La Vie en Rose
As the band plays the last tune of the evening, Giles watches her holding court from across the ballroom, a stunning sensation in her ice blue gown, remembering a time long ago when he’d missed another opportunity to dance with her - moments, perhaps hours too late, and too chivalrous by half, bound by duty and propriety. She’s radiant, and outshines any other woman, but she’s the Chosen One, and it’s only right that it should be so.
And perhaps he’s just a little too biased.
Buffy catches his gaze and gives him the dazzling smile she seems to reserve only for him, and he returns it, if a bit shyly at having been caught out so blatantly, feeling the blush rise from his collar. The last few weeks, finally having her in London to stay, have been wonderful and, though they arrived at the wedding reception separately, they’d spent part of the evening together having been sat at the same table during dinner; but there had been no opportunity for intimate conversation and they had parted ways after to mingle amongst the other guests, not finding the other again until now. Another’s hand touches her forearm, shifting her attention back to her entourage, much to his chagrin.
Downing the last of scotch in his glass, he heads out onto the terrace for some much needed air. He contemplates making an exit down the back stairs as the song finishes and the house lights come on, drowning out the intimate atmosphere created by the fairy lights and candles and declaring the evening officially over. He places the glass on the ledge and scans the ballroom. She’s nowhere to be found and he chokes back his dismay at having missed her.
Giles grimaces and unties his bow tie, unbuttoning the top two buttons in disgust as he quickly turns and makes his way down the steps at a pace, wishing for all the world that he had a pack of cigarettes in his pocket - a habit he’d given up just before he made that first fateful transatlantic flight to Sunnydale and occasionally picks back up when he’s had a drink or two.
Darkness envelopes him and his melancholy rises as he wanders the grounds of the manor house, not ready to make the drive home, not ready to face his cowardice in those hours when his mind will inevitably replay the events of the evening, cursing every chance, every moment when he could’ve mustered the will to approach her and hold her in his arms if only for the length of a song.
Rounding the corner he passes by one of the hospitality tents, still dimly lit, as the last of the wedding guests filter out into the night air followed by the best man and the maid of honor. Having performed their duties and seen off their charges hours earlier, they drunkenly grope each other as they make their way to the limo that will take them and the rest of the wedding party to their hotels - a cliché to be sure.
Giles desperately needs another drink and makes his way towards the tent hoping that either the bar is unmanned or there is a bartender who might take pity on him. Wandering in he sees members of the auxiliary band packing up, with the exception of the piano player who still tinkers about on the keys while the staff starts to clean up.
Mercifully, the bar is unstaffed and no one pays him any mind as he pours himself a glass of the house scotch, nursing the liquid as he silently berates himself. He knows better than to get drunk. He just wants to take the edge off of his irritation. Keeping his own company, Giles rolls the liquid around in his glass when the when the pianist begins the intro to La Vie en Rose. It’s an old favorite of his and he raises his glass in salute as the violinist joins in with the melody.
“I’m glad I found you.”
He knows Buffy’s voice almost better than his own at this point. It’s like a balm and he takes a cleansing breath as his heart beats a little faster. Taking a moment, he closes his eyes in an inaudible prayer of thanks before turning towards her and leaning against the bar. She stands before him with a soft smile gracing her rose-tinged lips, the low lighting blurring the lines between the beauty of reality and the otherworldliness of a vision.
“How’d you know I was here?” he asks, his voice muted and mellow despite the battle raging within between playing his role as friend and Watcher and wanting to add the part of lover to that list.
“Well, I saw your car in the parking lot, figured you’d still have to be around somewhere.”
He glances down at his glass, false courage residing within its depths, and brings it to his lips to finish his drink. It’s more than a sip and burns as it goes down. Decision made, he pushes off the bar and holds out his hand in invitation as the chorus begins.
“May I have this dance, Buffy?”
“I thought you’d never ask, Giles.” Taking his hand, she follows him to the dance floor and settles into his embrace. He leads her with a practiced grace and she sighs as she settles her cheek against his chest. “I love this song.”
“Mmm, loved it ever since Mom sat me down to watch Sabrina when I was little. Gotta say I prefer the newer version with Harrison Ford. Humphrey Bogart was so wrong for the part of Linus. Plus the modern version is just a better story.”
Giles is familiar with both films, having sat through the remake with an old girlfriend when it came to the cinema some ten years since. Holding Buffy in his arms, he looks down at her nestled against him. She’s so young and the significance of the age difference between the main characters in the film is not lost on him.
