?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
13 June 2009 @ 02:01 pm
An Exercise in Futility [AtS; Wesley gen]  
And now I get to read everyone else's stuff! Or at least I will in a bit.

Title: An Exercise in Futility
Author: Quinara
Fandom: Angel
Prompt: shapinglight's house of inbred aristos
Pairing/Characters: Wesley gen, with Giles/Olivia and the smallest smidgeon of Wesley/Fred.
Other Stuff: PG-13; just over 10,000 words; if you squint a bit it's a crossover with Gosford Park (not all the OCs are OCs; nor are they all mine).
Notes: Thanks to frenchani, ness_du_frat, cabayuki, thenetwork and sollersuk for chatting to me about French, though I ended up using the sum total of two words. Thanks also to enigmaticblues for giving the fic a look over and to angearia for offering a second opinion, though I didn't have time to take her up on it.

Having shot the cyborg masquerading as his father, Wesley gets an invitation to England, where he finds that other aspects of his past are less easy to bury.

Warnings: None.

An Exercise in Futility.

The morning was too calm, Wesley thought, as the taxi pulled away. It was going to be another clear day, bitterly cold but beautiful, and it didn't suit his mood at all. Even though he'd had a day to cool down he was still extremely angry.

It was odd what difference a few days could make. The first time he'd been driven down this driveway it had been in the passenger seat of Giles' Land Rover, staring at the rain as it pounded on the windscreen, faster than the wipers could beat it off. He'd been relatively comfortable, if a little numb from what had happened in LA.

Now he knew he wouldn't be seeing Giles again for a long time. And he didn't especially mind.






“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to Falsey House.”

The door swung open before them, but Wesley couldn't quite see inside past Giles' shoulder. He turned back on the step to let down his umbrella, shaking it out before treading inside with barely a glance at the darkened skies. The door was shut behind him, dimming the sound of the rain, and he nodded to the man standing next to it in thanks.

“Mr. Singh, isn't it?” Giles asked, shaking the man's well-manicured hand. “I believe we spoke on the phone.”

“Navinder,” he replied. “The estate manager – pleased to meet you.”

“And you – I'm Rupert, and this is Wesley Wyndham-Price.”

“Very nice to meet you.” Navinder turned to his way, presenting the same hand, which Wesley took.

“Yes, you too,” he replied, completing the introductions.

With a neat tap of his shoes on the marble floor, Navinder turned to lead them through the hallway. “If you come with me you can leave your coats with George, our porter.”

Wesley and Giles trudged behind him, out of the hall proper and round a corner, coming to a room filled by three coatstands and a desk. A rather rotund man, older than Navinder, was sitting back in an office chair in front of the desk, sipping a cup of tea as he watched the selection of monitors on the wall. Second from the left was a grainy view of Giles' car; the others seemed to be showing various other points of approach. The garden came out well in one, with the line of sight following a stone pathway down some steps to a central pond, while another showed a showed a selection of bins by a wall.

The rustle of Giles removing his Barbour invited Wesley to shrug out of his own drenched coat, so he did so and handed it to Navinder, along with the umbrella. There was a lot of awkward smiling.

As he hung the coats, Navinder filled the silence, “George will look after these, won't you George?”

The man turned on his chair, bringing his tea with him and taking a slurp before he responded. “Ain't nothing that'll get past me,” he agreed, the only one among them who actually sounded like he was from the West Country. “There's not no one who ever comes round this part of the house anyway.”

“At any rate,” Giles commented. “I shouldn't imagine we'll take up that much Lady Goslin's time.”

“Well, there's the family arriving this evening.” George rocked back on the chair, causing it to squeak slightly. “She'll probably appreciate the change of company.” He laughed, a dark, bubbling sort of sound, then turned back to his monitors.

With another smile Navinder held out a hand in the direction of the door, following them out as they left. The silence seemed more oppressive as they returned to the hall, the new direction allowing Wesley to take it in with much more clarity. It seemed familiar, the cool neoclassicism and double staircase: he wondered if it had perhaps appeared in some sort of BBC drama.

It certainly wasn't a Watcher's hall, after all. The pale blue walls, the statuary... None of it was of the slightest mystical use. Every Watcher's house he'd been in – his parents', his parents' friends' – the rooms were proportioned perfectly for protection spells, the marble inlay cut into the floor so as to trap any marauding spirit. There was a palpable sense of magic, one he couldn't feel here.

He wondered why he expected it. But then, as they continued through a series of other rooms, he realised why.

“This is the Roman Room,” Navinder said as they came to the back of the house, and straight into something that looked like a Pompeii reconstruction. A geometric mosaic ran across the floor, leading the eye down its twists and turns and unavoidably to the centre of the room, where three benches lay in a U, affording every potential occupant a view of the garden through wall of glass at the end of the room. Or at least that was what Wesley assumed was the idea, since the glass was currently being pelted with rain.

The dreariness outside, however, did nothing to affect the unrepentantly Mediterranean feel of the interior. The walls were white and ochre, warm and uplifting, while the air was thick with the smell of the bay trees standing in the room's corners. Compared to the rest of the house, it was a good few degrees warmer, and to Wesley it felt like the cause was mystical.

“It's – it's a magnificent room,” Giles stuttered at Wesley's side, probably coming to the same conclusions.

“It was Sir Benedict's favourite part of the house,” Navinder replied. “He would spend hours here in the summer.”

“Did he write here?” Wesley asked. That, after all, was why he was there: to investigate the late Sir Benedict's writings.

Navinder furrowed his brow momentarily, thinking. “No, I don't remember him doing so. He read sometimes, but...” He laughed, brushing his fingers along the edge of his turban. “Of course, I couldn't tell you with any real authority. I'm the estate manager, and something of a personal assistant; I'm not here to spend the day peering over anyone's shoulder. I'm fairly sure Sir Benedict wouldn't have wanted me snooping while he worked.”

“I know the feeling,” Giles commented. He said it with enough emphasis that Wesley wondered what he was thinking about.

A moment passed, then Navinder asked, “Shall we carry on?”

“By all means,” Wesley replied, holding out an arm for him to lead the way.




They found Lady Goslin in her sitting room, for all appearances rather lonely on a pristinely upholstered sofa. She sat across from another settee, with the table in-between hosting an array of sandwiches and a willow pattern tea set.

As the door closed behind them she rose elegantly to greet them, “Singh, you found them!” A smile burst across her face. “Jolly well done.” She shook their hands vigorously, indicating they should sit. “The weather is so terrible today I was worried something had happened en route.”

Wesley inched past the table and took his seat on the empty sofa, with Giles following behind. “It's so lovely to meet you at last, Lady Goslin,” Giles said. “Olivia has told me so much about you.”

“Ah, then you must be Mr. Giles,” Lady Goslin replied, re-taking her seat. Navinder perched beside her. “And you Mr. Wyndham-Price.” Wesley nodded and smiled in return. “I believe Thomas may have gone to school with one of your relatives... At least he seemed to think so, when I mentioned your name.”

Wesley couldn't help but glance at Navinder, unsure of whom this Thomas was. His face, however revealed nothing, and conversely Wesley felt a little chastened: it seemed there was going to be no talking around the pensioner in the room. If indeed Lady Goslin drew a pension, which seemed rather unlikely.

