Hindsight | Epilogue to Earshot

"Ow…OW! Buffy!"

Buffy stopped kicking the padded mitt and looked up at Giles innocently. "What?"

"You're doing that on purpose!"

"What?"

"Trying to break my arm."

"Who me? I'm just training. You always say I don't concentrate. Tonight I'm concentrating."

She extended a leg, shaping to begin again.

"Buffy…Buffy! No. I think we should talk."

She shrugged and sat on the reading desk. "About what? I am NOT asking Jonathan to the Prom and that's final."

Giles straightened and looked down his nose at her. It was a look he hadn't used in a long time, and one she remembered well.

Buffy's face immediately became serious. "Stop that," she muttered. "I hate that look."

"I know," he said, with some satisfaction. "Now, if we're to continue with this training session without me requiring hospitalisation by the end of it, I think we'd better discuss…well, the issue of…"

Buffy, who'd been looking at her new cross-trainers while he was talking, looked up to find him flushed and uncomfortable. She suppressed a grin. She didn't want to be amused. She wanted to be annoyed. And then she was annoyed again, at the surge of empathy she felt for his embarrassment and discomfort.

She made a frustrated noise and slid off the desk. "Stop it," she grumbled. "How can we talk about it when you can't even get a sentence out? I don't even know why you wanted to try…you're a wreck already. You fight monsters and demons and risk your life several times a month at least, and you can't even talk about sex without having a coronary?"

Giles finally roused from the daze her diatribe had put him in. "I am not having a coronary! You make me sound about a hundred and five."

"Old enough to have sex with my mother."

It was Giles turn to make a frustrated noise. "Will you stop saying that? Anybody would think I made the bloody candy myself…you sold me the blasted stuff!"

Buffy blinked. Giles wigging was an interesting phenomena but not when six feet plus of him was looming over her with a red face and a scowl like Acathla with indigestion.

"Just a tad defensive, aren't we?"

Giles snorted. "It should never have come up. It's not like it was anyone's business but your mother's and mine."

"Let's not forget that this is my mother, we're talking about here. And its not like I asked that demon to reach out and touch me, either," she retorted.

Giles ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "I don't know why I started this conversation in the first place," he said quietly. "I never wanted you to know…and Lord knows, I certainly never wanted to ever have to discuss it with you."

Buffy deflated like a flat tyre. She never could maintain a 'mad' with Giles. He was…Well, he was Giles.

"It bothers you that much?"

He stopped, turned, searched her face with his soft green eyes, then nodded slowly.

"The whole incident was tantamount to acting under the influence of alcohol, or drugs…ultimately responsibility must fall back on the user. And I…I should have had more control…been more aware…"

"Giles," Buffy interrupted. "Hellmouth, remember?" Then she frowned suddenly and rolled her eyes. "Oh God, I can't believe I'm defending you now."

"You can't defend the indefensible," he retorted.

Buffy stamped a foot. "Stop making me feel sorry for you! It's not fair. It's not like I can go and yell at mom, instead. She'd freak, for God's sake. She was tripping enough when the telepathy thing happened…if I bring it up again she'll have a cow."

Giles' head tilted to one side, almost bemused. "And I suppose I'm not?"

Buffy smiled in spite of herself. "You don't have cows. You don't have anything. You have…constipated rage," she improvised, and smiled again, proud of herself.

Giles stared. "I what?"

"You heard me. I figure you've got like twenty, twenty five years of good mad inside you…I'd hate to be the one who finally provokes you into passing that lot…or do Englishmen just take it to the grave with them no matter what?"

Giles was still staring at her. "You're quite mad," he said eventually. "Constipated rage, indeed."

"I'm mad? I'm not the one who can't even say the word sex without—"

Giles closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Oh, for pity's sake, Buffy, I could do a dissertation on the Karma Sutra for the next PTA meeting if it were necessary, so do stop being tiresome. The difficulty is…well, discussing it with you."

"Me? What? What did I do?"

"You're a child, for a start."

"No, I'm not," she objected. "Eighteen…remember? And the PTA are strangers. I'm not."

"Yes, but they aren't…you. They're not Joyce Summer's daughter…or my Slayer," he retorted.

Buffy frowned. "What's that got to do with it?"

Giles dropped his hand and opened his eyes. "I don't know," he said, almost to himself, then focussed again. "The point is I'm not some blithering fool who can't talk about sex without…What was it you said? Having a cow?"

