Fic: Watcher’s Keeper
Giles wandered down the hall and to the living room to find the couch bare of blankets and tidied up already. He glanced around, searching for any signs of his guest. He checked the kitchen and nothing; he started back down the hall, taking note that the bathroom was unattended. Then his eye caught the movement of a shadow across the light glimmering along base of the training room door. He made his way down to the end and paused before the closed door, considering if he should knock first before entering. He remembered how the gang never seemed to offer him such consideration back in Sunnydale and decided to take his chances. With a turn of the knob, the door swung quietly open.
There Buffy was at the sun draped window; body moving deliberately slow in the recognizable motions of Tai Chi. She was dressed in her traditional grey sweats and white tank top, riding up as her torso twisted to one side. The delicate, familiar scene sent him back to a simpler time, an innocent time. A time when they made sense together and words didn't seem so difficult.
Her arms swayed slowly with controlled movement, defining every arch she imagined in her mind. A step to the side, a lift of the knee; all so unhurried that the dust shimmering with light in the air seemed motionless, unaffected by her gentle activity. It was beautiful.
"Your form is exceptional," he said softly, trying his best not to startle her.
She jerked around, ages of primal instinct setting her on edge, and relaxed once she realized it was Giles.
Stunned he'd managed to sneak up on her, she gave a half-hearted smile. "You're just saying that."
"Yes, I've always flattered you without fail or call when it comes to your training," he reminded her teasingly. "You've gained patience, I see. Only comes with years of practice."
"Helps me relax. You want to join me?" She asked with an enthusiastic wave.
"Perhaps some other time. Would you care for some breakfast?"
She could see he'd be a hard sell. "I'd love some. But first, would you give me a hand with something?"
Giles face perked up with curiosity in the request. "I'll try my best." He moved forward, cane securely in his grip.
"I think I'm doing something weird with my legs in this one." She went through the motion.
Giles nodded. "Wan Kung She Hu, yes, well... your arms are correct. Your feet should be directed outward, subtle angle."
"Like this?" She tried again, still not quite mastering the ending stance.
"Just about. Bend your leg a bit more..." he gestured with the cane. "You almost have it."
Buffy broke position and moved to him, taking his cane from him in an easy tug and set it gently to the floor.
"Show me?" She asked hopefully, returning to her previous place in the sunlight, standing there with all the patience she'd displayed with her graceful exercises just moments before. He didn't want to deny her but his doubts won out.
"So, it's like this." She started again, lifting her bended arms up chest high. "What should my feet be doing now?"
"Er... um... aim, aim them out..." he took a step, working hard to hide his limp as he approached her, "Yes... yes, you've got it. Only straighten your hips..."
She went stiff, purposefully overcorrecting. "Like this?"
"Too tense. Relax, natural motion," he reached out, gently placing his hands to her hips and guiding them to the right position. "There... you've got it. That's good. That's per..." his eyes lifted to hers, caught in the radiance of the early morning sun. "...fect." He finished in a whisper, taken by the lovely face staring attentively up at him.
'"Perfect," she echoed softly with a smile, spellbound by his olive gaze. With that, he pulled away, a bit too eagerly, and Buffy already missed his guiding touch.
"I think you've got the idea," he bent down and took up his discarded cane, using it to motion towards her and the door. "Continue on with your exercises. I'll see to preparing breakfast."
"Sounds great," she said as enthusiastically as she could, trying to mask the conflicted emotions stirring within. "Thanks for the help."
"Your welcome." He responded with a shy sideways glance, avoiding any real eye contact. When he left, closing the door behind him, Buffy let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. "Well, at least I got him cooking."
The morning wasn't what she'd expected, nor was the breakfast, a bowl of cold cereal. At least it was cocoa puffs and not some inhumanly healthy granola crap. One thing would never change, Giles would never lose his sweet tooth. But the surprising breakfast wasn't the end to the unexpected. The first couple phone calls didn't bother her. The two hours on the notebook computer didn't strike her as odd either, but when Giles headed back towards the phone, Buffy got the distinct feeling he was trying to avoid her. Perhaps she'd made him uncomfortable with her pushing him to help her. Perhaps she'd went too far with intruding on and using his training room. Or perhaps he'd noticed her face flush as he touched her, saw her eyes staring at his lips as he breathed, saw the subtle movement of her inching closer at the moment they stood together in such a familiar yet foreign circumstance. Now *she* was uncomfortable.
Buffy wandered around the living room, trying to busy herself without prying into Giles' personal space. It was no small task. There was an utter lack of entertainment to be found. He was being serious with his comments the day before about not entertaining guests. She moved to the couch and noticed a midsized, glossy black box with some handsome silver lettering on the lid. She couldn't read it but her shopper's instinct told her it was from a department store, a very pricey one. She heard Giles settle the phone back into its cradle and took the moment to catch his attention.
"You always this busy?"
"I am sorry, Buffy..." he said, making his way over to join her on the couch, "I needed to confirm some things for tonight. That reminds me. I have something for you."
