Length: 3,000 approx
Characters: Buffy is back!
Trigger warning: Mental Health issues (I probably should have warned for Giles’ PTSD long before this).Series: Bookends. All the Companion pieces in the series are listed here... It might not make much sense on its own.
Notes: I really need to work on something new for summer of Giles, so will be taking a little break on this series.
The route was surprisingly more complicated than Buffy expected and she more than once began to doubt the accuracy of her hastily copied directions, taken from a notebook her eyes had once strayed upon at Giles' house. For one thing, they seemed to take her down the same road three times, not to mention the odometer in her car seemed to be going backwards, but eventually, she reached a dirt track driveway that had previously eluded her and saw that straight ahead lay an undeniably pretty white and red lighthouse. She parked, and three stout pulls on the iron bell rope finally produced distinctly crabby replies of 'alright, alright, I'm coming', and she waited as a heavy lock was drawn and the door opened to reveal Ethan Rayne, sporting a towelling blue dressing gown and two days of stubble growth. Given it was three o'clock in the afternoon, Buffy was mildly appalled, but not so appalled it seemed, as he was to see her.
"Buffy Summers! Good God. However did you find this place?"
"It's a sixty foot lighthouse, Ethan. They were designed to be conspicuous."
He narrowed his eyes. "That's not what I meant."
"Giles gave me the instructions of how to pass through the wards." It wasn't strictly true but all lies to Ethan took on a whitish hue by default.
"Did he now?" He pulled the cord on his dressing gown a little tighter. "I shall have to have some strong words with him about that."
"Yeah, well, I need to speak to him first. Can I come in?" Head down, she took a step to enter, but Ethan, whether wary of inviting anyone in his home or her in particular, stood his ground.
"Sorry, no. He's gone out for a walk. Near the cliffs I think he said." There was a smile. "If you hurry you might be able to catch him. So to speak."
The joke was in typically poor taste but she recognised it as a lie.
"Can I come in and wait?"
"It's not terribly convenient."
Buffy waited and Ethan waited and she had a horrible feeling they were both quite capable of facing off all night. She could have used force to get past him, but then he could have used magick to prevent her and besides, as she was painfully aware, she really didn't have any authority as the Slayer in this matter. There was no demon threat; no chaos magick to thwart, their issue was purely 'a domestic'. Much as she quite liked the idea of punching him, it really would be common assault and he'd probably be justified in calling the police. Ethan seemed to have reached the same conclusion himself because he gave her one of his smug smiles, the kind that almost re-opened the case for inflicting violence all over again, but then surprisingly, as victory in the standoff was his, he stepped aside and shouted over one shoulder.
"Get some clothes on, love. We have company."
Buffy felt ashen as she realised she now really didn't want to find that Giles and Ethan…that Giles and Ethan…but Ethan and already turned inside and she had no choice but to follow, and close his front door for him and enter his living area. Finding Giles was the most important thing she reminded herself, the embarrassments could wait, but it still hurt to think he'd ended his physical relationship with her and that Ethan, with his ridiculously phallic home, had that closeness now. She had long since been reconciled to the past, it was the present she found personally unpalatable.
A thirty-something stranger rose from the couch. Thinning dark hair and tolerably dressed in sweats, he grunted at her arrival with ill-disguised resentment.
"Michael this is Buffy. Buffy, this is Michael," Ethan breezily introduced.
"Giles isn't here," she said, in a mixture of relief and disappointment.
"No he isn't," Ethan admitted, "Though those were the days. Have you tried, oh I don't know…" His voice took on a sarcastic tone. "The house where Giles actually lives?"
"Yes and he's not there either," she replied in her own voice of tungsten. She had just bagged the last rental car in the shop and driven full gas from there, still reeling from the humiliation of not being allowed past the doorstep at Giles' house: her route having being blocked by a tall Scottish woman who seemed to know all about Buffy and yet regarded her as something sinister the cat had dragged in. 'Dr Giles is no longer at this address'.
"Craig seems to have moved his girlfriend in," Buffy added bitterly. "Fee someone? Fiona something?"
"Ah, The Formidable Fiona," Ethan confirmed. "I haven't actually met her. For some reason Rupert didn't think we'd get on terribly well. I thought she only came up for weekends?"
"Not now that Giles has quit his job and moved out," Buffy said pointedly.
Ethan stood very still at that news and Buffy guessed he hated betraying his surprise and concerns about Giles to her, just as much as she did to him. He made a clucking noise as if reaching a decision and turned to his houseguest.
"Can you give us a few minutes, Mikey? Family matters."
Mikey however, was not charitably disposed to the request and slumped defiantly on the couch with his back to them. Ethan was vexed but waved Buffy upwards towards the winding staircase with a degree of good grace.
