Keeping In Touch (The Two Times Two Remix)
by Sängerin

Remix of Two Heads Are Better and Two Way Street by Meg.

'Between us, we're practically a whole person,' Xander said, as he picked up a suitcase with his one good arm. His smile didn't reach his eyes. Giles followed with the other suitcase in his left hand, the skin under the cast on his right arm itching badly. Walking behind the younger man, Giles saw the way Xander's shoulders slumped. It was hardly surprising, after the months they had -- after all they'd lost. Now they were the only two left, and Giles meant it when he said, 'We should keep in touch,' even as he knew it wouldn't happen.

Xander's car was long gone before Giles turned away and walked back to his own apartment.

There wasn't much packing to do. He'd left Sunnydale twice before. He'd become an efficient traveller, fitting all his worldly goods into a single suitcase and a carry-on bag. Most of the baggage he carried this time would be emotional: images of blonde hair blown by the force of the open Hellmouth; Xander clutching Dawn's lifeless body; Willow making her last stand between a demon and her fatally wounded girlfriend.

There was no reason to stay in Sunnydale any longer. This time he wouldn't be coming back.


It took six months to cut though all the bureaucratic tape. He'd thought going back to England would be easy -- his two previous 'permanent' moves back to England had been distinctly straightforward. Of course, given the natural perversity of bureaucrats the world over, this was the time when every possible difficulty was thrown in his way.

The Watchers' Council didn't want to know him. The Coven where he had taken Willow the previous year now blamed him for the loss of too many Potentials, as well as the death of their honorary American member. As for the 'Muggle' red-tape -- and he choked inwardly as he heard himself use Dawn's favourite word for the 'outside' world -- it was worse than ever before. All the political alliances and years of history had somehow ceased to mean anything, and willingly living outside the UK seemed tantamount to treason in the minds of some members of the Home Office. There wasn't much they could do to him: naturally he was still a British citizen. Nevertheless, they seemed to take inordinate pleasure in inflicting lengthy delays on him and his paperwork. None of which made the Council any more amenable to his existence, until the day they realised just how desperately they needed a trained librarian.

Travers' replacement as head of the Council, a non-descript little man with very round glasses to match his very round face, came to Giles' Cambridge flat one day.

'The collection is in a shambles,' he said. 'We need your help.'

Giles looked at him in disbelief. 'You need my help? I thought your last words to me were "Never again darken the doorway of this establishment"?'

'That wasn't me, it was Travers,' said his replacement, petulantly. 'And that was before we took delivery of a particularly large collection of Sumerian texts two days after the South American branch decided to send us its entire Aztec and Mayan library.'

Giles' eyes lit up in spite of himself.

The next day he sub-let his flat and re-packed his belongings.


There were days in that library when the person Giles missed most was Jenny. Giles' approach to technology had been inculcated during his Watcher training, but now even he could see that some form of automated record keeping was necessary. Jenny would have had a system running smoothly within days.

It took Giles months.

The library itself was massive, and Giles spent days exploring it. He achieved little else on those days, but climbing ladders and finding the concealed stairways to the special collection kept the burning image of blonde hair and a farewell kiss from the forefront of his mind. He banished it with dusty book covers and intriguing texts, and once he laughed at the thought of what Xander would say if he could see him, dust on his nose and in his hair, buried in books and miles from the Muggle world. And he thought of Dawn again, and then of Willow and Kennedy, and the memories crowded in until even a rare book discussing the intricacies of anthropological study in a colony of Fyarl demons could not interest him. He sat down on the library floor and wept bitterly. A trainee, a sweet young woman who looked more like a slayer than a prospective watcher, found him there an hour later. She made him a cup of tea and took him back to his rooms.

There were the days when he kept himself terribly busy, when he would become almost manic in his cataloguing. There were the Sumerian, Aztec and Mayan texts to catalogue, under the complex Watchers' Council system that bore no resemblance to anything created by Melville Dewey.

Giles retrieved what remained of the Sunnydale library collection from storage in Oxnard. He'd sent many of the most precious books there before the confrontation with the Mayor, knowing what would happen to the library. Many of the books he'd referred to frequently had been brought to the Magic Bhop, where those that had survived Willow's onslaught had then been destroyed in those final, terrible months. But replacements for those had been readily available, which was the only reason Giles had been willing to leave them on open shelves in a magic shop that was targeted by even more demonic forces than your average Sunnydale commercial establishment. The real gems had been in a storage facility down the highway, safe from the immediate threat of the Hellmouth. It was these books Giles incorporated into the great library of the Watchers' Council.

