Title: In a Corner of My Soul
Chapter: I Robot; You Jane 2/4
AO3 Mirror: HERE
fanfiction.net Mirror: HERE
Setting: Season 1 of BtVS
Word Count: 5381
Note: Many of these scenes were written for prompts at Taming the Muse.
Warning: Inappropriate language; violence; death of a canon character
Tucker kicked a rock along the empty street. Fucking suburbs, never anything to do. It'd been weeks since he'd had anything close to fun and even then Giles had taken that demon and shoved it into that old guy. Like a demon'd want a body that wrinkled. Tucker had begged, fucking begged, but Giles wouldn't put the demon into him because he hadn't, Giles had said, proved his worth. “Prove my worth? Fuck your ass.” He'd gotten beaten up by a bunch of demons. What more did the guy want?
“Hey, there you are.”
Tucker didn't think. He punched, a quick one-two straight to the gut. As the little creep fell over, he wondered if he shouldn't get in a kick or two.
“You shouldn't punch me, Mom'll …” Tucker grabbed Andrew by the hair and yanked him off the street. “Ow.”
“Mom'll do nothing. Say one word and you'll never say anything again. You got me?”
Tucker shoved Andrew to the ground and turned. Fuck. Owen was holding a cross at arm's length as if that was gonna save him. “What'cha gonna do, pretty boy. Pray over me?” Tucker ripped the cross from Owen's hand.
“But … but she said crosses would …”
“Yeah, if I was a fucking vampire.” Tucker pitched the cross. He made a fist and punched one hand into the other. “Could bloody you up though, see if any vamps smell ya and come running for dinner.”
“I'm not afraid of you.”
“Yeah? That's 'cause you're stupid.”
Idiot Andrew didn't know when to stay down. “Tucker, this might not be such a good idea. You know Mom works for Mr. Thurman.”
Tucker turned on Andrew but held back his kick. At least the little shit shrank back, but he was right. If Owen's Dad embarrassed Mom at work, Tucker'd never hear the end of it. Tucker was wondering if he could bluff his way out of this when he heard the screams. “You're just lucky I've got better things to do.” He ran off, chasing the screams.
There, in front of Amy Madison's house, the sidewalk, it wasn't usually that dark. He stopped at the edge of the street. Blood, the sidewalk was covered in blood. And guts. Further back, by the edge of the house, he saw a body. Tucker stepped closer, careful to avoid the guts. It wasn't just a body, it was pieces of a body, six or seven chunks. Cool.
Tucker wondered if he could find a bag in the house. His first dead body. He wanted a trophy. He heard another scream, higher pitched this time, maybe a girl. The corpse wasn't going anywhere. Tucker followed the screams.
Around the side of the house, he found Amy. Light glowed between her hands like she was trying to do a spell. Shit, if he'd known she could do magic, he might have hung with her. Giles wouldn't let him near magic.
Something growled and the light between Amy's hands vanished in a flash, like a strike of lightning, there and then gone. Claws reached out of a shadow and raked across her throat. The spray went fucking everywhere. Awesome! This was so much better than just finding a body.
He didn't think to be afraid, not even when the demon turned its green, glowing eyes on him. It was that Eyghon demon, the one Giles had put into that old fucker. The skin was greener and the claws seemed sharper, but it was the same demon.
The claws reached for him and a hand wrapped around his throat. Shit. Shit shit shit. He couldn't move, not with those eyes staring into him. The demon tilted its head. Oh God, it was gonna eat him. “Mine,” it growled.
The Eyghon demon drew its hand back and screamed, a growling howl of rage, into the night. Tucker screamed with him. When they stopped, his throat was sore. The demon sniffed the air. “Power. Magic. The traitor's pretty toy.”
Eyghon ran off and Tucker chased after. The traitor, that had to be Giles. Eyhgon wanted to be in Tucker but Giles kept them apart. That meant the toy had to be, uh, Buffy or maybe Willow. They were always hanging in the library. Didn't matter. Either way, he was gonna see someone die.
When he caught up, Eyghon was standing at the edge of an alley. Tucker glanced around. “What the fuck, man?” There weren't any girls, but something stepped out of the shadows. Wicked, even better. His face was ridged and distorted. Had to be a vampire.
