CHAPTER TWENTY

Monday morning found Buffy and her four schoolmates still saturnine as they sat in the school lounge before first bell. They had gathered to talk, but it was a long time before anyone actually got around to speaking. Their combined mood was definitely one of depression, each face reflecting various degrees of despondency and despair. Finally, Buffy sighed, and summed up what they all were feeling.


“I can’t believe that Giles is gone,” she pouted, leaning low in her seat. “It feels so weird.”


“He’s probably still in America somewhere,” Willow said to her blonde friend. “It takes a long time to get to England, so it’s not like he’s completely gone yet.”


“Yeah, but he’s not here, Will,” Buffy reminded her unnecessarily. “Do you think we’ll ever see him again?”


“Maybe they’ll give him time off for good behavior,” Willow suggested, hoping to cheer herself as well as Buffy. The other girl’s expression said she found that statement unlikely, especially considering how unstable Giles’ moods had been those last few days. The red head tried another idea. “He might come visit over vacation or something,” she said. “Or we could go visit him someday. Or, hey! Maybe Giles could get into one of those schools that has a student exchange program with Sunnydale!”


“Of course, it isn’t like he’d need to be in school,” Oz said to his girlfriend, gently pointing out the flaw in her logic. “He does have a Master’s degree already, doesn’t he? Going through high school again would seem a bit redundant for him.”


“Plus, he’s already done it once before,” Xander added. He didn’t notice the look his friends gave him.


“Oz is right,” Buffy sighed wistfully. “Besides, we wouldn’t even be here once he’s old enough for high school. He’s barely eight and that puts him way back in grade school. By the time he’s a Junior, we’ll all be graduating from college.” Again the depression hit her. “Giles is gone. He’s not coming back…ever!”


As they continued to mope, Willow noticed Principal Snyder walking by in the hallway. “Do you think Snyder’s got his resignation letter yet?” she asked no one in particular.


“I doubt it,” replied Xander, staring at the troll-like man. “I don’t see him dancing pirouettes or flipping cartwheels down the hallway. That pretty much says he’s still doesn’t know.”


“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to go in the library again,” the blonde lamented ruefully.


“It’s just a room, Buff,” Xander tried to reason with the girl. “A big room with lots of books.”


“But it was his room,” Buffy reminded the boy, and they all nodded in understanding.


“It would be like he was still in there,” Cordelia remarked sympathetically. “Haunting the place.”


“He’s just gone, Cordy,” Xander corrected his ex-girlfriend tersely. “Not dead. He’s not a ghost.”


“Maybe Cordelia isn’t so far off,” Oz philosophized thoughtfully. “Metaphorically speaking, of course.”


“That’s right,” the dark haired girl replied smugly, glad to have someone on her side for a change. Then she frowned in confusion. “How am I right?”


“Well, the library is, or was Giles second home of sorts,” the musician explained. He had a kind of spiritual connection with the place. In a way, it was him. Giles was the soul and the brain in the body of the library. It’s only natural that Buffy wouldn’t feel like going in there now that he’s gone. It would be like viewing a dead body.” He gave the blonde a compassionate look. “The idea of it kind of creeps me a bit, too.”


“Ewww!” Cordelia protested, wrinkling her nose in disgust.. “That’s like totally ishy gross! I'm sure that’s not what I meant?”


“I’ll have to face it sometime,” Buffy announced, rising to her feet. “Might as well get it over with now.” She began to walk away, then stopped, turning to her friends. “I wouldn’t mind a little backup, guys,” she told the seated group.


The others joined her as she made the long walk down the hall to the familiar double doors of the library with their round windows. Buffy took a deep breath, and bracing herself mentally, she pushed her way though the doors and into the library, her friends at her side. It didn’t feel as strange as she imagined it would. Everything still looked the same as always, so very normal. On the table where they would often study lay and open book, one of Giles’ many volumes that they promised to send on to him later. Buffy crossed the room to the long table, and standing over the lexicon, she turned its yellow pages, glancing at the fancy script in which the text was written. It was an ancient looking tome, the hand lettering difficult to read, but the language at least was English and she could make out the words. It was something about the Rusalka, the creature that she had fought against the night before. There were only a few short paragraphs. Not much at all. She obviously now knew more about the creature from her own personal experience than the author of the book before her ever had.


A noise distracted her, and Buffy looked up to see Wesley standing above them in the raised area of the book stacks. He seemed very pleased to see her, and immediately hurried down the steps to greet her.


“There you are, Buffy!” the Englishman beamed cheerfully at the teen. He acknowledged her friends with a polite nod. “I’m glad you’re all here this morning. I have some important new to tell.”


