quaggy: Eun-chan with her head tilted (Pensive)
[personal profile] quaggy
Title: People Watching
Series: Est Omne Iustus Academici
Show: BtVS
Category: Post-series
Rating: G
Pairings: B/G
Notes: This is a slightly different take on things for me. Normally I write discrete stories told in ether one-shots or chronologically arranged parts, but I keep coming up with ideas about this particular post-Chosen world. So, while this might be my first story in this worl, it hopefully won't be my last. Written for [community profile] summer_of_giles .This is set shortly before the Angel episode "The Girl in Question", but you don't have to watch that episode to know what's going on.

Late April 2004

The first thing you noticed was her shoes. They were fabulous. So fabulous, you would have noticed them even if you hadn’t been looking for distractions. But because you were looking for distractions, you paid more attention to the owner.

Your sister had once told you to always take an overnight trip with a potential suitor before you moved in or, God forbid, married him. It looks like she was right because right now you’d be quite content to never seen John again. He was perfect on paper. A tall, sophisticated investment banker with loads of charm. When he offered to whisk you away to Italy for a long weekend, you jumped at the chance. You had no way of knowing that he would suddenly turn into the epitome of an uptight priggish toff. When something would go wrong, as things inevitably did when you go on holiday, he would throw a fit and grumble about inferior service and low standards. It all began to reminded you a bit of traveling with your grandad, except your grandad would be far more polite and only grumble about it later. John was more like a cranky toddler frustrated at not having his way. You wondered why you never noticed before, but you suspect that in London he never took you places where things were beyond his control. In Italy, nothing was his to control. Taxis were late. Traffic was bad. The room wasn’t quite ready. The restaurants were a little too full. All minor problems and certainly nothing to have a tantrum over, but John treated each of these as major catastrophes. By the end of the weekend, you had had more than enough. You were glad you had insisted on paying your own way from the start. You could make a clean break as soon as you were back in London.

You left John to fume at the ticket agent and had settled yourself at the small airport café, indulging in a last cup of Italian coffee and some people watching. That’s when you noticed her, the woman with the fabulous shoes. She had seemed upset. She was leaning into her companion, a handsome Latin type. Maybe she was upset to leave her Italian lover, but something didn’t seem quite right about that. They didn’t seem to have the tension and energy of a couple swept up in a holiday romance. In fact, there was a certain friendly formality about them. Perhaps it was because your grandad had been in your thoughts, but they almost reminded you of a girl with her grandfather. The impression was further enforced when they moved to sit at the table next to you. While you could not get a good look at her companion, you could see her clearly. She looked worried, but she didn’t look particularly heartbroken.

“I just feel like I’m running away,” the woman said. You’re surprised. You didn’t expect her to be American.

“You know you are not. Your trip back to England has been planned for months. You are just leaving slightly earlier to avoid the annoyance of an oncoming storm.”

The woman gave a disgruntled snort at that.

“Yeah, but I’m leaving you with my mess!” she objected.

“Oh, cara, hardly. I’ve known those two since long before your parents were born. I’m not caught up in your ‘mess’ as you say. You’d be caught up in mine. You will not be missing anything, but the macho posturing of old fools who clearly should know better by now. I would be embarrassed for you to see me descend to their level. Which I inevitably would do. They bring out the small child in me.”

“See, that I would find that interesting to see. I can’t imagine you acting like either one of those two goons.”

“I assure you it would not be as fascinating as you imagine. A far better use of your time would be to relax in London and let your young man dance attendance on you.”

“Giles doesn’t dance attendance on me! And don’t you smirk. I told you that I’ve given up trying to stop you from calling him that. Doesn’t mean I agree that he is.”


“My . . . man,” said the woman and even to you, a completely stranger, she doesn’t sound convincing.

“Ah, but that is where you are wrong. He has always been that.”

“Well, yeah, but not in the way you mean.”

“Buffy, my dearest one, when you get to be as old as I am, you begin to recognize patterns far more quickly,” he said with a clear fondness.

You had to smother a laugh at the name “Buffy.” It did not fit her sophisticated, cosmopolitan image. You were also struck at the protective, paternal note in the voice of Buffy’s companion. Perhaps he truly was her grandfather or a grandfather surrogate. You wondered of your initial impression of the Latin lover was real or just what your mind expected to see. You tried to get a better look, but just then John stomped his way over to you and that was the end of that.

You did see Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes again on the airplane. Like you, she was flying first class, just one seat behind you. She helped her seatmate –a small grandmother in a headscarf– with her bag, lifting it into the overhead with ease, despite the grandmother’s protests that it is too heavy. During the flight, they chatted merrily and you wished that you could trade your companion for either one of them. But John mercifully fell asleep from the moment you took off, so you eavesdropped on their conversation without shame.

The grandmother had been visiting her daughter in Milan and was now flying to visit her son in London. It was the first time that she had made the journey without her husband and she had been resilient in the face of her children’s worry. She didn’t feel she was any less capable now that she was a widow, but she admitted to Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes that, secretly, she had been terrified.

“I’ve found that once you do something that frightens you, you are able to be braver in everything else,” Buffy said.

“Oh, that is so true, isn’t it?” laughed the grandmother. “I don’t know why I was so worried now!”

