parts 1 / 2 / 3 ( all in one version )
Commentary part 1.
## Watson: Friday, 8 January 1886
We took a cab to Shepherd's Bush, where Holmes said this alchemist kept his laboratory inside his home. His name, Holmes said, was Jenks, and he had a career as a respectable chemist by daylight. By night he was known to Holmes as an associate of criminals, and though not known for viciousness himself, he had assisted Merridew in several particularly infamous experiments. Demon-summoning, with the use of instruments to contain the summoned creature, for instance. He did have a reputation as a clever man, skilled at crafting magical objects.
Not a nice guy!
We alighted from the cab some distance from our eventual destination. Holmes led us through the streets to a mews, then to a particular high wall and gate. Giles stopped us then and cast some kind of spell over us, chanting something swiftly in a language I did not know and flinging a pinch of some strange-smelling dust into the air. He explained it would obscure us from observation, though not if we came in close contact with anyone. Holmes produced some lockpicks, and worked a few moments of a plainer sort of magic on the gate's lock. In a trice we were in the back garden, making our way quietly along an icy flagstone path to the servant's entrance. It was a neat house, not over-large, but something that a prosperous man in trade might have built for himself.
Giles as a minor magic-user, important setup for the final confrontation.
The house was deserted, as far as we could tell. A single gas lamp burned in the hallway. Darkness and silence ruled otherwise. Holmes led us surely and quietly through to a doorway leading down into a cellar better lit than the house above us. We emerged from a doorway into a strange room, filled with books and arcane gadgets and tools and strange apparatuses blown from glass. Blue flames from Bunsen burners glowed under a sealed glass bubble, in which a grey and black mass smoked. A great litter of papers and books covered a huge worktable, along with hand tools for working wood.
It smelled strange to my nose, and noxious. "Like a cross between a chemical laboratory and an herbalist's shop," said Giles, and I signalled my agreement by stifling a sneeze.
I like this descriptive passage. It feels Watson-y, and it moves the story along nicely. I might have cranked it up, though, and stayed true to Doyle.
Holmes advanced cautiously into the room, I at his elbow. Giles stood just behind us, hands raised and lips moving in a soft magical casting of some kind.
"It seems clear," he said. "Odd."
I stood guard at the stairway, revolver in hand, though not cocked, bending a keen ear to any noise or step in the house above us. Holmes moved confidently into the room, nosing among the papers and books. Giles took the opposite path through the room, investigating the books on the shelf along the wall nearest me.
"The plot is quite advanced," said Holmes, abstractedly. He held in his hands a large map. "They have researched the coronation thoroughly. I think they might be able to succeed with their scheme, if they manage to use the artifact."
"How do we know they have not used it already?" I asked.
Giles answered me. "Presumably because Victoria is still alive and still rules. I'm not sure how it would feel to us if they succeeded. The three of us might retain the memory of the past as it was, or only I might do so. It--" He broke off, and pointed at a table against the far wall. Holmes moved toward it swiftly. On the table was a vise, and clamped in the vise was an wooden object, like a short staff, flared into a knot at one end, with a crystal in its centre. Holmes moved toward it quickly and unclamped it. He held it aloft. I moved away from the stairwell, taking several steps closer in curiosity. Giles also sprang forward.
The MacGuffin! Giles' salvation is within his grasp!
My inattention cost us at that moment, as footsteps on the stairs alarmed all three of us. A man stepped into the room, then shouted unintelligibly back up the stairs. He stepped forward again, gazing at us with anger on his face. He was middling-young, thin-faced and clean-shaven, with some scarring on the left side of his chin. He was in evening dress. I noticed that his fingers were stained with chemicals. This, then, was Jenks the alchemist.
Another bit of Watsonian character description. I think writing bits like this was the most fun aspect of writing this story. And it was fun to write, though it made me sweat.
He addressed us. "That item is mine, and I will thank you to put it back."
"I think not, on both counts," said Holmes. He began edging toward Giles.
I lifted my revolver and held it steady, aimed at the man. "Have a care," I told him, "and we will not harm you."
