Milestones
By Karen Jephson

Fiction: Milestones
Author: Karen Jephson
jephsk@chariot.net.au
Rating: General
Spoiler: A small Helpless reference
Distribution: Anya, Mine. Anybody else, just ask.
Disclaimer: They're all Joss's. I just like to play with em. Particularly the now tweedless one.
Summary: Graduation Day. The end of an era. And the beginning of a new one for Buffy and Giles. B/G.

Special thanks to my Cybersisses for their beta'ing. And this one's for Lisa Jackson, even though she hasn't finished her piece yet.

"...So anyway, she yells at him that he's missed enough of his daughter's life. If he couldn't make it to her graduation, then he missed out on the chance of saying goodbye to his little girl." Buffy tried to make it seem amusing, but Giles could feel the pain she usually hid so well. Her father may not turn up for her graduation.  It was to commence in an hour's time, and there was still no word either way.

He smiled gently at her. "Well, having been at the end of many of your mother's tirades, I'm sure he felt suitably chastised. She has a way of making a grown man feel like a child again."

"Yeah. That's the secret mother's ingredient. She promised to show it to me when I have kids."  He pretended not to hear her whispered "If I have kids." Finally stirring, she slipped off the edge of his desk. "So, we'll see you at the ceremony? You won't get caught up in your latest prize?"  She pointed to the book on demonology that had arrived that morning.

His smile was more genuine this time. "I promise not to even open the cover until after the ceremony. I've been waiting for this moment for almost as long as the rest of you. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

She nodded, not wanting to examine the warm glow his words gave her. In some ways it was more important for Giles to be there than her own father.  She turned to go.

"Buffy?"  She looked back at him, immediately noticing his discomfort. "I, um, have something f-for you."  He pulled a small wrapped box out of his pocket, handing it to her. "I b-bought this for your eighteenth birthday, but it didn't seem, well.." She couldn't help the flinch at the reminder of that dark time in their lives. "There never seemed an appropriate time to do this. I-I hope you'll consider this a graduation present."

She took the parcel gingerly, turning it over before unwrapping it. A square jewelry box gave her forewarning of what type of present it would be. Gently lifting the lid, she couldn't help the gasp that escaped.  She'd been expecting some sort of charm to ward off demons, not the exquisite piece of jewelry nestled in the satin lining.

Reverently, she lifted the oval-shaped locket, it's attached chain dangling between her fingers. It was obviously very old, and very expensive. The frame comprised of fine interwoven gold threads, criss-crossing until they formed a rope. The piece itself was of a darker gold, with various designs and emblems surrounding the figure in the centre.  A young girl, her mid-length hair flowing about her as she appeared to dance was etched into the metal, her shape defined by fine particles of gold leaf. It was only upon closer inspection Buffy noticed the stake in the girl's right hand, and the flower in her left.

"The frame is to remind you that strength is made up of many small threads creating a whole. The designs are various wards to protect from your unseen enemies. They create a barrier that none can break through. You know what the stake means. The flower is a reminder that in all the ugliness in your life, there is still beauty, and you create much of it with your actions and your love." His voice sounded husky. She found herself blinking away a few tears.  "There's an opening at the back. Room for two photographs. I though you might like to put in one of your family, and one of...whoever."

"It's beautiful Giles. Thank you.  Put it on for me?"  She handed him the chain, then lifted her hair, allowing him access to the back of her neck. He appeared to hesitate for a moment, then she saw the chain briefly before her eyes as he lowered it. The warmth of his fingers on her bare flesh caused a shiver on her skin.  She could feel the heat of his body behind her. When his hands rested on her shoulders, she couldn't resist leaning back into him.

She sensed his withdrawal just before he stepped back.  Disappointed, she dropped her hair, then gathered herself before turning to face him. "It's the best graduation present I've ever received. Thank you."

He smiled hesitantly. "I believe it's the only graduation present you've received so far. But I'm pleased you like it."

Taking her courage in her hands, Buffy stepped forward, and kissed him on the cheek. "I'll see you at the ceremony." She almost ran out of the library, savouring the pleased shock on her Watcher's face from her actions.


