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Reappropriation

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One fact of owning a shop that Giles had struggled coming to terms with was flyers.

There always seemed to be someone coming in with some bundle of paper or another in some sort of garish, eye watering color about some event or festival or party. Giles never paid attention to the contents. He just tore them down twice a week and crumpled them all up into a garish, brightly colored ball to drop into the garbage can. Stopping them from being put up resulted in a loss of business in their main demographic, which was starry eyed adolescents. Starry eyed adolescents always seemed to have some cause or another, especially these starry eyed adolescents, when they really should have been focused on surviving.

In this, at least, he and Anya agreed. Anya didn’t like the flyers that people were always trying to scatter around the place anymore than he did, because they typically wound up in the shop windows and therefore blocked the view of the merchandise and reduced the chance of her making money.

The others knew their annoyance on the subject quite well. Or at least, Giles had thought they did. Even Dawn avoided making use of the Magic Box, and she still had school functions and clubs and the like to participate in. So there was that, at least.

Or there was that, at least, until Giles came out of the back room one late summer afternoon and found himself smack in the middle of an argument.

Anya was on one side, Willow and Tara were on the other, Buffy was attempting in her ineffectual way to make peace and the volume was rising to the level that his ears hurt. He didn’t see Xander or Dawn, but Giles was glad of that, for the moment. At least they’d had the good sense to get out before Anya got started.

“Anya!” Willow was yelling. “Stop being so…pigheaded, for once! This is important, and we need to get the word out! Lots of, of people like us come in here every day, they’d definitely see it and we’d get so much more support!”

“Anya, I know you and Giles like to do your twice weekly bit of…cleaning, but, but think of it this way!” Buffy added brightly. “It’s like a perk for helping out around here! In lieu of a paycheck!”

“You people get plenty of perks instead of money,” said Anya flatly. “Buffy gets to use the entire back room and I know Willow takes things when she needs to use dangerous magic and Giles never says anything even though we don’t make any money when she does that!”

“We’ll only put up one,” Tara said hopefully, so softly that she was almost inaudible in the general argument. Willow responded by taking her hand in what was at least a sign of acknowledgement before she started in again.

“That’s different! That’s the fate of the world, hello! You know Giles would give me that stuff if I asked, or he would, if he…”

“Ahem.” Buffy cleared her throat noisily. She’d just looked up and noticed the Watcher-turned-shopkeeper in question leaning against the countertop and suffering through a headache. “Hello, Giles.”

“Hello,” Giles said, not quite managing or bothering to conceal his irritation. “Can I help you four?”

Willow, looking appropriately contrite, inched towards Giles enough to hold out one of the bright yellow flyers for his inspection. Giles took it, took off his glasses to clean them, and slipped them back on to read.

The words printed in bold at the top of the page made him go cold. It felt as though his heart stopped, and through the sudden roaring in his ears, Giles was only just aware of Buffy, Willow, and Tara speaking to him.

“I’d never normally ask, I know how important the Magic Box is to you, but this is the first one here in Sunnydale, and I think it could be great to have everyone gathered together…”

“And don’t worry, we’d be sure to have everyone off the streets before dark, and of course I’d be there to keep an eye out for any kind of badness…”

“M-Mister Giles, it would really…”

“No.”

Now the ringing wasn’t only in his ears. With one word, the shop had fallen that silent. When Giles forced himself to look up, he saw that even Anya was staring stunned at him.

His jaw set. Giles crumpled the flyer into a ball and let it fall to the floor. How they could look at him like that, such thoughtless children, but…no. That wasn’t fair of him.

It wasn’t as though they’d ever known.

But that didn’t make the forcible dredging up of his past, or the feeling that he’d been so utterly betrayed, if only through thoughtlessness, hurt any less.

“Get out,” he said. His voice sounded strange in his ears. As though to reassure himself that he’d really said those words, Giles repeated them. “The three of you, get out. Anya and I need to open.”

Buffy recovered herself first, Anya just after. Willow and Tara...Giles looked away from them, turned away, and walked towards the basement without looking back.

The business day proceeded from there. Or at least, Giles presumed it did. He didn’t really remember much of it later, and was incredibly grateful despite himself for the fact that Anya took out her frustration over the morning by milking anyone foolish enough to walk through the door for all they had. Giles explained what needed explaining and rung up what needed ringing up because Anya was too busy with someone else. None of the others came in. Giles was grateful for that, too. He honestly didn’t know how he’d react to them right now, and uncertainty like that always scared him just a little.

