|It's All In My Head
Author: Lastew PM
We all know that in season 4, Giles was feeling a bit left out. In his own words, he was just a “retired librarian with a tendency to get knocked on the head.” What if he though the gang felt the same way? Has a Happy ending.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - R. Giles & Buffy S. - Words: 10,630 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 25 - Follows: 1 - Published: 08-15-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3725375
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: It's All In My Head
Author's Name: Laura Sichrovsky
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: Buffy/Giles (Sort of)
Warnings: It has a pretty high angst factor, but nothing really big here.
Spoilers: None really. It takes place in season four. The gang being in college is mentioned, but I can't see that it spoils
anything for me to tell you that. This is after Willow meets Tara, but before they are dating. And somehow,
Riley didn't even make an appearance in this. This also happens before New Man and maybe this is one of the
things that made Ethan change Giles into a demon. :)
Disclaimer: This is where I put the statement saying that I do not own Buffy, Giles (Heh! I wish!), Sunnydale, or anything relating
to the show. No one is paying me to do this and if you feel the sudden urge to send me gifts, you might want to talk
to someone about that. Joss Whedon owns all things Buffy and has not given me permission to use these characters
as I have so if you have problems with the story, please send the pretzel bombs to me, not him.
Summary: We all know that in season four, Giles was feeling a bit left out. (In his own words, he was just a "retired librarian
with a tendency to get knocked on the head.") What if he found out that the gang held the same opinion of him?
What if they told him they didn't want him around? What if someone were messing with his head?
Author's Notes: This story really doesn't have much of a preamble to it. I wanted to go to bed one night and the next thing I
know, I'm writing this. What can I do? I'm a sucker for Giles angst. Thanks need to be given, and here is
where they go. Thanks to Joss for creating characters so fun to watch and to borrow for a bit. Thanks to Tony
Head for making Giles so amazing. I tried to fight it, but he was just too remarkable not to fall for. Big thank
yous to my sister, Kristen the Beta Goddess. She takes my ramblings and puts them in some readable order. I
could never write without her help and I would never want to try. Love ya! To Janet, who helped with the
details. She's very patient to listen to us ramble and she always reads our writing. Thank you so much!
To Sweetdoggie, for the kind beta and to Hobgoblinn, who made me stay
true to Rupert while setting the bar so high, thank you, thank you, and…oh yeah, THANK YOU! Thanks to my
amazing husband who not only doesn't get upset when my writing takes over, but who doesn't freak about the
men who live in my head. I love him so.
A Note on the spelling of Willow's nickname here: I spelled it "Wil" instead of "Will" because that was the way
it was spelled in the subtitles on the DVDs.
It's All In My Head
The first thing he realized was that his head was throbbing. Well, more than throbbing; it felt as if someone had driven one of Buffy's stakes into his temples. The next realization was that it was completely dark. He'd thought that his eyes had been closed, now with no small surge of terror, he understood that they'd been open all along. His bewildered mind slowly began reporting other things back to him: he was sitting on a cold, hard floor, something that felt like stone; his wrists were shackled together and seemed to be attached to the wall; he could feel what must be dried blood on the side of his face. All in all, there was nothing good about this moment. He tried to remember how he came to be here and could only dredge up random flashes, quick impressions; nothing at all helpful. Rupert Giles tried not to panic.
Knowing that it really made no difference in the inky darkness, Giles closed his eyes, attempting to center himself. He'd spent years teaching Buffy how to take in every nuance of her surroundings, it was time for him to put that into practice. He sent his senses searching the blackness around him, looking for any little thing. He could hear water dripping in the distance, slow and deep, sounding as if it were striking stone. He could smell dampness with an underlying scent of mold. He could feel no other presence, he was completely alone. None of this was helping him at all and he had to tamp down his frustration. He was no closer to figuring out where he was or why he was here.