The man looked at me with not a trace of worry, and stepped slowly aside from the stairway. A figure appeared on it, moving quickly. I shifted my aim, but too late. A man rushed upon me, infernally strong, knocking the weapon from my hands. His face was ridged, his mouth bristling with yellow fangs. I knew at once this was another vampire. I locked my hands about the monster's throat, my one thought to keep its fangs away from my own throat. Its hands were cold on mine, inhumanly cold. Its stench was foul, a charnel smell of blood and decay. I have not smelled such a thing since Maiwand, and its effect upon me was horrible. I flinched and my grip slipped. It began to get the better of me. I was dimly aware of Giles shouting to Holmes, then that sighing cry, surrounding me and echoing into an unimaginable distance, the scream of a demon dying. Then I was coughing, my lungs filled with the dust that was all that remained of my assailant. I bent double, attempting to catch my breath. Giles held me up for a moment, until I straightened, then spun away. He held my revolver in his left hand.
Vampire at close quarters: not pleasant or sexy or romantic in any way. They are dead, and deal death, and reek of death. This also sets up the remainder of the fight. Giles saves Watson and ends up with the revolver.
Across the room, the alchemist was locked in a struggle with Holmes. He disengaged from Holmes and threw a crystalline object onto the floor at his feet. It tumbled and flashed bright, nearly blinding me. Holmes was knocked back, over the great worktable that stood at the centre of the room.
It's made of plot devicium!
Jenks cried out a challenge to us. "You shall not stop us! She will fall!"
Really, the assassinate-Victoria plot is weak. I'm going to have to do better in the sequel. It is kind of traditional for Victorian-era thrillers, though.
The man held the artifact high over his head and began to chant in Latin, commanding time to bend to his will. Giles cried out a warning, then brought the revolver to bear, his thumb upon the hammer. Holmes regained his feet and leapt forward. The alchemist continued speaking, flinching away from Holmes. Giles fired, just as the man turned away. The crystal at the heart of the artifact shattered.
Did Giles shoot to kill or shoot to destroy the artifact?
The great report of the revolver in the tight confines of the room deafened us. I clapped my hands to my ears, too late. I could near nothing. The events of the next few minutes took place in a blanket of silence, then a dreadful ringing din, the struggles that followed all a dreadful pantomime.
Annoys me when people fire guns indoors then have conversations.
The artifact exploded, and the alchemist was thrown back. Fragments flew in all directions. Glass shattered. The great glass bubble at the centre of the room fell to pieces. Liquid sprayed onto the open flame of the burners, and fire spread immediately. The alchemist fell to the floor, writhing and clutching a maimed hand to his chest.
I rushed to the side of the injured man, Giles alongside me. Holmes swept up papers by the armful and stuffed them into his satchel, hurriedly clearing the table where the artifact had been. We got the man to his feet, and half-carried him out of the basement. The fire was spreading along the walls, licking along the shelves of books. We got back up the stairs, Holmes on our heels.
We stood in the back garden, breath heaving in great plumes into the cold night air. We laid the injured man out on the snow and I began tending to his hand. My hearing returned to me, slowly, as I bound his wounds. I could hear the din in the street, the commotion and cry for the Fire Brigade.
Holmes cast one of his rare spells, laying his hands on the alchemist's temples and bidding him to forget. "I've blurred his memory of the last hour," Holmes said. "He'll not recall our visit. Come, Watson. Let us leave him to the care of others."
We turned to find where our new friend had got to. He stood unmoving, watching the house burn. I stepped to his side. He attempted to step to meet me, but swayed on his feet and fell to his knees beside me on the snow. "Oh, dear God," he said. The flames were leaping high from the house, and I thought at first he was referring to the grave danger the fire posed. But his eyes were focused somewhere else, somewhere far away, perhaps as far as the moon.
Giles knows what he just did.
"We must get him home," Holmes said to me. I keep a vial of sal volatile in my pocket for occasions such as this. I held it under Giles' nose. He shook himself and uttered a strong oath. I took his arm in mine, and urged him to run with me after Holmes, through the gate and away. Holmes led us through the maze of streets, until we were safely blocks distant from the scene of our disaster. The glow of the flames lit the sky behind us. Holmes found a cab and bundled us into it. We were driven home in silence, in sympathy for the misery drawn over the face of the man sitting opposite us.
Once in our comfortable sitting room, I mixed a whisky and soda and offered it to Giles. He shook his head curtly, and moved to the bow window, where he stood silently looking down at the street, clenching and unclenching his hands. Holmes took the drink from me and tossed it back. The ringing in my ears had at last abated.
Giles spoke then, stammering as was his wont when speech was difficult for him. "I thank you gentlemen for your efforts on my behalf. I will see you in the morning. No doubt the Council will have some use for me." He gave us both a slight bow, and left the room.
