Title: The Ivory Tower: Part 3
Rating: Say it with me… T.
Pairing: Indicators of future Giles/Buffy
Fic Summary: An AU season 4 scenario. What if Giles was never sent to be Buffy's Watcher? Things get interesting at UC Sunnydale when Buffy meets a handsome history professor who is English, variably tweedy, and happens to have a pocket full of stakes. A stand-alone retooling of 'The Freshman', with other installments hopefully to follow.
Word Count: Entire fic around 15,000
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply. Not mine, just playing. Will give back when finished (maybe).
Spoilers: Definite spoilers for everything up to the beginning of season 4, despite the AU nature of the story.
Notes: There are some literary/pop culture/historical references in this fic, which I will explain in notes at the end for those who are at all interested. Also some info on characterizations. This fic contains a few instances of borrowed/slightly altered dialogue from S4 x 01, 'The Freshman'.
Xander and Buffy waited at the front door of Professor Giles' apartment, having knocked sharply just moments ago. Buffy found herself feeling unaccountably nervous at the prospect of seeing the professor again; everything had gone topsy-turvy in the past 24 hours, and she hadn't even had the benefit of seeing him in an ordinary classroom setting during that time. Maybe if she had, her perception of him would have normalized at least enough to calm the butterflies that were flapping in her stomach.
Having been given merely the barest bones of an explanation that they 'needed to make a stop', Xander glanced at Buffy out of the corner of his eye as they waited. "So what are we doing here, exactly? Seems like a pretty kooky hour to be making social calls."
Knocking once more, three times in quick succession, Buffy turned her neck. "Hopefully getting some backup."
"Way to go, Buff! Made some new college buds already?"
She smiled tightly, hearing movement inside the apartment. "Something like that."
It was at that moment that the door swung open to reveal Buffy's history professor- rumpled, slightly damp, wrapped in a dark-colored bathrobe, and missing his glasses. "Yes, what can I- Miss Summers?"
"It's Buffy, remember?"
"Yes, of course. Buffy. Errr, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Pleasure is right, she thought to herself. She was also tempted with answers such as nice legs and yummy. Recovering her senses with a quick shake of the head, she managed to compose an answer of sorts. "Would you believe we just happened to be in the neighborhood?"
The three of them took it in turns to look awkwardly at each other for a few moments as Buffy and Xander stood on the doorstep. Buffy didn't really know what else to say under such bizarre circumstances, and waited for Professor Giles to say or do something. Inviting them inside might be a start, unless… "Oh God. Is this a bad time? We could really use your help, but if you're busy, like if you have company or something…?"
Slayer and Watcher stared keenly at one another. Giles' face began to color as the meaning of Buffy's line of questioning became apparent. "Umm, no, no… not at all. Please, do come in."
Xander was looking bewildered as Buffy pulled him along by the arm, entering the apartment as the professor stepped aside. "Buff?"
He waved his arms demonstratively. "I know college is kinda wild and crazy, but since when did backup include a half-naked English guy?"
Giles goggled, briefly looking down at himself.
Buffy grinned. "I'm sure he can put on some tweed, Xand, if it'll make you feel more at home."
Xander looked appraisingly at Giles taking in the straight posture, crossed arms, and mildly disapproving expression. Slowly, a smile made its way onto the younger man's face. His teeth gleamed happily. "Oh, I get it! Watcher, huh? Well why didn't you say so!"
Five minutes later Giles descended to his living room, dressed comfortably in well-worn jeans, sturdy shoes, and a green henley shirt. Not a bit of tweed in sight, which was hopefully very much to Xander's disappointment. His guests were occupying the couch, so Giles deposited himself in the leather armchair. His glasses were still strewn on the desk and he probably needed a shave, but those things didn't seem important right now. He observed the pair patiently, running a hand over his jaw. They had been talking quietly as he came down the stairs. Considering them, he spoke. "I believe I heard you say something about backup. Has something happened?"
Buffy pulled one leg beneath her as she perched on the couch, looking much more centered and confident than she had when they'd last met. "You could say that. Remember that gang of vamps that had my number last night?"
