AUTHOR: Phoenix the Firebird (the serious side of that little nutcase you know affectionately as “The PhenDog”)
AUTHOR E-MAIL: PhenDog@hotmail.com
RATING: G (Yeah, I know, I know….)
SUMMARY: Giles reflects on the rain, his homeland, and the bittersweet memories of his past.
Response to Monday Mini-Fic Challenge #12 on GilesRulesBaby: What Giles misses most about England.
PAIRING: Giles/Original Character, B/G potential/implied (Buffy will come in eventually, I promise
SPOILERS: A few, nothing major
CATEGORY: Hmm…is character introspection a valid choice?
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own Buffy, Giles, or anything else except my beloved computer named “Slate.” (Obviously I don’t own them, or I’d own a lot more than Slate and you’d have to pay to read this.) The Buffyverse belongs to Joss, ME (yes I know, old joke), and a whole bunch of alphabetical TV networks, ‘specially now that it’s gone into syndication. Please don’t sue, I know I don’t have permission. Bad me. All my money went to bootleg X-files and Buffy episodes and Slate doesn’t want to leave me!
DEDICATION: To the members of the GRB. I’ve only been a member for a week, but I’m really enjoying it! Also to my Eliza-Buffy. My obsession with Buffy is her fault, my obsession with fanfic is her fault, the loss of my freetime is her fault, my membership in the GRB…also her fault. Okay…we’ll just stop listing how much of my life is her fault now, or this is going to take FAR, FAR too long! (I should also point out that she betaed it for me in red-line…made it look like a fur coat at an animal rights convention. Therefore, any uncaught mistakes? Also her fault *grin*) Comment from Eliza-Buffy: AS MUCH AS i'd like to take all blame for any errors, i'd like to note that the author-ess didn't always heed my steller advice! ~e!
FEEDBACK: Lay it on me at PhenDog@hotmail.com. I am already endangering my grades by spending so much time on fanfic and other fandom, that surely I can deliver the deathblow to my GPA by answering your e-mails! Good feedback will be treasured, printed, and taped on my wall. Flames will be treasured, printed in large typeface, matted, framed, and hung with care on my door for all to see. Either way, you’ll be encouraging me to write more!
DISTRIBUTION: GRB, ODD, www.buffygiles.com/efiction. If you want it, color me flattered! Just let me know where and list me as the author!
COMMENTS: Yes, I know I played with the arrangement of Giles’ flat a bit (for those of you obsessive enough to know the blueprints by heart), but it’s my fic, so just hush up!
There’s a line in “Passion” where Giles is talking at Jenny’s graveside. I never heard him say it and neither did you. What line you ask? Exactly!
I originally meant this to be just Giles alone with his thoughts, but the BeeGee in me wouldn’t allow herself to get shoved down in that dark, dusty box I tried to put her in, so… oh well, at least now I can put in on eFiction w/the rest of my stuff!
A few lines are taken from “Teacher’s Pet.” You might catch them if you look hard enough.
Also, some ideas and a few lines in this fic were inspired by “This Town in the Rain” by Tony Head on his CD, Music For Elevators. If you haven’t already bought it, SHAME ON YOU!!! Go buy it now! Now I say! Come on…You know you wanna! Letting ASH sing you to sleep can lead to some very sweet dreams! ;^)
Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore. Even though it was barely more than seventy degrees by the Fahrenheit scale in the air-conditioned apartment, the sweat seemed to pour off him. Giles loosened his tie, the jacket of his suit having long ago found its new home on the couch, and took off his glasses so that he could wipe his brow.
He tried to return to the text in front of him, but found it was useless. The ancient Sanskrit seemed to blur into itself and he found that as hard as he tried, he just couldn’t give it the attention it deserved to get it to flow together and make sense.
At last, Giles gave in and ended the battle by slamming the book shut and putting it on top of the pile beside the lamp with the rest of the ones that seemed to hold promise for his current investigation. He’d been reading for hours, anyway; a slight break wouldn’t hurt.
There was a slight groan as he stretched, a knee popping after having been relieved of the duty of being crossed over its counterpart in its prolonged tenure over the past few hours as a bookstand.
Walking through the small apartment with its toothpaste green walls, he soon found himself with a glass of scotch. He’d considered making tea, but it was just too damn humid in the apartment for that right now. Besides, Giles knew he’d be wanting it when the memories came, as they always did on days like this.
Without even realizing it, he found himself at the window, just as he knew he would. Taking another sip from the tumbler in his right hand and feeling the burn as it worked its way down his throat, he let the fingers of his other hand slowly come up to touch the glass of the pane. It was startlingly cool compared to the rest of the apartment, fitting the scene that greeted him through the transparent smoothness.
