The Cost of Giles
Ch 6 – Rupert Giles and Lavinia Mills
Giles entered the U.C. Sunnydale library, surprised by the number of students loitering within its cool, subdued interior. Though regular classes were finished until September, the campus was always open for clubs, summer terms and doctorate researchers. He took a deep breath of the cool, conditioned air and felt relief to be out of the summer heat (it must have been over 90 F out there) warring with his nervousness at seeing Lavinia, again.
He’d unceremoniously ‘dumped’ her, though they’d really only been out on a few dates, when Glory had stepped up her activity. He’d wanted to protect her from the threat of the Hell-god, as much as possible. Of course, despite Lavinia knowing about the supernatural nature of the world, he’d been unable to share the details of what he’d been fighting.
She seemed to take it relatively well, but of course, it must have come as ‘out of the blue’ from her perspective.
She was standing now, hunched over the desk and looking at a small sheet of paper that an older student pointed to. They were speaking in hushed voices, as befitting the place they were in.
Lavinia looked a bit thinner than he remembered and he hoped that he hadn’t hurt her badly by his sudden choice to break things off with her. She was shorter than he, standing about to his chin. She had carried about ten pounds more than necessary earlier in the year, which he had liked. He preferred women who had a bit of padding around their hips… their breasts. Now, she looked as if she’d lost such extra weight.
She had worn her dark hair down, just past the mid point of her back before, but now it was swept up into a tight bun. She was just beginning to gray a little which managed to make her look distinguished and proud, somehow. She had always worn little make up and currently all he could see was dark red lipstick, lightly applied.
When she pointed the student off toward one of the stacks up in the mezzanine and turned toward a computer monitor, he screwed up his courage and approached. She certainly had every right to demand that he leave.
Instead, when he cleared his throat, she erupted in a dazzling smile upon recognizing him.
“Rupert! How nice to see you, again,” she said quietly.
From their first encounter she always seemed to speak softly, even when she was in the Magic Box and asking him about books on display. He had gotten the impression that it had become a habit from her life long career in one library or another.
“Lavinia… I-I, ah, I just wanted to, um… Well, that is… how are you,” he finished a little lamely.
She gave him a small laugh at his stuttering, “I’m well. Honestly, Rupert, you look like a junior high boy about to ask his first girl to the dance. Relax.”
“Uh, y-yes, well… I wasn’t sure how I’d be received. I was hoping that perhaps you’d like to go to lunch… uh, with me, that is.”
“That’d be nice. Here, I’m due for a quick break; let’s go back in my office for a moment,” she looked around at the tables, most empty around her and then snapped her fingers a few times.
Giles followed where she was glancing to see a nervous young girl with large spectacles looking over. Lavinia waved her to the desk.
“Mindy- sweetheart-, would you watch the desk for a moment? I’ll be in my office for ten minutes or so, if you run into any questions….”
She came around and took Giles around one of his arms. Leading the way, she escorted him through two stacks filled to the brim with books and into a small alcove where a tiny office sat.
As they walked, she said over her shoulder, “I’m so sorry about the shop, Rupert. I went by there a few weeks ago looking for some Dominicus Seedling Oil for a sore back I had and I saw it all boarded up.”
“O-oh…, yes, yes – it was painful to have it destroyed, like that.”
“Then it wasn’t a ‘not enough business’ thing?”
“I’m afraid not; A work-related incident.”
“Ah.” She didn’t ask anything further.
They entered a small room dominated by a desk, a few cabinets waist level high and a metal locker, very similar to the kind in high schools. The office was remarkably tidy, confounding his expectations. The archivists back at the Council always had manuals, documents, books and various objects spread on every surface. Lavinia only had a stack of four or five magazines in one corner of the desk. The one on top was the current issue of ‘National Geographic’.
