Title: A New Start
Characters: Buffy, Giles, Ethan Rayne
Prompt: Best Friends Forever
Notes: Follows the story Her Gift. Buffy and Giles head out to grab a bite to eat and to work on reconciling. Although helpful to have read the earlier fic, this should stand alone.
Rating: R to be conservative
Word Count: 2120
They drove the few short blocks to the restaurant as neither wanted to bother with dispatching any vampires fool enough to accost the Slayer and Watcher. The awkward silence that had befallen them on the drive over continued as the owner showed them to Giles’ usual table near the back.
Buffy looked over the menu stalling for time. She always ordered the orange chicken. She had a terrible track record when she spoke without thinking and this was just too important to mess up.
Giles looked at the menu he knew by heart, periodically stealing glances at Buffy. She was fidgeting and looked uncomfortable. Maybe she had changed her mind. Or felt obligated to accept his offer of dinner. Though it broke his heart, he put her needs in front of his own, and offered, “Uh, Buffy, if you’d rather not do this, I uh, can drive you back to the Coven.”
Buffy’s head snapped up. Oh God, he looked so sad. Get it together or you are going to blow this. “NO! Giles, I’m sorry. I’m scared that I’m going to mess this up.” She reached a tentative hand across the table and covered his larger one. “I really, really want to be here.” She smiled at him and was relieved to see that adorably shy half-smile of his. If only I can keep him smiling maybe we’ll be okay.
The owner returned to their table and poured them each a glass of wine. “Has the lady decided?”
“I’ll have the orange chicken please.”
“Very good. Your usual Rupert?”
“Yes. Thank you, Ji.”
The owner disappeared into the kitchen and they were alone. “So, you and Ethan are friends again?”
“He’s changed Buffy,” Giles replied defensively.
“Um, I know. I mean, I uh, read about it in your journal.” She looked down and fiddled with her napkin.
Giles watched Buffy bite her lip. She was nervous and he was being a berk. He relented. “The Coven was able to help him, much as they were able to help Willow, and myself.”
“Riley never told me he escaped.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Neither did you.”
Giles sighed. “Buffy, we weren’t discussing much of anything at that time. And I very much doubt you would have looked on it favorably. No one deserves to be tortured and that is what the Initiative and their ilk were doing. Torturing those they didn’t understand in the name of science and national security. Excuse me a moment.” He hurried off to the restroom.
Shit! Buffy watched his departure sadly. Must be a new record, it only took like two seconds to hurt him this time. She considered calling Willow to come and pick her up. She could be gone before he got back. No. She would not run this time.
Giles splashed cold water on his face and then toweled it dry. He wasn’t sure he was ready for this. When will you be ready? He looked at himself in the mirror. A haggard face stared back. When had he become so old? And when had he become such a coward? He sighed. Buffy had probably bolted by now, anyway. He should at least go and square up with the owner.
Buffy spotted his surprised look just before he schooled his expression into something more neutral. He didn’t expect me to be here. Probably thought I had run away. Again. She smiled apologetically at him as he sat down. “I’m sorry, Giles. I didn’t mean to nag at you.”
Giles sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. “No. I’m sorry, Buffy. I shouldn’t have gotten so defensive. You have every right to be concerned. It’s not like he hasn’t caused problems for you before.”
She halted his apology by once again taking his hand. “Can we try this again? Um, how did you two meet?”
“Ethan and I?”
“We grew up together. We were inseparable and got up to the usual mischief that boys will. But when I turned ten and began my Watcher’s training, we grew apart.”
“Well, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have gotten dragged into all this.” She looked down at their hands that were still joined.
“Nonsense. You weren’t even born yet. How could any of this be your fault?”
“Jane said that potentials called their Watchers. So it was me that called you. Me that dragged you away from the life you wanted. Ethan.”
“No one knows exactly how Watchers are chosen. Or Slayers for that matter.” He held up a hand to forestall her argument. “What Jane told you is one theory, and there are dozens more. But none have been proven. They’re just theories. And besides, I don’t regret the time I spent as your Watcher. It was my privilege.”
“But Ethan? Your dreams of being a fighter pilot?”
“Ethan? What does Ethan have to do with any of this?”
“Well, you said you grew apart when you started training to be a Watcher.”
“Ah. Well, I guess I should finish the story then.” He squeezed her hand gently before letting it go to take a drink of his tea. “While I was at Oxford I would sneak out on weekends whenever there was a pub with an open mic night. One night, at this less than reputable pub, I ran into Ethan and his friends. It had been years since we’d seen each other but the conversation and the drinks flowed easily. His three friends were in a band of sorts and Ethan, I think, fancied himself their manager or some such nonsense. The occasional sneaking out for open mic nights turned into more regular gigs.” He looked down at the table, embarrassed. “You know what happened next, with Eyghon and Randall.”
Buffy grabbed his hand in support. He continued, “After Randall’s death I went crawling back to my father and the Council and Ethan delved deeper into worshiping Chaos.”
“Were you lovers?”
“Ethan and I? No. No.”
“But the orgies? And the sex magic?”
“There were four guys and only one girl. OH. Were you with one of the other guys?”
