Don't Give Your Heart
By Gail Christison
Title: Don't Give Your Heart
Author: Gail Christison
Rating: R for Adult dramatic themes, violence [Becoming Flashbacks], implied violence
Timeline: This story is set after Restless but before BvsD. Season five did not happen. In this history Giles will stay in Sunnydale
Spoilers: Gazillions of old stuff from the Buffy movie to Restless. :-)
Summary...Oh, Lord [Have I ever mentioned how much I hate summarizing <g>]...Okay...Giles is depressed, Ethan complicates things and his actions result in catastrophic psychological damage to Giles. Willow and Tara have to anchor Buffy while she 'goes in' to Giles' mind to bring him out. Some action adventure with Ethan and a helpful new character but mostly a story designed to deal with a lot of unresolved issues Joss will never give us any closure on. I hope all Giles fans, not just B/Gers, will get something out of this fic.
Distribution: Once More With Feeling http://www.wickedsky.com/oncemore if you don't want to wait for it all to be posted on the lists :-), anyone I have given general permission to. Everyone else please ask first
Feedback: is always appreciated. :-) email@example.com
Disclaimer: I don't own it, I don't get anything from it except some satisfaction and closure the show will never give. Neener Joss!
Author's notes: My personal thanks to Liz and Wench for their support and betaing/monitoring of the progress of this fic
Dedication: This fic is dedicated to the person who started it all by asking for some closure to Becoming. Thank you to Morrwen for causing this baby to be born, before it ran amok and became a new critter entirely :-))))
Buffy opened the door of Giles apartment, still
distracted by the aftermath of the battle with the new demons. Riley had almost
lost his head, literally, before they'd combined… Well, they had, sorta,
she told herself, blithely ignoring the fact that she'd accounted for all but
one of them before he'd finally recovered enough to take out the last.
Music was playing quietly and only Giles' funky lamps
lit the room with their soft light.
She hadn't visited in ages, but the new demons required
identification and Riley had a deal to go to with some of the guys, so…
There was no sign of Giles. She frowned at the open
bottle on the coffee table, and the glass alongside, ice still melting in the
bottom of it, before looking up at the loft. It was in darkness.
She looked at the bottle again. She didn't like him
drinking the last time it happened. God forbid there had been any more visits
from past demons to spark more chaos. Or worse, Ethan Rayne…
When there was no answer she raised her voice and
shouted his name again, only to have him come crashing out of the bathroom in
his pyjamas, the top not even buttoned.
"Buffy? What are you doing here?" he demanded,
none too prettily. "And what the hell is wrong?"
She looked him up and down. "Nothing's wrong…now.
I've got some stuff to report, demons to research. What's your drama?"
Giles hauled his pyjama jacket closed and scowled
"There is no drama," he told her. "Just
an intruder in my home, not even allowing me the simple luxury of a long bath
"You were reading the newspaper in the John again,"
she guessed, though she had noticed the damp hair curling on his collar.
"I was having a bath," he shot back as he
walked toward her.
Only when he was close could Buffy smell the faint
scent of the drink and see the dark circles under his eyes.
"Something's wrong," she said darkly. "If
it's something I should know about…"
"It's not," he retorted harshly. "Tell
me about your blasted demons."
Buffy watched him walk away, realizing only when she
had followed his backside across the room that the pyjamas were all he was
wearing. It disturbed her to realize that she had actually noticed that, and
that the thin, navy blue silk was sticking to his obviously still damp person.
She swallowed. "F-four arms. Tails like scorpions,
nasty pointy barb on the tip and a tendency to want to use it a lot. Riley
nearly lost his head to one. I think it wanted to pop his skull like a balloon.
"Druul," Giles growled.
"Are you swearing at me?"
"Druul," Giles repeated, pointedly not rising
to her teasing. "They don't generally like this dimension and they aren't
known for leaving their own unless there's a very good reason."
"Yeah, well, there were four of them, so I guess
there must be a good reason," Buffy shot back, unsettled by his continued
distance and ill-temper.
"In that case it's probably worth investigating.
Either something is going on in the underworld that we're not privy to, or they
were brought here by someone or something we probably should know about…"
"Then why do you sound like you could care less?"
Giles simply stared at her stonily before turning for
"Where are you going?"
"To get dressed," he replied tersely.
"What's going on, Giles?" She might never
qualify for the Miss Empathy quest, but she knew something was very wrong.
"Nothing that you'd be in the slightest bit
interested in hearing about," he muttered and disappeared up the stairs
before she could reply.
He was back relatively swiftly in jeans and a shirt she
hadn't seen before. It looked far nicer than the old, baggy sweaters of which he
was so fond. She liked the way the surprisingly casual, blue denim long-sleeved
shirt accentuated his wide shoulders and his surprisingly slim hips. She did not
like the fact that she noticed those things.
"Okay," she said, tearing her eyes away from
his body. "You have a bug up your butt the size of a Fyarl demon. Mind
telling me what's the what before I get too annoyed?"
Giles barely acknowledged the fact that she'd even
spoken, his eyes narrowing and flicking away to locate the bottle and glass
before heading over there without saying a word.
Buffy watched him pour another Scotch with something
approaching real fear. The one constant in her universe was Giles. Even when he
was ticked with her, she could predict his responses.
But not this time...
He threw it back and poured another without looking up.
"Giles? Whatever it is, I'm sorry. Really sorry,"
she said softly.
"Yes, I'm sure you are," he said flatly,
swirling the golden contents in the tumbler.
"But you aren't going to tell me what I'm
He shook his head. "Go home, Buffy."
"Not until you tell me what's going on."
"For God's sake, don't you ever listen?" The
words reverberated with controlled violence. "Just go."
Buffy didn't move. Stunned, her eyes fixed themselves
on the fingers of his right hand, which were moving stiffly, almost clumsily, as
they turned something over and over. She didn't recognize the pink stone, or
what, if any, relevance it had to his current state, but the almost unnatural
motion of the long digits, the periodic tremor in them, kept her entranced.
"Just tell me what I did," she said quietly,
each word pile-driven home.
He turned his head just a little and rolled his
normally gentle green eyes up so that Buffy was able to see the dark hollowness
of them, the deep, roiling rage that simmered behind the soft jade hue.
"Do I really have to tell you?" It came out
as a contemptuous whisper.
Still watching the small piece of quartz, turning
faster now in his fingers, her eyes flashed.
"Probably. I never pretended to be perfect. I've
done a lot of stupid things and made a lot of mistakes. I just don't know which
one you're angry about. I haven't run away lately, or turned any ensouled
vampires into psycho-killers. I haven't even tried to kill anybody … and it's
not like I've even had a chance to crash your car, or to spoil your fun with
Olivia…" Her sarcasm faded, concern pulling her mouth into an unhappy
line as it occurred to her that something might have happened to his friend.
He thumped his fist on the table. "No, Olivia
isn't. Olivia hasn't since the Gentlemen were here. She is in Milan, having a
life without constant fear and revulsion. She is not the issue here."
Buffy half raised a hand, dropped it again. "I'm
sorry…about Olivia. Really sorry," she whispered.
For a moment his thunderous expression lifted and his
eyes almost warmed as they regarded hers.
"I know," he said, the warmth already fading,
then looked away again. "Why don't you go home and spend some time with
Riley? There's nothing for you here."
It wasn't what she was expecting to hear.
"How can you say that?" she retorted, before
she even had time to think, after recoiling from the metaphoric kick in the
stomach. The last time he'd said something that hurt that much he'd only just
discovered that Angel was back from the dead. And she had deserved every word…
Giles poured another drink and downed it easily. "Why
not?" he said hoarsely. "Haven't you been basically saying the same
thing since you went prancing off to college?"
Buffy bit her lip to stop the outraged retort on the
tip of her tongue.
"How many of those have you had?"
Giles raised an eyebrow and picked up the half-empty
bottle. "Not enough," he said, eyeing it. "Hadn't you better get
back to your Nancy-boy G.I.?"
"Not until you tell me what's going on." She
wasn't going to tell him that Riley was out with the guys, or that he was
leaving again in the morning to visit his parents, less than a week after
returning from being debriefed by the Government.
Buffy stepped forward as he lifted the bottle once more
and took it from him.
Giles rose swiftly.
"You'll give that back, now," he
"Yeah, right," she drawled and started toward
When he realised what she was going to do, Giles went
"Yes," she said, unscrewing the cap as she
approached the sink.
When Giles reached her and snatched at the bottle, it
was almost empty.
He threw it with force, so that it smashed against the
kitchen wall, the last of the whisky trickling down it and into the broken glass
on the floor.
"Tell me what's going on!" she shouted back.
"Will you never do as you're told?" Giles
demanded angrily, flushed and ragged with temper and booze. "What the hell
do I have to do before you'll start treating me like a man?"
She stared dumbly for a moment then turned to look at
the stain on the wall.
"Act like one," she said without turning
again and started to walk away, not willing to let him see the tears in her eyes.
"Why bother?" he spat. "I've spent more
time with Spike than you've spent with me since you started bloody college."
Buffy stopped, but didn't face him. There really wasn't
an answer to that. In fact, the more she thought about the past months, the less
she liked herself, but she still didn't know what to say. Her eyes, darting
about the room like a nervous deer, lighted on the small table behind the couch,
momentarily distracting her from her thoughts. A gift had been opened and left
on it, a colourful card standing beside it.
She went to it and picked up the card. It was from
Olivia, a 'sorry-I'm-late' one, for his birthday. It was a silly card, with a
silly sex joke and a fond message from the other woman, apologising for
forgetting his birthday, months earlier, and promising to make it up at
Christmas. The gift was a little statue of an extremely well endowed,
mythological Greek character.
Buffy dropped the card on the table and closed her eyes
for a moment. She had forgotten his birthday too. They all had. Missing his
birthday was low, but not enough to drive a guy like Giles to drink…especially
not this long after the event. Then again, when had she ever remembered it?
She turned, and jumped violently.
Ethan Rayne's smirking face was the last thing she
When she stirred, the first thing Buffy was aware of
was the pounding in the back of her skull and the second was the smell: like a
wet, mouldy burlap bag.
After she finally prised her eyes all the way open it
was to find herself staring at a stone wall. She moved stiffly, working herself
slowly to a sitting position while her brain tried to thump its way out of her
The light was bad, and the air stale. Buffy looked up.
No windows, and only a tiny slot in the door at viewing height…well…viewing
height if you were Xander, maybe. She was considering the wisdom of trying to
get to her feet when a moan close by made her jump, sending an uncomfortable
stab of adrenaline shooting through her.
Heedless of the worsening headache, she twisted around.
"Present," a voice croaked.
Buffy crawled over to the figure sprawled on the
cobbled floor, trying not to notice her headache or the rising nausea. She was
going to be useless if it kept up.
"Giles! Are you okay? Can you move?"
"Probably," he half muttered, half moaned,
"but I think I'd rather stop here, thank you, at…at least until my brain
stops dribbling out of my ears." The last was more of a gasp than a
Buffy rolled him from his side onto his back, trying to
ignore his moan of pain. His brain wasn't dribbling out of his ears, but a scalp
wound on his temple had produced enough blood for it to run down the side of his
face and into his ear.
"God, Giles, they hit you in the head again. I got
knocked out too, but I don't have a bump…just an extreme desire to barf and a
headache of the hammer concerto variety."
He frowned rather than bother to open his eyes. "Yes,
he did," he growled. "I'm getting old." He sniffed. "He used
something…ether or something…to knock you out. He must be getting old, too…"
"Or he knew it would take more than a whack on the
head to drop the Slayer," she pointed out dryly.
"There is that," Giles agreed equally dryly
and finally made an effort to get his eyelids to move.
"So it was Ethan I saw?"
Giles started to nod, realised it was a bad idea.
"The bastard had you down before I could warn you. Then his henchmen held
me while he payed me back for his little visit to Nevada."
Buffy's thumbs pricked again with adrenaline. Please,
not again… "He hurt you? Where? Can you move?"
"I can move. It just bloody well hurts, that's
all. Ethan is rather good with his fists when one isn't fighting back. With
three Druul tails poised over my head, I preferred Ethan's spite to having a new
hole drilled in my skull."
"God, Giles," Buffy whispered, unbuttoning
his bloodied shirt.
"I know I'm old and gross, but it's not that
bad," he said in a strained, but amused voice as she pushed the open shirt
away from his chest.
"These bruises are going to hurt like hell."
She was ignoring his joke and trying desperately to ignore her response to both
the injuries and the rest of his chest, the soft golden brown hair spread across
it and provocatively down to his navel. It was still firm and smooth and almost
as hard as Riley's…except, somehow, Giles' chest hair was far sexier than the
tender smoothness of the younger man's torso.
Who knew Giles could be…sexy?
She winced mentally. Giles and 'sexy' in the same
sentence…but it passed quickly when he groaned again, despite his attempts not
to show how much pain he was in.
"Ethan is going to pay for this and so is whoever
let him out of prison this time."
"I r-rather…" Giles grimaced and started
again. "I rather think he had a deal of help from, well, dark allies, like
the Druul. S-something is afoot. I wish I knew what. Whatever Ethan gets
involved in tends to be a great deal of trouble."
"Well whatever he's up to, I have to thank him for
one thing," Buffy observed and smiled a little at Giles' curious look.
"At least you're talking to me again now."
Giles closed his eyes. "How fortunate for
It wiped away Buffy's smile.
"You're still mad at me."
"I am…just tired," he sighed.
Combined with his bruises, and how very vulnerable he
looked lying there with his eyes closed, and a divot of pain almost permanently
etched above the bridge of his nose, his words cut through her annoyance and
grabbed her by the throat.
"Giles, please," she whispered.
He opened his eyes and turned them toward her. They
widened swiftly when they saw the wretchedness in hers.
"Take no notice of me," he rasped, looking
away again. "I'm still drunk, and maudlin and full of self-pity. Don't get
old, Buffy. Don't get old and don't give your heart where it isn't wanted."
Buffy didn't understand, and was about to say so when
the door opened. She scrambled to her feet just as a small demon came in with a
tray. Behind it was Ethan Rayne and two of his Druul henchmen.
The gnome-like demon put the tray on the floor a few
feet from Buffy, who had deliberately placed herself between Giles and the
intruders, and backed swiftly out of the room.
"She doesn't bite, Edof," Ethan called after
it, amused. "She fights real demons, not snivelling little toads like you.
Isn't that right, Slayer?"
"Go to hell, Ethan. What makes you think you can
hold me here?"
Ethan's eyes slid to the figure on the floor. "I
think I have the best reason in the world. You won't leave him and if you tried,
you know I'd kill him…or at least let Zyf and Zyn, here, play with him."
"What do you want?" Buffy demanded through
He smiled slowly. "You misunderstand, my dear.
This is not about what I want…except perhaps when it comes to how much I get
"In good time," he smirked. "How's your
old man? Still with us?"
"Screw you, Ethan," Giles strained voice
snarled from behind Buffy.
"He's not my old man," Buffy retorted.
Ethan raised an eyebrow. "No? I thought you
preferred them young and distinctly, well …Norman Rockwell, shall we say…not
quite so old and used? Last time I saw our Rupert he was drinking himself into
oblivion after being effectively emasculated by someone for the umpteenth time
…I'm sure I don't need to tell you who…"
"Shut up, Ethan!" Giles growled, trying to
Buffy turned and knelt beside him, helping him to a
sitting position and meeting his eyes momentarily, her own warning him silently
not to rise to the bait, while she digested the sorcerer's taunts.
"What do you want from us, Rayne?" she
demanded. "He needs a doctor. I promise you if anything happens to him
you'll wish you were never born."
Ethan stared at them both for a long moment, his
expression unreadable. "Too late," he said almost too softly for Buffy
to hear, then let his usual lazy arrogance reappear. "Eat the food,"
he told them at normal volume. "You're going to be here for a while, so
don't be stupid about it."
"Who is it this time, Ethan?" Giles demanded.
"Who have you sold yourself to, this time?"
"Not my fault this time, old chap. You gave me no
choice. Given the option of letting those sadistic little bastards scramble my
brains and destroy my mind, or my freedom in exchange for your Slayer, it wasn't
difficult to choose."
"Bastard," Giles breathed.
"Who?" Buffy demanded. "Who wants me?
Walsh was dead. Adam was out of control. I was the only one who had any
chance of stopping him. And I did. Why would anyone from the Military want to
take me out of the picture, now?"
"Who says they give a damn about your bloody
Adam…or any of the bloody Adams out there?" Ethan retorted shortly.
"Who says they care about anything but their own petty agendas? They want
to know what makes you tick, Slayer. I expect you will be experimented upon,
studied, poked, prodded, analysed, tested and eventually vivisected, all
supposedly in the name of national security, but in truth it will simply be to
find out how they can make more like you. They don't need more Adams if they can
make their own little army of Slayers, instead."
"You'll n-never hold her," Giles told him,
his colour now ash-grey.
Ethan smirked. "You underestimate me, old son. A
Slayer might be almost impervious to physical force, but even she is vulnerable
to love. If she does anything but co-operate fully, she will have a front row
seat at your unfortunate, and I might add, messy, demise."
Outraged and disbelieving, Buffy lunged at the slim
figure only to be confronted by his bodyguards. She launched into her normal
attack mode only to find herself knocked easily onto her backside by the
powerful, segmented forearm of one of the creatures.
The shock in her eyes was comprehensive. "No,
Ethan, you can't do this," she pleaded. "They'll destroy everything.
Somebody has to stop them…even you have to know that…"
Ethan shrugged. "I know that I'm not going back
and that's all I care about right now. Your soldier-boy heart-throb and his pals
will have to deal with all the things that go bump in the night from now
"I will kill you, Ethan," Giles
"You haven't been able to do it for the last
twenty years, old son," Rayne drawled and looked left and right at Zyf and
Zyn. "I'm not exactly quaking in my boots here."
"Buffy will not co-operate," he said through
Ethan met and held Buffy's gaze for several moments,
then smiled again, smugly, before motioning the insect-like demons to follow him
When the door closed Buffy turned to Giles. "I
won't let him hurt you."
"Yes, you bloody well will! I'm telling you
now you don't have the luxury of worrying about me. You have an obligation to
protect this world and I will not let you compromise that for the sake of one
broken down ex-Watcher of no value or usefulness to anyone."
"I won't let him hurt you," she repeated, her
voice shaking with emotion and her eyes locking with his. "We will get
out of here, but I won't let anyone take you away from me."
Giles stared at her flushed face, her flashing eyes,
stunned by the vehemence of her tone.
"You don't need me," he said softly.
"You haven't needed me for a long time."
"You are so wrong," she managed tremulously.
"I thought you didn't need me any more. I thought I was in the way."
Giles' colour worsened and pain lanced across his face,
but he kept himself upright. "Need you?" he repeated hoarsely.
Buffy caught him as he toppled sideways, drawing him
against her instead of lowering him to the floor.
"Sorry," he muttered into her bosom.
"How bad?" she asked in a choked voice,
trying to focus.
"N-not sure. It was…a good…whack.
Concussion…probably. Fracture…uncertain. Bloody hurts, though," he
Buffy choked on a laugh. "Sorry," she said.
"I wish there was something I could do. Damn Ethan to hell, anyway."
