Synopsis: Instead of hiding, Buffy goes to Giles with her concerns about her return from the dead.
Author’s Note: Album fic. Songs and lyrics can be found here.
Giles looked up from the invoice in his hands when the bell hanging over the door at the Magic Box gave a gentle ring. His eyes narrowed as he watched Buffy make a tentative entrance. He lowered the invoice to the countertop and tilted his head slightly.
She bit her lip in what he knew was a nervous gesture. He loosened his tie and walked around the counter, stopping near the table when she finally met his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” He whispered when he noticed her red-rimmed eyes.
“I…can I talk to you?”
“Of course, Buffy. You can talk to me about anything.” He quickly pulled a chair out from under the table and gestured to it. “Please…sit down.”
He felt a sense of apprehension when she slowly made her way over and sat down. Since her return from Heaven, she’d kept everyone at more than an arm’s distance. For her to come to him, of her own volition, to talk to him…
He was worried.
He pulled out the chair next to her and sat down, but said nothing. He simply waited until she was ready. And he waited a while, watching her twist her rings and pull loose threads from her sweater as she gathered her thoughts.
Finally she took a deep breath.
“There’s something wrong with me.”
He wanted to tell her that nothing was wrong with her, but he couldn’t. Because, more than once since her return, he had wondered if there was something wrong with her.
“What do you think is wrong?”
“I don’t know.” She sighed and looked at him. “Spike can hit me.”
Giles’ eyes widened. “His chip…”
“Is fully functional. He can’t hurt anyone…except for me.” She bit her lip again and rubbed her thumb against her index finger. “I think I came back wrong. I think…maybe Willow screwed up more than we thought.”
Giles thought for a moment, wanting to argue…but not sure if he had a valid argument. “I need you to tell me how you feel. How you truly feel about yourself since you came back.”
“Like something’s missing.” She answered after a brief hesitation. “Like I’m frustrated. Like…I’m dead, but screaming.”
Giles clenched his jaw as he felt a sudden rush of pain for her.
“I’m so tired, Giles.” She whispered, sitting back in her chair and wrapping her arms around herself. “I’m so tired, but I can’t sleep.”
“I know.” He stated softly, regarding her carefully. “Buffy…”
“I’m tired of the secrets, Giles.” She uttered as she met his eyes again. “I’m losing myself…and I’m keeping so many secrets…and…I think you’re the only person who can really help me. And that in itself scares the hell out of me…”
“Why?” He questioned, sincerely confused by the statement.
“Because you’re also the only person who can really hurt me.”
His brow furrowed. “You said that Spike – ”
“Emotionally, Giles. You’re the only person who can really hurt me emotionally.”
“I’m not sure that I’m following you very well.”
To his surprise, Buffy chuckled.
“I’d be very shocked if you were following me.” She leaned forward and stared into his eyes. “I feel like I’m dying all over again, Giles. And you’re the only person who can stop me.”
“Stop you from what?” He thought over her words and shook his head, his voice catching with fear. “Buffy, are you…are you trying to die again?”
“I don’t know.” She answered honestly.
Without thinking, he grabbed her and pulled her against his chest. She tensed for a moment, ready to pull away from him. But when she heard his gentle sob, she slipped her arms around him and held him back.
After he had gotten himself under control, he took a deep breath. He rubbed her back in a comforting manner and rested his cheek against the top of her head.
“Let me take you away from here…just for a while.”
“I can’t lose you again, Buffy.” He interrupted with a soft whisper. “I can’t…I nearly lost myself the last time…”
Buffy was getting ready to reply when she heard him whisper ‘I love you’. It was so low that she barely heard it…in fact, she wasn’t sure that he realized that he had said it aloud.
She pulled back just enough to look up at him. When he looked into her bewildered eyes, he inhaled sharply…knowing that he had actually voiced that last thought.
“You do, don’t you?”
Not trusting his voice again, he swallowed and gave her a soft nod.
“You loved me then?”
He didn’t have to ask what ‘then’ referred to. He knew that she was referring to her death. His eyes glistened as he gave her another nod.
She lowered her eyes and inhaled deeply, thoughts rushing through her head. Just as the silence was beginning to break him, she shook her head.
“We can’t go away, Giles. We live on a Hellmouth.”
Giles gently brushed his fingers through her hair. “That is precisely why I want to take you away. It wouldn’t be for long, Buffy. Just…just long enough to…”
“Save my soul?” She finished, amusement in her voice as she looked up at him.
He shook his head slowly, allowing his fingertips to glide down her cheek. “For me to show you that life is worth living…”
She shivered lightly as his eyes held hers, allowing her to clearly see his feelings for her.
“Giles…” She gasped in surprise.
He offered her a gentle, but nervous, smile as he moved his hand to her neck…his fingers pressed against her nape as his thumb stroked her jaw.
“I won’t force my feelings on you, Buffy. But, you need to know…I can’t hide them any longer. And…I don’t want to hide them any longer. Hold them tightly to you…or toss them aside…do what you feel is right for you. But…just don’t leave me again…I can’t – ”
She cut him off with a sudden kiss, wrapping his tie around her hand and holding it against his chest. She felt his heart rate increase as her tongue slipped between his lips. When he cradled her face in his hands and began to return the kiss in earnest, she groaned.
That sound was enough to make him stop…before he started to take it further. His breath came in heavy gasps as he rested his forehead against hers, his thumbs tenderly stroking her cheeks.
“Where will you take me?” She asked, just as breathless as he.
He pulled back just enough to look into her eyes. Seeing her sincerity, he smiled softly. “Anywhere you want to go.”
Her eyes darted to his lips and she leaned back into him. She could tell him later where she wanted to go.