Backup Angstathon Assignment for…
1 thing you don’t want: slash
3 things you do want: Buffy coming to a conclusion by herself, not having things pointed out by another Scooby.
Oz eating hummus
Giles receiving a phone call from friend. No demon reason, just to say hi
Buffy perched upon a stool at the kitchen counter, staring blankly at the simplistic etchings printed on the page of the old transcript before her. She tried to refocus on the task at hand, the seemingly unending search for the demonic symbol they’d discovered on the remains of a human sacrifice left by the Stonewield crypt in the Northern cemetery. But alas, after three hours of continuous, semi-dedicated scanning of Giles’ dusty reference materials, the Chosen One needed a break. Amnesty came in the form of her equally distracted friends as they sat on Giles’ couch, discussing the finer points of exotic cuisine.
“It looks like baby puke,” Xander said gruffly.
“Of which you are an authority,” Oz commented.
“Try it. It’s good for you.” Willow urged.
“So is pizza,” Xander argued.
“There is more to life pepperoni,” Oz suggested.
“Just try it,” Cordelia sighed. “I swear, if it doesn’t have sprinkles and jelly, you won’t touch it.”
“Presentation is important.” Xander defended himself.
“Says the spokesperson for ‘Bowling Weekly’.” Cordy rolled her eyes.
“Hey! I thought you said you liked this shirt,” Xander huffed.
“Just a little bite, Xander,” Willow encouraged him.
“But what is it?” He took a suspicious sniff.
“Hummus,” Oz responded. “Of the red pepper variety.”
“Are we talking meat, cheese, or dare I face the unspeakable horror of a vegetable processed beyond all recognition.” Xander continued.
“A delicious blend of pureed chickpeas, lemon, sesame tahini, oil, and spices,” Willow explained.
“Thank you Martha Stewart. Still wallowing in cluelessness.” Xander shrugged.
“Mushy beans,” Oz clarified.
“So what’s wrong with this bread, then?” Xander asked, lifting up a piece and waggling it loosely by his fingertips. “It’s flatter than my cousin Selma . Someone sit on it?”
“There’s nothing wrong with it. That’s just the way it is.” Willow responded.
“What’s it called?”
“Not very inventive.”
“Yet strangely to the point,” Oz chimed in again.
“It’s also known as pita bread.” Willow continued. “Spread the hummus on it and eat. Good stuff.”
“Think of it as musty pizza without the burden of toppings.” Oz suggested.
“Don’t push your luck.” Xander gestured at the tub of goo before him and nodded to Oz. “Werewolves first.”
As Oz dipped a torn piece of flat bread into the mush and expressionlessly nibbled it, Buffy directed her attention away from the group of preoccupied friends and over to Giles who was sitting at his desk, still immersed within the pages of his current book and utterly oblivious to the others around him. She wondered how he could manage it.
The phone ringing startled everyone, especially Giles who practically sprang from his chair at the alien sound. All eyes focused on him, riveted by the strange noise never before heard by them within the walls of their proclaimed hangout away from the library. Giles sat there staring at the phone, apparently bewildered and in disbelief.
“It’s a phone, Giles, not a demon. I think it’s safe to answer it.” Buffy teased mildly.
“Giles has a phone?” Xander feigned shock. “I thought he communicated by carrier pigeons.”
“Quite, but it’s flown the coup and seeing as my telegraph is in disrepair, I splurged for this marvelous new contraption referred to as the telephone,” Giles countered with a halfhearted smirk. “I can’t imagine who would be phoning.”
“Maybe a telemarketer. Like a long distance carrier seeking to sell you on their service,” Cordelia suggested.
“Otherwise known as vampires,” Oz smirked and took some more hummus.
Buffy lifted a nearby stake on the counter and gave it a wiggle. “Go on, Giles. I got your back.”
Giles winced at the thought of a telemarketer as he reached out and apprehensively lifted the receiver to his ear.
“Hello…” he answered skeptically and waited for a moment before removing his glasses.
“Speaking.” Still unsure.
He held the glasses within his fingertips, hovering there above the book as if unwilling to completely pull himself away from his work, ready to toss them back on the second he could rid himself of the interruption. Buffy watched as recognition flickered along his features.
“Kevin? My word…” The glasses finally dropped to the open pages below and a broad smile lifted Giles’ weary features. “It’s been… what… eleven years now, hasn’t it. How are you?” His hands moved with every word, animating his excitement with the unexpected caller.
