Fathers and Daughters
All Hail the Almighty Joss! Creator of Buffyverse, and all the inhabitants thereof! All give thanks to Canal+ and A&E, owners of The Avengers, whose creators are lost in the mists of early British TV.
While Miss Peel made her weekly report to the Council, Giles was wondering just how she was going to present the week's events . . . and especially Buffy's encounter of the previous night."A demon has offered to sell us a set of five mystical volumes, called the Books of Ascension, for five thousand dollars, claiming that they will shed some light on the intentions of Mayor Richard Wilkins of Sunnydale, who appears to be the same man who founded this town on top of the Hellmouth a hundred years ago." Right -- it's a bloody good thing that Miss Peel's Council contact is her own father, otherwise the Council would probably have us all institutionalized.Or, quite possibly, 'liquidated' by one of their roving bands of hired thugs.
He was broken out of his thoughts by a sight he'd been sure he'd never see again: the entire Scooby Gang entering his library. Granted, there were as many people as possible separating Xander and Faith from Cordelia -- but they were all there.
"So Giles," Buffy started, "Faith tells me that Miss Peel's gonna pay for the books?"
He nodded. "I tried to convince her to apply for access to the Council's Acquisitions Fund, but she rightly pointed out that President Ashton and his followers will certainly vote against anything she asks for. And . . . " He shrugged helplessly. "Even though five thousand dollars was still a month's pay for me back when I was drawing two
paychecks, it's a mere pittance for Emma Knight's only daughter."
Willow gasped. "You mean Emma Peel is Emma Knight
? Of Knight Industries?" she asked eagerly. "Wow. I know she said her family was well-off, but . . . wow."
"Knight Industries? Any chance there's a talking car named K.I.T.T. lurking around somewhere?" Xander quipped.
"Talking cars, no. Battleships and aircraft carriers, yes," Willow remarked, with a roll of her eyes. "Sir John Knight -- Miss Peel's grandfather -- founded Knight Industries in the early '30s, and by the middle of the '50s, it was building almost half of the new ships being commissioned by the British Navy. When Sir John died suddenly in 1959, his daughter Emma took over the company, and despite the fact that everyone thought a woman couldn't run a major corporation in those days, she did it -- and did very well, in fact.
"But after about six or seven years, she decided she wanted out of the rat race, so she arranged for the company to be sold to Northrop Grumman. She made sure all her employees would keep their jobs, with no loss in seniority or salary cuts . . . and her share of the company was worth forty million dollars."
Giles raised his eyebrows as several of the Scoobies whistled and gasped in surprise.
Cordelia, however, simply commented, "So, Willow, when did you stop reading Geeks 'R Us long enough to check out the Wall Street Journal?"
Willow looked like she wanted to fire back at Cordelia, but only answered, "When I got that offer from that software company during Career Week, I started really thinking about what I wanted to do after high school. I decided I'm not really the worker-bee-in-the-corporate-hive type, but I did have a few fantasies about being a queen
bee, so I did some research on women CEOs. Emma Knight successfully ran a Global 500 corporation, increased its profits and productivity by twenty percent, and then walked away from it all when she decided she'd had enough."
Then she grinned, and her green eyes danced. "And now I know what she's been up to since then. I'd love to be able to ask her all about it."
"Well, it must be your lucky day, Willow, because it looks like you're going to have a chance to do just that," Miss Peel remarked from the door to Giles' office.
"What?" the redhead squeaked. Giles tried to hide a smile -- it looked like Willow was trying to blush and turn pale at the same time. "You mean she's coming here?"
The Watcher nodded. "Mmm-hmm. As soon as the Conclave takes place and the Council is complete again, they're going to be coming to Sunnydale. All of them."
Now it was Giles' turn to go pale. "The whole Council, here? That's . . . unprecedented. The last time more than one Council member left England at the same time was before the Civil War."Not to mention the fact that no Field Watcher wants to have to deal with even one Council member face-to-face, much less the whole bloody Council at once!
Buffy shrugged. "The Civil War? Pfftt. A hundred and thirty years, that's no big deal to you Watchers, right?"
Miss Peel corrected her before Giles could. "He meant the English Civil War, Buffy -- in 1649."
Buffy's mouth closed with an audible click
"And to answer your question, Giles -- yes, it's unprecedented. And even more unprecedented, the vote was unanimous, so no matter what the makeup of the Council is after the Conclave, they will
be coming here. And while they are here, they will gather evidence and testimony on several matters they consider of vital importance, including your re-hiring, Faith's recovery . . . and Angel."
She turned her attention to Buffy. "He was probably the issue that pushed the Council over the edge. Sanderson's research has turned up several documents that concern him, and they make it clear he is important -- far more than even I had guessed. There is even one vague reference to him being involved in the Apocalypse."
Buffy waved that off. "Apocalypse, schmocalypse. I've faced four of those already," she said dismissively.
"You've faced situations in which the end of the world might
occur, Buffy. I'm talking about the
Apocalypse. The final, inevitable, decisive battle between Good and Evil."