She climbed to the very top of the building and waited for him in what had once been the light housing. He'd renovated it with an expensively polished floor and some comfortable chairs and Buffy found herself admiring the serenity of the 360 views it afforded across the land and sea. It was an overcast day, nothing but greys in the sky and out to the horizon, but still endlessly fascinating.
Ethan appeared some few minutes later, sockless but otherwise mercifully dressed in jeans and a blue shirt and carrying a tray with two cups of tea, cream, and sugar. She bit her tongue at asking for cookies, he was, after all, making an effort at hospitality having had his other plans for the afternoon interrupted, and they did have important matters to discuss. She filled him in on the events of the Singing Stones – Giles' bid to preserve the protection wards on his academic town, the death of the woman who thought she was sacrificing Giles – and the aftermath of Willow and Xander's misunderstanding – the assumption that Giles had been trying to end his own life and the woman had been caught in the crossfire. If Ethan had already heard the story, he did a fine job of pretending otherwise.
"And then Xander lost his temper and pretty much told him we'd set him up in his job to keep him safe and Giles took it way badly. He stormed out on them and quit his job on the spot."
"I see. Yes, I can certainly see his point of view."
"I know. Me too in a way," she conceded. "But he was really angry, and Giles, after all that has happened, really shouldn't be hulking out. He might do anything - something really stupid anyway - I assumed he must be here with you."
She hadn't really intended to equate 'something really stupid' with 'be here with you', but Ethan was quick to join the dots and be amused.
"Honestly, no, he hasn't been here. He hasn't called me either." The corner of his mouth turned playfully. "But then I have been a bit preoccupied."
She opted to ignore the innuendo. "So where is he, Ethan?"
"I have no idea."
"I know you keep a tracking spell on Giles," she challenged.
"Sadly he worked out how to block it. Can't Ms Rosenberg help with that sort of thing? She has a lot more power than I have."
"He's blocking her too," Buffy admitted. Ethan looked momentarily taken aback.
"How impressive, and I suppose, rather determined, of him."
"He's not returning my calls," she continued. "And Ryan says he can't even track his cell phone."
Ethan put down his cup of tea swiftly, scraping it against the saucer and clattering the spoon.
"Ryan being the young man with a large number of soldiers and all manner of secret detention centres at his disposal? Are we perhaps, overlooking the obvious? Forgive my cynicism. I speak from experience."
"He wouldn't do that." Actually she thought, Captain Ryan Appleby was quite capable of that, but he was also an honourable man as well as her friend and he seemed to like Giles too. "Not without telling me, he wouldn't," she added. Besides, when she'd talked to him last, Ryan had been almost dismissive of the incident of the Singing Stones, and he'd definitely seemed to think Giles was OK.
Ethan interrupted her thoughts.
"And is the good Captain currently out in force, scouring the hedgerows with fixed bayonets? Again, I speak from experience."
"I haven't exactly told him Giles is missing," she confessed.
Ethan's eyebrows rose.
"And he has no means of determining this for himself?"
"He might," she conceded, "But if he has then he doesn't seem to be worried about the situation."
"Well he wouldn't be," Ethan suggested darkly. "Not if he's thrown Rupert in some dark pit of atrocity. I suggest you go ask Major Tom where Giles is."
Shaking her head, Buffy rose and stepped across to look out to the sea and clear her thoughts. Ethan's theory nagged at her but she knew it wasn't just the way he presented it that bothered her. He sounded in earnest, but if he was really serious about it, she doubted he would be calmly sitting with her playing at tea parties and besides, Ryan had a working relationship with her and was not in the business of black-ops disappearing people she cared about. He was a decent guy and way too smart to think he could get away with it.
"Giles may be angry," she reasoned quietly, "But there's no way he goes off radar without bringing a shit storm of trouble on himself with the army and he's knows that, he's not stupid." And yet, she thought, Ryan clearly wasn't assembling his shit storm troopers, so what was she missing?
She looked out to the horizon and tried to imagine viewing it on a harsher day, when the sea roared up to crash against the rocks below and the sky was black with cruelty. For now though, in all directions, the sea was grey and bleak yet seemed to be hardly moving, and the clouds above had barely shifted position with the lack of wind. There was calmness present without expectation that any storm could possibly flare up again.
"Dr Daniels!" Buffy spoke the name the split second it entered her head. "He must still be keeping the appointments with his doctor! That would keep Ryan happy too, of course." She looked hopefully back to Ethan. "Dr Carole Daniels. Can you track her movements? Maybe she can lead us to Giles."
He seemed not to share the excitement of the breakthrough.
"That's a tad unethical, isn't it? What about the confidentiality of her other patients?"
She found his hypocrisy staggering.
