Pairing: Buffy/Giles (References)
Timeline: Six months after 24 Hours. A prequel to the A Way Back series.
Synopsis: Buffy talks to Giles, a realisation is made. Time goes on.
Author’s Note: As always, thank you to A for looking over this fic. Prequel 3/3.
Buffy had picked up the phone six times…and had put it down six times. She had even punched in several numbers into the keypad, but hit ‘end’ instead of ‘call’ each time. The last few calls she had completed to him had ended badly. With either one or both of them yelling and slamming the phone down.
She was fairly certain that ‘fuck you’ had been said…more than once…by both of them.
She wasn’t sure why she kept trying. She thought about that for a moment and then sighed heavily, shaking her head. No, she knew why.
She needed to explain, for him to understand the explanation. She needed his forgiveness. She needed his friendship. She needed him.
But, she’d fucked all that up six months earlier – because of her own fear of being truly happy for the first time in her entire life. Which didn’t really make sense to her, so she wasn’t sure how she was supposed to make him understand.
She exhaled deeply and picked the phone back up, quickly punching in the numbers and hitting ‘call’. And then she paced while the phone rang.
On the fifth ring, just as she was getting ready to hang up, he answered.
She fought the urge to hang up and cleared her throat. “Giles?”
There was a pause and then a heavy sigh. “Hello, Buffy.”
Buffy closed her eyes against her sudden tears. His ‘hello, Buffy’ wasn’t the soft one she used to hear when he’d answer the phone – the one where she could hear him smile and feel the sparkle in his eyes over the telephone line. No, this ‘hello, Buffy’ was short and she could feel his jaw clench and hear him pinch the bridge of his nose in an attempt to remain calm.
“What do you need?” He asked, all business…no pleasure.
“Please, Giles…can we just talk?” She asked softly.
“I believe this is considered ‘talking’, yes? You called, I answered, we’re having a conversation. What do you need?”
“You…” She replied, wiping her face as a tear spilled down her cheek.
“Fucking hell…” He muttered. “I’m not doing this again, Buffy. I don’t want apologies. I don’t want anything. If you need something relating to the Council or research or…if you need my expertise in all things relating to demons, I will see what I can do. But other than that…I can’t.”
“No, I need my Watcher.”
Giles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’ll have to double check, but I’m fairly certain that Thompson is closest to you. He’s in Bilbao, that’s less than an hour from you.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Um…Giles? I’m in La Rochelle…have been for three weeks now.”
Giles was quiet for a long moment and then cleared his throat. “I’ll need you to update your whereabouts with Lydia from here on in.”
“My assistant, Lydia. You’ll need to keep her abreast of your location.”
“I know who Lydia is, Giles. But, why do I have to tell her? You’re my Watcher…”
Giles sighed heavily and, for the first time in a very long time, Buffy was sure that she heard sadness in his voice.
“Not any longer.”
“What? You’re just…cutting me loose? After…everything we’ve been through?”
“As your Watcher, I have always known where you are – our bond was such that you didn’t need to check in, you didn’t need to alert me. But, the fact that you’ve been in a new location for at least three weeks confirms a suspicion that I’ve had for a while now.”
“What? Giles, you’re scaring me…”
“Our bond is…” He exhaled deeply. “It’s broken, Buffy. I will have you reassigned as soon as possible.”
“What? NO…no, that can’t be right – “
“As Head of Council, I have no choice. To keep my title as your Watcher would be a huge detriment to you, as Slayer.”
“Giles – ”
“I’ll have Lydia send you the contact details for your new Watcher as soon as I can. I’m sorry…I must go now. I…” He paused and Buffy was sure that she heard a catch in his voice. “Please take care of yourself. Be careful. Be…be Buffy.”
“Be Buffy? What does that even mean?” Buffy asked, not bothering to hide her panic or her tears. “Giles, we need to fix this!”
“I’m not sure it can be fixed, Buffy. I never felt it break. It was just…gone. Please…be careful. Goodbye.”
And with that, he hung up the phone. For the first time in six months, the call wasn’t ended with them yelling…it wasn’t ended with the slam of a receiver. It was ended quietly, in resignation of the fact that this really was the end.
She dropped the phone to the floor and cried the hardest she had cried since she had told him goodbye six months earlier.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“What do you mean he’s not your Watcher anymore?” Willow asked, eyes wide as she sat down.
