Fic: Watcher’s Keeper
Previously (because I’m so lame in updating that you may have forgotten what was going on): Years have passed after the events of Chosen. Rupert Giles stepped down as Watcher and wandered into the flourishing underground of demon politics, acting as a sort of mediator for warring factions of various demon races. After various attempts on his life which left him with a noticeable limp, a close friend at the Council pleaded for Giles to take a sabbatical until things quiet down. Rupert refused only to be required to agree to have a bodyguard. Before he could refuse, it was revealed that the person has already been selected and it was none other than his former Slayer, Buffy. The reunion was charged with awkwardness and after an almost botched first outing, Giles was ready to relieve Buffy from her appointment. But not to be discouraged, she talked him into giving her a second chance. Meanwhile, deeper emotions slowly emerge as regrets for their shared past began to have each seeing the other in a new light. As Buffy prepared for her second chance, she noticed Giles began to push away. Then the awkward couple attended a banquet where Buffy was getting a chance to see Giles in his element. But they got more than they bargained for when a gang of demons confronted them, looking to prove themselves against a Slayer and her handicapped Watcher.
Dedication: To you guys... you are my inspiration to keep this thing going. Thanks for keeping me honest!
Ricky, the boorish Prakentar, charged forward as three of his demons cohorts watched on, all too anxious to see the Slayer in action. Buffy reacted fast, shuffling Giles clear as she blocked a series of sluggish punches from Ricky. Though the strikes where telegraphed and painfully slow, they carried quite the power and sent her backwards a few steps as each connection to her blocking forearm. Seeing their associate’s difficulty with his opponent, two of the remaining beasts joined in, trying to come around from either side to reach Giles. Amid an array of defensive strikes, Buffy realized their intentions and worked to put herself between them and their mark.
Giles backed toward the edge of the curb, watching uneasily as Buffy threatened the beasts with a showy kata. Her arms swept clean and swift in a dramatic and expert motion, obviously trying to warn them of her skill and avoid a confrontation. But Giles knew these demons wouldn’t back down from a fight and her attempt to spare them of harm would only serve to encourage them further.
“Come on boys, you don’t really want to do this,” she warned. “What would your boss, my newest, bestest buddy think?”
“How do you know he didn’t send us out after you?” Ricky said with a sly grin and stormed after her again.
Buffy dodged the attack, blocking each slow blow from the brute. She took inventory of the layout of the land as she defended herself, calculating the thin balance between offense and defense based solely on location and obstructions. The fight shouldn’t be waged out in the open where innocents could get hurt.
One of the other beasts came forward and Giles stepped up to aid her only to be shoved back by the determined Slayer. Before he could object, she lunged at the attacking trio. The unexpectedly powerful assault sent them stumbling backwards into the fourth Prakentar, taking him with them as they floundered toward the entryway to the building. The quick thinking and helpful doorman took advantage of the situation and opened the door wide, allowing the discourteous foursome to tumble within the building. Buffy flashed a grateful smile as the older gentleman closed the door and locking it with an oversized key before the beasts could escape back outside. A second later, the heavy wooden door began to rattle, then shake violently on its hinges as the gang tried to force their way back out.
“Best be on your way, Miss,” the doorman urged, bracing against the door.
Buffy swiveled around, trying to hail a taxi as she scanned the street beyond her. Giles joined in on the task, reaching out with the grip of his cane to draw any driver’s attention. All cabs drove hastily by and she quickly gave up hope of a fast getaway. As the shaking of the large, heavy wooden door turned to pounding, she returned to searching for an escape route or at the very least, a better place to continue the fight away from prying eyes.
"Giles, across the way. That alley. Go!" She ordered and Giles stood firm at her side.
"You can’t face them alone. You need..."
"I’ll be along in a minute. Me bodyguard..." she gestured firmly to herself then to Giles, "You body! Now go!"
“I won’t leave you,” Giles insisted.
Suddenly, the doorman was sent spilling to the sidewalk as the Prakatar demons burst through the splintered door. Buffy gave Giles a nudge, pointing with a demanding finger toward the alley. She glanced back, just managing to bring her hand up to impede a large hoof coming at her head.