The vamp was big, dressed in black, which made sense. Black made it easier to hide in the shadows. When the vamp stepped forward, it felt like he was drawing a line in the sand. “They aren't for you.”
Eyghon didn't say a word. He leaped for the vampire. Tucker, peering from behind a dumpster, couldn't make out much. The demon and vamp were moving too fast. That sucked. What was the use of watching a demon pound a vampire if you couldn't see the kill?
Eyghon went flying and crashed against a wall. The vamp walked over slowly but didn't go for a kill. Squatting, he stared at the demon. Then the vamp raised his head as if he'd heard something and ran off.
Tucker waited to see if whatever the vamp had heard was coming for the demon, but the street remained empty. He looked both ways, up and down the street, before approaching Eyghon. Tucker thought the demon would be dead, but he was still breathing. Fuck. Why hadn't the vamp killed it? Tucker stared at the demon but it didn't look like he was gonna die. With a shrug, he grabbed under its arms to drag it away.
* * *
Appearances could be deceiving, take Masa Luna for example. Sure, up front it practically cloned a 7-11, if you ignored the offerings of Adobadas potato chips and Jarritos, a surprisingly refreshing soda, especially the lime. The back of the store, however, that's where the real action was: a late night grill offering up the best Mexican and Salvadorean fare this side of L.A. That fyarl messing the place up? So not necessary.
Buffy ducked under the flying chair. It crashed heavily, taking down two tables and dumping three meals onto the floor. Damn, why hadn't she redirected the chair so it'd do less damage? “Sorry,” she called out to the patrons who, making a beeline for the front of the store, were too busy to answer. That was good though, the beeline that is, because it left the backdoor free for Dumbo the fyarl's exit.
A punch and two kicks shoved the fyarl to the backdoor and had only turned over one table, happily empty of food and so could be easily set right again once she'd gotten the demon out of the shop. But, and that was a big but, the door was closed. How was she supposed to hold the door open and kick the demon out to the alley where she could kill it without making more of a mess?
The door opened and Angel popped in, blocking the exit, sure, but this she could at least work with. “Buffy,” he said, “I've got something … oh, you're busy.”
“Just a bit.” A kick sent the fyarl careening into Angel who shoved it back into the restaurant. Its fall shattered a table to splinters. Stupid big mysterious vampire guy, didn't he know she was trying to get the fyarl outside?
“Angel, I'm trying to move the demon into the alley before it trashes the place.” The fyarl threw itself at Angel. Good, at least it was moving toward the door. “Do you know how few take-out places are open this late?”
Angel tugged at the fyarl's hands, pulling them away from his throat. The hands reached back, grasping even tighter. “A little help here?”
“Oh, like you need to breath.” A couple of punches turned the fyarl's attention to where she was standing … inside the restaurant. Bad, bad, bad. “Door.”
“Open the door.” Angel opened the door. Two kicks sent the fyarl stumbling into the alley. Buffy chased after to find Angel wailing on the demon with a crowbar. “Thanks,” she said. “You have no idea how many mummified hotdogs I'd put up with post-patrol before I found this place.”
The fyarl fell and didn't get up. The crowbar clattered against the cement. “You're welcome.”
They stared at the corpse. “I guess he doesn't disintegrate. Help me move him to the dumpster?”
“I got it.” Angel picked up the fyarl.
“Oh, good. I'll just see if they're all okay inside.”
Maria, who took the orders and ran the register, was already turning tables right-side-up. “Oh,” Buffy said. “You're all good in here?”
“Si, si,” Maria said, gesturing Buffy to the counter. During the spate of chatter, Buffy wished she'd taken Spanish instead of French. At least she'd get in some practice while waiting for her food and maybe she'd even understand a bit of what Maria was saying.
Maria handed over a take-out box. “Um, I was gonna eat here?” There was more Spanish and gesturing toward the mess, which, okay, was going to take some cleaning up. “Uh, right, I'll see you next time.”
Angel was in the alley, obviously waiting for her, which was nice but she sort of hoped he didn't want any of her tacos. She got kind of hungry at night. But maybe vampires didn't eat tacos. Did vampires eat at all or were they all Bela Lugosi with the not even drinking wine? Wait, and why was Angel here? “You aren't waiting for me just to wait for me.”
“Huh?” Gosh, he made even confusion look good.
“You had a reason for showing up,” she said.
