Charles Kemp was almost a hundred percent certain that taking the rookies out drinking to celebrate that they'd all survived their first field mission was a bad idea. He just couldn't remember why.
After her first whisky--knocked back at a rate completely incongruous with her slight frame and delicate features--Walker had stopped shaking. Two drinks later, she was curled up in a corner of the booth, arms wrapped around her knees, half-asleep; perhaps not the safest course of action, but Charles would see her home.
Perrin was still looking a bit greenish, but a grown man who intentionally ordered pink sticky drinks with fruit in them got what he deserved, Charles thought. And at least he seemed calmer: he was getting steadily more morose, glumly sucking at the orange segment adorning his latest drink, but he wasn't praying any more.
And Giles--well, Giles had come through the mission looking less shell-shocked than the rest, like this wasn't the first time he'd seen something big and nasty that wanted to have his guts for garters. Perhaps it was just that he was older than the other two, or perhaps old Giles (Senior, that was, not this one) had given him a little training at home. (For that matter, Charles thought, recalling the time he'd accidentally spilt tea on David Giles' research, perhaps he was the something big and nasty.) He'd set to drinking just as doggedly as the other two, though, but to Charles' relief, he hadn't yet said a word.
So maybe this wasn't a bad plan after all.
Then Giles looked up, blinked blearily at Charles from across the table, and intoned, "My father can't stand the sight of me," in a slightly slurred voice.
That was when Charles remembered why this had been stupid.
Walker raised her head, peering at him for a moment. "'s probably because you're all wobbly," she said. Then she slumped down again, this time with her head on Charles' shoulder. He left her there; she looked comfortable.
"No." There was a long pause, and Charles dared to hope that he'd been distracted and wouldn't be expecting Charles to play agony aunt tonight. Then he said, "No," again. "It's because I'm a disgrace to the family name."
"Ah, c'mon, mate," Charles said, falsely cheerful; perhaps he could jolly Giles out of the mood before he unburdened his soul any further. "You're not completely useless."
"A disgrace," Giles repeated glumly, "to the family name."
"Bloody hell," Perrin muttered. "Everyone knows that."
"Just about," Charles confirmed. Given that he and Giles had been at school together, his own parents had spent eighteen months implying that every indiscretion, however minor, was a sign that he was turning out just like "that dreadful Giles boy, think of his poor mother." If his sister Thomasina hadn't seen fit to elope with that Australian and distract their mother, Charles probably would have had to punch Rupert Giles the next time they'd seen one another.
"Small world," Perrin pointed out, which was quite true. He and Giles had been at school together; Perrin had been three years behind them. Walker hadn't been, as the Academy hadn't allowed females until last year, but it didn't matter. Her parents were both Watchers, her grandparents had been Watchers. Everyone knew one another.
Giles drained his glass, then stared down into it as though willing it to refill itself. "You don't know what I did, though, do you?"
"From what my dad said," Charles said, "you ran off to London, let your hair grow, and played at being a punk rocker."
Walker sat up, her eyes bright with interest. "Did you really?"
Sighing, Giles said, "More or less."
"Wish I'd run off to London," she sighed. Charles couldn't tell if she was just drunk, or if she was suddenly mooning over Giles. Hopefully the former; he preferred letting Walker--Caroline--lean on his shoulder and look dreamily up at him.
"No," Giles said flatly. "You don't. And that's not what my father hates me for. Think he even forgave me for the magic."
And that was one rumor confirmed; Charles filed the information away at the back of his mind in case he needed it one day, but beyond that, it didn't much matter. Going a little wild with magic was one of the most common and predictable ways for young Watchers and Watchers-to-be to go off the rails. "Does he hate you for being a whinging prat when you're drunk?" Charles muttered, but Giles hadn't seemed to hear him. More loudly, he said, "For what, then?" If Giles got his story out, perhaps he could be persuaded to shut up for a bit.
And that was when Charles quite honestly hated himself for this brilliant idea of letting the rookies get drunk, because he was completely certain he could have lived a thousand years without hearing Giles--Rupert Giles, who he'd known most of his life--shrug gracelessly and say, "Shagging men."
Perrin choked on his sticky pink cocktail; Walker made a disappointed little sound and settled back onto Charles' shoulder. Charles, well aware that he was the only sober one in the bunch, took a deep breath. "You're going to hate yourself in the morning for that, you know," he said, casually. "Now, come on. Let's get you lot home before you fall asleep here."
"Did you hear me?" Giles demanded, and Charles chuckled.
"I heard you. I'm just glad the rest of the pub didn't hear you."
"Aren't you going to say something about it?"
"Other than 'I don't fucking care'?" Ten years ago, he'd have cared, but he wasn't seventeen any longer, and he had more important things to worry about than what one of his colleagues did in bed. Unless they were going to be doing it with him, that was, and that was definitely not the case here. It didn't surprise him that Giles' father wasn't happy about it, and Charles wouldn't like to be Giles if the senior members of the Council heard about this part, but the only thing Charles cared about was getting these three home and never, ever drinking wth any of them again. Well. Maybe Walker.
Indifference seemed to take the wind out of Giles' sails; he subsided into silence, and Charles slid out from under Walker--gently propping her against the wall, instead--to go and call a couple of taxis. When he got back to the table, Giles was once again explaining the miseries of his life to Perrin, but as Perrin's head was down and he was snoring gently, Charles assumed it wasn't bothering him much.
The next morning, all three of the rookies were slightly off-color and prone to wincing at bright lights and loud noises. Served them right. He wasn't even feeling that charitable toward Walker, despite her agreeing to have dinner with him on Friday, because she'd been sick on his favorite shoes when he took her home.
But when Charles went and found Giles in the archives and said, "About what you said last night--" intending to reassure him that it went no further--Giles' confusion looked utterly genuine.
Git, Charles thought. Trust him to have forgotten everything, while Charles got stuck remembering things he'd never wanted to know in the first place.