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.
Buffy had had every intention of sticking to the date they'd agreed but she wasn't sure how Giles was going to react to her being a day early. She'd tried leaving messages on his answering machine to warn him but he'd not confirmed even the agreed date. There wasn't much else she could do but get there and see how he was. Her life was a rollercoaster of planes and meeting rooms and it followed a route she couldn't always break. She understood his academic life was based around routine and order and that he didn't take well to surprises, but she really hoped she'd be a nice surprise, a welcomed surprise. If not well, there were always hotels near the train station.
She tried his cell phone a couple of times after clearing customs at Heathrow. It bugged her that it was switched off. Sure he wasn't Grand Central station for communications anymore and he often forgot the silly thing needed to be recharged, but still, Buffy worried a little as she made her connecting train to his university town.
It was a warm day in England and she walked the mile to Giles' small house with her denim jacket tied to her travel bag. She passed a group of high-spirited students who seemed to be excited about a rugby match or possibly a cricket thing - something alien that made total sense to them anyway. Eight youngsters crammed in an open top sports car honked at her from some traffic lights. She scowled with enough calculated grace to make them laugh and drive on.
Giles' front door was locked and the doorbell wasn't producing him either. Buffy stepped back into the shared courtyard and looked up at the spare bedroom windows. They were shut but if they were anything like his master bedroom windows, a little force would lift one of them up. The drainpipe alongside looked sturdy enough. She put her bag down and pulled at the ancient iron pipe in inspection. One of the rusty clips immediately popped out in warning.
"I say." A voice called from the house opposite. Buffy tried to hide her breaking and entering intent with a 200 watt smile.
"I say are you looking for Dr Giles?" A young man about her age came out dressed in cargo shorts and tee-shirt with a rather rude message concerning a rival university." I've seen you here before I think? Calling on our evasive Dr G?" He beamed a smile that probably got him quite some way with undergraduates. "I'm Michael."
She nodded but had no intention of going into her own details. Instead she asked curtly, "Is he here do you know?"
"No, he went out some time ago. Was he expecting you? That's terribly rude. He can be a bit like that can't he? My girlfriend thinks he's ex MI6 or something, because she says he's all wounded puppy one minute then snarling pit bull the next. But then she also thinks everyone here is damaged somehow by Class Warfare, so maybe we shouldn't set too much store by that." He considered her. "I don't suppose you know his story do you? He is a bit of a mystery round here. Rather parachuted into the place, don't you know?" She must have been frowning because he added quickly, "I mean he knows his stuff right enough, just a bit of mystery."
"Do you know where he went?"
He sighed in resignation of having to give up the conversation. "His friend came round, so I say try the Water Rat. I've seen them in there a couple of times recently."
The Water Rat public house seemed a deeply unlikely Giles venue. Its position near the river made it a magnet for students and on that hot afternoon, they seemed to be there in their hundreds. A good many were standing and drinking outside, waving happily to passing cars and cyclists. There was no polite way past the crush in the main entrance so Buffy skirted to the back and saw much the same scene of happy drinkers clustered around picnic tables or lying on the grass in groups. Everyone seemed intent on jovially consuming a great deal of alcohol. She managed to squeeze in the main building via the backdoor. The pub was split into a series of bewildering rooms each of which was full to bursting with happy sweaty drinkers revelling in sunshine and some varsity sporting success.
Giles was seated in corner of the third room she tried. He saw her at about the same time she spotted him. He smiled warmly and drank a sizeable amount of his pint. Buffy couldn't see his companion as she drove through the crush towards him.
Giles rose to greet her. "You're a day early," he exclaimed happily though that could just as easily have been due to the beer. She wondered how long he'd been there. He was usually more cautious in his greetings, even in his own home. She was about to explain her lucky break in scheduling when a familiar voice also greeted her.
"Hello Buffy." She froze. Ethan Rayne had a chair next to Giles. "Long time no see," he added brightly.
Her first instinct was to punch Ethan and drag Giles away to safety, but the room was too noisy and crowded. One of the students, in throes of explaining a winning move, jostled her in the back and she lurched forward clumsily. Giles caught her arm to steady her. "You remember Ethan don't you, Buffy?" He was shouting a little to be heard over the noise.
