Bookends Series

Title: Keeping in Touch

This is one of a series of vignettes that should not be presumed to be published in chronological order

AU Buffy and Giles about five years after Chosen. Ignoring all comics.

Rupert Giles limped across his living room carpet in just his boxer shorts. It was mid afternoon and the sun sparkled through the bay window of his rented college house, giving the pale lemon walls a welcoming peaceful glow. He didn't worry about the neighbours' view because his modesty was assured by the crisp net curtains and all the middle-class morality they protected.

Some eight properties clustered around a small ornamental quad and Giles' house had the best aspect of them all - even if the back butted onto the main road. It was modestly sized: two bedrooms with a single upstairs bathroom and whilst the kitchen was regrettably small, its sacrifice gave him the double spaced living area that he loved. Most of the furniture came with the College lease but Giles had added his own touches: most notably a large floppy leather sofa to watch TV or to listen to his expensive hi-fi system from. The cooler, dining area had a beautiful mahogany table and chairs with such elegantly turned legs it was almost sacrilege to eat off it. It epitomised the old fashioned quality about the furnishings he enjoyed. The bookcases were snug and respectfully arranged in alcoves even if their contents had regrettably brash and brightly coloured spines advertising serious thought and modern academia. His answer phone blinked lazily on top of a walnut writing bureau that was probably an antique when the University acquired it. He kept it open with books and papers and half-marked essays. His apple laptop sat happily charging on a Queen Anne occasional table in the corner, completely unfazed by its regal connections.

A faint murmur of traffic could be heard from the main road but it was usually only the larger lorries or double-decker buses that came too close and rattled the drainpipes that could be said to be a nuisance. He heard his neighbours' music at times but only at night. Hazy afternoons were all his own usually.

Giles stretched his aching body self-consciously in front of the mirror over the fireplace. His weight was still good even if he couldn't run anymore. Mainly he was red and blotchy and a little bruised in places. There were some deep dark scratches on his chest and shoulders. He frowned at the grey hairs that were seriously outnumbering the chestnut ones. The old scars retained the same angry white resentment they'd always had.

He pushed aside his vanity, picked up his drink and climbed the narrow carpeted staircase, stopping first to pick up a stray shirt button and then his glasses a couple of steps later. His framed print of Plymouth Harbour from the 18th century had been whacked off centre but he ignored it in favour of collecting his belt from the banister rail. At the top of the stairs, he pulled shut the door to the spare room that had been knocked open. It was packed with crates of books he wouldn't be reading and a weapons chest he wouldn't be opening. He found and kicked his shirt into the main bedroom where chaos and uncertainty really took a hold. For a so called Master Bedroom there was barely room for a bed and wardrobe and some of his father's books had sprawled their way across the landing and slumped against skirting boards and up onto the window sill with no discernible campaign or sense of order. He'd had them for two years now and still had no stomach to catalogue them. Their main purpose currently was to support the whirlwind of female clothing that was strewn about them and his floor.

The clothes' owner was curled up in the middle of his bed. Her nakedness swathed under a huge duvet, a corner of which was scrunched up under her chin. The eye of his storm: Buffy Summers, Slayer, twenty-seven years old and looking disturbingly younger as she dreamt on her side. His beautiful weakness. Giles put his drink and glasses on the bedside cabinet and crawled back to her.

"Ugh you're cold." Buffy scampered across a little, giving him room. "Why do you always run off afterwards?"

"Probably my age. I put the water heater on though." He lay on his back and looked at the cobwebs on the ceiling. The bedroom caught the light of the afternoon sun more harshly than the living area. Dust rose and danced in judgement on the thermals.

"Mm hot shower. Your act of desertion is totally forgiven." She turned to face him, propped herself on one elbow and ran a lazy finger teasingly over his chest. "Although I could think of further penance if you like." She seemed to like to touch him, though she always avoided the scars.

"You're incorrigible," he said softly.

"I know. Isn't it good? This is good isn't it?" When he didn't respond immediately she climbed upon his stomach and held his wrists playfully. "Say it's good Giles."

He laughed. "How can I complain?"

She leant forward for a kiss but pulled back and wrinkled her nose.

"Really not keen on the whisky breath. Why do you always have to have a drink when I'm here?"

"It helps me to relax."

"You had one before too," she accused.

"Don't count. It's not nice."

Buffy climbed off him and rolled back under the duvet. "Is it just me?" she asked. "Because I have no complaints. You don't have to prove anything to me. I know you can keep up."

Giles reached for his watch on the cabinet and studied the time. "How's Paris?" he asked.

She smiled at some memories. "Busy. Exciting. Dawn loves it. I'm not always there of course. Everybody always wanting something. Wanting me. Slayer In Demand here."

"I'm sure." Giles buckled the watch on his wrist. "Are you seeing anyone?" An afternoon bus striped the window light, rattling the sash mechanism. The road hadn't been built with anything other than horse and cart in mind.

