Title: White Shadows
Timeline: S4, AU.
Synopsis: Giles is feeling left out.
Author’s Note: Album fic. Song and lyrics can be found here.
Giles rolled his eyes as Riley ran through the cemetery gate. Buffy didn’t see Riley, but she did see Giles’ reaction to something.
“What was that about?”
“What?” Giles questioned, meeting her eyes.
“The rolling of the eyes. Why – ”
She was interrupted by Riley’s cheerful voice. “Hey, Buffy…thought I might find you here.”
“Oh…” Buffy stated softly, suddenly understanding the eye roll.
Riley smiled but furrowed his brow. “Oh? Oh what?”
“Huh? Oh…nothing.” She glanced at Giles just in time to see him roll his eyes again before turning back to Riley. “Were you looking for me?”
“Yeah, Professor Walsh wants to see you.”
Buffy heard Giles grumble under his breath and looked over at him. Her eyes widened in surprise as she watched him walk away.
“Hey…Giles! Where are you going?” She called out, tilting her head questioningly as Giles stopped but didn’t turn around.
“Home. I expect you for training tomorrow.”
Before she could say anything, he had started walking again. She looked up at Riley and slipped her stake back into her pocket.
“What does Walsh want?”
“New demon in Sector Five.” He glanced across the cemetery, barely able to make out Giles’ shape as he walked towards his car. “Is he okay?”
Buffy sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know…he’s been acting a little funny lately. I might go over and talk to him after…” She narrowed her eyes as Riley rolled his. “What the hell was that for?”
“Nothing…it’s just…” He sighed and shoved his left hand in his pocket and ran the fingers of his right hand through his hair. “You said he’s not your Watcher anymore…so why do you have to go talk to him?”
Buffy surprised herself by becoming immediately defensive of Giles.
“Technically he’s not my Watcher. I mean…he still Watches, um…trains me…he just doesn’t get paid for it anymore. And I’m not going to talk to him because he is, or isn’t, my Watcher. I’m going to talk to him because he’s my friend…and there’s something bothering him…which bothers me.”
“Buffy…” Riley exhaled a deep breath. “I’m pretty sure he’s okay without you. He doesn’t need you squirming into his free time…let him live his life…”
Buffy’s eyes flashed with anger. “Squirming? You think I’m squirming? You have no idea what the two of us have been through over the past three years. I…there’s no point in even trying to explain it to you, ‘cause you’ll never understand it.”
When she turned to walk away, he grabbed her arm. “Where are you going?”
She glared at him, clenching her jaw and then relaxing it. “To talk to Giles…my Watcher.”
“But, Professor Walsh…” Riley started to protest.
Buffy jerked her arm free from his grasp. “Tell Professor Walsh that I quit. I don’t need the military…I need Giles.”
Riley narrowed his eyes slightly. “What’s this really about?”
“This is about the relationship between the Slayer and her Watcher…and trigger happy demon hunting soldiers not understanding.”
Riley shook his head, his eyes widening. “No, it’s not. You…holy shit…are you sleeping with him?”
“What?” Buffy stared at him, not really believing he had just asked that question. “Did you really ask me that?”
“Yeah, I did. Because your eyes…you…” A nervous smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. “It’s more than you sleeping with him.”
“I’m not sleeping with him.” Buffy stated, rolling her eyes.
“But you want to.” Riley replied softly.
He cleared his throat as Buffy lowered her eyes. She kicked a rock, purposely not responding to Riley’s statement.
She shook her head quickly and took a step back. “I have to go, Riley. I…whatever was happening between us, I…I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“You…can’t?” He whispered.
“Because I…I, uh…” She stopped herself, not wanting Riley to be the first person to hear her say it. “I can’t be here right now.”
And with that, she turned and ran out of the cemetery…leaving Riley standing there, his hand in his pocket and confusion in his eyes.
* * *
Giles looked up from the book in his hands when his front door opened. His brow furrowed as Buffy rushed in and closed the door behind her.
“Buffy?” He closed the book and placed it on the coffee table as he stood up.
“What’s wrong?” They both asked at the same time.
Giles shook his head lightly. “You first.”
“No.” She refused quickly. “You first. No hesitations, no stuttering…just tell me what’s wrong.”
“I don’t stutter. Stammer, perhaps…at times…but I don’t stutter…”
“Giles! For all that’s holy in your world, what is wrong with you?”
