Title: Vi Dýr Ennui ‘In Western Lands.’
Written For: Drunken!Giles fic-ation Prompt 82. Giles/Andrew or Giles and Andrew: 'They were stuck here for at least a day, probably two. Just him, and Andrew. Giles opened the nearest bottle of something alcoholic, and drank. A lot...'
Spoilers/Timeline: Post BTVS ‘Chosen’ pre ATS ‘Damage.’
Disclaimer: All characters used belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox. Material written by JRR Tolkien belongs to the Tolkien Estate.
There is nothing, Giles considered with weary experience, drearier than a motel room on the road to nowhere …
He’d seen a lot of them in the previous year. Old ones, refurbished ones, even bright and polished brand new ones, places he’d stayed in on his endless round of rescuing – and in some cases not rescuing – potentials. Sometimes he’d found himself in those sterile, unappetising places alone. Sometimes he’d endured them with, anxious, ot even weeping teenage girls for company, too focused on the risks to worry about what the desk clerks might have thought, even on the days when he’d booked one room to hold four – or five. And sometimes he’d had to face down ghosts, old and new, the faces of dead friends and lovers flaunted by the First as it mocked his griefs and challenged his dedication to duty.
The echoes of those tensioned days still haunted him, much as the First had tried to do – but the First itself had been defeated, and he was challenged by a very different duty now. Or maybe that was the same duty, but one rewritten by Willow’s power and Buffy’s innovative solution to an impossible problem. It wasn’t about saving potentials anymore.
It was about needing to find and support the Slayers that they had become – although his role was rapidly becoming less about the ‘finding’ and a whole lot more about the support, which was one of the reasons he was currently contemplating yet another bland and indistinguishable from any other, motel room …
The door suddenly flew open, allowing an ice coated, slightly built figure to squirm round it and struggle to push it shut again; the storm howled inside the room for a brief moment or two, then fell back to its external wild lament, leaving a shiver of snow painted across the carpeted floor. “Wow,” Andrew gasped, leaning his back against the painted wood, “it’s getting wild out there. Worse than that time on Hoth when Luke was captured by the Wampa …”
That was the other reason. Not the bright eyed, excited man-child, but the storm that had ushered him in; the bad weather had arrived with determined enthusiasm and had very quickly managed to close very road, rail and airport in the entire area. A whole slew of counties along the lakeside were buried in snow, and a good many of them were wrestling with downed powerlines, crashed vehicles and over stretched emergency services. Giles had given up trying to reach signs of sensible civilization, and had settled on finding a motel – any motel – along the route with available rooms, space to park the car and someone around to hand him a key.
He hadn’t been the only one on the storm hammered highway to realise the wisdom of that particular decision though – which meant that, while he had managed to find refuge, he’d had to settle for sharing it with his traveling companion, whose company – and he would question the definition of that particular term where Andrew was concerned – had been testing his patience ever since they’d picked up the hire car and found themselves heading into arctic weather.
At least the Sunnydale Hellmouth never threw snow like this at me …
Actually, he seriously doubted that the Cleveland version was responsible for his current predicament either. It was a very small, and generally inactive locus point, even if had begun to show signs of stirring after its bigger relative bit the dust - so to speak – and they were a long way from its potential area of influence, even if they’d been driving towards it when the storm had hit. It was just that time of year in the snow belt, and he’d paid the price of trying to outwit the weather by choosing to drive rather than risk the trip by plane.
At least the volumes and artifacts they’d collected were safe enough – locked up in the boot of the car in the carefully be-spelled cases he’d brought with him from England, courtesy of the coven in Devon - and Andrew had been surprisingly efficient in dealing with the lawyers and auctioneers before he’d been able to join him at the estate sale, smoothing the way for the more dangerous of the items to be removed from the general auction ahead of public view. Giles had been grateful for that, at least. He hadn’t had much time to put the purchasing plan in motion, even if he’d been working on it from the minute he’d heard the notorious occultist had passed away – which had been at a respectable old age and from natural causes, which made an interesting change, given the line of work most of the collectors of such materials tended to pursue.
