Rupert Giles sat at his desk, working on his next day's lecture notes. Staying within generally accepted theories was a bit difficult given his esoteric knowledge. Thankfully, he enjoyed the work because his second home now consisted of four drab gray cement walls, a fake white ceiling and fluorescent lighting.
He glanced around the bare walls and reminded himself once again to give in to Buffy's demands to take him to Pier One for "everything you need to warm up the cell." At least he had the essentials: a tea pot, a new "Kiss the Professor" mug from Buffy, which he only displayed during her visits, a few books, and two pictures for his desk.
At the sound of a knock, he turned his head toward the door. "Come in."
Giles stood as Myrna Bryant, a middle aged and according to her, a "finally tenured" professor entered.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Bryant."
"Rupert, what have I said about using my first name?" She smiled and tucked some long strands of prematurely silver hair behind her ears. The hair and her small frame made her look fragile, but in less than two weeks, Giles had found Myrna Bryant to be a determined woman who wielded reason and fairness not as a weapon but as a fact of life. They had hit it off immediately.
"Of course, Myrna, I do apologize. I would offer you a seat, but..." With a light chuckle, he extended his hand toward the empty space on his right that would have been perfect for just such a piece of furniture.
"They still haven't sent one up?" She shook her head. "I'll make some calls first thing tomorrow. This is completely unacceptable."
Giles donned his best "innocent" face. "So Myrna, what brings you this way?"
"Rupert, you know very well what brings me this way. You're one of the guests of honor for this reception and you are not getting out of it. Since I don't want you conveniently getting lost along the way, I came by to personally escort you to the Dean's Residence"
"And here I was hoping that you would forget me." Giles dropped his head in mock shame.
"I really don't see what all the fuss is about. It's a reception, a little cocktail party with a few formal introductions. You don't even have to make a speech."
"I just don't fancy these things. They feel so political, so forced, so...," Giles sought out the most tactful word.
"Fake?" she offered.
He nodded with a grin.
Myrna chuckled and shook her head. "Yes, well you'll get no argument from a woman who fought her way through the tenure system. I know these faculty functions are more about politics than academics, but I can vouch for the History Department. We're truly glad to have you on board, so at least our welcome will be genuine." She checked her watch. "But we really should be going. We don't want to be late."
"Just give me a moment to pack up."
Myrna took the opportunity to scan the office. "Just love what you've done with the place," she said as her eyes took in the still bare walls.
"I'll have you know I've added a tea pot since your last visit."
"So you have. So you have," she chuckled, noting the small teapot on the pea green metal bookcase. A few books had been added as well. However, it wasn't until her gaze returned to his desk that she spotted an addition of any substance. Myrna looked at the two pictures, looking quickly past the first showing Rupert posed with who she assumed were four students from a previous teaching job. She picked up the second picture, a lovely candid shot of Rupert and a young woman by Crystal Waters Lake. Myrna smiled at the way the young woman laughed as she reached up to straighten his glasses.
"And just who's the lovely woman in the picture?" Myrna asked.
"Which picture?" Giles looked up quickly.
"'Which picture?'" She rolled her eyes. "You know very well the picture to which I am referring." She turned the photo to him. "She must be a special lady."
"Yes... very." When an amused smile flitted across Myrna's face, he quickly cleared his throat. "Uh, her name is Buffy Summers. She's one of my friends from Sunnydale."
"Summers? Summers?" Myrna tapped her index finger against her temple. "Oh, now I remember. The young woman from the Gazette article. She really must be amazing; to have endured so much at such a young age, and yet from the looks of it, is still quite happy."
"She's remarkable." He smiled, but Myrna's knowing grin prompted him to gesture at the other photo. "As are all of these people. Now, perhaps we should be on our way. I wouldn't want to be late to my own party." Giles closed his briefcase and picked up his coat.
"So now you're eager to get to the cocktail party? Hmmm." Myrna grinned and placed the photo back on the desk.
"Not so much eager as practical: the sooner we get there, the sooner I can leave." Giles held the door for her. "Shall we go then?"
"Yes, let's." As she passed him, she gave him a look that told him the interrogation into his personal life was far from over.
"I feel like you're escorting me to my execution," he said.
"Oh Rupert, please." Myrna slapped him on the arm. "I'm sure it won't be that bad."