Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character/Pairing: Giles, Buffy
Challenge/Prompt: giles_shorts: Mask
Word Count: 539
Date Written: 6 November 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Giles slowly raises his eyes from the thick and ancient text in front of him. He had been concentrating on the yellowed pages a little too hard over the last five minutes, but the fuming teenager hadn't seemed to notice. She had been aggravated that he refused to face her, of course, but she had no clue as to the real reason why.
He lifts his spectacles from his face with a weary sigh and runs his hands over his skin. He can feel the wrinkles beginning to form around his eyes and nose, little reminders that he's much older than he sometimes feels. And yet, some nights, trying to keep up with Buffy and her friends and help his charge save the world yet again leaves him feeling decades older than he actually is.
Giles shakes his head and lets his fingers run up into the ends of his graying hairs. He's so weary of this battle already, and yet stretching before him are endless, countless more battles -- if he wants his Slayer to live, which is perhaps what makes this ongoing war not just against the forces of evil but against rebelling teenagers when they want to play when they should be honing their skills all that much more difficult.
His eyes drift closed as he sits in the silent solitude of his library. The room should feel comforting -- it usually does --, but Buffy's angry words still ring throughout it. Why shouldn't she have a life? Especially if she's saving everybody else's, why she should not be allowed to live her own?
He wishes with all his heart he could lift his carefully constructed mask just once in her presence. He wishes he could convey to her that the reason why he insists on being so strict concerning her training is not because he wishes to take her freedom from her but rather because he wants to give it to her. She's worried about her freedoms to love or at least date and party; he has a much greater concern in his determination that she have the freedom to live.
And yet, every day, especially every night, he grows ever more afraid that that freedom is going to be taken from her, that she's going to fail to beat the monsters back, to save not only the world but her own life, that he is going to fail her . . . Tears prick his closed eyes. He swallows hard, feeling the darkness closing in. He doesn't want to have to bury another friend. He doesn't want to lose her when her life is just beginning.
He lifts his hand from his face and fights his own instincts to reach for his nearest weapon as he hears the door open. Students rarely come into this place, and indeed, it's not a student who's striding forward toward his desk now. Giles squares his shoulders and returns his glasses to his face. Looking through their lenses and trying to remind himself that the man is only another human, his life as worthy of being saved as any one else's, Giles asks, "What can I do for you, Principal Snyder?", and his mask falls into place again.