Title: Masked desire - part 1 (Masquerade - POTO)
Genre: Angst, Romance
Disclaimer: Nope, I still do not own Buffy TVS and its characters. I make no profit out of this... bummer. ;)
Summary: Masks, disguise and magic... it's Carnival in Venice. Giles and Buffy meet accidentally after years apart. Post S7, AU.
A/N: Hi again guys! It took me a while to get back with this B/G. I've been missing you lot and I can't wait to hear from you. This fic is fluffy and I promise it will remain T-rated... unless... I get some convincing requests. Hihihi
I hope you enjoy it.
A/N 2: Extra special thanks to mischiefmagnet for the beta and title idea. Check out her pre-series Giles fic, It's amazing.
Giles held two glasses of wine in his hands, wondering exactly how he got himself into this situation. He watched his long term best friend, Ethan Rayne, sweeping around the dance floor with a pretty young lady in his arms.
Ethan had come up with this plan, of course. They had resumed their friendship when Giles had moved back to England after Sunnydale had disappeared from the map. It wasn't so easy for Giles to accept Ethan back as a friend as it might sound. Ethan, however, had persuaded him (as always) and proved worthy of this role more than once in the last couple of years.
"C'mon, we will have some fun. You deserve a break, mate. You've always wanted to go there, anyway." Ethan had told him this in London four days ago and it was the truth; Giles had always dreamed about going to Venice to attend the Carnival festivities.
"However, that's not the way I had in mind, Ethan. Now, would you please give me my book back and drop the issue for Christ's sake?"
It did take a lot of convincing on Ethan's part; but what good is a life-long, annoying, over-powered, magick-wielding friend if not for these occasions?
Giles, in the end, had to agree with him that the perfect dream of taking the love of his life on a romantic trip to Venice was far, far away from sight. Actually, the love of his life had vanished from his world and he had no hope of falling in love again as intensely as he once had- might never again know such devotion or such pain...
So, that's how he ended up here; in a sumptuous, elegant, and consequently very expensive Masquerade Ball in one grand mansion in Venice, Italy. His friend led the lady on a waltz with surprising elegance. Ethan smirked to Giles when their eyes met and Giles lifted one of his glasses in a discreet toast.
How Ethan could be so good with women was a mystery to Giles. He had assumed that his lizard talk was what attracted them to him like bees to honey. But tonight there was no talking. In fact, Ethan could barely say 'thank you' or 'please' in Italian. It must really be the mask, as Ethan had told Giles himself. Ethan wore a Casanova costume, the romantic Venetian lover. The mask covered most of his face but his deep brown eyes, that exhaled power, seemed to be doing their trick in hypnotizing the ladies around.
The ladies, by the way, looked lovely tonight. Their beautiful long period dresses brought a magical atmosphere to the grand salon. The gentlemen were also in period costumes, hats and wigs. Both men and women alike wore magnificent and ornate masks. The refined orchestra, the large crystal chandelier hanging from the high ceiling, and the long set of stairs with red carpet at the side of the room completed the scenario.
It might not have been exactly as Giles always dreamed, but it was still incredibly overwhelming. He laughed despite himself and took a sip of his wine, still holding Ethan's glass in his other hand. The song came to an end, but the orchestra was already introducing the next melody and Ethan seemed contented in stay where he was, in the dance floor with his graceful dance partner.
A young couple left the dance floor and approached Giles. The brunette man in a very distinct period costume, a fine eye mask and a sea captain hat said something in Italian to the lady with him that Giles couldn't really hear. "Permesso," the man finally said, excusing himself while disengaging their arms and heading to the other end of the salon.
The girl that had been with him wore a magnificent dress and beautiful ornate golden mask. She seemed to look around in search of someone in particular.
Her eyes finally landed on Ethan's companion and she covered her mouth with her hand giggling under it. Ethan's dance partner met the girl's eyes and tilted her head, motioning to Giles in a warning look. Startled, Buffy looked at Giles and smiled, embarrassed for being caught giggling at what she understood to be his friend dancing with her friend Nina.
He half smiled to her, bowing his head in greeting before returning his gaze to the dance floor.
