"Liegeman" part 5:
"Pryce? Not sure. Economics, I'd thought, London. He was meant for a government post. He said something to me once about it. The field assignment would be de rigueur for him, if he wanted to rise in the Council."
Buffy put down her fork and had some mineral water. Giles's voice had gone sarcastic. "But Wes turned out okay in the end."
"A decent man. Unlike his father."
And now Giles was venomous. There was a story there, she guessed, which she'd save for a rainy day, or a boring patrol.
Working title "Laundry Day":
Giles came into the cafe during the slack time, after the afternoon coffee rush but before the dinner rush had started. Buffy saw him look her way, then look down. He made his way over to a booth in her section, moving stiffly, with one hand in his trouser pocket. He sat down, glanced at her once more, then looked away, at something outside the window. Her section. He had to have done it on purpose, which meant he had to have been watching her. Which meant Buffy didn't know what. How had he found her? She'd run a long way from Sunnydale, about as far south as she could get without a passport.
She thought about asking Terry to serve him, then knew it would be ridiculous. She took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. She could take care of herself.
She marched over to his booth with her pencil and pad in hand. He was still looking down at his table, hands thrust deep into his jacket pockets. There was something about the way he looked, just sitting there, so still, that made Buffy's anger feel ridiculous.
"Giles," she said.
Working title "Signet Ring" aka the Highgate Cemetery one:
"Giles? I mean, Rip?" Then again, louder.
His voice was coming from outside. Buffy followed it down the hall and out a back door into bright late-morning sunlight. She blinked. The house had a little walled garden, with a bricked patio. Rip was there with an overturned ten-speed bicycle, up on a little table. He was wearing jeans, as yesterday, and a t-shirt with a Fender guitar logo on it. He tossed a rag onto the table. The bike's white paint was chipped, but the chain gleamed with fresh grease. Rip gave the rear wheel a hard spin. The chain ticked in the derailleur. He poked his face close to the gears and watched something for a moment before leaning in with a screwdriver. Buffy ate her apple and watched him tinker.
He looked up at her and blushed for some reason.
The Montana story:
Buffy can't sleep. She holds herself as still as she can, so she doesn't disturb the two men. She can hear their breathing, hear their heartbeats, slow and steady as they sleep. She's seeing the light again, Spike's face glowing and then gone. The blast wave of power bursting out from him. Turok-Han going up like torches. The scythe throbbing in her hands. The Scythe. It's there in the room with them, laid flat on the other bed.
Buffy sits up and looks at it. Even in the dark she can see it clearly with senses that aren't entirely human. Gleaming red and silver. Potent. It's not evil. She would know. Maybe it could have saved the others, if she'd known how.
The air conditioning turns on and runs loud for a while, then clicks off again. Buffy's cold sitting there on the bed in nothing but her shirt. Giles moves in his sleep. He mutters something she can't understand, then says her name. Buffy sighs and slides under the covers again, into the warm pocket of bed next to Xander. She reaches over him again to touch Giles, and this time she falls asleep.
From the "Liberation" setup story:
They led him down to the common cellar under the house. There was a heavy combination padlock on the door. Xander spun the lock open then hung the lock on his belt. He preceeded Ethan down the stairs into the darkness. What light there was came from a strip of dust-smeared windows at ground level. Somebody had wiped a few of them. Ethan let his eyes adjust, then stepped off the stairs and went toward Xander. Toward the Slayer's body. Buffy, that was her absurd name. Buffy Summers, the girl who'd taken Ripper away from him before she'd been born.
The Slayer's body lay in state on a wide board set across two sawhorses. A sheet covered her. Her hands were crossed over her chest. Ethan gestured apologetically at Xander, then folded the sheet down. Xander turned away and covered his face.
Ethan recognized the girl he'd captured and tattooed, that night Eyghon had chased them. She was thinner now, older. Nearly a woman. She looked tired, even as she lay at rest. Rest? Perhaps.
Whatever Buffy was now, she was not dead.
Ethan had seen the dead, some shortly after the moment of death, some days later, and a very few as they passed from the land of the living to wherever it was they went. The dead were empty. Buffy was not empty. The hair on the back of his neck rose. The dead did not frighten him, not any more, but there were other states far worse. He sniffed at her mouth. No smell of corruption, no settling of blood in the body. No reddening of the lips, either. He pulled a bottle of holy water from his pocket, dipped his fingers into it and signed the cross on her forehead. No reaction, no burned flesh. And four days was more than enough time for a vampire to have awakened. Something was, as Tara had said, not right.
Untitled Giles, Xander, and a barrow wight:
Giles turned off the main road onto something still paved but single-lane. Xander checked the map. They were somewhere east of Avebury and off the beaten tourist track. And getting close to their destination: Giles slowed and nosed the Rover onto an even narrower road, more a gravel-strewn track than a proper road. It wasn't on the map Xander held, even though he was certain he was on the right page of the guide. The track was blocked by a gate. Gates were Xander's job. He sighed, pulled on his hat, and shoved open the car door. The rain stung his face and chilled his hands to the bone in the seconds he spent fumbling with the latch. Giles pulled the Rover through the gate and Xander shut it behind. What was in this field, anyway? Cows? There they were: black-faced sheep, with green paint sprayed on their tails. Back into the truck, heater blasting against the damp, and down the road, much slower now as the Rover jounced along the track.
Xander tucked the now-useless street guide into the glovebox. Mode switch into prep for the job.
"How long has this guy been missing?"
"Seems like a day longer than I would have expected."
Giles made a grunting noise that Xander couldn't parse. Giles knew even better than Xander that time mattered in these cases. Their last job in a crypt underneath a medieval church had been an emergency call not more than half a day after a questing curate had gone AWOL. They'd found that guy alive, barely, scared out of half his lifespan. Probably literally: his hair had gone white, which Xander had always thought was a myth. Giles had explained it was a side effect of certain ghost hauntings.
Working title "Broken Vessel":
Giles managed a faint smile. His father had never known what to make of his friendship with Ethan. He didn't know the half of it. Thank God. His smile died. He hid his face in his mug of tea again. It was sweet at the bottom, where the sugar had pooled. He tipped it up, to get all of it.
He rummaged in the pockets of his jacket and found the the packet of cigarettes. He pulled one out and lit up. His father raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Giles's hands shook. He watched the tremors almost curiously. They seemed so disconnected from him, as if his hands belonged to someone else. If asked, he would be able to say exactly how many hours it had been since his last taste, and he hated himself for counting them.
He tipped ash onto his scone plate. His mother couldn't abide smoking in her kitchen. He could imagine her cuffing his head, with no force at all, and telling him to give up that filthy habit. She'd have made him stand outside the door or smoke in his father's study. He ought to think of some message to give her through his father. What could he say? Sorry about the last year and a half, Mum, off again now. Just his love to her, then.