Title: The Oath
Timeline: One month after The Protector.
Synopsis: Braden is turning ten.
Buffy laughed as Lucas and Haddie played a game of monkey in the middle with Callie. She was sure that the game was called something different now, but that’s what she knew it as when she was a child. Callie chased the ball back and forth as Lucas and Haddie rolled it to each other, yapping in frustration even as her tail wagged madly.
Evan was busy looking through a photo album with his grandmother, grinning as he pointed out pictures of his siblings and parents. She could only assume that Braden was getting dressed. She hadn’t actually seen him since he went to take a shower.
She glanced at the clock and smiled. Giles was probably getting dressed now. As for herself, she had been ready to go for the past fifteen minutes. She found it amusing that for once, she was the one left waiting.
Joyce kissed the top of Evan’s head and met Buffy’s eyes. “Does this have to happen tonight? I mean, it’s his birthday.”
Buffy chuckled softly. “Yeah, that’s why it has to happen tonight. It’s tradition.”
Joyce sighed. “But what about a birthday party with all of his friends?”
“That’s tomorrow.” Buffy replied happily. “Which is the way it would’ve been anyway. It’s easier to have parties on the weekends. He’ll have an entire afternoon with his friends…cake, presents…all the normal birthday stuff.”
Joyce started to reply, interrupted by Giles’ voice as he walked into the living room.
“Buffy, have you seen my…” He trailed off when he noticed Joyce sitting on the sofa, her eyes wide. “Oh…I, uh…must be running later than I thought.”
“My God…” Joyce whispered as she stared at his chest.
Evan looked up and grinned brightly, not phased by the scars standing prominently on his father’s skin. “Daddy!”
Giles smiled as Evan climbed down from Joyce’s lap and ran over to him. As he picked the boy up, he cleared his throat and met Joyce’s eyes.
“I’m sorry. I…I didn’t realize that you were here.”
Her eyes glistened as Evan playfully traced the circled thorn scar with his fingertip. “I had no idea. I mean…Buffy told me that you’d been injured a few times, but…”
Giles glanced at Buffy and then offered Joyce a slightly embarrassed smile. “Yes…this is why you’ll never find me at a beach.”
Joyce closed her eyes for a brief moment and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Rupert. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, it was just…well, it was a shock.”
Giles gave her a gentle nod and kissed Evan’s cheek. “It’s quite alright. Most people have a similar reaction when they see them for the first time.”
Joyce smiled as Evan blew a raspberry against the thin vertical scar in the centre of his chest. “With the exception of your children, obviously.”
“Well, most of these occurred before Evan was born. Braden and Lucas are the only ones who could possibly remember what I looked like before the Mark of the Thorn.”
Lucas looked up and narrowed his eyes in thought. “I don’t really remember, Dad.”
“Really?” Buffy asked in surprise.
Lucas shrugged a shoulder and smiled. “He just looks like Dad to me.”
Giles smiled proudly, lowering Evan to the floor and scratching Callie’s head between her ears when she sat down next to his feet. He looked at Buffy as he straightened and lightly rubbed his chest where Evan had blown the raspberry.
“Um…I was looking for my shirt. The dark purple one?”
Buffy thought for a moment. “I thought you were going to wear the green one?”
Giles chuckled softly. “Braden requested purple. He said that it would match what he’s wearing better.”
Buffy shook her head in amusement. “It’s in the laundry, I ironed it this morning actually.”
“Thank you.” He walked over to her, leaning down and kissing her softly. “You look beautiful, by the way.”
“Thank you.” She whispered as her fingers lightly touched the healed bullet wound. “Is it okay if I show the ring to Mom?”
He shivered lightly under her touch and nodded. “Mm-hm…just don’t let the children see it.”
“Okay.” She grinned as he stood back up and started towards the hallway. “Hey…check on Braden and see if he’s ready?”
“Will do.” Giles called over his shoulder as he made his way to the laundry.
Buffy looked over at her mother and stood, gesturing towards the kitchen with a tilt of her head. Joyce glanced at the children, smiling as Evan joined in with the game Lucas and Haddie were playing with Callie.
Joyce followed her daughter into the kitchen and sighed as she leaned against the counter. “I really didn’t mean to embarrass him.”
Buffy offered Joyce a warm smile as she pulled a small ring box from a canister that she brought down from the top of the refrigerator. “You didn’t embarrass him, Mom. He was more worried about your reaction than anything else.”