"No argument from me," he agreed whimsically,
managing to turn his head enough so that his cheek was resting against her left
bicep. "I…think perhaps you should help me to sit up enough to lean
against the wall. This…" He stopped to grimace. "This really won't
Buffy bit her lip. He was in such pain, and yet he
still thought he had to worry about…she sighed. It brought home to her how
much they'd grown apart, how little they knew each other any more. She lowered
her brow until it rested against the soft hair on his crown.
Giles' eyes, unseen by Buffy, widened in surprise and
then glistened with unspoken pain before closing slowly.
"I don't want your pity," he whispered.
"I don't do pity," Buffy said simply and
dragged him painfully into a sitting position.
He was trembling and his face was devoid of colour as
he settled against the wall.
"Then I can tell you that the room is doing
pirouettes and I am in dire peril of revisiting my lunch."
Buffy scowled as she tried to make him comfortable.
"You had a liquid lunch as I recall."
"Which I very much don't want to revisit," he
repeated gruffly, closing his eyes again.
She stopped scowling and knelt beside him. After a beat
to study his face, the bruise just starting to show on his left cheek, the small
split in the right hand corner of his mouth and the graze on his chin, she
stroked his brow very softly, pushing back his rumpled locks and trying to
massage his clammy brow as soothingly as she could.
After several long moments the green eyes opened and
looked up at her, watching her silently as she continued.
"Better?" she asked softly when she saw them.
They closed and opened again in an approximation of a
yes, but he didn't speak.
Buffy wasn't sure what was happening to her, or why.
She knew how much Giles meant to her, but she couldn't begin to understand why
she didn't want to stop stroking the tense brow, why she was suddenly aware of
the most intimate things about him, his bare, bruised chest…his breath, the
vague male body odour of a man who hadn't showered all day, the faint scent of
whatever shampoo he used in his ridiculously soft hair and the lingering aroma
of his cologne. It had always been subtle, but there, nevertheless. She'd never
realised before how strongly she associated that scent with Giles. It was a part
of him, like his tea and his books…
She had been avoiding the green eyes watching her so
intently, but when she finally withdrew her hands, she allowed hers to meet
"Okay?" she ventured tentatively.
"Very," he managed, softly.
She held his gaze a few moments longer, aware that
something was crackling between them, but uncertain what or why.
"I have to get us out of here," she said
eventually, falling back on the one thing she knew. "If the little demon
comes alone next time, I'm going to try to take him. Even if there's one or two
Druul outside, I can take them too, if I'm careful."
"Of course," Giles agreed hoarsely, in a
strange tone, and added with effort, "naturally, we must get out of here at
the earliest opportunity."
"You need a doctor."
His expression grew almost amused, despite the strain.
"Of course I need a bloody doctor…and a change of clothes, and I daresay
you're missing Riley already."
"Riley? Well…yeah," she said awkwardly,
suddenly painfully aware that she hadn't thought about him at all. And didn't
particularly want to think about him now…
Giles nodded almost imperceptibly, his eyes losing any
lustre that was left in them.
"We'll get out of here, and your young man will be
waiting, you'll see," he forced himself to say.
Buffy ignored that, and let her gaze move around the
room, studying every inch of it.
There were, however, no opportunities, even for a
Slayer, to affect any kind of breakout. Eventually she returned to slide down
the wall and sit alongside him.
"How's it going?"
He opened his eyes. "My head? Better. I rather
suspect that it's a concussion. Past experience tells me that were we to have
gone to the Emergency Room, I would be on my way home by now, albeit with a
massive headache, still."
Buffy smiled. "I guess you'd know. It's not like
you haven't been concussed before."
Giles made a snorting noise and after a beat it was
obvious that both of them were amused by the silliness of it all. Buffy giggled
first, then Giles started chuckling with her.
"Oh, God," Buffy managed as they continued to
chuckle, "I have to get you out of here and there's no way I can bust that
door down. The rest of this place might look like a bad Hollywood movie set, but
that door is heavy steel."
"I'm all right," he managed as the chuckling
died away. "Lord knows what condition my ribs are in and the bruises are
bloody sore, but I'll live."
"Yes you will," she said softly. She was no
The noise made Buffy jump, and shift against the wall.
She lifted her head from the point of Giles's shoulder and blinked. He was still
asleep. For a single beat she panicked, but the rise and fall of his chest
restored her focus and she turned toward the door.
"What?" she demanded.
The small demon stood inside the door with the tray.
"I-It's late. I th-thought you might be…angry…"
Buffy frowned, then squinted at Giles' watch face,
trying to work out the time, upside-down as it was.
"We slept for four hours?"
The demon shrugged. "Maybe you were
tired…?" he offered.
Buffy got to her feet quickly, hiding her amusement at
his immediate retreat as he shuffled away from her.
"Talking to…er…I'm not supposed to say.
Um…he's just on the phone."
Buffy looked around the room. "King Arthur's
castle has a phone?"
"King…?" The small demon looked puzzled for
a moment, then smiled sheepishly. "Oh. Well, maybe more like Mordred, than
Arthur. You should eat this. If you don't he's just going to get angry."
Giles snorted, alerting Buffy to the fact that he was
awake, even though his eyes were still closed.
"Fine," Buffy placated. "We'll eat it,
but Giles needs a doctor."
The demon shrugged as he put the tray on the floor.
"Nobody is allowed in or out. There are no doctors. Maybe when they come
"They?" Buffy growled.
The demon looked abashed again. "Um, you didn't
She grabbed him by the scruff. "They?" she
"I'll tell," he squeaked, eyeing the door.
Buffy squeezed his neck harder. "Who?"
"M-Military intelligence…a-and some
He looked reluctant, despite the pain. Buffy added her
other hand, squeezing his throat, then releasing it enough for him to answer.
"You're supposed to go to the military, but word
is out that a Slayer has been captured."
"Rayne has started a bidding war," Giles
growled and opened his eyes, "between the military and his dark
The demon looked at him and nodded. "War yes.
Bidding no. Neither intends to make any payment. Both intend to take you."
Giles chuckled. "A lose-lose situation for
Ethan…how perfectly ironic. He's selling us out to the military to save his
own hide, but…if he does, his henchmen will probably have him for
Buffy turned the demon around and propelled him toward
the door. "Call them!" she hissed.
He tensed and wriggled. "This is very bad," he squawked.
Buffy shook his neck hard. "It'll be even harder
if you piss off the Slayer any more than you already have."
"Ready!" he called through the metal door.
It unlocked and swung open.
Buffy held Edof back and waited until a guard finally
poked his head in to find out why the small demon hadn't emerged. She
immediately let go of her prisoner, thrusting him to the back of the cell, and
caught the guard with a roundhouse kick, sending him sprawling. She tensed,
ready for any Druul that might come rushing in, but none arrived. She dragged
the guard to where the smaller demon was trying to clear his head.
Edof looked at the unconscious grey form next to him
and grunted. "I knew it was a mistake hiring him. Magleth demons are
strong, but dumb as posts."
"Well you'll have plenty of time to get to know
him," Buffy drawled.
"No!" he replied, startled, and grabbed her
arm. "Don't leave me here. I didn't ask to be part of this."
Buffy made a deft move so that she was holding him by
the scruff again and made a sceptical face.
"It's the truth!" he insisted. "I was in
a cell with the human. I wanted to escape as much as he did. So I let him think
he could tell me what to do…treat me like a servant."
Buffy shook his scruff a little more. "You let
Suddenly, Buffy's hand was filled with more than just
the demon's neck. She let go and reeled back as the huge, serpentine creature
swung around, its maw full of needle sharp teeth only marginally less terrifying
than its burning orange eyes.
"Jesus!" Giles exclaimed.
"Yes, I let him," he hissed and shrank
back into the small, Frodo-esque form Buffy knew, except that his shirt was
ripped where his torso and shoulders had morphed into the big olive coloured
"Oh…" Buffy managed. "Okay." She
cleared her throat and waited for the surging adrenaline to subside. "I-is
your name really Edof?"
The demon nodded. "I let the feeble human think I
was weak so that he would take me, too, when they came for him. It was my only
way out of that place."
"They wanted to study your ability to morph?"
He nodded again. "They would have dissected me. I
saw what the Initiative was doing when I was captured. "I know what they
were going to do to me."
"And now you want out of all of it?"
"I want to go home."
"Then help us get out of here," Buffy said.
"Why haven't you tried to escape from here?"
Giles asked, strain still in his voice.
Edof shook his head. "I've tried. The Druul are
the natural enemies of my people. We are from the same…place. My people
evolved into 'Morphs' to survive. There are too many of them here. They would
kill me before I got out of the grounds."
"There are grounds?"
Both Edof and Giles gave Buffy a withering look.
"Don't grounds usually have guard-y kinda things
roaming around them?" she asked uncomfortably.
All eyes turned to Edof.
"Just a couple of uh…Bergen hellhounds.
"Bergen hellhounds?" Buffy asked
Giles dragged a hand over his face. "That was
where they were first identified. A variation on the types that you fought
before your er…prom."
"This is going to be a bad variation isn't
"Heightened sense of smell and hearing, larger
teeth and claws…more intelligent. Bred to be the perfect
guard…er…dogs," Giles explained.
"Great," Buffy muttered, then looked at Edof.
"So…You and Hellhounds?"
Edof smiled. "Those I can do."
"Then we should get out of here before Ethan
finishes his phone call and his buggy friends finish their coffee break or
"Two are guarding the gate and patrolling. Two are
guarding Ethan Rayne. The other two are regenerating."
Giles gave Buffy a filthy look. "Not precisely.
They're sleeping. Whilst they sleep, their bodily tissues, including their
carapace, regenerate at a pace substantially faster than our own."
"Um…I'm gonna take a wild guess that's Giles for
'I regenerate, too, in my own way?' Yay me! Call me Seven of Nine."
"I like her," the demon grinned.
"You're both hopeless," Giles observed
Buffy's eyes narrowed and she studied him for a long
Giles stared at her for a split second then almost
smiled. "Like buggery," he said softly.
Buffy turned to the small demon purposefully.
"Edof, get us out of…"
The sounds of footsteps echoing down the stone hallway
made them all freeze. The faint sound of Ethan Rayne's voice issuing orders made
their hearts drop.
"Damn!" Buffy said. "Edof, I have to hit
For a split second the demon looked confused, then he
worked it out, and nodded.
Buffy dropped him easily in his innocuous state and had
Giles almost to his feet when Ethan and his henchmen arrived.
"My, my, Slayer," Ethan drawled, stepping
over Edof. "You've been busy." He inclined his head toward Giles and
the two insect-like demons clattered forward to rip him from Buffy's resisting
Giles struggled and Buffy tried vainly to bring down
the one nearest her.
"I'd quit while you were behind," Ethan told
her as she picked herself up off the floor. "You can't hurt them without
putting your all into it, and I don't suppose they could hurt you easily either,
however they can do very nasty things to your ailing swain if you
continue to misbehave."
"You wouldn't dare," she hissed through her
teeth, "and what the hell is a 'swain'?"
Giles regarded his feet.
Ethan looked cocky but ignored the question. "Oh,
I wouldn't let them kill him…yet. Not while I still need him to keep you in
line. But if you think you've seen him suffer, you haven't seen anything until
you've seen a man who has been stung by a Druul for the purpose of feeding its
Buffy shifted agitatedly, not taking her eyes off the
sagging Giles. "That's gross."
Ethan nodded, amused. "And extremely painful. Tell
her, Ripper. Describe to her how the victim lies paralysed while his insides
boil, slowly broken down by enzymes designed to make him more palatable to the
little buggers. There is an antidote to the venom and I do happen to have some,
but considering the speed with which it works, by the time it was retrieved and
given to him, the pain would be beyond bearing and permanent internal damage
"You're such a creep," Buffy told him,
frustrated that nothing more insulting had come to mind.
"He is a misbegotten son of a bitch, emasculated
by his prostitution to darkness and chaos and his fundamental lack of any
discernable backbone," Giles growled, still pulling at the rough grip of
Buffy was impressed. "What he said," she
agreed, "only double."
"Yes, very funny, but we seem to have forgotten
what we're here for, don't we?" Ethan drawled and lifted his hand.
In moments they were gone, the grey demon having roused
during the conversation, carrying Edof out under his not inconsiderable arm.
Buffy fought an overwhelming attempt by her body to
collapse into uncontrollable sobs, leaping forward, instead, and screaming at
the top of her lungs.
At the sound of Buffy's cry echoing down the corridor,
the small smirk that had been on Ethan's face faded into a bleak, haunted
Buffy prowled in agitated, intense circles, growing
more and more enraged, the more distressed her helplessness made her. She was
trying the door for somewhere between the fourteenth and the four hundredth time
when his first scream pierced the stone walls, as though passing through butter,
and bore into her very soul.
By the third nerve-rending cry of agony, she was
clawing and hammering at the steel door, her silence almost as violent as the
destruction wrought on her tender hands as she tried mindlessly to get through
the immovable door. The fifth was a feeble, pain-filled sound that screwed
Buffy's heart into a tiny ball. It was followed by unbearable, throbbing
She threw herself against the wall and slid down it,
visions of Ethan's threat making her tremble with grief and dread and
helplessness. Her stomach churned and twisted and a sick, desperate feeling
crept over her whole body. Never before had she felt such despair, not even when
A few moments later, she was up again, trying the door
again, even trying to punch her way through the stone. Her knuckles were soon
bloodied and torn, but her Slayer strength did enable her to pulverise several
inches of cut stone just on sheer adrenaline and rage.
She was about to start again after a short break when
she heard movement in the hallway.
A moment later the door swung open and a body was
dumped on the floor. Buffy flew at the two Druul bearers, so blinded by rage
that she didn't stop until there were segmented pieces of arms and legs, shards
of carapace and yellow innards splattered everywhere.
When there was nothing left to fight, she stopped, a
head in one hand and long piece of tail and stinger in the other, her own blood
mingling with the sticky yellow mess. For a long moment she was wild-eyed and
silent, then she made a small distressed noise and dropped them before throwing
herself down to Giles' side.
He was still alive. Buffy reached out to touch his
face, very close to sobbing, but resolutely resisting the avalanche of emotion
lest it consume her. He was warm. He needed a shave and he was pale and bruised,
but he was reassuringly warm.
Buffy jumped like a frightened cat and turned, ready to
It was Edof. "We have to go, now."
"What did they do to him?" she demanded,
staring at the small demon with blurred, unfocused eyes. 'Will he die?"
Edof shook his head. "They…the government
people…they're here. They have a Weyre with them," he added darkly.
"Am I supposed to know what a 'Weyre' is?"
"We have to go, now," Edof repeated more
agitatedly. "A Weyre reads thoughts…even emotions. It can rip the
thoughts from your mind if you resist." He looked down at the watcher.
"He resisted. We must go now, while the rest of the Druul are regenerating.
I've taken care of the guard. There are two Druul with Ethan Rayne, but he is
busy with his guests. Come!"
He moved to pick up Giles' limp form, but Buffy's arm
barred his way.
"We don't have time," Edof hissed and morphed
into his alternate form, pushed her aside and swept the body into his arms, as
though it was a toy.
They went by a convoluted route Edof seemed to know
well, at first descending even further than what Buffy had assumed was a
dungeon, then climbing again, before making their way along an endless dark
passage lit only by luminous floor lights every few metres.
"What is this?" Buffy murmured, following
closely behind Edof's glistening back.
"This is not a castle," he growled.
"It's a mansion…a great house built from drug money by a very wealthy
drug baron, a former military intelligence officer who spent too much time in
Cambodia during the war. This passage is just one of many beneath the house.
That was not a cell. It was a storeroom from the last century. This house was
built over the site of some old ruins. They put that door on it to keep people
out, not in. The other door we passed back there, it goes to a laboratory…or
what's left of it."
"What happened to the Drug lord?"
Edof laughed. "I heard Rayne telling one of the
military people that he lost a lot of money in the stock market. The IRS audited
him. He's doing five to ten in a medium security prison for tax evasion on a
truly outstanding scale. The operation here was closed down by his competition.
The only reason the house has not been sold is that it is in his son's
"And his son is where?"
"I'm not sure," Edof said thoughtfully.
"But sometimes I think he's the one Rayne talks to all the time on the
They arrived at a door with a keypad to the side of it.
"Keeping people in again?" Buffy drawled.
"You know the code?"
Edof shook his head.
"Well, we can't go back."
Before the demon could say a word Buffy lashed out with her boot and smashed the keypad, sparks flying and blue smoke curling up from it. She tried the door. It didn't budge.
Edof made a noise of pure scorn before shifting Giles'
weight and stooping to focus his currently, fiercely orange, eyes on the
contents of the smashed box.
"Find a red wire and a green one," he hissed.
"Detach them from the circuit board and twist the ends together."
Buffy did it quickly and the door jolted and opened
about an inch and a half.
Edof sighed. "Now show me your Slayer
It was Buffy's turn to make a disparaging noise, but it
took her several minutes of shoving, grunting and swearing to open the door
enough for them to pass through. It was another empty storeroom with a
"If we are in the right place, the stairs should
lead to the solarium. No one goes there. It used to be a sunroom filled with
plants. It's the most exposed room in the house…too much glass. The good part
is the Druul hate excessive warmth, which for them isn't much, so they don't go
there. It's also the closest part of the house to the perimeter of the
They climbed swiftly and came out into the former
sunroom, mildew and filth marring the once pristine black and white tiled floor,
potting mix, pieces of broken pot, dead plants and a lot of dust and cobwebs
combining with the humidity to give the place a truly dank, close feel, despite
Buffy's nose wrinkled as she moved immediately to check
Giles in the brighter light. "It reeks in here," she complained,
looking for, and finding, a stronger pulse. His colour was a little better, but
there was absolutely no sign of consciousness. She fought down rising misery
"Since we closed the cell door to make everything
look normal, the alarm has not yet been raised. Rayne will have assumed that the
others went to regenerate and he never cares where I am until he needs
something. We must hope that they will not want to try to use the Weyre on you
today. We must go now. You will stay with him. I will take care of the
Hellhounds. One of them should be useful as a distraction when I disable the
"Electric fence?" Buffy asked, helping the
demon lower Giles gently to the floor.
"Cliché, but inevitable," he sighed.
"Wait for me. Care for him. Do not follow. I will be back."
About twenty minutes later, there were muted sounds of
a blood-curdling howl followed by a kafuffle in the grounds, voices,
shouting…Buffy, unused to playing such a passive role, prayed that Edof hadn't
Five minutes later he was back, in his smaller form.
"It's all right. I shorted the fence with the body of one of the
Hellhounds. It will take them a while to figure it all out. Meanwhile we should
be able to go over the fence without being seen, if we're careful."
The fence turned out to be a high brick wall with
formerly electrified wires running along the top of it.
Edof put Giles down to boost Buffy onto it and she took
the Watcher by the armpits when Edof lifted him. Then she waited for the demon
to scamper up the espaliered flowering plum tree and take him from her again
while she jumped off the other side. He peered through the old, established
trees, to the solarium. No one had come around to their side of the building.
They had to still be concentrating on the gates and the dead hellhounds.
The other side of the wall turned out to be the most
exclusive part of the suburb that adjoined the wealthy, northeast corner of
Sunnydale. Buffy recognised it. Once or twice she'd even chased unpleasant
things into the area from the nearby Brookwood cemetery.
