KEEPING A BALANCE
Set after The Prom.
Giles thinks about Wesley and Buffy and also about what Angel leaving Sunnydale will mean.
A Giles-centric gen story.
Written: August 2013: Word count: 2,225.
It is the early hours of the morning before I finally return to my home after my chaperoning duties at the prom. I am still not entirely certain quite how I ended up being the head chaperone, thus the person who had to remain behind until everything had been cleared away and the gym safely locked up for the night. It isn't as if any student for me to chaperone remained by then - but stay I had to.
I was not alone as I stood and watched people work around me. Wesley, for whatever reason, decided that as he had earlier declared he was attending the prom in order to 'assist' me in my chaperoning duties, that it meant he had to remain with me until I was able to leave. Thus, despite telling him on more than one occasion that he did not need to stay with me, and that I was quite capable and willing to watch people work on my own, he refused to leave. I do sometimes wonder if the whole fact of being on a Hellmouth somehow affects the mind or the way people think - or what they see.
Take Wesley for example; since his arrival in Sunnydale to act as Buffy's watcher, he has spent the vast majority of his time in the library - coming and going as he seems fit, wandering through the school as if . . . Well, as if he was employed there and no one has ever said anything. And tonight; there he was, someone who wasn't a teacher, wasn't an employee of the school, at the prom - apparently assisting me in my chaperoning duties.
Why hasn't anyone challenged him and asked him what he is doing at Sunnydale High? Or if they did not wish to ask him directly, why has no one asked me who he is and what he's doing? You would have thought, given he spends his time in the library or accompanying me to places, someone would have asked by now. However, they have not.
He isn't invisible, so why does no one seemed curious or indeed bothered or even concerned about his presence? Does Principal Synder really care so little about the students' welfare and safety? I know he doesn't like children, he told me so himself, but he is in charge and thus deemed to be ultimately responsible should anything happen. I know Wesley is incapable of hurting anyone, I know he is not a homicidal maniac or a pervert - but no one else knows.
I go into the kitchen and, despite the lateness (or earliness, it all depends on how you look at it) of the hour, fill the kettle with water and set it to boil and take the tea from the cupboard. As the kettle boils, I pour a little into the teapot, swill it around and empty it into the sink before beginning to spoon tea into the pot.
Suddenly a thought comes to me and I drop the spoon. It falls to the floor with a clatter and takes some several seconds to come to rest as I just stare at the wall. Is the reason no one questions Wesley's presence in the library or seems unconcerned by him accompanying me to the prom - in my chaperoning duties for the prom - because they . . . ? Because they believe that he and are -
No, of course that cannot be the case; this is America. Americans are far less lenient and considerably more straight-laced about certain things than even we British are. If anyone for a moment thought that Wesley and I might be involved then he - maybe even both of us - would have been told to leave Sunnydale High immediately. And let us not forget that he spent a vast amount of the evening, the evening he was meant to be assisting me in my chaperoning duties, talking to or dancing with Cordelia. Although he did not do the latter until he had all but sought my permission to do so.
The words I had said to him when he had seen fit to ask me if I believed it would be acceptable for him to ask Cordelia to dance come back to me quite clearly. As I bend to pick the spoon back up I once again hear myself say: 'For God's sake, man, she's eighteen. And you have the emotional maturity of a blueberry scone. Just have at it, would you, and stop fluttering about'.
'Fluttering about' sums Wesley up perfectly; for that is exactly what he does.
I pour the water onto the tea leaves and glance at the clock and push thoughts of Wesley from my mind. I have to spend most of the day with him, I really do not wish to spend my time alone thinking of him. Even though I have to confess he is somewhat less annoying than he was when he first came to Sunnydale - if only because he has realised, and for the most part accepted, that Buffy will do as Buffy wishes to do. And if he wishes to know what she is going to do and what she has discovered, then he must stop objecting to the way she does things and the way the others are involved in assisting her.
Buffy. Why is it that no matter of what or of whom else I think, somehow my thoughts always return to Buffy? Buffy. Whom I still regard as my slayer, even though technically I am no longer her watcher. Buffy. The girl Quentin accused me of loving like a daughter; the girl whose life I put at risk simply to fulfil some stupid Watchers' Guild rule; the girl whom, even if I had not been prepared to admit it until Quentin in effect forced my hand, I do indeed love like a daughter. 'You have a father's love for the child', Quentin told me, 'and that is useless to the cause'.
The cause: to rid the world of vampires, demons and other evil. A good cause, a worthy cause, but one I know will never be achieved. The best we can hope for is to be able to kill the worst of the vampires and demons and other evil, but we will never entirely rid the world of evil. And the cause is not worth a life of a slayer, it is certainly not worth the life of Buffy.
