Giles sighed as a knock sounded on his door. He looked up from the mountain of paperwork on his desk as the door opened.
“Buffy Summers to see you.”
Giles stared at his assistant for a moment and then gave a quick nod. “Send her in.”
“Yes, sir.” Andrea replied with a smile, backing out of the doorway.
Giles took a deep breath and ran his fingers through his hair. He stood up and walked around to the front of his desk as Buffy entered.
“Hello, Buffy.” He offered her a gentle smile. One that he hoped hid his true feelings of sadness and regret.
She glanced at his desk and arched an eyebrow. “That’s an apocalyptic mound of papers…”
“Well, there is an impending apocalypse…so, I suppose that makes sense.” He replied, reaching up to remove his glasses.
Buffy’s eyes drifted to his hand and she felt a sharp pang of sadness to see that he was no longer wearing his ring. He noticed the change in her demeanor…not surprising, really.
“Are you alright?” He asked softly.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you’re not wearing it, but…”
“Yes, well…” He cleared his throat and sighed. “I’m no longer your Watcher and it felt wrong to continue wearing it.”
“Painful.” He quantified, looking into her eyes for a moment before gesturing towards the sofa. “Have a seat. We can discuss your role in this, if you’d like.”
“Pretty sure I know my role. It’s not like it’s my first apocalypse.”
“It’s the first since the new Council, the plentitude of Slayers…” He followed her across the office and sat down next to her. “You need not do this on your own this time.”
“I miss you, you know.”
“I haven’t gone anywhere. I’ve been here the entire time.” He answered, a snarkiness in his tone that he couldn’t hide.
“Not the time for this discussion, Buffy. You’re here because the world is ending. Again.” He pinched the bridge of his nose before sliding his glasses back on, taking a deep breath as he did. “Now, all signs are pointing towards a mass exodus of all demonic activity in the central region. Considering this has always been the center of mystical energy in the UK…”
“Hence, ‘central region’.” Buffy interrupted with a gentle smile.
“Yes, ha ha.” Giles replied, with no actual amusement in his tone.
“Giles, look – if you want my help, I’m here offering. But, we need to get past this. I never wanted…this.”
“Yes, I know – in the years that I’ve known you, you’ve never made it a secret that you didn’t want the burden of your calling. However, there’s nothing that I, nor anyone else in the Council – past or present – could do about it.”
“I meant this. This…animosity…between us.”
“I think ‘animosity’ is a bit harsh, but…there is definitely a great deal of unease here.” He replied after a moment.
She took a breath and looked at him. “I never wanted to lose you.”
“I never wanted to be lost.” He whispered, as she lowered her eyes.
He was quiet for a long moment and then inhaled deeply. “Perhaps…we should talk. After this…or…before?”
“I wasn’t prepared for it to hurt so much.” She sniffled, wiping her face but still not looking at him.
“I’ve never seen you not wearing it.” She said, unable to hide the tears any longer. “I didn’t mean to fuck everything up so badly. I just…I was so angry.”
“It hurt too much to look at it, Buffy. Knowing that it didn’t mean what it once did.” He fought the urge to pull her into his arms as she finally looked up at him. “Knowing I’d still give my life for you at any moment…and that you wished I would.”
“I didn’t mean what I said, Giles.” She said, another line of tears falling down her face. “I’m so sorry. I just…it was just…god, why her?”
“It wasn’t like that! For god’s sake, Buffy – ”
“It was exactly like that! And it wasn’t even the first time!” She stared at him, unable to stop her tears from turning into a near-sob. “You chose Faith over me again! Faith!”
“Did you fuck her?” She blurted.
Her eyes widened, obviously she hadn’t meant to ask that aloud. Giles stared at her in disbelief, a myriad of emotions showing in his eyes. As the disbelief turned to a flash of anger, she was sure he was going to yell. And then the anger morphed into a look of sadness that brought fresh tears to her eyes.
“How could you even ask that?” He asked quietly, his voice trembling somewhat.
“I don’t know. I didn’t mean to.” She replied, shaking her head.
“You think I…” He paused, doing his best to inhale deeply. “You honestly think that I took her to bed?”