Giles checked for traffic and started a few steps but paused, refusing to go any further than the street’s shoulder until Buffy followed. He watched intensely, his fingers gripping his cane tightly as she fought the beasts back. She struggled with every motion, unable to move as quickly as the situation required and barely keeping all four at bay. Giles took a step toward Buffy, cane raised and ready to lash out when out of nowhere, a group of awestruck tourists hurried over to bathe the beasts in a wash of flashing cameras.
The Prakentar’s were stunned, momentarily blinded by the excessive lights. Buffy capitalized on their good fortune, pivoted as quickly as her dress shoes would allow and hurried to join Giles. Meanwhile, the gang of Prakintar's were engulfed in a sea of irritating foreign tourists flocking them for autographs and photo ops. They pushed their way to get free of the crowd as they watched Watcher and Slayer weave through horn sounding traffic to reach the opposite side of the street.
“Get in there!” Buffy gave Giles a not-so-tender push into the darkened alleyway.
He slipped within the shadows and stopped to look back, catching sight of the beasts who where just about free from their unwanted entourage. Giles inspected the dead end of the alleyway as Buffy slipped deeper into the shadows.
"Normally I wouldn't question you're tactical decisions but trapping us in an enclosed alley isn't the best of plans. Why are we here?"
"I wanted a less public location. Hold this for me," She quickly slipped out of the restrictive dress and shoes and stood there in nothing but her scantly covering slip, breezier, panties and stockings.
"What on earth are you doing?" Giles questioned as he hobbled forward only to have the bundle of clothes thrust into his hands.
"I don't want to ruin the dress."
"Dear lord... I'll get you another," he tried to return the clothes with outstretched hands but she shook her head determinedly.
"I know you tried, Giles, but I just can't maneuver in that. Besides, it’s too pretty to ruin."
“You’re utterly ridiculous,” Giles huffed, dropping the bundle to the ground. He removed his raincoat follow by his tuxedo jacket and wrapped it around her as the beasts crossed into the entrance of the alley. “It’s just a bloody dress.”
“No, it’s not bloody. That’s what I was trying to prevent.” Buffy grumbled as she worked the jacket on. “Now I’m probably going to ruin this, too.”
Giles was already marching up to the group, cane gripped in both hands as he called back, "Get covered up. I'll hold them back for a moment."
“Cowards! Fleeing only to hide away in shadows like rats,” Ricky growled as he gestured for one Prakentar to remain behind, blocking the end of the alley. The other two associates remained a few steps behind him, talking amongst themselves in snickering tones at the sight of the half dressed Slayer.
"Giles, body! Remember?" Buffy protested futilely as she hurried after him, still working to secure the jacket as she went.
"Running away? Seems the Slayer isn't what the big guy thought she was." Ricky snarled as the beasts advanced.
"No, she’s much more," Giles said evenly and with a twist and tug, his cane separated into parts. With a grand flourish, a shimmering blade slashed out towards the demons who backed away at the sight of the expert swordsman’s maneuver.
"That's why he keeps that stupid thing," Buffy grinned and looked on intrigued as Giles slashed the katana like blade boastfully across the path of his foes, pushing the demons back with every slice. Ricky’s lips curled back to an amused smirk as he reached within his long leather coat and revealed a large bowie knife.
“That’s enough!” A booming voice echoed down the alley and all eyes turned toward its source. Crakenfir stood at the mouth of the alley as a team of human assistants guarded the path from wandering civilians.
“Explain yourself,” the demon commanded and the four ferocious Prakentars suddenly turned meek.
“We were escorting your guests out, sir,” Ricky explained nervously, tucking away his oversized knife back within his coat.
“Seeing that they made it to their vehicle safely,” another added timidly.
“I’m sure you were,” Crakenfir grumbled. “Dismissed!”
“Dismissed!” He roared and they scampered off like scolded children, leaving Crackenfir standing with his head bowed with regret. “I apologize for the actions of my underlings. They will be properly reprimanded, I assure you.”
“Boys will be boys,” Buffy shrugged, slipping her slight frame behind Giles to try and avoid giving the small army of men a show.
“It’s quite alright. No harm came to either of us,” Giles assured him, sheathing his sword. And with a twist, the weapon became an innocuous cane once again.
“Except for my dress, the only true casualty,” Buffy sighed as she took up the grime soaked remains of her gown.
