Better Than Ice Cream
By Amywyn

TITLE:  Better Than Ice Cream
AUTHOR:  Amywyn  (Amythest Wynter)
E-MAIL:  amywyn@tfs.net
DISCLAIMER:  I don't own Buffy or Giles (but, oh, if I did...).  It's Joss' playground, I just borrowed the players and set the game.  The song is "Ice Cream" from Sarah McLachlan's _fumbling toward ecstacy_ CD.
TIMELINE/SPOILERS:  Prom - if you havn't seen it, don't read it.
SUMMARY:  A missing scene.  I wanted a dance.  Joss didn't give me one.  I wrote my own.
RATING:  PG - there's one bad word
FEEDBACK:  Will be paid for.  I'll give you cookies and cake and candy... well, okay, not really... but it would definately be appreciated.
NOTE:  < these are thoughts >  ~~these are lyrics~~


~~Your love is better than ice cream,
  better than anything else that I've tried.
  And your love is better than ice cream,
  everyone her knows how to fight.~~

Giles watched them dance every dance as if the music were perpetually soft and romantic.

It didn't seem to matter if the other students around them were jumping up and down like morons, or if the beat of the song playing was fast and harsh.
Still her head lay against his chest, her eyes closed and her hand clutching gently at the fabric of his tuxedo; still his chin rested lightly on the top of her head, and he continued to hold her to him as if fearful she might fade like a dream if he let go.  They stayed that way, on the edges of the crowd of dancers, the entire night.  Or at least for the lone hour or so they were granted of it.

Slowly the prom began to break up around them.  Groups of friends left for after-prom parties; couples danced and twirled and giggled their way out the doors, happily headed for their own private parties of two.  It was the latter that tightened Giles' chest and made him resent the hands of fate, as his attention was repeatedly returned to the sad, near-desperately clinging couple that simply continued to dance.

They only stopped dancing long enough to say their respective goodnights to Xander and his date, and later to Willow and Oz.  A part of him took note of the distance the small group was already putting between themselves and Angel and wondered at it.  From Xander he expected no less, and Oz's behavior didn't precisely seem out of place either; it was Willow who surprised him.

Her smile to Angel was brief and almost brittle, her warmth and happiness reserved for Buffy alone.  Giles was sure Angel had noticed it as well, as the vampire took an almost imperceptible and probably involuntary step away from her in reaction.  Of all of them, aside from Buffy herself, Willow had been the most accepting and the most forgiving of Angel since his return from Hell; her treatment of him tonight was odd to say the least.

With a flash of certainty he knew that the news of Angel's impending departure had made it to Willow first, and probably on to the rest of the group from there.  And a small part of him was strangely hurt by the realization.

Willow and Oz were one of the last couples to leave, and of the few students remaining, Buffy and Angel were one of only three couples still dancing when the DJ announced the last song.  He had picked a slow, gentle song to end the night with, and Giles watched with growing sadness for his Slayer as their dancing finally matched the music.

They didn't separate until well after the music had finished.  The few stragglers who had stayed until the end of the dance left long before they parted, leaving the sad couple to say their goodnights alone on the deserted dancefloor.  Giles stayed in the shadows of a corner, pretending a fascination with the watered-down beverage in his hand as he watched Angel move gently away from Buffy.

From his vantage point, he could see their lips moving, but could make out no words.  Buffy speaking first, Angel responding and looking down at the ground between them instead of at her upturned face.  For some reason that annoyed Giles.

After a few more moments, he watched as Angel bent down and placed a chaste kiss on her forehead, wiping a tear from her cheek with his thumb before turning and walking away from her.  She made no move to follow him or call him back, simply watched him go.

She made a very tragic figure, standing there silent and still and beautiful at the edge of the dancefloor, staring at the now closed doors.  Though her back was to him, Giles knew she wept.  Unable to take the pain and loss that was palpable to him even across the room for more than a few moments, he set the nearly full glass on a table and walked toward her.

*****

~~And it's a long way down...
  It's a long way down...~~

Buffy couldn't seem to stop crying.

He had walked away from her.  One kiss, and not even a real, true kiss, and he was gone with barely a good-bye.  Was this what she had to look forward to when he left for good?  Angel walking away without a backward glance, and herself only able to stand and weep at the loss?

It was all just so unfair.  She had finally come to terms with the relationship, resigned herself to whatever was left of her lifetime with nothing more than kisses and declarations of love.  After pushing him away all year, only to be drawn back to him every time, she had finally been content with what they had.

Despite the emptiness, despite the pain, her mind insisted on latching onto two words out of her thoughts.  Content.  Resigned.

Not happy.