He shook his head slowly. “No, Buffy. God, is that why you left? You thought that I…and she…Jesus Christ…”
“She looked pretty cosy. All snuggled up on the sofa…in your robe.”
“I told you then – there was an issue on patrol, she was splattered with Velashkan blood. She took a shower, I put her clothes in the wash. It’s not as if she had a change of clothes at the house. Not like you do.” He pulled his glasses off and tossed them onto the table next to the sofa. “You’ve obviously believed that something untoward occurred between us all this time. I’m not sure why – especially since I explained immediately. I’ve never lied to you.”
“Because I was upset. You asked her to help you, not me. You didn’t want me. You wanted her.” She replied, the words falling out of her mouth before she could stop them.
“There were rumours.” She said, shrugging a shoulder as she wiped her face.
“There were rumours about us too. Apparently, that’s what I did at the time…shagged the Slayers who saved the world by destroying Sunnydale, California.”
“I’m fairly certain there was a rumour of a threesome as well.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Obviously, they were rumours.”
Her eyes widened even further when he continued.
“I have no doubt that I would have remembered shagging you.”
He closed his eyes, realising he said that last thought aloud.
“What?” She whispered.
“Uh…anyway – this impending doom that we’re facing…” He started, leaning forward slightly to stand up.
Buffy stared at him for a moment and then grabbed his arm, halting his movement. If he’d been looking at her, he would’ve seen the odd light that was in her eyes for just a split-second. “Talk to me.”
“There’s not much to say right now, really.” He sighed. “I lost you long ago.”
Buffy shook her head slowly. “It hasn’t been that long, Giles. It just feels that way to you.”
Giles’ eyes widened and he looked around the room quickly. “What’s going on?”
“Okay, you need to not panic.” She said quickly, moving to kneel on the floor in front of him. “It’s taken me a while to find you.”
“Buffy, I’ve been right here. You’re the one who left.”
“You’re the one who was taken.” She corrected, placing her hands on his thighs when she saw him start to panic. “I’m coming. I know where you are now. But, this…what you’re doing right now in your head? This is good, okay? Keep working on this apocalypse…keep researching. But, for fucks’ sake, put your ring back on. Because you have never not been my Watcher.”
“I’m so confused…”
“I know. But, there are things you need to remember, okay? Are you ready?” She waited until he nodded before she continued. “You’re alive, you’re relatively safe, you’ve been captured, you need to stop thinking about that incident with Faith – we’ve gotten past that, I will always help you with any apocalypse, you are my Watcher, you are my best friend, you are my lover, and you are the father of my children. So, calm down…research what you need to research…and we’ll be there soon.”
“We?” He asked, tears filling his eyes. “Wait, what? Children? Lover? What the hell is going on?”
“Willow and I are almost there, Xander and Anya are with our children. Yes, children – we have a five year old daughter and a two year old son…we’ve been trying for a third. We’ve been in a relationship since before Sunnydale imploded. Remember Razzmatazz?”
“Yes, impossibly ridiculous name for a color. Razzmatazz is our code word.”
“That’s right. Razzmatazz.” She smiled, reaching up to place her hand on the side of his face. “Look at me, Rupert.”
He met her eyes, relaxing somewhat as he saw her love for him shining brightly. “Buffy…”
“I love you. You haven’t been gone long, okay? We’ve got you.” She turned and glanced at the small wooden box on his desk. “When I leave, go over there…open that box…and put your fucking ring back on. Because we need you.”
He nodded, trusting in her words. And then he smiled nervously. “Rumours were true then? I’ve been shagging my Slayer?”
She laughed softly, leaning up towards him and kissing him warmly. He responded quickly, sliding to the floor with her and wrapping his arms around her. And then he trembled as she ran her fingers over a very specific spot just under his collarbone. A spot that had always driven him crazy…a spot that she wouldn’t have known about if they weren’t lovers.
He pulled from the kiss and gazed into her eyes. “Lovers…not married?”
She grinned as she shook her head. “You’ve asked though. Numerous times.”
“You said no?” He licked his lips and ran his thumb over her bottom lip, smiling as she shivered. “You won’t marry me?”
