Setting: Post-Doublemeat Palace
Entry 3 - Research
Henderson and Caldwell greeted him warmly upon his arrival at the railway station. "I imagine you'd rather be back in sunny California at this moment," Caldwell quipped as they made their way down the platform.
"I can assure you, the close proximity of a Hellmouth dampens the appeal somewhat." Giles squinted up at the dull gray sky. "Although I know a few vampires that would likely enjoy this weather."
The hour being early, the cars were filled with London commuters, and it took a few minutes to find three seats together. As they settled, Caldwell commented, "I'd forgotten you actually worked with a vampire during your stay."
"Two. There was Angel and "
Caldwell grinned. "William the Bloody. How could I forget that? You should have seen Lydia when she came back from Sunnydale, Rupert. She kept on about actually getting to meet the subject of her thesis and how charming he was. Remember, Thomas?"
"How could I forget? Apparently she thought he had the bluest eyes. She sighed after she said that. She actually sighed."
The two men laughed and Giles managed a smile. "I think he would be quite amused to discover he has an admirer."
As Henderson and Caldwell continued to exchange stories and gossip, starting with Lydia and moving out from there, Giles remembered the letter he'd stashed in his pocket. Retrieving it, he glanced at the address, done in that old-fashion looping style he was beginning to associate with Spike. Satisfied his companion would be occupied for a few minutes, he opened the envelope and extracted the sheets, all letterhead from the Magic Box he noted with a touch of annoyance.
I do have a passing familiarity Bath. It was not fashionable in my day, but our not-so-happy little family did pursue bit of mayhem there at one point. Unfortunately, the constant rain made Drusilla less manageable than usual, which made Darla cranky which made Angelus unhappy which I think I will stop there. I have seen the baths; they provided a nice retreat when a little solitude was in order.
Tara was quite pleased to receive your message and sends her love. She's feeling a bit lost herself these days, missing Red and trying to find her way alone. She is stronger than she looks, though, and I think she'll do fine, even with being part of the wedding party.
"Interesting mail, Rupert?"
Giles looked up to realize his colleagues' conversation had stopped. "Urm, shop business. News on how things are going. My partner's getting married soon, so she's making some temporary changes." He began to refold the sheets. "I'll read it later."
"Later" did not arrive until lunch was winding down. The morning had been spent in a review of what the Protocols of Osiris actually were, along with a few accounts of some of the more spectacular failed attempts that had Giles squirming in his seat. How could Willow have even considered this? More importantly, how had it managed to work?
As the group took a short break before regrouping for the afternoon section, Giles seized the opportunity to retire to a quiet corner of the Council's main conference room and extracted the letter once more. It had felt as if it were burning a hole through his pocket most of the morning, especially each time Travers had looked in his direction.
Red herself looked pretty bad the last time I saw her, only a few days after the accident. She looked like someone going through withdrawal and it wasn't pretty. Buffy has made an effort to clean all the magic items out of the house, so she's getting the help and support she needs -- at least as much as Buffy can give her. Don't happen to know of a local chapter of Magic Users Anonymous, do you?
I haven't heard anything more about this Amy, but then I haven't been over at the house much and I don't expect it's something Red would volunteer.
As to what you said about "letting" Red do the spell to restore Angel's soul, I seem to recall you were rather unavailable at the time. Something about you being tied up and me complaining about not wanting to have to pick librarian out of the carpet. She's got a stubborn streak almost as bad as Buffy's and when she makes up her mind to fix something by magic, precious little can stop her. She chose this path. It's not your fault.
Giles found himself smiling. There was something oddly comforting in Spike's assertion and more than a grain of truth. When had he come to know them so well?
On a happier note, I've actually been issued and invitation to the wedding. Harris even told me I could bring a date. Don't worry; I'm not even considering asking Buffy. It's clear she prefers what we have remains hidden from her friends. By the by, message received and understood; I wouldn't expect less of you. You're the closest thing to a father she has that I've seen and I know you don't find my intentions honorable, so a few threats are understandable. I think I actually would have been disappointed if you hadn't made them.