Holmes drew me aside and said, "Watson, do not let him alone, and on no account allow him to do anything foolish. We may have lost our hope to send him back, but he must be made to understand that he can yet help his Slayer. Remind him of that, as often as you need to. If he gets through the first day, I think he will be all right. And it is not clear to me that we have definitively ended this conspiracy."
Holmes then turned to the great mass of papers he'd snatched up before we made our escape from the inferno. I splashed more whisky into glasses, then carried them after Giles to his little room upstairs. There I found him sitting on the bed, hunched up, his boots and jacket off. I put his whisky on the nightstand, and sat on the armchair next the bed. I tasted my drink and contemplated him. His lot was indeed dreadful. He'd seen the end of his hopes to return this evening, had in fact ended them with his own finger on the trigger of my service revolver. It had been a grand sacrifice Giles had made. His place in time, weighed against the life of Queen Victoria.
I told him as much.
"Dulce et decorum est," murmured Giles, but there was something in his voice that told me he did not mean it as it had been meant when we read Horace as schoolboys. "And yet, I couldn't let him do it. Couldn't let him go back and assassinate her. I meant to kill him, you know."
Giles shot to kill. And he's thinking of the bitter use of the Horace by Wilfred Owen. Watson is unaware of the ironies, being a man of Empire.
I patted his shoulder in what I hoped was a soothing manner.
"I couldn't let him," Giles repeated. He buried his face in his hands. I pressed the whisky on him, and held his hands around the tumbler until he'd drunk it down. His face returned to something closer to its natural colouring.
Giles will do what it takes to save the world, no matter the cost to himself. It's what he's been trained to do.
"You did the right thing."
"Dastin's Folly. Giles' Undoing. Don't you understand? I'm trapped here."
I did understand, but thought that talking with him about it would do more harm than good. Instead I told him that he ought to be proud of himself.
The dose I'd slipped into the whisky began to take effect then, and Giles' eyes grew heavy. I helped him undress further, then tucked him up into his narrow bed, in between Mrs Hudson's clean linen sheets. I settled myself in the armchair at his bedside and prepared to sit up all night with him. Though now that I have reached an end to my account, I may steal a blanket and wrap myself up to sleep here in the armchair. I must be here when he wakes. The man from the future sleeps peacefully enough now, but I cannot answer for his mood come morning, when he recalls this evening's events.
Giles at his lowest point: end of act 2.
## Giles: Saturday, 9 January 1886
Later: My faithful shadow Watson went on my walk with me, this although the weather is again nasty, wet, and cold. I think it's a suicide watch. Bless the man, but if I wanted to be dead right now I would be already. He got off on the wrong foot, though, trying to tell me that it wouldn't be so bad, that England was a grand nation. I'm afraid I let him have it.
"Not so bad? Not so bad? You're racist, sexist barbarians from my point of view, did you know that? You know why Buffy didn't come with me to London? Because a new term is starting at university, and I didn't want her to miss classes. You lot are still arguing about whether women deserve education. And you know why else? Because her mother-- a successful businesswoman I will point out-- is recovering from surgery to cure a tumour that you wouldn't have been able to detect, let alone remove. Your medicine is disgustingly primitive. You're still arguing about whether it's sound practice to damn well wash your hands after touching dead bodies!"
"Be fair now," said Watson. "I think that one's settled."
"You haven't discovered antibiotics. You have no idea what I'm talking about, even. I could die from a simple infection. Fight a vampire, get scratched, and die. I'll have to discover penicillin for you if only to save my own sorry life. God!" I stood, huddled in my coat, and looked around the park, at the Bayswater Road just to the side, the carriages scattered along it, the mansions. "I can function here because I had an old-fashioned schooling, and because I am an historian. I'm never going to belong. I'm never going to be comfortable. Playing tourist in the past is one thing. Living in it-- hell!"
Antibiotics and anaesthetic: two inventions of modern medicine that I don't want to live without. Giles is an historian, and he's going to be under no illusions about the romance of the past. The age he's been transported to is a Gilded Age, yes, but...
"It sounds as if the future is rather different," Watson said, more calmly than I deserved.
"More different than you can possibly know," I told him, gloomily. And then I felt ashamed of myself, and apologised to him.
"Quite all right, old man," he said, with his hand on my shoulder. "I know you're thinking of your Buffy."
