Summary: An accident with a magical artifact sends Giles into the past. Can the specialist in hopeless cases help him before the artifact is lost and he is forever stranded?
Spoilers: Season 5 as far as “Triangle”
Notes: Dedicated to kivrin, who gave me early encouragement and insisted I finish this. Mr Pedia helped with the lyrics. emmessann beta-read.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership and am making no money.
Distribution: Hey, whatever. Just let me know.
Extracts from the personal diary of Rupert Giles, Watcher
Thursday, 4 January 2001
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.
My new policy of checking luggage as rarely as possible worked out. I was on the express to Paddington and then the Tube to my hotel in Bloomsbury in no time. In fact, getting to London was so smooth that I should have known it would all go pear-shaped in the worst way once I got there.
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. I also wanted to stop off at Pudge’s and get a few items I was having a hard time acquiring Stateside. Maybe even make a business connection, set up some kind of understanding with the current proprietor. Who I think is still a Pudge, hundreds of years of business done in the same spot by the same family. Exactly the sort of thing one doesn’t get in California, where if anything is more than 50 years old it’s ancient and impels Buffy to twitch her nose. And I wanted to just be in the city that used to be home. So I took a bit of a side-trip into Soho, with my leather case slung over my shoulder. It was a brisk day, rainy, a nasty shock to my California-thinned blood, so I dressed warmly. That worked out well.
Some shockers, after four years away, welcome and unwelcome. The age, the clutter, the cigarette smoke, the pasty faces, the accents, the clothes. Who knew pinstriped jackets could look so foreign? California has begun to seep into me. Begun to feel like home. As I write, it feels more like home and more achingly distant than I would have believed possible. This afternoon, though, I was enjoying being in London again. Enjoying inhaling the smell of city, walking down the cramped little street with the cobblestone paving, picking my way up the creaking wooden stair up to the shop on the first floor. Pleasure overlaid the fear that sent me to London in the first place. Not to mention my building fit of nerves about my visit to the Council. They always manage to make me feel a complete berk five seconds into any encounter.
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 had some sharp words to say to me on the subject of the Initiative and the handcuffs they’d been putting on him last I saw him.
“You escaped immediately,” I said.
“Of course,” he said.
“I expected nothing less,” I told him, and hoped he believed me.
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. We had words with each other, louder than before, and the elderly Pudge behind the counter demanded that we leave. Can’t blame him. I’d have thrown us out of the Magic Box. There we were on the pavement, glaring at each other. I was furious at the loss of my chance to set up any deals. I grabbed Ethan to have the usual satisfaction of beating his face in. Something about the sight of blood on his face makes me happy. Buffy says I have Ethan Issues, capital letters. Suppose she’s right. I have even more Ethan Issues this evening. So I grabbed him, and shook him as if he were a rat, and something heavy fell out of his pocket. It was like a wand, only much thicker and with a knob at the end. I snatched it up, in case it was a weapon he could use against me. At the very least I could beat him over the head with it.
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.
Something rushed around me, wind and colour 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.
I knew at that moment the rough outline of what had happened, but I don’t think it had quite sunk in. Denial, as Buffy would say.
I still had the artifact in my hands. I saw the door to Pudge’s shop, looking much the same as it always had, maybe a bit more run-down than usual, and I fled into it. I burst into the shop waving the wand thing and demanding to know what Pudge knew about it.
Of course there was a Pudge behind the counter. Same pinched face and sharp nose as the great-great-grandchild Pudge who’d been serving me moments before. The Pudge looked at me as if I were a madman. I suppose I was. I calmed myself, using every bit of self-control the Watchers had beaten into me. I schooled my accent as far into Oxford as I could and drawled, hoping that was close enough to what the accent of the educated classes was at the time. I held it out to him, and asked if he’d seen it before. We bent our heads together and began discussing it. There was a crystal at the heart of the knob, which I hadn’t noticed before. It was glowing, faintly. Now that I was calmer, I could feel the power in the thing. I told Pudge I suspected it moved its operator across dimensions, or possibly through time. 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.
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.
