Title: A Good Place to Start
Pairing: Buffy/Giles, Giles/OFC
Timeline: AU, between S5 and S6.
Synopsis: Giles isn’t dealing with things very well.
Author’s Note: As always, thank you A.
Giles fought to keep his eyes open, not wanting to miss one second of the pleasure showing on her face as she moved above him. His fingers gripped her hips, following her motion. Her breasts bounced tantalizingly, just a few inches from his mouth. He licked his lips and leaned forward, just enough to pull her swollen nipple into his mouth.
She groaned, her nails digging into his shoulders. Her pace increased, she angled her hips slightly in an effort to change the amount of friction. She smiled as he trembled beneath her, murmuring her name against her breast as he met each of her thrusts with his own in perfect timing.
The chair creaked lightly under their increasingly frantic movements. He briefly wondered if their fluids would stain the leather. As her inner walls began to quiver, he decided he didn’t give a shit. He sucked her nipple harder, her nails broke the skin on his shoulders, they slammed their hips together – pushing each other towards a fast orgasm that had the promise of being absolutely mind-blowing.
“Oh fuck, Giles…” She cried, moving her right hand to the top of the chair next to his head.
He released her nipple and rested his forehead against her breast as he gasped. “Goddamn, Buffy…I’m so close…”
His hands moved to the cheeks of her ass, squeezing the firm flesh tightly. He ran his tongue between her breasts, up to the hollow of her throat. He nipped at her clavicle, groaning loudly as she screamed his name. And then he felt it…her inner walls convulsing around him, her fluids bathing his cock as her orgasm crashed over her. He closed his eyes as his head fell back against the back of the chair…two, three, four more thrusts and he came forcefully inside of her. Her name spilling from his lips on a guttural groan.
And then he was suddenly cold.
His eyes snapped open…and he instantly remembered.
She wasn’t here. He was alone, his home was empty…except for his books and weapons. He fought to control his breathing and glanced down. His cock twitched as the semen cooled on his skin. He sighed heavily…he needed a shower and a change of clothes.
And a drink.
Fuck, I need a drink.
He pushed himself out of the leather chair, pausing briefly to look at it as he walked away from it. Dreams…memories…they were going to do him in if he weren’t careful. He reached for the pack of cigarettes on the table with a trembling hand. As he shook one out, a knock sounded on his door.
He searched his pockets for his lighter as he made his way to the door, furrowing his brow when he couldn’t find it. He opened the door and his heart lurched.
“Hi Giles. I’ve come to give you my patrol report.”
He fought the bile that immediately rose into his throat and turned his eyes away. It wasn’t her. Not his Buffy. He saw his lighter on the small table next to the door. Grabbing it, he turned and walked away.
The BuffyBot followed him into the living room, smiling brightly.
“I slayed three vampires tonight.”
He lit a cigarette and slipped his lighter into his pocket. “Good. Good, any issues.”
“My puns seemed to confuse them. That could be a good thing, yes?”
He stared at her, smoke trailing from his nostrils as he exhaled. The Bot tilted her head slightly.
“Are you okay?”
“Don’t look at me like that.” He murmured, glancing towards the bottle of scotch on the coffee table.
“You seem…hot. Sweaty and your pulse is elevated. Have you been in a fight?”
Giles cleared his throat. “Three vampires, confused by puns. Normal vampires? Anything that seemed omen-y?”
The Bot grinned at him. “Omen-y? You sound like me.”
“I, uh…” He shook his head and took another drag of his cigarette. “I think you should, perhaps…report to Willow from now on.”
“But, you’re my Watcher.”
“I am no one’s Watcher any longer.” He replied softly, sadly. “And seeing you…I can’t do this anymore.”
“You’re sad. Why are you sad? Is it because Buffy is dead?”
Giles stared at her for a moment and then stood up and grabbed his keys. “Go to Willow. You need to leave. I need to leave.”
He paused and glanced down, then turned and made his way upstairs. He was gone for a few minutes and when he came back down, he was wearing a different pair of jeans. He didn’t even glance at the BuffyBot as he made his way to the door.
“I’ve upset you. I didn’t mean to upset you.” The Bot said quietly in a confused tone.
