Characters: Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow.
Word Count: 971
Summary: Giles has his first experience of a California earthquake.
Written For: Prompt # 020 - Natural Disaster at fandomweekly.
Disclaimer: I don’t own BTVS, or the characters. They belong to Joss Whedon.
When the ground and everything else starts to shake, making windows rattle, books tumble from shelves, and Giles’ mug full of pens skitter across the desk to smash on the floor, Buffy is actually surprised.
This is Sunnydale, home of the Hellmouth, favourite haunt of every kind of demonic entity imaginable, and a lot that really aren’t; she knows, she’s seen some of them and they’re the kinds of things you couldn’t make up in a million years. An earthquake just seems too… mundane a thing to happen here of all places. In L.A., land of shoes, sure, that’s like earthquake central; they’re expected, even planned for there, but Sunnydale? You gotta wonder: natural disaster or supernatural side-effect?
Surprise doesn’t keep her from following earthquake safety protocols though; Buffy starts moving the moment she feels the first tremors through the soles of her feet, hustling Giles into the doorway of his office, since that’s probably the safest place short of leaving the building. Alarms are going off throughout the school, and there’s barely controlled panic out in the hallways, making staying put a slightly less hazardous option. Xander and Willow take refuge under the library counter; at least that should provide them with some protection against things falling on their heads.
Giles is confused; he’s new to this, having only been in Sunnydale, and indeed California, for a few short months. He’s never experienced an earthquake before, England’s not exactly known for them, so the faint stirring of the ground beneath him and the distant, almost inaudible rumbling sound, don’t set his alarm bells ringing like they do for native Californians.
“Buffy what on earth are you…?”
“Earthquake.” As answers go, it’s succinct and to the point; Buffy’s quite proud of herself.
Giles isn’t impressed. “I hardly think it’s anything to worry abou…” That’s as far as he gets before the quake hits, and then he’s too busy holding on to the doorframe, trying to stay on his feet as things start crashing to the ground around them, to say anything else.
When it’s over, an endless time later that in reality was less than five minutes according to the wall clock which, like the wall it’s attached to, is still miraculously in place, it takes Giles several minutes to find his voice again. He opens and closes his mouth a few times, takes off his glasses and polishes them, puts them back on and blinks through the lenses as if trying to make his eyes focus. He’s a bit pale and his eyebrows look like they’re trying to take refuge in his hair, but he’s still remarkably composed. It’s a British thing.
“My word; that was bracing!” He sounds oddly impressed. “Does that happen often?”
Xander cautiously pokes his head out from under the counter. “Depends where you live. Some places get more quakes than others. That was about as bad as I ever want to experience. Me, I like things to stay where they’re supposed to instead of moving around. Makes me dizzy.”
“It’s true,” Willow nods. “He doesn’t even like the merry-go-round.”
“All that spinning is unnatural.”
“Well, it appears to have made quite a mess, I suppose we should make a start clearing up…”
“Uh uh.” Buffy shakes her head firmly. “No point, not yet anyway, there’ll probably be aftershocks and things’ll fall down again. Putting them back now would be a waste of effort.”
“Aftershocks? More like that?”
“Yep! Probably not as strong though,” Willow assures him. “Best to just wait it out.”
“Oh. Very well, I imagine you know best in these situations.”
“Bet that’s not something you ever thought you’d hear yourself saying,” Buffy teases him.
“Quite,” Giles agrees. He frowns in thought, clearly pondering something, and Buffy starts a mental countdown; she knows what’s coming. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. “Are we quite sure this wasn’t a supernatural event? After all, we are right on the Hellmouth. Perhaps I should check my books.”
There it is, right on cue; sometimes Buffy thinks she could set her watch by Giles wanting to check his books. They’re like the Giles version of a comfort blanket; anything the least bit unsettling happens and he turns to his books for answers and reassurance. The first aftershock rumbles through their bones, rattling the windows that weren’t broken by the ‘quake.
“I think we can safely say this is a completely natural disaster. Welcome to California.” Buffy offers a wry smile.
“Shifting tectonic plates,” Willow explains with a shrug. “California’s on a fault line, you’ll get used to it. It’s not so bad really.”
“Thank you, that’s… reassuring to know.” Giles polishes his glasses again. “Maybe we should leave the building now. For safety.”
“Nah.” Xander looks quite cosy squeezed into his chosen recess beneath the desk and he obviously has no intention of leaving the safety it provides just yet. “This is Southern California; everything here’s built to withstand earthquakes. If it didn’t fall down already, it’s probably not going to, so we’re safer where we are for now.”
“So why exactly are we still taking cover?”
“Because there’s still a risk of things falling on our heads. Roof tiles, ceiling panels, trees… that kind of thing. Aftershocks can jar things loose.”
Giles subsides, leaning casually against the doorframe with his hands in his pockets, trying to appear unconcerned, though it’s clear he’s itching to start putting things back where they belong.
“So, Giles.” Buffy smiles brightly up at her Watcher. “First earthquake, that’s sort of like a rite of passage, isn’t it? You’re officially one of us now.”
“First?” There’s a faint note of alarm in Giles’ voice. “On the whole, I rather think one earthquake is quite sufficient, thank you. I never imagined I’d say this, but the supernatural is much more predictable than the natural.”