At that I had to turn away from him until I could get control of myself. He did help, though. I admit it. He put his arm in mine, and I thought maybe I could bear it. We walked some more and talked a little. He assures me he knows of a trustworthy firm of solicitors who may be relied upon to execute a commission a century from now. At least I know I can send word to Buffy.
When we returned, we found an agitated Holmes waiting for us. He needed my help with some of the alchemical symbols and magical notation. I've sorted him out, I think. Holmes has a theory about what Jenks was up to. Dammit, he needs me again.--
It's the strangest thing. With the return of hope comes the return of fear. I had the rest of my life mapped out an hour ago. Bleak, joyless, but known. Now I don't know what's going to happen. I could be forced to endure last night's crushing disappointment all over again.
I like this little moment of realization about how hope makes us vulnerable.
Then there's a bunch of plot details, setting up the final confrontation. It was a copy of the artifact that Giles destroyed, not the original that he traveled back with. I also indulge in a taste of fanwank by mentioning the Baker St Irregulars.
I've written a letter to Buffy, along with clear instructions on when and how it should be sent. In it I explain what has happened to me and beg her not to kill Ethan herself, but merely to beat him until he wishes he were dead. I also summarise what little I've managed to learn about Glory from my time in the Council library. Since we did not receive such a letter before my trip to London, I have written instructions for it to be sent the day I flew to London. If we fail tonight, I'll put the letter into their hands, as well as this diary. Or Watson will. I know he and Holmes will survive.
Watson tells me that I'm too gloomy, that Holmes is optimistic therefore I should be as well. He's now urging me to "stop working myself into a fantod" and come eat my dinner with them. Let's shall, as Buffy would say.
I just like the word "fantod".
## Watson: Sunday, 10 January 1886
I set pen to paper well after midnight. The excitement of the evening is still hot in my blood, and I find myself unable to sleep. I can hear pacing on the floor above, and it does not take the faculties of my friend Holmes to know that Rupert Giles is also unable to rest. But ah, I hear the creak of his bedstead. He will be in well-deserved sleep soon.
Not giving away what happened, though I do promise resolution in this section.
Poor Mr Giles was in a state this afternoon, polishing his glasses until I wondered there was anything left of them, but he calmed down well enough once we came to prepare for our mission. We dressed in dark clothing and tucked black silk masks into our pockets. Holmes had a dark lantern with him, as yet unlit. Giles had some magical items, selected from Holmes' small store of such things, prepared, he told us, as defences in case we encountered Merridew. [...] Holmes led us to a spot in the wall around the mansion that his band of street urchins had pointed out to him, where some bricks had been knocked out and the ground glass on top worn smooth. Giles gave the lithe Holmes a hand up and over, then me with my imperfect shoulder, and finally clambered over himself, with athletic grace. We stood in deep shadow, in a corner of the gardens, affixing our masks to our faces. I was reminded of the last time I had played the cat-burglar with Holmes. I had been fearful of being caught, but had not felt in danger of my life. And yet, the memory of our success in that venture emboldened me.
My first draft pegged this as the affair of Charles Augustus Milverton, the notorious society blackmailer, then I read that the generally-accepted Holmes chronology puts that story around 1890. So I had to genericize this, and just assume that Watson had been lured into skulking around in a mask before this.
We stole through the gardens, keeping to the cleared paths and the shadows. At the veranda, Giles stopped us while he worked some magic, silently. When he nodded, Holmes picked the lock on the great windowed doors. We opened it, slipped into the house, and shut the door behind us. We could hear movement in the house, toward the front, voices, the sound of a man giving peremptory orders to a servant. The servant moved down the hallway; a door opened and shut. Then nothing. Holmes led us through the room, keeping to the carpet, and to a back staircase. We ascended it swiftly, the only sound the slight creaking of the steps under our weight. At the top was another hallway, with several doors. Holmes pointed me to one, Giles to another, and himself moved down the hallway like a wraith. Giles turned down the gas, to give us a greater murk in which to hide.
My room proved to be a small library. Some shelves held objects of interest, but on closer inspection, none of them were our target. I rather thought the device would not be on display, but would be in amongst other items in active use, such as the profusion of clutter upon Holmes' desk or upon mine. I slipped out of the room and closed the door behind myself, striving to leave everything just as I had found it. Giles emerged from his room at that moment. He shook his head at me. Down the hallway, Holmes was standing at the last door, with lockpicks in hand. He beckoned Giles to his side, and gestured at the lock. Giles stood with his hands up and his eyes closed. He muttered something under his breath and made a chopping gesture. The lock clicked. He lifted one corner of his mouth in a most alarming smile, all feral anticipation and coiled violence. He reached forward and turned the knob. We followed him into the dark room.