The water ran down in rivulets, coming in at an angle to slap up against the pane and collect until a critical mass was reached allowing it to form tiny steams that ran down to the sill, and the quiet that otherwise pervaded the apartment was so intense, the sound of the rain came through and seemed to attempt to swallow the stillness.
Slowly he spread the fingers, splaying them and letting them slide across the plane surface until his hand was touching it fully, tingling from the slight chill that almost made it feel as if he were touching the water itself, mere millimeters away.
And of course he thought of her. Ella loved days like this—she always had—and for a time, Giles had loved them too…because of her. The way she laughed, took away his umbrella despite his protestations and pulled him onto the grass to dance with her, making him laugh as well, until they were both too soaked to care.
He could almost feel the hand on his shoulder, and he flinched as the expected sound of light footsteps approaching him on the hardwood floor didn’t come. If only she were here, they would be outside in seconds, enjoying it as they always had.
But as he looked on, the sight that met him when he focused beyond the window and gazed outside was enough to reassure him it wasn’t real.
He gave a slight sad laugh as he recalled a comment he’d made a few years back to his Slayer that every day in this country was the same, and she’d responded, ‘bright, sunny, and beautiful. However can we escape this torment?’ It was true…it really was inescapable. It couldn’t even rain properly. The sun was still out, even now, showing through the drizzle, when the sky should have at least had the decency to be properly cloudy and grey.
The rain didn’t have the same dignity here, he thought as he watched a car careening down the street, spraying up a sheet of muddy water even as it threatened to hydroplane out of control. Didn’t anyone ever tell those idiots you couldn’t drive the same, drive insane in the rain?
It was nothing like the way it fell on the London cobblestones of the old streets or the way it seemed to wash away the pollution and cares of the city. Here, when it was over there would be no fresh smell in the grassy parks and open squares, no feeling of clarity in the air. Instead there would only be the hot enveloping sheet of California humidity, blanketing everything and allowing the dampness to bring up the scent of rot and decay from Sunnydale’s garbage and overly ripe foliage.
There wasn’t even a decent backdrop for it. No brownstones or stately buildings that had been in place for over a century. Instead there were the obscene pinks and pale blues of the carbon copy houses of the dreadful American suburbia. It just felt wrong, and, quite frankly, depressing…not at all the way it ought to be.
Still…Ella wouldn’t mind so much. She’d still wrap her arms around his waist just the same and tell him that he was being silly, for the water here would drench him just as fast as it had a continent away, and the wet muddy feel of the grass would be equally soft when they shed their shoes to let it squish beneath their feet.
Giles didn’t even notice he’d drained his glass until he again felt the telltale burn in his throat as the last of the scotch went down.
He missed her so very badly on days like this. The one woman he had allowed to hold his heart openly, the only woman to whom he had ever confessed his love.
He couldn’t help but remember that day in Hyde Park. They’d rented horses from the stable on the north side, and then the clouds opened up quite unexpectedly. At first he’d been angry at the sky, but she, true to form, had just laughed and asked her mount to go faster, forcing him to chase her on his own steed. Then his horse had shied at a log and the stop was so sudden, that he’d gone straight out of his saddle and over the beast’s head. She’d found him, sitting up, half covered in mud in torn jodhpurs and trying to catch his breath as the skewbald gelding just looked at his former rider with an ear cocked in an expression that looked like genuine equine embarrassment.
Ella had dismounted to offer him a hand up, but he’d taken the hand and pulled her down in the mud with him, grinning at her Ripperishly. They’d wrestled a bit and ended up in a breathless kiss while their two animal companions merely looked on, amused at the silliness of their humans, but well trained enough not to wander far.
It had been then that he’d remembered the ring. He’d bought it several weeks before, but hadn’t yet found the words or decided how to ask her. Then it had just felt right. He’d told her to wait while he retrieved his wallet and she had, quirking an eyebrow and grinning when she noted that his stutter had made an appearance.
Giles could still remember how hot his face had felt and how hard it had been to breathe as he forced the words out past his lips. There had been very few times in his life that he recalled feeling fear quite so intensely as he had in that moment. But somehow it’d happened; though to this day he hadn’t the faintest idea what he’d said. However, he would never forget her reply or the look of joy in her eyes as she accepted immediately.
Then they’d pulled themselves up, muddy from head to foot and positively drenched as the rain poured harder than ever. He’d long since been forced to pocket his glasses so that he could even see in it, and remembered only her blurred outline riding beside him on the way back to the stables.
