Many Happy Returns

by Suricata

Rupert Giles lifted the glass and stared moodily into the amber depths. Normally, he wasn't a drinking man. A Watcher's life was not one that allowed for intentional impairment of that sort. But there were times in a man's life when there really wasn't any other alternative.

Or rather, there was, but he had the distinct suspicion that the Council would overlook a night of inebriation sooner than they would his hopping a plane and heading home. Even for a weekend, which is all he asked for. One weekend. Three days, maximum. Enough time to breathe familiar air. Hear familiar sounds. Down a beer at some quiet pub somewhere.

Small things, really. Nothing a person shouldn't be allowed to have, if they so desired it.

And he did.

Not that he wasn't thankful for what he had. He was. His Slayer was well and healthy, with friends to support her, more than most of her kind ever knew. The Hellmouth had been quiescent throughout the holidays, allowing everyone to relax, and enjoy themselves. His relationship with Jenny was progressing smoothly

He stopped there. Yes. It was progressing smoothly. Everything was progressing smoothly. No upsets, no supernatural crisis that his charge could not handle, no publicity that could not be explained by swift-thinking politicians intent on keeping Sunnydale's reputation as a wholesome California town intact.

It was as peaceful as a Watcher could wish for.

But Rupert Giles had not always been a Watcher. And there had been a time when his dreams were different, when his plans had not involved being unseen, unnoticed.

"A nobody, if you want the unvarnished truth," he said bitterly to his glass of scotch. He raised the glass in toast to the tweed jacket slung across the back of the sofa, the vest and tie crumpled on a cushion nearby. The armor of invisibility. The insurance he had taken out, to create a persona who would garner no notice, make no waves, pose no threat to anyone who might be in a position to hinder his training of the Slayer.

Rupert Giles heartily hated tweed.

Draining the glass, he placed it on the table with a careful thump, and stood a bit unsteadily. Moving to the bookcases which lined the main room of his apartment, he studied the rare tomes, one reverent finger trailing the spines.

"Hello, old friends. No words of wisdom for me tonight, hmm?"

Then he turned his back on them, picking up the bottle of single-malt and pouring several fingers into the glass. Raising the glass to his lips, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror hung on the wall across from him.

The reflection looked like hell. Shirtsleeves undone, rolled to his elbows, his hair disordered, his face drawn and his eyes shadowed, he looked like a man on the tail end of a bad bender. Grinning mirthlessly, he raised the glass in salute.

"Happy birthday, old man. You look like hell."

Draining the glass, he refilled it again and drank deeply. If he was going to look the part, might as well get some satisfaction from it.

And if Buffy needed him tonight; well, she was simply out of luck.