When I could breathe again, I ran down to the street after him, but he had vanished. I went back into the shop and questioned Pudge about the man, but he would tell me nothing, not even when I pointed out that the man had just perpetrated robbery and assault under his very nose. I may have risen to delivering a threat. Not entirely sure; I was shaking with reaction by then. This Pudge then demonstrated the same lack of taste exhibited by his descendent, and threw me out of the shop. There I was on the pavement again, this time looking around myself in numb fear. I had no idea what to do next. I breathed until my head stopped spinning. With my overcoat buttoned, I hoped I didn’t look too far off the norm. I was missing a hat, and everyone around me had one. I tried to guess the year, based on the clothing, and could come no closer than late Victorian. Then I came to my senses and walked over to the newscrier. 1886. 4 January. Exactly 115 years.
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.
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.
I noticed that my companion was already intrigued, and eagerly took up my notebook and pen to record the encounter as it took place. I have those notes to thank for the detailed nature of my record of the interview here in my diary, and a most amazing interview it was!
Mr Giles came in behind Mrs Hudson, and stood a little diffidently just inside the door, with an overcoat over his arm and a battered leather case in his hand. He stepped forward to give her room to leave behind him, and I ushered him forward.
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.
“Where are my manners?” he asked, seeming to come to himself. “I am Rupert Giles.” I introduced myself and Holmes. He shook our hands with a little smile on his face, then sat on the chair opposite Holmes.
“What brings you to us, Mr Giles?” asked my companion.
Mr Giles began his explanation hesitantly, stuttering a little. “This afternoon, an artifact of some antiquity and power was stolen from me while I stood in Pudge’s Magic Shop. I believe that I am marooned without it. I would like your aid in recovering it.”
“Yes. It was responsible for transporting me a, a, well, a great distance. I believe it will be required to return me to where I belong.”
“The artifact is a magic one, then. You needn’t dance around the issue of magic with me. I am a minor adept.” Holmes lit a cigarette with a lazy word, inhaling and gazing at our visitor through the smoke. I have seen him do this now and again, though he usually prefers to reserve its use for times of need. Mr Giles smiled and inclined his head for a moment.
“So, we have established that we each are aware of the world of the arcane,” said Holmes. “From where did this artifact transport you?”
“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.
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?”
“Ah. I’m a Cambridge man, myself. And you read?”
“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.
Holmes at last withdrew to his armchair, where he sat and gazed at our visitor for a minute over steepled fingers. Mr Giles himself sat down in his chair again, seeming ill at ease. He removed his glasses and polished them vigourously with a handkerchief.
“Mr Giles, would you tell me in what year you were born?” Mr Giles hesitated, glancing once again oddly from me to Holmes. “Come, man! I must know what gulf separates us!”
“Nineteen fifty-four,” said Giles.
My friend exclaimed, then continued with the remarkable question, “And when is home?”
“Two-thousand one,” was the reply.
“Why come to me and not them?”
“I have been raised from boyhood to admire you. I have to think you’d do a better job than they at finding the artifact.”
At this juncture I rose from my chair and demanded to know what nonsense they were talking.
“Time-travel, my dear Watson,” said Holmes. “The artifact has dislocated Mr Giles in time from over a hundred years in the future. No wonder you are so desperate to recover it, sir.”
“But this is fantastic!” I exclaimed. “How can this be? How can you believe such a tale?”
“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.
Holmes lit another cigarette, using a match this time. “First, you will perceive that he is a well-educated man, but his mode of dress is most odd.”
“Yes, I had noticed that,” I said with some heat. “I thought perhaps he’d come to us from America.”
“Where is his hat? He was wearing none when he came in, and his hair gives no sign that he has worn a hat at all recently. And his watch! It is obviously designed for a man, obviously some years old, from the creases on the band, and yet made by no firm I have heard of. And it keeps accurate time, but does not tick.”
“Quartz mechanism,” murmured Giles. “Not invented yet.”
“There are other puzzling aspects of his dress. The maker’s labels on his coat, and his jacket. The material of the lining of his overcoat. His spectacles, which are not made of glass, and the soles of his boots. These but are more entries in the same column. There is his calling card, which has several baffling sequences of numbers on it, whose purpose I cannot guess, and very strange printing, not letterpress at all. Next, we come to his accent. I can detect Oxford overlaid on London, and then something else over that. But where in London? And what has been rounding off his Rs recently? How is it that I cannot place his accent?”