“Thomas is my son-in-law,” Lady Goslin continued, drawing his attention back to her as she reminisced. “Married my eldest – my daughter Eleanor in the autumn of 56. You know, I can still remember the speeches, every one – for some reason they've stuck in my memory like nothing else.” She sighed. “Eleanor always was a very lucky girl.”

And then she broke off, looking down at her hands as she worried a bracelet on her right wrist. Wesley wasn't sure what to say, and Giles only shook his head a fraction.

At last Navinder interrupted, “Shall I pour everyone some tea? Feel free to help yourselves to sandwiches.”

They tucked in, though Wesley noticed Navinder wasn't eating, instead holding his tea on his saucer like something of a social gesture. For him this was probably very much a business meeting.

The silence quickly became stilted, but Wesley wasn't sure how to start the conversation again. At last Giles cleared his throat and said, “Ms. Bishop was telling me that you were finding it difficult to sort through your husband's papers.”

Lady Goslin suddenly became animated again, putting her half-eaten cucumber sandwich in her saucer and returning her tea to the table. “Yes! It's the most devilish thing. Completely unsurprising from Benedict, of course.” She reached down to her side, bringing up a red, leather-bound diary and holding it out across the table. “He kept so many diaries, memoirs I think he preferred to think of them, of his work and his research. But he seemed to forget that people would have to read them, that's the thing.”

Wesley took the book and glanced, briefly, at the sun-shaped stamp on the cover before pulling the marker ribbon up to open it. It was dated the third of October, barely two months ago.

I fear it is too late. For too long I have thought only of hiding my work, never of whom I should wish to inherit its legacy, and now I feel myself growing weaker and weaker. How does one search for one's successor? Not through blood surely, when what one seeks is not a unity of character or experience, but that far more abstract idea: perspective.

What would I say to him, were I to know him?

I suppose I should say -


Then the English broke off, as did the Latin alphabet. It continued in what looked a little like Coptic, but more jagged, with the odd sharp embellishment here and there. Coptic of course had several demonic variants, like all scripts, variants that better suited the writing methods of the species. Wesley was fluent enough in Ishqet, but this wasn't quite the same. A part of him was satisfied that Giles would have been quite lost; the man went from Sumerian to Greek with nothing in-between. And he didn't even do those well.

“Most of the entries are like that,” Lady Goslin added, drawing Wesley's eyes back to her. “Mere fragments in English followed by that illegible gobbledegook. And always so obscure...”

Wesley was still ticking over options in his head. He wondered if he would know the answer if that robot masquerading as his father hadn't so recently undermined his instincts. “It certainly looks like something I will have to work on.” He smiled, feeling it was necessary. “I assure you, I will try my utmost.”

His smile garnered one in return, a little hesitant at first, before Lady Goslin blinked, taking another sandwich and changing the topic abruptly. “And where have you been staying whilst in Gloucestershire?”

He turned momentarily to look at Giles. “I, well, I actually only arrived in the country this afternoon.” He hoped it wasn't obvious; those Business Class adverts had to be substantiable somehow, didn't they? Maybe British Airways were Wolfram and Hart clients. “But Ru- Mr. Giles here has been so kind as to offer to put me up at his flat in Bath.” He smiled again, realising he was in fact trying to cover how out-of-practice he was at speaking with this forced politeness.

“Oh, really, there's no need for that,” Lady Goslin replied, shaking her head as she reached for her tea-cup. Wesley jumped slightly, his thoughts moving far too quickly to the idea that Lady Goslin could read minds. “You must stay here with us. There's plenty of room, I'm sure.”

“I... Thank you,” he replied, not knowing what else to say. He glanced again at Giles, who was keeping his mouth tightly shut. He seemed... disappointed almost. Or perhaps frustrated. In any case, it was an odd reaction to being relieved of a house-guest, no matter that it was gone after a moment.

Lady Goslin took a sip of her tea and returned the cup to the table, her face growing more and more animated. “And, yes, Mr. Giles, you must stay for dinner tonight.” She nodded to herself, then turned to Navinder, frowning slightly. “Will that work, Singh? I can't remember exactly...”

Navinder pulled out a PDA and tapped something into it. Giles shifted slightly, then inhaled as if to speak, but he was cut off. “That would make us thirteen, my lady.” Wesley looked at Giles, who shook his head.

“Well, blast it all.” Lady Goslin slapped her hands to her knees. “We can't have that. If only Lucas and Nika weren't away... Who else can we invite?”

She looked around the group of them, somewhat forcefully. Wesley resisted the urge to shrug, taking his cue from Navinder who was politely silent.

“Olivia!” Lady Goslin said finally. “Her visits are always so brief. Yes, Olivia would liven things up rather well, I think.”

“I'll see what I can do, my lady,” Navinder replied, tapping a note into his PDA.

“You don't suppose she'll have other invitations?” Lady Goslin frowned, slumping slightly into her seat.

“Not anymore...” Giles muttered, but Wesley was sure he was the only one who could have heard.




“I'm sorry your plans have been interrupted,” he told Giles later, a little cautiously. He was unpacking his laptop, carefully placing it next to the sourcebook he'd illicitly borrowed from the office. Both looked rather out of place on the fussy desk of his room, but there was nowhere else to put them.

“Yes, well,” Giles replied, still sounding a little irritated. “It isn't your fault.”

That was true, but Wesley didn’t bother saying so. He sorted out the laptop's wires in silence, wondering whether Giles would continue or whether he should come up with another fruitless topic of conversation.

“Did you make anything of the books?” Giles' voice came at last.

Wesley looked round, sitting back in the desk chair, a little lightheaded from leaning over. It was a little odd to see Giles squashed into the small armchair by the door, but not so ridiculous that he couldn't keep a straight face. “Nothing concrete,” he replied. “A certain demon dialect, perhaps, somewhat related to Coptic. I can see why you called me in.”

He'd misjudged that jab; the smile Giles gave him was not overly friendly. “How could I not?”

Wesley glanced at the small wardrobe in the corner, thinking how to continue. “I was surprised to hear you were in England, actually,” he said at last, looking back. “I suppose with the Hellmouth collapsed there must be a lot to organise.”

Giles blinked, then took out a handkerchief to polish his glasses, looking into the middle distance. “It was... Quite an event, you might say.”

“So I heard,” he replied without thinking.

“Oh? What exactly did you hear?” The glasses were back on his face.

Now it was Wesley's turn to stall, smoothing a hand down the lid of his laptop. What to tell? It wasn't any secret that Spike was back, and certainly not a secret he would feel obliged to keep. “That Buffy fought a very difficult battle very well.”

That brought another rather thin smile to Giles' face. “An interesting perspective. True, certainly, but – interesting.”

He realised then, with a spark of intuition, that Giles knew something. It was written in the way he rested an elbow on one of the chair's arms. Curious, that, since as far as he knew there hadn't been any contact with the Sunnydale lot from their end once Spike had returned.

At least his course of action was decided: if there was one thing Wesley didn't like to do, it was give away his cards when he knew his opponent was holding back. Smiling his own smile, he changed the subject: “Anyway, I've been wondering how you got involved of all this. As I understood it, the Council doesn't exactly have a hotline.”

There was a pause as Giles clearly mulled over his reply. He was a closed book, not a characteristic that Wesley particularly remembered. Maybe it had come with his – ah, how to term it – promotion.

