The Need to Believe
Written by anyjay
Set shortly after Helpless
FRT for mild swearing
Buffy and Giles, gen fic
Buffy is avoiding Giles. Giles needs to get her attention.
Disclaimer: They belong to Joss. If they were mine, Quentin Travers’ violent death would have occurred much sooner.
For factual correction, see author's note at the end.
“You’ve been avoiding me.” Giles told Buffy as he followed her down the crowded high school hallway.
“No, I haven’t,” Buffy answered without stopping.
“You have every right to be angry –” Giles began.
“I’m not angry,” Buffy said, but she kept walking.
Giles shook his head. Right, arguing wasn’t going to accomplish anything. That had been amply demonstrated over the last three days. It was time for drastic measures.
Giles reached into the inner pocket of his coat, pulled out a plain white envelope, which he handed to Buffy. “This is for you,” he told her. “Just you. Not Willow. Not Xander. If you should wish to speak with me, I’ll be in the library.” He turned and left without a backward glance.
When Buffy barged into the library two minutes later, Giles was perched on the edge of the library table, looking at something in a manilla folder. He shut the folder and set it aside.
Buffy waved the envelope at him. “Talk,” she demanded.
“What would you like to know?” Giles asked, as he took the envelope from her and opened it, removing a yellowed newspaper article. He smiled wistfully at the black and white photograph of a young woman with long dark hair and large sparkling eyes. The caption read “Mrs. Rupert Giles, nee Veronica DuBois.”
The text read Marriages: The former Miss Veronica DuBois, ward of Mr. and Mrs. Algernon Giles, married Mr. Rupert Giles, son of Mr. and Mrs. Algernon Giles, in Gretna Green on the Second of May. The couple will reside with the groom’s parents until Mr. Rupert Giles starts University at Oxford next term.
“You’re married!” Buffy accused.
Giles raised his eyebrows at her.
“You got married before you started college.” Buffy appeared completely boggled. “You were my age! Were you my age?"
"Ah, a question at last.” Giles smiled faintly. “Yes, I was 18. Ronnie was 17."
"Was that even legal?”
“Oh yes, in Scotland – where Gretna Green is – it was. Still is, I believe.”
“You don’t wear a wedding ring,” Buffy said.
“Not a traditional one.” He held up his left hand with the signet ring he always wore. “This was her father’s. She gave it to me on our wedding day.” He ran a finger gently across the ring.
“You love her!” Buffy’s voice made it an accusation.
“Very much,” Giles agreed with a quiet smile, still looking at his ring.
“Did Miss Calendar know?” Buffy asked
“Certainly,” Giles said.
“She was okay with dating a married man?” Buffy was appalled.
“She was, as you say, okay with dating a widower,” Giles corrected.
“Oh. She’s dead. That’s good.”
Giles mouth twisted, and Buffy realized what she had said. She back-pedaled hastily. “I mean that’s bad. Very bad. Great big piles of badness. It’s just, you know, you didn’t abandon her, and you weren’t cheating with Miss Calendar. And the not abandoning and the not cheating, those are good.” Buffy pulled a chair away from the table and sat down.
“I understand,” Giles assured her.
“So, uh, how did she die?” Buffy asked.
Giles picked up the folder from the library table, opened it and handed it to Buffy. It contained another newspaper article.Death of a Local Woman
Veronica Giles was found dead at approximately two o’clock this morning. Mrs. Giles appeared to have bled to death through a wound in her neck, although little blood was evident at the scene. Mrs. Giles' father-in-law, Mr. Algernon Giles, found her body on his own doorstep after returning home from an evening visiting friends. Mrs. Giles, who had turned eighteen only yesterday, is survived by her husband, Mr. Rupert Giles and Miss Alisa DuBois, her sister. Anyone with information regarding Mrs. Giles' death is asked to contact the authorities immediately.
“She was killed by vamps?" Buffy asked.
"Yes," Giles answered.
"On the night of her eighteenth birthday,” Buffy said.
"Your father found her. She was his ward.” Buffy stared at Giles. He raised his eyebrows, and suddenly she knew. “She was his slayer!"
“The Cruciamentum,” Buffy stared at Giles in disbelief. “Your own wife was killed during the Cruciamentum and you didn't warn her? That's what you've been trying to tell me? That this stupid ritual is so important to the council that you didn't even help your own wife? And so why should I have expected you to tell me? Because—"
"No!” Giles slammed his hand down on the table. “I would never, I would never have let Ronnie face that alone. Cruciamentum – Latin for torment – what kind of deranged mind would invent that? What committee of bloody-minded lunatics would adopt it as a tradition? If I’d known—” Giles stood and rubbed his neck.
