Title: Ever the Same
Timeline: S6, directly following Once More with Feeling.
Synopsis: Giles steps in to help Buffy cope with her return to living.
Author’s Note: This was written for the Multi-Fandom Big Bang 2019-2020. Artwork was created by blondebitz. And, as always...a very special thanks to A for looking over this fic for me.
“Buffy!” Giles called as Buffy turned and ran towards the door.
He started after her, pausing when he heard Willow’s tearful voice.
“Giles, I…I didn’t know…”
He turned towards her and glared. “You wouldn’t listen, Willow. You wouldn’t accept the truth. You only cared about proving what you could do and not about what was best for her.”
Willow glanced at Tara, hoping for support. Tara lowered her eyes and took a step towards Giles.
“He’s right, Willow.” She said softly.
Willow’s mouth dropped open as she stared at Tara. “You helped me!”
Tara nodded slowly. “We all did. Because you convinced us that you were right, but…”
Willow darted her eyes between Tara and Giles. “I really thought I was doing the right thing!”
Giles blew out an exasperated breath. “I do not have the time for this right now. We can discuss it later.”
“But – “
Giles’ eyes narrowed in anger. “Again, you’re only concerned about yourself. Buffy just confirmed to all of us where she was…and all you care about is justifying your actions. And all I care about is finding her.”
Without another word, he turned and ran out of the building. Willow sat down on the floor, her back against the wall, and allowed her tears to fall. Tara slowly made her way to her and sat down near her…but not touching her.
* * *
Giles ran into the alley behind The Bronze, pausing as he heard Buffy and Spike singing…watching them slowly walk towards one another. Just as Spike leaned into kiss Buffy, Giles’ hand gripped the collar of his jacket and flung him backwards.
“What the fuck, mate?!” Spike growled as he stumbled.
Giles’ eyes were dark as he glared at him. “Stay away from her, Spike.”
“Giles?” Buffy whispered, her tone full of confusion...as well as sadness.
Giles turned to her, forcing his eyes to soften. “Come with me, Buffy. Please.”
“You can’t give her what she needs, Rupert.” Spike sneered, a grin appearing on his face.
Giles ignored him, focusing his gaze on Buffy. “What you’ve been through is unimaginable, Buffy. I can’t take those memories from you, I can’t magically make things better for you. But, I can listen…I can help you through this…if you’ll allow me.”
“But…you’re leaving.” Buffy said, pain showing clearly in her glistening eyes. “You’re just standing in the way, right?”
“I’m not leaving, love.” Spike stated, moving around Giles to catch Buffy’s eye.
Buffy held up her hand towards Spike, not breaking the gaze she was sharing with Giles. “Right?”
“I didn’t realise that you were actually listening to me.” Giles responded softly.
“So…why don’t you just fuck off back to merry old England then?”
“Shut up, Spike.” Buffy and Giles said simultaneously.
Spike’s eyes widened as he stared at Buffy. “Are you fucking serious? Because the Watcher comes out here and – “
Giles finally broke the gaze and turned towards Spike. “This has nothing to do with you, Spike.”
Spike’s grin returned as he shoved his hands in his pockets. “You want to shag her.”
“I want to help her.” Giles stated, his jaw clenching.
“Yeah, well…a good shag will help her.” Spike said, reaching into his coat pocket for his cigarettes. He lit one and took a deep drag before gesturing towards Buffy with the cigarette. “She knows that as well as I do. That’s why she came to me…”
Giles took a step towards Spike, his eyes darkening in barely contained rage. “If you go near her…I will stake you where you stand. No questions, no hesitations...consider that your only warning.”
Spike snorted a laugh, but quickly averted his eyes from Giles’ dangerous glare. He looked at Buffy and offered her the warmest smile he could manage.
“You coming or staying, love?”
Buffy was quiet for a moment, her eyes darting between Spike and Giles. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but…I know I can’t go with you, Spike.”
Spike shook his head in disbelief and threw his cigarette to the side. “No parade with seventy-six trombones today, then…”
He glanced at Giles and narrowed his eyes. “You’ll never make her happy.”
“I’ll never force her into the darkness.” Giles countered, eyes dark with barely contained rage.
Spike scoffed and threw his hand up in the air as he turned and walked away. “Fuck both of you.”
Giles stared after him until Spike turned the corner. He took a deep shuddering breath and forced himself to calm before he turned to face Buffy. Buffy sighed heavily and wrapped her arms around herself.
“So, when are you leaving?”
“Why did you pretend that you weren’t listening to me?” He questioned, instead of answering hers. “I laid so much down for you – “
“Because if I ignored it, it wasn’t happening.” She replied softly, lowering her eyes. “Just like everything else. If I didn’t hear you, you weren’t really leaving me here on my own.”
“Buffy…” Giles took a step closer to her.
“When are you leaving?” She repeated, her voice trembling as she fought back her tears.
“Where do we go from here?” He asked softly.
Buffy sniffled and then chuckled as she wiped her eyes. “I’m not singing anymore tonight, Giles.”
“Nor am I.” He replied, slipping his hands into his pockets. “I’m asking, quite literally, where do we go from here. We need to talk, Buffy. This…this isn’t the place for us to talk.”
Buffy nodded in agreement and ran her fingers through her hair. “Coffee?”
“We can do coffee.” Giles said, gesturing down the street with a tilt of his head. “Espresso Pump?”
She shook her head slowly and sighed. “Too many people know us there. And I have a feeling that the conversation we’re going to have is going to include ugly crying and possibly some yelling…”
“There’s a nice café just outside of town…” He offered her a sad smile. “They have dark corners to hide ugly crying…or tables out back to keep other patrons from being disturbed by impassioned conversation.”
She thought for a moment and then blew out a deep breath. “Okay, let’s go.”
They fell into step with one another as they slowly made their way to his car. His hands still in his pockets, her arms wrapped around herself. Xander and Anya stepped out into the alley way and watched them leave.
“That’s going to take more than an ice cream sundae to fix.” Anya stated.
“Yeah. Yeah, it is.” Xander sighed heavily and glanced back towards the door they had just come out of. “We should probably go back in with the others. I think we all have some things to work through.”
“I wonder what Heaven is like?” Anya thought aloud as she followed Xander back in.
