Part Two: Beginning of Summer
Buffy gave him a wry look. “Sorry. No alcohol in the house.”
“I’m supposed to approve?”
She raised her eyebrow as she sat down next to him. “Aren’t you supposed to be the Surrogate Parental Figure?”
Giles wrinkled his nose and sipped gingerly. He grimaced as if smelling something bad, then set the cup aside with regret. Buffy watched him do it and made sure he saw her watching him. “Ah.” He said by way of explanation.”Not much of a one for, ah, hot chocolate, I’m afraid.”He pulled out a silver flask.
“Giles!” Buffy leaned away as if afraid of something contagious. “You’re a wino!”
Giles took a swig, gave her a very English raised eyebrow, and took another. “Americans.” He set the flash aside, and stretched an arm around her shoulder, and smiled as she snuggled closer. “I didn’t miss that.”
“Miss what?” Buffy laid her head on his shoulder, but it felt like she was laying all her burdens on him for just a second. She breathed free of it all for a moment, then regretfully straightened up, shouldering everything all over again. Giles tightened his arm and pulled her back against him, hugging her in an almost embarrassed way, like a repressed Little League Coach.
“Well, there’s such a strain in Americans of being so---so----repressed in their opinions. There’s nothing wrong with alcohol.”
“Except for when you have problems with it, like me.” Buffy said acidly.
“Oh, Buffy, please.” He reached up to his face, and realized too late that he didn’t have his glasses on. The world tilted on its axis for a moment before he reached inside his coat pocket, pulled them out, and wiped them off. Balance was restored.“You’ve… had….what? Two episodes?”
“Both bad.” Buffy hastened to point out. She twisted her hands uncomfortably, sensing an oncoming lecture, but unsure as to what she could have done wrong. She actually hadn’t done anything, in fact, had avoided doing something, and could reasonably expect rare praise for it, but here was Giles, confusing her again. “Hey! No fair!” She smacked him on the arm. “Ever since I became the Slayer, you’ve been the disapproving figure—“
“That was in regard to some of those skirts you insisted on wearing.”
“How come turnabout’s fair play doesn’t apply to tweed abuse, then?” She demanded. “And besides, there was lots more stuff, too.”
“Buffy, you were sixteen. I had to disapprove.”
“But you’re an adult now. You need more perspective. I must say, I’m rather disturbed. I really had no idea…”
“Yes, sorry.” He put his glasses on and assumed Full Lecture Mode. It was so familiar, so Giles, that Buffy threaded her arm around his waist and squeezed. After a moment, during which he gave her a sober look that made her glance away, he adjusted his glasses on his nose with great seriousness and sighed. “It’s just that what happened during both those episodes?”
“Well, I went Four Million Years BC and had very bad hair and posture.”
“Well, I did.” She glanced at him. “And then I went drinking with Spike.”
“Ah.” Giles shifted “Well…” “Relax, Giles, that’s not, well, that’s not how that happened.”
“Me and Spike.”
Giles stared at her. “You …and Spike.”
“I told you that already.”
“I thought you were joking.”
They stared at each other, Buffy feeling something slowly shrink inside. “Well.” She muttered. “I wasn’t.”
“Would you stop?!”
“Well, Buffy…”He wiped his lenses ferociously. Buffy wondered how on earth he managed to do that so frequently without rubbing a hole in them, then figured he probably had a whole collection of glasses, just in case he wore them out. “I dare say, I had no idea you were serious.”
“I was.” She said softly.
They looked off into the back yard in silence. My life, Buffy thought. My fucking life. I could have gotten away with it, and nobody would have known.
“Did he hurt you?” Giles asked quietly.
She bowed her head. What an interesting question.She flinched at the memory of Tara, of herself, a conversation. Now Tara was gone, and who knew where Spike had gone to?What exactly had happened there? There was something else knocking at the edge of her brain, something she had resolutely refused to let in, something she couldn’t bear to look at. “We kind of hurt each other.”
God, why now? She thought. I could have used this months ago, but it’s over, it’s buried, and he’s gone. Why make me remember? “I’m fine, Giles, I’m fine.” “Did he..?”
“Huh?” She looked at him.
“Was it…?” He cleared his throat and looked away. “I understand, Buffy, if it’s a painful subject.”
