Antenna (antennapedia) wrote,

  • Music:

The Adventure of the Displaced Watcher" commentary part 1

At hobgoblinn's request, commentary on my first significant Buffy story, which was a crossover with the world of Sherlock Holmes.

"The Adventure of the Displaced Watcher"
parts 1 / 2 / 3 ( all in one version )

First, the title. This has been botched more than once by some of the award sites. This is disappointing to me because in its correct form it's an obvious nod to Doyle's Holmes titling scheme. The Memoirs abandon the pattern, but most of the titles are in the pattern of "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist".

Next I point out the dedication to kivrin, who had no idea it was coming and probably still finds it bewildering. But she posted early encouragement, and I do so appreciate encouragement.

## Extracts from the personal diary of Rupert Giles, Watcher
__Thursday, 4 January 2001__

One of my earliest insights was that I had to do this as alternating diary entries from Watson and Giles. The true Holmes pastiche imitates the pattern of the stories, which are almost all first-person accounts from Watson. The next thing they often do is provide a cover story for the unpublished "story found in the tin dispatch box". I decided to dispense with a frame and go straight for interleaved entries.

I had a rather odd argument with my husband about the date on this entry. He wanted it to be 1886. I said no. a) It tips off my reader right away what I'm going to do. b) I wanted to nail down the Buffy-timeline setting.

The flight to London from Los Angeles was tediously long and about as miserable as it was the last time I took it. Heathrow was its usual congested self; we were in a holding pattern for what felt like ages before they let us land. Once on the ground it went well. Jet engines, conveyor belts, computer displays showing current flight times, televisions, espresso bars: modern Heathrow, modern London, almost indistinguishable from LA. I had a jetlag-inspired moment of wondering if I'd travelled anywhere at all in those eleven hours. Perhaps someone had packed me into an aluminium sausage, fed me bad food, shown me a bad movie, then released me back into LAX. Then I heard the accents and relaxed. I was home.

Ah, the perils of first-person. Much modern fiction doesn't bother asking, never mind answering, the questions of "who is bringing this tale to us and why?" When writing first-person, you have to at least consider the questions. And the answer is important. Here I'm writing Giles' diary entries. What does Giles choose to notice? How does he express himself? How do I tell the story effectively without making my narrator look like a hyper-aware neurotic? What's the narrator's voice? How does his writing style differ from his speaking style?

I do something a little funny in this paragraph that's undercut by my ending, which makes it clear that it really happened and all that. Mostly I was leaning on a list of modern items that Giles would soon be starkly aware were gone.

I britified the spelling by the simple expedient of switching BBEdit's spelling dictionary to British English. There are some usage differences that I tried to be aware of: "different to" instead of "different from", for instance; other prepositional variations. But probably I should have gotten a native speaker to read it. Though at this time I was way way way nervous about being beta-read, and emmessann's reading was all I could cope with.

[...] I thought about looking up Robson or Parkes, but decided I had no interest in it. Business was a better way to spend my visit. My aim was to take some papers into the Council building and begin abasing myself immediately.

Giles doesn't value connections with friends... And the next few descriptive passages are about establishing how he's spent enough time in California to start to acclimate there: his home is not entirely home-like any more.

[...] The first sign I had that things were going wrong was Ethan. I don't know what he was doing there in the shop. Or rather, I know why he *said* he was in the shop. He was also after the Thurible of Abyssinia that I need for the shop protection ritual. They had one. £100. Shockingly overpriced. I had begun to say so to Pudge when Ethan shoved his foul face between us and said he'd take it without quibbling over the price. I'd completely missed his arrival. He probably didn't want the damn thing, but we were going to quarrel over it anyway.
[...] He was still angry with me, and I with him. The chain of outrages goes so far back that neither of us remembers which started it.

Ethan as plot engine. I like Ethan as a character a great deal, and in later stories I spent enough time with him to sympathize with him. But here, he just sets the plot in motion and puts the MacGuffin into Giles' hands.

[...] He saw it in my hands and cackled. "Have a nice trip, Ripper," he said, and then spoke a phrase in Latin, repeating it. I have been straining to recall the exact words. I was shouting at him as he spoke, so had trouble hearing. But I think it was *I command time to bend*, which in retrospect would make sense.

If I had glimmergirl with me then, I would have given that in Latin and not bothered to translate. My theory is that Giles would write in whatever language it pleased him to write his diary in.

