All Mimsy Were The Borogoves
written by Pythia
Spoilers: Umm – if I tell you, I’ll give some of the plot away … Somewhere between start of first and end of seventh season, okay?
Summary: Giles is lost.
Thanks: To Gail for reading this – and for insisting that Geoffrey gets his cup of tea…
Author's Notes: Way back in September 04, Gail published a challenge on ‘Watchergirls’ that said: Lose Giles. Lets see him lost in
as many different ways as possible. You can have others looking for him, but he should be lost and dealing with it on his own. This could
involve survival skills, semi-nekkidness :-P even, or interracting with new characters... or even bonding with some kind of animal/pet for
company while he's so isolated. It could involve a great deal of action or suspense, if he's in danger, or has to devise an escape or
evade the bad guys... whatever. So it can be anything from The Fugitive to Robinson Crusoe, or Giles does Time Tunnel or... other
ficverses or other dimensions, or he could just be accidentally lost in the wilderness in his own universe, or kidnapped by someone or
something unpleasant. So I did just that. It’s took me a little longer than I expected – and a fair number of those suggestions seem to
have ended up in the mix – but hopefully it will all make sense by the time you get to the end of it!
Feedback Author: Pythia
Author's Website: Warriors And Watchers
"This," he decided with exasperation, "is getting ridiculous."
No – make that worse than ridiculous. He had the distinct feeling that he was
the victim of some bizarre and unfathomable joke – and that someone, somewhere,
was busy laughing at him. He wasn’t laughing. Particularly since the room he’d
stepped into appeared be just as peculiar as all the others had been. Pieces
of it were crisply defined, sharp and certain with reality, while the rest dwindled
into sketchy approximation – spaces where the colours lacked complexity, where
the textures blurred and the objects that lurked there lacked comfortable definition.
There was a desk, half in, half out of the transition; one end was square and
solid, supporting a pattern of sprawled papers, of closed files and office equipment.
The other end was bowed towards one corner, its supporting edge wavering upwards
from a floor where the tiling shifted from utilitarian squares into something
designed by Escher. It looked like someone’s office. The sort of someone who
tacked a landscape calendar to his corkboard and stuck ‘to do’ lists on the
He walked across to take a closer look; here, as everywhere else, the words
and the letters were the wrong way round.
"Hello?" he called tentatively, just as he’d done in every room before.
He’d disturbed something a few rooms back; something that had leapt from furniture
and whipped away through a half open window before he could catch more than
a glimpse of it. It had been nothing human, that much he was sure of - about
the only thing he was sure of, other than perhaps his name.
Giles, he reminded himself firmly. Rupert Emrys Giles.
As long as he could remember that, he felt he wouldn’t be entirely lost.
No-one answered his call – although he had a sudden brief, and disturbing,
impression of someone being in the room with him. He turned, but the image he
thought he’d glimpsed had already vanished, stepping out of view without going
anywhere at all.
"Definitely ridiculous," he decided, flicking along the hanging pages
and frowning as he reached the one that only had writing down one edge, many
of the words cut off halfway through. The rest of the paper – tacked up on the
half of the wall that was suddenly painted brick and then just finger pliant
paint – were blank. "Why on earth would anyone ..?"
Put up blank pages?
Build half a room one way, and the rest another?
Pay such attention to detail and yet get so many things wrong ..?
He’d been walking for what felt like hours, stumbling from one room to the
next, stepping through doorways that promised one thing yet delivered another.
He’d been opening doors that were wood and glass on one side, and nothing more
than blank surfaces on the other; moving from tiles to carpet, to wood, to stone
and back again, sometimes in the same room - rooms where sharp reality competed
with theatrical impression and pure Dhalistical fantasy. He’d dipped in and
out of them with bemusement - and hurriedly backed away from the place where
everything had seemingly melted, dripping into distorted shape and rippled imagery.
Nothing felt right.
And he had absolutely no idea where he was – or where he was supposed to be,
He was looking – he thought he might be looking – for a library. He
was sure it had to be around here somewhere. He had the feeling he’d been in
it not so long ago. A good, solid, certain kind of place, with books that actually
had text in them stacked on the shelves. A place where his footsteps didn’t
echo as if they were slightly out of sync with each footfall, and where there
weren’t – things - moving just at the edge of his vision. A place where
surfaces felt the way they looked, where scent matched the things you smelled,
and there was the constant, subtle sound of a real world keeping you company.
Here, he was drowning in the silence.
It was a silence that was occasionally broken by strange noises off, by odd
sounds muffled by distance and that fell silent whenever he came close enough
to catch what might be making them.
He’d thought, at first, that he was dreaming.
The place – wherever it was – had that feel to it. A feeling of unreality,
of being not entirely there. The muzziness of his thoughts, the lack of clarity
to his memories, had all supported that initial conclusion.
But dreams usually end.
Even nightmares race to heart pounding conclusions, and wake you in a cold
sweat, a choked back scream in your throat.
This place just went – on.
Room after room, and all in no comprehensible order. Offices, lounges, bedrooms,
boardrooms, deserted bars, seemingly endless corridors – and all them preferable
to the glimpses he had caught of outside, the views from shimmering windows
that promised sensible landscapes and became something else when you
looked past the patches of light and into the dark beyond …
Something moved behind him and he spun round in alarm, catching – just for
a moment – the impression of image that sank into the chair behind the desk,
the shape that wasn’t there, but still made it bow back, made it shift and settle
The sight was eerie and decidedly unsettling. His heart had accelerated with
alarm and his breathing sounded ragged and forced in the otherwise silent room.
He took a moment to settle both, and then made himself walk round the desk and
look down at the chair. It was still moving subtly, a creaking shift and sway
that suggested it was occupied. But there was nobody in it. He confirmed the
fact by reaching down and touching the back, sweeping the seat with his fingers
– then jumped back in startlement as paper shuffled across the desk, sheets
of it being lifted and turned.
"Oh good Lord," he gulped, pressing his hand to his chest in an effort
to keep his heart from tearing out of it. Nothing else had moved, and nothing
seemed to be actually threatening him – it was just the sheer unexpectedness
of the activity that had triggered all his alarm bells.
He frowned over that while he waited for his moment of panic to subside. The
phantom movements continued – but there was no sense of a ghost, no feeling
of presence, no frigid air or unearthly energy. That somehow made it more unnerving,
not less. He had a feeling he could have coped with a ghost. That encountering
one would have somehow helped him focus the swirl of thoughts and memories that
were dancing inside his head, just beyond his reach.
Where am I? he wondered, risking a wary glance out of the window
at the side of the desk. There was a street below him – a paved street, with
dingy buildings and parked cars. It appeared to be a street that went from urban
uniformity to a crooked, angled menace only a short distance away. The daylight
only seemed to fall on the pavement beneath the window; the rest of it was swallowed
in a purpling gloom in which hints of shapes moved in and out of the shadows.
Something rippled down the road, under the tarmac. A car bounced up as it passed.
Something with too many legs hurtled out from under it – and a mouth opened
in the pavement, snatched it and then closed again with a deep gurgling swallow.
Giles stepped back from the window with a shudder. This definitely wasn’t his
world. He knew he didn’t belong here.
But nor did he know where here was.
He was about to turn and leave the room, to look for another exit off the seemingly
endless corridors, when something caught his eye. There was a mirror on the
far wall, placed to reflect the more coherent end of the room, and it was hanging
It was also glowing.
Only a little. Just enough to draw his attention, just enough to make him realise
that the daylight was beginning to die away. Night was coming – and he had the
feeling that night was not a time to be wandering these eerie halls alone. A
sudden sense of danger caught at him, suggesting that to linger in this place
past nightfall might be something he’d have cause to regret; he had to find
a place to hide. A place he could barricade and defend.
But the mirror drew him, the light it offered tantalising him with an odd familiarity.
There had been mirrors in all the other rooms, he realised, although he hadn’t
paid them that much attention. This one was as mundane as all the rest – a simple
rectangle of silvered glass with a plain, thin wooden frame. It was filled with
an equally simple view of the room, and went on being filled with it, despite
his stepping right up to it and getting in the way.
Rupert Giles blinked.
Then reached out a shaky hand to brush the cold smooth surface of the mirror
– feeling it flex slightly under his touch. His reflection – such as it was
– was barely visible. He was little more than a misted image, echoed in the
surface of the glass rather than the silver that lay behind it. Through that,
beyond that, he was looking at the inside of a room.
A room with at least three people in it.
One of them was seated in the swivel chair, while another was stood at his
shoulder, carefully turning pages from the folder that they were both studying.
The third was sitting on the corner of the desk, nodding thoughtfully at the
silent conversation that was being exchanged. Outside, in the street, a street
lamp was beginning to flicker into life.
Slowly, fearfully, Giles turned his head, in time to see the matching flicker
flare into life outside his version of the room. The room that was still empty.
The room that echoed the movements taking place within the translucent frame.
"Oh dear lord," he whispered, splaying his palm against the jellied
surface of the glass to support himself as his knees threatened to give way.
He was shaking, quivering both inside and out, his stomach churning and his
whole body trembling with shock and realisation.
Everything suddenly made complete and horrifying sense.
The partially defined rooms.
The way the furniture moved of its own accord. The reason the books were filled
with empty pages and why their titles were printed on them in reverse.
The glimpses of an outside world that mocked the sanity of his own.
He wasn’t looking into a mirror.
He was looking out of one.
* * * * *
Night fell quickly in the world behind the mirrors. Realising that darkness
was creeping on him apace, Giles had peeled himself away from the dingy glass
and the squalid office it overlooked and gone looking for potential sanctuary.
He was practically running by the time he found it, hounded by a sense of something
stirring in the halls, of something that – should it catch a glimpse of him,
should it sense his presence – would hunt him down without mercy.
He checked seemingly endless doors, racing through empty rooms and along twisted
passages, trying not to look outside their darkening windows, or be caught by
the tantalising images that now glowed brightly from inside the mirrored glass
hanging on their walls. After finding – and rejecting – several furnished rooms
with windows that were way too large, even if they only had a single door in
and out, he eventually stumbled into somewhere much more promising.
The foyer of a hotel.
It was one of those old fashioned five star establishments with mirrored ceilings,
gilt painted pillars and sofas that looked as if they could swallow you whole.
The plush carpet was reproduced exactly, the mirrors above it producing a practically
perfect reflection. There were paintings hanging in alcoves, a long low reception
desk, and doors that opened into what looked an elevator car with mirrors on
either side. There was also, he spotted with a distinct sense of relief, a decorative
arrangements of shields and weapons hanging on one wall.
Something snuffled outside the foyer’s entry doors as he started to
cross the carpet; not a particularly loud noise but one impossible to miss in
the otherwise heavy silences. He froze in place for a moment, not daring to
breath until what ever it was moved away. The need to run, the need to find
a place of safety, nagged at him like an unreachable itch. Part of him was arguing
that this large open space might be a good place to spend the night, with time
to spot danger before it reached him and bolt holes and exits in practically
every direction - but instinct was crying out for somewhere more secure, somewhere
with sturdy walls and a defensible entry, somewhere hidden and out of the way.
Instinct – and possibly some of those elusive and unfocused memories - won
the battle. He had the distinct feeling that if he saw what threatened him,
it would be too late to do anything about it. His only chance was to hide. To
make sure it didn’t see him at all.
A few moments later he was hitching a ride up in the elevator, two long daggers
thrust into his belt, and a comfortingly heavy sword sitting in his left hand.
He’d feared for a minute or two that he’d be unable to lay claim to, or even
affect anything reflected by the mirrors, but the display had supplied him with
just what he needed, and once the weapons were in his hands they seemed to have
taken on his own, semi reflective properties. Looking back, he wondered if any
of the hotel guests would spot that the reality of the display was no longer
being reflected truthfully – but then he questioned whether anyone ever looked
at a reflection that closely.
If they did, someone would have seen him by now.
Like the guests he shared the elevator with. They were crisp and clear in the
mirrors, while his own image was little more than that of a ghost; he rode up
in perfect comfort, occupying an empty car, while they shuffled and smiled awkwardly
at each other, as hotel guests often do.
He stepped out of the car into a plushly furnished corridor, and hastily followed
an unseen guest into their room. A typical hotel room, as it turned out. One
high up in a tower block somewhere, its doubled glazed windows looking out across
a cityscape filled with twinkling lights. It was hard to tell where, exactly,
since most of the window space was almost immediately covered with a thick and
heavy curtain. Giles was happy with that. He had no desire to see what lurked
out in the night, and no wish to attract anything’s attention either. There
was a large mirror occupying one wall, one in the passage by the door and another
on the door of the wardrobe, which meant that the room was more or less reassuringly
normal in all directions.
It also meant that when the guest dropped the latch on the door the action
was clearly reflected, locking him in. He heaved a sigh of relief and moved
a little more confidently into the room itself. A locked door was no guarantee
of safety, of course, but it certainly lessened the chance of something finding
him by accident. He didn’t understand the rules of this world he’d found himself
in, and until he figured a few of them out, he was both vulnerable and at a
distinct disadvantage. The hotel seemed to be a more stable setting among the
shifting, random rooms that he’d been exploring earlier. Probably something
to do with the multiplication of mirrors, and the many reflections which reinforced
its sense of reality.
Whatever it was, he was grateful to find a moments respite in this strange
and unsettling dimension, and …
The mirror on the wardrobe was offering him a rather unexpected vision of his
room mate. She was blond, slightly plump, somewhere in her late twenties – and
currently getting undressed right in front of him. He gulped and hastily looked
away, casting round to see which of the two twin beds she’d chosen to occupy.
The one nearest the window had the covers turned back, so he took a calculated
moment or two to check the softness of the other mattress before climbing onto
it and settling himself there, crossed legged with the sword lying across his
knees. His reflected company had wandered into the bathroom by then; he heaved
a small sigh of relief and leaned back against the headboard, vowing not to
look when she wandered out again. It wasn’t fair to her, to have him sitting
there, a silent and unseen voyeur – but it was too late to seek alternative
accommodation. He needed to feel safe, and he needed to be somewhere where he
could defend himself should the need arise.
Besides, there was something oddly comforting about her presence, a reassurance
that there really was a world behind the mirrors – the real world, the one where
he belonged. The memory of another blonde – of a pert smile and a very pretty
face – surfaced from the murky haziness that currently flooded his past and
he seized it with determination, closing his eyes and trying to focus on the
tangled threads that lay around it. The young woman was important to him somehow.
His consideration of her face stirred any number of emotions, including concern,
pride and a fierce sense of protectiveness. There was a name that belonged with
all that complexity and he teased it out with care, unraveling it from the almost
overwhelming thoughts and feelings that surrounded her.
He lifted the memory of her name out of his mental fuzziness and laid it carefully
beside his own.
Rupert Emrys Giles.
Buffy Ann Summers.
The appellation fell into place with startling abruptness, almost as if he’d
flicked a mental switch somewhere. Fragments of memory took shape around it.
He was a Watcher. Buffy was his Slayer. Together they fought dark powers; the
vampires, the demons, and the forces of evil …
He opened his eyes with a gasp, his heart racing and the sound of his breath
harsh in the otherwise silent room. The sense of sudden terror that his recollections
had stirred didn’t go away. There was – something – very close by. Something
that moved with almost silent grace, that stalked through the passages with
purposeful steps. Something that brought with it a creeping, menacing chill.
Something hunting in the dark.
Giles held his breath, the fingers of his left hand creeping to curl around
the hilt of the sword while his heart pounded too loudly inside his chest. The
menace crept closer, the cold oozing in under the door and the clarity of the
reflection shifting and shimmering as whatever it was paused outside the room.
For a long, nerve stretching moment it lingered there, a hint of claws clicking
at the wood. Sweat slowly trickled down his forehead and into his eyes; he didn’t
dare move to wipe it away.
He feared that, if he so much as breathed, he would give himself away
A fearsome hiss and an unearthly howl suddenly shattered the silences; a sound
like a rumble of thunder raced away down the passageway – and the soul shivering
something followed it, charging in pursuit with a nerve wrenching growl
and what sounded like a sudden clatter of spines.
Oh dear Lord
He relaxed back against the headboard with a disconcerted gulp, discovering
that he was shaking from head to toe.
That was close.
Far, far too close for comfort.
The blonde came back, moving through the mirrors like a golden angel, taunting
him with her indifference to the menace which had crept so close to her door.
Would she have seen the thing if it had entered? Would she have seen the glass
darken with its shadow? Or would his fate gone unnoticed in the real world?
Would anyone notice?
He was trapped, lost in a world he didn’t understand, with less than echoes
of memory to guide and advise him. He couldn’t remember how or why he was wandering
behind the mirrors, but something told him it hadn’t been of his own volition.
Did his friends, his slayer, already think him dead – or had he just vanished
from their lives without sign or sound, leaving no hint of where he might be?
He didn’t know – but nor was he about to give in to despair. He might not recall
much about who and what he was, but it was enough to be certain of one thing;
he had to find a way back. Find a way out.
Buffy needed him.
* * * * *
They were days in which Giles began to learn some of the tricks and twists
that were to help him survive in this inverse, flipsided world. He discovered
that only fully reflected food had any taste or substance, and that even that
was a pale reflection of the real thing. He found that water seemed to be the
only thing safe to drink, and that mirrored plumbing was something of a joke.
He worked out how to shave using ‘borrowed’ safety razors, how to retrace the
routes he was taking if he needed to and how to hunt for safe places in which
to spend the night. Hotel rooms seemed to be the best option, although he slept
once or twice in far stranger locations; inside a health club on one occasion,
and in a display gallery in a museum on another. He lingered rather a long time
in the museum, replacing his purloined weaponry with far better examples of
the swordsmith’s art and sighing regretfully over books that – once pulled from
their shelves – proved themselves to be nothing but empty pages, just like all
the others he’d taken a moment to peruse.
There’d been a piece of him hoping that the books might somehow trigger the
rest of those elusive memories that lay buried somewhere in his mind. They didn’t
– but he took one anyway, searching among any number of desks until he found
a pen that would write, using it to record what little did come back to him
as he wandered the maze that filled the mirrored world.
Rooms opened into other rooms, doors lead him into passageways and they led
him down flights of stairs and along galleries, each reflected space spilling
into the next seemingly without pattern or purpose.
It took a while, but he eventually began to figure out that the rooms were
not connected in a completely random manner. The mirror world appeared to follow
a very precise set of rules, partially linked to the nature of the reflections
which shaped it, and partly determined by a subtle congruence between each reflection
and the next. It wasn’t an easy correlation to spot, but once he had it, he
could start to decipher the complex geography that shaped the world around him.