The only problem was that there wasn't a lot of cover
and every house in the street had a security wall or fence and gate. And getting
anyone to let them in, or help, was pretty much a lost cause. A huge,
fierce-looking demon carrying an unconscious human, kind of negated any kind of
helpless charm she might have been able to generate on her own.
Not that her own and Giles' blood, and the demon guts
all over her clothes would have helped, either…
Edof looked around swiftly as they made their way down
the other side of the street.
"There," he said suddenly.
"What?" Buffy said stupidly, her mind full of
Giles and what might happen if they got caught again.
Edof stopped and put Giles down, motioning to Buffy to
take care of him while he went to the parked Jeep.
Buffy expected to hear a car alarm any moment, but all
that followed was the purr of the engine coming to life. Once they were all in,
with Edof in his smaller form, in the driver's seat, Buffy demanded to know how
he did it.
He grinned and held up a finger, whose retractable claw
promptly morphed into several different keys in a row.
"But the car alarm?"
"Doesn't have one…probably an outsider. Formal
visitors and residents usually drive into the grounds in these kinds of places,
As the car sped out of the area, Buffy opened the glove
compartment looking for clues about the owners, unhappy about resorting to
theft, despite the necessity of it.
She frowned. The car was pretty new, but all that was
in the glove compartment was the manual and maps of the local area. She closed
it again and turned to look at Giles on the back seat. He was resting quietly,
still without any indication that he might regain consciousness any time soon.
She was about to turn back before getting too carsick,
when something on the floor behind the driver's seat caught her eye.
"Edof, what kind of plates did this thing
have?" she asked ominously, bringing the object into the front and onto her
He shrugged. "Why would I look at the plates? All
I needed to know was that it wasn't alarmed."
"Yeah, but everyone notices which state, what
colour," she pointed out, staring at the briefcase and the handcuff
dangling from it. Weirdly, it wasn't locked. She opened it and found the reason
it had been left in the car. It was empty.
He shook his head again and pulled off into a narrow
side street to get out and check for her.
When he came back he looked more than a little
sheepish. "Military plates," he reported. "We can't go straight
to the hospital now. We should go somewhere and ditch the car."
"Restfield cemetery," she said, climbing into
the back with Giles and easing his head onto her lap. "Drive through to the
pioneer section and park in the little parking lot at the back of it. No one
ever goes there any more. I suppose you know why Ethan's military visitors
parked outside the walls?"
Edof shook his head. "Some mysteries are not meant
to be solved. Perhaps they thought the…er…dogs…might scratch the pristine
paintwork?" he added dryly.
Only two funerals were in progress when they sped
through the cemetery, both close to each other and a long way from the narrow,
winding, one-way road to the oldest part of the grounds. Edof tucked the Jeep
behind the old mausoleum.
"How is he?"
Buffy brushed Giles' cheek with the back of her hand.
"He should be in a hospital. We have to contact my friends so that they can
bring another car to…"
"You cannot go to such a public place. These
people…the military…they have contacts. They will be watching for you.
Besides, what is wrong with him cannot be fixed by doctors."
Buffy bit her lip. "Then how? We can't just sit
here. I have to at least get my friends…"
"Have they magick?"
She frowned. "One, but she's kinda…in
training…if you know what I mean. Giles does have a library though…you know,
magick books up the wazoo…"
"Walk to the office at the front gates. Call
someone who can bring a vehicle," he said.
Xander and Willow arrived remarkably quickly in the car
Xander was semi-permanently borrowing from his uncle to help him in his quest
for a permanent job.
They both leaped out as Buffy and Edof eased Giles from
the back of the Jeep.
"You said get over here fast. You didn't say Giles
was hurt!" Willow cried.
"I needed you to get here in one piece. Freaking
about Giles wasn't going to help Xander's driving," Buffy snapped. "We
have to go somewhere safe while we research what happened to him."
"Shouldn't we get him to the Emergency room?"
"Not for this," she flashed.
Willow, watching the impatience and irritation in
Buffy's stressed face, cleared her throat before gesturing toward Edof.
"Um, Buffy. Introductions?"
"His name is Edof. Say hello and let's go. Xander,
put the top up."
It only took a few minutes to reach the Harris house.
Xander and Edof guided Giles between them to the
basement door, so that any possible witness could say no more than that the
Watcher seemed to be drunk.
Once inside, Buffy seemed to deflate as she helped get
Giles into Xander's hastily straightened bed. She dropped to her knees alongside
it and took a large hand in hers.
The others watched as she cradled the hand and rocked
slowly, without saying a word.
Xander turned to Edof. "What's the deal?" he
demanded. "What happened to them?"
"They were taken by a man named Ethan Rayne."
"Ethan!" Willow squeaked.
"I was imprisoned with him in a military
installation. I chose to go with him when he escaped rather than be experimented
"You're not from around here, are you?"
Edof half smiled. "I only came to this world two of your years ago. I am not speaking correctly?"
She smiled back. "You're doing great." Then
the smile vanished. "How can we help Giles?"
"What has been done to him may never be
undone," the demon said softly. "I'm sorry. With powerful enough
magick, someone might be able to reach him, but many are so damaged that there
is nothing to bring back."
"Yeah, but WHAT did they do?" Xander demanded
violently, displaying his frustration with the meandering conversation.
"Just tell us what happened."
Edof turned to Buffy and Giles for a moment and blinked
as she continued to rock, before turning back to Xander.
"The military wants information. Their people used
a powerful telepath…more than a telepath …one with intensely powerful
magick…to enter his mind. They know that the Watcher's Council has many
secrets, much information, dating back a thousand years, not only about demons
and vampires, but also about the Slayers and the origin of the Slayer. They
tried to take it from him and he resisted them."
"D-Do you think they got what they wanted?"
Willow asked fearfully.
Edof shook his head. "They tried five times. I saw
the Weyre, himself, collapse after the fifth attempt. They were very angry and
Rayne was very frightened."
"Tell me how," Willow said. "I'm a
witch. I want to do it."
"She…The Slayer said you were not strong
Willow looked rebellious for a moment then slid a
mournful glance toward her friends.
"I don't know," she admitted. "I
honestly don't know."
"You have to know. You will be the guide,
the strength to pull them both back."
Willow shook her head, frightened. "N-no. I can't even levitate stuff without breakage. A-And a couple of days ago I kind of poof-ed my favourite pillow! I can't."
"Will," Xander said softly. "We don't
have anyone else. Is there any way…?"
"W-well, I have a kind of a...well, a friend. She
might be able to help…"
"A friend? I thought…" Xander cleared his
throat. "Okay. Willow has a friend we know nothing about, but it's okay.
We're mature adults and we can deal with this. Right now all that's important is
Giles. Who is this…friend?"
"Of course you know about her," she said
irritably. "It's Tara…we…we've been doing spells together…we…we're
Xander looked at her oddly but his mind moved straight
to the next question. "So if you do it together, you have more
Willow nodded. "We did some stuff to help Buffy
when Faith took her body. I know we can do this."
It took a little over an hour for Xander and Willow to
find Tara, pick up supplies from Giles' apartment and rush back to the basement.
In the whole time they were gone, Edof watched the
Slayer with her Watcher. His own heightened sense of empathy told him a great
deal, as did the scents of fear and grief that permeated the room. The part that
puzzled him was the crushing, almost suffocating regret that emanated from her
Giles had not moved since they brought him there.
Buffy stayed closed by his side. She found it almost
impossible to contemplate a world without him in it, but he was so still, so
lifeless. She found herself watching even for the tiny rise and fall of his
chest, listening intently for the soft sound of his indrawn and exhaled breath
in the silence of the deserted apartment.
Not since they had found his apartment trashed, his
ripped shirt on the floor, had she felt so bereft of hope, so completely
shutdown. On that day, a part of her had believed that he was gone, that she had
lost him and that mistake had cost her in terms of judgement. It had almost cost
Giles his life because she hadn't been able to function, not the way she should
have, not the way she would have…if it hadn't felt like half of her had been
She finally took one of her hands from her grip on his
large one and pushed some stray hairs off his ear. For the first time she
wondered what happened to his glasses. She couldn't remember the last time she
saw them, on or off his face. She turned.
"Edof, do you know what happened to Giles'
The small demon looked bemused. "Glasses? He wears
Buffy nodded, her normally glistening grey-green eyes
flat and almost blue with sadness.
Edof shook his head. "Perhaps he has another
The consternation on her face finally eased. "I-in
his desk, in his apartment. He hates the frames, though." As though she'd
slipped back into another world, she turned back to Giles without another word.
He watched the jerkiness of her movements, absorbed the
waves of confused distress coming off her and blinked again. In all his time
here, humans had never ceased to surprise him. In his world, in all reports,
humans were considered vermin, rapacious and abundant, infesting this place, but
without even the slightest redeeming quality.
Indeed, since his arrival he'd seen and felt plenty to
reinforce that impression, but he had also seen many things that had confused,
bemused and amazed him, not least the bond between this woman-warrior and the
man charged with her protection, her guardianship.
What he had felt from the Watcher had been as intense
as what he felt from the girl…and just as perplexing…the same intensity of
regret, guilt, and pain, overwhelming the underlying love for each other. He
shook his head just as the others returned.
Willow had found a spell. There were few of Giles books
she wasn't familiar with, despite his efforts to protect her from the most
dangerous of them, and it hadn't taken her long to find one of only three spells
she'd ever seen that dealt with mind-walking. The part that worried her was that
she would not be the one going in.
If Edof was right, and it had to be Buffy, the task was
exponentially harder. It was one thing to anchor herself, but to be responsible
for putting Buffy into Giles' mind, and for pulling both of them back when the
time came, was huge…terrifying.
Willow and Tara returned to Edof after they'd prepared.
"What do we have to do?"
Edof regarded the red-haired girl, but Xander spoke
"And how do you know about this stuff?"
The demon turned his head slowly to look at him.
"In your years I am thirteen centuries old. One learns many things in such
a lifetime," he said dryly.
"Oh," Xander said feebly. "In that case
there's someone you might know…"
Edof's eyes flicked back to Willow. "You must lead
her in, but she will have to find him. Where he is, only the most courageous,
the fiercest, of loves will reach."
For a moment Willow looked puzzled, then she turned
swiftly to look at Buffy, still close to Giles' side. It seemed inconceivable,
after the year they'd had so far, and Riley, the Initiative and the distance
Buffy seemed to have put between herself and those she loved, and yet Willow
knew in her bones, in her soul, that Edof was right…had always known it.
She only hoped that Buffy could breech the gap between
the passion in her soul and the pain-numbed heart she'd hidden behind since
Angel had left…well…really, since a long time before that. The Buffy who'd
come back from Los Angeles that fateful summer was never again the bright,
loving girl of whom Angelus had made misery a seventeenth birthday gift to
remember and death a scar from which neither she, nor the man in her arms now,
had ever fully recovered.
She nodded to the demon and went to Buffy.
"It's time," she said softly.
Buffy looked up at her. "What do I do?"
"You find him and you make him come back. Wherever
he is must be pretty awful, but he thinks it's better than here."
"Wh-what if I can't find him? What if the Weyre
really did…I dunno…break him? Can I…can fix I it?" she asked in a
tremulous voice, turning to the demon. "Can we…?"
He shook his head slowly. "If his mind is
ripped…if you find only darkness, your friends must pull you back immediately
or you will also be lost."
Buffy turned swiftly back to Willow. "Don't pull
me out. I don't care what happens, you are not to pull me out until I
Willow's wide eyes moved from Buffy's fierce ones,
glowing blue now, to the demon's.
"Be careful, Slayer, or you will follow him into
hell and none will be able to bring you back," he said.
"I will follow him anywhere…and Willow will bring
me back," she said very slowly and very powerfully, her determined gaze
boring into the young Wicca's.
The redhead nodded, even more wide-eyed, but
Buffy opened her eyes. She was in a strange house, in a
strange bed…a small, single bed.
It squeaked when she moved and it was narrow. When she
slid out of it, the floor was exceedingly cold under foot. There was frost on
the window. She was in flannel pyjamas. Boy's flannel pyjamas. She pushed her
feet into the plain brown slippers beside the bed and studied everything around
her. There was a bureau with a small wooden chess set on it, and a study desk.
There were insects in glass cases on the wall, and a glass case of war medals.
On a shelf bolted to the wall was a carefully laid out rock collection and on
another a collection of bird's eggs.
Buffy frowned, trying to work out where she was and how
she got there. The ceilings were high and ornate and the room large and
draughty. A fireplace, long since extinct as a working object, still resided in
one wall and above it on the mantle was a display with school awards mixed with
a single rugby trophy for participation, a plastic cup with a picture of the
young Beatles on it, several scale models of World War Two fighter aircraft set
at jaunty angles on their plastic stands and one of, ironically, a vampire jet
aircraft, beautifully assembled and painted.
She studied all of the things in the room, opening and
closing schoolbooks on the desk, smiling at the neat but childish hand that had
written in them; the sketches that were so much more advanced than the
Eventually, she padded across the room, the slippers
making a scuffing sound as she went, to the tiny bathroom adjoining it. There
was nothing luxurious about it. A very old fashioned toilet with a pull chain
and a tiny, cracked ceramic hand-basin shaped like a flattened out wineglass and
stem, with a mirror above it.
She looked into the mirror instinctively and jumped
when she saw the reflection in it. The boy couldn't have been more than ten, and
small for his age. He had a high forehead and soft, pale golden brown hair cut
severely into an old short-back-and-sides style, parted one side naturally but
this morning sticking up all over the place at the back. The image tilted its
head as Buffy tilted hers, big, intelligent green eyes looking back into her
Her breath caught when she saw the small brown patch in
the left one. Her fingers came up to her cheek and she saw the boy's own
smallish hand do the same.
"Rupert, do hurry up or you'll be late for
school!" a voice called from the bowels of the house.
Buffy swallowed and turned, wondering about clothes, only to suddenly find herself in a dark wood-panelled study, exactly like the kind she'd seen in the movies with the stuffy Anthony Hopkins type standing worriedly by the fireplace or sipping port in an impossibly expensive leather chair.
Only this time she was sitting in a chair, her feet not
quite reaching the ground for some unknown reason, and a middle-aged man was
glaring at her.
"Rupert," he barked irritably. "I won't
tell you again to concentrate. Your manners are abominable."
"Yes, father," Buffy heard herself say, only
it wasn't her voice, and, she realised, she was no longer in control.
"Rupert, you have to stop these endless daydreams.
The majority of your school reports cite exemplary results in your studies, but
complain pointedly about your inattention, distraction and failure to focus on
the issues at hand."
"I'm sorry, father."
"Is there a problem with school? Is there anything
I should know about?"
"In that case you will cease to draw, sketch,
model or daydream about aeroplanes and flying. You are almost twelve. You have a
responsibility to prepare for the future for which you, like myself, and your
grandmother before you, were destined. You are not Douglas Bader or Guy Gibson.
You cannot be. Not now, not ever. So let us make an end of it, as of this
"But father, Guy Gi—"
The older man shook his head. "It's no good,
Rupert. Shortly you must go away to boarding school and I have to know that you
are going to give only your very best. I must have your word…"
"B-boarding school?" Buffy heard the boy say,
feeling tears desperately converging in his throat, his eyes, yet amazingly, not
The man nodded his head, his hairline remarkably like
Giles', except that his hair was brown and his eyes were blue, and filled with
black flecks. They were also hard as sapphires as they regarded her.
"You are about to turn twelve, are you not? I told
you when we had our man-to-man talk on your tenth birthday, that the day would
come when you would take on board not only your regular schoolwork, but also a
new and exciting curriculum to help you prepare for the day you embark on your
"But I want to go to school with my mates. We're
going to play rugger together and get selected for the Lions one day. Andy
Mainwaring says our school has produced five test players and—"
"I don't give a tinker's damn about
football!" the older Giles roared. "Attend, Rupert. You are not like
those other boys. You are not one of them. You will never be one of them.
The sooner you understand that the better. Your destiny makes you special. Never
forget that…and never forget that nothing else matters except that
Buffy felt his lip quiver and a shiver go down his
spine but still no tears fell.
"Yes, father," the small voice said solemnly
and slid out of the chair. "May I go? Mother wants me to read my history
assignment to her."
"Yes, go. Your mother cossets you too much.
Boarding school will be the making of you, boy."
"Yes, father," he whispered, and fled the
room…for Buffy to find herself sitting at a hard wooden desk in a classroom
full of impeccably uniformed, pubescent boys.
Before she could even begin to work out what the class
was for, a bell sounded somewhere. The aged male teacher instructed the class to
"Good afternoon, gentlemen."
"Good afternoon, Mister Jamison," they
chanted back without interest.
She found herself filing out, single file, as each row
systematically followed the last.
Reality shifted again.
She blinked in the sunlight. Somehow she was lying on
the ground. Her mouth hurt, and her knee was stinging. Several larger boys were
looking down at her.
"It's true. I have to go! Being a Watcher is
terribly important. One day I shall probably help save the world, you'll
Buffy almost giggled, though no sound came from her
"You're such a liar, Giles."
"Go and join the girls' tennis team if you're not
man enough for Rugger."
The other boys walked away, leaving one tow-headed boy
staring down at him.
"Andy? You believe me, don't you? It's true. My
father is making me go."
"I thought we were best friends. I thought we
"We are," Rupert protested miserably.
But Buffy watched the other boy's face harden, his eyes
bright with disappointment and hurt.
"You're leaving," he said simply, and walked
The utter, wretched loneliness of the little boy lying
in the schoolyard mourning the effective end of his childhood, almost broke
Buffy jumped, adrenaline pumping at the volume and
ferocity of the shout. She didn't know where she was. Again.
"You're wanted in the office."
Buffy felt the ripple of panic, the confusion because
he hadn't done anything wrong.
"On my way," he said. Giles' voice had
changed again, less childish, more adult.
He stopped at a display case, along a route that seemed
all too familiar to the young man. She looked at his reflection as he stared at
the Rugby trophy and shield.
A boy in the first bloom of manhood swallowed, his
adam's apple bobbing as his so- familiar eyes now stared back at her. His hair
was longer and had developed a curl. The attempt to keep it under control seemed
to have been in vain. The childish face had lost its puppy fat and in its place
were all planes and angles and the first hint of the man to come. The man Buffy
The office was as intimidating as the walk up to it.
A long, thin man in a three piece suit more stuffy than
anything Giles had ever worn stood behind a huge oak desk, his hands behind his
"Mister Giles, please sit down."
He sat without a word.
"I'm sorry to say there has been some bad news,
Buffy felt Rupert's blood go cold. Calling one by their
given name here was a familiarity so rare that the news could only be of the
most horrible kind.
"I…I'm afraid it's your mother, Giles. Heart,
they said. I believe your father is not contactable at this juncture. We will,
of course, do everything we can, but until your father can be contacted for
permission, nothing can be done about getting you home."
For several long moments there was no Buffy. For
several more she thought he was going to be violently ill. But there was only
pain, shock, grief, the distant sound of the other man's voice quietly
recounting the circumstances of Catherine Giles' passing and the preliminary
arrangements they had made in the hope that his father would surface from
whatever council business had taken him away.