He gave a small nod, leaning forward with his forearms braced atop his knees.
"Well, they came back and snatched all my belongings. Just like they did to Eddie," she frowned, momentarily lost in thought. "Anyway… I decided I don't like people messing with my stuff, so we went into research mode. Pretty sure we found their hideout."
"That was quick work. Well done."
Looking pleased, Buffy gestured to her companion. "It was mostly down to Xander. He was the one who picked up the trail."
Giles quirked an eyebrow, peering at the younger man. "Ah, yes. Xander…"
The boy snapped to attention, straightening. "Sorry- guess we sort of skipped out on the introductions. Xander Harris. I'm one of Buffy's little helpers." He gave a sarcastic salute.
"Rupert Giles," the Watcher supplied.
"Xander's great with the research," Buffy intoned, "and, you know, the occasional Slayer life-saving."
Watching as the two looked at each other fondly, Giles indulged his curiosity. They seemed to share a closeness, but… He scrutinized their body language. Closeness, yes, but not intimacy. There was nothing… sexual in their apparent comfort level. He found himself feeling strangely relieved at that fact, an instinct he studiously ignored. "I see. This is one of the civilians that assists you? Merrick's diaries made some mention of this, as did your Council file."
"What do you know, I'm famous! Maybe someday I'll even have my own file in the shady Watcher filing cabinet." Xander's eyes glinted with mischief.
Buffy smiled absently, seemingly focused on Giles. "Keep dreaming, Xand. Anyway, Sunday and her cronies kind of stole my weapons chest. Since your place was on the way I thought maybe you could lend us a few stakes, or a crossbow-"
"-Maybe a cup of sugar…" Xander groaned as Buffy's elbow jabbed into his ribs.
Giles was surprised to find himself smiling internally at their antics. Perhaps the Council was wrong; perhaps the Slayer's companions gave her strength, kept her grounded. It was obvious that she exerted a certain amount of authority over her friend, but in a mutually agreeable sense.
"I don't have much, just a few stakes and one sword. My work here is somewhat… delicate and covert, so most of my weapons are in storage." He tilted his head, eyeing her with inquiry. "Have you informed Wesley of these developments?"
Xander interjected, "Why would we need to do that? It's not like we're storming the beaches of their vampy Normandy here. Just a bit of reconnaissance."
A quizzical pout formed on the Slayer's face. "Isn't that where we all sculpt and paint and stuff?"
Giles shared a bemused look with the younger man. One of them would have to correct her, surely. Since he was the history professor in this equation, he supposed the responsibility fell to him. "I believe you may be thinking of the Renaissance."
She frowned, blushing slightly. "Oh. Oops."
Shifting in his seat, Xander leaned forward conspiratorially. "If you like the Buffster's Renaissance, you should check out her take on the Enlightenment. Pretty sure it involves decapitation."
Buffy's jaw dropped, indignant with shock.
Surprised and amused by the younger man's burst of intelligent humour, Giles could not resist the opportunity to add a jibe of his own. "Montesquieu would be spinning in his grave."
Xander's wide smile disappeared abruptly. "Monty who?"
The Watcher cleared his throat. "Nevermind." The three were still for a few moments, frowning. Each was feeling just a little bit put out, for a wide variety of reasons, by the turn their conversation had taken. Rising from his chair, Giles made a move to diffuse the strangely tense situation. "I'll just run and get the weapons, shall I?"
The Psi Theta fraternity house had obviously been abandoned for some time. The exterior of the gray stone building was dilapidated, covered over with rotted boards, wheat-pasted fliers and warnings. Graffiti marred the message of the notices against trespassing, while weed-strewn grasses grew wild at the corners of the masonry. Somehow, the three companions were able to find a foothold in the remains of a rusted-out ladder to climb up to a ledge, mercifully gargoyle-free. Buffy took up an acrobatic vantage, peering into the large skylight. Huffing in annoyance, the Slayer watched as the bleached-blonde vampire and her companions rummaged through her things.