“Does he normally scar that badly?”
Buffy shook her head and handed the box to Joyce. “No, not from normal cuts…but, the Mark of the Thorn is actually a burn. And…there was magick involved with that one as well. He, uh…he kept that one covered for months after it happened. He wouldn’t even let me see it.”
“Really?” Joyce asked in surprise.
“Yeah. He said that it was a reminder that he almost lost all of us and that it made him sick to look at it. It took me a while, but I got him over that.” She sighed softly and leaned against the counter next to Joyce. “Funnily enough, that’s not the one that bothers me.”
Joyce tilted her head in a silent request for Buffy to continue. Buffy took a deep breath and swallowed.
“The smallest one on his chest is where he was shot…but it was the one that almost took him from us.” When Joyce placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, Buffy smiled and shook her head. “But, I didn’t bring you in here to talk about my husband’s scars. I brought you in to show you that.”
Joyce looked down at the box and gently lifted the lid. She smiled as she carefully lifted it out and inspected it closely.
“It looks just like Rupert’s.”
Buffy nodded and smiled proudly. “Yeah…another tradition. An onyx signet ring with the family crest on the side and the date of the Oath Ceremony engraved on the inside of the band.”
Joyce sighed as she placed the ring back in the box and closed the lid. “It’s beautiful.”
Buffy took the box and furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
“He’s just…so young. Why does the decision have to be made when they’re still children?”
“It has to do with the length of the training. Giles thought about making the entry age older, but it just wasn’t possible. He has gotten all of the other changes approved though, which will be better for all of the new entries.”
“But, you’re okay with it?” Joyce asked quietly.
Buffy nodded slowly. “When we were discussing children…before we even got married…he told me that he would never force his children into joining the Academy. He’s never really forgiven his father for accepting his destiny on his behalf. It’s important to him, and me, that our children decide for themselves.”
“What about Lucas?”
Buffy smiled brightly. “At the moment, he wants to be a veterinarian.”
Joyce relaxed and chuckled softly.
* * *
Giles was slipping his jacket on as he looked into Braden’s room. Hearing his son’s groan of frustration, he smiled and walked inside.
“What’s wrong, Ru?”
Braden turned to him and dropped his hands to his sides as he sighed heavily. “This stupid tie.”
Giles smiled affectionately and sat down on the edge of Braden’s bed. “That’s because it’s a new tie, I have trouble with them as well. Come here and I’ll see what I can do with it.”
Braden stood in front of his father and tilted his chin down to watch what he was doing. “Thanks for wearing purple, Dad.”
Giles’ smile grew as he carefully slid the knot of the tie into place. “You’re welcome. Any idea why your mother chose this color for you?”
Braden looked up, smiling brightly, as Giles buttoned the collar of his son’s lighter purple shirt into place. “Mum says it’s the color of royalty and that I’m her prince.”
Giles chuckled and shook his head in amusement. “That sounds like something she’d say.”
Braden looked at his tie and then at his father’s shirt. “Hey, they’re the same color!”
“Mm-hm.” Giles murmured as he held up Braden’s suit jacket. “I’m rather sure that was your mother’s doing as well.”
Braden slipped into the jacket and furrowed his brow. “So, she knew I’d ask you to wear that?”
“More than likely, yes.” He grinned and then straightened the knot of the black tie around his neck. “Come on, let’s go show people how handsome you look.”
Braden’s green eyes sparkled, the amber spot in the right one seeming to glimmer.
* * *
Giles and Braden both stopped suddenly when they walked into the living room, which was now full of people. Giles looked at Buffy and raised an eyebrow.
“Good luck wishes, it seems.” Buffy stated with a smile on her face.
Anya leaned towards Xander and whispered, though not very quietly. “Do you think it’s weird that he looks so much like Giles?”
Giles chuckled as Braden furrowed his brow and asked a question that only a ten year old child could ask without sounding like a complete smartass.
“Well, who do you expect me to look like? Xander?”
Xander snorted. “He has Giles’ sarcasm too.”
Ethan sighed heavily. “Wait until he gets older. Rupert’s sarcasm has sharpened with his age.”
“And who would know better than you?” Giles replied, his smile showing in his eyes.
When Braden looked at
“Thanks. Mum picked out the color…and Dad helped me with the tie.”
Lucas grinned as he leaned against Michael. “Did you tie your shoes by yourself?”