“Allow me to make amends for any inconveniences suffered. My car is yours for the rest of the evening. My driver will take you anywhere you wish and make sure you find your way home safely. I’ll have my men deliver your vehicle in the morning and I’ll pay any restitution necessary to replace damaged items. Won’t be any skin off my back, I’ll simply take it off the hides of those brash bastards.” The horned demon grumbled as he stared disapprovingly in the direction of the retreating Prakentars. Crakenfir nodded to one of his men who dutifully opened the car door behind him. Giles and Buffy walked forward to see a long black limo come into view, parked street side.
“This is very generous of you, Crakenfir, but it won’t be…”
“We’ll take it!” Buffy interrupted giddily, practically skipping up to slip within the inviting car.
Giles stood for a moment, staring impassively at the open door, then turned to smile slightly at their demon host. “I believe we’ll be accepting your hospitality again this evening, Sir Crackenfir. Thank you.”
“No need to thank me. It serves my best interest to see you well… to see you happy. If all goes well, you’ll do the same in turn for my people.” He smiled, pleased. The demon leaned forward to steal a glance inside the limo as Buffy happily explored the many trimmings the car presented. He shifted in close to Giles and said in a discrete tone, “She’s quite the special young lady. You’d be wise to open your heart to that one, Rupert.”
Giles’ smile paled as he considered his friend’s advice. He outstretched his hand and Crackenfir met it graciously with a manicured hoof.
“I already have,” Giles responded softly and after a firm shake, bowed politely and moved to join his companion.
“What do you want to do first?” Buffy asked, eagerly searching every possible nook and cranny within the limo. Giles watched her childlike enthusiasm with a subtle smile.
“Roman will want a field report…”
“What fun thing do you want to do first?” She amended carefully.
“After that rather close call, I could use a stiff drink.” Giles admitted, rubbing at his temple as he relaxed back into the plush seat.
“Lucky for you, Crack Daddy has a full bar in this thing.” She started investigating the small refrigerator located near her.
Giles’ eyes fell to the soiled heap of delicate fabric at her feet. “I’m sorry your dress was ruined.”
“It’s not the first outfit I’ve lost in the line of duty, I’m sure it won’t be the last,” she sighed, selecting one of the many small sampler bottles available and a glass. “But the optimist in me says to look at it this way…” she dropped some ice in the glass, gesturing with the ice tongs as she contined, “…at least I had a lovely dinner and quality slow dancing with a handsome gentleman before he managed to get me out of my clothes.” She smiled cheekily, catching a quick sideways glance at the blushing Watcher across from her.
Buffy finished making her mystery potion and turned to offer the glass to Giles. “Wah-lah.”
“What’s this?” Giles hesitantly took the glass.
“Your drink. You said you wanted one.”
He inspected the liquid with a critiquing gaze. “How do you know what my preferred poison is?”
“I don’t… well, not really. Educated guess, scotch on the rocks,” she shrugged and then said in her a mock British accent, “Shaken, not stirred.”
“I believe that would be James Bond’s drink, though I believe it was a martini,” Giles corrected cordially.
“Take it from me, Giles, in that suit, you’re the one with the license to kill,” she quipped and returned to probing the contents of the mini fridge. A second passed and the words she’d said ricocheted back within her mind. She was unabashedly flirting … with Giles, no less. What was going on? It wasn’t just an innocent compliment like the one he gave her… his whole-arsed one. She giggled at the memory. But then again, was that so innocent?
The fridge door shut and Buffy settled still, sitting across from Giles and pondering what was happening. Silence filled the car, all except the faint rev of the engine as the driver sped up to pass a sluggish car ahead. Giles seemed unmoved, sipping at his drink, staring at melting ice. She wondered what he was thinking. Had he even heard her or was he too absorbed with organizing the events of the evening into that filing cabinet brain of his? Buffy gave up trying to read his expression and continued to raid the treats hidden throughout the limo.
“Thank you,” Giles spoke softly, catching Buffy off guard. She ceased her search and turned to face him.
“Not that I’m complaining, but what for?”
“For tonight, you did well.”
“You said that before,” she reminded him gently. “Maybe I made that drink a wee bit too strong.”