Xander paused and regarded Anya closely. “Let’s not ask her right now, okay?”
After she gave him a gentle nod in agreement, he continued back in. She glanced once more down the alley, smiling softly as Giles closed the passenger door to his car and then walked around to the driver’s side.
“Always the gentleman.” She whispered and then followed Xander inside.
The car ride to the café had been made in complete silence. Giles had glanced at her more than a few times during the drive and each time she had been staring out of the side window, but not focused on anything. He looked at the young barista and smiled as he picked up the two mugs from the counter.
The barista nodded and then watched as Giles made his way to the table in a dark corner of the café. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she had noticed that both of them had looked extremely sad and more than a little nervous. As another order came in, the barista turned her attention back to the coffee machine.
Giles cleared his throat as he placed one of the mugs in front of Buffy and sat down in the chair opposite her. Buffy stared at the mug and then looked up at Giles.
“You know what coffee I drink?” She asked, clearly surprised.
He shrugged a shoulder and wrapped his hands around his mug. “In my role as Watcher, it’s imperative that I…watch you…”
She glanced at his mug and sighed. “I’ve only even seen you drink coffee once.”
Giles swallowed nervously and waited until Buffy’s eyes met his. He paused for a moment and then took a deep breath.
“I don’t want to leave, Buffy.”
“Then…don’t.” She replied, biting her lip. “I know I’ve put so much on you since I came back. I haven’t been taking responsibility for…well, for anything. It’s not fair to you.”
“It’s not fair to you. If I had…if I’d known…I would’ve been more understanding. Thing is, I knew something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t reach you. Each time I tried, you’d walk away or change the subject or…” He sighed heavily and rubbed the back of his neck. “I should have fought harder to get you to confide in me.”
She shook her head slowly, running her finger through the foam on top of her coffee. “That would’ve just ended up in me screaming at you.”
“That would have been more than the silence you gave instead.”
“I’m sorry.” She whispered, a tear slipping down her cheek.
Without thinking, Giles reached over and gently brushed the tear away. “You’ve nothing to be sorry about, Buffy.”
“Please don’t leave, Giles.” She said softly, wiping the back of her hand across her cheek. “There’s no way that I can survive any of this without you.”
“Buffy – “
“No, seriously. I was going to let Spike kiss me…just so I could feel something.” She shook her head as more tears fell. “That’s how fucked up I really am.”
“I think each of us are fucked up to some degree.” He replied matter-of-factly, smiling sadly as her eyes widened slightly. He cleared his throat and continued. “I spent one hundred and forty-seven days trying to remember to breathe. I’ve spent the last thirty-five wishing there was something I could do to help you transition back to the living. And, as it turns out, I’m not even sure you want to transition.”
“I don’t want to die, Giles. Not again. Twice is enough. I just…I don’t know how to live now.” She blew out a deep, shaky breath as her tears spilled again. “And how am I supposed to do…everything…on my own, when I don’t even know how to live? How can I take care of Dawn? She obviously has a lot of issues of her own. How am I supposed to pay the bills? I can’t get a job. How am I supposed to…”
She trailed off, her tears turning to heart-wrenching sobs. Giles moved quickly, kneeling next to her chair and pulling her into his arms. He held her tightly as her pain and fear consumed her. As her tears soaked into his shirt, he closed his eyes…sighing as a tear of his own rolled down his cheek.
“Let me help you, Buffy. Let me help you stand, fight, breathe…live.” He swallowed hard and lovingly ran his fingers through her hair. “You must live, Buffy. Let me help you.”
Her fingers gripped his back as she held on tightly to him. “I can’t do any of this without you, Giles.”
“I’ll stay.” He whispered. He smiled softly as she pulled back just enough to look at him. “I’ll stay, but you need to take more responsibility. Especially for Dawn.”
“Are you sure?” She asked, shifting out of his embrace and wiping her face with her hands. “Because you seemed pretty sure about leaving…”
“Truth be told, I don’t really know what I’d do if I weren’t your Watcher.” He replied as he moved back to his chair, lifting his left hand and rubbing the back of his head. “But, I do know that leaving right now wouldn’t be the best thing for you. Especially with Spike hanging around.”
Her eyes narrowed slightly. “Are you staying for me…or because of Spike?”
“For you, Buffy.” He answered without hesitation. “But, Spike…he’d just take advantage of the situation.”
“So…you’re going to protect me from Spike?” She asked, annoyance edging into her tone.
He took a deep breath, regarding her closely as he carefully chose his next words. “Physical protection isn’t what you need, Buffy. You are more than capable of taking care of yourself…physically. Emotionally, however…yes, I will protect you from Spike. I will protect you from our friends. I will protect you from anyone who tries to take advantage of you in any manner.”
“Our friends? You think our friends would take advantage of me?”
Giles hesitated for a moment and then shrugged a shoulder. “I think Willow is in a very precarious position. I think we’re going to need to keep a very close eye on her…and I think she will do her best to manipulate any situation to fit her needs.”
Buffy leaned back and stared at him. “How angry at her are you?”
“I’m furious.” He replied honestly. “But, I’m also terrified for her. She is becoming heavily involved in some dangerously dark magick and that will lead her down a very treacherous path.”
“How do you know that?” Buffy asked.
Giles raised an eyebrow at her. “You know of my past.”
She nodded slowly. “Yeah, but look at you now. You were our age when that happened…”
He paused for a moment and then cleared his throat. “I was. And a very good friend died, another friend followed Chaos, and I was sent to rehabilitation at the Council – which nearly did me in. That…is not what I want for any of you.”
“Buffy, as much as I know we need to get Willow sorted, she is not who I want to discuss at the moment.”
She nodded in understanding and finally took a sip of her coffee. “I have a lot of shit to sort out. I don’t even know where to start with Dawn.”
Giles took a drink from his mug, meeting her eyes. “So, let’s start with the easiest thing to fix.”
“Which is…?” Buffy asked, completely at a loss as to what could possibly be easy to fix in her life.
“Finances.” Giles responded.
She stared at him incredulously. “Finances? Seriously? How the hell am I supposed to hold a job down? Who the hell would even hire me? It’s not like – “
“I’ve put in a request that you be added to the Council’s payroll.” He interrupted nervously, unsure of how she would actually take the suggestion.