He heard a slight grinding of metal on stone. Suddenly the room was flooded with light and Giles winced, squeezing his eyes shut against the pain the brightness brought. After a moment, he opened his eyes, keeping them at a squint against the glare and was surprised to see the light was merely that of a candle. Allowing a moment for his eyes to adjust, he opened them fully and had to stifle a gasp.
He was in an empty stone room, chained to the wall, but that wasn't what had shocked him. The person who had walked in with the candle, the person who was standing there looking at him with a slight smile on her lips was none other than Buffy.
"Oh Buffy," he began, twisting awkwardly against the chains to look at her. "Thank God you are here. Unchain me and we can work out what happened."
"I know what happened," Buffy replied, tilting her head to look at him, making no move to free him.
"I-I…Buffy, I don't understand."
"No, I suppose you don't," she said, kneeling so that she was on eye level with him, just beyond his reach. "Then again, you don't understand much, do you?"
Giles felt the breath freeze in his lungs. Her tone had been cold, uncaring. She looked at him with barely disguised pity.
"Tell me something, Giles," her hand came gently to his face, lightly caressing his cheek. "How do you feel about me?"
"What…I…Buffy, this really isn't the time. Unchain me and we can discuss this later." The change in her demeanor was confusing him almost as much as the shocks her touch was sending through his entire body.
"I think this is the perfect time to talk about this," her tone was calm, her smile almost serene. "How do you feel about me, Giles?"
"I…Buffy, I…" the surreal nature of this conversation was not lost on Giles, yet his bewildered mind offered him no explanations and no solace. He found himself answering her questions. "Buffy, I care very deeply for you, you know that."
"You care for me. Is that all? Is there more to this, Giles?"
"Buffy, please, you can't ask me to…"
"But I am asking, Giles. Tell me. Is there more?"
"Buffy…I…I…" his head dropped and he looked at the floor. "Buffy, I love you."
"A father's love?"
"Tell me, Giles. Do you love me like a daughter? When you think of me, in your dreams at night, am I your daughter?"
"God help me, no."
"Then tell me, Giles. How do you love me?"
"With everything I have, Buffy. I love you as the beautiful woman that you are. You own me body, mind, and soul."
Seeming satisfied with his answer, Buffy tilted her head to look at him.
"I see. And what do you think my response to this will be?"
Now Giles was completely confused. His mind was so scattered that he had no reply for her at first, but she just crouched there, looking at him waiting.
"Buffy, I hadn't really thought…I…I don't know."
Buffy rose to her feet, then looked down at him, her smile gone, the pity was back.
"Were you thinking that maybe I'd feel the same way? That I'd return your love, want you in the way you want me?"
"Buffy…" his voice caught in his throat, his deepest fantasies coming to the surface. "I could only hope that…"
"Well don't," her reply was cold. "What could make you think I'd ever want you that way? Why would I want a man who was twice my age? Did you think it wouldn't repulse me to think of kissing you, holding you, touching you?"
Giles had no reply. The air had gone out of his lungs, he felt as if someone had struck him. His already beleaguered mind screamed out in raw pain.
"Did you think I'd want you in my bed?" Her tone was scornful. "Did you think I'd want you to make love to me? You, an old, bumbling, boring man? How could I ever want any of that from you?"
"Fine," it was an effort to even draw a breath, let alone respond to her, but he pulled himself together enough to do it. "You don't want me. I get the message. Can you unchain me now?"
"Oh, I don't think so," Buffy responded, turning to leave the room. "I want to make sure that you understand exactly the way things stand in your life and I'm not sure you do yet."
With that, she left, taking the light with her, the door grinding shut behind her. Giles had heard that in situations like this, one felt numb. He would have paid quite a bit of money for numb right now. He could feel his shoulders dully throbbing in the background somewhere, but that pain was drowned out by the sheer agony in his heart. Never had he felt so much soul-stealing pain, never had he felt so alone. His anguished mind threatened to overwhelm him; he began to understand how people went insane.