Something rushed around me, wind and color and noise. My head reeled, and I fell to the pavement. I thought at first Ethan had hit me with an offensive spell. In the next moment I knew that couldn't be the case. He was missing. Something was very wrong. I pushed myself to my knees. The ground was cold under my hands. Icy. Much colder than it had been moments before. The stench was amazing: smoke and horse dung. There was ice and filthy snow on the street. Same street, obviously Beak Street. By this time I'd stood up and looked around myself. The sounds were all different. No droning of motors; instead horses and wooden wheels and a boy crying out the afternoon news. The people were dressed like Victorians, in hats and long skirts. A man passing by stared at me as I clutched at a lamp-post to hold myself up. A gas lamp.

Sigh. This is missing the single telling detail that would push it over the top and make it all real. I don't know enough about Victorian London. I know more now than I did then, but still.

[...]He stiffened at that, and said he'd just had an enquiry about such artifacts. He nodded in the direction of a man on the other side of the shop, currently browsing the books. He looked like the sort of man one sees in productions of Dickens: greying muttonchops, flowing overcoat, top hat, stick.

Then I made my second mistake. I went over to the man, and politely asked him what he might know about the artifact in my hands. He turned to me, looked me up and down once, dismissing me, then his eyes fastened on the object in my hands.

"Ah. At last. You're late. Well, give it here, man!"


"That artifact belongs to me," he said, in the most arrogant tones I've ever heard used to me. And I've heard Quentin in a temper.

"The hell it does," I told him.

Here's my hook for the sequel. Who was this guy waiting for? Gotta be Ethan. What was Ethan up to?

He lashed at me with his walking stick. I blocked the blow reflexively. Have a nasty bruise across my forearm to show for it. He smashed at me again, this time with a word of Power, which knocked the artifact out of my hand. He grabbed it, knocked me down with another blast of magic, hit me in the solar plexus the old-fashioned way, with the stick, and ran.

Dreadful lapse on my part, and one I pray will not be one I forever regret.

Uh oh! The MacGuffin has escaped!

[...] It was mid afternoon in London, in January, during the little ice age. The air was sharpening for snow, and the sky was darkening. I had a moment of desperation and hopelessness and yes, I'll confess it, blind panic. Then I realised that there were two avenues of attack for me. I set aside the Watchers for the moment, out of reflexive hatred, and chose the second as being a better bet. More likely to help me retrieve the artifact.

I set my feet into motion on the familiar yet unfamiliar streets, and made my way to Baker Street.

And that's Giles' predicament. End of act 1. Though I did not think in those structural terms when writing this story.

## Extracts from the personal diary of John H. Watson, MD
__Monday 4 January, 1886__

The afternoon had been bleak, the sort of afternoon that drives Holmes to fits of smoking the most poisonous tobacco in his possession, or playing dark and brooding airs on his violin for hours, or worse, to seeking the comforts of the morocco case. I was beginning to hope for something vile and shocking in the evening papers to pull him out of his funk. We heard the bell ring around four, and Holmes looked at me. "We might have some diversion now, Watson," he said. His reasoning here was apparent: neither of us were expecting a visitor. I rose and tidied away the worst of his messes with newspapers and coffee cups, to give our visitor a place to sit, should he wish one. Holmes displayed that streak of vanity I have sometimes seen in him and straightened his dress in the glass, then positioned himself in his armchair in the bow window, with eyes closed ostentatiously. We heard steps on the stairs, then Mrs Hudson's voice, then her knock. Holmes bade her enter. She said that a Mr Rupert Giles was calling, and did we wish to see him. She handed his card to Holmes, who examined it with a puzzled expression. He commanded her to show Mr Giles up immediately.

And there is my Watson voice. Not bad. Not as florid as Doyle's own writing.

[...] Rupert Giles was a handsome man of middle age, over six foot tall, with a powerful build disguised under strange clothing cut too large for him. He had a full head of slightly curling hair, not yet grey, and worn untidily. His face was angular, with strong cheekbones and a stronger chin, speaking of an equally strong character and determination. He had on a neat pair of spectacles, and yet he bore himself like a man who was ready for fisticuffs, as I have seen Holmes at times. His nose had been broken at some time in his life, and not set properly, and a long scar marred his high forehead. I might have taken him for a military man, except that his voice and manner were refined. He stepped further into the room, in response to my urging, and looked about himself as if dazed. He stared from Holmes to me and back again. He set down his coat and case, and stood with a hand on his chest, still gazing steadily at Holmes.

