Title: Wrath of Tobar
Timeline: Six months after A Father’s Love.
Synopsis: After a heated argument with Buffy, Giles heads to the Council to cool off. Things rarely work as they’re planned.
Author’s Note: Part XXX of the Giles Family Series.
Giles stood on the balcony that led out of his office, leaning against the railing and staring out across the night-time skyline of the city of London as he blew a puff of smoke from his lips. He took a deep breath as he felt the gentle shift into relaxation, the stress from his earlier argument with his wife drifting away as he dropped the butt of the hand-rolled joint into the ashtray to his left.
He smoked cigarettes rarely these days. He smoked marijuana even less often. In fact, Buffy had been pregnant with his daughter the last time he had felt his head swim in the manner it was now swimming…and that had been a joint shared with Ethan in a time of relaxation.
He would probably berate himself in the morning for what he was doing now, but the argument had been the worst they’d had in years. And he had felt that it was in the best interest of their marriage for him to leave the house for the night.
Of course, she had tried to stop him…but he had shaken his head and pulled away from her. He had told her that he wasn’t leaving her, but that he felt that he had to leave at that moment…before their words escalated into something they couldn’t take back.
And so with a whispered ‘I love you’ and a promise to return in the morning, he had grabbed his keys and walked out the front door. She hadn’t tried to stop him again…and he hoped that that was because she understood his reasoning.
He looked down at his hand, sighing as he slowly twisted his wedding ring around his finger. He took a deep breath and then stumbled back into his office, furrowing his brow as he closed the door behind him.
“What are you doing, mate?”
Giles looked up, cursing as his dizziness increased with the sudden movement. “I could bloody well ask you the same thing.”
Ethan chuckled and then took a hard look at his best friend. “Are you high?”
“Yeah.” Giles mumbled, dropping onto the couch and running his fingers through his hair. “Want a drink? If you do…pour me one while you’re at it.”
“What’s going on?” Ethan asked softly, making his way to the liquor cabinet and pouring two tumblers full of scotch. “And why aren’t you at home?”
“Because I love my wife.” Giles responded, turning his heavily dilated eyes to Ethan. “How did you know I was here?”
“Michael forgot the file on the Clarke Fund acquisition, so I came by to pick it up…saw your car in the lot.” Ethan explained, handing Giles a glass and then sitting down next to him. “You love your wife…so you’re here instead of with her? Doesn’t make much sense, Rip.”
Giles took a large swallow of the alcohol as he turned the ring around his finger with his thumb and pinky. “We’ve been married for nearly thirteen years. We have five children, ranging in ages from twelve years to ten months…and we still have fantastic sex. Christ, I love my family...”
Ethan nodded slowly, sipping his drink as he regarded Giles. “Yeah, mate…this is common knowledge. This doesn’t explain why you’re in your office at nearly midnight, stoned and having a drink with me.”
Giles licked his lips and took a deep breath. “If I’d stayed at home, I would’ve said things that would’ve caused more problems than Buffy or I need to deal with right now.”
“After all these years, she can still turn me on at the drop of a hat.” He turned his eyes to Ethan as he continued. “She can also push me into a rage when no one else can.”
“Ah…” Ethan smiled softly as he relaxed into the cushions. “What was this over?”
“She wants to go to Scotland.”
Ethan stared at him in confusion. “So? You pack the kids up and take ‘em on a holiday. It’s not like Scotland is on the other side of the world, you know.”
Giles stared back, his eyes moving in and out of focus. “She wants the lead the attack on the Kivrish nest. She wants to leave me here and go into battle against a fucking nest of Kivrish demons.”
“Rupert…” Ethan sighed, lowering his glass to the table next to him. “She’s the Slayer…and she hasn’t had a decent fight in months. You know better than anyone how a Slayer reacts when work is a bit slow…”
Giles’ eyes filled with tears. “She might not come home, Ethan. And how am I supposed to explain to five children that they’ll never see their mother again? Christ…how am I supposed to not fall apart if she doesn’t come home?”
Giles swallowed and turned his eyes to the ceiling. “So I did what any rational man would do in an irrational situation. I used my power as Head of Council to ground her to London.”
“Mm, quite.” Giles chuckled sadly, swallowing the rest of his drink. “And that started a near apocalypse in the Giles household.”
Ethan was quiet for a moment, watching Giles as he leaned forward and gathered the supplies for rolling another joint. “So…you left your home, your wife and children, to come here so that you can get stoned and drunk?”
Giles shook his head, his focus on his hands as he carefully filled the paper with the fragrant mull. “No. I left my home so that I wouldn’t lose my wife. Or so that I wouldn’t hurt her any more than I already have. I told her I love her…I told her I’d be back in the morning. I just…we were both close to saying things we wouldn’t be able to take back. And I didn’t want that.”
He moistened the paper with the tip of his tongue and looked over at Ethan as he sealed the joint. “As for getting stoned and drunk…it seemed like a good idea at the time. Care to share one with me?”
Ethan sighed heavily and pulled his phone out of his pocket. He watched as Giles stumbled back out onto the balcony and then flipped his phone open. Michael answered as Giles lit the joint and inhaled deeply.
Ethan explained the situation to his husband and was once again happy that Michael was as understanding as he was about Ethan’s friendship with Giles. With an apology and a promise to call later, once Giles had passed out, Ethan whispered his love for Michael and ended the call.
He made his way out to the balcony and took the proffered joint when Giles handed it to him.
It was going to be a long night, indeed.
* * *
Willow’s eyes widened as Buffy finished her explanation. “He grounded you?”
“Yeah.” Buffy stared at the family portrait hanging above the fireplace. “He’s never pulled rank on me…never.”
“And then he left?” Willow asked in disbelief.
Buffy shook her head slowly and exhaled deeply as she looked at her best friend. “No. Then I yelled at him…and called him a lot of things that I really didn’t mean. And then he said that he loves me, but he needed to walk away before things got worse.”
“And you let him go?”
Buffy’s eyes glistened. “I asked him not to go. But, we were both so angry, Will. He was probably right in going…God knows what I would’ve said if he hadn’t left.”
Willow bit her lip nervously, knowing what she wanted to say but not knowing how Buffy would react. “He…just wants to protect you, Buffy.”
“I know.” Buffy acknowledged, resting the back of her head against the couch cushions and staring at the window. “And I understand that…but…I need to do this. I need to be in this fight.”
“And what if you don’t come back? How is he supposed to deal with that?” Willow asked, quickly continuing when Buffy looked at her through darkened eyes. “I don’t think that Giles would be able to deal with losing you like that. Hell, I don’t think he’d deal with losing you period…but…to lose you in battle would kill him. And…it’s not just you and him you have to think about these days.”
“You think I don’t know that?” Buffy growled as she stood up and started pacing. “Do you think I honestly didn’t think about our children before I decided on this?”
“No…I’m sure you did. But…” Willow sighed heavily and grabbed Buffy’s wrist on her next pass, stopping her in mid-stride. “This is a nest, Buffy. If it were a clan, it would be different. But…a nest of Kivrish demons? I know you’re restless, but…this isn’t the fight you need to be in.”
Buffy stared at Willow, but didn’t pull away. “He grounded me. Forbade me to go.”
“Yeah…and he was wrong in that.” Willow countered, lifting her free hand to Buffy’s shoulder. “But, he loves you so much. And maybe he saw it as his only way of keeping you out of danger this time.”
A tear rolled down Buffy’s cheek. She wiped it away and swallowed thickly as Willow’s phone signalled an incoming text message.
“You, uh…you should get that.” She gave Willow a small smile and gestured towards the hall. “I’ll just go check on the kids…”
Willow nodded and watched her walk away. When Buffy was out of sight, Willow picked up her phone. She sighed as she read the message from Ethan.
She wasn’t sure if she should tell Buffy that her husband was stoned and currently on his way to becoming very drunk. But, she would tell her that Ethan was staying with Giles at the Council building…just to make sure he was okay. She sent a quick message to Ethan and then one to Oz.
She couldn’t leave her best friend alone right now. And maybe after Oz came by in the morning, she’d be able to talk Buffy into letting Oz watch the kids…and then she’d drive Buffy into the city to talk to Giles.
She looked up as a very teary Buffy walked back into the living room.
They could talk about that idea later.
“He’s still mad.”
Willow looked at Buffy as they entered the Council building. “What?”
Buffy sighed and made her way to the elevator, pushing the button and then leaning against the wall. “I’ve called him a few times this morning.”
“What did he say?”
Buffy shook her head and looked down at the rings on her finger. “He didn’t answer…went straight to voicemail. So, he’s avoiding my calls and – ”
“You know…his phone is probably in his office and he’s probably in one of the apartments. He…Ethan said that he’d been drinking last night…and…”
Buffy pushed herself off the wall and arched an eyebrow at Willow as she trailed off. “And what?”
Willow looked around nervously and lowered her voice to a whisper. “He was smoking last night.”
“Great.” Buffy mumbled as the doors slid open.
Willow followed her into the elevator. “No, not cigarettes…”
Buffy stared at her as the doors closed. “Even better. Not only am I going to have to deal with the aftermath of an argument that was bad enough to make my husband spend the night somewhere else, but I’m going to have to deal with a hangover…which is always worse when pot’s involved.”
Willow leaned against the wall and tilted her head in thought. “How long has it been since he smoked?”
Buffy thought for a minute and then chuckled softly. “I was pregnant with Haddie. Ethan came over while Anna was taking care of her mother…they smoked one together out in the garage. They were giggling like a couple of teenagers…”
Willow smiled as the image entered her mind. “Sounds like it was a fun night.”
“Yeah…” Buffy whispered as the elevator reached the floor where Giles’ office was located. “Stoned Giles is pretty funny…under the right circumstances. Last night wasn’t the right circumstances though.”
Willow put her arm around Buffy’s shoulders as they walked down the hall towards Giles’ office. “I’m sure everything’s going to be okay, Buffy.”
Buffy nodded slowly and stopped in front of the office door. Pulling out her keys, she unlocked the door and pushed it open. She scanned the office quickly, not surprised to find it empty.
She noticed two glasses and a nearly empty bottle of scotch on the coffee table in front of the sofa…and beside of the glasses was Giles’ mobile phone. She rolled her eyes as she picked it up and silenced the soft beeps alerting to unanswered messages.