Mmm, the man who earned the nickname Ripper is here.
This was obviously our target. Holmes slid open the shutter on the dark lantern and let it play over the room. I saw books and scrolls open on a desktop, a worktable with candles and a litter of crystals. On the floor was a pentagram drawn in chalk, with more guttered-out candlestubs at its points. There was an oppressively strong smell of incense, wax, and cigars. Underlying it all was a sulphurous taint, the reek of corruption and blood. The hairs on the back of my neck fair stood on end as I entered that room. I could sense death.
Merridew is not a nice guy. His memory is abominable, after all.
We fanned out through the room, but it did not take us long. On Merridew's desk I found a thick wooden wand, smooth with age, the crystal at its heart glowing softly.
I handed it to Giles, who took it from me with shaking hands. He tucked the artifact securely in his breast pocket. The expression on his face was a delight to see: gratitude, joy, and relief, all mixed. He smiled as I had not yet seen him smile, and I realised the extent to which his predicament had been weighing upon his heart. I embraced him, and he gripped me fiercely in return.
"And now, gentlemen," whispered Holmes, "we needs must make our escape." He blew out his lantern. Just as we began to move toward the door, we heard voices, again, and steps in the hallway outside. Holmes gestured us toward the wall by the door. We flattened ourselves against it. Giles positioned himself nearest the doorway, again with that look on his face, that of a man waiting for an excuse for violence. I was grateful at that moment that the man was my friend, and not set against me.
Because it can never be that easy to solve the hero's problems. And a final confrontation with the villain is required.
We caught part of a conversation in the hallway.
"--struck my head some time during the fire."
"My dear fool, you have a child's memory-fuddling spell on you. In a moment I'll rip it free, and we'll know what truly happened. And if you're lying to me to save your neck, you'll live to regret it."
Merridew, sounding much as he did the first time we met him.
We heard a key turn in the lock, and the door swung open. A man stepped through, his eyes on a paper in his hands, older, well-dressed, with greying whiskers. Giles kicked, in a manner I had not known possible for the human body, and the man fell in a heap. We heard a shout from the hallway, and Holmes leapt through the door, fists at the ready. I plunged after him, revolver in hand.
All was chaos in the hallway. Holmes was engaged in a struggle with a man in servant's clothing, while another approached from behind. Both looked like formidable men. Giles came past me to assist Holmes. My attention was occupied by Jenks, the alchemist, who stood looking wildly about him at the struggle. One hand was wrapped in bloodstained bandages. He turned to me and I raised my revolver and advised him not to try anything.
Holmes shouted a warning, just then. Giles spun, then flung himself at me and knocked me to the floor. An unearthly red light filled the hallway, and a sound like sizzling flame. Something flew over our heads, where I had just been standing, and flared against Jenks. He screamed, and fell where he stood. Giles seized me and tossed me to the side as if I weighed nothing. I crashed into a small table, smashing it to splinters, and slid against the wall, for a moment unable to rise and burning with anger to be tossed aside so. Then I perceived the nature of the fight. The man whom Giles had kicked in the study had emerged again-- Merridew, I presumed. His hand glowed with magical energy, a hideous writhing ball of red flame. He advanced until he stood next where I lay half-stunned. Giles and he cast at the same moment: the flame struck a shield which Giles had erected around himself. Giles gave a cry and staggered, falling to his knees with the effort of defending himself. Merridew raised his hands as if to attack again and I acted without thought: I kicked Merridew's feet out from under him just as he cast, and the bolt hit the sorcerer in his own leg. He uttered a horrible, heart-rending scream.
Watson returns the favor and saves Giles' life. Making this action sequence coherent cost me a couple of drafts.
Giles turned without a moment's hesitation and pulled away one of the two men who had Holmes in their grasp. He threw an elbow then a knee, in a most brutal manner, and the bruiser fell to the floor in a heap. I scrambled to my feet to assist, but it was over. Holmes swiftly took the upper hand against the remaining servant, and knocked the unfortunate man unconscious.
Holmes can fight, but he's not the trained killer that Giles is.
I quickly ascertained that my companions were unhurt. Jenks lay unmoving upon the floor, already gone to his final fate. I turned my attention toward the figure of Merridew, which writhed upon the carpet in the hallway, hands clamped to his leg. He began screaming weakly, pitiably. I moved to his side, thinking he had been burned by the magical bolt he had accidentally cast upon himself, but Holmes pulled me away. He warned me not to touch either man.