Buffy studied him speculatively for a long moment. "Okay, so you're not shy. Ripper certainly wasn't shy."

"That wasn't me."

"It wasn't? It looked like you from where I was standing. Didn't sound like you, dress like you or act like you, but…"

"It wasn't me," he repeated vehemently. "The spell in the candy was designed not only to regress the recipients but to strip away all semblance of responsibility or rational thought. Didn't it occur to you that all whilst all those adults were supposed to be teenagers, they were behaving in a far more irresponsible and uninhibited fashion than you, yourself, or most of your contemporaries. This despite the fact that the majority of them were almost certainly raised in a more conservative, and definitely more restrained, era?"

Buffy frowned again. "You've got a point. It was a nightmare. So Ripper wasn't such a bad guy?"

"I didn't say that."

"Oh. So did you have many girlfriends when you were in high school, college, whatever?"

"University, and that's none of your b—"

Buffy was looking up at him with 'I told you so' written in big letters across her pretty face.

He exhaled loudly. "None at high school. Boy's Preparatory Schools don't allow for such activities and I had very little time in my vacations for social interaction. A number during my Oxford days, rather more when I…er, left."

"You don't sound very proud of that…I mean, the way Xander goes on, a guy would be, wouldn't he?"

Giles laughed unexpectedly. "Are you aware that you actually used Xander as an example?"

Buffy's eyes widened. "Oh God…I did. I'm not getting out enough," she wailed, then looked up at him again, her eyes narrowing. "And you didn't answer the question, Mister 'I can talk about sex all day.'"

"There's a difference between talking about sex and discussing someone's personal affairs, Buffy, and I think you're old enough to be well aware of that," he said quietly.
"And no, I'm not proud of many things from my University years, as you well know."

"Yeah, well, we don't need to go there," she said softly.

His eyes flicked to hers, recognised the empathy bright in the blue depths, and softened.

She smiled back and he sat on the desk next to her.

"Buffy, your mother and I both truly regret what happened, but nothing is going to change the fact that it did happen. And in the context of the other events of the day it wasn't the most disastrous…I assaulted a police officer, for Christ's sake, stole a gun…smashed a store window." He put a hand to his head.

Buffy giggled. "God…you did all that in one evening? And you—well, we've been there…is there anything you've missed?

"Very funny. You know I think we've come to the end of this discussion. Do you think we can complete your training now without maiming me for life?"

She looked up at him. "Depends. What's next?"

"Well it was going to be sabres but I'm seriously considering callisthenics instead."

"Great. I have this cool new CD," she said brightly.

"I'll get the swords."

The lesson proceeded well. Buffy learned quickly, despite having only been introduced to serious fencing during the previous couple of weeks. They were using Giles' modern competition sabres rather than any of the unwieldy specimens from his collection of antique blades.

"Tell me again why I have to learn this?" she asked, parrying a series of manoeuvres successfully, if not gracefully, and hating the padding with a vengeance.

"Because swords are very useful for decapitating demons and because too many of them carry such weapons as a matter of course."

"Yeah," she said, initiating her own attack, "but I don't need to do the musketeer thing to take them out…just whack 'em and cut off their heads. And I don't have padding in the field."

Giles parried several more very heavy shots then backed out of the exchange and saluted, before coming back to stand in front of her. "Fine, you don't want to fence. Don't fence. It's good for your co-ordination, balance and adds to your repetoir of fighting skills, but don't let that interfere with your logic."

Buffy looked up from trying unsuccessfully to twirl her sword. "Why are you still mad? You the one who had s—"

"Don't say it again, or I swear I'll do you an injury," Giles warned her, exasperated.

Her eyes gleamed with amusement. "In whose dreams?"

His flashed with irritation. Then the irritation turned to anticipation.

"Right," he said, using his blade to flick hers into the air, where she caught it.

"Smart ass."

Giles looked down his nose again and went on as though she hadn't spoken. "Five touches, no handicaps."

"What do I get if I win?"

"Satisfaction," he said dryly.

"And what do you get if you win?"

"Some bloody peace. Not one more word, you understand?"

Buffy saluted. "Piece of cake," she said.

Twenty minutes of hard, slogging fight later Buffy still didn't have a touch. They were both sweating profusely and Giles was breathing hard, but holding his own. He had two touches, one at shoulder height, and one to the heart.

Buffy was in full fighting mode now, struggling against the grace and finesse of her mentor. Giles clearly had a real talent for fencing, and was more than capable of converting her brute strength to his advantage. And he was clearly enjoying himself, which only irritated Buffy more, especially when he got another easy touch on her right shoulder.