It varied from room to room and from mirror to mirror; there were connections
seemingly determined by colour, by common texture, or by style of design. There
were sequences and patterns, whole areas of internal consistence and others
where discordant architecture jostled for dominance amidst poorly defined and
only partially reflected spaces. The external landscape defied definition; one
room might offer glimpses of a city street, the next an enticing garden, and
the one after that an ocean view. Sometimes there were doors that led out into
sunlit exteriors, but – after one wary venture into an enticing vista – he made
himself hurry past all and every temptation to venture outside the safety of
The sunlight, it seemed, only ever reached as far as the mirrors defined it.
Beyond that lay shadows and shapes and soft whispering noises. The menace that
stalked the rooms at night lurked out in the darkness of the day – along with
other unpleasant and decidedly disturbing things. Things that scuttled and things
that crawled. Hunters and the hunted, predators and prey. They were the things
that you occasionally glimpsed in the depths of a mirror, late at night; the
half seen flicker of movement at the very edge of your vision, the shadows that
crept behind the glass.
Instinct suggested he stay well away from them.
Half remembered legends and lore agreed; there were creatures that dwelt behind
the mirrors which threatened a man’s sanity along with his soul – and he had
no desire to lose either, given a choice in the matter.
He fought for himself instead, using the hours he walked to delve into the
foggy recesses of his mind and emerge with nuggets of memory, with names and
faces and snippets of knowledge that reinforced his sense of who and what he
was. Direct and immediate memory was hard; he struggled to recall recent events
and achieved little more than fuzzy half hints and furiously strong emotions.
He knew that the people that went with those emotions were important to him
– as important as that determined label he’d found for himself that first day
– but it was exhausting trying to focus on the how and the why that lay around
them. As soon as he felt a headache threaten he’d retreat to easier ground,
snatching at a line of poetry or prose and letting it roll out of him with lyrical
exposition, using it to reinforce his mental frames of reference.
He found he could quote Homer in the original Greek, and recite Ovid and Virgil
in structured Latin; English poets kept him company over lunch, and obscure
singer- songwriters added music to his afternoons. He didn’t judge his eclectic
store of knowledge, just reveled in it, happy to declaim classic poetry, sing
light opera, or serenade the silences with acapello rock ballads as the mood
took him. Each remembered line or lyric triggered a thousand thoughts and associations;
bit by bit he rebuilt pieces of himself, treasuring each echo of his past that
the puzzle revealed.
Rupert Giles, he decided with a slightly smug sense of pride, was a very educated
But then – as less the less certain parts of his memory recalled – that was
something a Watcher had to be. His knowledge and his wisdom were important
weapons in the war he’d been trained to fight. Every bit as important as the
other skills he’d acquired; the mastery of archaic weaponry, the self-discipline
of the martial arts – and, he suspected, a level of ability in the use of magic,
although he couldn’t be entirely sure. Thinking about it gave him even more
of a headache than recalling the names and faces that meant so much to him.
He went seeking his answers in safer memories – in recollections lifted from
the written page, from the histories of his predecessors. While the history
of his own life remained a jumbled, fragmented mystery, the words of the Watchers’
diaries that had once helped shaped that life began to do so again; in between
snatches of song and the declamations of great literature, he sought sparks
of enlightenment among his memories of dry, dusty words and the meticulous records
of life – and death – serving the Slayer.
It turned out to be a somewhat unsettling way to occupy his thoughts, but it
certainly served to distract him from the eeriness of his surroundings and the
oppressive weight of silence that occupied them.
He’s been exploring his new world for some time before he began to suspect
that he wasn’t the only living thing wandering within the maze during the day.
He’d caught the odd glimpse of movement, hints of half seen figures that vanished
into nothingness as soon as he turned his attention towards them, but usually
they were nothing more than the echo of movements on the other side of the mirrors,
those ghosts without substance that were reflections of the outer world. Once
or twice though, he’d had the feeling that he’d disturbed something else in
the course of his explorations, something that had raced away at his approach.
At first he’d turned and hastened away from all and any such encounters, only
too mindful of the thing that seemed to be hunting for him in the night. But
as time went on he started to realize that these elusive day time encounters
lacked the bone chilling, soul shivering presence that stirred him from unsettled
dreams and warned him of encroaching danger. Emboldened by that – and driven
by an insatiable curiosity to discover as much about this world as he safely
could – he started to hunt down his previously unseen company, cautiously trying
to follow rather than fleeing from them.
In the end, he found an answer to the riddle.
Although it might be more accurate to say that it found him.
* * * * *
The room was large and somewhat imposing; a picture gallery
in some stately home, perhaps, with a row of windows running down the full length
of it on one side, and a series of decorated mirrors on the other. Old paintings
hung between each pair of windows, with spindly chairs and the occasional over
stuffed chaise longue sitting beneath them. A long, threadbare carpet protected
the highly polished wooden floor and ornate chandeliers hung from an equally
ornate ceiling above it. There were people in the gallery, milling on the other
side of the mirror; attending some kind of semi-formal buffet luncheon by the
look of their clothes and the obsequious presence of white-coated waiters. Giles
strolled down the length of the hall, feeling a disconcerted sense of isolation
in the midst of so much activity. The sense of occasion felt strangely familiar
and, at the same time, uncomfortably uninviting. This was the kind of event
where everyone was on display, where politics and pointless diplomacy generated
endless games of one-upmanship and arrogant assessments of wealth and standing.
He found himself wondering what this august and decidedly pretentious gathering
would make of the sword carrying, disheveled phantom that haunted their mirrors
– and laughed out loud at the thought, only too aware of how disreputable he
looked by now. He’d been living in the same outfit since his arrival. His casual
jacket was creased and rumpled, as was the equally casual shirt beneath it.
If he’d had a tie when he’d arrived, it had become misplaced somewhere along
the way – along with a lot of other personal property, like his wallet and his
driving license. He had the book he was using as a diary stuffed in one jacket
pocket, a couple of tasteless apples in the other, and there were several long
bladed knives thrust through his belt. Not to mention the sword which had barely
left his hand since he’d acquired it. He had at least shaved that morning -
courtesy of a rather portly gentleman in a less than swank hotel which had boasted
both mice and cockroaches out in the real world – but for all that he looked
less like a respectable librarian and a lot more like a bespectacled vagabond.
He paused as the thought came to him, mentally filing it away with the other
memories that he was starting to get into some kind of order. It didn’t add
much – but it sat rather comfortably beside those images of earnest young faces,
sitting round a table piled high with books. He’d known all along that ‘Watcher’
was a calling rather than a profession, and it was nice to know that his obvious
depth of education served him in practical as well as esoteric applications.
No wonder he’d been drawn to examine the books that he’d encountered on his
Or was that the Watcher’s instinct, eager for knowledge, continuously seeking
to observe, deduct and learn?
It was a question worth considering, but one he needed to save for a safer
place and a more certain time. The streams of sunlight cascading through the
windows were a perilous deception; he was walking too close to the outside world
to allow himself the luxury of philosophic contemplation. He turned away from
the milling crowd and started to make his way along the rest of the gallery,
hoping – as he’d been hoping every time he crossed a new threshold – that when
he left it, he’d find himself in the reflection of a room he recognized.
It hadn’t happened yet, but he went on hoping. Went on believing that
somewhere – somehow – he would find a way home.
Of course, he told himself wryly, what I really need is a guide.
That was when he spotted the cat.
It was just an ordinary, black and white cat, one with short, sleek fur and
a proud tail which it was holding up like a question mark as it stalked imperiously
along the carpet.
Except that it was his side of the mirrors – and it, like him, appeared as
nothing more than the faintest ghostly image in among the swirling company that
occupied their silvered surfaces.
"Good Lord," he exclaimed, coming to an abrupt halt and staring at
the creature in amazement. It too stopped in its tracks, considering him with
wary suspicion. For a long moment the two of them stood there, one poised as
if the slightest movement would precipitate flight, the other wide eyed and
totally speechless. Giles had imagined a lot of things, hearing the soft noises,
catching the hints of something leaving just he entered a room, but he’d never
considered that he might encounter something quite so – ordinary – stalking
through this impossible labyrinth.
The fact that it was there, of course, suggested that it was far from ordinary.
Perhaps it, like him, had somehow been brought to this place by some unseen
power. Perhaps it was an enchanted animal, something other than it seemed. Or
perhaps the entire species felis domesticus concealed skills and talents
that the average human being would never have suspected.
There were, he recalled somewhat fuzzily, a lot of superstitions concerning
the nature of cats …
This particular one apparently decided that he was no threat to it, because
it stretched rather languidly, yawned – and then rolled over, exposing its stomach
and waving its paws lazily in the air.
"Well," Giles considered, not entirely sure how to interpret this
reaction. "Hello to you, too." He crouch down slowly, so as not to
startle the animal too much, carefully laid his sword down on the carpet – its
hilt angled so that he could snatch it up again if he needed it – and gingerly
reached out his hand. There was a vague expectation, lurking at the back of
his mind, of the creature transforming into something large, savage and decidedly
ravenous - but the only thing that his hand found was soft warm fur and, while
there were claws, they were simply a light reflexive flexing as the cat squirmed
and purred under his touch.
His smile was equally reflexive – a moment of quiet delight and unexpected
pleasure. He’d been lost, alone, and on edge for so long that this chance encounter,
this sudden sense of companionship, was almost giddying. It was also utterly
"Forgive my curiosity," he asked with a quiet smile, stroking the
sleek fur and feeling its warm reality under his fingers, "but what’s a
handsome fellow like you doing in a place like this?"
Giles leapt back as if he’d been bitten, somehow managing to snatch up the
sword as he regained his feet; he hefted it warily, putting defensive steel
between himself and the animal as he tried to assess what had just happened.
The cat rolled onto its stomach and looked up at him with what looked suspiciously
like a frown of puzzlement.
"D-did – you just - ?"
No, surely not. Cats didn’t talk. But then, Watchers - or librarians - didn’t
usually hear voices, either.
The cat blinked, climbed to its feet and began to walk away.
* * * * *
It wasn’t, Giles realized once he’d got over his initial shock, really a voice
as such. It was more like a transmission of mental concepts, a sharing of thought
and impression that his mind wrestled into a perception of words. That first
exchange, for instance – the simple explanation of the cat’s presence behind
the mirrors – had actually been an extremely complex message, filled with echoes
of challenge and pleasure and prey. It had also held quieter echoes of Buffy
and her Slayer’s destiny, which might explain why it had been quite so startling
– and suggested that the sleek feline was almost certainly a lot more than he
The animal was quite definitely male, a fact suggested by its anatomy and confirmed
by its unspoken voice. Giles couldn’t recall ever having much to do with cats
in his half remembered life, although there were vague memories that had something
to do with stables and horses. Old, distanced memories – recollections of childhood
he suspected, since they came with a sense of comfort and uncomplicated pleasures.
There was one thing he was sure of though – and that was that, while
he might have occasionally conversed with a cat in the dim and distant past,
he’d never had one talk back before.
If he’d come across the animal earlier in his travels he might well have started
questioning his sanity, but he’d been in this world long enough, seen
enough to convince him that it was entirely and bewilderingly real. It had an
internal consistency that belied the deceptions of insanity. It had textures,
it had hard and harsh edges, and it followed rules.
It was just that the rules here were different.
Here, it seemed, there were two types of reality – the one the mirrors imposed
and the one that lurked, unseen and undetermined beyond the edges of the reflected
world. It was a world that held its shape only when seen, leaving the
rest to be defined by emotion and imagination. The landscapes and the dimensions
of the first were somehow imposed on the second, creating further reflections;
distorted echoes and dark, twisted replicas of things half glimpsed, half suggested
by the play of light and shadow.
The cat led him deeper into the labyrinth, its chosen route twisting and turning
through a bewildering series of rooms and passageways. They crossed wide, expansive
areas – navigating the intricacies of shopping malls and business complexes
– were swallowed up by sequences of homely, intimate rooms, emerged into stark
utilitarian spaces – one of them a waiting room in a hospital, another the echoing
emptiness of communal showers and shared locker rooms – and then moved on through
a confusion of offices, galleries, and more personal spaces. They could have
been going round in circles for all Giles knew – and in places he could have
sworn they’d doubled back, except that they clearly hadn’t since every
room they entered turned out to be somewhere different yet again. His confidence
in the systems of transition that he thought he’d managed to figure out collapsed
into perplexity and confusion – and he began to suspect that - where he’d thought
he’d been following a carefully mapped and measured route - he’d actually achieved
little more than aimless, undirected wandering.
"Where are we going?" he ventured to ask, as the cat led him out
of what looked like a school-room and down a disconcertingly angled stairway.
It wasn’t an easy guide to follow; it wasn’t leading him as a dog might, an
eager step ahead and running back at every turn to make sure he was still on
its tail. It was just making its own way through the world, walking where it
wanted to walk, slinking through the furniture or leaping onto it, pausing to
investigate nooks and crannies, running at speed or simply strolling aimlessly
as the mood took it. For all that, it was leading him – sometimes waiting
for him to catch up, sometimes appearing at his feet just as he thought he’d
lost sight of it and occasionally glancing back to make sure he was still there.
It had run down the stairs and then leapt onto the low banister at the end of
it, sitting there and taking the opportunity to wash a non-existent spot from
a pristinely white rear paw. The question – or possibly just the sound of his
voice, since they had been traveling in silence for some time – lifted its head;
deep green and amber eyes stared at him with a mixture of impatience and amusement.
Somewhere that isn’t here, the cat said matter-of-factly, leaping down
and away before Giles could formulate a sensible response. He sighed, shouldered
the sword blade and headed after it.
The route they were following seemed interminable, but at least it was going
somewhere – and after so many long silent hours on his own it was a relief to
be traveling in company again, no matter how strange that company might seem.
They both helped themselves to food as they found it, the cat leaping on something
in a shadowed corner while his human company picked up some fairly tasteless
sandwiches from a buffet that they wandered past. They had the texture of cotton
wool and about as much appeal as something that had been sitting in the fridge
for several weeks – but it was still better than going hungry. The apples -
which he’d snatched from somebody’s fruit bowl earlier that morning - were slightly
better, although not by much; they offered only a reflection of the real taste,
and he found himself questioning just how much sustenance the mirrored food
If I can’t find a way out, he pondered anxiously, will I just slowly fade
Or will I starve to death trying to live on illusions and facsimiles?
His guide reappeared from under the table, licking its lips and looking smug;
whatever it was that he’d caught, he’d clearly enjoyed eating it afterwards.
"Is it much further?" Giles asked, feeling slightly resentful that
someone had managed to find a square meal even if he couldn’t. The cat gave
him another of those amused looks.
As far as it needs to be.
It wasn’t very a helpful answer but it was remarkably informative. The concepts
behind it were extremely complicated; they contained hints of how the animal
was managing to navigate the mirrored labyrinth, matters of desire and memory
tangled up with patterns and correlations. He had been right about how the rooms
linked one to the other – but he’d been unaware of the subtler elements that
shifted random connections into directed navigation.
To actually get anywhere in this place, it seemed that you had to know where
you needed to go.
It wasn’t that easy of course; if it was, he’d have found his way to somewhere
he recognized days ago. The library, probably, since his memories of that seemed
to be stronger than anywhere else. But memory alone was clearly not enough.
There had to be a trick to it, a skill he had yet to acquire.
You think too much, the cat told him, hints of laughter lurking behind
the remark. Feel it. Want it.
Become the Way …
* * * * *
They traveled a considerable distance without incident but, as the afternoon
drew on both of them began to move with much greater caution, the cat pausing
in doorways to assess what lay beyond them while Giles cast anxious glances
over his shoulder, half convinced that something was about to happen. A few
rooms further, and just as the glow from mirrors began to become visible again,
his suspicions were finally proved correct; the sound of hissing and yowling
suddenly shattered the oppressive silences, echoing and reechoing around them
with fervent distress. His guide jerked to a halt and arched his back, puffing
out his fur so that he looked at least twice his normal size. Giles frowned,
glancing round what seemed to be a fairly innocuous living room before he realized
that the sound was coming from behind a half open door at the end of it. It
was a desperate, angry kind of sound and it was underpinned by a soft, bone
throbbing buzz - the kind of noise that crawls into your body and can’t be shaken
free again. He was instantly on edge, his fingers tightening reflexively around
the hilt of his borrowed sword and his heart racing with alarm.
What the bloody hell is that?
Thoughts of the menacing, creeping presence that stalked the night sent a cold
chill up his spine and his initial reaction was to take step back, to get away
from whatever it was that was making such a furious noise. This wasn’t his world;
it almost certainly wouldn’t be his fight.
Two things put a halt to his retreat. One was the actions of the black and
white cat, which had begun a slow and cautious stalk towards the source of the
sound. The other was something much stronger than a merely selfish survival
instinct – something in him that reacted to the sound of battle and desperate
distress. Sensible men avoid things like vampires, demons and the unseen menaces
of the dark, of course – and on his own, Rupert Giles was undoubtedly a very
sensible man. But when someone else was in trouble? Then it appeared that a
lifetime of training, an ingrained sense of duty and some inner deeper instinct
Watchers, it seemed, ran towards danger.
He didn’t have that far to go. On the other side of the half open door lay
what looked like an ornately glass roofed conservatory. One that was made up
of pleasant reflected areas where sunlight danced on white painted woven furniture,
interspersed with shadowed, threatening spaces which could not be seen in the
narrow decorative mirrors that defined the room. The darkness of the true dimension
had encroached into the gothic recesses between the glass panes; lush pot plants
were matched with writhing grotesque parodies of themselves, their blossoms
filled with sucking mouths and their vine like leaves groping eagerly for prey.
The hanging baskets were the worst. Swathe of decorative flowers had become
draping tendrils covered with a myriad of lidless eyes. They dripped slime –
and they filled the air with a musty, sickly sweet scent.
In the middle of the room – standing ground on a hand woven rag rug that was
part jewel-like colours and part washed out approximations – was a slender tortoiseshell
cat, its back arched, its hackles raised and all its claws out. Crouched at
the end of the rug, quivering up against the base of a terracotta pot, were
a pair of kittens, mewling plaintively.
Giles saw all of this, and more, as soon as he arrived in the doorway. But
it was the creatures that dipped and flitted around the besieged animal that
drew his eye and sent a shiver of horror down his spine. They weren’t the creatures
that hunted the reflected corridors in the dark; these things were too small,
and they lacked the soul chilling sense of presence that haunted his nights
– but they were something almost as bad.
House flies the size of Labradors would have been cute and fluffy compared
to these hideous nightmares; they had a mass of squirming tentacles where they
should have had legs - and too many eyes along with their blur of multiple,
buzzing wings. They filled the air with a mind numbing thrum of sound, the notes
of their flight rising and falling in discordant pitch as they darted between
the pillars and the pot plants trying to get past the yowling, hissing wildcat
that was keeping them at bay.
It took less than a moment to assess the situation; the tortoiseshell appeared
to be evenly matched against one or maybe two of the creatures, but she was
trying to track at least four, and couldn’t leave the confines of the rug without
exposing the kittens to attack. They, in turn, were trapped in their sunlit
refuge, since any attempt to bolt for the door would instantly bring them within
reach of their attackers. There was a mixture of hunger and fear painting the
air – and outside, night was fast approaching.