Here's one thing about fanfiction: we don't often get a chance to describe our principal characters. Our audience knows them already, intimately. The most we can describe is difference from the norm. But here I have the chance to describe Giles as seen by a total stranger. The mark on ASH's forehead is a wrinkle, not a scar, as my beta reader pointed out to me, but I let it stand. If I made the mistake, perhaps Watson might as well? Or perhaps in the Ur-Buffyverse I attempt to describe, it truly is a scar.

I could have pushed the phrenology further. Doyle was big on it, and Watson's descriptions are full of it.

[...] "Perhaps you can tell *me*," said Mr Giles, cautiously. "The answer is a fantastic one. I believe you will have more trust in it if you arrive at it yourself."

"If you will permit me," said Holmes. Mr Giles nodded. Holmes rose, moving close to our visitor. Mr Giles looked at Holmes with the greatest expression of delight I have ever seen on one of our clients. He bore Holmes' examination with every sign of good nature, and it was a remarkably close examination, of the sort that often causes our visitors to bristle with offence.

The pièce de résistance, and the reason I wrote the story. I saw this scene in my head and invented a way to get there. Holmes, examining Giles closely, and making the bold deduction that he has come from the future. Here I describe what Watson, who doesn't know what Holmes is thinking, observes about Holmes's reactions to Giles. Watson has his own perceptions of Giles' appearance as well. The depiction of Holmes in detection-observation mode is a trope of the Holmes story.

Holmes began by picking up the man's overcoat, laid on the back of the divan. He looked inside at the lining, and gave Mr Giles the first of many piercing stares. He then stepped near to the man and took his hands in his own and examined them closely. He uttered a little groan when he saw the man's signet ring, but did not comment on it or ask any questions about it. Mr Giles had an object strapped to his wrist with a leather band, that looked like a miniature pocket-watch. Some fashionable ladies have taken to wearing their watches on their wrists, but I had never before seen a man do so. Holmes examined this watch with every sign of fascination.

The strange man stood to allow Holmes to examine his jacket.

"Where did you go to university?"

"Oxford. Merton."

"Ah. I'm a Cambridge man, myself. And you read?"

Holmes' biographers argue about this. I take a stand!


"And took a First?"

Mr Giles laughed quite silently. "Yes."

"Would you recite something for me?"

"Does it matter what?"

"Anything you know well."

He responded by reciting a poem that sounded rather like nonsense, about a fantastic beast killed by a man with a sword. The stammer vanished when he recited. "Or I could do some Shakespeare, if you'd prefer that to Carroll," he said.

Holmes made an absent noise from the floor, where he was inspecting our guest's boots, which I must say looked to be of bizarre fashion, with a thick sole of strange material. They were more like a workman's boots than a gentleman's. Holmes returned to his feet and walked around our guest, examining his face and hair quite closely. Then, to my great shock, Holmes lashed out with a fist, seemingly with every intention of knocking Mr Giles senseless. Our guest blocked the blow handily, then almost without effort seized my friend and held him with his arm locked behind his back in a position that looked most uncomfortable. I have rarely seen Holmes bested in a dustup, and never when he had the advantage of surprise. Holmes shocked me again by laughing. "You may release me now," he said. "I will not be making the mistake of matching blows with you any time soon."

Mr Giles nodded, then released his grasp. "You shifted your feet to brace for the swing," he told Holmes. Holmes rubbed his hand absently, as if to return feeling to a numbed extremity, and returned to his examination.

Okay! What's a Victorian going to notice about Giles' clothes?

Giles dresses conservatively for a modern man, and thus he's better placed than most people are to survive a casual encounter in 1886 London. But any close inspection, such as the one Holmes gives him, is going to turn up some weirdness. Mass-produced clothes. Artificial fibers. Plastic in the lenses of his glasses instead of glass; plastic anywhere. Subtle issues in tailoring we may take for granted. The shoes are going to stand out. Wristwatches existed then, but were only available for women, and they were mechanical.

The accent of an educated Englishman has also varied over the last hundred years. It underwent a significant change around the time of the first world war, shifting from a drawl to the more rapid-fire clipped speech we know today. And since then the snippiness has been gradually softened by exposure to the American accent in film. Holmes might well be more bewildered by Giles' accent than I show him being.

