Love and Be Silent

by Jeanne DeVore

Giles and Buffy are property of Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy Productions, Fox and the WB; I'm just playing with them. No copyright infringement intended.

Giles sat alone in his apartment, staring at nothing. The silence covered him like a thick blanket. Even the ticking of the clock seemed strangely subdued.

Olivia was gone.

Not that he expected her to stay forever, but he'd hoped for a few more days. A few more days enjoying her sharp wit, her astonishing beauty, her not inconsiderable charms. A few more days of the comfort of her company.

But the nightmare last night had been a rough one, at least judging by her reaction. She woke with cry and spent the next hours huddled in his arms, trembling. Eventually she relaxed, but he didn't think she slept.

He must have dozed, however, because when he woke, he was alone. He went downstairs and found her sipping coffee in his kitchen. She was already dressed. She glanced up, looked away guiltily, and then looked back, almost in defiance.

She didn't try to dissemble, didn't try to make up flimsy excuses. She simply admitted that she was scared, truly scared, and she needed some time to figure out exactly what it all meant. He admired her for that, admired her strength and her courage, the courage it took to tell someone that no matter how much you cared about them, the reality of their life was too frightening to contemplate.

Their parting kiss was passionate and sad. And then she walked out his door.

He shook his head in wonder. Theirs was a relationship which had survived so many obstacles: differences in age, in race, in social and cultural backgrounds. It had survived the separation of oceans, continents, and years. It had mellowed from its initial passion and lust into something comfortable, warm, intimate. Beyond the physical, Olivia was one of his oldest, dearest friends.

Now, however, it looked like it might not survive the realities of life on the Hellmouth and the attendant dangers inherent in his position as confidante and mentor to a slayer.

And that saddened him. Because while he knew he would miss her, already feeling the ache of absence in his body, he also knew that there was nothing he could do about it. Sad that after all these years she should not only learn the truth, but that the truth should prove to be their undoing.

Perhaps he should have been more insistent at the beginning, convincing her of the reality of the evils. But he'd been too weak, too willing to take what she so willingly offered. Too willing to lose himself for a time in her open affection and her heady sexuality.

He sighed and took another sip of his tepid tea. He'd poured himself a drink earlier, but dumped it out after only a sip. He was too apt to drown his sorrows in the bottle, and he couldn't afford to do that, not this time. Not when things were still so unsteady after Sunnydale's brush with silence. Terrifying losses of sight and speech in recent weeks made all of his senses precious to him; he didn't want to do anything to dull them.

So when there was a knock at the door, he jumped, the sound breaking the silence like the shattering of glass. He opened the door to find Buffy standing there, looking sad and a little lost. She'd been so strong, so confident during the crisis, he shouldn't have been surprised that now it was over, there was letdown. There usually was, with Buffy. During a crisis she was unstoppable, unbeatable. Magnificent. Afterwards, however, he was reminded again of her youth, her inexperience, how precious and fragile she was. How precious and fragile her life.

Silently, he stepped aside to let her in.

"Am in interrupting something?" she asked, glancing around the apartment furtively.

"No." He shook his head, closing the door behind her.

"If this is a bad time..." Still she searched with her eyes.

"Olivia is gone," he interrupted.

She stared up at him, her lips parting in surprise. "Oh." She swallowed. "Was she...."

"She was only here for a few days," he explained. "She just...." He couldn't explain, didn't want to talk about it.

Buffy wouldn't leave it alone, though. "She wasn't gonna leave this early, though, was she?"

He looked down, smiling slightly. Sometimes her perception surprised him. "It's...." He took a deep breath. "It's a lot for her to take in. She needs time."

"Is she coming back?"

His smile faded. "I don't know." It struck him for the first time that he didn't know if he'd ever see Olivia again and the fist that closed around his heart almost cut off his breath. Oh, it hurt more than it should have done, losing her.

Buffy sighed sadly. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "We just never get a break, do we?"

Her use of the word 'we' made him look up, look at her. Her face was sorrowful, and he detected something more there than just sympathy for him. "What's wrong?"

She paused, then walked over to the sofa and took a seat. " know the guy I told you about?"

He nodded. She said she'd become friendly with the teaching assistant in her psychology class, who seemed to be a very nice young man and disinclined to take advantage of her. The wounds inflicted by that Parker chap still stung, and Giles' own ire had been raised enough by Parker's misdeeds to bring out his protective streak. If this Riley had done something to hurt her....

She took a deep breath. "He's...I think he's one of the commandoes."

That wasn't what he was expecting. "What?" He sat next to her.

"When I was fighting those voice-stealing guys--the Gentlemen? He was there, fighting them, too. At first I thought it was just some civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time, then I recognized him. He was in fatigues...and had a taser.

"He recognized me, too. We just stared at each other for a minute, then we went back to fighting. He helped me defeat them." Buffy sighed heavily. "He's a pretty good fighter," she added almost as an afterthought.