"How could I forget," she hissed. "Although more importantly, how could you have forgotten? What's he doing here?" A roar went up from another section of the pub and her question to Giles was lost the raucous. He pointed to his ear and shook his head, still smiling.
"Can I get you a drink?" he shouted. "Here, you'd better take my seat before the animals around here steal it." There was some good-natured jeering from the drinkers to their side. Buffy reluctantly sent him off for a Lime and Soda, but then settled close to Ethan's left ear.
"When he comes back," she said calmly, "You're going to make up an excuse and leave. And you are never going to contact him again."
"I think not Buffy dearest," Ethan replied a low voice. "I'm not actually the one who is causing him harm."
"He doesn't need you and your twisted games right now. He's out of it. He's a civilian now."
"Believe it or not I do understand that part. I am rather curious as to why though."
"He hasn't told you?" she tried hard to keep the triumph of her voice.
Ethan smiled. "Not yet." He sipped his beer. "You could tell me."
He was insufferable when he held any sort of advantage, and his presence in Giles' history and disturbing new role as his best drinking buddy, gave Ethan a whole handful of trump cards.
"Ah cat got your tongue," he gloated. "I think what Rupert needs right now are his friends around him. Someone who cares for him. People he can talk to."
She was aware she was jutting out her chin as she asserted, "He can talk to me."
He barked a laugh and Buffy felt uncomfortable as to whether Ethan knew the sort of relationship she had with Giles now. That would have required Giles to have told him.
"Sorry but you're not really serious?" Ethan stopped his mocking giggle. "It's pretty obvious he needs help," he said simply.
"I'm helping him," she answered defiantly.
"Yes," he said with slow contemplation. "But maybe he favours my help more than yours."
She ignored the barb. "I agree he needs help, but what he doesn't need is to be getting drunk and starting all that nonsense again. He doesn't need to be raising Cain and god knows what else with you."
"Oh but Rupert likes getting drunk with me, and Cain is a terribly nice chap once you get to know him," he purred.
"Leave him alone, Ethan."
To her surprise he leant forward, the lazy charm and jokes had evaporated and she saw the hardness in his eyes.
"No, you leave him alone. You don't belong here, Buffy. You swing by every couple of weeks to screw up his life. You bring back all the pain and the memories. You're the one that's smothering him so he can't move on. So why don't you be the one to make an excuse to leave when he comes back?"
His passion was unexpected and she almost wanted to consider him an ally, but she was not going to surrender Giles to this man. She found her own anger and used it.
"If you hurt him I will kill you," she threatened.
Ethan sat back, tremendously unimpressed. "I could give you the same warning, dear child."
There was disturbance in the crowd and a parting similar to the red sea brought Giles, carrying Buffy's lime and soda and also rather adeptly, two full pints.
"Seemed a waste not to get them in as I was there," he explained. Ethan picked up his current pint and drained it as Giles did the same. They clinked the empty glasses together in some mysterious ritual.
"To Victory," Ethan toasted, raising his voice so the call was taken up all around them.
Buffy rose with calculated dignity and turned her back to Ethan. She motioned Giles to duck so he could hear her, put a hand on his shoulder and spoke in his ear. "Can I have the keys please?"
"Oh right yes," he breezed and dived to his pocket. Giles handed over his full set without a second thought. "There's some food in the fridge. Make yourself at home. I'll be…, well I'll be…."
"Sure." She squeezed past Giles who plonked back down on the chair as she passed.
She scowled at Ethan again who faked a smile. "Let's not do this again sometime", she muttered. "Giles," And here she fixed him with her best demon slaying look. "I will talk to you later," she added firmly. A couple of students jeered and there was a mocking call of 'got a ball and chain there mate'. Giles sheepishly nodded to her as he arranged the glasses on the table, empties furthest away, but he was making no effort to leave Ethan's company. Buffy knew the round was lost.
As she turned to go, Ethan shouted a mocking "Don't wait up for us, darling." Which produced more partisan laughter from the bystanders.
Buffy departed with great dignity, but raised the prize of Giles' house keys on her middle finger to Ethan as she did so.