“Looks like you were right.” She offered Willow a tiny smile.
Willow nodded and looked out the window, noticing Giles’ car but not Ethan’s. “Ethan probably helped him up to the apartment that you guys use when you stay…”
Buffy heaved a heavy sigh and ran her fingers through her hair. “I’ll go see if I can’t get him into the shower…would you mind starting a pot of coffee?”
“Nope…how strong do you think?”
Buffy glanced at the bottle on the coffee table and then grabbed a bottle of aspirin out of the top desk drawer. “As strong as you can make it.”
Willow waited until Buffy had left the room before she chuckled. She had no doubt that once Giles was up and had a cup of coffee things would look much better in Buffy’s eyes.
* * *
Buffy took a deep breath to calm her sudden nerves and slipped the key into the lock. As she opened the door, she heard the sound that she had, at one time, described as a ‘snortle’. He only made the noise when he’d been drinking and it was a sound that was a cross between a snore and a chortle.
The corner of her mouth twitched in the beginnings of a smile. The beginnings of her smile came to an abrupt halt as she stepped into the room.
Her husband was asleep, just as she thought. However, he wasn’t alone. Ethan snored softly at his side. Buffy swallowed thickly, trying to survey the scene as objectively as she could.
They were asleep…in the same bed. That’s not what bothered her. What bothered her was the fact that the sheet and blanket came to their waists…and exposed their bare chests. Giles snuffled and rolled onto his side, causing the bedclothes to shift just enough to show Buffy that it wasn’t just his chest that was bare.
Buffy felt her heart sink as her anger began to resurface. Knowing she was dangerously close to picking up the nearest object, which happened to be a lamp, and throwing it at the bed…she turned and stormed out of the room.
As the door loudly slammed shut, Giles groaned and opened his eyes. Inhaling deeply to stamp down a sudden wave of nausea, his eyes widened as his mind registered Buffy’s perfume. He sat up quickly and stared at the door, lifting his right hand to the side of his head as it threatened to explode from the sudden movement.
The movement caused Ethan to groan.
Giles turned his head towards the sound and stared in shock and surprise. “Ethan?”
“Oh God, I’m gonna die…” Ethan mumbled, rolling onto his side.
It was then that Giles realized that he was not wearing any clothes. His stomach churned when Ethan kicked off the covers, grumbling about being hot.
He wasn’t the only one not wearing anything.
Giles was barely able to reach the wastebasket next to the bed before his stomach convulsed.
The sound of retching woke Ethan. He sat up, mildly confused at his surroundings…and then looked over at Giles. Nude and emptying the contents of his stomach into the bin.
He glanced down, his eyes widening. “Oh fucking hell…”
* * *
Willow looked up as Buffy ran into the room. She furrowed her brow at the look on Buffy’s face…she couldn’t tell if Buffy was getting ready to cry, or scream, or kill something…or all of the above.
Buffy threw the bottle of aspirin against the wall, not flinching when the bottle exploded and sent aspirin tablets flying across the room.
“I told him…I fucking told him when we were dating…”
“Um – ”
“If you want to have sex with another man, fine…as long as it’s not Ethan. That’s what I told him…that’s what he fucking promised me!”
Willow’s eyes widened. “What?”
Buffy pointed in the general direction of the apartments. “Oh, Ethan put him to bed all right…made sure he was nice and fucking comfy too, by the looks of it…”
Willow shook her head quickly. “No, no…he wouldn’t – ”
Buffy glared at her, her eyes darkening with rage. “They were in bed…together…naked. Don’t fucking tell me he wouldn’t!”
“Buffy…” Giles gasped as he ran into the room, wearing a pair of jeans and a t-shirt…and looking extremely green.
Buffy spun around and turned her glare onto him. “You fucking promised me!”
“I – ”
She interrupted him with a slap of her palm against his cheek. As his skin reddened from the contact, her tears finally broke free.
“You promised…you promised me that you wouldn’t go to him…”
“I wouldn’t…I…” He shook his head and fought the urge to vomit again. “Buffy, I didn’t…”
“Oh, you just normally go to bed naked with your best friend…who you used to fuck when you were younger?”
Giles glanced at Willow and then reached out to touch Buffy. “No…no, I don’t even know how I got there.”
Buffy jerked away from him and shook her head. “Of course you don’t! You were stoned and drunk…just like you were years ago!”
At that moment, Ethan ran in…panting heavily and looking even greener than Giles did. “Buffy – ”
“I trusted you! Both of you! So many people have asked me over the years…how can you be sure? Because I trust them, I’d say. I fucking trusted you!” Buffy yelled, tears streaming down her face.
Ethan’s eyes filled with tears as he looked at Buffy. “I don’t know what happened, Buffy…but, I would never come between the two of you. And I would never risk my marriage – ”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. “You nearly lost Michael once before and – ”
“Buffy, stop.” Willow stated, running forward as Ethan broke out into a heavy sweat and swayed.
She grabbed him just as his knees buckled. She couldn’t stop his fall, but she was able to ease him onto the floor and roll him onto his side. She looked up at Buffy and shook her head.
“He’s sick, Buffy…”
Buffy started to take a step backwards, stopping when Giles wrapped his fingers around her wrist. He tightened his hold when she started to pull away again.
“I swear, Buffy…I honestly don’t believe that anything happened. I…” Giles hesitated, closing his eyes briefly as the room seemed to spin around him. “I…there’s no way that I would…that he would…”
“Giles?” She questioned as he paused. Her eyes widened as he stumbled, his skin suddenly hot and moist. “Giles?!”
His eyes seemed to lose their focus as he stared at her. “I…wouldn’t do this to us. I promised you. Buffy, I…something’s not…right…”
Buffy’s reflexes was the only thing that kept Giles from hitting the floor as he suddenly lost consciousness. Just as she lowered him to the carpet, Michael walked into the room…his morning smile disappearing as he took in the scene.
“Oh, God! Ethan!”
Willow moved from Ethan’s side as Michael knelt beside of him, gently stroking his sweat-soaked skin. She cast a quick glance at Giles and, seeing that they were both in the same condition…and that condition wasn’t a good one to be in…grabbed the phone.
“What happened?” Michael cried, slipping into a panic when Ethan didn’t respond to him.
Buffy and Willow shared a look and came to a mutual agreement quickly. That agreement was that Michael didn’t need to know the details right now…not until they found out what happened.
“I don’t know.” Buffy whispered hoarsely, her anger slipping into fear. She lightly stroked her husband’s face where her handprint still clearly shown. “I really don’t know…”
The paramedics had arrived quickly and, after assessing the situation, decided that the best place for Ethan and Giles to be was in the hospital. As the paramedics pushed the two stretchers out of the office and into the hall, Xander and Anya exited the elevator.
“Shit!” Xander exclaimed, running down the hall towards the commotion.
Anya followed him, barely noticing the seemingly shocked young man standing in an office doorway. Assuming he was an employee of some sort, and the fact that she was too concerned about her friends, she paid him little attention.
“What happened?” She asked hurriedly, narrowing her eyes when she saw the darkening bruise on Giles’ face. “And...who hit him?”
“I did.” Buffy murmured, darting her eyes between her friends before casting her worried gaze back to her husband.
No one bothered to ask her why she had hit Giles, though Xander was more than a little curious. But, now wasn’t the time to ask.
“What can I do?”
Buffy followed the paramedics down the hall, glancing at Michael who was in a full-blown panic before she looked to Willow.
“Fill them in. I’ll call when I know something.”
Willow nodded, taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves as the stretchers were loaded onto the elevator.
No one noticed the young man who had been watching from the doorway. He ran his fingers through his short hair and pushed the door to the stairwell open.
* * *
“Giles and Ethan?” Xander asked, his eyes widening in shock.
Willow nodded, but Anya shook her head quickly.
“No. There’s no way that either of them would do that...no matter how drunk they were.”
“They weren’t just drinking.” Willow stated softly.
Anya picked up the bottle of scotch, sniffing it before shrugging her shoulders. “I don’t care what they were doing...cocaine, heroin, greshelbeans...they wouldn’t risk their marriages like that.”
Xander stared at Anya. “Greshelbeans?”
“Hallucinogenic aphrodisiac commonly used in the Vi’ida Dimension. Highly addictive...” Anya answered absently, glancing at the ashtray. “But, I’m guessing Willow means marijuana and not greshelbeans.”
Xander met Willow’s concerned eyes and sighed. “How bad was this argument?”
Willow hesitated for a moment, successfully holding back her tears. “Bad enough that if he...doesn’t make it through this, Buffy’s never going to forgive herself for the things she said to him.”
Anya looked around the room, narrowing her eyes in thought. “How are you guys feeling?”
“Confused, upset...” Xander started, pausing when Anya gave him a sharp look. “What?”
“No...” She shook her head slowly. “I mean, do you feel sick?”
“I think I ate too much last night, but – ”
“For God’s sake, Xander! Do you feel like Giles or Ethan looked?” Anya interrupted, her impatience clear in her tone.
“Oh...no, no I don’t.”
Willow shook her head when Anya looked at her for a response.
“Then it’s something they both had last night. It’s not anything in the air...or we’d all be sick.”
Willow arched an eyebrow in surprise, to which Anya responded with a huff.
“You’re not the only one who can figure these things out, you know.”
Willow smiled and glanced at the table. “Scotch or weed?”
Anya shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know...that’s where you come in. You’re good at all the chemistry stuff...”
Xander glanced at the clock and cleared his throat. “Where are the kids?”
“Oz is with them. Apparently, Lucas is a little worried because he had this dream and...I think he may have heard Buffy and Giles arguing last night.”
Xander nodded slowly and ran his hand through his hair. “Okay...well, let’s get started. Maybe if we can figure out where the problem is, the doctors can figure out what the problem is.”
* * *
Braden sat down beside of Oz on the couch, Declan’s bottle in his hand. “What were they arguing about?”
Oz raised an eyebrow, picking up Declan as he crawled over to him. “Did you hear them?”
“Yeah.” Braden nodded slowly, handing the bottle to his baby brother. “I’ve never heard them argue like that before.”