The rest of the gang returned to their previous discussion of snack foods but Buffy found her interests remaining with Giles.
“Oh… getting along, I suppose.” He ran his fingers through his hair, ruffling it messily as he stretched out his back to relieve the tension that had set in from sitting still for hours on end.
“As best as can be expected with the shops around here. This small suburb of California doesn’t particularly cater to the international crowd. You wouldn’t believe what passes for tea here. So, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you come by this number?” He pulled away from the desk to gain some space, leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs as casualness gradually began to adjust his posture.
“How are Cecily and the boys? Keeping you running ragged, I’m sure.”
With that, Buffy tuned out from the conversation; not that it was uninteresting but she didn’t want to intrude. She was in Giles home, after all, and this was obviously a personal call. But personal conversations aside, she didn’t want to miss the captivating show of his expressions as he spoke. An easy grin played at the edges of his mouth. A glimpse of teeth showed as he let a smile finally win out. And with an escaped laughed, the faint lines of his eyes deepened to reveal well worn creases of joy he hid from the world around him. At that moment, Giles held no thoughts of demon symbols or apocalypses or prophecies or vampires or any of the other usual Watcherly subjects. He was a man connecting with another in such an explicitly human way that Buffy nearly forgot who she was watching.
The conversation continued for over ten minutes; wordy reminiscing about pranks in school, drinking games, gleeful tales of sordid adventures with those of the feminine persuasion. Buffy didn’t pay attention to the details, though she had to fight the urge to take notes for possible blackmail materials later. She took in every sigh, every snicker, every embarrassed mumble. It was then she realized she didn’t know him, not this seemingly roguish man spinning yarns with an old friend. He was charming and she couldn’t help but be curious about getting to know this scoundrel stranger sitting before her.
A flicker of distress crossed Giles’ features and she wondered what had triggered the response.
“Family? That’s for you bloody commoners, mate. Not us Council lifers.” He let out a hollow chuckle; nothing more than a cover for unspoken regrets.
“Settling down is what you do when there are no more battles left to be won.” Giles’ finger fidgeted along the edge of the book cover. He was noticeably bothered by the topic. Reality was creeping back in. “With the situation as it stands now…” he paused and though he still held a faint smile, his eyes suddenly grew very tired.”It’s… it’s not in the foreseeable future. But aren’t you just the lucky bastard with enough sense to get your priorities straight and earn a dishonorable discharge. I still say they should have hung you for that cheeky bit of cheating, mate. But you managed to capture up a sliver of life for yourself, did right by Cecily.”
Buffy watched as Giles listened, most likely to the argument from his friend why life hadn’t passed the Watcher by. A sad smile appeared, weighted down by responsibility.
“Don’t bother, Kevin. You and I know the truth of the matter.” Giles chuckled weakly. “But you got it, didn’t you. Figured it out. At least one of us did; worthless blokes, the whole lot of us.”
Giles reached out and took up his glasses, letting them hover above the book just as before. “Oh… no… no, that’s fine, really. I don’t mean to keep you from your family holiday.”
“Thank you for phoning. It was nice to hear the sound of home again, even if it happens to come from a civilian git like you.” One last smile slowly faded away with the closing phrases, “Give my love to Cecily and the twins. Take care, Kevin. Bye.”
With that final word, the curtain fell. As one hand returned the receiver to the cradle on his desk, the other returned the glasses to Giles’ face and the once cheerful features transformed back into the staid mask of the dutiful Watcher. Buffy felt a tug at her heart with the sight of its return and selfishly felt the need to see that strangers face again.
“Hey Giles,” Buffy slipped off her stool and skipped cheerily up beside him. “Research break, stat.”
“Oh, well… um… that’s quite alright; I’m just about done with this journal.”
“That’s and order, Giles.” Buffy pulled the book away and set it out of arms reach on the counter.
“Yeah, come on, Giles,” Willow waved him to join them. “Tummy rumblings call for serious munchies and we have flavor temptations for all types of taste buds here.”
“And this baby puke stuff ain’t half bad either.” Xander agreed.
“Buffy, I’m nearly through with…”
“Zip it. All I wanna hear from you is agreeable yummy sounds. Snack now mister!” She gripped his arm and directed him around to the couch.