"My skirt? There's no way that's ever going to fit her!" Buffy looked to Xander, thunderous. "We have to kill them."
Xander's expression was wary. "We're not exactly bursting at the seams with weapons here, Buff."
Making a disapproving sound, Buffy scanned the room below. Unsatisfied with her findings, she retreated from the window and spoke to Xander and Giles in a controlled voice. "I don't see my weapons chest down there. Xander, go back and check in my room. It was by the bed. If it isn't there, try at Willow's place. The two of us can stay here and keep watch."
Giles nodded to the younger man, pressing himself against the ledge to let Xander shimmy past and climb back to the ground.
Now alone, Giles observed Buffy as she peered through the skylight. "Are you sure this is wise?" he asked.
She turned to him, a determined look in her eye. "I don't care from wise. I won't let them beat me."
Her power flared from places untold, and he could feel it in his bones. The vampires inside didn't look like much of anything, and now they had aroused the anger of an intoxicating force. His gut told him that the bedraggled gang didn't stand a chance. Still, his protective instinct was impossible to ignore. Their eyes remained locked, speaking volumes. "Understandable. Caution is not a crime, however."
"Sometimes it can be, if you're the Slayer."
They gazed at each other for a few more moments. There was a delicious wire of tension stretching between them, the exact flavor of which he didn't dare guess at. Giles eventually bowed his head to concede the point. The corner of her mouth turned up into a small smile that was just for him. An expression, he guessed, of thanks.
He wondered to himself what it felt like, being the Slayer. Loneliness couldn't even begin to cover it. He watched her avidly as she leaned across the skylight, curtain of blonde hair hiding her face from view. Power, solitude, righteous anger, resentment, justice, and the cruel knife of fate… one girl in all the world to bear the cross of all. And what of the Watchers? They claimed that their mandate was to protect and teach her, but what was the reality? Everything Giles knew of her from before and after they'd met screamed that the Council sought to manipulate her, to use and control her power rather than nurture it. And where was Wyndam-Pryce at a time like this, when she needed a Watcher's support? His magic burned.
Just then, he saw Buffy's spine stiffen. Her hand atop the slightly dirty glass curled into a tight fist. Concerned at what she might have seen to increase her wrath, Giles bent his tall form to look over her shoulder. Two of the vampires gleefully played catch with what looked to be a small stuffed pig.
"Mr. Gordo? Oooh, that's it. They are so dusted!" She inched further up onto the frame of the steeply slanted window, bracing her foot at the corner of the glass.
Before Giles had time to wonder how old and poorly cared for the large skylight actually was, he heard an ominous creaking sound. "Buffy, I think you should-"
The window shattered beneath her, and he watched in slow motion as she began to plummet. Lunging desperately, he reached out and grabbed her ankle. Unfortunately, her velocity combined with his awkward stance caused him to lose his balance. They fell through the stale and lifeless air, together, tiny fragments of glass tinkling around them like a sharp and deadly cloud.
They had landed in a heap on the thin, tacky carpet. Her legs were on top of his legs. Or was it the other way around? Maybe they were just pretzeled. Buffy groaned, wishing it weren't such a bad time to think about… pretzeling.
A circle of slightly bewildered vampires surrounded them, and Buffy tried to sit up without grinding pieces of glass between the skin of her palms and the dirty floor. Giles appeared to be doing the same, using the strength in his torso to pull his body upright. He rubbed his shoulder, cringing, as his long legs rearranged themselves. He reached down and examined his newly smashed glasses, which had taken the brunt of the landing. Sighing heavily, he tossed them aside.
Sunday sneered. "I must say, you've really got me now. I mean, it's a diabolical plan, throw yourself at my feet with a broken arm and no weapons of any kind. How am I going to get out of this one?"
The vampire noticed Giles as though he were an afterthought. "It was at least nice of you to bring a snack."
