NOTES: "The Night Visitor" takes place about two weeks after "Passion." Whether this conflicts with other post- "Passion" stories I don't recall--this summer has been long and hot. Also, Giles is in a house in this one, so if he actually has an apartment ... Heck, just slap "alternate universe" on this one and everyone's happy. ;-) Rated PG for mild cussin' and some legal alcohol consumption.

"The Night Visitor"
by Hannah R.H.
August 1998

It was just before midnight when Rupert Giles realized it was his lucky night.

He realized it with the same sense of irony that increasingly permeated his thoughts, causing him to smile weakly into the reflecting glass of his living-room window.

(tap, tap)

"Giles ... "

(tap, tap)

He knew the demon could see him even though the reflection of the room prevented his own view, and it was only that knowledge that forced him to smile, however weakly, so the enemy form couldn't see his dread.

(tap, tap)

It was his lucky night.

Angel had a new favorite pasttime, he had discovered over the past few weeks, listening to the young ones comparing notes in shaky, fatigued voices as they huddled around the library table. The demon had become a night visitor to all of them, barred from entering their houses but still able to come through the walls and windows, plaster and glass.

Until tonight, Giles had been spared.

Until tonight.

"Giles ... "

(tap, tap)

It was impossible to bar the sounds. Of his voice, soft or loud, or fingernails tapping and scraping on glass. They were right about that. Tapping and scraping spread from the one spot on the window to seem to take over the whole house.

Giles found himself frustratingly frozen, revisiting childhood when his fear of spiders would root him, sure that if he moved the arachnid would be drawn like eight legs of iron to a magnet. But in this case, remaining still was the worst thing he could do.

Stepping surely and quietly, he crossed the room to the window and pulled the cord that released the Venetian blinds. He ignored the laughing that crossed through the glass.

(knock, knock)

He jumped at bit at the louder sounds. Oh, yes--Angelus was still there, on the other side of the thin skin that was his only protection.

"Giles, come outside."

Now at least assured that the demon couldn't watch him, he stepped into the kitchenette, uncorked a bottle of Cabernet, and poured a generous glass.

"Giles ... come outside. I have to tell you something."

He could hear Angel smile. He sipped from the glass, trying not to think about Jenny. Was that voice the last thing she heard? That demon's smiling face her last sight? Was she scared? Terrified?

Did she blame him?

Damn.

The Cab had mysteriously vanished, leaving only a pink hue, and he briefly considered pouring another glass, but that brought back other bad memories, drunk and angry with Ethan taunting him about the Ripper, coaxing him to have another glass of wine or another pint of stout or another shot of anything, just to get him angrier and more out of control, long before the night's festivities would begin.

He hated losing control.

"Giles ... You know she was calling for you when she died ..."

Shut up, you bastard.

When the phone rang, Giles stared at it, wondering if Angel had picked up a cellular phone from his last victim. He toyed with the idea of not answering--it was almost midnight, after all--but then he remembered: The Hellmouth has no schedule.

He settled into one of the bar chairs and reached across the counter to the telephone.

"Hello?"

"Giles, it's me," said the familiar voice.

"Buffy," he sighed in relief, allowing himself a moment's peace before the Watcher instincts kicked in. "Are you all right? Where are you?"

"I'm fine, Giles. I'm at home." This time Giles heard her smile--at his concern, he imagined--and he was somewhat reassured.

(scratch, scratch)

"Giles, you're boring me. I get really angry when I get bored!" The voice was suddenly brutal and accompanied by loud knocks.

Giles turned away from the window, shielding the mouthpiece of the phone with his hand. "Everything's fine, you say?" he stammered, hoping she wouldn't hear the pounding on the glass.

"Yes, fine," Buffy enunciated. "It's just about Angel's visiting hour, and I'm calling around to make sure everybody's okay. So ... are you okay?" she chirped.

"Oh, well--that's responsible of you," he commented, not without some admiration, though without answering the question. "Have you talked to the others?"

"Yeah. I didn't get why Xander was annoyed that I bugged him ... until I heard Cordelia talking in the background. No Angel visitage. And Willow was asleep when I called. But she's fine."

"Good, good," he answered. He heard a creaking sound from the roof and realized that Angel was walking on top of the house. Damn it. "You know everything's fine as long as no one invites him in?"

"Yeah, yeah--I know," Buffy answered firmly. "But I'm up, so I figure I might as well keep tabs on everybody."

Giles listened to the silence on the other end of the phone, and, forgetting Angel for the moment, he wondered about Buffy, how she was holding up, how she looked so tired lately.

He asked, with false casualness, "Buffy, have I told you lately that I think you're a fine Slayer?"

He heard the pause and the surprised chuckle. "Not lately, I don't think." Her voice sounded a little sad, and he knew she didn't feel deserving of the praise.

"I think you are a fine Slayer. I know you don't really think so now, but ... You've had to handle things no other Slayer has faced. And you do it while taking care of others--Willow, Xander, and yes--even me sometimes."

Her voice was quiet. "I just ... don't want anything to happen to anyone again, Giles. Not because of me or what I did." Or who I loved, she might as well have added.

"I know," he sighed. He glanced toward the window, and even though the noises had stopped, he could somehow sense that Angel was still outside. "We're safe tonight. So why don't you get some sleep? We can talk tomorrow."

"Okay," she said softly. "Have pleasant dreams."

"You, too."

As he settled the phone back down into its cradle, Giles thought about shelving the Cabernet and pouring himself a glass of water. He knew he'd tell Buffy and the others about his visitation, but not until tomorrow. Tonight she could sleep.

And he thought about something else.

As long as the demon stayed outside his house, on the other side of the thin skin that protected him, it couldn't be anywhere else. It couldn't hurt anyone else. It couldn't kill anyone else. The Slayer and his other charges would be safe. And he realized ... it really was his lucky night.

(scratch, scratch)

THE END

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