Oz thought briefly about sidestepping the question, but knew that Braden wouldn’t accept that tactic. Instead, he took a deep breath and looked at the other three children playing with Callie.
“Lucas said he had a dream. Did he tell you about it?”
“Yeah...something about a four-horned devil looking thing. And Mum. Luke was really scared when he woke up...wanting to make sure Mum was okay.” Braden turned his green eyes to Oz. “He said Dad was crying in his dream.”
Oz shifted Declan until the boy was resting with his back against Oz’s chest as he sucked at his bottle. He gathered his thoughts quickly and decided that the truth was the best for Braden right now.
“Oz?” Braden asked softly, worry in his voice. “Are Mum and Dad going to be okay?”
“Huh? Yeah, Braden. It was just an argument. Will and I argue sometimes.” He sighed and reached over to ruffle the boy’s hair. “I know it sounded bad, but...your parents love each other very much. And, I really don’t think that one heated argument is going to – ”
“Is Mum going to die?”
The question was whispered so quietly that it was nearly inaudible. But, to a wolf’s ears...
Oz heard him perfectly and shook his head as Braden’s eyes filled with tears. “Your Dad would never let that happen, Braden. Not if he can help it...”
“What if he can’t? Help it, I mean.”
Oz swallowed hard as a tear rolled down Braden’s cheek. “That’s what the argument was about. You know Buffy can be stubborn, but...so can Giles. And when two stubborn people are being...well, stubborn...sometimes it can cause an argument.”
Braden nodded in understanding as he processed Oz’s explanation. Their conversation was cut short though as Oz’s phone began to ring. Oz smiled as he looked at the caller ID to find that it was his wife. He handed Declan to Braden, his eyes promising the boy that they’d finish their talk in a few minutes.
He answered the phone and smiled. “Hey, baby.”
His smile faded quickly.
* * *
“What’s in it?” Xander asked as he watched the solution in the test tube turn a different color.
Willow shook her head and sighed heavily. “Nothing. Well, besides some normal tobacco...”
“Well, it has to be the scotch then. Right?”
Willow lifted her brown eyes to Xander’s and shook her head again. “There was nothing in the scotch, Xander.”
Xander slammed his fist against the desk in anger. Anya jumped and then glared at him.
“Did that help the situation?”
Xander returned her glare. Just as he opened his mouth, Willow snapped her fingers.
Anya and Xander both looked at her and then the three of them ran out of the lab.
* * *
Michael was upset, as any loving husband would be. But, as he watched Buffy stare out the window, he realized that something else was bothering her. He took a deep breath and pushed himself out of the incredibly uncomfortable waiting room chair.
Buffy jumped slightly when Michael touched her shoulder. She turned to face him when he whispered an apology.
“It’s okay, Michael. I was just...thinking.” She looked into his blue, tear-drenched eyes and took his hand in hers. “Are you okay?”
He shrugged a shoulder and squeezed her fingers lightly. “Can I ask you something?”
“Yeah, of course.” She responded, leading him over to a couch against the wall that had to be more comfortable than the chairs.
He sighed heavily as they sat down, lowering his gaze to a point on the floor between his feet. “Why did you hit him?”
He swallowed nervously and then turned his head to look into her eyes. “The bruise on Rupert’s cheek. You, uh...you said you hit him.”
Buffy’s eyes glistened with a new bout of tears. “We...had a horrible argument last night.”
Michael nodded slowly. “I know. I mean...Ethan told me that Rupert was upset last night and that he was going to stay with him to make sure he was okay. But...the bruise was new...”
“I said a lot of things to him last night. A lot of things that I would give anything to be able to take back now.” Buffy’s voice trembled as a tear slid down her cheek. “And then...he left...and said we’d talk in the morning. Only...”
She wiped the tears from her face as she took a deep, though shaky, breath. “He wasn’t answering his phone this morning when I tried to call him. Willow drove me to the Council and...”
Michael tilted his head questioningly as she paused. “Buffy?”
“Okay, you need to not freak out when I tell you this...okay? Because...taking into consideration what’s going on, it’s...”
Michael let go of her hand, sitting up straight as his eyes widened. “Oh God...”
“Michael, they both said that nothing happened...and then they both got really sick. Well, they were both sick before they said nothing happened, but – ”
“They were...together?” He whispered painfully.
When she hesitated in answering him, he stood up and looked towards the door that led to where his husband currently was. “Oh my God...”
“Michael – ”
“You hit him because you thought he had sex with Ethan.” Michael whispered, staring at her as his eyes filled with tears. “Did they?”
“I don’t know what happened, Michael.” She answered softly after a few moments. “I...I don’t know.”
Michael clenched his jaw, releasing it as he sank back onto the couch next to her. She tenderly rubbed his back as he buried his hands in his hands and let his tears flow freely.
Willow, Xander, and Anya rushed into Giles’ office. They came to a sudden stop when a young man dropped a glass to the floor when they startled him.
Xander narrowed his eyes and stepped forward. “Who are you?”
Anya’s eyes darted to the young man’s front pocket of his jeans, and noticed a very familiar keychain hanging out of the pocket. “Um...why do you have Ethan’s car keys?”
Willow suddenly remembered that when she had looked out into the parking lot earlier, Ethan’s car hadn’t been there. She ran to the window, not really surprised to find Ethan’s car parked right beside of Giles’.
She turned towards the intruder, her eyes darkening dangerously as she waved towards the door. The door slammed shut and she took a step towards the man.
“Tobar.” His dark eyes darted around the room, obviously looking for an escape. “Tobar Djordji.”
“That’s a Gypsy name.” Anya narrowed her eyes. “Why are you stealing Giles’ glasses?”
“Djordji?” Willow questioned, pulling the lead crystal tumbler from his hand and tossing it to Xander. “Are you related to Florica Djordji?”
Tobar straightened, determination flooding into his eyes. Willow read the answer in the man’s eyes, but he refused to speak.
“You were going to kill him? And frame Ethan for his murder?”
Tobar’s eyes flashed with rage.
Willow shook her head slowly. “No...that’s wrong. You were going to make it look like a murder/suicide...at Ethan’s hands.”
“Um...” Xander’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Huh?”
Anya leaned into him and whispered not so softly. “She’s reading his thoughts.”
“Yeah, I got that, An.” He answered, still staring at Willow. “Again, I ask...huh?”
“Call Buffy...tell her that the glasses were laced with Laburnum dust. This was an attack on Giles...and because Ethan showed up, it became an attack on him as well.”
“What does Laburnum dust do?” Xander asked, lowering his gaze to the tumbler in his hand.
“If you don’t call now, Giles and Ethan both could die.” Willow stated, a calmness to her tone that frightened both Xander and Anya. “And tell her that they were telling the truth. Nothing happened.”
Xander didn’t ask any further questions.
* * *
“Michael...” Buffy sighed, resting her cheek against his shoulder. “Ethan loves you.”
“And if they did...if they were...” Michael sniffled and rubbed the side of his neck. “Would you be able to forgive Rupert?”
She was quiet for a moment, carefully considering his question. “In time. It would take a lot of work...and a lot of tears. But, we have five children...and...I don’t think I could throw our marriage away without one hell of a fight to keep it.”
“I...I don’t know if I could.” He turned to look at her, his bottom lip quivering as his tears threatened to consume him again. “Does that make me a bad husband? Am I a bad person for not knowing if I could forgive him?”
“No.” Buffy replied quickly, moving her hand to his cheek. “It makes you human.”
“The funny thing is...I’d forgive him for an affair with a woman.” He lowered his eyes again as he continued on a soft whisper. “I think I’d even forgive him for an affair with another man...”
“As long as that other man isn’t Giles?” Buffy asked, giving him a sad smile when his eyes darted back to hers. “I understand, Michael. That’s...that’s why I hit him. Not because I found him in bed with someone else...but, because I found him in bed with Ethan. He promised me...years ago, when we were still dating...that he’d never go to Ethan if he felt the desire to be with another man again.”
“What?” Michael choked.
“I felt like my trust in him...in both of them...had been broken. And – ”
“You saw them? In bed together?”
Buffy’s eyes widened quickly. “They weren’t...they were just...”
She was interrupted by the ringing of her mobile phone. She answered it quickly, grabbing Michael’s arm when he tried to stand.
“Laburnum? How bad is that?”
Buffy paled and stood up, dragging Michael with her to the nurses’ station. She thrust the phone into Michael’s hand as she quickly relayed the message to a nurse.
Michael suddenly sobbed and fell to his knees on the floor. As the nurse ran through the swinging doors to give the information to the doctors, Buffy grabbed the phone and held it to her ear.
“Xander? What did you say to him?” She asked quickly, kneeling next to Michael and wrapping her arm around his back.
Xander’s voice sounded far away, yet crystal clear at the same time.
“Nothing happened between them, Buffy. It was a set-up...and we have the guy.”
“Oh my God.” She gasped, feeling relief through her rebuilding anger. “Who is he?”
“Florica Djordji’s brother. He...blames Giles for Florica’s death.”
“Don’t let him go...and don’t call the cops.” She shook her head as Xander started to protest. “This is a Council matter, Xander. Call Jarvis and get this guy into custody now.”
Buffy snapped the phone shut without waiting to hear Xander’s response. She turned towards the sound of a tentatively spoken ‘Mum?’ and smiled through her tears.
“Everything’s going to be fine.” She whispered, motioning her eldest son over.
Lucas followed Braden, kneeling in front of Michael and whispering softly to him as Buffy pulled Braden into her arms.
Oz entered the waiting room in a rush, Declan giggling in his arms and Evan and Haddie looking worried at the scene in front of them. Their worry lessened as their mother smiled at them.
“Where’s Daddy?” Evan questioned as he looked around the room.
Buffy wiped her eyes and carefully pulled Michael from the floor. Michael inhaled deeply and hugged Lucas before moving back to the couch and sitting down.
Buffy sat down as well and pulled Evan onto her lap. “Daddy’s sick...and so is Uncle Ethan. But, they’re going to be okay.”
Braden sat down in one of the chairs that Oz had pulled over in front of Buffy and ran his fingers through his hair. “And you and Dad?”
“Everything is going to be okay, Ru. I promise.” She answered with a gentle smile.