In short, this section cost me some pains in research. That was fun!

And then there are details specific to Giles that I allow Holmes to notice, such as the signet ring. I invent a Watcher explanation for the ring in this story.

[...] "Mr Giles has been careful not to tell such a tale, you'll note. As for the possibility of the thing, well." Holmes made a dismissive gesture. "I have read speculation about how one might go about it. It would take fantastic power, but it is possible. The question of whether Mr Giles has indeed travelled in time to be with us is a more concrete one. The clues are, as usual, all before you, my dear, only you perhaps do not understand the significance of some of them."

"You know his methods," said Giles, quietly.

The obligatory scene where Holmes explains it all to Watson follows.

[...] "You'll dine with us, of course," said Holmes, "And stay in the spare room Mrs Hudson has yet to let." Our guest made as if to protest. "No, I must insist. You likely have no coinage that would satisfy a merchant. And though, true, you will eventually persuade the Council of your bona fides, I doubt you will do so this evening. No, you must stay with us. And you must tell me of the theft. But first, do have one of these most excellent muffins."

This sequence ends with temporary respite for Giles: he's not home, but he's got hope.

## Giles: Tuesday 5 January, 1886

I write in the sitting room of 221B Baker Street, a sentence I should never have expected to find streaming from my pen. It's mid-afternoon. Holmes has taken off.

Oops, Giles voice error! I think I was trying to emphasize modern metaphor & slang, to contrast Giles' writing with Watson's.

[...] Of course I've seen photographs of the famous pair, but this experience is so different. Here they are, in colour and in three dimensions, moving and breathing and smoking their tobacco, pouring me tea, handing me muffins with butter on their fingers. Holmes's sudden laugh and hooded eyes, Watson's soft chuckle and bushy moustache. Watson smells of pipe tobacco and eau de cologne; Holmes of cigarettes and chemicals. They're younger than I usually think of them, barely past thirty. Vibrant. Alive. I swing back and forth from laughing with sheer delight to meet them, and gnawing at my fingers in panic that I'll never be able to return to Buffy.

My chance to describe Holmes and Watson. I should admit now that my Holmes is Jeremy Brett, and my Watson is David Burke. Note that in 1886, Holmes' career is just getting started. Watson hasn't published. They're both young men. Giles here is overwhelmed with the sense of them as real people, not as historic figures. Or even as characters in adventure yarns.

I spent most of the night staring at the ceiling, fretting. Watson saw my exhaustion at breakfast, and solicitously asked me how I'd slept. The man is really quite empathetic. "Just jetlag," I said, without thinking. [...]

Giles worries about time paradoxes. I doubt he's spent much time in his life thinking about such things. Unlike, say, Xander. And next up: Giles' low self-esteem on display in the Council buildings. I think I over-wrote the bits about the Watcher whose Slayer died:

[...] I could tell instantly that he'd had a Slayer. Been a real Watcher, not just a pencil-pusher. An unconscious deduction, a glimpse and a blink and I knew. It was in his stance, his combat-ready bearing, the broad shoulders and chest from ungentlemanly muscle, the scarring on his face and knuckles. And then the grief, which I could see in his face and his walk. Half a human being.

Some day I will be that man. Sometimes I wish to go first, to die for Buffy, but then I remember that she's already lost a Watcher. Won't put her through it again if I can help it. And she asked me to live for her. My Slayer, I miss you. You're so far away. Can feel the ache where you should be in my heart. I must get back. The thought of being marooned here, so far from you--

Yeah. Too much. It would have been enough to simply make it clear how important Buffy is to Giles by how often he thinks of her, and how he worries about what she thinks of him. This story was not the time to work out ideas about the Watcher/Slayer bond.

[...] Must remember to tell Buffy that it could be worse than tweed. I could have worn a frock-coat every day.

Okay, that's funny.

It went about as well as my interviews with the Council usually go. They demonstrate their power over me; I splutter helplessly, stammer, and eventually lose my temper. But this time I could answer all their objections. I knew the oath, knew the ancient passphrase, could magically demonstrate my fidelity, and had the ring. They put me under a truth spell for a few excruciating minutes, the sons of bitches, but I passed that test as well. They pressed me to tell them of the future, if I were truly from there. I told them who won the World Series in the year 2000, which thanks to Xander I unfortunately know. [...]