"…It is to be hoped that you will be able to
attend the funeral…" The voice suddenly seemed much louder.
"Hoped?" Giles repeated in the boy's pleasant
timbre, coloured this time by grief and leashed rage. "There is no
question, sir. Regardless of what my father does or does not choose to do, I
shall be at my mother's funeral."
The older man looked away. His instinct had been to put
the young whelp in his place, but in the circumstances and knowing how rarely
this particular boy had been visited, or travelled home, he couldn't bring
himself to do it. Particularly not when the depth of the boy's pain glistened
with such crystal clarity in his wide, expressive eyes.
"We will do everything we can to contact your
father. Your Housemaster will keep you informed. You may go, Giles," he
As he wheeled, seething with anger and aching with
grief, Buffy wondered why Giles had never mentioned his mother. He had loved her
so much, and yet not one word had he ever spoken about her…
He strode through the door and reality changed again.
The sun was shining brilliantly and a half-rainbow was
showing in front of a bank of clouds. Light drizzle continued to fall in direct
contradiction to the bright sunshine as the minister's voice continued the
Rupert stood apart from the rest of the funeral party.
His suit was uncomfortable and his shoes new and tight, but it was the pain in
his heart, the rock in his stomach that shook her to her core. A zephyr blew up,
and she felt the wetness of the tears on his face as the white coffin was
lowered. A wave of grief crashed over him.
She sobbed, not only for his pain, but for the
loneliness…the terrible, terrible loneliness of the boy Giles.
The service concluded and the mourners began to move
away, only a small knot of, presumably, family members, huddling closer. Twice
the tall figure of his father looked her way, but did not leave the group.
Buffy willed him to come to his son, to do something
for the boy she wished she could put her arms around and just hold. When it
didn't happen, she felt Rupert walk forward, but reality changed again.
Music assaulted her senses. Heavy metal, only
marginally less bludgeoning than the pall of pungent fumes, marijuana, incense,
burned sage, sweat, vomit, the musk of sex in the air and the reek of alcohol…
She looked around: empty beer bottles, several
half-empty vodka bottles, women's clothes, discarded food, shoes…and people in
various states of inebriation, most more or less sitting in a marked out circle.
She drew a sharp breath when she recognised the slim,
tender faced youth opposite her. She had always believed that Ethan had been
spawned, not born. It was almost impossible to accept that this boy would become
the shell of a man, she knew.
Without thinking, she acted on an impulse to speak to
him, but the only voice she heard was the familiar tones of Giles' speaking
voice, lighter, younger, reading a spell, not in that rough street accent she
disliked so much, but just as he might have last week in his apartment, or three
years ago to save her life.
The others joined in.
Buffy knew a moment of panic. She didn't want to know
what it was like to channel Eyghon, didn't want to know how debauched Giles had
been capable of being…but the spell went on regardless, in the youthful
version of the rich, deep voice she knew.
Strangely, Ethan, alone, seemed to go into some kind of
catatonic state, his eyes closed, his body incredibly still despite the fact
that he was still sitting up.
It was not Giles who was possessed. It was Ethan,
slowly consumed by an evil that was now palpable, throbbing and pulsating in
rhythm with the relentless music. Buffy felt the young Ripper's arousal as the
possessed Ethan selected a willing, stoned young woman and proceeded to take her
in front of the entire room. The music seemed to get louder as the pair reached
The moment they did, however, it was over.
Buffy's eyes flicked around the room as the slender
Rayne's pale body collapsed on his partner.
Another of the group was sitting in the same meditative
posture, still, and beyond the rest of the room. She gasped with shock when his
head snapped back with enough violence to break his neck, then it righted
itself. The normally powder-blue eyes snapped open, the burning blood red gaze
almost too difficult to hold for any length of time.
"God, yes!" he cried, exulted, energy
coursing through his entire body.
Again Buffy felt the rush through Ripper's body, the
excitement, as the younger man experienced his first possession. Everyone in the
room was ecstatic, yelling encouragement and accelerating to their own highs.
The possessed boy got up to stagger towards a willowy girl draped over a
cushion, dressed in little more than baby-doll pyjamas.
The cheers got louder…until they realised that he was
morphing with each step.
For the first time the older members of the group saw the real face of what they'd been playing with, saw the reality of their dangerous game.
"Randall!" Buffy heard Giles cry in a
terrified voice, perhaps the only one who knew the seriousness of what was
happening. "Fight, Randall! Don't let him take you!"
The others were immediately silenced, watching in fascinated horror as their friend struggled to reassert control of the entity he had invited into his body.
"Ripper…! Giles, do something!"
Ethan called as Buffy scrambled to her feet, finding herself racing for a small
pile of books next to a sleeping bag in one corner of the room.
The search was frantic…page after page of information
in languages she didn't understand or in terms for which she had no reference or
understanding. She could feel Giles' heart pounding in his chest, the adrenaline
seizing his entire body with both panic and the desire to run and run, but he
fought it and kept at the books as Ethan arrived.
"It's got him. It's not Randall any more. What
happened? Why couldn't he do it the same as the rest of us?"
"I don't know," Giles breathed, his voice
very young, very distressed. "Let me look."
"We don't have time!" Ethan cried as
Randall/Eyghon moved towards the slender girl, now scrambling, terrified, across
the floor to escape him. Phillip leaped to her defence.
"Go to Rupert, Deirdre! Go now!" he cried,
grappling with the grotesque demon. Ethan joined him and they fought together,
alternately gaining and losing holds on it before it threw them both off.
"Here!" Ripper cried and began chanting the
spell he was sure would drive the demon back to its own dimension. He roared the
words over and over, making Randall entity stagger and scream with rage. Over
and over, with more and more vehemence he chanted, until Buffy felt hoarse and
exhausted by the desperation and intensity of Ripper's spell.
Finally, Randall collapsed in a heap and everyone
clustered around him, until Ripper got there and they parted just as quickly to
allow him access.
The demon flesh morphed swiftly back to pink human
tissue, leaving Randall sprawled on the floor, his beautiful blue eyes fixed and
"Oh God, oh God!" Giles cried, falling to his
knees. "Randall!" He felt frantically for a pulse, anything. When he
found none, he pulled the body into a position for CPR and started to work on it
frantically. For several long minutes the others watched in macabre fascination,
until, finally, Ethan tried to pull him away.
"No!" he screamed, ripping his arm out of
Ethan's grasp, and resuming his rhythm of breaths and pumping. "He's got to
come back! He was fine. His heart has stopped. We have to get it going again!
Help me, you bastard! Help me!"
For another ten minutes both men worked on Randall,
until Ethan sat back on his heels and shook his head.
"Ripper…Rupert! Enough. Let the poor bastard
lie. He's not coming back."
Buffy felt the guilt, the rage, the fear, as Giles
sobbed and lashed out. "We killed him! I killed him!" he screamed then
dropped back to sit on his calves, weeping in great heaving sobs. "I killed
him," he cried. "I killed him!"
The words faded and Buffy opened her eyes. And
immediately recognised the man sitting opposite her.
"I'm going where?"
"Los Angeles. Someone has to take over Merrick's
Slayer. The Council has come to the conclusion that this is a unique situation
requiring a unique solution."
"You mean you have an untrained, unwilling,
headache rather than a useful Slayer and the only fool you are willing to send
to baby-sit her until she gets her fool neck broken is me. You don't expect her
to survive and it would suit you perfectly to see me fail again. The ideal
opportunity to rid yourself of me and what I represent, once and for all."
Buffy fumed as the discussion continued.
Travers smiled obsequiously. "No other Watcher
would be so unenthused about being given an active Slayer. You've been demanding
an opportunity since you were moved to Wet Works after Thomas died. Now you have
it. It isn't as though you were worth a damn in Wet Works anyway."
Giles looked away. Buffy felt the combination of shame,
guilt and indignation. Giles had been shafted. The mention of "Thomas"
had been painful, but only in passing, though she was aware of a dull ache under
his sternum as Giles argued back angrily. She wondered who he was.
"I never wanted fucking Wet Works! I was trained
to be a Watcher. No graduate has achieved higher results in the last 63
years," he snarled. "The only reason you sent me to Wet Works is
because you hated my father and you knew what he wanted more than anything else,
was for me to carry on the family tradition and train an active Slayer."
realised, feeling Giles' chest tighten at the mention of his father.
"For someone who hated their job, you were
incredibly good at it."
"You just said I wasn't worth a damn," Giles
pointed out angrily.
"You weren't worth a damn when it came to
following orders, but I never saw anyone more coldly efficient at doing what had
to be done when you were forced to it. Your problem was how often you wouldn't
do it. There is something incredibly tacky about an assassin weeping for his
victim," Travers finished nastily.
Buffy looked away, seething with the same rage as Giles
was, feeling the same humiliation mixed with the same sense of achievement as
she realised just how many innocent, of the Council's intended victims, he'd
actually saved instead of killed.
"If you feel that way, you do this Slayer a
disservice she doesn't deserve, to send me to her. You've written her off
already," he said pointedly.
Travers shrugged. "Sometimes we just have to face
reality. We always knew an American Slayer was going to be a difficult
proposition…not only a colonial, an untrained, undisciplined one into the
bargain. We sent the best we had…Merrick…and you saw what that cost us. You
will go to Los Angeles and you will train this Slayer…or you will go to Los
Angeles and you will dispose of this problem. It's your choice…either Watcher
or assassin. Those are your options."
Buffy tried to open her mouth to abuse the older man
and found herself in the school library. Reality had flipped out again.
She frowned, a rush of feelings of her own washing over
and colliding head on with those of Giles, himself. Nostalgia, emotion,
excitement at seeing the old place again when she never believed she would, was
tempered by the knowledge that it was nothing but memories.
It didn't lessen the pleasure as Giles moved to
continue his research. Buffy finally focused on the book in her hands. A tremor
went down her spine, or perhaps his.
The book Angel had provided so long ago. The one with
the bullet-proof prophecies; the one that had foretold her death. He was
translating swiftly, reading passages, frantically trying to put a number of
things together, when he found it.
She felt her blood run cold, felt his stunned shock at
the implication of the prophecy; his pain at the realisation of what he was
required to do. He slumped into a chair, barely able to face the knowledge that
he was expected to send an innocent girl to her death.
It rocked Buffy to feel the intensity of his hurt, even
then. At the time she'd thought him hard, rigid, bound by council rules, not
wracked by the shocking guilt now holding him in silent misery.
She blinked, things shifted, and there was Angel.
The vampire was talking quietly about the prophecy.
Giles was on edge, still miserable, but with a jumble of new emotions to pound
at Buffy's temples. It took a little time, but eventually Buffy realised that
there was a natural antipathy between the Watcher and the Vampire, even then, an
undefined tension that was making Giles' gut feel like a clenched fist. She
They looked up suddenly at the sound of a woman's
laugh, a slightly hysterical laugh.
Buffy was stunned. It was her…sixteen-year-old Buffy
hovering just this side of hysteria.
The reaction from Giles was immediate. She felt his
overwhelming surge of protectiveness, his need to shield and to comfort, and she
felt his desolation at having neither the right nor the mandate to do either.
His feelings about the Council's hold on him, and the
requirement that he send an innocent to her death in the name of Prophecy,
bordered on homicidal. For the first time Buffy understood just how much it had
cost him to bow to family tradition and become a Watcher.
He stepped forward. He wanted to tell her, to go to
her, to make her understand that he couldn't change the existence of the
prophecy, or the destiny of the slayer…but that if there was a way, he would
gladly give his life for hers to make it so.
The younger Buffy was jeering about the Slayer, about
one dying and the next one being called.
Buffy's first thought was: 'drama queen, much'
but her flippancy was overridden by Giles' reaction to Angel trying to hold and
The jag of hostility, resentment…even jealously…was
She was still trying to make sense of that when the
girl she was, demanded to know when he was going to tell her about the prophecy.
Renewed pain washed over him.
"I was hoping that I wouldn't have to…that there
was...some way around it. I..."
Buffy almost laughed when she heard herself quitting.
Would have, if she hadn't wanted so badly to cry, and if she'd actually been in
her own body…
How many times in the last few years had she wanted to
do the exact same thing?
Then her attention was diverted by Giles' reaction.
Through the pain there was something else…overwhelming relief. He was shocked,
yes, that she would choose to walk away when so much was at stake, but, Buffy
realised, close to weeping, the single most important thing to him at that
moment was that she had given him a way out for her.
She was shamed, deeply and to her soul, to realise how
much Giles had loved her, even then. She remembered the intensity of her
resentment, even hatred, of the man at that moment, and knew what a fool she had
been; knew even more when her child self grew even more histrionic and Giles had
to duck a flying book as he tried to explain about the signs, about there not
being a real choice.
The young Buffy was like a wounded, terrified creature
trapped in a corner, with no way out.
Buffy felt Giles' heart go out to her, the almost suffocating need to go to her, to comfort her, his Herculean effort to control it, and his disappointment and sadness at her belief that he was cold enough to calmly send her to her death without feeling anything.
Then Angel was speaking to the girl and she was
reiterating her decision to quit. Giles offered a few words about the Master,
but the young Buffy simply cast her crucifix on the floor and walked out.
When she was gone, Giles turned slowly to face the
vampire, their eyes meeting only briefly, connected by their mutual concern for
her, before he stepped across to scoop up the necklace and she found herself
wheeling and striding back to the library office.
Giles sat down hard in his chair, the crucifix clutched
in a clenched fist, numb with hollow despair.
"Oh, Buffy…" he whispered tremulously.
And reality changed again.
She was walking up to the door of his apartment. He was
zinging with anticipation, excitement, happiness, despite his sedate exterior.
thought wryly, finally, a happy for the poor guy. Enough already with the
Then she saw it.
Giles' pulse rate accelerated and she could feel a hot
flush of arousal, even a giddy sense of anticipation that she never would have
guessed Giles to be capable of…
There was that.
Giles sniffed the red rose and slid it out of the
The scent got into Buffy's nostrils, as they went into
the flat to find roses everywhere and champagne chilling in a bucket as
Puccini's "La Boheme" filled the room.
She did everything she could to will him a warning, to
turn him around, to stop the inevitable from happening, but he simply continued
to smile, to become even more aroused, to radiate happiness as he picked up the
sheet of paper on his desk.
Buffy choked when she saw the handwriting and the word:
upstairs. She wanted out, and she wanted it right then. She called to Willow but
there was no answer, nothing.
Giles picked up the wine and started up the stairs,
Buffy's misery making a stark contrast to the vibrancy of his joy as he climbed
and the music swelled.
His hopes and dreams flooded over Buffy. She had no
idea just how much this woman had meant to him. For all her mistakes, Giles had
obviously loved Jenny terribly, and, Buffy could now feel, had harboured silent
hopes, even before Eyghon's return, that she would one day be his…that
perhaps, finally, he would no longer be alone.
She redoubled her efforts to try and make him turn
around, to not…
The bottle crashed to the floor and Buffy struggled to
The jag of shock, horror, pain and incredulity from him
crashed over her, slicing through the simmering heat of his desire and the
bright, but tragically brief, aura of real joy, to leave nothing…
Hollow, empty, sickening…
It took him several minutes to move from the spot, to
walk forward and touch the pale cheek with the trembling backs of his fingers,
the small choking noise as he closed her eyes, expressing more grief than the
Buffy's heart wept for him as he made himself back
away, turn and go downstairs. He stopped at the bottom and she held her breath.
Giles had never spoken of this time and she had never asked. She didn't know
what he would do next.
Suddenly he was moving again, ripping the record from
the turntable and hurling it across the room, the vinyl bouncing off the wall
and landing on the chess table, leaving stark silence to settle over them.
God, Giles, she thought sadly as he staggered back to the table and the telephone.
He dialled, and reality changed again…
Buffy would have held her head, if she'd had the
wherewithal to do so, overwhelmed by this journey into the depths of Giles'
thoughts and memories. Nobody had told her that it would be like this…
She had imagined some kind of surreal vista with
physical representations of both of them, a tangible Giles for her to play hide
and seek with until he was ready to come back. Instead she was spinning from an
all-too-real roller coaster ride the like of which no one should ever have had
to witness, let alone experience…
Over the sound of her own thoughts came Willow's voice.
She was dismissing a Sunnydale High class...computers by the look of it.
By the time Buffy had focused, the class was gone and
Giles was talking to her. It almost made her want to smile. Willow was so cute
as a kid…adorable, even. She did half-smile to herself then, until the
conversation turned to Jenny Calendar.
Giles' heart suddenly went from warm affection for the
redhead, to a walnut-sized ball of pain again.
Buffy's breath caught in her throat when Willow
produced a cord necklace with a single pink stone in it, and handed it to him.
The memory of him turning it over and over in his ravaged fingers blurred with
the elegant, smooth fingers taking it so easily from Willow's hand.
If she could have closed her eyes, she would have. A
lot of things were beginning to make sense now…
She breathed hard and looked around. Being Giles, yet
not, was getting way too confusing, she decided, realising that it was he who
was breathing hard, not her. She ached for him, but it was he who was in
physical distress at that moment.
She felt the pain in his head, the fear he was
controlling and the intense stress levels as he looked up at the vampire
standing over him.
Angelus seemed almost gleeful about the prospect of
Buffy shivered mentally. She hated that voice and
everything it touched in her, everything it echoed from her past.
"Why are you doing this to me!" she screamed.
But no one answered. No one could hear her. She was a
mute passenger on a tour of Giles' life and she didn't know how to get off.
And she wanted desperately to get off. She didn't want
to see what Angelus was capable of doing, didn't want to be in this terrible
room for even one more moment. The mixture of Giles' physical distress and
silent fear, and the pain of her own memories, made her desperate to escape.
Giles had staggered to his feet and was watching
Angelus prattle about Acathla. Buffy's overwhelming desire was to kick the crap
out of the bastard, even while beset by memories of what she had done to him,
but Giles was maintaining his dignity, and waiting for his head to clear.
Buffy could feel his contempt. She blinked, and time
And all she could feel was pain. On and on it went,
until she was exhausted, both from the agony, and the sound of his silent
screams…until all that was left was their sobbing.
Angelus stood over his work, grinning.
Giles lifted his head, bloodshot green eyes staring
with utter hatred at his tormentor.
"You cannot have me and you
cannot…have…her," he spat.
Angelus smirked. "Wrong on both counts. I've had
her, and I've got you. Wanna play some more? You've still got two good fingers
left on that hand and they make such a cool noise when they break." His
expression turned sour as he picked up Giles' left hand. "Pity you
don't make a cool noise. You know, torturing someone is hardly any fun when they
don't make a noise."
A part of Buffy screamed for him, as Giles' index
finger snapped like a twig and the agony shot through her body. But the Watcher
made not a sound other than the tortured, gasping breath that followed the
Angelus turned, strode away, wheeled, came back.
"What's it going to take to get some entertainment outta you, old man?
Maybe I should send a message to Buffy to come get her old man before I kill
him. Might be more fun to play with the little Slayer after all. Wanna
Giles was trembling with shock and pain from the latest
break. He made an effort to lift his head and spit at the vampire.
When the spittle hit Angelus' shirt and dribbled down
it, the vampire lost it for a moment and punched the Watcher in the mouth so
hard he fell backwards. Then he knelt alongside him, pulled open his shirt and
used one panel of it too wipe the saliva from his own.