“You’re not going to Scotland?” Lucas answered tentatively, sitting down next to Braden and pulling Haddie onto his lap. When his mother looked at him in surprise, he shrugged a shoulder. “I...had a dream last night.”
“I’m not going to Scotland.”
Oz transferred Declan into Michael’s arms when the baby reached for him. Michael smiled as Declan snuggled against his chest. Oz met Buffy’s eyes and asked a silent question. Buffy responded with a subtle nod.
Oz exhaled deeply and sank into a chair next to her.
Buffy and Giles would be okay. Ethan and Michael would be okay. The perpetrator was in custody. And now all they had to do was wait for the nurse to come back out.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and called his wife. He smiled as she answered, immediately telling him that they were on their way to the hospital.
“I love you.” He whispered. “I know I don’t say it as often as you’d like, but...I love you, Willow.”
Buffy smiled and reached over to wipe a drying tear from Michael’s face.
* * *
Their happiness was short-lived, however, as the doctors came out and requested to speak to Buffy and Michael alone. Buffy handed Declan to Willow and nervously brushed her palms against her jeans.
“I, uh...we’ll be back in a few minutes.” She offered Braden the best smile she could muster and gestured towards Haddie and Evan. “You okay to help watch the monkeys?”
Braden nodded, as did Lucas...both of them were acutely aware that something wasn’t quite right. Buffy cleared her throat and slipped her hand into Michael’s. She could easily ready the fear in his eyes.
“We’ll work through whatever they tell us, okay?” She whispered softly, leading him down the hall where the doctors were waiting for them.
Michael nodded and squeezed her hand.
They followed the doctors into a small room, both of them expecting the worst when one of them gestured towards a couch against the wall.
“Please, have a seat, Mrs. Giles...Mr. Rayne.”
Michael shook his head, but Buffy sat down and easily pulled him down next to her. The two doctors sat in chairs opposite them and the one who had spoken introduced himself.
“I’m Dr. Ranieri, this is my colleague Dr. Karlberg...we’ve been treating your husbands since they were brought in.”
Buffy nodded quickly and took a deep breath. “Are they going to be okay?”
Dr. Ranieri leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “A fair amount of the toxin was ingested by both Mr. Giles and Mr. Rayne...”
“Ethan...and Rupert.” Michael whispered. “They don’t like to be called ‘Mister’...”
Dr. Ranieri smiled softly and nodded. “Judging by the acidic traces of bile we found in Rupert’s throat, it looks as though he vomited before they arrived here. However, we found no similar traces in Ethan’s esophagus.”
“What does that mean?” Buffy asked, glancing at Michael.
“Rupert’s further along in recovery than Ethan.” The doctor replied hesitantly. And then with a heavy sigh, he continued. “In fact...Ethan has lapsed into a coma.”
Michael stared at the doctor, tears welling in his eyes once more. “A...coma?”
“We’re hopeful that – ”
“Is he going to die?”
Dr. Karlberg shook his head quickly, reaching out to take Michael’s free hand. “No. This is a normal progress for Laburnum. The medications are working, Mr. Rayne...they’re just working a little slower for Ethan than they did for Rupert.”
“Is Giles awake?” Buffy asked, wiping her eyes.
Dr. Karlberg looked at her curiously, wondering why she had referred to her husband by his surname. Realizing that this wasn’t the time to ask, he merely shook his head again.
“No, but we’re expecting him to awaken within the next couple of hours.”
“When will Ethan wake up?” Michael questioned, swallowing the lump in his throat.
Dr. Ranieri sat back up and ran his fingers through his hair as he shrugged. “Could be a day...could be a week.”
When Michael lowered his eyes and shuddered lightly, Dr. Karlberg gently squeezed his hand. “He will wake up, Mr. Rayne. It’s just a matter of time. And you’re more than welcome to stay with him...we’ll bring in an extra bed...”
“Thank you.” Michael whispered, pulling his hand from the doctor’s so that he could wipe the tears from his face.
“They’re in the same room right now.” Dr. Ranieri stated, darting his eyes between Buffy and Michael. “We could have them moved into separate rooms, if you’d prefer.”
Buffy shook her head without thought. “It’s better if we’re all together...”
Michael nodded in agreement, sitting up and taking a deep breath. “All together...”
“Okay.” The doctor said with a tender smile. “Together, it is.”
Buffy had been sitting at Giles’ bedside for three hours. Michael had refused to leave Ethan’s side as well. In that time, the Scoobies had brought the children in to see their father. Luckily, it hadn’t been traumatizing for any of them...mainly because, even though he was not awake, he still responded to their voices. A small smile played on his lips as the distinctive voices of his children penetrated the fog in his mind.
Upon hearing the news of her son-in-law’s illness, Joyce said that she’d cut her holiday with her beau short and come back. Buffy had vetoed that idea quickly, stating that it had been years since Joyce had been on a holiday with someone who really cared about her. And if Buffy were truthful, she had admit that she liked Nigel too.
After a brief discussion which involved Joyce making sure that Giles was going to be okay, and that Buffy was dealing with the situation as best she could and would call immediately if things worsened, Joyce agreed not to come back just yet. She made it very clear that if the situation declined that there would be no arguing...and Joyce didn’t care if she still had two weeks left of her holiday.
Not long after getting off the phone with her mother, Buffy asked the rest of the Scoobies if they’d mind taking the kids back to their house. After all, it was school holidays and a hospital wasn’t the best place for children to hang out. All four of them agreed with no hesitation and started to head out...leaving strict orders for Buffy to call with any changes to either Giles or Ethan. Hugs were exchanged and, surprisingly, Anya paused before leaving.
When Xander questioned her, she sighed and leaned over the railing to place a soft kiss on Ethan’s forehead. She followed that with a kiss on Michael’s cheek and a whisper to call her and Xander if he needed anything.
And then Buffy and Michael were left alone.
They had passed half an hour or so chatting to one another, but each had fallen into whispering softly to their ailing husbands knowing that there was nothing they could do except for wait...and watch.
Michael spent his time trying to come up with as many amusing anecdotes to pass on to Ethan as he possibly could. Buffy spent her time watching the bruise on his cheek darken as he shifted restlessly in the bed. She glanced over at Ethan and tried not to think about how still he was.
She ran her fingers through his damp hair before lightly gliding her fingertips over the bruise. He grimaced and then whispered her name. Michael’s gaze darted over towards them, feeling both elated and crushed when Giles’ eyes slowly opened.
Giles licked his lips and then swallowed with difficulty, allowing his eyes to close once more but forcing himself to stay awake. “I feel like...utter shit.”
Buffy chuckled wetly, her tears spilling down her cheeks again. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear that.”
He snorted softly and opened his eyes. “ ‘Tis my punishment for partaking in drugs and alcohol again, I suppose...”
“No.” Buffy whispered softly. “What do you remember?”
Giles furrowed his brow and thought. “I remember...arguing with you. Yelling, forbidding...I’m sorry, Buffy. I’m so very sorry.”
“Ssh...it’s okay, babe.” She soothed, tenderly stroking his hair. “We can talk about that later. Right now...just tell me what you remember, okay?”
He nodded slowly and continued.
“I went to my office...rolled a joint. Smoked it on the balcony and thought about everything I’d said to you...came back in and was going to call you. But...Ethan was there. We had a few drinks...shared another joint...and...”
“And what, honey?” She whispered as he trailed off. “What happened next?”
“I woke up in bed with Ethan...and then I came to find you.” His eyes glistened as he reached for her hand. “Buffy, I didn’t...Ethan and I didn’t...I don’t know what happened, but – ”
“You were poisoned.” Buffy interrupted as he became more upset. “Someone blamed you for a Slayer’s death...so, he came after you. Ethan was in the wrong place at the wrong time...but, it worked to this guy’s advantage, I guess. He made it look like the two of you...”
Giles’ eyes darkened as Buffy hesitated. “He wanted you to think that I’d been unfaithful...with Ethan.”
“Yeah. And...it kinda worked.” Buffy replied, carefully tracing the bruise. “I’m sorry I hit you.”
“Ethan...” Giles stated, pushing himself up only to fall back to the mattress as his head swam violently. “Is Ethan alright?”
“He’s going to be.” She glanced towards the other side of the room and smiled. “He’s right over there...and because he didn’t get sick when he woke up, his recovery is a little further behind yours.”
“Sick? What were we poisoned with? How...who – ”
“Laburnum. The glasses were laced with it. And his name is Tobar Djordji. He’s in custody at the Council and Jarvis is under strict orders to – ”
“Tobar Djordji? Florica’s brother?”
“Yeah...I’m not sure why he’s blaming you.”
Giles closed his eyes briefly and then stared at the ceiling. “Because I promised him that I’d keep a close eye on Florica when she was discovered. I was the one to bring her from Turkey, remember?”
“Mm-hm. I remember Braden getting upset with you because you wouldn’t take him with you...”
Giles chuckled softly and rolled his head to the side. He waited for his vision to focus and then sighed when he saw Michael looking at him.
“Michael, I – ”
“This Tobar guy confirmed that nothing happened between you and Ethan.” Michael interrupted gently.
Michael smiled at Giles’ exhausted tone. “You should get more sleep, Rupert. The doctors say that rest is a good thing...”
Giles nodded sleepily and carefully scooted over before meeting his wife’s eyes and patting the bed. “Rest with me?”
Buffy quickly kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the bed next to him. He was asleep before her head settled on his shoulder...and his rhythmic breathing lulled her into sleep as well.
Michael watched them for a few minutes and then smiled, squeezing Ethan’s hand. “At least you’re not missing a show...”
He wasn’t sure, but he could’ve sworn he saw the corner of Ethan’s mouth twitch in amusement.
* * *
Buffy hadn’t slept long and when she awoke, she smiled to find Michael sleeping soundly in Ethan’s bed. When she shifted to move, Giles’ arm automatically tightened around her.
Her smile grew at the sleepy mumble. Leaning down, she pressed a soft kiss to his forehead before moving her mouth and whispering into his ear.
“I need to go home and check on the kids...and see if the guys need a break. But, I won’t be long, okay?”
“Do you want me to bring anything back?”
His brow furrowed, but his eyes remained closed. “Black pudding, eggs, toast...butter. Lots of butter.”