I envision Travers grousing to Giles that he should have told them something more useful. Like the name of a Series winner with longer odds, so they could have made more money betting on it. The Yankees in 2000 were not exactly a surprise. A cricketing shocker could also have worked, if there were any recent ones.

I shall have to look Galloway up when I get home. I likely have his diaries. Would love to read of his Slayer and learn her name.

Giles ends this section with resources. He's steadily climbing out of the hole of his problem.

## Watson: Tuesday, 5 January, 1886

After a little set piece on more differences between their time and ours (tailor, barber, pounds-shillings-pence), we get to some of the emotional issues with Giles: he allows himself to feel friendship with Watson. He drinks with him, has fun with him, relaxes with him. Watson himself makes it easy by being so warm and congenial. Giles, so far from home and in such dire straits, grabs on.

Afterward we lounged about, finishing the port, and talking of many things. We discussed books. Giles urged me to read a novel by a writer I had never heard of, a man named Robert Louis Stevenson. He said that "Treasure Island" was just the sort of book I'd enjoy. We talked of Poe a little, and Giles quite astonished me by saying that some of Poe's more lurid stories were based on actual events. He then told me some tales of vampire-hunting with his charge. Buffy seems quite extraordinary. It continues to amaze me that one of the fairer sex could be such a fierce warrior, and so brave. The story of how she went to meet her own death at the hands of the Master brought tears to my eyes.

In return, I told him of some of the cases with which I've been able to assist Holmes. I believe I am beginning to get the knack of this tale-telling-- I was able to tell him the story of the Under-Secretary's mistress in a manner that had him leaning forward in his chair in his eagerness to hear what happened next.

The tale of the Under-Secretary's mistress is lost to us.

A peculiar thing happened after our third glass. Giles stood to poke at the fire, bracing himself with a hand on the mantelpiece. When he straightened again, he observed that he'd placed his hand adjacent to the unanswered correspondence. Another guest might have inquired as to why a pile of letters was affixed to the mantel with a knife, but Giles did not. Instead, he gave a curious giggle. Seeing the knife in person gave him a shock, he told me. Giles stuttered a little as he asked me what it was like to live with the great Holmes. I told him some tales of his eccentricity, and marvelled to hear him say that he knew of many of these traits. The bullet-marks in the wall had been plastered over several months ago, but Giles knew to ask after them. And after the Persian slipper. I asked how it was that Giles, a man so removed from us, should know such intimate details of my life.

Because he read "The Musgrave Ritual"! Duh! Oh. Watson probably doesn't even know about the incident yet.

"Oh!" he said. "You are famous. British heroes. Every schoolchild knows of Holmes and Watson, the detective and his faithful chronicler. Everyone has read your stories of his great cases. I think you have begun to write?"

"Yes, I have. But I have not yet been able to convince any of our magazines to purchase my tales. My literary agent Doyle assures me that I need only persevere, but really I begin to despair. No-one seems interested in reading about a consulting detective."

A commonplace in the Holmes pastiche: ACD as Watson's literary agent.

"Oh," said Giles, appearing disconcerted. He began stammering rather badly. "Do not lose hope. You will do well, eventually. Your literary agent is correct." He sat down and drained his glass in one swallow, then refused to say any more. I did not understand why this exchange disturbed him so. I find it quite heartening to be told that I will eventually publish my stories. I haven't asked him, but perhaps I will even publish my Afghanistan memoirs one day. [...]

In our particular version of reality, we are alas without those memoirs. So we never will know where that damn war-wound was located. In Giles' version of reality, he's worried that he affected the past. Who knows? He might have. He might have been part of a time-stream all along where Watson persisted because he was encouraged by the visitor from the future. These and other issues complicate the plotting of the sequel. Eek.

## Giles: Wednesday, 6 January 1886

[...] I parted from Watson, who asked me if I would be quite all right in the city on my own, and set off across London. Victorian London.

It continues to be a marvel to see the city I know so well, so familiar and so strange at once. Buildings not present yet, buildings present that will not be in a century. Streets not yet built, or not yet run through to other streets. Entire neighbourhoods that will be different worlds. And other places that are exactly as they will be. No tangles of metal and glass! No traffic lights, or zebra crossings. No wires linking buildings.