Once it grew dark none of them would stand a chance.
The knife was in his hand almost before he knew it. He couldn’t match his Slayer’s
strength - or her reflexes either – but that didn’t stop him from flipping the
weapon with unconscious skill, or launching it with all the force he could muster
at the nearest of the flying nightmares. His aim was both accurate and deadly;
it struck the thing just as it turned in his direction. The blade sank deep
and the force of the impact knocked the creature backwards, straight into the
reach of one of those distorted hanging baskets. There was a sudden writhing
of vines and tendrils – and the thing was gone, literally ripped apart within
Giles didn’t have time to absorb the horror of that; his actions, his flurry
of movement had attracted the attention of the rest of the swarm, and he swung
the sword up in haste as they dived in his direction. They’d clearly never encountered
sword play before; the leading creature simply impaled itself on the blade,
forcing him to use its flailing body as a bludgeon to drive back the rest. He
cursed soundly, fighting to shake the half dead creature free while trying to
dodge away from the rest of them. Writhing tentacles painted pain across his
cheek, slashed at his shoulder and raked down his right arm. Numbness followed
almost immediately, creeping out from the edges of torn skin like frost crawling
across window glass.
"Bloody hell," he swore, swinging his
weapon round with desperation. The blade cut through shimmering wings, bit down
on an armored body – and sliced away an entire cluster of eyes as the creature
tried to move away from this sudden source of pain. The thing fell to the floor
in a squirm of limbs and damaged wings, where it was immediately pounced on
by a furious, spitting bundle of tortoiseshell fur and claws. Giles took half
a step back, grimacing at the discomfort of his wounds, then hurriedly ducked
as the last of the flying things made a swooping dive in his direction. A sudden
sense of weight and force scrabbled at the small of his back – and then a black
and white furred missile was launching itself off his shoulder with a yowl fit
to wake the dead. Claws and teeth sank into a whirr of wings, forcing the creature
to the ground.
The cat leapt free as it landed, giving Giles room to drive the point of his
sword through the monster’s head; the thing writhed and struggled for a moment,
before finally falling still. Man and cat looked at each other for a moment,
one panting a little for breath, the other letting its hackles fall and its
fur return to its usual sleekness.
You fight well, came the observation, surrounded by pride at the victory,
pleasure at the kill – and a whole bundle of admiration and surprise. The wounded
Watcher had to smile at the reaction. He was a little surprised himself.
"Thank you," he acknowledged, relieved to find he’d survived the
encounter relatively intact. "You too."
The cat merely flicked his tail at that, moving away to bump noses with the
tortoiseshell and leaving Giles to gingerly examine the damage to his arm. His
jacket sleeve had absorbed most of the attack, although there was rip in it
that ran from shoulder to elbow and a matching shallow scratch in the muscle
beneath. The wound still felt numb, but the rest of his arm was beginning to
tingle - as was his cheek. There was also, he realised with a sudden shiver,
a crack in the right lens of his glasses. If he hadn’t been wearing them, he
could well have lost an eye.
"What are these things?" he wondered aloud, turning his attention
to the recovery of his sword, which was still quivering in the corpse.
Once again the answer was more concept than comment – but his mind bundled
it up and labeled it, giving it a name that was disturbingly familiar. With
it, the echoes of a bizarre rhyme, a simple piece of childhood nonsense, suddenly
took on sinister overtones.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch …
* * * * *
That night he slept with the warmth of furred bodies pressed up against his
own. The soft rumble of contented purrs lulled him into sleep – and the return
of silence woke him again, lifting him from unsettled dreams into an awareness
of tension. Something was creeping through the corridors, bringing with it an
aura of chill and a sense of ominous menace. Gold green eyes stared at him in
the semi-darkness, the cats having also been roused by the presence that stalked
Jabberwock. Be silent.
Giles didn’t need the advice, but the whisper of the name inside his head knotted
his stomach and upped his heart rate. Imagination had painted any number of
horrifying shapes for the nightly hunter – but the images the cat conveyed were
far worse than any of them. There were glimpses of teeth and claws, of burning
eyes and a barbed tongue. Spikes and scales and raking talons decorated expanses
of leathery skin, which folded and unfolded around the thing like grotesque
wings. Nor was it just the physical imagery that the cat managed to convey;
the hints of cold that crept through locked doors were, it seemed, just a taste
of the bitter, icy presence that the creature spawned around itself. A chill
that would freeze the heart and numb the soul.
His hand crept out across the covers to close around the hilt of his sword,
finding comfort in the solid weight, in the certainty of cold steel. Something,
somewhere in the back of his mind, murmured words of power – an incantation
that memory suggested would add fire and fury to the swing of the blade. Their
resonance lanced a spear of pain through his skull, as if even thinking
of magic stirred wounds he didn’t know he carried. Despite that, he fought to
remember the enchantment, enduring the stabbing effort of recall so that he
could extract the words and make them his own. By the time he was certain of
them, he was sweating, and shaking almost as badly as the kittens – but the
spell was his, and winning it had added a few more pieces of his shattered self
to the fragments that lay within his reach.
Watcher. Librarian. Spellcaster …
He didn’t think he could label himself sorcerer, although there was
a temptation to do just that; he had a feeling his mastery of magic was uncertain
– or perhaps unpracticed. One or the other. Either way, he knew it wasn’t something
he relied on as a rule. Nor was it something that came easily, or without price.
Here, that price was a nagging and unpleasant headache – but his sense of quiet
triumph far outweighed the persistence of pain. He had another weapon to call
on now, a weapon that might give even the lurking jabberwock reason to pause.
He had no intention of unlocking the door and leaping out into the corridor
to test that theory, of course, but the encounter with the bandersnatch had
shaken him badly – and he needed every advantage he could find to survive in
this strange and hostile world.
It has moved on. We can rest.
The black and white cat snuggled up against him, rolling over to stretch out
languid paws. The tortoiseshell had curled herself back around her kittens,
washing each of them in turn in order to settle them. Giles found himself smiling
at the domesticity of the scene, despite the way it was lit only by the soft
glow from the room’s mirrors. The jabberwock had indeed moved on, and the silence
had rolled back over them like a soft blanket. There was comfort in company,
no matter how strange – just as there was comfort in the cold metal under his
hand and the memory, not just of mystic words, but the faces they helped focus
and the emotions that belonged with them. That was his world, and he
would find a way back to it, find a way back to the family that waited there,
the people that he loved.
Tomorrow we must take the kittens to safety.
The thought was sleepy, and so was he; he nodded a distracted agreement to
the idea, his fingers sliding across soft fur to offer a friendly goodnight.
And then I will take you to meet the White Knight.
* * * * *
He hadn’t heard it right.
He decided that as soon as the morning light woke him; he checked and rechecked
his recollections of the night before, assured himself that the defensive incantation
was safely committed to memory, and re-ran those final, sleep filled thoughts
in the hope that they would take on a more sensible shape. They didn’t.
Since they didn’t, he convinced himself that he couldn’t have heard what he
thought he had. There wasn’t a chess game being played out in this world
behind the looking glass – just a confusing labyrinth of mirror images with
a very hostile world lurking at its boundaries. So the cat had meant something
else, and he’d been so caught up with thinking about bandersnatch and jabberwocks
that he’d let his imagination shape it into something it wasn’t.
Rather like the rest of the half glimpsed reflections really.
His wounded arm still throbbed a little, but the damage didn’t seem to be too
bad. He washed the cut again just in case and grimaced at the ruin of his shirt,
which made him look even more like a disreputable tramp. Then he made a makeshift
sling out of his jacket so he could carry the kittens and still have sensible
use of his sword. They spent an infuriating time playing the I’ll climb out
as soon as you turn your back to catch my sister game, which only ended
when their mother decided to cuff them soundly and led to Giles to rather despairingly
christening them Buffy and Dawn rather than his initial impulse to name them
Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The kittens didn’t seem to mind either way, since
they answered to neither – but it felt reassuring to have something to call
them, affirming his role as their adopted protector, no matter how short a time
it was going to be.
That lead him to asking- somewhat embarrassedly, since he hadn’t thought of
it before – if his guide had a name. The black and white cat gave him a bemused
look, considered the question for an inordinately long period of time, washed
his left flank, thought a little more, washed the end of his tail, and then
announced something that vaguely translated as:
Thinker among the shadows, hunter of things unseen, seeker of new places,
one who sleeps where he pleases and walks where he will.
"Oh," Giles reacted, perfectly aware that the complex concept with
which the animal had just labeled himself didn’t really have a human
translation, no matter what his interpretive understanding of it might be. The
cat gave another quick lick to his tail and added, with the hint of a laugh:
But you can call me Ari.
I might answer to that.
"Ah." That one was a little easier to manage. Ari, as in
- Aristophenes? Aristotle? Thinker among the shadows … Yes, it fit.
"Yes. All right. Thank you, Ari. My name is Rupert. Rupert Emrys Giles
– although it seems to be just Giles as a rule …" He tailed off,
realizing that that was what his – his family? – called him. Which was
a little odd, but strangely comforting. Apposite and right. Ari’s tail flicked,
expressing some indefinable emotion, and then he leapt to his feet and started
to lead the way out of the hotel room.
Just Giles, he noted, almost in passing. It fits you well.
Which was something of a compliment, given that the cat’s concept behind the
just was not the simple adverb use meaning ‘and nothing more’, but closer
to the more complex adjective implying ‘of moral excellence’…
* * * * *
He hadn’t been entirely sure about what Ari had meant by ‘taking the kittens
to safety’. He’d vaguely imagined some well reflected area, filled with hiding
places and little or no direct connection to the world beyond the mirrors’ reach.
Maybe a place where there would be other cats, or some other creature capable
of offering defence. What he hadn’t expected was a mundane, ordinary
sitting room, with a big mirror over the fireplace and another full length one
set into an alcove behind a set of shelves. The shelves had all sorts of things
scattered along them; a row of books, a few intricate figurines – dragons mostly
– an oil burner, a pottery chalice, a white and a black handled knife …
"Good lord," Giles reacted, taking a closer look around the room.
Sure enough, the paintings had an occult, pagan theme, the cushions had arcane
symbols embroidered on them, and there was a statue of a squat female gargoyle
sitting – well, squatting – beside the fireplace.
That was the tortoiseshell cat, moving to peer warily through the bottom of
the full-length mirror. Her voice was soft and hard to catch, even in the silences.
Ari leapt up onto the arm of the overstuffed armchair with its moon and star
patterned throw and from there onto the mantelpiece. He too peered into the
real room through the shimmer of the mirror.
Good. There’s time.
The tortoiseshell started to nose at the mirror – then stopped, turning to
glare at Giles with sudden hostility.
Go away, she ordered, with unexpected force and volume. She backed
the command with an indrawn hiss and a ruffling of her hackles. So imperious
was the command that he took a startled step backwards, his hand tightening
on the hilt of his sword.
A black and white panther leapt down from the mantelpiece; Ari’s back was arched
and his fur puffed out so that he was once again almost twice his normal size.
It is forbidden, the tortoiseshell insisted. No human may see …
… unless the Way is known, Ari capped forcefully, staring the female
down with determination.
"Ah – " Giles wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, but he had
a feeling he’d been about to trespass on something as sacred to the cats as
his duty to his Slayer was to him – and, if that was the case, could well understand
the tortoiseshell’s discomfort at his presence. He gently placed his jacket
– and the kittens – down on the sofa. "I can – always – wait outside,"
he suggested, waving his hand towards the door they’d used to enter the room
and taking a half step in that direction. Quick as lightning, Ari was there
before him, filling the doorway with fur and fury.
Stay, he commanded, so fiercely that Giles could
swear he heard the primal snarl of leopards echo inside his head.
Go, the tortoiseshell asserted adamantly, jumping onto the arm of
the sofa with all her claws extended. You shouldn’t be here.
No, Ari agreed, leaping to the opposite arm. His tail was still fluffed
up with anger, and his whiskers bristled as he glared at his fellow feline.
He shouldn’t be.
But he is.
The logic of this was inescapable. The tortoiseshell’s indignation instantly
subsided, and she covered the potential embarrassment of the moment with a few
quick licks to her side.
Maybe, she hedged, concentrating on her wash. But that doesn’t make
Ari padded along the sofa, past the watching kittens, and jumped up to rub
his forehead along her shoulder. A thought went between them – something so
soft and complex that Giles knew he’d have no chance of catching it, let alone
Very well, the tortoiseshell allowed after a moment or two. She turned
her head to stare at him, giving him the kind of slow consideration that only
a cat can. He should give a life.
He only has one,
Ari laughed with sudden amusement, rolling over – and managing to tumble himself
off the sofa’s arm and onto its cushions.
"That’s – uh … very true," Giles acknowledged warily. Had they just
made him an honorary cat - or had Ari been arguing that his being here,
in this bizarre world behind the mirrors, automatically made him one? "And
I’d - um – prefer to hang on to it, really. Given a choice," he added,
a little apologetically. He didn’t want to sound ungrateful, but …
Swear on it, then.
Ari had regained his feet and was all dignified business again.
Swear on your life that you will keep the secret of the Way – and that you
will honour those who follow it.
This is our gift and our duty – to walk between the worlds, to guard their
many doorways and to hunt the darkness that would devour the light.
Giles blinked in surprise. He’d been right. Ari was the feline equivalent
of a Slayer – or something like one, anyway. Then he blinked again, his eyes
going wide as he realized what the cat had actually said. "You hunt
– jabberwocks?" he queried a little faintly. Vampires and demons were bad
But those things …?
Green eyes considered him with amusement. When we have to.
Only if we have to, the tortoiseshell interrupted impatiently. Will you
"Yes – yes, of course." It was an easy oath to offer, almost a reaffirmation
of one he’d taken a long time ago. He hesitated for a minute, feeling that there
ought to be some kind of ceremony involved, then settled for grounding the point
of the sword in the carpet and going down on one knee so that he could look
the two cats straight in the eye. They settled side by side on the sofa – the
kittens wrestling unnoticed behind them – and waited for him to speak.
"I … uh … Rupert Giles, do hereby solemnly swear to keep the secret of
the Way, and to honour those who follow it." He felt oddly self-conscious,
offering such a binding promise to a pair of cats in an otherwise empty room
– an otherwise empty world in many ways – but he knew it was important,
and he knew he had to do it right. "I swear this on my life – and,"
he added, realizing there was only one way he could make the vow as binding
as it needed to be, "on my oath as a Watcher, which demands that I dedicate
that life to the defense of the world and the service of my Slayer."
It was Ari’s turn to blink.
You are one who Watches? You serve she who walks in the night, and hunts
as we do?
"Yes." Giles nodded, wishing he’d been able to piece together more
than tantalizing fragments of recent memory. He knew who and what he was,
but the how and the where remained frustratingly out of his reach. He was sure
about Buffy, though. She was the one thing he was absolutely certain
of. "Yes, I do."
Ari glanced towards the tortoiseshell as if to say ‘I told you so’. She simply
stood up and gave herself a little shake.
Then Watch and learn, she said.
He watched her do it twice; once for each kitten, their tiny bodies curled
up into a reflexive ball as she grabbed them by the scruff of their neck and
took them home.
Through the mirror.
There was nothing spectacular about it. There were no bright lights, no magical
incantations, and no dramatic gestures either, unless you counted the flicker
of a cat’s tail as it stepped from one world to the next. The surface of the
mirror bowed a little as her nose made contact – and then she was slipping through
it as if it were water and not glass, her passage creating the barest of ripples
that shimmered out from around her body.
The reflected room, Giles noted a little uneasily, rippled in almost exactly
the same way.
"Can – every cat do this?" he asked, stepping up beside the shelves
to run a wary hand over the chilled surface of the glass. It bowed and flexed
a little under his touch, but gave no sign of melting away, or allowing him
any kind of passage.
Ari’s answer was confidently succinct.
To walk the Way, you must know the Way.
It comes from the blood.
Giles turned and frowned at him, wondering if he’d understood the answer right.
The obvious interpretation was that it was an inherited skill, but the concept
had felt much more complicated than that. There was something in there about
having the skill to do it, but not being able to do it until you’d already
done it at least once. Which didn’t make any sense at all – until the tortoiseshell
came back for the second kitten, and the explanation dawned with a sense of
quiet chagrin. The ability was probably innate, passed down from mother to child
– but it only became active if the cat concerned had been born this side
of the mirrors, their first breath taken in reflected air.
Making us truly of two worlds, Ari told him, as if he’d been following
the twist and the turn of his thoughts. Perhaps he had. After everything else
that had been happening, Giles wouldn’t be at all surprised.
"But you - give up a life to do it," he hazarded slowly, recalling
the comment with a sense of unease. Ari was perched on the corner of the mantelpiece;
his tailed twitched and his mouth opened with a hint of silent laughter.
But you’d have to be a cat to understand that joke …
* * * * *
Once the kittens and their mother were safely ensconced on the real sofa, back
in the real world, Ari led the way back into the labyrinth, boxing at shadows
in a mercurial display of high spirits. Giles lingered for a moment, hanging
back to catch one last envious glimpse of the tortoiseshell and her family.
He wondered if the witch who shared their lives had an inkling of the special
gifts the kittens now possessed – or the sacred duty those gifts would demand
of them as they grew older. Whether she did or not, it was likely that she’d
be overjoyed at her companion’s safe return; going by how old the kittens were,
the tortoiseshell had to have been missing for several days.
He sighed at the thought, hefting the sword back onto his shoulder and striding
after Ari before the cat disappeared completely from view. He wasn’t sure just
how long he’d been wandering in this strange, silent world, but it felt like
forever. Were his family missing him? Were Buffy and the others searching
for him, or mourning him? Did they think him lost forever?
Or had they even noticed that he was gone?
There was disconcertion underlying that consideration. Not that he’d thought
of it – but that, having thought of it – he found himself fearing it might be
true. If only he could remember. His memories of the past were becoming
clearer, but most of them seemed to be those of distant, long ago events. Whenever
he tried to focus on recent history his efforts stirred the lurking,
nagging headache into a raging protest of pain.
He went back and mentally walked through it again, frowning at the fog that
still obscured the important details. He could recall fragments of his childhood,
including the day his father took him aside and solemnly informed him of his
birthright, his destiny to serve the Slayer. There were glimpses of rebellion
in his academic years – glimpses his mind shied away from for some reason –
and memories of returning to the fold, of being trained and tutored in the most
obscure of subjects and skills. After that things fractured a little more, becoming
hints and images, patterns of names and faces, of places and events. He had
a clear picture in his head of Buffy, standing in the library protesting her
destiny – and of later, less certain occasions, times when the other members
of his adopted family drifted through and lingered with a sense of warmth and
The headache began to pound at the back of his skull as he tried to follow
what remained; the slender threads of memory unraveling into disjointed flashes
that had no context or meaning. A young man in combat fatigues. A shiver of
something primitive and very powerful. A place – not the library – filled with
shelves and books and other objects. A bleached blond vampire fighting beside
him, rather than against him. Buffy and her sister. Xander and a rather attractive
blonde woman. Willow and an equally attractive but far shyer blonde companion
of her own. A shadowed tower. A man lying on the ground …
Pain flared with almost unbearable savagery, making him gasp and stagger. The
world pitched around him and he was forced to seek the support of the nearest
wall while he fought down a surge of dizziness and nausea.