There was the day when he entered the final record into his computerised database, and he sat back and said, under his breath and painfully aware of the irony, 'It is finished'. He looked around him at the work of four years, and at the very small computer that held the results. He smiled as he created numerous backup copies, and then wandered, cup of tea in hand, through the shelves of his empire.


His days slowed down. In the morning he dealt with requests that would arrive by email. He searched out the books via the computerised catalogue, parcelled them up and distributed them to Watchers and researchers all over the world.

In the afternoon he did his own research in Comparative Eschatology. He prepared articles for publication and read them with gratification when they appeared in scholarly journals. He was persuaded to take on the editorship of the Council's own journal.

He eased himself back into the Oxbridge-like life of the Council, introducing himself to trainees who had begun and finished their initial training while he was engrossed in his work in the library -- men and women who had eaten in the same dining room with him for four years without noticing he was there. He went to his first High Table dinner and was startled to see that the Head of the Council had changed yet again.

'Tamara Phillips', she said, extending her hand. Even the name disconcerted him, said as it was with all three a's short and the emphasis on the first syllable, rather than the second as he was used to. She, too, wore glasses -- there were those who said it was an entrance requirement -- and her gaze was cool and level.

'Ms Phillips,' he replied, and shook her hand. 'Rupert Giles. I'm the librarian.'

'Not anymore,' she said. 'Your skills are needed elsewhere.'

'Indeed?' was all Giles could say.

Phillips nodded. 'We'll speak tomorrow,' she said, and turned to her neighbour on the other side.

At the end of the meal he passed the port the wrong way, and blushed.


He had been in the inner sanctum only twice before, on the day he accepted his place in the training program, and on the day he had been informed of Merrick's death, and his impending move to Sunnydale.

In eight years, little had changed.

It was a room that was difficult to imprint with an individual personality. It was lined with bookshelves and dark wooden panelling, and thickly carpeted. The desk, large and heavy, appeared to have grown within the room, so firmly did it belong to it. The chairs gave the impression of being immovable.

Behind the desk, Tamara Phillips appeared equally immovable. Dressed in a suit with a very severe cut, ramrod-straight red hair and wire-rimmed glasses, for a moment she reminded Giles uncannily of Gwendoline Post, a woman of which he had little wish to be reminded. Yet, despite her severe appearance, her voice when she spoke had an edge that came from efficiency rather than harshness.

'As I mentioned last evening, your skills are needed outside the library.' She paused, and he nodded. He had nothing yet to say.

'When Travers' successor died last year, I was appointed as Head of the Council. Previously I headed the Department of Observation.'

'You kept the records.'

Phillips nodded. 'On everyone. Watchers, trainees, slayers, potentials. It's a very complex role. It needs someone with a good head for detail, and it gives you an extremely good overview of the entire organisation.' She got up from her desk and moved to the drinks cabinet. 'Drink?'

Giles nodded, and she poured one for each of them.

'How long have you been in the library here?' she asked.

'Five years. I don't understand -- do you want me to look at the record-keeping systems? Systems analysis is something I learned through necessity: it's not a particular skill of mine.'

She shook her head. 'I want you to take over my job. I'm appointing you as Head of the Department of Observations.'

Giles drained his glass of the high-quality liquor it held. He coughed as the liquor burned his throat, and he stared at Phillips in shock. 'Why?'

'I have my reasons. You'll find out in time.'

Giles was shaking his head and opened his mouth to refuse the position, when she interrupted. 'You know how the Watcher's Council works, Rupert. The Head makes all appointments. There is no debate.'

'It's been a long time since I showed much respect to the Council, let alone the Head. I took on the library because I wanted to, not because I was told to.'

Phillips' cool gaze held him for a long moment. 'Maybe it's time you found some of that respect again. I want you in my old position, and I'm not accustomed to taking "no" for an answer.'

Giles stood up and poured himself another drink. He gulped it down.

'I'm in the middle of some research that is very important to me,' he said. 'I want time for that. And I want approval rights over my replacement in the library.'

'You think you can make demands?' she asked. Her voice had dropped lower until it was almost seductive, but when she next spoke, she was all efficiency and drive. 'Fine. I suspect you'll approve of your replacement in any case. But you may have your research time. My assistant in the department was particularly adept, and he will continue to work for you. He can perhaps take some of the pressure off you when necessary. Agreed?'


Phillips stood up, and they shook hands.

'When do I start?' Giles asked.

'This afternoon. My assistant will show you over the department, and you can move into my old rooms in the Eastern Quad whenever you're ready.'

