By Gail Christison
AUTHOR: Gail Christison
RATING: M15+ for adult themes; small amount of language
SPOILERS: YOKO FACTOR...pretty much, but no specifics
SUMMARY: A few hours after Buffy leaves. She finds herself with nowhere to go and returns to the one place she feels safe. Warning: much angst before the conclusion [well, for me, anyway :-)]
FEEDBACK: Always email@example.com
DISCLAIMER: Joss owns everything...I just do running repairs <g>
DISTRIBUTION: http://www.wickedsky.com/oncemore, my website, and Solo, if she wants it. Any one else please ask first.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I haven't seen the entire episode, but the spoilers depressed me enough to want to do *something* for Giles. This is the result. :-)
Buffy stood at the door, as she had a hundred times
before. She knew the likelihood was that they’d all be gone—hoped
they’d all be gone. Even he might be asleep, or still unconscious. But
after several hours of walking around when Riley couldn’t be found, passing by
her own home, Willow’s, even across to Xander’s…she knew she had nowhere
to go…not even here, by rights.
But right had never stopped her before from coming
She clenched her fists for a moment then opened the
door. The place was dark and silent. She padded around from room to room,
finding nothing except pristine cleanliness. Willow must have tidied the place
before they left…guilt again…maybe…
Eventually she climbed the stairs. He was asleep, half
obscured by the darkness, the light coming through the window catching one side
of his face and highlighting the dark circles under his eye, the deep lines
running from the corner of it to his cheekbone.
Buffy stood silently on the landing and watched him for
a long time.
So much had happened to put such a distance between
them…and not just today…
She closed her eyes. She’d said some unforgivable
A few moments later she wrapped her arms around herself.
For all the yelling and the hurt, this was still the one place she felt
completely protected, completely…safe…
She looked at his profile again as he stirred
…And yet at that moment she still felt more
vulnerable, more alone than she’d ever felt in her life. Even Riley had
A wave of guilt suddenly washed over her. Giles was
drunk, and in all the time she’d known him he’d only been drunk twice. Both
those times he’d been in terrible pain…and yet the first thing she thought
of was Riley…
After a beat she turned to go.
"Buffy…!" The sound was one of loss and
She froze then turned very slowly…then stopped again.
He was still fast asleep.
Puzzled, she inched into the loft until she was only a
couple of feet from the bed. His fists were tangled in the blankets now and his
brow was furrowed, but he was definitely not awake.
At that distance she could smell the fresh smell of
shampoo and the lingering aroma of minted breath, combined with only the
slightest hint of whisky. He wasn’t wearing a pyjama top and there were
clothes scattered all over the floor. He must have recovered enough to get
cleaned up…or else he had help.
That idea made her uncomfortable. It jolted to realise
that she didn’t want anyone else getting that personal with him…and the
sudden memory of Olivia wandering around in his shirt still made the hackles
rise on her neck.
"Buffy…?" he moaned again.
Her eyes widened and she stared as he moved restlessly.
The word pierced her like a sliver of steel. It was so
full of pain, loneliness…hurt.
She wanted to wake him, to stop whatever nightmare he
was having, but a part of her just wanted to run. Instead she remained frozen to
"I don’t know," she whispered unsteadily.
His arm swung across in an arc and his fist hit the bed
before he quieted again.
Unable to stop herself, Buffy gathered the covers that
were almost off the bed and pulled them up to cover him again. She wasn’t sure
why she was doing it, only that she needed to do…something.
She was only inches from his face when he made a noise
in his throat. Her eyes flew to the haggard face. He was still asleep, his eyes
flicking frantically under his lids as his REM sleep pattern intensified. The
noise had almost been a whimper.
Just as she was about to pull away it happened again,
only this time it was more like a wrenching sob.
Her hand darted out, paused right above his shoulder.
"You don’t need me…"
The words were barely audible, but the pain in them
"I do need you," she whispered hoarsely,
admitting it to herself for the first time in a very long time.
He made another noise and curled up into a tight foetal
Again Buffy had to fight to overcome the overwhelming
urge to flee. She was frightened, not least because she believed she was the
cause of whatever was hurting him, but even more so because she didn’t know
what to do about it…didn’t know if she wanted to do anything about
it. He was supposed to be stronger than her, more in control…older, wiser…
She looked down at him again and sighed. And Buffy
and personal issues were so of the bad…
She always made everything worse…witness today…
witness her life…
Her lip trembled and she bit it hard, wishing she were
a better person. A better person wouldn’t want to run away; a better person
wouldn’t have driven him to drink in the first place…a better person would
know why he was hurting…
Giles had grown very quiet. A cold shiver ran down
Buffy’s spine and her stomach turned over when she realised it was because he
Before she could stop herself she knelt beside the bed
and took one of his clenched fists in her hands, her own vision obscured by
The touch was enough to disturb him. It took a few
moments for his eyelids to flicker open but when they did he drew a sharp breath
and started badly, staring disbelievingly at her for a moment with bloodshot
eyes, before swallowing hard and turning away.