Merridew lifted his hands to us in supplication, begging for help.
"Dear Lord," breathed Giles, and I echoed him. The man's flesh was melting away from his bones of legs and hands, slowly but inexorably. I have seen many horrifying things in my life, as a doctor in the army and as Holmes' assistant, but few as abominable as that. My gorge rose, and I controlled myself with difficulty.
"Either put a bullet in his head or leave him to die," said Holmes. "There's nothing to be done."
The wretch was thrashing weakly on the carpet now. The magic had eaten away the flesh up to his elbows. Merridew had meant me to die this way. Given Holmes's accounts of their crimes, he was a murderer many times over. But no man deserved this end. I raised my revolver. Holmes and Giles held their hands over their ears. It was done. We stood a moment with heads bowed, then left that dreadful place.
Mercy-killing. Climax: Giles' enemy is defeated. Now we move on to denouement.
## Giles, Thursday, 4 January 2001
I spent Sunday in London with Holmes and Watson, playing tourist with a light heart. The artifact was securely locked in Holmes's little safe, and I thought, why not a holiday? I'll be returning to my own time at the very moment I left. An extra day here will not hurt. And it has been such a very long time since I've had a holiday. Rationalisation, I'm sure, but I can see Buffy's impish face approving.
His inner Buffy makes another appearance, this time luring him into slacking.
The deaths of Merridew and Jenks were mentioned in the afternoon papers, attributed to an accident with the chemical experiments the late Mr Merridew was known to have engaged in as a hobby. I felt no remorse for either death: Merridew had done it to himself, and if half what Holmes said of him was true, deserved it. And Jenks had also murdered, to construct his copy of the artifact.
Making sure the reader understands the deaths were just.
Holmes and I talked a little about the incident. He was uncertain the conspiracy had been averted. There was some suggestion, he thought, that Jenks' true employer had been someone other than Merridew, someone with another motivation. There were allusions in his papers to reports written for another audience. I clapped my hand over my mouth, because I had so nearly blurted out "Moriarty" just by reflex. Holmes looked at me oddly, but said nothing. "You'll work it out," I told him. He then asked me to repeat the details of my encounter in Pudge's shop in my time, with Ethan. I believe I grasp the direction of his suspicions.
And in case you didn't figure out where the hooks for the sequel were...
I got one last chance to dress up in white tie and tails. We dined out. Watson and I made ourselves squiffy on a couple of bottles of wine. Holmes watched us with tolerant amusement. We took a cab home-- no more risking encounters with Angelus or heaven forbid, Spike, for me. I'd be too tempted to stake them and to hell with history as I remember it. Back at Baker Street, in that amazing sitting room, those two smoked cigars and poured brandy for me and pressed me to tell them what I had liked best about the London of my past. The two of them, of course, but I said nothing to give myself away. Instead I talked about architecture, and the Square Mile, and how odd it was to visit St Paul's, as we had that morning, and not see the monuments of the last century. And not see what had been rebuilt after the Blitz, but I didn't mention that. I was privileged to watch those two men at ease with each other, making jokes and telling teasing stories of the other's foibles. Holmes, when flushed with the pride of success, is good company.
I woke this morning, bathed in that huge enamel tub, for the first time sentimental about its lack of a shower instead of cursing it. I dressed myself in my own clothes, expertly cleaned by Victorian servants. The clothes make the man, the cliché goes, and I was acutely aware of it. With those clothes on, I was once again a modern man, Rupert Giles the Watcher, not Rupert Giles the Victorian gentleman visiting his cousin Watson. My whole stance changed, unconsciously. I've always thought of myself as putting on a reserved, gentlemanly bearing as part of being English in a land of Americans, but now I know what that truly feels like. In evening clothes, standing in the Criterion Bar with Watson, then I was a gentleman. Now I am something else. A Watcher.
Belaboring the point, probably. Giles is closing the emotional door on this experience, because he has to leave these men behind.
I would have to say farewell to Watson soon, and I knew it as I laced my boots. I'm not much for showing my emotions, but they were close to the surface this morning, while I choked down toast and drank coffee with them for the last time. I made sure my bag contained all the papers I had brought with me, as well as my notes on Glory, the artifact, and my diary. The Council researchers never did get back to me, but I'm confident they can turn something up in the amount of time they'll have to work on the problem. Especially with Galloway riding them. I have a mind not to cower in front of them this time, but to demand they serve the Slayer as is their sacred task.