“You know Olivia works for the National Trust?” he said at last, shifting in his seat. Wesley decided it was best to skate over exactly how Giles knew Olivia. “She's been in negotiations with the Goslins for years, apparently; knows Navinder very well. The place practically runs like a tourist attraction as it is, in the summer.

That explained George the porter, Wesley supposed. “I'm surprised no one in the family wants to keep it.”

“Well, they have no son to pass the baronetcy to, and apparently their eldest daughter never cared for it when she was alive...” Giles was interrupted by a tinny ringing in his jacket pocket. He took the phone out (an entry-level Nokia, from what Wesley could see) and looked at it with a distracted sort of delight. “Er, if you'll forgive me...” he muttered, barely looking up.

“Please, go ahead,” Wesley replied, standing from his chair as Giles left the room.

Letting the door shut behind him, Wesley returned to his laptop. He suddenly realised he had a lot to think about, because that moment of delight, which Giles had just shown, really had been the least guarded emotion he'd seen on the man all day.




Dinner was an awkward affair, full of people who didn't know him and who didn't want to talk to him. He was introduced, nevertheless, to Lady Goslin's daughter Josephine, her husband and her daughter; to the son-in-law Thomas, his daughter Sophie, married to a Scottish husband, Duncan McCordle, with a fifteen-year-old son; his daughter-in-law Madeleine Ginet, divorced wife of an absent son with two teenage daughters, come in from France. Each of them had forgotten his name as soon as he'd forgotten theirs.

Luckily, it didn't go on too long, with each sumptuous, if old-fashioned, course coming swiftly after that preceding, served by an almost invisible staff. Whoever was in charge (he was fairly certain Navinder had left at six) ran a tight operation.

Dessert was even interrupted by Madeleine's younger daughter: she got up from the table to the jingle of her mobile phone, blithely leaving the dining room behind her as she gabbled away in French, complaining to a friend, as far as Wesley could tell, about how bored she was in England. He could sympathise, but it brought the conversation to a rather stunning halt. Her sister, eighteen or so, blushed red, while Madeleine, who seemed in many ways younger than the rest of the parents at the table, raised her chin provocatively, as if waiting for her ex-husband's family to comment on her child. Josephine's husband, a lawyer Wesley was fairly sure, laughed uproariously.

It was decided to have coffee elsewhere and Wesley was more than happy to escape to the library. He wouldn't mind starting work buoyed on a few glasses of wine.

The collection of Sir Benedict's diaries was arranged on a table near the door, in front of the stacks: there were three neat piles sorted by colour (red, blue and green), which Wesley could only assume was some sort of organisational system.

He took a seat behind the table and pulled the green pile to him, glad to shut out the sound of gratingly-posh voices. They were five-year diaries, or so the small gold numerals told him, leather-bound and dating back to 1970. The only remarkable thing about them, as far as he could tell, was the imprint of a sun on all of their covers. It implied they were hand-bound, though they certainly looked professionally made. Not that that was important.

Opening a few of the books it quickly became apparent that the green set contained no English, only more of the Coptic-looking language. With his luck he was sure Lady Goslin had shown him the only passage of English in the whole collection. With a sigh he pushed the green pile to one side and pulled the red forward – the dates corresponded, also going back to 1970. Opening the first he was relieved to see the Latin alphabet, the first entry voicing more of Sir Benedict's personal reflections.

Tuesday, 17th March 1970

Isobel and I met Jessica today. After the last three months it was a tremendous relief and indeed a pleasure to see the weight lifted from Isobel's shoulders, weight I am not sure I ever fully realised was there. She, Jessica, is a charming woman, if a little brash of speech, unfortunately still unmarried but employed comfortably enough, it would seem, by Marks and Spencer.


The script below the entry was different, as expected, but unlike the other examples Wesley had seen it was very carefully drawn, as if by a hand unused to the letters. Looking again to the sun on the diary's cover, Wesley wondered. There was a certain demon cult, eradicated by a Palestinian Slayer in the nineteenth century, that had been highly literate and fanatical about the sun. He remembered them from the academy: the Am Rinh.

Wesley looked at the script again, sounding out the words in his head as though spoken with a double tongue. A few phrases began to make sense, ideas of succession and legitimacy, of secrecy and solitude. It seemed as though Sir Benedict's angst was somewhat perennial.

Pulling the green books back to him he was able to make out more information. Rather than a personal commentary these seemed to contain technical observations, context-less descriptions of landscapes perhaps, or afternoons. Events were dated with something that was certainly not the Gregorian calendar.

The blue pile was smaller than the red and the green and, though the covers were still stamped with the sun symbol, they had no identification of date. Indeed, they seemed to be lacking in content as well, full of blank pages. Wesley sighed again; of course it couldn't be that easy. The pages were well-thumbed, unevenly marked from years of skin-contact, which implied they had been in use. They were simply even more illegible than the others.

Starting with the green seemed the most sensible idea, since he was fairly convinced all the red contained were not exactly important personal issues. Bringing the table lamp closer he turned back to the first entry, then pulled a pen and notepad from his jacket pocket and set to work.




Much later, the chime of a distant clock made Wesley look at his watch. It was one in the morning.

In itself, the time didn't overly surprise him, but he couldn't help a slight feeling of disappointment that no one had come to see what he had been doing. Giles, presumably, had gone home with Olivia, or else alone, and had decided they had nothing more to say to each other. That was a little depressing.

Laying his notepad and pen down on the pages of the open book in front of him he stood. The house was colder now, he realised; the jacket on the back of his chair seemed a necessary accessory for his passage up the stairs. Jetlag should have been keeping him awake, but he felt horrendously weary, tired and with fewer theories than he had had two hours ago.

As he left the library, however, he was stopped by the sound of a piano. Somewhere, a good few rooms away from him, someone was stumbling their way through Clair de lune. The tempo wasn't steady and the snatches he could hear were constantly broken by harsh discords, but, whoever it was, they were making the most of the evening's atmosphere and the house's acoustic. It had a certain charm.

Even as he shivered he found himself turning away from the stairs and towards the music, taking the route, he remembered now, towards Lady Goslin's sitting room. There had been a piano in that room, hadn't there? The rooms were dark, but enough light shone through the windows to let him find his way.

An elderly lady, unfamiliar from dinner, was sat at the piano, her back curved around to her bowed head. She was nodding in supposed time to the music, and as she did so her hair moved in and out of the lamplight, changing from dark-grey to white in its rollers.

“Oh, bugger my fingers,” she said as some more notes slipped, moving her hands to the seat. “And I know you're there, love. Can see your reflection, can't I?”

With visible effort she turned herself around on the stool, leaning on her feet momentarily to pull her heavy dressing-gown more fully across her teal tartan pyjamas.

“I'm sorry to bother you, er, madam.”

“Miss Jones,” the woman replied with a smile. “But call me Jessica. Don't know where they cooked up that surname, but it feels less like mine every day. And I've only had it seventy years...”

“Jessica?” He asked, his voice hushed by the early morning's quiet.

“Well hark at him, if he hasn't heard of me. Next you'll be saying it were Isobel who told you.”

Wesley quirked a smile, not entirely sure that he wasn't doing it simply out of politeness. “I must confess I only heard your name in passing, and not in a way that made me expect to see you at this time in the morning. Or at all, honestly.”