Looking at Giles sidelong, Buffy confirmed that the sword was, surprisingly, still strapped across his back inside its scabbard. Sunday didn't seem to have noticed it. She silently hoped that he knew how to use it at least a little bit better than Wesley. Whenever they trained with swords, Buffy just got confused by all the funny blade waving and French names for stuff. The Slayer didn't have time to figure out what a sword and a croissant had to do with each other. She just needed to know which end was sharp.
The vampires laughed as Sunday continued to taunt Buffy, making fun of her clothes and a few of her other knick-knacks. The Slayer's face hardened as Sunday twirled the sparkling 'class protector' parasol given to her by her classmates at Sunnydale High. It was tacky, but it was hers. And Buffy had decided that, from now on, nobody messed with her stuff. "You don't want to touch that."
Buffy spotted her weapons chest on the other side of the room, trying to send Giles a non-verbal message. His expression was fierce as he followed her line of sight. The nod he gave was almost imperceptible, but not to Slayer senses.
"Really?" The pale blonde vampire smiled nastily, smooth visage curling into a mock pout. She dropped the golden parasol onto the floor, stomping on the handle hard enough to snap it in two.
The moment of distraction was enough. Giles sprang up from the floor, drawing his blade and swinging it around in a wide arc. The vampire directly to his right was caught at a deadly disadvantage, dissolving into dust before his severed head hit the ground. The remaining foes took up a more defensive stance, but the Watcher's attack had served its purpose. Buffy was on her feet now, squaring off against her red lipped nemesis and creeping towards the weapons chest. Giles reached into his jacket pocket and swiftly tossed her a stake.
She caught it without missing a beat, impressed. Giles could read her signals, and seemed to understand the urgent advantage provided by sharp pointy objects. He didn't look a bit scared, either, body turned slightly away from her to guard exactly where her blind spot happened to be. Buffy's limbs fizzed happily, feeling the rightness of knowing that someone was literally watching her back. Victory seemed much more assured while the two of them were so… in sync.
Sunday vamped out, growling as she rushed at Buffy. At the same time, three of the remaining vampires ganged up on Giles.
Fangs gnashing, the black-clad female vampire kicked at Buffy's hand, causing the stake to go flying. Buffy rebounded, delivering a few swift punches of her own. Sunday was fast, though. Before Buffy knew what hit her, the blonde had spun behind her, grabbing onto the Slayer's still healing left arm. "How's the arm, anyway? I didn't quite get a chance to finish ripping it off!"
Powering through the pain, Buffy threw her body weight into a bone crunching right-handed punch. "Doing fine with this one at the moment."
Just then, Xander broke through the decrepit door with Willow and Oz in tow. Willow's face registered astonishment as she observed her history professor, caught in a furious skirmish with three vampires. Oz, as usual, seemed more or less at peace with the situation. Startled back to reality by the approaching foes, Willow fired her crossbow at the first undead attacker that entered her path.
"Whoa!" intoned the surfer dude vampire as he exploded into dust.
The battle turned into a melee as the three newcomers joined in. Arms and legs flailed, stakes jabbed, and Giles' sword racked up another vampire decapitation. All the while, Buffy and Sunday fought aggressively, neither holding anything back. As Xander battled against a purple sweatered vamp, his tennis-racket-turned-weapon splintered, handle end flying toward the Slayer. Buffy jumped wildly through the air, trying to catch the makeshift stake. Missing by millimeters, she crashed into Giles. Sword falling to the ground, his arms went around her protectively as they tripped over the coffee table and tumbled to the ground.
Watcher and Slayer landed in a tangle of limbs, with Buffy on top. His arms gripped her securely against him, loosening a little bit as the threat of injury passed. One of her hands had slipped inside his jacket, her face nestled close to a collarbone that smelled deliciously spicy. Buffy pushed herself up just enough to peek into the stormy and battle-darkened green of his eyes. Thoughtless, he pushed some wisps of golden hair away from her face. Adrenaline rushed through Buffy's body, along with something else. She could feel the heat from Giles' skin even through all their layers of clothes, at every point of contact.