***


The ceremony was about to get under way.  The raised platform took centre stage, with it's empty 100 or so chairs, and podium set in front of it.  To one side, sat the faculty, including Giles.  He'd already smiled encouragingly at Buffy and the others. Now he sat chatting to other staff members, saying his own good-byes. He'd already tendered his resignation.

Principal Snyder stood, and made his way to the podium.  Buffy, made one last sweep of the audience, checking on her mother and the empty chair beside her. Behind Joyce sat Willow's parents. Xander's hadn't turned up. He'd said he was happier that they weren't there to cause a ruckus, but she knew he was hurting. Made her realise how lucky she was to have one parent to see her on her 'day of days'.

She turned back in time to see Snyder reach his destination.  There was a shifting of seats, then people began to giggle as the Principle realised the podium was too large for him.  He became red with embarrassment and rage, silently promising retribution on those who dared to humiliate him.

Somebody got up to help resolve his dilemma.  The ex-librarian moved forward, a step in his hands.  He placed it at Snyder's feet, then looked at him. His grin was almost feral, reminding the little man of who had the real power between them.  He then turned away and resumed his seat.  Snyder stepped up, and began the ceremony.......

"....Buffy Summers."  Buffy heard her friends cheering when her name was called. She didn't care that there wasn't as much reaction to her graduation. The ones that counted knew how hard it had been for her. And they were proud of her.  She walked past the faculty, seeing the pride in Giles' face.  She was pleasantly surprised to see many of the staff showing their pleasure at her achievement.  She took the certificate from Snyder, a little tug of war between
them, as if he wanted to stop her victory even now. She just smiled at him, her expression similar to Giles' earlier.  She sat in her seat, looking toward her mother.  Her breath caught as she realised that Joyce wasn't alone any more. She felt the tears well as her father waved at her.



***



After the ceremony, she and her friends wandered around the grounds.  Willow waved then grabbed Xander's sleeve. "Come on. Dad wants a photo of us."

He hesitated. "He probably just wants one of you Will."

"No he doesn't. He wants to tell you how proud he is of you Xander.  He wants a photo of 'his children' in their graduation grounds."  She looked at the slayer. "I want one of you too, but I thought you might want to talk to the cute guy behind you first."  So saying, she dragged her best friend off before he had a chance to ruin the moment by bawling his eyes out.

Buffy turned, half-expecting the 'cute guy' to be Giles. It wasn't. "I'm so proud of you Buffy. I just wished I'd been here to see you become a mature young woman."

"Hello Dad."  She returned his hug. "I thought you couldn't make it?"

Hank looked fondly at his ex-wife. "Well, after your mother's dressing down, I realised what a fool I'd been. And how I was going to lose the second woman I loved because of my self-absorption."  Joyce blushed at his comments. Buffy realised than that they both still had feelings for each other. She wasn't going to hope too much, but as she hugged her mother, she had a feeling things were going to change in the next year.

Several minutes later, Buffy found herself scanning the crowd.  She didn't realise it, but Willow and Xander were doing the same thing. They knew he had to be near, but had trouble finding him amongst all the people. They spotted him at the same time, away from all the activity, leaning against a tree, hands in pockets. As one, they moved toward him.  He watched them as they neared, no change in his demeanour, but pride and love in his eyes.

They stood around him in a semi-circle, silly grins on their faces. Eventually, Buffy broke the silence. "What are you doing over here all by yourself?"

"Saying goodbye."

Willow thought she knew the answer, but asked the question anyway. "To who?"

He surprised them all. "To three very unusual children."

Buffy felt a chill in her heart. "You're leaving?"

"No. But those children have already left. In their place stand three very unusual adults."

Their smiles widened. Xander spoke for the first time. "They're, um, they're t-taking photos over there." He didn't realise just how much he sounded like the Englishman just then. The others did though. "Graduates and their parents. I was wondering if...."

Giles didn't think he would have been more proud when he witnessed these three graduate. He was wrong. "I'd be honoured Xander."  The younger man nodded, and the two moved off.