“Now…I know how you feel about the Council, but they pay quite well and with the current circumstances – “
“Thank you.” She whispered emotionally.
“I’m sorry?” He questioned, somewhat perplexed at her reaction.
She reached over and placed her hand on his forearm. “Thank you, Giles.”
He covered her hand with his and sighed. “You’re welcome, Buffy.”
“What if they deny the request, though?”
Giles smiled warmly. “I would be very surprised if they denied the request.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “Who made the request? You? Or Ripper?”
He chuckled and affectionately squeezed her hand. “I did. I just made some very compelling arguments that Travers would be hard-pressed to ignore.”
“Do I want to know?”
Instead of answering her question, he glanced at his watch. “Do you feel up to going on patrol tonight? I could…well, I could go with you…if you’d like.”
She nodded slowly. “I’d like.”
He smiled as he stood up. His smile faded somewhat when she stood up and looked up at him, tears in her eyes.
“Promise that you’re staying?”
“I promise, Buffy. I’ll need to find somewhere to live…”
“We can clear out the art room. Move everything down to the basement.” She offered as a suggestion, shrugging as he stared at her. “I mean, if you want to stay at the house. I’d understand if you don’t, it’s a pretty tense place to be at the moment.”
“Is that where you need me to be?” He asked, slipping his hands into his pockets.
“I really think I do.” She answered, a tear spilling down her cheek. “And…I am so fucking tired of crying.”
“Me too.” He whispered, barely audible over the sounds within the café.
Barely audible…but she heard him with perfect clarity.
He could see in her eyes that she had actually heard his whispered statement and offered her a shy smile. “If you need me at the house, the house is where I’ll be. But, I’m serious, Buffy…you need to be Dawn’s guardian. I can’t be that for her.”
“I know.” She said, following him towards the door of the café. “I don’t even know where to start there. She’s so far off the rails right now.”
He held the door open for her and met her eyes. “I can’t take on the role, but I can offer you support and an ear…even a shoulder.”
“I’m really lucky to have you in my life.” She said, walking outside.
“I rather think it’s the other way around.” He said quietly, following her and letting the door close behind them.
Buffy and Giles walked side by side through the cemetery. Buffy absently twirled the stake in her hand as Giles scanned their surroundings.
“This is probably the most relaxed I’ve been on patrol since…I came back.”
He glanced down at her briefly. “Oh?”
“Yeah, everyone else just wants to talk about…whatever the hell they talk about. To be honest, I don’t know what they’re talking about most of the time. They all talk at the same time and their voices just kinda mish-mash together and I can’t hear a fucking thing.”
Giles chuckled softly. “That was my life the first few years here.”
“But, with just me and you, I can think and – ” She reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him behind her as a vampire made his presence known. “You ready for this?”
He nodded, pulling a stake from his inner jacket pocket. “I am.”
“How many times do you have to die before you stay dead?”
Buffy rolled her eyes and threw the stake, answering as the vampire’s eyes widened in surprise. “More times than you.”
“Hm...” Giles murmured as the vampire exploded into ash.
“Hm, what?” Buffy asked, bending down to pick up her stake.
“I was expecting…more?”
“More vampires?” She asked, turning towards him.
He shook his head slowly. “More banter.”
“Oh. Yeah, well…not as much fun anymore. Besides, you’ve always said to plunge and move on.”
“Yes, but you’ve never followed that instruction.” He cleared his throat and regarded her carefully. “Not as much…fun?”
“Why is this a problem, Giles? I thought, out of all things, this would make you happy.” She responded, genuinely confused.
Giles sighed and sat down on a bench. “Your banter, your style, your…essence…that’s always been uniquely Buffy. While I might have lectured you time and time again about your inability to simply plunge and move on, your refusal to do so has partly added to your success as Slayer.”
“So, now I’m just a normal Slayer. Out here, getting the job done.”
He watched her as she paced back and forth in front of him. “You’ve never been a normal Slayer and it’s never been just a job for you.”
“Now you want me to hone my puns?” She sighed in exasperation and shoved her hands into her jacket pockets. “Nothing I do is good enough for anyone anymore.”
“It’s not about doing…or being…good enough for anyone. It’s about…being you.” Giles responded gently. “You need to be you…”
“And who the fuck am I?” She asked loudly, staring at Giles as he stood up in front of her.
He lifted his hands and grasped her shoulders as he stared into her eyes. “You are Buffy Summers. The one girl in all the world – ”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “I swear to God, Giles….you go into the Slayer speech right now and you and I are going to have one hell of a fight.”
Giles smiled softly and continued. “ – who has the ability to make me the proudest Watcher…the proudest man…I have ever hoped to be. You always have been amazing, even at your most annoying or infuriating…”
Her eyes softened. “How can I possibly make you proud right now? Look at me…”
“I’m a complete mess.”
“So you’re proud that I’m a mess? You didn’t get any less confusing while I was dead, did you?”
He lowered his hands and shook his head as he took a step back. She instantly regretted the words that had slipped out of her mouth.
“Giles, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“Let’s, uh…let’s call it a night, shall we?” He replied quietly.
“Giles?” She whispered, hearing the pain in his words.
“If anything, I became more confusing while you were…gone.” He cleared his throat, glancing around the cemetery nervously. “I was somewhat lost as well. Fairly certain I still am.”
“But, you have your Slayer back now.”
He met her eyes briefly and sighed. “A variant of.”
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be who I was again…”
“It’s not about becoming who you were, Buffy. It’s about accepting where you’ve been and allowing that aspect to become part of who you are now…and continuing in life.”
“So we’re back to the ‘you must live’ thing, right?” She sighed heavily as he nodded. “It should be so easy to just do that. To just…live.”
“Sometimes the hardest thing to do in life is live.” He replied, smiling sadly as she met his eyes.
“You know that all too well, don’t you?” She asked, easily seeing the pain in his eyes.
“Do you have plans for tomorrow?” He asked, avoiding the question.
“Oh yeah, big plans. I have heaps of things to avoid and ignore tomorrow.”
“Can you be ready to leave by 6:30?”
“Leave?” Her brow furrowed. “Where are we going? The last time we left at that time of day, you took me into the desert with a gourd.”
