Fic: Watcher’s Keeper
It had to have been planned. Somehow Giles had managed to thwart her every attempt to see his attire for the evening. She'd gotten ready early, very early in hopes to see him prepare and benefit from the same sort of preview he'd enjoyed of her. Unfortunately, he'd come from his bedroom not only fully dressed but already blanketed in a long, black raincoat covering all hints of what he wore beneath. He'd carefully trimmed and shaped his beard, making her even more curious as to how it might feel. She'd never touched a beard before. Maybe she could steal a quick tickle of his whiskers when he wasn't looking. The thought brought a smile to her lips then she remembered his reaction from the innocent contact earlier in the day and decided against the intrusion. She would play it cool, play by his rules and try to be serious. She had a job to do and she wanted to do it to the best of her ability.
Giles gathered up his keys and pocketbook as he made his way to the door, gesturing for her to come along. She did without a word, focusing on her job as they left. He acted the perfect gentlemen, opening doors for her along the way. He drove yet again, against her objections, though allowing her to check the vehicle before commandeering control over it. When they arrived at the Royal, she jumped out, practically mowing over the surprised valet, and rushed around to Giles' side to keep him inside until she'd scanned the crowd. He sat there, as patiently as he could, trapped inside until she was as certain of his safety as she could be. Once satisfied, she opened the door and allowed him to escort her inside, arm in arm.
Though the building from the outside looked like any other on the block, the inside was a fascinating welcome and Buffy was impressed by the unexpected decor inside. The lobby was warmly lit with soft light aimed at accenting the art covered walls and free standing displays of rare antiquities. It reminded her of the museum her mom worked at. Though silly as the thought was, she half expected to see familiar relics from her old home. It would make her feel more comfortable instead of the hyper aware and overly anxious bundle of nerves she already was. This was it, her last chance to win over Giles to her new job. Something told her it wouldn't be an easy task.
"May I take your coat, sir? Miss?" A tuxedoed attendant offered and stretched out his arm.
Giles helped Buffy off with her coat and handed it over then worked to balance his cane as he tried to remove his own coat. Buffy noticed the cane slip from its precarious spot on his arm and fall. She knelt down carefully to recover it and when she returned upright, Giles stood there, finally revealed in his suit and she was caught breathless at the vision. A midnight black, double breasted, worsted wool tux, perfectly tailored over his frame. Beneath it was a solid white collar shirt without a tie but sporting a glimmering golden rimmed button set off by the companion petite, hoop gold earring dangling from his left ear. He looked so stylish and entirely different than she'd remembered at the prom. He was stunningly handsome and only the attendant's tug at the cane broke her from the spell she'd fallen into.
"Thank you sir," the attendant nodded politely and returned his cane as he turned to Buffy. "Miss." He bowed toward Buffy and wandered off with he coats, leaving Buffy in a daze and trying desperately to gather her thoughts back to the task at hand as Giles glanced around the room.
"Shall we?" he offered her his arm and she slipped hers through his, still finding it hard to take her eyes off him.
"You look... you look amazing," she whispered to him as they moved along though the wandering couples.
"You approve, then?" He grinned, pleased.
"You clean up well," she smiled. "Too well."
"Still a touch rough around the edges but it will have to do."
"I like rough edges." She felt her face flush with embarrassment and was greatly relieved he didn't glance at her at that instant.
The crowd was small, intimate. Mostly human in attendance but Buffy could feel the slight echoes of her once acute physical reaction to the demons hidden within the crowd. There were vampires and shape shifters, witches and sorcerers. Overall, the breed of beasts she labeled 'posers' because they could blend in with the world around them, fake humanity in order to infiltrate a world that fears them and rightfully so. As they ventured further inside, she began to see the more exotic creatures she'd come to face in her years as Slayer, the ones which couldn't hide their otherworldliness. It looked like some upper crust, black tie version of the Star Wars canteen scene.
"You okay?" Giles asked, noticing her wandering eyes.
"Peachy! Just not used to a mixed bag like this."
"It takes some getting used to, I know. But there are good people here, friends of mine. I hope you'll see them as yours as well," Giles reassured her.
"Just give me a heads up when it's not an unusual greeting and I'll be fine."
"Mr. Giles, I'm so pleased you decided to come," a seven foot demon with black, ram like horns approached and extended his hoofed limb to him. Giles took it by the wrist, giving him a courteous shake.
"I've been looking forward to this evening. Thank you for the invitation, Sir Crakenfir," Giles bowed graciously and nodded to Buffy. "May I present Miss..."
"Buffy Summers. It is an honor indeed to be in the presence of such a celebrity. I hope we can find time to exchange tales of our adventures."
Buffy smiled and bowed gently, following Giles' lead with the polite demon.
