Fic: Watcher’s Keeper
Untold dead, dozens injured, a building decimated and all in the name of intolerance. Giles stood amidst the charcoaled rubble, in utter shock of the destruction and loss he'd witness with the explosion. Friends, colleagues, years of laboring to end hostilities between warring demon races, all vanished within the blink of an eye.
He could hear the pounding of hurried boots and the sound of sirens rushing away from the scene as the law enforcement and firefighters rushed to secure the area. A fog of ash hung low in the night sky as the splattering of water from the hoses rained down upon soiled and disoriented faces. Surrounded by the orderly chaos, Giles was dazed, uncertain what he could do to help except stand clear and watch powerlessly as the professionals worked to save what lives they could.
"Sir... are you injured?" A voice called from beyond the tendrils of smoke dancing around him. "Sir, can you move?"
"I'm... I'm fine. I think someone may still be inside." He motioned toward skeletal remains of once popular Irish pub, pointing toward the far corner where the restrooms once stood. "Near the back, I thought I heard someone."
"All survivors have been extracted."
"But the family of..."
"The survivors have been sent on to Saint Mercies, sir. Are you in need of medical attention?" The young man's sharp tone made it all too clear what he'd meant. No one else survived. The paramedic moved closer, adjusting his medical bag in his grip. Getting a closer look at the distressed victim, his eyes grew wide with concern. "You're injured, sir. Deep laceration, could be a concussion."
Puzzled by the diagnosis, Giles lifted his trembling hand to his brow. The clumsy poke stung and only then did he realize what the warm stickiness was that hindered his vision. He inspected the thick crimson coating his fingertips and shook his head, annoyed, returning his attention to the devastated building. "It’s nothing.”
The determined medic took Giles’ arm and began to lead him away. “At least let me get a better look and clean the wound…”
“No, I can't." He tugged his arm free from the young medic's insistent grip. "I must remain until the Council arrives."
"Sir, there is an ambulance right behind you. If you would just step aside..."
"I'm fine. It's nothing. I deny treatment. I'll sign whatever wavers are necessary, just leave me be..."
"Rupert, please. Listen to the young man and have yourself checked out."
Giles swiveled around a bit too fast and felt his head swim with sickness. The attentive medic caught him by the arm and steadied him. It took a few seconds but Giles felt his equilibrium return as he glanced over at the shorter man gently urging him to submit to medical attention. The heavyset figure moved forward, strolling out from the smoke to reveal the kindly, rounded features of his longtime friend and mentor. He flashed a pleased smile at Giles as he adjusted his black Stetson atop his bald head.
"Roman, about time you showed. It's been over twenty minutes..."
"Forty actually," Roman corrected, dusting the ash from his well tailored suit. He gave the young paramedic an instructive nod. "Make sure you check for signs of shock. Concussions as well, Rupert's had much more than his fair share of head wounds."
"I'm sorry sir, but I must insist on examining that cut." He cautiously maneuvered Giles to the nearest ambulance and settled him against the bumper. Roman followed along, stepping carefully to avoid the waste and debris blocking his path. He moved with a grace uncharacteristic of what was to be expected from such a stout, older gentleman. But then again, Roman never was exactly what people expected.
"There's more alive back here!" Someone called from within the ruins and a group of firefighters rushed by, drawing the young medic's attention away. Giles could see his indecision and decided it best to encourage him to help his colleagues.
"I've many years of practice at this. I can treat myself. Go help them."
"Are you sure?"
"Don't worry, I'll keep an eye on him for you, until you can return." Roman offered a confident wink and the paramedic tossed some supply bags over his shoulders and rushed off to help.
Once free from civilian company, Giles' eyes locked on his friend. "What happened? DemRev? Humantius?" He ripped open the packaging to a gauze sponge and dabbed at his wound, tossing the quickly blood-soaked rag aside as he continued on. "Was it Grey Faction? They’re suspected to be behind the car bombing in Deli last month." He searched the contents of a medical kit and removed some more gauze pads, adhesive paper tape and wound cleanser.
"We aren't sure. Intelligence is rather sketchy at the moment." Roman shifted closer to aid in bandaging the wound. Giles accepted his assistance, handing off supplies and listening attentively. "Political juggling is getting ruthless these days. We’ve got our agents scouring the streets but can hardly get a peep out of our sources. It's drying up and running scared out there. Only one thing is certain..." Roman's face was taut with a stony seriousness as his eyes met Giles', "...someone wants you dead, Rupert, and they are willing to kill others in order to accomplish that task."
