Timeline: AU, 8 years post-series.
Synopsis: Buffy and Giles have been having issues. Life-changing news means it’s time for a proper resolution. Sooner, rather than later.
Author’s Note: As always, thank you A.
Warning: This story will deal with a young character’s serious illness.
Chapter 1: Sorting
Chapter 2: Coming Home
Chapter 3: Parenting
Chapter 4: Strength
Chapter 5: Enigma
Chapter 6: Developments
Chapter 7: Transitions
Chapter 8: Endings
Giles sat at the table, staring at the letter in his hand. He swallowed and rubbed his hand over his face…and then read it again. He lowered the letter and glanced at the phone. His first instinct was to call Buffy. To pick up the phone, dial her number, and just…talk.
But, it had only been three months since she’d left. She hadn’t left England…not yet, anyway. He’d like to think that she wouldn’t, but things were very uncertain right now. No, she hadn’t left England…but, she had left him…their relationship. Of course there had been the customary ‘we’ll always be friends’ discussion – but, everyone knew that was always a lie that was told during a parting of ways.
And to be fair to her, he couldn’t call her. Not when he was still in love with her.
He sighed heavily and picked up the phone. He took a deep breath and then dialled a number. He closed his eyes as he listened, his jaw clenching slightly when the call was connected.
Giles opened his eyes and took a deep breath. “Are you busy, Ethan?”
“At the moment, no.” Ethan replied. “You at the pub?”
“No…no, I’m at home.” His fingers toyed with the corner of the letter. “I, uh…I could use a friend though.”
Ethan was quiet for only a second. “I’ll be there soon.”
“Thank you.” Giles whispered, then ended the call.
His eyes glistened as he read the letter again, hoping for a better ending this time.
A single tear escaped the corner of his eye. There was no better ending.
* * *
“Jesus Christ, mate…” Ethan sighed heavily, lowering the piece of paper and lifting his eyes. “Have you talked to Buffy?”
Giles was standing across the room, staring out the window with his hands in his pockets. He shook his head slowly.
“Don’t. I can’t tell her this, not right now.”
“I think she needs to know.” Ethan replied, staring at Giles’ back. “She’d want to know.”
“I can’t talk to her, Ethan. Not about this…not yet.”
“She cares about you.”
“Yes, she said. Problem is, I’m still in love with her.” He turned slowly and met Ethan’s eyes. “I’m not at the point where I can be friends with her.”
Ethan was quiet for a few moments and then exhaled a deep breath. “What’s your plan? And what can I do to help?”
“I don’t have a plan. I suppose firstly a leave of absence. I need to make some phone calls, see what needs to be done.”
“Have you spoken to Peter?”
Giles shook his head slowly. “I called, but he wasn’t exactly…lucid.”
“Brain injuries…” Ethan said quietly, running his fingers through his hair.
“Yeah.” Giles glanced at the pictures on the mantle and inhaled shakily. “I, uh…I’m going to make tea. Want one?”
Knowing that he was needing a moment to himself, Ethan nodded. “Sure, mate. Thanks.”
As he watched Giles leave the room, he pulled his phone out of his pocket. He hesitated only a second before sending a quick three word text message.
He needs you.
The reply came almost instantly, not to his surprise.
I’ll be there in 20.
He glanced towards the hallway, slipping the phone back in his pocket. He was fairly certain that Rupert would be upset, but he also knew that he couldn’t help him on his own. He needed help in order to help him.
He’d just have to be upset.
* * *
Giles was staring at his mug of tea when a knock sounded on the door. Ethan glanced over at him when he didn’t make any effort to move.
“Hm?” Giles looked up, narrowing his eyes when he heard a knock on the front door.
He placed his mug on the lamp table and stood up. He glanced at the clock, wondering who would just stop by. It wasn’t all that late at nearly 8pm, but the days of people just randomly showing up at his home ended with Sunnydale. He made his way over, turning the knob as another knock sounded. As he opened the door, he heaved a deep sigh.
Buffy looked at him, instantly seeing the sadness in his eyes. “Are you okay?”
“I’d ask you why you’re here, but I’d hazard to guess that Ethan asked you to come.” He stepped to the side, silently inviting her in.
“What’s going on?” She asked, looking over at Ethan before turning back to Giles.
He gestured towards the sofa, but didn’t move. “Have a seat. I’ll make you a coffee.”
“Giles?” She reached out, placing her hand on his forearm.
“Ethan contacted you…I didn’t.” He stated quietly, pulling away from her and making his way back to the kitchen.
She watched him disappear down the hall and then walked over to the sofa. “What the hell’s going on?”
“I don’t know how to help him on my own.” Ethan said, handing her the letter that Giles had handed to him upon his arrival earlier.
Buffy took the piece of paper and narrowed her eyes. “This…is a doctor’s report.”
Ethan nodded. “Yeah, you should read it.”
Buffy read it quickly. Then she read it again, a bit slower. Her eyes glistened as she suddenly turned and left the room, in search of Giles.
She rushed down the hall and into the kitchen, finding Giles leaning against the counter. He was staring at the coffee press, his arms crossed over his chest. He took a deep breath, but didn’t look at her.
“You weren’t going to tell me?”
“Not yet.” He replied.
“This…” She held up the letter and bit her lip, trying to control her emotions. “This is from an oncologist…”
“Yes, it is.”
“You have cancer…and you didn’t think I had a right to know?”
Giles lifted his head and looked at her, confusing showing in his eyes. “I don’t have cancer. And we’re not together…nor are we friends.”
“Rupert E. Giles.” She said, shaking the letter lightly. “Stage IVB osteosarcoma, metastases in the liver. I can read, Giles!”
“But, you didn’t look at the date of birth.” He replied, staring into her eyes.
She opened her mouth, then closed it…suddenly understanding. Tears filled her eyes as she shook her head. “Elliott?”
He swallowed and reached over, gently pushing the plunger down on the coffee press. “I, uh…I don’t really know what to do.”
“You should have called me. I love him too, Giles. I’ve been in his life since he was six years old. He’s called me ‘Mum’ since he was eight.”
He started to say something, then stopped himself. He nodded in agreement and sighed softly. “I’m sorry, I just…”
He shook his head slowly, as if trying to clear his thoughts, as he poured the coffee into a mug. “My nephew is dying. How am I supposed to tell a twelve year old child that he’s dying?”
“Let me help.” She whispered emotionally. “Please.”
He pushed the mug towards her and met her eyes. He didn’t even bother trying to hide the emotion in his. He just didn’t see the point at the moment.
“You left me, Buffy. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it’s the fact that he’s been at the Academy during all of this…upheaval. Of course, he knows you love him…but, he also knows you left.”
“I’m not sure I can…ask you to help.” He furrowed his brow and lowered his gaze. “It’s too hard. I’m having a difficult time being this close to you…while wanting nothing more than to feel your arms around me. And my focus needs to be on him.”
“You can’t shut me out of this, Giles.”
“Buffy, you’re not his – ”
“Don’t you fucking dare.” She interrupted quickly, jabbing her finger into his chest. “Don’t you dare tell me I’m not his mother. I know that. You’re not his father…does it make you love him any less?”
“He’s twelve, Buffy. He doesn’t understand comfort in a time of distress.” He stated, taking a step back from her.
“I don’t do distressed comfort, Giles.”
Feeling a sudden wave of annoyance rush through him, he snapped his eyes towards her. “You left.”
“I didn’t want to.”
He narrowed his eyes and felt his annoyance slip towards frustration. “If you don’t want to do something, you don’t do it. Saying ‘no’ was enough, Buffy. Saying ‘no’ didn’t necessitate the dissolution of a nearly seven year relationship.”
He held up his left hand and took a breath that she recognised as him trying to calm himself. “This conversation can’t happen right now.”
He moved past her, pausing at the doorway when he heard her soft admission.
“I’m still in love you. I never stopped loving you.”
He blew out a deep breath, but didn’t turn to look at her.
“Then you shouldn’t have left.”
She stared after him as he left the room, knowing he was right.
He was right about everything.
* * *
Buffy walked into the living room and darted her eyes around before looking at Ethan. “Where is he?”
“He went outside.” He replied, leaning forward slightly on the sofa. “You okay, love?”
“No.” She sighed and sat down next to him. “At first, I thought it was him. I just saw Rupert E. Giles…and then when he told me…”
She looked over at him and shook her head. “He’s only twelve. How is that even fair?”
“It’s not. Not at all.” He said quietly. “I’d be devastated if it were Rupert, but…Elliott? He’s only a child…he should have his entire life ahead of him. When Peter had the accident, Rupert didn’t hesitate. I thought he was insane to be taking in a four year old. But, he was such a natural at it – being a parent. And then you came back and finally Elliott had something he’d never had before.”
He smiled warmly when Buffy looked at him questioningly.
“Two parents who love him.”
“I couldn’t love him anymore if he were mine.” Buffy said, running her finger over the bracelet that Elliott had gotten her for Mother’s Day the previous year.
“He knows that.” Ethan said, gesturing towards the back door with a tilt of his head. “So does he.”
“I fucked things up so badly.”
“Do you want me to talk to him? Let him know that we’ve been talking since you left?”
Buffy shook her head slowly. “I think that would hurt him more than help.”
“Fair enough.” Ethan said, glancing towards the window. “I do think you two need to talk. You’re both miserable. And Elliott needs his parents, so…I’m going to head out.”
Buffy’s eyes widened slightly. “He won’t talk to me…”
“He will if I’m not here. You two need to get a plan of action started.”
Buffy’s eyes lowered. “I don’t even know that he wants me involved in this.”
“He calls you ‘Mum’…” A soft voice said from the other side of the room. “He needs you too.”
Buffy and Ethan both looked over, neither having heard him come back in. Giles shook his head sadly, glancing at a picture on the wall. A picture of the three of them taken a few years previously. Smiles all around…
“But, it can’t be about us, Buffy.” He continued, slowly shifting his gaze back to her. “Not right now.”
Ethan watched them watch each other for a few moments. While he agreed that priority needed to be given to Elliott, these two…they needed to talk, they needed to sort their shit out.
When they both turned to look at him, he smiled and shrugged a shoulder. He tapped his temple and then gestured towards them both.
“My thoughts are accurate. You both know that.”
“Ethan, I told you – ”
“I didn’t talk about it, Rupert. I thought about it. So what if I projected those thoughts to the two of you? But, since it’s obvious that the message was received…” He stood up and slipped his jacket on, taking a step away from them as he continued. “Sort your fucking shit. Both of you. Elliott is going to need both of you…and he needs you together, not separately. You know you’re better together…always have been. Misunderstandings, rash decisions…throwing away happiness is idiotic at best. Sort it out.”
And with that, he turned and walked out of the house. As the latch closed with a soft click, Giles inhaled deeply and lowered himself to the chair across from the sofa. He met Buffy’s eyes and gestured for her to sit down on the sofa. Buffy ran her fingers through her hair and then sat down, looking at him expectantly.
“Do we need to get the whiteboard out?” When he furrowed his brow in confusion, she shrugged a shoulder. “Action plans…you used to like using a whiteboard.”
He stared at her for a long moment. Long enough that she started to feel uneasy.
“Do you really think he’s going to die?” She asked quietly.
He lowered his eyes briefly and cleared his throat. “The fact that it has metastasized and has been found in the liver doesn’t fill me with a great deal of hope.”
“He hasn’t said anything to me. I talk to him at least four times a week.”
“The most he’s said to me is that he’s generally sore and fairly tired. He assumed it was from sport.” He sat back in the chair and rested his right ankle over his left knee. “When the pain didn’t subside, I took him to the doctor – battery of tests…scans…and here we are.”
“When did you get the results?” She asked, not quite sure if she really wanted to hear the answer.
“This afternoon.” He watched her carefully for her reaction, surprised himself that she seemed surprised. “I would have called you tonight at some point, Buffy. I just…I had to work through it without you first. Process what I can, which granted…isn’t much.”
“So…he doesn’t know yet?”
Giles shook his head slowly. “They’ve scheduled him for a consultation day after tomorrow. I’m certain that treatments and prognosis will be discussed at that point. Are, uh…are you available?”
“Absolutely.” She replied with no hesitation. She watched him as he ran his hand over his face, closing his eyes briefly. “You look exhausted.”
“It’s been a trying day.” He said, opening his eyes and meeting her gaze. “I’ll be going on a leave of absence effective tomorrow. I was thinking of asking Charmichael to act as Head. What do you think?”
“I think that’s your call, Giles. I’m just a semi-retired Slayer these days.” Understanding the flash of sadness that he had tried to shield from her, she sighed softly. “Of course, if you’re actually asking my opinion…I think he’s a good choice.”
“I miss you so fucking much.” He whispered, almost inaudibly.
“I thought this conversation wasn’t supposed to be about us.” She replied, tilting her head as she watched him.
“He’s right. Ethan. He’s fucking right…and I hate it.” He muttered, shaking his head in annoyance. “He’s going to need us together…whether we’re together or not.”
He furrowed his brow, trying to follow his own line of thinking. “That made no sense.”
“It did.” Buffy offered a gentle smile. “Whether we’re together or not romantically…Elliott needs us to be unified parentally – we have to be a cohesive unit in order to help him through this. If we’re at odds, we’re not going to be on even ground. Different pages of the same book, and all that jazz.”
“Quite.” Giles responded, obviously impressed.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I’ve known you for over half of my life. You allowed me into your heart for a good portion of that time. Why would I not understand what you mean?”
“You didn’t have to leave.” He said softly, his eyes a mossier green than usual.
“I panicked.” She replied, then grimaced when she registered how weak that truly sounded.
“It was more than that. You don’t throw away everything we had over a moment’s panic. Not after everything we’ve been through.”
When she lowered her eyes and hesitated in a response, he exhaled a deep breath.
“I’m going to bed. You’re right…I’m exhausted. You’re welcome to stay. You can take our…you can sleep in the master bedroom.”
She looked up as he stood. “No, no…it’s okay. I’ll take the guest room.”
He shoved his hands in his pockets and shook his head gently. “I moved into the guest room after you left.”
“I can’t be in there. Everything reminds me of you…of us.”
He cleared his throat and walked towards the hallway. “Tomorrow is going to be a…fairly shit day. You should probably try to get some sleep.”
And with that, he turned from her and left the room. She sat there and stared at the hallway for ages.
Until the ticking of the clock became too much for her to bear.
* * *
She opened the door to the bedroom and reached inside, flicking on the light as she walked in. Her eyes widened slightly. It was very obvious that he had told her the truth. The bed hadn’t even been remade. The sheets hadn’t been changed, her robe still draped over the foot of the bed. Everything was as it was when she left – with the exception of most of his clothes no longer hanging in the wardrobe.
She sat down on the bed…on the side that had always been his. Her hand trembled lightly when she reached up and touched his pillow. She fought the tears that were threatening to spill down her cheeks. As her fingers curled in the pillowcase, she lost that fight.
* * *
Giles was lying on his back, staring at the ceiling. The soft light in the lamp on the bedside table gave a gentle glow within the room. It would have been quite relaxing if he was thinking about anything other than the incomprehensible news of his nephew’s illness and his ex currently sleeping in the room they had shared for nearly seven years. As it were, he couldn’t relax…his mind was racing…and it was taking everything he had to not curl up into a ball and sob uncontrollably.
He swallowed the lump in his throat and closed his eyes against the tears beginning to well. He sighed softly when he heard the door open.
“Are you awake?” Buffy asked quietly.
Giles opened his eyes, nodding as he resumed staring at the ceiling. “Not sure sleep will find me tonight.”
“Can, uh…can I come in?”
He shifted his gaze to her and hesitated for just a moment before replying. “Yes.”
She slowly entered, closing the door behind her. “Can we talk?”
He pushed himself up and leaned back against the headboard. “About?”
She glanced at the chair and pulled it over closer to the bed. She sat down and ran her hand through her hair nervously. “It wasn’t simply because you asked me, Giles. It was everything that moment encompassed. Like…you didn’t understand anything about me if you asked me to marry you. Because you know how I feel about it. But, even though you know how I feel…you still asked – and that made it seem like my feelings didn’t matter at all to you. And if my feelings didn’t matter…how could I stay?”
“Buffy…I didn’t mean – ”
“Please don’t tell me you didn’t mean to ask me. You had everything planned out…perfect words, beautiful ring…that doesn’t happen if you don’t mean it.”
There was no anger in her statement. A fact that didn’t go unnoticed by him.
“No, I meant to ask. I didn’t mean for you to think that your feelings don’t matter. Of course, they matter. I just…” He rubbed the side of his neck and exhaled deeply. “I just love you. And I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And…yes, I want to marry you. I want to see you walk down an aisle towards me. I didn’t mean to disrespect you in any way, Buffy. And I’m so sorry that I did. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“But you did.” She whispered, wiping her fingers over her eye.
“I know.” His eyes glistened as he watched her, aching to reach out to pull her to him. “I’m sorry.”
She was quiet for a few moments, as was he. Both staring at one another, waiting for one of them to say something. Taking a deep breath, she broke the silence.
“I miss you too, Giles. I miss you so much.”
He continued staring at her for an uncomfortably long moment. And then he extended his hand towards her. Her eyes darted to his hand and she bit her bottom lip. He nodded in understanding, recognising her hesitation for what it was.
“I’m asking for nothing, Buffy.” He whispered. “I just…I think I really need to hold you right now.”
“Do you need me to hold you?” She asked, just as softly.
A single tear escaped his eye before he could stop it.
“More than you could possibly know.”
She instantly reached out and took hold of his hand, sliding onto the bed next to him. Before she could process anything, his arms were around her…holding her tightly to him.
She shifted just enough to rest her cheek against his chest as she slipped her arms around him. He trembled lightly as her warm breath ghosted over the front of his throat. She listened to his heart change pace, a slight hesitation that normally would have brought a smile to her face.
But, not tonight. Tonight it only reminded her of how much she had missed listening to his heartbeat at night. His hands were still against her back, his right between her shoulder blades…his left a bit lower. At one time, not that long ago, they would have been roaming…sliding under her shirt to heat her bare skin. But, tonight they were just holding her…pressing her against him. She closed her eyes as she heard his heart change pace again…felt his chest shudder…his arms tightened even more around her.
She wanted to tell him that it was going to be okay…that they’d figure everything out, like they always had. But, she knew this was different. And, if she were honest with herself, they hadn’t been very successful in figuring anything out in the past three months. They’d barely even talked…even when it was about business – which is why she had requested to take a step back into semi-retirement.
They couldn’t work together, she couldn’t work with another Watcher – not that she even needed a Watcher any longer, and there were many other Slayers now to fill the gap that she’d leave. He hadn’t even looked up at her after he had finished reading her request. He merely gave a quick nod and said…
“You have to do what you think is best.”
…and then he signed his name and dated the document. Then he pushed the document towards her, stood up, and walked to the door. He paused long enough to wish her well…and then he had left.
Things were not okay at the moment.
So, instead of pretending they were…or that they would be…she tightened her arms around him, curling her fingers into the soft material of the t-shirt he was wearing. And when she heard his soft sob, she held him even tighter.
* * *
Buffy woke up, momentarily confused. She remembered holding Giles as he broke down…she remembered him holding her as she broke down too. She didn’t remember laying down…she didn’t remember falling asleep. But, she very obviously did.
And now, here she was…her head on Giles’ chest, his arm curled protectively around her.
She lifted her head slowly and looked at him, not overly surprised to find him staring at the ceiling. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
A hint of a smile played at his lips. “It’s quite alright. I…I hope this is okay? Lying here? I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Have you slept at all?”
“No.” He heaved a deep sigh. “I can’t seem to get my mind to stop…or even slow long enough.”
She shifted further to his side, resting her hand on his chest. She looked down as he covered her hand with his.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.” He started, closing his eyes briefly as he curled his fingers around her hand. “You were right. Maybe not in leaving, but in being upset and angry with me. Though the situation was paved with good intentions, I should have known better. You’ve never made a secret of how you feel about marriage – and me asking you wasn’t fair to you. I’m so very sorry, Buffy.”
He cleared his throat and removed his hand from hers. “If I could go back, I’d do things differently. I’d ask you to spend the rest of my life with me, that would be no different…I’d present you with a ring…but, there would be no mention of marriage. A piece of paper isn’t needed, I realise that.”
“No…it never was.” She agreed softly. “And I shouldn’t have left. I should have come back…yelled some more, thrown a couple of things…but, I should have come back.”
“Why didn’t you?” He asked, swallowing thickly.
“Same reason you didn’t ask me to.”
He slowly turned his head towards her. His hand trembled as he lifted it to her cheek. “If I were to ask you now?”
“Is that what you’re – ”
He cut her off quickly with a kiss. A soft kiss to her lips that escalated as she responded. He rolled onto his side, facing her…a groan rumbling in his chest as his tongue slipped between her lips. As the kiss deepened further, she gripped the front of his shirt in her fist. He started to roll her onto her back, but she held him firm and pulled from the kiss.
“Giles, hold on…”
He pulled back slightly to look at her, but didn’t move otherwise. Buffy loosened her grip on his shirt and took a deep breath.
“What is this? Is this a declaration…a confirmation…desperation…” She furrowed her brow. “That’s a lot of -tions, but you know what I mean. Comfort? Distressed comfort…that’s what you said earlier, right?”
“I’m sure there’s probably an element of all of those involved…and probably even more. But, that doesn’t lessen what I’m feeling, Buffy.”
“And what’s that?” She asked quietly.
He looked at her for a moment and then licked his suddenly dry lips. “Please, come home.”
“Giles, we’re both in a pretty vulnerable – ”
“I love you. I’ve never once stopped loving you. Christ, I wanted to be so angry…I tried, I failed miserably. I wanted to come after you…beg you to come back, but I couldn’t.” He swallowed, tenderly rubbing his thumb over her cheek. “Yes, I’m vulnerable…you’re vulnerable. But, that doesn’t negate the depth of love I feel for you.”
She was quiet for a long minute and then sighed. “If Elliott wasn’t sick, would we be here right now?”
“No.” He admitted sadly. “But, only because it’s not Friday.”
“Huh?” She narrowed her eyes in confusion.
“Ethan. We go to the pub on Fridays…have a couple of drinks, throw some darts…share a joint sometimes. He’s been badgering me for a couple of weeks. I feel certain that he would have forced me to talk to you this week.”
“Only in that he would have called your number then shoved the phone at me. Make me take that first step…because it’s the most terrifying one.”
“I called him two days after I left.” She blurted out, continuing quickly when Giles’ eyes widened. “I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I’d made a huge mistake, but I couldn’t just say ‘hey, Giles…I was wrong’. We’ve been talking a fair bit since…”
“How did he convince you to come tonight? Or…last night, as it were.”
“He sent me a text message.”
He lowered his eyes and scoffed lightly. “I can only imagine what that consisted of.”
“He needs you.”
His eyes snapped back to hers. “That’s all he said?”
“That’s all he had to say.” She replied, sliding her hand to the side of his neck. “I want to come home, Giles. But…but, only if you’re really sure.”
“I want you home.” He whispered. “I need you home. Elliott needs his mum here.”
“Elliott…” Her eyes glistened. “Does Peter know?”
Giles curled his right arm under his head and slid his left hand down to her waist. “I…called. He listened…somewhat. At least, I think he did.”
“Not a good day?”
“No.” He sighed heavily. “His good days are getting fewer and further between, it seems.”
“It is what it is. But, thank you. At least he doesn’t seem to be in much pain.”
“Eight years is a long time.” She said, rubbing her thumb along the bottom of his jaw.
“It is. I’m not sure that Elliott even remembers his dad…well, what he was like before the accident.”
“I wish I’d known him. I always loved listening to the stories you’d tell Elliott about him.”
Giles smiled briefly, then rolled onto his back. Buffy saw the sadness in his eyes before he could shield her from it.
“I never thought that I’d have no one to tell stories to about my family. Of course…I never thought that I’d be the last one standing. I was a Watcher on a fucking Hellmouth…who had a tendency to get bashed about the head on a regular basis. Peter was an accountant. Who should have been in more danger of dying early? And Elliott…” Giles’ jaw clenched. “He’s but a child. I never thought I’d be a father…and I guess I’m not, but…”
“You are.” She disagreed. “Look, you may not be his biological father, but…you love him as your son. You treat him as your son…and god, he loves you. You are everything to him. You’re his hero, Giles.”
“I doubt that, but there is much love there without question.”
Buffy propped her head up with her left hand and rested her right on his chest. “Do you know what he told me a couple of weeks ago?”
Giles thought for a moment and then shook his head. “No…I don’t.”
Buffy smiled warmly. “When he was younger, he didn’t understand why his parents chose Rupert as his first name. ‘Why would they name me after my uncle? That’s just weird.’ That’s what he said he used to think. But, then he realised that they named him after the bravest, kindest, smartest, and funniest man…a man who gave up everything to save the world more than once. ‘They gave me his name because he’s the most amazing guy ever.’”
She leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. “Tell me you’re not his hero.”
“He’s amazing in his own right. He’s been through so much already…he’s taught me so much about everything.” He took a deep breath and studiously stared at the ceiling. “I wish I had more…”
He paused and closed his eyes against the sudden tears. Buffy moved quickly, sliding her arm over him and holding him as she rested her head against his shoulder. His arm curled around her, pressing her tightly against him as he fought to get his emotions under control.
“I’m so tired.” He murmured softly. “Mentally, physically, emotionally…I don’t even know how I’m still functioning on any level.”
“Roll over.” She whispered, kissing his chin as she pushed herself up.
“Hm?” He turned his head to look at her, allowing his arm to loosen its hold on her.
“You Need sleep, Giles. Roll over.”
“Ah, Buffy…you don’t – ”
“You can either roll over or I can roll you over, your choice.” She interrupted, raising an eyebrow at him.
He sighed heavily and rolled onto his stomach, resting his forehead on his folded arms. “This isn’t necessary.”
She knelt next to him and leaned over, carefully sliding her hands up his back on either side of his spine. He groaned softly when she found a deep knot between his shoulder blades. She worked it out quickly, smiling as the knot unravelled and he gave a sigh of relief. She continued up, fingers rubbing against the back of his neck before slipping into his hair.
He tensed for a moment and then exhaled a deep breath as she started rubbing small circles over his scalp. The turmoil of the past few months had done nothing to ease the tightness…but her persistent touch was doing an extremely amazing job – as always. He sighed deeply as his scalp began to loosen.
She smiled as he yawned. “Okay?”
“Mm.” He murmured sleepily. “Buffy?”
“How much more shit sorting do we need to do?”
Her fingers paused for a split second. “We’ve been doing fairly well, I think. We have a few boxes to throw out already.”
He chuckled and she smiled, surprised at the sound she hadn’t heard in months.
He was quiet for a couple of minutes. Quiet enough that she wondered if he had already fallen asleep.
“Please forgive me, Buffy.” He whispered. “Please come back to me.”
“I forgave you months ago, Giles.” She replied, her thumbs caressing the base of his skull. “I’ve been having trouble forgiving myself.”
He turned his head towards her, opening his eyes and staring at her. She gasped at the emotions she saw swirling within…the green of his irises seeming much brighter in the soft light of the room.
“I love you so deeply, Buffy. Please…please come home.”
She nodded slowly. “Okay.”
He smiled lovingly at her, his eyes beginning to droop. She leaned down and placed a soft kiss on his temple.
“Sleep, love. We’ll work out the details later.”
“Mm…much more important issues first.” He replied, his words slurring slightly with sleep.
Buffy watched Giles as he drifted into sleep. A tear rolled down her face as she thought about Elliott – the young boy who had taught her what being a mother meant. Giles had taught her about love…true love, honest love. Giles was an amazing father…that hadn’t surprised her at all. But, what did surprise her was the thought that she truly believed she’d been a pretty good mum. And it wasn’t fair that their familial unit was being dismantled so tragically.
She’d suggest talking to the Powers or researching some mystical healing spells – but, she also knew that chances were high that her suggestions would be declined. The Powers tended not to get involved when it came to medical ailments in humans – because that was the natural progression of life.
But, she knew that she would still suggest it.
But, not now…not yet. First things first…
Tomorrow, or later today as it were, they’ll talk to Elliott together. They’ll bring him home from the Academy and they’ll be honest with him. The next morning, they’ll take him to the oncologist…and hopefully be given more information.
Giles snored softly next to her. She looked down at him and her lips quirked into a half-smile.
Tomorrow was going to be rough. She shook her head at that thought. ‘Rough’ didn’t even begin to scratch the surface. She was sure that there wasn’t an actual word to describe what tomorrow was going to be.
But, she knew that the three of them would work through it together.
Like they always had in the past.
Chapter 2: Coming Home
Warning: Elliott's diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment will be discussed in great detail in chapters 3-5.
Buffy woke slowly, sighing contentedly as she snuggled back against the warm body behind her. Giles answered with a sigh of his own as he gently squeezed her hip while softly nuzzling her neck.
“Giles?” She whispered, covering his hand with hers.
“Mm?” He murmured, placing a soft kiss on the side of her neck.
“What time is it?” She asked, tilting her head further into the pillow to give him more room.
His tongue lightly touched her skin, causing her to shiver. He smiled. “Five-ish…”
“Are we moving too fast or not fast enough?” She gasped as his lips nipped at her skin.
He pulled back slightly and gently rolled her onto her back so he could look into her eyes. “How do you mean?”
“This time yesterday, we weren’t even talking. And now, here we are…in bed together, having agreed that I should come back home.”
“Do you think we’re moving too fast? That we should take more time, to be sure?” He asked softly, brushing the hair back from her face. “We were in a relationship for almost seven years…apart for three months.”
“No…I kind of think that we’re not moving fast enough.” She smiled at the look of confusion in his eyes. Taking his hand, she slid it over her abdomen and down to the waistband of her pajama bottoms. “I think we should be making love right now.”
She saw desire flash in his eyes, followed quickly by guilt. She moved her hand from his to the side of his face. It didn’t go unnoticed that he didn’t remove his hand from where she left it.
“I know that today is going to be painful and confusing and terrifying. But, taking five minutes to ourselves wouldn’t be a bad thing, Giles.”
He nodded absently, then furrowed his brow. “Five minutes?”
Buffy smiled and leaned into him, pressing a soft kiss to his lips. “Just wanted to see if you were paying attention to what I was actually saying.”
“After three months, it may take less time that usual…” His fingers edged under the waistband and he sighed heavily. “But, I’m fairly confident that I could last longer than five minutes.”
She hesitated for a moment and then lightly bit her bottom lip. “So, you…haven’t?”
“No, I…it never crossed my – it was never a question, Buffy. I couldn’t.” He swallowed nervously and took a deep breath. “Um…you?”