Braden narrowed his eyes and glared at his brother. “Very funny, Luke.”
“Boys…” Buffy stated firmly, her tone making it very clear that an argument would not be tolerated tonight.
Lucas sighed. “Sorry, Bay. It was just a joke.”
Braden’s glare softened as he shoved his right hand into his pocket. “It’s okay.”
Oz caught Braden’s eye and gave him a soft smile. “Nervous, Buddy?”
“A little.” Braden admitted softly. “I wish you could be there too.”
Oz’s smile grew. “I’ll be here when you get back. Can’t wait to hear all about it.”
Braden nodded and looked up at Michael. Michael pulled something out of his pocket and knelt down in front of Braden.
“Look, I’m not going to pretend to understand everything that’s going on right now. But, I know that this is something you want…” Michael smiled and lowered his voice. “And I know that you’re probably a little more nervous than you want to let on.”
Braden tilted his head slightly. “Yeah…”
“You don’t need it, but…” Michael lifted his hand and dropped the object into Braden’s hand. “Good luck.”
Braden smiled as he looked at the small coin. “It’s a dime.”
“Yeah…silly, I know. But, you’re half-American…you’re ten-years-old…and it was minted the year you were born. I came across it in a jar of coins…I thought you might like it.”
Braden slipped the coin into his pocket and then wrapped his arms around Michael’s neck. “Thanks, Michael!”
“You’re welcome.” Michael whispered as he rubbed Braden’s back.
Ethan swallowed the lump in his throat as he watched the exchange. Thinking, not for the first time, that Michael would make a wonderful father if given the opportunity.
Buffy slipped her hand into Giles’ and squeezed gently. He looked down at her and smiled softly.
“We should probably get going.”
He nodded in agreement and looked down at Braden as Michael moved back to stand next to Ethan.
“Are you ready, son?”
Braden’s bright smile returned. “Yeah…um…yes, I am.”
Giles chuckled softly and picked up his keys.
Buffy paced back and forth, her eyes locked on the door that led to the room in which the ceremony was being performed. “I wish we could be in there with him.”
Giles smiled in understanding and stopped her on her next pass. He pulled her into his arms and placed a kiss on the top of her head.
“This is the way it has been done for hundreds of years, Buffy.”
“I know, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to be in there with him. I mean…yeah, we were able to stay long enough to give our blessing, but…”
“He’s in no danger, darling.”
She looked up at him and took a deep breath. “What do you think they’re doing right now?”
He glanced at his watch and smiled. The ceremony had been in progress for nearly twenty minutes.
“I would imagine that he’s receiving the ‘one girl in all the world’ speech right about now. However, that speech has had to be modified since I took my Oath. The gist is the same…how he will, one day, possibly be assigned to train and assist a Slayer.”
Buffy swallowed and bit her lip. “Do they know?”
Giles furrowed his brow. “About?”
She hesitated for a moment and then lowered her voice to a barely audible whisper. “His destiny.”
“No.” He answered quickly. “The only person I intend to tell is Ru. And only when we decide that he’s ready.”
“He’s not ready yet.” She whispered, tears appearing in her eyes.
Giles’ eyes widened in alarm at her sudden change. “Buffy?”
“I’m okay.” She stated as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “It’s just…God, he’s so young, Giles. I mean, he’s growing up so fast…all of them are. And it makes me wonder where the last ten years went.”
He lifted his left hand and stroked her cheek with his thumb, patiently waiting for her to continue. He didn’t have to wait long.
“It seems like a lifetime has passed since I was called. But…it feels like it was just yesterday that you kissed me for the first time. And so much has happened since then.”
“I know.” He whispered as he brushed away a tear that rolled down her cheek.
“We have four beautiful children…and, at one time, I didn’t think I’d have any children.” She pulled out of his embrace, but took his hand. Leading him across the room, she sat down in a chair and tugged him down next to her. “In twelve years, his battle will start.”
She took a deep breath and looked into his eyes. “I’m the Mishtwanai…his protector.”
“Yes.” Giles nodded, not really sure where Buffy was going with her train of thought.
“How am I supposed to protect him for twelve years without him knowing something’s going on?”
She lowered her head and bit her lip. “Maybe it would’ve been better if we hadn’t been told about it.”
Placing two fingers under her chin, he gently tilted her head back up. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the past few weeks about this. Would you care to hear my theory?”
“Yeah…you always have good theories.”