They’d spent the next few months in bliss. Neither had much in the way of family, so the wedding was going to be small, and then they’d travel once he could find a temporary replacement to take over his role as curator at the British Museum. They shared everything then, and he’d told her all there was to tell about himself as well, save the parts he knew she would never believe. She had accepted it utterly, embracing the good with the bad, reconciling what he’d told her of Ripper with the man she knew.
But he hadn’t told her one important thing, one small detail of his reality that he’d wanted to shield from her forever. She’d known nothing of the vampires and demons who wandered the earth and claimed the darkness until the night one had come to their door—in the rain, blast it all—and asked to come in to use the phone. She had, of course, no reason to refuse him and had invited him in. To this day, Giles couldn’t stand the thought that if only he’d told her…found a way to warn her and convince her that the fantastic was true and oh so dangerous, maybe he could have prevented it.
Giles had staked the beast of course, using the leg of a convenient chair when he’d come down the stairs fresh from the shower to find it drinking from her limp form. It hadn’t killed her, not quite, but as his tears mixed with hers as he held her waiting for the medics to arrive, he’d known she’d simply lost too much. Nothing would ever be the same and as she closed her eyes and echoed his whisper of his love, he’d known she was doing it for the last time.
He remembered a quote by a philosopher he’d read, by the name of Kirkegaard, that the most painful state of being was remembering the future…particularly one you can never have. Certainly he’d learned that to be one of the truest things he’d ever read. The months that had followed had been dark, filled with alcohol and self-torment in an unsuccessful effort to forget that very impossible future that had been taken from him, from both of them, so horribly.
For a long time he had considered a permanent solution to the problem of his grief, but in that he was a coward and could never quite find the way to end it all. Then one day he’d woken up, and even though he’d thought of her, it hadn’t hurt so much. At first, he’d thought it was a betrayal, that he might be forgetting Ella, but then he realized that wasn’t it at all. Instead, he was learning to remember the good times, not just the way it had ended, and to move on with his life, as she surely would have wanted him to. He’d made peace with it at last, though it had taken a long time, and the memories still hurt.
Then something else had happened to change his life. The Council had called and made him an offer he’d never thought he would hear. There was a Slayer in the States who’d lost her Watcher and required another. She was one of the few ‘Wild Slayers’ who’d been missed by the Council and not found until after her Calling, thus denying her of proper training, and, by all accounts, she was wilder than most.
He’d known at the time that it was a complete sham of an assignment. If it weren’t, they wouldn’t be giving it to him.
Shortly after Eyghon and long before Ella, he’d found himself ready to face his Calling at last. But, even after he’d returned to the fold in his twenties to accept his destiny and his training, his past had continued to haunt him and had prevented his advancement in the Council’s ranks. Finally when he’d received all the education they could give him and it was time for him to receive a post, he’d known he wouldn’t be given a Slayer and would be lucky if he wasn’t stuck deep in the Council’s catacombs cataloguing and filing.
Still, it had come as a complete surprise when he’d been told he wouldn’t be required at all. They’d been just kind enough to offer him decent references and help him to secure his post as an antiquities expert at the museum. He’d proven quite proficient and had gotten on with his life, moving quickly on to the position as curator.
Rupert Giles hadn’t so much as heard the word ‘vampire’ muttered in serious conversation in the intervening years until that horrible night he’d lost Ella. But then the call had come, and he’d answered, realizing as he did so that the only reason they’d given him the assignment was because they expected that either he or his Slayer would quickly succumb to what faced them. Either way the assignment would end, and Giles would have answered his fateful Calling.
But then he’d arrived and found in place of the cold, emotionless weapon he’d been trained to expect, the vibrant, intelligent, and stubborn girl who had taken his heart immediately. Giles couldn’t help but be drawn to Buffy, and had, within weeks of meeting her, found himself utterly devoted to her.
For a long time he hadn’t allowed himself to define what he felt for her. Given his position and their age difference, he knew that he could never say anything and it had made it easier to deny what his emotions for her truly were. However, as she had grown and they had fought together, growing closer through so many close calls, their relationship had become forged in steel and fire though their fight against the Master, then Angelus, and so many others….even his own betrayal of her and subsequent firing as her Watcher had had the odd result of bringing them closer, causing her to defy the Council by clinging to him and refusing to relinquish her Bond with Giles to the other who’d been sent as his replacement.