Are you all right?
Ari had to repeat the question, emphasizing it with an added piirupp?
of sound. The pressure of solicitous paws on his thigh lifted Giles from his
self inflicted misery, and he looked down, finding the cat standing on his hind
legs so that he could push his nose into the curl of a shaking palm.
"Oh, Lord," he sighed, letting his weight slide down the support
of the wall until he was sitting on sketchy linoleum. Ari immediately climbed
into his lap; they sat like that for a moment or two, the man letting the impact
of pain slide away while the cat purred reassuringly and let himself be petted
by distracted fingers. "No," Giles breathed eventually, giving his
companion a friendly scratch behind his left ear. "I’m not all right. I
- I seem to be incomplete … bits of me missing. I’m lost, Ari. I’ve lost myself
as well as my way, and something tells me I need to find one before I can find
the other. But it’s hard. Like – trying to sort through pieces of broken glass."
Memories and mirrors share many aspects, Ari observed philosophically.
And both need light to give them purpose. He licked at his company’s
hand in much the same way that the mother cat had offered comfort to her kittens.
The White Knight knows many things. Perhaps he will know your way.
* * * * *
If there was one thing that Giles was certain of, it was that
the world behind the mirrors was never quite what it seemed. The residence of
the White Knight turned out to be a perfect illustration of this rule – as did
the White Knight himself, who wasn’t at all what he expected.
Although he matched the name the cats had given him exactly.
Strictly speaking – and since cats didn’t actually speak as such, that
was something it was hard to be strict about – it wasn’t White Knight
at all. It was closer to one old and noble, sworn to defend, honoured and
honourable, serving the light. All of which Giles had, for some subconscious
reason, translated into Looking Glass terms; probably because the concept sat
so comfortably alongside the terrors of the bandersnatch and the jabberwocks
– not to mention his being on the wrong side of the mirrors to begin with.
Ari had led him into what looked like yet another hotel, this one mellowed
with age and seasoned with expensive touches. There were long carpeted corridors
with doors off at regular intervals, impressive meeting rooms with oak paneling
offsetting the ancient silvered mirrors that gave them shape, curtained foyers
containing delicate works of art, and a sweeping staircase complete with intricate
balustrading. He felt remarkably at home in this mellowed, comfortable environment,
and a lot safer than he had for days. That was mostly because of the cats.
He hadn’t seen another living soul since he and Ari had left the tortoiseshell
and her kittens safe at home, but as soon as they passed through the first panelled
doorway, he spotted a brindled feline lying half asleep on a table. That cat
leapt to its feet and glared at him until Ari trotted over with a friendly meow,
and one of those too quick and soft to follow exchanges of thought. After that,
Giles began to see cats everywhere; sitting on the furniture, lying on window
ledges, or just standing, watching him pass. They all watched him pass.
It was as if a whispered message had gone ahead of them, announcing his arrival,
and stirring curiosity among all the Walkers of the Way. They weren’t hostile
glares, just inscrutable ones; he was studied and assessed by dozens of eyes
– deep green ones, soft amber and even a pair that were a brilliant blue. The
Siamese fell into step behind him as he crossed that particular room. Several
others joined the parade as they went so that, by the time he and Ari descended
the stairs and arrived at their destination, they were flanked by a flood of
fur, one that spilled past them to scatter itself across every available surface.
Giles himself came to an abrupt halt, looking around in astonishment.
He knew this place. For the first time since he’d entered this world
behind the mirrors, he’d arrived in recognisable location.
"Good Lord," he reacted, looking down at Ari. "The White Knight
lives in the Savoy?"
"The only place a respectable Englishman would choose to live, don’t you
think?" The comment was soft and quietly amused. "The Ritz is so passé
these days. Besides, it’s convenient for the theatre. And I do like good performance.
When I get the chance."
Giles looked up. There was a group of overstuffed armchairs off to one side
of the foyer, grouped around a low, gilt-edged table. Sitting in one of them,
with a cat curled up in his lap and another stretched out along the back of
his chair, was a man.
A very old man.
He was weathered and wizened by his age, his thin white hair clinging to the
spotted skull beneath it like tufted sea grass creeping across a tide washed
sand dune. His face and hands were wrinkled and lined, heavy with the leathering
of years, and his body had a shrunken look about it, as if his muscles had withered
away, leaving nothing but skin and bones behind. For all that, his eyes were
bright and clear, an intimation of keen intellect lurking in their piercing
depths. He was wearing what looked like a rumpled dressing gown made of quilted
dark green silk – and a matching pair of velvet carpet slippers.
"Forgive me if I don’t get up," he was saying, with a hint of self-depreciation.
"But it’s somewhat of a performance these days. Very undignified really.
I try to avoid moving unless I have too."
"No, no … th- that’s fine," Giles assured him, his manners kicking
in with instinctive reaction while the rest of him floundered in astonishment.
"Please – don’t put yourself out on my account."
"Oh, I won’t," the old man said with confidence. His voice was soft
but rich, accented with gently aristocratic tones. "I’m far too old to
bother with such ritual inconveniences. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be polite
about it. I don’t get many visitors. In fact," he considered, looking briefly
concerned, "I think you’re the first for … Well," he smiled. "The
first for a while, anyway. Unless you count the cats. Which isn’t a very productive
occupation. Counting cats, I mean."
"No," Giles agreed a little bemusedly. "I- I don’t suppose it
"Well. Don’t just stand there. Come in. Sit down. I’d offer you
tea, but … I don’t recommend it. Nasty stuff. Tastes as if it’s been strained
through a sock. One that’s been in the laundry basket several days. Pity that."
The old man sighed, shifting a little to get himself comfortable. "I used
to like taking tea at the Savoy."
"Yes," Giles concurred warily, deciding he probably ought to do as
he was told. "It – um … used to be a real treat." He moved to where
he was being motioned, sinking into one of the deeply padded chairs and propping
his sword up against the arm of it. Ari leapt onto the fabric and sat beside
him, posing there like an Egyptian statue. "Umm … this – umm … probably
sounds like a silly question, but – ah … have you been here … long?"
The old man laughed, a soft wheezing chuckle that ended in an equally wheezy
cough. "Long enough," he answered, once he’d got his breath back.
He leaned forward, studying his guest with a discomforting intensity. "I,"
he said, "am Geoffrey Davenport. A lost soul, you could say. And you. Who
– or what are you?"
"Um … Giles. Rupert Giles. I-I think." The admission of doubt earned
him a raised eyebrow and a look of amusement.
"You think? You think? No, no. You have to be sure here. Here
the slightest doubt will twist you and reshape you before you know it. This
world reflects what it sees."
"I – uh – noticed. But … what about the things it doesn’t see?"
"Oh," the old man chuckled, waving a dismissive hand. "It makes
those up as it goes along. What did you say your name was?"
"Giles," Giles repeated defining himself with a little more certainty
Just Giles, swift with the sword, certain of heart, Watcher and wise among
men, Ari interjected firmly, his tail twitching a little. I found him
walking the Way. Or trying to, he added smugly. He’s not very good at
"Is that so?" Davenport reacted, looking surprised. He reached out
a cautious hand and touched Giles’ arm. "You’re real," he breathed,
the tentative touch becoming a lurch forward and a determined grab. The cat
in his lap was thrown rather unceremoniously onto the floor. "You’re really
The old man’s fingers were thin and mostly bone; they sank into the solidness
of flesh with a grip like steel. Giles winced. "Ah – yes. Yes, I am. Although
… I don’t know why, or how."
"You don’t?" Davenport considered, staring at him with disturbing
intensity. "No idea at all?" His fingers were clenched around his
visitor’s bicep with determined fervour. Giles wondered if had any way to convince
the old man that he wouldn’t fade into mist the minute he let go.
"No. No, I – I just found myself here ... well, part of myself,
anyway. The details seem … a little fuzzy."
"They often are, here." Davenport went on staring, studying him the
way a moth collector might study the unknown specimen caught in his jar. "Don’t
you know your Alice, my boy? Let's pretend there's a way of getting
through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let's pretend the glass has got all soft like
gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it's turning into a sort of mist now,
I declare! It'll be easy enough to get through … And it was, and it is,
but only the cats know how that’s done. Know how to walk the Way. There
are other ways into Looking Glass House. But they’re hard to find."
His eyes twinkled with sudden amusement. "Harder still to find a way out."
He finally let go, and sat back, leaving behind a lingering and bruised impression
of his wizened fingers. "I never did."
His conclusion came with a wry smile, one that hinted at a subtle instability.
Giles gave him a wary, and slightly worried, look. The world behind the mirrors
trembled at the very edges of sanity – and so, it seemed, did Geoffrey Davenport.
Tread carefully, Ari recommended, offering the comment behind the
cover of a washed paw. He doesn’t know if you can be trusted, yet …
This sounded like good advice, especially since Giles was thinking much the
same thing about the wizened figure in front of him. On the other hand, how
sane was he, taking advice from a cat?
"So … Lewis Carroll," he questioned slowly, thinking that literature,
at least, was something he could discuss with confidence. "The things he
wrote about – this world, the bandersnatch, t-the jabberwock … they really exist
Davenport chuckled softly.
"In a way. I don’t think he ever truly came here, though. It was a dream,
perhaps. People often come here in dreams. They walk past a mirror, giving it
a glimpse of themselves, and a little of them lingers in the glass. Their image
wanders the halls and it takes memories of them back next time they meet their
reflection. That’s what I thought you were at first. A fetch. A fantasy. Nothing
but an echo, caught between a glimpse and a glance. But you’re real. As real
as I am. And just as lost, it would seem. Did you come here of your own accord?"
"I don’t know." Giles leaned back into the padded chair and sighed,
expressing some of the frustration of his situation. "I can’t remember.
I wish I could."
"But you remembered you’re a Watcher." The question was pointed;
the old man leant forward a little, his eyes glittering with challenge.
Ari had already said as much, so there didn’t seem much point in denying it
– but Giles had to wonder how Davenport knew about his calling, what made him
ask the question quite so bluntly. He’d even given the title its appropriate
capital letter. You could hear it in his voice. Watcher.
"Yes," he nodded warily. "That I remember."
The answer seemed to be the appropriate one. Davenport returned the nod with
a sage one of his own. "Hard to forget, I should think. Earned yourself
a Slayer, yet?"
"Ah … " Earned? Was that how he’d describe it? "Well,
there is a Slayer I serve …" He paused, his eyes going wide and
a sudden cold shiver running down his spine. "She … died," he realized,
struggling with the horror of the unexpected memory, the recollection of his
heart being ripped in two.
"They do that," the old man noted, sharing the thought with the cat
at his shoulder. "Don’t last long, you know. Not written into their destiny."
Giles barely heard him. His soul was shattering all over again, splitting into
jagged, unbearable pieces of pain.
Something butted against his chest, a persistent demand for attention; he looked
down to find Ari sitting on his lap, pushing a warm nose inside his shirt and
purring loudly. So loudly that the vibration of it rumbled through every inch
"Are you all right?" Davenport was asking solicitously. "You
– ah … drifted away for a moment. Went almost transparent. Not a good thing
to do around here."
"Uh – what? No. No, I –I suppose not," Giles said bemusedly, wrapping
his arms around Ari’s solid warmth. The contact helped drive away the shivering
chill that had seized hold of him; the tears that had tracked their way down
his cheeks had left a trail of ice behind them. "I’m – I’m sorry,"
he apologised, hastily reaching to wipe away the wetness as he realized what
a spectacle he was making of himself. "I- I – um – I didn’t expect …"
"Of course you didn’t," the old man interrupted, waving his hand
to dismiss the apology as unimportant. "Bad enough the first time, I should
think. Having it all come back like that … well – not the pleasantest of experiences,
by the look of it. Shook your sense of self … and that’s all we have
around here. You lose that – you risk losing everything. Which, I’d say,"
he added perceptively, "is what losing her felt like at the time.
Am I right?"
Giles nodded, still wrestling with the intensity of the memory. Images of Buffy’s
broken body flashed through his mind, along with echoes of unbearable grief
– and a disconcertedly stubborn knowledge that, despite all that, she still
needed him. That he needed to get back …
"Those that wait to Watch," Davenport considered ruefully,
talking as much to their feline company as anyone else, "think that being
assigned a Slayer would be the greatest of privileges. Even getting a Potential
to care for is seen as a way of gaining status. But those who do … "
He sighed, giving his company a wryly sympathetic look. "It takes a hard
heart not to care, young man. Don’t curse yours for failing you in that
The word stirred further memories, setting his mind spinning again.
Something about the Potentials …
"I- I don’t," Giles murmured distractedly. "Were you
a Watcher? Is that how you -"
"Know?" The question was amused. "About Slayers and Potentials,
about the Council and the cause? No." He said it with matter of fact confidence.
"No, it’s not that simple. I wish it was. I probably wouldn’t be here,
if that was the case. Although - you are. So perhaps – if things had
been different … We never know our fate," he considered slowly, leaning
back in his chair and steepling his fingers over his chest. "My intentions
were good. My research was meticulous. And my downfall was hubris. I’ve been
paying for that ever since. I was born into the order. But I was the younger
son of a younger son. My older brother was assured there was a place for him
in training once he’d left the Academy – and I was told the calling had passed
me by. That I should focus my attentions on serving the Council in other ways.
I rather resented that. I was a far better student than my brother; I felt he
was a … somewhat stodgy and unimaginative prospect compared to myself. But –
tradition, you know? The calling falls to the first born in the line and – if
they test positive … the second born doesn’t get much of an opportunity
to protest their view on destiny."
"No," Giles agreed with a remnant of personal resentment. "The
first born doesn’t get much chance of that, either."
"It’s a calling," Davenport reminded him. "Being chosen
can be hard – but being passed over … not even being offered a chance to be
assessed - that’s much harder, believe me. I was bitter about it for
years. But the Council … " His expression twisted into a telling grimace.
"Often has need of other talents. Mine turned towards restoration
and preservation: the transcribing of records and the maintenance of artifacts.
I was very good at that … and it gave me access to the great repository of knowledge
and history in the order’s archives."
Ari had clearly decided this was going to be a long story; he flopped down
and rolled over, making himself comfortable in the crook of his supporter’s
arm. Giles leant back into the depths of the chair, abstractedly stroking the
cat’s soft white belly fur while he watched the old man and tried to make sense
of what he was saying.
"I buried my resentment in study. In research. I learned a great many
things I probably wasn’t meant to know – including a few things nobody else
did. That was how I found out about the Walkers of the Way – from a very
old and crumbling papyrus I extracted from a set of Canopic jars I was given
to investigate … one of the finds from the Kingman expeditions. You’ve heard
of David Kingman, I suppose?"
Giles nodded. The mention of the name had instantly brought the knowledge to
mind: there’d been a time, back at the turn of the century, when the Council
had been very active in the retrieval of ancient artifacts – mostly because
so many other eager archeologists were busy retrieving them with no idea of
what sort of trouble they might get themselves into by doing so. Kingman had
led a number of expeditions to Egypt, earning himself a reputation for meticulous
and thorough scholarly work – at least until he was strangled by the mummified
tomb guardian that he and his team had managed to awaken on his final trip.
"Of course you have. His texts are probably still required reading at
the Academy. Did you study his work on Bubastis?"
The city dedicated to Bast. The cat headed goddess, patron of Egypt’s sacred
Giles glanced down at Ari, and then round the room with wary consideration.
There were cats draped everywhere, watching the two men in their midst with
"Yes," Davenport chuckled, nodding his acknowledgement of the connection.
"I know. That’s what I discovered – or re-discovered , perhaps. The secret
the priestesses of Bast took to their graves. Cats have been walking these places
since the dawn of time. Ever since the goddess’ first cat – her own child, they
said - was dragged through a mirror so that the demon that did it could take
her place and feed on the souls of her worshippers. What the demon didn’t know,"
he confided, leaning forward to share the information with a smug grin, "was
that the sacred cat was pregnant – and that she survived the terrors of the
world behind the silver mirror, raised her kittens to become warriors – and
sent them back to slay the demon and free the souls it had devoured."
Salla Bu-shabis, Ari commented, flexing his paws and purring softly.
Mother of us all. In her name we walk the Way and guard the many doorways
of the world.
May she guard and guide us. A chorus of feline thoughts rippled around
the room. Until we walk together once again.
"Good Lord," Giles murmured, struck by the quiet reverence in their
shared refrain. "They take this really seriously, don’t they?"
"They do – and they don’t," Davenport smiled, putting back a bony
hand to stroke the cat lying along the back of his chair. "Cats never take
anything entirely seriously. But who and what they are is important to them.
They were sacred back then – servants of the gods – and here, they still hold
to that status and that duty. Took me a while to understand that. The Walkers
are not pets, my friend. They are free and independent spirits. They cannot
be commanded – only watched over with love."
"Just like a Slayer." Giles’ comment was soft, delivered with a quiet
sigh and a great deal of feeling. He could remember – somewhere, in among the
fractured patterns of his past – the anger and the sadness he had felt, finding
that the men in charge of the Council had no grasp of that concept, no understanding
of the nature of their duty, or the cause they were sworn to serve. To those
men, the Slayer was no more than an expendable instrument, a weapon to be wielded
without thought or consideration. How many Watchers, he wondered, had taken
up their post only to find – as he had done – just how wrong that perception
was? Had they felt as he had felt, the day their Slayer died ...?
"Exactly," Davenport was saying. "Hard lesson to learn. To try
and mold such a creature without regard to their will – just, can’t be done,
can it? Not without breaking something. My brother’s Slayer broke," he
announced, watching his company with a shrewd consideration. "My brother
with her. He never forgave himself for her death – and nor, I think, have you
"No such mistake for me. Not here. Not among these fine felines. I love
them and I let them go, hard as it is. You’d be well advised to do the same."
"I did." Recollections were falling into place, like scattered pieces
of an unfinished puzzle. The old man’s words had triggered a recollection that
warmed his heart and soothed his fractured soul – a certainty that he couldn’t
place as yet, but was there, as surely as Ari’s warm and furry pelt beneath
his hand. "It was difficult, but I had no choice. She did her duty. Fulfilled
her destiny. She died saving the world. There was nothing I could do but
let her go. And then she came back."
Brought back, memory suggested, although by whom he wasn’t so sure.