She shook her head slowly, tracing his bottom lip with her thumb. “No, never entered my mind. I didn’t want to be away from you.”
“Are you…sure…you want this right now?” He asked on a whisper. “We can…wait. I wasn’t expecting…well, anything.”
“Neither was I. I’m very sure about wanting this though. But, if you need time…I’m okay with – ”
He cut her off with a kiss. A kiss that escalated quickly into obvious intention as he moved over her and settled between her thighs. They both groaned as he gently thrust his hips against her. He pushed himself up and looked down at her, smiling at the desire and love showing brightly in her eyes.
Licking his lips, he reached out and pulled the top two buttons free on her pajama top. As he pulled the third free, he allowed his fingertips to glide over the skin between her breasts. He leaned down, pressing a warm open-mouthed kiss to her sternum.
She gasped sharply, reaching over his shoulders to grab the back of his shirt. He sat back up, unintentionally helping her pull his shirt over his head. She smiled as he shot her a glare, his shirt wrapped around his elbows…prohibiting his movement.
“That glare is more sexy than scary right now. You know that, right?”
He raised an eyebrow and rested on his heels, a gentle smirk on his face as he pulled his arms free of his shirt. He tossed it to the floor, his eyes focusing on the buttons of her top.
“Go on, then…” He murmured, sliding his hands over her thighs.
His eyes darted to hers. “You finish…take it off, love.”
She stared into his eyes as her fingers made quick work of the buttons. “I’ve missed that…”
“Hm?” He moved his hands to her hips, hooking his fingers into the waistband of her pants and tugging them down.
“The look in your eyes…when you’re about three minutes from fucking me.”
“Less than sixty seconds.” He corrected, carefully maneuvering her legs enough to pull her pants off. “And I have no intention of fucking you, Buffy.”
“Giles…” She whispered thickly, swallowing hard as he moved off the bed and quickly removed his own pants. She sat up and slipped her top off, tossing it in the general direction of the rest of their clothing. “I love you.”
His eyes glistened as he gently pushed her back down to the mattress and resettled himself between her thighs. She curled her legs around his hips as he leaned over her.
“I love you.” He whispered in return, reaching down and guiding his cock through her wet folds…spending a few seconds rubbing against her clitoris.
“Oh god…” She moaned, lightly scratching her nails over his ribs.
He closed his eyes briefly as he pushed himself inside, pausing when he was completely embedded within her. He licked his dry lips and opened his eyes to find her staring up at him, so many emotions swirling in her eyes.
“I’m sorry…for the lack of foreplay. I just…I can’t right now. I need to be with you…”
Her right hand moved from his side, up to his chest where she gently stroked his skin. “You get that I’m not exactly complaining, right?”
“I’ve missed us, Buffy.”
It was a simple statement, yet it held so much pain and regret. Buffy’s eyes filled with tears nearly instantly. She nodded slowly, her hand sliding to the back of his neck and gently pulling him down.
“I’ve missed us too.” She whispered, kissing him warmly.
As he began to rock his hips against her, she gasped and let her head fall back onto the pillows. He smiled down at her, knowing without a doubt that they had finally found their way back to one another.
* * *
The sun was beginning to make its appearance…and they were still in bed. Bodies glistening with sweat from exertion, breathing beginning to return to a semblance of normal, legs tangled together, the bedclothes in an unruly heap on the floor at the foot of the bed.
Giles smiled as Buffy placed a soft kiss just below his collarbone before resting her head on his chest. He lightly stroked her back with his fingertips, his eyes staring towards the ceiling but focusing on nothing in particular.
“That was fairly amazing.” He murmured.
“Mm-hm.” Buffy replied with a soft chuckle. “But, then…when were we not?”
“I can’t think of a time.” He furrowed his brow, his hand stopped moving against her back. “Except for once…”
She lifted her head and looked at him. “Huh? When?”
“Years ago. I was high, you were drunk. We couldn’t get anything to work right.” He met her eyes and gave her a wink. “We ended up falling asleep and trying again in the morning. That was amazing.”
“The night Sunnydale imploded. I vaguely remember that.” She smiled as he arched an eyebrow. “The night. I remember the morning in vivid detail. You fucked me in every room in that suite…and against most of the walls. I have very fond memories of the fridge…and the counter…”
“We stayed in that suite for days.” His eyes darkened slightly as the memories flooded his mind. “That was when I actually admitted to myself that I was in love with you.”
“But…you let me walk away.” She propped her head up with her hand and looked at him curiously. “And so began my Italian adventure. Probably the stupidest two years of my life.”
Giles chuckled softly. “And still not as stupid as my rebellion. It was something you needed to do…and then you worked through it and came to me. And Elliott. I’ll tell you something, love…you worked through it much quicker and safer than I did.”
“Giles…what are we going to say to Elliott?”
His smile faded at the sudden detour and he took a deep breath. “The truth.”
“What does that even mean?” She asked as she sat up next to him.
She shivered lightly and leaned over the edge of the bed, pulling the sheet and blankets back up onto the bed. Giles pushed himself up and leaned back against the headboard, watching her pull the sheet up to his waist.
“It means that I don’t want to lie to him. I don’t want to go in and say ‘this is the diagnosis, but don’t worry…everything’s going to be fine’…because that’s not necessarily the truth. Maybe things will be okay. But, they probably won’t. I also don’t want to make everything sound completely hopeless. And therein lies the true danger.”
“Should we…make a plan of what to say?”
“I considered that.” He admitted softly, folding his hands on his lap. “But it would just sound scripted and…cold. And that would scare him more than me fumbling my way through an explanation. What do you think?”
“I think that each time you have ever tried to have a well-thought out, planned discussion with me…about anything…it’s backfired. But, if you just talked to me…no matter how flustered you got, or how much you stumbled over your words…I felt like everything was going to be okay, even though the world was ending most of the time. Literally.”
“So…we just wing it?”
She leaned over and kissed his shoulder. “No matter how we go about it, it’s going to be a difficult conversation. If we overthink it? I think it has the potential to go from difficult to disastrous. So, if that’s winging it…then, yeah. We wing it.”
They sat in silence for a few moments, the weight of the day beginning to make its appearance. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. As the light began to peek in around the curtains, he opened his eyes and turned to look at her.
She tilted her head slightly. “For what?”
“For coming last night. Ethan was right. I need you.”
“That’s something you’ll never need to thank me for, Rupert.” She reached over and slipped her hand between his, lacing their fingers together. “Last night was needed for both of us.”
“Which part?” He asked warily.
“All of it.” She replied, squeezing his hand. “But, the talking was the most important. I learned a few things…admittedly, things that I should’ve already known. So, I’m sorry for that.”
She paused for just a moment and looked into his eyes. “To never just…leave. Step out to diffuse the situation, yeah. But, to leave? That was a fucking stupid thing to do. And if I do leave the house…come back. Yell, scream, throw things…but fucking come back. I can do life without you…I’ve been perfectly self-sufficient for the past three months. But, I don’t want to do life without you. So…I won’t just leave again.”
A small smile played at his lips. “I know that it wasn’t my question that made you leave. I know it was what was behind the question. Your feelings about certain discussions…no.” He shook his head lightly and started again. “Your feelings about all discussions will not be disrespected nor discounted again. I’m truly sorry that I fell into that trap. I won’t make that mistake again.”
She pressed a soft kiss to his lips, which he returned. Apologies given and accepted between the both of them.
He lifted his hand and ran his fingers through her hair. “But…if you ever change your mind…tell me?”
“You’d be the first to know.” She whispered, kissing him again.
He pulled from the kiss before it escalated too far and cleared his throat. “Shower, coffee, breakfast?”
“Shower together? Or do you need some time to yourself?”
His eyes glistened as he shook his head. “I think I’ve had enough time to myself, if you’re okay with that.”
She fingered the hair above his ear and nodded. “I’m okay with that.”
They sat there for a few more minutes, the silence warm and comforting. And then they slid out of bed and made their way to the bathroom.
* * *
She watched him as he pushed the eggs around on his plate. When he lowered his fork and picked up his coffee mug instead, she lowered her own fork.
“Are you okay?”
“Mm.” He mumbled, swallowing a mouthful of coffee. “I apologise for my…breakdown…in the shower. I think I’m out of spoons already.”
She smiled at the comment, remembering the conversation she’d had with him years earlier about the spoon theory in relation to mental and physical health. “That breakdown was needed, Giles. You probably emptied a few spoons, but if you need more…you can always borrow some of mine…”
“I wasn’t expecting to fall apart like that.” He met Buffy’s eyes and gave a small shake of his head. “I can’t do that in front of Elliott. And I’m terrified that I will.”
“Maybe not while we’re talking to him today. But, there is nothing wrong with showing him that you’re affected by this…that you’re scared. You’re human, Giles…he’s seen you cry before.”
He pushed the plate away from him and curled his hands around the mug. She glanced at the plate and reached over, running her index finger over his thumb.
“I feel that if I eat, I’ll be sick. Obviously, my nerves are working in overdrive at the moment.” He glanced down at his clothes and narrowed his eyes. “Do I look okay? Not too…somber?”
“You’re dressed like you’re normally dressed for work, Rupert. Don’t overthink this part of it, okay? We’re keeping things as normal as we can. You go in there dressed in jeans and a casual button-up, he’s going to panic within five seconds.”
He smiled softly, turning his hand under her touch and wrapping his fingers around her palm. He glanced at the clock, squeezing her hand gently as his smile faded.
“We, uh…we should go. I’d like to be there before classes start. I…don’t want to pull him out in the middle of a class.”
“Okay.” She returned the squeeze and then carefully pulled her hand from his as she stood.
She watched as he walked over to the desk and picked up the envelope that held the test results and images. He hesitated for a moment and then took a deep breath, turning towards her. He pulled the keys from the hook on the wall and gave her a nod.
He was as ready as he was ever going to be.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy and Giles walked through the halls of the dormitory. Neither really paid attention to the gasps and exclamations from the students, particularly the older ones, when they were recognised. Buffy did offer one boy of about 15 years a grin when he whispered to his friend ‘oh my God, that’s Mr Giles! And Buffy…his Slayer!’. She held her chuckle when his friend answered with ‘holy shit, she smiled at you!’.
They stopped in front of the door to Elliott’s room. Giles took a deep breath and then lifted his hand to knock. When he hesitated, Buffy placed her hand on his back. He closed his eyes to compose himself. And then he swallowed and knocked on the door.
Buffy lowered her hand from his back as the door swung open. Elliott’s roommate stood there…eyes wide in surprise.
“Oh…oh, hi sir.”
Giles offered the boy a smile. “Hello, Jack. Has Elliott left for class yet?”
Jack turned and looked towards the other side of the room, shaking his head slowly. “No. I’m not sure he’s going to class this morning. He woke up earlier…but said he needed a rest after he got dressed.”
“Alright.” Giles glanced at his watch. “You best head on out, you’ll be late. Could you let the professor know that I’m here and Elliott will not be attending classes today?”
“Of course, sir.” Jack darted his eyes between Buffy and Giles before looking back at Elliott. “Is he okay, sir?”
“I think he’s a bit more poorly than he thought.” Giles answered carefully.
“So, it’s not from football practice then?”
Giles shook his head slowly. “No. No, it’s not.”
Jack looked as though he had a few more questions that he wanted to ask. But, he also looked as though he didn’t want to ask them. Buffy was very relieved when Jack exhaled slowly and grabbed his bag.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do, okay?”
Giles smiled appreciatively at him, placing his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Thank you. Have a good day in class.”
“Yes, sir.” Jack looked at Buffy and smiled. “Good day, Miss Summers. Elliott will be so happy to see you.”
Buffy smiled brightly at him. “The feeling is definitely mutual. Off you go, you don’t want to be late.”
Jack grinned and slipped out the door.
Giles stepped inside and held the door open for Buffy. As she made her way over to Elliott’s bed, Giles closed the door and ran his hand through his hair in a nervous gesture.
Buffy sat down on the edge of the bed and reached out, gently stroking Elliott’s soft curls. Elliott opened his eyes with some effort and a slow smile appeared.
“Yeah, I am. I’ve missed you, Elliott.” She whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “You feeling okay?”
“I’m so bloody tired.” He mumbled, rolling over to face her.
“Language, Elliott.” Giles chided playfully as he made his way over to the bed.
Elliott furrowed his brow. Buffy thought, not for the first time, how much Elliott really was like Giles.
“Uncle Ru? What’s wrong?” Elliott pushed himself up and leaned back against the headboard.
“Wrong?” Giles asked, tilting his head slightly.
“You never come by before classes.” He glanced at Buffy and then returned his gaze to Giles. “And you’re both here…so something is either really wrong or really good.”
Giles sat down next to Buffy…Buffy automatically rested her hand on his thigh. Elliott’s smile returned.
“Are you guys back together? Please tell me you’re back together…”
Buffy and Giles looked at each other and then back to Elliott. Giles nodded as he smiled. “Yes, Elliott. We’re back together.”
“That’s great! I’m so happy!” He leaned forward and wrapped an arm around each of them, kissing Buffy’s cheek and then Giles’.
Giles rubbed Elliott’s back and placed a kiss on top of his head. Elliott pulled back and looked up at him, his smile fading a little.
“But, that’s not why you’re here, is it? I mean…you could’ve come by at lunch or after classes to tell me that.”
Giles placed his hand on Elliott’s shoulder, his thumb rubbing light circles against his collarbone. “No. No, it’s not.”
Elliott sighed and lowered his eyes. “Is it…is it Dad?”
Buffy reached out and lovingly ran her fingers through his hair, careful not to snag his curls on her rings. “No, honey. Your Dad is…well, your Dad’s the same.”
“So, you guys are okay. Dad is okay. That leaves me.” He looked at Buffy, then Giles. “What’s wrong?”
Giles glanced at Buffy, sighing when she gave him a barely perceptible nod. “Well…you know all of those tests that Dr Naylor performed?”
“They were tests for all sorts of things because…well, it’s not normal for a child of your age and fitness to be this tired all the time.”
“Yeah…” Elliott looked at Buffy. “Not normal…like how it’s not normal to have scans too, right?”
“The scans were looking for things inside of you.” Buffy replied hesitantly.
“You didn’t know I was having scans, did you?” When Buffy didn’t reply quick enough, Elliott looked back at Giles. “Why didn’t you tell her I was having scans?”
“Because I didn’t want to worry her.” Giles replied softly.
“But, you did tell her…and now you’re both here talking about them. So…there’s obviously something to worry about. Right?”
Elliott was trying very hard to stay calm, but his panic was rising at an exponential rate. Giles took a shaky breath and nodded, deciding to not delay any further.
“There is. But, we don’t know exactly – ”
“What is it, Uncle Ru? Just tell me.” Elliott interrupted, biting his bottom lip.
“Osteosarcoma.” Giles replied quietly. “It’s a type of…of cancer.”
Elliott stared at him for a moment, his green eyes beginning to glisten. “Cancer? Jack’s uncle had cancer. He died right before Christmas.”
Elliott looked at Buffy, his bottom lip beginning to tremble slightly. “Am…am I going to die too?”
Buffy quickly pulled him into her arms, holding him tightly. He reached out and grabbed Giles’ tie, tugging him towards him as well. Giles shifted slightly, curling his arms around the both of them. He kissed the top of Elliott’s head, closing his eyes when he heard Elliott sniffle.
“Am I?” Elliott whispered, shifting his weight and resting his cheek against Giles’ chest.
“I don’t know, son.” Giles whispered truthfully, lovingly stroking Elliott’s back.
“Is this why I’m so tired all the time?”
Elliott’s fingers toyed with Giles’ tie clip. Something he’d done when he was nervous since he was four years old. He’d rest against his uncle’s chest and play with his tie clip. If Giles wasn’t wearing a tie, he’d toy with a button on his shirt.
“I think so. But, uh…Dr Naylor will be able to give us some more information and answer our questions. Unfortunately, Buffy and I…well, we don’t know much more at the moment.”
Elliott lifted his eyes to Buffy’s, but didn’t move from the comfort of Giles’ chest. “Are you back together because I’m sick?”
Buffy shook her head quickly, stroking her fingers through Elliott’s hair. “No, honey. We’re back together because we love each other.”
Elliott closed his eyes, snuggling closer to Giles but also reaching out to pull Buffy closer. They were all quiet for long minutes, no one quite knowing what to say.
“I think you should come home, Elliott.” Giles said softly, breaking the silence.
“I have a test tomorrow.” Elliott replied absently.
Buffy ran the backs of her fingers down his cheek. “We can probably get that rescheduled. Right, Rupert?”
Giles nodded in agreement. “Absolutely.”
Elliott lifted his head slightly and furrowed his brow at Buffy. Buffy tilted her head in return.
“What is it, Elliott?”
“You called him…Rupert.”
Buffy smiled, glancing at Giles. “It happens on occasion.”
“You won’t leave again, will you, Mum?”
“No, sweetheart. I won’t leave again.”
“Good. ‘Cause he didn’t take that very well. I didn’t either really.”
“I know.” She whispered, a tear rolling down her cheek. “I’m sorry that I hurt you too.”
“Well, you didn’t just leave like Everton’s mum did. He hasn’t talked to her since before he came here. You didn’t leave me.”
“No…no, I’d never leave you, Elliott. I promised you a very long time ago that I would always be here for you…no matter what.”
“I was still a little mad at you.” Elliott whispered. “Uncle Ru told me that it wasn’t all your fault…that it was his fault too. But…he was so upset and…I’m just not used to seeing that.”
“I understand that, Elliott. To be honest, I’m not surprised you were mad at me. It’s okay to be mad at me over it. It’s even okay to be a little worried that it might happen again. But, I can promise you that what happened before…it’s not going to happen again, okay? So, I want you to try not to worry about it.”
“So, we can go home now? The three of us?”
“Definitely.” Buffy replied with a smile.
Giles pressed another kiss to the top of Elliott’s head and then leaned over, brushing his lips across Buffy’s.
“Let’s go home.” Giles whispered.
For a brief moment he allowed himself to believe that they were simply going home as a family. When he heard Elliott sniffle and then watched him curl into Buffy’s embrace, the moment ended.
He cleared his throat and made his way over to the closet. He swallowed the lump in his throat as he pulled Elliott’s bag out and began to pack a few things for him.
There was nothing simple about this situation. Nothing at all.
Chapter 3: Parenting
Giles glanced in the rearview mirror, somewhat surprised to see that Elliott had already fallen asleep. His fingers tightened on the steering wheel, but he said nothing.
Buffy looked over at him, just as a single tear slipped from the corner of his eye. She reached over and placed her hand on his thigh.
He smiled thinly, but didn’t look at her. He removed his left hand from the steering wheel and covered hers on his thigh. “I’m fine.”
“Why do you insist on lying to me?” She asked, keeping her voice low.
He was quiet for a long minute and then sighed. “I’m lying to myself. If I tell you the truth, that negates the lie – and then I have to admit that I’m not…fine.”
“You know that’s not a bad thing, right?”
He glanced at her as he stopped at a stop sign. “I have to be fine for him. At least for right now.”
“Charmichael called while you were talking to the principal.”
“Headmaster.” Giles corrected automatically.
“Same thing, basically. Just more English.”
He gave her a sideways glance. “We’re in England.”
“Anyway…Charmichael called. He just wanted to say that if there’s anything you need, let him know. He’ll hold the fort down until you’re ready to go back.” She gently squeezed his thigh. “He also hopes that we’ll have a positive outcome here.”
Giles nodded numbly, his jaw clenching as he held back his emotions.
“What did you tell the…headmaster? She asked, smiling softly as he rolled his eyes at her teasing.
“Basically that Elliott will be unable to attend classes until we know what’s going on at least. At Elliott’s request, I did ask that work be sent to him for completion so he can keep up as best he can.”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Did he leave a note for Jack?”
“Yes. I also suggested that Jack stops by the house or gives Elliott a call – I think it’s important for them to stay in touch. They’re fairly close.”
“Close is definitely a word for it. More like family – they remind me of me, Willow, and Xander back in high school.”
Giles glanced in the mirror again and shook his head. He lowered his voice to a whisper, barely loud enough for Buffy to hear.
“Ethan seems to think that’s normal.” She replied just as quietly, continuing quickly as his eyes darted to her. “I sent him a text earlier.”
“Normal, how? How is any of this normal?”
“I think he’s talking about the actual illness…not Elliott’s individual case.” She replied, understanding his tactless response.
Buffy glanced behind her to check that Elliott was still asleep. Seeing that he was, and hearing his soft snore, she looked back at Giles.
“Pale is preferable to…yellow.”
“Which would signify liver failure…since there are lesions in his liver, that’s to be expected at some point.” He said, sighing heavily. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
“It’s okay.” She gave him an understanding smile and turned her hand under his, lacing their fingers together. “You’ve snapped much harder in the past.”
He squeezed her fingers. “I just…I wasn’t prepared. He looks unwell. He just looked…tired…the other day.”
He pulled into the driveway of their home and killed the engine. They both just sat there in silence for a few moments.
“I meant to stop by your flat on the way home.”
She furrowed her brow at him. “Why?”
“To see what we need to do about moving your things back home.” He ran his fingers through his hair and blew out a deep breath. “I didn’t really think this through, did I?”
Buffy hesitated for a second, not really sure what he meant. “About…asking me to come back?”
He looked at her quickly, confusion in his eyes. “What? No. I should have asked that months ago. What I meant was much less sinister than that. I wasn’t talking about your things at the flat, even. My mind doesn’t seem to be able to stay in one place for very long at the moment. I just meant…he’s twelve and a Giles. So…he’s tall. I can probably carry him in, but I’m not sure he’d be amenable to that. But, I also don’t want to wake him…”
She listened to him ramble for a few more minutes and then leaned over and kissed him softly. “Let’s just get out of the car first, okay? As for my things at the flat…maybe we can enlist Ethan’s help?”
A small smile quirked at the corner of Giles’ mouth. “That’s something I never thought I’d hear.”
“We’ve all come a long way…”
He nodded and then turned his body towards her. He lifted his right hand to her cheek and then leaned into her, brushing his lips across hers. As he started to pull back, she wrapped her hand around the back of his neck and kissed him…a kiss which deepened quickly.
“Bloody hell…” Elliott muttered, opening his eyes. “No sex in front of the kid…”
They ended the kiss and both turned to look at Elliott. Buffy grinned at him. Giles smiled, but arched an eyebrow at him.
“One…language, Elliott.” He gently admonished, stifling his chuckle when Elliott rolled his eyes – a gesture that reminded him greatly of Buffy.
“And two…” Buffy continued quickly. “I kissed him…surely you’ve had sex ed in school.”
Elliott blushed, the pink standing out in stark contrast to his pallor. “Yeah, yeah. Even had the talk with Uncle Ru, but a kiss like that…well, it ends up somewhere else at some point. And no kid wants to think of their parents having sex.”
Buffy laughed heartily. Giles’ eyes softened and a genuine smile appeared on his face. Buffy looked over at him, understanding quickly the reason for the smile…the way he was looking at Elliott.
He had referred to the two of them as ‘parents’. He’d called Buffy ‘Mum’ for years…but, Giles had always been ‘Uncle Ru’. He’d probably never call him ‘Dad’, not while Peter was still alive. But, it was very obvious that Elliott thought of Giles as a father and not so much as an Uncle.
Instead of bringing attention to it, Buffy reached between the seats and nudged Elliott’s knee. “I never wanted to think about my parents having sex either…way creepy.”
“Yeah, it really is.” His smile changed slightly and his green eyes brightened. “Even though I don’t want to think about it…I’m really glad the two of you stopped being so stupid. Just so you know.”
“I really do love you, Elliott.”
He rolled his eyes and opened the car door. He paused as he started to step out and looked into her eyes.
“I really do love you too, Mum.”
Buffy’s eyes glistened as he eased out of the car and closed the door. She started to say something to Giles, but stopped as she looked at him. The wonder in his eyes shining brightly at her.
“You really are a wonderful mother, Buffy.”
“He makes it easy. He’s always been a great kid. Reminds me a lot of you in a lot of ways.”
“Do, uh…do you want to talk about it? Sometime?”
She looked at him curiously. “Talk about what?”
“Having a baby. Maybe…”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “What?”
“It’s just a thought.” He glanced at Elliott, who was slowly making his way up the steps to the front door. “But, maybe…think about it? We can…talk?”
“You want a baby?”
“With you, yes.” He replied softly. “It’s just a thought, Buffy.”
When she just continued looking at him, he smiled and gestured towards the door. “Why don’t you go inside with Elliott. I’ll bring his things in.”
She nodded absently, glancing at Elliott and opening the car door. “Is it a serious thought? Or one brought about by what’s going on?”
“I wanted to ask you two questions that night.” He cleared his throat as she turned back towards him. “I didn’t get a chance to ask the second.”
“Then I’ll give it serious thought too.” She smiled warmly at him and climbed out of the car.
He watched her run over to Elliott. He felt the lump form in his throat as Elliott smiled at her when she wrapped her arm around his shoulder. She unlocked the front door and ushered him in.
Giles took a deep, shuddering breath and wiped his hand across his eyes.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Giles walked into the house, after composing himself from his emotional outburst, he found Buffy and Elliott sitting on the sofa watching television. Giles narrowed his eyes and glanced at the clock.
“Doctor Who at this time of day?”
Elliott grinned at him before turning his attention back to the screen. “Any time of day is Doctor Who time of day.”
Giles thought about that for a second and then gave him a nod. “Fair enough statement.”
He smiled at Buffy, sitting there next to Elliott with her feet curled up under her. He lifted the bags in his hands and gestured down the hall with a tilt of his head. She smiled and glanced towards the kitchen, to which he responded with an adoring nod.
An entire conversation…made in silence…in less than 30 seconds. He smiled contentedly as he walked down the hall towards Elliott’s room. It had been months since they’d done that. Their connection was as strong as ever, much to his relief.
He unpacked Elliott’s bags quickly, feeling somewhat sad as he did. Not that he wasn’t happy to have him back in the house…he had missed him desperately during the Academy terms. He always had. But, Elliott had always unpacked his own bags. Giles supposed that technically Elliott could still unpack his own bags…
And then he realised something important.
He couldn’t allow himself to change the way he had been parenting Elliott for the last eight years. If he started treating him differently…doing things for him that he normally wouldn’t…that would be of no benefit to any of them. As he hung up the last of Elliott’s shirts, he made a promise that he would do his best to keep things as normal as possible for the entire family.
He exhaled a deep breath and then left the room, quickly making his way to the kitchen. He felt a sense of peace as he filled the kettle and switched it on, content to listen to the elements heat up as he pulled three mugs from the cupboard.
“Elliott?” He called out, pausing until he heard Elliott’s answering ‘yeah?’. He made a mental note to remind him that ‘yeah?’ wasn’t the most appropriate response. “Tea or hot chocolate?”
Of course, he could also remind himself to remember to ask entire questions – such as ‘would you prefer tea or hot chocolate?’, he chuckled to himself.
“Hot chocolate, please. Thank you!”
Giles smiled brightly. “At least he hasn’t forgotten his manners…”
He made the drinks quickly, letting the tea steep as he filled a tray with biscuits and marshmallows. He stared at the tray and shook his head.
“Not the healthiest of morning teas…”
He paused and then reached into the fruit bowl…quickly slicing up a few pieces of fruit and tossing them into a bowl. As he placed the bowl onto the tray, he heard Buffy’s voice call out to him.
“Don’t forget the cream, Rupert.”
He laughed softly and opened the refrigerator.
* * *
Giles walked into the living room, placing the large tray on the coffee table as he sat down on the sofa with them. Elliott’s eyes lit up at the sight of the spread, reaching out to pluck a slice of fresh peach out of the bowl.
“Ah, thank you, Dad.”
Giles’ eyes widened as he stared at Elliott. Elliott chewed thoughtfully and swallowed, shrugging shoulder.
“Is that okay?” He asked softly. “I mean, I know…I know you’re not really my Dad. But, I don’t really remember Dad, not like he used to be. And…well, it’s weird to call her Mum and you Uncle Ru – that’s just…weird. And most of the kids at school think you’re my Dad anyway…except for Jack. Jack knows about Dad – my real Dad.”
Giles tilted his head slightly and looked at him curiously. “They think I’m your father?”
“Well, yeah…” Elliott lowered his eyes briefly. “They all know my full name is Rupert Elliott Giles, they see you a lot – they know your name is Rupert E Giles. Not many of them know it’s Edmund, though. They know you guys are together and I call her Mum. They’ve heard you call me ‘son’ and kind of jumped to their own conclusions…and I didn’t tell them they were wrong.”
“I’m sorry. Maybe I should’ve asked you about it first. I just…you’re a lot more than an Uncle to me. And Dad will never be able to be a dad again. Is it okay?”
Giles nodded slowly, his smile reappearing. “Of course, it is. I just never wanted you to think I was trying to take your father’s place.”
“But, you had to.” Elliott countered. “And I’m so glad that you did.”
Giles’ eyes glistened as he reached out to gently stroke the soft curls on his head. “I love you dearly, Elliott.”
Elliott leaned against him, taking another bite of the peach. “I love you too, Dad.”
Giles looked at Buffy, not surprised at all to see a tear slip down her cheek.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Elliott had taken himself to bed for a rest after they had finished a second episode of Doctor Who. Giles had made a second cup of tea for Buffy and himself.
“So, Dad…” Buffy started as Giles sat down beside of her and handed her a mug.
“Did you know about that?” He asked curiously.
“Nope. Not until he said it.” She smiled and reached over, gently running her fingers through his hair. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen you look that proud before.”
He blushed lightly and leaned forward, grabbing the last two biscuits from the tray. He smiled and handed one to her.
“What are we doing today?” She asked quietly.
He shook his head, his smile fading slightly. “Nothing heavy. I’d like to just…relax, be a family. Tomorrow is going to be difficult and painful. I just want the three of us to have as normal a day as possible.”
She nodded in agreement and rested her head against his shoulder. “Ethan said he’d be by later. He’s going to clear out the flat and bring things over.”
“He didn’t say, actually. I just assumed that he’d either use magic or Dave. Or both.” She glanced up at him. “Maybe I should tell him to not worry about the sheets…just in case.”
Giles laughed…a deep laugh that she hadn’t heard in what felt like years. Within seconds, she joined in with his laughter.
* * *
Ethan carried in the last of the boxes and raised an eyebrow at Buffy. “In three months, I would’ve expected there to be more to pack.”
“Didn’t need much.” Buffy shrugged a shoulder. “Didn’t even want to be there.”
