quaggy: Giles and Buffy from the Pilot episode (Buffy)
Quaggy ([personal profile] quaggy) wrote in [community profile] summer_of_giles2017-06-16 11:00 am

Fic: People Watching

Title: People Watching
Series: Est Omne Iustus Academici
Author: [personal profile] quaggy 
Rating: G/FRC
Setting: Post-Chosen, shortly before the season 5 Angel episode "The Girl in Question", but you don't have to watch that episode to know what's going on.
Pairing(s): Giles/Buffy
Word Count: a little over 2000
Summary: The observations made in an airport about a woman named Buffy.
Warnings: Nope
Notes: This is the start of series that I plan (eventually) to tell out of chronological sequence. It's a little light on the Giles, but I'll be posting something later to make up for it.

If you prefer, you can also find it on my DW and over here on AO3. I'm happy to receive feedback in any of these places.



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.”

“Young?”

“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.
obviously5believers: (Default)

Awesome

[personal profile] obviously5believers 2017-06-16 06:30 pm (UTC)(link)
This is really great! I love how you chose someone else to tell the story, and yet managed to really get the characters right. Very sweet too. Looking forward to read more of this series. :)
Edited 2017-06-16 18:30 (UTC)
obviously5believers: (Default)

Re: Awesome

[personal profile] obviously5believers 2017-06-16 11:10 pm (UTC)(link)
That's alright, I figured it would probably only be this one, considering it'd be quite difficult to write the whole story like that (what with either having to find new characters to tell Buffy & Giles' story, or having the current one become a bit of a stalker ;)). It works really well as an introduction. :)
il_mio_capitano: (Default)

[personal profile] il_mio_capitano 2017-06-16 06:56 pm (UTC)(link)
Very interesting challenge you've set yourself and certainly the best Present tense I've read. Definitely intrigued to see the rest of this series. Top notch!
horrorfangirl: Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes (Default)

[personal profile] horrorfangirl 2017-06-18 02:39 am (UTC)(link)
Great job! It was quite refreshing to have a true outsider's POV. Loved it!
dragonyphoenix: (Morticia)

[personal profile] dragonyphoenix 2017-06-18 05:44 pm (UTC)(link)
Oh, this is great! I adore the peek into Buffy's life from an outsider's PoV and how that look has changed the watcher. Nicely done.
dhw: (Default)

[personal profile] dhw 2017-06-20 08:18 pm (UTC)(link)
OMG. This is AMAZING. I seriously have no words to describe how much I love this, because I really, really do. But I'm going to try. So prepare yourself for a potential word salad of a comment!

It's just so perfect - seeing Buffy of the Fabulous Shoes (which, Ah! So good!) and Giles and the Immortal through someone else's eyes is brilliant (have I ever told you how much I love 'outsider perspective' fics? Well, I do. And this hits the spot!). I love the way Giles and Buffy interact here, and I love your observer's comparisons to John (what a knob!) throughout. Argh, making words make sense is hard right now. But this is good. Really, really good. *grins*

I cannot wait for more! *bounces*

(sorry, bit over excited)
thewiggins: (Default)

[personal profile] thewiggins 2017-06-21 01:00 am (UTC)(link)
So great! I really liked the 2nd person outsider's perspective. The woman (well, I guess I assumed woman, but there's no real reason why I couldn't also imagine them as a gay man) that you chose felt very real and present throughout the story. I loved this ordinary, in my mind kind of Bridget Jones-y, person looking in on Buffy's life from afar. Sometimes she reads the situation correctly, sometimes she doesn't because of course she's not privy to all the knowledge that we are.

I liked your portrayal of the Immortal. His grandfatherly attitude towards Buffy was unexpected but rather sweet. It was also interesting that you gave him the name Tiberius, suggesting that he goes all the way back to roman times. I wonder if he was the Tiberius.