“No desert, no gourds, no shaking of gourds…and no quests with the first Slayer.” He exhaled nervously. “Just you, me, and something that I hope will help you as much as it’s helped me over the years.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Are we getting drunk together?”
He stared at her. “High? I don’t…I haven’t…”
“Xander found your stash one time while he was looking for Jaffa Cakes.” She interrupted with a smile.
He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, and then shrugged a shoulder. “And why was this revelation not brought to my attention in a most humiliating way?”
“Because I told him that if he ever mentioned it to you or anyone else, he’d have to deal with me.”
“We all have things that help us in one way or the other and the fact that I’ve never actually seen you stoned told me that it wasn’t a problem for you. But, maybe you needed it…sometimes. Who are we to make you feel bad about that?”
“Thank you.” He whispered, disbelief showing brightly in his eyes.
“Are we getting high together?”
Giles coughed and shook his head. “No, no…not tomorrow.”
A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “I can be ready by 6:30.”
He nodded silently. He wondered, not for the first time in his life, what exactly just took place in that conversation.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was 5:30 in the morning when Giles quietly made his way downstairs, heading towards the kitchen to make a cup of tea. His eyes narrowed as he walked into the living room, finding Buffy sitting on the sofa…dressed and drinking a cup of coffee.
“Morning.” She said, glancing at him when she heard his soft sigh. “You okay?”
“Good morning, Buffy.” He replied, offering her a small smile. “I’m fine, I just wasn’t expecting you to be down here already.”
“Yeah…I don’t sleep much anymore.” She answered, gesturing towards the kitchen. “The kettle has just boiled. Turned it on when I heard the shower turn off…”
“Oh…thank you.” He regarded her closely for a moment. “How much sleep are you getting these days?”
“Three hours or so….” She shrugged a shoulder and took a sip of her coffee. “Sometimes.”
“Slept pretty hard for about five months, guess I don’t need much right now.”
Though he could hear the levity in her voice and could see the smile playing at her lips, he found no humour in the statement.
“Yes, well…” He gestured towards the kitchen and cleared his throat. “I’ll just go make a tea and…”
He trailed off, shaking his head and walking into the kitchen. Buffy sighed heavily and, after a few seconds, followed him. She watched him put together his morning cup of tea with the precision that she used to tease him about. And then she noticed the tension that his body was holding…and knew that she was, at least in part, to blame for it.
“I’m sorry, Giles.”
He paused his movements, the kettle in his hand and cleared his throat again. “I’ll be ready to leave soon.”
“We have an hour.” She said, leaning against the island in the middle of the room. “I’m really sorry. What I said…it wasn’t funny.”
“No. No, it wasn’t.” He agreed, returning the kettle to the counter and turning to look at her. “Thank you.”
“What are we doing today?” She asked. “I mean, do we need to pack food or…anything?”
“I took care of that last night after you went to bed.” He splashed some milk into his tea and gave it a quick stir. “And you’ll find out what we’re doing when we get there.”
“You promise there’s no gourds…”
He smiled gently and took a sip of his tea. “No gourds.”
Buffy furrowed her brow as Giles pulled the car to a stop. “Why did we have to leave by 6:30 if we were just driving like five minutes out of town?”
“Because I want to be somewhere by 7:30 and it’ll take us about an hour to get there from here.”
Buffy looked at their surroundings and then turned her eyes to him. “Um, Giles?”
“Yes?” He killed the engine and unbuckled his seatbelt.
“Those are stables…”
“Yes, they are.” He opened his door and climbed out of the car, stretching his back. He leaned down and looked in at her. “You coming?”
She got out of the car and stared at him. “What the hell’s going on?’
“Well…going for a ride has always helped clear my head…”
“Horse riding?” She questioned, her confusion growing as he gave her a gentle nod. “You ride horses?”
He smiled warmly and gestured towards the stables with a tilt of his head. “Come on, I’ll introduce you.”
“Introduce me to…Giles, seriously, what the hell?”
He took a deep breath and walked over to her. “Please, trust me.”
She bit her lip, glancing at the stables and then meeting his eyes. “Why have I never known that you ride horses?”
“You never asked.” He replied softly, gently placing his hand on her back. “Come on.”
“I feel like I’ve come back to a world that’s just that tiny bit different…like a parallel universe or something.” She walked with him towards the stables, looking up at him when he chuckled. “Is that what happened? I came back to the slightly more bizarre Sunnydale, California?”
“Yes, you’ve stepped right into The Twilight Zone…” He stopped at the first stall and clicked his tongue, smiling as the large black horse stepped over to him. “Hello, gorgeous. How have you been?”
He reached out and gently stroked the horse’s white flash between his eyes, laughing as the horse then gently nuzzled him. “Missed you too…”
“What, are you like a horse whisperer or something?” Buffy asked, genuinely confused.
“Horse whisp…no, no. Ringo belongs to me.”
“Ringo?” She raised an eyebrow at him. “You have a horse, you go riding, and your horse’s name is…Ringo?”
Giles looked at Ringo and smiled. “This is Buffy…”
Ringo neighed and nuzzled Giles’ shoulder again. Giles looked at Buffy, who was staring at him in disbelief.
“What’s wrong with the name Ringo?”
“I am so confused about what is going on at the moment…”
“Are you okay with horses?” Giles asked, suddenly unsure as to whether this was a good idea or not.
“What? Oh, yeah…I used to ride when I was a kid. But, I haven’t ridden in years.”
Giles nodded and handed her a couple of carrots and an apple. He smiled as he unlatched the stall gate. “Would you like to get acquainted with him while I get him ready?”
“Sure…” She smiled as she broke one of the carrots in half and fed it to him. “He really is beautiful.”
Giles looked at her, but didn’t say anything…content to watch her gently rub Ringo’s nose as he chewed the carrot.
“How old is he?”
“Seven.” Giles replied, sliding the saddle into place.
“How long have you had him?” She asked as Ringo nudged her for another piece of carrot.
“I was there when he was born. His mother belongs to my aunt.” He said, gently stroking Ringo’s neck. “As soon as he was born, I asked if I could have him.”
Giles chuckled and led Ringo out of the stall. “When he was a colt, he would stamp his feet in time with music. So…Ringo…”
“You’ve had a horse the entire time you’ve been here?”
Giles shook his head and took a deep breath. “No, he stayed with my aunt for a while. After…after Jenny died, I had him shipped out.”