Oz courteously slipped to the floor, claiming his customary place beside the record collection tucked neatly away within the landscape of books piled off to one wall. Willow , Cordelia and Xander shifted down the cushions to make room as Buffy guided him to sit. He grudgingly followed her commands and Willow eagerly offered him the tub of hummus coupled with a torn edge of flat bread. He graciously accepted, modestly dipping into the spread and tasting it with a bite. His brows lifted and he gave an agreeable nod.
“It’s quite nice, actually?” He leaned forward to sample more.
“Oz’s idea. Thought we could use a bit of a change from Xander’s rotation routine of pizza, cheezy chips, donuts and soda.”
“Thank you, Oz. Remind me to appoint you caterer for all our functions.”
“Just as long as you’re the DJ.” Oz smirked and turned his attentions on the record collection.
“Try this one. It’s spicy.” Cordelia slid the red speckled concoction to Giles. He sampled it and gave it a smile of approval.
“So, what do you say we hit the beach tomorrow?” Buffy asked, sneaking a bit of flat bread as she waited for a response.
“I could go for some salty water time.” Xander nodded.
“I haven’t gone boogy boarding since I was nine,” Willow smiled. “How about it Oz?”
“I’m more of a sandcastle man. But I’m game.”
“I’m so in,” Cordelia gestured excitedly. “I have the most adorable new bikini…”
“Giles?” Buffy interrupted and all eyes shifted surprised to her.
It took a moment for the Watcher to realize she’d asked something. His eyes darted to each the stunned faces surrounding him and he cleared his mouth before speaking. “Yes, well… I don’t see any reason why you all shouldn’t enjoy a day off. You’ve been cooped up here all…”
“That was directed at you in a ‘wanna come along’ kinda way and not in a ‘seeking permission’ way. You are in serious need of quality sun time, oh pasty white, tan-less one,” Buffy corrected, watching Giles as he struggled with what to make of the invitation.
“Buffy, think about what you’re suggesting. Tweed and sunshine…” Buffy cut Cordelia off with a scolding glare.
“Me?” Giles coughed a bit and shook his head. “I-I have some council reports to get too, I’m afraid. But feel free to go on without me.”
Buffy refused to take no for an answer. “I’ve already appointed you the official barbecue chef. It’s a sacred trust. You can’t shirk you’re duties on this one.”
“Seeing as how Oz has more than proven himself capable of selecting a proper and enjoyable arrangement of food, I’d suggest appointing him your barbecue chef.”
“Can’t, sorry.” He shrugged. “Not allowed to go near fire on account of my gig next week. Can’t chance a burn.” He raised his hands and wiggled his fingers. “Looks like you’re the man for the job, Giles.”
Giles responded with a skeptical glance. “Well, Oz’s apparent prohibition of fire aside, I have work that needs attention. I’m sure you’ll find my absence of little concern.”
“Come on, Giles. One day of sun, fun and frolic won’t kill you,” Buffy nudged him in the shoulder. “Or will it? Is there something you should tell me?”
“If you want, you can spend the day reading and relaxing. Just like research only you’ll be reading something you want to read rather need to,” Willow gently tried to persuade him.
“Thank you for the kind offer but I really should try to get to this report.”
“As well you should. Those little papers won’t get done by themselves!” Cordelia agreed all too eagerly. “So anyway, back to my bathing suit…”
“It’s official anti-research day tomorrow, Giles. No work, no research; only relaxation and fun.” Buffy tried one final time.
“Forget it, already! He’d only waste the day away with his nose in a book,” Cordelia sighed. “Giles doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘fun’. He’d rather cross-reference or translate or whatever else Watcher’s do. It’s his way. Let’s move on, shall we?”
“Around eleven okay with you?” Giles responded offhandedly and Xander smiled.
“I’ll bring the foot-longs if you bring the buns,” Xander thought for a moment. “Allow me to rephrase that.”
“Please do.” Giles smiled.
“This is going to be so much fun, Giles. You’ll see. I’ll bring potato salad.” Willow offered excitedly.
“I’m mobile tunes,” Oz said.
“Fine, I’m the dip,” Cordelia shrugged, defeated.
“No argument here,” Giles mumbled under his breath and Xander had to stifle a laugh.
Buffy slipped away into the kitchen to make some tea but watched as Giles interacted with the gang. He continued to snack on the hummus as the arrangements were made for their picnic weekend and slowly the similar flare of candidness he’d displayed on the phone began to slip through. When she saw the glasses slip off and discarded to the table, she smiled at the small victory.