“What are you doing here?” Buffy asked, bewildered at finding the man there in the library. “You must have caught some tail wind coming back last night.” Suddenly, she was suspicious. Her recent change of opinion about this man’s character was slowly returning to its former doubts as to his worth as a human being. “I bet you’ve been dying for this day, haven’t you, Wes? You just couldn’t wait to get back and take over. Probably threw poor Giles on that plane to London and never gave him another thought.” She stood up tall, facing the Brit. “Well, okay. Now you’re my only Watcher, and I guess that means I’ll have to work with you. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it, or you. I mean, you’re no Giles, you know.”


“And I never will be, Buffy,” Wesley replied with great humbleness. “I can only hope that over time, you and I will come to an understanding that will allow a mutual respect for each other.” He regarded her with confidence that his words would impress upon her his sincerity. Buffy turned to her friend Willow, her eyes asking what the other girl though about this.


“He is being reasonable,” the red head remarked.


“I know,” Buffy pouted, her anger deflated. “I don’t like it. I was kind of hoping to be mad at him for a while longer.” She sighed, and extended her hand toward the Brit. “It’s a deal, Wes. Just promise me that you’ll loosen up a bit. You’ve got to learn to let go of those rules of yours once in a while.”


“And you shall have to agree to tighten up upon occasion,” he grinned at her in return, shaking her hand. “Not every rule is a bad one. Some are very important. But you are right, Buffy. There are times one must go against convention and do not what should be done, but rather what must be done.”


“Sounds like you’ve got him onto your line of thinking,” Oz grinned at his blonde classmate.


“Looks like a Slayer, Watcher tie on that one,” agreed Xander. The teens’ temperaments had all definitely improved, and they could at last smile again. But Buffy still felt a nagging sadness inside of her as she looked around the room. Oz had been right. In many ways Giles was still there. She could sense him all around her. Buffy slowly walked over toward the circulation desk, thinking about her friend the librarian with remembered fondness.


“I still can’t get over it,” she said aloud to no one as she turned to face her classmates. “It’s like at any minute, Giles is going to come walking through that door,” she told them, pointing toward the small office behind her.


The words were barely out of her mouth when the door swung open. For a moment Buffy simply stared, gaping in shocked disbelief. He friends all moved forward to see what she was reacting to so strangely. Striding calmly into the main room, a steaming mug of tea in one hand and several books in his other was Giles. But not the same Giles that they had all said good bye to only yesterday. This was the old, adult Giles, tall and tweedy, and looking as perfectly normal as ever.


“Wesley, have you located that book yet?” the librarian was muttering inanely, crossing over to drop his books onto the circulation desk area next to Buffy. “There seems to be a volume missing from the set. Oh, good morning, Buffy,” he said, finally acknowledging first the blonde, and then the other young students in the room.


The library was pierced by five simultaneous shrieking voices as the teens all flung themselves at the older Englishman. They began to all talk at once, asking questions, demanding explanations. Giles couldn’t understand what they were saying, their cacophony of voices blending into one unintelligible sound. Buffy finally managed to make herself heard above all the others.


“Giles!” she squealed giddily. “You’re you again!”


“Full sized even,” added Oz with obvious delight, his green eyes twinkling.


“And old!” Cordelia chimed in loudly. But instead of being insulted, Giles was grinning broadly.


“Yes,” he replied happily. “Thank goodness!”


“But…how?” Willow excitedly questioned the man. “When? Why?”


“You left out who,” Xander told the red head.


“The who was Wesley, actually,” the librarian replied, nodding toward his fellow countryman.


“Wesley?” Buffy echoed incredulously . They all turned toward the man in question, who was smiling in modest embarrassment at the attention.


“What did he do?” Cordelia asked, her tactless tone one of disbelief that quickly deflated the Brit’s ego.


“Why don’t you tell them, Wesley,” Giles deferred to the younger man, who had recovered his self-esteem enough to explain.


“It was that watch that put me onto the idea,” Wesley began, pointing at the blonde’s recent gift. “I happened to recognize it as one in that salesman fellow’s case. It is a rather unique piece. Once Mr. Giles told me where he had purchased the bauble, we were able to trace its origins back to our mysterious traveling salesman. Luckily for us he was still in the area. After a bit of good old fashioned detective work on our parts, we managed to locate him. We were able to persuade him to reverse the spell in exchange for the return of his property. He was quite keen on getting that amulet back, I must say.”


“You gave him the amulet?” Buffy couldn’t believe he had said that. “But I thought that you were sending it back to England, to the Council. Aren’t they going to be upset?”


“Yes, well…” Wesley frowned, still not easily accepting his own disobedience. “They aren’t going to be very pleased with me, I must admit,” he replied, looking to Giles.


“We’ll just say that the amulet was destroyed, or some such thing,” the librarian responded. “And that it’s magic nullified at that time, thereby reversing its spell. That’s all the Council needs to know.”


