Author: Sweetdoggie (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Giles reflects on Buffy’s First Watcher
Note: Fic challenge of the week: Mini-Challenge #55: Giles considers Buffy's first Watcher. From GilesRulesBaby
Disclaimer: No permission has been granted to use the characters. They are owned by their creator, Joss Whedon, Twentieth Century Fox, UPN, WB, and Mutant Enemy. This story is non-profit and is intended solely as entertainment. No copyright infringement is intended.
The memo had come with the daily mail. He had recognized the stationery as coming from the Council and had locked it in his desk drawer until after working hours when he could ensure his privacy. He broke the wax seal with weary fingers. They only sent memos like this when a Slayer died.
He tipped the single sheet of vellum from the envelope, glanced at it, and promptly dropped it onto his desktop. Picking it up again, he confirmed what his disbelieving eyes had read before. John Merrick, that grand old man, was dead. His Slayer apparently still lived and was going to be reassigned. No details, but the note implied that Merrick had fallen in the line of duty.
Giles could hardly believe it. Merrick dead. How could it have happened? How could that light that had burned so brightly for sixty-five years be extinguished?
Reaching back, he found the memory of the first time he had met the older man. It was just after the Eyghon fiasco. Giles was trying desperately to heal and dry out his magic addiction when Merrick came to speak to him.
“You’ve been a bit of a fool, boy.”
“Yes, sir. I know, sir.” Giles kept his face wooden. He’d had so many bloody lectures from the Council, his father, and his grandmother, that he really didn’t care to hear another. He was desperately sorry and all these old fools were doing was making him feel defensive.
“Well, water under the bridge. What I’m here for is to see you get your feet back on solid ground.”
“Do you think you’re the first Watcher to take a bit of a walk on the wild side? Because you’re not, you know. I’ve seen worse.”
“I killed my friend. Sir.”
“Yes, I suppose you did. Are you going to moan about that for the rest of your life or are you going to make his death meaningful?”
Rupert couldn’t believe his ears. Here was this absolute bastard Council freak telling him to pull up his bootstraps! Merrick clearly knew the particulars of Rupert’s wrongdoing and was unimpressed. Still badly shaken by his recent transgressions, Rupert had resolved not to argue back when he was being punished and so said nothing for a full minute while he struggled with his reply.
“How can I make such a horrible, needless death meaningful?” Despite his best efforts, there was a touch of scorn in his voice.
“You are destined to be a Watcher, boy, the companion to the Slayer. You’ve seen the price of folly, arrogance, dabbling in the black arts. Do you think that knowledge is worthless? Don’t you think the day will come when you are glad you have it? Perhaps on that day when you use the knowledge to save your Slayer. When that happens, then young Randal’s death will not have been in vain.”
Giles had thought about the older man’s words. Maybe he was right. Maybe that whole, horrible episode could be blotted out by making it into something he could use. He could punish himself for his friend’s death by becoming a Watcher. He had never wanted the responsibility, or the pain that came when his charge died, but maybe he could make that his penance. He would become the best Watcher that he could be to make up for his sins.
“Show me,” he had challenged.
“If you like,” Merrick had answered.
He had taken that young Rupert Giles and molded him into a man dedicated to one cause: keeping the Slayer alive. Over time, they had become friends. Rupert had confided his fears about being a Watcher to the older man. Merrick hadn’t castigated him for being a coward or for trying to shirk his duty. He had simply nodded and put a comforting hand on that young man’s shoulder.
“Do you think I don’t know, Rupert? I’ve trained and lost five girls. I know the pain of being inadequate, of being unable to save them. They were, none of them, ready for the great evil they had to face. None of us are ever truly ready. Someday, your Slayer will die and on that day, you will think that you can’t possibly go on, that your heart is broken beyond repair. Then, from somewhere, you will gather your strength and move on, maybe even to training another young girl for her death. We do what we must, young Rupert.”
He remembered when Merrick had gone off to train the latest girl, a Lost Slayer. Everyone assumed that she was doomed. There was some talk of simply letting her die, not bothering to send a Watcher at all. Merrick had stepped forward and stopped that talk. He had offered to take the girl for as long as necessary, telling his fellow Watchers that they didn’t have the right to pick and choose who was worthy and who wasn’t. Now that man was dead, and the Slayer who hadn’t been expected to last a week, was still alive.
Giles wondered who would be assigned to the girl? Poor sod, he’d have his work cut out for him and no mistake. Taking an untrained girl, fresh from the trauma of losing her Watcher, and attempting to teach her anything beyond a fear of death seemed virtually impossible. He pitied the man who would have to take her on.
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