Fic: Triangle part 1/?
Rating: NC-17 eventually

"What's going on?"

"Looks as if Master Giles is having it out with the misses."

"Misses? You mean they…?"

"No. But I'd wager that's at the center of the lover's tiff at hand."

"Looks more like she's having it out with him, if you ask me."

"Wonder what he sees in her?"

The other boys stared narrowly at their fellow underclassman.

"Besides the obvious. I mean, there has to be more there than the firm, muscular thighs, the silken skin, the shapely hips, the ample bosom, the…

"For fucks sake, sod off? Last thing I need is a groinal salute to old man Giles' Slayer prior to capital punishment."

"You don't suppose all the fuss means he'll veto the midterm today?"

"Not bloody likely. The man bleeds Council. It's his life. Why else would the lady be chewing his arse off in front of half the student body?"

"Who whacked you upside the cranium with the insanity stick, Giles?" Buffy's voice carried down the corridors of the main hall, drawing an unintended audience of students passing by at a leisurely pace. "This man is seriously dangerous and irresponsible and you want him to play mentor to a bunch of impressionable teens? Can you say ticking time bomb? Three Mile Island? Chernobyl?"

"Pray he never hears you say that. Be like Christmas for him."

"I'm serious. He's a menace to society, not to mention us."

"I believe you just did."

"A mystical menace to us, remember?"

"He's the last of his kind, Buffy. A dying breed, as his predecessor's ill-timed termination demonstrated."

"By blowing up the student union, as well as himself, into bite-sized smithereens. That's a bad news breed if you ask me. What do you mean 'breed' anyway? He's not the sole survivor of some endangered aboriginal peoples. He's a sorcerer and a bad one."

"Actually, his proficiency is well above even the most gifted…"

"I can't believe you of all people are trying to sell me on Ethan Rayne. We're talking about the next generation of Watchers, here. They need to be prepared for what they're going to face out there, not cursing band candy for kicks or raising demons for psychedelic orgies."

Hopeful murmurs from the onlookers said otherwise. Giles tried his best to ignore them.

"Who better to teach them of such dangers than a man capable of delivering them?"

"Common sense to Giles, I think we're losing you! Rayne is a lunatic. Only a complete moron would ever trust him."

Giles bit back his initial response and his temper before responding. "It must have slipped my mind that you are the authority on all things Ethan Rayne."

"I know all I need to know about him."

"You know little to nothing about him or what he's capable of." He swiped his glasses off and gave them a firm polishing. "Besides, I don't see how this is any different than your choice to include Spike in the training of the Potentials, excluding more conventional expertise and common sense, I might add."

A united "Ooohh" came from the crowd.

"Do you mind?" Giles asked no one in particular.

"Not at all. Please continue," quipped one of the students.

Buffy ignored them. "Way to get over it, Giles. I'm not doing this again."

"You've made that abundantly clear." He returned his glasses.

"This is ridiculous. Why can't we get past this?"

"Avoidance doesn't equate resolution," he grumbled under his breath.

"And grudges do not a relationship make," Buffy countered. "Is this how it's going to be from now on? You and me and a squared circle for two battle royal every time we don't agree on something?"

"I honestly don't know." He stared solemnly for a moment before raking his fingers through his hair. "Perhaps it's a mistake."

"That's the first sense you've made in this conversation. Nix on Rayne."

"I was referring to us." He chanced a glance. "This… this arrangement isn't working."

A hush fell over the crowd. Buffy's jaw dropped open for a moment before she said softly, "Too bad it's not up to us, isn't it?"

"No, I suppose it isn't. But this is?" He retrieved an envelope from his jackets inner pocket and held it out, prompting her to take it. Reluctantly, she did, quickly scanning what looked to be a brochure of some kind, containing tickets within.

"What's this?"

"You're itinerary."

"For what?"

"Our newly acquired specialist persuaded the Council into providing a holiday excursion prior to his homecoming. They reluctantly agreed, insisting, however, that he have a representative accompany him to avoid any... unforeseen complications."

A snarl formed along her lips. "You can't be serious."

"As you've taken to persistently reminding me, I'm capable of little else. It's a cruise, Buffy, a rather generous package. Consider it a bonus. I'm sure you'll manage to enjoy yourself if you give it a chance."

She shoved the envelope into his chest. "Get someone else to play chaperone to your pet apocalypse project."

He accepted it grudgingly, only to offer it again to her. "It's not a request, Buffy."

"So, what… you're ordering me, now?"

"If that's how you intent to interpret it. I'd prefer to view it as a mandatory reprieve from the restructuring of the Council."

"You mean a mandatory reprieve for you from me."

"That as well," he admitted with a regretful gaze. "I didn't come by this decision lightly, Buffy. I'd go myself if not for the councilmember's refusals to approve it. I'm needed here, as you well know. Besides, it's rather obvious our separation has left us… strained, to say the least. The tension is affecting our work as well as our friendship. And regardless of what you think this means, I don't want to lose you any more than I already have. I care for you, Buffy. Deeply. You know I do. But this conversation, among many others recently, has proven we could use some time and space apart." He outstretched the envelope and waited. The students held their breath.

Buffy knew he would stand there forever if he had to. "Space, yeah, sounding better by the second." She slapped the envelope from his hand.

