Title: Chip Tooth Smile
Rating: FRAO Overall/FRT This chapter
Timeline: AU, one year post-series...no Dawn, Anya survived Sunnydale.
Synopsis: A year after Sunnydale, there are quite a few changes in the Scoobies' lives. There are more changes to come.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to A for taking the time to go through this project for me. This fic is inspired by the album Chip Tooth Smile by Rob Thomas. This is not a typical songfic. (Lyrics and .mp3s can be found on the CTS index page)
Chapter Twelve - Breathe Out
Giles smiled proudly as he watched Buffy take on two vampires at once. Years ago, he would’ve admonished her for her use of punning during the fight…as well as for her seemingly innate inability to simply plunge and move on. He eventually acquiesced that argument, understanding that this was her style – and her style worked very well for her.
Even if it did make him a bit nervous now and then.
He leaned against a headstone as one vampire exploded in a cloud of dust, enabling her to turn all of her attention towards the remaining one. He crossed his arms over his chest, watching intently…but also ready to jump in at any point, if needed.
“And then I said…ashes to ashes, we all fall down…” She continued in her lengthy one-sided discussion with the vampire, grinning as she slammed the stake into his heart. “And then…they all fell down.”
Giles chuckled and pushed himself from the headstone. Buffy turned towards him and grinned brightly.
“How was that?”
“You know exactly what I’m going to say, so why even ask?”
She sauntered over to him and ran her hand down the front of his shirt. “Because I like hearing it…”
He rolled his eyes, smiling as she pulled her hand away. “Magnificent. As always, darling. You didn’t seem to dally as much as you normally do…are you feeling alright?”
“Dally…” She shook her head in amusement. “I’m feeling fine, Giles. There are just things I’d rather be doing right now. Can’t get to that until I get rid of them…”
“Fair enough.” He murmured, allowing her to take hold of his hand and lead him out of the cemetery.
They had nearly gotten back to the car when a wiry vampire stepped out from the shadows. Buffy stopped, sighed heavily and let go of Giles’ hand.
“Goddammit, I just want to go home. What’s with you guys tonight?”
“Just out for a bit of fun, love.” He replied with a toothy grin.
Giles took a step back and took a deep breath, watching closely as vampire circled them. “Buffy?”
Buffy followed the vampire, pulling the stake out of her jacket pocket. “Let’s go then. Have your fun…as short-lived as it’s gonna be. I have much better things to be doing right now.”
The vampire snorted a laugh. “Like what?”
Buffy grinned and gestured towards Giles behind her with her thumb. “Him.”
Giles smiled softly, despite the seriousness of the situation. His smile faded as he noticed movement in the bushes behind Buffy.
In what seemed to be a split-second, three very distinct things happened simultaneously. Buffy suddenly lunged towards the vampire, slamming the stake into his heart as he stared at her in surprise. A second vampire came out of the bushes, raising a crossbow and aiming it at Buffy’s back. Giles screamed Buffy’s name and took off running towards her.
Just as Buffy started to turn, the vampire pulled the trigger and Giles jumped…pushing Buffy to the ground. Giles groaned in pain as he landed hard next to her. She gave him a quick glance before settling her eyes on the vampire…who was busy trying to reload the crossbow.
Buffy said nothing, simply stood and squared herself before throwing the stake. It struck with deadly accuracy, the crossbow dropping to the ground…a fine layer of ash falling on top of it. She closed her eyes briefly, concentrating on their surroundings. Sensing nothing further, she opened her eyes and dropped to her knees next to Giles.
“Giles? You okay?” She asked quickly, placing her hand on his back. She pulled back quickly when he hissed in pain.
That’s when she looked down and noticed that there was blood on her hand.
“Jesus Christ, Giles…what the fuck were you thinking?” She asked, concern in her tone.
“He would’ve killed you…” He muttered, groaning as he tried to push himself up. “Fucking hell, I don’t remember a crossbow bolt hurting this much.”
“You were wearing tweed last time.” Buffy replied absently, shaking her head. “Don’t move. I need to get you to the hospital, Giles.”
“Just…pull it out. It’s not that deep, it didn’t go in straight.”
“What if I paralyse you or something?” She asked.
He turned his head slowly and stared at her. “It’s below my shoulder blade…at an angle. It’s not going to fucking paralyse me.”
“Don’t get that tone with me, asshole. What the fuck were you thinking?” She repeated, anger slipping into her voice. “You promised me you wouldn’t do anything stupid!”