Ten minutes later she got her first touch, rather too firmly, on his right arm.

"Yay me," she cried, delighted, then stopped.

"Giles, are you okay?"

"Fine," he said absently, peeling torn shirt back from a slash across the middle of his upper arm. Hurts, of course, but it's not deep."

"But you're bleeding. I made you bleed."

Giles looked up, his eyes hooded. "I believe the expression around here these days is 'duh,' Buffy. Go and get the first aid kit from my office, so we can pick up where we left off."

It took him only seconds to clean up the cut, which turned out to be just two inches long and put an adhesive dressing on it.

Within minutes of resuming Giles scored another touch. Buffy's attempt to use Xena-like gymnastics to avoid his sword only annoyed Giles even more. It also resulted in a smack on the backside with the flat of his blade when she landed in front of him facing the wrong way, and a sabre point at the base of her throat when she wheeled around ready to knock his teeth out.

"That doesn't count," she growled.

"The first one doesn't, no. That was a bonus. This one does," he said with relish. "I believe that's four. Are we learning anything yet?"

"Apart from just how irritating you can be?" she asked through her teeth and lashed out with her blade, to be parried away like an annoying insect.

"Apart from that," he grinned.

"I'll tell you when we're done."

The next touch was Buffy's, perfectly orchestrated and executed…and advanced her score not a whit.

Giles rubbed his seat and glared at her. "You did that on purpose."

"Damned straight. Was it good for you?" she grinned gleefully.

"Hussy," he growled, and they were locked in earnest battle, until both were breathing hard, but unrelenting in their efforts. Giles had no difficulty countering every orthodox move…and every mad invention…Buffy could throw at him, but her sheer strength was beginning to wear him down. The effort he'd put into improving his fitness over the course of the year had helped immensely, but he wasn't seventeen any more, and he was beginning to feel every single additional year.

In a sense he'd achieved exactly what he wanted. She was focussed, finally, and whether she knew it or not, had learned a great deal from their battle. And was still learning, he thought, leaping out of the path of a low swinging blade and countering with his own, more orthodox charge, executing a perfect feint and almost scoring the final touch.

Only Buffy's superior reflexes saved her from a saber point in her midriff.

"Old age catching up with you?" she teased, her swordsmanship once again sliding towards the fantasy realm rather than competition sabre. It did, however, earn her another easy touch.

Giles, knowing his heart rate was getting too high and that he was going to have to stop soon, redoubled his efforts, chasing her up to the stacks and between them, well aware that she was trying to exhaust him. It was working. He conceded another touch when the bout was rejoined in the biology section, Buffy surprising him from behind the chemistry shelf.

They fought their way out again; down the steps to the reading table, with the ascendancy changing by the moment, brute strength and pure class finely balanced.

And then Giles charged, parried, saw the opening and executed a perfect riposte, leaving Buffy sprawled on the reading table, blade at her heart.

She looked up at him, her face flushed and glowing, her hair asunder, eyes flashing. "Well that begins to explain it," she told him dryly as she waited for him to make the touch and claim the victory.

The gloating expression on his face transmuted to curiosity, though his blade remained firmly over her padded heart.

"Well…?" he prompted.

A look of pure devilment came into Buffy's eyes. "Someone your age would have to be this fit to do it on the hood of a police car…TWICE."

Giles' jaw dropped.

Buffy knocked the sword out of his stunned hand, leaped up as he fell backwards and landed on his dignity, the momentum sending him sprawling.

By the time Giles had recovered his senses he found himself pinned to the floor, Buffy sitting on his midriff, sword at his throat.

"Your mother has no shame," he muttered.

"My mother obviously has a little too much shame, or she wouldn't have been obsessing on her badness and your prowess while I was wigged out with the demon cooties," she retorted and touched his heart with the point of her sabre. "Four to me. So, was it the candy?"

"Buffy!" he spluttered and tried futilely to get up. "All the Summers women are shameless!"

She giggled and touched his nose carefully with the tip of the sword, then threw it away. "Five. I win."

"All right. I concede, now get off me," Giles growled. He lifted his head as Buffy shifted, then both froze at the sound of a voice behind them…Xander's.

"…Twice."

"Twice…?" …And Willow's.

"T—Twice?"...And Wesley's.

Buffy started to giggle.

Giles turned a vivid shade of puce. He closed his eyes and collapsed again on the floor.

"Bloody hell…"



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