"I met your mother a long time ago." I begin, not knowing what else to say. The man sitting in front of me is my son, but he is also a stranger.
"Is she OK? Did something happen to Naomi?"
He is almost panicking and I immediately regret my choice of words. I never wanted him to get worried... I hadn't even thought about that so I rush to reassure him. "She's fine. She doesn't even know I'm here."
"Then why are you here?"
"God, this is hard." I mutter... and it is, I feel like I'm trying to make my way across a mine field.
"Let's try a different question then. Just who are you and how did you meet my mother?"
"That's two questions. Fine, as I said my name is Rupert Giles and I've been living in Sunnydale for a few years. I used to work as a librarian... now I own a magic shop." He looks surprised when he hears that. For some reason people tend to have a hard time trying to picture me as the owner of a magic shop. Then I go on. "About three weeks ago Naomi came into the Magic Box looking for some candles..."
"Three weeks ago? Didn't you say you'd met her a long time ago?"
"I first met her when she was hitchhiking through Europe over thirty years ago, I hadn't seen her since." I watch for their reactions. Blair seems to be trying to place what I've said in the context of his mother's life but I suspect that his partner already knows what I'm getting to... and his eyes are telling me that if I hurt his Shaman I'm going to regret it.
"So you ran into each other a couple of weeks ago. That still doesn't tell me why you are here."
"Chief, perhaps it would be better to ask him exactly what he means when he says 'over thirty years ago'." His guardian interrupts, and then I see the exact moment in which the relevance of that question registers in Blair's mind.
I take a deep breath and say, "About thirty two and a half years ago, to be accurate."
"And you suspect you may be my father."
"I suspected it when I first saw your birth date, yes, now I'm all but certain. If there are some tests you feel are necessary, I'll be happy to oblige but I can just as well do without them."
"Why?" I can see that he is doing his best not to believe me. I smile before going on.
"It's hard to explain. Some of the things I found out about you, and then there is also something about the way you feel... I'm not explaining this properly. Now that I'm here I just know it."
"So how did you find me?" He says, apparently satisfied with my rather poor answer.
"I asked a friend of mine to look you up."
"A friend of yours?" He asks with suspicion.
"She's almost like a daughter to me... I don't get along with computers but Willow, that's her name, can get them to do pretty much anything. She said it wasn't too difficult."
"She must be pretty good if she could provide you with our address. It's unlisted for a reason."
"Yes, well, let's just say that's never stopped her before and leave it at that." He may be my son but he is also a detective and I'm not willing to endanger WIllow.
"She's a hacker." It's a statement, not a question.
"So how much did she find out?"
"Enough, I know where and when you were born, that your father is listed as unknown, though going by Naomi's reaction when I wanted to know more about her son I can assume that she either knows or suspects it's me. I know you used to travel a lot, that you were accepted by Rainier when you were just sixteen and I know what happened after that."
"In other words you know I'm a fraud, right? And you're still here?" I can see that he's trying to push me away, to test me.
"I'm the first one to admit that I don't know nearly as much about you as I would like to, but I do know one thing: You are most definitely not a fraud."
"I thought your friend..." He says in almost total disbelief. I can see he is worried, very worried... and I understand. I may be his father but he has a higher duty now. He sees me as a threat and I rush to reassure him.
"I know you claimed to be a fraud which is something entirely different. Blair, you forget I own a magic shop. I'm aware of just how many things happen in this world that science can't explain and I also know there are things that science shouldn't try to explain. You did the right thing but you can't tell me tribal guardians aren't real. I do know better than that."
"It's just a different term for 'sentinels', one I'm more familiar with."
"How familiar are you with the concept?"
"Up until I ran into Naomi I would have said that I knew all I was likely to need to know about them, they are incredibly rare. Now that I've met one... I could probably use some additional research. The problem is I only have about a dozen books or so on that particular subject."
"A dozen books? Man, so far I've only had access to Burton. You have other sources?" The mere mention of the word 'books' has him almost salivating and I can't keep a smile off my face... if I had any lingering doubts they are gone now.
"Ah, Burton. That man caused so much trouble. Couldn't understand that there are things best left in the shadows. I'll get you that material... or maybe you could come down and visit sometime if it's not too much trouble. If you don't want to I'll send you the books as soon as I get back, that's not a problem. It's just that I'd like a chance to get to know you better and I think the children would like to meet you. Both of you." I know I'm babbling almost as much as Willow at her worst but I can't help it. I want him to say yes, I really do, but I don't want to put any pressure on him. I sought him out without giving him a say on the matter. I'm aware that he may not want any sort of relationship with me and I remind myself that I must be willing to respect that.
"The children? You have children?" He looks excited by that prospect and I allow myself to hope for a moment. He seems to like the idea of a family but I know I have to dash his hopes.
"No, sorry. Actually you won't be getting much of a family from me. I was an only child, my parents passed away years ago and I'm single, however I was kind of adopted by a group of children when I was working as a high school librarian..."
"And Willow is one of them, right?" He interrupts, putting the pieces together.
"Yes, there's Willow, Buffy, Xander, Dawn, Tara and maybe Anya and Spike. They are an interesting lot, though they can be a bit much at times." I say shaking my head at the memory of some of their antics.
"So I get seven younger sort-of-siblings."
"Only five actually, Anya and Spike are a older. It's... complicated."
"Complicated?" He asks.
"It's a long story. Anyway, Dawn's the youngest, she's Buffy's little sister and she's only fourteen. Buffy is, well, she's Buffy..."
"What kind of a name is that?"
"You don't know how often I have asked myself that same question, but it suits her somehow. Anyway, then there's Xander. He is a good boy --man now-- kind and loyal. Willow is incredibly bright and talented. Tara is her girlfriend..."
"And then there's Anya and Spike who are complicated and make you nervous just by thinking about them, right?" He interrupts me again and I can tell that he is almost as bad as Buffy when he is feeling inpatient.
"Not quite, but close. It's not my story to tell."
"I guess I can understand that."
"I meant it when I said I'd like you to come to Sunnydale sometime."
"We will, but for now how long can you stay?" And it sounds like he actually wants me to stick around for a while.
"Only until tomorrow, I'm afraid. Things are a little difficult right now and I don't want to be away for too long." I say with a sigh.
"Is everything OK?"
"Not exactly, but there's not much anyone can do. That's one of the reasons I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could come."
"Well, it's not like you won't find out if you come to Sunnydale. Buffy's mother passed away two weeks ago. She found her dead on the couch and her father didn't even bother to show up for the funeral." I try to keep my anger in check at that memory but --as usual-- I fail miserably... if only I could get my hands on Hank Summers... but then again, if he actually cared he could try and take Dawn away from us, and with Glory looking for her that would be disastrous. I bring myself out of my reverie and I continue. "It's been rough on her, and then she also has to take care of Dawn. I wanted to make sure they'd be fine before coming but..."
"But you won't feel comfortable knowing that they are alone. I understand. They need you now and there will be time for us to get to know each other later."
And something in the way he says it makes it finally sink in. As unexpected as our encounter was for him, he is willing to give me a chance.