“We’re kind of like Sabrina and Linus,” she begins as the band’s vocalist decides to join the pianist and violinist, jumping in with the first verse and extending the song.
Giles angles his head to look at her as he wills his heart to keep a steady pace, wondering where she’s going with her thoughts. “How so?” he murmurs, settling his cheek against her head as he turns them in a different direction. “Besides the obvious.”
“Well, you’re always wrapped up in your work, and I’ve recently come back from my extended stay in Rome.”
“Extended stay is a bit of an understatement,” he replies. “You were there for two years. And it was Paris, was it not? In the films?”
“It was, but so not the point.”
He can’t help the upturn of his lips as the smile spreads to his eyes. He’ll never admit it aloud, but he loves the occasional fractured cadence of her words and her quirky turns of phrase.
“There’s also another similarity,” she says hesitantly, her voice unsteady.
Stopping their movement, Giles pulls back, but only slightly, not wanting to let her go, and watches as she gathers her thoughts.
“Go on,” he encourages barely above a whisper.
Buffy doesn’t look directly at him. “Sabrina is so focused on David, thinking he’s the love of her life, she never really sees Linus, never considers him at all, but he’s always been there for her. She crushed on David for so long that she fell in love with the idea of him, becoming totally consumed by it.” She shyly raises her eyes to meet his and continues with strength, “But then she grows up and after spending time with Linus, she realizes she’s fallen in love with him despite desperately holding on to her past feelings for David. And she finally decides to let those feelings go because it’s Linus who she wants to be with.”
Giles is speechless and barely able to draw breath. “Despite the pain he’s put her through?” he asks hopefully, thinking on all the times he’s hurt her, lied to her, come up short for her. He’s not the hero in their story and he knows that.
Her eyes twinkle in the soft light coming from the hanging lanterns, she’s holding back tears and she reaches up to delicately wipe them from her eyes. Her vulnerability triggers a protective surge within him. He just wants to her hold her, but Buffy looks as though she has more to say so he takes her hand in his, lending her his support.
“She’s said some pretty painful things as well. But, yes, she loves him. She knows she’s hurt him just as much.”
Taking a deep breath, Giles gently wipes away an errant tear that escapes and rolls down her cheek with his thumb. His eyes fall to her lips. He desperately wants to kiss her, to feel her forgiveness, to show her the depth of his devotion, his love for her. Her tongue peaks out, wetting them - an invitation, he’s sure - and his hand moves to her chin, tilting it up towards him as he bends his head slowly, savoring the moment when his lips finally meet hers, a gentle and tentative gesture. Her lips mould to his and he grows bolder, deepening the kiss before ending it with a happy sigh. Their foreheads rest against each other as they gaze into each other’s eyes, small smiles gracing both their faces before he gives in to the temptation to kiss her anew.
He remembers vaguely that the song ended sometime ago and he’s not sure how long they’ve been standing there kissing and drinking in the other’s presence, but the band members and cleaning staff have all left.
“I think we’re the last ones,” Buffy says with a hint of amusement.
He pulls away and takes her hand in his, “Come on, I should see you to your car.”
The path is lit, keeping the darkness at bay as they walk towards the car park. They speak of the events of the evening and how lovely the wedding was and Giles basks in her presence. When they arrive at her car, she turns to him and drops his hand, a look of sorrow washing over her face.
“Well, here we are.”
There’s always an awkwardness, saying goodnight at the end of such an encounter and he’s pleased to know that she’s just as sorry to see their time come to an end as he is. He cups her cheek and leans in for a chaste kiss before asking, “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
Her eyes light up and that dazzling smile returns, the one he thinks of as his, and he swears the world stopped for just a moment before he collects his thoughts again.
Buffy leans back against her car and looks up at him coyly. “What time should I be ready?”
“I’ll pick you up at half seven. There’s a lovely little French bistro I’d like to take you to.”
“Sounds perfect,” she answers and takes a step forward. She kisses his cheek and whispers goodnight before opening the car door and climbing in. When she’s settled, he closes the door and watches her drive off.
Whistling the tune from their dance, Giles reaches his car when a floral scent temporarily distracts him. He strolls over to the hedge of wild roses and picks one of the blooms, bringing it to his nose before sticking it in the button hole of his lapel.
La Vie en Rose indeed.