He closed his eyes, centering himself, pulling his emotions to him. There had to be an explanation behind this. Buffy would never treat him this way, never say those things to him. This had to be a dream. Or a spell, yes a spell. Maybe Willow had miscast something again. Or possession. That could explain this. The question was how to sort out which it was.
Giles had no idea how long he'd sat in the dark, thinking and planning, but he was startled from his musings when the door opened again. After another moment of squinting, he realized that the people holding the candle this time where Xander and Willow.
"Xander? Willow? Oh, I am so glad to see you. Something is wrong with Buffy. You must help me."
They both walked toward him, yet neither moved to unchain him. He felt the same stirring of uneasiness as he looked up at them.
"Nothing is wrong with Buffy," Xander said, looking into Giles's eyes with his own deep brown ones. "I think the problem is you."
"Xander is right," Willow agreed, nodding her head. "You seem to be thinking that you mean something here in Sunnydale, mean something to us."
"Willow…" Giles's voice faltered, yet he forced himself to go on. If this was a spell, maybe he could break it by telling them how he felt, reminding them of the friendship they all shared. "You know that I care for you. You know that you are my friends. I would do anything for you, just as you would do anything for me."
Willow and Xander both laughed, cold, empty laughs.
"Why would we ever care for you?" Willow asked, still laughing. "I already have a father and you are too old and too pathetic to mean anything to me."
"Willow, try to remember," Giles knew his voice sounded desperate, but he didn't care. "We work together, fight together. We take care of each other."
"Wrong, G-man," Xander responded, his voice mocking. "We fight, we risk. You hide behind your pointless old books, being completely useless. Buffy fights the big bad. Willow does the research and the magic. I run the back up. And you…well, we let you think that you might help, but we all know better, don't we?"
"What is going on here?" Giles had decided that this must be a spell and he was going to fight it. "Why are you doing this?"
"Giles," Willow said gently, dropping to her knees to look at him. "We have tolerated you for three years now. We aren't in high school any more. Buffy doesn't need you as her Watcher. It's time to move on. We wanted to do this gently, but you just can't seem to take no for an answer, so we decided that this was the only way to make you see."
"Buffy hit you over the head," Xander continued the story from where he stood above them. "She brought you here and chained you up so that we'd have your undivided attention. Now that we do, listen carefully. You aren't needed. You aren't wanted. You are old and you are in the way. Did you get it that time?"
"This…this is some sort of spell." Giles felt his resolve faltering. They were so serious, making so much sense.
"No spell, Giles, "Willow said. She stood up and moved with Xander towards the door. "The sooner you understand how things are, the sooner you can leave and we'll all get on with our lives."
Willow and Xander left the room and with them went the last of Giles's hope. He sat in the dark, fighting back the despair and emptiness. He wanted to believe that this was a mistake of some kind, a spell or a spirit, but his heart was telling him otherwise. The pain he was feeling was overwhelming; he felt as if it might suffocate him. He needed to shut off the pain, do something to stop it or he really would go mad. He closed his eyes, desperately fighting to keep from losing the battle.
Buffy paced furiously around Giles's living room. She had no idea where her Watcher was, but the broken lamp and the scattered papers did not bode well.
"Give me something to go on here, Wil," she said, turning to face the couch where Willow and Xander sat.
Willow was looking through one of Giles's many old books in hopes of finding something, anything, but she didn't even know where to start. When Buffy had called her an hour ago, hysterical about the fact that Giles was missing, Willow had hoped it would be something simple. But as the time went on, she was starting to feel some of Buffy's panic.
"She's trying not to tell you that she has nothing," Xander filled in for her. He'd been sitting quietly on the couch, his expression unreadable, but now Willow could see the anger and fear just below the surface. She knew what he was feeling. She loved Giles too.
"Wil," Buffy said, crossing to the couch to look seriously at the red head. "Giles is missing. He might be hurt. We have to find him. Give me a demon to hunt. Do a spell, hire a search dog, something, please."