Giles sighed heavily. “I know you didn’t mean to. But, nothing is going to make this better. So, I need you to go to Willow from now on. This is more than I can be expected to…”
He looked at the BuffyBot through watery eyes and shook his head. “Please lock the door on your way out. Tell Willow that I’ve asked you to report to her from now on. Also, let her know that this is not negotiable in any way.”
The BuffyBot tilted her head as she watched Giles walk out the door, leaving her alone in his home. “Okay. I’ll tell Willow. And I’ll lock the door. Goodbye, Giles.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles quickly downed his drink and silently gestured for another. The bartender refilled his glass and looked at him curiously. Giles gave him a small smile and lifted the glass, this time sipping the amber liquid instead of gulping it down.
“Rough couple of months.”
The bartender gave him a sympathetic smile and moved on to his next customer.
Giles nursed his drink as his mind raced. He needed to leave. Not just his home, but Sunnydale. This was not the place for him anymore. Not now. Not without Buffy. He sighed heavily and took another sip before cradling the tumbler in his hands and staring into it.
“Is it giving you the answers you need?” A voice asked in an amused tone.
Giles turned towards the owner of the voice. She was younger than him, possibly late 20s…dark hair, dark eyes. He offered her a smile.
“Not as such. Maybe the next one will hold more.”
The young woman sat down next to him. “My name is Nicole.”
Giles hesitated for a moment and then nodded. “Edmund. Nice to meet you. Drink?”
“I wouldn’t say no.” She replied, giving him a wink.
He wasn’t stupid. He knew what she was doing. He briefly considered telling her that he was unavailable for anything more than a chat. But, then he remembered.
His lover was dead.
He waved to the bartender…and requested two more drinks. He cleared his throat and looked at Nicole.
“I’m not sure that I’ll be much of a conversationalist at the moment.”
She saw the sadness in his eyes and gave him a warm smile. “Me neither. Maybe it’s what we both need tonight?”
* * *
Three hours later, Giles followed Nicole into a hotel room.
He sighed heavily and ran his hand through his hair. She smiled as she kicked her shoes off and stood in front of him.
“I’m not asking for a commitment.”
“That’s good. I can’t give one.” He swallowed as she started unbuttoning his shirt. “I can’t even guarantee a second meeting, Nicole. This…this has to just be about tonight. And…feeling…again.”
“She really hurt you, huh?” Nicole asked softly, pushing his shirt off of his shoulders.
“If we’re here to feel, she’s not up for discussion.”
Nicole paused and regarded him carefully. “Are you okay?”
Giles shook his head slowly and leaned into her, covering her mouth with his. His hands made quick work of her dress, sliding it down her body as he maneuvered her towards the bed. Her fingers worked at his belt and jeans, unzipping them moments before he gently pushed her onto the mattress. He hesitated for only a moment, offering Buffy a silent apology for allowing his grief to bring him here.
And then he removed the rest of his clothing and joined Nicole on the bed.
* * *
“What happened?” She asked softly, curled on her side looking at him.
He wiped his hand over his eyes and stared at the ceiling. “When?”
“When your heart was broken.”
He glanced at her as he placed his hand on his stomach, his skin still damp with sweat. “She…died.”
Nicole’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry. Is there anything…God, I don’t even know you, but…what can I do?”
“Nothing.” He offered her a gentle smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’m sorry, this was…well, it was nice and you’re lovely. But, I…this…”
She returned his smile with one of understanding. “It was always just for tonight. It’s what we both needed, just like I thought.”
“Thank you.” He whispered.
She leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his lips. Then she slipped out of the bed and made her way into the bathroom.
When he heard the shower turn on, he exhaled shakily. This time when he felt the tears brimming in his eyes, he didn’t stop them from falling.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles walked into his apartment with a scowl on his face. The door hadn’t been locked. He sighed heavily and dropped his keys onto the table next to the door. He looked up to find Willow sitting on his sofa.
“I asked her to lock the door when she left.”
Willow stood and nodded as she smiled. “She did. But, I didn’t see any point in locking it after I let myself in.”
“Ah…” He rubbed the back of his neck and walked into the kitchen. “Tea?”
“No, thanks. Just came by to check on you.”
“I’m fine.” He walked back into the living room carrying a bottle of water.
“It’s four in the morning, Giles. And the BuffyBot said that you left hours ago…and that you were upset and had been fighting.”
