Title: Chip Tooth Smile
Rating: FRAO Overall/FRT This chapter
Timeline: AU, one year post-series...no Dawn, Anya survived Sunnydale.
Synopsis: A year after Sunnydale, there are quite a few changes in the Scoobies' lives. There are more changes to come.
It had been a year since the implosion of Sunnydale.
Giles had returned to England two weeks later. He had taken the new Slayers with him. While most of the Council members had perished in the attack by Caleb, there were a few survivors – and everyone was going to be needed…and they were going to need more Watchers. Giles had decided to take on that task, intent on rebuilding the Council. However, he had the knowledge to improve what the Council had been – and that was his plan.
Willow had gone with him, returning to the Coven that had helped her a few years earlier. A few months later, she moved to the new Council building that Giles had had built in the English countryside. She had questioned him about the location and he had simply replied that he didn’t care for the city any longer. She joined the Council as a Coven liaison and was excelling in her new position.
Xander and Anya had taken a few months to themselves. They hadn’t said where they went, but when they arrived in England 6 months after everyone else…they were a much stronger couple. Giles had held two positions open for them, in hopes that they would join them. It hadn’t taken much convincing. After all, what else were they going to do? Xander was now in charge of construction, which had turned out to be a massive job considering the span of rebuild/build that was going on. Anya was leading the demonology department. At first, she had complained…saying that it was only because she was a former demon. It wasn’t until Giles had explained that he was offering her the position based on her actual knowledge of demons that she had smiled and accepted the role.
Buffy had followed Giles to England a few weeks later. She had needed time to work through her feelings concerning the rift between her and Giles – and she needed to decide if she even wanted to work through those feelings. She had been so angry with him and was having trouble seeing a future relationship with him. However, once they were apart, she understood the reasonings behind his actions. In an even more interesting twist, she agreed with them. She knew that she could help Giles with the Council rebuild and felt that was her new calling…there were so many new Slayers who would benefit from what she and Giles could offer. And so, three weeks after Giles had landed at Heathrow, she called him…to see if he would consider picking her up from the very same airport the following day.
He answered ‘yes’ with no hesitation…and when she made her way through customs, she found him easily in the large crowd of people waiting on their loved ones. She walked up to him and he smiled, pulling her into a hug before taking her bag. That hug was their new beginning.
Tonight was the one year anniversary of the implosion. They had all gathered at Buffy’s flat…drinks, dinner, conversation…memories.
Giles listened intently to the conversation currently taking place, smiling softly as he nursed his drink.
“What do you mean you’re not worried about getting older?” Anya asked, obviously thoroughly confused.
“Everything I’ve been through? I get one day older, that’s one day less from dying young. For years, my goal was to make it to 22. I hit that. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.” Buffy replied with a smile. “Died a couple of times along the way, but hey…here I am.”
Giles’ smile faded and he lowered his eyes, staring at the label on his beer bottle. The memory of her death still haunted him and probably always would.
Xander noticed the change in Giles and quickly tried to steer the conversation in another way. “Yeah, getting older…good, definitely of the good. But, what about past mistakes? Like, if you could go back…knowing what you know now, would you do things the same or would you mix it up?”
Buffy thought about that for a long moment and then smiled. “You know, I think I’d do everything exactly the same. Every single one of my choices…wins and losses…have made me who I am today. I like who I am today…even if it was stupid fucking hard getting here.”
Giles chuckled and took a long sip from his beer.
“You wouldn’t change anything? Really?” Anya asked, sliding her arm through Xander’s and resting her head on his shoulder. “There’s not one thing you would change from the train wreck that your life has been?”
They all stared at Anya.
Anya rolled her eyes. “For fuck’s sake, seriously? Everyone in here knows what a ride we’ve all been on…Slayer Express, first stop – oh wait, derailment…”
Buffy shook her head, but smiled. She glanced at Giles and took a deep breath when he looked at her. “There’s probably one thing I actually would change…”
“What’s that?” Willow asked, cutting off a piece of cheese and popping it into her mouth.
Buffy blushed lightly and broke the gaze she was holding with Giles. Giles lowered his eyes and lightly pulled at the label on his bottle.
“All the fighting with Giles.” Buffy answered quietly. “Bad shit happened whenever we were…at odds.”
Giles snorted a laugh. “At odds…now that is an interesting term to use to describe our issues.”
“Well, I never hated you. But, we were at odds a few times.” She waited until she had his complete attention and then gave him a smile. “I always hated not having you with me.”
He was sure that he saw something flicker in her eyes, but dismissed it quickly. He cleared his throat and nodded in agreement. “Yes, as did I. Things seemed very much out of balance when we were…at odds.”
Xander and Willow cast a quick glance at one another.
“What about you, Giles?” Anya asked, grabbing a handful of popcorn from the bowl in Xander’s lap.
“What about me?” He asked, furrowing his brow.
“Do you worry about getting older?”
The other four darted their eyes amongst themselves for a moment before Xander spoke.
