Title: You Can Leave Your Hat On (1/2)
Timeline: A/U set during season four
Synopsis: A new opportunity brings surprises to Giles’ life.
Giles sat at his desk with a cup of tea and the morning newspaper. In a very foolish bout of self-pity he had drank to excess the previous evening and was now paying for his stupidity with a killer hangover. His stomach was rebelling against the tea and his eyes refused to cooperate with his desire to read the news. The curtains were drawn but it was still too bright in the room. If he had attempted to sit outside to read, as he usually did, he would probably be unconscious.
Giles sighed. Oh, dear lord, his head hurt. He hadn’t been this hung over since……he couldn’t remember ever having been this hung over. Even in the years he had been running around with Ethan it had never been this bad. He lay his head down on his arm. This had to stop. There had to be some way of filling his time; some way that would still allow him to be there for Buffy when, if, she needed him.
He had promised her that he wouldn’t leave. It didn’t matter that she no longer came around. He had given his word and he intended to keep it. But the drinking had to stop. It was self-destructive and pointless. Suppose Buffy or one of the others had needed him last night. He would have been totally useless.
Giles raised his head with a groan. Bloody hell. He hoped none of the children came over today and found him in this state. Especially not Xander; he didn’t want to disappoint the young man. Standing slowly, he took the teacup to the kitchen and placed it in the sink. He reached into the cabinet, pulled out a bottle of extra strength pain tablets, tapped two onto his palm and swallowed them.
Removing an ice pack from the freezer he placed it in its protective covering and carefully climbed the steps to his bedroom. With a sigh he lay down and placed the ice pack over his forehead and closed eyes. The chill immediately began easing the throbbing headache, and the bottom of the cloth bag blocked out any light remaining in the room. The quiet of the apartment soon lulled him into a restorative sleep.
Later Giles sat on his patio in the afternoon shade, eating an early supper. There was a cool breeze and he left the door and windows to the apartment open to clear out the stale air. He was finally reading the morning paper, and as usual he began with the obituaries. The funeral for the owner of the Magic Box had been that morning. He remembered seeing an article about the death earlier in the week. It had stated that the police believed the man to have been the victim of a wild dog attack.
Giles gave a little snort. The wild dogs in the area must be very clever, seeing as how the man had been found in the locked back room of his shop. No doubt it had been vampires. Giles frowned. This man had been the fifth owner of the magic shop in the past three years. He wondered if there was some kind of curse on the building or just a string of careless people. Also, this was not the only death by ‘wild dog’ recently. Buffy must not be patrolling every night; he would need to speak to her about that.
He drew in a deep breath. He didn’t have the right to confront her about how she did or did not perform her Slayer duties. He had pushed her away and she no longer thought of him as her Watcher. He again cursed the impulse that had made him try to get her to see him as a man. From her reaction she was obviously transferring all of her anger at her fathers’ involvement with younger women to him. The ‘you’re old and it’s very, very gross’ was the typical reaction of a teenager to the sexuality of a parent. Giles sighed and concentrated on the newspaper, pushing thoughts of Buffy to the back of his mind.
The last part of the paper he read was the classified ads. Perusing the job offerings he saw that, as usual, he was over qualified for any position listed. He was fortunate in that he didn’t need a job for the money, he just wanted something that would occupy his time and get him out of the flat for some part of the day. A large ad on the bottom half of the page caught his attention.
‘UNIQUE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY’
New Age Store for Sale
Complete list of Suppliers
Steady Client Base
Living Quarters Included
Inquire at Sunnydale Bank
Giles raised an eyebrow. The bank wasn’t wasting any time. He thought for a moment. Making an appointment would give him a reason to explore the building and see if there was some covert way that vampires could have entered, or if the shop owner had been careless and had let them in himself. Giles went inside and phoned the bank, making arrangements to see the business the next day.
Giles followed the bank representative, Mrs. Davis, up the stairs out of the basement and closed the door. They were once again in the storage room at the back of the magic shop. The signs were clear; the vampires had gained access to the shop through the basement. As Mrs. Davis rambled on about square footage, alley access, lighting and so forth, Giles’ gaze swept the room. Cleaned and properly equipped it would make be a perfect training room for Buffy. His mind provided him with a clear picture, one that took his breath away: Sunlight shining through the high windows surrounding Buffy in a golden glow as she moved through her exercise routine. He smiled as he followed Mrs. Davis back into the main area of the store.
“Mrs. Davis, I believe the advertisement mentioned living quarters?”
