There are times when Giles finds himself missing the sort of gods they used to attract in Southern California.
Oh, they were arrogant, to be sure. But they all had some of that misfit quality to them, and one could be reasonably certain they would, at some point, slip up. If they were worth attention at all, he thinks fondly of the Fear Demon.
Arrogance was all they had in common with this breed. Invading galleries of priceless antiquities in Stuttgart and attracting honest to goodness superheroes before taking out half of New York with the same said Superheroes.
Not to mention drawing unspeakable horrors from elsewhere in the World Tree to England.
Gods used to have rules about that sort of thing.
He shakes his head and pours a third - fourth? - cup of tea. Perhaps they did have rules still and merely chose to ignore them. They wouldn't be the only ones.
There were rules for a reason, sod it.
Giles drops his glasses onto the side table and puts his feet up, cradling the welcome warmth of his teacup between his palms and looking out into the unnaturally sunny view of rolling fields beyond his garden wall.
It should be raining, by all rights, but even the weather doesn't seem inclined to cooperate with one Rupert Giles, Librarian.
He huffs out what is, under no circumstances, a laugh and pinches the bridge of his nose. He can hear the bloody capital L on that title, and he knows they only did it to prod at him. A new position in the council, a new mission where the only time he was hit in the head was the odd moment when a book fell off an upper shelf, and a new home as far away from the dangers of the world and its new breed of gods and heroes as Buffy and Willow could manage.
And, of course, reams and reams of paperwork, an endless expense account, stacks of books, and three, count them, three, sodding computers.
Could anyone blame him for hiring an assistant?
"Number three's up and running again, Rupert."
"Yes, thank you, Darcy."
"You want me to take a stab at getting the Bandersnatch out of the portable hard drive again?"
"Baldursvass," he corrects, and waits.
"Gesundheit," she says, and narrows her eyes at him. "You are so totally laughing at me like I don't get the joke. I made the joke."
"It's a very good joke," he agrees. It improves with age, rather. "Leave the Baldursvass where it is, and go take your intern out on the town."
"You like the Baldursvass more than you like me," she complains, but accepts the note he waves her way.
Giles glances down to find his glasses and handkerchief in hand, already well on their way to polished. "Well, he does protect roughly a terabyte of sensitive occult knowledge without the slightest demand for compensation."
She shrugs. "A girl's gotta eat, Rupert."
"Excellent idea. Take Ian to the pub," Giles says, settling his glasses back on his face.
"You just want to get rid of me." Her voice is muffled in the folds of the ridiculously long scarf she's taken to wearing in all weather.
"You noticed," he says, because he's earned the right to be a sarcastic old man when he wants to be, thank you very much. It's comforting.
"Fine. I'm leaving you all on your own with a copy of the Missing Manual next time you need a Word document formatted."
"You wouldn't dare!"
"Watch me!" she sings, disappearing out the door. And she will do it, too, damn her.
"Americans." He settles down into his chair for a nice indulgent sulk at the changing of the world.
He may well mutter it a few times under his breath, as well, because when the bedroom door opens, it's accompanied with a sleep-muddled: "Am I included in that?"
Giles snorts and waits for Xander to shuffle his way across the room for an affectionate yawn and pat. "You are always included in that."
"Did Darcy make coffee before you bribed her to go away?"
"The question, rather, is 'did she leave you any'," Giles corrects and sips his tea. "You should go back to sleep."
"I've been sleeping for two days." The statement is accompanied by a jaw-popping yawn. "Watching is exhausting."
"Technically," Giles calls after him, "you are an observer, not a watcher."
"Is this a discrimination against the Slayer-impaired thing? Because I'm pretty sure there are laws protecting me these days." Xander returns with a cup of what Giles expects is lukewarm black coffee judging from the speed of his errand.
"No. It's an official title. You, Xander Harris, are an observer."
"What's the difference?"
"Watching is more active."
Xander takes that in for a bit. "I get hit a lot less on the head these days, it's true. Although I did have to dodge a kinda gross space-whale-ey thing on the New York end." He rubs at his left eye, causing its glow to flicker erratically. "That was pretty active, I've gotta say."
"Stop that. You'll loosen the connection again." Giles gives his hand a gentle smack. "And yes, I saw the footage, thank you."
"You're welcome." Xander shrugs. "It's just a wire. I can pop it back in."
"I'd rather not watch while you do." Giles is aware of how prim his voice sounds even before Xander snickers at him.
"Squeamish after all this time?"
Honesty and sarcasm have a brief war.
Honesty wins. "Yes." He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes.
Xander settles into the couch next to him, far too close and warm, invading his space as if he belongs there, and Giles relaxes for the first time in perhaps a week. "So, speaking of sleep," Xander says.
"I'm fine," Giles insists, wanting a fifth cup of tea, but that would mean pulling out of Xander's one-armed embrace, and he's not bloody well about to do that now is he? "There's been recording to do. Cross-referencing. Research."
"Paperwork." Xander yawns again.
"Cross-referencing and indexing are not paperwork," Giles says with the affront perhaps only a librarian can muster when explaining the difference between working with paper and... paperwork. "And anyhow, Darcy has already scanned it, converted it, and uploaded it to the vault."
"The one with the Bandersnatch?"
"Baldursvass. And she already called it a Bandersnatch."
"You snooze, you lose," Giles says. "You'll just have to be more original."
"I am THE original annoying American hanger-on to superheroes." Xander takes a long drag of coffee, grumbling all the way. "A guy can't catch a break after recording the salvation of the world for posterity?"
"Evidentially not." Giles caves in and leans forward to refill his cup. "And I'm hardly a superhero."
"That's actually up for debate."
"And what would my superpowers be, exactly?"