"I…I could try a locator spell," she didn't sound too sure of herself.
"Whatever you have to do," Buffy responded, starting to pace again. "Just find Giles."
Giles had no idea how long he'd been chained there. It could have been hours, it could have been days; he'd ceased to care some time ago. Periodically, one or more of the children came in to talk to him, to tell him how little he meant to them, how much they wanted him gone. At first, he'd still clung to the idea that this was some kind of spell, but try as he might, he could feel no lingerings of magic.
Now, he was tired, he was empty. In actuality, he wanted to end his miserable existence; in practicality, he wanted out of this damp, empty room so that he could disappear from Sunnydale and everything connected with it. He heard the door opening again, saw the light bathe the stones of the room, but he didn't have the will to look up and see which one of them was going to share their opinion this time. He heard the footsteps come closer and he noted with little that all three seemed to be here this time.
"Giles," Buffy said, coldly, "Giles look at me."
"Why?" The question was barely above a whisper. "You've made your point. I'm nothing to you. What else is there to say?"
"Well, I think he finally gets it," Willow responded.
"Very good," Buffy said, leaning around Giles to undo the locks on his wrists. "I think you finally understand. I'm sorry we had to do it this way. You just wouldn't listen when we tried to be nice."
Giles didn't say anything. He rubbed his aching shoulders and raw wrists from his place on the floor, refusing to look at the three children who had been his world.
"You can go any time you want to," Buffy said, walking for the door. Without another word, she and the other two walked out and left Giles in the dark.
Well, if that wasn't a metaphor for his whole life at this point, Giles had no idea what else was. He sighed deeply and struggled to his feet, feeling pain rip through his arms and head. It didn't really matter. He was going to go home and sort out what to do with his life from this point on. He felt his way numbly towards the door, then followed the passage out to the sunlight. He was in the woods not far from town. Without thinking any further, he made his way towards his flat.
"Okay Willow," Buffy said, struggling to hold her panic in. Giles had been gone for 8 hours now that they knew of. "You did your spell. Now where is Giles?"
"I…I couldn't find him," the disappointment was evident in her voice. "There was some kind of magic interfering. I'm sorry."
The group had relocated to Buffy and Willow's dorm room and while Willow and Xander sat on Willow's bed, Buffy paced this room as she had Giles's flat. She could hardly keep herself from flying apart. Giles was missing. Giles could be hurt. Giles needed her. She needed Giles. They had to find him, now.
"Willow, could this magic be the thing that has Giles?"
"I…I don't know. It felt…I'm not even sure how to describe it. It felt here, but not here, real, but not real. I'm not sure what it is, and I don't know if it could take Giles."
"This is so not helping," Buffy spat out in frustration. "Sorry, Wil. I know you're trying. What do we do now?"
"We should go back to Giles's place," Willow said, gathering her magic items. "Maybe the spell will work better there."
"I can pace just as well there," Buffy sighed, walking towards the door. They had to find him and find him soon. She was so worried about him.
Giles stumbled into his flat, collapsing on the couch. The walk had taken more out of him than he'd like to admit and he hadn't had much to start with. He closed his eyes, fighting the despair that threatened to eat him whole. His life was over. Everything he'd devoted himself to for the last three years was gone. He knew he was being melodramatic. He was a Watcher and even if the Slayer wanted nothing to do with him, there was still work for him to do any place else in the world.
But the children, his children…no, his mind asserted firmly. They were not his children, they never had been. And any connection that he'd thought he'd had with them they had made clear was strictly on his part. He would have to accept that and move on. Yes, he would move on, but not right now. Right this moment, he hurt and he was empty. He was going to lie on his couch and slowly shut off his feelings. It was the only way he'd make it out of this in one emotional piece.
He closed his eyes, holding back tears; they wouldn't do him any good anyway. Suddenly his flat was invaded as the door opened and Buffy, Xander, and Willow burst in.