The desire to escape was suddenly so strong that
Buffy’s fingers clamped onto his fist like an anchor, choking on a stifled sob
until Giles made a noise, this time of real pain. She let go her steel grip as
"Get out," he whispered. "Just…get
She choked again. "Giles…?"
"Go…!" he said between his teeth, his anger
louder than any shout.
As white as a sheet, she got to her feet and backed up
several paces before stopping again. Now she had permission to run…and she
couldn’t do it.
"No," she said defiantly, the effect spoiled
more than a little by the wobble in her voice.
"Don’t you have any number of better things to
do?" he rasped. "Leave me."
"No," she repeated. "And you’re being
His ragged eyes flicked to hers momentarily, then
pulled away again. "And you’ve just been a real princess, haven’t you?"
"I’ve been doing my job," she shouted.
"The one you told me I had to do alone. The one I’m supposed to handle by
myself…the one I’m not supposed to bother you about especially while
you’re busy scr—"
"Shut up!" He roared, forcing himself onto
one elbow. "Just shut up. You never needed me. You always knew best…always
wanted everything your own way. I’ve never been anything but a fucking book
repository and punching bag to you, so don’t you dare question my personal
life. Jesus Christ…my personal life…? And what a pitiful
bloody excuse for a life it is," he rasped.
"But…" she whispered. "You…we…you
care about us."
He blew out an exasperated breath. "Of course I
care. I’m just tired of it."
"Of caring?" she ventured, frightened.
The green eyes bored into hers. "I’m sick of the
whole bloody lot; of caring so much, of being taken for granted, when I’m
remembered at all, of not knowing…of wondering if you’re going to survive
another day…and who the bloody hell you’re going to bring home next…"
He closed his eyes again and covered his face with a large hand.
Buffy was still trying to process what he was saying.
He didn’t sound anything like the Giles she knew. There was no gentleness, no
reassurance in the rasping, angry voice that spoke to her. He was still drunk,
that much was obvious, but there was clarity in his thoughts, his tone. He meant
She raised a hand to her brow, as though sheltering
from his verbal battering. "I didn’t mean to—" she began
"Oh no, you never mean to do any bloody thing,"
he retorted before she could finish. "You never meant to run away; you
never meant to conceal Angel’s return from me and you certainly never meant to
use me to baby-sit your vampire while you risked everything you stood for to
save his sorry arse. And I’m sure you couldn’t possibly have meant to forget
I even exist…I know you had far better things to do…with Maggie fucking
Walsh and her toy fucking soldiers. God forbid I should have interfered with
your step up in the world!"
She stepped forward again. This wasn’t the man she
knew. The combination of rage, brittleness and vulnerability frightened her even
But it had been too long and he hurt too damned much.
He swung up and out of bed without warning, black silk pyjamas hanging loosely
on his hips, swayed and screwed his face up against the pain that shot through
"I don’t want you here. Is that so
difficult to grasp? Get OUT!"
Buffy backed up again then stopped. "Why are you
doing this?" she demanded tremulously.
He stepped toward her threateningly but the truth was
he didn’t know why. The anger and the hurt had taken over.
"Just…just leave me alone!" he half shouted,
half sobbed and stepped forward again, looming almost menacingly.
Startled, Buffy back-pedalled even further, missed her
footing and tumbled backward off the landing.
For one nightmare beat Giles stared disbelievingly at
the empty space, then he was racing down the stairs, sobering fast.
She was sprawled on the last few steps, unconscious.
Terrified, he ran a hand over all of her limbs in seconds, thanking God, the
fates, anyone he could think of that none of them were twisted or broken. As to
the rest…his gut twisted. There was no way to know for certain…
Finally, he dragged himself up, forced himself to leave her to go and call the emergency number but was stopped several paces from the bottom of the steps by a low moan. He was back at her side in moments, heedless of his own fragility, of the headache that had threatened to explode his head earlier, or the stomach that had been doing the cha-cha only minutes before.
The blue eyes flickered open and she groaned again.
"I’m sorry," she whimpered. "I’m…"
"Hush," he whispered and took her limp hand
with a trembling one of his own. "Tell me. Your back…can you feel—?"
