Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project
Secret Slasha – The Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel Slash Fanfiction Secret Santa Project

The Rest Of Two Gentlemen
By s.a.
For Elizabeth S

It's snowing outside, and Giles can see a thick blanket of white forming over the sloping hills of the estate. As it gets closer and closer to the holiday, the girls are streaming back in and all their assorted friends and relatives seem to make it in as well. It becomes a crazy thing, having the school filled to the brim. The place loses some of its seriousness, the gravity of an English countryside, and instead is replaced with holly and ivy, tinsel and holiday wishes in a daunting number of languages.

Giles is a creature of habit, however, and seeks time for himself amidst the hustle and bustle. Buffy and the others make sure to give him that space, and the other girls, the newer Slayers who call him Headmaster with something akin to fear and awe in their eyes, are usually too wary of interrupting his tea that they stay clear of him altogether. He wonders when he became like his father, that he would be ever the authority figure instead of the teacher he wants to be.

He rubs his forehead wearily, closing his eyes. He had never aspired to do much other than what he was called to--that is, be a watcher rather than a Council member--but life seems to have other plans in store for him. He tries to accept his new duties with good grace, but he and Buffy both struggle with the responsibility of controlling and guiding one of the foremost evil-fighting operations in the world. And make sure the girls do their maths homework. It's a strain, at times.

They are far enough from London that the shadows don't creep into Giles' eyes, but close enough that Buffy can reach the shops in a quick jaunt without complaining for days about not seeing a storefront. It has been five years since they left American soil, determined to pick up the pieces of the Council and the line of Slayers, and still there are times when he looks at the cloudy winter sky and wishes for sun, for seventy degree weather and no possibility of precipitation, for oranges as a side dish to the holiday meal, for the strange sense of peace that settled over Sunnydale in the week of the solstice. It's not something they speak of, but they all have their moments when the memories fill their dreams and they sit by the fire with a healthy amount of alcohol and think nostalgically of things that were.

Much like Giles is doing now.

There is a knock at the door, and Giles calls for the visitor to enter. It's Elanor, his assistant, bringing him the papers and letters for the day. He thanks her, gratefully taking the coffee she offers along with the papers. She leaves, and he sits at his desk rifling through the files restlessly, his gaze ever turning towards the window. Giles pauses for a moment, tries to think of what he's looking for, and comes up with nothing. Everyone is home now, people are just beginning to settle in, and he can hear something of a dull roar from the commons room where Buffy is gleefully directing the ornamenting of the tree they picked out earlier in the week and the greening of the rest of the estate. He'll join them later, if only because Willow will ask him to come with a quiet smile, reminding him of the first time she came to the library looking for a book on crustaceans.

He looks out the window again, thinking of the past. It's a terrible side effect of growing old, he muses wryly, that one begins to think backwards instead of forwards. The folly of the aged, that hindsight becomes clearer than one's current vision.

There are few things he would change, honestly. Everything he's done in his life has led him here, and he would not trade the inquisitive faces of the girls in the classes he teaches for anything. Giles can think of nothing better than the endless nightly reports he and Buffy go over with a fine-toothed comb, or the afternoon sherries he takes with Xander, or riding with Willow to Devon every month to give her space to breathe.

He loves watching Dawn ride horses with the care he taught her, and sitting in front of the memorial they created in the gardens for those they lost. He knows the value of both mourning and living, and though it has taken him almost sixty years to come to that conclusion, he is pleased to say he discovered it in time enough.

Giles sighs, and finally rises; he cannot concentrate at all, and it's near holiday anyway. He wanders down the hall, poking his head into the commons and waving at everyone. Buffy gives him a brilliant smile, from where her light brown hair is covered with tinsel. She thinks her natural hair color makes her look older, but really it reminds him of the uppity young woman he was sent to look after. They had an hour-long discussion over the color of her hair, he remembers with a smile, and he thinks he would listen to her talk on the importance of Dalmatians if it meant he would see her face every day.

With as little fuss as he can manage in a building full of people who care about him and want to speak with him for just a moment, no time at all, and what do you think of the arrangement of evergreen on the mantle? he manages to slip away. Martha, their bustling housekeeper who's half faerie and half mother hen, brings him his coat after keeping him occupied for nearly ten minutes about his health, his temperature, the state of his room, and whether he was getting enough sleep. While he never regretted her coming to take them all on, he betimes wished she would focus less on the dotty old bachelor and more on the young girls who barely knew how to boil water.

Giles manages to pull from her well-meaning grasp and head out the door, pulling the collar of his coat up and affixing his hat on a little more securely. Luckily there was no wind; he might have given up his silly desire to stand in the snow if the wind bit at his face, turning his nose red and sending Martha clucking at him all over again. Instead the snow fell softly, gently against the ground in thick flakes that reminded him of his childhood.

He looked around the grounds, feet crunching against the gravel, and wondered just what he was doing out here. He looked up at the sound of a car approaching, and waited by the drive to see which of the girls was returning home now. The dark black car pulled to a stop just short of where he stood, and he couldn't make out the figure that unfolded itself from the driver's side until it was right in front of him with a cheeky smile.

"Hullo, Rupert," said Ethan. His face was drawn, but he looked hale, and thin stubble caressed his jaw.

Giles had forgotten how much he missed the sound of someone calling his first name.