Secrets Told, Promises Made
By Karen Jephson
Title: Secrets Told, Promises Made
Author: Karen Jephson
Rating: Very General. Even your grandkids can read it.
Spoilers: Mildly up to The Initiative
Giles/Buffy sort of.
Disclaimer: The usual. They're not mine. Joss makes the money, I just make the fun.
Summary: As per the title. Some secrets are revealed, and promises are made and kept.
The pale orb peaked through the wavering branches of the
trees, as if afraid to show itself fully to the evil that roamed
the earth below. The wind sighed as it passed overhead,
eager to be gone from this cursed place. In the unseasonable cold
weather none walked upon this small section of earth this night,
Buffy sighed as she looked up at the full moon, wondering what Oz was doing. None of them talked about him in front of Willow for fear of upsetting her more, but Buffy knew the others missed him as much as she herself did. Especially at this time of the month, when the moon shone at its fullest. Which was kind of ironic, considering that was the time none of them saw him.
A crackling in the undergrowth behind her broke her musings. Nothing appeared to move among the gravestones, nor in the surrounding brush, but she knew better. Buffy sighed. So much for a quiet patrol. "Come on out. I' m not really in the mood for a game of hide and seek, so let's get this done with now." The bushes to her right shook in response before parting. Buffy stared open-mouthed as the last person she expected walked forward to greet her.
Two hours later, Buffy stopped by a public phone booth. She needed to let him know what was happening. To keep a promise she made to them both. The phone was answered on the third ring. "Hello?" His cultured accent somehow managed to soothe her with just that one word.
"Giles, it's Buffy. I have to see you."
She wondered at the pause at the other end. "Now is not a good time Buffy."
She mentally recoiled at both the words and the tone. "If I woke you up I'm sorry, but it is important!"
Again that distance. "I'm sure it is but I'm afraid it will have to wait."
She took a stab in the dark. "You have company." At his silence she knew she 'd guessed right. Again that stab of pain because he was with somebody else. "In the morning then?"
Another pause. Was this 'guest' so special then? "All right. After my jog? The usual place."
Buffy almost smiled at their having a 'usual place'. "Okay. I'll see you then."
Rupert Giles gently returned the handset to the receiver then looked up, an enigmatic expression on his face.
As if to mock the weather of the previous night, the sun shone
brightly in the clear sky, not even a slight breeze to stir the
oppressing heat. Buffy walked into the patio area, carrying
an overloaded tray. Resting it on one of the tables, she
unscrewed the bottle of spring water and placed the mail she'd
collected beside it. She poured some juice into an empty glass
from a jug, the sound of ice clinking adding to the sense of
coolness. She'd just settled down and taken her first sip
when he jogged down the steps. Perfect timing as usual.
"Hey." Her tone was quiet, almost awkward.
Giles halted, as if surprised to see her, and perhaps a little unhappy at her presence. "Hello." He accepted the offered bottle and sat down opposite her, making a pretence of sorting through his mail. Both were loath to break the uneasy silence.
Finally Buffy couldn't stand it any longer. "Angel's here." Giles looked up in shock at her blurted announcement. "He turned up last night, following some prediction or other."
"And," Buffy shrugged, "he's here for a couple of nights. He'll follow it up and go back to LA"
Giles put down his mail. "Does he need any help?"
She shook her head. "Just a flying visit. He's not expecting any trouble. I just didn't want you to find out from anybody else."
"Oh." Giles ducked his head, understanding her motive. After Angel's return from Hell, she hadn't told anybody and this had caused a terrible rift between them.
Silence fell once again. Buffy finished her drink then made to move. "Well I guess."
"Buffy I need to tell you something." She dropped back to her seat at the urgency in his voice. "I-I had a visitor last night."
"I know." She shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. "I thought maybe Olivia came back?"
"Oliv.? Oh no. No, nothing like that. It was more of a business meeting." He held up his hand as she started to speak. "It doesn't matter who. They wanted me to do something that I find - distasteful." He stopped as if wondering if he should go on.
"Then don't do it."
His lips quirked in a half smile. "It isn't that easy. I-I did refuse, but they then threatened to reveal something I'd rather kept quiet."
"Blackmail?" Her rising anger was evident in her tone.
"Yes. Such a distasteful business, so tawdry."
Buffy waited but it appeared that he wasn't going to continue. "So what're you gonna do?" She entwined his fingers with her own, wanting him to know he had her full support. She was surprised when he turned his hands over to grip hers more fully.
Giles lifted hesitant eyes up to hers. "The-the only way to really stop blackmail is to ensure one doesn't have anything that can be used against oneself." She nodded hesitantly. "Buffy, I was being blackmailed over my feelings for you."
"Oh." She didn't know what else to say. It didn't
make sense. "Everybody knows you care about m.."