Glad to hear my information about the spell was useful; if anyone has the resources for this research, it's the Council. I might wish the wankers to hell otherwise, but I can't fault their library.
Speaking of the Council of Wankers, is there a reason why they send the Slayer out to save the world but can't be bothered to make certain she can afford to keep a roof over her head, not to mention a growing sister? Surely there must be some precedent for supplying the Slayer with funds. This is no idle rant on my part; I'm afraid money is still very much an issue for Buffy and she's found herself employment to do what she can to solve the problem.
My quarrel's not with the idea of her finding work. The idea that she's been reduced to flipping burgers, however, is unsettling. Yes, she's taken a job at that fine Sunnydale establishment, Doublemeat Palace. I know you know the place because I remember seeing the wrappers in your trash. It's terrible to see her there -- horrible uniform, ugly hat, an atmosphere of despair that kills the soul by inches. It's beating her down. I can see it in her eyes, feel it in her touch and it frightens me more than you can imagine.
I've seen that look before, Rupert, in the eyes of a slayer just before I killed her.
"Giles, are you well?"
Giles started at the voice. The room had begun to fill for the afternoon session, and Henderson was looking him with some concern. Dropping the letter to his lap, he took off his glasses and reached for his handkerchief. "Fine, fine. Why?"
"Your expression." He gestured toward the letter. "Bad news?"
The horror he'd felt at reading Spike's words must have shown on his face, Giles realized. "Usual Hellmouth activity," he lied. "There was a bit of a touch and go incident, but it all came out well."
Henderson didn't look convinced, but he nodded and moved away to take his seat. Common sense dictated the letter be put away again to be taken out in a more private setting, but Giles felt compelled to forge ahead as quickly as he could.
I've tried to convince Buffy she could do better, but she keeps saying she needs the money. Hell, I could get her money if it came down to it, but she doesn't want it that way. I shouldn't be surprised, but it's damn frustrating to try and help her sometimes. I can feel her slipping away and she's not grasping at any of the lifelines I'm tossing out.
The problems with Social Services aren't helping. Dawn's had some problems with school, so they've been sniffing around. I'm afraid I might have accidentally aggravated the problem at one point; happened to be there when the rep came visiting, trying to suss things out with Buffy. Woman seemed pre-disposed to taking Dawn away, though Buffy's managed to work out a temporary reprieve. You can imagine how crazed this is making her. Between that and the job let's just say I try not to let her patrol alone. That is, when she has a chance to patrol with her new schedule.
For a moment, I thought she was getting better and that I'd have good news to report. She started to take an interest in things, to smile a little more. The jokes she made when slaying were actually a bit funny sometimes. Then came this. I know she needs to stand on her own two feet, but we've got to be able to find something that will allow her to stand tall. Any suggestions are welcome at this point, and anything you can do to get the Council to cough up some cash would a godsend. Between the two of us, surely we can up with something.
If anything changes for better or worse, I'll let you know.
He felt little comfort in the words, for there had been none offered. The reports on the research had begun again, voices droning on. Giles only heard one word in ten, mulling things over in his head.
The meeting ended with no real conclusions and a decision to meet again in another two weeks. For a moment, Giles considered stopping Travers before he departed, bringing up the subject of a stipend, but decided against it. Travers would see it as the perfect opportunity to give the Council power over the Slayer once more, and any offer made with that attitude was bound to be rejected. Worse, if Buffy discovered he and Spike had had a hand in the offer, it would likely damage her relationship with them both.
Just then, Lydia Chalmers caught his eye and an idea began to form in his head. He patted his breast pocket where the letter now resided and made his way toward her. "Lydia, didn't you write your thesis on William the Bloody?"
Continued in Entry 4 - Plans