Buffy looked at him as she fed the apple to Ringo.
“When I needed to get away…to clear my head…I’d come out and just ride for hours. Ringo has helped me through some fairly…rough times.”
“But, you were always home when I needed you…”
Giles chuckled and attached a bag to the saddle. “There was never a time at any point in the years that I’ve been in Sunnydale that you showed up at my house at 6:30 in the morning.”
“And then…after you died...” He exhaled deeply and gently stroked Ringo’s mane. “Well, it didn’t matter what time of day I went riding.”
She regarded him closely, feeling the pain in that simple sentence. Her eyes followed him as he mounted Ringo and extended his hand to her.
“Come on, then.” He smiled warmly at her.
She took his hand and easily lifted herself up, settling in behind him. “If I fall off, you better not laugh…”
“You’re not going to fall off.” He laughed softly and shifted forward a bit. “Just…put your arms around me. It’s not as if we’re going to gallop through the forest. You’ll be fine.”
She slipped her arms around his waist and smiled. “Where are we going then?”
“I want to show you something.” He replied as Ringo starting walking towards the track leading into the woods. “If you need or want to stop at any point, just let me know.”
She nodded silently, content to listen to the sound of Ringo’s hooves striking the ground with each step. She found it to be oddly comforting and soon lost herself in her own thoughts.
* * *
If it weren’t for the fact that he could feel her arms around his waist, he would’ve thought he was riding alone. She hadn’t moved, she hadn’t spoken…she hadn’t made a sound. Of course, neither had he…so, he couldn’t really complain about the lack of conversation. Besides, that wasn’t the point of this anyway. She needed to reflect, to think – and perhaps that’s exactly what she was doing.
He had to admit, part of him was actually very glad that she wasn’t wanting to talk right now. He wasn’t sure what he’d say. He was feeling quite anxious and nervous himself, even though this was his idea. He had never shared this part of himself with anyone in Sunnydale. Riding had been therapeutic for him since he was a child. The one activity that could calm his mind even at the most stressful of times. He wasn’t sure if it would help Buffy in the same way, but he also knew that he had to try something. Because he was very close to losing her again.
As Ringo stepped into a small clearing, Buffy gasped sharply. Giles smiled at the reaction.
“Are you alright?” He asked softly as Ringo stopped walking and whinnied.
“Yeah. This is…beautiful.” She replied, her eyes taking in their surroundings. “Are we here?”
“I mean…is this where you were bringing me?”
“Oh, yes. Yes, it is.” He patted Ringo’s neck and gracefully dismounted the horse before helping Buffy down.
He glanced at his watch and then gestured towards a large boulder with a tilt of his head. “Follow me?”
“To a rock? I thought you said no quests. That’s what I did on my quest…I sat on a rock.”
He smiled gently and took a step towards the boulder. “Please…trust me.”
“I think you’re probably the only person I do trust at the moment.” She sighed heavily and followed him, glancing back at Ringo. “Should you tie him up or something?”
Giles shook his head and looked back at the horse. “No, he’s good.”
She watched him as he quickly scaled the large boulder. “Who knew you could climb rocks?”
He chuckled and stood on top of the rock, looking down at her. “It’s not as if it’s rock-climbing, Buffy. Come on…”
She climbed up and stood next to him. “Wow…”
“Mm-hm. Amazing, isn’t it?” He whispered.
“Who would’ve thought there was a canyon in Sunnydale?”
“It’s hardly a canyon, but it is quite lovely.” Giles grinned and looked at her. “I feel certain it was created when the Hellmouth opened.”
Buffy furrowed her brow. “Hellmouth and lovely. Not two words I expected to ever hear in relation to one another.”
He sat down on the boulder and gently pulled her down next to him. “It’s most beautiful this time of day. The sun is at the perfect angle to bring out the different hues of the exposed…”
He trailed off, recognising the amusement in Buffy’s eyes.
“Well, the colors are magnificent. And they can only be seen this time of day…from this rock.” He finished softly, a shy smile on his face.
“So, you come here…sit on a rock and just think?”
“Not terribly exciting I know, but – “
“It’s perfect.” She interrupted, her eyes filling with tears.
“Buffy?” He asked, concern consuming him as he looked her.
“How am I supposed to do this?”
Before Giles could even begin to form a reply, she broke down. Her tears giving way to heart-wrenching sobs. He pulled her into his arms quickly, holding her tightly as she fell apart.
“I’m here, Buffy.” He whispered, placing a soft kiss in her hair. “We’ll do this together. This isn’t the end anymore. This could be a new beginning for you…and for me.”
“Huh?” She mumbled, sniffling as she rested her cheek against his chest.
“I’m very much a hypocrite, to be honest. Telling you how you need to live and…”
“Are you okay, Giles?” She asked softly, looking up at him as he paused.
“It’s been a very long and incredibly painful six months.” He replied after a moment.
“But, you’re not talking about you…you’re only talking about helping me…”
“Yes, well…my intention was not to discuss any of my own issues at the moment. This is about doing what I can to assist you.”
“Giles…” She started and then paused. Taking a deep breath, she leaned back and wiped her eyes. “Maybe…maybe we need to help each other. Maybe you need to talk about how you felt when I died.”
“I can’t.” He whispered, his green eyes glistening as he looked away from her.
“I watched you.” She said quietly. “For a few days after I died. I was around. I’m not sure why I’ve just remembered that. I can feel those emotions so clearly now. I was still here, until I left…I needed to make sure everyone was okay. And for the most part, everyone was okay.”
Giles scoffed lightly and continued to stare at the canyon.
“Everyone was sad, but they were okay.” She hesitated as she watched him, the tears threatening to spill down his cheeks. “Except for you. You were…not…okay.”
He lowered his head slightly and took a shuddering breath.
“I think we need to help each other, Giles. This isn’t about you helping me, it can’t be that. It’s about us…helping each other. Because we’ve both been really shaken by this…I mean, look at us.”
She paused as he lifted his head.
“Sitting on a rock before 8am in the middle of a forest, looking at a canyon that I didn’t even know existed, crying over the fact that neither of us know how to deal with the fact that I died…and now I’m alive. That’s a pretty fucked up thing, right?”
