Watcher.


“What is it?” Giles asked. Wesley was covering ground with swift, long strides, and the smaller Brit quickened his step to keep abreast.


“There has been a change of plans,” Wesley brusquely announced.


“Our flight is leaving,” Giles argued. Of course, he really didn’t care if they missed their plane. He was in no particular hurry to get to New York, but it was the only thing he could think of saying.


“We can reschedule, if need be,” Wesley replied. They had reached the main terminal. Breezing past the guards manning at the metal detector, Wesley broke into an easy lope, and headed for the exit that would take them to the parking area.


“But, the Council...”


“... will just have to wait a little longer,” Wesley finished. He grinned, glancing back over his shoulder at the small boy. “Come along, Rupert. We haven’t much time.”


Giles was confused. He didn’t know what was responsible for this temporary reprieve, but he was grateful, nonetheless. He would follow Wesley. Something told him that, for once, the man was actually leading them in the right direction.

His short legs churning briskly, Giles galloped along, dogging Wesley’s heels as he ran through the parking garage toward their van. Soon the intrepid pair were back on the interstate, speeding toward Sunnydale in a race to beat the clock once again.







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