Buffy sniffled into the phone. “Just that. Our bond is…broken. He says it can’t be fixed.”
“You’ve fixed it before…”
“I haven’t fucked up this badly before.” Buffy replied sadly.
Willow was quiet for a moment and then exhaled slowly. “What happened to you guys, Buffy? What happened between you guys?”
“What do you mean?”
“Look, Giles has been…very un-Giles-like…for about six months. That coincides with you leaving England – which was pretty sudden. And every time I mention your name, he either glares at me, storms out of the room, or just changes the subject. That tells me that something happened between you guys. A fight or – “
“We made love.” Buffy interrupted on a whisper.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought. A fight or…sex.” Willow responded gently. “For some reason, I always thought that if you guys finally took that step, you’d be…together. Not in different countries and not speaking.”
“I panicked. After…we had this amazing night…and morning…and then I panicked.” Buffy said quickly.
“You panicked…” Willow sighed softly. “No…you left him, Buffy. That’s what really happened, right? At the core of everything…you left him.”
“I didn’t want to.” Buffy cried, wiping the tears from her face. “I just didn’t know what to do.”
“Um…you could’ve talked to him?”
“He won’t answer my calls anymore.” Buffy whispered. “I’ve fucked everything up, Willow.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
She had flatly refused to report to any Watcher that she had been assigned to, choosing to go out on her own instead. Eventually, Giles had stopped trying to assign her, but refused to reinstate himself to the role. But now, four months had passed and there had been too many unanswered calls to count. And Buffy had had enough. She called Lydia’s number and sat down, biting her lip as she waited for the call to connect.
“Rupert Giles’ office, Lydia speaking.” She answered brightly.
“Hi Lydia, it’s Buffy. Is Giles available?”
“No…no, I’m sorry, he’s not.” Lydia responded, the brightness disappearing from her tone. “He’s actually gone on leave and is out of the country at the moment. He should be back in a couple of weeks. Is there an urgent issue?”
Buffy thought for a moment and then shook her head. “No…I guess it’s not urgent. Is he checking emails?”
“I’m sure he is.” Lydia said. “Are you alright, Buffy?”
Buffy sighed heavily. “That depends on the definition of ‘alright’.”
There was a brief moment of silence and then Buffy continued. “While I have you on the phone, I might as well let you know my plans. I’ll be heading into Paris in the next week or so. I think I might stay there for a while.”
“Thank you, Buffy. Once you’re settled, if you wouldn’t mind sending through your residential details…”
“Yeah, will do. Have a good day, Lydia.”
“You too, Buffy. Take care.”
And the call was ended. Much more business-like than Buffy was used to, but that seemed to be the way things would be working from now on. Until…she died. Again.
She shook her head at the thought and tossed the phone in the general direction of the coffee table.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Four Months Later
Lydia looked up from her computer and smiled. “Hello…”
Ethan returned the smile and gestured towards the closed door to Giles’ office. “Is he in?”
Lydia’s smile faded as she shook her head. “No. He left about an hour ago…he didn’t look well.”
Ethan glanced at the window and sighed. The rain was pelting against the glass. “I was afraid of that.”
“Is he okay?” She asked, genuine concern in her eyes.
Ethan shrugged his shoulder and slipped his hands into his jacket pockets. “He has a lot going on in his head at the moment. How has he been here?”
“Very…business orientated.” Lydia responded. “Very much unlike himself.”
“Yeah…” He sat down on the edge of the desk and cleared his throat. “Listen…do you think you could give me Buffy’s details? Phone number, address…that sort of thing?”
“Buffy Summers?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You know more than one Buffy?” Ethan asked with a smile. “I think I need to talk to her…and I think I need Rupert not to know about it right now. Do you think you can help me with that?”
Lydia nodded slowly, typing on her keyboard as she looked at Ethan. “Will it help him?”
“I really hope so.” Ethan scratched the back of his head and took a deep breath. “Of course, it could also mean that I’ll get a well-deserved thrashing for meddling. It could go either way at the moment.”
Lydia smiled and handed him a piece of paper from her printer. “Well, let’s hope for some non-thrashing…”
Ethan grinned as he took the paper from her. “Thank you. So…would you like to go to dinner tonight?”