Xander thinks about it far too long. "You cannot be beat when it comes to annoyed glares. See? That's a great glare. I'm intimidated, and I'm your husband. Not everyone can do that."
"And yet, I have not intimidated you into shutting up."
"That's my super power."
Giles jostles him with an elbow, which does nothing to dislodge Xander. "We are the most useless super heroes in existence."
"Good thing we've got other talents."
"Watching," Xander says. "Observing. Librarianing."
"That's not even a word."
"Take it up with tumblr."
"Or I could sic the Baldursvass on them."
"Ooh. You're getting mean in your old age."
"I could have been a super villain, you know," Giles says and fails utterly to conceal his irritation. "I misspent my youth in all the wrong places."
"I misspent mine in cemeteries, mostly."
"But you were fighting for the side of good."
"Actually, I was running away and getting sexed up by demons on the regular. It's my demonic magnetism."
That gives Giles pause. "There may be a reason I was attracted to you, after all."
Xander narrows his eyes at Giles. It's an eerie look with the glowing sphere. "I think I'd have noticed if you were a demon, after all these years."
"Given your track record, I'm actually surprised you never suspected it."
"Well." Xander shifts his gaze out the window and scratches the back of his neck. "I wouldn't say never."
Giles shrugs and drains the last of his tea. "I'd be lying if I claimed the thought had never crossed my mind either."
"That I might be a demon?"
"That I might." Giles glances at him sideways, enjoying the renewed look of suspicion. "They were well and truly misspent years."
"And how, exactly, would we tell you're a demon?"
It's a rather good question. "There are a plethora of tests. Most of them fairly painful, I hasten to add," he says, when Xander begins to look a little too interested. "And none of them foolproof."
"I think I'd notice if you'd turned into a demon on me."
"I may have been a demon all along." There is, Giles grants, a moment which seems to be stretching on, in which he isn't sure if he's stringing Xander along or making them both more paranoid.
Definitely paranoid. But surely the Watchers Council would have looked into any potential demonic evidence before assigning him to watch the Slayer.
He thinks, briefly, of the prior Council.
And the prior slayer.
"Fuck," he says, with feeling.
Xander shrugs and burrows against his side. "You forgot who you shacked up with, huh?"
"Try as I might, no." Giles says in driest tones. Xander can handle his bad moods. It's part of why he, as Xander so charmingly put it, shacked up with him in the first place.
"I survived a multi-year, cross-continental relationship with Spike."
"I try to forget that, too."
"My point is," Xander says, poking a finger at Giles' chest, "until such a time as you attempt to eat me - in the bad as opposed to naughty way - I could care less if you're a demon."
"Couldn't," Giles says, autopilot taking over while his brain overheats.
"Whatever," Xander says. "The point. Remember the point."
"No eating you?"
"In the bad way," Xander adds, as if Giles is not suffering an existential crisis. "The naughty way is still on the table. Very much still on the table. I would very much like you to eat me in the naughty way on the table."
"It's covered in computers," Giles says, though the idea has merit.
"Odd, unsanitary, and covered in Ian's Chemistry homework."
"Da - wait. Why is the breakfast nook more unsanitary than the dining room table?"
"Nobody eats on the dining room table."
"I could clean. Cleaning is a thing that happens. Think about it." Xander wiggles his eyebrows like the American heathen he is. "Nook nookie."
"That alone is reason to avoid the breakfast nook forever."
"I think a guy deserves some reward for watching the live action, very much not fictional, Thor vs. Godzilla in Manhattan."
"Observing." Giles corrects. "And the Chitauri were not Godzilla."
"Reward," Xander insists. "And Godzilla only wishes it was the Chitauri." He scratches under the ankle of his pajama pants. "I should retire from the Council and become a monster movie consultant."
"No such thing." Giles slides an arm across the back of the couch, coincidentally nudging Xander closer. "I pitched it during my year of unintended leisure."
"Just as well, I guess. You might have been held responsible for the Blair Witch Project."
"You're probably right."
Xander chuckles and props his heel on the edge of the couch. "If only they knew."
"It's better they don't. We do not need every You Tube celebrity and Vine auteur traipsing about the Scottish countryside with their phones out."
"Speaking of that." Xander says, shuffling around until he can grab his rucksack with one hand. "I brought you a souvenir."
"From New York." Xander drops a box into Giles' lap and makes impatient unwrapping motions.
"It's a Starkpad," Giles says, unnecessarily.
"Yep. I figured you'd appreciate something a little more physical than a laptop and, y'know, it was kind of raining technology for a while there on 5th Avenue."
Giles is distantly aware his mouth is hanging open when he turns to Xander. "Did you steal this?"
"Kidding. Sheesh." Xander pries open the box and puts the sleek device in Giles' hands. "Made a deal for the footage. Kinda under the table." He pushes a button to turn it on, and Giles recoils. "What? You don't like it? Because taking it back might be more of a challenge."
Giles shakes his head, unable to resist running his fingers over the appealingly smooth crystal screen. "I feel a strange sensation of dread. As if once I use this device, worlds will collide and life will never be the same."
"Drama much? Come on. Totally point and... point." Xander lands a kiss on his cheek. "Even an old fuddy duddy can do it."
"Very funny," Giles says, opening the settings.
There's a brief shimmer in the air that neither notices and a distant sound of laughter from the portable drive.
Giles looks up briefly.
Xander snickers. "Bet it discovered LOL cats."
"I doubt grammatically incorrect cats would hold much interest for a thousand year old demon."
"I think they would."
"Don't be silly."
"Full body massage says I'm right."
They stare each other down.
Giles huffs and leaves the tablet on the sofa. "You're on."
"Memes and funny cats," Xander insists, "Are universal. And anyway, what's the worst that can happen?"