Until a year ago, Rupert Giles had never liked ice arenas. He had been to a handful of Buffy’s friends’ birthday parties inside the Sunnydale Ice Rink, and he always found it noticeably uncomfortable. The metal seats were far too cold and hard, but the alternative to sitting on them for the duration of the festivities was to put on skates himself and join Buffy on the ice. He had tried that once, and he still had the scar on his knee to prove it.
Over the last twelve years, Rupert’s opinion on countless things had drastically changed. There were major shifts, such as his thoughts on the Watcher’s Council and what he believed his position should be in Buffy’s life, but there were also smaller and somehow more unexpected things. Now, going to the skating rink to watch Buffy compete was something to look forward to.
The judges announced that Buffy had placed third, and Rupert didn’t think he could feel prouder. She was one of the youngest girls in the division. He beamed at her from the stands, clapping with one hand clutched around the bouquet of blue orchids and white roses he brought, the color scheme matching the costume Buffy bought just for this day. She waved at him as she skated to the table where the judges sat, and he waved back, thinking about where he’d take her to eat. Perhaps Friendly’s? That place was horrendously loud and constantly overcrowded, but Buffy always enjoyed their oversized Sundays.
Buffy left the ice, going to the locker room to change and collect her things. After a few minutes of announcements and awards that Rupert feigned interest in, he stepped outside to wait for Buffy by the back entrance, a routine they did to avoid the noise and clutter of the main door where most parents met their children after events. He walked along the sidewalk, excited to see the joy on Buffy’s face about her victory, when he ran into the last person he expected to see; Quentin Travers. Rupert suppressed the anxiety and frustration he felt. He had enough practice hiding things from the Council. He was in a compromising position- at Buffy’s figure skating meet, bringing her flowers as a father would- but he had talked himself and Buffy out of difficult spots before.
“Mister Giles.” Travers greeted formally, nodding his head.
“Hello mister Travers, I wasn’t aware that we-” Rupert began, but was cut off by Travers’s hand signaling for him to stop.
“I’m afraid I can’t stay long. It has come to the Council’s attention that this environment isn’t conducive to miss Summers’s training, so we have decided that she will be relocated.”
Rupert took a short breath and raised his eyebrows, now struggling to retain composure.
“…Relocated?” That didn’t necessarily mean what Rupert feared. They could be moving Buffy and himself back to England. That wasn’t ideal, he could imagine how Buffy would cry when she learned that she would have to move away from Willow and Xander, but they would adjust. Together, they could be happy in England.
“Miss Summers has already been picked up, she’s on her wait to the airport. You will be contacted if your services as guardian become needed again, although to be quite frank…” He kept speaking, but Rupert could no longer understand. He couldn’t hear anything beyond the man’s tone. It was casual, as if he was discussing the grammatical structure of an ancient demonology book. This was Buffy. She was important. She was critical. She wasn’t an asset to the council, she was a person. She was his daughter.
It wasn’t until Travers had walked back to his car that what he said fully reached Rupert. He dropped the flowers on the sidewalk.
Buffy had been taken away.
Buffy had been taken away from him.
He had to follow her. He could intercept them at the airport. No, no, the Council had their own plane, he knew that. But he could fly to England himself and find her somehow. He could, he could…
She must be so scared. She must be so alone.
Nobody there would congratulate her, tell her how proud they are of her placing third.
Nobody would tell her that they love her.
Nobody would love her there.
Rupert felt sick in the pit of his stomach. They couldn’t do this to him. They couldn’t do this to her.
It had been twenty three days since Rupert had last seen Buffy. The twenty three longest days of his life.
Joyce had cried when Rupert visited her house to tell her what had happened. She demanded contact information for the Watcher that Buffy was staying with, and Rupert’s voice nearly shook when he told her that he didn’t have access to that. He hadn’t the slightest clue who was taking care of Buffy, and not a moment passed that he didn’t think about that.
When Rupert told Willow, she didn’t seem to understand. She was a bright girl, and maybe that was the problem. She had become accustomed to fixing the problems in her life. Some problems, unfortunately, didn’t offer solutions.
Rupert couldn’t remember what he did with his time before Buffy. For twenty three days, he had come home from work and the hours stretched on endlessly in front of him. There were no practices or appointments that he needed to drive to, no late night grocery runs because Buffy simply must have Poptarts, and no seemingly endless conversation about Whitney Houston.
There was no life in his apartment anymore. Memories, but no life.
Rupert sat in Buffy’s bedroom. He did that for hours after that earth shattering day at the Sunnydale Rink, and now it had become a habit. Everything in the small room screamed so loudly of the different aspects of Buffy’s personality. He remembered her eleventh birthday, when they decided it was time to transition her room to something more adult than the princess theme it had. Buffy ran around the furniture store so quickly, Rupert nearly lost her more than once. She had been so excited.
The apartment was oppressively silent, so when Rupert’s phone rang, he jumped. It was probably Joyce. She called every so often, wondering if there was any news about Buffy. There never was.
“Giles residence.” Rupert answered, out of habit. He could have simply said ‘Rupert Giles,’ considering he was the only one living at this number.
“Mister Giles.” The angry voice of Quentin Travers spat on the other end of the line. Rupert suddenly felt his blood go cold. Had something happened to Buffy? Would they even tell him if it did? “You are a complete disappointment to the Watcher’s Council. You have failed to train a slayer. Instead, you raised a daughter. It is clear that miss Summers will never be called, and we refuse to waste our resources on her or on you. You are hereby dismissed from the Watcher’s Council, and miss Summers will be returning to California tomorrow at seven thirty in the morning. Do not expect to hear from this Council again.”
The line beeped, dead.
Rupert hadn’t smiled so widely in what felt like forever. What had Buffy done to anger the council so? He felt pride welling up in his chest. She was such a brilliant young woman. She had always been able to do anything she set her mind to, he should have known that she would find a way home.
And she had found a way come. She was coming home. Buffy was coming home.
The memory of the last time Buffy fell asleep on him was vivid in Rupert’s mind. She was nine years old, and they were watching a VHS tape of The Little Mermaid that she begged for in line at the grocery store. She fell asleep halfway through the movie, resting on his lap. Sleeping on the couch always left him with a kink in his neck, but he couldn’t bring himself to wake her up.
Rupert assumed that would be the final time that he would be used as Buffy’s pillow. He was very glad to be mistaken. The two of them were lying on her bed. His arm was around her and she was fast asleep on his chest. She was smiling. He missed her smile terribly. He missed everything about her. But now she was safe in his arms, home, and happy.
Buffy’s blonde hair was splayed over her face, and Rupert gently pushed it aside. She stirred, but didn’t wake.
“I love you.” He whispered. He said that phrase more in the last twenty four hours than he normally did in any given month with Buffy. He knew that she wouldn’t have heard it once while she was away, but he couldn’t pretend that was the only reason.
Rupert never knew that he could love a person so much until the Council gave him Buffy, and he didn’t know real loss until they took her away from him. He was a smart man. He knew that he couldn’t tell what the future held, especially if Buffy was called. Even so, he vowed to himself that he would never let something like that happen to her again.