At least Anya didn’t ask. Giles wasn’t at all certain how he would have explained. After all, of all people, his sort was probably further outside of Anya’s area of expertise…except as the occasional victim.

Fortunately, Anya said nothing about the events of the morning, instead shooting the occasional dirty look at the shop window that expressed all of her feelings on flyers for offensive town events. After she’d shunted the last customer out the door with a bag in their hand, Anya went immediately to count out the day’s proceeds and left Giles to himself. No words were said. A glance at Anya was enough to confirm that she was about as much in the mood to talk as he was, so Giles left her to it and retreated to the training room.

He and Buffy would normally have gone through a training session this morning, had things not gotten so horribly strange. When circumstances prevented, sometimes she’d come in for a session in the evenings, instead.

But the point was that there was nothing to put away, and he wasn’t entirely sure if he should pull anything out, either. But, all the same, Giles busied himself just generally tidying up. Keeping his hands busy had always been a good way to free up his mind for other things.

And keeping his hands busy made it a bit easier to ignore that they were shaking, with all the unpleasant recollections that seemed to have gathered like dust in the corners. England was an ocean away, now, and his adolescent years were decades in the past. But some things just…stuck with you. The words and the shouting and the fists flying, the sound of shattering glass and bodies colliding and running, running, running.

Sometimes, vampires were a picnic. At least a vampire’s motivations were easy enough to understand.

“M-Mister Giles?”

He didn’t look up. He didn’t have to. He recognized the voice, through the fog of memory, and he couldn’t even say that he was terribly surprised. He and her had never been terribly close, but the matter of…people like them was important to her, important enough to even shake her out of her shyness.

“Hello, Tara,” he said, setting down the knife he’d been cleaning. “Something you need?”

“…yeah.” He heard her take a few steps into the room, and heard her close the door behind her. “Kind of. I guess I just…w-wanted to ask you. About today.”

“What did you want to ask?”

He could see that Tara was feeling uncomfortable, standing in the doorway like that. So Giles moved aside to make a bit of extra room for her on the couch. With a clear effort of will, Tara eventually moved forward and took the offered seat. She didn’t look up at him, though, just stayed staring at her hands like she always did. Rupert Giles and Tara Maclay had never really moved in the same circles.

“…w-why?” She finally spoke, her voice trembling with anxiety, but also with conviction. “I, I mean…I thought you were an ally. The way you treat Willow and me, I mean, I never thought you had a problem with us…”

“I don’t.” It stung a bit that she even thought he did. But Giles kept his tone of voice level, with an effort, and decided to try from a different angle. “Sorry…‘ally’? I, um, I think we’re working from two separate definitions, Tara.”

She gave an embarrassed little half-shrug. “It’s just…w-what we call, um, people like you. Straight people that are, um, sympathetic. To…to people like us. Like allies.”

Silence fell for several long seconds, during which point Tara twisted her fingers in her lap and Giles just stared at the wall, feeling as though all the air had been sucked from his lungs. God, he could just kick himself. He’d just assumed, he’d never thought he had to say…

“…I’m afraid there’s an assumption you’re making, Tara, that isn’t entirely accurate.”

“An…” Tara looked up at him, this time, her brow furrowing in puzzlement. Giles looked back at her, and something in his eyes must have given him away, because comprehension dawned. “Oh.” One hand went to her mouth, and Tara looked mildly horrified. Giles knew her well enough to know, however, that she was horrified at her own thoughtlessness, not at the fact that she was talking to a bisexual man. With others, they might have been – everyone always needed someone to look down on, after all. But not Tara.

“I, I-I’m so sorry. I-I didn’t mean…I mean, I didn’t know.”

“Of course you didn’t. I never said.” Thinking back, he realized that they’d all probably forgotten he was capable of romantic feelings at all. It had been such a long time since Jenny had been in his life. Such a long time, and his throat still closed tight at the thought of her. “Besides, I’m, um, rather busy, what with the Hellmouth and the shop. Don’t really have time for, um, f-for that sort of thing.” He took off his glasses to clean them, almost unaware he was doing it until the world suddenly slid out of focus. But he could feel Tara’s sympathetic gaze, and he didn’t want sympathy, if only because it was a reminder of how, in a lot of ways, his life was actually a bit empty.

“Then…M-Mister Giles, I, I think I’m even more confused. I mean, I-I don’t want to tell you how to feel but…w-why wouldn’t you let Willow put up the flyer? I mean, more awareness, about us, it could really help. Even just…bringing us all t-together for a day would be nice.”