"Okay Wil," Buffy said, briskly. "You set up on the coffee table and Xander and I…"
Her voice died on her lips as she realized that Giles was on his couch. He looked the worse for wear, battered and a bit bruised, but he was alive. He stood up and was looking at them with wide eyes as they trooped in.
"Giles!" Buffy flew across the room, throwing her arms around him in a hug. She was startled when he pulled away with such force that he almost knocked her over.
"What the hell are you doing here?" he yelled at her. His eyes were wild and a bit unfocused. He seemed beyond upset. "I'm doing what you wanted. I'll leave in the morning."
"Leave?" Buffy tried to step towards him to put a hand on his arm, but he stepped away, keeping space between them. "Where are you going? Why are you leaving?"
Giles looked at her, there was panic written plainly on his features. He seemed lost and confused. She moved slowly, stepping towards him, feeling like she was approaching a wild animal.
"Giles," her voice was soft. "Giles look at me. Look in my eyes."
His eyes rose to meet hers and she saw such deep pain that it took her breath away. She reached towards him and he flinched, so she dropped her hand.
"Giles, why are you leaving?"
"You told me to." His voice was so quiet that she had to strain to hear it.
"I told you to leave?"
"You all did," he gestured to Willow and Xander. "Don't worry. I've learned my place. I won't bother you again."
"Oh Giles," Buffy sighed, worry coursing through her. "Wait here a minute. I'll be right back."
She crossed the room to where Willow and Xander were standing, looking on with shock.
"What do we do?" she asked, trying to stay calm.
"I don't…I," Willow took a deep breath. "We need to get him to talk to figure out what happened."
"Okay then, " Buffy replied. "Move slowly. Let's not scare him any worse than he is."
The three teens moved slowly to find places around the room to sit, that would put them close to Giles without making him bolt. He had sat down on the couch again, his head in his hands.
"Giles," Buffy said gently. "You said that you learned your place. What did you mean?"
"You made it perfectly clear what I was to you," Giles replied, his head still in his hands.
"What did we say you were to us?" Willow asked, leaning in to hear him better.
"Please don't make me repeat it," his voice was anguished.
"Giles, we need to know," Buffy insisted.
"You told me…" His voice cracked, caught in his throat. "You said that I wasn't needed. I wasn't wanted. I am old and in the way."
Buffy gasped, trying to wrap her mind around what he was saying. She looked at Willow and Xander, they looked as panicked as she felt.
"Giles," Willow started soothingly. "You know we'd never say those things to you."
She had been going for comfort, but it was the wrong thing to say. Giles jumped to his feet, his face contorted in pain.
"Stop it!" he shouted. "Stop playing with my mind."
"Giles," Buffy began, hoping to calm him down. "Willow isn't playing with your mind. Something is wrong here and we need…"
"No! I…I can't do this. I can't…you've already hurt me, I can't let you break me."
He ran up the stairs to his loft, leaving the children staring after him.
Giles sat on his bed, closing his eyes, fighting the panic. His mind was whirling, trying to find some sort of balance, something to make sense in the chaos. He'd just begun to accept what happened in the woods and then the children came to him acting as if nothing had changed. Why were they doing this to him? He knew, just knew that if he trusted them, if he believed them, that they would hurt him again. They usually did. They never meant to of course, but they usually did any way, children being children. Normally, he would swallow his pain and take them back into his world, but this time, this time they had hurt him far too deeply. If he tried to pretend that nothing had changed, when they sent him away again, it would kill him.
He rose from his bed, intending to pace the room, to get some measure of control over his emotions and the situation. He could hear their voices downstairs and it cut him to the heart. He had come to Sunnydale knowing that he would serve the Slayer, that he would give his life to her. He'd had no way of knowing that in the end he'd give himself, body and soul to her and her friends. These children had given him something he'd thought he'd lost in his life; family. They'd quietly, and not so quietly, loved him, changed his world. And in return, he'd given them everything he'd had to give; he'd die for them without a second thought. And now they'd ripped his heart out in one swift move. He wasn't sure he could survive this.