"Sir Crakenfir held a position similar to that of a Slayer in his home dimension. The NidMerdi, if memory serves. I’m sure he has quite the tales to tell."
"Well done, Rupert. You haven't lost your touch." Crackenfir lips curled to a pleased, fang filled smile. "But I won't make any promises on the amusement of my stories."
"I would love to hear them," Buffy nodded politely.
Another ram demon hurried up and whispered in Crakenfir's ear. He gave a single nod and returned his attentions to his guests. "I have some thing's to attend to. Please enjoy some appetizers and mingle about. Dinner will be in a short while."
"Thank you," Giles continued on, walking further within the larger hall.
"He seems nice," she said.
"Yes indeed, quite the gentleman for a mass murderer." Giles smiled graciously at another familiar face and continued along.
"Mass murderer?" Buffy repeated quietly.
"The NidMerdi is a sort of executioner in his world. He's responsible for eradicating the disrespectful and the radicals. Makes for the impressive resume."
"How many other nice murderers do we have here?" Buffy's eyes darted from beastly face to demon face.
"You'd be better off not knowing."
"Why are we here, Giles?" She worked to keep a smile on her face as they walked.
"Simply to attend."
"I don't get it."
"Our presence here is a test of courage. Every other guest in attendance this evening has taken out a warrant on my head."
"Everyone here wants you dead?"
"Not at the moment. My recent pursuits are necessary to further along negotiations of their various treaties." He answered calmly. "They deem me as a necessary evil."
"Wonderful. What does that make me?"
"Actually, they consider you with the highest regard, having the impressive slay profile you do. Body count is a measuring stick for success and you are abundantly productive."
"Mom would be so proud."
Buffy had to admit it, for being in a banquet hall packed with a crowd of vicious killers, she was having the time of her life. The food was exquisite, even though she didn't have a clue what they ate. Desert was awe inspiring, something like tiramisu but with a heavy vanilla cream to dip each bite in. She'd already had two glasses of red wine which were quickly going to her head. The company, Sir Crakenfir and four of his handsomely suited henchmen were most entertaining with disturbingly humorous stories of their exploits. Her favorite was an ill planned raid to in which Crakenfir and his first in command ransacked what Buffy understood to be a whore house but instead, turned out to be a nunnery. She giggled for over ten minutes at the image of demon penguins scattering into the night. But there was one thing that continued to distract her throughout the evening; every few moments, Giles would look across the rounded table to her, the subtle quirk of a grin creasing his lips, and it sent her mind wandering.
"Rupert, you haven't asked this lovely young woman to dance. It would be quite a shame to waste such an intriguing venture as accompanying her to the dance floor."
"I'd love a dance, if you're offering, Sir Crakenfir," Buffy smiled encouragingly, much to the kindly demons embarrassed amusement.
"I believe I will take my wise friend's advice and accompany you, if you'll have me." Giles stood and Buffy was surprised.
"Uh... yeah, of course." She responded uncertainly, taking his arm as they began to walk out to the dance floor. She was stunned as she glanced back to see he'd abandon his cane for the first time since she'd arrived, leaving it situated at the base of his chair at the table. He still moved with a limp but it was muted, compensated for with a confident stride. As they reached the wooden floor, he directed her around to face him and pulled her in close, wrapping his arm around her waste and raising her hand in his. Buffy was mesmerized; she was not only dancing, she was dancing with her Watcher, with Giles.
"I didn't know you could dance."
"You never asked," he grinned demurely.
"Why didn't you ask me to dance at the prom?" she asked.
He gently spun her around, brought her close and began to sway. "I seem to recall you had prior obligations that evening."
"Obligations; good word for it." Buffy sighed. "I think it would've been better had Angel never shown. Or maybe if you had asked..."
"Nice moves, Watcher," a mocking growl came from beside them followed by a giggle. Buffy looked to see one of Crakenfir's associates strolling on by with his lady companion. "Council training?"
"Outreach program for youthful offenders, actually," Giles responded easily. "The music was thought to tame the more violent tendencies."
Buffy snickered. "You're kinda light on your feet as well?"
The demon snarled and stepped forward threateningly. Giles pivoted smoothly, drifting Buffy clear of the beast and putting himself between her and the disrespectful demon. He stared the demon down, undaunted, always keeping a polite smile on his face.
"It would be a shame to disrupt Sir Crakenfir's celebration, don't you think?" Giles cocked up a brow, waiting for a response.
"Could use a bit of livening up if you ask me, mate. Care to show us more of those pretty Watcher moves or are you shying away from it on account of that bum paw of yours." The demon snickered, amused with his jest. Buffy tried to step forward but felt Giles hold her at bay with a slight grip of her arm.
"Such a stunning beauty as your escort shouldn't be denied a turn on the dance floor. Be the gentlemen your boss assumes you to be and provide her with the treatment she deserves." Giles nodded, politely acknowledging the demon's human female companion.
