|Entry tags:||my fic|
Fic: Breaking the Rules (Faith/Giles)
Title: Breaking the Rules
Summary: Five times that brought Faith and Giles closer... and once when they faced up to it
Genre: Fluff. With angst and maiming and character death and destruction of archival materials. Sort of tragi-fluff, really.
A/N: further Fandom Free For All smutless post-series F/G relationship for snickfic. (This has a moment of implied smut, but no more I promise.) It is part of the same verse as my ficlet Long Distance, which would fit in around 1.5 in this fic. Goes slightly AU post-Chosen.
The vampire's head descended slowly towards Giles's throat, even as he tried to claw it away. His nails made no impression; couldn't reach his cross or stake from this cornered position. Fuck it. Not now.... He'd fought them so often, vampires almost seemed trivial nowadays. But he was still just a man, and still vulnerable. Ageing, in fact, and increasingly at risk.
What a bloody stupid way to go, heading into a darkened nest-house without waiting for backup. Sloppy, Giles. They'll use you as a training exercise: here's what not to do, idiots.
Thinking of training added to his feeling of horror. They still needed him. The Slayer Council was so new, fragile and incomplete, lacking support. He had so much to teach them.
Giles was still resisting, but weakening all the time. Soon all he could hope for would be a quick death, and not a return in demon form.
He'd barely begun to imagine the potential damage he could cause if he were turned, when new sounds penetrated the darkness. Running feet, in unsuitable boots that he'd criticised earlier today but that weren't holding her back right now.
"Hey, hands off my Watcher," she said. The vampire managed a half-turn before the stake hit home. Giles inhaled a good portion of the vampire dust, sank down to the floor and coughed way beyond the point of gracious thanks.
Finally, getting himself under control, he managed a weak, "Nicely timed. Down to the last ten seconds on the countdown, I think."
"Don't mention it, G." Faith grinned down at him. "Feels like old times."
They wandered out of the vamp mansion, checking that Faith had in fact dispatched all the remaining vampires while on her rescue mission. Giles thanked her more than once, now that he'd got his breath back.
"Nearly got you that time," she said. Half-smile, inviting him to share his thrill at cheating death... if he wanted. That last thought was the sign of how she'd grown: if he'd wanted to collapse, depressed and swearing about this latest dangerous outbreak, she would have sympathised – or at least not mocked.
But not this time. Giles had come so close to the end that his escape was exhilarating. "I want a drink. Something strong."
Faith grinned a wide, cheerful grin and said, "Count me in."
Back at the temporary hotel operations base, they cast a disdainful look at the bar, full of tinkly piano music and low chatter. "Bottle of Scotch in my room suit you?" Giles asked.
"Hell, yeah." Faith laughed. "Don't think they got anything with a kick to it in that place."
But it wasn't the whisky they used for stress relief in the end. Ten minutes into the evening, Giles was breaking every rule in the Watcher's Handbook, not to mention his own personal moral code. She was gorgeous, grown up and in control of her needs and wants. And for some reason tonight she wanted him.
At about 3am he finally admitted to exhaustion. Embarrassing, middle-aged man in comparison with this vibrant, supernaturally-strong girl. She laughed at his hesitation, gorgeous mouth wide-smiling up as she sprawled beside him: "Look, G, never did meet a living guy who could outlast a Slayer one on one. 'Sides, you think I'm not all wrung out wet after that?"
So that was okay. Giles felt oddly proud of himself, for a lecherous old oath-breaker. And for an independent person, Faith snuggled with surprising enthusiasm. Giles slept with her firmly wound round him, and woke to her grinning at him over two full coffee mugs.
"Thought near-death experiences put you in line for a little silver service." Giles drank his coffee, confused but gratified. She didn't seem to be running away. And he didn't want her to.
The Council library was gradually being rebuilt. Giles had other worries, it was true, but the Slayers needed to take much of the initiative on training and missions, and he simply made a contribution to decision making as needed. The Library was a Watcher's concern. And there were no Watchers left to rebuild it.
He'd hoped, after the First, that they'd discover the Bringers hadn't been as thorough as it first seemed. That there would be dozens of Watchers in hiding, who would come out and share his frightening duty. Now, twenty three months and eighteen days after they closed the Hellmouth, the total was definitely confirmed. There were five. One who had failed his qualifying exams. Two who were senile. One distinguished Tibetan Watcher who was doing marvels with the Oriental section, and could speak fourteen languages, none of them European. He and Giles conversed, slowly, in Mandarin, every few weeks. They needed the companionship. The last Watcher was easier to talk to, but just as distant: based in Sao Paolo, trying to rebuild the entire operation in the Americas. Every other Watcher was dead, or had rejected the new Slayer era and refused to serve.
