written by Gail Christison
Spoilers: Season 3, set after Earshot.
Summary: Giles and Joyce meet to talk for the first time about what happened between them during "Band Candy".
Feedback Author: Gail Christison
Author's Website: Once More With Feeling
Giles went through his wardrobe for the third time. It was going to be a difficult evening, made more difficult
through the lack of referents for what one wore on such a…well, whatever it was…
He stared at his slowly expanding selection of clothes. The tweed that occupied the first third of the hangers had
been the only choices for so long that the growing number of new shirts and jackets on the rest left him bemused
by his own flights of fancy.
It had started after the candy incident, in earnest: the impulse to do something different…to be something different, and after the Cruciamentum it had almost become a quest…
He pulled out a shirt he hadn’t even worn yet, hadn’t even tried on. He’d seen it in a window, in passing, found his size and purchased it simply because he liked it, and because it didn’t go with tweed…or ties.
* * * * *
The Citroen slid to a halt outside the small café. It hadn’t been hard to find, but the furtiveness annoyed him, being forced to find such a place rather than be caught out, either at his apartment, or her house.
She looked up for the third time at the sound of the bell above the door tinkling. She’d only been there twenty minutes, but it seemed an eternity, sitting alone in a booth over a single cup of coffee, not knowing what the evening would bring, not even sure she wanted to be there. Seeing him again, at home, in the midst of the chaos, had been painful and awkward…
It had also been unexpectedly comforting and…more…hearing his voice, smelling his cologne, remembering the touch of those hands…the only hands that had touched her like that since…
The family who’d caused the bell to tinkle moved away to a table, leaving a lone figure in black designer jeans, black round-necked shirt and an antique leather jacket. She blinked, not entirely sure whom she was seeing, and when he turned to speak to a waitress, the glow of the wall lights falling on his left profile, she drew a sharp breath and shifted in her seat.
A moment later he was walking toward her. Nothing could have prepared her for this. Even seeing him the day before, in the midst of all the trouble, hadn’t given her an inkling. She supposed in hindsight that the worry about Buffy overwhelmed everything else. She had noticed the changes in him, but they’d seemed trivial alongside the peril her daughter was in.
“Joyce…sorry I’m a little late…”
She made herself meet the spectacle-less green eyes. “Oh, no, you’re not…I’m early. I came straight from work…it was easier.”
He smiled uncomfortably and nodded, then slid into the other side of the booth.
“Th…Thank you for seeing me,” he said nervously. “I assume you know why I felt it was necessary—”
Joyce nodded. “I can guess. If she told you, I’m truly sorry, but I couldn’t just leave her…and the more I tried not to think about it the more vivid the memories...”
“Vivid?” Giles paled by several degrees.
The flush started at her neck and didn’t stop until she was glowing. “Vivid,” she confirmed.
He cleared his throat. “H…have you spoken to her about it since…?”
Joyce shook her head. “How can I? She couldn’t deal with me kissing Ted in my own kitchen.” She lowered her voice. “How do I explain us, on the hood of a police car…in the middle of the street?”
Giles frowned as she spoke. He wasn’t expecting to have such a strong reaction to the idea of another man kissing her. He’d barely even thought about their misadventure in the last months…not since the Cruciamentum, at least. And after that there wasn’t the time to brood…Between the opening of the Hellmouth, Faith, Wesley, the Mayor, and all their attendant problems, for Buffy, for all of them, there had been no time to contemplate the past.
Then the rest of her statement sank in. “Explain what…?” he yelped.
She looked away. “I couldn’t help it.”
Giles subsided. “Look, I’m sorry…it must have been difficult, but…” He sighed. “It’s simply not the image I wanted Buffy to have…things have been difficult enough between us since…well, since her birthday.”
“I had the impression that she’d dealt with those issues and moved on,” Joyce offered, surprised at the hurt in his eyes.
“She has, perhaps.”
“You can’t keep blaming yourself, Rupert. I know what happened. I was in the middle of it, remember? Buffy had to tell me…in fact, wanted to tell me, wanted to talk to someone about it.”
He was staring at her in amazement. “And you don’t want to hang, draw and quarter me? Or tell me it’s all my fault you were kidnapped by that psychopath…?”
She shook her head. “A part of me, maybe, especially at first. But Buffy painted a vivid picture of what Travers did, and I saw what you did…fighting that other vampire. And I saw her face, afterwards. What you did was wrong, and if I’d known I would have made you eat those God damned crystals, or worse, but you chose her in the end, and I respect that. I know what it cost Buffy and she told me what it cost you…and that’s punishment enough for anyone.”
He smiled then. It was uncertain, almost boyish, and weighed down a little by guilt, but it lit his face, made the soft green eyes glow.
Joyce couldn’t help smiling back. “So, what’s with the new you?” she asked, wanting to change the subject, but more importantly really wanting to know.
The smile became self-conscious. “Not so new,” he replied and watched her flush again. “I still have the tweed. It just not the sum total of who I am any more…”
Joyce’s eyes flicked to the small gold ring in his ear. “Which part of you was it?”
He locked gazes with her. “My father. My father, and every watcher in my family before him.”
“And which part is this?” she asked, and touched the earring, brushing his earlobe inadvertently with her fingertip as she did so and feeling his response.
“Do you have to ask?” he said softly.
“Why…?” She couldn’t stop herself from asking, and didn’t really want to.
“Because he’s a part of me…because I’m through being what everyone else wants me to be…first my father, then the Council, even—”
“…Even Buffy?” she guessed.
He looked down. “Well, yes, but I was going to say even Jenny. She wanted me to change, to catch up with the rest of the twentieth century…and I have tried. I’ve learned far more about computers and the Internet than I ever wanted to know, thanks to her.”
“You must have missed her very much.”
“Too—” He stopped and waited for the waitress who’d arrived at their table to speak.
By the time she’d finished running through the House Specials Giles had had enough. He raised a hand.
“We’ll have the check,” he told her.
Bemused, Joyce followed him out, wondering if that was it, if the evening was going to end…just like that. It also afforded her an unexpected view of his back, and of the firm fit of his jeans, the way they were hugging his body as he walked toward his car.
“Rupert,” she called as he fished for his keys. When he looked up she pointed towards her own car.
He stopped, grinned like a little boy and walked back the few steps to where she was standing.
“Completely slipped my mind,” he said ruefully. “Tell you what, let’s leave both of them here for the time being. I haven’t walked on a beach in years.”
Joyce laughed. “Neither have I, but I’m not really dressed…”
“Nonsense,” he retorted. “Leave the shoes and the tights in the car.”
She looked up, ready to say a few choice words, saw the mischievous look in the gorgeous green eyes and laughed instead.
“If I didn’t know better,” she said, half to herself, “I’d swear you’d been getting candy from somewhere.” And smiled at his crack of laughter as she headed for her car.
It took two minutes to get rid of her shoes…and after a moment’s hesitation, her pantyhose.
Rupert, equally shoeless, grinned and offered a hand when she came back to him.
It felt crazy but exhilarating walking hand in hand across the parking lot, toward the beach, in the dark with a man she’d been too embarrassed to even talk to for months.
“You haven’t said anything about what you want to do about Buffy,” Joyce reminded him reluctantly as they crossed the boulevard and climbed down the steps to the sand.
Giles handed her down onto the beach and released her fingers. “What exactly can we do?”
“Several things,” Joyce replied dryly. “We can ignore it and hope it goes away. We can deny it to the hilt, or we can explain the circumstances to her and hope that it won’t leave any lasting scars.”
Giles gave a bark of laughter. “I wouldn’t worry about scars,” he snorted, still bearing the bruise on his sternum from his encounter with the school tree. “Your daughter is nothing if not…adaptable.”
Joyce was wriggling her toes in the soft white sand. “You think so?”
“I know so,” he said, watching her. “She’s far too well adjusted, and she’s been through far too much to allow something like this to bother her for long. My concern was with how it might affect your relationship with her…and mine.”
“I think you just answered your own question,” Joyce pointed out, then grew quite still, except for the light sea breeze flicking the long tendrils of her hair. “Rupert, why are we doing this? It’s been months…we’ve barely spoken…”
“I don’t know,” he said honestly, his brow furrowing for a moment, before his eyes found hers again. “I think perhaps, for me at least, the most truthful answer is: because I wanted to.”
After a moment to absorb that, she nodded. “Me too.”
He smiled slowly. “Then may I suggest we start again? The boy that I was might still be a part of my psyche, but he’s not me…and he certainly wasn’t as obnoxious as the entity the candy created.”
Joyce smiled back. “You really think so? That was the worst part…the things I did…I was rebellious enough as a teenager…but I was never…I didn’t—”
Giles extended his hand again. “I know,” he said gently as she slid hers into it, almost shyly. “Think of it as an adventure. For all that we regret about it…we did have a lot fun.”
Her eyes widened as they started to walk toward the water. “I…we did,” she agreed self-consciously. “Only I thought…I felt so guilty…about enjoying, well, any of it.”
He squeezed her fingers. “You weren’t alone. All I could think about after was how badly you must think of me for taking advantage of you…and how much I enjoyed most of it. Does that make sense?”
Joyce let go of his hand and surprised even herself by sliding an arm un-self-consciously around his waist as they walked.
“Perfect sense,” she told him, smiling as his arm curled around her shoulders exactly the way she hoped it would. “But in the name of equal opportunity I have to claim a half-share in the ‘taking advantage’ part,” she added dryly.
He laughed and pulled her a little closer, as casually as Ripper had when they’d wandered Sunnydale together.
They reached the surf and turned up the beach, walking on the damp, firm shore much more relaxed than ploughing through the drifts of dry sand.
After several minutes of comfortable silence, they stopped to watch the lights of a ship on the horizon.
Joyce closed her eyes as Giles speculated on its type, acutely aware of the warmth of his body, the comfort of the arm still draped casually around her shoulders, and the scent of that same, very male, cologne.
She’d been wrong. The occasional longings she’d felt for the time she’d spent with him weren’t the manifestations of loneliness and frustration she’d told herself they were. They were as real as he was…
Giles felt her head rest in the crook of his shoulder and was about to say something when she shrieked and they both jumped. The tide was coming in. A wave was washing over their feet and the water was freezing.
They hadn’t scrambled back far enough when the second came through and washed over their feet, deep enough to wet the bottoms of his rolled-up jeans. They both yelped and started to laugh as they hopped and scrabbled out of the tide’s reach, still hanging onto each other.
When they reached dry sand she leaned against him, still giggling. He slid his arms around her and a tremor went through him. They both stopped laughing and she raised her eyes slowly to his.
Rupert looked down at the face he’d seen often in daydreams, at least, when he let himself remember, and was moved to see a reflection of his own feelings in the beautiful eyes searching his.
Then he was bending his head.
Joyce’s heart raced as his tender lips covered hers, exploring, tasting, asking the question with a long, slow sensuality that took her breath. After a beat to recover her senses she kissed him back, amazed how different he was compared to the hard, plundering loving making of his juvenile alter ego.
Instead their mouths seemed to meld, their bodies to fit together as they gave themselves to the passion, the intimacy of the moment. It seemed to last forever, the dance of their lips, their mouths, taking them to a place where nothing existed beyond the warmth, the intimacy, the overwhelming joy of being one instead of two.
And when they finally did part, he didn’t release her, instead wrapping his arms comfortingly around her.
Joyce sighed contentedly and rested her head against his shoulder, listening to his accelerated breathing, the thump of his heartbeat beneath her ear and the calming roar of the surf behind them. Her own heart was doing similar things and what her body was doing didn’t bear thinking about…
They stayed like that for a long time before he kissed her hair and she lifted her head to look at him.
They kissed again, softly, briefly, both trembling a little, both aware of the other’s desire.
He touched her face with gentle fingers. “I wish…”
“I know,” she interrupted.
He kissed her again. “But not here…not like—”
Her brow thudded against his chest. “There’s something to be said for the spontaneity of being a kid,” she half giggled, half sighed.
“Indeed,” he agreed wryly. “But there’s also something to be said for adult ingenuity. We’ll leave your car in the student car park at school. It should be safe there…”
* * * * *
Giles lit the two candles and watched the room warm to a golden glow. Then he turned the two wine glasses right way up and filled them from the bottle of chilled Chardonnay in the ice bucket on the table under the window.
“To adult ingenuity,” Joyce said softly.
“To adulthood,” he said equally softly, and touched the tulip glass to hers.
“Rupert, explain to me again where we are,” she asked as they sipped the wine.
“Well, in England this would be called a ‘Bed and Breakfast’. Here it’s just an oddity I discovered quite by accident the summer before last. It’s run by a lovely Irish couple with whom I’ve become close friends. Do you like it?”
Her eyes moved around the room, from the wonderful antique furniture to the big brass bed, the water-colour landscapes on the walls and the vase overflowing with great yellow, real, garden roses and smiled.
“It’s perfect. I love your definition of ingenuity.” She turned back to him wistfully. “I wish we could stay the whole night.”
He put down his glass, took hers and placed it alongside the other. “If you want to, one day soon, we will,” he said softly and took her in his arms.
“Want to?” she purred, leaned up and claimed his mouth. He pulled her close, taking her lips with a passion he hadn’t felt in a long, long time and exalting in the ferocity, the abandon of her response.
When he finally lifted his head her face was flushed and her eyes sparkling.
He grinned. “Definitely want to,” he guessed, swept her off her feet and carried her to the big bed…