She frowned then slowly moved her feet, whimpering with
pain, and deliberately squeezed his fingers.
"I think…I think it’s all working," she
managed. "But it…hurts."
For a moment Giles’s head dropped, his brow resting
against her fingers. She heard him sob quietly then he was lifting her, so very
gently. Within moments she was resting in his bed, every bone in her body aching.
Buffy watched his haggard face as he stroked stray
blonde strands off her brow.
"Are you still mad?"
Moisture glistened in the bloodshot eyes. "As
hell," he whispered and forced himself to smile. "But it’ll keep."
His face grew haunted. "I…I thought…Are you sure…?"
She nodded gingerly. "All in once piece…dented
pieces…but all…there. Giles—"
"Do you want a doctor?" he asked before she
She frowned. "I don’t think so. I’m guessing
the bruises will be gone by morning. It just…"
"…Hurts. I know," he said impatiently,
self-consciously. "I’ll get you something for the pain. I won’t be long."
Giles closed the bathroom door and leaned against it.
He felt like death. Who knew one could have such a hangover so soon after tying
one on? His condition was made worse by the racing of his heart rate, the
throbbing of his head and the misery that threatened to engulf him. Never had he
wanted a drink more…and never was there a worse time to have one.
He looked up at the ceiling. For so long he’d wanted
her to actually give a damn…to grow up enough to recognise that there might be
something…And what did he do? Half kill her the moment she showed the first
He snorted; first sign of what? What possible
reason could there be for Buffy being back…? Unless the Nancy ninja boy was
AWOL… He closed his eyes. Of course…
After that row downstairs, he’d be the one she’d
run to, and if he wasn’t there…who was left to pick up the pieces? The rage
surged again and he moved to the medicine cabinet, ripped it open and found some
left over medication from some of his worse injuries. He had to squint to focus
without his glasses, but the bottle was still good. A lot of what he had
didn’t even bear looking at any more. Three years worth…so many wounds. He
slammed it closed again, the glass rattling, and stalked out.
When he reached the loft again with a glass of water
Buffy had shifted enough to be under the covers and dozing lightly.
He was about to leave when her eyes opened. "Oh
God, aspirin? Anything…" she moaned. "Cyanide would even be good
right about now."
He sat down close to her head and put the pills in her
mouth, lifted her head and supported it while she drank enough water to swallow
them. She took a few extra swallows and then allowed her head to rest against
"I’ll be downstairs if you need me," he
muttered, wanting badly to escape.
She had never been quite so close to him before. It
felt…strange, but she didn’t want him to go anywhere. "No…please…don’t
He stared at her for a long moment, and then his face
fell, as though he was searching for something and hadn’t found it.
"Why? When exactly did I suddenly become ‘someone
you can count on,’ again?" he asked softly, the gentleness in his
eyes in direct contrast to the hurt and anger in his voice. "I thought I
was ‘the funny drunk, drooling on your shoe.’" He was gone
before she could answer.
Buffy cringed into the pillow. It smelled like
Giles’s hair, just as the covers smelled of Giles…of his cologne, of him.
She moved her arms, despite her aching shoulders, and pulled the pillow against
her, wrapped her small, aching body around it, and let the tears come.
Giles sat in his chair in the living room, an unused
glass in his unsteady hand. The bottle was still in the kitchen where he’d
left it. For the last few minutes his mind had been resurrecting images,
memories…things to hurt…
Buffy asking him to lie to her; Buffy asking him to
take her out for her birthday; Buffy trying to tell him how to conduct a date
with Jenny… A smile flickered on his lips,
then died as the memory of Jenny led him straight to the moment when he
discovered the prophecy about the Master…and worse, when he’d come round,
only to find that she’d taken his place, and marched off to her death
alone…just as she’d ultimately faced Angelus alone…
…Just as she would almost certainly now face Adam…
He put his elbow on the chair and buried his face in
his hand. Despair washed over him. What exactly did he want…? He didn’t
want her to die. He didn’t want her to be alone. He didn’t want to be
A sob rose in his throat and tore itself jaggedly from
him. He didn’t want to live without her…
On the stairs, Buffy stood unsteadily, still clutching
his pillow to her, watching him. The sound tore through her. And again, and
again, as she walked gingerly, painfully across to the living area, her bare
feet making no sound as she moved.
Only when he felt trembling fingers rest on his head,
then a perfumed brow against his hair, did Giles realise he wasn’t alone. He
sobbed again and heard hers mingle with it, and then felt her arms moving around
his shaking shoulders.
"I’m sorry," she whimpered like a
frightened child. "I’m sorry…"
For long moments neither moved, Buffy holding him until
he grew quiet and his head rested wearily against her.