So at HQ, it was just Giles. Working with the Slayers. Covering Europe and Africa in an increasingly terrifying battle to stay ahead of the forces of darkness. Trying to recruit new candidates, given that most of the old families had been wiped out. Recreating a syllabus and educational system for people who would support the Slayers. Probably wouldn't be called Watchers, in the end, but no question they were going to be vital to the future: all up to Giles to arrange.
And the library: the central reference source for all demonic, magic and prophetic knowledge of the world. Just Giles there to recreate it. Sometimes that knowledge was suffocating. Sometimes he was simply a middle aged man too tired for his job. And sometimes also tired out by his... girlfriend. If that was the word. Significant other? Fuck buddy? No. Something much better than those. Damned if he knew what, though.
Today, he was resting his eyes for just a second, honestly, when Faith caught him, head in his hands.
"Hey G. Working hard?"
"Thought I'd come by before dinner. Didn't expect you to be snoozing on the job." Faith perched half-on the desk and leant over to brush her lips against his.
Giles tried his usual grumpy objections. "Too much to do. That bloody breakfast powwow over Sulawesi just wasn't how I wanted to start today."
She laughed. "Sure, I understand. Not the deadly librarian boredom strikes at last."
Today, though, it wasn't time to trade librarian jokes, and she was watching him as though she could sense that. "No... I heard from Lao Tze. They finally made it into Shaiban – after two whole years. As he feared, the Upper Monastery was looted after the Watcher was killed. They hacked through the wall, and just left it open, through two rainy seasons. The manuscripts are all gone, mouldered into nothing."
"Shit." Faith might not be top of the research team, but she could appreciate how Giles would feel about this. "How many?"
"Tens of thousands. At least a quarter were unique: the monks would never let them be copied. Our knowledge of the Far Eastern demons has been set back for centuries." Faith slipped off the desk as he talked, to kneel beside the chair. Not like Faith, that pose of subservience. But he recognised her effort to listen and be close, while he talked out a little of his grief for the library, and the bigger loss it represented. He finished, desolate: "It was just... too much today. I can't do it."
Faith gave him a few moments grace, then jumped up, all lithe youth and swinging hair. He thought for the thousandth time how hopelessly outclassed he was in this relationship. And for the thousandth time pushed that thought away. She held out one hand to him. "C'm on G. You need to warm up and get fed. Maybe some fencing practice later?"
He shook himself into action, effortfully. "Yes. That would be fun. Sorry I was self-pitying."
Faith turned back from the doorway. "Hey! No, no way. I get it, G. It's okay. Just... we gotta do what we gotta do, right? Movie quotes of wisdom."
He laughed in response. Because she was right. They all did it every day: work through the impossible and keep on going.
Giles grabbed her for a quick thank-you kiss in the doorway. And got on with his impossible life.
Buffy was tight and commanding, as though expecting disagreement. "We need a north Asia section. Something keeps on breaking out. The Far East team just doesn't have the expertise or the reach – we're laying ourselves open to a big breakout if we don't get this covered."
"So true, B. No arguments here. Except..."
Oh no. Don't say it. Giles willed her to reconsider, even as Faith ended her pause. "Think it's time I took a field team, don't you? I'm 'bout up to here with training, and we're pretty much set now with the new instructors. This new nasty looks like a big deal, and it's a real isolated posting – we don't want a raw team without backup."
Buffy was nodding. Willow was nodding. Xander was nodding. Robin was making 'mhm' sounds on the phone. Kennedy and Salvia were weighing in on Skype, all positive.
So Giles added a curt nod of his own. And a "Yes, that sounds sensible." And missed the rest of the meeting, thinking about Faith going back into danger.
She came to his office two hours later. "Avoiding me?"
"No, no, just busy." He resisted the temptation to polish his glasses, which she'd supposedly long since cured him of.
"You don't want me to go."
"I think it makes perfect sense. And I know you wanted to return to the field."
"But? Cuz there's this big silent unhappy coming from your side of the desk."
"But I'll miss you." But I hoped you'd get a local posting. But I'll be scared for you the whole bloody time, because you're infuriatingly brave and confident and someday that may be your downfall.
She nodded, fiddling with something in one pocket, eyes down and avoidant. "Yeah. But you can't come with, can you?"