“Well, it's not as if I'm staying long. Got here after dinner and I'll be off before breakfast – need to catch the early train to Paddington for my course.”

“Course?” he echoed, scratching the back of his head as he stifled a yawn.

“Dressmaking,” she replied matter-of-factly. “We had all these little goths a few months back, bless their hearts, wanting to make corsets and now they've got the bug. Saves you a lot of money, dressmaking, but do they teach it in schools? Do they heck.”

Wesley nodded, looking blearily at the piano as he tried to work out how to respond. “Oh yes,” he said at last. “Did I hear you used to work for Marks and Spencer?”

“From fifty-one to ninety-three,” she said proudly, straightening the sleeves of her dressing gown. “I cut patterns, you know. No formal training, just old-fashioned, on the job experience.”

Again he nodded, then yawned as discretely as possible. Silence grew until Wesley shook his head, saying, “I'm sorry. I'm sure I know the answer to this, but what exactly is your connection to the Goslins?” He'd read so much that evening he couldn't remember what he had actually heard about her.

Then her voice became a little more guarded. “I'm a distant cousin of Isobel's, so they say.” Isobel. That was Lady Goslin. “Accounts for the age-difference. And my common-as-muck surname.”

“But...” There was clearly more going on.

“I shouldn't say,” she replied, shifting on her stool and glancing away from him. “Makes no difference to me, just stirs up past misfortunes.”

The way she said 'misfortunes' gave Wesley the impression that she thought of herself as one. She was definitely younger than Lady Goslin, but not that much younger. Less than twenty years, perhaps more like fifteen or sixteen...

He looked up, startled. An illegitimate daughter? Jessica eyes were there, earnest for a moment, until she turned her head. Somehow it confirmed his thoughts, and he felt a fleeting sense of kinship with her. It was so odd to think that other families had members they were ashamed of, members who didn't deserve it.

He could imagine how it had been, after dinner: tense, awkward, everyone and no one looking at her all at once. The older members of the family had probably worked it out years ago, even if they had never spoken it out loud. He was glad he hadn't been there.

Then, rather suddenly, a bright light was shining at them through the curtains, the floral pattern coming out brilliantly in the dim room, if only for a moment.

They both turned and Wesley headed over to the window. “Was that a car, do you think?” Who could be out at this hour?

Jessica rose and moved around the piano to join him. “You don't think it's a burglar?”

“A highly incompetent one, if so,” he replied, peering through the curtains to the night outside. The sitting room was at the front of the house, inaccessible from the main hall but only separated from the front door by the library. There was a shadowy figure, a man in a hat perhaps, that he could just make out in the portico. He seemed to have a high-beam torch, which explained the light, but it was currently facing in exactly the wrong direction to let Wesley see his face.

“Can you see who it is?”

“No, I...” Then, as the man reached a hand into his coat, the torch-beam turned and light flared off the front door, hitting the man full on. Wesley stepped back.

“Well?”

“It isn't a burglar,” Wesley said, causing a sigh of relief in Jessica. “It's someone from dinner – the widower son-in-law.” Damn; he couldn't remember the man's name.

“Thomas?” Jessica asked, scowling with confusion. “Eleanor's husband?”

“Yes.” Wesley nodded. “I think so.”

She tutted. “He's an odd chap, that one. Used to go out with Sir Benedict on his trips.”

After their small moment of excitement, Wesley found his curiosity somewhat renewed. “Trips?” he asked. He hadn't found any mention of trips. Maybe in the red diaries, but he was certain it would have been lost there amongst so much other irrelevant information.

Jessica padded back to the piano stool, tightening the belt of her dressing gown. “Far as I could tell, all they did was sit in a field and write things down. Way the wind was blowing, how many cows were facing one direction or another. Now, we had cows back in Kent when I was tiny, but I never found them as exciting as those two did.” She drew a breath. “Course, he stopped after Eleanor died.”

Wesley took this in, not entirely sure what to make of it. The records in the green books, perhaps? Most of them had been nonsensical so far, but perhaps there wasn't much sense to be had. At length, as he yawned again, he decided it was time for bed. “Well,” he said, blinking. “It was very nice to meet you.

“You too, love,” she replied, smiling in a way that seemed astonishingly genuine.

He smiled back. “Good night,” he said, then left for bed.




The next morning's breakfast was as he might have expected: full English, cholesterol on a plate. The toast was remarkably good though, and the raspberry jam something approaching a revelation, which made up for the lack of his usual grapefruit half. They all looked at him as if he were mad, of course, opting out of bacon. It didn't help that he was the youngest in the room; he hadn't been in a similar situation for a good few years, and he'd forgotten how off-putting it was. He would almost swear they were listening to him chew.

He left as soon as was polite, returning to the library after he had retrieved his notepads and the Wolfram and Hart sourcebook from his room. The weather was better today, bright and dry. Even though the net curtains filtered the sunlight down to a sombre gloom, he could see the room well enough that he left the main light-switch alone. The lamps would be sufficient.

With a short yawn he sat back in his chair from the night before, then frowned as he pulled the small pocket notebook towards him. It was where he'd left it, keeping the page open he'd been looking at, but it was closed, flipped round to show the cover and not his last few notes. He could have sworn he'd left it open.

He wasn't a paranoid person, not generally speaking. Or, at least, he didn't like to think of himself as a paranoid person, merely cautious – and observant. The rest of the table appeared untouched, but as he flicked through the notebook he couldn't help but notice small rips by the spiral-binding, as though it had been read quickly by someone who wasn't him.

He wondered if it had anything to do with Thomas' clandestine return to the house the night before.

Now that was paranoid, and a pointless path to go down. These people had lives of their own, undoubtedly, and more important things to do than worry about him. They had to.




“How's it all going?”

Wesley looked up, shutting his eyes for a moment as his head swam. Clearly he was in need of a break. Had he missed lunch?

“Sorry?” he finally replied, opening his eyes to look at the woman standing on the other side of the desk. She grinned, mouth pulling wide under a rather pronounced nose. From what Wesley could judge they were about the same age, which meant, of course, that she looked remarkably young.

“I thought I'd see how you were fairing with granddad's books.” The grin didn't waver. “Whether you had got any closer to cracking the mystery.”

“Oh.” Wesley looked at the mess in front of him: the papers, the dictionaries, all surrounding that blank, hand-bound book at the centre. “I'm not doing overly well, as you can see.” He shook his head a little more. “Sorry, you'll have to remind me – I've completely forgotten your name.”

The woman reached an arm across the desk; Wesley stood to shake it.

“Nicolette Tamworth. Nic. From the less prolific side of the family.”

He smiled. Eleanor and the suspicious Thomas' side wasn' t that prolific, but there were definitely more names than he could keep straight. “Right,” he replied. “That makes you Josephine and...”

“David's daughter,” she finished. “Yes. And you're Wesley?”

“Correct.”

“Do you mind if I sit?” She glanced at the various chairs his side of the desk.

“Please,” Wesley replied, holding out a hand as he himself sat back down.

Nicolette tentatively turned a few papers round, scowling at the ones not in English. “What can I do to help?” she asked at last, putting the papers back where they had come from. “It's been a few years since I've had to read this extensively, but I haven't forgotten how.”