"What happened to us?" she whispered.
"God…what did I do to us? What did I do?"
Giles lifted his head then, much as he would have
preferred to stay as they were… perhaps even forever. He touched her face
gently and waited until she smiled tentatively before drawing himself from the
circle of her arms and rising to gather her in his.
Buffy wasn’t prepared for that…for the way it felt,
the way she felt as she sank into the shirtless warmth of him and the way his
arms felt as they closed around her and folded her bruised body against him. For
several long moments they held each other in silence, each somehow slowly
blending into the other until all either of them could feel was the heat, the
comfort of the other.
Giles drew his arms tighter. He couldn’t speak,
couldn’t do anything but hold on…hold tight to a moment that might never
Time stretched into eternity…until, finally, Buffy
made an involuntary noise that reminded them both how bruised and battered she
was. Again Giles impulsively put an arm under her knees and lifted her, his head
thumping violently as he bent, straightened and carried her back up stairs.
When he would have straightened after putting her back
to bed she reached out swiftly to touch his face.
"Please don’t go."
He closed his eyes, sighed, and sat down on the side of
"Tell me," she said softly.
He opened them again and sighed resignedly.
"I’ve missed you," he said hoarsely. "Terribly."
Buffy didn’t answer immediately. Finally the blue
eyes found his.
"I didn’t…I thought you wanted me to be
"I didn’t want you to die simply because I
wasn’t there to support you," he whispered. "I handled it
badly…telling you…but I couldn’t be near you…no library, no cover…you
had to be able to make decisions instantly if necessary…" He looked away.
"You had to be able to do it without me."
"But…it’s not really how you wanted it to
be?" she guessed, her voice cracking.
He shook his head without looking at her. "Is it
so hard to understand…?" He paused for a beat, swallowed, squared his
shoulders and turned his head so that his green eyes looked straight into hers.
"Is it so difficult to believe that an old man like me could possibly love
you…even a little?"
Buffy’s eyes widened and grew very bright and she
made a noise in her throat without letting her lips part.
"I’m sorry," he whispered, reddening.
"I shouldn’t have told you that. It’s just the grog talking," he
added self-consciously and looked away again. "I…I’m not getting any
younger, Buffy. I have no future…no life…and no prospect of ever having one.
I’ve no family, no career…and none of you have any use for me beyond using
my apartment as some kind of neighbourhood hangout. You don’t even need me to
research. You all know how to use the books…Willow and Tara seem to be more
than capable of handling the rest…"
Still stunned, Buffy stared at the pale, lonely
profile, anger at his self-pity warring with the knowledge that he was right,
that they’d all neglected their friendship shamefully for far too long…that
she’d withdrawn so far she’d pretty much cut herself off from him in every
way that truly mattered. In the end the fallout of her anger, colliding with the
sudden surge of sorrow and guilt, built a knot in her stomach that rose and
almost choked her.
Giles turned at the sound and searched her face, the
blue eyes now hopelessly cluttered with moisture.
"God, who…who ever said we were supposed to have
a future?" she asked tremulously. "Families, lives,
careers…they’re for other people…for Will and Xander…not for us. You
taught me that." He opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off.
"Oh, not with words…I know you wanted me to go to college, to have a
life, but you’re the one who told me I have a destiny…An obligation, you
said…I’m the Chosen One…and I have to live with that. No worrying about
wrinkles or being twenty-nine forever or stretchmarks or…kids…" she
sighed. "No building a future for Buffy," she said bitterly, reached
out and let the backs of her fingers slide down a roughened cheek. "And
none for Rupert either," she added sadly.
Giles’ heart leapt at her first ever use of his name
and a tremor went through him at her touch, but he didn’t speak.
She continued. "It may not say anything in the
books about a chosen one and her friends but there are two words that even I
know are never separated: Watcher and Slayer, Giles; you and me."
He drew a pained breath and blinked several times so
that he could see through the blur. "Always," he whispered. "Oh,
God. I should never have…"
But he got no further, overwhelmed for several moments
by her sudden embrace, before returning it just as fiercely.
"Don’t leave me again, Giles," she
whispered near his ear. "I can’t do it without you…I’m not supposed
to do it without you." She kissed his bristly cheek and leaned back a
little. "And besides," she added, her mouth trembling as she brushed
the moisture from his cheeks, his lashes. "If…if we live through this
battle with Adam, I don’t ever want us to have another year like this
"Nor I," he managed in a hoarse, broken
She managed a damp but tender smile. "I’ve never
told you…I never knew how…I love you, Giles. You should know that,
before…well," she stopped, hunched her shoulders awkwardly. "A-After
all the bad this year, I wanted you to know."