She chuckled and ran her fingers through his sweat-dampened hair. “You want breakfast...with lots of butter...at night?”
“Yeah...hell of a hangover...” His left eye cracked open when he heard her snort. “Love you.”
“I love you too.” She swallowed the lump that suddenly appeared in her throat. “You haven’t scared me this bad in a long time.”
He lifted a trembling hand and placed it on the side of her face. “I won’t stop you, Buffy, but...please, I’m begging you...don’t go to Scotland.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Giles.” She sniffled as she leaned into his touch. “Except home to tell the kids that you’re sleeping and they can come tomorrow to see you.”
He nodded slowly, his hand falling back to the mattress. “Will you come back? Tonight, I mean? Will you stay with me?”
She had always known that Giles had a vulnerable side, however...the only time it surfaced was when he was fearful of an outcome that was beyond his control. She traced his ear with her fingertip and offered him a loving smile.
“Just you try to make me do otherwise.” She lowered her head and brushed her lips across his. “Go back to sleep now...and I’ll wake you up when I come back with your artery-clogging, hangover-curing food.”
“Mm-kay.” He murmured, yawning as he closed his eyes. “Tell the children I love them.”
“I will.” She whispered, waiting until she was sure he had fallen back to sleep before grabbing a pen and a piece of paper.
She scrawled a quick note and left it on his pillow next to his head. She wasn’t sure if he’d actually remember the conversation and she sure as hell didn’t want him thinking she had just left if he woke up before she got back.
With a whispered ‘I love you’, she backed away from the bed and grabbed her bag. If she was quick, she could be back in less than two hours.
* * *
Buffy sighed heavily as she walked up the front steps of their house, shaking her head as she listened to Jarvis’ recommendation concerning Tobar Djordji. “I’ll tell you right now, Christian...Giles won’t approve that.”
“Deactivation is the only – ”
“You can’t deactivate something that was never activated.” Buffy argued, leaning against the porch railing. “You do nothing, except to hold him in custody, until Giles talks to him. This is his call, not yours.”
“Surely you understand what – ”
“I do understand, Christian. The problem is...Djordji was reacting to his sister’s death. It was an emotional attack...and not very well thought out, to be honest. He sees Giles as the reason Florica is dead. He doesn’t understand Watchers, Slayers, the Council...he’s scared and I’m sure that Giles wants to attempt to reason with him instead of just wiping his mind of every shred of a memory of his sister. He’s going to need those to keep himself afloat, do you understand?”
Jarvis was quiet for a moment and then sighed in resignation. “Yes, Mrs. Giles.”
“Good. If there are any issues, call either myself or Willow.”
“Very well, Mrs. Giles. My best wishes for a speedy recovery for Mr. Giles and Mr. Rayne.”
Satisfied that Tobar Djordji was in no danger of losing his memories at the moment, she smiled and snapped the phone shut. She had a message to deliver to her children from their father...and a somewhat greasy dinner to prepare.
She shuddered at the thought of actually cooking black pudding for her husband. And then she smiled. If he wanted black pudding, he’d have black pudding...and she’d prepare it with love for him.
And maybe get the kids to help.
Buffy sighed and ran her fingers through Braden’s thick hair. “I need you and Lucas to help with the others.”
“But...I want to see him.”
Oz smiled as his son threw himself into his arms. “Where’s your Mom, Jake?”
“Making dinner. Lucas sayed that he was having dinner with Uncle Giles.”
Buffy sighed again, causing Oz to arch a questioning eyebrow at her. She ran her hand through her hair in a frustrated manner, her eyes glistening as she answered his unspoken question.
“All of them want to go see him...which is understandable. I mean...Giles is never out of contact with the kids, but...it’s a hospital, Oz. And Giles is in the hospital because someone tried to – ”
Oz glanced at Braden and then interrupted Buffy quickly. “We’ll stay with the kids tonight. We’ll bring Braden and Lucas by first thing in the morning.”
When Braden started to protest, Oz shook his head. “Your dad needs his rest, Braden. And we’re going to need your help here while your mom is taking care of him. We’ll take you and Lucas in the morning and then in the afternoon we’ll drop off Haddie, Evan, and Declan...and do a switch.”
Braden sighed heavily, but nodded his agreement. “Okay, I guess...”
Oz smiled, turning his eyes to Buffy and continuing. “When it’s dinner time for the kids, one of us will come by to pick them up and you stay with Giles.”
“I don’t know...”
Braden took his mother’s hand and nodded his agreement. “It’s a good idea, Mum. We’ll be good...”
“You’re always good, Ru...that’s not even the question.”
Braden smiled sadly. “It’s Dad, Mum. He needs you...and we’ll be okay for a night. Just...tell him that we love him.”
Oz kissed his son’s cheek before sending him off to play with Callie. He stood up, scratching the back of his head as he met Buffy’s eyes.
“I don’t think they need to be there tonight. But, it’s just my opinion...if you think differently, we’ll figure something out.”
“No...no, you’re right.” Buffy whispered softly before hugging her eldest child. “Your dad wants blood sausage...how about you and Lucas help me.”
A small smile appeared on Braden’s lips, growing as he nodded. “I’ll go get him.”
Buffy exhaled slowly as Braden ran from the room, piquing Oz’s curiosity. When she met his eyes, he offered her a gentle smile.
“Yeah...I mean, Giles is the one who’s sick. And Ethan...and he’s worse off than Giles right now. They’ll both be – ”
She stopped suddenly when he placed his hand on her shoulder, her bottom lip trembling as she fought back her tears. Oz understood...she was scared, but didn’t want to scare her children. And tears when one of their parents wasn’t well scared their children.
He pulled her into his arms, gently rubbing her back as she sniffled.
* * *
Giles opened his eyes, feeling more like he’d been run over with a truck than he had the last time he was awake. He took a deep breath and then sat up, reaching for the controls for the bed and raising the top half of the mattress. At least the nausea wasn’t as bad.
He glanced at the clock and briefly wondered if it was six in the evening of the morning he was brought in or the following day. He scratched his head and picked up a piece of paper that was next to his pillow...at least he knew that it was six in the evening. He could tell that much from the sun shining through the window.
He read the words quickly...or as quickly as he could without his glasses...and then smiled. He vaguely remembered asking for food, but had wondered if it had just been a dream. His smile faded as he looked across the room to find Ethan asleep in the other bed.
None of this had been a dream.
His brow furrowed as he looked around the room. Michael was nowhere to be seen...and that was somewhat of a concern to Giles. He was sure that Buffy had told him that the truth had been revealed...but maybe he had misunderstood her? Did Michael not know the truth and –
Giles quickly turned his head towards the door when he heard the click of the latch...perhaps a bit too quickly, he thought as a sudden bout of dizziness struck him. He recovered just as quickly, swallowing thickly as Buffy walked through the door with a plate covered with aluminium foil in her hands.
“What’s wrong?” She asked, rushing over to his bedside and sliding the plate onto the table. “Are you okay?”
“Michael isn’t...where’s Michael? He knows, right? He knows that nothing happened between us? Doesn’t he?”
“What? Yeah...” She glanced over at Ethan’s side of the room as Giles rambled. “Calm down, Giles...”
“But, he’s – ”
“In the waiting room with Braden, Lucas, and Oz.” Buffy finished for him, placing her hand on his cheek. She looked into his panicked eyes and sighed sadly. “He does know that nothing happened, honey.”
Giles stared into her eyes, beginning to relax only when she leaned into him and placed a soft kiss on his lips. “Braden and Lucas are here?”
“Mm-hm. Just for a little while, though. Oz is going to take them home as soon as they tell you goodnight. Pretend to be surprised, okay?” She whispered, easily coaxing him into another kiss.
When he started to deepen the kiss, she pulled back and chuckled softly. “Even if the boys weren’t waiting to see you...there’s no way you’re ready for anything that you’re trying to start.”
“I love you.” He whispered.
Her eyes narrowed slightly at the heavy emotion in his voice. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, I’m just...” He swallowed and leaned back against the raised mattress. “I know that I’ve apologized for last night, but – ”
“Stop.” Buffy stated firmly, shaking her head as she fingered an unruly curl of hair over his left ear. “We’re both to blame for the reason you left last night, Giles. This isn’t all on you.”
Before he could say anything, she gestured to the bed. “Are you comfortable or should we raise it a bit more so you can eat?”
He sighed deeply and shifted slightly. “Probably should come up a bit more.”
Buffy nodded and pushed the button, keeping her eyes trained on him as the bed moved. “And for the record...I love you too.”
A smile flickered in Giles’ tired eyes. She pointed to the plate and requested that he start eating before everything was cold and gross. He reached over and picked the dish up, inhaling deeply as he lifted the foil.
“Gross is what it is. But, at least it’s not cold and gross.” She chuckled as he picked up a slice of sausage and popped it into his mouth. “Now...I’m going to go get the boys. Remember...you’re surprised to see them because you didn’t know they were coming, right?”
“Mm-hm.” He mumbled around a mouthful of heavily buttered toast. “Coffee?”
She smiled and gave him a wink. “I’ll see what I can do, babe.”
* * *
True to his word, he acted surprised when his two oldest children walked into the room. Braden saw through his surprise and grinned. Lucas was completely fooled...his naivety warming Buffy’s heart.
Michael followed them in, his smile faltering as he looked over at his sleeping husband...who still hadn’t moved. Braden felt Michael’s sadness and gently squeezed his hand.
“He’ll be okay, Michael.”
Michael nodded slowly and smiled down at Braden, lightly squeezing back. “Thank you, Braden. Now...go on...your Dad’s waiting for a hug, I’d imagine.”
Michael’s watched the two boys carefully climb onto their father’s bed, chuckling at the sight. Braden had obviously inherited his father’s height and Lucas wasn’t exactly short for his age either. Sometimes it was hard to remember that they were only twelve and nine.
He looked at Buffy when he felt her hand on his lower back. “They’re both so tall...”
“Yeah...” She grinned at him, her hazel eyes sparkling. “It’s not going to be long before I’m the shortest member of the family again.”
When he laughed...a genuine laugh that reflected in his eyes...she leaned up and kissed his cheek and then lowered her voice to a tender whisper.
“That’s what he needs to hear, Michael. He needs to hear you laugh.”