A child. Buffy is no longer a child - and I'm not talking about her actual age. Buffy has seen and done far, far more than almost any other person would have seen and done by her age. She ceased to be a child on the day she became the slayer. She is young, yes, in some ways she is younger than her years. She can be (like all other teenagers) childish at time and can and does test my patience. She puzzles me, irritates me, exasperates me, I rarely understand what she and the others are talking about, in many ways the gulf between us is as wide as the ocean that separates the countries of our birth. However, I do indeed love her as I would love a daughter.
And because of the father's love I have for her, I feel so sorry for her, I even hurt for her because of the fact Angel is leaving her; leaving Sunnydale. She loves him; he loves her; it isn't right; it's against everything proper; it's against everything in which the Council believes; it's irrational - but then love often is. He is leaving her and she is hurting beyond any hurt I believe she has ever felt - even when he became Angelus and did all the things he did, I do not believe she hurt as much as she hurts now.
When she told me the news about Angel leaving Sunnydale, I spoke the truth when I said I really didn't know what to say, because I didn't. It was completely outside my realm of experience and understanding. However, that wasn't the only reason I didn't know what to say. The other reason I knew not what to say was because as much as I felt so terribly sorry for her and I still do, as much as I wanted to be able to take the pain she was feeling away, part of me was also relieved that Angel loved her enough to walk away from her. That he loved her enough to allow her to have at least a semblance of a normal life.
And whilst the feeling of relief swept through me, it was accompanied by a feeling of guilt, because I felt relieved, but also by a feeling of regret, not just for Buffy, but for the rest of us; for the cause. Angel is a powerful vampire, one of the most powerful I have ever known. Of course as Angelus he is more powerful, because his lack of any hint of humanity is so deep, his evil so intense, his desire to destroy before he kills so extreme, it makes him more powerful - but as Angelus he is the enemy, as Angel he on the side of the good.
I never told Buffy, I never would tell her, and I shall never tell her, but a part of me did fear that had Angel stayed, that one day, no matter what they had agreed, what they had sworn that - Well, that something would happen and Angel would become Angelus again. And whilst now that we have the spell that would enable either Willow or me to once more restore his soul, the thought of Angelus being in Sunnydale even for a short period, it has to be said, scared me more than a little.
I shall miss Angel. Even though as Angelus he tortured me for hours, even though as Angelus he killed Jenny, I shall miss him. I shall miss him as part of the cause, as the fine comrade in arms he became, as the fiercely and tremendously powerful vampire. However, part of me will also miss him as a person, as the man Buffy loves, as the man who became, if not an actual friend of mine, then something more than just a mere acquaintance.
I believe the others (even Xander, though he would, of course, never admit it) will also miss Angel, both personally and for his power. He became part of the group; he became a core member of the group and given how close the members are, it is only natural he will be missed. His power, his skill, his natural vampire strength and other abilities will be missed. I just have to hope, I just have to believe, that the balance of power between good and evil will not be diminished too much by his leaving.
We need to keep a balance; we need to keep doing what we do: fighting and killing evil. Buffy is powerful; she is strong; she has her slayer's power and wit and abilities. However, she and Angel did have an excellent way of working side by side, of backing the other up, of seeming to know just what the other would do. They were more powerful together than either of them is apart. I believe in Buffy, I trust in Buffy and after all we held on, we continued to do what we do, after Angel had become Angelus - indeed we fought Angelus (well Buffy did) - we can do it again.
We will manage without Angel; we will manage without his power and his strength; we will do so because we have to do so. And Buffy will manage; she will adapt once again, just as she always has done to each and every situation she has faced. If she was able to find a way to defeat a mad vampire when she had none of her slayer strength or power, she can find a way to survive the loss Angel.
I believe in Buffy; I have to believe in Buffy. I believe in the girl who is my slayer; I believe in the girl whom I love like a daughter. I do regret that Angel is leaving; I do feel relief that Angel is leaving. I am just glad that he is staying until after the mayor's ascension, because for that we shall need him; we shall need all of his power, his strength, his skills and his knowledge of evil. For the ascension we need to maintain the balance of power we currently have.
Once the ascension is over, providing we win - and I have to believe that we, that good, will prevail - and Angel leaves, then the balance of power will shift. However, I am certain, I have to be, that we will find a way to redress it and who knows, maybe somewhere out there, there's another vampire who actually wishes to fight on the side of good.
As I pour myself a cup of tea, I shake my head at such a thought. That one vampire fought along side the slayer is still somewhat inconceivable, even though I witnessed it. That another one exists is quite, quite preposterous.
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