“Camden, then California. A place that does exist on your maps now, though the accent of its citizens today would be little like the accent I hear daily.” Our guest smiled fondly, then his expression changed to one of great worry. He rubbed at his chest again.
“Thus, we have the picture of a man dislocated in time. And we continue! Who is this man? He has worn a ring in his ear, but is obviously no sailor. He has seen much physical combat; you observe the scars and the broken nose and his great skill. And the fingers on his left hand were once broken, and set expertly. But most telling, most telling, Watson!” Holmes sprang from his chair and leapt over to our guest, and flung open his jacket. “He is carrying wooden stakes and a cross in special pockets sewn on the inside of his coat. This man is a Watcher, a warrior and a scholar at once.”
Our guest assented.
“And the last piece of evidence, Watson, is on his left hand.” Giles held up his hand at this point of Holmes’ speech, and I saw the signet ring again. I stepped over to the strange man and, having received his nodded permission, looked at the signet ring. It had an odd stone like onyx, and a Latin motto written around the stone, servo eam. I could see nothing of note about it, and said so to Holmes.
“This is the evidence I suspected you would not understand, Watson. This ring is made only for the Watcher of the active Slayer, and given to him when he swears his oath to her. I can sense the magic active in the ring. You could be the Watcher to a Slayer who has passed, sir, but I doubt it. You do not show the signs. Your great distance from your Slayer is troubling you. You have rubbed your chest no fewer than three times during this interview. And yet, I know of the man who is the active Watcher right now; he was described to me as much younger than you.”
“1886,” said Mr Giles, musingly. “Farringdon and Rachel, was it? Have they come back to London to deal with Whitechapel, or are they still on the Continent? No, that would be ‘87.”
I at last burst out with my questions. “You must tell me, Holmes, what on earth it is that you are discussing. Slayers? Watchers?”
Holmes made a gesture to Mr Giles and sat down again, smiling to himself. I felt more than a little irritated by his obvious amusement. Mr Giles gave my friend an intimidating glare, apparently equally irritated. “I’m told I love the speech, but I have never actually been able to get all the way through it.” He turned to me, then drew a breath. “You know about magic. Do you also know about demons, and vampires?”
“Vampires, yes, Holmes has warned me of something of the sort, though I believed at the time it was one of his little jokes.” I cast my friend an apologetic glance. “But demons? What is this?”
“The world is older than you know,” our visitor said. He then proceeded to explain to me that vampires were real, and walked the streets of London even as we spoke. I looked to Holmes, certain that our distant traveller was at last revealed to be a madman, but he merely nodded at me.
“As long as there have been vampires, there has been the Slayer. One girl in all the world, to find them where they gather and to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their numbers.” He went on to explain the great powers granted to the Slayer, and the Council of Watchers, and his role as a teacher to the active Slayer. I took copious notes as he spoke, so I will not repeat the information here. It was all rather astonishing.
“You understand why I must return to my time,” he said to Holmes, with some urgency. “I must return to Buffy. She’s in the middle of—” He broke off. “I came to London to beg the Council to research something for me, a very strong demon Buffy has been stalemated with for several months.”
At this juncture, Mrs Hudson appeared with tea for three. We adjourned the discussion until all of us were well-supplied with muffins and cups, and had rearranged ourselves cosily around the fire.
“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.”
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. Watson says there’s no telling whether he’ll reappear tonight or not. He’s on the scent of something, so he might not show himself for days. I hate feeling out of the loop. I’m used to running the investigation, co-ordinating all the information. Holmes of course assumes that role for himself. And given my displacement from nearly all that is familiar, he’s right to do so. I haven’t his resources. Just wish he’d share his discoveries more freely than Watson’s accounts say he did.
Hardly know which tense to use. Watson hasn’t yet written most of the stories about Holmes I’ve read. He hasn’t had most of the cases. Holmes hasn’t yet— better not to write it here.