"Hey what about us?"

"Well, you two can grab your own parents. Then the four of us can get a photo done together. Even Oz if he's still around."

Even Willow smiled at the mention of her boyfriend's obvious reluctance to graduate.  She'd had to drag him to school that day, and he'd sworn he wasn't hanging around for the 'fun' afterwards.  But, she knew where he was hiding, and went off to find him.

Buffy stood for a moment, her eyes following the man and boy. She was glad Xander thought of Giles as a father.  And she wasn't envious. She already had a father. And that was one role she didn't want Giles to fill.



***


Later that evening, Giles finished packing up the last of his books.  He could here the strains of music from the graduation dance in the gymnasium. He'd promised the others he'd pop his head in. But first he wanted to finish this lot off.

"Hey. You still hiding here?  Where are you going to bolt to without the good old Sunnydale High library?"  He turned toward Buffy, his breath catching at the sight of her.  Her graduation dress accentuated the various curves and bumps that had developed over the past twelve months, its lack of material highlighting her golden flesh.  Her hair was clipped back, and he was pleased to see his graduation present nestling in the V of the dress, even if it did draw his eyes to places he had no right looking.

"I was just finishing up before popping into the dance. You look beautiful, by the way."

Her blush covered her exposed chest before traveling to her cheeks. "Thank you. And I was hoping to finagle at least one dance out of you tonight."  If either noticed the tension between them, none sought to mention it. Things had changed that day.  Personally, as well as in their future occupations.

"Why? Are they playing a Bay City Rollers song?"  He smiled at her groan, before placing the last book in a box.  He moved toward her, dusting his hands on his jacket.  Just then the strains of a waltz could be heard faintly through the doors. They looked at each other before smiling. "Miss Summers, may I have this dance?"

"Why Mr. Giles. I'd be honoured." She placed her hand in his, as his arm drew her close to his body.  He began to swing her around the room, humming to the tune.  She rested into his body, closing her eyes, wanting to hold onto this moment forever.  She felt herself mold into him, and gave herself up to the music.

Unfortunately, her natural grace didn't mesh well with the long skirt of her dress. She became tangled up in the material, and felt herself tripping. Reacting automatically, she held onto the nearest support. That being Giles. Her strength caused him to fall back.  He ended flat on the floor, covered in slayer. "Giles! Oh my god, I'm sorry."

He moaned. "Undone by an eighteen year old."

She straightened. "No. This is being undone by an eighteen year old." Starting with the bottom button, she started undoing his jacket.

He looked at her speculatively, not stopping her, but not assisting her either. Only when she reached the top button did he react. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

Leaning down, she gently kissed him on the mouth, waiting only until he responded.  She lifted herself up. "Yeah. I really want to do this."  His hand came up to her head, bringing her down to him again.  This time he took control
of the kiss, opening his mouth, allowing his tongue to trace her lips.  She opened up, allowing him access to her warmth.  They rolled, until his body covered hers.

"Where else would they be?  They're not at the dance."  They pulled back as they heard Willow's voice through the door.  Giles looked up as she, Xander and Oz entered the library.  Willow's eyes grew large. "Oh-oh my god. What are you doing?"

Giles said the only thing he could. "Kissing my slayer senseless."

Oz didn't say anything, but Giles thought his response was probably 'cool'. Willow just stood with her mouth open. Xander gulped, then started to giggle. "Did it work?"

Giles looked at Buffy, noticing the dreamy look on her face. "Yes. I believe it did."

"Oh."  The other three looked at each other. "Well, when she comes back to her senses, come to the dance.  Before Buffy's dad comes looking for her." With that last warning, Xander grabbed Willow, and with Oz's help dragged her out.

It was Buffy's turn to giggle. He smiled at her, before kissing the giggles away. "I guess our secret love is no secret any more."

He looked at her in surprise. "Don't tell me you're a Doris Day fan."

"Okay."  She started giggling again, the sound turning into a moan as his tongue plundered her mouth. When he came up for air, she removed his glasses. "I really love the locket Giles. But this is definitely the best graduation present ever."

END