Rain, rain on the windows of Giles’s house, miles out in what Buffy had learned to call the Wiltshire countryside, rain that cooped her up inside, and she was restless. Giles had vanished into his study after dinner, as he had every night during the week Buffy’d been staying with him. This time Buffy decided to chase him there. Beard the lion in his den, though what beards had to do with it Buffy had no idea.
Buffy tapped on the door and heard his muffled voice answering. There he was, in his armchair, with a pistol in his hand. Buffy froze in the doorway, ready to snap into fight mode. Then she saw the rag he was using to rub at the barrel. A little can of oil sat on the table at his elbow, next to a glass and a carafe full of something tawny. Buffy’s heart rate slowed, and she leaned against the door casually.
“Oh, hullo, Buffy,” Giles said, calmly, though she knew well enough he’d seen her go into alert mode and out.
“What are you up to?”
“Cleaning my pistols.”
He reached for his glass and drank right-handed, pistol still in his left. Of course he knew that was no answer. Buffy advanced into the room and perched on the arm of his chair. She took the glass out of his hand. She sniffed: Scotch, one of his single malts, and redolent of something she’d learned was peat. She had a taste, and made a thoughtful face.
“That gun is tiny.”
“Perceptive as always.”
“Never mock a Slayer.”
“I shall remember that advice. Here. It’s not loaded.”
He held it out to her flat on his palm. Buffy traded the glass of Scotch for the pistol.
Tiny, yes. It weighed almost nothing.
She didn’t take Giles’s word, but checked for herself that it was unloaded. Never point a gun at a human being, even an unloaded one. Not unless you were going to shoot. Always look for a round in the chamber. Always clean your weapons after using them. That one went for swords and knives as well as guns.
Buffy took it in both hands, in the Giles-approved grip, and sighted across the room at an ugly dark painting of a guy with a bunch of dogs. She’d fired handguns before-- Giles had ensured that her weapons training had been complete, even to the point of letting her turn her shoulder into a mass of bruises to make a point about shotguns and mules. A shotgun this was not. It felt better in her hand than the Ruger pistol had. It fit.
Snap, snap, snap, one pull for each dog in the painting. The one on the right looked demonic and deserved it.
“Are you sure this gun is manly enough?” she said.
Giles smiled at her over the rim of the glass. “Any gun manly enough for James Bond is a gun manly enough for me.”
“That is a Walther PPK. His favored weapon, in the books and the Connery movies.”
“Pierce Brosnan always carried something bigger.”
“Brosnan was a poseur.”
Giles just had another sip of his Scotch.
“What’s the ammo?”
“Thirty-two caliber. Not a lot of stopping power. One needs to aim well. But it’s easily-concealed. When I carry a concealed weapon, this is the one I carry.”
Buffy almost dropped the little gun. “You pack a gun? Often? Like back in Sunnydale?”
The corner of Giles’s mouth turned up. “More often than you might think. Baggy sweaters have their uses.”
He waved a hand at the little side table next to his chair, where the carafe stood. Next to it was a leather holster on complicated-looking straps. A shoulder harness. Buffy’d seen them in movies, but never in real life. She obviously hadn’t been paying enough attention to Giles. If she’d ever grappled with him in training, she’d have noticed that. He must have been careful to take it off first. That made sense.
Next to the holster was a cartridge and some bullets, strangely shiny.
Giles handed her one, silently. Crosses etched into them, yes, silver, and Buffy could feel that they’d been blessed. Expensive ammo, but worth it. She handed gun and bullet back to him. He pressed the bullet into the cartridge, then inserted cartridge into the gun, checked the action, and thumbed the safety off then on again. Then he snapped the gun into the little holster.
“I thought it was like impossible to have guns in England. Banned, or something.”
“One must prove the need and obtain the licenses. Watchers are among the few with the need. The Council is useful for some things, licenses and paperwork being chief among them. And now, of course–” Giles gestured palms-up. Head of Council, that was Giles now. An official government position, and one with some serious cred. That was one of the surprising things she’d learned on this visit.
It was surprising in more ways than one, in fact. The sight of Giles in one of his suits, all dressed up for a meeting, had made her stop and stare. Though she’d been pretty sure she’d made Giles do a double-take himself, when they’d met for dinner in London on her first night here. Though maybe that was just the Italian fashion; Buffy was well-dressed herself these days. But Giles had changed in the year she’d been away in Rome, in some way she could sense without understanding the details. He was a powerful man now, but relaxed with it. Relaxed in his own skin. That was it, that was the key. Giles, relaxed, smiling up at her faintly as he sprawled in his armchair, his arm brushing her leg where she perched.
She made herself comfortable on the arm of his leather chair. Giles poured another splash of Scotch from the carafe into his glass. His hair was flecked with gray now. Buffy’d never bothered to find out exactly how old he was. Until recently she’d mentally classed him as “old” and not bothered to think about it further. She’d learned to be embarrassed about that dismissal. Late forties, she thought, and in amazing shape.
Unnerving, sitting so close to him, so cozy, in his little study, with her nose filled with the masculine scents of whisky, gun oil, and leather. And something underneath it all that she’d always associated with Giles, the scent of his soap. Of his sweat, clean and fresh, faint but inescapable to the Slayer’s senses. It had always done something for her, that Giles-scent, and Buffy had reached her peace with that knowledge some time in her year away from him. Rome had taught her a great deal. The glossy attentions of the Immortal, the shiny handsome men who had flickered around her, the night life and the clothes: none of them mattered to her the way her Sunnydale friends did. The way her Watcher did.
And that was why she’d abandoned Rome for England. Buffy crossed her knees and leaned a little closer to Giles.