Title: Telling

Bookends Series

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.

Having searched the perimeter of the ball room, Buffy's walk slowed to acknowledge both the futileness of the action and the pain that her elegant dancing shoes were causing her. Seeing Giles at the London reception had thrown her. He'd looked good in a tux and she had allowed herself the luxury of thinking it was a sign of his improving behaviour and had dragged him on the dance floor in front of people. She shouldn't have ignored the drink on his breath and the sweat in his shirt, Giles was not fixed enough to acknowledge they had any sort of relationship and it had been too much for him. He'd said some nasty things and bailed - god knows where - and she wasn't going to be able to find him now. He'd been gone twenty minutes which was plenty of time to have driven far away. A trip to the country was on the cards in the morning. He'd have to open the door if she threatened to kick it in. His secluded little academic world would frown and tut and damn well notice her then, she thought bitterly. It was a thought that brought a smile to her lips at least. She wished she and Giles could just talk sometimes.

She slipped through an unlocked door and walked down an empty, partially lit corridor. She was still in the grander apartments of the building, but areas that weren't used formally. The carpets had a faded charm but it was clear their upkeep was for general housekeeping and not to sweep high ranking visitors about the building. Buffy walked on and tried more doors, eventually she passed into an open area with a grand white staircase that was blocked at the top by lumber and a baby piano. She sat on the third tier and took her shoes off. They were the most impractical items of footwear she'd owned in a long time. They pinched, they squeezed, and they were clearly wrong for her but they looked wicked cool with her dress.

She was still rubbing her feet when Captain Ryan Appleby found her. He had better stalking skills than she'd supposed -all that Sandhurst Officer, Gentleman ,and Demon Hunting training no doubt.

"I was going to ask if everything is alright, but that seems a rather fatuous question in the circumstances." He presented her with a salad bowl filled precariously with about 10 pints of ice cream. It was like Everest only with chocolate sauce and raisins. Buffy couldn't help but blink at him.

"My sister swears by this stuff when she's upset," he offered by way of explanation.

"I'm not upset, I'm angry." Buffy huffed.

Appleby pulled a face. "I've seen you angry," he said patiently. "The Fire Demons in Ashby-de-la-Zouch saw you angry, even if it was the last things they saw," he added rather wryly. "And this ain't even close."

"Well I'm working myself up to angry. Give me a couple of minutes," she grumbled and then eyed the scale of the comfort offering. "No-one could ever be that upset."

"Ah, you being the Slayer, I may have over-proportioned a bit." He smiled warmly and proffered her a spoon. Buffy nodded and took the bowl and spoon. She stretched out and propped herself up on an elbow. Ryan sat on the stairs next to her as she played with her food.

"You're a good brother."

"Absolutely. Usually at this point I offer to do the testosterone thing and give the chap a damn good thrashing."

"Has she ever taken you up on it?"

"Fortunately not. Would it help now?"

"Not really. Giles is a bit emotionally unstable. He's been through …well I told you what happened. He just blindsided me that's all. He's trying to run away from me again." Dumping her after a dance had been Angel's thing. She hadn't expected Giles to be so callous.

Ryan nodded. "Yes, losing his family must have been…well I can't really imagine. Bloody awful however you slice it. It sounds like he's got classic PTSD to me. You should keep him out of combat scenarios and get good counselling. I have some telephone numbers if you like."

"Duh, you think?" she snapped, conscious that she was incubating her anger and maybe test firing it at the wrong person. "Sorry. He shouldn't have been a combatant anyway. Not like that." She took a deep breath. "Afterwards, when he declared he wanted nothing more to do with the Slaying Game, he was pretty angry about everything and wanted to break contact with all of us. We swung him a safe academic job without telling him and lined up some support. I've been dropping by on him a lot too," she added casually, not really wanting to go into details. Giles was big on 'protecting their relationship', convinced that anyone finding out would doom Buffy to certain death. He'd stood her up on three separate occasions until she got the message that whilst he talked of wanting to get out the house, it was pointless agreeing to any plans to do so. These were some of the things she couldn't tell Ryan.