Now, as he thought about the one woman around whom his life currently revolved, he could no longer deny it to himself, even if he continued to vow that she would never know. He loved her. When he’d first said the words to himself, he’d felt like he might be betraying Ella in a way he hadn’t even with Jenny. Jenny had been one of the first women to whom he’d allowed himself to get close to since the night he’d lost his first true love, but she’d never heard the words from him because she’d never quite evoked that emotion in him. He’d been fond of her, yes, and there was definite potential…after she was gone he’d even thought maybe he had loved her in a way…but not like this. This was a feeling he’d only felt twice. But it had ended badly the first time and he knew that by not telling Buffy he was saving himself not only from her rejection, but on the very slight chance she might actually return his feelings some day, he was saving both of them from the pain of what, in their profession, would inevitably lead to a similar end.
Still he’d felt the need to talk about it with Ella, to make sure she knew how he felt and to ensure that she didn’t mind. Thus he had found himself in the middle of a meadow in Breaker’s Woods, only a few weeks ago, hoping he could commune with her here as he had sometimes felt he’d been able to do at her grave in the months after she’d died. It had been raining, that humid, sticky, hot California rain, but raining nevertheless as he’d known it had to be. He’d talked to the air for a long time, spilling his heart as he hadn’t done in years, and when he’d left, there’d been peace and acceptance. When he thought of his Ella now, there was still the sadness, but the good memories always came back in the end, even as they began to now as he recalled her little traits that made her lovable and the times they’d spent together that, at the time, had seemed like they’d never end.
Maybe someday he would tell them, his little gang in Sunnydale about her…but for now Ella remained his own, something for himself alone. Someone to be remembered on days like today. The days that it rained.
The sound of the door as its latch clicked open on the other side of the room caught his attention and he shook himself forcefully out of his reverie. His eyes focused on his hand against the glass and he was surprised to find how much warmer it had grown at his prolonged touch. Quickly he downed the rest of the Scotch and wiped his eyes, lest they tell his visitor more than he cared to share.
“Giles?” came the questioning voice, hesitant as the door was pushed open further.
He walked over and opened it the rest of the way, giving a shy smile to his visitor and receiving a radiant one in return. Giles couldn’t help the thoughts that came to his mind unbidden as he looked at his Slayer. Her dark blue shirt clung to her, clearly soaked, and the tiny twin points that peaked the fabric bespoke the slight chill even in the California weather. He was thankful she hadn’t been wearing white or his stare could border on indecent.
But he was even more captivated by her hair. Buffy’s hair was darker when it was wet like this. It was plastered along the sides of her face, framing it, the odd strand stuck to her cheek. The lay of it somehow reminded him slightly of Ella, even though hers had been darker, and, as a taller, plainer, more elegant woman than the ball of energy and light in front of him now, there weren’t very many other ways he could compare them. They were both so different…but the rain somehow had managed to find an inner beauty in both of them that highlighted what was already there.
He stepped aside to let her in. “Hello, Buffy. I’m glad you’re here.”
She paused a moment as if the realization just hit her. “Is it okay? I’m afraid I’m a little bit drippy.”
Giles laughed genuinely and earned another smile in return. “Yes you are. Forget your umbrella?”
“Something like that. Actually more like I don’t own one in the first place. But hey, it just stopped so hopefully I won’t have to get re-drenched on the way home.”
He started slightly. The rain HAD stopped and he hadn’t even noticed. The sun was still out, but now it was bright and cheery, threatening to erase all signs of the rain and return things to the way they had been before.
“So it has,” he said softly as she moved past him and into the room.
Buffy looked at him oddly. It was apparent to her that something else was on his mind, but she couldn’t fathom what. “Giles?” she queried. “Something up?”
“Er, no…,” Giles shook himself and pushed the past away, into the dark recesses he so often resigned it to until the next time it would force its way out. “Well yes, actually. I’ve been looking into this new demon you came across last night and think I may have found some descriptions that might match what you told me. I’d like to share them with you and see if you can tell me…”
Giles continued to prattle on about what he’d managed to uncover as he led her in and they sat side by side on the couch. He pulled a book onto his lap and opened it to the marked page, pointing a finger at the particular picture of a potential suspect.
She moved closer to look at it, leaning over him to do so. The water from her hair dripped on the page, horrifying her enough for her to try to brush it away, smearing the ink slightly. She immediately pushed back the errant strands and started to apologize, knowing that damage to a book was probably on Giles’ list of the top ten most unforgivable sins, but he smiled at her and told her not to worry about it.
As she grinned back, his heart lightened, relieved of his earlier thoughts. He missed the rain as it had been, back in those fleeting years of happiness before he’d come to Sunnydale, and probably always would. But now, as he looked at the beautiful woman who sat beside him, holding his heart without even knowing it, he knew that his life now had a little sun in it as well.