She was sure, when the sharp agony of Angel's leaving wore itself down to a dull ache in her heart, she truly would understand and appreciate what the rational part of her mind was trying to tell her.  Right now however, her heart could only cry.

Buffy felt Giles coming up behind her almost before she heard him.  She hastily brushed the tears from her face, struggling to control her runaway emotions in front of him.  Why it mattered so much she couldn't grasp, but she didn't want him to see her weeping over Angel.

By the time he reached her side, slipping into her peripheral vision, the tears had stopped.

He said nothing, just stood quietly by her side, silently lending her what strength and comfort his presence alone could provide, completely unsure of how to begin to comfort her in any other way.  Stealing a glance at her profile in the dim light, he tried to think of something to say that would ease the expression of pain and longing she couldn't hide.

He couldn't think of a damned thing.

~~It's a long way down to the place
  where we started from.~~

"You know," she began, "I never did get to dance with you."

Though her voice was soft, it seemed to echo in the stillness of the big room.  He turned to fully face her, a slight smile on his lips, her quiet words having neatly taken the burden of how to begin off his shoulders.

"No, you're right," he replied as she turned toward him, "I never quite got the chance to ... to ask you to dance."  He decided to keep it to himself that he had fully intended to do just that until Angel walked through the door.  Instead, he ignored the fact that there was currently no music to dance to and held out his hand to her.

She stared at his hand for the space of a heartbeat, as if she hadn't expected him to want to dance with her.  Then, shaking herself out of a strange uneasiness, she took a step toward him and placed her palm gently into his.

~~Your love is better than chocolate,
  better than anything else that I've tried.~~

He watched as she waged a short debate with herself, wondering if he had somehow done something wrong.  Then she stepped toward him and put her hand in his, her small, deceptively fragile fingers weaving between his larger ones.  His free hand moved to rest at her waist, while hers skimmed lightly up one solid arm to lay against his shoulder.

Slowly they began to move, Buffy following Giles lead, allowing him to set the rhythm of their imaginary song.  Knowing that neither one of them were up for anything elaborate, he kept it slow and easy, more of a gentle rocking than any kind of dance steps.

Slowly, Buffy let the soothing motion move her closer to him, until she could rest her head on his chest.  Her hand slid down off his shoulder and around to his back, grasping onto the soft fabric of his jacket.  After a moments hesitation, his own hand found its way to her back, his palm flattened between her shoulder blades, pressing her closer to himself.  He folded their clasped hands against his chest, and from this resting place she could feel the beating of his heart against the back of her hand.

They continued to move together that way for moments that could have been years, swaying gently from side to side amid the broken streamers and fallen glitter on the floor.

Sighing, Buffy closed her eyes and drew in the warm feel of him, such a stark contrast to Angel's embrace.  At the involuntary comparison her eyes again began to fill with tears, as a part of her was forced to acknowledge that this - an embrace not tinged with trepidation or restraint, the beat of a heart against her skin, the feel of warmth against her own - felt more right than anything had with Angel for a long time.

~~And, oh, love is better than chocolate,
  everyone here knows how to cry.~~

Despite her best efforts to keep them at bay, the tears slipped from beneath her eyelids, leaving small damp spots on the front of Giles' shirt.  He could feel them as they fell against his chest, tiny spots of wetness that burned his skin.  His own eyes closed in sympathy and regret.

Her hand slipped from his and moved to join its twin clutching at the fabric of his jacket.  His own newly freed hand brushed past her cheek and came to rest in her hair, grasping a handful of it in his fist.  He gave up any pretense of dancing and just held her tightly to him.

"I truly am sorry, Buffy."

He could feel the slight shake of her head against his chest.  "Don't be," she said, her voice quiet and muffled against the cotton of his dress shirt, "My head knows Angel is right about this ... eventually the rest of me will figure it out, too."

< And in the meantime? >  he wondered

He pressed a tender kiss on the top of her head, breathing in the scent of vanilla and flowers and something else that was uniquely Buffy, and held her a little tighter to himself.  "How about that ice cream?"

Smiling at the question, she again answered with a gentle shake of her head, unable to speak for a moment.  "Later," she finally said, her own arms tightening slightly around his waist, "maybe tomorrow.  Right now this is better."

Tomorrow.  Yes, he silently agreed, tomorrow would be soon enough.  Soon enough for ice cream, regrets and miles to go before we sleep.  He smiled sadly into her hair, entirely willing to hold her as long as she would let him, for as long as it was enough ... for as long as it was better than ice cream.

~~And it's a long way down...
  It's a long way down...
  It's a long way down to the place
  where we started from.~~

END