“I never thought it was important.” She said, lightly scratching a nail over that spot. “But, it is to you. So…ask me again when we get you, okay?”
“I love you.” He whispered suddenly, emotionally.
She nodded, tears filling her eyes again. “Yeah, you really do. So, do what you need to do to stay safe here, okay?”
“Okay.” He tilted his head curiously and furrowed his brow. “Astrid and Hugo?”
A tear spilled down her cheek. “Our kids.”
“You wanted to name him Arlo.”
She laughed, rubbing her thumb over his cheek. “Yeah, you said no. Astrid and Arlo sounded too bizarre – especially with parents named Rupert and Buffy.”
“It does.” He laughed with her for a moment and then inhaled sharply. “I miss you.”
“I miss you.” She looked around quickly and cursed softly under her breath. “I have to go…but, seriously…keep doing what you’re doing. Except for the Faith part. Forget about that. I’m coming for you, Ru.”
“Be careful.” He whispered, kissing her again quickly. “Please be careful. I don’t know what’s going on, but…it can’t be good.”
“I’ll see you soon.”
After one last kiss, she stood up and made her way to the door. She looked over at him and took a deep breath. “Remember everything I’ve said, okay?”
“I will.” He promised, exhaling slowly as she walked out the door.
He stared at the door for a few more moments before standing and walking over to the desk. He lifted the lid on the small wooden box and smiled as he pulled the onyx signet ring out. He felt a sense of peace sweep through him as he slipped it back onto his finger.
Where it had always belonged.
He turned back towards the open door. The voices of Buffy and Willow sounding very far away…while simultaneously seeming very close. The connection hadn’t been closed yet. He sat down on the edge of his desk and tilted his head slightly.
* * *
“Is he okay?”
Buffy nodded, wiping the tears from her face. “Yeah, he’s good. He’s…researching an impending apocalypse.”
“Research and apocalypse…why am I not surprised?” Willow replied with a small smile. “Were you able to get through to him?”
“Yeah, he was really confused for a minute. But, he did remember Astrid and Hugo. He even remembered I wanted to name Hugo, Arlo.”
“They haven’t hurt him?”
“No. In fact, I didn’t sense anyone there.”
“So, they just took him, locked him up, and left him? What sense does that make?”
“The kind that makes a lot if you’re trying to distract the Slayer.” Buffy thought for a moment and then looked at Willow. “Did you ever hear any rumours about us? I mean, before we came out and said ‘hey, we’re together now’.”
Willow chuckled, glancing at the clock. “Oh yeah. There were all sorts of rumours.”
“Any about Faith?”
“Buffy, Giles never did anything with Faith. Not like that. He helped her, but – ”
“I know. I was asking if there were any rumours about them.”
“Not specifically.” Willow replied, standing up. “We should get going. We have to time this just right.”
“Not specifically? What’s that supposed to mean?” Buffy asked, following Willow out of the room.
Willow blushed lightly. “There was something about a threesome…”
“Giles took care of it pretty quickly.” She tossed a crossbow to Buffy and grabbed her keys. “He confirmed your relationship shortly after that. It hasn’t been mentioned since.”
When Buffy paused, Willow furrowed her brow in a silent question. Buffy smiled and shrugged a shoulder.
“I’m going to marry him.”
Willow grinned brightly. “Every time he’s asked, you’ve said no.”
“Next time I’m saying yes.”
Willow pulled the door open and laughed. “It’s about time!”
Buffy laughed softly and followed her out to the car.
* * *
As the connection closed, Giles smiled and inhaled deeply. He could do this. She could do this. This is what they did. He’d research, he’d do what he could to avert this apocalypse that he had created in his head…and Buffy would save him. She’d probably save him before he’d averted the apocalypse, but nevermind…
It would work out. Because it always did.
He looked down at his ring and clenched his fist.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles groaned, breath hot against the side of her neck as he came deep within her. Buffy’s nails dug into his shoulderblades as she cried out his name, her own orgasm hitting at the same time. He rolled to his side, holding her tightly against him as he fought for breath.
“Jesus…” She panted, her lips brushing against his chest.
“Mm…” He murmured, a smile forming on his lips.