Giles narrowed his eyes as he swallowed a mouthful of water. He shook his head and sighed. “I hadn’t been fighting. I had just woken up from a…dream. It was bad timing. And…I needed to go out, clear my head.”
“She said you want her to give me her patrol report from now on?”
Giles’ eyes glistened. “I can’t Willow.”
Willow’s eyes darted to the collar of his shirt. “Is that blood?”
She walked over to him quickly and ran her finger over the red smudge. “Oh…oh, not blood.”
Giles closed his eyes and clenched his jaw briefly. “Willow…don’t.”
“You’ve been drinking.”
“I’m an adult, Willow. How much I drink and who I fuck is none of your business.”
Willow’s eyes widened at his outburst and she took a step back. “Um…”
“I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.” Giles sighed and lowered his eyes. “I…miss her.”
“We all do, Giles. You’re not alone.” She said softly, reaching out and placing her hand on his forearm. “What have other Watchers done? You know…when their Slayers have…well…”
“Died?” He scratched at his neck and shrugged a shoulder. “Most journals end with their Slayer’s death.”
Giles looked up slowly and looked at Willow through glistening eyes. “She wasn’t just my Slayer, Willow.”
“Yeah, I know. I never thought she was just a ‘job’ to you. You guys were bonded, friends, and – ”
“Lovers.” He interrupted softly, a tear rolling down his cheek as Willow’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “We were in a relationship, had been for…a while. I…we were in love. I love her still, so deeply. And what I did tonight…I shouldn’t have. But, I just needed to feel…something…something other than this grief that is crippling me.”
He sank down onto the leather chair and lowered his head into his hands. “God, I miss her. More than I can express.”
“That’s why you want the Bot to come to me?” Willow asked gently, sitting down on the coffee table in front of him.
Giles nodded and lifted his eyes to Willow’s. “I can’t look at her. I can’t have her walk into my home…a home that I wanted to share with Buffy…and talk to me with her voice. I’ll never hear her say ‘I love you’ again and I can’t listen to the Bot speak…not while I’m…”
Willow’s tears fell as Giles trailed off. She wiped them away and nodded in understanding. “I’ll reprogram her. It won’t happen again, Giles. I’m so sorry. I never would have…if I’d known, I never would have sent her to you. I just thought, you know…keep up the normalcy as much as possible.”
“There’s nothing normal about what’s happening now.”
“I know.” She whispered sadly. “Do you…should I leave? Let you get some sleep?”
He wiped his eyes and shook his head. “No. I…dream too much right now. It’s painful. So beautiful…but extraordinarily painful. I’d very much like for you to stay. I mean…if you don’t mind. I know it’s really rather late. Or incredibly early, depending on your view.”
“Have you eaten? Or has your caloric intake been mainly of the liquid variety?” She asked, a smile playing at her lips.
He chuckled in spite of the seriousness surrounding them and shook his head. “There were some peanuts at the bar.”
She gestured towards the bottle of water he had dropped on the floor. “Finish that…I’ll go see what I can do about some proper food.”
She stood up, stopping when his hand suddenly wrapped around her wrist. She looked down at him questioningly.
She leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the top of his head, much like he had comforted her years earlier when Oz left. But, this was a very different situation. Oz had come back…if only for a short time. He could still come back if he wanted to. But, Buffy couldn’t come back…and for the first time, Willow seemed to understand that they were very close to losing Giles.
Giles’ hand let go of her wrist and she stepped away, smiling at him before turning and heading into the kitchen.
She wanted to ask him about what had happened – who the woman was. But this wasn’t the time.
She narrowed her eyes in thought. Maybe there was a spell. She decided that she’d look into it. But, later. Giles needed her now.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Three and a Half Months Later…
Giles laughed softly as Xander gave an amusing recount of the previous night’s patrol. He had stayed in after receiving a call from Travers regarding some assistance he required with a translation. He pushed a piece of fish around on his plate, taking a bite when he noticed Willow’s pointed stare. Willow smiled as Giles swallowed, slipping her hand into Tara’s underneath the table.
Giles straightened at the name, the soft voice somewhat familiar. He turned and looked up to see a young woman smiling at him – possibly late 20s, dark hair, dark eyes…
“Oh…um, hi.” He said, pushing his chair back and standing up.
Willow, Tara, and Xander all exchanged a very confused look. Xander mouthing ‘Edmund?’…Willow shrugging her shoulders in response.