“I’m not sure what’s more fucked up…” He chuckled softly and wiped his eyes before looking at her. “What you’ve just described or the fact that I brought you out here to help you open up and I ended up falling apart.”
“We’ll fall apart together, Giles. And then we’ll pick up our pieces…and find a way to live. Right?”
“What the hell just happened?” He stared at her, genuinely confused at the sudden shift in their roles. “I honestly wasn’t expecting this, I…this isn’t why I brought you here.”
“I think it’s something telling us, showing us, that we truly need each other in this world. Maybe it’s something to research, maybe it’s not. All I do know is that right now, at this moment, I feel stronger than I have since I came back. Maybe it’s because I’m looking at you, listening to you, hearing you…and I finally see that you’ve been hurting as much as I have been – but for different reasons. And that I’m not alone in this.”
“You’ve never been alone, Buffy.”
“But you were, weren’t you?” She asked gently. “They left you alone.”
He gave her a small smile. “Well, I did tell them to…they all tend to listen more to my words than you ever did.”
“They should have listened to you, not your words.” She said, quickly averting her eyes from his.
His smile faded as he felt her anger. “Buffy?”
“They never should have left you alone.” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. “They should have fucking looked at you and said…no, we’re not leaving you alone. That’s what I would’ve said. ‘Fuck no, Giles…I’m not leaving you alone.’ That’s what I have said…more than once.”
“They’re not you, Buffy.” He responded, sighing heavily.
She suddenly stood up and crossed her arms over her chest, staring at the crevice in the earth as she shook her head. “God, I’m so fucking angry…”
“You have every right to be.” Giles stated, standing up next to her. “I can’t say that I’m not happy to have you back, because I am. But, you have every right to be angry about it. This wasn’t your choosing, it’s not as if you were asked your opinion.”
“She thought she was doing the right thing.” Buffy said, running her hand through her hair.
“That’s what she says.” Giles said quietly, glancing at Buffy before carefully sliding off the edge of the boulder and landing safely on the ground.
“What?” Buffy asked, puzzled at the comment, and then jumped to the ground as well.
“We can discuss Willow later. Actually, at some point soon, we should discuss Willow.” Giles replied, walking over to Ringo and carefully removing the bag from the saddle. “But, let’s just say that I have had a couple of extremely disturbing conversations with her that have left me concerned about where she’s heading.”
Giles shook his head and met her eyes as he opened the bag. “Not now, Buffy.”
Buffy nodded slowly, watching as he pulled various items out of the bag. Picnic blanket, containers of food, thermos of what she assumed would be tea…
“Is that a magic bag or something?” She asked, amusement in her tone.
“Hm?” He looked at her as he spread the blanket out.
“It’s like one of those clown cars…”
Giles looked confused for a moment and then smiled. “Ah, bigger on the inside…”
“Bigger on the inside?” Buffy repeated, taking her turn at being confused over the conversation.
Giles chuckled and sat down, gesturing for her to join him. “I fear that I have not done my duty as a proper Englishman in that I haven’t introduced you to Doctor Who.”
“That’s right.” He replied with a grin, opening a container of grapes.
“I really missed you, Buffy. More than I can put into words.” He said as she sat down next to him.
“You missed confusing me with your random Britishisms…”
“That too.” He watched her grab a handful of grapes as he pulled two travel mugs out of the bag. “I think you’re right.”
“About what?” She asked, smiling as he poured tea into both mugs.
He handed one of the mugs to her and looked at her quizzically. Buffy shrugged as her smile grew. “Just figured it would be tea.”
“Oh…yes, well…” He returned her smile and replaced the lid on the thermos.
“What am I right about?” She asked, realising he’d fallen off the train of their conversation.
“Hm?” He murmured as he took a sip of his tea. “Oh. In that we should help one another…be what we need each other to be. It isn’t about me being the Watcher all of the time and taking care of you – it’s about admitting that I need help too. And, if I’m honest, the only person who can help me…is you.”
Buffy’s eyes widened slightly. “What do you mean?”
“Willow, Xander, Tara, Anya, Dawn…they know me, of course. But, they don’t comprehend – fully comprehend – the complexity of our relationship, our bond…as Watcher and Slayer. Even if they would want to help me, they wouldn’t be able to…because they simply can’t appreciate the situation for what it is.”
Buffy nodded in understanding and smiled. “Hm…”
“You admitting I was right.”
“It has happened in the past.” Giles replied with a laugh.
Buffy smiled brightly and took a sip of her tea. “Thank you, Giles.”
Giles chewed a grape and opened another container which held a variety of vegetables. He pulled out a carrot and met her eyes.
Buffy looked around and sighed. “Everything. Bringing me here, introducing me to Ringo, sharing this with me. I know that this was a big deal for you.”
“Why do you say that?” He asked, taking a bite of the carrot stick.
“Because you’ve had a horse here for what…three years? And I never had a clue. That tells me that this…” She gestured at their surroundings and sighed softly. “This is like a personal sanctuary for you.”
“Sanctuary?” Giles questioned, tilting his head slightly as he listened to her.
“Yeah, you know…like a refuge, somewhere you can go that’s only yours…to sit and think, or read, or meditate, or…whatever. It’s a secret place for you.”
Giles nodded slowly and took a deep breath. “It could be a secret place for us. Or for you…I wouldn’t need to come with you each time. Ringo pretty much knows the way.”
He pushed the container of vegetables towards Buffy and smiled. “I brought you here because this place helped me cope with so much pain and loss and confusion and…I need to find a way back to you. You need to find a way back to me. And that sounds very…strange, I know. But…we’re on different planes at the moment. It’s not exactly the optimum position for a Watcher to be in with his Slayer.”
Buffy merely stared at him for a moment and then shook her head in amusement. “You know…you could’ve just said that because I died our bond had gotten a tiny bit strained…so, we need to work together to fix it up.”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Yes, because I always say that we need to ‘fix things up’.”
“But, that’s the gist of it, right?” Buffy asked, biting into a piece of cucumber. “We need to work on our bond?”
Giles nodded and reached for another carrot stick.
“And working on our bond will help me learn how to live again?”
Giles met her eyes as he chewed a piece of carrot, shrugging a shoulder nervously. “I hope that it will help us both learn how to live again.”