'That won't be necessary.'

'Yes, it is,' Phillips replied, and Giles realised there was no choice. One final handshake and he made his way out of the room.

At the door, he turned back. 'What was the name of Travers' successor? He was the one who appointed me to the library -- I wasn't aware until yesterday that he had died.'

'No one knew his name,' replied Phillips. 'Even as head of Observations, I didn't know. He was a very private man.' She looked down at the papers in front of her. 'It's a good thing this job doesn't require signatures on too many documents.'


The word 'Muggle' was common parlance in Observations -- which was, itself, generally called 'Obs'. For the first few weeks one of the assistants had thought Giles suffered from Tourette's, as his reaction to the word 'Muggle' was still physical. Six months in and he used it himself without thinking of Dawn.

There were other reminders of Sunnydale. His replacement in the library had been inevitable. Having survived Wolfram & Hart, although only barely, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce arrived to take up the position. With him he brought the W&H library and its interface book. No one asked him whether the Senior Partners would one day come looking for their property. Everyone just hoped it wouldn't happen.

The files themselves were the most particular reminder of Sunnydale. Giles began familiarising himself with the Closed section, and came across Buffy's file with startling rapidity. She was, of course, the previous Slayer but one, or but three if you included Faith and Kendra in the calculations. He had expected to find Buffy's file. He had not expected to see an entry for 'Summers, D'. Or 'Rosenberg, W', 'McClay, T', or 'Anya (Harris?), formerly Anyanka, formerly Aud.' The record-keeping was meticulous.

It was six months before he found the 'Harris, A' file, and it took him a few moments to realise that it belonged to Xander. The request flashed on the screen -- 'Do you wish to view this file?' -- and he stared at it. It was in the 'Active' section of the department records, which told him one of the things he wanted to know. He clicked 'No' to the request, and shut down his computer.

He busied himself with reviewing the file of the current Slayer. He cross-referenced her Watcher's file -- Maximilian Kempe; a good man, one of the last of the old-school Watchers, among which Giles liked to count himself. He reviewed the work his juniors had done on referencing her friends, and imagined Tamara doing the same thing with his own file, Buffy's, and those of the others. Which brought him back to thoughts of Xander's file, sitting in the system. He forced his mind away again.

He wore himself out that night by playing Racketball with Wesley. He had a standing invitation to join Tamara for a nightcap, and he went. He changed his usual tea for coffee the next day, and his assistants avoided him as far as possible.

At the end of the day he sought out the hard copy of Xander's file. An assistant fetched it for him and it lay on his desk untouched for the next two days. It was thick. Seven years of observations from Sunnydale: almost six years since. Giles opened the file and read the first words on the top sheet.

Xander was in Tibet. Sighted by an Obs informant two months ago at a Buddhist monastery perched high in the Himalayas.

Giles dropped the file in relief and left his office. He went for a long walk, and that night made his apologies to Tamara and had a good night's sleep instead.


The file did not return to storage. It sat on a shelf in the corner of Giles' office where the assistants could access it easily for updates, which were few. Every week or so, Giles would pick a new part of the file to look at. Slowly he learned fragments about Xander's life in the past six years, a peripatetic life that had taken him across the globe.

Giles' duties in Obs kept his' days busy.

Before long, Tamara Phillips was keeping Giles' nights busy. She had been head of Obs: she knew everything about him. About Jenny and Joyce, about Olivia and about his past with Ethan. She knew about his dalliances with the darker aspects of magick. She knew how much Buffy had meant to him, and how to make him feel guilty. She knew what he liked and she gave it to him.

She was the only person in the entire organisation he knew nothing about. Apart from her name, and the way she smelled after a shower, and how she liked power and fine wines. He learned what made her moan and what made her shudder.

Their encounters were secret, made easier by the fact that each of them were outside the purview of the Obs department, he by being the head of it, and she by being above it.

'This is the way it should be,' she said in the grey light of an early morning. 'Then there can be no criticism when you are appointed the next Head of the Council. If people know about this, they'll say you slept your way to the top.'

'I thought I did,' Giles said, as she dipped her head.


Xander had been in India for two years, closely monitored by the Ops department, when Giles finally approved that the file be marked as a prospective Watcher. This meant that surveillance would be stepped up, and people and situations would be placed in his way to test his reactions and plant the seeds in his mind. Watchers always came to the Council to offer their services. One of the main duties of Ops was to make sure that they did.

Five days after the file had been marked, Tamara's car was discovered at the bottom of a Loch. Tamara was inside.