Buffy lightly stroked his side as she pulled back to look at him after a few moments. “So…this seems to be a better use of your time. Apocalypse over?”
He regarded her for a moment and sighed happily. “You’re back – everything okay?”
“So far, yeah. I just need your help before we make a move.”
He brushed the hair back from her face and smiled. “I want to be with you.”
“And you will.” She promised before looking around the room. “But, we need to get you out of here first. So…I kinda need you to step outside and have a look? Tell us what we should expect to find?”
“Step outside?” He asked, obviously confused by the request.
She reached up and glided her fingertips over his brow. “Outside of here. I know this is a coping mechanism for you – I need you to look into reality and see what’s actually going on.”
“I’d rather stay here with you.”
“In a dream state with dream Buffy? Nah…that’s not where you really want to be, Giles.”
He swallowed and shook his head. “No. No, it’s not.”
“Just a peek. You don’t need to hang around out there – just a quick look around to give us a heads up.”
“Where are you?” He asked, glancing at the bedroom door.
“Quite literally right outside. Windows are blacked out…and you’re probably not in the front room, anyway. I’m going to guess basement.”
He was quiet for a moment and then took a deep breath and climbed out of the bed. He grabbed his robe and slipped it on, looking at her as he tied it closed.
Buffy nodded and sat up, resting against the headboard. “Be careful.”
With a nervous smile, he opened the bedroom door and stepped outside.
* * *
Giles cracked his eyes open…which was actually much harder to do than he was expecting. His vision was blurred, but he could make out two demons standing in a circle that had been carved into the floor. Large, furry, white – brilliant white. They were speaking in a language he didn’t understand, but that didn’t really surprise him – there were very few demonic languages that he did understand.
He blinked his eyes slowly, trying to clear his vision. He started to shake his head lightly to aid in that venture, but stopped himself when he felt a sudden, sharp pain at the back of his skull. He sighed inwardly. Of course, there was a head injury.
He looked down at his hands and furrowed his brow. His ring was missing, his hands ached – he was pretty sure that at least three fingers were broken…two on his right and his left pinky. They probably broke his pinky while removing the ring. He quickly did his best to categorise his injuries, knowing that would be the first thing Buffy would ask.
Obvious head injury, broken fingers…his neck seemed to be okay, as did his shoulders and arms. His back burned with pain – but the pain was external. His sternum felt bruised and he was fairly certain that there were some rib fractures. His stomach was sore – he did remember being punched…it had knocked the wind out of him. He shifted carefully, doing his best to not alert the demons to the fact that he was awake. Hips and pelvis seemed to be fine, legs were okay…possibly a bruised left knee. There didn’t seem to be any life-threatening injuries, unless his head was in worse shape than he realised.
He concentrated on his vision and stared at the demons, who were busy looking at something on a table in front of them. His ring…they had his ring. Why would they want his ring?
And then he heard them speak. In English, not some demonic language he had thought he’d heard earlier. West Country accents…they weren’t demons at all, but humans. And then he realised that the demonic language he thought he’d heard had actually been Cornish. They were from Cornwall.
Giles narrowed his eyes as he listened – he quickly ascertained that they were working for someone to trap the Slayer. The best way to get the Slayer was to get her Watcher. The best way to lure a Slayer was to use the Watcher’s ring.
Two here, six upstairs guarding all three entries into the house. Their employer coming by soon, if the Slayer hadn’t shown up, things would escalate.
Giles took a steadying breath. He knew what escalation meant. He also knew that Buffy was going to have to act soon – and that she probably shouldn’t do this on her own. However, those two aspects of the situation were not conducive to one another.
She’s right outside, she’s not going to wait for back up.
He winced against the sharp pain in the left side of his ribcage and closed his eyes.
* * *
Buffy was pacing in the bedroom when Giles walked back in. He offered her a gentle smile.
“You got dressed.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “So did you.”
He looked down and furrowed his brow. “Hm…interesting.”
“Okay, so what’s the what, Giles?”
“It’s a trap for you.” He replied bluntly. “They used my ring in some sort of spell to lure you here.”
“Are you okay?” She asked softly, not really sure she wanted to know the answer.