“If there’s anyone who can do this, it’s you, Giles.” As his brow furrowed, she continued. “I mean, if there’s anyone who can help me figure this shit out…and learn to live with it instead of ignoring it…”
“I have so much faith in you, Buffy. I have no doubt that you would be able to accomplish this without me. But, under the circumstances, I feel like we would both benefit from this…” He paused as she grinned at him. “What?”
“Rupert Giles, my faithful Watcher…”
He offered her a warm smile and then nodded slowly. “Ever the same.”
She tilted her head quizzically. “What do you mean?”
“From the day I took my oath to become your Watcher, I have been your faithful Watcher. Travers firing me couldn’t bring that to a halt. The Initiative couldn’t stop me. Becoming a Fyral demon…nearly stopped me, but only because you tried to kill me.”
Buffy reached over and gently smacked his arm as he laughed.
“My point is, Buffy…” He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. “I have always been your faithful Watcher, I will continue to be your faithful Watcher until I take my dying breath.”
“Or until I take mine.” Buffy said quietly. “Again.”
“Even that didn’t stop me.” He whispered, turning his eyes towards the path that continued through the other side of the clearing.
Buffy stared at him for a moment, not really sure how to respond to what he had just said. She wasn’t even sure if she should respond. Instead, she swallowed the lump in her throat and followed his gaze.
“Where does that path lead?”
He chuckled softly and shook his head. “I’ve no idea. This is the farthest I’ve ever come before.”
“Wanna go exploring?” She asked, smiling as he turned back towards her.
“I’d love to.” He replied, returning her smile.
The previous ten months had been complicated, exhausting, and troublesome. But, it had also been rewarding, productive, and triumphant. Buffy was now on the Council’s payroll and her finance issues had cleared quickly. She had been able to forge a loving and respectful relationship with Dawn, who was exceeding all goals in school – just as Giles had predicted she would. Xander and Anya had called off their wedding, but remained together – understanding that the piece of paper isn’t the important aspect of a relationship. Willow…
Giles sighed sadly as he thought about Willow. Magick had nearly consumed her…and had caused a massive rift between her and Giles. He and Buffy had come home one night from patrol to see Willow stumble down the sidewalk and that’s when Giles knew he needed to do something, anything…or they were going to lose her completely.
They followed her through the streets and then she simply disappeared in front of them. Giles’ rage had surfaced immediately, much to Buffy’s confusion and surprise. She ran after him as he raced into the magick den, skidding to a halt as she took in her surroundings. She hadn’t had time to question Giles though…because he already had his hand around a man’s throat and was holding him against the wall. The only reason Giles didn’t kill the man was because Buffy reminded him – by grabbing his jacket collar and pulling him back, before throwing him against the opposite wall – that Rack was still human.
They had gotten Willow out safely and Rack had left Sunnydale. With the help of the Devon Coven, Giles had been able to successfully place a block on Willow’s magick. While initially enraged, once her mind cleared, she was able to see and understand what a dangerous path she had been on. As a result, she and Tara had started studying and meditating together more and Willow was learning how to control the magick that was still within her.
Giles smiled as he looked at Buffy, who was currently laughing heartily at some story that Anya was currently telling her. Buffy was Buffy…but more. With his help, they had found a way for her to embrace living once again. She would never forget the time spent in Heaven, but she was much stronger for it now. And the first time that Giles had heard Buffy laugh…truly laugh…since her return, he had needed to briefly leave the room to regain control of his emotions. Now, hearing her laugh brought a smile to his face, and not tears to his eyes.
And now it was nearly September and Dawn was getting ready to start another school year. But, it had been an extremely hot summer which never really bodes well when living on a Hellmouth. Giles watched his friends relaxing in the backyard of Buffy’s home. No…no, his family, he amended. The last few months had been full of hard-taught, and learnt, lessons but it really seemed that everything was back on track – which normally meant there was an apocalypse looming around the corner. He smiled as Buffy laughed heartily, watching Dawn and Xander take part in an epic water gun battle. Yes, there may very well be a cataclysmic event on the way, but for now…he was content. And his family was happy.
He took a sip from the beer he was holding and made his way over to Buffy, sitting down next to her on the steps leading to the yard. She looked up at him and smiled warmly.
“Hello.” He responded softly. “Impromptu barbecue – this hasn’t happened in a very long time.”
“I think we all needed a wind down.” She glanced at the beer in his hand. “You okay?”
He chuckled and nodded. “Winding down…”
She was quiet for a few moments and then sighed heavily. “So…Spike getting a soul…”
Giles rolled his eyes and took another sip, before staring at the label on the bottle. “I’ll still stake him if he comes near you.”
“But…soul…” Buffy said, tilting her head slightly as she watched him.
He turned slowly, meeting her eyes and not even bothering to hide the anger in his. “Spike very well may have a soul now, but I highly doubt that he willingly went through any trials specifically to get it…and definitely not for your endearment.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not deaf, Buffy. I heard him the other night. ‘I got a soul for you’…utter rubbish.”
“But he does…have a soul, I mean. I can sense it.” Buffy responded quietly.
“I’m not saying he doesn’t have a soul. I’m saying he didn’t get it for you.” He cleared his throat and placed his bottle on the step next to him. “He attempted to assault you. Nearly undid months’ worth of work you and I had accomplished to get our lives back on track. Then he left – and comes back with a soul. He didn’t ask for a soul, Buffy. He asked to be what he once was – a vampire capable of killing a Slayer.”
“How do you know that?” Buffy asked, eyes widening.
“I have connections.” He replied cryptically. “Rest assured, Buffy – if he comes near you again, soul or not…I will turn him to dust without a second thought.”
“I was actually surprised you didn’t kill him that night.”
“You were my top priority at that moment.” He sighed heavily and picked the bottle back up, taking another drink. “Actually, you’re my top priority at any moment.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Tara and Willow had joined in on the water gun battle and the yard was full of laughter and noise reminiscent of a high school summer’s day.
Buffy reached over and took the bottle out of Giles’ hand, taking a deep breath before swallowing a mouthful of beer. He raised an eyebrow at her as she handed the bottle back to him, silently questioning her.
“When I was going to kiss Spike, it was in a dark alley…hidden away from everyone. Even in my fucked up state of mind, I knew that meant it was wrong. I didn’t want anyone to know.”