Ethan smiled in understanding, reaching out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, now you don’t have to be.”
Giles watched the exchange carefully, a gentle smile on his face. Ethan glanced over at him and quickly lowered his hand.
“Ah…nothing happened there, Rip.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. Giles laughed.
“I know. I was just thinking of how unlikely this would have been a decade ago.”
Ethan snorted. “A decade ago, I’m sure I was attempting to come up with some sort of mischief to inflict upon you both. I should’ve sent a lust spell your way…you know, just to nudge you along.”
Giles shook his head in amusement, grinning brightly as Elliott appeared from the hallway – looking fairly rested and a bit more like himself.
“Hey, Dad…Mum…” He yawned as he looked at Ethan. “Ethan…”
Ethan’s eyes widened as he stared at Giles. “Dad?”
Giles merely smiled and looked back at Elliott. “Sleep well?”
“Mm-hm.” He mumbled, stumbling towards the kitchen.
“Dad?” Ethan repeated.
Knowing that he wasn’t going to give up until he received some sort of response, Giles nodded. “It caught me off-guard too. But, can’t say I’m unhappy about it.”
Ethan shook his head slowly. “I’m not surprised. Well, I am…I wasn’t expecting that. Not with Peter still…well, living. But, you’ve always acted like a father to him.”
“Yep.” Elliott responded, walking back in with a glass of orange juice. “Went to all of my school meetings and performances, played football with me in the backyard, took me to circuses and concerts…made me laugh when I was sad, held me when I had nightmares, read to me when I was too scared to sleep. He’s been an amazing dad. When you really think about it…I’m pretty lucky.”
Ethan regarded Elliott carefully, a tender smile on his face. “Yeah…you really are, mate.”
Elliott’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the boxes. “What’s all that?”
“My things from the flat.” Buffy answered, gently ruffling his hair as she walked over and opened the box on top. “Ethan was a darling and packed everything up for me…”
Ethan rolled his eyes and scoffed. “A ‘darling’? When have I ever been a ‘darling’?”
“Whitechapel, Spring of ’72…” Giles answered without thought.
Buffy smiled, rummaging through the box until she found what she was looking for. A framed photograph of the three of them, taken on a trip to the States a couple of years earlier. It had been placed on her bedside table in the flat the day after she moved in.
“Sod off, Rupe.” Ethan grumbled.
Giles sent him a wink and then turned his attention back to Elliott. “Are you hungry at all?”
Elliott thought for a moment and then shook his head. “No. I think we need to talk about the thing that’s going on that no one is talking about.”
Ethan stared at him. “Jesus, you sounded like Buffy…”
Elliott smiled and shrugged a shoulder as he walked over to the sofa and sat down.
“Sounded like Buffy, mannerisms are all Rupert’s though.” Ethan mumbled before looking over at Giles. “I’ll, uh…head out. Let you guys talk.”
Giles cast a quick glance to Buffy. Buffy gave a quick nod in response. A small smile played on Ethan’s lips…he had missed this silent interaction between the two of them.
Giles cleared his throat and met Ethan’s eyes. “Would you mind staying? We may need your help at some point during all of this…”
“If it’s okay with Elliott, sure.” Ethan replied with no hesitation.
“Would you guys please just come over and sit down?”
Buffy smiled and reached out, gently touching Ethan’s upper arm. “I think it’s okay with him…”
Ethan nodded silently, following them over. He sat down on one of the chairs as Buffy and Giles sat down on the sofa…Buffy directly next to Elliott, Giles on the other side of her.
After a moment of awkward silence, Elliott sighed. “So…how bad is it? What exactly is it? And…what do we do?”
“Direct approach…” Giles said softly and rubbed the back of his neck. “Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that affects the bones. The scans show it heavily in your left knee. It’s, uh…”
He paused and Buffy reached over and took hold of his hand. Elliott watched the exchange and bit his lip. His uncle was scared…that in itself was reason to be concerned.
Giles took a deep breath and gave a brief nod to no one in particular. “It’s advanced…stage IVB.”
“What does that even mean?” Elliott asked softly.
“It means it has spread to other areas in your body.” Giles answered hesitantly. “It’s uh…the scans show…”
“Dad? Please just say it. I know it’s bad…but, you’re scaring me.”
“I’m sorry, Elliott.” He whispered and then reached behind Buffy to place his hand on Elliott’s shoulder. “The doctor found evidence of cancer in your liver as well as your leg.”
Elliott nodded slowly, trying his best to absorb the information being given to him. “How, uh…how many stages are there?”
“Four.” Giles replied, attempting to swallow the sudden lump in his throat as Elliott’s eyes darted to his.
“Four? You said I’m at four b, right?”
Giles nodded and cleared his throat. “Yes. There are substages, the ‘b’ is indicative of metata…spreading.”
“The bigger the number, the worse it is, huh?” Elliott asked sadly. “So, if this is the worst stage…I’m going to – ”
“We don’t know that yet, Elliott.” Buffy interrupted softly. “We need to see what the doctor says tomorrow.”
“The…oncologist.” Elliott corrected. “A cancer doctor.”
“Yeah…” She whispered.
Ethan leaned forward slightly and cleared his throat. “It’s not exactly hopeless right now, Elliott. Not yet. There are treatments…chemotherapy, radiation…surgery. But, it’s probably best to wait to speak to the doctor tomorrow before you go too deep into that discussion.”
“Jack’s uncle died.” Elliott said, lowering his eyes.
“My mother survived.” Giles replied, smiling as Elliott looked up at him. “For many years, she survived after her diagnosis.”
“Grandma had cancer?” Elliott’s brow furrowed. “I thought she died in a car accident.”
“She did, unfortunately. But, ten years before that, she was being treated for breast cancer.”
“Not osteo…bone cancer though.”
Giles shook his head. “No, not bone. But, just as scary for her…and for me.”
Elliott was quiet for long minutes. Giles watched him carefully, understanding that he was processing. Buffy gently stroked the back of Elliott’s neck…an action that had always helped relax him. Ethan watched them all, wondering what was going to happen next…and hoping he hadn’t overstepped a line when he spoke up earlier.
“So…we wait and see what Dr Naylor says?” Elliott finally asked, looking over at Buffy and then Giles. “And we see him in the morning?”
“Yes.” Giles replied, looking into Elliott’s eyes.
“Do you think I’m going to die, Dad?” He held Giles’ gaze, reading the emotions swirling in his eyes.
“I’m frightened that you will, but I’m holding off those thoughts until we have more information.” He answered truthfully.
Elliott nodded and shifted his gaze to Buffy. “Mum?”
“I don’t know, Elliott.” She whispered. “I’m scared…because I don’t think any of this is going to be easy for you. But, thinking you’re going to…I can’t let myself think that right now.”
“Thank you.” He whispered back, sliding his arms around her and hugging her tightly.
Ethan watched them quietly, silently grateful that Elliott hadn’t asked him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Elliott had fallen asleep on the sofa, curled up in the corner with his head on the arm. Instead of waking him, Giles carefully picked him up and cradled him against his chest. Ethan had smiled as he watched Giles effortlessly carry him down the hall.
“He’s a tall boy…” Ethan remarked quietly.
“Probably a bit too tall to be carried, but there’s no way Giles would’ve woken him.”
Ethan nodded in agreement. “Have to admit, I would’ve loved seeing Rupert’s reaction to being called Dad.”
Buffy eyes brightened. “One of the most genuinely beautiful reactions I’ve ever seen.”
Ethan stood up and gave Buffy a wink. “I’ll head off…leave you two alone.”
“You can stay for a while, if you want. Have a drink…talk…”
Ethan raised an eyebrow at her. “Is everything okay? With you and Rupert?”
“What? Yeah, we’re really good…great, even.” She replied, her eyes showing her confusion at his question.
“But…you don’t want to be alone with him?”
She chuckled softly. “Not asking you to spend the night, Ethan. And even if I were, you wouldn’t be in the bedroom with us.”
Ethan paused and then shook his head, as if he was clearing it. “So, that was a mental image I didn’t need.”
“What mental image is that?” Giles asked, walking back into the living room.
Buffy shrugged a shoulder. “Bedroom image?”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Some things never change.”
“Whoa…those things changed years ago, Rupert.” Ethan argued.
Giles made his way over to the liquor cabinet, quickly pouring three drinks. He glanced at Ethan over his shoulder.
“Sit down, Ethan.” When Ethan merely stared at him, Giles sighed heavily and walked over…handing him one of the tumblers. “I was only joking. It was in bad taste and the timing was shocking. I’m sorry.”
Ethan accepted the drink, sipping it as he sat back down. “Well, it wasn’t necessarily completely off the mark. I’d still go there…but, not with the two of you.” He met Buffy’s eyes and took another sip of his drink. “Not that I don’t find you attractive – you very much are. But, I’d much prefer my cock stay attached.”
Buffy spluttered her drink. “I’m capable of saying no without detaching a man’s penis.”
“I wasn’t referring to you, love.”
Giles furrowed his brow as he swallowed. “As if I ever threatened any such thing back then.”
“No, you were always quite amenable to the idea. Until Buffy entered your life.” He smiled at Buffy as she arched an eyebrow. “I only suggested it once. He made it very clear that that would never happen.”
Giles chuckled and took another drink. “Yes and you turned me into a demon.”
Buffy shook her head as she quickly downed her drink. “Jesus Christ, I’m glad those days are over.”
Giles smiled warmly at her. “They weren’t all bad…”
Ethan finished his drink and gestured towards the door. “I’ll, uh…”
“You’ll stay.” Giles interrupted and glanced towards the liquor cabinet. “You can bring that bottle over…refill our drinks…and you can stay.”
Ethan hesitated for a moment and then stood up. He smiled at the both of them and then retrieved the bottle.
* * *
The night had been a sleepless one for Buffy and Giles. Ethan had retired to the guest room a little after midnight. Buffy and Giles had made their way to their bedroom not long after.
Giles had paused at the door, looking down at Buffy. Buffy understood his apprehension. He hadn’t slept in there since she had left.
She had whispered that she wasn’t going anywhere, that she loved him.
And here they were, making love at two in the morning. Swallowing each other’s moans and cries as they pushed one another closer to the edge. As he pulled from the kiss, burying his face in the crook of her neck as he thrust his hips harder against her, she knew this was as much about comfort as it was desire.
Neither of them wanted to face the morning. Everything was so uncertain and terrifying.
But the minutes continued to tick on.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles paced in the office, his right hand shoved into his pocket. Buffy rubbed her temple and then turned around to look at him.
“Can you please stop pacing?”
Elliott smiled as Giles grumbled about doctors keeping people waiting.
“I wonder if they take classes for that.” Elliott mused.
Giles stopped pacing and smiled affectionately at Elliott. “I’m sure they do. It’s held in conjunction with their handwriting course.”
Elliott snorted. “Good one, Dad.”
Before anyone could say anything else, the door opened and the doctor rushed in. Giles stopped pacing and sat down in the chair next to Elliott.
“Ah, my apologies on keeping you waiting.” He sat down behind his desk and opened a folder labelled ‘Giles, Rupert Elliott’. “How are you feeling, Elliott?”
“Tired. Like really tired. And my leg hurts a lot.”
“I’m not surprised about that. Does the pain keep you awake?”
Elliott sighed and nodded. “Sometimes. But, it wakes me up more than keeps me awake.”
“Have your uncle and aunt explained what the scans and blood tests showed?”
“You can just call them my parents. It’s easier. And yes, sir…they’ve told me what they know.”
Dr Naylor nodded. “My suggestion would be surgery, followed by radiation and chemotherapy…”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Why don’t we just jump right into it then?”
Elliott smiled a wry smile that very much resembled Giles’. Giles moved his chair closer to Elliott’s and rested his arm along the back of Elliott’s chair. His fingers grazed Buffy’s shoulder in a comforting gesture.
Giles cleared his throat. “Surgery?”
Dr Naylor sighed deeply. “Amputation of the left leg, above the affected knee joint.”
Three pairs of eyes stared at the doctor. Elliott was the first to find his voice.
“You…want to cut off my leg?”
Giles gripped Elliott’s shoulder, Buffy reached over and took hold of Elliott’s hand.
Dr Naylor shook his head slowly. “I’m so sorry, Elliott. But, the tumour has to be removed…and the only way that we can make sure we have it all is to remove the leg.”
He pulled out the MRI images from a large envelope and stood up. He walked around his desk and knelt on the floor in front of Elliott. Giles’ eyes widened as he looked at the first image. The tumour was easily recognisable…and he’d had no training in radiography.
“Oh my god…” He whispered.
Elliott looked at the image and then looked down at his knee. “That’s…that’s my knee in the picture?”
“Yes.” Dr Naylor answered, reaching out and gently touching Elliott’s leg. “The tumour is mainly in your knee, but extends from here to here…”
Buffy wiped her eyes, but said nothing.
“Chemo?” Giles asked softly, his thumb rubbing small circles against Elliott’s shoulder.
“IV therapy. It won’t be pleasant, but it is necessary.” He looked into Elliott’s eyes. “Do you know much about chemotherapy?”
Elliott shook his head, squeezing Buffy’s hand tightly.
“Chemotherapy is using special drugs that attack the cancer cells in your body. It’s injected into a vein in your arm and it travels through your blood.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “Unfortunately, it can make you sick. Not always, but often.”
“Sick? Sicker than I already am?”
“it’s a different kind of sick. Nausea, weakness, hair loss sometimes.”
Elliott lifted his hand to his hair. “I’m going to be bald?”
He shook his head and looked at Giles, tears in his eyes. “Dad, I…I don’t want to do this. I’ve heard things…when you’re sick and lose your hair – ”
“It’s okay, son.” He said quickly, kissing the top of his head as he met Buffy’s eyes. “Buffy?”
Buffy merely shook her head and leaned over to kiss Elliott’s temple.
Giles inhaled deeply, doing his best to hold his emotions in check. “You, uh…you mentioned radiation?”
“Yes, which would be targeted at the lesions in the liver. Hopefully, it will shrink those lesions – though chances are high that a second surgery will be required to remove those, if possible. With all three treatments, prognosis is quite a bit higher than surgery alone.”
“And that prognosis would be?” Buffy asked quietly, not sure she actually wanted to know the answer.
Giles and Buffy stared at the doctor and then looked at each other. Giles’ jaw clenched and then turned his attention back to the doctor.
“And with surgery only?”
Dr Naylor shook his head slowly. “20%, if he’s lucky. And it would be much less than the standard five year rate.”
“Those numbers sound really low.” Elliott said, his voice trembling. “That’s not really good, is it?”
“It’s not ideal.” Dr Naylor agreed. “But, it’s much better than 20% or zero.”
Elliott nodded, continuing to process the doctor’s words. “When would the surgery be?”
“I’d like to get that scheduled as soon as possible.”
“And in actual terms, what would that look like?” Giles asked.
Dr Naylor looked up at Giles, allowing him to see the urgency that he had been carefully hiding from Elliott. “I’ve cleared my schedule for Monday.”
“That soon?” Buffy asked, doing her best to control her rising panic.
The doctor looked at Buffy and nodded. “It’s for the best, Mrs Giles.”
“Buffy.” She responded absently, looking over Elliott’s head to meet Giles’ eyes. “That’s…that’s very quick.”
Giles allowed a tear to fall, wiping it away with a swipe of his fingers. He looked down as Elliott’s fingers gripped his thigh tightly.
“Oh, Elliott…” He whispered, seeing the tears slip down his Elliott’s cheek. “We’re here, son. We’re here…”
Elliott let go of Buffy’s hand and launched himself into Giles’ arms. Giles held him tightly, closing his eyes as Elliott sobbed against his chest. Buffy moved into Elliott’s chair, turning it slightly towards them and soothingly rubbed her hand along Elliott’s back. When she felt his breath hitch, she leaned over and wrapped her arms around him from behind.
Dr Naylor stood slowly and placed the images onto his desk. “I’ll give you a few minutes to process as well as you can…and to discuss your options. Do you need anything?”
Giles shook his head silently. Buffy turned her head towards the doctor, wiping the tears from her face. “No…no, thank you.”
“Very well. I’ll be back in a little while. Please, take your time – this is a lot to process with some very large decisions to be made very quickly. Should you need anything at all, just press that button.”
Buffy gave him a quick nod and then tightened her hold on Elliott as she kissed the back of his head.
Without another word, Dr Naylor left the room…quietly closing the door behind him.
Chapter Four: Strength
Giles looked up as the front door opened. He sighed softly as Ethan walked in and closed the door behind him. Ethan chuckled as he made his way across the room.
“Expecting someone else?”
Giles shook his head, lightly fingering the edge of the page of the open book resting on his thigh. “No, just thought it might be Buffy and Elliott.”
“Where are they?” Ethan asked, dropping onto the sofa next to him.
“Elliott wanted to see Jack, so they’ve gone to the dorms.”
Ethan regarded Giles carefully. And then he asked the question that he was fairly certain he didn’t want to hear the answer to…considering Giles’ current mood.
“So…how did the appointment go?”
“Not as well as I had hoped.” Giles sighed and looked down at the book. “He’s scheduled for surgery on Monday.”
“Surgery? What kind of surgery? Exploratory or – ”
“Amputation?” Ethan asked, eyes widened with shock at the news.
Giles nodded slowly. “He’ll…die, otherwise. The, uh…it’s quite advanced. The tumour. It…the images were quite horrific.”
“And then what?” Ethan prodded, feeling that there was more.
Ethan straightened. “Chemo and radiation?”
“Chemo for the osteo. Radiation for the liver.”
“Okay…and after all of that?”
Giles stared at him for a moment and then turned his stare towards the window. He took a moment to collect his thoughts and then gave a nearly imperceptible shake of his head.
“The highest percentage we were given, after all treatment options, is thirty-five.”
Giles closed his eyes briefly, not bothering to stop the tears from falling as he turned his eyes back to Ethan. His voice trembled with emotion when he spoke.
“There’s a very good chance we’re going to lose him.”
Ethan shook his head quickly. “No…no, that can’t be right.”
Giles choked on a sob and leaned forward, head in his hands. Ethan shifted quickly, putting his arm around him as the dams broke.
“Ah, fuck…Rupe.” He whispered, turning so he could pull him into a proper embrace. “Fuck…”
He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the top of Giles’ head as Giles leaned into him…accepting the warmth, the comfort.
“I’m so, so sorry, Rupert.”
No further words needed to be said. Ethan was grateful for that…because he had no idea of what he should say. Or even what he could say.
And so they sat in relative silence. The only sound being Giles’ pained sobs…until the tears ran out and his throat felt raw.
Ethan held him throughout.
* * *
Buffy looked over at Elliott as she stopped for a red light. Elliott was staring out the window, following a raindrop with this fingertip.
“You okay, Ellie?”
Elliott snorted a soft laugh. “You haven’t called me that in forever.”
“Well, you did ask me to stop.” She replied with a smile. “I’m sorry, it just kinda came out.”
He gave her a quick glance, a smile playing on his lips. “I’ve missed it.”
“Are you okay?”
“I don’t know.” He sighed deeply and looked back out the window. “I just had to tell my best friend that I’m not going to be able to finish the football season with him…and that I’m probably going to die.”
“Elliott, we don’t know – ”
“Jack’s uncle was given 60%...and he died. I have 35%, at best. I may only be twelve, but I understand percentages.”
“True.” She agreed, turning her eyes back to the road as the light turned green. “But, you might be part of that 35%. Yes, it’s a low number, but…you know who your family is. Look at us…do you know how many times we were given even lower odds than that?”
“Yeah…they have an entire course dedicated to Sunnydale, California 1997-2003.” He muttered.
Buffy smiled despite the seriousness of the conversation. He was so much like Giles.
“And look at us. Giles and I are still here. So are Xander and Willow.”
“Yeah, but you died. Twice.”
She nodded slowly. “Yeah, I did. But, the world didn’t. And Rupert didn’t. Trust me, if anyone should have died during that time…it was Giles. The number of times he was hurt…seriously hurt…”
“Are you and Dad going to be okay?” He asked, turning to look at her when she didn’t answer straight away. “If I die…are you guys going to be okay?”
“I don’t even know how to answer that, Elliott.” She replied softly after a moment. “Would we survive? Yes…because that’s what humans do. People die, their loved ones carry on. Would we be okay? I think that would depend on your definition of ‘okay’…”
“I think you’d cope better than Dad.” He offered her a sad smile as she quickly glanced at him. “I’m not saying he loves me more or that you don’t care as much. I just think…you’d deal with it better. He…keeps a lot of things bottled up. You know?”
“Yeah, I know. He always has.”
“But, you’d take care of him, wouldn’t you? Help him through it…not let him keep it bottled up?” He paused for a moment and then continued. “I don’t think he’d let anyone else help him.”
“It’s different. Ethan is his friend. You’re…more than that.”
“I’d do everything I possibly could to help him, Elliott.” She confirmed, pulling the car into the driveway. “But, I really hope that I don’t have to do that for a very long time…if ever.”
He smiled warmly at her. “I love you, Mum.”
“I love you too, Ellie.” She responded. “So…tell me about this Sunnydale course. And…your professors know that you have an inside scoop on this one, right?”
Elliott laughed and nodded. “Kind of hard for them not to know, with my name being Rupert E Giles and all…”
Buffy laughed with him as they got out of the car.
They were still laughing as they walked through the front door. Buffy’s laughter faded when her eyes met Giles’. Giles sat on the sofa with Ethan – his tears had dried, the redness had faded from his skin…but his eyes were still the mossy green they always were when he cried.
He offered her a smile and a gentle shake of his head as he stood up. Elliott looked at him, regarding him closely before walking over and wrapping his arms around him. Giles returned the hug just as fiercely, his hand cradling the back of Elliott’s head.
Buffy turned her attention to Ethan, who merely shrugged a shoulder. Buffy smiled and mouthed ‘thank you’ to him.
Elliott pulled back slightly and looked up at his uncle. “You’ll need to let her help you, you know?”
“Don’t push her away…don’t bottle it up.”
Giles nodded slowly, wondering when Elliott grew up. Elliott smiled adoringly at him.
“When I realised what being a Giles really means.”
Giles’ brow furrowed. “Did I say that out loud?”
Buffy shook her head, glancing at Ethan quickly. “You didn’t say anything…”
Ethan scratched the back of his head nervously. Giles tilted his head, questioning Elliott silently. Elliott sighed and slipped his hands into his pockets.
“Ethan taught me a few things.”
“Ethan taught you a few – ” Giles turned and glared at Ethan. “You taught him how to read minds? Are you fucking insane?”
“Not lately.” Ethan retorted, standing up and smiling nervously.
“I’ve only used it twice, Dad. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay – you’ve been crying.”
Giles sighed heavily. “You do realise that I can block you…now that I know you have the ability and knowledge to…”
He trailed off when he processed Elliott’s comment. “Twice? When was the last time?”
Elliott was quiet, lowering his eyes and staring at the floor. Giles gently slipped his fingers under Elliott’s chin and lifted his face back up.
“When Mum left.” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “I just couldn’t understand why she’d leave. I mean, sure…you guys argued once in a while, but who doesn’t? You always worked it out. She’d never left before.”
Giles closed his eyes for a moment. “Elliott, that was…”
“You asked her to marry you. And she left. And I got so mad because…that’s a stupid reason to leave.”
“There was more to it than that. It wasn’t as simple as – ”
Giles stopped suddenly when Elliott quickly continued.
“And then you thought ‘at least I didn’t ask her to have a baby’.” Elliott’s eyes glistened lightly and he broke the gaze with Giles. “I quit listening then because it sounded so sad.”
Ethan’s eyes widened, staring at Giles. “A baby?”
“Sod off, Ethan. I’m not discussing this with you right now…possibly ever.” Giles grumbled.
Elliott smiled as he looked back up at Giles. “I always wanted a brother or a sister. Did you know that?”
“No. No, I didn’t.”
Elliott nodded and gestured towards the hall. “I’m just gonna go have a rest. Try to clear my head a little. Oh…Jack says hi and wanted to know if it’s okay if he comes over this weekend?”
“Of course.” Giles agreed without hesitation. “Jack is always welcome here. Be sure that he knows that, yes?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Dad.” Elliott leaned up and kissed Giles on the cheek before looking over at Ethan. “Sorry, Ethan.”
“Yeah, well…it’s a good thing I really like you. I’d…do something quite questionable otherwise, I’m sure.”
Elliott chuckled and turned to leave, pausing long enough to give Buffy a hug.
As he left the room, Giles turned his attention to Ethan. Ethan took a step back as Giles stared at him.
“So…are you guys going to talk about it now? Having a baby?”
Giles stared at him indignantly. “Fucking hell, Ethan…why would you?”
“It’s a useful skill to have.” Ethan answered, shrugging a shoulder. “He promised he’d only use it in emergencies.”
Buffy walked over and stood next to Giles, carefully taking hold of his hand. He turned towards her, his expression softening as he met her eyes. She squeezed his hand and then looked at Ethan.
“We’ve talked about it a little. We’ll talk about it more at some point.”
Ethan smiled happily, his eyes brightening. “I think that’s lovely.”
Giles arched an eyebrow at him. “Lovely?”
“Fuck you, Rupe. You know it is.”
Giles smiled and just like that, any annoyance that he had been holding seemed to simply disappear.
Buffy thought, not for the first time, how easy it was to actually really like Ethan – despite his actions in Sunnydale. She listened to the two bicker back and forth and chuckled.
A little normalcy for the time being was very much appreciated.
* * *
Elliott sat at the desk in his room, an open journal in front of him. He took a deep breath and picked up his pen.
And he began to write.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Elliott walked onto the back porch, smiling as Giles looked up at him. He sat down next to him on the step that led to the garden and leaned forward slightly, resting his arms on his thighs.
Giles recognised the mannerisms…after all, they were his. Elliott had something on his mind, but wasn’t sure how to verbalise it.
“Out with it.” Giles said, returning Elliott’s smile.
“I don’t want things to be weird.”
“What do you mean?”
Elliott shrugged and rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t want everything to be all sad or people not knowing how to react around me. I mean, I’m still Elliott. I’m going through some stuff, but…I’m still me.”
Giles nodded in agreement. “Yes, this is true. It’s been a very emotional day, though. We all need time to process.”
“I want the surgery. I want the chemo, the radiation. I want to fight.” He turned his head towards Giles and stared into his eyes. “I know this is going to suck. For me, for you and Mum, for Jack and my friends. But, that’s kinda also why I want to go through it. I’m not ready to let all of that go just yet.”
“Those…are some very mature thoughts, Elliott.”
“Yeah…they’re mine, Dad. I haven’t been eavesdropping.” He replied with a small grin. “I won’t do it again, I promise. I just…I needed to know that you were okay.”
“You shouldn’t have to worry about me.”
Elliott scoffed. “Don’t be stupid, of course I do. You’ve raised me. Which brings me to a couple of other things I want to say.”
Giles gave him a nod, requesting him to continue.
“I’d like to go see Dad tomorrow. You know, before surgery. I’d like him to see me one more time while I’m still in one piece.”
Giles grimaced. “Elliott…”
“He won’t know much different, but I will. So, can we?”
“Absolutely.” Giles replied softly.
“And I really do think you and Mum should have a baby. Sooner, rather than later. I think it would be good for our family. I mean, if Mum wants to have a baby. Does she?”
“We’ve discussed it briefly. She didn’t seem adverse to the notion.”
“Talk about it more.” Elliott whispered, still holding Giles’ gaze. “If you still want a baby, I mean.”
Giles nodded slowly as he smiled.
“Promise you’ll talk about it?”
“I promise.” Giles whispered, reaching over and brushing Elliott’s hair with his fingers. “What an amazing brother you’d be.”
“Yeah, just like you.” Elliott said with a bright smile before changing the subject swiftly.
Giles stumbled over the subject change, Elliott’s casual remark surprising him. He’d never considered himself to be an amazing brother. Of course, he had loved Peter from the day he was born…he had done his best to protect Peter, culminating in a fiery argument with their father not long before Peter’s tenth birthday.
Peter had expressed his concerns about attending the Academy. Their father had refused to listen. Rupert had not. Knowing how he had felt being forced into doing something that didn’t feel completely right, he had vowed that he’d not allow the same thing to happen to Peter.
And so, at nearly fifteen years of age, Rupert Giles stood up to his father…toe to toe, eye to eye. And he absolutely refused to allow the eldest Giles to bully the youngest into a life he most certainly did not want.
That altercation was the beginning of his rebellion. It forever changed the relationship he had with his father, but strengthened the one he had with Peter.
But that didn’t make him an amazing brother, did it? Wasn’t that just what siblings do for one another?
He shrugged to himself at his inner questions and pushed the thoughts, the memories back…refocusing on Elliott and the current conversation of weekend plans.
He made a silent promise that he would do his best to not allow his sadness, his grief to color the time they had left with Elliott.
After all, Elliott was a Giles. Gileses beat the odds more often than not.
This shouldn’t be any different.
* * *
While Elliott and Giles were talking outside, Buffy picked up the phone. She stared at it for a long moment and then took a deep breath and dialled a number. She paced back and forth as she listened to it ring.
“Hey, Buffy. You doing okay?”
Buffy smiled at the concern in Willow’s voice. And then she remembered that she hadn’t told them…anything…of the last few days.
“Oh, yeah. Um…Giles and I are back together.”
Buffy winced as Willow squealed in delight, then smiled as she listened to her relay that message to Xander.
“How did that happen? And…details! Because, I’m imagining him finally knocking on your door and you two just falling into each other’s arms and…”
“I have something to tell you guys.” Buffy interrupted quietly, not bothering to hide the sadness in her tone as her smile faded.
Willow picked up on the change in tone immediately. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Is…is Giles okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, we’re both fine. It’s just…” She paused and glanced out the window, her tears reappearing as she watched Giles smile at Elliott. “Elliott’s sick, Will. Like…really sick. And the doctor doesn’t know how well he’s going to respond to treatment…or if he even will…and…”
“What?” Willow whispered.
“What’s going on?” Buffy heard Xander ask Willow.
“Um…can you put me on speaker? Because…it’ll just be easier to have to say this once.”
She waited until Willow confirmed that they were both listening…and then she gave them the news. Every single detail that she had. And then she cried as she listened to her best friends do their best to process the news.
* * *
Giles walked back into the house and tilted his head curiously at Buffy – who was currently sitting on the sofa, holding the phone in her hands as she stared at the coffee table.
Buffy looked up and offered him a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Where’s Elliott?”
He gestured behind him with a jerk of his thumb. “Talking to Jack…making weekend plans. What’s wrong?”
“I, uh…just called Willow and Xander. They didn’t even know we’re back together…I’d forgotten to tell them.”
