Antenna (antennapedia) wrote,

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FIC: The adventure of the displaced Watcher 3/3

Title: The adventure of the displaced Watcher 3/3
Rating: FRT
Author: Antennapedia
Disclaimers and notes in part 1

part 1
part 2

Giles: Saturday, 9 January 1886

I slept like a dead man and woke with my mouth full of ashes, Watson’s hand on my wrist counting my pulse. I wish I were a dead man. I will never see my Slayer again. Willow and Xander. Joyce. Even Anya. My friends, my books, my shop, my flat, my car, my life. Television. Computers. The Internet. Sunnydale. The Hellmouth. My Slayer, my Slayer, my Slayer. Buffy. I can perform one last service for her. I can spend my days researching Glory. I’ll learn what Buffy needs to know, and take steps to ensure she’ll receive my research. Then, I don’t know.

How will I get it to her? Can’t trust the Council further than I can spit them. They might be better behaved now, but I know what they’ll be like with Travers at the head of the Three. I’ll have to find an outside agency. Must ask Watson.

I made a hash of everything last night. I stranded myself here. I injured a man, burned down a house, and stranded myself. Was the reign of Victoria worth the remainder of my life? Watson thinks so. Likely it was worth a great deal more sacrifice than that.

Holmes is wasting time with the rubbish he stole from the alchemist last night. He’s smoking something utterly foul. I need to take a walk so I can breathe.—

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!”

“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.

But I think Holmes is right. Jenks had been working on duplicating the artifact for Merridew. He had a transcription of some notes, possibly by Dastin himself, on its construction. He’d found a suitable crystal, mounted it in the correct wood, and been labouring over the spells to power it since Monday. He’d shed human blood to cast those spells. More than one man died to make the thing I destroyed last night.

According to Jenks’ lab notebook, Merridew had been by to collect the original just hours before we ourselves were there. What I destroyed was the copy. The copy. The Folly that carried me back here is still out there, still in Merridew’s hands. Only now we must move quickly. It has had enough time to recharge, and we know that Merridew knows how to operate it. We have to act now.

Holmes knows where Merridew lives. He’s sent his spies, those street urchins, out to collect information. We’re going to have to do a spot of cat burglary, he thinks.

Aha. A Baker Street Irregular has just been and gone with news for Holmes. Merridew’s manservant has been heard complaining that his master is planning yet another ritual that’s expected to leave candle wax all over the parlour floor. Merridew has been frustrated by his inability to bend some odd object to his will, and will have another try tomorrow. Perhaps the artifact doesn’t like being reset mid-trip? The important point is, he’s at his London house, and he’s got the damn thing with him.

It’ll all be settled tonight. Either I learn tonight my hope is gone and I am marooned here for eternity, or we recover the artifact and I am able to return. Holmes says there is likely danger of confrontation again. Merridew, unlike the alchemist, won’t hesitate to use magic to kill us. Watson is at his desk cleaning and reloading his revolver. I’m preparing a few tricks of my own.

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.

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.

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 said he rather hoped we would not, as the man was truly dangerous. He had outlined his plans to us over dinner. He knew the location of the house, and its approximate plan, and he knew that Merridew had a study full of magical objects located somewhere on the first floor. He could not say with any certainty where the artifact would be kept. He had safe-breaking equipment with him, in case it should be needed.

Again, we took a cab across the city, but only as far as south Kensington this time. We alighted some streets away, as before, and made our way toward our true destination. Giles again cast his obscuring spell on us, while we were some distance away from our target. There the resemblance ended. The stakes were higher tonight. Our nerves were at a high pitch. I, for one, was determined that we would not allow our friend to suffer again the shattering blow that had been dealt him the night before. Tonight we would succeed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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? 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.

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.

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.

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’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.

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.

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.

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. 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

Tags: fic:holmes, fiction, genfic, story:displaced watcher

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