Why would it be painful now? She thought. Why wouldn’t it be painful? She could feel some part of her personality, lurking, waiting to embroider the words she’d thrown at Spike in the bathroom, increase them, make them concrete, but she refused to allow it. Ask me again why I can’t trust you. She sighed, feeling a slow flush creep up her face. Ask me again why you can’t trust me.Being around Giles made her feel sixteen again, when black was black, and white was white. Where Slayers did not seduce vampires, and vampires did not fall in love.
“No, Giles, it’s okay. I suppose there’s the freak factor to consider.” Then she flinched at her own words. Which freak? Me? Spike? Him for loving me, or me for calling him that?
“It’s just that, Buffy…He could have…”
“He could have.” She said flatly. “He didn’t.”
“Giles.” She snapped, then sighed. With some difficulty, she collected her thoughts, feeling Giles’ disapproval.She’d expected some disapproval, but he was tight-lipped. No, not that. He thinks I’m some floozy who boffed the first attractive guy I found, like it was nothing. I’m not. He loved me!“He loved me.”
Giles snorted. “That’s what he said.”
Buffy glared at him. “I didn’t just go to bed with him casually, you know, Giles. I knew he loved me. That’s the only way it was safe enough.”
“Buffy, you could have called me.”
“And said what?” She took a deep breath. “My friends yanked me out of heaven, and they want me to thank them for yanking me away from the first peace I’ve had in how long? No killing, Giles, no dead things, no death, just peace! I couldn’t even get used to it, I had to slay right away. What could I say to you? I couldn’t handle Dawn, I could barely handle myself. And I had to.And Spike…” Oh, God. Spike.
“You felt it when I was inside you.” She had to look away so Giles wouldn’t see her eyes. The worst thing was, Spike had been right. The things she’d thought when they had sex, the way he made her feel, the things she’d said to him….He’d stopped telling her he loved her after awhile, seeing her face close down, but he’d kept kissing her, using kisses instead of words. Kisses made more of air and kindness than bodies and sensation, till she’d had to get up and run away, so he wouldn’t see her cry. Nobody could see her cry.
Especially not Spike.
“So you went to Spike? Buffy, I just don’t understand.”
She took a trembling breath. “He loved me, Giles, and…”She looked down, at hands that suddenly blurred. “Nobody else seemed to. They might have said they did, but I believed him.”
They sat in silence for a long while, Buffy gradually relaxing against his side till she was almost comfortable.
“You’re right, you know.” Giles said quietly. “I think he does love you.”
“And…I’ll be more than happy to listen, Buffy, at any time. It’s obvious I should have made that more clear.”
“Yes.” Ah, yes, Buffy thought, he’s cleaning his glasses again.
She sniffled and he gave her another one of those amusing middle-aged English bachelor hugs. “I will call you.” She promised.
“You won’t have to.” He said dryly. “I don’t intend to leave for a great while. The situation with Willow…”
“Okay, Giles, I love the idea of having you here, but you’re here, and Willow’s in England.And you left me when I needed you because you felt it was better for me? Who are you helping again? I’m confused.”
“I suppose I deserved that.”
“No, I really meant it, I was serious. It’ll be good to have you here.” She sniffed quietly. “I will listen to you and take notes and make sure I listen to everything you say. As a matter of fact…” She reached around him for his flask. “You were right, too, it’s stupid to be…”
He grabbed the flask out of her hand, eyeing her seriously. She frowned at him, puzzled, because just a minute ago, he’d been telling her…
“Thank you for illustrating what I was going to say.”
“When you had that, ah, primitive, experience, you went drinking when you were depressed.And the time with Spike?”
She glanced away. Depressed certainly fit the bill there, too. Depressed, bored, frustrated, and well, only his company made her feel better…
“Yeah, sort of.” She muttered.
“That’s my point. You do things when you’re depressed that you should do when you’re happy, except when you’re happy, you don’t let yourself.”
“It’s scary.” She whispered.
“Then we’ll go gradually. You’re so impatient, Buffy, you always were. Must have everything so immediately. You can’t do anything that way, it’s got to be a bit at a time.”
“So you’re really serious about staying?”
“For as long as it takes.”
“Unemployment in Old Country not all it’s cracked up to be, huh?”
Giles gave her a look that only English men seemed to be able to give; a raised-eyebrow, acerbic, “You-people-won-the-Revolution?” that American men couldn’t even dream of. “I could change my mind.”
“No, don’t.” Buffy grabbed his arm tightly. Some of the tension seeped away. The subject of Spike had been gotten past, what else was there? “It’ll be a sacrifice, but we’ll manage somehow.”
Continued in Part Three: Proportion