He found himself curled up in a corner of the room, not quite sure how he got there. It didn't really matter, he felt safer here. He knew that he should just pick himself up and throw them out of his home, but he couldn't do it, couldn't face them. Despite what they had said to him, what they were doing to him now, no one had the power to hurt him as they still did. He couldn't bear to see them, to talk to them, he couldn't let them have the chance to raise his hopes, then take them away again. He'd just stay here, safe and away from them. Soon they would tire of the game and leave and then he could try to collect the broken pieces of his life.
Buffy sat on the couch, looking up at the loft where Giles had disappeared to. She had no idea what to do. She was the Slayer and had there been a demon to fight, an evil to kill, she would have been right on it. But this…Giles needed her and she was completely helpless.
Truth be told, she felt as if she were in far over her head. Whenever something went wrong, when there was something Buffy couldn't handle, be it supernatural or otherwise, Giles was always the one to step in and make sense of everything. Buffy knew that she tended to take that for granted. Giles was always there, always the strong one. And now she had to be the one to help him. She wasn't sure how to handle this shift in power, wasn't sure she was capable of being the adult. But Giles needed her and just as he'd never let her down, she would do whatever it took to help him. She turned to Willow and Xander.
"What do we do now?"
"We should…we should call someone." Willow's answer was soft, her voice trembling.
"Who do we call, Wil?" Xander asked, his voice sounding harsh in the quiet apartment.
"A doctor. We should call a doctor."
"And tell them what?" Xander turned to look at Willow. "Giles is hallucinating that we hate him? We think it's a spell. Could you please put him right so he can go back to hunting demons with us?"
"Xander has a point, Wil," Buffy said gently. "Even if someone could help him get past this, whatever it is, when he tells them about his normal life of vampires and hellmouths, they'll lock him up and give him shock treatments. There just isn't any one to call. We are going to have to do this ourselves. What kind of spell is this?"
"I don't think it is a spell," Xander answered, his brow furrowing. "I'll admit that I am drawing from my military training and that was a while ago, but this looks like classic brainwashing."
"Brainwashing?" Willow looked at him with wide eyes. "Who'd want to wash Giles's brain? And this is Giles. He'd never fall for it."
"Who'd want to hurt Giles?" Xander's laugh was rough and jagged. "Oh, let's think…just about every evil we've met!"
"Willow is right though," Buffy cut in. "Giles knows us. He'd never…I just don't think he'd be an easy target for brainwashing."
"Oh! But what about magical brainwashing?" Willow said suddenly, her eyes widening. "He said we told him these things, not that someone told him we said them. Think about it. If someone told you that Giles actually hated you, would you believe them?"
"Of course not," Buffy responded.
"But if Giles himself told you that, would you at least think about it?"
"I might," Buffy said thoughtfully. "And he was gone for over eight hours. Oh God, eight hours of Giles telling me how much he hated me and I probably would believe it. Could someone do that to him? Make him see us?"
"I'm pretty sure that they could," Willow responded. "Poor Giles. No wonder he's afraid of us."
"We have to fix this. We have to help Giles. Willow, what can we do?"
"We…Oh! We could get my friend, Tara to help. She and I could probably track this magic back to the source."
"That's what we'll do then," Buffy decided getting up from the couch. "We'll find the magic and we'll stop it."
"I'll stay with Giles," Xander said. "He shouldn't be alone."
"Right," Buffy responded. "Take care of him and whatever happens, don't let him leave. I don't care if you have to chain him in the bathtub, do not let him go."
"Gotcha," Xander replied with a nod. "Hurry back. And Buffy, be careful, huh?"
Buffy nodded as she and Willow left for the dorms.