Lydia’s smile brightened.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Seven months after Lydia gave him Buffy’s contact details (which had been updated three times), Ethan realised that it was time to do something. Rupert was sinking further into depression, further into alcohol, further into sex. If he had been having sober sex with other women, he probably wouldn’t have been as concerned. But, he wasn’t.
He only fucked when there was a downpour…and he was always drunk or stoned – or both. For the time being, he seemed to be keeping it together when the weather was nice. But, as soon as the clouds turned dark…so did Rupert.
He had spoken to Rupert numerous times about the issue and the response was always the same. He was coping to the best of his ability. But, he wasn’t. Ethan knew that better than anyone. Rupert was running, but going nowhere. He was trying to forget…and his coping skills were fucked beyond belief.
It had caused more than one argument between the two of them – and Rupert had even thrown a punch at him once. Ethan had avoided it and pulled him into a hug instead – which led to Rupert’s mouth on his neck and Ethan’s hand on Rupert’s cock…briefly. Ethan had been the one to pull away and end it before the situation became even more complicated. If something were going to happen between the two of them, they were both going to be sober and in control.
But, Ethan was 99.9% sure that he wasn’t what Rupert needed. What Rupert needed was currently living in Antwerp.
And so, he waited until Rupert had passed out following a spectacular display of ‘situational alcoholism’ and sex with a random brunette that Rupert had brought back to Ethan’s house. And then he gently escorted the thoroughly fucked young lady to a waiting cab outside, speaking briefly to the cabbie and ensuring that she would make it home safely.
Once back inside, he checked on Rupert and then picked up the phone – and booked the first flight he could to Antwerp.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy opened the door to her apartment and narrowed her eyes. “Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”
Ethan smiled and raised his hands. “Hey, I come in peace, love.”
She rolled her eyes and reached for the stake she kept next to the door. “Since when have you ever come in peace?”
Ethan lowered his hands and tilted his head slightly. “Since our Rupert has overwhelmingly fallen off the rails.”
Buffy dropped the stake and took a step back, silently inviting Ethan into her flat. “Is he okay?”
Ethan exhaled slowly as Buffy closed the door, shaking his head as he sat down on the sofa. “No, love. He’s not. He’s…broken. Quite possibly the most broken I’ve ever seen him.”
“Drinking?” She asked softly, sitting down next to him.
To her surprise, Ethan barked out a laugh.
“Oh, Buffy…drinking is an understatement. But, to be fair…he only drinks when there’s a downpour. So, I guess there’s that.”
Buffy lowered her eyes. “He won’t answer my calls anymore. He hasn’t in almost a year and a half. I leave messages, send him emails…”
She suddenly looked up at him. “Since when are you and Giles friends again?”
“Since I ran into him in a pub and took him home with me to keep him safe.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Took him home? With you?”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ, what is it with people always jumping to sex? He didn’t fuck me, I didn’t blow him…”
“That was an option?” Buffy asked incredulously.
“You know our past, Buffy.” Ethan replied with a knowing look.
“And…you know ours?” She asked nervously.
Ethan nodded slowly. “Yeah. Took me months to get the full story out of him. But, yeah…”
“I didn’t want to leave him.” She whispered, eyes glistening.
“But, you did.” He replied, reaching over to wipe a tear from her skin as it spilled down her cheek. “And now he’s in a tailspin that isn’t going to stop until he crashes. That crash? It’s imminent…and it won’t be much longer.”
“Like I said…he won’t even answer my emails.”
“Love…you’re going to have to go to him. He’s not going to come to you.”
“Yeah, figured that out.”
“What…was this all just a big test that he’s failed without even knowing he was taking it?” Ethan asked, his sudden anger surprising Buffy.
“What?” Buffy’s brow furrowed. “Test? What the hell are you even talking about?”
Ethan stared at her and leaned forward slightly. “Did you leave him to see if he’d come after you?”
“No…” Buffy replied quickly, confusion in her eyes. “Why would I do that? I left because I love him.”
Ethan sat back and shook his head in disbelief. “Well, that makes much more sense. Left because you loved him.”
“Love.” She corrected with a sigh. “Present tense, Ethan. I love him.”
“So…you left him? Again…makes a shitload of sense, Slayer.”
