Giles had the phone to his ear, fingers poised to dial yet again, but froze when he heard the door creak open before the words “Hey Giles? You here?” tore through the house in Buffy’s slightly hysterical voice.
He stood up, stiff from sitting and walked out to greet her, afraid to ask what might be the cause of her visit so early in the day. “Yes, Buffy?”
“Thank god!” She threw herself at him, hugging him tightly. “I was worried about you. I just heard about London.”
Giles brought his arms up slowly to return the embrace, half-relieved that there was no Hellmouth crisis to be dealt with just then, half-weary that there wouldn’t be something else to distract him from what was on his mind. He pushed her away to arms length and looked her in the eye, “Buffy, I’m standing right here,” he said, a bit exasperated. “In Sunnydale, a million miles away from what happened.”
“Well, duh, Giles. But you lived there, right? Do you have family and friends in the city? Have you heard from them? Are they okay?”
Giles hesitated long enough that Buffy could tell the answer, and she looked up at him with wide, worried eyes. “Oh no.”
Sighing, Giles led her to the couch, knowing she wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. “I’m sure it’s just a matter of phone lines and such, Buffy. Most of my family is perfectly fine—I managed to get through to them this morning and I’ve called the Council and Museum to check on others.”
“But?” she asked, nervous hand at his shoulder.
He looked down. “No one has been able to get ahold of Nate. My younger brother,” he added.
Buffy’s face clouded with confusion. “I didn’t know you had a brother. Since when?”
Giles couldn’t help the eyeroll. “1957. Actually, I have two of them, but the other is fine.”
“Oh. Should I…should I leave then so you can try to call him?”
He was seriously tempted to tell her yes, but instead he admitted the truth. “I’ve been trying all morning and left several messages, but I haven’t been able to ring him yet. I’m sure he’ll call when he gets the chance…or mother will. And I’ve…” he swallowed a little hard, “I’ve asked that if local authorities make any positive identifications, the Council call me.”
Buffy sat forward on the couch and traced the patterns on the coffee table for a while, silent. Finally she asked him the question on her mind. “Why would anyone do this, Giles?”
The question struck a nerve with him too. The world was full of evil in its pure form – vampires, demons, and other horrors abounded killing far more in the long run than the relative handful that had ridden the London underground that morning, but that was just a fact of life. This was different. Humans striking out at fellow humans senselessly to promote some agenda, to strike a little fear…it was sickening and horrifying in a way the other was not. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time something like this had happened, and most likely it wouldn’t be the last. “I don’t know, Buffy. I just don’t know,” he said as his voice broke.
Buffy looked up, concerned, but put a hand on his arm. “Tell me about him, Giles. Tell me about Nate.”
And so he did. He told her about how close they’d been growing up a mere three years apart and about how Nathan had followed him everywhere, idolizing him. About how Nate’s anger had been one of the things that made rebelling against the Council so hard. About how Nate had taken years to forgive him after he’d returned, but about how when he finally had, it seemed unconditional.
Giles was halfway through a story about how they’d gotten into trouble for playing with the spellbooks in their father’s library when the phone rang.
Buffy clutched his hand tightly when he reached over and grabbed the cordless handset, pressed the button and then held it to his ear. Nervously he waited for the voice on the other line.
When it came, Giles let out a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “Nate. Thank God.” When Buffy caught his eye, she was smiling, and Giles found himself smiling back with a joy and relief that bubbled up and threatened never to let him go.
Note: A companion G/E piece can be found here at my LJ
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