"He's right, Ricky." She agreed with a whiny tone, "You haven't asked me to dance all night."
"Later, Merna," Ricky grumbled.
"Always later. I tell you what, Ricky. Next time you want someone to help you with that little molting issue you've been having... call Burt 'cause I'm walkin'!" She started off through the crowd, leaving Ricky both embarrassed and steamed.
"We'll finish this later, cripple." Ricky hurried off to catch up with his upset date. Giles' face bowed forward, his eyes falling toward his leg. After a moment, he turned back to face Buffy and extended his hand, offering to continue their dance. She eagerly accepted. He led her with a sure and graceful motion, sending her gliding along the floor within his secure arms and perfect tempo.
"Well done." She smiled.
"That remains to be seen."
"You think he'll be back?"
"Only if Merna doesn't get her dance."
Buffy considered thoughtfully. "So let's review, shall we? You are an expert at defense, weapons and martial arts, skillful practitioner of magicks, speaker of five languages, and to top it off, you can play the guitar and sing and dance?"
"I'm also quite a good card player," he added ruefully.
"Be still my heart," she quipped, trying to hide the truth behind the statement.
"We had a lovely evening, Sir Crakenfir," Buffy smiled as Giles helped her with her wrap.
"Made lovelier by your presence, I assure you Miss Summers." He reached out with his hoof shaped appendage and without blinking, Buffy offered him her hand. He lifted it to his toothy smile and pressed a gentle kiss to the back of her hand. "Perhaps you would be so kind as to display some of your Slayer skill with your weapon of preference."
"Perhaps next time, I was rather hoping for this night off." She bowed her face just slightly, doing her best to be shy yet insistent. "We'll have something to look forward to in our next meeting."
"You've done well with this one, Rupert." The polite demon's brow rose with curiosity. "Quick witted and deadly. I can hear the hidden threat in her voice."
Buffy's eyes went wide with worry. "I meant no..."
"Please, no apologies, my dear. Your fire is what sets you apart from these impostors. You are a true warrior. One I am fortunate to have the honor of meeting. Thank you Rupert for granting me the opportunity."
"Thank you for inviting us." Giles bowed his head graciously and held out his arm for Buffy. "I trust I will be seeing you at the summit?"
"Will you're charming escort be attending?"
Giles considered Buffy with a pleased smile. "That she will."
"Then I shall endeavor to be on my best behavior." Crakenfir bowed respectfully and smiled at Buffy. "Until next time. Good evening, Rupert... Miss Summers."
"Good evening," Buffy responded, looking toward the exit with a cautious glance.
"Good evening, Sir Crakenfir." Giles took his cane firmly in hand and began to lead Buffy out.
Once outside, Buffy chuckled softly.
"What is it?"
"I thought I'd messed up again."
"Quite the contrary, you did well."
"You mean I did better than you expected."
"I've learned to expect the unexpected from you." He glanced sideways at her, his lips curling to a shy grin. "I believe Crakenfir was quiet taken with you."
"And so the trend continues. Little Miss Demon Magnet wins another demony gentleman suitor." She shrugged. "Just give me my tiara and sash."
"Can't blame them, can you?"
Buffy glanced up at the shy grin he wore and smiled. "Was that a half-assed attempt at a compliment?"
"As Xander would say, I was using my whole arse, I assure you." Giles motioned down the street, stealthily trying to avert the subject. "There is small shop just a block from here. Mind if I stop in to grab a few essentials?"
"Personally, nope. Professionally, yes. I haven't checked out that location or the route to it. Which brings us to topic, the second." Buffy turned to face him directly. "Not that I'm complaining or anything, but it's going be hard for me to protect you if you keep up the macho man routine, Giles."
"I wasn't trying to be 'macho'. I was simply confronting a challenge by that Prakintar gentleman. Part and parcel of the work I do is to handle such situations delicately. You'll learn quickly what presents a true threat and what is merely for show."
"I'll buy that but until then, let me take the risks. And that includes not pushing me aside when someone is 'challenging' you."
"I apologize, Buffy. Force of habit, I suppose."
"Just stop it, okay. Let me do my job. Me bodyguard, you body... remember?"
"I will try to get that equation straight."
"There won't be much body left to guard when we're through, mate," the familiar growl came from behind them and Buffy and Giles turned around to a gang of four of the same horned, hoofed demons stepping out from the entrance to join Ricky.
"Are we learning yet?" Buffy rolled her eyes at Giles.
"So he's a bloody prat, what can I say?" Giles shrugged.
"And I really had hoped for a night off." Buffy sighed. Giles began to step forward and it was Buffy's turn to hold him back. He glanced over and grinned self-consciously.