Michael glanced at Ethan and furrowed his brow. “What if he can’t? Hear me, I mean...”
Buffy followed his glance and smiled. “I’m pretty sure Ethan can hear everything. And I know how much your laughter means to him. And...I honestly believe that hearing you laugh will help him more than anything else right now.”
When Michael’s eyes flickered with uncertainty, she lifted her hand to his cheek and gently stroked his skin with her thumb. “He’s going to be fine, Michael. He’s just asleep...and when he wakes up, the first thing he’s going to want is...”
She glanced at the bed and cleared her throat before continuing.
“...something that is probably left unsaid at the moment.”
Braden looked over at them and grinned knowingly. “You talking about s-e-x?”
Lucas furrowed his brow at his older brother. “I know how to spell, Bay. And I even know what sex is. Dad told me all about it forever ago.”
Braden laughed as he turned his eyes to Lucas. “Forever ago? How long ago was that?”
“A long time ago...”
“In a galaxy far, far away?” Braden asked teasingly.
Lucas rolled his eyes. “Braden...”
Braden grinned and playfully nudged Lucas’ shoulder. “You know you were named after Luke Skywalker, right? Use the force, Luke...”
“I was not!” He looked up at his father questioningly. “Was I?”
Michael coughed as he struggled to keep from laughing. Buffy nudged him towards Ethan’s bed and grinned.
“This room needs more laughter and less doom and gloom. And you know...chances are he’s going to wake up a lot sooner than the possible week that the doctors said. Ethan’s never listened to doctors, why would he start now?”
Michael pulled her into a quick hug and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you, Buffy.”
“Nothing to thank me for...but you’re welcome just the same.”
Michael chuckled softly and let her go before making his way back to Ethan’s bedside. He smiled as he reached over and ran his fingers through Ethan’s hair.
“You look like you’re thinking good thoughts there, EJ.” He leaned over and placed a warm kiss on Ethan’s lips and then grinned. “So...did you know that Lucas was named after Luke Skywalker?”
Buffy snorted, shaking her head as she turned her attention back to her husband and two oldest children. As she watched them, she pulled her phone out of her pocket and sent Oz a text message.
They could ask the nurses to bring in a small bed for the boys to share. She had a feeling that neither the boys nor her husband would be okay with the idea of the children going back home tonight.
The following morning, Giles had been genuinely surprised when Oz opened the door, Declan in his arms and Haddie and Evan running towards the bed. Buffy had smiled lovingly at Giles and shrugged a shoulder.
“They all wanted to come. But, it was too late for the younger ones last night. Oz came up with a pretty spectacular switcheroo technique, though.”
“Switcheroo?” Giles chuckled as Haddie climbed onto the bed and gave him a hug. “Is that a technical term?”
“When you have five kids...yes.” Buffy laughed as she helped Evan onto the bed.
Oz grinned, handing Declan over when both Dec and Giles reached for one another. “How long are they keeping you for?”
Giles kissed his baby son and cuddled him against his chest before playfully ruffling Evan’s hair. “They said they’d re-evaluate me tomorrow morning.”
“You still look a little...well, green.” Oz stated, glancing at the bruise on Giles’ cheek. “Probably a good idea if they keep you another day or so.”
“Probably, as much as I hate to admit it.”
Oz smirked and glanced over at Ethan, who was still unconscious. He smiled at Michael as Braden and Lucas sat next to Ethan’s bed and talked to him.
“How’s Ethan doing?”
Michael returned the smile as he rubbed his thumb over the back of Ethan’s hand. “He hasn’t woken up yet, but...he’s smiled a couple of times. And his finger twitched earlier. So...he’s doing much better.”
“Excellent.” Oz replied sincerely before glancing at his watch. “Um...Lucas?”
“Yeah?” Lucas answered, looking over his shoulder at Oz.
“Your drum lesson is in half an hour...”
Lucas thought for a moment and then shook his head. “Yeah, but...Dad is – ”
“Insisting that I’m fine and will continue to be fine should you go to your lesson.” Giles finished for him with a smile. “You enjoy your lessons, Lucas...don’t miss one because of this.”
“You sure, Dad?” Lucas questioned softly.
Giles’ smile grew as he nodded. “I’m positive. And when I come home tomorrow, you can show me what you learned today.”
“Will you play with me? You, me, and Bay...we could have a mini-concert for Mum and the little’uns.”
Giles chuckled and shifted Declan to a more comfortable position. “That we could. But, only if you go to your lesson...”
Lucas nodded and rushed around the bed to give Michael a hug. “Tell Ethan we were here, okay?”
Michael hugged the boy tightly before letting him go. “Of course I will...though I’m fairly certain he knows already.”
Braden leaned over the side of the bed and gently hugged Ethan before whispering a soft ‘goodbye’. After giving Michael a hug as well, he nudged Lucas with his shoulder.
“Come on, Luke. What do you say about us having a practice session after Oz takes us home?”
Lucas’ eyes shone brightly as he nodded and looked at Oz. “Will you practice with us too?”
Oz smiled and gestured towards Giles. “Reckon your Dad’ll let me borrow one of his guitars? I don’t have one of mine with me...”
Lucas looked at his father, his question burning in his green eyes. Giles laughed, handing a squirming Declan to Buffy and pulling Evan onto his lap.
“Just not the Lowden...”
Oz smirked and began the task of ushering the older boys out of the room.
* * *
Haddie twisted the onyx signet ring around her father’s right pinky and then furrowed her brow. “Daddy?”
“Mm?” Giles mumbled as he watched Evan share his ice cream with Declan.
“How come your hand is shaking?”
Buffy quickly looked up from wiping the melted ice cream from Declan’s chin. “Are you okay?”
Giles smiled weakly. “Just a little nausea, love. I’m okay...it’s to be expected.”
“Are you going to be sick, Daddy?” Haddie asked softly, her voice full of concern.
“No, no...just a rumbly tummy is all.” He answered calmly, soothingly stroking her golden curls. “Remember how your stomach felt when you had too many slushies at the carnival?”
She visibly paled as she shuddered. “Yeah, ugh...”
“If you throw up, will it be blue like mine was?” She asked in a horrified tone.
He laughed and placed a kiss on her forehead. “No...in fact, it’s settling down quite nicely now.”
Evan walked over and held up his cup of ice cream. “Want some ice cream, Daddy? There’s one bite left.”
Giles shook his head slowly and smiled brightly at him. “No, but...you know what I would like?”
“A cuddle.” He chuckled as Evan started to climb up. “An ice cream-less cuddle. How about putting that on the bedside table before you come up?”
Evan quickly got rid of the cup and scrambled up onto the bed. Haddie shifted over enough to allow her younger brother access to half of their father’s lap. He uttered a quick ‘thanks, Haddie’ and leaned back against Giles’ chest.
Giles wrapped his arms around them both and gave a contented sigh. “I’m so glad that you came to see me this morning. I missed all of you so much.”
Buffy placed Declan on the foot of the bed and grinned as he crawled up Giles’ legs, wriggling his way between Haddie and Evan. Haddie giggled and rubbed the little boy’s head.
“Oh, Deccie...you’re a funny boy!”
Declan giggled and snuggled against his father. Giles met Buffy’s eyes as the three children on his lap chattered to one another. He was somewhat surprised to see tears in her eyes.
He tilted his head to the left, silently questioning her. She smiled, shaking her head as she wiped her eyes. It was then that he understood...her tears were tears of relief.
“Come here, love.” He stated tenderly.
She snorted a laugh. “I’m not sure where you expect me to sit.”
“No more room on Daddy’s lap, Mummy.” Evan supplied helpfully.
Giles’ eyes sparkled. “No more room, but then...I’m just asking for a kiss.”
Buffy complied with his request, moving to the bedside and pressing a warm, loving kiss to his lips. At that moment, Michael walked through the door with a cup of coffee in his hand and Xander following him.
Michael chuckled and took a sip of the coffee. “Should we ask the staff for a larger bed for you?”
Buffy pulled from the kiss and grinned. “No...larger beds get us in trouble.”
Xander spluttered on a mouthful of coffee, causing both Haddie and Evan to giggle maniacally. Buffy and Giles both rolled their eyes simultaneously, earning a laugh from Michael.
“Not that kind of trouble, Xander...” Buffy said with a bright grin. “Get your head out of the gutter.”
“Have you forgotten who my girlfriend is?” Xander answered with a matching grin. “My head stays in the gutter.”
“Dork.” Buffy muttered as she ran her fingers through Giles’ hair. “I guess you’re here to take the kids back home?”
Xander nodded and reached down to tickle Haddie’s ribs. “Yep...thought we’d go to the zoo this afternoon. What do you guys say?”
“Are you staying with us tonight?” Evan asked, resting his cheek against his father’s chest.
“Big slumber party at your house tonight, Ev.” Xander answered as he rubbed his hands together. “Gileses, Harrises, and Osbournes all under one roof. Sound like fun?”
Evan nodded and then looked up at his father. “But, you won’t be there to read me a bedtime story.”
Giles thought for a moment and then smiled. “What if I tell you a story now...and then you can go home and have a good time with Maria, Jake, Rayna, and River...”
Evan considered it and then nodded vigorously. “Will you tell us about the girl and her friends?”
Xander looked at Giles curiously. “The girl and her friends?”
Giles chuckled and shifted the older two of the three so that they were sitting either side of him before placing Declan between his thighs so that his hands were free. After all, these types of stories required mass amounts of gesticulating as he voiced each character.
“What happened in the last installment that I told you?”
Haddie and Evan thought and then Haddie answered excitedly. “Anne and Cordy went to the college party!”
Xander arched an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything when Buffy shot him a quick glance. Giles thought carefully and then smiled.
“Then that means it’s time for Halloween.” He grinned and looked at Michael. “Pull up a chair, you’ll like this one too.”
Xander snorted, sitting down on the chair that Buffy had vacated for the comfort of the foot of Giles’ bed. “Oh yeah...this one’s a laugh riot!”
Evan stared at Xander. “You know this story?”
Xander shook his head and gave the boy a wink. “Nah, I just know how good your dad is at telling stories, that’s all. He makes them funny, doesn’t he?”
Evan nodded quickly and laughed. “Yep... ‘specially Harry. He’s funny!”