Giles cleared his throat as he continued talking to the woman. “I, uh…how have you been?”
His eyes darted down when he noticed her hand move to her stomach. Her…slightly protruding stomach. His eyes widened in sudden realization.
“Um…” He gestured towards the three people at the table. “These…these are my friends. Willow, Tara, Xander…this is…um…”
He trailed off embarrassingly, unable to recall the young woman’s name. She chuckled softly and offered him a smile.
“Ah, yes…Nicole. I’m sorry, it’s been…a while.” He glanced at her stomach again.
“It has. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I just wanted to say…hi. Which I’ve said, so…” Her smile warmed as his eyes returned to hers. “I hope you’re doing better?”
“I have my moments.” He sighed softly and lowered his voice. “Should we…talk?”
“Probably, yeah. Are you available tomorrow morning? Maybe around 10? I could meet you for coffee?”
Giles’ mind began to race. He nodded slowly. “Um, sure. Are you familiar with the Espresso Pump?”
“I am.” She nodded. “I’ll see you then?”
“Oh, ah yes. Okay then…” He stammered.
Nicole bid her goodbyes and then nervously smiled at Giles. “Goodbye, Edmund.”
He stared after her as he sat back down. He briefly glanced at Willow, who was staring at him in disbelief. He cleared his throat and picked up his glass of wine.
Xander’s eyes darted around at the other three and then he leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. “Yeah, okay…so, what’s the deal with Edmund? And…why does she think your name isn’t Rupert?”
Willow’s stare turned to a glare in Xander’s direction. “Hush…”
“What? None of this makes sense…” Xander started, stopping when Willow’s eyes darkened. “Fine…”
Willow’s eyes softened as she looked back at Giles, who was busy staring at his glass as if he was hoping it would magically refill itself.
It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what had just taken place. As Xander began rambling, Willow glanced at Tara.
“I need to talk to him tonight…”
Tara nodded quickly. “Of course…” She held up her phone and continued. “Anya said that the Urn has just arrived.”
“Oh, good. That’s great. Just one more thing to get and I can get that in the morning.” Willow whispered.
Giles smiled absently at something Xander had said, though if asked…he wouldn’t have been able to repeat what he had said. He fought the panic rising within him, the nausea hitting him in waves, the tears threatening to well…
What the fuck have I done?
* * *
Giles was pacing in his living room when his front door opened. He paused as he watched Willow walk in.
“Are you okay?” She asked as she closed the door behind her.
“I…” He raised his hands and shook his head. “What the hell am I going to do? I’m not…Jesus Christ, she’s pregnant and…I don’t even know her, Willow!”
“I’m guessing you didn’t practice safe sex, then?”
“I barely fucking remember it! I was drunk. She was…not as drunk. I didn’t go out to get laid…I went out to clear my head.”
“And yet…there’s a woman you had a one night stand with almost four months ago who looks to be nearly four months pregnant. And she made the effort to walk up to you when she saw you.” Willow said and then furrowed her brow. “And…Edmund?”
“My middle name. I didn’t want to be Rupert. I was Rupert with Buffy.” He started pacing again. “God…Buffy…”
“Giles, she’d understand.” She rolled her eyes when he stopped pacing and stared at her. “Okay, she totally wouldn’t understand if she were here, but she’s not…which is how it happened anyway. I mean, would this have been an issue if she wasn’t dead?”
“I’m not even going to dignify that with an answer.”
“My point is…Buffy isn’t here, Giles. She wasn’t here three months ago. She wasn’t here four and a half months ago. You were grieving…still are. You gave in to a moment of comfort – there’s nothing wrong with that.”
He sank down onto the sofa and lowered his head to his hands. “What am I going to do?”
Willow sat down next to him and leaned her head against his shoulder. “My suggestion? Talk to her and see what the story is. Maybe there’s a logical explanation for everything.” She smiled when he turned his head to look at her. “Maybe…”
Giles sighed and glanced at the picture of Buffy on the lamp table.
* * *
Giles was staring into a mug of tea when someone sat down opposite him.
“Last time, you were staring into a tumbler of scotch…”
He chuckled softly and looked up. “Good morning, Nicole.”
“Before we go any further, I’m going to say something.” She waited until he had met her eyes and then gave him a gentle smile. “This baby…isn’t yours.”