As for Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes, she grew up in California, but had family in London. You were surprised to hear that Buffy was a historian or, at least, training to be one. You had her pegged as being involved with fashion or design. She had been studying with a respected scholar in Rome for some months and was now returning to England to complete some additional field work at the V&A. Her companion expressed her love for that museum and the two then had an animated discussion about which of London’s many museums that they liked the best. You would have happily spent the rest of the flight eavesdropping, but then John started to wake up and you had to quickly put on your earphones, so that you could ignore him. But, even so, every so often you could hear the laughter behind you and you were stuck with envy all over again.

When the plane landed, John jumped up to be the first one off the plane. You were quite happy to follow suit, as the sooner you were home, the sooner you would never have to see him again. Though it took a while for them to arrive, your bags were mercifully there. The hired car, however, was not and John’s rage spilled over once more and you were left to your own devices as he made phone call after phone call to yell at the people he had deemed responsible. So, here you are again, stuck at an airport, people watching. You examine the people waiting for their loved ones to emerge, wondering if you could figure out their story.

You spot what you had to assume was the little grandmother’s family – son, daughter-in-law and three adorable children – all waiting for her, with happy anticipation. You wonder if Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes had anyone meeting her and so you scan the crowd with a practiced eye. An older woman with blond hair asking a tall businessman if the flight from Rome had arrived yet catches your attention and you feel quite confident that she must be Buffy’s aunt or cousin. But your assumptions are incorrect, since it is two teenagers with backpacks who run to greet her.

The tall businessman is intriguing too for different reasons. He is quite handsome with a chiseled jaw and sharp eyes that not even the frames of his glasses can disguise. You estimate that he must be in his mid to late forties, his closely cut hair only beginning to show the gray. He exudes power. This is who John pretends to be, but there is no mistaking the real deal. There is an intimidating, almost dangerous, quality about him, though he had answered the mother of the two teenagers with a warm kindness. You wonder who would be important enough that he would meet them at the airport himself rather than sending someone to fetch them.

His eyes suddenly light up and a broad grin appears. It makes him look startling boyish. So, it was a loved one that he’d been waiting on. You turn to see who this hard man held in such high regard and are shocked to see Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes and the brave little grandmother. Buffy is pushing a baggage trolley with one hand, as her free arm is linked with her new friend. The businessman watches them with a quiet smile as Buffy delivers her friend to the loving arms of her family, but he does not approach them. Heedless of any observers, Buffy removes her suitcase from the trolley, exchanges business cards with the son and promises to meet with her friend soon. Only after she has waved a final goodbye does the businessman step into her line of vision.

“GILES!!!” she cries, utterly astounded. She throws herself into his arms and he lifts her up of her feet so that her fabulous shoes dangle precariously. They hold each other for a long time. It’s actually quite sweet.

“Surprise!” he says, when he finally sets her down again. She grins and knocks her head against his chest. They hug for a while longer. They clearly adore each other, though you can’t tell if its romantic or familial. You wonder if this is the “young man” that Buffy’s Roman companion referred to.

“You didn’t have to meet me. I was just going to Tube it to the office.”

“And now you don’t have to. Tiberius called to say that your flight had finally taken off. He might have let it slip that you’ve had a rough couple of days and could use a little spoiling.”

“Tiberius is a tattletale.”

“He follows his own rules, as you well know. Though I do happen to agree with him. Now, where shall I take you? Headquarters? Up to Oxford? I’m in the mood for a bit of a drive.”

“Can we just go home and ignore the world for a while?” she asks. The man tilts his head a bit, as if she’s not quite sure what she means and then he straightens in realization.

“Did you mean Bath?” he asks, and there’s a tinge of awe in his voice.

“Yeah. Is that okay to invade your place like that?"

"Of course. It's your home too." He sounds so pleased, like he hadn't realized she felt that way before.

"I know I should be throwing myself into work and everything, but—”

“Buffy, you’ve worked harder this past year than anyone has the right to expect. I think you are entitled to a little quiet time.”

She beams and pulls him in for another quick hug. He takes her carry-on as he teases her about finally learning the art of carrying light, then pantomimes buckling under her bag’s weight. They walk off together, laughing. They don’t hold hands or link arms, but their bodies seem to lean towards each other as if drawn by magnets. You think you have them figured out now. They must be friends who are teetering on being something more. Both unsure if the other feels the same and neither willing to risk what they currently have. You know those worries all too well. But maybe this trip will send the two of them down a different path. You hope so, even though you know you’ll never see either one again.

With a sigh, you turn your attention back to your own reality. John is still yelling on the phone. You wonder how long you’ll be stuck here. Then you remember something that Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes had said in passing and decide that you can model yourself after her a little. You may not have fabulous shoes or a fabulous man to meet you at the gate, but you do have an Oyster card. You fish around in your bag and once you find it, you wave it at John and tell him that you are leaving. You turn around and head off with a bounce in your step, not bothering to see if he objects or not. He’s none of your concern now. The Tube will be crowded at this time of day, but you should be able to make it home with plenty of time to head out to the pub down the road. If you’re lucky, Teddy will be working there tonight and, by the grace of St. Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes, maybe you’ll find yourself on a different path too.


quaggy: Elizabeth looking back at Mr. Darcy (Default)

July 2017

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