“I’ve been worse.” He said, lifting his hand to rub the back of his head.
When he grimaced, she sighed. “Head injury?”
“Mm…seems to be the worst of it. A few broken fingers, maybe some cracked ribs. I’m sore and probably have a concussion, but I’ll live.”
There was something in his tone she didn’t like.
“What’s going on? Who is it? What am I fighting?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know who is behind it. They’re human – six upstairs guarding all three entryways, two in the basement with me. The two I saw are English…from Cornwall.”
She stared at him. “Why would humans want me? And how would they know to go through you?”
“Obviously, they’re working for someone – and have knowledge of the Council and supernatural aspects of the world. And really, Buffy…anyone would know that the best way to get to you would be to come after me.”
“Are Astrid and Hugo in danger?”
“It’s not our children they want. It’s you. And they needed my ring to find you – because it’s linked to you, our bond.”
“That explains why you weren’t wearing it when I first found you. They’d taken it and you needed to work your way around that in here…”
“Seems as such.”
“How do you know they’re from Cornwall?”
“They were speaking Cornish.” He said, flexing his hand.
“You speak Cornish?”
He lifted his left hand to her cheek and sighed. “I need you to be careful, love. Be quick…but, be careful.”
“In and out, I can do that.” She shook her head slightly. “Humans…can’t kill them.”
He leaned down and brushed his lips across hers. “You can hurt them, though.”
“And I will.” She whispered. “I need you to wake up now, okay? Wake up…I’m on my way.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.” She smiled. “Wake up.”
* * *
By the time Giles had been able to get his eyes open, Buffy was in the room. One henchman in white on the floor, the other putting up a fight…but losing quickly. He glanced at the stairs and smiled – Willow had barricaded the door with magick. They were safe.
Or would be as soon as Buffy finished this guy off.
He turned his eyes back to Buffy and furrowed his brow. A third man stepped forward, right behind her.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Buffy!” Xander screamed, just as she twisted the demon’s neck.
She was running towards Xander before the white, furry corpse hit the floor.
“Did you find him?”
Xander carefully pulled the debris away and nodded quickly. “Yeah, it doesn’t look good.”
Buffy skidded to a stop next to Xander and knelt, taking hold of the still warm hand. “Hey…hey, Giles…come on, wake up…”
Blood pooled around Giles, but it wasn’t immediately obvious where it was coming from. It could’ve been from any number of injuries…or all of them. Buffy bit her lip. She’d never seen him look this bad.
“Okay…” She took a deep breath and looked around the room.
Willow was standing on the stairs, putting the finishing touches on the magick barrier she had created. Anya was off to the side, staring at Giles’ broken body…his onyx signet ring in her hand and an open book on the table in front of her.
Buffy swallowed and looked back at Anya. “Anya?”
“He’s going to die if we don’t get help here.” Anya replied quietly.
Buffy nodded, her eyes glistening as Anya looked at her. “Yeah, you need to call 911 now. Police and ambulance.”
Anya pulled the phone out of her pocket and glanced at the two dead demons. “What about them?”
Willow made her way over to them and rubbed her palms against her thighs. “I can take care of them.”
Anya stared at her dubiously. “What? Magic them away?”
“Well…yeah.” Willow sighed. “Giles taught me a lot, you know. I can control this and use it in emergencies. He taught me.”
Xander glanced at Willow, recognising her tone as one of her trying to convince herself. “You’ve got this, Will.”
Willow met his eyes and smiled nervously, but said nothing.
Anya thought for a brief second and then gave a short nod as she dialled 911.
Buffy moved closer to Giles, cataloguing his injuries as Xander lowered himself onto an upturned crate.
“That’s a lot of blood.” He whispered.
Buffy nodded and gently brushed her fingertips along Giles’ brow. “Yeah, but it’s not all of it…so, we have a chance here.”
Giles’ eyes flickered and then the left one opened a bit. The right one was completely swollen shut, no hope of it opening at the moment.
“Hey…” She whispered, plastering a smile on her face. “We found you. You’re going to be okay.”
He licked his very dry and bloodied lips with more effort than it should have taken. “Liar.”