“Yeah, something to show you.”
“You mean like etchings? 'Cause, you know, I honestly don't know you that well.”
He didn't get it. Right, Mr. mysterious let's get to work guy, well vampire not guy but it seemed to be the same diff. “No,” he said, “a demon.”
“A demon. You really do know how to show a girl a good time. Did you kill it at least?” Probably not. Why show it if he'd kill it? She could just tell that this was gonna mean cold tacos.
“Uh, no, I knocked it out. He's human. I don't kill humans.”
“I thought you'd said demon.”
“Something of both,” Angel replied. “A man who invoked a demon into himself.”
“A demon who's really a human.” As Buffy's hand clenched into a fist, the plastic of the take-out bag stretched tightly around her skin. She remembered what Giles had said, well sort of remembered. She'd gotten the gist anyway. Some stupid guy didn't know enough to not want to be a demon and the ritual he'd used to get the demon under his skin had required the death of that little girl from the zoo. “Where?”
“Back that way a couple of blocks.”
She made him run. “It's okay,” Angel said. “I knocked him out. He'll be down for a couple of hours.”
Angel stopped on an empty street. There were closed stores, all dark on the inside, a few scattered cars, and an alley, darker even than the stores. “I don't understand,” Angel said. He was here. He was right here.”
“You lost him? He killed a little girl, Angel. Murdered her.” The take-out fell to the ground.
Angel turned his head oddly, as if sniffing the wind or something. “This way.”
She followed him across the street. “You said it was back there.”
“I can smell him. He went this way.”
“You said you'd knocked him out. A couple of hours you said.”
“Someone must have moved him.”
“Ugh.” Buffy wondered who'd be stupid enough to move an unconscious demon. “Only in Sunnydale.”
Angel stopped at a curb. “The scent stops here. They must have driven off. I'm sorry.”
“Yeah,” she agreed. “You are.” Nothing more to do. Trail's gone cold. She started walking.
He called after her. “Buffy.”
She took a deep breath before turning. “I'm sorry I was mean, okay? It's just, he killed a girl, a little girl, and I keep thinking I could have saved her.”
“We'll get him,” Angel said. Buffy didn't see how. “A picture,” he added. “You can show it around at Willy's. Maybe someone will recognize him.”
“You took a photo? What, while you were beating him up?”
Angel shook his head. “A drawing. I can sketch him out. There's paper and charcoal back at my place.”
“I'm too tired for etchings.”
Buffy started walking again. A drawing. Like that wasn't too thin a thread to hang anyone's hopes on.
“Uh, your bag,” he called after. “You left your food.”
“I'm not hungry.”
* * *
Damn but Eyghon was heavy. Tucker had dragged the demon as far as the first car, picked the lock, and dumped the creature inside. He'd driven around awhile, taking a bunch of turns, before parking by offices in some dead-end. He'd thought about leaving the demon in the car but wasn't sure if the vampire could track them or not. One of the offices had a ramp. The lock at the top was easy to pick. Mom might have thought uncle Charlie was a reprobate, but at least he shared useful skills. Tucker dragged the demon out of the car and into the building. When he let the shoulders drop, the head hit concrete. Tucker peered closely at the face. In the dim light he couldn't be sure, but he thought the ears looked less monstery. That seemed to be a problem with putting a demon into yourself. It didn't last long.
Tucker kicked the body a couple of times, but it didn't move. Boring. He wandered into the building to see where he'd holed up. Office supplies, ugh. Who the hell sold that crap? The fridge held a whole case of sodas. Popping one open, he dropped into one of the chairs at a desk and started opening drawers. Nothing worth taking. He tried turning on a computer, but it wanted a password.
This was dull. Maybe the demon would wake, but it wasn't a demon, not anymore. It was that guy from the zoo, the one Giles had put Eyghon into in the first place He thought about kicking the guy again but he wanted the demon himself. This zoo guy seemed to know to call the demon. Tucker couldn't piss him off until he knew what the guy knew. Zoo guy wasn't waking though. Wasn't there some flick where a guy'd been knocked out and woken with water? Had to be worth a try. Tucker dribbled soda onto the guy's face.
Zoo guy's eyes blinked open. His hand darted out, fast as a snake, and grabbed Tucker's shirt. He dragged Tucker in and dropped him onto the concrete floor. Sitting atop of Tucker, he wrapped one hand around Tucker's throat. “Who are you?”