Giles regarded her carefully, sighing as he sat back down on the couch. “I rather thought that it was our world.”
“What?” She asked softly, sitting next to him.
He rubbed his hand along his thigh in a nervous gesture. “Do, uh…do you need me here? I’m not talking about the books…any of you could research demons. Am I needed? Me…as a person, as…”
She tilted her head slightly as he sighed and trailed off. She couldn’t help but notice how adorable he actually looked. And then she felt a wave of sadness go through her.
Yes, he looked adorable…but he also looked so insecure.
“Giles…I do need you.” She whispered, reaching out to cover his hand with hers. “You…not your books.”
“I’ve always been a part of this…” He waved his hand vaguely in the air. “It’s always been a part of me…the Council, the Watchers, the Slayers. I, uh…this ‘Initiative’…they have the capability of rendering me obsolete. I…was part of a system here.”
“You still are.” She answered, wrapping her fingers around his. “You are the system.”
He looked down at their joined hands and swallowed. “Buffy…”
“I quit the Initiative.” She blurted out. “They don’t understand us…”
“Watcher, Slayer…Buffy, Giles.” She smiled, rubbing her thumb over the back of his hand. “We’re a mystery to them…or a puzzle. Either way, they don’t get us.”
“And Riley?” He questioned tentatively, not sure if he really wanted to know. “I…I, uh…I…well, I…”
Buffy chuckled softly. “No need to stutter, Giles.”
“Stammer.” He corrected automatically. “It’s just…the two of you have seemed to be rather, uh…close…lately.”
“Maybe we would’ve been. But…we’re not.”
He looked up quickly, staring into her eyes. “You’re…not?”
She shook her head, her fingers lightly stroking the inside of his wrist. “No. He kinda made me see something…and then I kinda realized that we weren’t meant to be together.”
He swallowed, hoping that she couldn’t see the panic in his eyes. The panic was not because of where he thought the conversation was heading…but because he was afraid that it wasn’t going there. She glanced down at her hand still on his wrist, the tip of her middle finger resting on his pulse point. She smiled when she felt his pulse increase.
“Sometimes you stumble upon something…and sometimes that something is something that you’ve wanted, but didn’t realize it for a while.”
Giles’ brow furrowed. “I’m sorry?”
“And when you find it, you decide that you want…or need to keep it.” She continued.
He shook his head in confusion. “Buffy, I don’t underst – ”
“I love you.” She whispered hurriedly, lowering her eyes as he gasped. “Riley asked if I was sleeping with you…if that was part of the Watcher/Slayer thing…and…”
She trailed off and pulled her hand from his wrist. They sat in silence for a few moments before Giles whispered one word.
She raised her eyes slowly to find him staring intently at her. “What?”
He licked his lips and took a deep breath. “It is part of the, um…Watcher/Slayer ‘thing’…sometimes.”
Buffy’s heart began to race. “Do you want it to be?”
“I…well, I…” His gaze darted to her lips before returning to her questioning hazel eyes. “Is this your way of showing me that I’m still part of the system?”
“No.” Her hand trembled as she lifted it to the side of his face. “This is me saying that I feel like something’s missing when you’re not around. And this is me saying that…”
He reached up, covering her hand when she started to pull away. “This is you saying what, Buffy?”
“We are not part of the system, Giles. We are part of us…and we’re not us if we’re not…” She groaned in frustration as the words failed to come together properly. “God, why is this so hard?”
A smile flickered in Giles’ eyes. “You’re trying too hard. Don’t think…just open your mouth and speak.”
“Why can’t you just kiss me?”
He dropped his hand, allowing it to rest between them. “Is that what you really want, Buffy?”
When she nodded, he sighed. “Are you wanting this to be simply a kiss, a casual affair, or…more?”
“What?” She asked, her eyes widening.
“I can’t be casual, Buffy…” He leaned towards her, his hand moving until his fingers were brushing her outer thigh. “Not with you. If it’s casual you want, you’ll need to go elsewhere.”
She slid her hand from the side of his face to the back of his neck. “Is that the super British Giles way of saying ‘I love you too’? ‘Cause I think I’ve already said it…and you didn’t say it back or anything.”
A smile graced his lips as he closed the gap between them and kissed her gently. “I do love you so.”
“More.” She whispered, running her fingertips up and down the nape of his neck. “I want it to be more…”
His smile grew as he pulled her into a warm embrace. He made a mental note to thank Riley Finn the next time he saw him.
If he saw him again.