I wonder if he can manage it. He's always had difficulty defying the authority of the Council directly.
Holmes suggested to me that we use the device in front of the shop where I'd been when it had been originally triggered, on the theory that I would return to my current location in space when I returned in time. It's likely rather more complicated than that, but I agreed with him. I had a little plan in mind. We took a cab down to Soho, and got out in front of the shop. I beckoned them both in after me, and climbed the stairs. The Pudge behind the counter recognised me, and made as if to complain, then silenced himself when Holmes appeared behind me. I looked in the glass cases-- the very same glass cases in the shop a hundred years hence, I swear-- and found the Thurible of Abyssinia. £5, and dirt cheap. I paid, and tucked it securely in my bag. There, I'd done Ethan in the eye once, and I'd do him in the eye again if things worked out as I expected.
We went down to the street. It was time.
I looked at Watson, and opened my mouth, and was silent. What does one say to a man one will never talk to again? A man whose face I'll next see in his portrait in the National Gallery? Or in his photograph at the front of the complete edition of his works, sitting on the shelf in my flat?
Details that would be so if Watson truly lived.
And what can one say to Holmes, one of the great heroes of the Empire, a man who risked his life to perform a service for me, a stranger to him? In the end I said nothing, but embraced them both. Watson clapped his hand on my shoulder and told me to buck up, I'd be seeing my Slayer soon enough. And it was that thought that got me over the hump.
I thought about where we'd been standing when Ethan had sent me back, and which direction he'd been facing. I positioned myself where I'd be three steps behind him. I went down on one knee, to brace myself for the travel. I took one last look around, nodded to my friends one last time, and spoke.
Farewell to his friends: a bittersweet moment.
The dizziness passed faster this time, now that I knew what to expect. Warmer air, but still cold, rain spattering down. Noise. The smell of horses and coal smoke vanished, and was replaced with the smell of petrol fumes, a smell I had not realised was so pervasive. The light changed: late afternoon, just starting to darken in winter twilight. I felt Buffy in my heart again, distant but warm, a presence I hadn't known until it was gone. Ethan was there, standing with his hands on his hips, laughing to himself. I tucked Dastin's Folly into my jacket pocket and stood. I tapped him on the shoulder and bared my teeth at him when he turned. I had the time to set and get off a good swing, and I did not waste it. I laid him out on the pavement and wonders! didn't break my hand. I stood over him, rubbing my knuckles and marvelling at the sight of the blood on his smashed lip, always a pleasure.
And he finally gets to hit Ethan!
The bastard didn't seem to mind. He just laughed up at me and said, "Enjoy your holiday, Ripper? It was supposed to be mine." I cursed him, and he laughed harder. Eventually I gave him a hand up. We began walking down the street, heading out of Soho.
"Really? Just a holiday?"
"Yes, really. Fancied seeing Gilded Age London. Empire, wealth, peace. Why? You didn't have any *trouble* there, did you?"
I just growled at him. But when I saw a pub at the next corner, I knew what I wanted. "Fancy a pint?" I said to him.
Giles has changed.
He looked at me warily for moment, wiping the blood from his face, then said, "If you're buying."
Don't I always buy, when it's Ethan? Whether I intend to or not.
I like this line.
I'm not entirely sure why I did it. Buffy's face looms over me (though how she manages that, at her height, I'll never know; must be a Slayer skill), accusing me of being out of my mind to go drinking with Ethan again. I suppose it was the thought of Watson, more than anything. Watson, my friend, standing with me in the Criterion Bar. There are precious few people here I could do that with, and fewer back in Sunnydale. Or seeing the easy familiarity Watson had with Holmes, the two just so calm and comfortable with each other. When did I last feel that with a friend? With Ethan, once upon a time. I had the artifact safely in my pocket. I'd foiled whatever plan he'd had. So I drank with him, and toasted the Queen, no heel taps, and toasted the blessed twenty-first century. And I toasted my companions of the last few days, and made Ethan's eyes bug out.
And the author nervously underlines the point. Sigh.
Ethan dropped me in the lobby of my hotel a couple hours ago with an empty wallet and a head full of whisky mash. I had to ask the clerk at the lobby desk what room I was in, I was so far gone. At least I managed to retain my shoulder bag, with my diary and my notes on Glory. I'm sitting in my dreary hotel room now, gulping water and crunching aspirin, writing this and thinking of them.