"Ethan Rayne. Moral Compass," Buffy intoned solemnly.
He bristled. "Does it occur to you that maybe he just wants some time to himself?"
"He can have that after I find him. For now, I really have to talk to him and explain. He was really angry when he found out we'd set him up with a safe job, Ethan, and he's blaming me for everything."
"Maybe that's valid," he offered in a surprisingly waspish attack. "After all, you are just sticking your oar into his life again. You just want your life to be a certain way, with your Watcher back, meekly at your side, doing your research, doing your bidding, doing your shopping or whatever it is you want from him."
"And you just want your little playmate back, Rayne," she shot back angrily. "So you can bring chaos to the world."
Ethan stood up to argue the point at about the same time the front door slammed below them. Distracted, he moved to the curved window that faced inland and Buffy scooted across to his shoulder to peer out too. Below them, they saw Michael raise a middle finger, then turn and trudge off down the dirt track and presumably the town or village that lay yonder. Ethan ground his teeth a little but said nothing and Buffy realised the old arguments they had flung at each other were no longer valid. They both had more complicated lives than before, both had changed, grown up in some ways and moved on in others.
"Sorry," she offered politely as Ethan turned his back to rest against the window and folded his arms.
"Actually that first trip into chaos magick was all Ripper's idea." He grunted and added quickly, "Not that you care." But she made no reply and waited for him to resume. "I love Rupert. He's always held an infinite fascination for me but, dear god, he can be infuriating. I bet he never told you that Eyghon the Sleepwalker was his discovery." Buffy clearly registered her disbelief and Ethan saw it for what it was and tilted his head. "Oh I'm not suggesting I was a meek little victim bullied by mean old Ripper, just that he bears more of the responsibility for that cock up than he sometimes likes to admit. He was the one that found the 'perfect party demon' and he was the one who talked me into persuading the others. Ripper at that time, well I'd have done anything he wanted. I'd have followed him through the gates of hell, and believe me that isn't just hyperbole."
He dropped his eyes to the carpet and spoke more gently. "It was a godawful night. And the nightmares afterwards, well you could never quite be sure if it really was old Eyghon paying a visit. Sleep rather being his thing, you see. Rupert especially took it very badly. At night I would hold him and promise to keep him safe and I thought that was what my life was going to be like forever."
He suddenly snapped his fingers so loudly that Buffy actually jumped a little.
"And then, just like that, it was over," he continued. "Out of nowhere, he started blaming me for everything, and I mean everything, and he was suddenly denying his own guilt, and the complicity, the intimacy. He dropped me like a hot brick and re-joined the Council of Tweed, an institution he thoroughly despised, but nevertheless, went back to like a good little lapdog."
Buffy thought she understood. "He moved on," she suggested. "After Eyghon. It was the right thing to do."
"You only think that because it benefited you. What I'm saying is that he dealt with his guilt over Eyghon by reinventing himself as some perfect milk sop Watcher, to your advantage I'm sure, but mostly, he dealt with the guilt by blaming it all on me and cutting his ties with the past. The Ancients believed they could cast off their sins physically to a sacrificial goat and get on with their lives. It's not a very pleasant thing to be on the receiving end of, but it's what he does and how he copes. So maybe it's time you let him go."
"You never gave up on him though," she challenged.
"Yes I did! I hardly spent 20 years pining for the man. Going to Sunnydale was by chance, and when a glorious opportunity presented itself on a plate, I could hardly refuse."
"But you're in his life now."
"Only when he lets me."
He led them down the stairs and towards the front door. Buffy wondered if he were embarrassed at revealing so much of himself that he was throwing her out, or maybe they simply had nothing further to say to each other.
"I still have to find him," she said firmly, as he held the heavy door open for her.
"Why? He is getting therapy with a doctor he seems to trust, and it sounds like he has found some self-respect, judging by his indignation of being found a prestigious job in a town protected from the supernatural. The Rupert of eighteen months ago never questioned how convenient it was that such a college would give him such a job."
Valid points perhaps, thought Buffy but they changed nothing for her. "If he is safe from harm and getting help," Ethan pleaded. "If the military are happy he isn't going to host another wild demon party, then surely you can stand down from your concerns too? Let him go, Buffy."
"No, I can't." She looked him squarely in the eyes. "And you know why."
She held his gaze until he understood and he finally mumbled, "Infinite fascination."
She nodded, aware she had shared just as much of her own feelings as he had his and began to walk to her car.
"He's gone home," Ethan shouted after her. Buffy opened her mouth to object she'd just come from there but he waved her away. "I don't mean there. I mean for the past two days he's been at his parents' house. You'll find him there."
Buffy blitzed the car locks rapidly and jumped in. That house was really the last place she'd wanted to find him at.