I’m walking around in a haze of unreality. The whole interview yesterday, dinner with the two of them last night, all of it feels at one remove. I’ll tell myself that I’ll wake up and find myself in the hotel, reeling from whatever drug Ethan slipped into my drink this time. And then Watson will idly fold over his newspaper, and I’ll shake myself and know I am truly here.
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.
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. I found myself explaining that I had also been in California yesterday morning, as well as in their future. At first they thought I meant the artifact had transported me. I set them straight, then shut up when Watson tried to get me to talk about what fantastic contrivance had transported me 5000 miles in the course of hours. Infernally curious man, as well as soft-hearted. Holmes stopped asking questions as soon as I’d satisfied him that it was irrelevant.
Would it matter if I told Watson about jet planes and airlines and trans-Atlantic flights? I think not… and yet. Thinking about time-travel paradoxes makes my head spin. I cannot possibly hope to sort out the issues. I can only solve the problems directly in front of me with what little wisdom I have gathered to myself. If I keep my dear Buffy’s interests in mind, I cannot put my foot wrong. Or so I tell myself. I’m likely whistling in the dark. I’ve resolved to keep my mouth shut as much as possible about the future. No sports scores, no investment tips, no talk of war. This is the recommended behaviour, I believe.
After breakfast Holmes took me round to the Council building on Gower Street. He gave me one of Watson’s soft hats, to satisfy the casual observer, but said my modern clothes would help my story. He sent his card in to the man he said he knew best, a Watcher named Galloway. Holmes told me who Robert Galloway was while we waited. He was the Watcher to the Slayer before the current one. I didn’t know the name, as I had known the names of Farringdon and Rachel. They’re famous; their campaign in Whitechapel is required study. But this Galloway I didn’t know by reputation. Holmes had assisted him and his Slayer in a small matter two years earlier, he told me. He had run into them in mid-battle, and been shocked to find a woman fighting while a man stood on the sidelines.
I am used to cooling my heels in that Council hall, waiting for someone to decide I deserved attention. The damn thing had hardly changed in a hundred years. I do not exaggerate. Bloody irritating. I was working up to full agitation, which is my usual state in that hallway. Fortunately Galloway appeared before I broke down and began pacing. He stretched a hand to Holmes, then turned to me. 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—
I must have given myself away somehow just now, because Watson interrupted to hand me some brandy. He put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder and hovered until I’d drunk it down and calmed myself.
Must have been ten times as bad for that poor man. Don’t know how he stood it. Holmes introduced us, and we shook hands. I gave him my condolences, poor and useless though they must have been to him. He looked at me coolly, then at Holmes. Holmes murmured that we needed a private place to talk, and Galloway drew us into a side room.
Galloway wasted no time asking me what right I had to wear the ring on my left hand. I bristled, but Holmes intervened before I could say anything rash. He pulled out chairs for the two of us and got us settled. He then explained my story, rather better than I could have. I’d have made a mess of it, stammering about temporal paradoxes and speculating about the artifact.
Galloway said that if Holmes vouched for me, it would be enough for him. He would give me the Council’s help, saving one thing. I claimed to be a Watcher, and this claim couldn’t be accepted easily. Galloway had his own inquiries to make before he agreed with Holmes. Holmes made an exasperated gesture when he heard this; I think his pride was stung that someone refused to trust his deductions.
Galloway then set wheels in motion, calling in some flunkies and sending them running again on errands. I had to revise upward my estimation of his Council status. They usually give retired field Watchers sinecures. Not this man. It turns out Galloway is one of the Three. He led me out, and down the hall. I groaned when I saw where we were going. I got exactly what I had dreaded on the plane: a session in the chamber at the centre of a circle of suspicious faces. Such wonderful fun. I can expect it twice on this trip.
Must remember to tell Buffy that it could be worse than tweed. I could have worn a frock-coat every day.
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 then wished them joy of the information, and told them they’d get no more from me. One of them asked me why I was afraid to talk, claiming that information from the future was exactly the same as prophecy. That was a stumper. I finally told him that prophecy is what the Powers have decided we ought to know; anything I revealed would be the choice of a mere man. I trust myself to decide what my Slayer needs, but I am not capable of bearing the burden of the world. No matter how tempting it might be to contemplate averting the tragedies of the last century.