Had an odd thought. London's monuments, its statues, its arches, its cluttered cathedrals, are all to the glory of empire. For me, that empire is memory. For this city, these people, it is real. It is present. The over-gaudy plaque in Westminster to the obscure general who won a battle in the mid-east is a plaque to a man who took territory that is under the flag now. When Watson drinks to the Queen's health, he is not toasting a tourist attraction, or a quaint tradition. He toasts out of respect. *This* is the efflorescence of empire.

Ha! I said "efflorescence"! Thus I get in my required nod to Galsworthy, who was writing about the efflorescence of the Forsytes at just this time. I have a little Holmes-Forsyte crossover in progress that has Holmes identifying the body of a man run down in the fog. He does so, and this causes his path to cross that of Soames... who can recognize talent when he sees it. Anyway. Joking references aside, the above passage disappoints me. Not enough specific detail. I should have researched the heck out of one specific street-- Baker Street itself, for instance-- and delved deep.

[...] Holmes would have made a good Watcher. On second thought, not; he's too iconoclastic, too independent. Too impatient. Couldn't ever subordinate himself to the needs of a Slayer. Has more than enough brains for it, though.

Attempted just now to imagine Holmes dealing with Buffy after a nasty breakup. Laughed so hard I disturbed Watson from his writing.

This idea made me laugh when it occurred to me. But this section makes explicit (too explicit) the connection that came to me as I wrote: Watson's role with Holmes is like Giles' role with Buffy. The other member of the pair is the hero. The other member records the exploits of the hero and provides support. Holmes is more indepedent than Buffy, but he admits himself lost without his Boswell.

[ bunch of description of the artifact, which probably could have been cut, even though Giles would have gone into even more detail ]

I wish I knew what Holmes was up to. Frustrates me not to have heard from him. He may treat Watson like a loyal sidekick if he wishes, but I am a different sort of man.

Or so Giles would like to think.

## Watson: Thursday, 7 January, 1886

[...] Giles returned, bathed and dressed, a man transformed. He was elegant, refined, and yet still retained the air of strength I had felt in him from the first moment. He stood before me, hands outspread, and spun slowly. He looked delighted with himself, and told me that he loved fancy dress. I stepped over to him to adjust his tie, but found he'd done an excellent job knotting it on his own. He held out his gloves, with the air of Holmes examining a new species of tobacco ash.

"Not used to wearing these, I'm afraid. Nor the hat," he told me. "But I feel like-- well, like somebody famous from the-- oh, never mind." He put on the hat, cocked it, and struck a pose. Then he *waltzed* around my sitting room, with an imaginary partner, with that same air of delight. He came to a stop, looking a little shame-faced, and apologised. Then he inquired as to the specifics of our evening plans. Dinner at Simpson's, I told him, then said I thought we might see a play. He had another idea, however.

Giles in fancy dress! He does love it so. And he looks good in a tux. He's thinking of Fred Astaire, here, then he realizes that he can't explain a single bit of that reference. And next he gets to be a big Gilbert & Sullivan fanboi:

"What about the Savoy? Any G and S playing? Gilbert and Sullivan, that is?"

When I told Giles, after consulting the evening paper, that the play currently performed at the Savoy was "The Mikado", he became almost childlike in his eagerness. How could I not yield to such excitement, such obvious delight in the prospect?

We then left for our evening out. I had been worried that Giles would feel out of place in London society, even the poor version of it that I enjoy, but he was quite comfortable at Simpson's. In the Savoy, waiting for the curtain, he fetched us whisky and soda from the bar and toasted me, his anticipation plain on his face. We had more whisky at the interval, while Giles critiqued Mr Grossmith's performance, which had quite pleased him. Afterward, we walked to Picadilly and the Criterion Bar, at his request.

I visited all these spots for this story while I was in London. I wanted Giles to see something at the Savoy.

He said it thrilled him to be able to see the place where I had met young Stamford and been propelled along my journey with Holmes. He stood me for more drinks there, amongst the swells. We were in fine case, quite lit up by the time we struck out for home. We made our way up Regent Street with arms over each other's shoulders. Giles was attempting to teach me one of the songs we'd heard performed just hours ago. Something about a list of people who'd not be missed. Apparently the opera is destined to be remembered. It's been a rousing success, been playing nearly a year, so I suppose this isn't shocking. Holmes and I saw it last spring.

