Title: Spread My Wings
Characters Buffy/Giles. Post Chosen. Giles has a new life. Buffy won't let go.
Spread My Wings
Rupert Giles took a glass of champagne from the waiter and settled back against the wall to observe his fellow guests. It was his fifth glass but nobody else was counting, the rest of his immediate party having scattered to make small talk or even dance in the palatial ball room. He pulled uneasily at his collar and the black bow tie and wondered what time he would be allowed to get away.
The vast white receptions rooms of the Chancellery chattered and laughed with the sway of academics - like himself - and politicians, most definitely not like himself. His whole faculty had been three-line whipped there, the Master having insisted they make the journey to London to ‘let their hair down a little’. He’d felt they were getting ‘too cloistered’ and when Giles had opened his mouth to make his apologies, the Master, having already caught his eye, added ‘need to shake some of you out of your creeping agoraphobia, I say’. To which Giles had politely laughed along with everyone else.
They had opened the French windows at the back of the ballroom, which was promising as Giles began to feel the heat of the enforced sociability keenly. He put his empty glass on a Queen Anne mantelpiece and pushed off from the wall in search of fresh air.
He stopped and stared at the vision in the pale blue, strapless silk who had addressed him. He had not expected to meet Buffy at a reception such as this. He hadn’t known she was even in the country.
“Buffy.” He smiled at her warm shout, put his hands in his pockets and studied his slightly scuffed shoes. She seemed excited and happy to be there. This was her natural element of course: this being with people. She was the most beautiful woman in the room and she deserved a chance to dazzle and radiate.
She took his arm. “I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said and his head started to swim with the heat and the alcohol. “This is Ryan. Captain Ryan Appleby.” Of course she was not alone. Giles had already seen the immaculately polished shoes and coloured banding of a British Army dress uniform. “Ryan, this is Dr Rupert Giles.”
“How do you do, sir.” Appleby was polite and serious and not some ‘eager to please’ puppy. He eyed Giles warily which was a crumb of comfort. Nobody had eyed him warily for a long time.
“Captain,” Giles acknowledged with equal caution. Buffy’s date was dark haired, handsome, taller than he was, and a good twenty years younger, and Giles felt, if he tried hard enough, he could probably find a whole lot more about the boy he could dislike
“So how do you two know each other?” asked Appleby and Giles wanted to laugh. Buffy opted for the ‘old friends’ explanation and switched the focus to how she and Ryan worked together from time to time. It became clear that Appleby knew she was the Slayer and Buffy wasn’t especially keeping secrets from him. Well, maybe one. Maybe she hadn’t mentioned how she trotted to her ‘old friend’s’ bed when she could squeeze him in between her busy workload. Were they actually old friends? Had they ever been friends in the first place? That was a sobering question and Giles felt a strong need for another drink.
Appleby fired a piercing question at him. “So you’re a vampire hunter too?&rdquo
“No,” said Buffy very quickly. “Giles is retired, aren’t you, Giles.”
The good captain spoke with incredulity, “Oh but surely once a demon -”
“Drop it, Ryan.” Buffy said sharply. Giles’ attention drifted as the young couple exchanged some whispers. He admired the eight elegant chandeliers which, whilst converted to electric light, still shouted Edwardian decadence. The ceiling also had some fine sculpting work that looked well maintained. It was remarkably warm for such a tall room.
Buffy’s voice interrupted his architectural survey. “Dance with me?” He heard her say.
He looked around in surprise. The heated whispers had ended and Buffy had dispatched her soldier off on some sort of mission leaving Giles and her alone.
“I said ‘will you dance with me?’” And before he’d really processed the idea, she had a hold of his hand and led him to the ballroom where the twenty-five piece orchestra was playing something slow. She directed him confidently through the other couples to the centre of the floor and turned with a radiant smile.
“Be with me,” she said softly.
He could not resist. He stood and swayed and held her gently, surrendering to the music and the sensual perfume of her hair. Their feet moved together instinctively. Buffy’s hands were on his back and he felt his sweaty shirt stick to his ribs. The music thundered in his ears, blotting out all thoughts but the pleasure and the pain that she represented. She snuggled into his chest, depositing a little makeup on his dress shirt in the process, but he didn’t mind. It was just the two of them in the world and he felt the bliss and contentment that that revelation always brought him. It would last as long as the music did and he found his hand had moved to her bare shoulder and was gently rubbing her collarbone. She bunched his jacket in a fist to get closer as the orchestra turned their last page and gathered their last note.
He led her off the dance floor, deliberately choosing the opposite direction from where her soldier friend stood waiting
“It’s nice to see you getting out,” Buffy breathed. She hadn’t let go of his hand. “I’d have asked you to be my escort tonight if I knew you did this sort of thing.”
Giles deftly took another glass of champagne from a waiter for his thirst. “You fit me in when you can,” he replied and drank.
“Are you staying in town tonight?” she asked and he could see where her thoughts were heading. It was where her thoughts always headed and Giles saw he had only one slim opportunity before the madness descended again.
“No, I came here with my department. We all travelled here by minibus. In fact I probably need to be going now. It’s a long drive home.”
That got a frown and he managed to extradite his hand with the pretence of needing to swap the champagne over. The success gave him a little courage. “So while it’s been lovely Buffy, I do think this is over now.”
“We’ve had our time.”
“No. I think you should find your young man and enjoy the rest of your evening. Enjoy the rest of everything, in fact.” His voice had got a little higher but he brushed it off as down to the heady atmosphere. She knew what he meant; ironically they had that level of understanding with each other even if they didn’t communicate in other areas too well.
“I’m fine Buffy. I don’t need your pity visits. We have different lives now so let’s respect that.”
Buffy suddenly looked like a delicate orchid he’d just trodden on. She’d always been a confident young woman and the transformation was alarming. With abject timing, Captain Appleby approached them. Buffy turned her head from him to compose herself.
“I think it’s time for my dance now,” the young officer said. He was smiling but it covered a slight unease as to whether he was rescuing her or disturbing her from something important. Buffy pre-empted any discussion by taking off like a bullet towards the dance floor. Appleby gave Giles a hard stare but it wasn’t a look of triumph; he was as puzzled as Giles was as to what was going on. Giles shrugged to convey his sense of bewilderment at the phenomenon that was women in general and Buffy in particular. Appleby eventually followed his girl and Giles let out the breath he’d been holding. It was for the best.
He watched them dance for a full three minutes before he lost sight of her behind Appleby’s solid, reliable frame. Giles slipped awkwardly back to the main reception room and then followed a waiter through some self-effacing swing doors. The world changed dramatically to a series of grubby corridors till he came out in the kitchens. A young woman frowned at him but in general the staff were far too busy rushing to supply trays of food and drinks to challenge his presence. There was much noise and lively chatter. Giles walked around the edges feeling like a ghost until he pushed open a fire door and made his way outside. A man in white half-length smock and harlequin trousers was sitting on the trash cans enjoying a smoke
Giles dipped further into the silence of the quiet car park and found his vehicle. The minibus had a simple door mechanism and he slipped the catch easily and slid open the large door at the side. He knew logically he’d have to wait another couple of hours for his colleagues but it still felt like act of liberation worthy of legend and song. He sat on the vehicle’s floor with his feet on the ground and wondered at what he’d just done.