Giles gaze fell back to the twisted wreckage of the pub. "There were innocent's in there, Roman, good people."
Roman finished his bandaging and stepped back, giving Giles adequate space to check the dressing. "You understand these attacks have only recently become an issue. With your increase in meetings, you make yourself an easy target. It’s as if they know your agenda, your movements."
Giles could see where his friend's train of thought was leading and wanted to stop the notion in his tracks. "We were connecting. I was making progress."
"I know, and so did those who did this. You're good at what you do."
"What I do... what I did... it cost these people their lives, tonight."
"Nearly cost you your own. I feel it's time we took some precautionary measures."
"Why do I not like the sound of that?"
"Just for the time being, until things settle..."
"What Roman? Stop dodging the subject..."
"A paid sabbatical, just until..."
"No! No Roman. I've come much too far to back down now. We are on the verge of peace between two warring sects. These two cultures have been caught within a cyclical conflict for centuries and are finally coming together in a civilized setting to work out their differences. This is a critical time. I must attend the summit meeting next Sunday."
"Rupert, it's grown much too dangerous..."
"I will not run and hide!"
Roman stroked the short wiry hairs of his peppered beard and with a tug, loosened his stiff collar in preparation for his own battle of wills getting his old friend to listen to reason. "It's not hiding. It's simply a sabbatical."
Giles would have none of it and marched away only to stop perplexed at the curb, noticing his car was nowhere to be seen. They had probably towed it already. Damn their efficiency. He turned back to confront his companion who followed shortly after him.
"It's cowardly and my colleagues will no doubt see it as such. The N'Gravic are a proud warrior race. They need confidence in their allies. They deal in courage. This so called sabbatical could ruin me in their eyes. And the demon Sharifan are just as inclined to view my absence at this summit as the sign of weakness..."
"Tell me, what prevents them from slitting your throat for being a killer of their kind just four years ago?" Roman asked candidly. He could see the discomfort in his friend’s eyes with the question. "You have a history, Rupert. One that predisposes you to danger with every meeting you take with these varying species. Some of these professed colleagues would just as soon see you dead as bring them this peace they claim to covet."
"These are species who want to live, just as we do, in worlds where they don't need to fear death at the hand of their own kind. They want peace, Roman. If I can play some small part in giving them that then I would gladly accept whatever risks are associated with it."
"You really are a boy scout, Rupert. Well, if you insist on continually risking your life... we have only one other alternative." Roman sighed and gave a helpless shrug. "We have arranged for an escort…”
“I hardly think a date is what I need at the moment, don't you?”
“Don’t be fresh, Rupert. You know what I mean, a security escort; a specialist in the field of protection..."
"Roman, please... a bodyguard?" Giles rolled his eyes. "I lived on a bloody Hellmouth for years, I can handle myself."
Roman continued on, ignoring his companion's stubborn objections. "A security specialist who will make sure you can accomplish your self-appointed duty. You can't mediate if you're too busy watching your back."
"And I suppose I haven't a choice in the matter?"
"You can take the sabati..."
"No." Giles heaved a frustrated sigh and glanced to up to the star filled sky, searching for patience and not finding any there. "Who will it be then, am I babysitting one of Warren 's precious graduates?"
"Mrs. Harding has been appointed as head of your security detail along with those she’s chosen fit to work under her. She will remain in that position for as long as we deem it necessary. With any luck, her reputation will precede her and scare away any possible threats."
"Harding?" Giles ran the name through his memory and couldn't recall ever hearing it before. "I don't think I know her? Outside recruitment?"
"Not exactly. She is very familiar with the Council and its procedures, though not considered to be directly associated with us anymore. Not to worry, Rupert, she's the best and brightest at what she does. Graduated top of her class, called in repeatedly as a consultant for the FBI, CIA and secret service. Hasn't lost a single man yet."
"Sounds too good to be true," Giles huffed, unimpressed. "To what do I owe the honor of such expertise?"
"Well, seems she'd learned of the recent spree of attempts on your life and offered up her services. You've worked together before, Rupert. I believe you know her as Buffy." With that, Roman strolled away, a smug smile painted along his lips as Giles tried to comprehend what had just been told to him.