He smiled and stood up long enough to pull his chair around in front of hers. Sitting back down, he took her hands into his and looked into her eyes.
“Demons are forbidden to cause any harm to Braden, remember? The contract was between Travers and Vhrashnin and he was an Ordoctlyn.”
“Yeah, which meant that once Vhrashnin was killed, no other demon could take a contract out for Braden’s soul.”
“Correct. Now…this is Braden’s destiny. And I believe that because of his destiny, The Powers That Be will keep him safe from other dangers that would result in death…car accidents, harm from other humans, natural disasters. I think that the only thing that could have harmed Braden were demons.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes and shook her head. “But, you becoming a Watcher was your destiny…and you can still be killed.”
Giles took a deep breath and lightly squeezed her hands. “It’s different with Braden. My destiny was chosen for me, by my father, when I was ten years old. Braden’s was given to him by a higher power before he was even born. It was probably given to him before I was born. This prophecy was written hundreds of years ago, Buffy. They just had to wait until the line was right before it could be put into motion.”
Buffy thought about what her husband was saying and had to admit to herself that it actually made a lot of sense. Except for one thing.
“But, I’m the Mishtwanai. Why would he need a protector if he didn’t need to be protected?”
Giles swallowed and licked his lips. Buffy nearly smiled at the excitement she saw in his eyes. That level of excitement only came from one thing…and that was successful research. That’s when it hit her that he had been researching this…it wasn’t just a theory anymore. He had proven it to be true to himself…and now he was proving it to her.
“Tell me.” She whispered softly.
“I think that your assignment as his protector was completed when you defeated Vhrashnin. You protected him…his life, his soul…from that demon and every other demon.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed. “But…I haven’t read anything about the Mishtwanai completing the assignment.”
A small smile played on Giles’ lips. “When the prophecy was written, I daresay that it wasn’t foretold that the Mishtwanai would eliminate all demonic threat to The Protector at one fell swoop.”
Seeing the belief in his eyes, Buffy began to relax. “Have you been researching this non-stop since we found out the truth?”
He chuckled softly. “Only non-stop while I was at work. You would have asked too many questions had I been researching it at home.”
“God, I love you.”
He smiled, leaning forward and kissing her lips. “I love you too.”
When he felt her hand on his chest, he slowly broke the kiss and cleared his throat. “Um…to what extent did my appearance horrify your mother?”
“Huh?” She whispered, confusion evident in her eyes.
“I, uh…I know that my scars are – ”
She quickly placed three fingers over his lips and shook her head. “She wasn’t horrified, Giles. And your scars are anything but ugly.”
He tenderly kissed her fingers and then wrapped his hand around her wrist, pulling her fingers from his lips. “I know how shocking it can be to see them, Buffy.”
“She was shocked, yeah…but that’s a far cry from being horrified by your appearance. If anything, she was worried. She’s not used to seeing physical evidence of our battles. I mean…most of my injuries fade after a day or two…”
He glanced at her neck and tenderly ran his fingertips over the pale flesh left by the bites of two different vampires. “This is the only evidence that you’ve ever been injured.”
She shivered lightly and slipped her fingers under his tie, rubbing his chest in the spot where she knew the vertical scar to be. “Do you find it interesting that the one Evan seems to be most preoccupied with is the one that I actually gave you?”
He smiled softly and closed his eyes, allowing the sensation of her hand rubbing his chest through his shirt to course through him. “He plays with the thorn as well…”
“Not really.” Buffy disagreed quietly, causing him to open his eyes. “He’ll trace it with his fingers, but he always goes to the ‘Buffy stabbed Giles with a letter opener’ scar.”
He licked his lips as her hand moved to the right side of his chest. “Just as you always go the gunshot wound.”
“I can’t help it.” She whispered, her voice trembling. “We almost lost you that time.”
He smiled and covered her hand with his, pressing her palm against the scar. “I used to worry about my scars…how you would look at me or if you would even find me attractive after seeing them…”
Her eyes widened as she began to protest. “No! Giles…”
“Do you know how I see them now?” He asked softly, interrupting her protest. When she shook her head, he lifted his left hand and brushed his fingers through her hair. “I see them as testaments.”
“Mm-hm.” He leaned forward slowly, finishing his explanation in a soft tone as he made his way to her lips. “My way of proving to anyone…and everyone…that I will do absolutely anything to keep you and our family safe.”