“It’s a plausible explanation,” Wesley mused in reluctant agreement. An expression of awareness came over his features. “Have you contrived these sorts of stories before about what goes on here?”


“Not very often,” Giles replied with a mischievous gleam in his eyes. As Wesley mulled over that response, Buffy asked her own question.


“Did you find out from this guy how this thing happened?” the girl inquired of the librarian.


“The passage I had found pretty much explained the general idea of the situation,” Giles told her, setting his mug aside. “Apparently, all it took was one small work to set its power into motion. Unfortunately for me, though the particular word that enabled the amulet was not one of common use, it sounds very much like another fairly common phrase.” He cocked his head toward Buffy. “Once the amulet thought it recognized its trigger, it somehow took the next vocalization to be its command, though I’m not quite sure how it managed to translate it all into the spell itself. The salesman fellow wasn’t very clear on that point.”


“So what was this magic word?” Willow asked, curious.


Iwis,” Wesley supplied in answer.


“Guzeundheit!” Xander retorted.


“Iwis,” Wesley repeated, pointedly dismissing the teen’s attempt at humor as he went on to explain. “An adverb derived from the Old English gewiss. Its meaning is certainly, assuredly.”


“I knew that,” Xander lied with a glib smile.


“Giles, none of us said anything even remotely like that,” Buffy told her friend.


“Perhaps not the exact wording,” the librarian said. “But The amulet didn’t seen to differentiate between the word ‘Iwis’ and the phrase ‘I wish’.”


Buffy made an apologetic face as she remembered what she had said to Giles that night in the car when he had dropped her off at the park. “I wish you could see things our way,” she sheepishly quoted herself. “As a kid. It was me, wasn’t it, Giles? I did it to you. I’m sorry. You know I never really meant…”


“Yes, I know, Buffy,” Giles dismissed her guilt with a smile. “It was never your intention. But the amulet had no way of knowing that. It couldn’t distinguish idle conversation from a bona fide command. All that mattered was that the words were spoken and it all became true.”


“But I was there when I said that, and you didn’t ‘poof’ into a kid,” Buffy told him, confused. “And you and Wesley were here at the library after that. Wouldn’t one of us have noticed something if that’s what had happened?”


“Some magics takes time to work,” explained Wesley helpfully. “The changes were so gradual, neither of us saw anything out of the ordinary.”


“Even I wasn’t aware of any changes,” Giles added. “And I dare say I was a lot more privileged to what was happening.”


“And what about the spell’s reversal?” Willow queried.


“An absolutely fascinating thing to behold!” Wesley gushed excitedly. “Rather like watching one of those time lapse photography sequences. Though it did loose some of its appeal after the first few hours.”


The teens stared strangely at the two men, astonished to learn that they had spent what sounded like an entire night together. “I guess we should be thankful you both managed to make it through to morning in one piece,” Buffy remarked. “And we won’t bother to go into details about how you passed the time. Believe me, none of us wants to go there.”


Before Giles could respond to her insinuations, the library doors swung open and in stalked Principal Snyder. He saw the gathering of conspirators, for that was how he thought of them all, and frowned at the group as he approached. “I see that you’re all still here,” he grumbled, glaring at each teen in turn, searching their faces for some trace of guilt about anything. “Don’t you students ever go to class?”


“Only when we haven’t any other choice,” Xander replied flippantly, then fell silent as the principal stared him down, not an easy task, considering the man’s shorter stature.


“Did you get my message Friday?” Snyder asked, turning to face the tall librarian. Giles’ expression was blank, the statement meaning nothing to him at first. The principal seemed perturbed. “I knew I couldn’t trust that nephew of yours to pass it on,” the small man groused, though he seemed pleased to have his suspicions vilified. “He seemed a little flaky to me. Probably the way you Brits raise your kids over there.” Snyder looked around again. “Where is the little brat anyway?”


“Who?” Giles asked, still confused.


“Your nephew,” Snyder replied, looking at the librarian as if he were dense. “Robby? The one who was visiting last Friday? He was supposed to tell you the teacher’s meeting was moved to today.” he further prompted. Giles then realized what the man was talking about.


“Oh, yes. Him.” Giles glanced toward Buffy with a subtle smile. “He’s gone.”

“Robert didn’t really like it here,” added the blonde as she winked at her older friend. “I’m sure he’s much happier where he is right now.”


Giles nodded in agreement. “Most definitely.”


Snyder stared at the two, noting their secretive expressions. “It’s just as well,” the man snorted derisively. “He looked like a trouble maker anyway. I could tell as soon as I laid eyes on him. He had that look about him…” The principal paused, his gaze piercing as he frowned at the librarian. “Just like you!”


Then the trollish administrator turned on his heel, and marched out of the library, the door swinging shut behind him on an obviously insulted Giles, while Buffy and the others were doubled in hysterical laughter.







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