Almost gave him hope of seeing a ripe old age himself …
“Tonight we feast!” Andrew declared with confidence. The grocery bags in his arms were coated with snow, and he was plastered in it; the hair that peeked out from beneath his fur lined hood was weighted down into flat damp locks and his cheeks were glistening with crystals of ice. The grin beneath them was broad with triumph, the delight of a hunter returning from a successful foray. “The pizza place was shut and the coffee shop was closing – but the 7-11 was still in business, so I picked up what I could - bread and meat and some other stuff. I hope you like baloney …”
Giles refrained from the obvious – and biting - response to that, and heaved a weary sigh instead. “I daresay we’ll manage.” His eyes had alighted on the promise of relief from what he suspected would be the extremely wearying hours ahead; the room’s mini-bar called to him like a siren song, and he strode across to open it, excusing his eagerness with inspired – and convincing misdirection. “If I empty this, we can use it for some of the perishables. Better than leave them outside. Where they’ll freeze,” he explained, since Andrew was giving him a puzzled look.
“Oh. Right. Yeah – that makes sense. Can’t spread frozen butter. Or cut iced cheese …” He snorted at the possible interpretation of the phrase – or possibly just at the thought of frozen cheese. It was hard to tell where Andrew was concerned.
“Quite,” Giles acknowledged abstractedly. The tiny fridge was looking like a miniature nirvana – finger length bottles of liqueurs filled the inside of the door, cans of beer and soft drink were stacked inside, along with what looked like some very promising half sized bottles of spirits. Southern Comfort, an obscure American brandy, two different kinds of rum and – he smiled as he lifted it out – a bottle of Jack Daniels. Some of that was going to help him feel very comfortable indeed.
Rupert Giles was not, by any means, an alcoholic; he did not drink because he needed to, or even because he thought he did. Nor did he drink to cope with life, although there had been occasions when he’d done so to seek a brief escape from it. He did drink for pleasure – a glass or two of wine with the evening meal, the odd tipple of spirits when he was in a position – and the mood – to relax, even, from time to time, a few pints of good, strong English ale in an equally English pub. And sometimes he drank because … well, just because, seeking a different perspective on existence, using the warmth and buzz of spirits to lift him above the ordinary world … perhaps to look deep within the well of his errant soul, or to enable himself to open up some of the many walls he’d erected around himself over the years – and sometimes, perhaps, to defend himself against the indefensible, a means of survival when the only option available was to simply endure.
This particular occasion almost certainly fell into the latter category. He was physically tired, mentally stressed, and decidedly frustrated by the enforced delay in his journey … and he was facing the prospect of being trapped, for a day at least, but almost certainly more, in a confining and discomforting space, with little option for entertainment, even less of occupation, and in the company of someone who – as someones go – would probably fall a long way towards the bottom of any list he might care to make.
Of course, what his weary mind had entirely failed to realise was that, in reaching for such desperate refuge, he would be risking the breech of those other barriers, the ones both within and without; risks he might not have taken given his current company – especially since he was choosing to drown his sorrows in an attempt to drown him out.
“Will the books and stuff be safe out there?” Andrew was wondering, his head and shoulders half buried in the tiny fridge as he shifted butter and spreads and packets of cold meat with industrious attention.
“Mmm?” Giles was already partway through his first glass of whiskey, savouring the burn and the soft buzz that came with it. “Oh – yes, yes, of course they will. The boxes are strongly warded, so they won’t attract attention – and even if they do, it would take a skilled practitioner to open them.”
He’d moved to stare out of the window, seeing nothing through it but the blur of the storm. The car – along with the artifacts it carried – was probably well buried by now, blanketed, like the rest of the world, in a deep and silent layer of snow. Even if there was a hint of magic leaking from the multiple protections the coven had provided, there’d be very little chance of even the most determined of seekers uncovering their treasures tonight.
“A powerful demon might.”
The young man’s assertion threw him for a minute. Giles tugged the curtains across – both to block out the view of the weather and to keep in what little warmth the motel radiators supplied – and turned to query the statement with a slightly puzzled frown. “Well, I … suppose …”
Andrew’s head popped up from inside the mini-bar, the intended seriousness of his expression somewhat marred by the way his hair was still dripping into his eyes.