Vampires weren't in the business of letting Buffy enjoy herself, though. Sunday spotted the enthralled pair from across the room, stomping over and roughly yanking Buffy up by the hair. Irritated, the Slayer picked up seamlessly with the conversation she and Sunday had been having. "By the way, did I mention? My other arm is feeling much better." She glanced quickly at Giles as she spoke. "See, I met this guy who really knows how to play doctor." Her left-handed uppercut connected soundly with Sunday's jaw.
As Sunday clambered up from the ruins of what had been the coffee table, it became evident that she was the only vampire left in the room. Xander was breathing heavily, still holding half a tennis racket. Willow stood to the side, looking slightly nervous. Oz had his arms crossed, standing next to Giles with an untroubled expression on his face.
"What's the matter, no more questions for me?" Buffy quipped, raising an eyebrow at Sunday. Deftly, she brandished a stake she had retrieved from inside Giles' jacket as they fell to the floor. "Good. Then I guess this conversation is over." Smiling grimly, she flung the stake with lethal accuracy, piercing Sunday's cold and lifeless heart.
Giles felt slightly drunk as the five of them trudged along under the weight of the Slayer's belongings. Lord, but she had been magnificent. He had been occupied with his own fight, but not so much that he couldn't observe her in battle. She was deadly, spontaneous, graceful, and inventive. Seeing her in action made Giles feel sure that she was no instrument of the Council- Buffy Summers was a force of nature.
"Can we stop at your place for a minute? I think these guys could use a break."
He nodded, strangely unwilling to inform Buffy that this path was by no means the quickest way back to Stevenson Hall. All the same, a few minutes later they arrived at his doorstep. Everyone put their boxes down, slumping to rest on the curb and sidewalk. Oz and Willow held hands, listening to one of Xander's jokes. Giles peeked at Buffy as she sat down next to him on the front step, watching her friends with an affectionate look gracing her features. "They really keep me going, you know? I don't think I could do this without them."
"Yes, I think I can begin to understand the advantage."
A clock struck midnight in the distance as the two sat in companionable silence, neither willing to pull away as Buffy's shoulder leaned against Giles' arm. Both were acutely aware of the tingling resonance that passed between them, and just for a moment they reveled in it.
Buffy was, characteristically, the first to speak. "Are you gonna tell me more about Watchers and magic?"
He looked down at her, aware for the first time that she might feel the pull the same way he did. Whatever this was, buzzing between them and making his insides fall to pieces, it was powerful. It scared him a bit, as a matter of fact. And it would require some in-depth research. "Yes, if you like," he offered, "but not tonight."
"Nope," she smiled, face mere inches away from his own, "not tonight."
Her eyes held a certain type of promise, and Giles felt for a moment like a frightened zebra in a lion's den.
"-got a study group in the morning. Hey Buff, are you ready?" The moment was broken by Willow's shout, ringing out bell-like beneath the blanket of night.
Buffy rose to her feet, and Giles followed with some degree of reluctance. "You'll be alright from here?"
"Yeah, we're good. Should be a quiet walk back, considering."
"Do be careful, Buffy. There are still… things out there." At least he needn't warn her about the Initiative just yet; the commandos would take no interest in a group of boisterous college students out late on a Saturday night. "If you need me again, don't hesitate to ask."
They exchanged awkward smiles, and Buffy made her way down the front steps. "Oh," she exclaimed, "there is one thing you could do for me… if it's not too much trouble."
Giles looked at the Slayer expectantly, tilting his head.
"Could you call Wes and let him know what happened? It probably would be best for him to know, but my phone isn't hooked up yet and I've got to get these guys home…"
Sighing, Giles crossed his arms over his chest. He supposed this moment had been inevitable. They all knew he was a Watcher now, obviously, so it was bound to get back to Wesley in time. He glared, just the same. "You realize you are dooming me to an endless supply of weekends spent listening to Wyndam-Pryce whine about the cricket test?"
"Ewww. I'll rescue you if that happens, I swear." She pouted.
He was undone, sighing in resignation. "I'll call him in the morning. Lord knows we've all earned our rest tonight."
There was that smile again, the one that was just for him. "Thanks, professor. For everything."