When the security division got into the inner sanctum, the senior members of the Council found the desk neatly stacked with all the necessary appointments that needed to be made upon the death of the Head of the Council, including the sealed decree placing Giles as the Council's new Head. They brought it to him in his office, along with another letter, sealed with wax. She farewelled him as a friend, and suggested he consider Wesley as his replacement in Ops. She didn't necessarily expect Giles to follow the entire pattern with regards to Wesley, although she wouldn't dissuade him from it.

Giles stood up behind his desk in Ops and spoke the first set of words accepting the post of Head of the Council. They moved to the dining hall where the entire community was gathered, and accepted the signs of office. He looked across the room at Wesley, and thought about Tamara's suggestion. He thought about Tamara's lifeless body and wondered how many years remained to him.

Only the Council members accompanied him into the inner sanctum, where he spoke the final set of words in each of the ten required languages.

The eldest member of the Council congratulated him. 'Your Grandmother would have been proud,' she told him.

That night he packed his bags again, knowing this would be the final time.


Giles didn't need the file in front of him -- he knew every word within it.

The boy who walked through the door was a man. He was more than thirty years old and there was wisdom in his face.

Giles let him speak first.

'It's been a while.'

'Six months in New York,' said Giles.

'How did you...' The wisdom on the man's face retreated into confusion.

'Five years in Australia.'

The man recovered his equilibrium. 'My whole life in California and I'd never learnt to surf.'

'Two years in Tibet.'

The man nodded.

'Four years in India.'

'It's been a while,' he repeated when Giles finished his litany. 'I can't say I'm surprised to see you here,' he added. 'Somehow I always knew.' He took a breath and set his shoulders. 'I think I'm ready.'

'It's a big commitment,' Giles said, who knew the words he must say. A Watcher must volunteer.

'I know. But I want to help.'

Giles nodded and smiled, and took off his glasses. He extended a hand to his old student and friend. 'Then, as Head of the Watchers' Council, I formally accept your application. It's good to have you here.' He walked around the desk and the two men hugged. 'Let me show you around.'

Xander stopped at the mantelpiece, examining Giles' only additions to the décor of the inner sanctum. Four photos. Jenny. Joyce. Buffy.

'Who's this one?' Xander asked, pointing to the last one.

'Her name was Tamara Phillips,' Giles said. 'She died two years ago.'

Xander studied Giles' face for a moment, and then looked back at the photos. He paused when he came to Buffy's, but then looked back at Giles with an understanding nod. Nothing more was said.


Xander's training progressed.

Giles became the longest-serving Head of Council in living memory.

Slayers were called, Watchers were dispatched. Slayers fought and survived, and they died.

By the time they knew that Sophie Nelson, a teenager in the American Midwest, was the next Slayer, the previous Slayer was entering what would be her final battle. The Department of Observations tried to pinpoint the next potential in line, and with Wesley's breadth of knowledge they were refining their techniques all the time. They didn't always succeed. When a Slayer was called before she was informed of her potential, Giles insisted that the best Watchers be sent to them. They were the ones who would need the most help at the beginning; the most understanding, and the most training. They were the ones like Buffy. And Sophie.

Giles called Xander into the inner sanctum. Time and training had slimmed him down and built muscle in places his construction work hadn't. There were lines on his face and gray hairs at his temples, and Giles had to work hard to remember the gangly teenager Xander had been when they first met.

Xander stood before the desk, holding his quarterstaff. He'd come straight from a session with the newest trainees.

'I'm sending you home, Xander,' said Giles, 'Or, at least, as close to home as I can get you. The next Slayer will be called in Minneapolis. From what we know of Sushil's situation, Sophie will probably be called very soon. You're on the next flight.'

Xander nodded. 'You think I'm ready?'

'You've been ready to be a Watcher since you arrived. These last ten years have just been reinforcement. Good luck, Xander. And stay sharp.'

'I will.' He hesitated, then spoke again. 'California hasn't been home since that last day in Sunnydale, you know.'

Giles knew. It had been obvious from the way Xander had spent eleven years wandering the world, and then another ten standing still.

'There's a tradition,' Giles said, 'That the Council offers unconditional hospitality to all its members and employees. In other words, you will always have a home here. That's especially true for you, Xander.'

There was relief and gratitude in Xander's eyes for just a moment, and then he grasped his quarterstaff harder and the relief was replaced by resolve.

'Sophie Nelson, right?'

Giles handed over the copy of the file he'd had specially made. 'This will tell you what you need to know.'

'I'll keep in touch,' said Xander as he accepted the file.

Giles smiled. 'I'm sure you will.'


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