She emitted a sound that sounded much like part chuckle and part sob. “You have to be okay. Okay?”
“Head hurts.” He muttered, his voice thick and gravelly.
“Yeah, not surprised. You’ve got a lot going on here, Giles.”
“Don’t you fucking dare go to sleep.” She whispered quickly, squeezing his hand. “Don’t you fucking dare. You stay awake and talk to me.”
“About?” He asked, forcing his eye to stay open.
“I don’t even care.” She said, tears slipping down her cheeks.
“Hm.” He swallowed and grimaced in obvious pain. “Marry me.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Said to ask…again.”
She was confused for a moment. A very brief moment. But, then she remembered something that he had told her during one of their Watcher/Slayer talks the previous year. How he dealt with unimaginable pain and the methods he was taught at the Academy to withstand various torture techniques. She remembered the one that he admitted to using more than any other…one that had kept him alive more than once, one that had helped him deal with pain often – physical and emotional.
“How many compartments you got going on right now, Giles?”
He thought for a moment, his thumb idly rubbing against her hand. “Dunno. I don’t remember being hurt this badly.”
“Demons are dead, you’re not.”
Buffy shook her head, glancing over at the corpse. “No, definitely demon – white, furry, big teeth. Kinda like a warm yeti.”
“Astrid and Hugo?” Giles asked, gasping as he inhaled.
“Who?” Buffy’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Giles…”
“Stupid name for a crayon color…it’s our code word.”
Giles felt the panic build but did his best to remain calm. “Buffy…are we…together?”
Buffy glanced at Xander, who was staring at her. She nodded slowly, meeting Giles’ eyes and smiling softly.
“Yeah, we are…pretty new, a few weeks.”
Giles stared at her through his one open eye. “Weeks?”
“Yeah…” She replied cautiously. “How deep were your compartments?”
“Apparently, compartments…within compartments.” He whispered, then swallowed with some difficulty. “How badly am I injured?”
“Scarily.” She whispered back, gently squeezing his hand. “They definitely did a number on you.”
“What year is it? And where are we?”
She started to answer and then paused. “I think maybe I should ask you that?”
Xander’s eyes widened. Buffy sighed and sat back on her heels.
Anya made her way over to Xander, slipping her phone back into her pocket. “Police and paramedics are on the way.”
Xander nodded absently, still staring at Giles.
Recognising the concern in Buffy’s eyes, Giles continued quietly. “Where are we, Buffy?”
“Sunnydale, 2002.” She swallowed and reached out with a trembling hand, carefully stroking his hair. “You’ve been back for about three months. Came back with a handful of Potentials. A few nights after you arrived, we sat down and had an all-night heart to heart. Do you remember that?”
A red-tinged tear slipped from the corner of Giles’ eye as the compartments he had opened started to close. “Yes. I kissed you that night.”
“Yeah. And I kissed you after breakfast.” She replied, stifling her urge to cry as she wiped the tear from his skin. “Giles, who are Astrid and Hugo?”
He offered her a strained smile and closed his eye. The sirens sounding in the distance were getting closer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Xander lowered himself in the chair next to Buffy’s, smiling as he handed her a cup of coffee. He glanced at Giles, who was sleeping heavily in the hospital bed. He was on his side, facing them – a few pillows had been strategically placed behind him by the nurse to keep him from rolling onto his back.
Xander took a sip from his own cup and sighed. “So…you and Giles, huh?”
“Are you surprised? Because Will wasn’t.”
He shook his head, a small smirk playing at the corner of his mouth. “Nah, not really. Anya mentioned a few things a couple of years ago. I brushed them away, but it made me start watching you two a bit more. My only question is…when the hell do you two have time to be you two?”
Buffy chuckled softly and shrugged a shoulder. “We make the time…and we take full advantage of any alone time we possibly get.”
“He asked you to marry him.”
“Yeah, I heard that too.” She bit her lip and scratched a design into the styrofoam cup with her thumbnail. “I didn’t think we’re at that stage of our relationship.”
“Would you?” He asked, raising an eyebrow at her. “Marry him?”
“I think I would. I mean, if it was a serious request. He was dealing with a few open compartments…I’m not sure he was really thinking about, you know – reality.”