“I would’ve done the same fucking thing if I was merely your Watcher, Buffy.” He growled. “I’ve done similar things in the past. It’s who I am. Don’t throw your anger towards me for – ”
“Goddammit, Giles! I can’t have you out here putting yourself – ”
He reached out and grabbed her jacket and stared into her eyes. “If I hadn’t jumped in when I did, the bolt would’ve hit you at heart level. He had the perfect angle on you...and there wouldn’t have been a damn thing you could’ve done to deflect it or dodge it. It would have been a devastating injury, Buffy. I will not lose you out here. Not like that. You can be as angry as you want, but I will not apologise for doing everything I can to keep you as safe as possible. You are my Slayer, my responsibility.”
He took a shuddering breath and forced his eyes to soften as he lowered his voice. “You are also my lover, my life. I simply can’t lose you too.”
“Don’t you get it? I can’t lose you either.”
“Well, luckily we both get what we want tonight, don’t we?” He offered her a small smile that barely hid his pain. “Now, can you please just pull the goddamn bolt out. Make sure you apply as much pressure as you can when you do.”
“This is not how I was expecting this night to go.” She muttered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out his handkerchief. “You’re going to need to lie back down…and get as comfortable as you can.”
“Yes, because comfort is easily acquired here.” He grumbled, but lowered himself to the ground.
“Shut up.” She whispered gruffly.
He turned his head to look at her. “Seriously, Buffy?”
“I love you, Giles. But, I am so pissed off right now. So, please…just shut up so I can do this.”
“I seem to be making all sorts of promises that I can’t keep.” He mumbled and then lowered his head, resting his forehead on his arm.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She asked, gently prodding at the bolt with one hand and pressing the handkerchief near the wound with her other. “And you’re right, it didn’t go in that far. But, it’s going to bleed like a stuck pig when I pull it out.”
“There’s a mental image that I’m sure won’t leave anytime soon.” He sighed heavily. “And I made a promise years ago that while I’d remain loyal to my Slayer, I’d not sacrifice myself for her…because her duty is sacrifice. My duty is education and training. The moment I met you, I knew I’d never be able to keep that promise. And I haven’t. Not once. My duty isn’t merely education…it’s guidance and service. I would give my life for you, Buffy. No hesitation, no question. Because I love you, not because it’s my duty.”
When he heard her sniffle, he cleared his throat. “I also made a promise I’d never divulge that to you – because I wasn’t sure how you’d take it.”
“Asshole. Can’t even stay mad at you because you’re so fucking – ”
“I love you.” He whispered. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but I’m not sorry for doing what I felt was necessary.”
She paused for a moment and leaned down and placed a kiss on the back of his neck. “Count of three, okay?”
After he nodded, she sat up straight. “Deep breath…one, two – ” She pulled the bolt out of his back and pressed the cloth to the wound as tightly as she could. He muttered a short string of obscenities that brought a smile to her face, despite the situation. “Sorry, babe.”
“Babe…” He chuckled, then immediately groaned. “Think you’re up to suturing?”
“Yeah, but we’ll need to get home. I can’t do it out here.”
“There are some towels in the boot. Put a couple behind my back, I should be able to keep pressure on it until we get home.”
She glanced at the car and nodded. “Okay, you good to walk to the car?”
“And the other option would be?”
“Don’t get snitty. I’ll fucking carry you if I have to.”
He allowed her to help him up and didn’t complain when she kept hold of him to steady him. He leaned against her and smiled weakly.
“I do love you so, Buffy.”
She rolled her eyes and pressed her hand harder against his back. “I love you too. You’re still an asshole, but I love you.”
“I can live with that.”
She laughed softly and led him to the car.
* * *
She had managed to get him home without much hassle. Getting him out of his shirt proved to be much more of a hassle. He sighed sadly as she grabbed a pair of scissors and cut through the fabric.
“Sorry. I’ll see if I can find a new one. Do you remember where you got this one?” She asked, pulling the ruined shirt from him and dropping it onto the floor.
“At a shop…somewhere.” He replied.
She snorted a laugh. “Helpful…”
“How does it look?” He asked, closing his eyes as she gently pulled the towel away.
He shook his head in slight amusement. “Helpful…”
“It’s not gushing blood at least. But, yeah…it’s going to need to be stitched up.”
“Figured as much. Should find everything you need in the first aid kit under the sink in the bathroom.” He glanced towards the liquor cabinet. “You wouldn’t consider pouring me a drink before you go, would you?”
“I could think of better ideas. Of course, I could think of worse ones too.” She said, making her way over and grabbing a tumbler and the bottle of scotch. She quickly poured a drink and smiled as she handed it to him. “One, okay?”
“Yes, dear.” He sighed, lifting the tumbler to his lips as she took off down the hall.
He sipped the drink slowly, wincing at the sharp ache in his back. She was back soon enough, first aid kit in one hand and a pill bottle in the other. He arched an eyebrow at her.
“I’m not used to only having two bottles of painkillers to choose from in your medicine cabinet.” She said with a soft smile.