As they walked to the campus, Buffy found herself thinking and worrying. There were so many things that could go wrong. She was used to making a plan, but the details she'd always left to Giles. She found a new appreciation for everything he went through when they fought the evil of the week. She was also terrified for Giles, though she'd never admit it out loud. He'd always been her rock, her North Star and now, now he was broken and hurt and she hadn't even seen it coming. She couldn't let herself dwell on it, it would confuse her, make her weak. She and Willow had to repair this. A small thought picked at the edge of her brain.
"Willow," she started, not slowing her stride. "There's something I don't understand. Okay, let's say Giles really did see us, saying horrible things to him for hours. How could he even for a minute think we'd do that to him? Does he think that little of us?"
"I don't think that's the problem," Willow responded with a sigh. "I think he thinks that little of himself."
"What?" Buffy had almost stopped right in her tracks. "I don't…but he's Giles!"
"He's also a man. Maybe it's from hanging around Xander for so many years, but I can see it every time I look at Giles. He sets the bar so high for himself. He understands when we mess up, but he can't let himself make any errors. I've heard him berate himself for some mistake or other and he isn't very nice to himself."
Buffy had the fleeting image run through her head of Giles practicing to ask Jenny Calendar out on a date and calling himself an idiot. She realized that he had no idea how amazing he really was.
"We haven't really helped," Willow continued. "We've kind of cut him out of the loop this year, what with going off to school and all. I think he's decided that we've finally seen what he thinks has been there all along."
"We are going to fix this," Buffy vowed. "All of this."
Xander didn't see him at first. He looked around Giles's bedroom and had the panicked thought that Giles had somehow gotten past him and was gone. It was a noise, a small one from behind the bed that drew his attention. Xander slowly walked around the bed and then he saw him, curled up in a ball in the corner. Xander found himself cursing whoever had done this to Giles. The man didn't deserve this.
He walked over to where Giles sat, noticing the older man didn't even seem to realize he was there. Slowly, he lowered himself to the floor, sitting just over from where Giles was. After a few minutes, he broke the silence.
"I understand," He said just above a whisper and he thought he saw Giles shift slightly. Xander lapsed back into silence.
"What is it that you understand?" It sounded like Giles was speaking through clenched teeth.
"Buffy says that you're too smart to fall for this, but I understand. If it were me, I'd believe it too. I always believe the bad things about myself; it's easier. I guess I never realized you did that too. You always seem so sure of yourself, like you always know what to do. Is that just an act for us?"
"Xander…" His voice sounded disconnected and Giles said nothing further.
"It's okay. You don't have to tell me. It's just…well, lately, I've been trying not to believe the worst about me. It's hard, what with me not being college guy, or having a good job, or…well, you get it. But you…God Giles, you are the one who keeps telling me that I'm smarter than I think. It's scary, but I think that good voice in my head, the one that says the nice things about me? I think it has a British accent now. You are always there for me and I want…I want to help you now."
"Xander, I can't," his voice sounded so hollow. "If I…Xander if I…if you hurt me again, I'm not sure I could survive it. I just can't."
"Willow has a theory," Xander needed Giles to know he wasn't alone. "She thinks this is a magical brainwashing. Someone wanted to hurt you and they did it by making you think that we don't care anymore. Don't worry, Willow and Buffy are going to figure this out. And until they do, I'm going to be here with you."
Xander turned to see Giles looking at him; he could also see the war in the older man's eyes. He wanted to believe, oh how he wanted to, but he couldn't let himself. Xander nodded at him.
"I know how hard this is. After years of having my parents tell me that they got shafted by having me for a son, I understand how hard it is to trust people. But you helped me see that maybe my parents don't know everything, Giles. It's like standing on one of those rope bridges. Ever been on one?"
Xander saw Giles nod slightly and felt better knowing that at least he was listening.
"I never have, but I've seen them in the movies. And they always end up with the rope breaking. And there's always someone standing on the other side who holds out their hand and catches the hero. Giles, I'm standing here for you. All you have to do is trust and reach out."
