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Wishful Thinking
By Ginmar

Part Eleven

“Why didn’t you tell me about the weather?”

“I beg your pardon?”

The connection was awful; Buffy could hear snapping and popping on the line, and occasional buzzing noises. “And the vampires, too,”she added dryly. “The fact that they don’t bite people.”

“Oh…Ah, well-----“ Buffy could practically hear Giles’ discomfort over the line. He’s probably pinching the bridge of his nose right now. “Buffy, I’d like to discuss research with you more often, but---“ The skepticism in his voice came over the connection just fine.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…I almost ruined my shoes. They’re suede and they’re expensive, and, well--- So what’s the deal here? Olivia tried to explain it to me, and…it just made no sense at all.”

“All at once, I supposed it didn’t.” There was a peculiar pause, and Giles said cautiously, “Olivia?”

“Well, yes, there was a lady named Meg, too, but…”

“Ah, well….So, then…” Giles cleared his throat. Buffy heard blips and pops in the connection, and she tried to remember how Giles had explained the time difference. “And what did Olivia say?”

“Well, if I’d understood it, would I be calling you? Mad cow disease, and---and how British vampires are different.”

“Olivia,” Giles said fondly, and Buffy’s ears perked up. No doubt about that tone. “Ah, well, anyway…Yes. Well..Yes, there’s that. It’s very complicated, but essentially, Britain’s isolation from Europe----“

“Giles, they do have the Chunnel now, you know.”

“Yes, but they also have France.”

“Giles,” Buffy said disapprovingly, but Giles cut her off.

“Buffy, you might consider it ancient history, but Britain and France have long had a certain…”

“This is your revenge, isn’t it?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“All the times I begged off research, you’re just going to rub it in now, aren’t you?”

“No, Buffy, really. If that bothered me, I’d have fallen on my pencil a long time ago. I’ve just resigned myself to my fate.”

“Well, here’s your big chance, Giles. I don’t think this’ll happen again, so you might want to take advantage of it.”

“Are you sitting down?”

“Oh, God, what have I done?”

“Buffy----“

“Just kidding, Giles.”

But she did sit down and close her eyes, the better to absorb what he was saying. In her mind, she could picture him sitting on the couch in the living room, rubbing the bridge of his nose as he stared thoughtfully at the evil coffee table, collecting his thoughts. In her imagination, Anya and Dawn were conveniently elsewhere, so she could have his undivided attention. “Well,” he muttered, as the magnitude of this opportunity hit him. “For quite some time, British families have been fighting vampires in their own ways.”

All that was required of her, Buffy saw, was that she poke the conversation along and grasp the high points. “How long?”

“I believe it really began in earnest soon after World War I.”

“Why?”

“There were so many people lost during that war, that when vampires flooded Great Britain after the war, people simply were not willing to sacrifice any others. So British families began taking those of their families who had fallen victim to vampires, and they began watching for when they rose, and taking them themselves.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, either they’d wait for the rising, or they’d track them down. But in the end, many British vampires were kept at home, and fed animal blood so that they never developed the taste for human blood.”

“But---but---they’re demons, Giles.” Uncertainly, she added, “Aren’t they?”

“That’s a good question, one that I wish the Council would address. There’s exceptions, obviously, but it seems socialization is able to keep many vampires from attacking humans. That, and not exposing them to human blood.”

“Is that all?”

“Well, as I said…” Giles said uncomfortably. “Many, but not all. Of course, there’s no chance that any organization outside the Council would have the ability to study this, but they haven’t done so.”

“Why not?”

Giles remained silent for so long that Buffy wondered just how unnerved the subject made him. “Well, Buffy, think about it. Look at…well, look at….Spike.” He sighed, and added, “I’m sorry, Buffy.”

“No,‘s okay,” she said cheerfully. “Totally fine here.” She cleared her throat. “What about him?”

“Well, one has to admit, he’s unique, but I have to wonder if there’s not a lesson there for all of us.”

“Such as?” she asked carefully.

“Well, his chip socialized him to humans as being something more than food.”

I like this world, a sarcastic voice whispered in Buffy’s ear. Happy Meals on legs.

“Once that happened, the circle of humans whom he regarded as being more than just food widened, and his motivations became less and less selfish. He’s an interesting case. I’m sorry,” he added again.

“But do you think that’s what’s going on here?”

“It’s hasn’t been as fast as Spike’s…” Giles sighed. “But then again, he did have the chip. I know, personally, of several vampires who hold night jobs. Their strength makes them very prized workers in some fields, but of course, with the economy being this bad, there’s competition, and there’s been some unfortunate..incidents.”

“Unfortunate?”