"Buffy, please."

"Don't please me, Giles!" She ordered loud enough to draw a gasp from the feminine, and quite a few masculine, members gathered around. Then Buffy's voice grew low and sour with anger. "You don't get to please me anymore." She tucked the papers into her jacket pocket and stormed off, much to the approval of the womanly spectators.

Giles watched her depart, replaying the debacle over in his head.

"Brilliantly executed." He let out an anguished sigh. "Order her out of the bloody country, the perfect plan to mend the grand chasm between us. Lord, I need some aspirin. Sod it... scotch."

An unwitting student hurried from around the end of the hall and upon spotting Giles, began wagging a paper before him. "Master Giles, might I have a word?"

One of the witnesses gripped the boy's arm, holding him back to whisper, "I wouldn't if you value your life."

"What's happened?" the boy asked.

"Doomsday, that's what."

"You mean the exam?"

"I hope you have all your personal affairs in order, mate. We're about to the face the worst massacre since Andrew's third attempt at a coming out party."

"Bloody hell!"

Buffy couldn't help but watch the embarrassing spectacle of inadequate security searching a boastful Texan's belongings. By the time they managed the second bag, his hoots and hollers of protest had everyone begging for them to concede. It wasn't worth the aggravation or the hearing loss. She scanned the crowd, needing a diversion from the aggravation that was waiting in line. That's when she spotted him, the bastard.

Ethan hadn't changed much, Buffy had easily isolated his irritatingly familiar silhouette through the stream of silver-haired AARP, boisterous spring-breakers and the plentiful white bread American families pouring into the ocean liner. Actually, it bothered her that she'd recognized him so easily, etched in her memory like a dirty limerick epitaph. It must have been his clothes, though, with a second glance, she had to admit he didn't stand out much from the crowd.

Rayne was dressed well, a little too well for the likes of him, the bastard. The handsomely tailored, mid-length, black leather suit coat he wore over a soft-toned burgundy shirt and black slacks gave him a snappy VIP look, not just another pencil pusher off on some wacky fiscal adventure. The only inkling of menace she saw in his wardrobe came from the shoes, dangerous Italian leather boots with a serious sole that would make for some great ass kicking. Pity they were being worn by such a pansy. Even so, it ate at her that he looked as good as he did. Keen fashion sense, perfectly styled, peppered hair, healthy skin tone, well groomed goatee. Wait, that's new. Rayne didn't deserve not to have changed much. If ever there was justice in the world, he should be two pounds shy of Shamu with terminal rashes and a bad comb over. Curse New York for their ample shopping district and spas!

"You're doing a magnificent job, gentlemen, truly. But would it be at all possible to hurry things along? I have an exorbitant expense account to exploit and we're wasting precious daylight." Ethan suggested.

"Stay back, Sir, it's security procedure," responded a particularly brutish officer with a restless grip on his pepper spray. The possibility of him using it on Rayne made Buffy's mouth water.

Ethan rolled his eyes and crossed his arms, having expended all his graciousness in one shot. Then with a suspicious grin and a narrow glance from the sorcerer, the officers suddenly stopped their search and stared sharply at the Texan.

"W-wha… what in blazes is that?" He wagged a finger at the item in question. Buffy couldn't quite make out what it was.

"You'll have to come with us, sir," said one officer firmly.

"That's not mine. I don't have the darnest clue how that got in there!" The Texan continued his defense as the officers corralled him away, leaving a skeleton crew of security left to inspect the passengers.

"Well done, gentleman." Ethan smirked his satisfaction as the line began to move along at a much brisker pace. In no time at all, he had caught up to Buffy. "Alas, the world is safe once again from obnoxious Americans." Upon spotting her, he amended, "Oh bugger, you missed one." He waited for a retort and when she failed to offer one, he dove right back in. "Hello Buffy, you're looking pleasantly non-violent."

"Day's still young," she warned.

He handed over his passport and papers for inspection but his attentions remained with Buffy. "I'm nearly inspired to say it's nice to see you again."

It was enough to tickle the back of her neck where he'd mutilated her on their second meeting.

"Feeling's not mutual." Buffy hoped there would be something wrong with Ethan's papers, a suspicious spot of red or a counterfeit stamp, anything to keep him from getting onboard.

"Charming as ever, I see. This should be fun."

"Not quite the 'F' word that comes to mind."

"Everything seems to be in order. You're free to come aboard, sir."

"So much for fun," Buffy mumbled.

"Why so glum? I'm sure we can find something to amuse you onboard. Shuffleboard doesn't quite seem your tastes. Perhaps we could orchestrate a good slaughter. What do you suppose the going rate for catered carnage is these days?"

"Considering present company, I'd give them a demonstration for free."

"Not five minutes and you've threatened me nearly half the time. Impressive."

"You haven't seen anything yet."

"Counting on it. What do you say we declare a truce for the time being, long enough to get settle into our cabins, anyway. Then we can arrange for ten paces at dusk, since I know you're more a creature of the night girl. Sound good to you?"

"Piss off, Rayne." Buffy marched up the ramp.

"I do believe Rupert's corrupted you," he called after her.
She bit back her response, knowing it would only goad him on.

part 2...