Buffy didn't look entirely convinced, but some of her disdain went away as Miss Peel went on. "The document in question is a translation of a translation, and therefore not very reliable, but it talks about 'the vampire with a soul' and his crucial role in this final battle -- but it does not
say which side he will be on."
Indignation suddenly flared in Buffy's eyes, but the Watcher quickly went on, "Those aren't my words, Buffy, they're the Council's. Remember, while there have been a few demons and half-breeds who have aided the Council in the past, there has never been a vampire who has chosen to do good, in any way. Perhaps it is the nature of the demon that first created them, or simply the fact that they are always born in death, but vampires have always been as close to pure evil as any creature on Earth.
"If this prophecy had come to the Council's attention just a few years ago, they would have automatically assumed that Angel was crucial to Evil's victory in the Apocalypse, and marked him for immediate termination. The very fact that they are willing to meet him in person shows a certain amount of trust in your opinion of him."
Buffy still looked unconvinced, and Giles decided to try to change the subject slightly. "You said the document was an unreliable translation. So where is the original?"
Miss Peel looked uncomfortable. "The Council has sent a team to try to retrieve it."
Giles made a noise in his throat. "Where?"
The answer came out in a half-whisper. "The other side has it."Damn.
Now Giles knew why she'd tried to avoid the question. There weren't many other organizations with the power and influence to show up on the Council's radar, and far fewer that were truly dedicated to evil. But that bare handful, referred to colloquially as "the other side," was home to some of the nastiest specimens of the human race -- if they could be called human any more. If there was going to be an open conflict between the Council and one of them, any Watcher might quickly become a target. Or just collateral damage. "Which one?" he asked.
She shrugged. "I don't know -- but I hope they're somewhere on the other side of the planet. These confrontations over artifacts and documents can get messy."
Xander made a face. "And your definition of 'messy' would be . . . ?"
"Death. Destruction. Mayhem. And the occasional war."
"That's pretty messy."* * *
The meeting with the demon went as planned -- Miss Peel brought the five thousand in cash, the demon brought the books, and at first glance -- they were in Latin, which he could read as quickly as he could English -- Giles judged them well-worth the price.
The big surprise was that Miss Peel brought Faith with her, letting the girl make her first official appearance as a Slayer in about two weeks. Miss Peel claimed she was there to keep the demon honest -- as she pointed out, one Slayer was bad enough, but having to face two Slayers together was a demon's worst nightmare come true -- but Giles still had to wonder if there wasn't more on his counterpart's agenda.
It wasn't until they returned home, and Buffy commented, "So I guess Miss Peel doesn't trust me any more," that he realized that she'd had the same thoughts.
"I believe she trusts you somewhat, Buffy. But she doesn't understand you. You're absolutely convinced that you should continue your relationship with Angel, and she's equally convinced that it's dangerous. She can't understand why you're willing to risk so much to be with him."
"And you, Giles? Do you understand?"Oh, no. We areno going to do this now.
"I'm not asking for your approval, Giles. I . . . I couldn't do that to you, not after all you've been through. I just want to know if you understand why he means so much to me."
Giles stared, then squinted at his once-and-possibly-future Slayer. "Whenever the subject has come up in the past, you've always made it clear to me that you didn't want or need my approval regarding your personal life. Has that changed?"
The Slayer's shoulder's slumped a bit, and she took a deep breath. "Giles . . . with all this stuff that's been going on with Faith, and Xander, and everything, I've had to do some really hard thinking. There are people that I need in my life. You know Mom's number one on that list . . . but you and Angel are just about tied for the number two spot."
As Giles struggled to come up with a response to that, she came up to him and put a hand on his arm. "I'm sorry I had to be groggy and half-dopey to say it the other night, but I'll say it again, just to be sure we're clear on this concept. I. Love. You. Giles. I don't know what I'd've done without you these past couple of years. And don't you dare say that you've just done what any Watcher would do, because we both know that's not true."
He nodded. And then, slowly but surely, the words came out. "Buffy . . . I love you, too. I . . . I know I should've said it before . . . "
"It's all right, Giles. In all the ways that don't involve the actual words, you've said it a hundred times."
And then a strange light came into Buffy's eyes. "You know, my mom and I had a talk about the men in our lives. Took up most of a night. I was kinda foggy afterwards, but I remember very clearly one thing she said about you. She said you were like Fort Knox. Strong, sturdy, and with really high walls, and all the gates are locked up tight, so it's really, really hard for anyone to see what you've got inside you. But when you actually choose to let someone in . . . your heart is twenty-four karat gold. Nothing that isn't real, and pure, and good.
"I've found my gold, Giles. I've seen it, felt it. And now that I have, I won't -- I can't -- settle for bronze or silver."
In the back of his mind somewhere, Giles knew that he was being "buttered up" a little. Okay, maybe a lot. But he was doomed by two simple truths. First, he knew that she was telling the truth, as she saw it -- while Buffy was fairly skilled with half-truths and avoidance tactics, she was really no good at being a bald-faced liar. But second, and more importantly, this was the first conversation where they had openly acknowledged their feelings for one another, and so he had no defense against the various methods that any daughter can use to wrap her father -- or stepfather -- around her little finger.