He sat down next to her and pulled the phone from her hands. He placed it on the arm of the sofa and then slipped his arm around her, pulling her against him.
“Well, we have had other things on our minds.” He cleared his throat as she rested her head against his shoulder. “Did, uh…did you tell them about Elliott?”
She nodded slowly, then wiped her face on the front of his shirt. He furrowed his brow slightly, but didn’t mention it.
“Xander started looking up plane tickets, but the first flight he could find that would get them back doesn’t get in until Monday evening.” She sighed heavily and lifted her head, gently wiping her hand over the damp spot on his shirt. “The first vacation either of them have been able to take in eight months…and they didn’t even hesitate on cutting it short.”
“Are you surprised?” Giles asked softly, lovingly stroking her hair.
“No, not at all. We have some amazing friends.” She met his eyes and lifted her hand to gently touch his cheek. “You opening up to Ethan is a very good thing, Rupert. You need someone you can talk to about this.”
“I have you.” He whispered.
“Of course you do. You’ll always have me. But, I know sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who isn’t me…and I’m okay with that. I just…you can’t keep this bottled up, okay? Promise me.”
Giles smiled as he nodded in agreement. “Elliott has already lectured me on this.”
Buffy stared at him, running her thumb over the tip of his ear. “Promise me.”
His smile softened as he leaned down and brushed his lips across hers.
“I promise.” He whispered, his breath warm against her lips. “I promise, Buffy.”
“Thank you.” She whispered in response as she kissed him back.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It had just turned 10am when Giles pushed open the door, holding it for Elliott and Buffy. Morning tea…
Giles smiled softly, remembering how much Peter had always loved morning tea. His smile faded as he looked towards the bed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had morning tea with his brother.
He watched as Elliott made his way to the bed, leaning over and kissing his father’s forehead.
“Hey, Daddy…” He whispered. “I’m sorry it’s been a while since I’ve been here. It’s been…busy.”
Giles walked to the other side of the bed, glancing at the monitors before gently running his fingers through his brother’s hair. “Hi, Peter.”
Peter’s eyes were open, but focused on nothing. Giles sighed and took a step back, lifting his eyes to meet Elliott’s gaze.
“We’ll go chat with the nursing staff, grab a tea…give you some privacy. We’ll be just down the hall if you need us.”
“Thanks, Dad.” He smiled affectionately at Giles and then looked down at his father. “Oh, yeah…I should tell you about that. I call him Dad too – he hasn’t taken your place, but he’s always treated me like a son…not a nephew. It was time, you know? I hope you’re okay with that.”
Giles walked away from the bed, reaching for Buffy’s hand. As they opened the door, Giles looked back and watched them for a moment. He couldn’t hear anything that Elliott was whispering to Peter, but he wasn’t trying to listen.
When Buffy gently tugged his hand, he nodded and followed her out of the room.
She laced her fingers with his as they walked down the hall. Giles slipped his free hand into his pocket and stared at the ground as they walked.
Giles shook his head. “No, not really. Peter doesn’t look very well. It’s not as if he actually spoke when I called the other day, but the nurse said that there was some recognition when he heard my voice. There was nothing there…I said his name and there was nothing.”
“That’s to be expected though, right? Good days, bad days?”
“I can’t remember the last time he had a good day.” Giles said quietly, looking at her. “His heart rate and blood pressure were quite low as well…”
“Everything seems to be happening at once.” She remarked, her thumb lovingly stroking his. “I’m sorry.”
“I can’t do anything to save either one of them.” His gaze dropped back to the floor. “I tried for Peter. I haven’t yet for Elliott…and I feel a bit shit about that.”
“Their illnesses aren’t mystical.”
Giles nodded in agreement, still staring at the floor as they turned the corner and entered the hallway that led to the cafeteria. “Circle of life and all that bullshit.”
He pulled his hand out of his pocket and pushed open the door. “Hm?”
“You know that even if you could have persuaded the Powers to help, they would’ve taken something from you…right?”
“Yes.” He replied, glancing at her. “But, I had to try…even though I knew they’d say no. Elliott was four years old…he needed his father, I needed my brother. I had to try.”
Buffy gave him an understanding nod. He exhaled shakily and continued.
“I nearly went back after I read the doctor’s report. I would have traded my life for his in an instant.” He swallowed as he watched the tears well in her eyes. “I still would if I thought they’d agree.”
“You know they won’t.” She whispered, wiping her eyes. “And while I understand…I’m not sure that I would just stand there and let you try. And I’m not really sure what that says about me.”
Giles pulled out a chair at an empty table and gestured for her to sit. He sat next to her and held both of her hands in both of his.
“It says that you’re human. And I love you, Buffy.”
“But you would still try if there was a chance…”
“Of course I would. Just as I would if it were you.”
She regarded him closely and then exhaled deeply. “I know. And I love you, too.”
They both looked up as someone stopped at their table, placing two cups of tea in front of them. Giles smiled softly at the nurse.
“Thank you, Linda.”
“You’re welcome, Rupert…Buffy.” She smiled at both of them. “Things looked a bit tense…are you okay?”
Giles shook his head slowly, but Buffy was the one who answered.
“Elliott isn’t well, we…have a lot to process.”
Linda’s smile slowly disappeared. “Oh…I’m so sorry.”
Sensing there was more that she wanted…or needed…to say, Giles gestured to a spare chair at the table. He took a sip of his tea as she sat down, her fingers toying with her pen.
“How is Peter doing? Really?” He asked quietly, not completely certain he wanted the answer.
Linda hesitated, darting her eyes between Giles and Buffy before blowing out a breath. “He’s deteriorating, Rupert. This is the largest and most rapid decline that I’ve witnessed since working with him. I don’t think he has much time left.”
Giles lowered his eyes, staring at his hands. “Fuck…”
Buffy reached over, placing her hand on his arm. “Rupert…”
“We’ll get through it.” He mumbled, covering her hand with his as he looked at Linda. “How long do you think he has?”
“Hard to say. Couple of months, maybe?”
Giles closed his eyes. Buffy’s hand tightened on his arm.
“I’m so sorry, Rupert.” Linda whispered.
Giles nodded, but said nothing.
* * *
“I miss you, Dad.” Elliott said quietly.
He was sitting in a chair that he had pulled over to the bedside. He held his father’s hand as he spoke.
“The bad part is that I don’t really remember what you were like before the accident. I have flashes sometimes…someone will say something, normally Dad – Uncle Ru, sorry I hope that’s not confusing. Me calling you Dad and him Dad. He really has been great…amazing, really.”
He paused and watched his father for any sign of recognition. Seeing none, he sighed sadly and continued.
“I’m pretty sick, Dad. Have been for a while, but I thought I’d hurt myself at football practice. Turns out I have cancer. Bone cancer in my leg. There’s cancer in my liver too. It doesn’t look too good. I’m going to fight…I’m a Giles, right? That’s what we do.”
He smiled nervously.
“I have surgery on Monday. They’re going to cut my leg off. Apparently, the tumour is pretty big and if they don’t remove it…” He hesitated briefly and squeezed his father’s hand. “Even with chemo and radiation after, they’ve only given me 35%. Which, yeah, is better than 20 with surgery only or zero with no treatment…but, it’s still only 35. If I lose this, I don’t know how Mum and Dad are going to deal. Dad keeps everything so closed up, but he’s scared. I can see it in his eyes.”
A beep on one of the monitors caught Elliott’s attention. He looked up, but it was just a notification that his oxygen levels had dropped a bit. Elliott adjusted his father’s head slightly and the levels went back to what was his normal.
“I wish you could talk to me. I don’t even know if you can hear me. Things aren’t looking so great for you either, are they?” He said quietly, sadly. He wiped a tear from his cheek and cleared his throat. “So, they’re thinking about having a baby. Mum and Dad.”
He smiled as he sat back and just watched his father. He wondered if there really was a Heaven. And if so, would he and his father end up at the same place…would they find one another? Be able to finally have a conversation with each other?
“I love you, Dad. I hate that this happened to you, took you away from me. But, I also want to thank you for making Uncle Ru my guardian. If I couldn’t have you, I would have picked him. He’s an amazing dad. I bet he really was an amazing brother too, huh?”
Giles and Buffy paused in the doorway, having heard that last exchange. Giles swallowed and took a deep breath to compose himself. Buffy tightened her fingers around his, then used her free hand to wipe the tears from her face.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy was already in bed, watching Giles finish getting ready for bed. He removed his watch, placing it in the case with the other watches he owned. There had to be at least ten of them. She had always teased him when he’d pause in front of a watch display, his eyes lighting up when he’d see one that sparked his interest.
He glanced at her, tilting his head questioningly when he noticed the tiny smile on her face. “What is it?”
He mirrored her smile and slipped under the blankets next to her. “Well, I suppose that’s a good thing. Would hate to think there was someone else here other than me.”
She scoffed lightly and shifted as he slid his arm underneath her. She rested her head on his chest, sighing as he wrapped his arm around her.
“Are you okay?”
“You’re asking that a lot lately.” He replied, his fingers idly stroking her hip.
“I worry about that a lot lately.” She retorted, lifting her head slightly to look into his eyes. “You’ve never been the best about volunteering information about your emotions…”
“I’m processing…as are you.” He said, tenderly brushing the hair back from her face. “I’m not okay, but I wouldn’t expect to be. Not with my brother being in his last few months, my nephew facing a fight that no child should ever be required to face. And I nearly had to go through this entire situation on my own because I was acting like a complete berk.”
“Well, we both worked through our berkiness.” She smiled for a moment, then focused on the flicker of something she saw in his eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you.” He whispered in return, his thumb lovingly rubbing against her cheek.
“Mm?” He murmured, glancing at her lips.
“Would you be okay if I come off the pill?”
His eyes darted back to hers. “What?”
“You were serious about wanting to have a baby, right?”
He nodded silently, staring into her eyes.
“Me too.” She whispered, her fingers gently rubbing circles against his chest. “Is…now an okay time to start trying?”
He thought for a moment, wondering if now was the right time. There was so much going on…serious issues going on. And they had just gotten back together. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to think that this decision could be related to stress…or that they were rushing. But, then he remembered – this was something he had wanted for quite a while…and he had intended to ask her months ago.
He cleared his throat and nodded again. “Yes. Yes, now is an okay time to start trying.”
“Can we start trying right now? Like…this second?”
He raised an eyebrow at her and she laughed softly.
“Okay, yeah…I know. It’s more like…can we practice our trying? Right now?”
He smiled in adoration at her and pulled her into a warm kiss.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The weekend passed quickly…too quickly, if they were all honest about it. But, it had been an amazing weekend. Full of family time, fun with friends, trips to the museum and even the zoo…and a fair amount of practicing for Buffy and Giles. If he were completely truthful to himself, it wasn’t all about practicing…there was a fair amount of much needed comfort and reassurance. Comfort and reassurance that they were both very happy and willing to give and receive.
And now, here they were…in surgery pre-op with Elliott.
Giles was alternating between pacing and leaning against the wall. Buffy was sitting in the chair next to Elliott’s bed, chattering away as she did when she was overly nervous.
Elliott was watching them both with slight amusement. He felt oddly calm, himself. He took that to mean that he had come to terms with the fact that in just a few hours he’d be well on his ‘treatment journey’. That wasn’t to say he wasn’t nervous. He was. He had all sorts of questions and concerns, but he knew this was the best option he had at the moment.
And if he was going to beat this, it was a step he was going to have to take.
He smiled ruefully at that thought. A step he was going to have to take. It’d be a while before he was taking steps again…not without the aid of crutches.
He had asked about the possibility of a prosthetic leg. Dr Naylor said that it was a strong probability that they’d be able to fit one…but, it would take time. Possibly a couple of months…probably a bit longer. They would need to wait until the leg was completely healed and swelling gone. Elliott had been a bit disappointed by the answer, but it made complete sense.
So, crutches it would be…until he was ready.
He smiled as Giles started pacing again.
Giles stopped and smiled at him. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s going to be okay.” Elliott said, idly rubbing his knee. “This is the right thing to do.”
Giles recognised the question veiled in that statement. Nodding, he carefully sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Yes, it is.” He looked into Elliott’s eyes, smiling affectionately. “You’re amazing, Elliott. I’ve always been so very proud of you. But, this past week? You’ve taught me so much in less than a week than I ever thought possible. The strength you possess is simply astounding.”
“I don’t know if I can beat this, Dad.” Elliott replied calmly. “But, I will fight as hard as I can…until the very end. You taught me that. You and Mum. I’ll be here when my brother or sister is born…”
He grinned as Giles and Buffy both widened their eyes in surprise at him. “Oh, come on…I have eyes and ears, you know. Nothing wrong with them.”
Buffy leaned forward slightly. “Um…eyes?”
Giles cleared his throat. “Ears?”
Elliott stared at them in confusion for a second and then shook his head quickly. “Ah…no, noooo. I haven’t seen or heard anything! I’m not even looking or listening for that because…oh dear lord, no…”
Buffy snickered, Elliott’s use of ‘oh dear lord’ bringing back so many memories of years past.
“I just mean…” Elliott paused, shaking his head again. “I see how you two look at each other, the little touches…the smiles. I hear the questions…the what ifs, the hopes.”
He smiled playfully and shrugged a shoulder. “I also saw the birth control pills in the rubbish…”
Buffy lowered her head and covered her face with her hands. Giles blushed lightly, but grinned as he looked at her.
“So, yeah…my plan is to be here for that. Because I know how you raised me from four years old…a baby is going to be very lucky to have you guys as its Mum and Dad.”
Before anyone could say anything else, the door opened and Dr Naylor walked in. He smiled at Buffy and Giles and then walked around to the other side of the bed.
“How are you feeling, Elliott?”
“Nervous.” Elliott admitted, folding his hands together on top of the blanket that was covering him. “But, ready. Is it time?”
Dr Naylor nodded, slipping his hands into his pockets. “The orderly will be up to collect you soon. I’m getting ready to scrub up and I’ll be waiting for you in there. Do any of you have any questions?”
“How long am I going to be here?”
“Well, the surgery itself will take a few hours. We’d like to keep you in the hospital for at least a week after…possibly longer depending on how things go.”
Elliott nodded slowly and then looked at Buffy and Giles. “You’ll be here when I come back, right?”
“Absolutely.” They both answered simultaneously.
For the first time since they’d arrived at the hospital, tears appeared in Elliott’s eyes. Buffy and Giles moved quickly, wrapping Elliott in one of their tight family hugs. Dr Naylor took a step back, allowing them a modicum of privacy as they whispered words of encouragement and love to Elliott.
After a few moments, Elliott sniffled and nodded as he looked up at the doctor. “Okay…okay, let’s do this…”
Dr Naylor smiled at him before looking at Buffy and Giles. “We’ll call as soon as he’s in recovery. Please…go take some time for yourselves. This will take a few hours.”
Giles nodded numbly while Buffy bit her lip nervously. They each gave Elliott another hug and a kiss when the orderly came into the room.
“We’ll see you soon, okay?” Buffy said, running her fingers through his hair.
He nodded, leaning into her touch. He looked towards Giles when he felt his large hand on his shoulder.
“I love you, Elliott.”
“I love you too, Dad.”
They took a few steps back and watched as the orderly released the brakes and swung the bed around. The three exchanged nervous smiles and then Elliott gave them a nod and a thumbs up. Giles smiled proudly at him while Buffy chuckled softly.
Dr Naylor followed the orderly, pausing as he walked past Buffy and Giles. “We’ll take very good care of him.”
Giles nodded, pushing his hands into his pockets. Buffy slipped her arm around Giles’ and rested her head against his upper arm.
“Please do.” He responded quietly.
They stood there as the door closed behind the doctor, leaving them in an empty hospital room. Neither of them said anything or even moved for a few moments. And then Buffy looked up at him.
“I’m not sure I can actually leave.”
Buffy nodded in understanding. “Yeah, me neither. How about we go get a coffee and find somewhere to wait?”
“I should call Ethan…”
Buffy smiled. “Ask him to bring a deck of cards with him.”
Giles looked at her for a moment, then lowered his head towards hers. She met him halfway, sighing as their lips brushed over one another’s.
“Cards?” He asked, pulling from the kiss and leading them towards the door.
“Yep. Poker, Hearts, Go Fish…we should play something.”
“You mention Poker and you know where he’s going to go with that.”
Buffy laughed softly, squeezing his arm gently as he laughed as well.
Chapter 5: Enigma
“How long does this take?” Ethan asked, dealing the cards again.
Giles sighed. “A few hours. I’m not sure what the definition of ‘few’ is in this instance.”
“What time does the plane get in?”
Giles picked up his cards and thought for a moment. “Seven? Eight? Oh, I can’t remember.”
Ethan arched an eyebrow at him. “You can’t remember?”
“They didn’t tell me, they told Buffy.” Giles said, arranging the cards in his hand. “They said they’d meet us at the house. They don’t have a car at the airport, Buffy dropped them off.”
“I can pick them up.” Ethan stated, placing four cards face down on the table.
Giles stared at him. “Show me the Ace.”
Ethan sighed and picked one card back up. He looked up as Buffy sat down next to Giles, smiling as she glanced at his cards. After all of these years, he still couldn’t read her…she was definitely good at poker, even though she rarely played.
“What time do Willow and Xander get in?”
Buffy rested her hand on Giles’ thigh as she looked at Ethan. “Missing them, are you?”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “I was going to pick them up. I can’t do that if I don’t know what time to be there.”
She smiled softly. “Six.”
Ethan looked at Giles. “Seven or Eight?”
“By the time they get through customs.” He mumbled, sliding a yellow Starburst into the center of the table.
Ethan glanced at his cards and then flicked a yellow in as well, quickly followed by a red. “Betting with bloody lollies…”
Buffy smiled, content to watch them as they waited. She had no interest in the game, really…but it was keeping Giles somewhat occupied. Though she wondered if his head was really in the game. But, then she watched him raise Ethan a green.
Ethan stared at him and then shook his head, folding the hand. Buffy snickered as Giles handed her the green Starburst. Maybe his head was in it a bit more than she realised. Ethan watched them, narrowing his eyes.
“You had nothing, did you?”
Giles grinned and spread his cards out for Ethan to see. “Jack shit, really.”
“Bloody hell.” Ethan muttered, tossing his cards to Giles.
Giles was shuffling the deck when he felt Buffy’s hand gently squeeze his thigh. He looked over at her and then followed her line of vision to see Dr Naylor approaching. He swallowed and inhaled deeply, placing the deck of cards on the table.
“Rupert, Buffy…” Dr Naylor greeted as he reached the table. Then he smiled at Ethan.
Ethan smiled back and extended his hand. “Ethan Rayne, friend of the family.”
Giles rolled his eyes and cleared his throat. Ethan lowered his hand and gestured towards the fourth chair at the table. The doctor sat down and turned his attention to Buffy and Giles.
“Surgery went well. Really well. We did have to go a little higher than we were anticipating, but only because we want good, clean margins. That will give him the best chance. We’ll let his body heal from the operation as much as we can…but, we’ll want to start chemotherapy in two to three weeks, if possible.”
Giles nodded, not surprised but still very concerned. “Everything seems to be moving so quickly.”
“The quicker we move now, the better his odds are…and at the moment, we need to go as quickly as we possibly can.”
Ethan tilted his head slightly, glancing at Buffy and Giles. “Um, sorry…but, is this a terminal prognosis?”
Dr Naylor blew out a soft breath and considered his answer carefully. “I’m hesitant to say ‘terminal’, but I’m not entirely hopeful that it’s not. That is to say…I’d put him at the top end of the percentages of the five-year survival rate. But, that percentage…well, it’s still quite low. A lot of this is going to be up to him as well – his willingness to fight, remaining as positive as he possibly can, adhering to his treatment plan. And that’s going to be difficult – this treatment plan isn’t a walk in the park.”
“Rupert said that it was around 35%?” He exhaled shakily as the doctor nodded. “So, what does that mean exactly? In relation to a five-year survival rate?”
“Say there are a hundred people with this diagnosis…in five years, thirty-five will still be alive.”
Ethan paled. Giles lowered his eyes, having already had this discussion with the doctor. Buffy slid her hand into his, gently squeezing his fingers.
“And if he’s alive in five years?”
“We’ll cross that bridge the closer we get to it.” Dr Naylor responded quietly. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what to expect. All hope is not lost…but it is a bit battered.”
Ethan straightened. “Aren’t you supposed to be all Mr Positivity and grand gesture-like?”
“You’ll find I’m more the down to earth, realistic-type, Mr Rayne.”
Dr Naylor smiled and gave him a small nod. “Ethan.”
The doctor looked at Giles and Buffy gently nudged him to get his attention. Giles looked at her and then turned his eyes to the doctor.
“He’ll be in recovery for about an hour or so, but then he’ll be transferred back to his room.”
“Can we stay with him tonight?” Giles asked softly. “Just for tonight. I…don’t want him to be alone this first night.”
“Normally, we’d allow one parent to stay. But, he will be in a private room…so, I don’t see that there would be an issue – so long as you listen to the nurses.”
Buffy and Giles both nodded. Ethan smiled at the doctor.
“Thank you for everything…Dr Naylor.”
“Alan.” The doctor smiled softly as he stood up. “I’m sure I’ll see you again, Ethan.”
Ethan nodded slowly, watching the doctor walk away. “Yep…be seeing you, Alan.”
“Fucking hell…” Giles muttered, shaking his head as Ethan looked at him. “Really?”
“What? He was flirting with me too, you know.”
Giles stared at him. “You really think this was a good time to be flirting with my son’s oncologist?”
Ethan started to speak and then paused, a smile showing in his dark eyes. “He is, isn’t he?”
Giles furrowed his brow. “Well, he’s not a bloody mechanic.”
Ethan shook his head slowly. “No. No, that’s not what I mean, Rupert. Elliott…he’s your son – in your heart, he’s your son.”
Giles’ features softened. “He always has been, Ethan. From the day he was born, I loved him. I didn’t get to see him that often the first couple of years…but, I’ve always loved him.”
“Peter would be proud of you.” Ethan whispered.
Giles didn’t know how to respond. So he didn’t.
He sat back in his chair and exhaled a deep breath. Buffy and Ethan exchanged a soft, sad smile as she leaned her head against Giles’ shoulder.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Elliott opened his eyes and then closed them quickly. “Bright…”
Buffy and Giles both looked at him.
“What’s that?” Giles asked softly.
“Too bright.” Elliott mumbled.
Buffy ran over to the light switch and flicked it off. “Lights are off now, Ellie.”
Elliott opened his eyes slowly and sighed. “I feel weird.”
“It’s the pain meds, Elliott.” Giles explained, taking the boy’s hand into his own. “I don’t like them much myself, but there are times when they’re definitely needed.”
“Mm…guess having your leg cut off is one of those times.” Elliott responded with a drugged chuckle.
He looked down at his legs and saw the distinct lack of shape underneath the blankets where his left leg should be. He swallowed and shook his head slowly.
“Wow…that looks weird.” He looked up and met Giles’ eyes. His own eyes glistened as he smiled sadly. “Guess it’s too late to change my mind now, huh?”
“Oh, Elliott…” Giles whispered, carefully pulling him into a warm hug.
Elliott held on to him as tightly as he could for as long as he could…and then let go, allowing his arms to fall back to his chest. He sighed heavily as he looked from Giles to Buffy.
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
Buffy pulled a chair next to Giles’ and sad down. “Where else would we be, huh?”
“Heaps better places to be than a hospital.” Elliott chuckled, squeezing Buffy’s hand when she curled her fingers around his palm.
“Yeah…but none of those places had you. So…here we are.”
Giles smiled at the interaction between the two of them.
“Oh…Willow and Xander will be in tonight. Ethan’s going to pick them up at the airport.”
Elliott’s eyes brightened. “So, I’ll get to see them tonight?”
Buffy shook her head, but quickly continued. “It’ll be past visiting hours by the time they’d be able to get here. So, they’ll come by tomorrow morning.”
Elliott looked around the room and exhaled slowly. “It’s quiet in here, innit?”
Giles smiled. “It is, indeed. We’re going to stay with you tonight, though.”
Giles hesitated, but Buffy didn’t. Hospitals were scary places…especially for children.
“What if we take turns? Giles, me, Ethan, Xander, Willow…someone can stay with you each night? Normally only one person can stay, but they’re letting both of us stay tonight.”
Elliott thought about it for a second and then nodded. “I think I’d like that…if people don’t mind.”
“I’m pretty sure no one would mind, Elliott.” She replied with a smile, reaching out to gently stroke his hair as he yawned. “You go back to sleep. We’ll be here when you wake up.”
Elliott nodded, mumbling a soft ‘I love you’ as he closed his eyes.
Buffy looked over at Giles and watched him watch Elliott. “You okay?”
Giles nodded slowly. “I was just thinking that I’m not sure I would have handled this as well as he has, if it had been me.”
“Maybe not. But, the result would’ve been the same – you’d fight.” She smiled and leaned over to kiss him softly before moving her mouth to his ear, lowering her voice to a whisper. “You’re Rupert fucking Giles. You’d fight.”
He bit his lip gently as she pulled away, his eyes darting to her lips. Clearing his throat, he pushed himself up out of the chair. “Um, tea?”
Knowing that he was needing to put physical distance between them for the moment, she nodded. She watched him leave the room and smiled.
She silently agreed with the physical distance. It was needed…wrong place, wrong time.
* * *
“We’ll get you up tomorrow for a little walk down the hall.” Dr Naylor said, inspecting the surgical site. “Have you used crutches before?”
Elliott nodded. “Yeah, I sprained my ankle pretty bad last year. This is a bit different though…”
“Same concept though.” The doctor smiled and pulled the blanket back over the stump of Elliott’s thigh. “How is your pain at the moment?”
“Actually, not that bad. I thought it would be worse, really. I mean…my leg is gone.”
“The human body is quite miraculous, but don’t be afraid to ask for pain relief. If it hurts, it will slow your healing down…we need you to not slow that down, okay?”
Elliott looked at him curiously. “Why?”
“The quicker you heal, the quicker we move to the next stage.”
“Chemo?” Elliott sighed as the doctor nodded. “I read a little about chemo. Nothing I read made it sound like a lot of fun.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not a picnic…but, it is necessary.” He glanced at the clock. “Dinner should be around soon.”
Dr Naylor laughed softly and looked at Buffy and Giles. “I’ll ask that two more trays be sent for you.”
“Uh, no…” Elliott responded shaking his head. “They’re going out for dinner.”
Giles opened his mouth but didn’t say anything as Elliott stared at him.
“You two are going to have a nice dinner. Especially since you’re staying here with me tonight. It’s not like I’m going anywhere. I’ll be here when you get back.”
Buffy smiled as Elliott gave Giles his own version of Willow’s ‘resolve face’. Giles sighed heavily and rubbed the back of his neck.
“You’ll have the nurse call if you need us?”
“Yeah, Dad. I promise. It’s not like anything is going to happen while I’m eating and watching tv, right?”
“I promise.” He smiled as he recognised the signs of Giles reluctantly agreeing. “Go, have dinner…”
Giles sighed and then leaned down, kissing the top of Elliott’s head. “You have them call me…”
“I will. Go. I love you guys.”
Buffy kissed his cheek, gently ruffling his hair. “Love you.”
As they left the room, Dr Naylor regarded Elliott closely. “You sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah. They need some time to talk…I need some time with the tv.”
Dr Naylor chuckled and made some notes in Elliott’s file.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy chewed as she watched Giles push a piece of broccoli around his plate. “Rupert…”
“Hm?” He looked up and gave her a soft smile. “Yes?”
“Eat.” She ordered, pointing at his plate with her fork.
He dutifully stabbed the broccoli with his fork and popped it into his mouth. She grinned and took a sip of her wine.
“I’m sorry about earlier.” When his brow furrowed in confusion, she continued. “Wrong place, wrong time for me to…turn you on – even though it was completely accidental.”
“Ah…” He shrugged a shoulder and smiled at her. “It’s not as if you have to do a lot. But, yes…wrong place, wrong time. Tomorrow though…we’ll be home…”
“Mm-hm.” She took another sip of wine as he sighed heavily. She lowered her glass and regarded him closely. “What is it?”
“I feel a bit shit thinking about…being with you…while Elliott is in the hospital.”
“Yeah, I get that. So, let’s just see how it plays out tomorrow, okay?”
Giles nodded slowly. “Chemo in two weeks. He’s going to barely be out of the hospital before they pump him full of chemicals…which are going to make him sick.”
“I promised to protect him.” He whispered, staring at his plate.
“And you are…” She lowered her fork and reached over, taking hold of his hand. “We’re going to help him through this.”
“You, uh…you’ve never watched anyone go through chemo, have you?”
“No. No, I haven’t.” She stared at him for a moment and then bit her lip nervously. “This is going to be bad, isn’t it? Like…worse than just vomiting and losing hair…”
He lifted his eyes slowly. “This is going to be horrible…for him, for us, our friends. Physical sickness, lethargy, weight loss, mood changes, infection, anaemia, hair loss. And sometimes the side effects of chemo are worse than the disease itself.”
“Worse than him dying if he doesn’t have it?”
“I mean long-term effects that…it could cause nerve damage, heart problems, issues with concentration and focus…”
“Oh.” She inhaled deeply and ran her fingers through her hair. “They, uh…don’t really portray that part in the movies, do they?”
“Real life is rarely like the movies, love.”
“And it might not even work.” She whispered, lowering her gaze from his. “There’s a very good chance we’re going to lose him.”
“And that’s something we need to work through – our concerns about his survival. If he were older, I’d suggest we talk to him about those concerns…but, he’s twelve.”
“He’s clever, Giles. And he can read you like a book.” She paused for a moment and then looked back up. “I’m really scared…and all of this is happening so fast. This time last week, I didn’t even know that he was sick. And now…he may be dying, he’s lost a leg, and we’re talking about having a baby.”
“I know. I know. This isn’t about us, it’s – ”
“Of course, it’s about us. It’s about all of us. And us talking about having a baby right now is definitely important too.” He exhaled softly, pushing his plate to the side. “I’m terrified, Buffy. The last time I felt this scared was when we were up against Glory.”
“We won that.”
“I lost you.”
“Do you think we’re going to lose him?” She asked quietly. “Honestly?”
“I…vacillate. He’s a Giles. We’re amazing at overcoming odds. But, those odds are nearly always mystical or supernatural. When it comes to…things like this?” He shook his head, willing the tears not to fall. “My brother is dying and I think his son is too. But, I can’t tell him that because he needs to be as positive as he possibly can. Negativity is going to do him harm.”