Giles was too consumed with the pain still echoing
through him from the jarring of his mangled hand, to object.
In that moment Buffy wanted to die…almost as much as
she wanted to stake Angelus.
Angelus inclined his head and a couple of minions
dragged Giles back onto the chair he'd been knocked off.
Buffy felt him silently screaming in pain from their
manhandling, but he still refused to make a sound.
"Are you still playing with that wanker?"
Spike rolled his chair into the room. "You're supposed to be interrogating
the bugger, not crocheting his fingers."
"Piss off, Sit'n'spin. This is my game. Was a time
when you were as good at this as me. Drusilla snatch that pair of yours when you
weren't looking, did she? Or did the Slayer get them when she dropped that wall
Spike's nostrils flared angrily. "All I'm saying
is the bloody world is never going to end if you keep fart-arsing around with
"He won't talk," Angelus said sulkily.
"He won't even groan for me. Not even a real whimper." He backhanded
Giles across the mouth. "Isn't that right?"
Giles' eyes rolled up to stare with hatred at his
enemy, but he said nothing.
Spike looked from one to the other, aware suddenly that
there was a great deal more going on here than psycho-boy was ever going to
"Fine," he said. "Just make sure there's
enough left to do the talking when you're done. I'm not hanging around here just
to watch you picking up bits of Watcher and snivelling about not being able to
open the portal, and neither is Dru."
Buffy, trying to deal with Giles' pain, struggled to
make sense of what Spike was doing. The Spike she knew should have been
gleefully helping Angelus, not reasoning with him.
"I told you to piss off."
Spike's expression was contemptuous. "Fine. Do
what you like. I'm going out. I've had enough of this whole bloody thing. Make
him talk, don't make him talk…but do it without me."
Buffy watched the chair roll out, her stomach doing
flip-flops. Somehow, she knew Spike was going to find her.
Suddenly she was aware of a despairing wave of sadness
from Giles. Angelus was still looking at the doorway and didn't see the abject
misery that passed across the Watcher's battered face as he watched the fair
Giles was thinking about her, wondering where she was,
if she was safe. He had been so sure she would come for him, so certain… He
let no tears fall for Angelus to see, but Buffy was not protected from the
silent weeping of his heart.
Frustrated and annoyed, the vampire turned and scowled
at his prisoner. "I need tools," he muttered and glared at a minion
who scampered off to find them.
"No!" Buffy cried into the void of her nether
existence, between worlds, frustrated beyond measure that she could not stop it.
She had seen those tools. She never wanted to see them again.
When the minion returned it was with a tray almost
exactly the same as the one Faith had intended to use on her. She shivered
again, watching through Giles' red-rimmed eyes as Angelus gleefully picked
through until he'd found what he wanted.
Buffy felt Giles' terror when he saw it, but again he
made no sound, nor did he flinch as the vampire brought it to his cheek and
traced his bony jaw with it.
"Isn't this the coolest?" he asked.
"Multi-purpose tool. What shall I do with it? Pop an eye…that can be
entertaining…if messy…" He looked at the long, needle-like shaft.
"I know! How do you feel about body piercing? Eyebrow…no, nose…no,
bottom lip," he prattled gleefully. "Navel? Or maybe you have a
preference for something a bit more exotic?" he suggested, trailing the
point down Giles' chest to his crotch.
Giles spat again, hard, and turned away.
Enraged, Angelus lashed out, driving the stiletto-like blade deep into his left shoulder blade, making Giles' jaw open so far it was almost overextended in a silent scream of agony.
Buffy, reeling from the pain, marvelled at the strength
of will that saw the Watcher maintain his silence, despite his treatment, and
redouble that effort when Angelus spitefully pulled the weapon back out without
"Tell me what I have to do, old man, before I
perforate something that can't be fixed!" he snarled and laid the bloody
tip against Giles' lower right eyelid. Buffy could feel the discomfort from the
Giles finally spoke. "You…y-you must get
yourself another of these…and…and…"
"And?" Angelus demanded.
"And knit yourself a sack for your dust, you
prat!" he hissed and tensed for the loss of his eye.
Angelus was incensed, leaping up and throwing his head
back, letting out a bellow of rage.
Buffy figuratively exhaled, almost paralysed with fear
at the prospect of what that stiletto might have done…then she realised it was
Giles' fear. She already knew from history itself that Giles' eyes wouldn't be
When the vampire swung back again it was to beat on the
helpless Watcher in a frenzy of enraged blows, Buffy learning for the first time
what it was like to be on the fighting end of one of her own attacks. In his
haste to protect himself from the rib splintering-blows, Giles used his bad hand
to shield himself and almost cried out in mindless agony when Angelus struck it
The red flush of Giles' face, the blood vessels
standing out in his temples and the saliva running from the corners of his mouth
told Angel all he need to know. He grinned sadistically.
"Now there's a game we can play," he cackled
gleefully and took hold of the broken hand.
Buffy felt the vampire's cold fingers close around one
of Giles' broken ones, almost passing out as Angelus twisted it bone-crunchingly
and waited for his toy to cry out in agony.
Giles' body jolted and his head flew back, his mouth
again open in silent pain, but he did not cry out.
"Another?" Angelus asked and twisted it back
the other way.
Waves and waves of nausea and sickening pain hit Buffy
in an endless barrage as Giles retched and heaved and turned his head enough to
vomit on the floor.
Irritated, Angelus motioned impatiently to a minion to
"How do I activate Acathla?" he demanded,
grabbing another finger and bending it backwards until it fractured a second
When he had recovered enough to remember his name,
Giles stared the vampire in the eye, his eyes bulging, his nose and mouth
running and his face almost beet-red with strain.
"Say 'pretty please' he hissed and looked away,
Buffy begged whatever mechanism, whatever powers were
doing this, to move them on, to blink time again, anything to stop Giles'
agony…but to no avail.
The torture continued relentlessly for hours, Buffy
helpless to do anything but suffer with him, until Angelus bade a minion hand
him the shirt he'd removed. He slid it over the bloodied arms and back of his
victim and did it up in a parody of motherly solicitousness, as though dressing
"There ya go, Rupert, love. All dressed. God
forbid anyone see that you're a human being under all that tweed…outta shape,
but all human. Don't you English guys ever even think about taking care of
yourselves? You've got potential there, but it's wasted… well, I mean it's
wasted, anyway, because I kinda spoiled your fun there a bit, a while
back," he said immodestly, grinning like a naughty child. "Thing is
you can't expect any woman to look at you if you don't take care of yourself…I
mean you never did get to make time with the gypsy, huh? Oh, right, I forgot.
You don't have to worry about women looking at you. Your job is to be alone,
isn't it Rupert?" he smirked. "You're just her Watcher…her little
Alfred…" The smirk widened. "Her whipping boy. Pity she's too busy
to care if you're alive or dead, huh?"
Buffy felt Giles close his eyes as outrage,
humiliation, grief, radiated out from him. His whole body trembled and a single
sob issued from him, before he gathered himself and stiffened against the small
"Poor Rupert," Angelus crooned and picked up
the broken hand.
Buffy, shaking, thought an obscenity, and time shifted.
Her first thought was 'eiewww' as someone pulled away
from a kiss. Her next was that he was still in incredible pain, but that an
inexplicable joy was washing over him, one so powerful and so ecstatic that it
made her feel like her eyes were pricking with tears. And then she realised why.
He had never told them. Never said a word.
Buffy watched in transfixed horror as he looked at the
woman he loved with such joy that, for just a moment, the pain he was in faded
to nothingness. This was impossible. Buffy knew it was, but Giles' whole body
had bought the illusion without question.
Again, she tried to reach him, call out to his
subconscious, anything, to stop it all happening again, to not have to know what
she had left him to all that time. She squidged as the apparition of Jenny
worked on him for information, and strained to block out both his response and
the joy ringing in him at seeing the other woman again.
Then Spike spoke and Jenny lifted her head…only it
Buffy was disgusted, but it was overridden by the power
of Giles' horror hitting her in the stomach. If it was possible, his heartbreak
in that single moment was more horrible even than the tragic, Puccini-drenched
time when all his dreams had ended.
Buffy wanted him out of there. Wanted them both out of
his head. She wanted them both back, where she could take care of him, tell
him…tell him what…?
Except that no matter what she did, Willow seemed to be
inaccessible. She wondered fleetingly if she was going to be stuck there
forever. Was this actually the darkness to which Edof had referred? Buffy
shuddered at the thought as Drusilla spoke and time shifted yet again.
"Where have you been?"
God, Buffy thought. Xander
looks so young. They all do.
Giles put down his overnight bag and sighed mentally.
"St Louis. No luck, I'm afraid."
Willow slumped. Cordelia rolled her eyes and picked up
the magazine she'd been reading, again.
Xander frowned. "That's three plane tickets in the
last two weeks, big G. You think maybe it might be better to wait until
Buffy felt the anger, resentment and self-consciousness
in Giles as he spoke. "It was a good lead. It just happened that whilst
there were plenty of vampires, there was no…no Slayer."
"Giles, she'll come back. You know she will."
He looked at Willow for a long moment then nodded
slowly. "We must hope," he agreed, but Buffy could feel how lost he
was, the despair percolating at the edge of his consciousness, in direct
contrast to his carefully calm demeanour.
She'd always thought Xander's remonstrations about how
hard Giles tried to find her, were about her being the Slayer and him obsessing
about being responsible for her as her Watcher. And about the fact that Mister
I'm-so-smart-Watcher-guy had lost his charge and had been driven to find her, to
bring her back into line, probably including a lot of yelling, if he'd managed
to find her.
Now, as Giles walked to his office and slumped in his
chair, letting himself be engulfed by its soothing familiarity, she realised how
wrong she'd been.
…And found herself outside his apartment again.
He opened the door and let himself in, dropped the grip
just inside the door and locked it solidly.
Buffy frowned mentally. Giles and locks were un-mixy
things, but he'd done that like one of those sort of people who get robbed or
mugged and live with twelve locks on their doors, always terrified of being…
Oh, God, she
thought, miserably. Oh, God…
He crossed the room slowly, Buffy realising for the
first time that, as small as his apartment was, it seemed huge with just him in
it, and silent, as he padded into the kitchen and put the kettle on. For the
first time, she imagined almost five years of living like this, or perhaps even
a lifetime, of coming home to silence and emptiness, with only the sound of your
own thoughts for company, no matter how wretched they might be.
At that moment she realised he had just arrived home
from yet another trip. He was thinking about where he'd been, what a failure it
was, and he was hurting, but in an 'if I think about making tea instead I shall
be perfectly fine,' Giles sort of way.
Something was very wrong. He was sort of stiff and
rigid, and really into the 'pretending it was all irrelevant and being
incredibly British', even though he was all alone, with no one to see…
She waited as he brought the cup of tea into the
sitting room and sat down on the couch, put it down on the table, and sat back.
Then he dragged a hand over his tired face. At that
point, Buffy realised that he had started to heal from his ordeal. There were no
dressings on the hand, but it was painfully obvious that the still-ugly fingers
were stiff, sore and still giving him trouble.
She was shaken to find that she wanted to warm them,
kiss them, and tell him how sorry she was, but the hand dropped to his side as
he tried to focus on the tea again, his mind replaying the events of the day.
She drew a sharp breath when she realised he'd been to
her house, seen her mother, that this was what he was trying not to think about,
despite an ache in his soul that Buffy could feel reverberating down to her
Deliberately and purposefully he picked up the tea and
started to sip it as the exchange replayed itself in his mind.
At first Buffy was glad to see her mother's face, to
see something reassuring after being lost for so long in the seemingly endless
montage of Giles' memories.
She felt how much Giles wanted to help, how much he
wanted to try and alleviate the other woman's pain. And how incredibly
disappointed and harsh he was on himself for not having anything to tell her.
She felt a swell of love and pride and gratitude as he broke character
completely to try and reach out in his own way to comfort her mom.
The other woman's voice reverberated around the room.
"I don't blame myself. I blame you…"
Buffy didn't know which of them felt more punched in
the stomach as they both reeled back, emotionally.
She knew what it had cost him to reach out like that,
and she could feel the lacerations her mother's words had left as the images
faded until all that was left was the ghost of her own face and the spectre of
Moved, she fought the urge to burst into tears, then
realised with shock that it wasn't just her.
Giles had picked up his teacup again, and was
mechanically sipping at it, but he was not all right.
She had not come home. He hadn't been able to find
her…even Joyce Summers had confirmed his failure.
Buffy heard one single, lonely, despondent thought
follow the others.
The teacup clunked on the table and his head dropped,
his shoulders beginning to shake, overwhelming Buffy with his sudden,
suffocating despair. Somewhere, somehow she choked and burst into silent tears.
"…You should have told me he was alive. You
didn't. You have no respect for me or for the job I perform…"
Buffy jumped and shook her head. The sudden changes
were beginning to give her an angry headache to go with the now constant pain in
Giles was staring at her younger self again. He was
trembling with cold rage and intense hurt as he turned silently back to sit down
in his office chair.
Again she had the sense of a ball of tears in her
throat, only this time they were hers, not his.
Why couldn't she have understood? Why did she always
have to be so blind? Her Angel-obsessed, high school self was standing there in
shock. She could remember that day as clearly as if it was yesterday. All she
had been able to think of at the time was what she'd been through, how much she
loved the vampire and how hard it had been for her…and on top of it, how
unfair it was to have Giles mad at her, too…
Mad at her…God, she'd been so stupid, she thought angrily, remembering her own
words: "I'm gonna try and kill this Lagos guy. Peace offering to
Giles…" Peace offering! She thought, filled with self-loathing.
She could feel the longing in him for her to show some
sign, some…any…recognition of what it had cost him to stand by her in her
relationship with Angel; what it was costing him to not go straight out with
Xander and stake the bastard then and there.
Music crashed into her thoughts and she realised they'd
skipped again. The place was familiar, if loud, the lights bright and the
Giles was agitated, staring toward the entrance,
worried, but for once, Buffy sighed with relief…no real badness was happening.
Suddenly she knew what this was.
Giles again turned to the door and Buffy was deluged
with his concern…jags of apprehension interlaced with his commonsense telling
him not to be silly.
She wanted to chuckle, but there was something about
his edginess, a quality she couldn't quite grasp, until he saw her.
Buffy held her breath as her younger self came into the
room and paused to find him in the crowd.
Delight was spreading through him, and relief so exquisite it made her tingle…as though a great load had been lifted. His smile widened to match hers and he nodded just slightly, no sign of the disappointment that lanced through him when she turned to look for the others, showing on his face. He turned away and the room shifted.
A familiar song was playing. Shivers went up Buffy's
spine, wherever that particular organ was located currently.
Giles was moving through the crowd, fast. There was a
level of contentment, overlayed by concern for her, especially now, when he knew
she would be feeling it most, and over that, anticipation, almost excitement.
The conversation went as she remembered it, but
emotionally Giles was all over the place, nothing like the relaxed, placid
Watcher she remembered from that night.
He was about ready to burst with anticipation and more
than a little apprehension. She could feel him about to ask her other self
something and wondered what the hell it could be.
Then he looked up and Angel was there. First there was
a moment of real fear, then a jag of revulsion quickly suppressed, and finally,
and most confusingly, crashing, painful disappointment, as he turned his charge
to see her surprise.
Standing alone in the crowd, he watched them, only his
eyes betraying the sadness Buffy could feel in his heart as he watched the two
former lovers dance.
For a brief moment Buffy was entranced by the illusion.
They looked so perfect together …in fact, exactly as they did in all her young
dreams…the ones where they would have been together forever…
Then Angel turned slowly and his contented face came
into full view.
Even before she felt Giles' poignantly reflexive flinch
at the sight of that dark visage, anger flooded into her own heart. Anger at
what she had caused, what the vampire had done to him, and worst of all, what no
one, least of all her, had done for him since…
As he watched them, touching Buffy with his genuine
pleasure in the knowledge that she was, for at least that little time, happy,
she began to understand how truly alone he was.
After a beat, he finally let himself think about what
he'd just been going to ask her...and the tender image of his intentions caught
Buffy by the throat, just as time winked again.
She swore. She hadn't wanted to tear herself from that
sweet image in Giles' mind. For one brief, shining moment, even if only in his
imagination, everything had been all right.
She didn't want to do this any more.
"Giles!" she cried, "Giles, where are
But all she could see was a room full of college
students. Giles was talking about his school days. Buffy snorted in irritation
when Anya cut him off, then smiled inwardly when Xander gave her a lesson in
manners, which the guileless ex-demon promptly spoiled.
Giles' silent amusement, when he dismissed them, was
mixed with irritation and vague unhappiness.
For a long while he remained alone, watching with
varying degrees of boredom, self-consciousness and discomfort, the various
goings on in the room: Kel Bennett kissing Neely Lehmann; Xander and Anya
pretending they weren't making out in a quiet corner; Willow circumnavigating
the room and making sure everyone else was having a good time; the fact that the
ceiling was full of cracks and needed filling and painting…
Mostly, though, despite his discomfort, he was just
content that she was, for a little while at least, safe, and that her birthday
seemed not to be poised to explode in their faces, yet again.
Buffy watched her younger self, talking animatedly to a
group from the Initiative, and felt a wave of shame.
Why did he always have to be so alone…?
He remained alone for some time. Finally, Willow
returned, just as Buffy was about to go nuts from sheer boredom, both his and
hers, and growing irritation with her younger self.
Giles accepted a plate of cake awkwardly as Willow
asked him if he was having a good time. Again, Buffy found herself doing the
equivalent of looking away, embarrassed, despite Giles bravely continuing the
And lying through your teeth, she thought dryly as her birthday self approached with Riley.
Giles radiated pleasure at the sight of her…and love,
she realised. There was also, once again, a happy sense of anticipation.
She felt the love swell in him as he balanced his plate
and cup to let her hug him. She felt a new stab of shame that she didn't even
remember doing it.
Giles beamed. "Nineteen. It's hard to believe,
He wanted so badly to say something. Buffy willed her
other self to shut up and listen, fruitlessly, once again.
"There's somebody here I want you to meet. Uh,
this is Riley Finn…my boyfriend."
The older man's spirits went through his shoes. As
always, he showed nothing, save discomfort, at the turn of events but his
distress, his loss, was palpable and painful.
It grew worse with Riley's clumsy gaffes. Nor did
'birthday' Buffy's attempt to guide the conversation, or her eventual effort to
send the boy away, help at all.
Buffy listened to her own witless and ever increasingly
painful blunders until she was ready to scream. Worse, Giles' hurt was washing
over her, amid his disappointment and irritation, and the residual
embarrassment. And at the mention of Maggie Walsh, and Buffy's artless mention
of the woman's age: humiliation and withdrawal.
Riley returned with the cake, capping off the moment,
and, Buffy noticed, eliciting not only flaring irritation, but a sharp spike of
something else from Giles. She recognized it, because it almost exactly matched
the Watcher's response to Angel on a number of occasions: jealousy and
possessiveness…so well controlled no one would ever know.
As he watched her younger self wander off again with
her beau, Giles' shoulders slumped and he sighed a long sigh. Finally, he got
rid of the cake and slipped quietly away, unseen and unmarked…and, as
always…solitary and alone.