Michael pulled over a chair and sat down, suddenly very curious about this story...apparently one story in a complete series...that Giles was getting ready to tell his children.
“It was Halloween in Brightglen...” Giles began, immediately capturing the attention of all three children. “And everyone was looking for the perfect costume...”
Buffy smiled at the memory of the instance that Giles was using for this story. It wasn’t very smile-worthy at the time, but...that was a long time ago.
And anyway...things worked out okay in the end.
It was an afternoon of alternating between watching television, sitting in the chair, lying in the bed with his arms around Buffy, and chatting with Michael. After a late afternoon nap, the nurse came in with his dinner. Buffy snorted softly as he lifted the lid on the plate and narrowed his eyes.
“I think I’m not very hungry.” He stated, pushing the tray away from him.
“You need to eat, Giles...”
Giles sighed heavily and shook his head, lowering his voice to a sad whisper. “I can’t eat that, Buffy.”
“It can’t be that bad.” She rolled her eyes and lifted the lid, grimacing at what was revealed and replacing the lid quickly. “Or, maybe it can be. What would you like and I’ll go pick something up for you.”
“No, you stay here with him.” Michael interjected softly as he stood up and stretched his back. “I could use a bit of fresh air and I don’t think Ethan’s going to wake up in the time I’m gone.”
Buffy looked up at Michael and then glanced at Ethan. “Are you sure? I mean...I don’t mind going out and – ”
Michael gave her a wink and shook his head. “You two have had very little alone time...I’ll go. What would you like, Rupert?”
“I would love a prawn and coriander curry...”
Buffy raised an eyebrow at him. “That might be a bit ambitious right now...”
Giles heaved a deep sigh and continued. “But, I’ll have something slightly bland and Italian...”
Buffy chuckled and slipped her hand into his as she met Michael’s eyes. “There’s a restaurant down the road that has a terrific chargrilled tuna steak...”
Giles glanced at her and then smiled when he realized where she was talking about. “They also have a very nice venison dish that Buffy enjoys.”
Michael grinned and pulled his keys out of his pocket. “Give me the address.”
As Buffy rattled off the address for the restaurant, Giles reached over to the bedside table and pulled the drawer open. Michael watched him curiously as he reached inside and then shook his head quickly when Giles pulled his wallet out of the drawer.
“Put that away, Rupert. My treat tonight.” He leaned over and placed a warm kiss on Ethan’s lips and then made his way to the door. “If you think of anything else you need, just give me a call.”
Buffy nodded, climbing onto the bed next to her husband. “Thank you, Michael.”
Michael merely grinned and then slipped out the door. Buffy looked up at Giles as the door closed.
“How are you feeling?”
Buffy tilted her head, genuinely surprised at his answer. “Frustrated?”
He nodded slowly and lifted his hand to the side of her face. “I want you.”
“Giles...” She whispered, looking into his eyes as her fingertip traced the golden hoop in his ear. “You’re not ready yet. You’re still recovering...”
“Which is why I’m frustrated.” He replied softly, lowering his hand to gently caress her left breast. “I know that I’m not ready. My body seems to have another agenda.”
He licked his lips as he watched her eyes darken and felt her nipple harden under his touch. “But, you are ready...and your body seems to have the same agenda as mine.”
“Don’t worry about me.” Buffy replied, willing her body to calm itself. “I’m good to wait.”
Giles gave a subtle shake of his head. “No, you’re not. You need to come...I’ve felt it for the past few hours, Buffy.”
It was Giles’ turn to look surprised. “Whatever for, love?”
“I tried to ignore it, but – ”
“Let me help you come.” He interrupted, gently pinching her nipple before sliding his hand down to her hip.
He swallowed and stared into her eyes. “I may not feel up to making love right now. But, I can kiss you...I can touch you...I can make you come if you’ll allow it.”
Her skin flushed at his words and he carefully pulled her over him so that she was straddling his thighs. He reached up and threaded his fingers through her hair before lightly grazing her throat with his fingertips.
“Please, Buffy...please allow me to do this for you.”
She glanced at the clock and grumbled softly. “Not right now.”
“Why? I can feel your need coming off of you in waves...”
She leaned forward and brushed her lips across his before resting her forehead against his. “Because...the nurse will be here in about five minutes to check your vitals.”
“Ah...” He murmured, rubbing his palms over her hips before edging his fingertips under the hem of her shirt. “She’s likely to find that my blood pressure is slightly elevated...”
She traced the scar on his neck with her fingertip and took a deep breath in an effort to calm herself. She smiled at his growl of protest as she moved and settled back down beside of him.
“As soon as she’s gone...”
His eyes sparkled, his excitement showing through his exhaustion. She chuckled and leaned her head against his shoulder as she lightly stroked his fingers.
They sat in silence for a few moments...Buffy content to play with Giles’ long fingers and Giles seemingly content to just watch her.
“Were you still angry with me when you...” She paused and furrowed her brow. “The last thing you remember was talking with Ethan, right?”
He nodded slowly, watching her turn his hand over and trace the lines in his palm with her finger. “Yes.”
“Were you still angry with me then?”
“No, love.” He whispered, swallowing thickly as her thumb rubbed over his inner wrist. “In fact, the last thing I remember saying was that I could never stay angry with you. I was frightened, but...there was no anger.”
She looked up at him, curiosity in her hazel eyes. “Frightened?”
“We were going to lose you if you went through with your plan of going to Scotland.” He choked out, tears filling his eyes. “I feel that as deeply as I feel your love for me. I knew there was no way I could physically stop you, but – ”
She turned towards him quickly and cut him off with a kiss, not caring when she heard the door open and the nurse chuckle softly. However, she did let Giles end the kiss when the nurse cleared her throat.
Giles smiled shyly at the nurse and held out his right arm for her to take his blood pressure. The nurse returned his smile and gave Buffy a wink.
“I’ll not be long.”
Buffy smiled and slid out of the bed. Giles watched her go over and check on Ethan, tilting his head as she whispered something to him.
“Your blood pressure’s a bit high, Mr. Giles. But...we’ll just say it’s normal for now, okay?”
Buffy laughed softly, making her way into the bathroom as Giles’ skin turned a light shade of pink.
* * *
Buffy came out of the bathroom, arching an eyebrow at the darkness of the room. The only light was coming from a small lamp on Giles’ bedside table. He shrugged a shoulder and gestured towards the lamp.
“The closest I could come to a candle, according to the nurse. No open flames in hospitals anymore.”
She chuckled and climbed back onto the bed. “You asked the nurse about a candle?”
“No.” He laughed as he carefully pulled her on top of him once more. “She offered.”
“Oh, how I wish I’d seen that...” She grinned.
“Yes, quite.” He murmured, darting his eyes to her chest. “You...should unbutton your blouse.”
“I’d rather have you naked...warm and bare on top of me.” He sighed deeply and licked his lips. “But...we are in a hospital room.”
“Yeah...” She trembled at the image his words brought to her mind.
He smiled and unbuttoned half of the buttons on her blouse. “Your beauty never ceases to stun me...”
She swallowed as his fingers grazed the smooth slope of her left breast. “I love you.”
He met her eyes, not surprised to see the arousal in them, and slid his left hand to the back of her neck. He drew her lips to his as his right hand continued to fondle her firm flesh.
“Oh, Buffy...I love you too.” He whispered just seconds before capturing her lips in a searing kiss.
She rocked her hips against him, whimpering into his mouth as his left hand moved to the button on her jeans. Realizing that there was a distinct hard bulge underneath her, she pulled from the kiss and stared into his eyes as he pulled her zipper down.
Reading her eyes, he smiled warmly and shook his head. “This is about you, darling. Don’t worry...”
“However, saying that...” He slipped his fingers into her now slightly damp underwear and gave a soft groan. “If I were feeling just the slightest bit better, I’d have my cock inside of you in three seconds...or less.”
He pushed two fingers into her and moved his other hand to her hip, guiding her in slow strokes as he curled his fingers inside of her. “But, I’m not feeling just the slightest bit better...I’m hoping this will suffice for you right now.”
“More...” She groaned, gripping his shoulder tightly.
“Not enough room.” Was his whispered reply before running his tongue along the edge of her bra.
“Off...take them off...”
He lightly smacked her ass before squeezing her hip and lifted his eyes to hers. “Not here, love.”
He glanced at the scar on her neck and leaned forward, placing a warm open-mouthed kiss on her throat. He closed his eyes as the nausea threatened to make a return appearance. His erection began to wane as the threat began to take hold. Knowing that he didn’t have much time before the nausea would cause him to have to stop her, he moved his mouth to the scar.
He bit down quickly, sucking hard as she bucked against his hand. Her nails clawed at his shoulders as she bit her lip to keep herself from screaming. As soon as his thumb rubbed against her clit, she shuddered violently and groaned his name.
As she came down, he pulled his hand out of her now soaked underwear and moved his mouth from her neck. Resting his forehead against her collarbone, he gripped her hips as tightly as he could...but wasn’t able to still her movement.
Hearing the urgency in his voice, she immediately complied and looked down at him. “Giles?”
His stomach spasmed and he lifted his head and leaned back against the mattress. Her eyes widened when she took in his slightly green complexion.
“Oh God...Giles! I’m so sorry!” She exclaimed as she quickly lowered the bed so that he was lying down.
“Ssh...” He murmured, closing his eyes and swallowing hard as he carefully rolled onto his right side. “Just...still, be still, love.”
“This was a bad idea...I knew – ”
He opened one eye and licked his suddenly dry lips. “Stop, Buffy. This was my idea...and I regret none of it. I’m just a little...or a lot...queasy at the moment.”
“What can I do?” She whispered, lovingly stroking his damp forehead.
“Mm...that’s nice.” He mumbled, closing his eye again. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” She replied, realizing that his body was forcing him into sleep to combat the nausea. “I love you so much, Giles.”
He smiled weakly and she heard a soft mumble, but couldn’t make out what he was saying. His green tinge started to fade and she carefully moved to his side, rebuttoning her jeans and blouse before wrapping her arm around his and resting her head on the corner of his pillow.
She felt horribly guilty about his sudden turn...but she also felt wonderfully satisfied. Which just made her feel even more guilty. She furrowed her brow as she worked through her emotions in her head and then chuckled softly to herself.