It didn’t really matter. The terror and the pain of the earlier moment were
past and unimportant. By some miracle or other, Buffy was still part of his
And she needed him …
"Came back?" Davenport straightened up and stared at him in
bewilderment. "She died and … Are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be." Giles grimaced apologetically. "I know
it doesn’t make any sense, but – Buffy is alive, and I have to get back to her.
Wherever she is," he added, frowning at his inability to retrieve concrete
facts to underpin the certainties his emotions were offering him.
"Well, of course you do," the old man said, still looking a little
bewildered. "A Watcher belongs with his Slayer …" He went on frowning
for a moment, then shook his head and sat back with a quiet sigh. "If a
cat like Ari here can walk the Way whenever he pleases, and bring me a living
soul to talk to after all these years – well, who’s to say a Slayer can’t come
back from the dead? Miracles have been known to happen."
"Yes," Giles agreed. "I- I suppose they have."
He’d unearthed a memory of holding Buffy in his arms, her body warm and solid
and very, very much alive, her heart thumping behind ribs with too little flesh
on them. It seemed a very important memory, one he frowned over, trying to place
its context among the shattered snippets of his missing life. How could he have
"Mr Davenport?" he asked warily, "what are you doing
here? How did you …?"
"… Get stuck inside the mirrors?" Davenport completed with a wry
grin. "Long story. Thought I was telling it to you, actually. That Slayer
of yours keeps distracting us both. Now – where was I? Oh, yes – the papyrus.
The legend about the cats. Most people would probably have just dismissed it
as mere myth, but I – I was intrigued. You work for the Council for any length
of time and you learn there’s a good deal of truth in myth. As well as a great
many lies, of course. I began to – watch, I suppose you could say. Cats, not
Slayers, that is. I read everything I could get my hands on: grimoires, histories,
legends, old texts and more recent treatises. I studied folklore, I researched
rituals, and I even sought out initiation into an obscure cat cult. All in secret,
of course. The order tends to frown on extra curricula involvements like that.
Did in my day, anyway … I learnt a great deal about the mysterious and wonderful
felis domesticus: habits, preferences, activities … biology, behaviour
.. but not a hint about what I was really looking for."
The Watcher had to smile at the chagrin in the old man’s voice. It had a ring
of familiarity, helping to evoke the frustrations of seemingly fruitless research,
the need to revise and re-visit time and time again. He could recall, it seemed,
endlessly long hours spent pouring over apparently irrelevant volumes, their
contents useless for the task in hand – only to find the work invaluable on
some later occasion, when the pages came back to mind, just when they were needed
"You’ve been there, I take it?" Davenport’s look was shrewd, and
Giles nodded, acknowledging their shared experiences.
"You looked elsewhere," he suggested softly. The old man laughed.
"I did indeed. I studied mirrors and the myths about mirrors, about mirror
magic and illusions, about transportation spells, the rites to summon unseen
spirits, and rituals for the opening of doorways. The more I researched, the
more I wanted to know. I even took to carrying a copy of Alice,
pouring over it for hours in the belief that Carroll had known much more than
he’d been prepared to reveal. Cats and mirrors. My specialty. My obsession."
"My foolish, fateful folly."
Davenport sighed, expressing an acceptance of something he’d managed to come
to terms with a long time ago – and yet still regretted, still grieved over,
despite there being nothing he could do. Giles had the uncomfortable impression
that he was familiar with that feeling too, although he couldn’t quite put his
finger on why …
"I became quite an expert. I learnt to do all these – little tricks –
with the mirrors. I could, for instance, make them reflect, just for a moment,
other things. Someone else, for instance …glimpses of the past, hints of other
places. Even things I’d never even seen. But I never came close to the doorway
I was seeking. Never quite believed it enough."
"Until the day I saw one of the Walkers step into a mirror – and vanish
His audience nodded once again, understanding what he meant. Giles wouldn’t
have believed it himself – until he’d seen it happen, until he’d seen the tortoiseshell
take her kittens home
"I’d gone back to the family estate for a while. To look after my brother.
After the loss of his Slayer … well, I don’t have to tell you about that,
do I? No," he decided, clearly seeing the look that had chased across his
company’s face. "Let’s skip that bit, shall we? Suffice it to say, the
two of us spent long hours, walking, keeping each other company. Sometimes he’d
talk, and I’d listen – or I’d talk, and he’d ignore me. Most of the time, though,
we’d keep our own council. Days of quiet silence. In good weather we’d walk
outside, around the house, down to the barns, out to the stables – wherever
we felt like. But when it rained – we’d pace the corridors, room after room,
one after another. That’s when I saw it. There was this - grizzled old queen,
one of the good farm mousers that the cook had encouraged into the house in
her old age – and a much younger cat, both of them lurking by the fire in the
picture gallery and both of them, I thought, seeking sanctuary from the weather.
My brother barely glanced at them – but I was in the habit of watching for cats,
the way he watched for vampires. So I saw it. Saw the moment when the young
tom stepped away from the fire, jumped up onto the mantelshelf – and stepped
out of the world altogether."
"My brother must have thought me utterly mad. I rushed back into the room
and practically tore the mirror down from the wall. But the cat was gone. The
glass was solid and the old queen just sat there on the rug and looked at me
as if she knew all the mysteries of the world and wasn’t going to tell me one
"She didn’t have too. I had the proof I needed, and the impetus to return
to my studies with renewed enthusiasm. There was a way. I just had to
find it. I thought – I knew – that if I could just do that, could prove
to the fools on the Council that I was just as valuable, could contribute just
as much as any one of their precious Watchers … no offence intended, I should
"None taken," Giles smiled, shifting Ari’s relaxed weight into a
more comfortable spot on his lap. He had a feeling that’d he’d never been one
of the favoured few. As far as he could recall he hadn’t been considered worthy
enough to be assigned a Potential at an early age, and – hadn’t he inherited
Buffy in some way? From a somewhat maverick Watcher who’d only tracked her down
after she’d been called. The man had been killed on Watch and … what had
his name been?
"Pride, my friend, can be a great inspiration. And impatience a greater
pitfall." Davenport returned to his tale with a hint of quiet regret. He
had, his audience suspected, been waiting a long time to tell someone his story.
It would have grown over the years, and then dwindled again, made large by being
dwelt on, and reduced to distance by time. "I returned to my research,
going back over things I’d already dismissed, and eventually, I found a way.
Just a little one … just a possibility … but a way. Not the Way,
but I didn’t know about that then. I just wanted to see what lay behind the
mirrors. I thought I’d find a world full of wonders, and littered with secrets.
Which I did, of course, much good it did me. I didn’t tell anyone what I was
up to – and I was so certain of returning that same day, that I never even bothered
to leave so much as a note behind me."
"That was over fifty years ago. I’ve been here ever since."
"Good Lord," Giles reacted, sitting up to stare at him in amazement.
"I know." Davenport smiled wryly. "Hard to believe, isn’t it?
But it’s true. I never found a way out. I found the right places, I even found
one or two of the right people, but – I don’t think anyone cared about me enough
to notice I was gone. Certainly not enough to come looking for me. The Walkers
may come and go as they please. But for those who lack their particular gifts,
the only certain way out is to be called out. As you were called in,
I suspect. This is a dark and distorted place, Giles. A twisted, treacherous
version of the world you and I know. The Walkers guard the doorways, and try
to keep the darkness and the hunger from oozing through – but it’s there, all
the same. Waiting. Watching. Wanting what we have and it can never know."
"Jabberwocks," Giles breathed, remembering the presence hunting in
the passageways, the sense of something dark and dreadful lurking in the night.
"Jabberwocks – and bandersnatch, and siligoths and dandagyre. All kinds
of things you’ve never even heard of – and possibly one or two you have, but
which are spoken of in hushed tones and disbelieving words. The reflections
of our worst nightmares. Many of which we have created, giving shape
to shapeless darkness, in a landscape where our world provides the only
Giles found himself glancing round room a second time, half expecting to find
something dire lurking in the shadows; he shivered, caught in a sudden moment
of realisation like a man looking down in the snow to find himself treading
on the ice above a lake. The surface might look strong enough, firm enough to
support his weight, but one wrong move, one misplaced step could shatter the
surface and plunge him deep.
"So," he managed around a hastily swallowed gulp, "how did you
"With difficulty," Davenport answered promptly, grinning at his company’s
disconcerted reaction. "To begin with, anyway. I was lost for a long time.
Lost – and hunted. I stumbled from room to room, from place to place, desperately
searching for a way out and finding nothing but dead ends and empty promises.
Things followed me at night, forcing me to run or hide – and I spent weeks without
sleep, snatching what rest I could during the suspect safety of the day. I didn’t
have the advantage of your training," he pointed out, nodding towards the
sword the Watcher had left propped up against his chair. "Or your experience,
either," he added shrewdly. Giles rejected the implied compliment with
a wry shake of his head.
"I’m not sure either helped," he confessed, recalling the first few
days he’d spent wandering in the labyrinth. "Although – knowing I could
use the sword if I had to … that has been something of a comfort, I have to
"I’m sure it has. I was nothing but a bookworm and a somewhat overweight
scholar when I arrived here. My sole defense was a smattering of magic I’d gleaned
from ancient texts and had never used for anything other than parlour tricks.
So I ran. I ran for my life and my sanity and I barely managed to hang one to
one while clinging desperately to the other. The Walkers didn’t find me
walking the Way, however inexpertly. They found me huddled in a corner somewhere,
praying for the nightmare to end."
He exaggerates, Ari yawned, obviously having heard all this before.
If he’d been as helpless as he says, a jabberwock would have eaten him long
before we found him.
"You have no idea, young fellow," Davenport said huffily. "You
weren’t there. I was like a mewling infant, with no idea how to feed or clothe
myself. The Walkers adopted me. Took care of me – and taught me many things.
In return, I have taken care of them. They come to me when they are hurt,
when they have burs or tangles in their fur, when they are sick, or simply old.
They ask for stories and they share their own; I have tutored kittens and I
have tended to the dying. They are my family and have been so for generations.
Now that I am old and in need of comfort, they offer it without complaint."
* * * * *
They talked for hours – or rather, Davenport talked for hours, his words tumbling
out as he warmed to his subject and his company. Giles was content to sit and
listen, Ari sprawled across his lap while he relaxed and felt safer than he
had for days. The old man had spent half a century without human companionship,
and it was hard to deny him his eager hunger for simple conversation. The cats,
for all the care they had shown him, and the respect they obviously held for
him, were still cats – creatures with a mindset far removed from human
perceptions and human emotions.
Somewhere, in that long and rambling discussion in which Giles learned far
more about the mirror world than he had done in all the days and weeks he’d
spent there, the two men moved from wary acquaintance to a sense of comfortable
friendship. They had a great many things in common; much more than just their
mutual membership of the ancient order which had shaped them both. They had
been taught in the same schools, been raised according to the same traditions,
and they spoke the same language, albeit one separated by a generation. The
surface impression – that Davenport was not the most stable of personalities
– was quickly overtaken by an understanding of just how stable and self certain
he had to have been to have survived all those years of isolation and exile.
He admitted, at some point or other, that his hold on his sanity had shifted
and shivered over the years; that there’d been times when he’d neglected his
hygiene and his appearance, had once wandered naked and alone through rooms
crowded with life on the other side of the mirrors just to satisfy the fact
that he could – and had even once gone out into the dark with the sole intention
of letting something end his desperate existence. But those had just been phases,
ways of working through the pressures and the challenges of his strange imprisonment,
and he claimed to have woken from those moments of madness to a much greater
certainty of himself and his place in the world.
Giles wasn’t so sure about that – but he could understand the need to cry out
in the oppressive silences, to declare war on the world in preference to drowning
in loneliness and frustrating torment. There’d been moments – even in the few
short weeks in which he’d been wandering the maze – when the anger and the agony
of being trapped, of being walled away from life and human contact, had threatened
to overwhelm him. If he hadn’t been so busy fighting to recover his past, working
through those fragments of memory and battling for the pieces that, even now,
lay out of his reach … if he had had, like Davenport, to face the knowledge
that he, and he alone, was the one responsible for his fate … would he have
struck out in equal fury and frustration, or would he have simply succumbed
He didn’t know. He liked to think that he was stronger than that, but he couldn’t
be sure. Couldn’t be sure of anything really, not while his memory was so fragmented
and the events that had brought him to this place remained a baffling mystery.
The old man rambled on, telling tales of his early explorations, of adventures
spent hiding from creeping jabberwocks while he searched for familiar landscapes
on the other side of the mirrors. They were tales peppered with references to
cats long gone, and to people and places that held disconcerting familiarity.
Giles had visited the many of the locations Davenport spoke of, had studied
in the Council’s libraries and had even been trained and tutored by some of
the men his current company had once viewed as friends and colleagues.
His years of exile had clearly mellowed the old man’s resentment of the order
that had once denied him his chance to shine. He spoke of his life working for
the Council with nostalgia and regret. His views on life – and on Watchers and
Slayers in particular – had been changed and tempered by his involvement with
the Walkers and the dangers they faced every day. The nobility of spirit which
Ari’s affectionate description had credited him with had been forged over long
years fulfilling the very destiny he’d been denied in the real world. Here,
he had come to learn the reality of service, of duty, and of sacrifice. He’d
taken on the mantle of Watcher to an entire slew of chosen ones – and he’d spent
his time productively, recording their observations, cataloging their foes and
teaching each new generation the lessons they needed to help them survive.
"They always were inducted by their mothers," Davenport explained
thoughtfully. "That’s how the line passes, from one generation to the next.
The teaching was done through memories and legends and allegorical tales. I
started writing them down. Took elements of one to add to the detail of others
– and found I had a whole history, swirling around inside a vast repertoire
of myth and exaggeration – and yes¸ young man, I know I am a little guilty
of it myself," he said, fixing Ari’s one open eye with a firm stare, "but
I have lived with your people a long time. You all encourage me."
This, Ari remarked, butting his head back against Giles’ chest and
squirming happily, you did not exaggerate
"No," the old man smiled with wry self-mockery. Since the this
Ari was referring to was his current supporter and everything the cat had decided
he represented, Giles was more than a little bemused by both their reactions.
"They love my tales of the Slayer," Davenport confided with a sly
wink. "Her heroic deeds, her noble sacrifices – and her ever faithful,
ever loyal Watcher, the one who guides her, supports her, and is equally noble
in word and deed and dedication to his cause."
"Oh." The exclamation was somewhat faint; the Watcher concerned cast
a slightly nervous glance around their attentive audience. "You mean, they
think I …?"
"Oh, they know, " Davenport assured him with amusement. "Very
perceptive creatures, the Walkers. Read you in instant. Know you better than
you know yourself."
"Well, um – "Giles shifted a little uncomfortably in his chair. "I’m
no … hero. I know that much. But, my Slayer is very special, and I think – I
– I hope I’ve always tried to do the right thing where she was concerned."
He paused, looking at the old man with slightly embarrassed distress. "You
know – many of the Watchers in the diaries …"
"Ah, ah, ah," Davenport interrupted firmly. "Let us aspire
to the ideal, not dwell on those who might have … failed to meet some of its
expectations. You have not disappointed them. Which is something of a
relief for me, I have to say."
It was something of a relief for Giles, too, although he really didn’t think
he could justify occupying the kind of pedestal that the old man’s stories seemed
to have put him on. He wondered why Davenport would have bothered creating such
a mythical vision of the Slayer and her Watcher when he seemed so contemptuous
of the Council - and then remembered the part he’d skipped over in his story,
the words which had held respectful sympathy.
My brother’s Slayer broke. My brother with her …
"Your brother was a good man," Giles offered softly, putting two
and two together and coming up with a younger son who had envied and resented
the fortune of his older sibling – until he had witnessed the man’s loss and
the grief it had caused him. "And – I’m guessing here, but - a dedicated
"Too dedicated, according to some in the order. ‘Got too close to the
child,’ they said. What would they know? Never having – watched, the
way we have."
We. The smile at the inclusion was a wry one; Davenport might never
have been trained as a Watcher, never been assigned a Slayer, or even a Potential
to Watch over – and yet, from what he’d been saying, he probably had more right
to call himself one than many who’d claimed the title over the years. Giles
wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t one of them.
"So, what do you watch for, here in Looking Glass house?" he asked
curiously, looking round the foyer with interest. He was a little amused to
note that most of their feline company had fallen asleep at some point during
their rambling conversation. Davenport sighed.
"This and that," he said, reaching for the jug on the table so that
he could top up his glass of water and frowning as he realised it was empty.
He put it down again with a slightly martyred sigh. "You know about the
jabberwocks, of course. I try to avoid those as a rule. Then there are the siligoths
… and the bandersnatch - "
"Met some of those," Giles interjected, recalling the encounter
with a shudder. The old man raised an eyebrow at him.
"Bandersnatch? Really? My, my. And you escaped with barely a scratch?
I can see why Ari was impressed. Nasty pieces of work. But cowardly. They hate
fire. A lot of things in here do. It’s something to do with the light, rather
than the heat, I think. Light has power in this place. You would do well to
"I will." The Watcher’s thoughts slid to the magic he had managed
to recall the night the jabberwock came so close, and he mentally repeated the
incantation, relieved to find he could still remember it.
"The dandygyre are particularly susceptible in that regard. You won’t
find them creeping around in the daytime. But you might stumble over a mome
rath or two. They’re fairly harmless compared to most, although they do like
to gather at the edge of vanity mirrors, sucking in self-confidence and reflecting
it back as self doubt. If you’ve ever looked into a mirror and thought ‘I’m
getting old,’ or ‘I’m putting on weight’ … even though you know it’s not true?
There’ll have been mome rath lurking behind the glass somewhere."
Giles nodded warily, filing the information away for future reference. It always
helped to know what you might be facing. "So," he said, "jabberwocks,
siligoths, bandersnatch, dandygyre and mome raths. A positive menagerie of menace.
The old man laughed. "You’re in a world of mirror images, Rupert. How
can there be vampires, here? They don’t have a reflection. No …"
His face sobered and his eyes grew grim. "There are demons here – but they’re
far more dangerous than the undead. They don’t suck blood. They devour life.
That’s all a reflection is, you know … a vision of your lifeforce. Since vampires
aren’t, strictly speaking, alive, they don’t reflect in mirrors. But for those
who do … well," he concluded with a tight smile, "the jabberwocks
are bad enough, but - let’s just say that – looking into a mirror that a visszatük
haunts may not be good for the soul."
"A visszatük?" Giles echoed thoughtfully, struck by the familiarity
of the word. "I think I’ve come across a reference somewhere …"
"Been reading your books in a mirror?" the old man asked, the question
quietly amused. "I suppose you might have been. All that ‘reverse writing’
that people used to do to hide the truth. You can’t always trust a reflection,
Rupert. Not even your own. If you’ve heard of the vissatuk, it’s likely that
one of them has marked you as his own. Shown you his name in a mirror sometime.
His name, and possibly some of his nature. Maybe he was the one that
brought you here."