Giles drinks when under stress, too. He needs to find a way to cope that isn't either brawling or boozing.
They're both dead now. Dead and gone. Nearly sixty years gone, in Watson's case, and forty-four for Holmes. I am tempted, so tempted, by the idea of going back to visit them again, of clasping Watson's hand in friendship once more. Perhaps I could hang onto the artifact, not turn it in to the Council. After we've dealt with Glory, perhaps I could go back and pay another visit, in less stressful circumstances. I wonder how difficult it is to use. I could take a look anyway--
Ethan picked my pocket some time this evening and relieved me of the temptation. Probably when he was extracting my wallet to pay the cabbie. Good old Ethan. Such a fool I am. I'll have to hunt him down and beat him to a pulp properly. But it's more than that. Holiday in London in January? I think not.
Rupert Giles emerged from the taxi in front of the home of his Slayer, on Revello Drive. He had gone there directly from the airport, feeling the need to see her first, before dealing with anything else. He blinked in the warm sunshine and leaned into the window. He paid the driver in rumpled American dollars, with a generous tip, and trudged up to the porch. He held a garment bag, a battered leather shoulder bag, and a heavy winter overcoat. His shoulders were slumped. His interview with Travers had not been pleasant. He'd been sent away with no information and no hope of getting any.
Ah, the 3rd-person epilogue. I could have ended it with Giles' last diary entry, but there were a couple of loose ends I wanted to deal with. This paragraph is a bit of a distant third, but then I drift down into Giles' head.
Buffy answered his ring at the door. "Giles? That was fast. We thought you were going to be there the whole week. Woah, look at you with the hugs."
Giles held onto her for a long minute, feeling the empty spaces in his chest refill. At last he released her and ducked his head. "Ah, well, I came back, er, early, at least in objective terms. Got absolutely nothing from the Council, and had a bit of an adventure." Giles moved his bags just inside the door and draped the coat over them.
"Yeah? Let's hear it! Hey, something weird happened the day you left. A courier arrived with a bunch of stuff addressed to you, care of me."
Giles was puzzled. "A courier?"
Buffy led him into the living room, where a long box sat. An envelope lay atop it, with his name written neatly across the middle. It was thick, a little heavy. The name and address of a firm of solicitors was printed on it: Murbles, Kingson and Forsyte.
Hee! Murbles is of course Wimsey's solicitor. I am presuming he had some sort of relative to continue the firm. And Forsyte: let's assume Very Young Nicholas or somebody like that stepped into Cuthcott, Kingson and Forsyte in 1926, and the canny cautious chinny Forsytes have always had a lawyer in the family.
Giles picked up the envelope and slipped a finger under the flap. Paper spilled out. A thick sheaf, pages dark with copperplate writing. A yellowed envelope, addressed to him, in a messy hand he recognised with a shock. A second age-darkened letter, addressed to Buffy, in his own handwriting. Oh, damn, he'd left it behind, along with the instructions on how to get it Buffy. That was how Watson had known how to reach him.
He hid his own letter to Buffy in his pocket. Sentimental tripe, it was. Better she not see it. And he didn't know that he could keep his composure and read Watson's letter in front of Buffy. He set the papers aside for the moment and opened the long box. He caught a whiff of mothballs. He folded aside the tissue paper, and gasped at what he saw inside. He took out the suit jacket and held it up. Buffy quit pretending to straighten the magazines on the coffee table, and pounced. "Evening dress," he told her. "My tailcoat. Watson must have seen how much I loved wearing it."
"I'll tell you everything in a moment."
Buffy took the other pieces of the suit out of the box one by one, cooing in pleasure over the silk and wool. It was perfectly preserved; Watson had done well. Giles left her to it and turned back toward the rest. He started with the sheaf of paper, curious what Watson had found so important to send across a hundred years to him. He looked at the cover sheet. His hand shook, but he smiled for the first time since the Council had told him they had no help for a rogue Slayer and a disgraced Watcher, no matter what the archives said.
Concerning the Hellgod Glorificus and the Dimensional Key
Prepared for Watcher Rupert Giles and Slayer Buffy Summers
22 January 1886
But instead I chose to end on this moment of hope: the work Giles did in the past paid off. The Watcher Galloway came through. There's no guarantee it'll work out, but they are now armed with information far earlier and more complete than they had in canon.