“I love you.” Giles murmured, causing both Buffy and Xander to look at him.
His right eye was still swollen, but his left was wide open…and staring directly at her. Buffy smiled and leaned forward, covering his hand with hers.
“I love you, too.” Her smile grew as she recognised a look in his eye. “You are in absolutely no shape to make a move, so…how about a raincheck?”
“How bad is it?”
“For once, your head isn’t the worst of your injuries. Are you sure that your skull isn’t metal-plated or something?”
He smiled at her gentle teasing, but said nothing and waited for her to continue.
Buffy sighed and moved her hand to allow her fingers to lightly stroke the hair above his ear, just as she knew he liked. “Your back is pretty bad. I don’t even know how many stitches you have. They…carved a design into you. Obviously it was a ritualistic thing.”
“Obviously.” He agreed softly.
“Anya is going to work with Willow on something to help with the scarring. They seem to think they can completely remove it, but…” Buffy paused, her eyes glistening. “Giles, do you remember anything about what happened?”
“I do.” He swallowed with some difficulty. “They were looking for you. They needed…you. I refused to talk, so they performed a spell – to lure you in.”
“You should’ve just told them.”
“As if I would.” He whispered.
They looked at each other for a long moment before Buffy continued cataloguing his injuries. Cracked ribs, a couple of broken fingers on his right hand, some ligament damage in his left pinky – he had obviously resisted the removal of his ring, many contusions and lacerations…and he’d lost a huge amount of blood. If they hadn’t found him when they did, he surely wouldn’t have survived. As it was, they’d nearly lost him a couple of times on the way to the hospital.
But, he was going to live. He was going to need some recovery time and his bruises would turn all sorts of horrible colors…and he was going to be quite sore for a while. But, he survived.
“Why did they want me?” Buffy asked, not really sure if she wanted to know the answer. As badly as they had tortured him, it couldn’t have been for anything good.
“To open a portal so they could go home.”
Buffy stared at him. “You risked your life because you didn’t want me to help them open a portal?”
“A Slayer’s head would open the portal.” He hesitated, staring intently back at her. “Only her head. So yes, I would have given my life to stop that from happening.”
“Oh…” She was quiet for a moment, but continued stroking his hair with her fingertips. “Do we have to worry about this happening again?”
“No. They were the last two trapped here. Remarkable creatures really…though so very brutal.” He licked his dry lips and swallowed. “Come closer, love.”
“Kiss me.” He whispered. “I feel like it’s been so long.”
“They had you for a couple of days.”
“A lifetime, then.” He replied. “Please…”
She gave him a nod and leaned into him, tenderly brushing her lips across his…carefully avoiding a large cut on the right side of his bottom lip. When he attempted to deepen it with a gentle nudge of his tongue, she pulled back and shook her head…smiling at him.
He smiled back. “Can’t blame me for trying, love.”
Xander cleared his throat. “I’m, uh…just going to go tell the others that you’re awake. And…give you guys some time alone.”
Giles turned his open eye to Xander. “You can tell them, Xander. I don’t want to hide our relationship any longer.”
“Pretty sure they already know.” Buffy said softly. “I wasn’t all that cool, calm, and collected when you went missing.”
Giles smiled, giving her a nod without even moving. Buffy had always been intrigued with his ability to do that.
“I’m really glad you’re going to be okay, Giles.” Xander said, suddenly very emotional. “Not sure how we would have…”
Xander paused, swallowing hard. Giles looked at him, waited for Xander to meet his gaze. When he did, Giles spoke.
“You would have continued on, as you should. But, Xander…you need to clear the air with Anya. She still loves you, you still love her. Don’t throw that away, build on it…work it out.”
“Get over your shit, is what he’s trying to say.”
Giles glanced at Buffy. “Yes, well…”
“Yeah, I know. And you’re right.” Xander smiled as he pushed himself up. “And, gotta say…pretty glad you two got over your shit. Because it hasn’t been pretty.”
“I’m sure.” Giles said, a sad tone creeping into his voice. “It was quite drab in Bath, as well.”