“You know, I’ve gotta say…for someone who used an obscene amount of words to tell me to go to class, a one-word answer was not what I was expecting…”
Giles sighed heavily. “I’ve watched a lot of people die in my lifetime. More than once, I was sure that I wouldn’t make it out of whatever predicament I’d gotten myself into. But, somehow…against all odds…it always worked out. Maybe it didn’t work out as I had hoped it would, but it worked out nonetheless. So now I’m happy to have a drink and spend an evening with those I love. One day will be my last day, but that might not be tonight.”
Willow smiled. Xander gave him a salute with his beer bottle. Anya stared at him quizzically. Buffy nodded slowly, her smile showing in her eyes.
“Decent answer, Giles.” She said softly.
“Thank you.” He replied, holding her gaze for a moment before reaching over and grabbing three Jaffa Cakes from the plate on the coffee table.
He wasn’t exactly sure what to think at the moment. He and Buffy had been spending a fair amount of time together in recent months. Sometimes they were training, but more often than not they were doing this…sitting with a drink and just talking. It had felt amazing to be able to reconnect with her…or connect with her, he corrected himself. They had connected in a way that they never had before in Sunnydale. In Sunnydale, they’d been close, they had bonded well – as all good Watcher/Slayer partnerships had in the past, they had trusted one another, they had become true friends.
But it was different now, here in his homeland.
She didn’t seem as restless here. Perhaps that was due to the fact that there wasn’t a Hellmouth here. But, in one of their late night conversations over tea, she had told him that she had tired of running, fighting, and hunting. She’d still do it when needed, because that was a part of her that would always remain. But, she wanted to have a proper life…a real life…with a real relationship one day. She was tired of the dichotomy of her existence.
He grinned at the memory. Those had been her words. ‘I’m tired of the dichotomy of my existence, Giles. I just want to be…me.’ And then she had paused, narrowed her eyes, and stared at him. And then playfully blamed him for her uttering the phrase ‘dichotomy of my existence’.
He had taken it as a compliment, which made her roll her eyes in the way that seemed to make his heart skip a beat these days. He knew what that meant…he’d been around long enough to recognize the beginnings of feelings that were becoming…more. More than what they should be, considering who they were and what they had been through…and what was still left to do before they could both step down.
While they were getting along much better these days – and he could only remember one actual argument since her arrival in England – he could feel that boundaries were becoming blurred, lines being tiptoed over briefly. Their lives, their relationship in whichever form it was at the time, had never been simple – but he could sense the complications bounding towards him. And he wasn’t sure how to avoid them.
Furthermore, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to avoid them. This time.
He’d been avoiding them for years. They’d come and gone, off and on throughout the years. They’d mostly come at the most inopportune times – when she was seeing Riley, when she had emotionally asked for him to train her again, when he was fairly certain he was going to die in an abandoned petrol station, when he’d watched her die, when he saw her for the first time upon her resurrection…
He was sure he could come up with more moments, but he purposely stopped himself.
There was no apocalypse looming at the moment, no Hellmouth needing to be closed in their vicinity…nothing that could help him divert the complications barreling towards him at an unnervingly high rate of speed. That concerned him. Those complications could very well be –
Giles looked up quickly, somewhat surprised to find four people staring at him in concern. He cleared his throat and focused on Buffy.
“You okay?” She asked softly, reaching over and placing her hand on his knee. “You, uh…kinda went away there for a bit…”
“Went away?” He asked, covering her hand with his as he leaned forward and put his empty beer bottle on the coffee table. “What do you mean?”
“You just looked like you were having some really deep thoughts…and you weren’t very responsive…”
“She means you zoned out and wouldn’t answer us when we were saying your name.” Anya clarified. “It was weird. You haven’t done that in a long time.”
A smile pulled at the corner of Giles’ mouth and he rubbed the back of his neck. “My apologies. Just old memories…I’m here now.”
That seemed to ease their concern and after a while conversation was flowing again. Xander, Willow, and Anya were busy talking amongst themselves about the time they had followed a Ghandish demon into the cemetery. Buffy moved over to sit next to Giles, gently nudging him as she sat down.
“You sure you’re okay?” She asked quietly.
He nodded slowly and offered her a warm smile. “I’m fine, Buffy. Really, just old memories.”
She looked into his eyes for a moment and then exhaled deeply. “One day you’re going to tell me.”
“Tell you what?” He asked, wondering what exactly she had seen in his eyes.
She gave him a wink and gestured towards his empty beer bottle. “Want another?”
He shook his head, the fact that she had ignored his question was not lost on him. “No, I’ll need to be leaving in the next hour or so…”
“I’ll make some tea, then.”
He watched her get up and walk towards the kitchen. After a few seconds, he stood up and followed her. She turned to look at him when he walked into the kitchen.
He tilted his head slightly as he looked at her. “One day I’m going to tell you what?”
“What’s really going through your head.” She smiled as he narrowed his eyes slightly. “You were having some serious thoughts in there, Giles. That wasn’t just ‘old memories’. You don’t drift away following old memories.”
“It’s okay. I’m not going to hound you about it. But, one day…you’ll tell me. At least, I hope you do – because I think you kinda need to get it out instead of keeping things all bottled up. It’s not good for you…and we’re not getting any younger.”
He chuckled softly and nodded in agreement, moving around her to pull five mugs down from the cupboard.