Giles let out an audible sigh. “Oh…oh, okay. Um…are you…you know, sure?”
“Yeah. When I realised I was pregnant I knew it had to be one of two people – you or my ex. Did a paternity test with my ex, without his knowledge of course…and it was positive. 99% positive, so…yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
Giles nodded, lowering his eyes.
“I was actually kind of sad, to be honest.”
He looked up quickly, furrowing his brow. “You don’t even know me.”
“I know that you were in pain, I know that you were gentle and sensitive, and I know that you aren’t him.” She shrugged a shoulder and smiled sadly. “Sometimes that’s all you need to know. Lesser of two evils and all that.”
“Are you okay?” He asked softly. “Is there anything I can do?”
Her eyes glistened as she shook her head. “See? You don’t even know me, but you offer to help. He’s known me for over ten years…and walked away. Who would have been a better father?”
“Why didn’t you say anything last night? Why did you come over?” He asked, rubbing the back of his neck. “I just mean…”
“I know what you mean. I honestly just wanted to check on you. You were so desperately sad that night…and you were gone when I came out of the shower. Thank you for leaving the note, though.”
“I…didn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of the situation. But, I also didn’t want you to think that I was just some dickhead out trolling for sex.”
She smiled and took a sip of her coffee. “I think you are a very decent man, Edmund.”
Giles sighed and lowered his eyes. “Rupert.”
“My name. It’s Rupert. Well, Edmund is my middle name. But, I go by Rupert…or Giles. Mainly…Giles.” He looked up, turning the mug in his hands. “I’m sorry. I just…I needed to not be Rupert that night.”
She reached across the table, gently touching his arm. “I think you are a very decent man, Rupert.”
“I’ve had my moments.” He said quietly, offering her a small smile.
“Would you like to talk about her?”
He thought for a moment and then shook his head. “I’m not sure that would be entirely appropriate, considering…”
Nicole nodded in agreement. “See? Decent.”
He gave her a half-smile and lifted his mug to his lips.
* * *
Giles was standing at the window, staring outside with a mug of tea in his hand, when Willow came through the front door. Hearing the door latch, he turned around.
“Hey.” She looked around the room and then walked over towards him. “Everything okay?”
He narrowed his eyes as he regarded her, noticing she was very antsy. “I could ask the same of you.”
“Oh, I’m fine.” She waved a hand and smiled. “Just jittery…too much coffee. So…how did it go this morning?”
He lowered his eyes. “The baby isn’t mine. Could have been. She wasn’t sure at first, so she did a test. It’s her ex’s.”
“Oh, well that’s good.” She furrowed her brow when he didn’t respond. “Isn’t it?”
“I’m sure it’s for the best.” He said, shrugging a shoulder and then taking a sip of his tea.
“Giles? Did you want the baby to be yours?”
“No. No, I wanted a baby to be mine…at some point. Not now, not yet. We had talked about it…Buffy and I…trying. Obviously, it didn’t get any further than the beginnings of a discussion.” He cleared his throat and glanced at Buffy’s picture. “I’m fairly certain that children…just aren’t in my cards. Not now.”
“Not yet?” Willow asked, prodding slightly.
He met her eyes and shook his head, placing the mug on the table. “Not now.”
“She’d want you to be happy, you know.” She said gently, glancing at the picture he had just been looking at. “She wouldn’t want you to be alone. If you wanted to move on? With…Nicole?”
Giles looked as though he had been slapped across the face. “What?”
“I’m just saying – ”
“Well, don’t!” He interrupted swiftly. “Don’t just say! Because, I can’t just move on. I’m in love with her, that’s not something you just…move on from. And especially not with someone you fuck in a moment of drunken comfort.”
She ran over to him quickly and pulled him into a hug. “I know. I’m sorry. I just…I’m sorry.”
Though he resisted at first, he found himself wrapping his arms around her. He closed his eyes against the sudden onslaught of tears and inhaled shakily.
“I miss her so fucking much.” He mumbled.
Willow tightened her hold on him when she heard him sniffle. “I know.”
She held him as he cried, making a silent promise that he wouldn’t be alone for much longer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles hung up the phone, his brow furrowed. He’d been trying to get hold of Xander or Willow for the past two hours. He had spoken to Dawn, but she didn’t know where they were either…just that they were having a meeting. When he expressed concern that she was home alone, she had laughed and said that Spike was babysitting. He grumbled that that didn’t particularly make him feel that much better. Dawn had promised him that she was fine…and he had always trusted her to tell him the truth.