It had never occurred to Giles that he could. And for a second.... "Bit old for fieldwork, aren't I?"
"I thought we never said 'too old'?" She was smiling, but not with her eyes.
But reality was taking hold of Giles again. "You know I can't. The training..." The library. The research council. The Slayer Council. The whole bloody boiling of administration and expertise which apparently he alone could hold together. He fought down familiar panic again.
Faith was nodding. Then shaking her head. Saying things which basically agreed that no, he couldn't drop everything and go to Mongolia with her. It was all sensible, and reasonable and he wanted to say fuck it and go with the woman he loved to the four corners of the planet and...
Ahem. Earth to Giles?
But there was an important thought in there. "Faith."
It stopped her apologising for his hopelessness, at least. "Yeah?"
"You should go. I can't go. But... would you phone when you can?"
Blink. "Sure, G. Can't promise every day, in the field, but as often as poss..." She shrugged one careless shoulder.
A call every week would be better than he'd hoped for. "Thank you. Because... look, don't take this the wrong way.... I mean, you're more than capable of undertaking the mission, I'm sure you'll be back soon... it's just I wanted to say before you go..."
Faith snapped her fingers in his face. "G? You're out of control."
He grinned at her. "Yes. Because I'm trying to say I love you, you impossible bloody woman. And I don't want you to run away when I do. Or punch me." Romance 0: Foot in mouth 20.
But it was all right. She was laughing. "Way to sweep a girl off her feet G."
Still, best to check. "But you don't mind?"
Pause. "No.... I think I'll get used to the weird."
Impossibly marvellous bloody woman.
She was still and grey in the bed. She didn't look like his Faith. More like the girl in a coma he'd visited eight years before in Sunnydale.
He sat down beside her in the plastic hospital chair. Took her hand, for company. Hours passed.
Eventually, she shifted a little. Eyelids lifted, and tongue flickered across her oddly pale mouth. (She hated him seeing her without lipstick. Even after three years. He felt guilty for noticing.)
"Hey G. Welcome to Ulan Bator." Her eyes flicked sideways. "I'm still here, right?"
"Yes, you're still here." We couldn't move you. Because of the blood loss.
"Thought you couldn't leave your library?" Blessed Slayer healing. She didn't sound too bad for someone who'd had three full transfusions.
"I made a special detour, since you went to so much trouble to get my attention." Thirty eight hours of transport hell from the moment the reports arrived at Headquarters. Out of phone and internet range half the time, fearing she would be gone before he arrived. She didn't need to hear about any of that. She'd had much of the muscle of one thigh removed, bitten and burnt off by the wolf-sorcerer. She should have been dead. She had been screaming in her sleep an hour before.
But now, she wasn't even worried about her own injuries.
"Tzipi's dead, huh?"
There wasn't a way of sugar-coating that. "Yes. I'm afraid we recovered her remains."
"Tiny little bits." She sounded peaceful, though the words were horrors. "He just kept slicing her. She was screaming. The whole fucking city must have heard her." Less peaceful now. He kept his hand on hers as she described the time it took the young Slayer to die.
After a while, she began to talk about herself too. "I wanted to run in and stop it. But I had to get the palmate, and then the girls needed me out of there, and I just had to lie there and hide till they'd collected all the stuff. And then he caught me."
"Yes." Faith never talked about her own injuries. Giles had learnt not to press.
"Shoulda just run in and grabbed her, right?" Faith was looking up at the ceiling, fiercely focused. Tears were running out of the corners of her eyes.
Giles fought the urge to kiss the tears away, pat her comfortingly and break their unspoken no-pity rule. Brutal truth was their way. "No. That would have been suicidally stupid. You did the right thing. Four of you lived. We're a step closer to breaking him. It needed to happen."
"Yeah." Shaky, but with him. She believed she'd done the right thing. That was important.
They sat in silence for long, quiet minutes.
"I hate this place. Can we go home?"
"Of course we can." It took him 24 hours of negotiation and a good chunk of his savings account, but he took her home with him.
"I'm coming back," she said as she stepped onto the plane. "Gotta finish the job."
"I know. It's all right. Just... I think you need better weapons for this one."
Faith grinned, full in his face and confident for the first time since she'd seen him in the hospital. "Well, yeah. Why'd you think I keep you around, G? Get to work!"
Giles could picture every move from the time she said, "Okay G, here goes nothing." First, she'd break the glass vial into the leather pouch, add the miscellaneous and stinky herbs, and wait while Therese finished her chant. Crack, rustle, ommmmm. All quite clear over the phone.