Their eyes met very briefly but something inside Buffy turned and did some weird flip flops. She backed up a little bit and watched attentively, yet discreetly, the man next to her.
'Surely it can't be him. What would Giles be doing here? It's being such a long time that my Slayer senses must be playing tricks on me. That must be it, I had too much wine or something. Giles is in England- according to Dawn- and not here, standing right next to me in Venice… particularly not in a Phantom-of-the-Opera costume,' Buffy thought as her eyes scanned him intensely.
He wore a white half mask that covered the right side of his face and had his hair combed to the back. His left side and his mouth were bare to her eyes. He had a dark cape falling around him and a tuxedo under it just the way she had seen Phantom dressed in the musical months ago in Rome.
It was him. She had no doubt what so ever. He had Giles' same posture, the same manners, and... the same friends, she muttered under her breath when she finally recognized Ethan Rayne dancing with her poor innocent friend, Nina.
Well... Nina could take care of herself, she thought, and in any case, she had Enrico to take care of her. For now she had far more pressing matters with which to occupy herself.
Giles apparently hadn't recognized her. It would be, in fact, very difficult to spot Buffy under all these layers of clothes, make-up and mask. She wore a period costume that they had rented as soon as the three of them had arrived in Venice. Her brunette wig, curled and nicely combed, was very impressive and made Buffy look very different as her friends had mentioned earlier.
She had to approach him, say something. She just didn't know what to start with. She decided not to reveal who she was right away. She would speak in Italian and see how long it would take him to find her out.
"Dov'è la sua Christine?" Buffy asked Giles in a fluent and perfect Italian. After living in Rome for a few years, she actually was able to completely hide her American accent and even fake a Roman one.
Giles was startled and although he was able to speak Italian fluently, he answered in reflex, "pardon?"
She smiled to him and repeated her question in English, still hidden under the guise of a heavy Italian accent. "Where is your Christine?"
He regarded her in puzzlement, waiting for her to clarify. "Christine- Christine Daaé?"
Buffy had to hold on firmly as her heart raced a thousand miles an hour when he looked into her eyes. She feared that it was the end of the joke, that he had discovered her already and not even her well copied Italian accent had managed to disguise her.
He frowned and took in her eyes under the mask. He shook his head as the shoe finally dropped. He looked down at his Phantom costume and smiled. "Somewhere else with Raoul, I'm afraid."
No, he still had not noticed that it was Buffy that was hidden under the golden mask.
Giles' clever answer made her beam inside. She remembered the Phantom of the Opera love story very well. She had watched it at the theatre and several times on video. Phantom loved Christine Daaé, but she loved Raoul and that was the end of it. Well... if you like to simplify stories, of course. Deeply, Christine truly loved the mysterious and musically talented Phantom, but Raoul was blond and good looking- not to mention a much safer match for her, and that had apparently been the end of it. But as we all know well, love never really dies**…
They fell silent and both gazed toward their friends dancing in front of them.
"What about your sea captain?" Giles asked, trying hard to sound nonchalant as he sipped from his wine and watched her over the rim of the glass.
She was surprised by his question. He must have been talking about Enrico, her friend from University that was dancing with her a few minutes ago. Enrico was a charming Italian friend that was, in fact, head over heels for Nina- the girl in Ethan's claws right now.
"He is not mine, I mean... he is- he likes Nina," She finally managed to say in her fake Italian-English way while motioning her hand to Nina.
"Ah," he answered. "You should not worry about my friend. Ethan is rather," he cleared his throat in search of an adequate adjective, "volatile."
The fact was that Ethan would give the girl the pleasure of a dance or two and would be soon taking his turn with the next one in line. That was Ethan- capricious, volatile.
Giles wasn't like that, not anymore. He had matured from his Ripper days as opposed to Ethan.
It wasn't so difficult for Buffy to control her Californian way of being and her accent as she had been mostly speaking Italian and acting Italian for the last year or so.
"Would you join me in a drink?" he said offering her Ethan's untouched glass of red wine.
"Here it is, bella" said Enrico in Italian as he inadvertently interrupted them and offered Buffy a glass of Champagne.
