Rating: PG13. I think. I’m never a good judge.
Word Count: 1874
Prompt: 189 – Teacher and Student
Characters: Xander, Joyce, Giles
AN: Immediately after Becoming Part 2.
The boy stared out of the window of chem lab replaying the events of the last two days in his mind. Everyone he cared about seemed to have been hurt. He wished he’d done more to help Buffy in her fight with Angel. He felt weak and inadequate somehow. He just wanted to make everything right.
"Xander Harris?" He jumped guiltily as Mr Johnson called his name. He wasn’t supposed to be listening was he?
"Yes?" he answered weakly.
His teacher was already dismissing the hall monitor who’d brought the note, "You’re needed in the library Harris."
"Just Xander?" asked Willow, her disappointment pretty evident.
"That’s all it says Miss Rosenberg. Do try to curb your enthusiasm for being with the Books."
The class sniggered but Willow was too worried to remember to blush. Xander shot her an ‘I don’t know what it’s about’ look as he headed out.
Giles was trying to put his jacket on when Xander reached the library.
"I’ve just had a call from Buffy’s mother, I er I need you to drive me to the house."
"Sure thing," he said helping him with the sleeve, "What did she say?"
"Just that she needed to talk to me. And then she hung up. Nothing about where Buffy is I’m afraid. Can we go now?"
"Sure." Giles should have stayed in the hospital. Buffy was lucky to have Giles.
It was quiet in Buffy’s neighbourhood when Xander pulled Giles’ grey Citroën up to the kerb. There were very few cars in the daylight; mostly people were out at work. The only movement was Buffy’s mother who had evidently been prowling by her windows because there was a sort of banshee cry and she was out her front door before he’d had even switched off the engine.
"Perhaps you’d better wait in the car," said Giles evenly as Joyce descended on them.
"You bastard" she cried flinging open the driver’s door, "Xander? Oh?" She was momentarily nonplussed but in his experience an angry parent is never nonplussed for long. True to form, having spied her real quarry, Joyce took off round the car. She had a head start but Xander was motivated. He made it there first and held the door open, blocking her access as Giles climbed out.
"Where’s Buffy?" the watcher asked.
"I don’t know," she answered, maxing her sarcasm, "as her mother I’d be the last to know. Out slaying something – you tell me!"
Giles had succeeded in getting himself upright by leaning on the car. For a moment at least his battered appearance managed to slow Joyce down. "God you look like death," she said, but her anger was not completely tempered by compassion, "Good."
"I think we should take this indoors." suggested Giles diplomatically, though tactically Xander thought the more witnesses the better.
Reluctantly she stalked back inside and they followed her slowly. She offered them a seat at the dining table which was as well because Giles looked like he might fall down anyway. It was desperately formal to be sitting at the table with no food. Xander wanted to make some kind of joke but stopped himself as Joyce slammed Buffy’s note on the table between them.
"I demand an explanation."
The note had been folded which was going to be a problem. Most of the fingers on Giles’ left hand were splintered and he was keeping the right hand under the table. Xander picked it up, unfolded it and passed it to the older man. “She’s alive,” Giles said with relief, flashing the boy a reassuring smile as he read.
"Oh thank god," he muttered as Giles passed the note back. Xander read it quickly and through the lines. Ultimatums were not something Buffy responded well to. And her Mom wasn’t very good at issuing them.
"I want to know what’s going on or I’m calling the police." She was getting some practice in today though.
"That will just make things worse for Buffy."
"Excuse me, I’m her mother. You’re her librarian. Traditionally that means I outrank you."
Xander watched anxiously as Giles took a deep breath, "I gather she told you she was the Slayer?"
Joyce nodded, "We had a huge row about it. I grounded her. Told her not to come back. She left anyway. But it was just words. I didn’t mean it."
"It’s not your fault Joyce."
She recoiled sharply, "Don’t you Joyce me. I know it’s not my fault. I want to know what ‘ask Giles’ means. I want to know what ‘Giles will explain everything’ means." She got up and started to pace angrily. "I couldn’t even remember who you were at first. I was so stupid to not realise that she meant that nice man in the tweed. Just what the hell are you to my daughter?"
Xander was uncomfortable. He liked Buffy’s mom. He liked Giles. They shouldn’t fight like this.
"This vampire slayer nonsense. It’s just a silly girl’s notion. You," she stabbed an angry finger, "You’re the one that’s been putting ideas in her head. Teaching her god knows what. I want to know why I shouldn’t call your Principal or the Police or Immigration or someone."
Giles tried again, "Mrs Summers…"
Xander looked uneasy; Giles was starting to tense again and the doctor had been quite specific about that.
"You’re a teacher. She’s a child. You should be ashamed."