Still, he wondered what was going on with the others. It wasn’t like them to keep him in the dark…and that was more than slightly concerning.
A tentative knock on his door brought him out of his thoughts. He sighed heavily and made his way to the door. Opening it, he rolled his eyes.
“You’re supposed to go to Willow.”
“Willow. You’re programmed to go to her, not me. You know this.”
Giles stopped talking, something about the tone in which the Bot had spoken his name…
He looked at her…really looked at her. His left hand tightened on the doorknob.
“Oh my God. Buffy?”
Tears welled in her eyes as she nodded. “I…I don’t know what’s going on…”
He grabbed her hand and pulled her inside, quickly closing the door. When she grimaced in pain and started to pull her hand away, he looked down. His eyes narrowed as he lifted her hand to inspect the grazes.
“Oh…oh, love…” He whispered, instantly realising what the injuries were from.
“It was the only way I could get out.” She said softly, a tear rolling down her cheek.
He lifted his hand and gently brushed the tear away, wiping away some of the dirt on her face along with it. “Do you…are there any other injuries?”
“I don’t think so.” She answered, looking around the living room. “Giles…how long was I gone?”
“One hundred and forty-seven days.” He replied, swallowing the sudden lump in his throat.
“Should I have gone…home?” She asked in a tone that held a questionable amount of uncertainty. “I mean – ”
“Let’s get you cleaned up, okay?” He interrupted gently. “Hot bath, fresh clothes…tea?”
She nodded numbly. “Um…clothes?”
“Still in the closet.” He replied, his emotions beginning to better him. “I…I couldn’t get rid of them.”
“Will you…will you stay with me?” She looked down at her hands and sniffled. “My hands hurt…”
“Of course.” He whispered, lifting his hand to her cheek. “I’ve missed you so, Buffy.”
She met his eyes and sighed. She could see the love and confusion there so clearly. She was sure that he could easily see fear in hers, she wondered if her love still showed.
“Can…can you hold me? Just for a minute?” Another line of tears fell. “I know I’m dirty, but…”
He pulled her into his arms quickly, but carefully. He held her tightly against his chest, cradling the back of her head with his hand. She felt his silent sobs as his emotions finally bubbled over. Her fingers curled into his shirt and she inhaled deeply.
Bergamot, sandalwood, cinnamon…scents so familiar, so very Giles. Smoke, underlying those…not so very Giles – though she knew that he used to smoke. Maybe it was something he’d fallen back into…once she had…
She lifted her head and looked up at him. He looked tired, thinner than she remembered. His hair was slightly longer, not by much…but there was a slight curl around his ear. He normally had it cut when the curl would appear, much to Buffy’s dissatisfaction. The small gold hoop that she had bought for him was in his ear. She wondered if he had ever taken it out.
“I love you.” She whispered.
It was whispered so quietly that Giles wasn’t even sure that she realised she had said it. But, he had heard it with perfect clarity. The words he had been certain he’d never hear again in her voice. But, there they were…floating around him so beautifully that he wondered if he was dreaming again.
He looked at her closely.
No, this was no dream. If he had been dreaming, she wouldn’t have grazed knuckles or be covered in graveyard dirt. She would have returned to him completely unmarred, hair soft as silk, eyes bright with love.
But, at this moment…he was sure he had never seen anything as beautiful as her standing there in his arms.
He leaned down and hesitantly brushed his lips across hers. He pulled back and offered her a gentle smile.
“I love you too.” He pushed the hair back from her face. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up now.”
She nodded slowly, taking his hand and allowed herself to be led down the hall towards the bathroom.
* * *
Giles knelt next to the tub, gently washing Buffy’s hair…much as he had numerous times in the past, especially after a particularly busy night of slaying. But this time was different. This time she was quiet, almost eerily so. Not exactly withdrawn, but…so quiet.
“Are you okay?” He asked softly, carefully working the shampoo through.
“Yeah, I’m just…confused.” She turned her head to look at him. “Did you do this? Bring me back?”
“No, love.” He shook his head, dipping his hands into the water to rinse the lather away before rinsing her hair. “I…attempted to bargain though. The day after you…before we…” He took a shaky breath and tried to smile. “The higher powers said you’d completed your…work. They refused to bargain.”