“There's no need, really.” Wesley was willing, from the way the woman dealt with paper, to accept she might be able to help. He'd had worse research partners over the years. Yet he still preferred to work alone, especially with dialects as complicated as Am Rinh. Even more especially when it was likely she would come across something very difficult to explain.

“Honestly, I don't mind.” Nic grinned again. “I know you're being paid, but that's not a problem for me.”

Paid? Well, if that wasn't something else Giles had kept close to his chest. How remarkably odd.

She continued, dropping her voice slightly. “And I, well... “ She looked over the table, gaze settling on a depiction of an Am Rinh ritual Wesley had forgotten to cover up. “I know about demons.” Now that was interesting. “You'd be surprised at some of the books Uncle Thomas has in his library.”

“Thomas... Fulbury?” Wesley asked, certain it was all too coincidental.

She looked around, leaning forward, apparently somewhat eager to share the confidence. “Well, 'had' is probably a better term. I found some when I was younger, but was never able to again. He told me I'd been making up stories. But my partner and I were attacked three years ago but these great hulking thing... I've been trying to research it since. Off and on.”

She sat back, story told, and Wesley wondered whether it wasn't all too neat. On the one hand, it seemed like there were far too many people in the house who knew about demons, but on the other, it perhaps wasn't so surprising that knowledge should pass around a family, albeit finding expression in different ways.

At last, Wesley sighed. “Very well, then,” he replied, pulling out a book from his 'to read' pile. He didn't expect it to contain anything overly useful, but it paid to be thorough. “There are talks of Am Rinh manuscripts, a particular demon cult I believe your grandfather was interested in, that could only be read through a certain ritual – something to do with light, or maybe dawn.” The blue books had to have the key information, he was sure of it.

“And you think – ”

Nicolette was interrupted by a soft voice from the doorway. “Hello?”

It was the elder of the French girls, the one who hadn't interrupted dinner. Nicolette waved at her, pulling close another chair. “Hélène, hello!”

She smiled, a little nervously Wesley thought, then sat down at the desk. “Sorry to bother you, I was – ” She bit her lip, looking rather like the ingénue all the starlets at Virginia's parties had tried to be. Or at least more practised. “Great-Granddad always said that one day he'd let me look at his books, but he never got the chance to show me.

“Don't tell me,” he couldn't help but wryly ask. “You're another occult-hobbyist?”

“Well, I'd rather not call myself a 'hobbyist',” she replied, looking briefly at Nic. “It just sounds so awfully dull, doesn't it? All anoraks and sandwiches filled with that stuff Daddy would pretend was pâté.”

She laughed, and Wesley found himself chuckling with her. Hopefully not only because she was young and beautiful. “I'm not sure,” he remarked, “why your great-grandfather was so worried about finding someone to continue his work.

The other two spoke at once: “Oh, I couldn't...” They cut each other off and the library was silent once more.

It struck Wesley then that there was possibly more than a little self-service in the complaints Sir Benedict filled his diaries with. He couldn't broach it of course, not with the man now dead and his descendants probably much closer to him than they were to Wesley. And yet he wondered, if the man hadn't been so paranoid (if that was the word), whether he would have been needed here at all.

“What exactly was he working on?” Nicolette asked.

It was probably safer to return to the matter at hand. “I'm not overly sure,” Wesley replied, reaching over to the diaries he had found most illuminating (relatively speaking). “He talks here – ” Which diary was it? Ah, that one, from the second half of the eighties. He pulled it towards him. “– Of the foundation of the world, or more literally 'the first primordial light'. But of course the difficulty is that, from what I can discern of the Am Rinh, the concepts of 'light' and 'life' are the same – well, facets of the same at least.”

He was so used to blank faces; it was momentarily jarring to see two expressions of (deep?) interest.

Though that of course meant that he was due yet another interruption, in the form of Hélène's sister breezing into the room and speaking far too loudly.

"What on earth are you doing in here, Elle?” She looked disparagingly around the gloom. “Never mind; come on, we're going riding.”

Hélène stood up, trying to herd the other girl back to the doorway. “I can't right now, Marie,” she told her. “Important things to be getting on with, you know?”

Marie came to a stop, hands on her waist, long hair tossed back over her shoulders. “You are such a bore, what could possibly...” She glanced back to the table, eyes settling on Nic first and then Wesley, making him feel rather like a bug. “Honestly, Elle,” she continued as she turned back, speaking as though she were sighing. “He works for great-grandma. And you know he is totes over thirty-five.”

He felt quite insulted.

Hélène, in contrast, turned bright pink. “Marie, tais-toi!”

Laughing, Marie looked at him again, apparently savouring the moment before she turned on a toe and flounced out of the library. Hélène followed rather quickly behind her, still blushing.

“So,” Nic said when the silence finally returned. She looked like she could barely contain her laughter. So much for the sanctity of libraries. “You were saying?”

“Er...” What had he been saying? “I'm beginning to think he might have been interested in the Old Time, which is a remarkably unresearched area of demonology, going back before creation myths. It's a highly sensitive subject, which would explain the steps he took to conceal his work.” At least in part. “What's hidden in the blue books could be terribly significant.”

“Best get cracking then,” Nic replied.




It was a rather successful day, all things considered. By the time it reached seven o'clock, when Wesley left the library to freshen up before dinner, he and Nic had managed to approximate one of the Am Rinh rituals for reading a certain sort of invisible text. If he were lucky, Wesley would be able to read them at dawn the next morning. Remarkably simple, really, especially since Nic seemed to understand that it would be better for him to do the ritual on his own.

As a result he was in a very good mood when he met Olivia in the hall, and quite happy to forget that they had barely spoken the night before. “Good evening,” he said cheerfully.

“To you too,” she replied. “Is everything going well?”

“Extremely.”

She looked a little surprised. “Well, that's good!” Maybe she was just pleased, but she definitely seemed surprised. “I'm sure Rupert will glad to hear it.” She cast an eye up the stairs. “He went looking for you, actually. I thought you must be talking – he's been gone a few minutes.”

And left Olivia waiting in the hall? That was a little odd. Still, not worth querying. “I'll go and find him,” he told her with a smile. “I was heading upstairs anyway.”

“Good luck,” she joked as he headed up the stairs. He chuckled, smiling back down at her and then heading away from the landing.

The upstairs of the house was far too complicated, in Wesley's opinion. Most of the rooms, obviously, were smaller than those below, and that turned the place into a veritable warren of corridors. Not to mention that nearly every doorway looked the same.

Just before he came to his room Giles appeared around corner, making Wesley jump (relatively unobtrusively). “Ah, Rupert!” he said. “Olivia said you were looking for me.”

“Yes,” he replied, sounding much more neutral. “Yes I was. Not for anything urgent though; I was wondering how you were getting on.”

Was it fair to get annoyed with people for asking about his work and not about himself? Presumably the time Giles had allotted for this little check-up had already run out, so they were skipping the small talk. “Very well,” was all he said. “There's a ritual I'm going to attempt tomorrow morning to read the blank books. It would seem the language Sir Benedict favoured was that of the Am Rinh.”

Giles looked moderately interested. “The Am Rinh?” he asked. “I thought all their rituals were lost?”

“It's going to be rather heavily improvised, but I believe Sir Benedict might have set up the Roman Room as a Shashnet Chamber.”

“Of course,” Giles mused, brow growing slightly heavy. “Hence the full eastern exposure.”

