I first see the man standing in front of our building when we are still a couple of blocks away and I know, somehow, that he is waiting for us. At first glance he appears almost totally harmless. He is fairly tall, probably approaching fifty and has a scholarly air about him. He appears harmless but looks can be deceiving and his stance indicates a trained fighter, and a strong one at that. Even being almost ten years younger --and having body build on my side-- I'm not sure I can take him. Even though I have no indications that his intentions are hostile, as we step out of the truck I place myself between Blair and the stranger.
As soon as he sees us he comes to us. He seems nervous but for some reason I almost trust him. I have never seen him before --of that I am certain-- and yet he feels oddly familiar. He stutteringly introduces himself and I am not terribly surprised to hear a British accent or to discover that he knows our names. Even though I don't feel threatened by him I can barely keep myself from groaning when I hear Blair invite him in... I'm still trying to figure out just how many kidnappings will it take to get my partner to stop being so trusting.
Jim's glaring at me for inviting a stranger into our home... nothing new there. I know he worries and I'm the first one to admit that I can't explain why I decided to ask this guy --Mr. Giles-- to join us but I'm curious about him. Maybe it's because he sort of reminds me of some of my old teachers. I know why I gave up that life and if I had to do it all over again I would, but I still miss it. Most of my former colleagues avoid me like the plague and even though I've managed to sneak into a couple of free outreach conferences without being recognized, that's not enough. Most of those lectures are aimed, at best, at an undergrad audience and even when the opportunity presents itself I can't afford to ask any questions. I am an outcast and I know it. I think that's why I'm so eager to get to know this Mr. Giles... his whole demeanor doesn't scream COP and I seriously doubt he's an ax murderer.
What I don't understand is what has Jim so on edge. I know he is somewhat paranoid as a matter of principle and I'm even willing to admit that past experience may justify such an attitude, but there's nothing remotely threatening about Mr. Giles. If anything he looks nervous and anxious, perhaps even somewhat frightened. That's making me nervous as well. I know he didn't turn up on our doorstep because of some coincidence or because he liked the view. He came here looking for us for some reason so I offer him a cup of tea and I prepare to hear what he has to say.
Not for the first time I find myself wondering what it would take for people in this country to learn the meaning of the word 'tea'. Being british I always get asked if I want a cup of tea, and then I'm given a choice between mint, almonds, strawberries, kiwis and peaches... all of them fine choices if I were looking for some sort of dessert, but totally unrelated to tea. I'm also wondering, this time truly for the first time, why on earth am I thinking about tea in my first meeting with my son. I guess it's because tea is safe. Even though I learned about my son's existence a couple of weeks ago it has suddenly become real and I'm struggling to come to terms with that sudden sense of reality.
I'm also watching how my hosts interact with each other. One of them is my son, the other a tribal guardian. After more than four years working with a slayer on top of a hellmouth nothing should surprise me, but this is different from anything I've ever seen. Even among the Watchers tribal guardians sometimes tend to be dismissed as myths. The thing is that I know enough about how this world works to have lost all belief in the existence of coincidences, and the fact that my son is acting as the Shaman of a tribal guardian is too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence. I suspect that somehow these two will end up playing some sort of role in our lives and I hate it. Even though he is not a child I wish I could protect my son from the darker forces that have been vying for control of our world since the beginning of time, and yet I know I can't. If he has a role to play he will have no choice but to play it. That's one lesson I learned in the most painful of ways when Buffy confronted the Master... but if Blair has a role to play it's not now, it's sometime in a hopefully distant future. Right now I'm confronted with an even more troubling prospect: I have to find a way to tell him who I am.