She was still talking to him; far beyond what was wise before a mission. "Be right, G. Be right. I can't keep losing to this guy." Oh Christ. Let me be right this time He'd be part responsible if this went wrong. He wasn't sure he could bear it.
This was the first real chance they'd had, thanks to Giles's translation of the Watchers' hidden text on Pindarian mysticism. Endless hours of preparatory incantations, sourcing rare materials – all for this half-hour's opportunity. Faith said as much as she completed her final preparations. "That damn library pulled it off again. Might be time we stopped joking about the dusty old books. And the Librarian deserves a little respect. Maybe in silky underwear, at that."
But before he could extract a promise about that, he could hear the reaction begin in the pouch and Slayer duty got in the way of happy fantasies. "Okay, this is it," were the last words she said to him. He could hear her speaking into her headset for a few seconds more. "Dita? Now!" She and Therese would drop the pouch on the back path and head into the lair, working to plan C as agreed. This was kill or be killed: finally, the showdown on their terms that had eluded them for two years of painful effort and knockbacks.
And Giles wasn't there to take part. He was waiting thousands of miles away beside a dead phone handset. Considering taking up prayer in his old age. Occasionally trying to imagine (and then trying not to imagine) what might be happening to her. What he'd do if she was... injured.
He was breaking the rules. "No losing sleep, okay G?" She said it every time she left him. He tried hard to abide by it – his own private superstition. So he had to wait, and try not to think.
He catalogued a lot of routine textbooks at times like this.
Hours later, she was on the phone again, jubilant. "G? G! We did it! You did it! That little spell ball just blew away the defences."
"Are you all right?" Giles's voice cut through her good cheer.
"Fine, no problem. We're all good. Your spell thing-"
"Necromantic incantation of the fourth degree." Giles was aware he sounded slightly pompous, but he was proud of that piece of work.
"Yeah, that. Worked perfect. Big ol' nasty couldn't get away. And we got him. We fucking got him, G. He's gone. I saw it myself. No way is he coming back.
"Did I mention how lucky you were gonna get if you fixed this for us? So gonna get laid, Watcher-man. When I've had a shower or ten and cleaned the weapons, and set up Akemi in charge of the squad...
"Crap, G, it's gonna be weeks before I get out of here."
Giles broke into her bubbling thoughts. "Faith?"
She laughed in simple glee. "Best present ever."
"Happy birthday." Darling he didn't say. Endearments and Faith didn't sit well together on his tongue.
"Little bit late," she said, nose wrinkled disapprovingly.
"Only six weeks. But I had plans."
"And I screwed them up. Pesky demon slaying."
"Well quite. I do wish the demons would lay off around your birthday, at least. Bloody creatures are a menace."
"I'll tell'em that next time." Faith flicked a quick glance to see how Giles took 'next time'.
Philosophically: "Yes. You probably will." She would never not be a Slayer, any more than he would ever be less than twenty-five years her senior. It was simply who they were.
"'Sup G?" You could still stop, Giles. Walk away from her and never cringe from another dropped consonant. Or five.
But that wouldn't be any fun.
So he went on. "I've been thinking."
"Okay." She looked wary, inevitably. Gilesean thinking tended to run into paragraphs and training schedules.
"I'm a lot older than you. We're never going to be the matching bath-towels and babies types, are we?"
She looked warier still, trying to joke him away. "Matching babies? Not my idea of fun, G."
He ignored that feeble effort. "But still, we've been... partners... for more than four years. It seems to be working. I think it really would be worth... regularising the position."
Silence. Except in Giles's head. Where the words regularising the position were echoing in an increasingly destructive spiral of derision and self-loathing. It had seemed like a logical approach, avoiding Faith-scaring romance. Until he said it aloud, when it became the crassest proposal in the history of Mills & Boon. "I love you, you little idiot" was poetry in comparison.
Oddly, Faith was neither laughing nor fleeing. She was still facing him across the supper table candles. Her expression was almost blank.
"G... Did you just propose to me?"
Could he say no? "Um... yes."
"Because it wasn't all that clear."
He looked down at his hands. "No. No it wasn't."
She said, "For real?"
When he looked up, she still looked half-stunned, but there was a hint of sparkle in her eyes. He took courage. "I thought it would be a good idea."
She was considering it. He'd never quite believed she would. "Till death do us part-married?"
"Yes." And that might be sooner than either would hope. But they knew that. It was who they were.
She sat very still, eyes cast down: very un-Faith in contemplation. He waited for her decision.
Sweeter words were never heard by Watcher.