Note: this story was inspired by Maureen Wynn's "Little Helper" stories (available at the SunS site). It was such an appealing concept, I just had to -- with Maureen's permission -- try my hand at a variation. I'm not thrilled with the result, but...if you like it, let me know why. Maybe I can jumpstart my muse.
The box was large, wooden, covered with "fragile" and "handle with care"
stickers. And it had air holes. Not many, but if you were looking carefully, you
could see them.
Rupert Giles, librarian for the Sunnydale High School, and Watcher for
not only the Slayer, but her self-appointed Slayerettes as well, was not looking
He was, in fact, looking irritated.
"I should just let you sulk in there for a few years. Perhaps then you
would learn that when I say no, I mean no."
His normally gentle voice was harsher than his scolding usually took with
Buffy. If you were to listen closely, however, there was a definite affectionate
"you damn idiot" undertone that Xander Harris might be familiar with.
The box remained stubbornly silent. Apparently, it wasn't impressed with
the Watcher's ire. Or perhaps it knew it all too well, and deemed it safer to
remain out-of-sight in the hopes of being out-of-mind. If so, it wasn't working.
"And what were you thinking, anyway? This is no place for you."
At that, the top of the packing box popped off, and several layers of
shredded newspaper -- pale orange, the =Financial Times=, Giles noted --
fluttered into the air and down to settle on the library's floor.
"Not my place?" spluttered a shrill voice. "Not my place? My place is
with you, thank you very much. As it always has as it always will. Wantin' to
shame my honor, you are, all this nattering of place and safety, as though I
were a wee babe not to know enough to duck come danger. And if you think that
you can shuffle me off on one of your idiot cousins, who by the way, haven't
enough Giles blood in them to warrant the name, well then Master Rupert you have
yet another thing comin' to you."
The endless tirade, delivered in an unabashed hard-a accent, ended on
that dire note, and more newspaper fluttered through the air as the speaker came
to the surface,
Hands reached air first, small, pale fingers that gripped the side of the
box and pulled the rest of the body up so that his accusing face could stare up
at the human.
"You'll not be rid of me that easily. Not by disappearing without no
forwarding address, not by crossing that bloody awful stretch of water, and not
by muttering of boogies in the night. At your side is where I belong, and at
your side is where I'll be. So there," he finished, the effect ruined somewhat
by the stands of pale orange newsprint stuck in his frizzed black hair and
behind overlarge ears that protruded like jug handles from the side of his pale,
"Yes. Well." The human sighed, sitting down and taking his glasses off to
polish them. "You're here now, and I suppose it would be useless to try and pack
you back up again, wouldn't it."
"Damn shootin' straight." The gnome climbed out of the box, saw the mess
that had been created by his entrance, and started to gather the debris,
tsk-tsking under his breath all the while.
Giles, having accepted the situation with debatable grace, went back to
the book he had been reading, trusting Oliver to get out of the line of sight
should anyone come in unexpectedly.
Over the course of the day, the contented hum coming from the stacks,
where Oliver was busily sorting through reference works and reshelving misplaced
books, caused a stiffness in Giles' back that he hadn't even been aware of to
smooth itself out. Perhaps leaving the gnome behind in England had been the
wiser, the _safer_ decision, but it hadn't been an easy one. On either of them,
it would appear.
And, for the first time since arriving on the Hellmouth and taking up his
Watcher's duties again, Rupert Giles found himself humming under his breath in
tenor counterpart to the old and slightly risque folk ditty rising from Oliver's
"That was rather well done, Buffy," Giles said, panting slightly under
"ooo, praise," Willow said from her spectator's chair, far from flying
heels and wayward quarterstaffs.
"Yeah, I must be getting good at this. Good enough to take some time off,
Giles, in the process of divesting himself of the protective gear,
stopped at that. "Must I remind you that --"
Buffy held up her hand. "No. You don't have to remind me of anything,
Giles. I'll be here, early and awful on Saturday morning."
Seeing her expression, Giles relented. "Perhaps we could defer training
for a day... but I will expect to see you here Sunday afternoon" he added
quickly, anticipating her attempt to wheedle an entire weekend out of him.
"Fair enough," she said cheerfully, making him wonder if perhaps he had
just lost both the battle and the war.
The two girls packed up their belongings and left the library, chatting
excitedly about their plans for that evening. It was the night after the full
moon, so they were having their monthly "welcome back to good hair days" party
The moment the doors closed on them, Oliver appeared, pulling the
training gear out of Giles' hands.