"And that’s … bad." The Watcher frowned, wishing he could remember
the events that had trapped him here, in this strange, distorted world.
"Very." The old man’s smile wasn’t pleasant. "The visszatük
are emptiness. Despair given a will of its own. They’re things born of the dark,
like the jabberwock – born of it, and hungry with it – but unlike their brutish
cousins they are subtle, cunning things. They don’t have a shape of their own
– they haunt mirrors, pick a victim and take their form, feeding on them
through the glass."
"Like the mome raths."
Davenport’s bark was more a snort of contempt than laugh; it woke up several
cats who looked around in alarm. "If you like. If you like to think a vampire
feeds the way a mosquito does. No, no. They take everything. And
they drain their victims slowly. Over weeks. Months. A slow descent into
numbed despair. The more they feed, the stronger they become."
"Good Lord," Giles reacted, his blood running cold at the thought.
There’d be no defense against such a thing. You wouldn’t even know what was
"They’re not common," Davenport assured him, taking pity on the look
of horror which had settled on his face. "And if the Walkers catch them
getting solid enough to hurt they tear them to shreds. I have every reason to
believe it was a visszatük that stole away that first cat, all those centuries
ago. They hate them with a passion."
It is never to happen again, Ari announced, sitting up with determination.
He also put out all his claws and Giles winced as they sank into his skin.
"Ow," he protested, throwing the cat off his lap and glaring at him
with irritation. "Ari! That hurt."
The cat had the grace to look abashed, reaching up to the arm of the chair
so that he could strop his claws on the fabric. We hunt them wherever we
find them. When they have flesh to rend we rend it. When they have blood to
spill, we spill it. Let them drift as mist, let them starve in the dark. They
must never grow strong enough to cross over again. Never.
"Except – " Davenport had also sat up and was now staring at his
visitor with horrified realisation. "One has, hasn’t he?" He leant
forward to grasp at his company’s arm, his hand shaking with reaction. "That’s
why … That would explain … Merciful heavens – that’s it, isn’t it? One
of them has grown strong enough. Strong enough to take, not just your
form, but your place in the world. A way to trap you here, where he belongs.
What was in that book, my boy? What were you reading? Researching? Think,
young man! If you have released a visszatük into your world, everything
– everyone you care about is in mortal danger. He will suck the life from them.
Take their joys, their pain, their feelings – everything that makes them human,
that makes living worthwhile. And once they are nothing but empty husks, they’ll
simply lie down and die."
"Oh dear Lord," Giles whispered, his eyes going wide with
terror. The memories he’d fought so hard to recover rose up to mock him with
heart wrenching clarity. Images of his friends – his family – danced
through his head. Buffy smiling at him with that indulgent, knowing look that
she saved purely for him … Xander, laughing at one of his own jokes … Willow’s
shy pride when she knew she’d helped save the day … Young souls filled with
life and energy, a tempting feast to a creature accustomed to leaching what
little sustenance it could find reflected in a mirror’s glass. He half rose
to his feet, his hand reaching for the hilt of his sword. "I have to get
back. I have to get out of here."
"Easier said than done." The old man’s grip tugged him down again.
Davenport’s eyes were pleading for thought and caution rather than emotional
reaction. "The visszatük must have stolen your life. That’s why you
are struggling to remember it. It will know what you know, be acting as you
would, hiding itself in you. It will be an almost perfect imitation - and one
whose flaws will almost certainly have been overlooked in the hopelessness its
feeding will have inspired. No-one will be looking for you and it will
know to avoid the glass. You’ll have to find someone who will find him. Find
a window into your world, find one you love and stay with them. Stay with them
until you can glimpse yourself beside them … Get them to call you back
if you can.
"And even then," he concluded bleakly, "you will need a way
to reclaim what is yours. To drive the visszatük back here - or better
yet, destroy it completely. Better if you do that – or else you’ll never be
able to look into a mirror again."
* * * * *
"Bloody typical," Giles muttered angrily, flicking through Davenport’s
extensive wardrobe in search of a suitable change of clothes. "My Slayer
is in danger and I’m the one responsible."
The actions of the visszatük are hardly your fault, Ari observed
from his place on the bed. Do not forget you are the victim here.
"I’m her Watcher." The blue shirt was too small. The white one too
impractical. He threw both at the bedspread and Ari leapt back as they landed.
"I’m supposed to know about these sorts of things. And not
allow myself to be targeted by a totally unknown demon from the other side of
the Looking Glass. Damnit," he cursed, pausing with his hands clenched
around reflected cotton as a moment of despair swirled through him. "How
could I let this happen?"
You did not allow anything, the cat pointed out gently. Just
Giles, the visszatük pick their victims carefully. A glad heart and a strong
soul can fight them away even without being aware that they do so. This one
must be older and more cunning than most: one that has avoided our hunting and
found a way to grow strong without us seeing him. He will have found you and
claimed you when you were at your most vulnerable. After the death of your Slayer,
"Perhaps." The anger dissipated as quickly as it had arisen. Giles
sat down on the edge of the bed and heaved a weary sigh. "I wish I could
Perhaps, Ari suggested, padding over to nudge at him with a comforting
nose, that was the moment when he chose you. And perhaps there was another
moment of despair – when your defenses had been eroded by his constant presence
and you no longer had the strength to fight against him –that was when
he took your place.
"Possibly," Giles agreed, taking comfort in the warmth of the cat’s
fur beneath his hand. "Certainly some time after Buffy came back … and
I must have been in England when it happened, because I seriously doubt I would
have found my way back to the London behind the mirrors if it had happened in
It will be a long journey. The cat was clearly amused by his reasoning.
Although not as far as you think. You may be right, though. You were very
lost when I found you
"Hah." The Watcher stood up and went back to his investigation of
the wardrobe. Davenport had accumulated a great many things over the years,
pandering to his vanity with Saville Row suites and expensive hand made shirts
among other things. Items – strictly speaking – stolen from behind the tailor’s
mirrors, snatched from hangers after being tried on and paraded in front of
the glass. "Tell me something," he asked, momentarily hovering over
a tweed jacket before rejecting it with a wry smile. "When you first saw
me. Did you think I was a visszatük? A stolen reflection, given
form by someone else’s life?"
Yes, Ari answered brightly, then opened his mouth in a silent laugh,
rolling over to snuggle into the discarded shirts. But that was days before
we met. I caught a glimpse of you in a mirror – and came through the glass to
hunt you down.
"You were hunting me?" Giles threw the cat a bemused look. "I
had no idea."
You wouldn’t. I’m good.
Ari’s smug confidence earned him a warm chuckle. "No," Giles corrected
shrewdly, "well, maybe you are, but – I didn’t know what to watch
for. You might not find me such easy prey in future."
Probably not, the cat agreed with a laugh of his own. But I am
cunning and I am quick, and I am only seen when I wish to be seen. Had you been
a visszatük, the first thing you would have known of me would have
been my teeth and my claws.
He’d found the perfect thing; a soft faux suede shirt the colour of warm butterscotch,
just right for wearing over a t-shirt and jeans. "Then I’m relieved you
realized I wasn’t."
So am I.
"Now, now," Davenport’s voice drifted in from the next room. "Don’t
fuss so. I’m perfectly capable of walking a few steps when I have to."
The old man himself appeared a moment later, making his way with careful, shaky
steps, which he was managing with the assistance of a gnarled walking stick
in one hand and – of all things – a sword in the other. There were several cats
milling about his feet, which probably helped explain some of the cautious nature
of his progress. "Ah – Giles, there you are. Find everything you need?
I don’t use this room much any more, so do feel free to think of it as your
"Well," Giles smiled, resisting the temptation to rush across and
give the man a helping hand. "Don’t get me wrong, but – I really don’t
intend to stay that long."
"Of course you don’t," Davenport retorted, his eyes twinkling a little.
He reached the nearest armchair and sank onto it with decided relief. "Now
then … have something for you here. Knew I had it somewhere. Might come in handy."
He lifted up the sword and pushed it onto the bed; Ari padded over and sniffed
at it warily.
"I – um – do have a sword," Giles pointed out, having quickly checked
that the one he’d brought with him was safely propped up against the coffee
"Not like this one." The old man waved at the blade with a smug look
on his face. "This one is thrice reflected."
"Thrice …?" Giles dropped his chosen shirt onto the pile of clothing
he’d been assembling and reached across to pick up the weapon, feeling it somehow
shimmer and pulse under his hands. "I don’t understand."
Davenport grinned. "Here, light is power. The clarity of a reflection
gives it both substance and strength. Reflect something once, and it will exist,
here in Looking Glass house. Reflect it twice – between two mirrors, or using
an angled pair, and it will have much greater certainty, more … reality, if
you like. But reflect it thrice," he leaned forward, making his
point with a jab of a bony finger, "and you create magic. I found
this blade years ago, hanging on display in the British museum. All set up in
a special display case with three mirrors, set so a visitor could observe the
intricate detail on both sides of the hilt at once. Thrice reflected, Mr Giles.
It’s as light as a good sword can be and still have weight to force a blow –
and yet it’s stronger than steel and sharper than a razor’s edge. It’s killed
four jabberwocks and more dandygyre than I care to think about. This
is my Vorpal blade. And it’s yours. You’re going to need it where you’re going.
If this place of yours – Sunnyday, or whatever it’s called …"
"Sunnydale," Giles corrected absently, testing the weight of the
sword in his hand and marveling at the feeling of power that seemed to follow
every stroke, every movement it made through the air. Ari, and a number of the
other cats, followed the movement of its point with fascination.
"Yes, well, whatever. If it has an active hellmouth, then its mirror-side
is almost undoubtedly going to be crawling with jabberwocks. Among other things.
Ari, here, may scare a few of them away, but that will help you defend
yourself. Got to get you back safely to that Slayer of yours. She needs you.
Especially with … well, you know."
"I do." Giles swung the weapon with care, admiring its balance and
measuring its reach. It was a far better weapon than any of the ones he’d acquired
in his wanderings. "This is very generous of you, Mr Davenport. And most
"Geoffrey, please. And good heavens, m’boy, who else am I going
to give it to? I haven’t been able to swing the blessed thing for years … and
I hate to think of it gathering dust and rust in some forgotten corner of this
cursed hotel, long after I’m gone. Take it. Go sniker-snack, and win
your way home. Your Slayer will know you. I know she will. She’ll know you and
she’ll call you out. You’ll see. I never got home. But you will. You have
to. For her sake. For all our sakes."
He lowered the blade and considered the old man on the other side of the bed
with a mixture of sympathy and pity. "I’ll do my best," he promised
softly. Davenport nodded.
"I’m sure you will."
A whip tailed mackerel tabby padded into the hotel suite, making its way through
the gathered felines, before leaping up onto the bed and sitting there, blinking
eyes so green they could have been emeralds.
There has been council, she announced, her voice soft and sweet compared
to Ari’s masculine growl. It has been agreed. If one of the shapeless ones
has found a way to pass beyond the glass, then we have failed in our vigilance.
We will not fail in our duty. Watcher: she turned to Giles, tilting her
head with formal politeness. You have been the victim of this offence, and
we recognize your right to seek redress before any other action can be taken.
Ari will go with you as your guide and assist you in your quest – but should
you fail, then others among us will hunt this creature down and make it pay
for its crimes. We will avenge you, as she who was Mother of us all was avenged.
And if – for what ever reason – you are unable to find your way back, if
your fate should be to stay this side of the mirrors, then you will be welcomed
among us, as the White Knight was welcomed, long ago.
This we have agreed, and this we promise.
"Thank you," Giles murmured, grateful for their willingness to give
him a chance to recover his life, despite the fact that it was one of their
most hated enemies who was thought to have stolen it. He was equally grateful
for their offer of a place – a purpose – among them, should there be a need
for it. He was rather hoping there wouldn’t be; not just because that would
mean living out the rest of his days behind the mirrors, the way Davenport had
done, but because it would necessitate the Walkers having to hunt down and kill
the thing that Buffy currently believed to be her Watcher – and even drained
of spirit, numbed of feeling and, by now, possibly bereft of all hope, he had
the temerity to believe she would defend him. To the death, if necessary.
Which it would be, since the Walkers would be equally determined to deny their
ancient enemy a foothold in the outer world.
"Tell your council," he said with a confidence he didn’t really feel,
"that I will happily seek Salla Bu-shabis’ revenge; that I will find this
thing and find a way to destroy it. And that, once I have done so, you and all
of those who walk the Way will be welcomed in my house and given my eternal
"Good show, my boy," Davenport murmured approvingly.
The tabby dipped its head in acknowledgement, offered Ari a friendly nuzzle
to his cheek and turned to jump down from the bed. You have ten days, she
said in parting. May the Mother of us all guide and guard you both. Until
we walk together once again.
"Ten days?" Giles echoed with bemused astonishment as she
left. He glanced across at the old man, to find him smothering a wheezy chuckle.
"Bloody hell! I can’t walk from London to
California in ten days!"
Of course not, Ari denied with equal amusement. It only takes three.
If you know the Way …
* * * * *
She was done with him.
No – more than that. She wanted nothing more to do with him.
He’d ignored her wishes, overridden her decisions, conspired behind her back,
betrayed her … and turned the last of her certainties, the last of her trust,
into little more than bitter ashes in her mouth, into the words she’d spat at
him with anger and disillusionment.
She thought she’d feel better once the door was closed, once she’d shut out
that look – the look of pained disappointment and martyred necessity – which
had been a painful reflection of her own inner turmoil. But she didn’t.
If anything, the finality of that firmly closed door had made her feel worse.
When had it all gone wrong? When had he ceased to be her rock and turned into
yet another drain on her energies? When had the tensions between them shifted
and tightened until everything she did disappointed him and everything he
did seemed to add to the burdens she carried?
When had she started to feel so tired?
Buffy sighed and turned away from the door, acutely conscious of having lost
something infinitely precious and utterly indefinable. She didn’t want to think
about that, right here and then. Didn’t, in fact, want to think about anything
at all. She was too numb, too drained, to want to consider the hows and the
whys and the whens.
And the ‘what if’s’ were definitely off the list for a while.
Her turn into the room had put her in sight of her wardrobe mirror and the
pale, pinched reflection of what she’d become. She wasn’t sure she wanted to
face that, either, but she lacked the energy to do anything that would prevent
the painful image from mocking her every move.
"Oh God," she muttered, sinking onto the edge of the bed and wondering
if she had energy left for anything anymore. She ought to have been feeling
a raging anger. Ought to be contemplating hate and the pain of betrayal
and all that sort of stuff – but all she really felt was tired.
Well, not totally alone. A movement caught her eye and she looked down to find
a sleek black and white cat in the process of jumping onto the bed. That was
a little weird, but not completely unlikely, since Miss Kitty had always been
given free run of the entire house. Maybe one of the other girls had brought
a cat with them – although Buffy couldn’t remember anyone mentioning pets. She’d
certainly never seen this particular animal before. It was a very handsome cat,
"Hello, puss," she registered quizzically. "Where did you come
The cat paced across the coverlet to join her, proving its substantiality by
rubbing its cheek along her arm. Not a manifestation of the First, then, which
was something of a relief. If she’d been a little less sunk into apathy, she’d
have probably picked it up and evicted it – a little less forcibly than she
had her Watcher, perhaps, but firmly enough to send it on its way. As it was,
she lacked even the motivation to expel an uninvited guest, and she found herself
fondling the warmth of its ears as it paddled and purred at her side.
"At least someone’s happy," she sighed bitterly. The cat’s comforting
presence was making her feel a little better, and she didn’t want better.
Didn’t want to feel, or think, because doing either brought her back to …
She froze in place, her fingers buried in fur, her eyes staring at the mirror
across the room. The mirror, and the image it contained, faint and translucent
beside her own.
A moment of anger crackled through her like a flare of fire. How dare
he! How dare he use magic to spy on her – or worse, use it to try and force
her to talk when she’d made it perfectly clear that the time for talking was
She half rose to her feet, then sank down again, the impulse to storm out and
make her point with violence draining away as her eyes adjusted to the vision
– and began to make a little more sense of what she was seeing.
It was Giles. No doubt about it. More than mere illusion, or hallucination
… and it certainly wasn’t the First, because he wasn’t dead, even if an uncharitable
part of her heart had wished him so a short while ago. But nor was it the man
she’d just shut out of her bedroom – and her heart and her life. That man –
a weary, rumpled figure, weighted with the cares of the world – was nothing
but a pallid reflection of the person currently leaning on – no, in,
It was almost as if he were standing on the other side of the glass, standing
there wearing one of those quiet smiles of his, a sword dangling from his left
hand and his right pressed up against the glass, his fingers splayed out as
if he were trying to push his way through to reach her.
Buffy’s mind did several somersaults, reassessing the situation as she registered
exactly what she was looking at. Forget the heavy jacket and the dowdy sweater;
this was Giles in a soft tan over-shirt and a pair of jeans that could
have been painted on, they fit so perfectly. He wasn’t wearing his glasses,
and there seemed to be some sort of wound on his cheek, but she didn’t really
notice that because she was on her feet and moving closer, moving close enough
to look into those warm, loving, laughing eyes…
"Giles," she whimpered, reaching her hand to match the one
pressed up against the inside of the glass. He wasn’t even a true reflection.
Not solid, like her and the rest of the room. Just a soft, semi-translucent
image, the sort of thing you might catch reflected in a window – but she could
feel him, feel his presence with a certainty that she hadn’t felt for
weeks. Hadn’t felt, in fact, since he’d first arrived on her doorstep trailing
all those girls.
She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against the mirror, swallowing
a sob. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. It was just her mind playing tricks after
all, offering her hopeless illusions: memories, perhaps, of better times. Times
when he was her Watcher and hers alone, when he had more to offer than
regretful words or cold condemnation.
Times when all he offered her was his support and respect …
"Mrrow!" The cat had jumped down from the bed and was standing beside
her, rubbing against her leg. His persistence made her look down – which meant
she was just in time to see it jump up – and jump into the mirror.
Into that half glimpsed, not quite there impression that was somehow behind
She stepped back in alarm, witness to something utterly impossible. The man
in the mirror had also stepped back, dropping his sword so that he could catch
the cat as it leapt up into his arms. He looked almost as startled about it
as she was.
"Oh my God," Buffy breathed, really staring now. The man and
the cat stared back. "Giles?"
He smiled, a wry, I think she’s got it kind of smile. Buffy,
he acknowledged gently – or rather, his image mouthed gently, since no sound
reached her at all. The smile widened, and he added something else, something
she didn’t get, because lip reading had never been a skill she had much need
"I can’t hear you," she told him, resisting the temptation to shout,
because that would be ridiculous, and besides, everyone would come running to
see what the problem was. She didn’t want to attract anyone’s attention;
she still wasn’t sure what was going on, and she didn’t want to shatter what
seemed to be a very fragile connection to .. to whom, exactly?