"Love." He interrupted her, not allowing her to break eye contact with him. He'd gone this far, he would make her go the rest of the way with him. "I. Love. You Buffy."
"Oh." She licked her lips, recognizing the clear intent in his eyes. "As a father loves a daughter?" She shook her head even as she posed the question.
He smiled properly this time. "No. That particular emotion, if it ever existed, died some time ago." He lifted her hands, running his thumbs across her knuckles. "I love you in every way it is possible to love somebody. I.." again he hesitated slightly. "I am in love with you."
"Oh." She felt a little foolish continuously repeating that word, but she didn't know how else to respond. How do you react when somebody you care about tells you they're in love with you? This wasn't Xander and puppy love. But honesty deserved honesty. "I don't."
"I know." He jumped in to reassure her. "A-and that isn't what this is about. In fact, if you'd suddenly declared undying love for me I wouldn't have believed you. I'd probably be insulted." He smiled to take the sting from his words, and was relieved to see her lips lift a little in response. "I'm aware of your feelings for me Buffy. They're exactly what they should be, and it's enough for me."
"How can it be?" She couldn't understand how he could say that. Surely if you love somebody you wanted them to love you back? That's how all her friends acted.
"Because I love you and know you. All I have ever wanted was for you to be happy. I know I can't give you what you need. So I'd rather you find somebody else who can."
She looked at him curiously. "So you don't mind me dating other guys?"
"Depends on who the 'guy' is." Angel's name lay unspoken between them.
"How can you love me?" Her voice became harsh as she remembered al the pain she had caused this kind, wonderful man.
"How can I not?" And there it was. The wealth of his emotions laid bare in four simple words. And yet all he felt was a certain release. He wasn't ashamed of his feelings for this courageous young woman before him. And he knew he could trust her not to deliberately hurt him. So in the end, there really was no need to worry.
Buffy absorbed the emotions she felt coming off him in waves. Squeezing his hands she cleared her throat. "So what happens now?"
"Happens?" He seemed genuinely surprised by the question. "Nothing. We go on as before. Nothing has changed between us."
"Well it has Giles. I know how you feel now. I didn't before."
"Didn't you?" She blushed at the gently chiding note. "In any event I hope you won't let this come between us. I would hate to lose your friendship."
"Okay." In typical teenage fashion Buffy changed the tone and the topic. "Are you coming to the fundraiser for Mom's gallery tonight?"
"I-I don't know. I hadn't given it much thought."
Standing, Buffy began piling the tray with dishes. "I think Mom's kinda expecting us all. Xander's taking Anya, Will and I are going solo. Riley said he'd be there," she paused for a fraction, "so did Angel."
Giles began to understand. Buffy had never really gotten over Angel, even after she'd started seeing Riley. Now she'd have both old lover and new at the same function. She would have to make a choice. He knew she was asking for his support, but could he once more overcome his animosity for Angel for her? "Is it black tie?" At her confirming nod he continued. "I have to deal with my, er, visitor from last night. I-I'll see if I can make it after that."
She mouthed 'okay' before carrying the tray back to his apartment.
The gentle strains from the Sunnydale Swing band carried out
over the crowds in the convention center. The subtle decorations
and catered meals added to the ambiance of the night. Joyce
looked around her with a satisfied sigh. Not a full house, but
enough to ensure another generous contribution to her
gallery. She smiled across at her daughter. Buffy was
standing with her friends at the drinks table. They'd arrived
fairly early considering Buffy'd had to patrol before getting
ready. And they'd all made an effort. Joyce was glad to see Riley
there too. She thought him a much more suitable beau for her
Joyce almost giggled at the old-fashioned expression. She sounded just like her mother.
"By that smile I assume everything has gone well?"
She spun around at the easily recognizable accent. "Rup - Mr. Giles. Buffy wasn't sure if you'd make it." She glanced down, admiring the way the tuxedo definitely fit this man. Funny, she admired his good looks and natural grace, but her stomach no longer did those funny flip-flops. At least no more than when any handsome man came into her sight.
"I'd prefer the former - Joyce?" The latter said in request for approval. At her agreeing nod, he continued. "After all we've been through, and in spite of it," they both smiled with just a hint of embarrassment, "I hope we can now call ourselves friends."
"Friends." She rolled the word around her tongue, tasting it, trying it on for size. Finally she nodded. "I'd like that."
"Hey Buffy, I thought you said Giles wasn't coming." The girls followed Xander's gaze to where the man in question was talking to her mother.
Buffy smiled, a gentle pleased smile that the others might have queried if they'd noticed it. "I guess he changed his mind."
"They look kind of chummy." Willow, ever the romantic started getting excited. "Ooh, you don't think.."
"No," Buffy cut her off at the pass, "I don't think. That part of their lives is over with. They're just friends."