“Hey…we’re moving on from that, yeah?” Buffy said, sliding her fingers behind his ear and stroking the skin in front of his ear with her thumb. “We both did things, said things, thought things…”
Buffy turned to look at Xander. “Just like you and Anya. If we can work through our shit, so can you.”
“He didn’t leave you at the altar…”
“No…” Giles agreed. “But, she did fuck a vampire…the same vampire. So…”
Xander and Buffy both stared at Giles, who cleared his throat. “Get over your shit, Xander. Because if you don’t, you’ll lose her forever.”
“Yeah.” Xander nodded. “Um…yeah, goodnight. I’m…I think I’m going to go have a chat.”
Giles smiled, turning his gaze back to Buffy…who was still staring at him…as the door closed behind Xander. His smile faded and he sighed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that.”
“Are we past that?” She asked, furrowing her brow.
“Yes, love. I was just saying that I could understand…”
“Would you leave me at the altar? I mean…if we were supposed to be meeting at an altar?”
“Not a chance. Would you want me to?”
Buffy tilted her head as she looked at him in confusion. “Leave me? Um…no…”
“No. Would you want me to meet you at an altar?” He reached out and touched her cheek with his left index and middle fingers, grimacing lightly at the movement. “Because I would.”
“When you’re ready, Buffy. I’ll not push. But, know that I mean it.”
She leaned down and kissed him softly. “Astrid and Hugo?”
“Mm…not going to let that go, are you?” He asked, carefully shifting in order to relieve the pressure on his hip.
“I’m intrigued.” She said, realising he was a bit uncomfortable. “You okay?”
She sighed and shook her head. “We can’t put you on your back, obviously. Your ribs can’t take you on your stomach right now. Your left side would probably be the best option because of your eye, but you’re left handed…so…you’re on your right.”
Giles exhaled slowly and shifted again, then sighed as the pressure was relieved. “In my level one, I was dealing with an apocalypse – research, Slayers, you being incredibly upset with me over my helping Faith and not wearing my ring.”
He smiled as she arched an eyebrow. “In the level two compartments, we were together in England…living together, not married, with our two children.”
“One – you wouldn’t marry me? And two – we named our children Astrid and Hugo? What the hell were you smoking in level two?”
Giles laughed, then winced in pain. “God, don’t make me laugh, Buffy.”
“Sorry. But, seriously…what the hell?”
“One – I had asked you numerous times, you declined each time. You told me to ask you again when you’d found me. Two – I’m fairly certain I chose Astrid’s name. You wanted to name our son Arlo.”
Buffy’s eyes widened slightly. “Arlo? How did you know that?”
“I’ve always liked the name Arlo. I don’t think I’d ever told anyone before.”
“Interesting.” He murmured, fighting to keep his eye open.
“You’re tired.” She stated, placing her hand on his shoulder. “But before you go to sleep…I need to say thank you. Thank you, Giles…for being the best Watcher a Slayer could have, the best boyfriend a girl could have…”
He snorted softly. “Boyfriend…”
“Partner.” She amended with a smile. “You’re the best everything. And I’m so grateful for you.”
“Go to sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up. Maybe Anya and Willow will have some ideas on how to get you better faster…because I really want to snuggle with you.”
“We can snuggle…” He exhaled a deep breath when she merely stared at him. “Yeah, okay…maybe not right now.”
“Definitely not right now.”
“Mm.” He mumbled, closing his eye. “You’re the best everything, too.”
She smiled as he fell asleep. Tomorrow they’d sort him out, hopefully. She had to admit that her urgency wasn’t all about his wellbeing. There was a bit of selfishness there – she missed his arms around her, his mouth exploring her skin, his hands setting her nerve endings on fire, his cock filling her. She shook her head suddenly and blew out a deep breath.
Yeah, not completely about his wellbeing. She’d try not to feel too badly about that. But, that was tomorrow.
Tonight, she’d sit by his bed. Watch him sleep, listen to him breathe, talk to him while he was awake.
And dare anyone or anything to come after him again.
She smiled as he murmured her name in his sleep. He sighed happily as she carefully placed her hand on his.
No…she triple dog dared them.
Never test Buffy Summers on a triple dog dare. You will not win.