“Yes, well, I confess – I’m a bit perplexed, myself.” Here, he was on safer ground, safe enough that Giles could slide his glasses back onto his face and return Tara’s gaze. “I don’t understand why you or, um, or Willow, would ever support an event that made use of that…” That word, he tried to say it, but some old scars faded hard, and he finished lamely with: “That…sort of language.”

“Language?” Tara seemed genuinely confused. “I didn’t know there was anything...offensive in it. I mean, I didn’t read it all the way, but, um, Willow did, and she wouldn’t ever have put it up, if there was anything like that…”

“But there was, Tara.” He sounded more frustrated than he had intended. Giles rested his head in one hand and took a breath and counted to five. Blessedly, when he spoke again, the momentary slip had passed. “There was. ‘Queer’. Right there at the top.”

Even now, thirty years later, he hated even having to say that word.

“Queer? But…M-Mister Giles, that, th-that isn’t a bad word. It’s, um, it’s just a generic term, to refer to gay men, a-and lesbians, and bisexuals, and transgendered people, all together, and…”

Then she saw the look on his face, and faltered in her explanation, looking uncertain again. “…isn’t it?”

“No. It isn’t.”

He’d hoped never to have to talk about this again. Even if it meant living his entire life without letting himself show any sign of romantic affection for anyone, it would be fine, if he could just live his life and get on with his duties without ever enduring again what he had back then. He was bigger than he had been, stronger, so much stronger, but fear was an irrational beast that moved into the mind and made its nest and never, ever left.

But he couldn’t be afraid, anymore. He had a Slayer to look after, and he had people to protect, and dammit, he had a world to save. This shouldn’t scare him this much anymore.

Sometimes, talking helped. So, there and then, Giles did. At least it was Tara. Of all the people that had gathered around Buffy over the years, Tara was the best at just sitting and listening, and it was a very long time since anyone had just sat and listened to Giles when the fate of the world wasn’t at stake.

“It’s not just a…a harmless word, Tara. It’s, i-it’s something people shout when they toss bottles at you or, or chase you down the street. ‘Queer bashing’ is a Saturday night hobby. It’s, it’s a word that ruins people. It can even get them killed. So, s-so to see it just…tossed about, like that, like it doesn’t mean all those things…” His hands were shaking. Giles clenched them tight until he felt his nails digging into his palms. Tara noticed – she noticed a lot, really, even if they didn’t notice that she did. After a momentary war with herself, she reached out and rested one of her hands over his.

“…I th-thought you all would be, um, w-walking into a…a potential danger.” A trap. It felt silly, now, saying it in the safety of the training room, but before, seeing all those bright colors and exclamation marks and then that word…it had really seemed like bait for a trap, for some sort of mass slaughter so they could just get all the beatings out of the way and have the rest of the month off.

Tara gave him a minute to recover, sensing his distress and his bad memories. Her voice, when she spoke again, was the gentle, soothing tone he’d often used himself, on those victims of a disaster that they still had to question. He almost laughed to hear it. Was that really what he sounded like to her? Or was this just how Tara was with people? If it was, he’d never noticed it. Today was probably the most they’d talked, just them, since…he couldn’t remember.

“Words change. The, the meanings…th-they can change. M-Maybe it meant that before, but…but it doesn’t now. It, it really doesn’t.” She offers him a smile, sweet and hopeful. “But, hey, th-that’s good, right? I mean, we took something bad, and…and we made it something good. Reappropriation.”

He’d never heard that word used for something positive before. It was always down in the history books to mark some series of heinous crimes against another culture. Giles still wasn’t entirely certain that such wasn’t the case here…but he could also see where, just maybe, it might not be. ‘Queer’ hadn’t been a part of their culture at first, it had belonged to the culture of those who hated them, chased them down in the streets, made sport out of kicking them until they coughed up blood. After all that had been stolen from them…stealing a word from them in turn had to be something, right?

“Perhaps,” is what he admitted out loud. “And, and if it is, then that is a noble endeavor. But…Tara, you, y-you have to understand. Changing the meaning of something in future, it, it doesn’t change the meaning it had to, t-to those who’ve already suffered.” To people like him, and Ethan, and Deidre and Randall. To people who’d already grown up and grown old in a world where this word meant something awful and had already left its scars on them. “I, I know we should change, I know we’re…part of the past, now. A worse past. But anyone hoping to, to make a certain sort of future…well, um, y-you have to remember the past.”

“…you’re right.”