“He won’t see me, Ethan. He’ll make me make an appointment that he’ll continuously cancel or postpone…or slam the door in my face. He wants nothing to do with me.” She swallowed and glanced at a picture on the wall. “And I can’t blame him for that.”
Ethan followed her eyes, smiling at the picture of Rupert and Buffy. It looked like it had been taken many years earlier, but it was obvious to see how much they loved one another even then.
“You’ll never know if you don’t try, Buffy. You’re the one who left…you’re the one who needs to come back, yeah?”
Buffy looked back at him and was quiet for a moment. “You’re really worried about him, aren’t you?”
“I’m worried that the next time I contact you, it’ll be to give you funeral details.” He answered bluntly, watching her tears reappear. “He’s crashing, Buffy. This isn’t a joke, this isn’t a game – I’m done with games, have been for many years now. I’m coming to you as his friend…who doesn’t want to see him throw his life away.”
He stood up and walked towards the door, stopping with his hand on the doorknob and looking back at her. “If you want your life to be with him, then tell him. Scream at him, hit him…whatever you need to do to make him believe it’s the truth. But, if you don’t, then for fuck’s sake make it a decent and clean break – so he can move on. Because he’s not…moving on. He’s trying to forget. You can’t move on if you’re continually trying to forget – and failing miserably at it.”
He looked at her for a moment, giving her a nod when he realised that she understood what he was saying. And then, with no further words, he simply opened the door and left.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It had taken her two more months to get to where she emotionally needed to be to face him. She had made many calls to numerous people – some within the Council, some not. She spoke in detail and strict confidence to people she could trust – and there were few in this instance. There was Willow, there was Lydia, and there was…God help her…there was Ethan.
Turned out that Ethan was right. Giles was taking more and more unexplained leaves of absence – not that he really had to explain much, as Head of Council. But, it was very uncharacteristic of his normal behaviour. And the longer it went on, the more people were becoming concerned about him.
That led her to where she was now. Standing in her bedroom, packing her entire flat into her luggage. There wasn’t much – a few pictures, a few mementos, some weaponry, her clothes. The rest could stay – it wasn’t important anyway. What she was keeping fit into the luggage she had…and then she packed a separate smaller bag with a few changes of clothes and paperwork.
And then she called and booked a one-way ticket to London…and waited on her cab.
* * *
It wasn’t until she had boarded the flight that her nerves suddenly hit. So many questions bombarded her at once – mostly what if situations presenting themselves. What if he slammed the door? What if told her that he hated her and never wanted to see her again? What if…what if she was too late?
What if she got there and there was nothing that anyone could do for him? What if she had actually lost him forever?
Scenarios played in her head for the entire flight. By the time she had landed, collected her luggage, and procured a hire car…her stomach was in knots and her heart felt like it was going to explode with fear.
She drove the entire way without the radio on. She didn’t even realise it until she pulled into his driveway.
She sat there for ages, waiting for the rain to let up. Knowing that, if what Ethan had told her was true, if he was home…he wasn’t going to be sober. She had dealt with drunk Giles before…a few times, actually. But those times had been very different. Those times, he had been able to pick himself up and move on. This time…there had been no moving on. For either of them – but her coping mechanisms were much different than his.
Realising that the rain wasn’t going to let up anytime soon, she took a deep breath and got out of the car. She ran down the small path and up the steps to the front door. And she stood there.
She wasn’t sure how long she stood there. It could have been thirty seconds…it could have been thirty minutes. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, telling her nerves to please be still…just for a few moments.
And then she lifted her hand and knocked on the door.
She waited a few seconds and then knocked again. Her hand was still knocking when the knob turned and the door opened…revealing an obviously very drunk Giles holding a half glass of scotch.
“What?” He grumbled, narrowing his eyes at her. He shook his head slowly and turned away, walking back into the living area.
She cleared her throat softly.
“Um…can I come in?” She asked, concern filling her heart as she watched him find another glass and fill it with scotch as well.
“Why not?” He muttered.
She entered his home and closed the door behind her, not missing his deep intake of breath.
“What do you need, Buffy?” He asked.
She knew at that moment that she had no intention of doing anything other than making him believe that she wanted him in her life…and that she wanted to be in his. That she loved him…and had for so very long.
She also knew that it was not going to be an easy road to travel. But, it would be one that was well worth the effort…if he gave her the chance.
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