“Yes, well…I tend not to have as many concussions or trips to the hospital here as I did in Sunnydale.”
“That’s a good thing.” She shook two tablets out and handed them to him. “You should probably take these with water, not scotch…”
He gave a sigh of exasperation and then popped the pills into his mouth, chasing them down with the rest of his drink. “Alcohol’s already in my system, it’s not like it’s going to cause any huge issues. Besides, it’s one drink.”
She stared at him for a moment and then sighed, sitting down on the coffee table. “I just worry about mixing medication with alcohol, that’s all. I’m not insinuating anything, Giles.”
He nodded slowly, shifting carefully and laying down on his stomach across the sofa. “Let me know if you need me to move or anything.”
She got to work, cleaning the wound before gathering the tools she’d need for stitching it up. He remained quiet for a while. He was so quiet that Buffy thought that the painkillers she had given him had knocked him out.
Until he turned his head towards her and looked up at her.
“I was going to marry her.” He said softly.
“Sophie?” She asked just as softly.
He nodded as she silently opened a package of suturing thread. “We were three months out from the date when she died.”
Buffy wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so she reached over and gently ran her fingers through his hair.
“It’s hard to imagine now. That I should have come to Sunnydale with a wife…possibly a child or two as well.”
“Did you want children?” She asked, pausing in her task.
“We had discussed it. So many people were surprised we hadn’t had children already. We’d been together for seven years.” He lowered his gaze from hers and exhaled shakily.
She cleared her throat. “Do you…do you want children?”
“To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought since. I assumed I wouldn’t. I…didn’t expect that I’d…”
“Didn’t expect what?” She asked as he trailed off.
“I truly didn’t expect to be here twelve years later. And I certainly didn’t expect to be in love with anyone…not the way I loved her.”
When he raised his eyes back to hers, she smiled and gently stroked his cheek. “Maybe we should talk about this tomorrow?”
He hesitated for a moment and then sighed. “I’m sorry, I…”
“Only because you’re stoned, Giles. This isn’t a conversation we should be having while you’re in this state, okay? You know as well as I do…you have trouble with control when you’ve taken painkillers. I don’t want you to say more than you’re comfortable discussing at the moment. That’s all. If you want to talk about this tomorrow, we most definitely will.”
He nodded slowly. “You…are an amazing woman, Buffy Summers.”
She smiled as he closed his eyes as the drugs took full effect. “You’re pretty amazing yourself, Rupert Giles.”
He slept soundly as she sutured and bandaged his wound. After she was done, she covered him with a blanket and then stretched out on the smaller of the two sofas. She watched him sleep until she fell asleep herself.
* * *
She woke in the morning to find him sitting on the sofa…a mug of tea in his hand as he stared out the window. She sat up slowly, stretching and wincing as her shoulder cracked.
He turned his head towards her and smiled, glancing at the lamp table. “Tea for you, love. I was going to wake you in a couple of minutes.”
“Mm, thank you.” She murmured, picking up the mug and moving over to sit next to him. “How are you feeling?”
“A bit sore, I won’t lie. Crossbow bolts aren’t exactly the most pleasant of things to be shot with.” He smiled, sliding his left hand to her thigh as he sipped his tea. “All in all, though…I’m well.”
“You scared me last night, you know.”
He nodded slowly. “I know. I also know I’d do it again…without a doubt.”
“Have you been up long?” She asked, covering his hand with hers.
“A while.” He admitted, resting his mug on his knee. “I’ve been thinking.”
“About?” Her thumb rubbed softly over his skin.
“I need to go to London. Not for long, but…I think I need to go.” He said softly.
“Is this about Sophie?” She asked, continuing to stroke his skin.
He nodded silently, unsure of what to say…how she would react.
“Okay. Is there anything I can do?”
He turned towards her and gazed into her eyes. Seeing only love and understanding, he nodded again.
“Will you come with me?” He asked quietly. “I haven’t been…well, I haven’t visited her in far too long. All of this gets heavier and harder the longer it goes…”
“If you’re absolutely sure, of course I will. You don’t need to do any of this on your own.”
He turned his hand under hers, lacing their fingers together. “I’d like to tell you about her. Now, I mean. I’m ready now…”
Buffy gently squeezed his fingers before untangling hers from his. She carefully lifted his hand and ducked under his arm, snuggling against him. His fingers lightly stroked her upper arm as he turned his head and dropped a soft kiss onto her head.
He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
This was a huge step for him. Monumental, even…and they both knew that this was going to be a huge turning point in their relationship. At one time, he never thought he’d find himself in this particular situation…yet, here he was.
Feeling his apprehension, she snuggled closer and rested her hand on his thigh in a comforting manner. He hugged her against him, closing his eyes for a moment.
And then he opened his eyes and smiled.
“She called me Reg. Never Rupert…always Reg.”
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