"Are you … Giles?" she asked, hoping that he had the lip
reading thing cracked because they really, really needed a conversation right
there and then. "My Giles?"
He nodded, somehow managing to convey a sense of chagrin, apology and pained
resignation all at once. That was convincing, if nothing else had been. It was
a typically Gilesian expression, most of which was centered in his eyes. It
occurred to Buffy, watching them, that that was where the difference
was; the man she’d spent the evening with had long since shuttered his feelings
away, locking them in and rarely letting them show.
"Okay," she breathed, her heart racing in a way she didn’t think
it had done for weeks. "But if you’re in there … then who do I have
– out here?"
Long story, he mouthed, then looked down at the cat in his arms and
asked it a question – one she had no hope of following, let alone interpreting.
That was a little weird, but no weirder than her trying to have a conversation
with what seemed to be a mirror image of her Watcher – inside her mirror.
A moment later the cat was jumping down from his hands and walking back into
the room, just as solid and real as it had been before. Buffy stepped back to
let it out, watching it with wary eyes as it leapt up onto her dresser and sat
itself down next to Mr Gordo.
I’d sit down if I were you, it suggested, in a soft warm voice that
was more idea than exclamation. This may take a little while to explain …
* * * * *
Xander was busy applying a little fresh putty to the window frame when he heard
Buffy come out of her room to knock at Dawn’s door and ask her to join her for
a moment. The sound of her voice raised a ripple of tension around the sitting
room, those few potentials still awake whispering to each other about what possibly
could have happened for Buffy to come back and storm upstairs in such a temper
– not to mention why the Watcher who’d tried to go up and talk to her had come
back down the stairs looking like he’d been slapped in the face, and then kicked
in the guts for good measure.
It was clear that Giles was not intending to be communicative on the matter;
he’d immediately retreated to the dining room, picked up one of his precious
books and buried himself in it with determination. Several of the girls had
been speculating whether making him a cup of tea might cheer him up a little.
Xander seriously doubted it. He’d been waiting for that whole relationship to
fall apart ever since he started to spot the signs of its disintegration, and
he knew – probably better than anyone, except maybe Willow – just how deeply
Buffy’s rejection would wound the man buried behind the Watcher’s mantle. The
potentials had never had an opportunity to see Giles at his best; to them he
probably seemed little more than a musty old textbook on legs, serving the cause
and supporting Buffy because it was his duty to do so. The conflict and tension
between them had been becoming more and more obvious every day, and that – along
with what had to be the weight of caring for a whole host of innocent and vulnerable
young women – had reduced the Watcher into a pale reflection of the strong and
vital soul that Xander had once known.
He didn’t know what to do about that – and he would have liked to have done
something, because, hang it, he cared about Giles and not just because
the man had meant so much to Buffy over the years. The trouble was none of them
had any time for each other these days. Ever since Giles had appeared on the
doorstep with that first group of Potentials in tow and the First had made itself
known, every passing hour had seemed to demand more and more effort for less
and less effect. High spirits had been turned into anxious moping, fear and
apprehension had become a way of life, and it took determined work to raise
even the ghost of a smile. Only Andrew seemed immune to the general sense of
growing gloom, and that was probably because he hadn’t actually noticed it as
yet. He lived in a fantasy world of his own making, hiding from his guilt and
desperately trying to pretend he might actually be of some use in the fight
against the First.
Xander sighed, picking up the sandpaper and rubbing at a rough spot in the
woodwork that had been irritating him all day. Andrew wasn’t the only one overcompensating
among the fear-touched community that occupied the house on Revello drive. It
was way past midnight. No-one really wanted to go to bed, since no-one would
actually sleep – and here was he, seeking retreat in carpentry the way
Giles had retreated into his books.
Even Spike had stalked down into the basement with a ‘don’t ask and I won’t
bite’ look on his face after Buffy had stormed off to her bedroom.
Dawn had obviously answered her sister’s call with reluctance; her sleepy voice,
protesting the interruption to her beauty sleep, drifted down the stairwell
and raised another murmur from among the potentials gathered in the sitting
room. Anya, who was busy wrestling with some paperwork or other, looked up with
a worried frown. The ex-demon was having trouble reading the undercurrents of
tension that swirled around the house these days, and Xander had no energy left
to try and explain them to her.
He didn’t really have energy left for anything anymore.
"I’d call it a night, if I were you, Xander."
Giles was standing in the middle of the sitting room, watching him with a weary
smile. Xander straightened some of the kinks out his back and made an effort
to return a smile of his own. "It’s a night," he announced, spreading
his hands in pantomimed demonstration. "Still looks like a window to me,
though. Should keep out the weather, at least. Bringers," he concluded
with a shrug. "Who knows?"
"You do good work." Coming from Giles that was high praise, and Xander
responded to it with a sheepish grin.
"I try. Have to do something to contribute around here."
"Xander … " Giles took a step forward and gently rested his hand
on Xander’s shoulder – a habit he’d taken up ever since that silly misunderstanding
about him possibly being the First. "You contribute in so many ways that
I can barely begin to number them. Rest assured that I – if no-one else – values
and appreciates your input."
"I bet you do."
Buffy’s voice was cold. A harsh and accusing sound, filled with anger and contempt.
Xander heard Giles sigh and saw the pained, irritated look that flickered across
his face before he schooled it into quiet patience, ready to turn and face his
"Is there something you want, Buffy?" he asked, carefully keeping
all hint of emotion from his voice.
"Yeah." Her face was so frosty it could have frozen flame. "I
want you to take your hands off him. And I want you – " Her step forward
was a sudden and determined lunge. "- out of my house!"
The Watcher had no time to react or defend himself. One minute the Slayer was
standing there, glaring at him in undisguised fury, and the next she’d grabbed
hold of his sweater and was tossing him bodily from the building.
Straight through Xander’s carefully reconstructed window.
"Buffy! What the …?" Xander, who’d barely avoided being struck by
flying Watcher, stared at her in total astonishment. "Are you crazy?
That’s Giles!" He half turned to go after the man, and she caught hold
of him, turning him back.
"No," she said forcefully. "It’s not. And it hasn’t been. For
The potentials were all awake and staring. Anya’s mouth was hanging open. So
"Weeks?" Xander echoed bemusedly, glancing out of the now broken
window to where the Englishman was climbing carefully back to his feet. Buffy
hadn’t been holding back; he’d flown several yards and looked as if he’d bounced
once or twice. "Buffy, what are talking about? He’s Giles. We proved
it, we – "
"No," she denied with a quick shake of her head. "All you proved
was that he wasn’t the First. Which he isn’t. But he isn’t Giles, either. He
Her head jerked towards the stairs; Xander glanced in the relevant direction
and his eyes went wide, his own mouth falling open as he took in the sight that
awaited him. He could have sworn that Buffy had just thrown her Watcher out
of the window – only there he was, as large as life and instantly recognisable,
hastening down the steps with a sword in his hand.
Only, for some reason, Xander could see right through him …
"Oh, now that was intelligent," the semi-transparent Watcher
was complaining, arriving at Buffy’s side and assessing the damaged window with
a disbelieving look. "Is there something wrong with the door?"
"No," she said impatiently, waving at the opening and the figure
it framed. "You said get it away from the mirrors. There are no
mirrors out in the street – and I figured this was the quickest way. Besides,
I didn’t want it to touch anyone else. I didn’t want to touch it. Not
for any longer than I had too."
"Probably a wise move," he observed, glancing up as the evicted figure
came stalking back across the grass, a look of thunder on its face.
"Buffy," the more solid looking Giles was saying, his voice tight
with anger. "I don’t know what you’re up to, but – "
"Good Lord," both Watchers chorused, coming face to face across
the broken glass. Xander blinked.
You couldn’t exactly say they were identical; one was looking tired,
care worn and washed out from effort and concern, while the other seemed far
more alert and animated, despite his only being half there - but they were both
undeniably Rupert Giles, from general build right down to the colour of their
The only obvious difference – apart from the whole translucence thing, that
is – was the way they were dressed. One in chalk and charcoal, the other in
warm butterscotch and rich indigos.
"What is this?" the wearier looking of the two demanded, staring
at the reflection of himself standing inside the house. "Some trick of
the First? A demon wearing my image? Buffy … "
"Oh no," she interrupted firmly. "There’s only one demon around
here, and I know he isn’t standing beside me, so don’t go giving me any of that
crap. Give it back. Give back what you took – everything that you took
– and I might consider letting you crawl back where you came from. But don’t
count on it. Because I’m pretty pissed right now, and when I get mad, I tend
to hit things. Hard. And often."
Dawn had followed the second Giles down the stairs, her arms wrapped round
a sleek black and white cat. She moved to stand by Xander, staring out at the
man in the garden with an angry, hurt look on her face.
"You bastard," she murmured, fixing him with a steely glare. "You
heartless, manipulative bastard. I hope you burn in hell."
"There’s no need for that," Giles’ familiar tones admonished softly.
They held a quiet confidence Xander hadn’t heard for weeks. Hadn’t – for that
matter – heard since the day Giles had taken Willow with him back to England.
The figure at Buffy’s side was trying hard not to smile. "Although, I –
I must say, I appreciate the sentiment."
"Don’t listen to it," the Giles outside the window insisted anxiously.
"Buffy, please - it’s some kind of trick. A spell perhaps … a deception
sent to manipulate and divide us. Girls …" he threw his plea to the potentials
gathering in the sitting room. "Listen. That isn’t me. Buffy’s being
deceived, she – "
A fist lashed out, striking the speaker hard in the face. He flew backwards
and hit the ground a second time, landing with a painful grunt.
"You know," translucent Giles observed worriedly, "you’re taking
far too much pleasure in all of this. How long have you been wanting to hit
"Since never," Buffy answered, glaring at her victim with open hatred.
"You, I don’t want to hit. Him, I want to pound into a pulp."
"Need any help?" Spike’s voice enquired languidly from the back of
"Stay out of this, Spike," Buffy and Giles chorused – then threw
each other a quick grin. That – if nothing else – convinced Xander that Buffy
and Dawn were backing the right Watcher, even if he was only half there and
could have been a trick of the First, because the First was sneaky and
loved playing games with people’s minds. But it was hard to see the Slayer lash
out like that at a man who’d been nothing but supportive since he’d turned up
on her doorstep several weeks ago. Hadn’t he fought Bringers with determined
effort? Hadn’t he exhausted himself flying round the world to rescue Potentials
– sometimes putting himself in danger by doing so? What was it that Buffy was
so mad about? Why was Dawn so upset?
And where on earth had that cat come from?
"Okay," Buffy was saying with determination. "This shouldn’t
take too long. I just need to – "
"No." A half-seen hand caught her shoulder as she moved to step out
of the broken window. "No, no, y-you’ve done enough already. I can deal
She turned back towards him, the flash of irritation at his interference softening
as she caught the look in his eyes. "You sure? He’s been – feeding - for
weeks. And you’re not … exactly here."
"Which is precisely why I need to be the one to face him. He’s already
taken all he can from me. You fight him, you could just end up making him stronger.
Besides," he added softly, "angry as you are, I don’t think … could
you really …? Would you want to live with … with having killed me?"
Killed? Xander’s eyes went even wider. He glanced out into the garden,
catching sight of the man they were talking about, and wondering if his whole
world really had turned upside down and inside out in the last few minutes.
Giles – the Giles in the front garden that was – was clambering back to his
feet, picking up part of the broken window frame as he did so. It didn’t look
like much of a weapon, but then a hint of light glinted along it, and the watching
carpenter realised that the pieces of broken glass clinging to one end turned
it into a very nasty make-shift axe.
"If I had to," Buffy was saying, although her look of angry determination
had fallen into more anxious lines.
"I know. But you don’t. Not yet at least. And if this doesn’t work, or
I … well, " he concluded briskly. "There is – backup – on its way.
You could always leave them to deal with it."
"Like that’s gonna happen," she retorted, rolling her eyes. "Slayer
here, remember? We get to that, I’m gonna kick his ass from here to the hellmouth
and feed his entrails to the First. But we’re not gonna get to that. Are we?"
Translucent Giles was smiling at her – which was so right and so weird
that Xander couldn’t quite get his head round it.
"Not if I can help it, no." The sword in the man’s hand – which was
as see-through as he was – was lifted to offer mock salute, and then he was
stepping up onto the shattered window frame and leaping out onto the grass,
where his mirror image was waiting for him.
"What the hell is going on?" Xander demanded, having finally managed
to regain his voice.
Buffy threw him a sideways glance. "Short answer? Demon over there snaffled
Giles, took his place, left him trapped behind the mirrors. Long answer? Will
wait until Giles can tell it." Her eyes were fixed on the wary confrontation
taking place on her front lawn, which was also the centre of attention for everyone
else in the room. Potentials had crept up to crowd around the broken window.
Anya had wriggled in beside Dawn, while Andrew had snagged his camera and was
busy looking through the viewfinder at the action, lowering the camera with
a frown, staring at the two men on the lawn and then lifting the camera again.
"Curiouser and curiouser," he quoted puzzledly. "I can
see them both, but the camera only gets one of them."
"That’s ‘cos it," Dawn said impatiently, jabbing a finger
at the more solid of the two protagonists, "stole his reflection.
And you know what?" she demanded angrily, glancing around the gathered
girls. "It’s been feeding off us. Using us. Taking our joys, our
feelings - our hope. I trusted him," she protested. "I thought
… I really thought …- "
"It’s okay, Dawnie." Buffy’s words held a warmth and a comfort that
Xander had thought he’d never hear again. "Giles is dealing with it."
He was certainly trying too. The two figures were circling, taking wary steps
as they assessed each other’s intentions. It was an eerie sight. The more translucent
of the two shimmered like a ghost, the sword in his hand glowing softly, like
some ethereal light saber, but their stalk, their stance, each considered step,
matched with disconcerting precision. They moved like a pair of dancers choreographed
so that each was a reflection of the other; the same shift of weight, the same
graceful steps, even the same guarded expression on both of their faces.
"This isn’t going to work," charcoal gray Giles said, hefting his
makeshift axe and eyeing his opponent with hostility. "You can’t fight
me. You’re not even real."
"Oh, I’m real enough. You’re just a facsimile. A copy. A very good
copy, I’ll grant you, but a copy nonetheless."
"Really. Well, if that is the case – and I’m not saying it is – this is
all going to be a bit pointless, isn’t it? If you and I are mirror images, won’t
we just reflect each other’s moves? I’ll strike, and you’ll strike back, with
perfect timing. Play off each swing, match each blow ... like a pair of bloody
marionettes, tied to the same strings."
"He has a point," Spike said, pushing his way through the potentials
to loom up beside Xander like a bird of ill-omen. "Maybe I should go do
"You should have noticed there was something wrong with him in
the first place," Buffy told him tightly, not bothering to take her eyes
off the figures out on the lawn.
"And you didn’t, luv?" The vampire snorted. "You and I know
the Watcher’s been ‘off’ ever since he got here. But I just figured that was
reaction to the whole ‘hey, the First blew up the council and is busy killing
every Watcher and Potential it can get its hands on’ thing. Or my soul, mucking
up the old vamp radar somehow. How would I know? If he is a copy, he’s
been a damn good one."
"That’s why he wanted you dead," she murmured. "You could have
figured out what he was up to …"
"Nah," Spike laughed. "Well, maybe … if I was bothered enough
to pay attention. But he was right. About the trigger and stuff. I was
dangerous. Still am," he added with a small grin.
Light flashed with determined purpose. The shimmer of the sword had connected
with the makeshift axe and the contact had created a momentary flare of brilliance.
"You see?" Charcoal Giles was trying to sound confident, but Xander
could hear the sudden note of doubt in his voice.
He wasn’t expecting him to be real …
"All I see is a demon wearing my face, and pretending to be me. One that
didn’t expect me to turn up, let alone be corporeal when I got here. You might
match my skill, but you can’t match my weapons – or my determination. You have
been using their trust in me to attack my friends … my family. That is
intolerable. And it ends right here."
Another flash of light painted the garden with rainbows. Several of the potentials
let out a gasp, and Xander flinched at the force of the blow. The axe twisted
round, pushing the sword blade down and then swung up, forcing the sword wielder
to step back in a hurry. Xander flinched a second time, thinking of the jagged,
broken glass that formed the makeshift weapon’s blade.
"You are nothing. A nothing made of nothing. What did you do? Use
Buffy’s anger at me to convince her you were me? Was that it, Buffy?"
Charcoal Giles called, sending his opponent’s eyes darting towards the house.
"Did he tell you I was the imposter? That he’d never go against
your wishes, or deceive you? I did what I had to do, just as I have always done.
To protect you. To save this sorry world of ours. And I’m sorry if you didn’t
like that but – "
He staggered back with an oof as the sword swept his weapon away and
the man behind it followed through with a lithe twist and a determined elbow
and shoulder slam. "What the …?" He swept the axe up in hasty defence,
recovering himself with an effort and staring at the figure responsible with
disconcerted eyes. "Y-you can’t … that’s not a move I know. Where did you
"Fighting my way past a couple of jabberwocks, somewhere near the hellmouth,"
translucent Giles told him with a twisted grin. "I’m a quick learner when
I have to be. And that’s the point, isn’t it? I can learn new moves.
You can only reflect what I knew the day you took my place. You didn’t expect
me to survive Looking Glass house, but I did - and you are going to pay
for putting me there."
"Go Giles," Buffy murmured with approval. Xander felt inclined to
agree with her.
The sword swung again, only to be deflected by a matching sweep of the axe.
"Brave words. But words don’t win battles. That takes strength - and yours
is already fading. I don’t think you’re strong enough. And even if you are …"
Charcoal Giles’ right hand twisted in an arcane gesture, somehow ripping some
of the light out of the figure in front of him. "I’ll just take what I
need to make the difference."
His victim dropped to his knees with a gasp of pain, the sword tumbling from
his hand. Buffy cursed and half moved to leap out of the window, only to be
held back by Spike.
"Don’t be stupid, luv. If he’s got a way of stealing the life outta things,
the last thing you want is to be putting yourself within his reach. Hand him
the Slayer’s strength on a plate? I don’t think so."
She jerked free of his touch, but made no further move to leap to the rescue.
Outside on the lawn the tan clad Watcher had fallen forward, supporting himself
with his hands as he fought to regain both his breath and his balance. The axe
was lifting with an air of finality. The man wielding it had a pitying, almost
sorrowed look on his face.
"It didn’t have to be like this," he was saying softly. "But
sometimes you find yourself forced into doing what has to be done."