“Only there’s several I can think of that I might have summoned to snatch away the precious prizes we’re protecting – something like a gothiel or a hith’aniek would simply rip the trunk of the car wide open … and a Fhyral would be able to drag the whole car away …”
Giles blinked, sighed, and took another deep swallow of spirit in the hopes that would keep the threatening headache at bay. “Andrew,” he said slowly, moving to sink onto the edge of the nearest bed and start kicking off his shoes. “For one, I seriously doubt that you have ever had the skills necessary to summon anything as dangerous as a gothiel – and even if you had, that you possess the strength of will to actually control one once you’d done so. The same goes for a hith’aniek, which would be far more interested in devouring your soul than it would be in seeking out the kind of objects we’re transporting at the moment – and there’s no way a Fyrhal would be out in this kind of weather.” He tugged the tie from around his neck and tossed it into his open case before tipping back the last of his glass with relish. “Believe me, I know.”
“But what if …”
“Andrew – “ His use of the name wasn’t quite a snap, but it came close. Giles broke off from what he’d been about to say, took a deep breath and reached for the whiskey bottle instead. He knew the young man wasn’t trying to be irritating, and that he was trying to help, in his own particular way. There was no point in kicking a puppy just because it was being – well, a puppy. “I know you feel responsible for the artifacts, and that we will both feel – better – once they are safely stored in the Cleveland facility with a small army of slayers to protect them. But – to be perfectly frank – if there’s a mage or a cult leader out there right now, trying to steal them from us in this weather, then they are perfectly welcome to try. Because, although they are important, and they will help, they are not worth either of us dying of hypothermia attempting to protect them from some imaginary demons who – if possessed of any sense at – all, will be making the same effort to stay out of this storm that we are. They are much safer locked in the car, under the snow, in the storm, than they will be in here, cluttering up the space. And tempting you to take peek,” he added pointedly, having caught the young man trying to do just that just before they’d left the auction. He understood the temptation – had felt it himself in fact – but knew it was a dangerous thing to succumb to, before all the items concerned had been properly checked and identified.
“So,” he went on, waving his free hand towards the collection of booze that now littered the top of the side table, “why don’t you grab yourself a beer or something, take off your shoes and make yourself comfortable. We are likely to be here for some time, and wittering about it is not going to make the time pass any faster.”
“I guess not.” Andrew did much as he’d suggested, perching himself on the other bed and popping open a can of something fizzy. Not a beer, but one of those brightly coloured things that promised pep or jazz or some other kind of fashionable exhilaration, but only ever delivered sweetness and gas. Giles opened his mouth to protest – then filled it with liquor instead, drowning his objection in a gulp of distilled warmth and fire. He’d be a fine hypocrite if he warned the young man about potential overdoses of sugar when he was quietly intent on getting drunk - and if the stuff did inspire one of those hyperactive moods that Xander had complained about …well, by then, he’d hopefully be sufficiently pissed not to notice – or care.
“Should we let someone know – back at Slayer HQ I mean – that we’re going to be late? Or not there at all? Because when we don’t arrive tonight, Faith’s going to think … well, she said … b-but this isn’t my fault, so …”
“I should hope not.” Giles wondered – briefly – what Faith might have threatened, and why, then dismissed it with a shake of his head. It really didn’t matter. Not unless … “You don’t speak Aivilik do you?”
Andrew blinked at him over the rim of his can. “Uh – no. Is that a demonic language?”
“No, an Inuit one. You’d need to have mastered it in order to effectively summon Khuno. Their god of snowstorms,” he explained. “And since you don’t, and therefore haven’t, I think we can safely assume your innocence, as far as the storm’s concerned. And don’t worry about Faith, or anyone else back at the Cleveland house, for that matter. I managed to get through to Robin while you were out… foraging. The signal wasn’t good, but he’d already picked up the news about the weather, and knows we’ve sought sanctuary. He won’t be sending out search parties. Not for a while, at least.”
“Oh.” Andrew’s anxiety melted away almost as quickly as the snow on the carpet had done. “Okay. That’s good. But …” His eyes lit up with a sudden delight. “Wouldn’t that be cool? Faith and … and fur clad slayers battling their heroic way through the snow, searching for their lost comrades, fearing the worst … fighting off zolyetu and frostswirlers, and battling with snow golems …”
Giles sighed and took another drink. A deep one, that emptied the rest of his glass. It was going to be a long day.
Continued in Part 2