Tucker tried to choke out his name.
“You're that kid who works for Giles.”
Tucker nodded as best he could.
“He send you after me?”
Tucker could feel his eyes bulging. He tried to say no but whatever choking sound he came out with didn't seem to convince zoo guy. Tucker shook his head from side-to-side as best he could with a hand around his throat.
The fingers loosened. “What are you doing here?”
“I saved you.”
Tucker took a deep breath. “After the vampire'd knocked you out, I dragged you here where you'd be safe.”
“Out of the goodness of your own heart?”
“I want him.”
“Him? Who? That vampire?”
“The demon. Eyghon. I want you to put him into me.”
Zoo guy released his throat. “What about Giles? Why not ask him.”
“He won't let me.” Fuck, he sounded as whiny as Andrew.
Zoo guy leaned in, staring so closely that Tucker wished he could lean away. “Why? Are you looking for the high, the euphoria of being filled with darkness? Do you think it'll make you invincible? It won't. Or maybe you're looking for the seventh sense, the almost spiritual connection to a demonic realm. Or do you want the power?”
“Fuck that shit. I wanna bust heads.”
Zoo guy rose to his feet. Tucker felt small, lying there below him, but was too afraid to move. Zoo guy reached into his pocket and dropped a key. “That'll let you into the zoo at the side entrance, the one off the parking lot. Tomorrow night. You bring the sacrifice.”
* * *
In Sunnydale, the Slayer went home early. Oh, not by human standards, but demons expected a Slayer to stay the course, party all night, not kick off before 2 AM. The smarter demons didn't come out until the Slayer had retired for the evening. Angel didn't mind picking up her slack. He knew Buffy wanted a normal life.
He'd shown the sketch around but if anyone did recognize the demon, they weren't admitting it. Angel had returned to his patrol, hoping he might find the demon again and capture it so he could redeem himself in Buffy's eyes. He'd been searching for hours but there'd been no trace.
He turned his steps to the seedier side of town, where humans played their dirty games, thinking that the pheromones might draw the demon, but there were no scenes of carnage, no bloody corpses littering street or club or playspace or dungeon or whatever they called their little dives. He paused outside Tribulation, which was inconspicuous from the outside, pale brick and a door you'd never pass through if you didn't know the password. It wasn't worth going in. If the demon had attacked, Angel would smell it even from the street. He could go home, warm up pig's blood and … No, he couldn't let Buffy down more than he had already. He'd stay the course, but where else could he look?
A man flew out of Tribulation, backwards, his feet scrambling for traction as if he'd been shoved out the door. He hit the ground rolling, back on his feet in a moment, but the door had closed. He ran one hand through his hair before pulling out a cigarette. Angel was puzzling over the man's appearance – there was something familiar about him under those jeans and white t-shirt – when the man's scent struck him. It was the Watcher. Giles.
Angel brushed his fingers over the sketch of the demon. He'd wanted to hand it to Buffy himself but he couldn't bring it to her during the day. He could leave it in her room while she slept but didn't want to frighten her, not that Buffy scared easily but a man in her room while she slept, that wasn't how humans did things.
Angel hadn't stopped looking at the Watcher but, lost in his musings, hadn't noticed when the man had started staring back. The Watcher hadn't moved. That would have drawn Angel's attention immediately, but it unnerved him that he'd let the Watcher catch him off his guard.
As the Watcher approached, Angel stood his ground, waiting for the man to come to him. “Angelus, innit?”
“Mr. Giles, I, uh, wasn't stalking you. Honest.”
“Course not. Vampires never stalk their prey, oh no, you sweet talk 'em, seduce 'em into walking right into your traps.” The Watcher took a drag and dropped his smoke. As the cigarette fell, he brushed at his hair with one hand while the other reached into his back pocket to pull out a cross. He let his hand drop to his side with the cross hidden behind his arm. It was smoothly done. If Angel hadn't been looking for it, he wouldn't have noticed the man had armed himself. “I don't know why she doesn't just toss you out with the trash.”
“Blow you to hell. Run a stake through your heart. Off with your head. Set you on fire. Drag you into the sunlight and watch you squirm like the bug you are until you're nothing more than dust in the wind.”