Buffy blinked, her headache worsening as things went
Giles was singing. She'd never heard him sing…except
it was weird to be on the guitar-playing, singing side of the music for once. He
was kind of down, but he seemed to be enjoying himself.
She had the ability to do neither and made no bones
about it. She liked his voice, and was just beginning to really enjoy the
moment, soothed by the peace and pleasure he was increasingly feeling as he
played, as much as he was, when Spike suddenly interrupted, frightening him out
of six month's growth and not doing anything for her nerves either.
The vampire went straight to the kitchen, helping
himself from the refrigerator.
"What do you want?" Giles demanded,
Buffy wondered what the hell was going on and would
have rolled her eyes if she could have, when Spike put a bag of blood in the
"Why?" Giles asked suspiciously.
"I need to speak to the lady of the house. Hey, be
a pet and give her a message for me, would you? Tell her I just might have
something she just might want."
Giles tensed at the words 'lady of the house', but
Buffy could feel his anticipation of a possible lead.
"And what might that "something"
"Information. Highly classified. Not cheap
word-on-the-street prattle either. I'm talking about the good stuff now."
Giles was not impressed. He sat down on one of his
stools and folded his arms.
Buffy snorted inwardly. Giles being stuffy to someone
else was actually kinda fun.
"It's nothing I know. What, you think I'd come
running over saying: "I've got a secret, beat me till I talk? There are
files in the Initiative. I'm pretty sure I know where."
Giles straightened. "Files?"
Spike removed his blood from the microwave. "Yeah.
Secrets. Mission statements. Design schematics. All of Maggie Walsh's dirty
laundry, which I guess would include lots of tidbits about—"
Giles removed his glasses again. "Adam."
"Well, yeah. Say someone were to risk his life and
limb --well, limb anyway-- to obtain said files. It might be worth a little
Spike drained his mug of blood.
Giles' eyes narrowed and suspicion replaced
anticipation. "A-at…this point a cynical person might think that you're
offering just what we need when we need it most."
"That person'ed be right, Rupert…supply and
demand. And it won't be cheap this time."
"What do you want?"
thought. What do you really want? Giles had never mentioned this
conversation. There had to be a reason why.
"Hmm, year's supply of blood, guaranteed
protection, merry bushels of cash, and, most important . . . a guarantee that
I'm not to be in any way slain."
Giles put his glasses back on. "Done," he
said, taking Buffy a little by surprise, though she could feel that he
considered the urgency of their need for information more of a priority than
worrying about Spike's petty motives.
"With a smile and a nod from you? Sorry. Not close
to good enough. This deal's with the Slayer."
Buffy felt Giles' recoil, and wondered why. She was
expecting him to give as good as he got. Since when was Giles ever 'not good
enough' to act as proxy for her? Especially with Spike…and especially
after all those weeks of those two being Weetabix buds.
"I'll tell her," Giles said flatly.
Buffy figuratively glared at the vampire. Giles was
buying…no, was agreeing…she paused, confused. Giles already thought
"Oh, you'll tell her! Great comfort, that.
What makes you think she'll listen to you?" Spike demanded snidely.
Pain and real depression washed over the older man.
He tried again, irritated that the vampire kept scoring
"I'm her Watcher."
"I think you're neglecting the past-tense there,
Rupert. Besides, she barely listened to you when you were in charge. I've seen
the way she treats you."
Buffy knew then that Spike was playing games with
Giles' head. That, somehow, he knew that the Watcher was already depressed, that
he already half-believed the things Spike was saying. She could feel, now, the
emptiness in Giles' heart, and his overwhelming feeling of irrelevance…as
though nothing he did would really be of any consequence anyway.
Giles grabbed a bottle off the bar and poured himself a
"Oh, yes? And how's that?" he finally
replied, working at calm while his insides were in chaos.
"Very much like a retired librarian."
Buffy wanted to stake the little weasel then and there.
Giles, however, remained silent and continued to pour.
Buffy knew that was a bad thing…as bad as when he
found out about Eyghon. And it had taken more than just the demon to drive Giles
to this kind of depression, even then. It took history, death, mayhem, guilt…
Then she realised the truth. It took Eyghon and all his
attendant baggage last time to make him raise a glass again in self-defense;
this time…it was about her. A rock formed in her gut.
"Look, I've got what she wants, as long as she has
what I want." Spike started to leave, pausing as he passed Giles.
"Spread the word. She knows where to find me."
Giles stared at his glass with studied indifference,
but the distorted reflection stared back at Buffy with eyes more desolate than
she could bear.
"I'll think about it," he growled under his
breath and brought the glass to his lips as Spike slipped away.
He drank without haste, but steadily. It haunted Buffy,
the way he sat in the lonely apartment in silence, staring into nothingness, the
only real movement the occasional swirling of the contents of the glass in his
She wished that someone would come, someone would help,
but she knew now that they were all too stupidly preoccupied with their own
little worlds, especially her, the Adam issue not withstanding, to even call,
let alone actually drop by, just because…
Eventually he got up. The half-bottle was empty. She
was surprised to see him walk in a straight line to the kitchen, his mind a flat
line of muted depression. He was resolutely not thinking about anything other
than the objective…which was to completely obliterate the ache the vampire had
so carefully reawakened.
He dropped the bottle in the trash and took another
from a high cupboard, where it sat among bits and pieces for
entertaining…glass tumblers, packets of nuts, popcorn, chips, some mixers, a
packet of playing cards, unopened, an unopened bottle of tequila and another of
something called Angostura Bitters.
Buffy found herself close to tears again, without being
sure why. There was simply something incredibly sad about knowing someone so
long and yet having no clue about the stark loneliness of their existence, of
knowing, somehow, that she was a party to it… a seemingly willing accomplice
to such terrible isolation.
Time blinked as she felt herself begin to tremble,
wherever the hell her physical body was, and she found herself in the midst of
something she did remember.
Giles was stumbling upstairs and removing his shirts,
far more inebriated now, and thinking outrageous thoughts to mute the hurt
simmering below the surface. He made it to the bed before he got his pants and
t-shirt off and collapsed on top of it without pulling the covers back.
Initially, he lay there silently in just his shorts,
his pickled brain wandering into thoughts of endless, terrible puns inspired by
his current unhappiness, and back to the conversation downstairs. They hadn't
really noticed he was there…at least no more than a familiar standard lamp…
or a bloody cocker spaniel…he thought, with a whimsy that choked Buffy. He
snorted. Or perhaps he was more of a golden retriever? His tipsy musings
continued: always steadfast, loyal, quietly subservient to events and never a
complaint. I'd make a smashing retriever! he decided smugly.
Buffy giggled damply as the voices rose downstairs and
it was revealed that Willow was in a gay relationship.
Giles' response was surprise, followed by amusement,
followed by disbelief.
"Bloody hell!" he exclaimed loudly, making
Buffy giggle again and sniff.
The conversation downstairs dropped back to a murmur
and Giles settled further on the bed, still bemused by the turn of events, and
allowing himself a little satisfaction, through the haze of his fractured,
ethanol-induced logic, in his exit…that for once he hadn't been the one left
behind…that for once he'd left Buffy standing…
And as if on cue, Buffy's voice rose again from
" No! No, you said you wanted to go. So let's go!
All of us! We'll walk into that cave with you two attacking me and the funny
drunk drooling on my shoe!"
Giles froze. After a few moments, his fists clenched,
and he curled up into a tight, silent ball, all whimsy snuffed out, all thoughts
submerged in abject misery.
"Hey! Hey, maybe that's the secret way of killing
He cringed even further.
"Buffy…" Xander's voice began what sounded
like a feeble attempt to put things right.
"Is that it?" her other self demanded,
sounding perilously close to cracking. "Is that how you can help?"
Giles made a tiny, deliberately strangled, noise in his
throat, in the following silence.
"You're not answering me! How can you possibly
The silence throbbed with almost palpable hurt.
"So . . . I guess I'm starting to understand why
there's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One…and her friends," Buffy
finally said, her voice coldly calm, yet lashing out with the bitter hostility
of one whose world has suddenly come crashing down yet again, without rhyme or
There was no answer to that, and she was given none. A
moment later she spoke again, even more coldly.
"If I need help, I'll go to someone I can count
Giles jolted when the door slammed moments after that,
but didn't move. Buffy felt him curl up even tighter, realised how much he was
trembling, and that it wasn't entirely the booze. When he started to weep
softly, choking in his efforts to stop it, and swearing under his breath when he
was unable to halt the tide, Buffy expected to wink out again.
This time, however, she was left to ride it out with
him, to remain silently with him until he fell into a shallow sleep.
Time seemed to turn very slowly then, as though she was
falling into a dream.
When, at last, some kind of reality asserted itself
again, she was separate, sitting on the side of the bed, watching him sleep.
"Willow?" she ventured without speaking,
then: "Willow!" aloud. No answer.
The silence was almost claustrophobic, and unnatural.
After a beat she realised that there was no sound. No creak, no rattle of the
window frame, not even the sound of his breath.
After a beat to assimilate that, she reached out and
touched his shoulder. He remained unnaturally still, in exactly the same
distressed foetal position he'd been in before he went to sleep. With a deep
breath, she tried shaking him, but to no avail. He simply curled back into the
"Giles," she whispered. "It's okay. It's
only me. Ethan's gone. We escaped. You can come out now…"
It sounded feeble, even to her ears.
"Giles…?" she repeated, helplessly, no idea
what to do next.
Frustrated tears pricked her eyes as she moved closer
to him and traced her fingers along a stubbled jaw, the faint scent of alcohol
still in the air. None of this was real…and yet he felt so real…
She continued to explore the familiar contours and
crags of his face, unaware that, gradually, a half smile had softened the grim
line of her mouth.
"You need a shave," she said softly, barely
able to control the trembling of her lips, and brushed the hair around his ear
with her fingertips. "They said…they said if someone loved you enough,
you might want to come back." Her hand stopped moving and dropped away.
"I…I need you to know…I can't do this without
you. You…there's nothing without you," she told him as calmly as she
could. He remained as still as the dead. She threw her head back, her mouth
clamping in a straight line and her eyes rolling in frustration.
An idiotic thought occurred to her; something a six
year old might try, but there was nothing else.
Slowly, she leaned forward, and pecked him on the cheek
with all the enthusiasm of one forced to kiss the frog. When, inevitably,
nothing happened, emotion choked her and she frowned.
It would be just too weird to really kiss
After a couple of minutes of staring at his face, his
mouth, she finally lowered her head again.
His lips were soft, but cool now. There was no joy in
the kiss, and he tasted vaguely of whiskey still, but she found herself making
it as loving and tender as she could, without being exactly sure why. When she
straightened, it was with the childish hope that he might open the sea-green
eyes and smile at her foolishness.
She stared at his closed eyes, the silent, almost
sculpted, features cutting through her, forcing a small sob from her throat when
they remained unmoved, as she knew they would.
Buffy picked up a large hand, drew it to her, covered
it with her other hand.
"Giles, please, come back to me!" she begged
tremulously. " It's safe now. I'm safe now. I need you, Giles! Can you hear
me? I need you so much!"
Silence answered her.
She could hear her own words echoing in her mind, each
an indictment of her horrible record as a friend and worse one as…
Buffy stopped, realizing where that thought had been
headed, unbidden, but going there, nevertheless. She swallowed. It had been
instinctive, true, not even a speculation…but… She swallowed again, scarcely
believing her own senses.
Instead of further thought, she leaned down and kissed
his brow tenderly before pulling away, her eyes alight with the discovery.
How could she have not known?
And then it came to her.
thought, frantically, her mind full of images. Willow…you have to put me
Everything spun hard and spiraled into something else
The music rose and Buffy flushed, mustering her courage
when she realised that Willow had heard, or read her avalanche of thoughts,
somehow, and had succeeded.
This time she scanned the room as she had so long
ago…a million years ago, it felt like…and searched it for the figure she
knew would be weaving through the crowd on his way to her side.
She turned as he reached her and smiled at him.
"You did good work tonight, Buffy," he said,
a little more self-consciously than the last time.
"And I got a little toy surprise," she
replied, just as she had then.
"I had no idea that children en masse could be
gracious," he offered bemusedly.
"Every now and then, people surprise you,"
she added softly, but this time with profound feeling.
His eyes widened and searched hers, as though trying to understand everything she had so pointedly left unsaid. Then his eyes shifted, flickered, and his face fell.
"Every now and then," he agreed flatly, took
her umbrella and turned her.
For a long moment Buffy watched the figure who'd held
such a mortgage over her life, her heart, her soul, for so long…then she
turned back to the man behind her.
"Every now and then," she repeated dryly,
seeking his rather surprised, soft green eyes.
"Dance with me…?"
For a moment the green pools focused sharply and gazed
piercingly into hers. She almost thought she could see him…the real him…for
a moment, in those jade depths. Then she watched him grin, this time absorbing
and delighting in the joy in them, the love.
She walked forward slowly, watching that grin widen,
and took a deep breath as he handed the umbrella to a surprised Julie Welsh from
her history class, took her in his arms, and, with one last glance over her
shoulder, swept her onto the dance floor.
Across the room, Angel stood like a statue, watching
them float away, with an expression carved from stone.
Buffy, stealing a single glance as they turned, felt a
twinge of pity, but did not look back again.
Giles danced like a dream. The lessons her mother had
insisted on in the misguided belief that her only daughter might someday actually
make her debut, had not been entirely for nothing, after all…
After two slow turns around the room they slowed to the
same non-pace as the other couples on the floor, swaying slightly to the music
as Buffy, ignoring Giles' very proper and respectful hold of her, let go of his
hand and slid both arms around his waist, nestling her cheek into the breast of
After momentary hesitation, she felt his arms close
Their strength, their warmth, enveloped her. Buffy
closed her eyes as the sensations washed over her, one after another. His body,
his scent, the overwhelming aura of his unspoken love all served to make her
forget everything except why she was there.
She tightened her hold as they moved slowly to the
haunting music…music she would never again hear with that old ache in her
soul. From this moment on she knew she would feel exactly as she did now…as
though, for the first time in her life, the world felt
exactly…perfectly…right, every time she heard it.
After a few moments, Giles held her away from him, his
eyes searching, questioning.
Buffy's heart leaped with hope at the urgency in them. Slowly, warily, she allowed her gaze to fully lock with his curious one.
She swallowed, trembling, but mustered every ounce of
courage, every ounce of truth in her soul.
"I never told you," she stumbled. "I
never told you how much…" She stopped to swallow a choke. "I'm the
biggest idiot known to man. I didn't tell you. I didn't even know at first…Oh,
"Buffy…?" he whispered, and it sounded like
it came from miles and miles away.
"I love you so much," she told him in
a trembling, but determined, voice. "I love you, Giles. Could—Can you
bear to let me love you…even after everything…?"
Giles removed his glasses and slid them into his jacket
pocket before looking down at her again.
"Can you possibly know what you're
saying…?" he asked very slowly, his seemingly detached voice increasing
the weight of intonation with every word. He didn't sound nearly as far away
Buffy nodded slowly and reached up to cup his face with
slender hands. When she lifted her gaze and smiled at him, everything…all of
it…was shining in her soft, grey-green eyes. She drew his stunned head down,
catching his lips with hers.
For agonizingly long moments, hers was the only
movement. Though his lips had automatically softened and accepted hers, he did
not kiss her back.
Bolts of adrenaline shot through Buffy when she
realised this was it: he was so close that the next few seconds, or minutes,
could be the difference between getting him back …and unthinkable failure.
She lifted her eyes and searched his beloved face,
trying to find the words to convince him, growing more and more frightened, more
and more panicked when the right ones would not come.
Against her will, frustrated tears flicked out of her
lashes and rolled down the soft cheeks.
"Please…" she whispered. "I won't
leave you. Not again. I'll stay here, with you, if I have to. I can't live out
there, not without you! Not any more…!"
The shrill cry reverberated in her head like the
clanging of a bell. When she opened her mouth to swear, something…happened.
And then she was looking up at a sea of concerned
"You've been gone for hours," Willow said
plaintively. "I-I know stuff was happening, but we had to pull you out. We
have to go, now. Ethan's been to the college trying to find us. Someone
gave him this address. Xander is my backup guy, for phone calls and emergencies
a-and stuff," she explained uncomfortably. "Anyway, they're coming
here, like, in about ten minutes, so we have to move…"
"So you just yanked me out?" Buffy snapped.
"Do you know how close I was? If we lose him now, Ethan is going to die for
this," she muttered darkly, unaware of Edof's silent scrutiny. She scuffed
angrily at her face and turned to take the hand of the still figure on the bed
again. After a beat, her shoulders sagged.
"If I lose him now, nothing matters any
"Where are they?"
Graham looked around nervously. He didn't like the
Englishman or his creepy demons. He'd have far preferred to do the search with
just his own guys and without the annoying company.
"Looks like they've departed the scene, sir!"
"I can see that, you twat. If that little sod,
Edof, is with them, your bloody machines should pick him up…correct?"
Graham winced. "Correct, sir!" He turned to a
subordinate and gestured to him to check the infrared tracking.
Upstairs, Belinda Harris pushed all the Chinese food
cartons into the trashcan and wiped the table over.
"Did you hear something, dear?" she asked
over her shoulder.
Harris senior belched and rose to shuffle over to the
window, careful not to spill the can of beer he'd just opened, and opened a
"Just more friends of the boy's. Looks like he's
going to a fancy dress party. When's he going to get a real job?"
"That's nice, dear," she said absently,
pouring a glass of red wine from a cardboard cask. "Alexander has to find
out who he is first. He's a sensitive boy."
"He's a lazy-assed slob who doesn't even get out
bed until midday. How the fuck is he going to get a job?"
"Language, Henry," she replied, slowly
draining the glass as she dropped into her favorite armchair, found the remote
and pressed 'play'. "Shift work, I guess. Some people are just made to
"Well, the weirdos are all gone now," he
rumbled and returned to his chair before they both fell silent in rapt attention
to the small screen and the behemoth wrestlers on it.
"Okay, I give up," Buffy muttered, bemused,
as she helped Xander carefully carry Giles up the steps into the apartment
building in front of which they'd parked.
"Oh…this is Tara's place. Her non-collegy
place," Willow explained, following close behind. "Nobody else knows
about it. Her family thinks she lives on campus, so nobody knows except, well,
me…and now you guys…so don't tell anyone, 'kay?"
Buffy rolled her eyes as they edged toward the stairs
"Oh…second floor. Room s-seven," Tara piped
Xander and Buffy looked up the long flight of stairs,
to the first landing and the dogleg to the next one.
"I don't suppose there's an elevator?" Xander
By the time they reached the door of the apartment and
Tara hastily opened it, Xander looked on the verge of a coronary. Buffy's colour
was high but she wasn't breathing hard.
They took Giles straight to the double brass bed in the
middle of the room.
Buffy fussed until he looked somewhere near comfortable
and covered, bloodied shirt, socks and shoes removed, before turning to Willow,
and Xander who was still heaving for breath.
"I have to get back there. I almost had him. You
have to put me back."
Willow looked at Tara. "We have to put you
back," she corrected. Moments later they had made a rudimentary circle and
started preparations while an impatient Buffy fretted and fidgeted, washed up,
and even used Tara's first aid kit to bathe all Giles' wounds while she waited.