There were tears gathering in Tara’s eyes, and as Giles looked back at her, the girl’s grip on his hand tightened. It was a gesture of understanding, maybe even of solidarity. He could tell – when she wanted to be, when she wasn’t afraid, Tara wore her heart on her sleeve.

“You’re right,” she repeated. “I…I think we were just concentrating so much on, on hoping for the future that…w-we forgot. Or…w-we didn’t want to think about it. Because a lot of it’s been bad. I knew that. I guess I just…never lived it.”

“And you have no idea how glad I am of that, Tara.” His was a life that no one else should ever have had to endure, for more reasons than one. “I…I suppose things have gotten better, in recent years. I just, um, w-wouldn’t have known. I-I’ve been…well, busy.”

“I know. Because…because you’ve been busy for us, Mister Giles. I know I, I haven’t been with you guys f-for that long, but…I’ve seen that. I have.” Her voice lowered to almost a whisper, as though she were embarrassed to admit what she did next: “I just…wish you didn’t have to.”

Sometimes, Giles wished that, too. Sometimes, he wished it so much it hurt. Sometimes, he just wanted someone. Someone to be for him what Jenny had been. It didn’t matter what gender they were. It never had, to him.

…but, failing that, he wanted someone to listen.

And it seemed that he’d found that, and it felt as though the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.

He saw Tara out, a while later. Tara, apparently satisfied and seeing something changed for the better in his eyes, went willingly, bidding him goodnight and looking him straight in the eyes as she did so – a gesture of familiarity and comfort that was generally reserved only for Willow and Dawn.

And perhaps it was that, the realization that they’d known one another for two years and she’d never looked him directly in the eye until tonight, that drove Giles to reach into the wastebin behind the counter, and pull out a crumpled yellow flyer. For once, just this once, he was glad that Anya generally viewed tidying up as beneath her.

Giles stayed in the shop for a while more, after that. He sat at the table where, so many times before, they’d all gathered together with books and drinks containing enough caffeine to stun an elephant for a long night of research and saving the world. The table was empty, tonight. The world was in that rarest of states, the state of peace.

Giles wished he could feel the same. Instead, he sat, and he read the flyer over and over and over again, staring at it until long after all the words but one had lost all meaning to him.

Life was hard, during that time, for a bisexual man. All right, it was even harder for a gay man, because at least a bisexual had the option of settling down with a decent enough girl, without spending every waking moment trying to blot out of the wrongness.

Lesbians had it easier. No one was prepared to admit they really existed at all, and it wasn’t as though their way of getting off or having sex really counted. Pleasuring oneself with a vibrator was just a way of ensuring that you didn’t succumb to inconvenient hysteria, after all.

But what a bisexual man gained in his capacity for “stealth”, he lost in hostility from the gay community, who resented him for that capacity and were on high alert for the day he’d decide to just settle down with some respectably plain lady for a nice, normal family. Even if the one who’d really stolen your heart and drove you crazy in all the best ways was a man, your nights together would be spent trying to find places to shag where you couldn’t get arrested for it and fighting over the day it would inevitably end, even if you never, never wanted it to end.

He and Ethan had fought that fight, more times than Giles could remember, now. Shoving and shouting, “Why don’t you just go and find a nice harlot to fuck?”, “Because I want you, for the thousandth bloody time!”

Really, they’d gotten caught more often for the fights that followed their sex than for getting overheard in the middle of the act itself. Buggery had still been a crime, in those days – oh, fine, you could do it in a private place, never mind that there were precious few private places in London even if you were fortunate enough to have their own place. You could do it if no one heard you, and if you were both over twenty one. Ethan had been eighteen when Giles had been twenty one, and the sort of boy that looked sixteen.

Yes, they’d spent a fair few nights in lockup together. The watch had made sure everyone knew it, too, so that Giles would pick up a few more bumps and bruises. Someone had always been by the next morning, or maybe the morning after that, to pay his bail and let him out. Sometimes they paid for Ethan. Sometimes they didn’t. His father never did. The fights that followed nights like that were rough and angry and hateful and venomous, and yet they’d always left him wanting Ethan even more, so that he’d come slinking back later with some cheap whiskey and a new magic trick to try to get their minds off it, give them something else to cooperate on.

Magic was, in many ways, so much better than sex. Even if it was a roll of the dice whether the whiskey would calm Ethan out or only get him started again – “Run off with Deidre, then, and leave me alone!” Never mind the fact that Deidre had been a lesbian and wouldn’t have touched either of them with a ten foot pole. Phillip and Randall had both been together, as well. Somehow, some way, they’d managed to make it work without trying to rip one another’s throats out on what felt like a nightly basis. 