“Mr. Giles, I understand why you don't trust me, but …”
“Don't trust the evil undead? Got that bloody right.”
The Watcher's words stung. Didn't trust him? The man had been there when he'd saved Buffy. He'd killed his own Sire for the Slayer. The man knew he had a soul. Didn't any of that earn him a modicum of trust? Angel forced himself to continue. “I found something earlier, a man who'd invoked a demon into himself. He escaped but I drew up a sketch.” Angel held out the image.
“And what, exactly, do you expect me to do with that?” The Watcher had changed somehow. His aggression hadn't lessened but he seemed more refined than he had a moment earlier, less like a thug.
While Angel processed the change, a boy too young to be in this neighborhood, came around a corner. “Hey, Mr. Giles, you haven't seen Tucker, have you? I've checked all his usual haunts – the library, that creepy bar which I'm not allowed into so I just peek through the windows, the mansion …”
“Andrew.” The boy jumped.
“Oh, right, sorry. Hey, what's that?” He pulled the paper out of Angel's hand. “Is that a demon? What kind? It's like no demon I've seen in any book. Is it in a book? I could look it up.”
The Watcher tore the sketch from Andrew's hand and ripped the paper to pieces. “Go home, Andrew.”
“But Tucker's not home yet and I'm not supposed to be unsupervised.”
“I'll take him home.”
The Watcher nodded as if agreeing to leave a defenseless boy alone with a vampire.
“Can we stop by the mansion? That's the one place I didn't check since I can't get in …”
The boy let out a yelp as the Watcher yanked his arm to drag him off. “Come along, Andrew. Mustn't get chummy with the nasty vampire.”
Angel stared, not sure what had just happened. The boy, Andrew, bounced beside the man, still rambling on a mile a minute. “So, how come you're dressed like James Dean? Did you ever see that movie? Easy Rider I mean. Oh, wait, that's not James Dean. I really didn't like the ending. Who would have expected those rednecks to kill the two guys, the motorcycle guys I mean. Except it was sort of, uh, predicted? No, foreshadowed. It was foreshadowed when that other character, the one played by Jack Nicholson, died from grievous wounds also inflicted by rednecks.”
Angel picked up the shreds of his sketch. He didn't know why the Watcher had rejected it, but he couldn't let that stand. He'd have to draw another. It was too important to Buffy that the man who'd invoked the demon be caught. He didn't care what the Watcher thought. Angel wasn't about to drop it.
* * *
The spot under the oak, on the south side of the high-school, was cool but shady. “Come on, Willow, it's dark as night out here. Look how pale I am. What if I was out patrolling and got mistaken for a vamp?” At Willow's raised eyebrow, she added, “It'd be embarrassing. I'm the Slayer. I can't be mistaken for a vampire.”
The eight fuzz balls continued to dance around Willow's head, weaving around her like planets circling a sun. “Maybe that'd be a good thing, being mistaken for a vampire I mean. You could catch them unawares. And no,” she added with a frown. “We're not moving out of the shade. Tree being used to hide magic practice. Remember?”
As a group of geeks wandered by, rambling on about Jedi and lights sabers, one of them nodded at Willow and got a little wave in return. “I think it's more the Hellmouthy lack of awareness,” Buffy said, “that's making them not notice the levitating fuzzballs.”
“We're staying in the shade.”
Buffy flopped onto the grass and stared up at the tree, all full of freshly budded leaves keeping the sun from shining onto them. “With all this wanting to hide out in the shade, maybe you're the vampire.”
The fuzzballs wobbled and fell to the ground. “Would that even work? Vampires hiding in the shade to avoid the sun?”
At the sound of light clapping, Buffy turned her head to see Xander – and how come he got to be out in the sun? – applauding as he approached. “Very good, 'cause levitating lint, that's gonna scare off the demons.”
The fuzzballs levitated off the ground and lined themselves up, one after the other, as if in attack formation, and flew off the mark, bopping Xander's face, rat-a-tat-tat and flew around to strike again. Xander waved his arms, batting at them, just like King Kong in that old movie, well, you know, if Kong had been human and on the grass in the sun instead of on the Empire State at night. “Hey, stop!”
The fuzzballs flew back to Willow and dropped into her hand. “That was mean. Just for that, Alexander Lavelle Harris, you're buying my sodas tonight.”