“I wasn't yet a fully trained watcher. Even after she died, I didn't know. I believed her death was an ordinary vampire kill.” Giles picked up the wedding announcement and ran his fingers over the yellowed photograph of his wife. “She was the slayer, after all, and she relished her work. We didn't discuss it, but we married when we did because we knew she might, she in all likelihood would, die young.”
Buffy wrapped her arms tightly around herself. She also might die young, but she had already lived three days longer than Giles’ wife.
Giles placed the newspaper article carefully back in its envelope. “It was more than two years before I learned about the Cruciamentum. Professor Wilton gave a lecture describing the grand tradition and its benefits to the council, and to the slayers.” Giles’ hands clenched into fists. “To the slayers! I broke his jaw and cracked three ribs before they pulled me off him.” Giles grinned fiercely.
"That's when you went all scary-Giles." Buffy guessed.
"That’s when I turned my back on everything I’d known, certainly. My father had betrayed Ronnie and he’d betrayed me. He didn’t tell us. He didn’t warn us.” Giles hands curled into fists. “No, he raised me to follow in his footsteps, to keep up the sacred tradition of using and endangering brave young women.” Giles looked at his hands, and then deliberately forced them to unclench.
“And being young and angry and foolish,” he continued, “I punished him by becoming everything he hated. I delighted in breaking every rule he had ever taught me, and there were many of those. Once Ethan and I…” Giles broke off and shook his head. He hadn’t meant to talk about Ethan.
“At any rate, my angry rebellion was only an illusion. In my efforts to be completely unlike my father, I ended up a murderer." Giles rubbed his sleeve over the spot where the mark of Eyghon was tattooed on his arm. “Like father, like son.”
Giles was silent for a moment, and Buffy wondered if Giles was trying to blame her cruciamentum on his father, too. ‘I’m too like my father’ wasn’t any better an excuse than ‘I was only following orders.’
“Ronnie used to make up stories about our future,” Giles said into the silence. “She pretended they were slayer dreams, and I let her, even though everyone knows slayer dreams aren’t about the far future, or happy things. She used to tell me that one day I’d be the head of the Council of Watchers; that I’d improve the lot of the slayers.
“It sounds mad, I know, especially now I’ve been sacked, it’s completely mad. But after Randall, I wanted, I needed to believe in something. And I decided to believe in Ronnie’s dreams, to believe I could change the Council from the inside.” Giles shook his head at his own foolishness.
"But you’re the one who changed, aren’t you?” Buffy demanded, the anger she’d denied ringing in her voice, “You turned into a good little watcher. You put your own slayer -- me! -- through the cruciamentum. What kind of sick son of a --”
“No!" Giles interrupted emphatically, "It was never my intention that you be subjected to the cruciamentum.”
“No? Because you did a hell of a good imitation, didn’t you? Drugging me, lying to me. What the hell was that?”
“That was pride and damned foolishness.” Giles began to pace. “When Travers approached me about the cruciamentum, I told him to get stuffed. He reminded me that I had sworn to uphold the traditions of the council, which required me to administer the drug and to maintain secrecy prior to the ritual. If I violated my oath – if I didn’t administer the drug -- I would be immediately recalled and another watcher sent to oversee the ritual.”
Giles glanced at Buffy, and then looked away quickly as if both wanting and fearing to see her reaction. “I thought I saw a loophole. It seemed to me that the ritual began the moment I sent you to that house. Once I told you to go, I could stop you and explain. The trial would never have to take place. So, I let Travers believe that he had won; that I would cooperate with the cruciamentum. I knew I’d be removed from my position as your watcher, but at least the danger would be past.
“I never imagined the Council representatives would completely bungle the situation, or that Joyce would be endangered. You must believe that.” Giles stopped pacing long enough to look into Buffy’s face. She gave him the slightest, briefest of nods; she knew he hadn’t meant to hurt her mom.
Giles returned her nod and continued pacing. “And then, after you gallantly saved your mother by wit alone, I believed you’d jumped through all of the council’s damned hoops and they'd have no choice but to let me continue as your watcher. ” Giles shook his head. “I was wrong again.”
Giles sat down next to Buffy, looking intently into her eyes.
"Buffy, I apologize deeply for my part in this, but please believe that my intentions were good, even if they led where good intentions often do.”
“Okay, I get that.” Buffy’s tone was guarded. “But how could you make me feel all sick and icky and then pretend you didn’t know – or care – what was going on?”