She could almost hear Giles chastising her for feeling any degree of guilt. And knowing that he’d be scowl-y over it, she smiled...and allowed her satisfaction to overpower her guilt. She ran her fingers through his damp hair and lightly kissed the tip of his nose before snuggling against him again and closing her eyes.
They’d rest until Michael came back with their dinner. And she’d let go of the guilt...unless he was still sick when he woke back up.
Michael walked back into the hospital room, arching an eyebrow at the darkness of the room. He shifted the bag containing several foil takeaway containers and smiled.
Buffy returned his smile and nodded, sitting up carefully to avoid jostling her still sleeping husband. “Yeah, he just had another wave of nausea hit him...so, he’s resting.”
A soft snort from the other side of the room caused Buffy and Michael to both snap their eyes to Ethan’s bed. Ethan swallowed thickly and licked his dry lips as he rolled his head to the side, his dark eyes staring at them.
“Ethan?” Michael asked in disbelief.
Ethan weakly smiled. “Hey.”
Michael dropped the bag onto Giles’ bed and ran over to Ethan’s side, gently stroking Ethan’s cheek. “Oh my God...you’re awake! Are you...how are you feeling? What can I do?”
“Ssh.” Ethan murmured, leaning into Michael’s touch. “Thirsty...and mildly aroused after listening to the two of them.”
Buffy blushed lightly and softly whispered Giles’ name to wake him. Michael glanced over at Buffy and Giles, and then understood. The soft lighting, the fact that Buffy’s shirt was buttoned differently than it had been earlier...and the tension that had shown in her shoulders before he had left to pick up dinner was now completely gone.
He turned back to Ethan and grinned. “Oh?”
“Mm-hm.” Ethan sighed, looking into his husband’s blue eyes. “Poor chap...wasn’t able to come before he got sick. She did though...” He licked his lips again and wrapped his fingers around Michael’s wrist. “Made me think of you. God, I love you, Mike.”
“I love you too, EJ.” A single tear rolled down Michael’s cheek as he leaned down to brush his lips across Ethan’s. “I thought I’d lost you this time.”
Ethan grinned lazily. “It’ll take more than...” His grin disappeared quickly as the last memory he had before blacking out played in his mind. “Oh God...”
Michael understood and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Ssh...it’s okay, Ethan. We all know...it’s okay.”
“We didn’t...did we? Christ, tell me that we didn’t...” Ethan rambled, his eyes wide.
“No, you didn’t. But, you need to calm down...because if you don’t, you’re just going to get sick again.”
“What the hell happened?” Ethan whispered, his eyes glistening.
Giles felt a sense of relief upon hearing Ethan’s voice as Buffy helped him sit back up. “You were an innocent bystander in this...for once.”
Ethan’s eyes darted to Buffy and Giles, his brow furrowing in confusion. “What?”
“Someone poisoned Giles...unfortunately, so were you.” Buffy replied, gently rubbing Giles’ back as he inhaled deeply. “Hey...”
“I’m alright.” Giles responded softly, placing his hand on her thigh as he looked at Ethan. “Because you were poisoned as well, the plan was changed...and it turned into a framing. Had Buffy not walked in when she did, I’m not sure when I would’ve awoken...or if I even would’ve.”
Ethan’s eyes narrowed. “So this person’s plan was to make our loved ones think that you and I had...that we’d...fucking hell, Rupert. Who did you piss off this time?”
Giles lowered his eyes, his jaw clenching and then releasing. “His name is Tobar Djordji. His sister was a Slayer...she was lost in a battle a few months ago.”
“Where is he?” Ethan growled, pushing himself up.
Michael grabbed the controller for the bed and quickly raised the back. “Not so fast, Ethan...”
Ethan glared at Giles, but allowed Michael to make him slightly more comfortable as he sat up. “You have him in protective custody, don’t you?”
Giles met Ethan’s confused and slightly angry glare and sighed. “It’s somewhat more complex than that, Ethan.”
“He tried to kill you! Us! And you’re fucking protecting him?!”
Giles’ eyes flashed. “What would you have me do, Ethan? Turn him over to the police? Or have his mind wiped clean? Or have him killed?”
“He poisoned you!” Ethan roared, causing Michael to jump slightly.
Giles stared at him for a few moments before lightly shaking his head and lowering his voice. “He’s grieving, Ethan. Grief makes you do things that you wouldn’t normally. He blames me for his sister’s death. And...I can’t really blame him for that.”
Ethan took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself. His voice trembled with anger as he spoke.
“You can’t blame yourself for every death of every Slayer, Rupert. You’re a Watcher, for God’s sake. She had a Watcher too...where was he when she died?”
“Trying to protect her.” Giles answered softly. “He died alongside her...”
Ethan closed his eyes briefly and shook his head. “You’re still not to blame, Rip...it’s not as if you didn’t – ”
“I took her out of her home. I promised her family that I would do everything that I could to keep her safe.”
Ethan and Michael stared at Giles, Ethan’s desperate anger dissipating as he watched the sadness fill his friend’s eyes. Buffy knelt behind him on the bed, her arms wrapped around him as she placed a loving kiss in his hair before whispering into his ear.
“You did everything you could, Giles.”
“I know that.” Giles responded quietly. “But, Tobar doesn’t. I can’t...I can’t have him punished for something that he doesn’t understand...”
Silence fell over the room and after a few moments, Ethan sighed heavily and leaned back against the pillow. Ethan glanced at the bag on the foot of Giles’ bed and swallowed.
“You should eat your dinner before it goes cold.”
Giles pushed the red button next to his bed, smiling softly as Ethan raised an eyebrow at him. “The doctors will want to look in on you...now that you’re awake.”
“Great.” Ethan grumbled, rolling his eyes as the door opened and two nurses rushed in.
Michael moved from the bed, but refused to leave Ethan’s side. Buffy smiled and moved to sit next to Giles, pulling the hospital table over to the bed. As she pulled out the containers from the bag, she looked into his eyes.
“You look stronger now...not as weak, I mean.”
He looked down at the food as she placed his tuna steak in front of him. “I want to go home, Buffy.”
“I know, babe.” She whispered, leaning over and placing a soft kiss on his cheek. “Eat...and we’ll talk about important stuff later, okay?”
He picked up his knife and fork and heaved a heavy sigh. A gentle smile of relief played on his lips as Ethan grumbled at the nurses. He gave Buffy a nod and cut through the steak.
“Important stuff later.”
Buffy gave him a wink and stabbed a roast potato with her fork.
* * *
“Come on, Michael...” Ethan whispered, licking his lips as he stared into his eyes.
“I’m not giving you a blowjob here.” Michael answered on a whisper of his own. “You need to rest.”
“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past two days?” Ethan replied quickly, his hand moving under the sheet to rub against his erection. “I slept through the rough part, I’m feeling fine. Just...I need to come, Mike.”
Michael glanced across the room, relieved to see that Buffy and Giles were sound asleep...Buffy’s head resting on Giles’ chest and his arms wrapped around her. Michael shook his head slowly as he looked into his husband’s eyes.
“Bloody hell, Mike...at least give me a tug if you’re not going to let me fuck your mouth.”
Michael chuckled softly and covered Ethan’s hand with his own, gently squeezing the hardened flesh. He quickly uttered a ‘tsk-tsk’ when Ethan moaned.
“Quiet, Ethan...you’ll wake them.”
Ethan grinned lustfully, his eyes dark with passion. “Then maybe you should find something to shove in my mouth to keep me quiet.”
Ethan moved his hand, giving Michael full access to his hard-on. “Your cock is the first thing that comes to mind. But...” He licked his lips as Michael’s hand curled around his heated flesh. “I’ll settle for your tongue.”
After another quick glance across the room, Michael lowered his mouth to Ethan’s.
Buffy smiled as she felt Giles’ soft chuckle rumble in his chest.
* * *
The morning came quickly and, as breakfast arrived, Ethan shook his head at Giles. “No, not a total mind sweep...”
Giles cautiously lifted the lid on his plate and then smiled, picking up a piece of toast as Buffy took a sip of his orange juice. He bit off the corner of his toast and chewed, regarding Ethan carefully.
“You’re suggesting that we take some of his memories, alter them, and then reintroduce them to him?”
Ethan nodded, hungrily digging into his scrambled eggs as Michael heavily buttered a piece of toast. “Yeah, why not? He need not forget Florica...and you can make her death something as simple as a car accident or something. There’ll be no blame on his part, no vengeance, no...trying to kill you. He’ll be able to work through his grief.”
Giles thought as he swallowed his toast and then took a sip of the coffee, grimacing at the bitter taste of burnt coffee beans. “It’s not half-bad. I’d prefer a solution that didn’t involve altering memories, but...I’m not sure that can be accomplished in this situation.”
“I can call Christian once we talk to the doctor, okay?”
Giles nodded and shivered slightly as she rubbed her fingers along his thigh. “Mm-hm...”
Ethan looked up sharply at Giles’ murmur and grinned. “And then maybe your kids can stay here and keep Uncle Ethan company while the two of you take care of some – ”
“Ethan!” Michael scolded, slapping Ethan’s shoulder with the back of his hand.
Giles chuckled and fed Buffy a bite of scrambled egg. “Maybe later...I think I’d like to spend some time with my children before anything else.”
Ethan rubbed his shoulder and scowled at Michael. Michael laughed softly and pressed a tender kiss to Ethan’s lips. Ethan’s scowl faded quickly.
Giles shook his head in amusement and met Buffy’s eyes as she handed him another piece of toast. He arched an eyebrow at the look in her eyes. Grinning, she shrugged a shoulder and let her fingers glide along his inner thigh.
“Ethan doesn’t always have bad ideas, you know...”
Giles smiled brightly and took a bite of the toast. “Not always.”
Buffy took a deep breath and leaned against his shoulder. It had been a rough few days...an argument, his intoxication, the poisoning, the framing, the discovery...but, it all ended well. Everyone was safe and healthy, though currently eating a hospital breakfast which could be fairly shudder-worthy...but they were healthy.
And that was all that mattered right now.
She might change her mind about all that mattered once she got him home though...especially considering the fact that she could sense his arousal begin to warm his body.
With that thought, she smiled and finished off his orange juice.