Wesley nodded, a little grateful to be able to speak in this sort of Watcher shorthand every now and again. Sometimes he felt like he was giving the exposition for his own life.

“Well,” Giles continued, smiling briefly, his expression lightening. “I'll see you at dinner.”

“Certainly,” Wesley replied, feeling a little deflated as he moved past Giles and on to his own room. Why couldn't they maintain a comfortable conversation? He had thought that was the reason Giles had brought him in: familiarity as well as his skill with languages. They hadn't been anything even remotely resembling friends in Sunnydale, but a small part of Wesley had hoped that he'd been preferred over the other surviving members of the Council.

He almost slumped straight onto his bed, but, as it was, two steps through the door he was forced to a halt. Giles had been in his room. It was obvious: the chair by his desk was reversed far too far, completely blocking any access to his wardrobe. The suitcase was leaning against the wall, not standing upright as he was sure he'd left it earlier.

Sitting down at the desk he opened the lid on his laptop, only to find the thing hadn't even been shut down. It was hibernating: Giles had clearly shut the top like some people were wont to do and expected it to turn itself off.

What had he been looking for? Information on Wolfram on Hart? On Angel? On Spike? Was that why Giles had brought him here? Why he'd initially wanted him in his house?

It wasn't clear. There was no new history on his web browser, though Wesley's mobile was still connected, so Giles could have got online if he'd wanted. He couldn't remember what he'd last opened on Word, so the list of recent documents was no help.

If he were honest, Wesley didn't really care what Giles had seen (except for maybe that file marked 'Fred Correspondence', well-hidden amongst his other documents). Intelligence about Wolfram and Hart deserved to be spread. It was the intrusion he didn't like, and the suspicion, especially on top of someone else looking through his notes (it couldn't have been Giles; he'd left before Wesley had given up for the night). It was enough to make one think there was some sort of conspiracy.

Now really. That was nothing more than pathetic paranoia, instilled in him by his father, that he should be able to shrug off having shot the man. All the same, he wished people would leave his things alone.

Taking off his jacket Wesley decided he didn't feel like dinner after all.




The next morning, Wesley sat in the Roman Room, letting the quiet lull him into the ritual state. The sky outside was lightening, a pale purple cutting a silhouette of the garden and highlighting his fingers, which were fidgeting with the blue diary he was holding open. The smell of bay was nothing more than a whisper, but it brought a sense of rather reassuring protection for the ritual that was about to come upon him.

It couldn't be long now; he could hear the first twitters of birdsong. The house was already awake, staff were probably still arriving, but it still felt like night time and the gloom a little unnerving. With a brief shake he let his mind fall open, stilling his fingers and letting the calm come. It was important to be still.

The true dawn came so slowly that he barely noticed it – he wasn't noticing time anyway – but staring into the distance he became steadily more aware of a glimmer just below his line of sight. He looked down, moved his fingers to the sides of the diary's pages and marvelled at the golden script flowing across the paper. It glittered, drawing him in and causing him to tilt his head. His fingers before him turned to the title page.

An Index to the Library of Prophecy and Scholarship on the Old Ones
Maintained by Sir Benedict Edmund Terence Goslin, Bt.
Volume II



On the reverse there was a map, apparently of the Falsey estate, with the house and the garden clearly marked. There was a third building however, at the bottom of the garden, which, looking out of the windows again, Wesley was sure he couldn't see. Still, a pleasant, distant sort of joy suffused him and he stood, stomach filled with warmth as he then drifted to the adjacent room, finding the French windows and letting himself out onto the terrace.

He could feel the sharpness of the wind, but somehow not its cold, even as he descended the steps away from the paving stones and crossed from the path onto the frostbitten grass. The elaborate stone fountain passed by on his right and he continued between two copses of trees; still the promised building didn't come into view. It looked as though he was in the countryside proper now, gentle hills unfolding before him, but he knew it was still the estate.

He passed by a hole in the ground, a dugout rectangle, with steps apparently leading down to an old bomb shelter. It looked unremarkable, a perfectly natural part of the garden, and he was sure he would have usually let him pass him by. Yet there was something whispering at him to look more closely. The more he let the warmth in his stomach comfort him the stranger it seemed, until his curiosity was peaked enough for him to investigate.

The steps were cut into the earth, reinforced with wooden risers; though with the ground frozen solid they seemed barely necessary. They led him down to a metal door, a full and blazing sun marked out on its centre letting him ignore how blisteringly cold it was as he pushed it open, latches clicking in welcome.

The moment he passed the threshold a gasp ripped through him, the morning cold returning and him without a coat. The diary, script still gleaming, slipped from his numb fingers as he drove his hands into his pockets, shivering.

Another gust of wind whistled through the doorway behind him. He turned to shut it, then jumped, short shriek of alarm rising in his throat; Giles was standing in the doorway, properly kitted out with a scarf and thick coat.

“What in God's name are you doing here?” he asked, regaining himself from his shriek if not his chattering teeth.

“Following you, evidently” Giles replied, a rather unfriendly smile on his face. “Now, you might want to get out of the way.”

“I'm sorry?” Wesley dazedly stepped back, looking up at the shelves to his side. They weren't stacks, not precisely. Each book lay on its side, its own place marked out, and more often the items weren't books at all, but scrolls or neatly-folded fabric. He could even see a crystal ball, held by a metal (bronze?) claw.

Giles was more actively looking at things, walking a quick circuit of the room. It was only when they were facing each other once more that Wesley noticed the petrol can in Giles' hand, the steady stream of liquid following his footsteps. “Excuse me, what - ?”

“As I said,” Giles answered calmly, recapping the petrol. “You might want to get out of the way.”

Wesley found himself edged back into the cold, still confused and freezing as he watched Giles also come into the doorway. He reached up, placing the petrol can on the grass above his head, and by the time Wesley had registered the rasp of a struck match it was too late.

“What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?” he asked more forcefully, trying to push past Giles again, but it was he who was pushed harder, tripping up steps to fall onto the whitened blades of grass. The ground was ridiculously cold; his mind felt numb, still a little addled from the spell.

“Sorry about that,” Giles said, standing over him and reaching out a hand to help him up. He took it, even as he heard the blaze cracking wood in the library below. He was still too stunned.

They returned to the house, where Thomas Fulbury was waiting for them.

“Is it done, Giles?” He asked tersely. “May I return to retirement now?”

“Yes, Fulbury,” Giles replied, taking care to lock the French windows behind them. “You may.”

Conspiracy it was, then.




Wesley's anger came to him later, when he realised he would have to explain how his research had come to nothing. He was packing his things, but decided then to find Giles, wherever he was. It was Olivia he found, just arriving for lunch, coat deposited.

“Ah, Wesley,” she asked, smiling. “How are you getting on with the research?”

“Oh, wonderfully,” he replied bitterly, taking the last few stairs down into the hall. “I discovered a particularly Indiana-Jones-like library in the garden.”

“Well, that's –”

He didn't let her finish. “Of course, Rupert burnt it to the ground, first thing this morning. We'll be lucky if there're ashes they can quantify in a lab.”

She stood stock still, clearly flabbergasted. “Rupert burned Sir Benedict's books.”

“It was necessary,” came Giles' voice as he appeared in a doorway. “And do keep your voice down, Wesley.”

“Keep my voice down?” he replied, the futility of his morning's actions rising up in his throat. “Keep my voice down? With what you've done?”