The only thing that bothered me was the character bashing of Angel and Spike. It's absolutely true that those two act like total asses in "The Girl in Question". And I have no problems with the Immortal having a scornful attitude towards them. But I don't think that Buffy would casually accept that perspective or call the two of them "goons". These are the person she used to think of as the love of her life and someone whom she last saw dying the save the world, after all. So she probably wouldn't be quite so dismissive.

But back to the good stuff, I really liked your Giles. You captured all the things that are appealing about him quite nicely and made me totally root for the two of them to get together, even though I'm not a huge Buffy/Giles shipper. Also, I really loved the ending and how you wrapped up the narrator's story-line. Excellent work!
thewiggins: (Default)

[personal profile] thewiggins 2017-06-22 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for leaving such a detailed response to my comment! It's interesting to get to hear what your thought process was. It's cool to know that you've put thought into the Tiberius thing. I've subscribed to the series on AO3, so I'm looking forward to future installments and finding out more about his story.

As for the Angel and Spike bashing comment, I hope it didn't come off too harsh. After posting my comment I realized that was maybe a more extreme word than what I was actually thinking. Buffy's reaction just seemed a little out of character to me. But yeah, I can see that there was background context that I wasn't aware of. I'm definitely curious to read future installments in the series and find out more. But yeah, as I said before, Spike and Angel are total asses in "The Girl In Question". I over all liked Angel Season 5 (well better than any other season of the series anyway), but that episode had both our "heroes" acting like moronic, unsympathetic jerks. Plus it overall had a very slapstick-y tone that didn't fit at all with that point in the season. And it tried to make Andrew straight. But yeah, as a Spuffy shipper, but also just as a lover of consistent characterization, I also hated the decision to have Spike not contact Buffy after he came back from the dead. Not only did he not try to call her, but he didn't even seem to think about her during the season. There was just such a character break between Spike on BtVS and Spike on Angel.

So yeah, sounds like you had good reasoning for everything. I've just become a little sensitized to character bashing due to the number of shipping stories that feel the need to turn other members of the cast, particular members of rival ships, into these exaggerated, evil, stereotypes of themselves.

But after thinking more about Angel and Spike in Season 5, I wouldn't even object to them being bashed a bit. They kind of deserve it!
littleotter73: pondering (Default)

[personal profile] littleotter73 2017-07-07 04:33 pm (UTC)(link)
This fic is... amazing! Telling it from the second person POV who clearly has their own story going on as well is fantastic. And clearly the narrator has A LOT going on after spending a horrible holiday with a romantic partner who turns out to be a rude and boorish individual and to escape his childish tantrums and behaviours, she immerses herself in the lives of those around her. Specifically Buffy of the fabulous shoes. :)

I love, love the idea of The Immortal being Tiberius and I love the relationship you have given them! Oh and that he calls Giles her young man. LOL Of course he's hers, but the use of young reinforces the fact to the reader that Tiberius is immortal. Very nice touch.

And Buffy is so Buffy in this piece. Her interaction with the grandmother is tender and charming. I love them bonding over the V&A. :) Oh, and how cool is it that Buffy is an historian now. I can see that. It works well with her Slayer background. But I think what really shows Buffy being Buffy is that she doesn't leave the grandmother at the baggage claim, she takes her find her family and delivers her safely, taking the time to interact with them and makes the promise to meet up with her again.

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 I love the narrator's description of Giles and I love how s/he contrasts it to their soon-to-be ex. Of course, Buffy and Giles' reunion is just so *them*.

And the real stroke of genius in this piece is the last paragraph where the narrator decides they don't have to wait on John to get a car. Seeing Buffy and Giles together is the catalyst that allows them to change their situation.

This piece is definitely a fave of mine. Thanks for writing it.
the_huffster: (Default)

[personal profile] the_huffster 2017-07-13 08:41 pm (UTC)(link)
This is just...wow. I really loved the POV and just everything about this! I honestly don't know what else to say about how much I loved this.