"It’s not like that," said Xander in a shocked little voice.
Giles looked shocked too. In fact he was starting to look about as pale as he had when Xander had untied him at Angel’s. It wasn’t fair. He was the most courageous man Xander knew but he wasn’t up to this fight. However Buffy’s mom had found her range and was seriously starting to contemplate the worst. Xander didn’t want to listen to the inevitable barrage of accusations and abuse that would follow. It was just too uncomfortable.
"Guys, the important thing now is to find Buffy…" he said.
"I know she’s in trouble but…." Joyce leaned aggressively on the table towards the watcher, Giles actually winced backwards an inch, "Did you hurt her? Make her do things? Did she do this to you? A teacher and a student. Did she say no? Did my little girl…..?"
"No no no." pleaded Xander, "It’s nothing like that. Buffy saved his life." But Joyce wasn’t listening to Xander’s childish pleas and grabbed the phone.
"Mrs Summers, Buffy has a destiny…"
"Oh I bet you say that to all the young girls."
"Joyce," Xander barked and stood up abruptly, "I need to make some tea and I need your help now." His unexpected outburst froze the room.
"You know where the kitchen is," she said coolly.
"I need you to show me the spoons," he said matching her for ice, "Now please."
Buffy’s mother put down the phone, shot Giles a nasty look but went to the kitchen to hear what the boy had to say. He turned sharply once he figured they were out of earshot.
"This is what you need to know. Vampires and demons are real. Buffy is the Slayer. She kills them. It’s her destiny and sometimes it’s pretty cool and sometimes it really really sucks. Giles is a good guy, he does his best to help and protect her. It is not what you think. He cares for her, we all do, but it is not skanky. This situation is way more complicated and serious than you realise, and we will explain but right now you need to back off shouting at him."
"Why? Did Buffy hurt him? Did she do that to him?"
"God no. It was her twisted ex-boyfriend that did that."
"You mean Angel? The one she…"
"You’ve met Angel? Well let me give you the condensed version of that psychopath: Angel is a vampire. A sick twisted vampire that murdered Giles’ girlfriend and left her in his bed to find. A vampire that spent most of yesterday torturing that man out there for the fun of it. So today please, just for today, if you want to take a shot at someone, take a shot at me."
It was one hell of a speech and he was red and sweating slightly with fear and adrenalin. Joyce leaned back against a counter, some of her anger gone, shock and bewilderment flooding to take its place.
"Where’s Angel now?"
He shrugged, "Last we saw Buffy and Angel were having a Death Match. But if she’s writing you notes then at least we know she won."
"You’ve all done nothing but lie to me. Why should I trust your Mr Giles?"
"Because he should be in hospital, instead he’s out worrying and trying to find her."
Joyce shook her head sadly, "I just need to understand. It’s all so much to take in."
"I know. It sucks." He wondered if he should hug her but decided not.
"But sometimes it’s pretty cool huh?"
"Sometimes," he smiled, "usually when she wins it’s better than this."
When they returned to the dining room Giles was clumsily returning the phone’s receiver. He looked a little brighter as well.
"I’ve just called the bus station. They had a sighting of a blonde girl leaving on the early morning shuttle to the city. If we go now, we might be able to pick up her trail."
His practicality surprised Buffy’s mother, "Oh, I never thought of that. Are you OK to drive?" But Xander was already at his elbow, "No, I suppose you’ve got that covered."
"You should stay here in case she calls," the younger man advised.
"Yes," she looked Giles square in the eyes, "This isn’t over," she warned as they walked out.
"I know," said Giles, "I will explain everything I promise."
She’d left them at the door and gone back inside. Xander seemed to be having some trouble breathing evenly. He did the passenger seatbelt, then his own and then rested both hands on the steering wheel. He didn’t want to let Giles see him shaking but he’d forgotten how observant the watcher could be. It was probably in the job description.
"Are you OK?"
He gripped the wheel a little harder and stared straight ahead.
"Sure. It’s just… I‘ve never stood up to an angry parent before in my life. I guess I never thought I had anything worth standing up for before."
Oh god, he shouldn’t have blurted that out. He knew the englishman had turned away. Probably embarrassed, probably disappointed with him for his weakness. But when he didn’t speak Xander slowly turned his head and was surprised to see Giles looking thoughtfully at him.
"You’re a good man Xander Harris."
Xander smiled uncertainly at first and then with more warmth. Giles meant it honestly and simply. He respected him. At that moment nothing else mattered, not even Buffy and her Wagnerianly doomed romance with Angel.
"Aw shucks pa." he drawled to cover his embarrassment.
"Quite," coughed Giles, "now I suggest we see about finding Buffy before her mother changes her mind and comes after us with a fire axe."
"Good plan," said the young man happily as he started the engine.