Giles smiled ruefully. “I was so concerned with evading the actual cruciamentum, I didn’t realize how upsetting you would find the preparation. Ronnie didn’t—
Giles cleared his throat and looked away. “Ronnie wanted children. We were too young, but we knew Ronnie might never be old enough, and I wanted Ronnie to have whatever her heart desired, so we weren’t using—that is, when the weakness struck, Ronnie thought it might be a symptom of pregnancy. She was so happy.” Giles smiled at the memory.
“She told me more make-believe slayer dreams about our children. We were to have a dark-haired boy and a red-haired girl. Sometimes there was also a second girl, slim with long light-brown hair. Ronnie told me they would share my love of books; the group of us would sit about a table late at night, reading, waiting for my slayer to get back from patrol. I hated when she’d talk about me being watcher to the slayer, since that would only happen after she was dead.” Giles smiled apologetically at Buffy.
“After she died, I used to wonder—” Giles looked out across the library as if he were seeing another time and place. “I used to wonder whether I’d lost the dark-haired boy or the red-headed girl along with her. And then to find out it was the drugs; she wasn’t pregnant at all. I couldn’t bear it. I—” Giles stopped and pressed his fingers to his mouth. He’d never told that to anyone before. He hadn’t intended to tell Buffy.
“Suffice it to say,” Giles assured her, “I didn’t realize how upsetting you would find the weakness.”
Buffy nodded, but she wasn’t really paying attention. She was thinking about all the times she’d come back from patrol to find a dark-haired Xander and a red-haired Willow reading books with Giles. She envied Giles’ wife her happy slayer dreams. The only thing close that Buffy had were the dreams of dozens of slayers all training together. Pretty obvious wish fulfillment there. Not a problem to take the night off at The Bronze if there were dozens of others to pick up the slack.
Having two slayers was all shiny and new. Dozens of slayers, that would happen when- Buffy tried to think of anything unlikely enough. That would happen when Xander was a watcher, when Willow was cool, and – oh, yeah, Buffy thought of Giles’ wife’s dream – that would happen when Giles was head of the council.
Buffy smiled at her own joke, and saw Giles relax. Not the deliberate easing of tension that he sometimes did. Actual relaxation, like her smile had lifted a burden from him. Until that moment, Buffy hadn’t realized how much Giles really did care about her. She gave Giles another smile, quick but bright.
Giles’ returned the smile, but then turned his head to stare down at his own hands, spread flat on the table. “Travers said I had a father’s love for you. Quite honestly, I don’t know what that means. My father tried to mold me into something I wasn’t and placed his duty to petty things above whatever feelings he had for me. I have no desire to do that to you.
“But even though I am not longer in the council’s employ, I continue to believe in its greater mission – not the bureaucracy, not the meaningless traditions, but the idea that the world is worth saving, every day if necessary.”
Giles glanced at Buffy, and then went back to studying his hands. “As much as I would like to wrap you in cotton wool and keep you safe, the world needs you. So instead of keeping you from danger, I do my best to ensure you can face danger and survive. Is that a father’s love for his daughter? I don’t know. Maybe it’s love and respect for a comrade-at-arms.
Giles took a deep breath, looked up and met Buffy’s eyes. “I can only say that I have always been proud of you, and that I cannot imagine a world without you in it. I will make new mistakes, of that I am sure, but I will never again send you into an unnecessary fight or into battle without full knowledge.”
Buffy leaned over and hugged Giles’ arm, laying her head against his shoulder. She smiled when he brought his other hand up and stroked her hair.
Buffy knew Giles was uncomfortable talking about feelings and stuff, but he’d been willing to put himself through this torture for her sake. And seriously, as horrible as it had been to be all weak and sick and trying to save her mother from nutball-the-vamp, the worse part had been thinking that Giles had been okay with it all; that Giles had chosen the council over her. It was a huge relief that she could believe in him again.
"Okay, two things.” she told him, “First, cruci-whosie or no cruci-whosie, I love you, too."
Giles smiled. Buffy had no difficulty saying ‘cruciamentum’ when she was angry; the mangling of polysyllabic words was playful teasing.
“Second,” Buffy continued, “the council can send as many tweedy guys as they want. I don’t care. You'll always be my watcher, and I'll always be your slayer. Deal?"
"Deal.” Giles said with a grin, “Most definitely."
*Author's note: I did research this, to the extent of looking up Scottish marriage laws. 16-year-olds can marry in Scotland, but 14 days notice is required before the wedding. While writing another story set in this verse, my beta challenged me on this point. This time I went to a website on the history of Scottish marriage laws, and discovered that between 1857 and 1977 a 21-day residency period was required to be married in Scotland. I sincerely doubt the young couple could have stayed in Scotland 21 days before being tracked down by Giles' irate father. So clearly, in this universe, the law was changed much earlier. My apologies.