“What were you thinking, Rupert?”

“Now, Olivia, this isn't really –”

Olivia cut him off, turning in such a way that the sounds of her heels echoed round the hall. “Rupert, if you tell me this isn't any of my business I will not be accountable for my actions. These are my contacts, my friends – ” She paused, glancing at the various doorways and then lowering her voice. “I know you forget sometimes that a world exists outside your monsters, but I'd love to know what you think I should say to Lady Goslin, after she trusted me to find someone who could understand her husband. After I trusted you.”

Wesley looked at Giles, who glanced back uncomfortably, all his hardness that morning gone. “I'm not sure Wesley wants to hear...”

“You're not sure Wesley wants to hear.” Olivia stepped into Giles' space, cutting Wesley out of the conversation completely. “You're not sure. Well, that's it, I suppose?” Her voice was low, serious. “Can't let dear Wesley hear any of your dirty laundry. God forbid he find out what your dumb cow of a girlfriend let happen when you popped back home last year. God forbid –”

“Olivia, no.” Giles put his hands her shoulders, sighing before he spoke again. “No. That's not what I meant. I should have been there, I wanted to be there. I should never have made you go through it all on your own.”

“Yes, well, luckily I'm quite capable.” With that she shrugged his hands away, barely glancing backwards as she headed passed by them both as she stalked across the hall.

Wesley watched her go, trying to fathom what on earth had just gone on. He hadn't really been bothered with working out their relationship, and now it seemed rather crucial. He could be something of an idiot.

As she ducked through one of the doors he turned back to Giles, who was staring out of the window by the door, shoulders slumped. The harsh winter sun made him look old, haggard, much more so than he should have become in five years. “Rupert...”

His face screwed up. “Will you not leave it, Wesley?”

That annoyed him. Giles, it seemed, had personal problems, but so did they all. It hardly mitigated what he had done that morning. “No,” he replied, bringing Giles spinning to face him.

“All right then, what is it you want to know?” Giles' eyes glinted. “I can assure you, you won't find any of my explanations the least bit satisfying.”

Wesley wasn't going to let him off that easily. He wasn't stupid, not anymore. “Try me,” he said. “I'd like to hear what possible purpose you think there could be in destroying what was likely the only systematic investigation into the Old Ones.”

In response, Giles laughed. “Oh, that's marvellous. You work for Wolfram and bloody Hart, of all people, and you can't imagine demons organising themselves well enough to conduct a bit of research.” And steal the information.

There was a sneer in his voice, something Wesley was fairly sure had been kept hidden for the past few days. “As someone heading up an army of untrained Vampire Slayers,” he warned, “I'd watch the stones you're casting, Rupert.”

He laughed again. “And do, by all means, continue to call me Rupert, as if you don't need my validation.”

Now Wesley could feel himself growing red, but he refused to give in to shots that were getting cheaper and cheaper. “Please continue. You remember my surname is double-barrelled? Jokes about that never get old.” Even as he said it, he hoped Giles – Rupert – wouldn't descend that far; he had to respect him at least a little, surely?

“Yet you are remarkably naive,” Giles said at last, getting control of himself. “There are reasons the Council never researched the Old Ones. The less knowledge available about them, the less likelihood there is of that knowledge being stolen and misused.” He raised a hand abruptly, almost making Wesley jump. “Can you imagine what would happen if one were resurrected? The lives it would take, the destruction...”

“Yes, I can very well imagine,” Wesley snapped, barely believing what he was being told. “But none of us can know.” He rolled his sleeves back past his wrists, looking down. “I wasn't aware we were dealing in fairy tales, Rupert.” When he looked back up, Giles was rolling his eyes, clearly believing he still had the upper hand. “You can scoff as much as you like, but you might want to think of the number of idiotic maxims the Council attempted to indoctrinate us with over the years.” Not to mention everything else his father said. “You have severely let your guard down if you think one man's investigation into prophecy – something that could save us all – was worth destroying before we even had a chance to read it.”

His reply was measured, potentially defensive as he put his hands on his hips. “Yes, and if the Old Ones weren't beyond prophecy, I would find it all very impressive.”

“'Beyond prophecy'?” Now Wesley found himself laughing. He had actually forgotten that rather pathetic piece of rhetoric: of course there was no need to research to Old Ones, because there was nothing to research. They were outside the same realm of magic that kept everything else in this world bound together.

It was all nonsense, built from fear really, but nevertheless it saturated the Council's teachings. The Old Ones were beyond the Council's ken – they'd been around before the Slayer – and as such they were not to be learned about, in case they usurped the Council's power.

He could hardly believe that Giles, Rupert Giles, known maverick, was buying into this line of ridiculousness. It was going to come back to haunt him, Wesley was sure of that; if they were unlucky it was going to come back to haunt them all.

As a muscle in Giles' jaw ticked, Wesley's laughter died. It really wasn't that funny.

He turned then back up the stairs, shaking his head and leaving Giles standing in the hall behind him. It was time to leave, almost certainly. Clearly there was no purpose in staying.






If he'd gone back to check, Wesley was fairly sure parts of the library might have remained. That bronze claw, after all, shouldn't have melted, though of course the fire could easily have destabilised its magic if it had been at all elemental in origin. He should have gone back immediately, the moment Giles' back was turned – but of course he'd spent the rest of that morning in the bath, trying to warm up.

They were no worse off than before he'd come, that was what he had to remember. Everything he'd come with was still intact: his laptop, his sourcebook, his mind, his kneecaps. He even had the green set of diaries, useless though the observations might be without any sort of prophecy to go with them.

The Cotswolds were rolling by the taxi's window, promising the M4 at any moment. As lovely as they were, he was counting the hours till he could be back in LA. Then, he hoped, he could leave this trip behind him.
 
 
 
Sentimental yet sardonic: Spike Ilyria flirtingbooster17 on June 13th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
Uh-oh. Working out the timeline involved, this explains so much about Giles's reactions when Ilyria took over Fred's body.

Loved it, was absorbed in it, until the end when I realised it was the end. It feels like it could do so much more - it feels like a beginning. Would love to see more of this.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 07:49 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm intrigued that it feels like a beginning - I have no idea where I would take it, but maybe that'll become obvious in the future...
Barbrahirah on June 13th, 2009 10:55 pm (UTC)
This was just wonderful - the edgy, uncomfortable relationship between Wesley and Giles, the mysterious family, the plots and counter plots. Giles is terribly unsympathetic in this this one, and yet perfectly in character for the man who killed the Bringer before they could finish interrogating it.

Your stories always seem to take place in a larger world, and the only frustration is that I can't peek around the corners of that world.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Thank you! It was odd writing Giles in this, because I was thinking of all the stuff he gets up to around this time and ended up with 'so, he's being a bit of a bastard, really'.

I always seem to end up with the same issue when it comes to world-building, in that I can happily come up with really involved situations, but then when I'm writing the story there never seems to be a good moment for proper exposition (or at least any more than what I manage to get in there). It's an issue of focus/control, I think, or maybe lacking the confidence to slow the pace that little bit more. It's definitely something I need to actively start working on, in any case. (It didn't help that here I wanted there to be lots of things that Wesley wasn't picking up on.)
ninglorethningloreth on June 13th, 2009 11:16 pm (UTC)
Oh, I enjoyed this, though I'm not particularly familiar with Wesley, nor with tough!Giles :-) The setting and the OCs are really compelling, and I loved Wesley's 'paranoia', your description of the ritual -- the golden writing! -- the finding of the hidden library, and pyro!Giles!