“Hey, ixnay on the iddlemay amenay.”
“Are we Bronzing it tonight?” Buffy asked. “Who's playing?”
“Some group called Budapest,” Willow replied. “They're from England. Oooh, do you think Giles would want to see them?”
Xander flopped down next to them. “I think Giles' head would explode if he even entered a building where things weren't categorized by the Dewey Decimal system.” When he spoke again, his voice sounded too bright, as if he was trying to sound casual. “So, what are you two talking about? Angel, right? You were talking about Angel.”
Couldn't Xander get off of that I hate Angel kick? “Actually I was trying to talk this vampire goth chick into venturing out into the sunlight.”
“But Angel, he's got to have been up to some wacky hijinks, right? Wait, vampire goth?” Xander nodded toward Willow and then tilted his head as he stared at Buffy. “You see what she's wearing, right?”
Willow's sweater did have black and maroon, typical vamp colors, but it was striped with light green and tan as well, and that yellow hairband was nowhere near a goth look. One of Willow's fuzzballs flew into the air and floated at eye level. “It's not my fault if I freckle rather than tan.”
“Well,” Buffy said, “she does seem to have that using her power for darkness bit down, forcing me to stay here in the shade and all.”
“Oh, well, uh, milady,” Xander said, “If you'd care for a stroll in the sun, I'd be happy to offer my arm.”
“Thanks, but no. I think I'll lie here and save my energy. I want to be extra fighty for sparring.”
Three more fuzzballs flew into the air to join the first. They started looping in a figure eight. “Oh, there might be a problem with that, with the sparring I mean or with sparring in the library at least. I heard this guy talking to Miss Calendar about some sort of scanning project. It looks like all our library books are gonna be digitized.”
Buffy sat up. “All the books? Aren't they going to wonder why a high-school library has so many occult books?”
“I don't think so. The principal's office knows all about the books. In fact, Giles was supposed to teach a class, some sort of mix of anthropology, sociology, and psychology addressing the worldview that admits to magic and demons. I was pretty upset when it was cancelled. It sounded fascinating.”
Xander laughed. “Giles teaching a class? Fascinating? Try dull.”
One of Willow's fuzzballs flew off and bopped Xander's nose. “Hey!”
* * *
The books had been shelved, the card catalogue updated, and the library been dusted within an inch of its life. Rupert picked up his teacup, paused to pull out a handkerchief, and wiped the water off the bottom of the cup and the ring off the table. He put the cup down and glanced at the clock. Willow was late. Well, no, not late exactly. She'd told him that Jenny would be keeping her in class for a short quiz. So why was he feeling unsettled?
It couldn't, in honesty, have anything to do with Willow. He'd been feeling this way all day. But he didn't think Buffy was the problem. Yes, the Slayer was dating, which was unprecedented to be certain, but she did fulfill her duties. So why did he feel as if he were waiting for the other shoe to drop?
When Willow did finally arrive, she seemed distracted. “Problem with your test?”
“Huh? Oh, no. It's just, well, you know how Buffy's been all upset about that girl who went missing from the zoo.”
Rupert had read about the child in the newspapers. Given that she'd vanished in Sunnydale, she was almost certainly dead. He hadn't realized Buffy had been feeling any particular guilt. “Yes.”
“Someone else is gone now too, some guy who works at the zoo. He's homeless so the police wouldn't usually be concerned – and do you know how many homeless people disappear in Sunnydale each month? I mean I thought the high-school attrition rate was bad.”
“Willow, could you get back to this young man?”
“Well, with the girl missing from the zoo and this guy working in the zoo, they're wondering if there isn't some sort of connection.”
Giles, carefully keeping his voice level, said, “I hadn't seen anything in the papers about a missing zoo attendant.”
“Well, no, they're keeping it out of the papers 'cause they think it's some human, you know. They don't want to let some serial killer know they're onto him. I just, well, I finished the quiz early and I sort of got onto the police department's computer system, uh, just by accident. It's not like I have it bookmarked or anything.”
That's it. He was going to kill Weirick. Grabbing his tweed jacket in passing, Giles strode two steps toward the door, stopped, and turned to stare at the book cage. If he truly meant to kill the man, he'd need a weapon, something small but sharp.
“Um, Mr. Giles. My lesson?”