"Have you found anything yet?" Ethan demanded
as they made their way up the street slowly in military vehicles.
The solider looked up. "Nothing of note, sir. A
number of vampire signatures and pheromone trails for several demons not
matching your description, sir!"
"Blast!" Ethan snarled. "Tell me about
"One Fyarl demon, two Thrasher demons, a Moglii
and a Sentrian Trans-Morph."
"New one, sir. This is only the second time we've
had one on scanners…maybe even the same demon. It took three months of
research to identify the species. Apparently they don't usually leave their own
dimension if they can help it."
"And that dimension would be…?"
"The same one your boys, there, come from,"
Graham said over the commando's shoulder. "Sentrian demons and their
ancestors have been prey for those guys since the dawn of their time. They
evolved the ability to morph as a defense, like cuttlefish and stuff, here,
frightening stuff with their colours. Sentrians morph into scary or useful stuff
to stay alive, but they can't hold the shape forever, not for more than an hour
Ethan's eyes went from getting rounder and rounder, to
narrowed and suspicious. "What do they look like in their real form?"
"Sorta like a little gnome," the younger
soldier offered without looking up from his equipment. "But we've only seen
a drawing. Or Riley saw it. He got the ID from some old guy with a lot of
demonology books. Can you believe that? People actually write books about this
crap." He laughed aloud.
Graham looked uncomfortable. Riley was a particularly
sore spot and the damned slayer and her cronies an even bigger one.
"Never mind that," he said roughly.
"Concentrate on the mission."
"Just find it," Ethan snapped, and tapped on
the window of the vehicle. The driver opened a sliding panel. "Yes,
"I want details sent to these two addresses to
confirm that they're clear." He gave the boy both Buffy's home address and
the one for Giles' flat. "After that we have to find Rosenberg's address
and someone has to check the college."
"And when I find Edof, I'm going to break every
bone in his tiny body, and feed him to the Druul," Ethan snarled.
"Follow the morph's signature."
Buffy picked herself up and looked around. Willow had
gotten damned close. Her spell had put them…her…back in the flat, in Giles'
loft. He was still curled up on the bed, unmoving. It had probably been too much
to ask to pick up exactly where they had left off…except…now she had no idea
what to do next, or how to help him.
For just a moment the enormity of it threatened to
overwhelm her. If she had lost him…
A moment later she closed her eyes. She knew where she
had to try next, and Willow obliged.
His back was to her. She could feel the waves of pain
emanating from it and the tension that filled the silence of the small office.
"Giles," she said softly, and watched his
bent head lift, but not turn. "Giles…I'm sorry…I-I had to go…before.
Ethan was on his way."
She drew an apprehensive breath when his shoulders
"It's not just that," she admitted. "I'm
sorry a-about all of it. I know I've never told you. The truth is, I didn't know
what I was doing to you, not really. Please, please, believe that. As young and
stupid as I was, if I had known…" she closed her eyes for a moment.
"If I had known how much I was hurting you…"
When she opened them he was still sitting at the desk,
as though unwilling…to move, or perhaps to risk being hurt again.
"I understand now," she whispered. "I
know about Angel. I know all of it. I know…" She paused, looking down, a
surge of emotion preventing her from getting the words out. "I know why,
even though I loved him so much, he's gone, and you stayed. I know why it was so
hard to decide to even start seeing Riley, and why I've been trying way too hard
to make that work. What I wanted from him, he and I could never have…"
He sat very still, but said nothing.
Her heart began to beat faster. No! she thought
desperately. You have to listen. We were so close to…
For a terrified moment she didn't know what to do. This
was beyond her ken. She didn't know how to handle it. She couldn't hit it, stake
it, pound it into the ground or pretend it wasn't happening…and that was all
she had been doing…for a very long time. Her eyes dilated at that realization.
She stared at the back of his bent head. She didn't
even know how to say the words anymore. And what she had been able to say hadn't
been enough, anyway. Almost, but not quite, and she didn't know what else to
Her mouth trembled as his head lowered again, as though
defeated by the silence.
It was more than she could bear any longer. She
swallowed and moved slowly toward him.
He flinched when she slid her palms onto his shoulders.
He smelled, predictably, of books and Earl Grey tea and tweed…a combination
that twisted her heart with memories.
Buffy squeezed the broad shoulders reassuringly, but he
didn't speak. Nor did he move when she rested her cheek against his crown, but
she could feel the tension in his body.
Then she realised why. He was fighting to stop himself
She drew her arms around his neck, crossing them over
to hug him from behind, the hug soon becoming a hold, as he began to shake in
earnest. She held him tight, as her own emotional control wavered and shook. He
made a noise, a tiny noise, but Buffy knew he was weeping and soon so was she,
for him, for all of it.
It poured out of him. Not only the past she had seen, but also all the horrors of what the Weyre had done to him: the pain, the terror of the violation of his most private places, the agony of the attempts to take what he would not give…did not give.
She continued to hold him, and grieve with him, until
they were both exhausted and silence closed in around them again.
"Let me love you," she whispered tremulously,
near a warm ear, sorrow catching in her throat.
She felt him swallow then heard a sigh, but the sound
came from a distance away, not from the circle of her arms.
Buffy looked up. "Let me love you, Giles. You
don't have to stay in here. You don't have to be alone any more. Neither of us
For the longest time, there was only the unsynchronised
sound of their breathing. Buffy refused to let him go, and he seemed content for
her to hold him.
Just as she was beginning to despair, the fragile Giles
in her arms, still recovering from the horrors of his ordeal at Angelus' hands,
and the trauma of her own betrayal of him, sighed a long, jagged sigh.
There was so much in the sound, all of which Buffy now
understood, now carried with her…
She closed her eyes again, despairingly, and buried her
face in his hair, waiting for his rebuff.
It didn't come. The silence stretched until her nerves
were almost screaming. And then she felt it…fingers sliding over one of the
arms that were still locked around his neck, closing around her slender forearm,
and squeezing gently before simply holding on.
After several beats Buffy realised she was holding her
breath, and released it slowly, before lifting her head from his silky hair.
"Giles?" she whispered, terrified, and
electrified, at the same time.
"Buffy?" a still-disembodied voice whispered
back, a fragile sound, sending a current down her spine.
She struggled with a surge of emotion. "I'm here.
I won't leave you. I promise."
"Buffy…" it whispered again, brokenly, much
closer this time.
She straightened when Giles unexpectedly lifted his
head and spoke.
"Oh, God…" he managed, in a barely
"I know," she said soothingly, despite the
rioting of her insides, and covered the hand that was still holding her forearm.
The big fingers squeezed tighter.
Reality suddenly and jarringly shifted and Buffy found
herself in Tara's big double bed, holding a curled-up Giles in almost the same
way as she had been holding the dream-Giles. The others were all looking on
For a shocked moment, she sat, paralysed. This wasn't
at all how she expected it to happen. He was supposed to be…well…not
fine…but not like this.
"Giles…?" she whispered, as the others
watched in silence.
There was no answer.
"It's over. You're safe now. Everyone's going to
leave now, so you can have some privacy," she added, looking at them
meaningfully, a plea in her eyes.
Too terrified to get her hopes up, Buffy waited until
they all turned and filed out before shifting to where she could see his eyes,
his face, as soon as the door closed behind them.
She was back, but was he…really?
"Ethan can't hurt you," she said softly.
"Nobody can hurt you now. Talk to me, Giles," she begged.
Oh, God, please talk to me!
"Buffy…" he finally managed, as though he
was clinging to that one thought.
"I'm here," she reiterated, taking his face
in her hands, trying not to notice the reflex cringing of his battered body.
"Stay with me!" she demanded, holding the sea-green eyes, trying not
to cry at the fear, the horror in them even as he struggled, her heart aching
for him as he battled, yet again, to defeat the darkness.
The trembling worsened and moments later his eyes began
"No!" Buffy cried, lifting his face in her
fingertips. "No! Don't leave me!"
The dark-lashed lids opened again for a moment, soft
eyes focusing on her face, their depths filled with a melancholy sadness that
made her eyes prick with tears.
Then she realised what she'd said, and what he must
think of her.
"You don't understand!" she cried as they
started to close again.
Panic seized her. She didn't know what to do. There was
nothing left to tell him…no…
She drew a sharp breath.
"You can't leave me," she told him, this time
in a definitive voice, "because…" she moved her mouth to his. At
first his lips were unresponsive, but as she poured more and more of herself
into the salute, he began to respond, just enough for her to be moved to
redouble her efforts.
She slid her arms around his neck and continued to make
love to him, before finally pulling back when she realised that he'd stopped
Their eyes met, and Buffy realised that the
semi-catatonic glaze had gone from the beautiful sea-green ones now staring so
deeply into hers, as though searching her soul.
"Is it…are you…?" she stammered, her
fingers automatically reaching up to touch his face. She tried again, almost too
frightened to hope. "Giles?"
The crystal-clear gaze glistened as he nodded slowly.
"Pain?" she whispered, when he still didn't
He nodded again, a ghost of a smile in his eyes now,
despite the strain.
Her fingers wandered to his brow, stroking it gently
again, as she had when he was unconscious. He closed his eyes and leaned into
Buffy shivered and raised her face to find his velvet
mouth again, this time brushing her lips softly against his, first; tasting,
offering, hoping, waiting…
Then his weight shifted and Giles was kissing her. She clung to him as he dragged her closer, both their mouths fighting to show the other the depth of their need, their desire, their hearts…
He was trembling again, only this time for a different
reason. And, Buffy discovered, so was she.
When they parted again his eyes searched her face,
alight with hope, delight, need, his mouth trying to pull into a smile, but
still weighed down by the pain of his wounds, both physical and emotional.
Buffy smiled back, tenderly, raising fingers still
trembling with the intensity of her feelings, to trace those sensual lips.
"You told me: 'Never give your heart where it
Giles' lips parted, and his eyes widened at the memory
of his own words, a shadow of fear clouding them.
"I-if I give you mine…c-can I keep yours…please?"
For a moment he stared, stunned. Then a slow-growing
smile grew into an almost beatific radiance, his eyes glistening as he nodded
just as slowly.
Lost as she was in his reaction, it took Buffy a very
long moment to smile back. When she did, her face seemed to burst into a glow to
rival his. She reached out, unable to resist caressing his cheek again, then
moved at the same moment as he did.
Their hug was more than a simple embrace…more than a tearful reunion. It was an intertwining of souls, of hearts.
For just a moment they touched. Neither knew how, or
why, but for one blinding moment their minds touched again, and in an instant
each knew the other's heart and soul…and that they would never be apart again.
Within the warm refuge of each other's arms, both of
them had finally come home…
Graham deployed his men around the park, ready to move
in, professionally and carefully.
The commando rolled his eyes and straightened
impatiently. "Yes, sir?"
"I thought I told you to wait for me."
"Just didn't want the Hostile to escape, sir.
Thought you'd be pleased to interrogate him once we had him under control."
Ethan blew out an irritated breath. The only thing more
irritating than an American, was an energetically enthusiastic, youthful one.
"Well, hold your positions and don't let him
escape. He's mine."
"Yes, sir," Graham muttered and gave a
Ethan and two of his Druul henchmen strode into the
A small demon was swinging on one of the swings.
"You little pissant!" Ethan said as soon as
he was close enough, momentarily forgetting his earlier suspicions.
"Whoever you're waiting for isn't coming."
Edof grinned. "Ah, but he is. I was waiting for you."
Goaded, Ethan lunged forward to grab the demon and
reared back when he was suddenly confronted by a multi-limbed, scaled beast with
a maw the size of hippo's but filled with needle-sharp teeth.
Adrenaline pumping, and shaking with both fear and
rage, Ethan motioned his bodyguards forward, but the creature suddenly vanished.
It took several moments for both Ethan and the Druul to realise that Edof had
morphed into a tiny, furry creature and vanished into the undergrowth.
Ethan roared at the commandos to get up to him, which
they did at pace when Graham yelped a confirming command.
"Find that little bastard, now! He's here,
somewhere. Use that bloody scanner of yours. That's what it's for!" the
Englishman spat with controlled violence in his voice.
Graham set them to the task and the park became a
frenzy of activity.
Edof watched them from his perch in a nearby tree,
happy in the form of the nearest thing in his dimension to a bird: a small
reptilian creature more reminiscent of a bonsai pterodactyl than a sparrow.
He chuckled to himself, and would have grinned, if his
beak had permitted, smug in the knowledge that each time he morphed, the scanner
would have to re-calibrate for several moments before it could adjust for the
changes, particularly the lack of pheromones in many of the reptilian and insect
forms he took.
He also knew they wouldn't leave while he was still
registering on the Initiative's scanner, and he could keep them busy for hours,
or at least until his objective was accomplished.
By the time the commandos had turned in his direction,
he'd morphed again, this time into an insect no terrestrial would recognise,
scampered down through the tree bark to the ground, shifted to serpentine form
and slithered out of sight again, heading for Ethan Rayne and his henchmen.
Rayne was skulking by the playground equipment while
the Druul foraged semi-uselessly, ironically, forbidden to leave their posts as
his personal bodyguards.
Edof worked his way around to the Druul farthest
removed, and morphed into the largest, most viscous creature he could manifest;
the only guise in which he knew his people could reliably defeat a Druul, in the
Screams filled the night as they clashed, Edof's
multi-limbed, teeth and talons nightmare tearing the stinger-wielding arthropod
to pieces as the Commandos raced to where the battle raged. Shots were fired,
even before Graham was able to give the order, but Edof had gone, back into
serpent form, already through the nearest bushes and out of sight.
Ethan was beside himself, fear compounding his rage.
"You fools! Without the Druul we're done! We can't take the Slayer without
"So send for more, asshole," one of the
commandos muttered and the others snickered.
Graham agreed, but glared at his men, who subsided
"Very funny, pillock," the Englishman
snarled. "For your information this species doesn't leave its own
dimension. It took all my own connections, and a significant amount of your
military's resources, to recruit the six we had, and the bloody Slayer has
already torn two of them apart with her bare hands."
"Jesus," muttered another commando, and
Graham went a little pale, looking the remaining Druul up and down and
considering his chances, unarmed, against even one.
"Sir, the Sub-T is moving towards the northern end
of the park!"
Graham looked to Ethan.
The Englishman's nostrils flared. "Don't just
stand there looking at me, grunt! Get it! NOW!"
"MacKenzie! Keep calling it this time! I want
updates every thirty seconds!" Graham panted as they sprinted toward the
north end of the park.
He received them, until they were within just metres of
"Sir, it's vanished!"
The commandos slewed to a halt and milled, confused.
Doubling back, beneath their feet, Edof smiled inwardly
as he cut through the dark loam as though it was butter. It wasn't one of his
favourite forms: the Botleth worm, though it was the fastest subterranean form
he knew. For one thing, the aftertaste of dirt stayed with him for hours, and
for another he didn't like the claustrophobic snugness of being underground.
It took several minutes to reach the playground again.
He heard MacKenzie call his re-
emergence as soon as he broke through and transformed
into the giant, multi-limbed Rogarra again.
By the time the soldiers responded to Ethan screaming
histrionic orders, however, the last Druul had lunged and almost found it's
target with its lethal stinger, only to be side-stepped and seized with a
multitude of talons.
Ethan swore as a chunk of oozing yellow carapace hit
him in the thigh and slid down his pants, leaving a sticky, foul-smelling stain.
He was still berating the Initiative's best, as Edof,
transformed now, into a sleek, whippet-sized feline no cat-lover would
recognize, bolted from the park and into the row of residences across the
street. Once he had reached the roof of one of the houses he sat smugly for a
few moments, flicking his tail as he watched Ethan rant at the soldier boys, who
were already walking away, leaving the red-faced Englishman completely alone.
The small demon waited long enough to see Rayne realize
his vulnerability, and panic, bolting after them, before bounding away,
sniggering to himself as much as his carnivore's mouth would allow.
Everyone filed back into the room, almost creeping,
until they realised that Buffy's expression was calm and relaxed. She was
holding Giles' hand, or rather, he was holding fast to hers, almost like an
anchor. She smiled at them as they surrounded her.
"I think it's going to be okay," she said
softly. "He's asleep…he was exhausted."
"Th-then he's back?" Willow ventured in
hushed tones. "Really back?"
"In one piece?" Xander added.
Buffy nodded silently.
"A really battered, fragile,
going-to-take-a-long-time-to-heal piece, but yeah. I think he's
going to be okay. He needs to see a doctor about the
physical wounds…the ribs, the bruises, his head, and stuff, but I'm not sure
he can face strangers right now."
Willow's eyes grew very large and bright. "Poor
Buffy's seemed to do the same, almost in sympathy with
the other girl, but her expression was distant when she nodded again…as though
the reality was beyond the explaining of it.
"We-we can't stay here. I should be out there,
dealing with Ethan, so I can take Giles home. He needs to be home; somewhere
that feels warm and safe and familiar." She frowned and looked up at Tara.
"N-not that your place isn't really cool. It's nice. Real nice. It's
"Home," Tara said softly, and half smiled.
Willow frowned in thought. "Y'know, we could,
maybe get Angel and Wesley to help. I know they would…a-and then you could
stay with Giles, and—"
Buffy was shaking her head. "No," she said
determinedly, brushing Giles' temple with the backs of her fingers.
"But—" Willow began, pausing again when
Xander laid a hand on her arm, his eyes on the suddenly haunted expression on
"No," he said softly. "We'll deal with
it. It's our problem. I think, maybe, the past should stay in the past."
Willow looked from one to the other. "Oh,"
she finally said, then frowned. "I guess…
except we don't know anyone else who can kill demons or
kick Ethan's butt…a-anyone who isn't in Iowa, that is," she added
Buffy looked up slowly and blinked, as though realising
for the first time that there were still issues to be resolved.
"If Edof isn't back soon, I'll have to go,"
she said quietly. "I don't know if Riley will even come back at
Xander blinked. "He's in Iowa? Since when?"
Something occurred to him. "Uh-oh. Fight, huh…?" he asked without
Buffy looked away, but didn't respond.
"I don't think so," Willow said softly.
"Are you going to call him?"
Busy stroking Giles' brow, the Slayer nodded silently,
but didn't look back.
It was Xander's turn to look consternated. His dark
eyes flicked from one to the other before he opened his mouth to ask the
question, only to be interrupted by Tara yelping and jumping when something warm
brushed by her leg.
Everyone looked around.
The strangest looking silver-mottled, black, cat-like
creature had somehow gotten into the building. Tara opened her mouth to exclaim,
when it morphed into a familiar figure.
"Edof!" they all yelled at once, except for
"Don't do that!" Willow scolded. "You
nearly gave me a heart attack!"
Edof smirked as Xander asked how it went.
"The threat is nullified," he told them,
"for now. Rayne will have to find refuge somewhere. He has many connections
among the legions of Chaos, but I doubt you'll see him for a very long time.
He's already been a guest of your military once, and believe me, now that he has
failed them, he does not want to go back there again."
The tension seemed to flow out of Buffy then, leaving
her visibly limp when she looked up at the others, her hand tightening
protectively around the one she was holding.
"Let's go home," she said softly.
A slowly expanding expression of delight spread over
the small demon's face.
"Home…" he whispered.