Have you ever read The Way of Wyrd by Brian Bates? Your green books made me think of that.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you found it accessible. And I love the things you picked up on - one of my most favourite Wesley lines ever is when this demon that feeds off fear accuses him of being paranoid and he comments, "I've been accused of a great many things in my time, but paranoid has never been one of them... Unless people have been saying it behind my back." But of course, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people aren't out to get you...

Have you ever read...

I haven't, actually, but I'm the biggest sucker in the world for any sort of mystical book or funny writing. The inspiration for the green books actually came from the notebooks I have for taking notes when reading for essays - it's all gibberish if you don't know why it's there!
ninglorethningloreth on June 15th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
It's very clunky as a novel, but it's based on a genuine Anglo-Saxon book (the Lacnunga) of magic/medicine/ritual. In the preface he explains that the pagans believed that the everything in the world was connected to everything else, as if sitting on a giant web. If something happened in one place, there would be a corresponding reaction elsewhere, so a 'wizard' would see a sudden flight of birds, say, and would know what had 'caused' it. I thought that Sir Benedict's notes about cattle might be a way of monitoring demons!
Quinaraquinara on June 16th, 2009 08:18 am (UTC)
Maybe that was what he was doing! They were certainly observations to pre-empt any possibility that he might need that information once he found a prophecy later, but how they could be interpreted... ;)
(Deleted comment)
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm not entirely sure where I'd take this story from here, but it sounds rather like something I should be thinking about!
zanthinegirl: hired manzanthinegirl on June 14th, 2009 01:48 am (UTC)
That was fascinating! I'm always a sucker for Wes, but what a compelling story. You make me want to read more; I'm finding myself disappointed it over.

I like the way you wrote Giles. It really sets up later events in season five-- especially with Dana and with Illyria.
Klytaimnestraklytaimnestra on June 14th, 2009 02:48 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this very much!
And of course poor Wesley was always convinced that knowing prophecies could somehow help. I quite understand his fury at being cynically duped and used by the man he was hoping had, would, eventually come to respect him.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Re: I enjoyed this very much!
Thank you! Wesley's arc in S3 around the prophecy is probably my favourite bit of AtS - it as all the perfect bits of tragedy.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it - sorry that it clearly ended a bit abruptly!
brutti_ma_buonibrutti_ma_buoni on June 14th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
Very, very good stuff. The bigger plot that Wesley doesn't see in his absorption with the written challenge; Giles' blinkered but (arguably) more practical stand. I liked the setting too - those details about the house which turned out to have wider implications; the mysterious and sometimes helpful family dynamics.

How about those green books, though? What might they offer about Illyria? Are you planning an AU, or is that merely teasing us with the possibility?
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really glad you liked it.

I'll confess that it's mostly meant to be a tease; I was going to have Wes just leave, but then it seemed so unlikely that he would just abandon everything that I had him keep the books. It seems however that I should really be thinking of how to take this further...
Elenamoscow_watcher on June 14th, 2009 02:59 pm (UTC)
Fascinating story.

I agree with the commenters above - it reads like a prologue to a bigger (possibly epic) story, alternate season 5.

“Yes, I can very well imagine,” Wesley snapped, barely believing what he was being told. “But none of us can know.” He rolled his sleeves back past his wrists, looking down. “I wasn't aware we were dealing in fairy tales, Rupert.”

Oh, the irony! :)
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

And ack, I can't do epic!! I seem to keep coming up against that problem though - clearly something I need to work on! Or maybe I should get to work finding out where this should go...

;)
Shapinglight: death wish wesleyshapinglight on June 14th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Just come back from a weekend away and read this first.

I love what you've done with the prompt. So much unsaid going on between the lines, and yet by the end it's perfectly clear what's happening. Giles wasn't nice here. I think he's allowed himself to become hidebound. Hopefully, the argument with Olivia will bring him to his senses.

If you ever felt like writing a sequel, I for one would be very pleased indeed.
Quinaraquinara on June 14th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm so glad you liked it (and that it wasn't a let down considering it was your prompt and you actually sought it out)! Giles is definitely in a rut at least; it's all a bit of a mess.

I'm definitely beginning to think that I should work out where this is going... Or maybe just work out how to write decent endings!!
Shapinglightshapinglight on June 15th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
There's nothing wrong with the end as such. You could perfectly well leave it there, but I am officially intrigued, and if you wanted to continue it I'd be thrilled.
Evilawyerevilawyer on June 16th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
Most intriguing! And foretellingly heartbreaking for Wesley, considering what's to happen. I like it.
Quinaraquinara on June 16th, 2009 08:30 am (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you like it! Thanks! :)
curiouswombat: Reading 2curiouswombat on June 17th, 2009 07:43 pm (UTC)
Aaaah... That is a contented sigh of satiation. I have been waiting to have time to JUST SIT and read properly, and am now nicely full of images, people, places...

I would love to know more about the family - there are so many wonderful possibilities - they are the sort of characters people write fanfic about!

Quinaraquinara on June 17th, 2009 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! I'm so glad it was worth the wait, and beyond flattered that you like my OCs (Isobel was borrowed from Gosford Park, though she's probably not very recognisable having aged 70 years...). :D I'm not sure when they'd ever cross paths with the Buffyverse gang again, but who knows...
stultiloquentia on June 18th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
So cool.

I love the sense I got of all the complicated relationships swirling around the edges of Wesley's awareness. Every single character, right down to the porter, felt like he had a story you could have veered right into, had you so chosen.

I love the hard edges of Wes and Rupert's interactions, and that they don't end in accord. I wanted more Olivia. Okay, I wanted more everything! It worked well as a short story, especially with the rest of AtS5 lurking there, waiting to pounce, but I agree with the other commenters that this has the makings of an awesome novel. Picking up post-NFA, maybe. Wes shows up in Bath: "Hello there, Rupert. Not dead yet." Hee.
Quinaraquinara on June 19th, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
:D Thank you!!

I wanted more Olivia too, but then it turned out that there wasn't much for her to do and she was too happy getting on with her life to bother Wesley... I'm beginning to want to write this novel now, since everyone reckons it would be good! I have no idea what would happen, though I'm beginning to think vengeance!Wes needs to show up with Illyria on his arm (after they've reached that sort-of understanding) and give Giles the fright of his life...

(I love that you call him Rupert, by the way - it's like you're above him and his antics!!)
Elisabeth: SunnyD Awards - Yellowdragonydreams on June 21st, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC)
You have been nominated at the SunnyD Awards
Congratulations!

You have been nominated at The Sunnydale Memorial Fanfiction Awards. If you have a website, please pick up a code and link back to us.

Story: An Exercise in Futility
Categories: Best Characterization, Best X-Over Movie, Best Plot

Nominees: http://sunnydawards.dragonydreams.com/nominees.html
Codes: http://sunnydawards.dragonydreams.com/codes.html


Elisabeth & LaDy SiN
The Sunnydale Memorial Fanfiction Awards
Quinaraquinara on June 21st, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
Re: You have been nominated at the SunnyD Awards
Cool! Thanks for letting me know. :)