She gasped as his lips touched hers, his tongue flicking against her bottom lip before he pulled back just enough to whisper one more statement.
“They are testaments of my love for you, Buffy. And I regret not one of them.”
Before she could respond, his lips captured hers again. She groaned into his mouth as his tongue gently caressed hers. With a soft groan of his own, he pulled back and inhaled shakily.
“I’m sorry…this is not the time, nor the place, for me to start this.”
She licked her lips and shook her head. “Probably not, but…one hell of a way to pass the time.”
He laughed softly and sat back in his chair as he heard the doorknob turn, giving her a wink. “I think we’ve passed enough time, love.”
They both looked towards the door, standing as an elderly gentlemen stepped into the room and smiled.
“Sir Rupert…it’s time for the presentation.”
Giles gave the man a nod. “We’ll be right in, Sir Jamison.”
Buffy snorted as the elderly man stepped back out and closed the door. Giles looked down at her and raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry.” She stated through a stifled laugh. “It’s just… ‘Sir Rupert’…it’s funny.”
He smiled as he ran his fingers down the side of her face. “When you were a young girl, did you not dream of falling in love with a Knight who would die to protect your life?”
She opened her mouth, but could form no words. His smile grew as his eyes sparkled, the amber patch in the left one seeming to glimmer for a moment.
“I may not be a Knight, Buffy…well, technically I am, just not in the traditional sense. All Watchers were Knighted by the Head of Council on the night of their Oath Ceremonies. We may not be sanctioned by the Queen, but we would give our lives for the one girl in all the world who we trained for most of our lives to protect…to assist…and sometimes, if one were very lucky…to love.”
Buffy inhaled sharply at his words, her hand finding his and gripping tightly. “Why did I never know this?”
“The Slayer was never to know.” He smiled as he lowered his head and brushed his lips across hers. “It’s somewhat harder keeping that secret from the Slayer who is also the wife of an active Watcher…and the mother of an arriving student. In fact, this is a precedent. Braden is the first son of a Slayer to join the Academy.”
Buffy gazed into his eyes, a smile appearing on his face. “And you’re getting ready to Knight him?”
Giles nodded proudly. “An arriving student has never before been Knighted by his father. This is as much of an honour for me as it is for Braden.”
“And…I can watch? Even though I’m a Slayer?”
“The Slayer.” He corrected as he nodded. “The mother of an arriving student is always welcome to attend the Presentation. And, in this instance, I’m making the judgement call and saying that being the mother is more important than being the Slayer.”
She laced their fingers together as he pulled the door open and led her down the hall. His earlier question concerning the dream of a young girl rattled around in her head. As she looked up to find him smiling down at her, his eyes full of love for her, she decided that she’d give him a detailed answer later.
When the time…and place…was right.
As they followed the elderly man into the room at the end of the hall, Buffy took a deep breath. Giles smiled and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.
Braden looked towards the door, his smile shining brightly as his parents walked into the room. Giles gave his son a wink and then gestured for Buffy to sit on a comfortably cushioned bench positioned next to the wall.
Buffy bit her lip nervously, wanting to tell them both that she loved them but knowing she was to remain quiet for the time being. She sat down on the bench and smiled as Braden grinned at her.
Giles cleared his throat as he handed the ring box to the man known as Sir Jamison and took his place in front of his son. “Braden?”
Braden turned his eyes from his mother and looked up at his father. “Yeah, Dad?”
Giles bit back his smile and shook his head lightly. Braden blushed lightly.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, sir?”
Buffy successfully kept herself from laughing before focusing on her husband’s words.
“Can you tell me your purpose in joining the Academy?”
Braden thought for a second and then gave a quick nod. “Yes, sir. To begin my education in order to learn about demons, Slayers, research techniques, and languages.”
Giles nodded proudly. “And for what purpose is this education?”
“To be better prepared to train one of the many girls in the world who have been chosen to protect this dimension against demonic attack.”
When Braden hesitated, Giles looked at him curiously. “Did you have something you would like to add to that, Braden?”
“Well, that’s not the only reason I want to join the Academy…um, sir.”
A smile played at the corner of his mouth. “Go ahead.”
Braden took a deep breath and slowly began to speak his carefully prepared speech. “I am a ‘Giles’, sir. My great-grandmother, my grandfather, and you…um, my father…were all Watchers. My family has been involved with the Council from the very beginning. I want to follow in my father’s footsteps and continue my family’s tradition.”