At this Galloway stopped the proceedings, and said they’d heard enough. He shocked me by asking what the Council could do for me now.
I told him that I need access to the library and funds to pay Holmes for his services and to pay my living expenses. I must investigate the artifact that had stranded me so far from my home, so that I can use it to return when Holmes regains it. If Holmes regains it. My return to my Slayer’s side is critically important. We understood each other on this point, I think.
And that was that. They gave me what I needed. Money. They’ve always had pots floating around. Less stingy with it now than they are in my time. (Tenses again!) Before I could blink I had a bank draft (written to Holmes, which seemed like a good idea to me), a pile of Bank of England notes, and a pocketful of coins. Also, and most importantly, access to the library. Unrestricted, which I was never granted even as a full Watcher in my time. Some shifts in attitude seem to have occurred in the last century. Once they decided I had indeed been partnered with a Slayer, their respect for me increased. I have grown used to being treated with suspicion by the Council, my judgement questioned precisely because of my service to a Slayer.
Holmes took me away again immediately. He said he wished to “strike while the iron was hot,” and interview the magic shop Pudge as quickly as he could. He would put me in Watson’s capable hands for the remainder of the day.
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.
Watson: Tuesday, 5 January, 1886
Holmes and our guest returned at a bit past the lunch hour. Giles, as he has asked me to call him, spent some time writing in his own diary, which he said he keeps for the Watchers who come after him. While he did so, Holmes dressed himself in one of his odd disguises. This one made him look like a cross between a don and a madman, perhaps rather closer to the latter. He instructed us not to wait for him, but to amuse ourselves as we would. Giles asked me, a trifle shyly, if we could visit a tailor and get him something to wear. He felt he couldn’t move about freely in the city until he looked more like a gentleman. And besides, his own clothing was beginning to become rumpled and dirty. The clothing of the future— so like our own, and so unlike. I wonder if it is the fashion to wear clothing that is so large, and baggy. Giles’ sleeves hang quite far down over his wrists.
We tried my coat on him first, to see if it would do at all. He’s broader in the shoulders and taller than I. So I took him round to my tailor and begged for a quick job done for my poor cousin, who’d had his trunk stolen from him on his trip back from America. Giles picked up on the ruse quickly, and told a sorry tale of his travel on the steamer. My tailor isn’t the most fashionable, but he does a decent job and was quite willing to to put himself out for a cousin of mine. We had him do some evening clothes and one suit for day-time wear. Giles laughed silently at the suggestion of a frock-coat, saying only that his Buffy would be vastly entertained to see him dressed so. And of course sundries, some of which my man was able to send ‘round immediately. Giles pointed out to me that he’d be rather sorry to trade his boots for mine. He’d had an easier time walking on the fresh snow than I’d had.
I then took him to the Stores for a few other items he might find useful. And we got him a shave, which he badly needed. He emerged from that experience with a shudder of relief, telling me only that he would never be letting another man near his throat with a straight razor again.
We took a cab back to the flat, as the weather had stayed sharp, and snow was falling once again. Giles insisted on paying for the cab, saying he had no lack of funds now. He fumbled with the coins for a moment, then sorted them out. He again had that odd look on his face, which I have quickly learned to interpret as meaning that he has been reminded that he is far in his past. I made so bold as to inquire what had struck him about the coins, and he said that he hadn’t counted shillings and pence since he was a boy. I had somehow thought he’d moved to America as a much older man, but perhaps I misunderstood.
We dined in, on Mrs Hudson’s simple but plentiful fare. Giles had the manners of a perfect gentleman. I toasted the Queen with my port, in a moment of puckishness, to see how he would react, and Giles cheerfully lifted his glass. He said that the last Queen he’d toasted had been an Elizabeth, but he was proud to toast Victoria. It’s heartening to learn that Englishmen are still Englishmen, even one hundred years in the future. And that England will still have a monarch and an empire.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
Giles retired shortly afterward, and seemed to have recovered himself entirely when he bade me a good-night. I have sat up long enough to write this, in hopes that I would see Holmes if he should return. It appears he will not be back at a reasonable hour this evening, however, so I shall follow our guest to dreamland.
continued in part 2