Giles nodded, but said nothing and waited for her to continue.
“Sitting here, in the sunlight, my friends surrounding me…” She hesitated for only a moment and turned to look at him. “Kissing you feels like the right thing to do.”
“You want to kiss me?” He asked softly.
She nodded slowly and reached out, placing her hand on his chest. “And I don’t want to hide from anyone.”
She smiled as she felt his heartrate quicken under her touch. He lifted his left hand, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear before gently caressing her cheek.
“You’re…sure?” He questioned, his thumb tracing over her cheekbone.
“Yes.” She whispered, leaning into him.
He met her halfway, sighing as their lips touched briefly. She kissed him a second time, relishing the slight tremble she felt in his chest. He kissed her the third time, sliding his fingers to the back of her neck as her tongue slipped into his mouth.
Neither of them seemed to notice the sudden silence in the yard as all games quickly came to a halt. Dawn smiled as she watched them. Willow beamed brightly, wrapping her arms around Tara. Anya nudged Xander, gesturing towards them and whispering in his ear. Xander shook his head slowly and reddened slightly.
The kiss ended slowly and Giles smiled as Buffy traced his ear with her index finger.
“You’ve thought about this for a while? Or…is it a recent discovery?” He asked, glancing at her lips as his hand slid down her back.
“A while. Timing was very much not right though.” She responded, leaning into him and kissing his earlobe.
“When?” He whispered into her ear, before placing a soft kiss on her cheek.
“Watching you with Ringo that first time you took me riding.” She said, reaching for his beer. “When you said ‘hello, gorgeous’ to him I knew…I knew deep down that you are the man I’m supposed to be with. I can’t even really explain it. But, I also knew that if I kissed you then…it would’ve been a huge mistake.”
She narrowed her eyes as she looked at the now empty beer bottle. “I’ll get another…”
His eyes followed her as she walked through the back door. And then he glanced back to their friends to find them all smiling brightly at him…and all making their way towards him.
“Bloody hell…” He muttered under his breath.
“So…how long has this been going on, G-Man?” Xander asked, a grin plastered on his face.
Giles glared at him. Xander coughed lightly and shrugged a shoulder nervously.
“I mean…Giles, how long have you and Buffy been…you know…”
Giles thought for a moment and then shook his head, his smile returning as Buffy sat back down beside him and handed him another beer.
“I’m not exactly sure anymore.”
Anya narrowed her eyes in confusion. “What do you mean ‘not exactly sure’? You don’t know how long you’ve been – “
Xander quickly covered her mouth with his hand. “Dear god, please don’t ask that, An.”
Buffy laughed and leaned her head against Giles’ arm. “Well, that was our first kiss…so, technically, it’s been that long.”
Willow arched an eyebrow at her. “Technically?”
Dawn rolled her eyes dramatically. “Jesus, guys…don’t you get it? It’s been heading to this for months…years even. Surely, you’re not so blind that you couldn’t see it? Because…I saw it.”
“Yeah, but you were some mystical key thing…” Anya stated, waving her hand in the air.
Dawn turned to stare at her. “What the hell does that have to do with anything?”
“Dawn, language.” Buffy reprimanded gently.
“Sorry.” Dawn said and then looked at Buffy and Giles. Her smile returned. “I’m really happy for you. Both of you.”
“Thank you.” Giles responded quietly.
“Are you guys going to move into Mom’s room now?”
“What?” Buffy asked, eyes widening slightly.
Dawn shrugged her shoulder and grinned. “Bigger bed…”
“Bloody hell…” Giles repeated, earning a smile from Buffy.
* * *
Xander and Anya had gone home – Anya leaving no question as to why they were going home. Willow and Tara had left not long after them. And Dawn had gone to bed about an hour earlier.
And there they were, snuggled together on the sofa…her head on his chest, his fingers combing through her hair.
“How long had you been thinking about it?” She asked softly, her fingers toying with a button on his shirt.
“Long enough that it was becoming an issue.” He replied, smiling as she lifted her head to look at him. “I was going to discuss it with you today.”
“With globes and maps and books?” She asked, amusement showing in her eyes.
“Funny.” He grinned and shook his head. “No, but I dare say there would’ve been more words than ‘kissing you feels like the right thing to do’. So, I’m grateful that you beat me to it.”
“No regrets?” She whispered, leaning up and brushing her lips across his.
“None.” He replied, gazing into her eyes.
“How slow…or fast…are you wanting this to go?” She asked, pulling a button free on his shirt.
He smiled at the nervous tone in her voice and covered her hand with his, stilling her movement. “I’m following your lead here, Buffy.”
She gently bit her lip and then glanced at the stairs. “If I asked you to come to bed with me?”
“Then I’d come to bed with you.” He replied, pausing until she met his eyes again. “But, we wouldn’t make love tonight.”
“You’re not ready…so we wait.”
“Are you ready?” She asked softly.
“I’ll be ready when you are, Buffy.” He lovingly stroked her cheek as he pulled her in for another kiss. “There’s no need to rush anything.”
“But…you’ll sleep with me tonight?”
He nodded slowly. “I will be wherever you want me to be, whatever you want me to be, whenever you want me to be there.”
He cleared his throat and brushed the hair back from her face. “Too much?”
“No, not too much.” She whispered. “I think I just…”
“Just…what?” He asked as she trailed off.
She glanced at his lips and then looked into his eyes. She noticed quickly that his eyes had darkened a shade and she was fairly certain that he’d be able to easily read the desire in her eyes.
“Just…kiss me again…” She murmured half a second before covering his mouth with hers.
He returned her kiss with no hesitation, a groan rumbling in his chest as she shifted and pushed him down on the cushions of the sofa. He pulled away only when he felt her straddle his hips.
“Buffy…stop now, love.” He whispered softly, but urgently.
“Giles…” She breathed, supporting herself with her hands on his chest.
“You’re not ready. We’re not ready…not for this, not yet.” He licked his lips and covered her hands with his. “We will be, but not tonight. I’m going nowhere, Buffy. This isn’t a race, we’re in this together…you and me.”
She looked into his eyes and sighed heavily, knowing he was right. She moved off of him and smiled softly as he sat back up.
“My loyal Watcher…”
“Ever the same.” He whispered, smiling as her eyes glistened.
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