"You'll be sitting down and resting," he said, staggering a little under
the weight of the protective vest. "She fair knocked you on your well-bred arse
more'n a time or two, didn't she?" He tsk-tsked over the state of the gear,
depositing it on the weapons chest and rummaging in his toolkit. Pulling out a
tub of saddle soap and an old rag, the gnome sat down crosslegged on the floor
and began to rub the mixture over the seams of the padded leather arm
"That's her job," Giles said, gladly relinquishing the task, sitting down
with a groan and stretching his long legs out in front of him. "If she is to do
her job properly, she must excel at both defensive and offensive maneuvers."
Speaking to the familiar creature, his voice lost the stammering,
hesitant quality which marked his interactions with others of his own species.
It was as though he spoke to himself. Although, certainly, his companion was not
shy about speaking up with his own opinions.
"Yah, so you say. Little gel t'fight the big ugly monsters."
Giles glared at the gnome over the tops of his glasses. "Don't make light
of the dangers here, Oliver," he warned. "You sit on the top of a Hellmouth.
Vampires may be the most constant of our trials, but they are by no means the
only threat we face."
Oliver rolled his beady black eyes, never missing a spot in his waxing.
"So you say, so you say. I seen more unseelie than you ever dreamed of and they
ain't so tough."
"This is why I wanted you to remain in London," Giles said in
exasperation. "You've absolutely no sense of the dangers you've put yourself
"Ah, ya worry too much. Gray in spirit 's well as hair, looks like. The
only danger t'me would've been staying with Georgie one more blasted day. Boy
could bore a turtle to suicide."
The Watcher's lips twitched at the mention of his younger cousin on his
father's side. It was a sad truth that the boy -- no boy now, almost thirty --
was a bit on the stodgy side...
=who are we kidding here? he asked himself. George could make drying
paint look like the Derby with a moneymaker coming in stride.=
This thought was interrupted by the swinging of the library doors. Before
Giles could react -- and, more to the point, before Oliver could escape into the
stacks, Willow came careening into the room, skidding as she tried to come to a
"Sorry, Giles, I didn't mean to spook you, but I forgot --oh!" That was
directed at Oliver. "Oh! Giles?" And she looked to the older man for
reassurances. "That's, um, I mean, you're sitting there so I guess, oh, it's not
a monster or anything, is it?"
"Monster? Monster? And I'm thinkin' he had such hopes for you, gel. Book
learning and some native smarts -- but not too quick on the uptake, is she?"
"Hey!" Willow recovered quickly, turning to face Oliver, her hands firmly
placed on her hips. "Watch it, or I'll kick your grey behind all the way to the
physics lab." Then she recoiled. "Oh. Oh. I mean..."
"Don't worry, Willow," Giles sighed. "He rather enjoys having someone to
"Do not!" Oliver protested. "Especially not a skinny hank o' bone like
that." he paused, considering " Nice hair, though. You want to sell, I could
find a buyer..."
"Oliver!" Giles warned, but to no avail. Her hair, newly-shorn under
Cordelia's makeover' directions, threatened once again, Willow went on the
offensive. Advancing slowly on Oliver, her eyes narrowed. The gnome, being no
fool, turned tail and ran.
The Watcher sighed again, taking off his glasses and resting his forehead
in the palm of his free hand.
"Serve you right if she ripped your ears off, you bloody fool," he
muttered unkindly, but got up and headed into the stacks in search of them.
"Willow? Um, oh dear. Willow I would appreciate it if you didn't, um,
harm him...too much."
"Harm who? Who's Willow gonna dis? Man, the girl gets a meow, she picks
up a bad word, now she's into physical violence? That girl is gonna go places,
mark my words, Giles...Giles?"
But she was speaking to an empty library as his backside disappeared
behind a tall bookcase. Shrugging, the Slayer slouched into an empty chair and
stared mournfully at her nails. "Slaying is just the worst on a manicure. I
don't know why I even bother. I should just go back to chewing them, like when I
was eight and mom made me stop--"
A short grey blur whizzed by her, followed by a taller, redheaded blur. A
screeching sound of laughter trailed behind them both.
"Hey. Yo. Will?" She looked up. "Giles? Somebody want to tell me what's
happening here, before I pull out a stake and start abusing people at random?"
Giles appeared, looking somewhat bemused. He hadn't replaced his jacket
or vest after the practice session, and his hair was standing on end, as though
he had run his hand through it in exasperation. Many times.
"Yes. Um. Buffy."
"Yes, Giles, it's me. Where's Will -- oh. There you are."
Willow showed up behind Buffy's chair, breathing heavily. "He's...