“Sit. I’ll get us tea,” she smiled, as she opened a cabinet and pulled out two mugs, and a box of tea bags. “I apologize for the store bought bags. I usually prefer steeping loose tea, but this is just so much more convenient at work.”
“Oh, quite alright.”
She flipped a switch on a coffee brewer, and in moments plain, hot water began to drip. She then opened a closet and sitting within was one of the smallest refrigerators he’d ever seen. From this, she pulled out a pint of Half-and-Half.
“I’m afraid I’ve run out of sugar,” she said. “I should have stopped yesterday at the market, but being on my feet all day, I was just done in.”
“I prefer no sugar anyway,” Giles replied.
“Oh, yes! I’d forgotten. Silly of me,” she said as she puttered with pouring the water into the mugs.
It was only then that Giles realized she was just as nervous with seeing him again. Oddly, it was this (instead of, for instance, not being thrown out on his bum) that made him feel more confident in this reunion.
They spent several moments in an uncomfortable silence, filled with sipping tea to avoid conversation.
Finally, Giles all but blurted, “I must apologize for not calling first,” he opened. “I- Well, I was afraid you may not have agreed to see me after my rather abrupt exit from our dating one another.”
“Rupert,” she smiled, “You know that I know about your Council connection. I had the good sense to assume that something was… urgently… requiring your attention. I remember what it was like when I was still married to Robert.”
“Oh! I hadn’t realized that your ex-husband was involved in field work.”
“Oh, no, he wasn’t,” she smiled, remembering her now defunct marriage. “He was strictly a linguist in whatever catacombs the Council had him squirreled away in during the day. But it was several evenings a week when he’d be so wrapped up in some lore or diary that he wouldn’t make it home until well past a reasonable hour. When he’d bothered to come home at all, that is.
“But Rupert, and I know that you must maintain confidentiality and cannot tell me most of the details of what your working on, but, well… pushing me away anytime danger is near simply isn’t going to work.”
She took a deep breath and quickly swallowed some of her tea before giving him a small smile, “I like you. But I’ve been involved with someone already who was more interested in being bound to his job. I just cannot go through it all again, I’m afraid. I’m too old now and set on what I want out of life. Tara has told me that you needed me out of the way for my own safety, which I truly do appreciate, but… the Watchers Council has already dominated my domestic life once. I don’t intend on allowing them to do so again.”
“T-tara? W-well, she’s a very sweet, but meddlesome girl,” he gave her a nervous grin. “But, I can tell you that… well, what we were dealing with was no mere vampire attack. And it cost us dearly,” he said, as he looked into his lap for a moment. His thoughts were naturally on Buffy. He consciously pushed the image of her body lying in the rubble away and returned his focus to the woman across from him. “I simply couldn’t risk you. Not without being able to give you the details of what was happening.”
Lavinia Mills must have seen something in his eyes, a reflection of the sadness that he always carried now, because he saw her stance soften. Of course, she didn’t know that Buffy was the Slayer, or that she had been killed. He might be able to share the first detail, if they were to resume and deepen their relationship, but the second was something he wouldn’t share with anyone else. There were too many ‘civilians’ who knew the Hellmouth was only moderately protected, already.
“I understand. Truly. And, of course, if you tell me that I need to ‘lie low’ or be on the look out for a specific danger, I’ll comply. But, if we are going to see each other again; I assume that’s why you’ve come to a campus library, well, I need to know that I’m not going to be pushed aside at every turn.”
“Of course! That certainly is not my intention.”
“Well… I should get back out there. I’m not sure Mindy is really ‘customer service’ material, as it is. Leaving her alone too long makes me nervous. About lunch? I could meet you out front at , if you’d like. I’m afraid I only have thirty minutes, so we’ll need to eat somewhere close by.”
“Y-yes. Yes, that would be wonderful,” Giles stammered, as he stood to go. “I’ll meet you at ,” he grinned widely on his way from the office. And, continued to smile widely at the ferocious sun outside.
End Ch 6