"Ooohh, pressies for me?" She said gleefully and lifted up the box, settling it in her jeans covered, crossed legs. Her excitement brought a smile to his lips as he sat down, nudging his cane between the outer edge of the cushions. He never let that thing get too far out of his sights and it made her wonder.
"The Council delivered your wardrobe this afternoon. Please try it on. I'm unsure if I properly estimated your measurements." He offered a discomfited grin. "We can have it fitted if need be."
Buffy lifted the box lid and folded back the watermarked tissue paper. It was a dress, a gown to be exact. Pale rose, silken fabric threaded with highlights of glistening speckles, giving it the illusion of rain falling as it moved. Thin, spaghetti straps so petite she feared she'd tear them simply by holding it. It was lined with a soft cloth nearly as delicate but so soothing to the touch that she just knew it was meant to be danced in.
"It's... it's beautiful, Giles."
'Do you like it?" He asked with childlike apprehension. "I wanted something I thought would fit with the occasion yet allow for movement. When I saw it, I thought of..." He stopped as his eyes locked on hers, "...you like it then?"
"I love it. I can't wait to try it on."
"It would ruin the surprise. Isn't there some rule about seeing a woman in a dress before the event?"
"I believe that true only if we're getting married. And unless there is something you failed to inform me of, I think all proper superstitions can be satisfied." He motioned toward the dress with a gentle smile. "Let's see if it fits."
She practically leaped from the couch and hurried off into the bathroom. Giles let out a chuckle at her keenness. It soon faded as his previous thoughts returned to him. Though years had past and time had made its mark on both of their lives, he still felt the same old embers glowing. Buffy stirred those long abandoned and tired emotions within him, the ones he needed to shut away. It wasn't what he wanted, what he needed to do his work. If he wasn't careful, he would fall prey to his heart as he'd done before and soon rekindle the flame he could not let burn. It wasn't meant to be. He knew that and he cursed his hopes for wasting their efforts in trying to win him over.
"What do you think?" Her quiet voice brought him out of his contemplation and he turned to look. She was stunning. The shimmering fabric shaped around her like a second skin, hugging her hips and curving delicately along her bosom, and flowed around her legs with the slightest peek of skin showing through the high cut seem up one side. "You like it?"
Giles stood up without a word, without need of his cane.
"Non-verbal, always a good sign." Buffy smiled shyly, folding her hands in front of her.
"You're beautiful," Giles spoke so softly, as if his breath couldn't even carry the weight of his emotion. "It's lovely."
"It really is. You have wonderful taste. Maybe I should bring you along on all my mall outings."
That's all he needed, a familiar quip to break him from his awe. "Somehow the thought of shopping with you terrifies me more than any demon summit I could face."
"You're a smart man. Negotiations are nonexistent, every woman for herself, take no prisoners," Buffy smiled as she tried to lighten the oddly charged exchange. "Do you see any areas for improvement?" She asked with a subtle turn from side to side, displaying herself.
"Pardon?" He squeaked.
"Do we need to have it fitted or does it look alright?"
"I think it's good. Don't you?"
"More than good, Giles. I can't believe you got it so right?"
"Neither can I," he reached for his cane and moved around the couch and down the hall. "I need to see about my attired for the evening. Feel free to get comfortable. We have some time yet."
"How are things, Rupert? You two getting along alright?" Roman asked curiously.
Giles glanced at his watch; realizing time was short and decided to hasten the phone conversation by telling Roman what he wanted to hear. "We're getting by."
"You sound so convincing."
"It's an awkward situation. It's been years, Roman." Giles could still hear the shower running, freeing him to talk his mind.
"It was for us as well, as I recall. We managed. A matter of fact, I do believe we get along much better now than we ever did through Council schooling."
"This is quite a different set of circumstances."
Giles could hear the sly interest in his old friends tone. "Shouldn't you be attending to some Council business?"
"This is Council business," Roman chucked. "She's seen it then?"
"The training room?"
Roman didn't care for the concise answer. Giles was holding back. "It met with her approval?"
"She seemed to like it."
"Rupert, what's going on there? Usually, you're not a man of so few words. Is something wrong?"
"I'm still somewhat apprehensive about hiring her for such a task. While Buffy is the most gifted Slayer I've ever known, her experience in diplomacy is weak at best."
"Diplomacy is your job, Rupert. Hers is to keep you alive. Did she do something wrong?" There was a long pause and Roman felt the tension over the line. "Rupert, what is it?"
"It's nothing. I'll report back after the dinner." He didn't give Roman a chance to respond and hung up the phone. His attention shifted to the closed bathroom door.
The running water sounded so strange, drawing him closer to the bathroom like some strange call. He wasn't used to guests and the sound of the activity somehow made his empty apartment feel warmer. Repositioning his cane within his grip, he walked down the hall and stopped at the door, staring down at the faint billows of steam drifting out from the crease below. Through the patter of water, he could hear her. She was singing; not a full fledged song, more of a repetitive and restrained chorus she chimed as she bathed. And though her key was off and she muddled up the words, it was charming and it brought a smile to his face as he listened. When the water shut off, he continued on his way toward his bedroom to get ready for the evening. He could only hope for a better outing than their first.