“I’ve been so lost, Buffy.” He whispered. “Those first few weeks after…I would have done anything to have you back. But, then I realised…the powers…they were right. You deserved your peace.”
“But, you weren’t at peace.”
“I…coped as well as I could.” He replied, running a soft, soapy cloth up her arm and over her shoulder. “Which, granted…wasn’t very well.”
“That explains the smoke I could smell on you…the scotch I could taste when you kissed me.”
He lowered his eyes. “This is something that I’ll need to look into, but…you seem…”
“Human, I was going to say.” He shrugged a shoulder as her lips quirked into a small smile. “You have a pulse, you’re warm, your eyes are clear…you’re not trying to eat me.”
He tilted his head and cleared his throat. “Were you?”
“Trying to eat you? No…” She replied, leaning forward slightly as he ran the cloth over her back.
“No.” He paused for a moment. “At peace. Were you at peace?”
She was quiet for a very long moment. Giles continued to move the cloth over her skin, washing the dirt and grime away…giving her the time she needed. And then she took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“Yeah, I was.”
He felt his heart constrict at the soft admission. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.” She whispered, staring at the bubbles in the water. “But…I don’t understand why I’m here.”
“I don’t either. At the risk of sounding like a…dick…I’m having a hard time feeling bad that you’re here. Though, I know I should. You deserved your rest. I just…” He shook his head and lovingly rinsed the soap from her skin. “I have so many contradictory emotions around this.”
“It helps that you’re still here.” She turned to look at him, lifting her hand and gently touching his face. “I wasn’t sure that you would be.”
“I had been vacillating on whether or not to leave.” He admitted, turning towards the bathroom door when he heard his name being called from the living room.
“Giles?” Willow called a second time. “Are you here?”
Giles leaned over and placed a kiss on Buffy’s temple. “I’ll be back.”
She merely nodded and watched him leave. Sighing heavily, she pulled the plug from the drain.
Giles walked into the living room, wiping his hands on his jeans. “What is it, Willow?”
“Dawn said you were trying to get hold of me…”
“Yes, but to be honest…I can’t remember why.” He tilted his head and stared at her. “What have you been doing?”
“Doing? Um…nothing…” She said, hoping it was convincing enough.
Giles’ eyes narrowed. “You’ve been doing magick. Dark magick.”
“Obviously not convincing enough.” She muttered to herself.
“Nothing.” She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. “Yeah, okay…I was doing magick. We were doing magick. But…it didn’t work, so…”
“What did you do, Willow?” Giles asked, his emotions barely restrained.
“You’ve been so lonely and sad. And, I really thought it would work.” Willow began to pace as Giles stared after her. “I was really nervous about it…especially after the whole Nicole thing…maybe that affected it…”
“What Nicole thing?” Buffy asked, darting her eyes from Willow to Giles.
Willow stopped pacing and stared at Buffy with wide eyes. “Oh my god! Buffy!”
“Who’s Nicole?” She asked, staring at Giles. When he hesitated in his response, her eyes glistened. “Are you seeing someone?”
“No! No, Buffy…”
“Because, I’d get that…I didn’t want you to be alone. I just…if you’re seeing someone, I – ”
He moved over to her and took hold of her hand. “I’m not seeing anyone. There was…an instance…a few months ago. It wasn’t…I was grieving, drinking…so was she. It was comfort. That’s all…and it was one night…a couple of hours at most.”
Willow ran over and wrapped her arms around Buffy. “Oh my god…it worked! You’re here!”
Buffy held Giles’ gaze as she awkwardly patted Willow’s back. “Uh, yeah…”
She gently squeezed his hand as she maneuvered out of Willow’s embrace. Giles took a breath and then looked at Willow, his eyes darkening somewhat.
“You did this? You brought her back? Without talking to me…without discussing the ramifications of…”
“I didn’t want to get your hopes up.” Willow offered as an explanation, taking a step back.
“No…that’s not it. You didn’t want me to talk you out of it. Because I would have.” He shook his head, his eyes flashing with sudden anger. “You shouldn’t have done this! This…goddamn it, Willow!”
“You’re mad?” Willow asked incredulously. “I brought back the woman you love…and you’re mad at me?”