Sometimes, Giles had considered asking them for advice. He never had. They’d been respectful of him, as their gang leader, and showed him due deference for the power he brought and the protection he gave them. They’d never hit him with the same barbs that Ethan had, that only Ethan really could. But he’d always been alert for the day when life would get just a bit too hard and they’d start taking out their frustration on him in the same way.

Giles had been a good leader. He didn’t doubt that, even now. Right up until the day that he’d led them all that one step too far, taken them all in just that bit too deep, he’d been a good leader for the simple reason that he’d looked after his gang, and looked after them well. There were the drunks in the pub who’d come after one of them with planks and bats – of course there were, everyone who even looked gay got that sort of treatment. But they were never the same lot twice. Giles had seen to that, and it had been his first lesson that, sometimes, dark magic could have a good purpose.

He’d never had a good and healthy relationship with another man, not Ethan or any that had come after him. They’d catch him looking at a girl a little too long or he’d say the wrong thing and the truth would be out and then it would be all downhill from there.

There had been others, after Ethan, even after he’d entered the academy. There had even been a few girls. But there’d always been something missing, or something they wanted he couldn’t give or he wanted that they couldn’t give, and if he was lucky they’d end politely and if he was unlucky he’d have to construct a hasty protective charm that very night to ward off their angry hexes. Eventually, he’d given up. It wasn’t as though he didn’t have more important things to focus on.

Or so he’d kept telling himself.

Jenny had been a balm to his soul in so many ways. She’d looked right through him and seen the sort of man he was and she’d loved him for it. She’d teased him, yes, she’d yanked him around and made fun of him, but that had made it better, in a way. It had helped, oddly enough. It made the situation seem like something not so grim and damning, as something that you could laugh at.

But she’d also understood when the teasing had to stop, and the sensible talking and listening had to happen.

What Buffy and the others didn’t know was that he’d avoided Jenny, for a while, after their first kiss. That much emotion, after so long ignoring the existence of it, had been a great deal to bear, and had dredged up a lot that he’d buried deep down in his heart. IF Jenny hadn’t come looking for him, after three days of radio silence, he probably wouldn’t ever have found it in himself to look her in the eye again.

“Was it something I said?”

He flinched, but did not look up from the desk. All the same, he felt her presence just in front of him, and felt her gaze like a lens. And then, after a few seconds, he heard her sigh tiredly and walk towards him, until she was standing right beside his chair. Still, he couldn’t bear to look up at him.

“Something I didn’t say?”

It took almost everything he had, but Giles nodded very slightly. The words on the pages of his journal beneath his hand had blurred into illegibility.

“…something I didn’t say because I was busy making out with you?”He could hear the faint smile i her voice, and so hated it when he had to nod again. And then, after a few seconds, sounding suddenly so much older: “Rupert, come on. Stand up. Look at me.”

He didn’t want to look up. He didn’t deserve to look her in the eye or stand on the same level as her. But, at the same time, there was something about Jenny that he’d just never been able to deny, and it pained him more to hear her made so tired by him when he’d already put her through so much. So Giles did, pushing himself up out of his chair, although it took him a few seconds more before he could bring his gaze up from the carpet to meet her mesmerizing brown eyes.

“There,” said Jenny softly, smiling gently. “Was that so hard?” Before he could answer, she pressed a finger to his lips. “Don’t answer that.”

It was the first time he’d smiled in three days. Jenny understood. Looking back, that had been one of the very best things about loving her and being loved by her.

“S-Sorry,” is what he said out loud.

“I don’t…well, no, actually, an apology is nice,” said Jenny with a wry smile. “But that’s not what I want the most. What I want most is for you to talk to m, Rupert. I know I haven’t exactly set the greatest example there, but we’re adults, and it is what we’re supposed to do.”

“It’s…it’s hard to explain, Jenny. T-To be honest, um…well, I, I’ve never had to, before.” Or, more accurately, no one had ever asked.

“I didn’t expect it to be easy. Just give it a try.” Her hands, warm and soft, found his and gently took hold of them. His hands had been less scarred, then, and he’d been less afraid of anyone touching them. Her smile took on that truly gentle edge that was so rare to see but always made something warm and fluttery take roost in his chest when he did. “I think you’d be surprised at the kind of things I’d believe.”