“So, you’re going to be positive…while leaning towards thinking he’s going to die? How’s that going to work?”
A tear slipped down his cheek as he shrugged a shoulder. “I have no idea, Buffy. But, fuck, I hope I’m wrong this time.”
* * *
Elliott smiled brightly as Buffy and Giles walked through the door. Giles looked at his eyes and smiled warmly.
“How’s your pain?”
“What pain?” He answered with a soft giggle.
Giles chuckled and glanced at the pain relief pump next to the bed. “I’m glad they brought this in…”
“Yeah, it’s goooood.”
Buffy laughed and kissed Elliott’s cheek. “How was dinner?”
“It was…interesting. Some kind of meat and gravy thing…with some potato and other veg. I ate it.” He grinned at her, his drug-glazed eyes shining. “How was your dinner?”
“Better than what yours sounded like.”
Elliott’s brow furrowed. “Wait…you actually went to dinner?”
“Uh, yeah…just to Jackson’s, but yeah…”
Elliott rolled his eyes, causing Buffy and Giles to exchange a quick glance. Giles cleared his throat.
“Where did you think we were going?”
Elliott turned his eyes towards Giles and sighed. “You can’t make a baby eating dinner at Jackson’s.”
Giles’ eyes widened. “Ah…um….”
“Dad…you can’t put everything on pause. Not because of this. If anything, you need to get to work because…well, nine months is a long time now.”
Giles’ jaw clenched. Buffy bit her lip as her eyes welled with tears. Elliott’s smile was still present, though suddenly much sadder.
“I know it doesn’t look good. I mean, I’m still going to fight and I’m going to be as positive as I can…but, this is bad, really bad – I see the way the nurses look at me when they come in.”
“What?” Buffy asked. “How do they look at you?”
“Like they feel sorry for me. Heard one of them say that it wasn’t fair.” He shrugged a shoulder and leaned his head back against his pillow. “I guess it’s not fair, but it’s what’s happening. And starting chemo as fast as they are? It doesn’t take a genius to figure this out, you know?”
“No, I suppose it doesn’t.” Giles agreed, sitting down in the chair next to the bed.
“I want to be a brother, Dad. You and Mum want to have a baby. You need to do the things that I don’t want to think about you guys doing so that happens.” He looked directly into Giles’ eyes and smiled. “Like I said…nine months is a long time.”
“Understood.” Giles whispered.
Elliott yawned and closed his eyes. “Ethan said he’d stay with me tomorrow night, so you guys can stay at home…”
“You talked to Ethan about this?” Buffy asked.
Elliott nodded and mumbled incoherently as the drugs pushed him towards sleep. Buffy looked at Giles, Giles watched Elliott drift off.
“I think he’s in the same mindset that you are.” She said quietly.
Giles nodded and then cleared his throat. “We, uh…we should probably try to get some sleep.”
“It’s like 8:30 or something…”
He met her eyes and nodded again. “I think I need to feel you.”
“Holding me, I mean. Nothing more…well, not here at least.” He swallowed, glancing at the empty bed that had been brought in while they were out. “I’m so fucking tired, Buffy.”
“Okay.” She pulled out the paper bag from her handbag and handed it to him. They had stopped by a supermarket to pick up a few essentials on the way back to the hospital. “Go ahead…I’ll give Ethan a call to see if he can bring by some clothes in the morning.”
He took the bag and gave her a nod. She watched him walk into the bathroom and pulled her phone out of her pocket.
* * *
A nurse walked in a couple of hours later and smiled as she looked at the second bed. The couple who Elliott called Mum and Dad were sleeping, arms around one another – her head tucked under his chin as they faced each other. Her smile faded as she looked at Elliott.
She felt for the boy. She had watched her cousin go through something similar and knew this was not going to be an easy ride – it may not even be a survivable ride.
She glanced back over at the couple when she heard the sheet rustle. She smiled when she saw the man’s eyes watching her.
“Is everything alright?” Giles asked softly.
“Yes, sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m just checking his vitals.” She replied, just as softly. “Is there anything I can get the two of you?”
“No, thank you…we’re okay.” He answered, idly stroking Buffy’s back with his fingertips.
She stirred against him, nuzzling his chest as her arms tightened their hold. He shifted slightly and smiled as she shifted with him.
The nurse chuckled to herself and quickly finished her task before glancing back at him. “If there’s anything you need, just press the call button.”
Giles gave her a nod of thanks and sighed as she left the room, closing the door behind her. He moved his hand to Buffy’s hip as she pressed against him.
“Buffy, love…” He whispered.
“Mm?” She murmured sleepily, pressing against him again.
“Not here, darling.” His fingers tightened on her hip, stifling her movement.
Buffy opened her eyes, confused at why he was stopping her. Then her eyes widened when she remembered where they were.
“Oh…oh shit, I’m sorry…”
He smiled at her, moving his hand from her hip and tilting her face up with a finger under her chin. “It’s alright.”
She glanced at his lips, sighing softly as he licked his lips. “I really want to kiss you.”
“You’re allowed to kiss me, Buffy.”
She shook her head and looked into his eyes. “Not right now, not in the state I’m in right now.”
He narrowed his eyes as she shifted away from him. “Where are you going?”
She gestured towards the bathroom. “I, uh…need cold water.”
He gave her a nod of understanding and rolled onto his back as she closed the bathroom door behind her. He turned his head towards Elliott and watched him sleep. He didn’t seem to be in pain, but he wasn’t completely at ease either.
He climbed out of the bed and stood by Elliott’s, reaching out to gently brush his fingers across Elliott’s forehead. Elliott relaxed and turned his head towards Giles’ hand. Giles smiled and lovingly stroked Elliott’s hair.
“I love you, Elliott.” He whispered, leaning down to press a kiss to Elliott’s forehead.
He stood there, watching Elliott sleep for long minutes. Then he realised that Buffy was still in the bathroom. He took a deep breath and walked over, pausing for just a moment before pressing his palm against the door.
“Yeah?” She answered after a beat.
“Are you…is everything okay?”
The door opened and she looked up at him, shaking her head…her eyes reddened from fresh tears. He pulled her into his arms quickly, holding her tightly against his chest.
Her fingers curled against his back, gripping his shirt as she cried.
It was a long time before they climbed back into the bed. It was even longer before sleep found them again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ethan sat down on the bed next to Buffy as they watched Elliott laugh and talk with Xander and Willow. She looked over at him and smiled. He noticed quickly that the smile didn’t completely reach her eyes.
“Need to talk?” He asked, folding his hands together on his thigh.
“Probably.” She glanced back at the others and shook her head. “But, not right now.”
Ethan cleared his throat softly. “He knows, you know?”
Buffy furrowed her brow. “Huh?”
“He knows…that he’s probably not going to survive this. But, his positivity isn’t faked. He’s quite the enigma, that boy. Much like his uncle.”
“Don’t I know it…” She mumbled, a smile quirking at her lips.
“It’s okay to acknowledge the truth, Buffy. It’s also possible to not allow that truth to drag you into despair.”
“How?” She looked back at him. “Because I’m struggling with that.”
“Look at him.” He gestured towards Elliott with a tilt of his head. “He just had his leg amputated yesterday…and today he’s laughing and joking with his family. This is only just beginning for him…treasure what you have, accept what may be to come…but, live for now. If you’re despairing for what may come, you’re missing out on what you have now.”
Buffy’s eyes widened slightly in surprise. “Well, that’s…insightful.”
“It’s okay to be sad, to be worried…there will be tears and screams and anger, but there’s also love and laughter and happiness. He needs to see that as much as the concern you hold.” He shrugged a shoulder and glanced at the door as Giles walked in. “Rupert taught me that years ago. I think I need to pay it forward to you…and possibly remind him.”
Giles grinned as he handed an apple to Elliott and then spoke briefly to Xander and Willow. He arched an eyebrow as he walked over to the bed he had shared with Buffy.
“You two seem to be in deep conversation. Everything okay?”
Ethan glanced at Buffy and nodded. “Yeah, I think so. Just imparting some wisdom that you gave me years ago.”
Giles handed Buffy a cup of tea and took a sip of his own. “And that would be?”
“Accept the probable future, but don’t let it color your present.”
Giles’ smile faded slowly. He reached out and placed his hand on Ethan’s shoulder, squeezing gently. Ethan stood up and looked into Giles’ eyes.
“And…stop feeling guilty for wanting to be wanted…and for wanting to want. You can be concerned and still do things that fill you with joy.”
Giles reddened slightly. “Um…”
“I know you.” Ethan chuckled. “I’ll be here with him tonight, take an evening for yourselves. You both need it, mate. And you need it to be about the two of you…and not about comfort.”
And with that, Ethan patted Giles’ chest and made his way over to the others. Giles chuckled softly and sat down next to Buffy.
“Interestingly, I think he’s right.” She said quietly, resting her hand on his thigh as he wrapped his arm around her.
“Mm…well, as Elliott succinctly put it last night…we can’t make a baby by eating dinner at Jackson’s.” He smiled as he met her eyes. “If you still want, that is.”
“You know all about Slayer biology…how long before my system returns to normal?”
“It already has.” He replied softly, glancing at her lips. “I love you.”
“Stop looking at me like that.” She teased, squeezing his thigh. “And I love you too.”
He leaned into her and kissed her softly, pulling back before either of them took the opportunity to deepen the kiss. Willow nudged Xander as she watched them. Xander grinned.
“That’s good to see.” Xander said quietly.
“Yeah, it really is.” Elliott nodded in agreement, exchanging a bright smile with Ethan.
* * *
Giles focused his gaze on Buffy’s hand…her fingers curling in the sheet as he quickened his pace. He leaned down, running his tongue along her spine before placing a hot, open-mouthed kiss at the junction of her neck and shoulder.
“You’re close…” He whispered thickly into her ear. “Let go, Buffy. Come for me…”
He pushed himself up quickly when she moaned his name. His fingers gripped her hips tightly as he pushed harder, lengthening his strokes.
He smiled as she trembled beneath him. Sliding his right hand up her back to rest between her shoulder blades, he pushed her upper body down to the mattress.
“That’s it…” He mumbled, biting his lip as he felt her inner walls quiver around him. “Fuck, Buffy…”
Three more hard strokes and she screamed his name as she came, the sound muffled in the sheets as she pressed her forehead against the mattress. He pulled out of her and gently rolled her onto her back, smiling as her trembling thighs cradled his hips as he pushed his cock back inside.
“Oh…shit…” She whimpered, wrapping her arms around him.
“Okay?” He asked, leaning down to drop a kiss onto her lips.
“Uh-huh…” Her hands slipped across his sweat-slicked back. “How are you still…going?”
“I don’t have much left…” He admitted, lowering his mouth to her shoulder. “I’m…close…”
She curled her legs around him, locking her ankles over his lower back. “Take me again with you…”
“Goddamn, I love you…” He groaned, teeth scraping against her skin as her nails raked across his back.
“Love you…” She moaned, turning her head enough to kiss his neck.
Feeling her body begin to shudder underneath him, he pushed himself up to look down at her…to watch her. He smiled as she threw her head back and screamed his name again, her inner walls convulsing around his thrusting cock for the fourth time.
And then he let go and came deep inside of her, crying out her name as his left hand gripped her thigh tightly. She forced her eyes open and stared up at him, allowing her trembling fingers to lightly stroke his chest. His thrusts slowed until he was gently rocking his hips against her as he softened within her.
He inhaled shakily and brushed her damp hair back from her face. “You are so fucking beautiful.”
“I was thinking the same about you.” She grinned, running her fingers through his hair.
He fought to control his breathing as he slipped from her, sighing as her legs released him from their grip. He carefully shifted to her side and pulled her into his arms.
“Mm?” He murmured, placing a kiss in her hair as his hands soothed her warm skin.
“That was….all about us.”
He smiled and nodded. “Indeed.”
“Ethan was right. We needed this. And we needed this to be about us.”
“Mm-hm.” He grinned as their eyes met. “Don’t tell him that though, okay? We’ll never hear the end of it.”
She laughed softly and snuggled against him, pressing a soft kiss to his chest.
Chapter 6: Developments
On the third night of Elliott’s hospital stay, Giles told Xander that it was fine for him to go home…that he’d stay with Elliott that night. Elliott and Xander shared a quick glance and Elliott shook his head. Giles caught the exchange and sat down next to the bed, looking into Elliott’s eyes.
“What’s wrong, Elliott?”
Giles tilted his head slightly. “Then why don’t you want me to stay?”
Elliott sighed and reddened. “Because once I come home, things are going to be different and hectic. And…you and Mum need time alone. You’re both here all day during visiting hours…and I’m not alone at night.”
“Ah…” Giles smiled in understanding. “Elliott, you know that Buffy and I can – ”
“Whoa, Dad. I don’t need or want to hear about that okay?”
Giles furrowed his brow. “Hear about what?”
Xander chuckled from the other side of the room, causing Giles to glare at him. “Oh, uh…sorry.”
When Giles merely continued staring at him, Xander sighed and gestured vaguely. “Sex. He’s talking about sex.”
Giles’ glare suddenly turned to a look of confusion. Xander grinned at him and rubbed the back of his head.
“You and Buffy? Trying for a baby?” He glanced around the room before looking pointedly at the second bed. “This really isn’t the best place for that.”
Giles’ eyes widened slightly. “Bloody hell…”
“When I get home, you’re not going to have as much time to yourselves, Dad.” Elliott added softly.
Giles sighed and leaned back in his chair. “Buffy and I are more than capable of making time for – ”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Ourselves, I was going to say. Making time for ourselves.”
“I know. I just…look, I don’t want to cramp your style when I get home.”
“Cramp my style?” Giles turned his eyes back to Xander, who was blushing profusely.
“It’s not as bad as you’re thinking.”
“Oh?” Giles arched an eyebrow at him. “I’m thinking that you were discussing my sex life in front of my son and insinuating that Buffy and I wouldn’t be able to continue that aspect of our lives once Elliott comes home.”
“Well, that’s not exactly what happened. I didn’t say you wouldn’t be able to continue…just that you might have to not be as spontaneous or…unbridled.”
“Enthusiastic?” Xander clarified.
“I know what unbridled means, Xander.” Giles growled.
“I wasn’t talking to him about it.” Xander attempted to explain. “I was talking to Willow. He was asleep…I thought.”
Giles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Once he had calmed down a little, he turned back to Elliott. “I can assure you, Elliott…you coming home will in no way ‘cramp my style’.”
Elliott nodded slowly. “I just want you and Mum to have some time to yourselves…alone…while you can. It’s not that I don’t want you here, Dad. It’s just…you guys need time for just you. And once I’m home, it’s not going to be that easy.”
Giles was quiet for a moment and then smiled softly. “Suddenly, I’m reminded once again that a twelve year old can be more mature than a near thirty-year old.”
“Hey!” Xander exclaimed, smiling when Giles glared at him again. “Yeah, I deserved that. I’m sorry, Giles…it really wasn’t intentional. And I really didn’t think he heard me.”
“Mm…” He glanced at the clock and then stood up. “No television past nine-thirty, Elliott.”
He leaned down and kissed the top of Elliott’s head before giving him a warm hug. “I love you, but you need not worry about me and Buffy in this way. Okay?”
“Okay, Dad.” He smiled up at him. “I love you too.”
Giles looked at Xander again and shook his head in mild frustration. “Be more careful, Xander. He’s only twelve.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.”
Giles gave him a gentle nod, followed by a small smile. Xander smiled back, suddenly feeling much more at ease.
Xander made a mental note to talk to Willow about discussing the rest of the week’s night duties with Ethan. Whether Giles wanted to admit it or not, things would be different when Elliott went home.
* * *
Buffy lowered the book she was reading when she heard the front door open and close. She furrowed her brow in confusion when Giles walked into the bedroom and kicked his shoes off.
“Um…I thought you were staying with Elliott tonight.”
He pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it in the general direction of the hamper before unbuttoning his jeans. “Mm…as did I. However…Xander and Willow were discussing how our sex life will change when Elliott comes home…and Elliott has decided that you and I should spend as much time alone as we can…”
Her mouth dropped open and she tossed her book onto the bedside table. “What the fuck?”
He rolled his eyes, throwing his jeans and socks towards the hamper before slipping under the covers next to her. “They thought he was asleep. He very obviously wasn’t…and now he’s worried about cramping my style.”
She stared at him for a moment and then snorted a laugh. “Cramping your style? What does he know about your style?”
“Trust me…” He shook his head, light amusement showing in his eyes. “You don’t want to know.”
Buffy immediately thought back to the time when Xander had walked into the house without ringing the doorbell…to find Giles holding her against the bookshelf. They had both been still clothed, but she had been wearing a skirt and it had been very obvious that he was inside of her…and was quite happy about that fact.
Xander hadn’t stayed for very long…and wouldn’t look Giles in the eye for over a week.
“Jesus Christ, they weren’t talking about that time – ”
“No, nothing as specific as that.” Giles paused and then grinned. “But, that was an amazing night too…”
She nodded in agreement, leaning over him and kissing his lips. “So what were they talking about?”
“Oh…just how things will be different when Elliott comes home and I won’t be able to be spontaneous and unbridled…”
“Unbridled? He actually said unbridled?”
“Obviously he doesn’t know that we’re very capable of being spontaneous and unbridled…even when we have a house full of people.”
Giles’ eyes darkened slightly, remembering the previous New Years Eve party they hosted…and had disappeared from the festivities for a few moments.
“Obviously not.” He murmured, pulling her on top of him.
“What are you doing?” She whispered, grinning as his hands slipped under her nightshirt and massaged her thighs.
She rocked her hips against him, biting her lip as he groaned.
“Let’s see if we can get this bridle off…” She said, pulling her shirt up over her head and dropping it to the side.
He grinned up at her before pulling her down for a kiss.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The week had gone by quickly, which had been totally unexpected by Giles. Elliott had been upbeat and playful…and picked up the use of crutches extremely well. In fact, he had cautioned Elliott more than once about going too fast in the hospital hallways. Those cautions had always resulted in a grin and a ‘yes, Dad’ which never failed to put a smile on Giles’ face.
Dr Naylor had come by every day, sometimes twice a day, to check on Elliott. On the day that Elliott was to be discharged, he pulled Buffy and Giles to the side and said he needed to have a discussion with them. Giles caught Ethan’s eye and gestured towards Elliott with a subtle nod of his head. Ethan smiled softly and pulled out of deck of cards.
They stepped out into the hallway and the doctor smiled at them. “He’s looking well…bright.”
Giles nodded slowly. “Yes, but you could’ve told us that in there in front of him.”
Buffy looked up at him sharply, but then looked back at the doctor when he sighed softly.
“The stump is healing nicely, no infection present. He’s coping extremely well with the crutches.”
Giles merely nodded again, staring at the doctor. Buffy sensed there was going to be a turn in the conversation soon and slipped her hand into Giles’.
“The scans we did yesterday…” Dr Naylor started, shaking his head. “The scans showed that one of the lesions in his liver has increased in size. It’s…a remarkable change.”
Giles squeezed Buffy’s hand, but said nothing. Buffy cleared her throat.
“So, what does that mean? I mean, I know that means the cancer is growing. But…what does that mean for Elliott?”
“I’d like to start chemo on Thursday, in conjunction with radiotherapy.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Both at the same time? And…what? I thought you said it was best to give him a couple of weeks and…”
Dr Naylor nodded softly as Buffy trailed off. “Unfortunately, the situation isn’t going to be conducive to our original plan. This isn’t the news I wanted to give you, but it’s important that we start this as soon as possible to give him the best chance. Especially considering the amount of growth in such a short amount of time.”
“Of course...” Giles said quietly. “But, this is something that we’ll obviously need to discuss with Elliott.”
“Absolutely, I wouldn’t have thought otherwise. I tend to speak with the parents before explaining changes with the patient. I am sorry that it wasn’t better news that I have to give.”
Giles nodded and took a deep breath before turning and walking back into the room. Elliott looked up at him, his bright smile fading as he lowered the cards in his hand.
Ethan picked up the cards and moved away from the bed. “I’ll, uh…”
“Stay.” Buffy said softly, glancing at him quickly.
Ethan nodded and sat down on the spare bed.
Elliott sighed heavily. “This is never good. Parents, doctor…no real smiles. What’s wrong?”
Giles sat down in the chair next to the bed as Buffy sat down on the edge of the bed. He regarded Elliott carefully and then rubbed the back of his neck.
“The cancer in your liver has grown.”
“Don’t sugarcoat it or anything…” Ethan mumbled to himself.
Elliott gave Ethan a very small smile. “He’s not supposed to. I made him promise he’d never do that.”
Ethan nodded, but didn’t look up…instead, focusing his gaze on the single card in his hand. Elliott turned his attention back to Giles.
“Okay, so what happens now?”
“Chemo and radiation needs to start on Thursday.”
Elliott’s eyes widened. “At the same time? I thought they had to be done one at a time?”
Dr Naylor cleared his throat. “Sometimes, having them together is the best option.”
“And this is one of those times?” Elliott asked, idly scratching his left thigh.
Buffy covered his hand with hers and nodded. “Yeah, it is.”
“What do you guys think?”
Giles looked into Elliott’s eyes and gave a soft nod. “I think the doctor’s right. I think it’s the best option we have at the moment. And I think that we’ll get through it.”
“What about school?”
Giles smiled and reached over, running his fingers through Elliott’s hair. “I’m fairly certain I can talk to your professors. We can do your schoolwork from home…on the days that you feel up to it. You will not be expected to do schoolwork if you’re unwell…you can catch up at a later date, if need be.”
“Charmichael is perfectly capable of running things for the time being. I’ll go in for a few days to wrap up a few things – have a couple of transitional meetings…and then I’ll be home until you’ve completed a full round of chemo, at the very least. However, saying that…why are you concerned about my work?”
Elliott stared at him incredulously. “Are you serious? Your work is our lives…everything you do is for everyone else. I don’t want to keep you from that – the world needs you, Dad.”
Ethan’s eyes darted to the doctor, who looked nonplussed about the conversation. Buffy smiled softly, watching the exchange between Elliott and Giles.
“My son needs me.” Giles whispered.
“What good is that going to do me in the event of an apocalypse?” Elliott responded seriously. “No one stops one of those like you do. You read the signs better than any Watcher ever has. You’re the Head of Council for a reason, Dad.”
Giles’ eyes glistened as he shook his head. “I’m in the midst of a personal apocalypse…and can do nothing.”
“Well, no. You’re the Watcher…not the doctor.” He gestured towards Dr Naylor, but kept his eyes locked with Giles’. “He’s the one that can do something about this…the medical side of it. No point in doing that if the world ends before he can do anything.”
“And suddenly I’m reminded why you’re at the top of your class.” Giles said after a moment’s hesitation.
“Yeah…I’m a Giles.” He smiled warmly, reaching out and curling his fingers in Giles’ sleeve.
“Maybe I can do half-days…in a couple of weeks, not now.”
Elliott nodded, his fingers moving towards a button on Giles’ shirt. Giles looked down, watching Elliott’s fingers toy with the button.
At that moment, Giles was very aware that even though Elliott was extremely mature and bright for his age…he was still only twelve years old. He moved closer to Elliott, allowing him to take the comfort he needed. He leaned over and placed a kiss on Elliott’s forehead.
“Half-days, Elliott.” He whispered, resting his cheek against the top Elliott’s head. “That’s all I can do right now.”
“That’ll do, Donkey.”
Giles smiled as he closed his eyes. “That’ll do.”
* * *
Giles pulled Elliott’s bag out of the back of the car, slinging the strap over his shoulder. He grabbed Ethan’s arm quickly as he started to walk off. Ethan turned to look at him, narrowing his eyes when Giles shook his head.
“I was just going to help him up the steps…”
“He needs to do this on his own, Ethan. If he needs help, he’ll ask for it.”
Ethan arched an eyebrow at him. “Like you’ve always asked for help when you’ve needed it?”
Giles chuckled softly. “I’ve taught him better than that.”
Ethan responded with a smile, which slowly faded as they walked towards the house together. Buffy walked up the steps with Elliott…close enough that she could grab him if needed, but giving him the space to do it himself.
“Everything seems to be escalating so quickly.”
Giles nodded, pausing for a moment. “Do you have any cigarettes on you?”
“Cigarettes…or a joint?”
Giles sighed. “Nevermind, actually…they’re both a bad idea right now.”
“You okay?” Ethan asked softly, placing his hand between Giles’ shoulder blades.
“I really don’t think I am.” He exhaled a shaky breath and cleared his throat. “When the doctor told us that it had grown…I just froze. I couldn’t say anything. My first thought wasn’t ‘this is just a bump in the road’…my first thought was ‘my god, we’re going to lose him’. That’s not the mindset I need to be in right now.”
“Of course it is.” Ethan said, lowering his hand and looking into Giles’ eyes. “You’re a parent who is being faced with something…no parent should ever have to go through this. Right now, you’re a Dad…not Head of Council, not part of the Dynamic Duo. You’re a Dad.”
Giles narrowed his eyes. “Dynamic Duo?”
“You and Buffy…Watcher and Slayer – the best pairing the organisation has seen.” When surprise shone in Giles’ eyes, Ethan shrugged a shoulder. “I listen, you know…not that I really had to be told. I’ve had first-hand experience for well over a decade.”
“Ah, I’m sorry, by the way.” Giles said, swiftly changing the subject. “I should have mentioned that Dr Naylor is well-versed in the Council and its dealings.”
“Yeah, that would’ve been good to know.” He chuckled, resuming their walk towards the house. “So…would it be unethical for me to ask Alan out for dinner or…something?”
“Completely.” Giles answered quickly, glancing at Ethan with a small smile. “Buffy and I went to this new Greek bistro the other night. I’d highly recommend it.”
Ethan pushed his hands into his pockets and grinned. “Thanks, Rip.”
* * *
Giles smiled as Elliott swallowed a mouthful of food and grinned at Buffy.
“Thank you, Mum. This is so much better than the food at the hospital.”
“Well, when my boy asks for baked ziti…he gets baked ziti.” She took a sip of her wine and cast a very quick glance at Giles before she looked back at Elliott. “So…how are you? Really? With what Dr Naylor told us today?”
Elliott shrugged a shoulder, stabbing several pieces of ziti onto his fork. “I don’t even know. Nervous? I don’t feel bad, you know? Like…sick. Even though people keep telling me I am. I feel off balance when I stand…” He laughed softly for a second, pausing when no one joined in. “Guys…you can’t be all serious about this all the time.”
“I’m scared, Elliott. I find it hard to laugh when I’m scared.” Giles offered, lifting his wine glass to his lips. “But, I’ll try…for you.”
“You get scared a lot though, right? I mean…not just about this.”
Giles nodded, taking a sip and then lowering his glass. “Of course, I do. When Buffy decided to take a step into semi-retirement as the Slayer, I was relieved more than anything else. Because each time she goes into battle, I’m terrified.”
He smiled softly at Buffy when he felt her foot gently stroke his leg.
“And then there’s always the brief stab of fear every time Ethan starts to say something – because I never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.”
Elliott barked a laugh as Ethan stared at Giles. “Yeah, see…that’s what we need. Jokes.”
“At my expense?” Ethan asked, pretending to be upset.
“Always.” Giles replied, shooting him a wink.
He turned his eyes back to Buffy, taking a sip of his wine as he stared into her eyes…her foot still stroking his leg. Seeing the desire flicker in his eyes, she smiled and removed her foot. She glanced at his lips, her finger idly gliding around the rim of her glass.
Ethan’s eyes darted between the two of them, then glanced at Elliott – who was blissfully unaware as to what was brewing and had refocused on his dinner. Ethan smiled as the skin behind Giles’ ear turned a light shade of pink. He cleared his throat softly and Giles slowly turned towards him, reluctantly breaking the gaze he was sharing with Buffy.
You two…need to stop that. Message received?
He grinned as they both turned their eyes to their own plates of food. Yes…message received.
Dinner was finished in comfortable banter between the four of them. The most relaxed the atmosphere had been in ages.
* * *
“Can we get a puppy?”
Giles stared at him. “I think a puppy is the last thing this house needs at the moment.”
Giles looked over at Buffy as Elliott sighed heavily. Buffy gave him a quick nod before watching Elliott push himself up and use his crutches to get himself over to the window that overlooked the backyard.
“But, perhaps we could look into rescuing a dog…one that’s out of puppydom…” Giles added softly, smiling as Elliott quickly looked over at him.
Giles stood up and made his way over to Elliott, standing next to him as he looked out the window. “Yeah, really. We’re not in a position to take care of and train a puppy. However…an older dog – maybe two years old or so? Plenty of dogs needing a family. Let’s get everything started…and once we figure out how you’re going to react to the treatment, we’ll see what finds us, okay?”
Elliott leaned against him. “Thanks, Dad.”
“And Mum…” Buffy interjected with a chuckle as she walked over to stand on the other side of Elliott.
He grinned at her, shifting his crutches so he could reach out to her. “Thanks, Mum.”
“What are you looking at?” Xander asked as he and Willow walked into the living room.
“The yard.” Giles answered helpfully.
Xander chuckled as Willow rolled her eyes. “So…what’s the what? Ethan said to come by after dinner…so, here we are. And not at all upset that we missed out on baked ziti.”
Buffy grinned and gestured towards the kitchen. “Saved you some.”
“And that’s why you’re my favourite Slayer.” Xander grinned back, dropping onto the smaller of the two lounges. “What’s going on?”
There was a pause in conversation as Buffy and Giles moved over to the other lounge and Elliott sat down next to Buffy. Willow arched an eyebrow as she sat next to Xander.
Elliott blew out a breath and spoke quickly.
“The cancer is growing. Chemo and radiation are starting on Thursday.” He continued as Xander and Willow both stared at him, Willow’s mouth dropping open in shock. “And we may get a dog in a few weeks.”
“A dog would be nice to have. He could sleep in my room with me and go for walks…or hobbles…with me.”
“Hobbles?” Willow asked, her eyes glistening. “And I think Xander’s question dealt mainly with the first part of that announcement.”
“Yeah, I know. But, hey…dogs are exciting.” He smiled brightly and then sighed as he watched Willow’s eyes fill with tears. “Please don’t cry, Willow. It’s scary and everything, but…I have to do what I have to do.”
Xander put his arm around Willow, hugging her to him. “We just weren’t expecting to hear that, Ellis.”
Elliott smiled at the pet name that Xander used for him once in a while. “Yeah, I wasn’t either.”
Elliott rubbed his left thigh and sighed. Buffy stood up, gently ruffling Elliott’s hair before walking into the kitchen. Elliott shifted over next to Giles and leaned against him – his back against Giles’ chest.