Buffy grinned to Enrico, "Scusa Enrico, but I'm having wine." She said as she accepted Giles' glass, "thank you."
Enrico faced Giles in surprise and Buffy rushed to introduce them, "Enrico, this is..." she stopped her sentence abruptly barely preventing herself from saying Giles' name. After all, he hadn't introduced himself to her yet.
"Giles, Rupert Giles," he revealed.
The young Italian man placed the glass of Champagne on a table nearby and wiped his hand, damp from the condensation of the cold drink, on his coat before extending it to greet Giles with an enchanting enthusiasm typical of the Italians.
"Enrico Torine," he said with a broad white smile.
"My brother," Buffy offered to Giles, interrupting Enrico. Her friend shot her a discreetly startled glance before whispering from the corner of his mouth, "tuo fratello?" (your brother?)
"Si," she confirmed with a guilty grin, glad that Giles didn't notice their exchange due to all the music and talk going on around them.
They shook hands and Buffy sipped at her drink. She had come up with this idea of introducing Enrico as her brother in order to give more veracity to her plot.
The three of them chatted for a little while about the ball, Venice and Italy in general. Enrico was one of Buffy's best friends and he was delightful company. His English wasn't as good as Buffy's, for obvious reasons, but they could manage a fluent talk as Buffy insisted that Giles speak in English so they could 'practice' the language.
Enrico had noticed that Nina was dancing with someone, however that didn't make him jealous. Their intention on heading all three together to Venice was to have fun and enjoy themselves. And they surely were having a lot of fun so far.
Enrico didn't get into many details of his life, afraid of giving away Buffy's story. Whatever she had in mind he would support her blindly. The young man could see, even through Buffy's mask, how her heavily made-up eyes looked at Giles with an intensity that he had never seen in her before.
When another song came to an end, Buffy saw Nina and Ethan leaving the dance floor and heading towards them.
She interrupted the talk abruptly and stole the wine glass from Giles' hand. She hurriedly gave both hers and Giles' glasses to Enrico. "We are going to dance, ballare, Enrico, ballare!" She said to him, as she grabbed Giles by the hand and started dragging him to the dance floor with her.
Enrico looked confusedly at her from where he stood holding, now, two glasses of red wine. "Ballare," he finally said, lifting one of the glasses in a toast to her happiness.
Ethan and Nina finally approached the Italian man and Ethan stole back one of the glasses from him. "This must be mine I guess, fellow. Ta." Ethan bowed his head to them politely and left the couple.
"Champagne, bella?" Enrico offered the forgotten glass of Champagne to Nina and she took it with the most beautiful smile he had ever seen in his life. She asked him for Buffy and he pointed to the dance floor.
Giles and Buffy were dancing the waltz now. Giles had been startled and embarrassed at first. He amused himself at the intriguing thought of the shock of cultures; his ultra reserved British manner contrasting against her so spontaneous and happy Italian way. She had practically yanked him onto the dance floor. It had made him feel slightly awkward, he confessed, but now he was immensely glad for that.
Now that they had this time only for themselves Giles was struck with a weird and inexplicably familiar feeling. He tried to focus his eyes more intensely on hers under the mask but the absence of his spectacles, the poor light of the room and their floating movements made the task quite impossible. He couldn't really identify the reason for it, but this young lady reminded him so much of Buffy.
He dismissed that feeling as been totally illogical. Buffy had disappeared from his life for good, it was sad but it was the truth, raw and brutal. She had made clear to them all that she wanted to keep her distance from them, especially him, apparently. She was probably in a nice sunny paradise with a good looking blond surfer or even as a mother of a big family.
She would never be here, in the chilled winter of Venice, never! Let alone in his arms right now. He brushed his sadness away with an elegant spin and made his decision: he was going to set himself free, forget Buffy at least for one night or maybe for the three nights of Carnival.
End of chapter 1
* Phantom, Christine Daaé and Raoul are characters from Phantom of the Opera.
** The line "Love never really dies" is a reference to the recently released musical 'Love never dies' (sequel of Phantom of the Opera). I recommend both! :)