“Mad? No, I’m fucking furious! Anything could have gone wrong!” He glared at her, taking a half step towards her.
“But, nothing went wrong! I brought her back from hell…”
Giles straightened, his glare hardening further. “Why would you think she was in hell?”
“Um…because she went through the portal to a demonic dimension?” She responded belligerently.
Giles shook his head slowly. “She closed the portal. She gave her life for this world. Why would her reward be an eternity of hell?”
Willow’s eyes widened and she looked at Buffy. “You…you weren’t…”
She trailed off as Buffy shook her head. Her eyes darted from Buffy to Giles. “I didn’t know! I thought because of – ”
“You should have discussed this with me.” Giles stated, a coldness in his tone that Willow hadn’t expected to hear. “Just…just go, Willow. We’ll discuss this later, once we’ve determined the consequences of your…spell.”
“Go. Go tell the others that she’s back. But, also tell the others that there was obvious negligence in your preparation.”
“Negligence? What negligence?” Willow asked, furrowing her brow in confusion.
“That will be discussed later.” His jaw clenched and then released. “You really need to leave now, Willow.”
“But…” She looked at Buffy. “Buffy?”
“We’ll talk later, Will. Giles is right. You need to go right now.”
“But, you’re okay. Right? You’re okay?”
Buffy was quiet for a moment and then shrugged her shoulder. “I don’t know.”
Willow’s eyes filled with tears as she backed towards the door.
* * *
Buffy sat on the sofa, a steaming mug of tea cradled in her hands. She blew across the top of it before taking a sip. She raised her eyes and looked at Giles. He was sitting on the chair, hands folded together as he stared at the floor.
She took a deep breath and placed her mug on the coffee table.
Giles closed his eyes. “She’s pregnant.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “What?”
“Nicole. She’s pregnant.” Giles opened his eyes and looked up. “It’s…not mine. The baby…”
Buffy stared at him for a moment and then shook her head in confusion. “Then…why the hell did you tell me?”
“Because…it could have been mine.” He answered softly, nervously.
“You…” She regarded him closely. “You had unprotected sex with a complete stranger? What were you thinking?”
There was no malice in her tone, but there was plenty of concern.
“I was drunk. The woman I love was dead. I was having to deal with taking reports from a robot who looks and sounds like…you. I’m rather sure I wasn’t thinking at all.” He replied honestly. “That’s not an excuse, I realise that. But…it’s the truth. Buffy, I…I don’t even know why I was…how I was still…functioning in any capacity that was compatible with life.”
“Come here.” She said, gesturing towards the seat next to her. “I don’t know why you’re all the way over there anyway.”
“Giving you space?” He said, not moving.
“I think nearly five months is enough space, don’t you?” She offered him a gentle smile as he hesitated. “Please come here?”
He rubbed his palms against his thighs before he stood. He stepped around the coffee table and sat down next to her, just as she had requested.
“I don’t know what to do, Buffy.” He admitted, taking his glasses off and dropping them onto the table.
“What do you mean?” She asked, turning her body towards him.
“I want to hold you, I want to kiss you. I want to…” He bit his lip and paused. “I’m not convinced any of that is the right thing to do right now. You’ve been through an unimaginable event and…I’m loathe to confuse the situation further. So, I want to sit back…let you set the pace, if there’s a pace to set. And…I’m just waiting to wake up in a cold sweat with a pounding heart. And I think that will kill me if it happens.”
He looked down as she covered his hand with hers. “I just…don’t know what to do.”
She looked at him for a moment and then shifted, moving closer to him and resting her head on his chest as he instinctively leaned back against the sofa. She curled her arm around him, snuggling up against him – much like she remembered doing before. When his arm moved around her, holding her to him, she smiled and closed her eyes.
“This is a good place to start.”
He knew that the next few weeks, months were quite possibly going to be difficult. Transitioning from what was essentially heaven back to this…this Earth with demons and evil…it was going to take time. For the first time in many months he felt that there was time to be had…finally.
He nodded softly and closed his eyes, his fingers lovingly stroking her hair. “Yes, I’m inclined to agree.”
A smile played at her lips. She’d tease him about his overabundance of words later, she was sure. For now, she just wanted to be here…in his arms…and take in all that she had missed while she was gone. They’d deal with everything, including Willow, later.
They had time.
Return to Fic Index