“You okay?” Giles asked softly, curling his arm around him and letting his hand rest over his heart.
“Yeah, just uncomfortable.”
“And probably a little tired?” Willow added with a gentle smile.
“Mm-hm. Been a long day.” Elliott replied, glancing down at the stump. “Looks so weird…”
“I feel you.” Xander said. “Took me a long time to get used to only having one eye.”
Elliott looked up as Buffy walked back in with a glass of water and a couple of pills. He sat back up and smiled wearily at her.
She handed him the water and the pills, then ran her fingers through his hair. “You’re welcome, Ellie. You look tired.”
“I am…one of these to help me sleep?”
“No, only the pain meds and antibiotics. Do you need something for sleep?”
He took the pills that were given to him and then thought for a moment. “Yeah, maybe. My head won’t stop running around.”
“Do you want to talk?” Giles asked softly as Buffy went back for sleeping pills.
“No, not right now. I think I just want to sleep.”
“We’re here if you change your mind, right?”
Elliott smiled as he nodded, holding his hand out for the pill Buffy had come back with. “I know, Dad. I think I’m seriously just too tired to hold a conversation.”
“It’s been an eventful day.” Buffy said, dropping the pill into his hand.
“Yeah, you could say that.” Elliott chuckled sadly, popping the pill into his mouth. As he swallowed, he looked over at Xander and Willow. “You guys coming over tomorrow?”
“Oh…” Willow sat up straight and glanced at Buffy. “We thought you might need to rest up from being in the hospital.”
“I start treatment on Thursday. I have to go in for scans and test on Wednesday. That leaves tomorrow. I’d like to just maybe have an afternoon barbecue with my family and friends.” He looked at Giles. “Is that okay?”
“Of course it is. Would you like to invite Jack over?”
Elliott’s eyes brightened. “Can I?”
“Absolutely.” Buffy smiled and glanced at the clock. “I’ll give his parents a quick call and if they say okay, call Jack and ask him. Rupert can go by and pick him up tomorrow.”
Willow smiled, causing Giles to look at her curiously. “What?”
She reddened lightly and shrugged a shoulder. “It’s just been a while since I’ve heard her call you Rupert. It’s nice…like, really nice.”
Giles smiled and looked up at Buffy, who was standing there with the phone in her hand. “Yes. Yes, it is.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles opened his eyes when he reached out to pull Buffy closer to him, only to feel cool sheets. He sat up and looked around the room, yawning as he ran his fingers through his hair. Normally, he’d just lay back down and wait for her to come back…but, normally the sheets were still warm. This time they weren’t.
He opened the bedroom door, tying his robe closed as he stepped into the hallway. He glanced down the hall towards Elliott’s room, halfway expecting to see her standing in his doorway. But, she wasn’t. Furrowing his brow, he turned towards the living area.
He walked into the living room to find her sitting on the floor, a mug of tea in her hands as she stared into the fireplace that held no fire. He watched her for a moment before walking towards her and sitting down next to her.
She didn’t look at him, but leaned into him. He wrapped his arm around her and kissed the top of her head.
“There’s no fire, love.” He whispered.
“Nope.” She replied, snuggling closer to him. “Couldn’t be bothered.”
“Would you like me to start one?” He asked.
She shook her head, but said nothing. They were quiet for a few minutes, both staring at the empty fireplace. And then he broke the silence again.
“I’ve been thinking about something. I’d like your opinion on it.”
She pulled back enough to look up at him. “Okay. What’s up?”
“I’d like for us to adopt Elliott.”
Her eyes widened slightly. “What?”
“Maria died years ago. He has no memories of her. You’re the only mother he’s ever known.” He took the tea from her hands and took a sip, grimacing as the lukewarm liquid slid down his throat.
He placed the mug on the coffee table behind them and cleared his throat. “Peter is…Peter will…”
Buffy laced her fingers with his, silently encouraging him to continue. He smiled at her sadly and shrugged his shoulder.
“He’ll never be able to be a father to Elliott again. Hasn’t been able to be a father for the last eight years. I love him so much, Buffy. I couldn’t love him more if he actually were my son. He deserves to have a family…a proper family. A mother and father, siblings…” He swallowed and exhaled slowly. “He may not have much time left…or he may surprise everyone and beat this. But, at the end of the day…he deserves a family.”
“And you want my opinion?” She whispered.
He nodded, lifting his hand to brush the hair back from her face. “I want you to legally be his mother, Buffy. So, yes…I want your opinion.”
She smiled slowly. “I’ve thought of him as mine since a week after we got together…maybe even sooner than that. Who knows? I know that I love him. I know that I love you. And I think that Peter would be very okay with the situation, if he were able to understand what’s going on.”
“So…contact the lawyer? See what steps we need to take and then ask Elliott what he thinks about it?”
She nodded and leaned up to press a kiss against his jaw. “Contact the lawyer.”
“Are you okay?” When she tilted her head quizzically, he glanced towards the hallway. “The sheets were cold…you’ve been gone a while.”
“I’m used to things moving quickly. Our lives move quickly, everything in them. But, this…this is like supersonic speeds and…I’m scared that it’s moving so fast that we can’t hold on to it.”
He nodded in understanding, leaning into her and brushing his lips across hers. “Let’s go back to bed…and see if we can slow things down a little, okay?”
“Yeah…okay.” She gestured towards the fireplace. “Or…you can start a fire and we can slow things down here.”
When her eyes darted to her lips, he smiled. “I wasn’t actually talking about sex, but…I’m certainly not opposed. Saying that, we shouldn’t here…”
“Let’s go back to bed, love.”
“How about you start a fire. We sit here and snuggle, see where that leads…”
“You know exactly where that’s going to lead, Buffy. Else you wouldn’t have mentioned it.”
She licked her lips and then continued. “Let’s see where that leads…and then you can take me to bed before it goes too far.”
“Bloody hell…” With a whispered word and a gentle flourish of his hand, a fire began to flicker in the fireplace. He smiled as she sighed softly. “Before it goes too far…”
She nodded and placed her hand on the back of his neck, gently pulling him into a kiss.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next afternoon, the Giles Household was full of activity. And for the first time in months, everyone seemed to be at ease. Surprising, considering what was just around the corner. Surprising, but…appreciated.
Ethan and Xander were currently arguing over the best way to cook meat on the barbecue…and both failing miserably at the task. Willow had laughed and pushed them both out of the way. Ethan had scowled at her before making his way over to Buffy and Giles, who were currently sitting on a blanket on the ground…watching Elliott and Jack as they had an animated conversation that they couldn’t hear.
Ethan dropped down onto the blanket with them and shook his head. “Red and the barbecue…”
Giles chuckled. “You were going to burn everything.”
Ethan glared at him and then looked over at Elliott and Jack. “This is good for him.”
“His idea.” Buffy said with a smile. “He knows what’s best for him.”
Giles shook his head quickly. “This is a no cancer day, Ethan. He doesn’t want it being discussed. He just wants to be Elliott.”
Ethan nodded slowly and smiled. “So, you two…how are you doing? You know with the whole baby thing? How’s that going?”
“This is also a no talk about Buffy and Giles’ sex life day.” Buffy said with a grin.
Ethan sighed heavily. “Why do you think every conversation I start is going to end up talking about your sex life?”
Buffy stared at him. “Because it always does.”
“It always has.” Giles added, laughing loudly.
Ethan turned his eyes to Giles and smiled warmly. “That’s the first proper laugh I’ve heard from you in ages.”
Giles opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by the ringing of the phone. He pushed himself up and ran inside. Ethan furrowed his brow as he watched him.
“Expecting a call?”
Buffy nodded slowly. “Yeah…lawyer.”
Ethan looked at her. “Lawyer? What’s going on?”
She bit her lip and glanced towards the house. “We want to adopt Elliott. He’s seeing what needs to be done…and then we’ll talk to Elliott to see if that’s something he’d want.”
“I think that’s something he’d very much want.” He replied with a bright smile before arching an eyebrow at her. “And…the baby-making?”
Buffy rolled her eyes and then smiled. “That’s going perfectly well…and that’s all you’re getting out of me.”
“You two are infuriating. There was a time when Rupert would tell me everything about…things.”
“And I’ve matured since then.” Giles replied, sitting down behind Buffy and pulling her back against his chest. “You know how babies are made, Ethan. Use your imagination.”
“Mm…infuriating.” Ethan mumbled.
Giles chuckled and smiled as Buffy looked around at him. He gave her a gentle nod and glanced over at Elliott. “Carson said it shouldn’t be an issue, considering the situation and assuming Elliott would want it.”
“He’ll say yes. You know he’ll say yes.” Ethan said, watching the two boys laugh in the distance. “It would just be a formality…you’re already his parents.”
Giles narrowed his eyes. “I was fairly certain I blocked you from reading my thoughts.”
Ethan turned towards him and rolled his eyes. “Buffy told me, you berk. The block is still active…not that I try anymore. Well, that often…”
When Giles stared at him, he shrugged a shoulder. “I like to knock on the door once in a while. No one answers.”
“You need a new hobby.” Buffy said, laughing softly.
“I won’t disagree.” Ethan replied, then grinned. “I’m having dinner with Alan on Friday. He could be hobbyish.”
Giles shook his head, slightly amused. “That might take your focus off of my sex life…”
“Ah, I doubt that, Rupe.” He grinned, standing up and gesturing towards the barbecue. “I think she’s burning it…”
They watched him walk away and Buffy shook her head in amusement. “Sometimes I wonder what it would’ve been like to have met you in the ‘70s.”
“I daresay we would’ve gotten into all sorts of mischief. But, I’m not sure I would’ve coped very well with the flirting between the two of you.”
Buffy’s eyes darted to his. “Giles…you know nothing happened there, right? I mean, at all…”
He lifted his hand to her cheek and smiled warmly. “I know, love. There’s nothing wrong with some playful flirting. Ethan’s a flirt, always has been.”
“Is it weird that I kinda like it when he flirts with you?”
“Mm-hm. I’ve always thought so.” He grinned, kissing her softly. “That’s not going to happen again. You understand that, yes?”
“Yeah…” She licked her lips as she gazed into his eyes. “But, sometimes I like to think about it. What it was like for you…”
“You, uh…you need to do two things right now, Buffy.” When she merely continued looking at him, he exhaled slowly. “You need to stop looking at me like that and you need to stop talking about that. Because…I’m dangerously close to taking you inside.”
“Spontaneous unbridled passion?”
“Fucking hell…” He murmured, glancing at her lips as his fingers lightly grazed her arm. “You have no idea.”
“We could – ”
“That would possibly be one of the most irresponsible things we could do right now. And you know it.”
She blew out a deep breath and nodded in agreement.
“You two okay?” Willow asked, holding out two bottles of water. “You looked…hot.”
Giles lowered his eyes as he took a bottle, Buffy grinned at Willow as she took the other. Willow gave her a wink.
“So…lunch is almost ready.” She paused and then knelt down next to them. “And I’m not sure if I’ve really said this, but…you two? You’re fucking adorable together – don’t ever lose this. The passion, the desire, the pure unadulterated love that the two of you have always had. Don’t fucking throw it away over something stupid…got it?”
Giles smiled, his eyes still focused on the bottle of water. Buffy nodded and took a long drink from her bottle.
“Good. Now…once you two have calmed yourselves, call the boys over…”
Giles blushed lightly, causing Willow to grin.
“Fucking adorable.” She mumbled as she stood back up.
* * *
Elliott had wanted to go with Xander and Willow to drop Jack back off at the dorms, but it was quite obvious that the day had taken a toll on him. Instead, he reluctantly agreed to stay home and call it an early night. Ethan had left not long after the others, understanding that Buffy and Giles had a few things to discuss with Elliott.
Elliott was stretched out on the sofa, his eyes closed. Giles regarded him closely.
“Are you alright, Elliott?”
“Yeah, I think I ate too much and my leg is really tired. I think maybe…I overdid it a bit?”
“Possibly.” Giles smiled as Buffy came in, carrying a tray laden with tea and biscuits. “But, a good day?”
“The best in a while.” Elliott replied, opening his eyes and looking at him. “Thank you guys.”
“You’re welcome.” Buffy said, placing the tray on the coffee table.
Elliott shifted carefully until he was sitting up and narrowed his eyes. “Talking biscuits…”
“Talking biscuits?” Giles asked, confusion in his tone.
“Yeah…you know, the biscuits you put out when you need to have a talk?” He pointed towards the soft, buttery biscuits on the tray. “Those only come out when you need to have a talk. What’s going on?”
“Nothing bad.” Buffy said, sitting down next to Giles. “At least, we don’t think so.”
They were all quiet for a few seconds. Then Elliott reached out and picked up one of the biscuits.
“Okay…out with it.”
Giles smiled and slipped his hand into Buffy’s. “We’d like to run something by you…obviously, you can say no…you can think about it…the choice is yours.”
“Okay…” Elliott took a bite of the biscuit. “Still not talking…”
Buffy chuckled softly. “We’ve been thinking and talking – and…well, we were wondering what you’d think about us adopting you.”
Giles nodded slowly. “This isn’t a new thought for me, Elliott. I’ve wanted to adopt you for years…when it became obvious that Peter wasn’t going to recover.”
“You want to be my proper Mum and Dad? Like…proper?”
They both nodded and he smiled brightly. And then his smile faded.
“Does that mean that Dad won’t be my Dad anymore?”
“No. Well, legally, I suppose that’s correct. But, he’ll always be your Dad, Elliott.” Giles answered carefully.
“Can we go see him again before I say yes? Because…I want to say yes. But, I want him to know or…be told, at least.” His eyes glistened as he smiled at them. “I really want to be your son.”
Giles exhaled a breath and smiled.
Chapter 7: Transitions
Elliott took a deep breath and looked at Buffy and Giles as Giles put his hand on the doorknob. “You coming in?”
Giles shook his head slowly. “No, this is about you and your Dad.”
“But, you’ll come in after I call you?”
“Of course. But, this is something you should talk to Peter about on your own.” He smiled at Elliott as he opened the door for him. “The decision is yours, Elliott. Buffy and I will support you in whatever that decision is, as always.”
Elliott glanced at Buffy, who nodded in agreement. Elliott smiled at both of them and slipped into the room. Giles closed the door behind him and looked down at Buffy.
“And that cheesecake if they have it?”
Giles chuckled softly, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Absolutely.”
Buffy hooked her arm through Giles’ and sighed. Giles nudged her gently with his shoulder.
“Yeah, it’s just been a full on day…and it’s only what…1pm? I’m tired, but Elliott…he just goes with it. I’m a little envious of him for that.”
Giles nodded slowly. “He did go to bed quite a bit earlier than we did, though.”
“We went to bed early. Well, early for us…”
A small grin appeared on his lips. “Ah, but there wasn’t much resting until the wee hours of the morning.”
She laughed quietly. “Yeah, well…”
He laughed in response, pulling his hand out of his pocket and taking hold of hers.
* * *
Elliott carefully navigated his way over to his father’s bedside. He leaned his crutches against the side of the bed and sat down in the chair.
“Hey, Dad.” He whispered, reaching over and covering Peter’s hand with his own. “So…I’m a leg down now. It’s weird…and not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Sometimes it feels like it’s still there. Phantom sensations, the doctor called it.”
He sighed deeply, looking at Peter’s face. “I’ve got some things to tell you…and I don’t even know if you can hear me, or know if I’m here. But, I’m going to pretend that you can and you do. Because it’s pretty important stuff.”
“Good news or bad news?” Elliott sighed to himself. “Bad news…get it over with, right? So…I’m starting chemo and radiation tomorrow. I have to go this afternoon to have some kind of implant put in. It’s for the chemo. It’s supposed to make it easier for me since I’m going to be on it for a few months. I wasn’t expecting to start radiation tomorrow too. It wasn’t the original plan, but the cancer in my liver is growing faster than they were expecting. I’m scared, Dad. I’m scared of getting sick, I’m scared of what the treatment is going to do, I’m scared of dying. I don’t want to die, so I’m going to fight as hard as I can. But, I’m really scared. Mum and Dad are so amazing with everything, but they’re scared too. Ethan is really stepping up for them. He’s teaching me a few things too.”
Elliott smiled wistfully. “Don’t tell Dad that, okay? He’ll lose his mind if he knows Ethan is teaching me magic. It’s nothing dangerous, just stuff to keep me from getting bored and maybe to keep my mind on other things. I’d like to ask Willow a few things, but I’m just not sure.”
After a long pause, Elliott leaned forward and curled his fingers around his father’s hand. “And that brings me to the good news. At least, I think it’s good news. I hope you do too.”
He watched for any sort of reaction, his eyes glistening when there was none. He blew out a deep breath.
“Mum and Dad…Buffy and Uncle Ru…they…they want to adopt me. You know, as their son. I mean, Uncle Ru has pretty much been my dad since I was four – since you…since the accident. And I don’t remember Mum, my real mum, at all. Not even any flashes like I have with you. I look at pictures and I recognise her, but no memories of her. So, Buffy has always been Mum to me. But, now…now they want to make it official – be proper parents to me. And I want that too…I don’t want to not be your son anymore, Dad. But, I want parents like my friends have. And I know that if you were well, you’d be that dad for me. But, you can’t – and that’s not your fault.”
He bit his lip nervously and then continued.
“So, I’m going to say yes to them. And I hope you understand – you’re still my Dad, I’m not throwing that away. But…I really want Uncle Ru and Buffy to be my legal parents. I really do hope you get that. And I know that I didn’t have to come here to tell you all of that…but, I thought I should. Because you should hear it from me. I love you, Daddy. I love you so much.” He smiled softly, rubbing his thumb over his father’s hand. “The good thing is I won’t have to change my name.”
He sat there for quite a while longer. Telling Peter about his fears and hopes and friends. And after a long while, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and called his uncle.
In the entire time that he had been in the room, there had been no movement or signs of anything from his father. His breathing was even, his heart rate was steady…slow, but steady. Not even the slightest change in rhythm…even while he was telling him his news.
“I love you, Daddy.” He whispered sadly, pulling himself up and leaning over to kiss his father’s cheek.
* * *
Giles looked in the rearview mirror to find Elliott staring out the side window. “Elliott?”
“Are you alright?”
Elliott nodded slowly, turning his eyes to meet Giles’ in the mirror. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
Giles gave him a quick nod, then turned his full attention back to the road as the light turned green. “You’re very quiet. Are you sore or anything?”
Elliott absently rubbed around the still numb spot on his chest. “No, not sore really…it feels weird though. I, uh…I was actually thinking about Dad.”
Elliott sighed softly, moving his hand to scratch his knee – the knee that was no longer there. He blew out a deep breath and lifted his gaze when Buffy turned to look back at him. “I don’t think he’s there anymore. When I was talking to him or touching him…there was nothing. I’ve never seen him that…still…before.”
Buffy placed her hand on Giles’ thigh, but maintained her eye contact with Elliott. “That must’ve been really hard.”
Elliott nodded as his eyes filled with tears. “Yeah, really hard. I told him about starting treatment tomorrow.”
Giles took a deep breath as he pulled into their driveway and killed the engine. “How are you feeling about that, Elliott?”
“I’m scared.” Elliott replied bluntly as he opened the car door and grabbed his crutches. “But, you have to do what you have to do…right?”
Giles and Buffy exchanged a quick glance and then got out of the car. The three of them walked up the path to the front steps, Giles and Buffy on either side of Elliott. Suddenly, Elliott stopped and looked at the both of them.
“I told him about you guys wanting to adopt me.”
Buffy slipped her hand into Giles’ as Giles nodded slowly, tilting his head slightly as he looked at Elliott.
“I told him that he’d always be my Dad and that I’ll always love him.” Elliott swallowed and then exhaled slowly. “And then I told him that I really want you to be my parents. My real parents. I want to be your son…so, I’m saying yes.”
Buffy’s eyes glistened as she carefully wrapped her arms around Elliott. Giles curled his arm around Elliott’s shoulder and leant down, kissing the top of his head.
“I’ll ask the lawyer to start the process…if you’re sure.”
Elliott smiled at him, looking from Giles to Buffy and back again. “Yeah, I’m sure, Dad.”
Giles returned Elliott’s smile, his happiness easily recognisable in his eyes. Seemingly lost for words, he cleared his throat and gave Elliott a nod. Buffy laughed softly.
“You rendered him speechless…”
Elliott laughed and curled his fingers around the handgrips of his crutches. “You’re the only person I’ve ever seen do that.”
Buffy grinned and gestured towards the door. “Go on…there’s cheesecake in the fridge.”
Elliott’s eyes widened. Buffy and Giles stood there on the footpath, watching him as he raced up the steps. As he unlocked the door and went inside, Buffy looked up at Giles.
Giles nodded slowly, his smile still gracing his face. “I, uh…yes, absolutely.”
“Come on, Dad…let’s get in there before he eats the whole cake himself.”
Giles shook his head in amusement. “I’m not going to deny him his cheesecake. He gets that from you.”
“You don’t deny me either, do you?”
He looked down at her and smiled adorably. “I deny you very few things, love.”
She blushed lightly and led him inside.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles smiled softly as Elliott bounced his leg up and down nervously. “It’s going to be okay, Elliott.”
“Is this going to hurt? I mean, I asked Dr Naylor and he said no, but…what do you think, Dad? Is it going to hurt?”
Giles shook his head slowly. “No, it doesn’t. I’ve spoken to quite a few people who have had radiation – they’ve all said that it doesn’t hurt. All that you’ll notice is the sound of the machine when it’s turned on.”
“But you can’t come in with me…”
“No, son. I’m sorry. But, I’ll be right here and from everything I’ve read, it doesn’t take long.”
“I have to come basically every day. That’s a long time.”
“Five days on, two days off…for three weeks, then a recheck. But, I was talking about the actual length of time for each daily treatment. It’ll only be a few minutes..”
“And then round one of chemo starts. Fun times.”
“Necessary times.” Giles replied quietly. “But, we can be there for you during chemo.”
He rubbed at his chest and furrowed his brow. “This thing feels weird. Not bad and it doesn’t hurt, but…it’s not supposed to be there.”
“You’ll get used to it. Soon, you won’t even notice it.” Giles offered him a gentle smile. “I’m really proud of you, Elliott.”
Elliott lowered his hand and looked up at Giles curiously. “Huh?”
“The way you’ve taken everything in stride…”
“Or…half stride now.” Elliott interjected with a little grin.
Giles chuckled and nodded. “Yes, well…I’m proud of you. For many things in life, but this is huge.”
“You’d fight, right? I mean, if you had cancer. You’d fight.”
“Yes, I would.” Giles responded without hesitation. “I have much to live for, Elliott. I’d fight without question. But, I think I’d probably be a bit angrier than you have been.”
“How long will the adoption take?” Elliott asked, quickly changing the subject.
“Well…our lawyer is going to contact the appropriate people and they’ll assign a social worker to our case. Normally, we’d need to wait a few months before applying to the court…however, Carson seems to think that due to our circumstances we may be able to fast track our application.”
“Circumstances? Like…Dad having a brain injury?”
“Mm…yes, that and…well, your cancer diagnosis and prognosis.” Giles answered quietly. “Carson is confident it’ll not be an issue. He’s going to talk to your Dad’s doctors and he’ll talk to Dr Naylor as well. I honestly don’t think it will take very long once all the reporting is done.”
Elliott blew out a soft breath and nodded. “I hope it doesn’t.”
Before Giles could respond, the door opened and a young woman smiled at Elliott.
“Rupert Elliott Giles?”
Elliott smiled as he pushed himself up and grabbed his crutches. “Just Elliott…and that’s me.”
The woman laughed softly and held the door open for him as she looked at Giles. “We won’t be long, Mr Giles.”
“Thank you.” Giles nodded slowly then turned his attention to Elliott. “You’ll be fine, Elliott.”
Elliott exhaled. “You’ll be right here, right?”
Giles stood up and carefully pulled him into a hug. “I’m going nowhere, son. I’ll be right here. I love you.”
“I love you too, Dad.” Elliott whispered against his chest.
And then he took a deep breath and stood up straight. At that moment, Giles saw himself so very clearly in the young boy. Bravery in the face of fear. Not because he wanted to be brave…but because he had to be brave.
Giles watched Elliott walk through the door and then he sat back down. The young woman offered him an understanding smile.
“We won’t be long and we’ll take very good care of him.”
Giles nodded, but said nothing.
He pulled out his phone and quickly dialled Buffy’s number. She answered on the second ring.
“Everything okay?” She asked, pausing when he didn’t answer straight away. “Are you nodding or shaking your head?”
“Oh…nodding, I’m sorry. They just took him in. Are you okay?”
He exhaled softly. “It’s not that he didn’t want you here. You know that.”
“I know, it’s just not often that he specifically requests that I don’t come along to something.”
“Normally, that’s because he wants or needs to talk about something.”
Buffy paused for a second. “I know.”
“He likes a girl, Buffy. And he’s worried that because of his surgery and his illness that she won’t like him back.”
“Oh…well, now I feel a bit stupid.”
Giles chuckled softly. “I did suggest that he talk to you about it as well. Because…our situation isn’t all that different at the crux of it all.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes. “Neither of us had surgery or a life-threatening illness.”
“No, but at the bottom of everything was my fear that you wouldn’t like me back. So, I held back and pretended that everything was perfectly fine. And I nearly damaged our relationship beyond repair.”
“Yeah, but we sorted all of that out – and realised that we were both holding back.”
Giles nodded again, a wry smile on his face. “And it only took you being drunk and me being high for all of that to come out. I’d rather him not be in that position. I suggested that if he likes her, he talks to her. And if she doesn’t feel the same, be gracious and understanding…but not give up on the friendship. Accept her decision, don’t try to push it…just be there for her.”
“That’s actually really good advice.”
Giles laughed. “You sound so surprised…”
“You surprise me constantly, Rupert. But, this? This is very much you.”
“I love you.” He whispered, switching the phone to the other ear.
“I love you too. Meet you down at the café before chemo?”
“Absolutely.” He smiled warmly.
* * *
Elliott watched the nurse carefully insert the IV line into his arm. His brow furrowed and he looked up at her.
“I thought the whole point of getting a port put in was so that I wouldn’t have to go through this…”
The nurse chuckled softly and nodded. “It is, Elliott. However, you just had the port put in yesterday…we need to let it heal a little before we start using it. Once we’re able to use it, you’ll find this part of the process much less horrible.”
He looked up at the bag of fluid and sighed heavily. “How sick is this going to make me?”
“It affects people different ways. I wish I could give you a definitive answer to that.” She made a couple of adjustments and then smiled at him. “This will take a little over an hour – let me know if you need anything, okay?”
He nodded slowly and looked down at his arm. Buffy and Giles moved closer to him, but he continued staring at the needle in his arm. Buffy saw his jaw clench and she reached out, taking his hand just as his tears began to fall.
“It’s okay, Ellie…we’re here.”
“This is really scary, Mum. And nobody can tell me what’s going to happen to me.” He sniffled and looked over at her. “And I really like Gemma, but…”
Buffy smiled softly as Giles took hold of Elliott’s hand. “Are you friends with Gemma?”
Elliott nodded. “Yeah, really good friends. She always has lunch with me and Jack. She always sits beside me. She’s really funny and smart, like really smart.”
“If you told her that you like her and she said she didn’t like you that way, what would you do?”
“I’d be her friend.”
She reached over and gently stroked his cheek. “Then tell her that. Tell her you’re happy just being her friend if she doesn’t feel the same. I’m sure it would hurt for her to say she only wanted to be friends, but we can help you through that – if that happens. You know who would be a good person to talk to about that if that’s the way it goes?”
She smiled as he shook his head.
“Xander. He was really brave a long time ago and told someone that he wanted to be more than friends. But, the girl he really liked…didn’t really like him the same way. She was honest with him and didn’t want to hurt him, but it was the right thing to do. And Xander stayed friends with her…the best of friends.”
“Are they still friends now?”
Elliott’s eyes widened in surprise. “Xander liked you?”
“Yep…but, I liked someone else at that time and it just wouldn’t have worked out.”
Elliott looked over at Giles and then back to Buffy. Buffy shook her head slowly as Giles lowered his eyes.
“No…that came along quite a while later. But, I knew I liked your Dad for a very long time before we finally talked about it. I wish that we had talked about it before, but we didn’t.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Because I was frightened of what she would think.”
“But, she loves you…”
Giles smiled shyly. “Ah, but I didn’t know that at the time and I didn’t want to cause any issues.”
“I’ve always loved you.” Buffy whispered, meeting Giles’ eyes.
“Hindsight is 20/20…” He replied softly.
“What does that even mean?” Elliott asked, darting his eyes between them.
“Things are clearer once you move forward and look back on them.”
“Oh…” Elliott said in an uncertain tone. “Maybe I can give Gemma a call tomorrow?”
Giles nodded as he smiled brightly at him.
Elliott closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of the chair. “Can you read to me?”
Buffy’s eyes lit up. “Ooh…I like it when he reads…”
Giles rolled his eyes playfully, but picked up the book that was resting on the table.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Two Weeks Later…
“I don’t want to go.”
Giles looked at Elliott and sighed. “I know. I wish we didn’t have to – ”
“We? Pretty sure you’re not having your liver fried or…” He stopped suddenly and closed his eyes. “Oh god…Dad, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
“I know.” Giles whispered, maintaining eye contact with Elliott. “And you’re right. It’s not me having to go through this. Watching isn’t the same as experiencing.”
“I don’t like the way it makes me feel.” Elliott said quietly. “I don’t feel good, Dad. And Gemma said that she’d be able to come over this weekend to watch a movie with me and Jack.”
Giles nodded slowly. “I understand that, I really do. But, you only have three more sessions of radiation and then there’ll be a break. A couple more of chemo and round one will be done. You’re doing so amazingly well, Elliott. I get that it’s hard…I see what you’re going through. And I’m so, so proud of you.”
“I don’t want to be sick for the rest of my life.” Elliott said, lowering his eyes as they filled with tears.
Giles moved quickly, gently pulling him against his chest and wrapping his arms around him. Knowing he couldn’t promise him that everything would just miraculously get better, he closed his eyes against his own tears.
“I wish I could tell you that you’ll feel better soon, but I just can’t. But, what I can tell you is that Carson has submitted the adoption paperwork to the court.”
Elliott sniffled and pulled back just enough to look up at him. “Really? So, you and Mum will be my Mum and Dad soon?”
“Hopefully so, yes.” He lifted his hand to cradle Elliott’s cheek and smiled. “But, then…I’ve thought of you as my son for the last eight years. This is just a formality for me…and for Buffy.”
