Characters: Giles (Buffy, Xander, Willow).
In sunny California he's always very British, it's the first thing anyone mentions when his name comes up. "That's Giles, he's British," as if this was the one true definition of him, as if the word contained not only his accent but also his personality and his soul.
(California is always sunny, even when it isn't. When it's raining, it stops being California and becomes home, as if the small patch of land under the clouds was his homeland, an embassy in a foreign country.)
"That's Giles, he's British," Buffy says and Giles hears 'That's Giles, he's very, very boring.'
"That's Giles, he's British," Xander says and Giles hears 'His humour is not our humor.'
"That's Giles, he's British," Willow says and Giles hears 'He makes a strange clucking sound with his tongue when he's angry.'
When he visits England (he doesn't like to call it home, home is people, not places), again (again leaving Buffy behind, it's becoming a habit), old friends tell him he's gone native, joke that he probably has tea that comes in bags.
(England is never what it used to be. Too much sunshine, not enough fog, beans on toast don't taste the same. Sunrays rest on a blonde head in the middle of a crowded street and he's back in California, only the buildings are too old.)
He knows four dead languages, sometimes he tastes ashes on his tongue, colouring his every word. No wonder Buffy thinks him ancient.
"Can you say it in English? Not that weird language they speak in, you know..."
"England?" he asks, sarcasm so dry you shouldn't light a match around it.
When he's in England they tell him he talks like an American. They say it's a pity.
(His accent probably rests somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic, thousands of miles over the water. Vowels shifted and removed from reality, lost in uncertainty. Was coming back to England a good idea? Can you even talk of coming back, if his home is in Sunnydale?)
It's difficult to lift his feet from the ground, once he steps onto the Isles. He blames the weather, the pressure, but somewhere deep down he thinks of roots, reaching up to pull him down, strong and historically accurate.
("I'm going back to the Middle Ages."
"Have you ever left?")
Californian sun is unrelenting, reddening his unaccustomed skin, born and raised to rain and sleet. His back bends under the weight of the rays, and then it gets easier. Hide your head in the golden sands, stutter slightly when sun gets in your eyes. Almost a hellish heat.
(Between England and America lies the ocean, vast and heavy and silent, swallowing all the sounds. Maybe that's why his words get lost on the tip of his tongue, all the things he wants to say left unsaid.)
"Not bad," he says when he means 'I'm so proud of you.'
"It could have been worse," he says when he means 'Thank heavens we're alive.'
He takes his tea with milk, thicker and whiter every time, making up for his lost britishness by means of rituals. Every Christmas he watches the Queen's address even though he doesn't know why anymore, and her accent sounds all too foreign.