Xander glanced over to where his date was dancing with a slightly older boy. "I hope Anya isn't regaling Riley with tales of her past deeds."
Buffy looked at the couple in question. "By the bored look on Riley's face, I'd say she was regaling him with tales of your past deeds."
"Yeah." Xander recognized the insult handed him as the song finished. "Hey!"
Willow, who'd been facing the entry straightened suddenly. "Buffy."
At her tone the others turned to see Angel standing in the doorway, obviously looking for her. In the meantime, Anya and Riley started to make their way back. Noticing the expressions on the three friend's faces, Riley followed their gazes and stopped. He didn't know all of Buffy's history, but knew somebody'd hurt her. He figured he was about to meet her mysterious past.
A voice carried over the loud speaker. "By request, the next dance is lady's choice."
As the strains of a waltz began, Buffy felt panic over come her. She looked first at Angel who'd finally seen her, and then Riley, who waited for her to come to him. She knew they both wanted her to decide. "Guys, what am I gonna do?"
Her two best friends recognized her dilemma immediately. Willow was the first to speak. "You and Angel have a history. And he's only here for one night. A-and he obviously still loves you. You guys have been through a lot together. You're bound to have some feelings for him still."
"Whereas Riley is human. He hasn't tried to kill you recently. He's here in Sunnydale all the time. And did I mention he's human?" Xander and Willow glared at each other. They would never agree about Angel.
"Hmm." Buffy mewled in panic. "Thanks guys. How do I choose?"
"Well, I guess you have to work out who loves you the most, who'll always be there for you, and who'd never intentionally hurt you. Then you have to decide who means the most to you." Willow wondered at the faraway look in Buffy's eyes as she finished. She assumed her friend had decided.
Giles had watched the tableaux before him, known that Buffy
would have to choose between Angel and Riley. Unfortunately he
couldn't help her in this, she would have to make her own
decision. When she moved away from Riley and toward the entry he
believed he had. Not wanting to watch while she went back into
Angel's arms, he turned back to Joyce.
A tap on his back a few seconds later had him turning around in surprise. She stood before him, a tremulous smile on her lips and a strange expression in her eyes. "Mr. Giles, may I have this dance?"
He looked toward Joyce in confusion. She smiled as she took his glass out of his hand. "Don't look at me. She asked you."
"Oh yes. I, um, I'd be honored." He completed his sentence with a gentle smile. Hooking Buffy's hand on his arm, he escorted her to the dance floor.
Riley looked at the couple, smiled in understanding, and accepted Willow's request for a waltz.
Angel leant back against the doorframe to watch the dancers, ignoring anybody who came near him. Nobody was sure when he left.
Giles pulled the young woman he adored tighter into his arms, resting his cheek against her head. He inhaled the scent of her, allowing all of his senses to retain the memory of this moment out of time. "Couldn't you choose?"
She looked up at him. "Oh ye of little faith. Willow gave me some advice. I won't bore you with all of it," they both smiled at the exuberance that would sometimes carry their friend away," but Reader's Digest version is that I should choose the man who loved me the most, and who meant the most to me." She settled back against his chest as he absorbed this.
Brushing a kiss across her hair, he blinked back the tears from his eyes. "Thank you." They danced in companionable silence for a couple of minutes more.
"I think I'll always love Angel." She ignored the tightening of his body. "Well, you always do don't you. When it's your first love. But he's my past, even if he's in the present." She frowned at this piece of not quite logic.
Giles looked down at her upturned face in surprise. "And Riley?"
She shrugged. "Riley's the present. He's the kind of guy you want to be involved with when you go to college. He's sweet, understanding, and treats me as an equal. Just two normal college kids. Except for our secret identities that is." Giles couldn't contain the chuckle that escaped. "I like him a lot. I might even love him a bit. But for now that's all there is, and I think it's enough. Don't you?"
He nodded as they continued to dance, knowing what she wanted from him. The question was, did he have the courage? What the hell, he might as well continue on his reckless way. "And the future? What's in your future?"
"If I have a future." He winced at her words, but didn't refute them. Both of them were on borrowed time. "Actually my future is also my past and present."
"He's only my past, remember?"
"Xander?" She saw the smirk behind the look of horror.
"And fight Anya and Willow for him? Puhlease." She gently thumped Giles' arm in rebuke, then became serious again. "I'm not ready for my future yet."
"One rarely is, that's why it's called the future." She heard the love and understanding behind his words.
"I will be though, if he waits. I don't know how long it'll be. Do you think he'll wait?"
Giles looked at her as full understanding dawned, feeling his joy blossom and grow. Every day she gave him more gifts to savor and enjoy. "I think he will. In fact, I can guarantee he'll wait for as long as it takes."
Buffy moved back into his arms, surrendering herself for the remainder of this dance to her future.