He wouldn’t, actually. He knew that he wouldn’t. He’d already blown well past anything she could possibly believe, first with the nightmare of Eyghon and then…well, and then with the events of three nights ago. He’d taken Jenny further than he had a right to already. What was a bit further?

So she made tea, and he talked. He didn’t tell her everything, he couldn't have told her everything if they’d had a week to talk. It was just something that came from living a long life. You tended to acquire a lot of life experience, both good and bad. Jenny listened, and nudged him gently along when he stumbled, and nodded when appropriate. It took far less time than he felt it did but, at the end, his mug of tea was half-drunk and cooling, and Jenny was sitting beside him with both her hands covering one of his, for the reassurance it gave.

He still remembered, to this day, what she’d told him at the finish:

“Rupert…this doesn’t invalidate you. It doesn’t change who you are, or prove them right. It doesn’t change the fact that you’ve loved other men and women in the past, or make what you felt for them meaningless. You’re not going to be turned miraculously straight just because we happen to be in love, and I’m not going to think any less of you because of it.”

He remembered them that night alone in the shop with Tara’s voice added to Jenny’s.

***

It was a bright and sunny day in Sunnydale. The air was much too warm and still and heavy, forcing the gathered masses to clump themselves around the scattered coolers of water bottles suspended in half melted ice, the paper with their labels made damp and easy to tear with condensation.

But they were here, and that was what was important. They were here, and that was enough. Just being here, and seeing all the people who were like them or who sympathized with them, was a wonderful thing. All around the college green, people were chatting, laughing, talking, old friends and new friends just made that day. There was a stage set up at one end of the meadow, where a few students were hooking up speakers for what appeared to be a concert, scheduled for later.

People were passing out pamphlets. Giles had only slightly better feelings towards pamphlets than he had towards flyers. So it was fortunate that most of the young hopefuls passing out pamphlets and flyers and informational packets simply gave him odd looks and passed him by.

Or perhaps it wasn’t.

Giles wasn’t certain.

He knew that he was out of place. Just a quick scan of the green showed that he was the oldest person here by at least ten years. Probably no one was quite certain why he was here at all. Giles was keeping sufficiently the edge of things, at the very furthest back of the crowd, that there might still be some doubt.

Well, they weren’t alone in that. Giles had his doubts just in being here, his old residual fears at…well, at outing himself. He’d spent a long while cultivating the illusion that he was typical, in that regard at least. It was taking more than he liked to shed it.

But he could be here to show support. For these children who might, in a different time, have suffered as he suffered, endured what he’d endured…he could be here. And he could watch, and see what the future might just possibly hold.

“Button for your thoughts?”

He looked round, and there was Willow, beaming fit to burst. Giles wasn’t at all surprised. He’d seen her flitting around like a brightly colored mother hen, with Tara her perpetual shadow. He just hadn’t thought they’d noticed him. Or perhaps he’d just been hoping they wouldn’t.

“S-Sorry?” he asked.

Willow held out her hand, palm open. On her hand was, indeed, a button. It was, of course, colored in rainbows, and printed in large black letters were the words “Out and Proud”.

A look up at Willow revealed that her smile had faded somewhat, and now she looked a little anxious. Her arm trembled a bit, as if to take the button back.

“…i-if you want,” she amended, clearly remembering the fight the day before, clearly having agonized over it as much as he had. “I-I mean…buttons. Kind of lame, really. I-I don’t even know why I’m wearing one.”

But she was, pinned to the front of her shirt. And, when Giles looked around again, now that he knew what to look for he saw that others were, as well.

Giles didn’t fit in here. He knew that. Amidst the gaggle of hopeful college students eager to change the world, there was him, old and withdrawn and only just having come to accept that maybe the world could be changed. He didn’t look like he was here for the same protest at all.

“Fine,” he said, reaching out to take it. To his surprise, Willow tugged it out of his reach. But only to step forward and, with some ceremony, pin it to the lapel of his coat. And suddenly, just like that, Giles was a part of the crowd.

“Welcome to the party,” Willow chirped. “Want a handy-dandy informational pamphlet? We’ve got lots.”

He did have some handy-dandy informational pamphlets, so many that his pockets wound up near to overflowing. And he also provided some handy-dandy information, because no one had expected someone as old as him to attend the festivities, and many of the teenagers and young adults found themselves coming up with questions they hadn’t even known they had before the day began.

Time had to move on, and things had to get better. But there was always a place for history, even and perhaps especially bad history. Better to just make that place yourself, make it an invited guest. Better that than having the shadow of a dark past lingering over your hopeful future.