Mrs. Davis paused. “Well, yes, there is a small apartment that goes with the business. In fact, there are two apartments. The previous owner rented the second for additional income. It is empty at the moment, but it wouldn’t be hard to rent out. We are near the college and students are always looking for off campus housing.”
“May I see the apartment?”
She answered him somewhat reluctantly. “It’s messy. We haven’t had a chance to clear out the previous owners’ things yet.”
Giles nodded. “I’ll be sure to take that under consideration.” When she still hesitated he gave her his most charming smile.
Mrs. Davis blinked and blushed a bit. “Well then, as long as you know it hasn’t been cleaned.” She led the way back into the office. Behind the desk was a door that Giles had seen earlier and assumed was for a closet. Mrs. Davis opened it and started up a narrow, dark, stairway.
At the top of the steps Giles paused, frowning at the small dark room. It was oddly proportioned, approximately 12 x 10, with a small alcove on one side. A window on the end wall let in what little light there was. The room contained a twin bed, a small table with one chair, and a dresser. A hot plate with a teakettle was on the table. Giles crossed the room and pulled back the curtain that covered the alcove. Inside were a toilet and a sink. A bare bulb hung from a fixture in the center of the room.
Mrs. Davis looked at him nervously. “The living quarters consist of the entire top floor; however the former owner partitioned off this end of the space for himself and rented out the rest. The wall isn’t important structurally and could be removed with very little effort.”
Giles nodded. “I’d like to see the rest of the space. How do we access it?”
"The door is outside." She started back down the stairs. Giles lingered for a moment, looking at the few remains of a solitary man's life. He turned and quickly left the room. Outside Mrs. Davis was unlocking a door that was half way between the shop's front door and the alley. The difference was startling. Here the staircase was wide and well lit. The top of the stairs ended at a landing with three doors. The first, straight ahead, was to a small closet.
The door to the right opened into one large room. The far wall was a bank of windows that faced the alley. The wall that had been built to create the separation was to the right. On the left end of the room was the kitchen area. Giles moved forward and saw that the appliances were still there. The west facing windows gave the room light and air. He moved back to the landing and opened the door to the other side.
It opened to a small hallway that contained three more doors. A bathroom was straight ahead, with rooms leading off on each side of the hall. The front room was about the size of his loft. The back room was much larger; almost as large as the entire first floor of his flat. He returned to the landing and looked back into the main living area. As his gaze swept the room he realized that he was visualizing where he would place his furniture.
Giles looked at Mrs. Davis and smiled. "I believe that this is just what I've been looking for. I'll take it."
The woman blinked at him in shock. "You'll take it?"
"Yes, I would like to purchase the property."
She continued to blink for a moment, then stammered. "Ah, yes. Very well, let's go back to my office and fill out the loan application."
"There's no need for that. I'll just have the money transferred from my bank in London. Of course that will probably take a few days. How much money do you want for an earnest deposit?"
If she had been shocked before, Mrs. Davis was now stunned. "You want to pay cash?"
"I'm, uh, I'm not sure, uh, I'll need to speak with my supervisor," she stuttered.
Giles smiled and gestured towards the stairs with his hand. "After you."
The bank manager, Mrs. Curtis, had taken Giles' announcement in stride. She even called the New York branch of the Bank of England for him and he was able to arrange the wire transfer that day. The rest of the morning was spent filling out paperwork and arranging for business permits. Later that afternoon he let himself into his flat. He again had a purpose in life. He was now a small business owner.
The next morning Giles was sitting on the patio while he went over the list of changes he wanted made to his new property. Two months from now the lease on his current flat would expire. Was there enough time to make the living quarters above the store into a place for him to live? He sighed. He didn’t know anything about the construction business. The types of materials to use, the permits that would be required, and how many people would be needed to do the job: these were all questions to be answered. Fortunately he knew someone who could help. He would call Xander this evening and ask for his advice.
As if his thoughts had conjured him, Giles lifted his head and saw Xander climbing the steps to his patio. “Xander, I was just thinking about you. Is there some problem? Why aren’t you at work?”
Xander sank into the other chair with a smile. “No problem; not unless you count feeling like I’m about to kill Anya a problem.”
Giles gave him a puzzled look.
“It’s like this, my boss had a job that fell through and he had to close down for a couple of months.” Giles started to speak, but Xander waved him down. “It’s cool. I knew the construction gig had its ups and downs and I put aside money every week. It’s just that An and I have been together 24 hours a day for the last week and a half.” Xander grimaced. “It got to me this morning and I had to get out, so I decided to head over here for some male bonding.”
Giles smiled. “I think I may have the solution to both our problems.”
Xander looked puzzled. “You have a problem?”
Giles stood. “I have something to show you.”