Giles explained to me that it was tradition, when putting on a production, to rewrite the lyrics of one song to refer to the 'society offenders' most unpopular at the moment. "The task of filling out the blanks I'd rather leave to you," he sang. Then he sang a version in his pleasant tenor.

The song is a patter song written for Grossmith, so in the higher baritone range. Giles can manage it without trouble.

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list
Of undead demonic bastards who no doubt are underground,
And who never would be missed--who never would be missed!

There's the pestilential insect who wants to be your wife--
And desiccated Inca girls who want to have your life--
All Watchers who are up in dates and floor you with 'em flat -
All vampires who in getting staked, spray dust on you like that -
And hyena packs who eating pigs al fresco can't resist--
They'd none of 'em be missed -- no they'd none of 'em be missed!

If you don't know The Mikado, the original lyrics and an annoying midi file with the tune are available on this page all about the opera. I agonized over this when writing it, and eventually enlisted the help of my husband. "Eating pigs al fresco" is his. I also agonized over whether it was good enough to leave in. It smacked of a darling that needed to be killed.

Giles abandoned his song abruptly to touch his chest. "Dear Lord," he said, "I miss Xander. I am a very long way from home indeed if I'm missing that boy." He looked abashed. "I apologise for my sentimental outbursts."

Because those lyrics are Xander's, of course.

I assured him that it was no bother at all, that I was rather glad to have met a man from the future, and that I found his company congenial. I put my arm 'round his shoulders again, and we continued our way toward home.

We were nearly to Baker Street, crossing past a little alleyway off Duke Street, when Giles stopped me with a hand on my arm. We stood a moment listening, and I heard the sounds of an altercation. Giles beckoned me to follow him into the mouth of the alley. There a man stood, struggling with a woman who twisted and writhed in his grasp to no avail. The man turned to face us and I uttered a cry. His face was inhuman, twisted, strangely deformed. A pair of unearthly yellow fangs jutted from his snarling mouth. Blood smeared his cheek. I realised that this, *this* was a vampire, and that the woman in its dreadful grip was in mortal peril.

Watson's introduction to reality.

Giles produced a stake from a pocket of his overcoat and whirled into motion, once again the powerful and dangerous man I had seen when he first entered our lodgings. He plunged the stake into the vampire's back with great force, and paused a moment. I then saw a sight that will remain with me until I reach my grave: the vampire dissolved into dust, with a strange sighing cry. The dust showered over Giles' arms and legs and onto the snow, staining it black. The woman the vampire had been ravishing screamed and fell to the fouled snow. I went to her side, intending to examine and treat her wounds, for blood dripped from her throat. But she wrested herself from my grasp with hysterical strength, then fled. I made as if to follow her. Giles seized my arm and arrested my progress.

"She will recover," he told me. "And just now she will be in no mood to greet rescuers calmly. By morning she will have forgotten or explained away the incident."

Shaken, I asked Giles if that had indeed been a vampire. He assured me it had been, and that London at present was home to several vampires of great infamy. He brushed himself down, removing the foul-smelling traces of the vampire he had slain. We continued our way north to our lodgings in silence, sober, with no further urge to sing.

A reminder that bad guys exist, and that Giles has a calling waiting for him 100 years in the future. It's fun to drink and sing, but he needs to get home. A "pinch" in screenwriting terms.

## Giles: Friday 8, January 1886

And then I found myself undressing for bed and shaking out the vampire dust, just as I might after any evening out at home. Gave Watson a bit of a turn and shocked me back to my senses. Rupert Giles, a twit in a top hat, stake in hand, playing at being a Victorian. Fool. I've been traipsing around pretending everything is all right. What if I'd missed staking it and gotten myself killed? What if I'd gotten Watson killed? What if it had been Angelus or Spike, and I'd just changed history by staking it? Why was I not spending every waking moment working to get myself back?

I lay awake thinking. Trying to sober up. No more drinking with Watson.

Giles has reacted to the pinch. And he's had another altering-the-past scare. I did look up where Angelus & Spike were canonically supposed to be in 1886. I think Angel hasn't yet had his encounter with the gypsies. Can't remember where they were, though. It isn't Boxer Rebellion time yet.

Holmes reappeared some time during the night. I went down to the sitting room this morning, once again hung over, to find him calmly smoking a cigarette over coffee, spraying ash on his eggs. I sat down and immediately pumped him for information, which he blandly refused to give me. I don't know how Watson puts up with the man's ego. He adores making a big show of revealing what he's learned, stage-managing the whole thing so as to impress onlookers. Chiefly to impress Watson, if you ask me.