“I mean it, Buffy.” He seemed to struggle with finding the right words, over thinking every syllable before speaking it. “You were right in that I should let you do your job… I shouldn’t question your decisions or goad some demon into challenging me for a chance to defend my pride.”
“I think I can find it in my heart to forgive you this time, but don’t let it happen…”
“It’s hard,” Giles said quietly.
“Watching you risk life and limb… it’s difficult for me.” He avoided looking at her, as if admitting something disgraceful.
“Giles, you watched me do that for over seven years. It’s the definition of Watcher.”
He let out a long, drawn out sigh, as if anticipating her response. “It’s not the same thing. When you were acting then, you were acting on behalf of your friends, your family… of all mankind. But now, you act on behalf of one man.”
“Must make you a pretty darn special man,” Buffy teased, giving his leg a playful slap and moving on to experiment with the stereo settings in a panel near her. She glanced quickly at him, thinking nothing of her comment until she saw his green eyes locked on her. She paused to look at him, really look at him and saw the slightest trace of uncertainty there. “You are, you know.”
“What?” He asked blankly, barely drawn out of his trance.
Giles felt his gaze fall away, almost ashamed. She’d said it quietly but it echoed through him like a roar. Special. His stomach twisted in knots with the many possible meanings such a word could contain and how he knew she would never realize how it meant in regards to his feeling towards her. It was she who was special. The Slayer, the Chosen One; and yet, he felt nothing was as special as the woman beneath it all, the person he’d come to know and… and what? What was this stirring inside? His nerves were abuzz, his stomach churning, mouth dry and vacant of words, and his heart pounded out a beat rivaling any drum solo he’d ever heard. He braved a look up at her and found her staring back with concern.
Giles didn’t move, as if his body was frozen in time, all except the subtle shimmer of his eyes searching out something in hers. She meant it as a compliment. He was special to her, the most special man in her life. But somehow, he looked as if he didn’t believe her. Or worse, maybe he did. Maybe that was it. He could see through her jokes, her jibes, her flirtatious ways to see the truth behind it all. And just what was the truth?
“Buffy, I…” He stopped, his lips pressing and parting and pressing firm again, the words working to be free from his mouth.
“Yes?” Buffy asked, encouraging him to continue.
The moment came and passed, fading away on the heels of his retreating courage. His eyes fell to his cane secure in his hand and then shifted to seek escape out the window. “If you wouldn’t mind, I think I’d like to call it a night and retire early.”
“Sure,” she responded quickly, easily, trying hard to mask her disappointment. “I’m kinda spent, myself. With all the excitement and the…” she forced a yawn, “I’ll sleep good tonight.”
“You don’t mind, do you?”
“Naw, really… I don’t want to overextend our host’s generosity. It’s best we get home. I’ll inform the driver.”
Buffy glanced around until she found a button for an intercom to the front section of the car. As she gave the man directions, Giles eyes were drawn once more to the soiled and ruined dress discarded on the floor of the limo. His grip tightened on the cane until his knuckles went white with strain, then with a sigh, he released it to join the dress.
Buffy sprawled across the couch, pen in one hand and a pad of paper in the other, having decided to write Dawn about her new position as Giles’ bodyguard. At first, she considered emailing but somehow felt the urge to put ink to paper, most likely a symptom of watching Giles organize his journals and notes.
Buffy started by telling how, as the days passed, she found herself and Giles falling into a sort of routine. Buffy would wake to find him up and a freshly brewed pot of coffee waiting for her. He would spend the early part of the morning concentrating on his paperwork as she did her tai chi exercises. He would review his emails and voicemails and catch up on his many calls to the Council as Buffy would eat the breakfast he’d prepared for her while she’d trained. For all intensive purposes, it was the picture of domesticity but without the relations. Then Giles would mysteriously tuck himself away within his bedroom for an hour or so as she tried her best to plan out the day’s events and chores.