"What did he say? Did you talk to him?" Giles asked. If Riley was one of these soldiers, he was their best link to find out what they were up to. Spike's stories had seemed fantastical. But something had effectively "defanged" the vampire, so they had to believe some truth to what he'd claimed.

Buffy shook her head. "After the fight, we were... I think we were too shocked to say anything. He just split, probably to report back to whoever it is he reports to. Tell them about me, probably. And I went home."

"Why didn't you say anthing last night?" She'd called him about an hour after their voices had returned, to tell him all was well.

"I didn't know what to say. I wanted to talk to him first, find out what was going on." She ducked her head. "Besides, if I'd told you, you would have wanted to do something about it and I... You had company."

He couldn't help his smile. Perhaps she was finally growing up after all, accepting his relationship with Olivia without question. "And have you talked to him now?"

She sighed, leaning back, and raked a hand through her hair. "He came over this morning. To talk. But.... I don't know. We just...couldn't. We sat there for, like, ever. I didn't know what to say to him, he didn't know what to say to me.... We couldn't find the words. Then Willow came in and he made some excuse and took off." She crossed her arms and looked down miserably.

"Buffy, I'm sorry," he said softly. "I know this isn't what you'd wanted."

She looked up, her eyes misty. "I wanted something in my life that was normal. I wasn't looking for the great love of my life or anything, just someone know, someone to be with. To be--"

"To be comfortable with," he completed. He knew that sentiment, knew it too well.

She looked up at him, perfect understanding passing between them.

"We need to talk but... But talking, it's like, it's not our strong suit, you know? I start babbling, he starts stuttering.... It was easier when we couldn't talk, when we had to rely on ourselves, and not on words. But now...." She swallowed and ducked her head again with a little shrug. "Sometimes silence is best."

His heart went out to her, looking so dejected. Involving himself in her woes helped him forget his own, and thoughts of Olivia and the acute sting of her absence got set aside in concern for Buffy. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, as he had done when their only means of communication had been a look, a touch. She raised her head, looked into his eyes, and then reached for him, going into his arms and hugging him fiercely. He forgot, sometimes, the strength in her small arms, and his breath caught as she squeezed him tight.

In a minute, she relaxed the hug, but only far enough to tuck her head beneath his chin and rest against his chest, arms still encircling his waist. He kept his arms around her, one hand stroking her hair, her back. She was right; sometimes silence was better than any words which could be spoken. They had no words to offer each other right now, none would seem appropriate. But some things went beyond words.

Theirs had never been an especially demonstrative relationship; they loved each other without the need for flowery sentiments or overt physical demonstrations. It just was, as integral as the sun in the sky, the air they breathed. After all they'd been through, all they'd done, they were together now not because of obligation or duty or sacred callings. Now it was for love.

They sat together for a long time, the silence more eloquent than words could ever be. In his arms, he could feel Buffy begin to relax, the terrible tension seeping out of her. And in turn, Giles closed his eyes and let himself drift. No immediate crisis, no tragedy, simply...being. It was a nice feeling, holding Buffy, knowing she was safe in his arms. But eventually, she raised her head and slowly straightened out of his arms. Her hair was mussed and she had a sleepy look about her that was adorable and endearing. She smiled at him and he grinned back, giving her hair a final smooth before releasing her.

"I guess I'd better try and find Riley," she said, her smile fading. "I...I just don't know what to say to him."

"He saw you fight?"

She nodded. "Saw me fight, saw me kick some sincere demon butt."

"Well," he sighed, "tell him what you need to, but find out some things from him as well. We need to learn what this organization of his is up to. At this point, we're not even sure which side they're on."

"They're grabbing demons, Spike said," Buffy suggested.

"Yes, but you also said they tried to grab Willow," he reminded her. "And why effectively 'neuter' a vampire, why not just kill them? We need to know what their agenda is, and why."

"And we're not gonna find that out unless Riley and I have our talk," she nodded, resigned.

"If you need my help...."

"Maybe I'll call you later if I need backup," she suggested. "But I think I need to talk to him myself first."

"Yes, of course," he nodded, getting to his feet and putting out his hand to help her up. Not that she needed his help, she could best him most of the time, though he occasionally let her see that he was not quite the inept she'd first thought of him.

Buffy took a deep breath and headed for the door. "I'll call you later."

"All right."

She stopped and gazed at him, her huge eyes full of gratitude and affection. "Thanks for everything," she said softly. "Always."

He smiled gently. "You're very welcome. Always."

She stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek and gave him another quick hug.

"Olivia doesn't know what she's giving up," she whispered.

Then with a shy smile, she slipped out the door.

He shook his head, closing the door behind her. He would miss Olivia, miss her terribly. She'd been a part of his life for a very long time. But here, right here, was where he needed to be, and this was what he needed to be doing. It was more right than anything he'd ever known, even more right than being with Olivia. And that was all there was to it.

As the silence settled around him again, he smiled.

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