“Then I guess I better get on with it, huh? I can do this…”
Giles gently stroked Elliott’s cheek with his thumb. “Yes, you can. I have complete faith in you, Elliott.”
“You’re welcome.” Giles leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on Elliott’s forehead. “So…things are going well with Gemma?”
Elliott’s eyes sparkled as he smiled. “She really likes me, Dad. Like…really likes me. It doesn’t freak her out that I only have one leg now and she likes Doctor Who.”
“Who’s her favourite Doctor?”
“She doesn’t like Eleven.”
Giles grinned and carefully brushed the hair back from Elliott’s face. “Then you two should get along just fine.”
“Yep…” Elliott grinned back at him and then glanced at a spot behind him.
“So…are you guys ready to go or what?” Buffy asked, walking into the room and placing her hand on Giles’ shoulder.
Giles tilted his head in a silent question to Elliott. Elliott took a deep breath and nodded slowly.
“Just a few more days and then I get a break…” He whispered mainly to himself as he reached for his crutches.
Giles turned slightly and looked up at Buffy. She darted her eyes towards Elliott and then looked back at Giles. He gave her a brief nod with a small smile.
Everything was okay…for now.
Buffy smiled and leaned down to kiss him softly.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Ethan walked into the living room and smiled at Buffy, who was sitting on the sofa reading a book. She arched an eyebrow at him as she placed a bookmark between the pages and closed the book.
“Hello, love. Thought I’d come by to see how things are going. Rupert mentioned that Elliott was a bit apprehensive this morning.” He looked around the room and then met her eyes. “Where are they?”
“Giles is on a Council call. Elliott is having a rest.” Buffy smiled warmly as Ethan glanced down the hallway. “He’s struggling a little. He’s tired, doesn’t feel great…but, all things considered, I think he’s doing fairly well.”
Ethan sat down next to her and glanced at the book. “What are you reading?”
“Trying to read…it’s probably one of the most boring books I’ve ever picked up.” She tossed it onto the side table and sighed. “I think you need to take Giles out.”
Ethan stared at her for a moment. “I’m sorry?”
“He needs to get out…he needs a break from all of this.”
“Isn’t that what you’re for?”
Buffy laughed and shook her head. “Ethan, take him out…get him drunk or stoned or…something. Just keep him safe.”
“Stoned?” He turned towards her, resting his arm along the top of the sofa. “You want me to get him stoned?”
“I want him to take a step back and relax…I want him to have a night where he’s not worrying about Elliott, or Peter, or me, or the Council, or whether the clouds are cumulonimbus or just nimbus…”
“What? Why is he worrying about clouds of all things?”
Buffy sighed heavily. “I don’t know, Ethan.”
“And why is he worried about you? Are you okay?”
She smiled softly and nodded slowly. “Yeah, I’m fine. He’s just Giles, you know. He worries.”
Ethan started to say something, pausing when Giles walked into the room and tossed the phone onto the coffee table. Giles looked at him curiously.
“What are you doing here?”
Ethan snorted a laugh. “Nice to see you too, Rupert.”
“Sorry. Frustrating phone call. How are you?”
“A little confused, but getting there.” He smiled as he gestured to Buffy. “I think she’s kicking us out for the evening.”
Giles chuckled and motioned for him to get up. Ethan rolled his eyes and then moved to a chair. Giles took the vacated spot next to Buffy and grinned at Ethan.
“She’s probably kicking you out, but…fairly certain I’m allowed to stay.”
“Nope.” Buffy interjected, smiling as Giles sharply turned towards her. “Kicking you out too.”
She reached over and placed her hand on his chest, her fingers gently rubbing against his sweater. “You need to decompress…”
“I can decompress here with you.” Giles glared at Ethan as he laughed. “Shut up.”
“Hey…” Buffy whispered, pulling Giles’ attention back to her. “This isn’t me trying to get rid of you or anything. This is me recognising that you need something that I can’t give you. And that’s a night out…to drink or smoke or play pool or darts or…whatever – with someone to keep you safe.”
Giles’ eyes widened as he pointed towards Ethan while staring at Buffy. “Him? You want him to keep me safe?”
“Yeah, I do. Ten years ago, my answer would’ve been very different.” She smiled and ran her fingers through his hair. “But, a lot of things have changed over the years. And…you need this, Giles. You’re going to implode if you don’t get out and just…”
“Just what? Let my hair down? Paint the town red? What?”
“Forget about the trials and tribulations of life for a couple of hours…” She leaned into him and gently kissed his lips. “You’re no good to either of us here if you’re so wound up that you can’t process anything…”
“Wound up? I’m not wound up…”
“Did you see the nimbus clouds earlier?”
“Those were cumulonim…” He stopped suddenly and sighed heavily. “Buffy, I don’t want to go out.”
“But, you need to, Giles. When we start arguing about fucking clouds, it’s time for you to get out of the house and away from all of this.” She kissed him again and gently squeezed his thigh. “Elliott and I will be fine.”
“I never thought you wouldn’t be.” He exhaled softly. “Are you sure about this? I mean…don’t you need to decompress too?”
“You have much more going on in your life than I have in mine.”
His eyes narrowed slightly. “I thought we shared our lives?”
“We do. We absolutely do. But, no matter how much we share…what happens in the Council and what your brother is going through…those things are going to affect you heaps more than they will me. So, while we’re sharing…it’s different. You know?”
Giles thought for a moment and then nodded slowly. “You’ll call me if you need me to come home though, correct?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Of course, I will. But, don’t expect me to call. I’ll see you tonight when you come home…go…have fun, stay safe.”
Giles sighed and looked over at Ethan. “Give me twenty?”
Ethan nodded and gave him a smile. “Gives me time to come up with something fun and safe to do…”
Giles shook his head in mild amusement and stood up. As he made his way down the hall, Buffy turned her full attention to Ethan.
“I mean it, Ethan. Keep him safe.”
Ethan’s smile faded at the serious tone of her request. “I promise, Buffy. I’ll not let anything happen to him.”
Ethan wondered if there was something more to it. But, when she gently shook her head in a request for him not to ask…he simply kept his thoughts to himself.
And he waited for Giles to reappear.
* * *
Giles peered over the edge and looked down at the ground below. “Would Buffy consider this to be ‘safe’?”
Ethan grinned as he leaned back against the wall. “Do you plan on jumping over the side?”
“Well, no…” He replied and sat down next to him.
“Then I’d say we’re very safe here.” He looked around as his hands continued working. “It’s beautiful up here.”
“Yes, it is. I used to bring Elliott up here when he was little – he liked watching the stars, especially when…”
Ethan turned towards Giles as he trailed off, not overly surprised to see tears in his eyes. “I know this is hard, Rupert.”
Giles swallowed and looked down at his hands. “I think I’m waiting for it to be downgraded to ‘hard’.”
“I get that too.” Ethan said softly, smoothing the joint between his fingers. “You have your lighter on you?”
He smiled as Giles reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a battered Zippo. “Of course you do.”
Giles chuckled and handed it to him. “Watcher training…always have a lighter on your person. You never know when you need to set something on fire…”
“Buffy’s worried about you.”
Giles nodded slowly. “I know. To be honest, I think I’m worried about me too. She’s right…there’s a lot happening and it’s all overwhelming. I’m doing my best, but…”
“Something’s gotta give, Rupert. You can’t continue like this. You’ll burn out…and you are very much needed.”
“There’s only one thing I can step back from…and that’s the Council.”
“Then you step back from the Council.” Ethan stated bluntly, flicking the lighter.
Giles sighed heavily, watching Ethan take a drag. “If it were that easy, I would’ve already done it.”
Ethan exhaled a large puff of smoke and passed the joint to Giles. “What about that Charmichael guy? He seems to know what’s the what…”
Giles nodded, thin trails of smoke coming from his nose. “He’s very good. He’s who I’d pick to succeed me as Head. But, I promised Elliott I would stay on. He has this idea that I need to continue for now.”
Ethan shrugged as he took another drag. “What if you only dealt with emergencies for a while?”
Giles paused in thought and then took the joint from Ethan. “That’s an idea.”
“I have them occasionally.” Ethan chuckled, watching as Giles inhaled deeply. “So…take a step back, but still save the world when needed.”
“I still can’t save Elliott or Peter.” Giles said sadly, taking a second puff before passing back. “Peter doesn’t have much time left. And I’m not feeling overly optimistic about Elliott’s long-term prognosis.”
As Giles’ tears finally broke free, Ethan dropped the remnants of the joint and pulled Giles into his arms. Giles hesitated for a moment and then wrapped his arms around Ethan, holding tightly as he allowed his emotions to flow.
Ethan wasn’t sure if this was the decompression that Buffy had expected, but it was obviously what Giles had needed. It became very apparent very quickly that there had been a fair amount of bottling up – even though he knew for a fact that Giles had promised both Elliott and Buffy that he’d try to do better about that.
But, now was not the time to lecture him on that.
* * *
Buffy looked up as Giles stumbled through the bedroom door. He grinned at her as he closed the door behind him.
“Hey…you okay?” She laughed as he kicked off his shoes.
“Sufficiently decompressed.” He said, climbing onto the bed and sitting next to her.
She looked into his eyes as she lifted her hand to his cheek. “How much did you have?”
He thought for a minute and smiled. “We shared two. He’s in the spare room…didn’t want him to drive home.”
“Good thinking.” She chuckled, leaning in to kiss him.
He deepened the kiss quickly, sliding his hand to her hip as his tongue slipped into her mouth. As she laid back and pulled him down with her, he pulled from the kiss and gazed into her eyes.
“You good with this?”
“I’m sober…we should be good, Rupert.”
“Thank Christ…” He murmured, lowering his mouth to her neck.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Six Weeks Later
Time passed relatively quickly, all things considered. Some things were bad, some were horrible, some were good, and some were fantastic. On the fantastic end of that scale was the news that the adoption had been approved by the court and Elliott was now legally the son of Rupert Giles and Buffy Summers. A huge party had been thrown at the Giles’ home and the yard and house had been full of kids from the Academy. Many of them hadn’t realised that Rupert Giles hadn’t actually been Elliott’s father. But, it didn’t matter. Elliott was well-liked at school – and not just because of his name.
When the news had spread about Elliott’s illness, the kids had rallied and took turns coming by to see him, bring him schoolwork (at Elliott’s request, of course), play video games with him. They kept him included within the class…something that Giles had found quite endearing and amazing.
And now here they were…eight weeks after losing his leg and starting treatment.
In that time, Elliott had finished two rounds of radiation, which had resulted in the decrease in size of the largest lesion in his liver. The decrease was enough that Dr Naylor had suggested they take a slightly longer break and do a second check. No need to do more radiation than absolutely necessary. It was a very good sign that he had responded so well.
He’d gotten through his first round of chemo relatively well. It definitely wasn’t a walk in the park, just like Dr Naylor said – but, he’d kept his hair so far and hadn’t been as sick as he had expected he would. So, he considered that a win.
Of course, round two was scheduled to start the following week. Things could always change.
Elliott looked in the mirror and sighed. His hair looked and felt different. He briefly wondered what he’d look like without hair. What if he had a weirdly shaped head. Would Gemma be okay with that? Jack would probably laugh for hours over it, but would Gemma?
He smiled softly as he thought about his best friend and his girlfriend.
He started to wash his hands, then realised there wasn’t any handwash in the bottle. He opened the door to the cabinet under the sink and grabbed a new one. Just as he started to close the door, he stopped and reopened it. He stared at the box nearly hidden from view.
His smile grew as he saw what it was.
He chuckled happily as he closed the door and washed his hands.
* * *
The night had been quiet…peaceful, even. Elliott had used the word ‘boring’, but then…he was nearly thirteen – if things weren’t blowing up on television or people screaming in movies, it was boring. He had taken himself off to bed fairly early, leaving Buffy and Giles alone in the living room.
Giles looked down as Buffy stretched out on the sofa, resting her head on his thigh. “Are you alright, love?”
“Mm-hm…tired. It’s been a very long week.”
He gently ran his fingers through her hair. “That it has.”
She rolled onto her back and met his eyes. “What about you? You okay? I mean…a nest of Kleontynes.”
“It’s not as if I went out and physically disposed of them myself.” He chuckled, resting his hand on her shoulder and stroking her collarbone with his thumb.
“Well, no…but, you did all of the organising and apocalypse-diverting work. I’ve missed watching you do that.” She continued when she saw the flash of confusion in his eyes. “Getting all caught up in your books while you’re planning out the best form of attack or defence. Reminded me of high school…except now, I appreciate the sexiness of you in research mode.”
He snorted a laugh and glanced at the clock. “I should probably get to bed. I have a conference call at 7:30.”
“I’ll be in in a little while.” She said with a smile as she sat up next to him.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” He asked, unable to stop the worried tone in the question.
She nodded and leaned over, kissing him deeply. She pulled back when she felt his soft moan rumble in his chest.
“I’m fine, Ru. I’m just a bit restless.”
“Slayer restless, sex restless, or restless restless?”
She laughed softly and shook her head. “Just restless. I have zero urge to go out slaying and I’m fairly certain I saw a glimpse of apprehension when you mentioned the word ‘sex’. Really, I’m just…fidgety. It’s fine…I promise.”
“I’m not apprehensive about making love with you…”
“I know.” She whispered, running her fingers through his hair above his ear. “I also know it’s late, you’re tired, and you have to be up early. I’m not tired enough for bed yet…but, I’ll be in soon.”
He looked at her for a few more moments and then pulled her towards him for another kiss.
“I love you so much.” He whispered emotionally.
“I love you too.” She smiled and gestured towards the hall with a tilt of her head. “Go on, I’ll try not to wake you when I come in.”
He gave a nod and whispered ‘good night’. She watched him leave the room, a smile of adoration on her face. And then she reached over and picked up the book that was resting on the lamp table beside her.
* * *
Giles blindly grabbed the phone on the second ring, forcing his eyes open to look at the clock as he cleared his throat.
“Mr Giles…Rupert? This is Linda at – ”
Giles sat straight up in the bed. “Is Peter alright?”
The sudden movement roused Buffy and she opened her eyes, sitting up quickly when she saw the expression on Giles’ face.
“No. No, he’s not. I’m sorry, but I think you should come soon.”
Giles swallowed as he nodded numbly. “I…yes, of course. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He was sure that Linda had said something else, but he had no idea what it was. He merely mumbled a ‘goodbye’ and hung up the phone.
“Um…Peter…he, he isn’t well. That was Linda requesting that I come.”
“Oh…” Buffy sighed heavily. “Oh, Giles…I’m sorry.”
“Elliott…he should come too, yes? I mean…he should be there. To…to say goodbye?”
Buffy nodded slowly. “I think so. Are you okay to drive?”
Giles looked at her, confusion showing clearly on his face. “I haven’t been drinking…”
“No…I mean emotionally. If you’re able to drive, go now. I’ll wake Elliott up and we’ll leave as soon as we can. If you can’t, I’ll call a cab for you.”
“Oh…no, no…we’ll go together.”
Buffy took his hand in hers and looked into his eyes. “Rupert…they wouldn’t have called at three in the morning if this was something that could wait until a family of three is ready to go. You need to go now. We’ll be there as soon as possible. Can you drive or do you want me to call a cab?”
“I…I don’t…I don’t know.”
Buffy gave a quick nod and climbed out of bed, pulling him with her. “Get dressed. I’ll call a cab – you’re not driving.”
Giles merely nodded and opened the closet door.
* * *
Giles walked into Peter’s room to find Linda and two doctors around his bed. Linda smiled sadly at him and stepped away from the bed.
“I’m glad you were able to get here so quickly, Rupert.”
Giles glanced at the monitors and swallowed the lump in his throat. He slowly made his way over to the bed and sat down in the chair. He reached out and took hold of Peter’s hand.
“So…this is it then? Time to say goodbye, Peter?” He whispered, not worried about the tears filling his eyes. “If you can hold on, just for a little while longer…Buffy’s bringing Elliott. Please, try to hold on until they get here. Okay?”
Linda and the doctors stepped out of the room. There was nothing more they could do anyway.
Giles exhaled a slow, deep breath and gripped Peter’s hand tightly.
“There’s something I want to tell you…before they get here. We haven’t told anyone yet, not even Elliott. But, I want you to know.” He reached out and gently stroked Peter’s hair. “Buffy’s pregnant. Very early, eight weeks. We’ll tell Elliott in a few weeks, but it’s…it’s so very early and anything could happen. Obviously, we have no idea of the gender…but…if it’s a boy, I want to name him Marcus.”
He chuckled softly and shook his head. “I haven’t even told Buffy that yet. You named my nephew after me – I’d like to return that favour, but I can’t name him Peter. I think that would be too hard…on all of us. But, Marcus is…I’ve always liked your middle name. I remember when you were born, Mum told me your name and I said…why does he get a name like Marcus and I got stuck with Edmund?”
A tear rolled down Giles’ cheek. “She didn’t have an answer for that…but, I remember she smiled so brightly at me and told me that one day I’d understand.” He sighed and wiped his cheek on his shoulder. “Family names…”
“Anyway…yeah, that’s happening. Elliott is going to be an amazing brother. He’s doing really well, Peter. You’d be so proud of him.”
* * *
Forty-five minutes later, Buffy and Elliott rushed through the door.
“Am I too late?” Elliott asked, quickly making his way to the bedside.
Giles stood up and shook his head, taking Elliott’s crutches for him as he sat down in the chair that Giles had just vacated. “No…no, you made it, Elliott.”
Giles walked to Buffy and pulled her into his arms. “Thank you.”
“He doesn’t have much time left, does he?”
He shook his head, swallowing as Buffy reached up and wiped the tears from his face. “Minutes, maybe…his heart rate is falling quickly.”
They both turned towards the bed when they heard Elliott speaking in a hurried tone…as if he had so much to say in a very short amount of time. Which…technically…was very accurate.
“Don’t worry about me, Dad. I’ll be okay. I’ve got Mum and Dad and my friends and my girlfriend. I’m going to be okay. This cancer thing? I’m fighting that too…really hard. The doctor says that things are looking better. Not great, but better. And right now, I’ll take better…you know? I’m going to keep fighting. I’m a Giles, it’s what we do.” Elliott sniffled and glanced at the monitor.
He carefully pushed himself up and leaned over, kissing his father’s cheek…then his forehead. Then he lowered his mouth to his father’s ear and spoke quietly.
“I’m Elliott fucking Giles. I will fight this, Daddy. I hope it’s a very long time before I see you again.” He kissed his cheek again and whispered a soft ‘I love you’.
Giles and Buffy walked over as Elliott sat back down in the chair. Giles placed his hand on Elliott’s shoulder, Elliott reached up and covered Giles’ hand with his own.
No words were spoken as Peter took his last breaths. None were needed.
They had each other. They’d get through this.
They were Gileses.
And a Summers.
Chapter 8: Endings
Three Years Later
Buffy opened her eyes as Giles slipped under the covers and pulled her close to him. “Everything okay?”
“Mm-hm…” He murmured, kissing her shoulder. “Marcus wanted to sleep in Elliott’s room.”
“Was Elliott okay with that?” She asked, closing her eyes again as his mouth moved slowly towards her neck.
“Yes…” He whispered, flicking his tongue against her skin.
“Marcus would probably move in there if given the chance.”
Giles pulled back and bit back his sigh. After a beat, Buffy turned towards him…confusion in her eyes.
“You’re not into this now. You were…before I went to check on Marcus. I think I should be asking you what’s wrong.”
“What?” She asked, placing her hand on his chest. “You know I want you.”
He nodded slowly. “But, just not right now. Are you okay?”
“Because I’m suddenly not all horny, there must be something wrong with me?” She snapped.
His eyes widened slightly. “No. Because you were rather amorous before I left…and then less than fifteen minutes later, you are very much the antithesis of amorous…I’m concerned that you’re not feeling well or something is wrong. Don’t turn this into something it’s not, Buffy.”
“So now I’m picking a fight?” She sat up and stared at him.
His first thought was to confirm that question for her, but he quelled that reaction quickly. He sat up next to her and looked into her eyes.
“What’s wrong, love?”
When she merely continued staring at him, he sighed and scratched the back of his head. “There are some things that I need to go through that Charmichael sent earlier. I, uh…I’ll go take care of that…”
“So…you’re walking away?” She asked in a frustrated tone as he climbed out of bed.
He slipped his t-shirt back on and shook his head. “No, Buffy. I’m going into the living room and giving you the time you need…because I don’t want this to end up in a yelling match when I’m not even sure what’s going on.” He offered her a gentle, confused smile. “I love you.”
“Come back to bed.”
He tilted his head slightly. “I’m not making love with you when it’s not what you want, Buffy.”
“There’s nothing wrong with not being in the mood. I’m just confused about the quick 180 we took…I’m not angry or frustrated. I’m just confused. I’ll be back in a little while…just taking a breather and working through some information that Charmichael needs an opinion on.”
“I love you.” She whispered.
He gave her a genuine smile and opened the door. “I never thought you didn’t.”
She exhaled shakily as he left the room and closed the door behind him.
* * *
Giles looked up from the papers strewn about the table, his pen held between his teeth. Buffy walked into the room, her arms crossed over her chest, and stood near the fireplace. He pulled the pen from his mouth and smiled softly.
“Hey.” She replied with a small smile of her own. “So, about earlier…”
“My intention wasn’t to insinuate anything was wrong with you.” He offered, placing the pen on a stack of papers and standing up.
“I think I might be pregnant.”
She walked over towards him and exhaled deeply as she sat down on the table where there were no papers. “I think I might be pregnant.”
“Yes, I heard you…I just…I wasn’t expecting it this soon.”
She nodded in agreement as he moved to stand in front of her. “Me neither.”
He regarded her carefully for a moment and then lifted his hand to the side of her face. “It’s not unexpected completely though. I mean, it’s not as if we’ve been trying to not have a baby.”
She narrowed her eyes at him as she ran that last statement through her mind. “Could you have said that in a more confusing way?”
He chuckled softly. “I’m sure I could have. My point is…we’ve talked about it, neither of us are using any type of birth control…it was bound to happen. Another baby is definitely wanted.”
“I haven’t taken a test yet.” She turned her head slightly and kissed his palm. “I was just sitting in there wondering what was wrong with me – ”
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Buffy. I was just confused.”
“And you had every right to be. Because I threw out some really fucked up mixed signals.” She looked up at him and shrugged a shoulder. “The last time I remember being that hot and cold about things was when I was pregnant with Marcus. The thing is…even though my words and actions said one thing, I really still wanted you. And that really confused me too.”
She closed her eyes briefly as his hand moved to rest on her shoulder. “I didn’t want you to leave, you know…”
He nodded slowly, stepping in between her thighs. “But, I couldn’t make love with you if you weren’t sure that’s what you wanted. You understand that, yes?”
“Yeah…” She looked up at him as she curled her right leg around the back of his thigh. “What if I’m sure now?”
“Are you?” He whispered, his thumb rubbing over her collarbone.
“Yeah. Yeah, I really really am.” She whimpered softly, her fingers effortlessly pulling the button of his jeans free. “I want you.”
He covered her hands with his, stilling her movement. “Not here, love.”
She smiled, remembering a time a few months earlier…when they were in a very similar situation – and their younger son ran into the room. “Then I suggest we go back to the bedroom…because if you’re not inside of me soon…”
He grinned and picked her up, sighing as she wrapped her legs around his waist. “Another baby, then?”
“Hopefully so. Probably so.” She leaned into him and kissed his lips. “I’ll take a test later…I want to do other things right now, okay?”
“We should think about adding a couple of rooms to the house…or maybe moving to a bigger house?” He pondered aloud while carrying her down the hall to their room.
She shook her head, her fingers toying with a curl of his hair at the nape of his neck. “I really don’t want to leave this house. So many memories here.”
“Mm…good and bad…” He said softly, closing the bedroom and gently placing her on the bed.
“The good outweighs the bad. Even with Elliott getting sick and…”
He looked at her as she trailed off. When he saw the tears in her eyes, he knew that what they had planned just moments earlier was suddenly pushed to the side. He climbed onto the bed next to her and pulled her into his arms.
“Dying.” He finished for her in a soft tone.
“Yeah…” She sniffled and wrapped her arms around him.
Two months earlier, they had taken him into the hospital with a third bout of jaundice. They had expected a blocked bile duct…that had happened twice before. They had expected them to take him up for a CT scan.
They hadn’t expected Dr Naylor to walk in with the results a short time later.
But, when he walked into the room…Giles felt an impending sense of doom. And then he felt the earth shift beneath him when his son’s oncologist said that the bile duct blockage was caused by a mass. A new mass.
And moments later, he had been rushed into the theatre.
The prognosis wasn’t good. In fact, he had been given less than twelve months.
After fighting so hard for the last three and a bit years…and, for the most part, keeping at least one step ahead of the cancer…for the first time, things looked bleak. And to have a time frame attached to his son’s life was sobering and devastating.
Feeling Buffy shift in his arms, he shook his head gently to clear his thoughts. He kissed her softly and laid down with her, letting his hand rest over her abdomen. She covered his hand with hers and met his eyes.
She barely got his name out before the tears began. He gathered her against his chest, whispering words of love and understanding. She sobbed uncontrollably, her grief hitting her in waves. He closed his eyes, continuing to whisper…to help her through the onslaught.
* * *
Buffy woke to find herself still wrapped up in Giles’ arms. She pulled back just enough to look at him, not surprised to find him asleep. She shifted slightly, pressing a kiss to his chin…then his jaw…then his cheek…and finally his lips.
It took only a moment for him to begin to respond, parting his lips under hers as his hands began to wander aimlessly. He moaned softly and rolled onto his back, pulling her on top of him.
“What time is it?” He asked hoarsely as she moved her mouth to his neck.
“Dunno.” She murmured against his skin. “Still dark…”
His hands moved to her hips as she ground against his burgeoning erection. “Buffy…are you sure…”
“I need you inside of me now.” She whispered thickly, pushing herself up and pulling her nightshirt up over her head.
“Dear lord…” He mumbled, lifting himself up enough to capture her left nipple with his lips.
“Oh, that’s cute…”
“The way your eyes light up…even though you’ve seen them more times than I can count.” She closed her eyes as his mouth kissed its way to her right nipple.
She gasped as he pulled the hardened nub into his mouth and he smiled against her skin. He sucked deeply for a moment and then let it go, looking up at her as he fell back to the mattress.
“Oh, that's cute…”
“Huh?” She asked as she hooked her fingers into the waistband of his pajama bottoms.
“The way you gasp like you’ve never felt my tongue against your nipples before.”
She grinned and then placed her hand on the side of his neck as she leaned down, capturing his mouth a passionate kiss. He responded immediately, slipping his tongue into her mouth as his hands tightened on her hips…pressing her tighter against his erection.
She moved her mouth to his throat, relishing the sensation of his groan vibrating against her teeth as she lightly bit him. She bit again, this time on his collarbone, and he moaned her name softly.
As he rolled her onto her back and ran his left hand between her thighs, she shook her head and stared into his eyes. “Fuck the foreplay, Rupert…”
“What?” He asked, even as he repositioned himself until he was resting between her thighs.
“You know how I said I need you inside of me now? That’s exactly what I mean. Now…not later.” She said quickly, nearly breathlessly, as she pushed his pajamas over his hips.
He bit his lip as she curled her hand around the shaft of his erection. “Fuck…”
She nodded as she moved underneath him, resting her knees against his sides. “Yeah…”
He supported his weight on his right hand as he used his left to guide the head of his cock through her wet folds. “How do you want this?”
“Make me come, Rupert.” She whimpered, arching her hips towards him.
He smiled and entered her, inhaling deeply as he hooked his arm under her knee. “Jesus, Buffy…”
She bit her lip, effectively stifling her moan as he thrust into her at a slow pace. Of all of the sexual partners she had ever had, Giles had been the only one to understand that the quickest way to make her come was to go slow. She had mentioned that to him one time, years ago…he had merely smiled, kissed her, and stated that he watches, listens, pays attention – and when you do those things, the answers are clear as crystal.
He built her up quickly with a nearly maddeningly slow pace. He pushed his upper body up, giving him the opportunity to watch her skin flush with arousal as she trembled beneath him. He smiled as he watched her, beads of sweat rolling towards the hollow of her throat…her teeth biting her lip so hard that a drop of blood appeared.
He leaned down and kissed her, inhaling sharply as her nails dug into his shoulders. He felt her inner walls quiver around him as he pushed his tongue into her mouth. He swallowed her moans as she suddenly came, her warm fluids rushing over his thrusting cock.
Then, and only then, did he increase his pace. Within moments, he buried his face in the crook of her neck and cried out her name as he came deep within her.
Her hands held him tightly to her as he rolled onto his side facing her. He brushed her sweat-dampened hair back from her face and kissed her again, slowly and deeply. When they eventually ended the kiss, she lifted a still-trembling hand to the side of his face.
“Sorry about earlier.”
He furrowed his brow. “Hm?”
“Being all super emotional…then crying myself to sleep in your arms. That was a bit – ”
“Understandable.” He interjected, gently stroking her hip. “Love…we are in a very emotional point of our lives. Things are quickly becoming…difficult.”
“Yeah…” She whispered sadly.
He rolled onto his back, curling his arm around her. He stared at the ceiling…she rested her head on his shoulder as she ran her fingertips along his sternum. They were quiet for a few moments and then she sighed heavily.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, turning his head towards her.
“I have to go to the bathroom…”
He chuckled softly and glanced towards the window. “And I need to get redressed…sun’s on it’s way.”
“Which means…our son’s on his way soon.”
He placed a tender kiss on her lips and lightly tapped her hip with his fingers. “Go on…”
“I love you, Giles.”
He smiled brightly at her. “I love you, Buffy.”
He watched her leave the bedroom, closing the door behind her. And then his smile faded as he sighed.
“Difficult, indeed.” He murmured to himself, before reaching for his discarded pajama bottoms.
* * *
He was sitting up in bed reading a book when she came back into the room. He looked up and smiled, tilting his head curiously at the expression on her face.
“What is it, love?”
She opened her mouth, then closed it. Then merely sat next to him and handed him an object that she had brought in with her.
He placed the book on the bedside table and nodded slowly. “Ah…”
He looked at the pregnancy test in his hand and then looked back up at her. She had intentionally given it to him result side down.
“Have you looked at it?”
She shook her head and bit her lip nervously. “No…I think I wanted us to find out together this time.”
He smiled and pushed the covers off of him, then pulled her between his legs…her back resting against his chest. He placed a kiss on her shoulder and took a deep breath.
“Tell me when you’re ready.”