Giles swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and glanced at Buffy, somewhat surprised to see tears in her eyes. It was then that he realized that Braden’s words were his alone. He felt his heart swell with pride and smiled at his son.
“You understand the risks that come with your education and training, yes?”
“Yes, sir.” Braden answered confidently. “I’ve seen the changes that my mother has made in the world…and I’ve heard stories of other battles that she has faced. I want to help change the world…like my parents have.”
Giles cleared his throat, aching to pull the boy into his arms, and looked around the room. “Are there any objections from the witnesses present?”
Each of the five men responded with a soft ‘no, sir’. When his eyes met Buffy’s, she swallowed and shook her head.
“I have no objections.”
Giles smiled as Sir Jamison handed the ring box back to him. Gesturing to the floor, Giles looked into Braden’s eyes.
Braden didn’t need to be told what to do. He maintained the gaze with his father’s eyes as he knelt before him.
Giles gingerly removed the ring from its box and cleared his throat again. “Rings are symbolic in many ways, Braden. This particular ring is symbolic in the fact that you have taken your Oath to begin your training. Traditionally, the ring is to be worn on the right hand until the time a Slayer is assigned to you, should that honour be bestowed upon you. At that time, it should be transferred to your left hand as a sign of loyalty to your Slayer.”
“With the acceptance of this ring, comes the responsibility of upholding the traditions of the Council to the best of your ability. The Council is founded on tradition, but that does not mean that traditions cannot be questioned. Times and methods have changed since the Council’s inception, and so have traditions. Should you accept this responsibility, you will be indoctrinated into the Order of the Council.”
Giles smiled and inhaled deeply. “Do you accept, Braden?”
“Yes, sir.” Braden replied in a soft, but confident voice. “Yes, sir, I do.”
Giles lowered himself to the floor in front of his son and stared into the boy’s eyes as he slipped the ring onto his finger. “Sir Braden Rupert Giles…welcome to the Order of the Council.”
A slow grin appeared on Braden’s face as he looked down at the ring emblazoned with the Giles family crest. “Thanks, Dad.”
He looked up quickly, his face flushing red. “Um, I mean…sir. Thank you, sir.”
The five men standing behind Giles chuckled softly, as did Buffy. Giles grinned as he placed his left hand on Braden’s shoulder and squeezed lightly before he stood, pulling Braden up with him.
Sir Jamison stepped forward and addressed the occupants of the room, his smile shining in his bright blue eyes.
“Sir Braden Rupert
Giles has been accepted into the Order of the Council as well as the
Braden smiled proudly. “Thank you, sir.”
Buffy and Giles exchanged a smile, their eyes shining with love, as the ceremony came to an end.
* * *
Giles looked down at his son as they walked through the Council hall, Braden walking between his parents. “Yes?”
Braden was busy looking at his ring, but furrowed his brow. “You said that once a Slayer is assigned to a Watcher, the ring should be moved to your left hand.”
“Mm-hm.” Giles glanced at Buffy and smiled, knowing where Braden was headed with this conversation.
Braden sighed and looked at Giles’ right hand. “But, you wear yours on your right hand…and Mum’s your Slayer.”
“I wore mine on my left hand until I married your mother.” He answered softly.
“But…why did you change it?”
Giles looked down at his left hand, his wedding band reflecting the soft light in the hall. “My loyalty to Buffy as her husband was more important to me than my loyalty to her as her Watcher.”
When Braden narrowed his eyes in confusion, Giles chuckled. “You’ll understand one day, Ru.”
Buffy smiled at Giles, wrapping her arm around Braden’s shoulders. “So…was that what your ceremony was like?”
“Similar.” Giles stated as he opened the front door of the complex and held it for his wife and son. “Mine was…a more subdued affair.”
“Do you remember who Knighted you, Dad?”
Giles nodded and smiled warmly. “Sir John Perkins. He was a nice man…tried to talk my father out of admitting me, actually.”
Braden slipped his hand into Buffy’s as they walked across the parking lot. “Didn’t he think you’d be a good student?”
Giles pulled the keys out of his pocket and sighed. “On the contrary, he stated that I would be an exemplary student. But, he knew it wasn’t what I wanted.”
“But your Dad made you.” Braden stated softly as Giles unlocked the car.
Giles looked down at him and gently ran his fingers through Braden’s hair. “Times were different then, Ru. It was what was expected of me. After all, I am a Giles.”