She looked up embarrassed. “Oh, uh, I’m sorry, it’s really not my business and “
“Buffy!” He chuckled. “We five were the ones casting, but between the music, the alcohol and the er, other things, we had no trouble finding willing women for sex.”
“But Ethan acted kinda …”
“He was putting you on, luv. He knew you lot thought of me as stuffy and he liked shocking you all. Truth was, we were more like brothers.”
He looked down at the table again. “Worshiping Chaos changed him. At times, I could still see the old Ethan, the one that loved a good prank but had a good heart. But other times, it was like I didn’t know him at all.” He looked up and saw that Buffy understood.
“And you keep thinking if only I’d seen her sinking, maybe I could have stopped her from trying to end the world.”
It was his turn to squeeze her hand in support. “You’re not responsible for Willow choosing that path, Buffy. But I do believe that she is on a better path now. She’s strong and has the support of her friends.”
“So that’s why you helped him escape. And I’m assuming you did help him because you said he went to the Coven …”
“While you were talking with Riley, I contacted Jane and she arranged to teleport Ethan to the Coven.”
Buffy blushed. Giles was being polite. What he really should have said was while you and Riley were practically having sex. Riley had seemed like the perfect, normal guy, and for a time Buffy had believed Xander. That she had messed up and let “the one” get away. But looking back through more mature eyes, she realized what she and and Riley had was a lot of sex.
“Ethan’s lucky to have such a good friend.”
“Away from the Chaos, he’s not a bad guy, Buffy. He’s been there for me too.”
“When?” The question was out before Buffy could take it back. She covered her mouth and stuttered out an apology, but Giles waved it off.
“No, it’s a fair question. Given that you’ve only seen Ethan when he was heavily into Chaos magic. After you, uh, died, and I returned to England, Ethan looked after me.”
Buffy closed her eyes. After Willow had resurrected her, all she had thought about was how she had been ripped from her reward. The others had told her how hard it was after she died, but she couldn’t have cared. She felt nothing except anger and emptiness. And lots of resentment that her destiny had screwed her once again. She had blamed Giles for so many things. Now, having read his diaries, she knew how much her death had devastated him.
I would take my life, like so many Watchers before me, but it is a comfort I do not deserve. For unlike them, I have failed my Slayer. There is no penance that I can do, no path to atonement. No forgiveness.
Looking over at his bent head and slumped shoulders she realized it still devastated him as he had never forgiven himself. “Then I need to thank Ethan the next time I see him.” He looked up with a puzzled expression. She stroked his hand. “Thank him for being such a good friend and looking after you.”
Buffy’s heart sank when she felt Giles pull away, until she noticed that Ji had returned with their dinners. She smiled her thanks and then turned that smile towards Giles. “So, Olivia has been trying to fix you up, huh? With one of her friends that has a great personality?”
Giles caught the mischievous glint in her eye. She was teasing him. Something she had not done in years. Well, two could play that game. “Buffy, Olivia’s friends are models. I would be ecstatic if she were to fix me up with one that also had a great personality.” Buffy choked on her water. He had timed his retort perfectly.
“Okay. Okay. I get it. They are gorgeous. And I’m horrible for keeping you away from them.” She looked down but he could see the beginnings of a pout.
“Buffy!” Giles was aghast until he realized she was teasing him again.
“Gotcha!” They laughed.
The conversation through dinner stayed on much lighter subjects. It was with great regret that Ji had to interrupt them once again, this time with the bill. He had delayed as long as possible but the restaurant had closed thirty minutes ago and his staff had completed most of their closing chores.
Buffy felt a connection to her Watcher that had been missing. She hated that the evening was about to end and that in all likelihood they would go their separate ways. Desperate to prolong the evening she asked, “Do you know where they went?”
Giles finished placing the money on the table and took Buffy by the elbow. “Who?”
“Ethan and Olivia.”
Giles furrowed his brow, having no idea where this line of questioning was leading, but in no hurry to end the evening. “Well, we have a pub that we frequent. I presume we were to start off there.”
Start off. With most guys, that would have sounded cocky, but in Giles’ case it was refreshing to see him showing some confidence. She stole a quick glance at her companion and spotted the familiar pink color to his neck and cheeks. Confident and shy, and oh so Giles. “Think we can catch them?”
“Buffy?” Giles was now completely baffled. Perhaps the wine had gotten to her.
“Relax, Giles. I promise to behave. It’s just, I just ...” Buffy sighed and ran a frustrated hand through her hair. She looked at him pleadingly. Willing him to understand.
Giles studied Buffy’s face. At first he thought she was still teasing him. But he saw only sincerity. Truth be told he had enjoyed himself this evening. So perhaps it wouldn’t be too horrible to take Buffy to meet up with his friends. “Would you like to play some darts? If I know Ethan and Mark, they’re probably trying to hustle a few unsuspecting types.”
Buffy laughed and wrapped her arm around his. “Let’s shall. Does Mark know about Slayers? Maybe we can beat them at their own game.”
Ji Xuan smiled as he watched Rupert and his young friend laughing arm in arm as they headed for their car. His wife beamed at him in approval and said, “I like her. She makes Rupert smile.”