As she wrote, Buffy reflected on how chores had become the only real challenge she faced, figuring out how best to tackle the days activities safely. She had to admit the record thus far was quite positive. The meeting between the coneheads and spider creatures was uneventful but kind of wiggsome. The assembly of the crusty, crab-like demons was a success, though she still wondered how they could serve seafood hors d'oeuvres. The underground tunnel dwellers convention happened without a hitch and was surprisingly enjoyable in how it reminded Buffy of the good old days in Sunnydale. Fortunately for Giles and unfortunately for her, it had quickly become boring after the events of the dance. She could only assume word must have gone around that the Slayer was in town and keeping a watchful eye on her former Watcher. Roman's instincts were undoubtedly keen. And though he still held concerns for the upcoming conference, Buffy was feeling near overconfidence with her arrangements.
She’d driven the route and the failsafe route, checking the main streets and tributary alleyways that connected to them. The building was only two stories but quiet large, housing over forty small offices, a kitchen, five sets of bathrooms, and a single large hall in which the conference was being held. She had checked and rechecked the guest lists, verifying all parties attending; a more intimate gathering of thirty from five separate species of demons, three of which Buffy had already been introduced to. Parking was offsite which was always safer to avoid the possibility of car bombs but it did generate need for an apprehensive reliance on valets. And though Buffy knew Roman trusted her to keep Giles safe, he’d selected a few undercover Council operatives to keep an eye on things. Everything was meticulously planned out, now all she had to do was sit back and wait for the day to come. So she began to claim the training room for herself.
Buffy’s pen scribbled out across the stationary, telling how she spent most of her free time in Giles' training room, dusting and straightening and polishing. As she cared for the space, she began to appreciate it more with every visit there. Giles even took a liking to the room, inexplicably showing up in time to catch the tail end of her training routines. He’d come strolling in with a tray of cookies and lemonade or casually offer her some more information on alterations needing to be made to his daily itinerary. Regardless of reason, he never failed to appear in time to pay her some compliment in her improved skills. Buffy wondered if he was trying to make up for lost time. She wasn’t about to complain, she enjoyed his company.
The pen twirled loosely in her fingers as she reviewed the correspondence. She grimaced at the ink stained paper. Her writing was so loopy, so possessive of the page whereas Giles’ was so subtle and under spoken, much like his voice. She’d never noticed it before. Then again, she was seeing things differently these days, seeing people differently.
Buffy's eyes perked up at the sound of the bathroom door opening at the end of the hall. She glanced back over the couch to see a billow of steam crawl along the floor and evaporate as it rose. Giles stood over the sink, wrapped up in his comfy robe preening away and it brought a smile to her face. She'd never seen him do anything of a more domestic nature besides cooking and she couldn't help her curiosity. Deciding the activity required further investigation; she discarded the pen and paper and proceeded down the hall. Once she reached the bathroom, she propped a shoulder against the doorframe, watching on.
"Whatcha doin'?" The second the question was asked, she felt idiotic. It was rather self explanatory with Giles standing in a freshly steamed bathroom, leaning over the sink with an electric trimmer in his hand.
"Curing cancer," he offered flatly with a sideways glance, combing his fingers through the mess of dampened curls atop his head. His hair got so curly when wet, go figure.
"Is that hard to do?"
"I would have to believe so, otherwise someone would have already..."
"I meant shaving, smartass."
"Not particularly, though this trimmer doesn't shape very well." With a push of a button, the trimmer hummed alive. Giles took a starting stroke, gliding the comb-guarded end along one side under his chin, triggering a rain of fine hairs to sprinkle down to decorate the white sink below. He paused to acknowledge his audience with a raised brow. "As fascinating as this must be, wouldn't you rather entertain yourself with something a bit more thrilling? Such as watching paint dry."
"Nope," she answered with a shrug. "So when you say ‘shape’, you mean the edges?"
"That would be it, yes." He responded with transparent sarcasm. He made another pass under his chin and Buffy watched with seeming wonder as another shower of hairs trickled down to join the others. He paused again, suddenly uncomfortable with his spectator. "Is there something wrong?"
"Nope," she grinned. "So how do you get your moustache cut just above your lip?"
"Extreme caution," he sighed and took another pass under the opposing side of his chin. "Why this sudden interest in grooming, Buffy? I feel like a bloody wildlife program."
"I don’t know. I've never felt a beard before."
"You're not missing much, believe me."
"Does it itch?"
"Does it keep you warm?"
"I suppose so."
"What would it cost me to get you to leave me alone?" He said it with a more playfully irritated tone than actual frustration and Buffy's lips curled to a broad smile.
"Can I touch it?"