Braden climbed in and buckled his seat belt. He was quiet until Giles pulled out of the parking lot.
“Is it what you expected of me? Or…us?”
Giles glanced at him through the rearview mirror. “All I’ve ever expected of the four of you is your happiness. And that’s all I’ll ever expect of you. If you, your brothers, and your sister are happy doing whatever you’re doing…then I’ll be an extremely happy man.”
When he felt Buffy’s hand on his thigh, he gave her a smile and covered her hand with his. Braden looked down at the ring on his finger and grinned happily.
* * *
Braden sighed heavily as Giles pulled into the driveway and killed the engine. Buffy turned to look at him as she unbuckled her seatbelt.
“What’s wrong, Braden?”
He shrugged his shoulders and glanced at the house. “I don’t like that I can’t talk about it. I mean, this is a big thing and I have to keep it to myself…and I always tell Luke everything.”
Buffy and Giles looked at each other, a silent agreement passing between them before Giles turned in his seat and looked at his son.
“It is true that what took place tonight should be kept secret. But, I don’t see why you can’t talk to Lucas about parts of it. I would prefer if you keep your title out of the conversation, however. Even your mother didn’t know about that until this evening.”
Braden’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Buffy nodded in agreement. “Really. I thought Sir Jamison was being funny when he came in to get us and called your dad ‘Sir Rupert’.”
Braden thought for a moment, biting his lip in a way that reminded Giles of Buffy. “But…I can tell him what the ring means? And that I was accepted into the Academy? And that one day, maybe, I’ll have a Slayer to train like you trained Mum?”
Giles chuckled at Braden’s rapid-fire questions. “I see no issues with you telling your brother about it. If he asks anything and you’re not sure whether or not you should tell him…ask me.”
Braden’s smile returned as he opened the car door and jumped out. As he ran up the walkway to the house, Giles and Buffy climbed out of the car and followed him…albeit at a slower pace.
Giles tugged the knot of his tie loose with his left hand as he slid his right arm around Buffy. She leaned into him, slipping her arm under his jacket and around his waist.
“I think I’ve only seen you look prouder than you looked tonight a few times before.” She stated softly.
“Oh?” He looked down at her as he rubbed his hand over her back. “And when exactly were those times?”
She looked up at him and smiled affectionately. “When you held each of our children for the first time.”
He returned her smile, pausing his steps to lean down for a kiss. “Each of those days are tied for the title of ‘Rupert Giles’ Favourite Day’.”
Buffy chuckled and kissed him softly, stopping him when she felt his tongue run across her bottom lip. “Remember the whole time and place thing? This isn’t it…time nor place.”
He laughed gently, nodding in agreement before resuming the slow walk to the house. “Fair enough.”
Braden had already made his way into the house and the excited voices of their friends and Lucas could be heard. Haddie and Evan would already be in bed. They wouldn’t understand the excitement at their ages anyway.
As he followed Buffy into the house and closed the door, he allowed his eyes to travel over her backside. He sighed heavily, hoping that their company would disperse fairly quickly. He tore his eyes from his wife’s body when he felt a certain part of his anatomy begin to respond to the thoughts in his head.
Ethan saw the roaming eyes of his best friend and chuckled softly. Michael looked at him curiously, to which Ethan gave him a wink and leaned close enough for Michael to hear his whispered explanation.
“We should leave soon…and we should probably spread that word to the others as quietly as we can.”
Michael glanced at Giles and smiled as he watched Giles’ eyes dart to Buffy’s legs when she sat down on the couch. “I’ll tell everyone else if you’ll tell Anya.”
Ethan grinned and gave him a nod. “Let’s get to work. It’s not going to be long before he can’t keep his hands off her.”
“How do you know?”
Ethan licked his lips and lifted his hand to the side of Michael’s face. “Because he’s looking at her the way I’ve been looking at you. And, I have to admit…I want to take you home…right now.”
Michael swallowed as he watched Ethan’s eyes darken a shade. “Go find Anya.”
Ethan smiled and backed away slowly. He glanced at Giles, who had taken the seat next to Buffy on the couch and was currently running his fingers along her knee in slow circles. His smile grew and he caught Anya’s eyes.
Anya grinned and gave him a nod when he tilted his head towards the couple.
Within fifteen minutes of the Giles’ return to the house, people started leaving. And if he were honest with himself, Giles was very happy about that fact.