"You thought it wise to check up on him?"

Buffy nodded and tackled the North Face of her desert as a distraction. The sauce had started to run and threatened to spill over the side of the bowl. It had certainly started with her checking up him. Maybe she still was, despite the intimacy they had fallen into. The situation was confusing to her and the toppling ice-cream was a welcome engineering challenge.

"That's sensible. I'm guessing he's pretty familiar with bad magicks and some shady characters. And now he's given you the brush off there's a definite risk he could do something apocalyptically stupid." Ryan's military mind had shifted through its gears. "Some of my telephone numbers come with residential facilities," he added thoughtfully.

"That sounds tremendously sinister even when you use your boyish charm."

"You said yourself he's unstable and therefore he could be a risk."

"He's not that sort of risk. He's Giles."

"Then why have you been checking up on him?"

"Because he shouldn't be on his own with this."

"Even if it what he wants?"

"Especially if it's what he wants. I have some experience in these matters. He's broken and I'm not letting him fall apart any further," she declared.

"Buffy, I don't want to see anyone get hurt, especially not you. I'm just suggesting that sticking to this chap like glue might not be the best thing for either of you. Have you considered that maybe you are too close? You do represent the Slaying Game after all. He looked a pretty mean drunk to me. Maybe he needs more professional counselling than you can offer? A safer environment with better drugs and, I don't know, hypnosis or talking therapies or…"

"Oh he can't talk about it." She almost laughed at the bitterness, causing Ryan to look puzzled at her. She was going to have to explain that part. "Because he doesn't remember any of it."

"Good god."

Buffy shifted so as not to look at him. "In the hospital…he looked so happy to see me….out of surgery and his eyes were so bright and alive. And I thought, 'wow, this is Giles, my rock. He's so strong and resilient even after everything he's been through, and he's smiling at me, at me'. And then he asked if I could call his girlfriend to get her to drive his parents over," her voice threatened to choke her, "because they'd be worried about him."

She stabbed bitterly at the ice cream.

"And I had to tell him. I had to tell him everything. What we'd found…who we'd found… and believe me that was worse than the three weeks worth of funerals we went to. Well, maybe when we buried an empty coffin next to his mother's… that was pretty bad, but having to tell him? I'm not sure he believed me. I'm not quite sure he's forgiven me." That was the moment she lost Giles. "We haven't communicated very well since then." She pondered that maybe their only real moments of pure communication came through physical intimacy. That it was the only way she could reach him and when he opened up his vulnerability to her, because then they didn't need to talk, then they understood each other perfectly. But afterwards neither of them could quite ask for more or let go and the cycle of small talk and silence spun again.

"I understand some of what he's going through," she continued softly. "Some years ago, I had a similar sort of problem. I couldn't relate to people, I detached, I didn't care about my work, and I entered into an inappropriate relationship that kept a secret from my friends. Not that that last one is relevant," she flushed. "But I have experience in this. I have a responsibility to Giles. He's my problem and I say he's not a risk."

Ryan raised a hand in deference. "Your judgement. Your call. I saw what you did to those Fire Demons in Leicestershire, I trust you completely. And it's only natural that if this chap stuck by you in your lean times, you want to be there for him."

"Yeah." Buffy found she had suddenly lost her appetite for ice-cream. She began to squeeze her feet back in her shoes.

"Are we past the comfort food stage now? Do you want to dance some more?"

"No, I think I'd like some fresh air."

"Sure, I understand." He rose and gallantly helped her to her feet. "Would you like to take a turn in the gardens and see if we can find something for you to stake?"

"Wow. Ice-cream and ass-kicking. You really are the perfect brother."

Ryan smiled. "I can't really promise we'll find you anything. Some of my men are already patrolling the area for lurking undesirables. It's probably really quiet out there."

"Something will turn up. Let's try the parking lot. I bet there are lots of undesirables hiding out there. There will be lurkage, I just know it," she added happily. She could deal with Giles tomorrow.