"Only the old gang, but then they are all travelling and doing important work too." She seemed to think she's spoken out of turn. "You're much better off out of it. Faith asked me if retirement suited you. I'll tell her yes."

He looked at her in surprise. "Does she know?"

"This? Oh no. I'm just saying everyone is cool with you wanting to do the academic thing. It's good that you're got an ordinary life. Everyone understands really."

Giles swung round out of the bed. "How nice."

"Hey." She moved quickly to stop him, hugging his back and shoulders. "You don't have to compete OK? Spike and I did a lot of stuff in our day but this is much better."

He pulled away and stood, levering himself via the bedpost. "Please let's not talk about your vampire lovers in my bedroom." The duvet had flapped over leaving Buffy on her knees facing him, she didn't seem to feel awkward about it.

"I'm just saying Spike and I were all Last Tango in Paris, and this is all nice and safe. I feel I can be myself here with you. That that's a good thing."

He gave her a shy smile then turned away to drain his whisky. Buffy plumped his pillow on hers to raise her head and laid back down to get his attention. Giles however went to the wardrobe for a fresh pale blue shirt. He stood with his back to her and buttoned it up.

"And I like coming here," Buffy continued as she stretched her toes apart. "It's very picturesque and quaint and, do you know, I've never seen a single vampire here? I guess you don't need to go out to patrol." She stopped that line of thought hastily. "No. Course not. Sorry."

Giles buttoned the cuffs and delved back in the wardrobe for one of his suits.

Buffy frowned at the implication. "What happened to the jeans? You were slacker guy two hours ago."

He stepped into the legs a little awkwardly then retrieved his belt from the floor and threaded the loops. "I have a tutorial at 3.30."

"You never said."

"It's Thursday." He produced a jaunty yellow and blue tie and raised his shirt collar. "I always see students on a Thursday."

"Oh."

"You're welcome to stay." Taking the banister rail with his right hand he pushed off down the stairs and left her alone.

Buffy re-dressed quickly and found him clearing the draining rack in the kitchen. It was the smallest room in the house and as there was barely room for one person, she lingered in the doorframe.

"I think I'll go and get an earlier train," she said.

Giles continued stacking his pan stand without looking up. "Do you want me to call you a taxi?"

"No. I can walk." She gestured to the small airline bag she'd abandoned earlier by the front door. "I travel pretty light these days."

Something didn't feel right so she reached for his hand and pulled him into the open space of his tidy and organised living room, backing him into the sofa. He moved a little awkwardly but she pulled him close in reassurance. He felt for her hair as she hugged his waist, slipping her hands under his suit to touch the soft cotton of his shirt. Giles dropped a kiss on the top of her head before they broke. She reached up and worked on his tie. "Got to have you looking your best for impressionable young minds," she explained, pushing the knot a little tighter. He dug his hands in his pockets and rumpled his nicely pressed jacket.

Buffy smoothed her hair, retrieved her phone from her bag and started pushing buttons professionally. "I can be in England again in five weeks." Giles flipped open his desk diary and fingered ahead.

"When exactly?" he asked.

"Friday 21st through to Sunday 23rd" Buffy beamed. "Lucky boy gets a whole Saturday. What shall we find to do with ourselves?"

Giles looked at his shoes. "We could go for a drive, or head up the river. Take something for a picnic if the weather is nice."

"Do you punt Dr Giles?"

He looked her in the eye at last. "I'm told I have excellent technique Miss Summers." Buffy giggled and began to tap in the entry. Giles produced a fountain pen to record his end of the arrangement.

"Actually Buffy, I've got a formal dinner on Friday 21st. We could go together. It's a Black tie do, you know, formalwear?" She was engrossed in her own email. "Buffy? Clothes? Dressing up?" Giles added hopefully as she frowned at her screen.

"Sunday 23rd I'm going to have to be away pretty early I'm afraid. And Friday I can only get here after 10pm. That's going to be late. I'll be starving after the airplane food too." She sighed and then looked up brightly. "You can cook me something special. I love your cooking."

Giles nodded his acquiescence. "I have all the skills."

She put away her phone happily and slipped her flight bag over one shoulder. "It's why I come."

She kissed him goodbye and let herself out as had become the habit. Buffy never wanted to be seen to the door and fussed over so he waited and watched through the back window as her jaunty frame set off up the high street towards the train station. The local school run had begun and cars and kids began to stream out onto the pavements, sounds of laughter and playfulness filled the spring day. He undid his top button and slacked the tie. Peace and quiet reigned inside his home once more: the madness had past. He decided against another whisky and sat at his writing bureau to consider the afternoon's work that had been interrupted. The answer machine continued to flash slowly. He pressed [play].

"Hi Dr Giles, it's Emma here. I'm afraid I can't make our tutorial today at half three…"

He stopped the message mid sentence. His student had gone on to say something about 'a library mix up' and could he 'be an incredible angel and reschedule for Tuesday?' He hit [delete] because he didn't need to hear it again.

The End