Admit it-- sometimes Holmes drives you nuts, too.

"Have you found it?" I said.

"All will be revealed--" he began. I cut him off.

"Quit showboating and just tell me. Do you know where it is?"

"I believe so, yes."


Holmes crossed his knees and sipped his coffee. "Watson tells me you've learned a great deal about the artifact. Perhaps you would be so good as to share your discoveries."

"Bloody hell, man!"

Watson was suddenly at my elbow, pouring another cup. He held it out to me.

"We have an excellent plan which we'll set in motion today, that should get you back home. Don't we, Holmes?" I caught him grimacing at Holmes over my head. I took the cup, like a decent man, and drank it. Shouting at maddening British heroes isn't the done thing.

Watson smooths over all social difficulties. Peace-maker.

I know what's bothering me. I can imagine Buffy saying it to me, flipping a lock of hair: "You've got control issues, Giles." Perhaps with capital letters. More Issues. The business with the vampire rattled me more than I'd thought. I need to do *something*. Desperately.

A bit too on the nose. Giles might not have this sort of insight about himself. Several times, though, I have him thinking about Buffy, reminding himself of things she tells him. Buffy is his Pole Star. And now Holmes, who hasn't had much visibility in this story thus far, gets to spend some time talking to Giles:

"Mr Giles," said Holmes, "we appear to have got off on the wrong foot today. Perhaps you'd be so good as to walk with me, after you finish your breakfast. I think we each have information to share. The day is a fine one, I perceive."

I consented. Watson didn't seem to mind being left behind. He just asked if we'd be back for lunch, and helped himself to Holmes' paper.

I put on my own warm overcoat and one of Watson's hats, and trailed after the world's first consulting detective in his fur coat and top hat. The winter storms seem to have moved off. One spends a lifetime complaining about weather predictions in the morning paper, but one misses them when they're not there. No radar, no forecasts, nothing but the barometer. Today we had a chilly sunshine. The streets were bloody awful. Filthy with coal dust and horse manure. Yes, there are water-carts and street-sweepers, but there are an astonishing number of horses on the streets. And many of them in miserable condition. I commented on the filth to Holmes, and told him I understood now why the city once had killing fogs. It's much cleaner in the 21st century.

It's not all idyllic in the past. Pollution wasn't invented in the 20th century. Giles is in a mood that looks forward, not back. He spends a little time in odd forward-looking nostalgia at the British Museum (homoerotic pots not on display). Then we return to our time-travel plot and the MacGuffin:

Holmes knows who stole the artifact from me. Pudge, damn him, knew the identity of the man, but it took threats of prosecution for trafficking in banned artifacts before he would consent to reveal it to Holmes. Pudge was terrified of vengeance; the man is apparently an unholy terror, a sorcerer known to use magic to kill, sometimes horribly. His name is Roger Merridew. Holmes looked at me expectantly over his ale, but I'd never heard the name. Merridew wishes to prevent Victoria from ascending to the throne by assassinating her before her coronation. It seems to have something to do with getting Germans out of the succession. Merridew also disliked the influence Prince Albert had on the nation. All that civilisation doesn't sit well with some people. It's true that the course of European history would be drastically altered if Victoria were not to marry and have her brood of children. Though perhaps not the way Merridew wants.

Merridew, of abominable memory, as mentioned by Holmes in "The Empty House". Giles doesn't recall the reference, however.

What is it with schemes to assassinate monarchs? Unpleasant things happen when people succeed. For instance, world war. And the Serbs didn't get what they wanted for another eighty years, and it was an holy mess when they did. Oh Lord. What *was* Ethan doing with the thing?

I hang out another hook for my sequel.

[...] So here I am, in their sitting room, scribbling to fill time and keep myself from fidgeting out of my skin, waiting for the proper dinner hour. I've prepared a few magic tricks for the break in, but I did that hours ago. Holmes and Watson ate earlier, but I couldn't. Stomach is turning over. At last I'll be able to act in some way other than turning over the pages of dusty books. I confess I'd like a chance to hit something.

We're off now.

Violence is how Giles copes with stress and internal conflict.

Commentary concludes in part 2.
Tags: dvd commentary, story:displaced watcher

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded