The... Something More Series
Part 6 - Phone Tag

written by Nickle





Throwing his keys on his desk, Rupert closed the door to his apartment and let out an exhaustive breath. Patrolling for Buffy had never been a problem for him before, well if you excluded the unfortunate crossbow incident with Jenny. It shouldn't be a problem now since he was in better shape and better practice with his weapons. But with the addition of Xander, better known as his new shadow, to the mix, patrolling had gone from sporadic anxiety to a constant, knowing, tedious experience. It had gotten to the point that he was seriously contemplating using the boy as bait. If Xander said no and excused himself from 'helping' then it was all for the better. If he was fool enough to say yes, then there might be some entertainment in watching Xander bumble around a bit.

Giles quickly reprimanded himself, but still let out a little chickle. Taking off his coat and walking over to the kitchen he shook his head. Xander was still so... like himself for lack of a better description. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily a good thing either if you acknowledged the fact that both Buffy and Willow had moved past him in many ways. They had moved past Giles in many ways. They were both in college, both taking the same classes, both living together. Buffy and Willow needed he and Xander less and less, and relied on each other more and more. He knew Xander was aware of it and knew it must be hard for him. It had been hard for him when he realized that it applied to him as well. He was no longer the go-to guy, no longer in on what was going on in their lives on a regular basis and it had been hard to accept. Xander was dealing with his loneliness by spending his time with him. He paid a visit practically every day and did absolutely nothing but sit on the couch and comment about anything and everything. It was as if he and Xander were best friends all of a sudden, and while he did feel sorry for the boy and understood his plight, Xander was more of a nusciance than someone he really felt he connected with. Oddly enough it was in his ex-girlfriend that he found a friend, the one person of all the group, aside from Angel, that for all intensive purposes he never would have expected to have become a part of his life.

It didn't escape him the irony of the situation: Xander was looking for a friend in him to cure his loneliness, while he himself had found one in Cordelia. The fact that he could relate better to Cordelia than to Xander or to Buffy or even Willow was initially... strange. But the more time he spent with her, the more normal and familiar it seemed. When he spent time with her, he enjoyed himself, forgot about his loneliness, and just became Giles, the friend, instead of Giles the ex-Watcher, Giles the old guy, Giles the pathetic jobless librarian-

He grunted. No sense in going down that pitiable road. He grabbed a beer from the refrigerator and twisted it open. Looking over at his desk he saw the light flashing on his answering machine and grimaced. He narrowed his eyes at it and took a drink from his beer.

"Bloody hell," he mumbled before quickly walking over to his desk and hitting the rewind button. It was doubtful that his services would be further needed tonight. Buffy had things pretty much under control. He flopped down on the couch and let his head fall back and his eyes drop close.

"Well, I guess Mr. Playboy has taken over for tonight," came a smug voice. A smile tugged at his lips. "Just calling to say Hi... so Hi. Hope the night out went well. I'll call back tomorrow morning for the dish. And there better be some. Bye!"

He took another drink from his bottle. Wonder what she'd think of his 'date' being with her ex-boyfriend. He looked up at another beep from the machine.

"Uh, didn't say my name before. It's Cordelia. Wouldn't want you to confuse me with... well whoever calls you this late at night. Anyway tell me how you like the little package I sent. I think you'll like it -at least I hope so. If not you can send it back to me and I'll-"

The machine clicked off, cutting off the rest of her message and he shook his head. He got up from the couch and went over to the desk to look through the mail he had ignored earlier. He did recall seeing a package but hadn't paid it much attention...

Another beep came from the machine. "Geeze, what is with your machine? Before it gets all huffy again lemme say that I spent a lot of time and effort picking it out. So enjoy it and... well... hope you like it. Talk to you later. Bye!"

Giles waited until he heard the machine click off. Diligent didn't begin to describe that girl. He set his bottle down and quickly opened the package.

And thoughtful sometimes didn't do her justice.

"Damn," was all he said as he took the sweater out of the box and held it up. A deep blue crewneck sweater. Much nicer than the one he had been wearing when he visited her.

He shook his head in amazement. She really shouldn't have done this.

He looked up at the ringing telephone. Knowing full well who it was he quickly snatched it up. "Hello."

"Giles? You're home."

"Yes, I am. Alone. No date. Just back from patrolling."

"Oh. Damn."

"You really shouldn't have bought me this sweater."

"Why? I did owe you one. Don't you like it?"

"Of course, but -" he sighed. "It was an old sweater and... you just really shouldn't have bothered-"

"Giles, I wanted to. Besides I had a little extra money last week." He could hear the smile in her voice and knew she was waiting for him to take the bait.

He picked up the phone and his beer, and brought them with him over to the couch. "Really? I'm guessing the commercial audition went well."

"Yup," she quickly said. "I did the calm, cool take as you suggested and was so good they told all the other barbies to go on home."

"Congrats."

"Thank you, thank you. I was able to buy a few nice things for myself, including this gorgeous black strapless dress."

He settled back on the couch. "Sounds nice. May I ask for what occasion?"

She sighed. "I had a date with a fortune 500 megaman the other night."

He raised an eyebrow. "You don't sound too enthused about him."

She snorted. "Not this guy. He was a boring, pretty boy jerk who makes Wesley look like Superman on even his worst day."

He couldn't help but let out a laugh. "I beg your pardon?"

"Rich pretty boy jerk was taking me back to the office after dinner. Vampire attacks us as we are about to enter the building and the little SOB leaves me, jumps into his car and speeds away."

Giles paused mid-drink. "Son of a bloody bitch," he murmured.

"Yeah well I said that and more. Except for the bloody part. Anyway," she sighed. "Doyle came and did the Dirty Harry bit. But not before I had to take a nasty bite of the dead guy's hand. I mean I can't tell you how many times I rinsed my mouth out with Scope. Gross." She paused. "Giles?"

"Yes, I'm here," he answered distractedly.

"Let me know if I'm boring ya," she said dryly. "Well in short Doyle dusted the thing."

Giles sat back again."As always a good thing."

"Yeah," she stopped suddenly. "You know what he said to me afterwards?"

"What?"

"He asked me if I was okay."

"Well that's what one would ask if they thought someone might be hurt," Giles remarked. "You had been attacked by a vampire."

"Yeah, well it's not like people always showed a lot of concern when I was attacked or anything. I mean, Doyle, just... he really does care about me."

Giles remained quiet for a moment, fiddling with the bottle in his hand. "From all that you've told me, I don't doubt that he does."

"I mean with all my other boyfriends, including Xander, it seemed I wasn't too high a priority with them. Devon and his band. Darryl and football. Xander and well-you know. And before you say it, I know that it seemed that they weren't my main concern either but-"

"You've taken a liking to him," Giles stated.

A moment of silence. "I... may have been a little too hasty in writing him off before. Don't get me wrong, the beer belly is not something that sweetens the pot but... he used to be a teacher. A third grade teacher. And he volunteered at a soup kitchen. I mean Doyle actually was a nondrinking, nonslacking, guy with substance."

Giles frowned."Did he tell you all this? His being a teacher and servant of the less fortunate?"

"Nope. His wife did."

Giles grunted and lifted his head."Wife?"

"Chill Giles. He was married a long time ago and things didn't work out, She left him and returned to get him to sign the divorce papers so she could marry some nasty brain eating demon. Nice little 'Jerry Springer' moment."

"I'm-" he sighed, "speechless."

"Yeah, I know the feeling," she murmured. "I guess- I guess that my standards- well they haven't really changed all that much. I'm just... not looking for a guy who can only give me a lifetime supply of blue boxes. I want..."

"Something more," Giles finished.

"Well I was going to say someone with both substance and money. But after last week..." he heard her pause. "I think I would actually take someone like Doyle over a rich pretty boy." She groaned. "Tell me I didn't just say that."

"I'm afraid you did."

She groaned again. "What is happening to me? I mean I thought I knew exactly the type of guy for me- rich, handsome, NOT a fixer upper- but- God I'm gonna have to become a nun or something."

Giles laughed at her melodrama."Cordelia you're young. You are going to change your mind about what you want all the time. Your priorities change. What is important to you will change and so will what you're looking for. Hell, it'll happen your entire life."

"Yeah, well. Once I get hitched I plan on staying hitch. I'd like to think that I'll be fortunate to find my special someone. Buffy's Angel so to speak."

Giles grimaced. "I wouldn't recommend using Buffy as a role model-in this instance anyway."

"I was referring to finding my soul mate Giles. Not an undead vampire who'll go psycho after a good shagging."

"Shagging?"

"See I do know 60s lingo," she said in an amused tone. "I dunno... I'd like to think that I'll find my prince charming... someone who makes me happy. And loves me. And who I love and know that I make happy," she murmured. "God did I get all mushy romantic or what?"

"It's what we all want, Cordelia. People search for it their entire lives. Some are lucky, others aren't."

"Gee, aren't you a ray of sunshine tonight," she said after a moment. "I'll probably be one of the many unlucky in love."

Giles frowned. "Where did that come from? Thirty seconds ago you were talking of finding your soulmate."

"I said I'd like to believe that Giles, but this is the real world. Fairy tales usually don't have a happy ending- not all girls find their prince charmings, they just find someone who 'isn't too bad'."

Giles shook his head. "Cordelia you're young yet. You shouldn't sound this-"

"Realistic? Hell, after hanging out with you guys, I've seen too much to be naively optimistic. Better to accept the world as it is."

Giles said nothing as he sat on his couch, absently tapping his thumb against the bottle in his hand.

"Giles?" she asked after a moment. "Are you still there?"

"Yeah," he said quickly.

"I'm sorry. It's late and you must be tired-"

"No, I'm... just thinking."

"Ah. Thinking. About what?"

He grunted. "Some stuff is developing here in Sunnydale. Spike's back for one thing."

"Again? Can't Buffy just stake him already? She is THE vampire slayer after all. She should do her slaying... stuff."

"Yes, well I believe she would do her slaying stuff and get rid of Spike if she were presented the opportunity. She's had a lot to handle recently and with Willow in the state she's in..." he stopped and sighed. Exhaustion and alcohol were conspiring against him tonight.

"What?" Cordelia asked.

"What what?" Giles replied.

"Something's up," Cordelia said.

"What makes you-"

"You started to say something about Willow and got all 'Oopsy. I mentioned the W-word. I'll just stop and act like I never said it.' I'm not such a bitter person that I'll go off on a rant about the little witch. What's up?"

He sighed. "Oz left town for a bit. He and Willow ran into a few problems."

"Problems?"

"Big problems. I don't think it's my place to get into it."

"Huh," she grunted after a moment. "I'm sorry to hear that," she murmured after a moment.

He raised an eyebrow but said nothing.

She sighed."Despite all that's happened Giles...Willow and Oz were able to move past everything and... I have a feeling that they got pretty close since then. Whatever happened to make him leave had to be pretty big."

"Yes, well... it was. Buffy says that Willow's taking it quite hard."

She was quiet for a moment. "Yeah, well I can imagine." He heard her mumble at the other end. "Don't take this the wrong way, but can we change the subject? I don't want to say anything that I'll regret later... can we just-"

"Understood," he nodded into the phone.

"It's just that I'm not as unbitter as I thought. Dammit! I mean I'm trying to not be- "

"Cordelia. I don't expect you to say, do, or feel something that you don't feel comfortable with. I wouldn't want you to. You are entitled to feel what you feel and not have to explain yourself."

He heard her sigh into the phone. " I dunno. It's just... I am sorry that they had problems and I'll leave it at that." He heard her moving around at the other end. "So you did like the sweater? I did good?"

"Yes, you did good. You've always had impeccable taste in clothing."

"Wow thanks," she laughed. "I'm glad you like the sweater. Just don't get it slimey on a patrol mission or vampire hunt."

"Wouldn't dream of it," he replied exaggeratedly. " It was really thoughtful of you to think of me."

"Hey, it's not like I'm completely self-centered. I can and do think of others. It's just sometimes-"

Giles rolled his eyes."Cordelia, Thank You."

"Your welcome, Giles." She cleared her throat. "Okay, I gotta go. I'm doing more goodness tonight."

"How so?" Giles asked warily.

"Doyle. I figure I owe him a mocha latte or something for saving my life the other night. And he's kinda bummed about his ex-wife so I'm taking himout. May even buy him cookie too."

Giles refrained from commenting on that last bit. He glanced at his watch."Well be careful. It's rather late."

"Please. For us younger folks it's still early out," she teased. "Kidding," she added quickly.

"I'm sorry," he said. " Was I not laughing?"

"O-kay. I'm hanging up now. You're getting weird and probably need to get some sleep. Bye Giles."

"Good bye Cordelia. And Thanks again for the gift."

"Your welcome." She hung up.

Rupert looked thoughtfully at the phone before hanging up.

Sitting back on the couch he took another swig from his bottle. Doyle. He didn't know what to make of the situation, based on the little she had told him. He just hoped that she knew what she was getting herself into and that it didn't result in more heartache for her. It was quite obvious that she was still reeling from her last relationship. And that it had colored her outlook on life quite considerably.

"She'll be fine," he said aloud and pushed himself up from the couch. Grimacing from his stiff muscles he slowly went over to the front door to make sure it was locked and was about to flip off the light switch when he noticed an envelope sitting at the bottom of the box that had held his sweater. Taking it out he opened it and pulled out a card with a big smiley face on the cover. Flipping it over he read the message inside.

"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I'm very lucky,
to have a friend like you.

Yes, it's corny. And sappy. But I'm in sappy mood. Just go with it and enjoy the sweater.

Cordelia."


Giles looked from the card to the sweater and shook his head.

"Damn," he laughed to himself.

Read the next part: Exposed