Giles brow creased with fret at the request. "You want to..."
"Fondle your follicles, yep." She snickered, amused by her wit. "Something wrong with that?"
"Er... um... no... not that I can..." Giles clutched the trimmer firmly in his hand as if to, at any moment, use it to discourage her off him.
"Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. I'll help you shave; complete with shaping, if you allow me the occasion brush of a roaming finger. Deal?"
"Buffy, this is a rather odd..."
"Long time shaver here, not to mention capable handler of multiple sharp edged weapons. I think you can entrust me with this task, Giles." She gestured to the toilet. "Sit."
He smirked uncomfortably. "Buffy..."
"Come on, Giles. Consider it as part of my Slayer training." She took the trimmer from his hand and nudged him toward the toilet. He rolled his eyes as he took a seat, watching her explore the different speed settings. Once she committed to a speed setting, she smiled pleased and her hand reached out to guide his head to where she needed it. Her fingers gently cupped his chin, taking a moment to appreciate the feel of the whiskers there, and directed his face to lift up towards her.
"Feels soft," she sighed contentedly, drawing a finger along the curve of his jaw.
"Usually is right after a shower. Easier to cut then, as well."
Giles tried to hide the expression of comfort he felt with her touch but with every stroke, he melted inside. She could be so tender at times it was easy to forget how deadly she was. With her fingers pinching his chin to steady him, she glided the trimmer along the underside. Giles watched her eyes shimmering with delight in doing it. After a moment, she giggled as her hand brushed at the lapels of his robe.
"Ooops, one minor flaw in my design." She flushed briefly and with a shrug moved to return the trimmer to its case atop the counter.
"Doesn’t matter. I'll get it later," he said softly and saw the grin return to her lips.
“You don’t mind?”
“Might as well finish what you started,” he smirked, lifting his chin high for her to continue. So she did, carefully skimming the clippers along to trim the remainder of his beard. And with the final stroke, the hum of the trimmer silenced and she set it aside, exchanging it for a set of thin scissors included in the kit.
“Try not to move,” she leaned in close, blowing gently along his face to send any stray hairs falling away.
Giles eyes fluttered with the sensation, watching her rose tinted lips pucker before him only to be tickled closed by the airy kiss of her sweet scented breath.
Buffy blew softly, brushing the remnants of the trim away with a hand and glanced up to see Giles eyes closed.
“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to…” she stammered uncomfortably. “It’s something mom used to do when cutting my hair. It’s silly, I know.”
“No,” he assured her with a patient smile. “It’s… it’s quite pleasant, actually.”
“Well, that’s done. Time to tame those rough edges,” she lifted the scissors to his face and was surprised to see his eyes still intently on hers. “Trust me.”
“Implicitly,” he responded softly.
She flushed, anticipating a joke rather than a comment of such certainty. Not to be distracted from her task, she focused on the uneven edge of his moustache. Instinctively, she leaned in, concentrating on keeping steady as she parted the blades and slipped one edge just beneath the path of his upper lip. With a confident grip, she closed the blades, trimming a perfect line with a single cut. Satisfied, she drew the scissors back, brushing the thumb of her free hand along his mouth to clear it of drifting hairs. Soon, the brushing of her thumb slowed to a caress, as she admired the sloping landscape of his slightly parted, velvety plump, pink lips and wondered how they might feel if she were to simply lean down and….
“How do I look?”
“Wha… what? Huh?” she snapped out of her daze.
“Do I pass inspection?” he pressed expectantly.
“Uh… yeah. Looks… it looks good,” Buffy set the scissors aside and began to straighten up the mess she’d left, suddenly embarrassed. “Mission accomplished.”
“Is there something wrong?” He reached out to retrieve a hanging towel to aid in clean up, leaning forward to begin wiping up the hair speckling floor.
“Nope. Fine,” Buffy answered brusquely. She apprehensively peeked down to catch a glimpse of Giles’ robe falling open, revealing the dampened hairs of his chest trailing down within the shadowed line of his torso. The raw sight sent a swell of heat from down low within her and she fumbled backwards towards the bathroom door.
“I’m just… I think I need… was that the phone?” And with that, Buffy turned and hustled back out to the living room, leaving Giles baffled on what he’d just missed.