Her eyebrows crinkled. "Huh?"
His lips quirked into a grin that was barely there. "Just call me Giles. I feel a bloody antique when people call me 'professor'."
Blushing, she nodded. "Giles it is. Goodnight."
The others said their goodbyes also, and they trundled away with the boxes weighing them down. The Watcher watched as the friends approached the corner, giving a small wave to Buffy when she looked back one last time. Lord but he needed a Scotch. He certainly deserved one. He would settle for a nice cup of tea.
What a long and utterly astonishing day it had been, and knowing Sunnydale it would just get weirder as the weeks rolled by. Especially with a fiery and independent Slayer in his life. One girl in all the world, and she had walked into his class. What was this? Fate? Magic? Coincidence? Luck? He wasn't sure. Retrieving his sword and letting himself into the flat, Rupert Giles made a vow that he would find out.
The following day…
"…and I can't believe you went on your own to face the threat without telling me. What were you thinking? These actions must be prepared, planned carefully. You can't just run in with your guns blazing and expect to win all the time!"
Buffy scowled at her Watcher, sitting across from her with a plate of toast and jam in front of him. "Slayer, Wes, remember? Not a gun in sight. Plus, I had some Watcherly backup and the Slayerettes. Everything went fine, so what's the big?"
Frowning in disapproval, Wesley fiddled with the teapot. "Well, I can't say that I care much for your choice of 'backup'. That man is a rogue element, Buffy. You would do well to keep your distance."
Feeling brash, Buffy let the conversation run wild. "Rogue element, huh? That's my favorite type. Him and I should get along just fine!"
Wesley ignored her flip comment, totally missing the veiled implication. "Don't get me wrong. Mr. Giles is quite skilled. Excellent credentials, and I've always found him to be more or less a gentleman. But he is dangerous, just the same. Rumour has it he was quite the hell-raiser in his youth, and he's been running around for years on confidential missions for the Council…"
The Slayer's interest was definitely piqued. Sometimes Wesley could be quite the fountain of information, but right now she just felt like getting under his skin. "He's kinda handsome, too. Maybe we should mingle."
"Buffy, I really don't think-"
"I mean, dinner and movie with the cutest prof on campus? Sounds okay to me!"
Finally, he paused. Dark blue eyes regarding her from behind polished lenses, Wesley's hand was frozen in mid-air. His mouth hung slightly open, presumably anticipating the arrival of his teacup. "That," he intoned, "is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I absolutely forbid it!"
Smiling triumphantly, Buffy bounced in her seat. "Oh yeah? Forbidden, huh? Now I'm definitely going to do it!" She got up from her seat, slinging her purse over her shoulder and heading for the door.
"Later, Wes! See you for training tomorrow!"
Slamming the door behind her and scurrying quickly down the sidewalk, Buffy contemplated the overwhelming newness in her life. There was college, new friends, and life away from home. Even though UC Sunnydale was just across town it was still a world apart, like its own private civilization. An ivory tower, standing off on its own. And Giles? Well, he was something else entirely. The mysterious past, the cryptic warnings, and the weird magic… count this Slayer intrigued, especially if Wesley was so hyped up about him. Not to mention, there was that handsome face and yummy bod to contemplate. She would have no trouble paying attention in history, that was for sure. And if there happened to be coffee? She definitely wouldn't hate that.
As for the rest, who knew what the year might bring? Buffy strolled through the gates of the campus, bathed in sunlight and ready to face the next challenge…
Only one note for this chapter, which is: Would Xander know about the Enlightenment? It's definitely debatable. I figured, what the heck- maybe he absorbed some knowledge from Willow's tutoring at one time or another. Clearly he doesn't know enough to have any idea who Montesquieu is.
That's it for this story! There will be more to come from this universe; probably four stories in total. Already in the planning stages for the next installment, which is almost sure to include some wacky Watcher/Slayer sex magic. Did you *really* think I could stay away from smut for that long? Thanks for reading, and a happy Summer of Giles to all of you! ^_^