She hesitated for a moment and then swallowed, lowering her eyes to his hand. “Okay…”
She nodded quickly. “Yeah, flip it…”
He turned the test over and they both stared at it. Then she turned her head to look at him.
“You okay with this?”
He smiled as he nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely.”
She returned his smile with a bright one of her own. “Good, ‘cause I am too.”
He kissed her warmly as his hand moved to her abdomen. Just as she was beginning to turn her body towards him, with the intention of straddling him, the bedroom door flung open. She broke the kiss and they shared a knowing grin as Marcus jumped up onto their bed.
“Hiya Daddy! Hiya Mummy!”
“Ah, Marky-Mark…” Buffy replied playfully.
Giles shook his head in reaction to the nickname, but laughed all the same. “Good morning, Marcus.”
Marcus sat on his knees and grinned brightly. “Watch!”
He waved his hands in the air with an exaggerated flourish. “Shaykah-baykah!”
He narrowed his eyes in a very Gilesean way and shook his head. “Dint work.”
“Mm…no, it didn’t, son.” Giles chuckled. “I think you meant this…”
Giles gave a simple flourish of his left hand. “Shahklah-blahkahm…”
Marcus giggled and clapped his hands as a harmless and colorful light show played over their heads. Buffy arched an eyebrow at Giles. Giles shrugged a shoulder.
“Has Uncle Ethan been teaching you some things?” He asked, reaching over to run his fingers through Marcus’ light brown hair.
Marcus shook his head. “Nope. Ello teached.”
“Elliott taught you, did he?” Giles asked in an amused tone. “Elliott must be getting private lessons then…because I didn’t teach him this.”
“What is this?” Buffy asked.
Giles scooped Marcus up onto his lap as he leaned back against the headboard, watching the lights swirl above them. “Ethan conjured this one time…many years ago. We would spend hours watching it…” He glanced over at Buffy and gave her a wink. “It’s much more spectacular when other things are involved…”
Buffy laughed softly, understanding his meaning. She leaned over and kissed the top of Marcus’ head. “Is Elliott awake?”
“Nah…he snoring.” Marcus replied, reaching up to poke at a swirl of orange light.
Buffy checked the clock and caught Giles’ eyes. “I’ll go get his meds ready.”
“We’ll be out soon and get breakfast started. Won’t we, Marcus?”
“Pancakes…why am I not surprised.” Giles mumbled happily.
* * *
Marcus turned around quickly and jumped down from the stool. He ran over and lifted his arms up towards his brother.
Elliott picked the boy up and cuddled him in his arms. “Hey, thank you for staying with me last night.”
Marcus giggled playfully and then pointed towards the stove. “Me and Daddy making pamcakes.”
“Ah…my favourite. With blueberries?”
“Yep!” He wriggled in Elliott’s arms in an effort to get back down.
Elliott smiled and gently lowered him, grimacing when he stood back up. Giles narrowed his eyes slightly.
“Yeah, Dad…just a little twinge. I’m fine.” He walked over to the refrigerator and pulled out the orange juice. “My eyes are almost back to normal. Just a little yellow now…”
“I noticed that last night.” Giles replied with a smile as he watched Elliott pour two glasses of juice and hand one to Marcus. “I also noticed that you’ve grown a little. Does your leg need replacing?”
Elliott shook his head and walked over to stand next to Giles, plucking a blueberry out of the punnet. “Not yet.”
“Well, keep an eye on it. I’d hate for you to have hip issues because of a short leg.”
Elliott swallowed the blueberry and took a few more. “No need to waste money on that right now, Dad.”
Giles stared at him. “It’s not a waste of money, Elliott. If you outgrow your leg, you need a new one.”
“I’m just saying – ”
Giles placed his hand on top of Marcus’ head as he shook his head at Elliott. “I know what you’re saying, son. But, no matter the situation…if you need a new leg, you’ll have a new leg. Do you understand what I'm saying?”
Elliott nodded slowly. “Yeah. Yeah, I get it, Dad.”
Marcus suddenly ran out of the room, causing Elliott to chuckle. He looked around and furrowed his brow. “Where’s Mum?”
“In the shower.” He replied quickly, turning back to the pancakes. “Is Jack coming over today?”
“Yeah.” Elliott finished his juice and walked over to the sink to rinse the glass.
Elliott smiled as he turned to face his father. “Yes…and Gemma. You were right, is that what you want to hear?”
“No…well, yes actually.”
“Seems like me pushing her away works about as well as you pushing Mum away.” He leaned against the counter and crossed his arms over his chest. “In that…it doesn't work.”
“I didn’t try to push Buffy away, Elliott.”
“No, you just did that bottling up thing that you’re so good at it…”
“Obviously not as good as I used to be.” Giles replied with a soft smile. “What are you guys getting up to today?”
“Picnic at the river…movie in town after.” He laughed when Giles furrowed his brow. “Gem’s dad is driving us.”
“As long as you’re up for it and you’re careful…”
Elliott nodded and gestured towards a backpack resting near the back door. “I’ve already got a bag packed. All my meds are in there…and the folding crutches, just in case.”
“All of your meds?”
Elliott sighed deeply. “Dad…I don’t like the oral morph. It makes me feel really weird.”
“I know, but it’s the only thing that’s really gotten on top of your pain. So, please…take it with you. Just in case.”
Elliott thought for a moment and then went over to the cupboard above the microwave. He pulled out the bottle and exhaled a deep breath. “Okay…I’ll take it. Just in case.”
Elliott put the bottle into his bag and then placed the bag on the island. “Pancakes almost done? They’ll be here in about half an hour.”
Giles smiled and put three on a plate for him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Buffy held the picture in her hand, staring at it in disbelief. Eleven weeks? She’d gone in to have a blood test to confirm pregnancy…and left with a ultrasound picture of a eleven week old fetus.
The doctor had asked her a fairly simple question. What was the date of her last period? It was a question that she couldn’t answer…and when she thought about it, the last one she could actually remember was before Elliott came down with jaundice the last time.
The doctor had looked at her curiously, openly wondering why she hadn’t thought to get tested sooner. He had understood when she simply said that her 16 year old son had terminal cancer and she had a 2 and a half year old son who was…a typical 2 and a half year old. There was so much going on that she hadn’t even given it a second thought…or a first thought, for that matter.
And so, the doctor suggested they do an ultrasound…just to see if they could see anything.
She definitely hadn’t expected to see such a beautiful profile show up immediately on the screen.
She ran her finger lightly over the baby’s nose and smiled.
* * *
“Where is everyone?” Ethan asked, accepting the proffered beer.
Giles sat down heavily on the sofa and rested his bottle on his thigh. “Buffy’s at a doctor’s appointment, Elliott is out with Gemma and Jack, and Marcus…is taking a nap.”
Ethan narrowed his eyes. “A doctor’s appointment on a Saturday? Is she okay?”
Giles took a long sip from the beer and nodded. “Mm-hm…just needed to get something checked. And hey…have you been teaching Elliott magick?”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Shahklah-blahkahm?”
“He wanted something to show Marcus. It seemed fairly harmless. Did he tell you about it?”
“No, Marcus did. When he tried to conjure them up for me and Buffy.” He hesitated, watching the panic flit in Ethan’s eyes…and then he grinned. “As beautiful as it is, it’s moreso when you’re stoned.”
“I’ll drink to that.” Ethan said, raising his bottle.
“You’ll drink to anything.” Buffy said with a laugh as she walked into the living room.
“Accurate.” Ethan replied with a grin. “How are you?”
“More pregnant than I was expecting to be.”
Ethan’s eyes widened in surprise as he choked on a mouthful of beer. Giles looked at her curiously as she sat down next to him.
“More? As in…more than one?”
“Oh god no!” She laughed, handing him the picture. “More as in…further along.”
Giles looked down at the picture, his mouth dropping open. “Dear lord…”
Ethan stared at her. “How did you not know you’re pregnant?”
“Oh, I don’t know…maybe the fact that Elliott was in the hospital and Marcus is amazingly active? I kinda had my mind on other things…”
Ethan closed his eyes briefly and nodded. “Of course, I didn’t mean…”
“I know.” She interrupted softly.
He smiled at her, the warmth of his smile showing in his dark eyes. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” She said, returning his smile as she leaned against Giles’ arm. She returned her attention to Giles, her smile growing as she watched him trace the baby’s image with his index finger. “Beautiful, huh?”
Buffy tilted her head slightly, as if she were listening for something. “Where’s Marcus?”
“Oh…nap. He spent most of the morning playing football with Elliott and Jack before they went out. He was exhausted.”
“How long has he been down?”
Giles glanced at the clock. “About 45 minutes or so.”
“We’ve got at least an hour…”
Ethan grinned. “Should I leave?”
Buffy and Giles both rolled their eyes in unison. Ethan laughed heartily and took another drink of his beer.
“Just checking, mate.” He said to Giles. “I know you two don’t get heaps of alone time these days.”
“We get enough.”
Buffy smiled at Giles’ response. Ethan snorted and gestured towards the picture in Giles’ hand.
Giles was getting ready to give a decent retort when Elliott, Gemma, and Jack walked into the room. He narrowed his eyes when he realised that Elliott was using the crutches he had taken with him.
Elliott sighed heavily. “So…I broke my leg.”
Jack held up the shattered prosthetic with a shy smile.
Ethan’s eyes widened. “Holy shit…”
“What the hell happened?” Buffy asked, jumping up and quickly walking over to him. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” He sighed again as Buffy checked him over. “Mum…”
Gemma smiled, gently running her hand over Elliott’s back. “He slipped on a rock…I promise, he’s okay. We totally checked him out.”
Giles stood up, placing the picture face down on the lamp table. “Slipped on a rock?”
“We were crossing the river and…” Elliott lifted his hand when he saw the look in his father’s eyes. “Wait, Dad…calm down. It was my idea…and I’m fine.”
“Elliott…you can’t just – ”
“I can’t just do nothing and sit around and wait to die.” Elliott interrupted, frustration showing in his eyes and in his tone. “I know I have limitations, but I can cross a damn river!”
Giles stared at him. Buffy shook her head slowly. Ethan darted his eyes between the two. Jack placed the broken leg on the sofa next to Ethan. Gemma exhaled deeply.
“That wasn’t fair, Elliott.” She said softly. “Your Dad is concerned…and he has every right to be.”
Elliott bit his lip and then broke the mutual stare he was sharing with his father. “I’m sorry, Dad. I just…I just want to be normal.”
“You are normal, Elliott. You just have to be careful. The meds you’re on…”
“I know.” He whispered, reaching over to take hold of Gemma’s hand. “I feel like I have a lot of things I need to do…and I feel like I don’t have a lot of time to do them. So…make the most of what I have and to hell with the consequences. You know?”
“Yeah, I know.” Giles answered softly. “But, not at the detriment of your health. Yes?”
Elliott nodded silently. “So, I guess we do need to replace my leg after all.”
Giles chuckled and walked over, gently pulling him into a hug. “I’ll make an appointment.”
Giles looked at Gemma and smiled warmly. “Thank you, Gemma. Is your father outside?”
“Stay for awhile…I’ll drive you two home later.”
Gemma’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, Mr Giles.”
“Yeah, thanks Pop.” Jack chimed in playfully.
“I’m not sure what’s worse…‘Pop’ or ‘G-Man’…” Giles said with a laugh as he gestured towards the hall. “Go on…”
Jack smiled at Gemma. “Go on with him, I’ll go tell your Dad that Mr Giles will take us home later.”
As they walked down the hall, Jack turned his eyes to Giles. “He really was okay, Mr Giles. I know it’s hard…but, I promise it was just a slip. He didn’t even fall in the water.”
“He’s my best friend…my non-bio brother. I don’t want that to end anytime soon.” He sighed heavily and glanced down the hall. “Well, not any sooner than it’s going to anyway.”
Before anyone could say anything else, Jack gave a small smile and gestured towards the door. “I’d better go let Gem’s dad know what’s going on.”
After he had run out the front door, Ethan shook his head and heaved a deep sigh. Buffy and Giles both looked at him expectantly. Ethan shrugged a shoulder.
“Those two are going to be quite a bit lost when the time comes.”
“Aren’t we all?” Giles murmured to no one in particular.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“So what’s the deal?” Elliott asked as Giles sat down with a mug of tea in his hand.
Elliott glanced at Buffy, who was currently reading a book to Marcus, and then looked back at Giles. “You two…you’re both acting weird. Weirder than usual.”
Giles arched an eyebrow, taking a sip of his tea. “Weirder than usual? You think we’re weird?”
Elliott stared at him and then chuckled. “Of course I do. You’re my parents…I’m supposed to think you’re weird.”
Giles looked at Buffy, silently asking her a question. She gave him a subtle nod and glanced at the picture resting face down on the lamp table. Giles sighed heavily and placed his mug on the coffee table. Clearing his throat, he picked up the picture and then looked at Elliott.
“We, uh…found something out today. A bit of a surprise, really. But, I think it’s a good one.”
He handed the picture to Elliott, who took it and stared at it. Then he slowly looked up, darting his eyes between his parents.
“This…is a baby. You’re having a baby?”
Buffy nodded, placing a soft kiss on the top of Marcus’ head. “Yeah…”
Elliott refocused on the picture and narrowed his eyes. “This looks nothing like the picture you showed me when you told me you were pregnant with Marcus. I couldn’t see anything in that picture. This one looks like a baby…”
“I’m nearly three months.”
Confusion shone in his eyes as he looked back up. “But…you just found out today?”
“Yeah…apparently I missed a few early signs.”
Elliott’s eyes dropped to Marcus who was grinning at him. “I need to be more careful.”
Giles furrowed his brow. “What do you mean?”
“I do stupid things…to prove I still can. And the thing is…you were right, Dad. The doctors have told me what’s coming…two months ago, they said maybe twelve months. That leaves me with ten…and you have a baby coming in six, Marcus is turning three in seven. If I’m doing stupid shit, I won’t be here for any of it. And…I really want to be here for all of it.”
Giles stared at him through glistening eyes and inhaled shakily. “I wouldn’t say you’re doing stupid things, Elliott. You’re sixteen years old. You’re engaging in normal behaviour…”
“Listen to him, Ellie.” Buffy interjected softly, smiling as Marcus slid from her lap. “He knows all about stupid behaviour.”
“I’m going to miss so much.” Elliott said softly, nearly inaudibly, as Marcus crawled up onto the sofa and into Elliott’s lap.
Buffy shook her head, swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. “That timeframe isn’t set in stone, Elliott. It’s an estimation. Anything could happen.”
Elliott wiped a tear that slipped from the corner of his eye. Giles shifted quickly, wrapping his arm around Elliott as Buffy moved to sit on the other side of their son.
“Anything can happen, Elliott.” Buffy repeated firmly. “Anything.”
Elliott nodded, wrapping his arms tightly around Marcus. “But, the only thing that can change at this point is the amount of time. The end result is going to be the same and I’m not ready to let go.”
He wiped his face on his shoulder and smiled as he did his best to compose himself. “A new baby is awesome news. Really.” He gently tickled Marcus’ ribs. “Hey, Marco…we’re both going to be big brothers now.”
Marcus looked up at him and grinned. Giles reached behind Elliott’s back and took hold of Buffy’s hand. Buffy met his eyes and gave him a gentle smile. Giles returned the smile as he lovingly ran his thumb along the back of her hand.
They all knew that the coming months were going to be difficult, but they were also very determined to not allow the prognosis to completely take over their lives. Things needed to be altered, but they were still the same family they’d always been.
A family that refuses to give up…even when the odds are stacked against them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Three Months Later…
Elliott sat in a slightly sunny spot on the hill overlooking the courtyard where the latest round of Watcher proficiency exams were taking place. He sighed softly as Gemma sat down next to him, gently nudging him with her shoulder.
He was quiet for a moment and then nodded. “Yeah. I was just thinking that it wasn’t like this when Dad was my age – he did all of this, made all of these changes to make things better for everyone…Watchers, Slayers, researchers. I wanted to be just like him.”
“I think you’re very much like him.” She said quietly. “From everything I’ve read about him – he never gave up on something if he truly believed in it, he was fiercely loyal to those close to him, and he would do everything in his power to protect those he loves. I don’t think it was an accident that your biological parents named you after him.”
“They didn’t know what I was going to be like, though…”
She smiled lovingly at him. “Maybe they were hoping if they gave you his name, it would just…happen. You know?”
“Mum’s having another boy. I was kind of hoping for a girl. I think Dad would have loved a little girl.”
“I think your Dad doesn’t really care too much about gender.” Gemma paused for a moment, then continued. “But, I think he’d be really cute with a little girl. Have they named him?”
“Nah…but I like Rigby. Not sure Mum’s too keen on it though.”
Gemma chuckled, plucking a wildflower from the ground. “Rigby?”
“When I was little – back when I first went to live with Dad – he used to sing ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to me when I’d get upset or scared.” He smiled as he leaned back on his hands. “When I think back on it, it was a pretty weird song to sing to a four year old as a comfort thing, but…it worked.”
He glanced at her, tilting his head slightly when he saw that she was smiling at him. “What?”
“I love you, Elliott.” She whispered.
He smiled back at her, leaning over and kissing her softly. “I love you too, Gem.”
“Rigby Giles sounds really cool. Not very Watcher-like though.”
Elliott laughed and shifted closer to her. “Maybe not, but Marcus Giles…that's a Watcher name. Marcus Edmund Giles, Watcher. That just sounds…right.”
When Elliott turned his eyes back to the courtyard and quietened, Gemma took hold of his hand. “What is it, Elliott?”
He shrugged a shoulder and sighed deeply. “I don’t know. I guess I always thought that I’d be the next Giles to become a Watcher…but, now there won’t be a new one for like…twenty years or something.”
He turned towards her, gently squeezing her hand. “Thank you for not letting me push you away. As hard as this is…it’s nice having you with me.”
“I will always be here with you, Elliott.”
He smiled sadly and slipped his arm around her. He closed his eyes as she rested her head against his shoulder.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Two Months Later…
“I think it’s growing on me.”
“Mm?” Giles mumbled sleepily behind her, his hand resting on her abdomen.
“Rigby. I think it’s growing on me.” She turned to face him, smiling as she watched him try to wake himself up further. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s probably nearly one in the morning and I had very hectic day.”
“Ooh…snippy Giles.” She teased softly.
He rolled his eyes and placed a soft kiss on the tip of her nose. “I’m not snippy. I’m tired. And as for Rigby, I wasn’t the one who needed convincing. I knew you’d get there on your own in the end.”
“You like it?”
He nodded and smiled. “I do. Odd, I know. But, I do. It reminds me of the beginning…my time with Elliott before you came to England.”
“Do you like Elias? I mean….as a middle name?” She asked, somewhat nervously.
“Rigby Elias Giles?” He thought for a moment and then rolled onto his back, whispering the name again as he stared up at the ceiling. “What made you think Elias?”
She exhaled softly and placed her head on his chest, listening to his heart as he wrapped his arm around her. “It started with an E. So, he’d have the same initials as you. And…it was the closest name I could find that was similar to Elliott…without it being obviously relating to Elliott. Well, one that I liked, anyway. I actually thought about Elliott…Rigby Elliott. But, I just can’t do that.”
“No, I wouldn’t be able to either. But, Elias is…it’s a very nice name.” He ran his hand down her back to her hip and smiled. “Did we just name our son?”
“Yeah, if you’re good with it.”
Giles chuckled softly. “I’m good with it, Buffy.”
“With only a month to go…” She laughed as she closed her eyes.
Giles listened as she fell asleep, smiling as he felt little Rigby kicking him through Buffy’s abdomen. His smile faded as he stared at the ceiling.
Elliott had taken a turn in the last couple of weeks. There had been a sudden decline. The biggest decline they had noticed since they had a scare when he was thirteen. But what had amazed him was the fact that….yes, even though there had been a shift, Elliott had continued to fight. Was continuing to fight.
He wasn’t giving up, even though it was very obvious that this was a war he wasn’t going to be able to win. He was winning battles though. And that was something to behold.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Three Weeks Later…
Elliott sat on the sofa, holding the newest Giles in his arms…his baby brother, Rigby Elias Giles. He smiled as Coral walked into the living room. She preferred to be called Coral – he learned that quickly when he had called her Dr Andreas on their first meeting. This was their third…his ‘end of life counselling’, it had been called.
“Hey, Coral.” He said softly, turning gently so she could see the baby. “Meet Rigby.”
Coral smiled, noticing the slight yellowing of Elliott’s eyes, but not mentioning it. “Well, now…that’s an interesting name.”
Elliott nodded, then gave her a quick rundown of the meaning behind his brother’s name. As Rigby began to fuss, turning his tiny head towards Elliott’s chest, Elliott laughed.
“Hey, Mum?” He called out, bending his finger and offering his knuckle to the baby. Rigby quickly latched on and Elliott nodded. “Rigby’s hungry…”
Buffy chuckled as she came into the living room. “Of course, he is. Hi, Coral.”
“Hi, Buffy. He’s beautiful.”
Buffy beamed as she carefully picked the baby up. “He looks like his father…more than Marcus, even.”
Coral looked around and narrowed her eyes. “It’s a bit quiet…where is Marcus?”
“He’s gone with Rupert. There was an issue at the office that he needed to help with…Marcus insisted on going in with him.” She reached out and gently stroked Elliott’s hair. “You need anything, Ellie?”
Elliott smiled at her and shook his head. “No, I’m good, Mum.”
She nodded and glanced at Coral. “Tea?”
“You take care of the little one…I’m more than capable of boiling a kettle.” She grinned.
She noticed Buffy’s gaze lingering on Elliott before she left the room. Clearing her throat, she met Elliott’s eyes.
“So…how are you feeling?”
Elliott laughed and shook his head. “Like I’m dying.”
Coral nodded, her smile softening as she reached out and took hold of Elliott’s hand when she noticed his eyes beginning to glisten.
“Marcus turns three in a little over a month. I want to be here for that.” He lowered his voice as a tear fell. “I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll make it. And Rigby will never remember me. Marcus might not either…not real memories, maybe.”
“You know you won’t be forgotten, Elliott.”
“I’m just going to miss so much.”
She tilted her head slightly and regarded him closely. “I get the feeling you’re not just talking about your family.”
He smiled sadly and looked down at his hands. “Gem, Jack, school, a career, following in Dad’s footsteps…I’m sixteen years old. I should be thinking about sneaking out of the house and going to parties with my friends, having sex with my girlfriend…or at least trying to have sex with her, worrying about whether I’ve passed an exam. Instead, I’m worried about not living to see my little brother turn three in a month. That’s fucked up.”
“Yeah…it really is, Elliott. Let’s talk it out.”
Elliott snorted and gestured towards the kitchen. “Might want to go make a tea first…this could take a while.”
Coral smiled in agreement.
* * *
Coral walked out of the house just as Giles helped Marcus out of the car. Giles turned towards her and smiled.
“Good afternoon, Coral.”
“Hi, Rupert.” She replied, grinning as Marcus waved at her while he ran up the steps. “Hi, Marcus!”
“Busy times…” She continued, walking down the steps to stand in front of him. “And Rigby is a delight.”
Giles smiled proudly. “Isn’t he, though? A week old and king of the house already.”
He nodded towards the house as he slipped his hands into his pockets. “How is he?”
“Scared, angry, frustrated…and still full of so much love and compassion. Elliott is amazing.”
“Yeah, he really is.” He cleared his throat. “I think his liver is failing.”
“I think you’re right.”
He lowered his eyes and exhaled a deep breath. “I think he doesn’t have much time left.”
“He knows that as well.” Coral replied softly, placing a comforting hand on his arm. “He’s concerned about you. All of you, of course. But, he’s mostly concerned about you.”
“I know. He always has been.”
“He needs to know that you’re going to be okay.”
He looked up slowly. “Am I? Going to be okay? I’ll survive, of course…but, am I going to be okay when my son dies?”
“I think you need to talk to him. And tell him exactly that. Don’t pretend you’re fine…because you’re not, Rupert. You shouldn’t be expected to be fine. Elliott knows you’re not fine – and that’s frustrating him.”
Giles was quiet for a moment and then swallowed thickly. “I’ll talk to him.”
“We should probably schedule a family session soon.”
Giles nodded, but said nothing. He knew what that meant…what could he possibly say to that?
* * *
Giles walked into the living room and smiled as he glanced at the television. “Always Doctor Who time, hm?”
Elliott grinned at him. “Absolutely. Want to watch with me?”
Giles paused and glanced down the hall. “Where’s your Mum?”
“Putting Rigby to sleep. Marcus is helping her.”
Giles chuckled. “Helping…interesting term, that.”
Elliott laughed brightly. “He tries…”
“That, he does.” Giles replied before walking into the kitchen.
* * *
Giles looked at Elliott when he hit the pause button on the remote. He wasn’t surprised to find Elliott looking at him intently.
“I’ve never seen you cry watching Doctor Who before, Dad.”
“Who doesn’t cry at this scene? She’s in a parallel universe and he’s hopelessly in love with her…and has no way to rescue her.”
“I’m really going to miss you, Dad.” Elliott whispered after a moment. “Thank you for being the best dad I could’ve ever hoped for.”
Giles stared at him for a split second before pulling him into his arms. He didn’t try to stop his tears, he didn’t try to pretend that his tears were about anything other than the pain of his oldest child being in his last stages of life.
“I’m not fine, Elliott.”
“No, you’re not.” He replied, curling his fingers in the back of Giles’ shirt. “But, you will survive…because that’s what you do.”
“I love you.” Giles whispered emotionally.
Buffy walked into the room carrying Marcus. She smiled sadly and turned, going towards the kitchen instead. Marcus looked up at her when she sat him down on the counter.
“Yeah, baby…Daddy’s sad. But, we’ll make him some tea…that always helps.”
Buffy grinned at him and playfully ruffled his hair. “Biscuits…you know Daddy calls them biscuits.”
Marcus giggled happily.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Five Weeks Later…
Gemma smiled as she sat down next to Elliott, who was laughing as he watched Marcus play with his friends.
“Told you you’d make it.”
Elliott turned towards her and nodded. “Yeah, you did. And I did.”
She noticed a flash of regret in his eyes. “What’s that about?”
“What just went through your head? You’ve got some deep thoughts going on there.”
He hesitated for a moment and then shrugged a shoulder. “We’re sixteen and you’ve been my girlfriend for over three years.”
“It’s just…most couples who have been together this long…well, they would’ve gone to the next level. And we never got that chance.”
She smiled understandingly and wrapped her arm around his. “Are you really sitting here thinking about the fact that we haven’t slept together?”
“Yeah, I am. ‘Cause I’m sixteen and that’s what sixteen year old guys think about. Sex.”
“Well, we may not have done everything…but, we’ve had a decent share of ‘firsts’ with each other.”
He blushed lightly and then grinned at her.
* * *
Willow and Xander stood off to the side with Ethan, happily watching the kids play. Willow glanced over at Elliott and Gemma and smiled softly.
“I wonder what they’re talking about…”
“Sex.” Xander and Ethan replied simultaneously.
They grinned at each other and clinked the necks of their beer bottles together. Willow rolled her eyes.
“Seriously? You think they’re talking about sex…with everything that’s going on?”
Xander stared at her. “He’s sixteen.”
“Yeah, but – ”
Ethan shook his head, stopping her. “Look at the way they’re looking at each other. He’s not thinking about cancer right now. He’s thinking about her.”
Willow looked back over at them, her smile returning when Elliott leaned over and kissed Gemma.
“What’s going on?” Giles asked as he joined the little group, Rigby in his arms.
“Not much. Just discussing the fact that pretty much all sixteen year old boys think about is sex.” Xander stated, ignoring Willow’s stare.
“Ah…” He handed Rigby to Willow and glanced over at Elliott. “I remember thinking about books…”
Xander rolled his eyes. “Of course you did.”
Ethan grinned. “What kind of books?”
“The Kama Sutra mainly.” Giles replied without hesitation. “I may have been in the Academy, but I was still a sixteen year old boy. I had a girl to impress…”
Willow stared at him, her skin reddening.
“And did you?” Xander asked, grinning brightly at him.
“Well, I didn’t disappoint her…” Giles answered with a wink.
“You do remember this is a birthday party for a three year old?” Willow said quietly, glancing pointedly towards the yard.
Ethan laughed. “Yeah and all of the three year olds are over there. We’re adults…we’re allowed.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “I’m going to find Buffy.”
Giles turned his eyes back to Elliott and offered him a gentle smile. Elliott smiled back as Gemma rested her head on his shoulder.
“How is he?” Ethan asked quietly.
“I think he’s at peace with the situation. He’s met his goals – meeting Rigby, Marcus’ birthday. What he has left now is extra.” Giles swallowed and looked at Xander and Ethan before continuing. “He’s more at peace with it than I am.”
Neither Ethan nor Xander knew what to say, so they said nothing. But, they didn’t leave Giles’ side.
For that, he was grateful.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Three and a half weeks after Marcus’ birthday, Elliott took his final breaths at home. For the most part, his passing was peaceful…and it was definitely full of love. His parents were on one side of his bed. His girlfriend and his best friend were on the other. His brothers were in bed, but he had been able to say goodbye to them before their bedtime.
Gemma held his hand and told him that she would always hold him in her heart. Jack promised that he’d always be there for Marcus and Rigby.
He had smiled at his parents and said that he hoped that they’d have one more baby. The house needed three children. Neither Buffy nor Giles held their tears from him. But, they both knew it was time to say goodbye.
Elliott smiled and his eyes focused on a point off to the side. “Hi, Daddy…”
Giles leaned down and kissed Elliott’s forehead, then moved his mouth next to Elliott’s ear. “Please tell Peter I love him. I love you both so much.”
Elliott looked up at his father and smiled. “We love you too, Dad.”
Within a few minutes, Elliott drifted off to sleep.
And a couple of hours later, he drifted away.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A little over year later, on what would have been Elliott’s eighteenth birthday, a small crowd was gathered in the hospital waiting room.
Gemma sat next to Jack, Rigby on Jack’s knee. Willow and Xander next to them, with their little girl in Xander’s arms. Ethan leaned against the wall, talking softly to Alan Naylor. Marcus leaned against the wall next to Ethan, hands in his pockets as he stared at the television.
They all looked towards the door when Giles walked in, a smile on his face.
“It’s a girl! They’re both fine…amazing really. And she’s beautiful, like Buffy.” He beamed at them all, then picked Rigby up and took hold of Marcus’ hand.
As he took them down the hall to meet their baby sister, Ethan pushed himself from the wall.
“Anyone want to wager on the name?”
As they chatted amongst themselves, no one noticed the soft shimmering over in the corner.
Elliott was okay with that.
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