“Oh, yes. I can recall one case where a vampire was exposed to sunlight by his co –workers, as a consequence of jealousy. For that reason, they tend to choose jobs where they can work by themselves.”

“Really?” What about the police department?”

“I believe there are, in fact, two vampire policemen in the City.”

“Really?”

“This was the last time I was there.” She could practically hear him shrug. “Of course, they’re more vulnerable to bleeding to death than humans, but they’re very fast, obviously.”

“What about the cows, Giles?”

“Oh, well, that was when mad cow disease was discovered. Obviously, vampires were buying all the blood from the slaughterhouses…”

“But they can’t get sick, can they?”

“No, no, of course not. But they could tell that something was wrong with the blood. And no one would listen.”

“Really,” Buffy muttered.

“Indeed. After all, it would mean admitting that there were vampires in Britain.”

They sat in silence for a long time, and Buffy listened to the sound effects on the line. “Giles…What about the other vampires?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Meg said vampires from other countries.”

“Ah, yes, France for example,” he said sourly.

“Giles!”

“Buffy, you are simply not aware of the history between France and England. The Hundred Years’ War, for example…”

“God, Giles, you make France and England sound like Dawn and me. I have blonde hair, she has dark hair, and you have an English accent, and they have French accents. But instead of fighting about the bathroom, you’re just fighting about…continents.”

“That is not true,” Giles said stiffly. “They’re just so…bloody pretentious!---about it. Really, the only reason French vampires don’t attack Londoners is because they claim the taste of the blood is so…”

“Giles.”

“So…instead of acting like vampires, they act like….?”

“Like French people,” he answered tiredly. “You have no idea how disconcerting it is to have one’s clothes criticized by a demon.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with your clothes.” Honesty compelled her to continue in a small voice. “But there’s a lot of tweed.”

“I’m British, I’m entitled to tweed. Aside from which, I simply refuse to accept criticism from a vampire with a 1970’s porn star mustache and a Mickey Mouse tee shirt.”

“Maybe he was being ironic?”

“I doubt it, Buffy, he had on a Mickey Mouse watch as well. And now, long after I dusted him, I am forced to refer to an oversized cartoon rodent twice as many times as I’ve done so in the past five years. It’s…infuriating.”

“So you hate Mickey, too?”

“No, Buffy, I don’t. It’s simply that…that….” She could hear an explosive, exasperated sigh over the phone, and knew that he was rubbing his forehead now. “Watching used to be such a simple profession. You watched. You trained. You studied. What you were never forced to do was discuss continental fashions.”

“Poor Giles,” Buffy said soothingly. Giles snorted, and Buffy clapped her hand over her mouth to smother the impending giggles. “So I guess I won’t be doing a lot of staking, will I?”

“Not unless you go to Paris,” Giles said bitterly. “I understand, actually, that there’s quite a fashion going on there now….”

“For…Mickey Mouse tee shirts?”

“For vampires,” Giles said. “We’ve heard reports that it’s some sort of intellectual fad now.”

“You mean….like..how?”

“People voluntarily offering themselves to vampires, at least in the larger cities.”

“You’re serious?”

“I’m serious.” And I’m frightened, he added mentally, but he kept that to himself. “I’ve heard of similar things going on in the former Eastern bloc countries. We had reports last year that a city in the Ukraine became entirely possessed by vampires, when starving people simply couldn’t take it any longer.”

“Has that been verified?”

“No,” Giles said quietly. “You see…there’s been no word since then.”

“Have you…?”

“We sent someone there a month ago. He hasn’t been heard from since.”

“Oh, that’s bad.”

There was a painful pause, then, while they considered their conversational options. “I should go,” Buffy said.

“All right then. Did you find out all you needed?”

A mental image arose before her then, of a small city with European-style old buildings, with balconies and fancy masonry. It was night-time, and the street was full of vampires---nothing but vampires. In her mind’s eye, she saw amongst them, a dazed English vampire, his Watcher tweed ripped and dirty, his eyes hollow with hunger that he would not assuage with murder. She shook off the vision with an effort. “Yes,” she said, far too perkily. “I’m good.”

“Well, ah…have you spoken to Willow, then?”

“No, not yet.”

“Procrastination only makes it worse, Buffy.”

“I know,” she said quietly. “I know, I know. It’s just so hard.”

“The longer you wait, the more difficult it gets, Buffy.”

She bit back a retort. He was right. He was definitely right, that was the problem. It just seemed that the more right someone was, the more she wanted to argue with them. “I just don’t know what to say to her, Giles.”

“You’ll think of something,” he said firmly. “Soon. I’ll let you go then, won’t I? So you can think about it.” Gently, he clicked off, but he stayed on the couch for several minutes, staring at the floor.

That sounded like an order, Buffy thought miserably.


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