Giles stared at the girl and, for a moment, couldn't think who she was. Willow. Powerful magic. Magic that belonged to him, but her lack of training left her magic difficult to use. He needed to continue her lessons, but, no, not that afternoon. Weirick was dangerous. Giles needed to deal with him first. “Practice your meditation. I have an appointment.”
Before he could decide if he should add more details for veracity's sake, Kris barged through the library door with a man in tow, and not just any man but Lucas Miller. Seeing Miller felt like a punch to the gut. The man hired out as a contractor, specializing in information gathering, or, more accurately, spying. Giles had no doubt he'd been sent by the Council.
“Mr. Giles, good, I'm so glad you're here,” Kris said as if she'd expected to find him elsewhere. “This is Mr. Miller. He's here to scan the library.”
Giles gave them a bland grin. “Here to what?”
The blue polo shirt and khakis suggested Miller had been born and bred in California, but Giles had heard, back in London where a colleague'd had an unfortunate run-in with the man, that Miller hailed from Australia. “Scan your books,” the man replied in an accent so perfect that Giles would have sworn he'd been born and bred in Sunnydale itself. “Digitize them that is. It's part of the Californian State Initiative for the Advancement of Knowledge.”
Flickering his gaze away from Miller, as if the man were beneath his notice, Giles turned on Kris. “Miss Mansfield, I don't know what this nonsense is supposed to be, but it can't be a legitimate interruption of my time.”
“I'm sorry Mr. Giles, but I've spent the last two hours verifying Mr. Miller and his Initiative. It's legitimate.”
Of course it was. Miller had a reputation, the best of the best. He wouldn't be so easily gotten rid of. Willow would have to go. Giles couldn't afford to have someone as clever as Miller sniffing around the girl, wondering what Giles' interest was. “Ah, Miss Rosenberg, I'm afraid we'll need the room.”
Willow's eyes were as wide as an owl's. “But, but, where should I go?”
“Why don't you return to the computer lab?”
“But I'm supposed to be here! What if I get in trouble for not being here when I'm supposed to be?”
Gods, could the child not just leave? “If anyone complains, send them to me.”
Willow glared at him woefully as she gathered up her books. Giles waited until she'd left the library. “And why hadn't I heard of this Initiative before?”
“We had no warning,” Kris replied. “Apparently the paperwork was lost.”
“Warning?” Miller asked. “As if I'm an invasion?”
“Of course not,” Kris said.
“But it is legitimate?” Giles asked.
“I'm afraid so,” Miller drawled.”You'll have to put up with me and my team until each and every book in this library has been digitized.”
Giles wished he could sick Snyder on the man but, unfortunately, he could predict which way the principal would jump. Snyder wasn't one to buck authority. “I'm afraid it's quite impossible. I'm far too busy. I was about to start upon a project to reorganize the entire library. The current filing system is … non-standard. I can't imaging what my predecessor had been thinking.”
“Which means you'll be pulling all the books already. Perfect. I'll just keep an eye on you and scan the books after you've pulled them.”
“Keep an eye on me?”
Watch me? Damn the man, he was taunting Giles, throwing the fact that the Council had sent him in Giles' face. Ripper's head tilted left as he clenched his hand into a fist. The punch to Miller's chin sent him sprawling. Ripper leaped after, grabbed him by the collar and shoved his fist into Miller's gut. Before he could get a third punch in, Kris had grabbed him. He could have fought her off, but Giles took advantaged of his distraction. “Forgive me,” Giles said. “I'm not fond of surprises.”
Miller wiped blood from his nose as he rose to his feet. His eyes glittered in triumph, and Giles had to admire his professionalism. Giles knew that Miller could have taken Ripper down in a heartbeat, but instead he took a beating to protect his cover. “I do have to admit, while few are glad to see me, that's the first time I've been punched.”
You officious little prick, Ripper growled.
Settle down, Giles insisted. Let me handle him.
No, why should I let you have all the fun? Not that you know what fun is.
Giles pressed against Ripper, holding him down. What the hell do you think you're doing?
Ripper pressed back. Been too long since I've had a night out, mate. I'm getting' outta here.
Oh no you don't.
Rupert blinked. An incoherent thought about how lush Kris looked in that short skirt gave way to panic. He felt as if the floor were giving way beneath him. What the hell was Lucas Miller doing in his library?