"Ari," translucent Giles cried, desperately groping across
the grass for his abandoned weapon, "I could really do with a little help
The black and white cat, which had been sitting comfortably in Dawn’s arms
until now, immediately squirmed out of the girl’s grip and leapt out through
the window like a miniature missile. Dawn gave a yelp of surprise – which was
nothing compared to the cry of pain that ripped across the lawn as the creature
arrived at its destination. The cat had raced across the grass, and run straight
up charcoal Giles’ leg and onto his back, digging its claws in as it went. The
axe wavered, then was dropped completely as teeth sank deep into its wielder’s
neck and claws raked their way across his throat and face. It was a vicious,
savage attack and its victim howled with agony, reaching his now empty hands
to seize the offending animal and rip it bodily from his skin. A black and white
furred form was flung away with fury – just as the groping, half seen figure
on the lawn closed his fingers around his discarded sword and lunged upwards
with an equally furious yell.
A shaft of light slid straight through charcoal Giles’ chest, piercing his
heart to emerge, glinting and shimmering, between his shoulder blades.
For a long moment, nothing happened. The two men were held in a breathless
tableaux, one on his knees, the other pinned, held in place by that impossible
blade. Then, almost unbelievably, what had been solid flesh began to crack apart,
little hairline fractures running out from the point of impact like winter frost
crackling its way across a window.
"Shit," Spike exclaimed in sudden realisation. "Get down.
Everybody get down!"
He dragged Buffy towards the floor, reaching out to pull Dawn after her. Anya
flung herself sideways, seeking the shelter of the wall, while Xander turned
and dived away, pushing several of the Potentials down with him. Barely a second
later the deafening sound of shattering glass echoed across the lawn and round
the room. Fragments of something flew overhead and buried themselves
into the far wall.
After which the silence of the night rolled back, as if nothing had happened
"Giles," Buffy gulped, struggling out from under Spike’s arm
and leaping through the window. Both Xander and the vampire followed her, the
younger man’s heart in his mouth. He half expected to see a translucent corpse
lying on the lawn, one ripped to shreds by the demon’s final death knell.
He was extremely relieved when he didn’t.
What he did see was a single, solid looking Giles. A tan and denim clad Giles,
kneeling in the grass with a very dazed look on his face and a still practically
transparent sword lying under his hand. There were what looked like cuts, lots
of little ones, painted across his skin, although they seemed to be healing
up and vanishing away almost as soon as Xander had registered them.
"Giles?" Buffy’s pace had slowed; she paused before she reached him,
considering him with wary, uncertain eyes. "Are you …?"
"Me?" he completed, turning his head to blink at her bemusedly. "Not
entirely sure. I’ll – I’ll let you know in a … good Lord." His eyes
went wide. "So many … and – and Spike?" The confusion on his
face was almost comical. Almost. Xander had no idea what was causing it.
"The one and only," the vampire drawled, reaching down a hand to
help the Watcher back to his feet. "Nice bit of blade work, Rupe. Nice
blade too. You didn’t pick that one up in Woolworth’s."
"No," Giles confirmed, still looking a little befuddled. "N-no.
It was the Savoy, actually … Bloody hell," he swore, his eyes snapping
back into focus and his attention fixing on Spike with a vengeance. "A
soul?" he questioned. "You got yourself a soul?"
"Well – yeah," the vampire said, then frowned. "How do you know
"Memories." The Watcher ran a weary hand through his hair. "I
seem to have – got mine back, and his with them. Little … confusing at the moment."
"I bet." Spike’s eyes narrowed. "All his memories? Including
what he did today? And – why?"
Giles frowned, thinking about it. "Oh yes," he said. He glanced towards
Buffy, who was still looking at him with hesitant concern, and he shook his
head, his lips twisting in a wry smile. "I don’t know," he declared.
"All of that going on, and you still didn’t get it wasn’t me?"
He shook his head a second time, a hint of amused disbelief dancing in his eyes.
"Should have been bloody obvious."
"It should?" Buffy’s response was wide eyed and held a hint of hurt.
She hadn’t known. None of them had – and Xander suspected he was going
to be feeling pretty guilty about that for some time to come. Now that Giles
– the real Giles – was standing in front of him, it was, as he said,
bloody obvious. The demon that had taken his place had been nothing but a pale
reflection of the real thing.
"Of course it should." Giles wasn’t angry with her. If anything,
he was trying hard not to laugh. "Buffy – think about it. If I wanted Spike
dead, do you really think I’d let anyone else kill him?"
There was a beat of general startlement, and then Buffy smiled. A slow, warm
smile that began with her lips but settled in her eyes. "No," she
said softly, considering him with affection. "No, I guess you wouldn’t."
Spike laughed. "Watcher’s back on the clock," he declared with relish.
"’Bout bloody time, too. I guess … getting back from wherever he sent you
"No." Giles dipped down to retrieve his sword. The barely visible
blade was shimmering softly, almost as if it were made of glass. "Not easy
at all. If it hadn’t been for Ari … Ari!" He glanced around the
lawn with sudden concern, only to relax again as the black and white cat strolled
nonchalantly out of the bushes. "Ah - yes. There you are. A-are you all
"He’s hardly going to answer you back, Giles," Xander noted
with a roll of his eyes. The Watcher always had been a little eccentric, and
circumstances could probably excuse him a lot of things right there and then
… but showing signs of turning into Dr Doolittle was probably taking things
a little too far. Giles gave him an odd look. Buffy smothered an unexpected
snort of laughter.
"You never know," she grinned, offering her arms to the animal and
catching it as it jumped up into her embrace. "Ari’s a very clever cat,
isn’t he, Giles?"
"Remarkably so," her Watcher confirmed, reaching to fondle the animal’s
ears. "Thank you. Thank you both."
Buffy smiled. "You’re welcome. Very welcome, actually. As in –
hey, all that crappy depresso ‘no hope,’ ‘no chance,’ stuff has turned out to
be this demon thing feeding off my friends and my family, and, hey look, now
the demon’s toast … or splinters, or something, and – hey, bonus! I got
my Watcher back. In one piece, I should add. One large as life and him actually
living it … which is of the good … and am I babbling?"
"Beautifully," Giles assured her, putting his arm around her shoulders
and steering her back towards the house. "We do still have to deal with
the First, you know."
"Yeah, I know. But we will. I know we will. It’s what we do."
Amen to that, Xander thought, stuffing his hands in his pockets and
following them. True, he’d have to fix the window yet again, but that was a
small price to pay for the almost giddy way he was feeling. It was as if someone
had lifted an unseen weight from his shoulders and opened a floodgate somewhere,
dousing him in life; all that listless, hopelessness was just washing away,
leaving him bright and alert and a little breathless.
Maybe just a little afraid too - but that was good. That he could feel.
Willow is going to be so mad she missed all of this …
"So what’s the plan, then?" Spike was asking, sauntering along beside
the Slayer and eyeing the cat in her arms as if it were a potential supper –
or a stake in a poker game.
Buffy moved Ari to her other shoulder, giving the vampire a warning glare.
The cat yawned unconcernedly. "I’m working on it."
"Good," Giles said. "And while you get on with that, I
am going to make myself a hot pot of tea and find Ari that tin of tuna I promised
* * * * *
Postscript: London, three months later.
The traffic along the Strand was as busy as might be expected for a wet Sunday
afternoon. Most of the passers-by were hurrying, huddling under their umbrellas
as they made their way to theatre lobbies for the matinee performances. The
exception was the four figures that were strolling along the road, sharing three
umbrellas between them. There were two young women in their late teens sheltering
under a dark red one, a gawky looking young man with one hand clinging to the
handle of one decorated with beefeaters while he balanced a guidebook in the
other, and a tall, distinguished looking gentleman who carried his black silk
umbrella with abstracted dignity, his mind obviously on other things.
"Hey, get this," the young man was saying, catching up with the two
young women. "The road in front of the hotel? This says it’s the only road
in Britain where it’s required by law to drive on the right hand side of the
road. That’s so that – "
"-patrons of the theatre could step straight from their carriages into
the theatre lobby," the older man interjected, reaching to pluck the book
from the young man’s fingers. "All of which is unquestionably fascinating,
but hardly relevant to the matter in hand. There is a time and place for research,
Andrew. This isn’t it. Do pay attention."
"Sorry, Mr Giles." The young man did his best to look contrite and
the young women giggled at his expression.
"Yes, well." Giles sighed. "Let’s get on with this, shall we?"
He led the way down the road and turned into the side road in front of the
hotel, sparing only a short glance for the theatre entrance as they passed it.
The smile that touched his lips lasted a little longer, although he was all
business again by the time they reached the hotel steps and the welcoming nod
of the top-hatted doorman.
"You go ahead and order tea," Giles advised, pausing to shake some
of the excess moisture from his umbrella. "I won’t be long."
The young women giggled again as the doorman stepped up to push open the door
for them. Andrew followed them in, trying hard not to gawp.
"We’re here to collect a friend," Giles informed the attentive doorman.
"I’m afraid he’s rather elderly, so there’ll be a private ambulance arriving
shortly. Can you make sure it has space to park?"
"Of course, sir." The doorman tipped his hat, smoothly accepting
the note that he was offered and pocketing it with a practiced hand. "Anything
else I can do for you?"
"Not right now, thank you." Giles tucked his now furled umbrella
under his arm and strolled into the hotel, that small smile resurfacing on his
face as he took in the sight that awaited him.
The lobby and the dining areas were just as he remembered, and he made his
way across to where Andrew and the girls had settled themselves, no doubt feeling
very important and privileged as they ordered afternoon tea from an attentive
"Can we have cake?" the younger of the two Slayers asked as the Head
of the new Watcher’s Council stepped up to join them.
"You can – and you may," Giles answered, peeling himself out of his
Burberry coat and handing it – and the umbrella – to another of the attentive
hotel staff. "A slice apiece, I suggest. Make mine a pot of Earl Grey,
will you? And – um – crumpets. With lots of butter."
The waiter smiled as he added the request to the order. "Anything else,
The Watcher hesitated, giving the older of the two girls a chance to tug at
his jacket. "Fig Newtons, Mr Giles?" she asked, her crisp English
accent a sharp contrast to the other girl’s American twang. Giles smiled.
"Yes, of course. Can you provide fig biscuits?" he enquired of the
waiter. "Our guest is … said to be very fond of them."
The waiter looked a little worried. "I don’t know, sir. But I’ll ask."
"Thank you." Giles casually perched himself on the arm of Andrew’s
chair, watching while the waiter weaved his way back to the kitchens with their
"This is so cool," Andrew declared, making himself comfortable
in the over stuffed chair. "Tea at the Savoy. Dawn is going to be so
"I doubt it," Giles observed dryly, glancing round the room to assess
who else was having tea among the art deco decorations. "I treated Buffy
and Dawn to dinner at the Ritz, the night before they left for Paris. Dawn’s
idea," he added distractedly, frowning at the somewhat noisy group of tourists
who’d just arrived. "I did tell her there were far better places to dine
in London, but … Ah!" He’d spotted what he was looking for, although it
was unlikely anyone else had; the ginger cat that had stepped out of a mirror
behind the potted palm had stepped back again almost immediately. "I’ll
be right back."
"Be careful," the younger Slayer advised and he threw her a patient,
if slightly pained, look.
"I don’t know why I should," he muttered, climbing back to his feet.
"You lot never are …"
"That’s because there are so many of us," the older girl smiled.
"You have to be careful. There’s only one of you. That makes you
He snorted, expressing disbelief at the sentiment while being deeply touched
by it; there were days when he suspected that most of the new Slayers that Willow’s
spell had awakened saw him only as some kind of outdated and ineffectual figurehead
– a symbol rather than a useful contribution to their cause. It wasn’t true,
of course, and he was used to being taken for granted most of the time, but
it was nice to occasionally have his place in the scheme of things affirmed
by something other than one of Buffy’s interminable speeches.
Much as he loved to listen to her make them.
"Back in a moment," he promised, making his way across to the far
side of the room. Once there he reached to push open the polished wooden door
with the discrete male figure painted on it, and heaved a small sigh of relief
on finding that there was nobody using the facilities behind it.
He’s ready, a soft voice announced from down by his feet. The small
ginger tom padded over to weave its way round his legs in greeting, and Giles
suppressed a momentary wince. He’d come to love the Walkers dearly, but it was
taking a lot longer to get used to living with cat hair decorating his clothing.
"Good. Hopefully this won’t take long." He gestured towards the floor
length mirror inset beside the urinals. "After you."
The young tomcat flicked its tail and stalked into the glass, vanishing into
its silvered depths.
A moment later, the Watcher stepped up to the mirror – and followed him.
* * * * *
"You think he’s all right in there?" Melanie asked anxiously,
fiddling with her slice of cake and trying hard not to stare at the toilet door.
"He’d better be," Helen muttered, doing much the same. Melanie threw
her a sympathetic look, knowing how proud she was of the position she’d been
assigned and how seriously she took her duties. Melanie took them pretty seriously
too, even if she wasn’t on the regular roster. Buffy Summers’ induction lecture
had been very clear about that aspect of their responsibilities. Whenever a
Slayer was acting as official bodyguard to the Head of the Council, she became
the one who’d be held to account if anything happened to him. Whether it was
her fault or not.
"Just relax," Andrew advised breezily. "He’ll come back. He
always does. I mean – it’s not as if either of you could follow him in there,
"No," Helen acknowledged sulkily. "But it’s been fifteen minutes.
His tea’s getting cold."
"Twelve and a half," the self styled Watcher-Apprentice corrected,
pulling out his pocket watch to check. "And the waiter only delivered our
order seven minutes ago, so it’s hardly likely that the tea pot would have lost
sufficient heat to cause concern. Of course," he added a little more worriedly,
"it will still be brewing, so it might be getting a little strong …"
Helen rolled her eyes and Melanie stifled a giggle. They both knew – all
the newly recruited Slayers knew – that Andrew had been in the final battle
with the First, and that he’d adopted Mr Giles as his role model with a fervour
that the man concerned despaired of from time to time, but that didn’t stop
him from acting like an idiot on regular occasions.
"Mr Giles likes it strong," Melanie pointed out, reaching
to pour herself a second cup. "Oh, gosh."
The teapot halted in mid-air, the action of pouring forgotten in an instant.
She stared across the room instead, her eyes wide and her breath caught in her
The Head of the Council had finally re-emerged from behind the toilet door,
still looking as smart and business like as he had been when he’d left – but
he wasn’t alone. There was a man clinging to his arm, seemingly holding onto
him for dear life.
A very old man
"Gosh," Andrew echoed, his own eyes going wide as he registered the
Watcher’s company. Geoffrey Davenport looked as withered and as ancient as Yoda
himself, with little more than wisps of hair clinging to his skull and his body
thin to the point of emaciation. He was wearing a pale grey suit, a plain white
shirt – and a pair of dark green velvet carpet slippers. "He looks just
like Grand Moff Tarkin."
"So he does," Helen blinked, then recovered herself with a effort.
"So call up the evacuation shuttle, already. That guy needs an ambulance
to go home in."
"Ah – right." Andrew scrabbled in his pockets for his mobile phone,
pulling it out and hitting the speed dial so that he could call in the support
team. Melanie was already on her feet, her heart beating a little wildly as
she stepped across to offer the old man her support from the other side. She’d
spent days preparing herself for this, and it had still taken her by
surprise. The gesture earned her bemused look from the old man and a perceptively
grateful glance from his solicitous escort.
"Gently, Geoffrey," Giles was saying, guiding him to the empty chair
on Andrew’s left. "No need to hurry. Just take it one step at a time."
"I will, my boy." Coming from anyone else that would have sounded
rudely presumptuous and extremely disrespectful – but the man was so old, and
the smile he wore so bright, that it seemed an entirely natural thing to say.
Melanie tried to smother a grin. Never, ever, in her entire lifetime
had she imagined hearing the Head of the Watcher’s Council addressed as ‘boy’.
Nor to see him smile quite so warmly when it happened.
True, Rupert Giles didn’t exactly fit the mold when compared to previous Heads
of the Council and he certainly wasn’t as old as most of them seemed to have
been, but even so … she let the grin surface, imagining her grandfather’s reaction
to the moment, had he still been alive to witness it. He’d have been totally
Her grandmother, on the other hand…
"There you go." Giles helped her lower the old man into the support
of the chair where he relaxed with a look of relief. "That wasn’t so bad,
"That," Geoffrey Davenport announced with feeling, "was ab-so-lutely
Oh." He suddenly seemed to realise he was in company. "Please – ladies.
Excuse my language."
Helen giggled at his expression. "We’re not ladies," she denied,
amused at his embarrassment. "We’re Slayers."
Davenport’s eyes went very wide. Melanie winced and Giles frowned. "Helen,"
he growled softly, as much as rebuke as it was warning. She went a little pale.
"Oops," she offered apologetically, along with a wary half smile.
Much to her – and Melanie’s – relief, it was returned with weary indulgence.
"Oops, indeed." The words were wry, and the small shake of his head
spoke volumes. "Fortunately there’s no harm done, since Geoffrey is a member
of the order, but – for future reference …?"
The weary smile grew a little warmer as Andrew leaned in to interject sternly.
"Ix-nay on the ayer-slay when in public."
"I got it, I got it," Helen protested, ducking her head and looking
even more embarrassed. Melanie grinned at her.
"It’s not her fault, Mr Giles," she said, sitting down to pour both
men a fresh cup of tea. "She didn’t even know about you-know-what until
you-know-when. It takes a little getting used to."
"Mmm. I’m sure it does." He didn’t sound completely convinced, but
he accepted the proffered cup of tea without further comment.
"Slayers?" Davenport was murmuring, staring into his teacup with
wary consideration. He lifted it to his lips with suspicious caution, took a
small sip – and then relaxed with what sounded like a blissful sigh. "Delightful,"
he declared, his bright smile returning with extra mega-wattage. It almost immediately
collapsed into a perplexed frown as he realised what Helen’s faux pas had revealed.
"More than one?"
"Long story, Geoffrey." Giles sighed softly. "I’ll tell you
all about it … once we get somewhere we can talk properly. Suffice to say, there
are now almost as many Slayers as there are Walkers, and it would seem that
I have managed to acquire responsibility for all of them. Not entirely
sure how that happened, but nevertheless …" He laughed suddenly, a soft
chuckle that reminded Melanie just how deeply this man cared about what he did
– and who he did it for. More than her grandfather ever had, that was for certain.
"Let me introduce you. This is Andrew, my … um ...assistant."
"Hi," Andrew simpered, waving his fingers in greeting.
"Helen Nichols, my somewhat … blabbermouthed bodyguard …"
Helen had the grace to look abashed. "How do you do, Mr. Davenport."
".. and Melanie Travers." Giles’ smile curled into warm benevolence.
He – like her - had been looking forward to this moment for days. "Your
It’s hard to be grateful to demons, especially ones that kidnapped unsuspecting
Watchers and collected innocent potentials together in a place of danger so
that they could feed on them without danger of discovery – but, looking at the
old man’s face, seeing the wide eyed smile of delight that slowly settled there,
Melanie decided that the visszatük’s escape into the world was something
she could be thankful for.
Although not as thankful as she was to Rupert Giles for finding her great-grandfather
and bringing him safe home from Looking Glass House …