Colour suffused his pale cheeks, made his green eyes
sparkle and glow and the slow smile that lit his face changed the aura of misery
around him to one of warmth and pleasure.
Buffy couldn’t help but smile back, just as
But it was too much, too fast, and their faces fell
just as quickly. The very real impending prospect of each other’s death shook
both of them to the core. Neither could either stop the surge of emotion that
followed, nor the instinctive reaching for each other.
"I won’t let you die," Giles whispered
vehemently against her hair. "I won’t."
Buffy shifted then, from burying her face in his chest,
to circling his neck again with her arms and laying her cheek against his.
"If you get yourself killed I’ll never forgive you," she warned.
"A Slayer should never outlive her Watcher."
He drew her away a little and looked at her
despairingly, holding her face in his big hands.
She tried to smile, but neither of them could quite
manage it. That truth was one both of them had tried valiantly to avoid for a
After a beat Giles rested his brow against hers very
gently. "She will this time, if I have anything to say about it," he
told her softly. "But first there will be a long and satisfying
intermission within which to thumb our noses at both prophecy and
Buffy’s arms tightened around his neck. "Nose
thumbing at prophecy sounds totally of the good," she agreed in a teasing
tone. "But what exactly does ‘convention’ mean, Watcher mine?"
He lifted his brow and kissed hers, sending a shudder
through her slender body before the gentle green eyes found and held hers.
"Depends on what you want it to mean," he
told her quietly.
Another shudder went through Buffy. The softness of his
voice was belied by the intensity of his tone. Her eyes dropped. Something had
shifted between them in the last few minutes. Something irrevocable.
For a moment that became an eternity, she didn’t
move, didn’t speak…simply continued to hold on to him without looking up, as
though she might spin off into oblivion if she were to let go.
So many things collided in her thoughts, past loves,
past mistakes, the first day she ever saw Giles…and the first time he ever
saved her life; the first moment she saw him as person, a flawed, vulnerable
ordinary human being. A man. The day the Hills stopped being alive…
So many more memories all blurred together with the
passion, the terror and the pain that was Angel, the mistakes that were Scott
and Parker and the comfort of Riley…and out of all of it emerged only one
constant, one face whose visage never changed, whose faith never wavered…until
Slowly, very slowly, she lifted her face, bringing her
mouth so close to his that he could feel her breath on his cheek.
"Show me," she whispered.
His fingers trembled against her cheeks and his breath
stilled. He could barely form the word. "Buffy…"
"Show me," she repeated, moving her face even
closer to his.
As though handling the most fragile porcelain he
touched his lips to hers, brushing them as softly as a butterfly’s wing, and
felt her tremble again beneath his fingertips.
"Again," she sighed, and when the velvet lips
touched hers once more, moaned very softly, and again, as he responded by
covering her tender mouth with his.
And then he was kissing her with all the passion and a
fire he’d kept locked away for so long…so long he was almost afraid to
release it again. A fear soon banished by the warm body that moulded itself to
his, the tender lips that gave themselves so wholly, so passionately, to his.
He lifted his head, breathing raggedly, and stared at
her disbelievingly. "Buffy…? I thought…?"
She looked up at him, her face rosy and her eyes
glowing. "Don’t think," she said softly.
His hands slid away. "But…"
Buffy’s smile widened. "I thought I’d lost
you," she said wonderingly. "I thought we were done…and it hurt so
much a part of me wanted to die…but you…" She couldn’t help lifting
her fingers to touch his hair. "…You love me."
Giles couldn’t help smiling at the disbelief in her
voice. "Am I so old and creaky that it’s such a terrible shock?"
She couldn’t help but grin. "Oh God, you’re
never going to let me live that down, are you?"
He shook his head. "Is there a reason why I
Her expression sobered. "No…there’s really
not," she agreed sadly. "But you’re not old. You never were. I just
wasn’t ready to see it…not then, not while…"
He sighed, the rest of the sentence already completed
in his head. "And if he were to return tomorrow, wanting to carry you away
She smiled radiantly and shook her head. "He’d
be way too late," she said emphatically. "Forever is already
"Riley?" Giles asked, because he had to.
Buffy shook her head. "Angel was yesterday; Riley
is today." She leaned against him again and slid her arms around him.
"And I’ve only just discovered tomorrow."
Giles closed his eyes and enveloped her as an enormous
wave of relief, awe and love swept over him.
"No matter what happens," he whispered into
her hair, "I promise you all the tomorrows you want."