Listen as the wind blows
From across the great divide
Voices trapped in yearning
Memories trapped in time
The night is my companion
And solitude my guide
Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied?
And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I'll take your breath away
And after I'd
Wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear
Through this world I've stumbled
So many times betrayed
Trying to find an honest word to find
The truth enslaved
Oh you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive
And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I'll take your breath away
And after I'd
Wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear
Into this night I wander
It's morning that I dread
Another day of knowing of
The path I fear to tread
Oh into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride
'Cause nothing stands between us here
And I won't be denied
And I would be the one
To hold you down
Kiss you so hard
I'll take your breath away
And after I'd
Wipe away the tears
Just close your eyes dear
Just close …your eyes…
Giles tolerated the journey, borne only by the lone
Xander in his borrowed vehicle, and sharing the back seat with Buffy.
He had acquiesced without argument to the suggestion to
sit in the back where he would have more room for his battered limbs and ribs,
but when Buffy sneaked a peak at him as she moved to slide into the front seat,
she changed direction and climbed into the back with him.
Little was showing on his handsome, but ravaged face,
but the rigid posture, the clenched fist stuffed down by his right pants leg,
and the fact that, with the whole seat to himself, he'd scrunched in one corner,
told a very different story.
Buffy slid across and touched his face, immediately
syphoning off some of the tension, then gingerly eased herself into a position
where she was curled up in the crook of his arm. It closed immediately, almost
convulsively, around her. She nuzzled her cheek into his breast as she offered
him her hand, and felt it engulfed by his free one, clenched tightly and held
all the way home.
Xander, stealing occasional glances in the rear view
mirror, bit his lip several times and swallowed before focusing hard on the
road, while he could still see clearly enough to drive.
At the flat, Giles allowed him to assist Buffy to help
him walk the short distance from the car, into the terrace, and down to his
Out of habit more than anything, they waited for him to
unlock it, himself. When the door handle turned, Buffy flicked a grateful, but
speaking, glance to Xander.
He managed a forced smile, and brought his hands
together. "Okay, guys. Got everyone home in one piece, and now I have to
get back to the old ball and chain. You two kids try not to have TOO much fun
without me," he added, nervous energy making him bounce a little on the
"Th-thankyou, Xander," Giles managed, without
looking up, as much as he'd managed in a sentence since he'd woken again.
Xander stopped bouncing and cleared his throat, before
tentatively sliding a hand onto his friend's shoulder.
"Take care of yourself," he said hoarsely,
wheeled and strode away to his car.
"He'll be okay," Buffy said softly, as they
both watched him disappear. "He just cares about you. We all do."
"I know," he whispered, and squeezed the
shoulders he was probably leaning too much weight on, had it been anyone but
Buffy, his eyes just crinkling at the corners as he looked down at her with a
Buffy smiled back, then reached in and flicked on the
light before they moved forward. She kicked the door closed with a nasty crack
after Giles had eased himself in.
He closed his eyes, a pained expression endearingly
reminiscent of old times, on his face. "Tell me nothing broke?" he
asked, the faintest hint of teasing in his voice.
Buffy looked back and wrinkled her nose before smiling
up at him. "Nothing important, anyway," she said cheerfully, as they
worked their way around to the foot of the stairs, and enjoyed the grumpy grunt
she got in reply.
When they reached it, Buffy slipped away for a moment,
to his ancient stereo, only to discover a small metallic purple and silver
Discman and speakers sitting on it. She recognised it: Willow's. Still, whatever
was in it would be something he liked. When it started, she was surprised to
find that it was Sarah McLachlan.
Giles was leaning on the stair rail when she reached
him and slid her arm around his waist again.
He looked across to the player and down at her
She shrugged. "I never realised before how big and quiet this place is when nobody else is here…how—"
"Empty?" he whispered.
She met his eyes, just for a moment, a lifetime passing
between them without a word. A moment later they turned by mutual assent, and
started up the stairs, Buffy bearing almost all Giles' weight as they took one
step at a time.
He was gasping for air at the top and nursing his ribs,
despite her support.
"Xander is going to see Doctor Phipps…you
remember her? The one who didn't ask any questions when we took you to the ER
with those Tras'zi claws still in your arm, because we couldn't get them out?
You know...with all the little hooks in the—"
"Yes…I know the ones," he finally grunted,
halting her rambling.
She smiled self-consciously. "Anyway, you need to
see a doctor, and we need one we can trust. We all think she knows a lot more
than she let on, so he's going to see if she'll consider making a house
"All…all right," he managed.
Buffy could hear the reluctance in his voice, but it
would do for now. "C'mon, let's get you into your own bed. You can shower
later. Right now you need to rest."
He allowed her to sit him on the bed, even to remove
his shoes and socks, but a large hand covered hers when she started on the shirt
She dropped her hands and looked up at him. "I can
"I-it's all right. I will. Y-you need to
…Riley…" he whispered.
For a moment, she just looked at him, her heart
swinging wildly between sorrow that he still had such doubts, and love, because,
despite everything, he was still thinking about her…
Then her expression gentled.
"I'm not going anywhere."
The jade green eyes searched her face, still bright in
their weary, bloodshot homes.
Buffy leaned forward and brushed his mouth with hers,
very tenderly, before starting on the buttons again and holding his fragile
gaze. "I'm already home."
He stopped her again when the buttons were undone.
"R-really need a shower. Feels like…like I've been dunked in egg
white…a-and rolled in the dirt."
"Eieww!" Buffy exclaimed then chuckled.
"Nice imagery there, Rupert."
Giles snorted, then unexpectedly touched her cheek,
smiling when she looked at him curiously.
"Oh," she said a moment later, and smiled.
"I'm glad I got to meet him, sort of. Rupert was a pretty good guy…kinda
Still a little self-conscious, Buffy helped him up and
they made the long trip to the bathroom, again primarily dependent on her
ability to support his full weight. She helped him to sit down on the john to
rest, acutely aware of the pain he was in from the jarring of his injuries, and
his rasping breaths.
"I hope this is going to be worth it. Maybe I
should get something to make a step…um …for the tub," she offered
Still struggling with the pain, he shook his head
without raising it.
"Go… Be f-fine. I…I…can…" he managed.
The gesture made her finally realised how stupid she
was being. Instinctively, she put her arms around his shoulders and rested her
brow on the top of his head for a long moment.
"No. We'll do this together," she said
softly, and felt him begin to move. "Together," she repeated, and
lifted her head.
He looked up at her, clearly conflicted about the pace
with which everything was happening.
In reply, Buffy gently stripped off his open shirt,
before straightening and removing her own guts and blood-plastered blouse before
he could say anything.
Giles' lips parted and he swallowed at the
heretofore-unseen vision now before him.
"Up," she said briskly before either of them
could think too much about it, and eased him to his feet, once again using
almost all her own strength, until she had steadied and released him.
He swayed as she undid his belt and zipper and dropped
his pants, before sitting him down again and dragging them off.
Giles watched her go back to the tub without looking at
him again, then dragged his palms over his face, overwhelmed. His instinct was
to find a dark corner and huddle in it…and never come out, and he didn't know
how much longer he could resist it.
With the shower blasting at a comfortable temperature,
Buffy removed her own shoes and pants and went back to Giles, but stopped short,
shocked to see how distressed he was again. After a beat, she moved decisively.
"Giles, we don't have to do this," she said
softly, kneeling in front of him when he didn't respond, and putting her hands
comfortingly on his knees.
"I…I'm sorry. Y-you shouldn't have to…"
he said softly.
"Shouldn't have to?" Buffy repeated,
and pulled his hands from where his brow was resting against them, and held them
close. "I don't want to be anywhere else, or do anything else. I meant what
I said, before," she finished, almost angrily.
He finally lifted his head, the question in his
Hers softened immediately, and she slid her fingers
into one of the big hands.
"Let me love you…" she reminded him.
He drew a sharp breath, and Buffy knew that he was
"We can do this," she said, before he could
argue, rising and bringing him to his feet, "together."
At the tub, she sat him on the rim.
"Swing around," she ordered. "I'll
Buffy supported his back and helped him lift a
trembling leg, and then the other, as he slowly shifted his weight and twisted
his body so that he was facing the water.
In a moment she was in it with him, helping him to
stand, supporting him as they moved into the blast of steaming water.
She jumped when he gasped unexpectedly and took a few
moments to realise that it was the first time a lot of the cuts, grazes and
contusions on his battered body had been wet. He made an angry noise of pure
pain, then blew out a breath between clenched teeth.
"I'm guessing this isn't a good time for
soap?" Buffy asked, trying to keep the trembling from her voice, and the
tears from her throat.
"N-not really," he hissed through the same
clenched teeth, ignoring her half-hearted attempt at humour, and drew away from
her. "But…n-no choice."
She bit her lip and picked up the bar, intending to
hand it to him, but one of his fists was clenched against the pain, the other
arm bracing his weight against the wall.
Silently, she moved forward and began to wash his
tensed back, ignoring the lathered soap running down into the wet, dark blue
briefs. By the time she'd moved to his arms and shoulders he was shaking from
more than just pain. She stopped, acutely aware of the small choking sounds
coming from his throat, but lost as to how to help.
And then she was moving again to catch him as he slid
bonelessly down into the tub, enfolding him automatically in her arms and
holding him as he wept, both of them saturated by the water that continued to
blast onto them, heedless of the drama below.
When he grew quiet and the trembling stopped, Buffy
rose enough to turn off the now barely tepid water, without losing contact with
There was no conversation, no negotiation as she took
over and calmly and efficiently got him out of the tub and back onto the
pedestal, before finding a big towel and systematically drying him, also without
invitation or conversation.
He looked resolutely away as she worked, as though he
could pretend he wasn't there, even when she dried his hair like a small child,
not even flinching at the pain of her rubbing where Ethan had struck him on the
When she was done, Buffy towelled herself down
impatiently, ignoring her nakedness to bring him to the washbasin, where she
found toothpaste and a brush for him.
He took them silently and used them mechanically,
dropping them in the hand basin when he was done.
Not your best piece of filing there, Book-guy,"
she observed dryly, breaking the silence at last.
He didn't answer.
"I like it though," she added.
"Spontaneous, different. These things are of the good. Now we're going to
get you spontaneously up to bed and some decent rest."
He didn't speak, choosing only to turn and momentarily
draw her against him. He rested his chin on her head, the utter bleakness of his
expression unseen as she lay against his breast.
By the time Buffy had all-but-carried him back to the
loft, he could barely walk.
"No…" She stopped him from sitting on the
bed. "Wetness," she reminded him, running her forefinger across the
dripping blue stretch band across his lean hips. "Wait."
Silently, she put a shoulder back under his arm and
turned her face away again.
"Drop 'em and get in," she ordered, not
turning until she felt him do as she ordered and heard the compression of the
"I know you had something at Tara's place before
we left, but if you want a drink, or something to eat…?" she asked,
unconsciously smoothing the quilt over him.
The eyes that opened and looked up at her when she
mentioned the word drink, spoke volumes, both about how much he wanted a *drink*…and
how much he didn't.
The Sarah McLachlan CD downstairs had started again
from the beginning. As the singer's voice faded at the end of the first song,
Buffy interlinked her fingers with Giles' again.
"You like her?" she asked lightly. "Not
really what I was expecting."
"I like…this…" he said, almost
embarrassed, and winced again in pain as the second track became audible.
Buffy lifted her face and focused on the words. She
knew the tune: 'Possession'.
She simply hadn't bothered to listen to the words
before…never had time…
By the second chorus the tears had come. By the end her
eyes were closed and her head down.
As it faded, she looked down at Giles, found his gentle
gaze watching her.
For the longest time their eyes held, and then she was
moving around, slipping off her own wet things before sliding under the covers
and into the refuge of his arms.
In the warmth and security of the big bed, they curled
up as though inside each other, shielding one another, and held each other
through the night.
When the sunlight played across them in the morning,
they were both surprised to find they'd slept undisturbed, all night, and were
still curled up exactly as they had been the night before.
At the same moment, they became aware of their
nakedness, moved to draw apart, and at the same instant, came back together.
"It wasn't a dream," Buffy sighed into his
chest as his arms tightened ferociously around her again.
"No," he said hoarsely into her hair.
"Y-you're not…frightened?" he asked carefully.
Buffy froze. "Are you?" she asked.
He looked up at the ceiling, resting the point of his
chin on her crown. "Terrified," he croaked.
Buffy shifted, drawing herself up, side-by-side, to
look into his eyes.
Giles watched her with a racing pulse, and a problem he
couldn't exactly hide, but she wasn't reacting to it, or leaving his bed, and
she didn't speak.
Instead, her tender mouth moved to gather his, speaking
to him on a level no words could touch. After a moment's hesitation, he kissed
For long minutes they merged into one, discovering,
teaching each other, until, finally, Buffy pulled back.
"Still scared?" she whispered.
But she didn't need a response to see the answer in his
eyes. Her fingers traced the deep lines the last days had carved from the
corners of his eyes to his mouth.
The phone shrilled downstairs.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Probably the guys checking
in. I'll go," she said, and slid out of bed, pulling a shirt from his
tallboy as she left.
By the time she'd reached the phone, she had put the
striped business shirt on and mercifully terminated Ms McLachlan's marathon
Giles was on the landing when she answered it. A
powerful need to answer nature's call had prompted him to test his legs. So far
he was doing a great deal better than the previous day. He was about to say
something to let Buffy know not to panic when she saw him up, when she spoke.
"Riley?" she yelped in surprise.
A sense of dread settled over him.
"Well, hi," she said, smiling. "I
thought you were doing the home, hearth and nostalgia thing for another two
weeks at least?"
Her face wreathed in smiles. "You didn't have to
do that…" she was saying.
Giles closed his eyes.
Unaware that she had an audience, Buffy listened to
Riley's teasing with enjoyment mixed with sadness. She didn't want to hurt him,
but she was going to have to soon. He was so sweet, but she'd known since her
long ago heart-to-heart with Willow that he wasn't the one, despite the fact
that she hadn't yet recognised who was.
"…And I couldn't wait any longer. Buffy, I
missed you so much. I came back to…to …ask you…" The young soldier
hesitated. "Well, it's not something you do over the phone anyway."
Buffy swallowed hard. She'd picked a great time to zone
back in on the conversation again.
"Then, don't," she said, a little more
urgently than she would have liked. "I was going to wait until you got
back…but some things have happened. Everything's changed."
Giles lifted his head and opened his eyes again, afraid
"No. No! Nobody died. No end of the world stuff.
It's me. I've changed, Riley. What we've had together…it was special…and it
was good…but I know now that I was being…wait, let me finish, please! I was
being so unfair to you. I thought I was over Angel…no, it's nothing to do with
Angel. No, I swear. He's still in Los Angeles. Hasn't been anywhere near here.
Will you listen to me? I thought I was over all the baggage, that Parker had put
everything into perspective, and that I was ready to move on. I wasn't. All I
did was make walls. And then you came along and it was easy. I shut out everyone
who could hurt me, who loved me, and it was just us…" Buffy hesitated,
looked at the receiver then put it to her ear again. "Riley, are you still
there?" There was another pause, then: "I'm *so* sorry. I
thought it was all of the good, that I was having a normal relationship. I
wasn't. I was having a fairy tale. You know, Slayer-gets-normal-life kinda
There was a long silence while she listened to Riley
speak. "I know," she said, pain in her voice. "And I love you
Giles sat down on the landing before he fell down.
"…but I'm not in love with you."
His green eyes widened, colour rushing alarmingly back
into the face that had just turned white.
"Riley, I care about you. I always will, but I'm
not in love with you. I never was. That's what I'm trying to tell you. I loved
Angel so much…there was only one reason I was able to let him go…only one
reason why breaking up with him didn't kill me…"
"No, God. Riley, stop it. I know you have vampire
issues, but Angel is not an issue here. He stopped being an issue a long time
ago. I just didn't realise it for a very long time."
Moisture rose in her eyes at the pain in the boy's
desperate voice, as he demanded to know who it was who had taken her from him.
She closed her eyes when, after a stunned silence,
Riley launched into the inevitable tirade.
"Riley…RILEY! Riley, shut up!" she said,
when he'd worked himself into a real state.
"First of all, I've always loved him…no, not
like that, potty brain. I just didn't realise I'd fallen in love with him until
now. No, it's not. It's real, it's painful, and I have no idea what's going to
happen next. Even if, for some reason, I wake up and everything that's happened
in the last few days turns out to be just a dream, I can't be with you any more.
Not knowing what I know now. Not feeling what I feel now. What? Yes, I'm sure. I
love him, Riley. With every part of me, everything that I am, everything I have
to give him. No, I haven't felt like this since before Angel turned. I haven't
let myself feel anything for so long. What? No, it's not your fault. I just…I
was so scared of being hurt like that again."
Giles' eyes grew very bright in his now flushed face.
"Don't, Riley. Please, don't. You're a wonderful,
sweet guy and you gave me a chance to be happy without being scared all the
time. I'll never forget that. No, it doesn't matter. Of course he can hurt me.
Don't you understand? I love him so much…it doesn't matter. Besides, he could
never hurt me as much as I've hurt him. Not in a million years. No, Riley. Don't
come…stay with your family. No, I wish you didn't have to be hurt…but
there's nothing to talk about. I'm sorry too, but I can't change the way I feel.
No, please don't come. You're in the best place you can be right now. Stay
there. Me? I'm…I'm here. With Gi…Rupert. Some major stuff has happened. I
know Graham will fill you in eventually, but I need to be here now, and if he
wants me to stay, I'll be staying here, with him."
There was another long silence before Buffy hung up the
receiver with a trembling hand and broke down in tears.
Giles immediately struggled to his feet, made his way
stiffly down the steps and across to where she was standing, and gathered her
into his arms.
Buffy turned and buried herself in them.
When she was calm again, she lifted her head. "You
heard? How lo…?"
"All of it," he said hoarsely.
"I had to hurt him, Giles. He was so
He nodded. "And you…?"
She nodded back "It was horrible. But I had
to." Her soft greyish eyes, almost blue as they rolled up to meet his,
glistened. "I had to."
Silence stretched, and the connection between them
Then her arms moved around his neck and his drew her
hard against him as their mouths met again in a kiss that held nothing back,
knew no secrets. They were both breathless when they finally parted.
"This is the part where you're supposed to sweep
me into your arms and carry me to your bed," she said playfully, though her
voice was still less than steady.
Giles guffawed. "Yes, right. Sweep you into my
arms and watch us both sprawl like a felled tree across my floor," he
growled, holding up his hands to show her how much they were shaking from the
effort he'd already made.
She grinned back at him, then reached up and kissed his
lips. "In that case, we'd better settle for breakfast in bed."
He kissed hers back greedily and then groaned against
them. "Bugger and damn," he muttered.
"My sentiments exactly," she agreed, a shiver
of desire rippling down her spine as she spoke. "But we have plenty of
His eyes looked into hers, the tiniest of gleams
dancing in their soft green depths, as they turned for the stairs, Giles
necessarily leaning heavily on her shoulders again.
Leaning back into him, Buffy smiled back, warmth
spreading through her at his aura of happiness and pleasure.
Above her head, Giles' weary, pain-etched face softened
into unfamiliar territory, love, peace, and real joy lighting it, as he dropped
a contented kiss on her hair.
"…All the time in the world."