The room was completely silent. Feeling kind of silly, but telling himself that it was for Giles, Xander held out his hand to the older man. He just held it there, halfway between them, bridging the gap. Giles didn't move, but his breathing seemed strained. Xander was beginning to think that this was a stupid idea when all of a sudden, Giles's hand shot out and grabbed Xander's like a lifeline. Xander gasped as Giles squeezed hard, but he didn't pull his hand away. After a moment, he scooted over and put an arm around Giles. He felt the Watcher flinch, then take a breath and relax.
"I'm here Giles. Buffy and Willow will solve this and until they do, I'm here and I'm not letting you go."
Buffy stood in the darkness, looking at the warehouse in front of her. She, Willow, and Tara had followed the magic trail here. When they had arrived at Tara's dorm room, Buffy had been almost frantic, but the quiet calm of the blonde witch had communicated itself to her. Tara had readily agreed to help and soon Buffy found herself sitting on the bed, watching Willow and Tara cast the spell. The result had been a small green ball of energy that had floated, showing them the way to the source of the magic. It had led them to the warehouse district and to this large, empty building. Buffy turned back to Willow and Tara.
"What do we do now?" She didn't want to do anything to mess up the spell. "Can we just go in?"
"There…there don't seem to be any magical wards," Tara said quietly.
"Then we are going to find out exactly who is doing this to Giles."
She flitted through the shadows gracefully, finding a side entrance and letting herself in. She could hear Willow and Tara behind her, but she didn't turn around; she couldn't afford to divide her attention. The building was dark, but Buffy could see a dim light coming from somewhere farther ahead. When were the bad guys going to learn that it was a stupid idea to leave the lights on? She silently moved ahead, the light guiding her.
She turned a corner and found herself on a balcony, looking down on a large room where a single man was standing in front of a table, chanting words in a foreign language. There was a flickering yellow light around him that seemed to alternate between bright and soft. Buffy heard a movement behind her and turned to see Tara and Willow move out onto the balcony beside her. She gestured to the man below, silently asking if this was what they had been looking for. Willow nodded. Buffy started making a plan. Did she want to just jump down and take the man by surprise or would the magic make that a bad idea? Just as she was leaning over to whisper the question to Willow, the man turned so they could see his face and Buffy's breath caught in her throat. No way; no freaking way. It was Ethan Rayne.
Without thinking about it further, without hesitation, Buffy jumped to the room below, landing a few feet from Ethan.
"You just can't get the whole, stay and gloat and Buffy kicks your butt thing, can you?" Her voice sounded cheerful, but her eyes flashed fire. "This time, Ethan, I might just stake you."
Ethan looked at her, he smiled slightly, then started chanting louder. Buffy had the fleeting thought that maybe she'd made a mistake just jumping into this. Then, from above on the balcony, she heard two female voices chanting as well and the yellow light around Ethan started to falter.
"Oh Hell," Ethan said, looking up. "You had to go and bring Red."
"And you had to come and mess with Giles again." Buffy's voice was hard and angry now. "I'm so giving you a beating."
Tara and Willow must have finished their spell because the light around Ethan was gone completely. Buffy moved forward, swiftly getting to Ethan before he could get away. She grabbed him by the shirt, picking him up and holding him in the air.
"Now, we are going to take this slowly and you are going to give me answers or you are going to spend the next year in traction." Buffy punctuated her words with periodic shakes. "Let's start with the big money question. What did you do to Giles?"
Giles was sitting on his couch, breathing deeply and listening to Xander bang around in the kitchen. It had taken everything he'd had to reach out to Xander and grab his hand. He felt that he was opening himself up for a deeper hurt, but the alternative didn't really seem any better. He'd lived most of his life alone, faced the empty days by himself and the hope that he could get his family back had driven him to take the chance.
He had sat, leaning in the corner with Xander's arm around him for what seemed like hours. Xander hadn't said anything, hadn't pushed Giles; they'd simply sat, two men together in the gathering darkness. Then Xander had shifted slightly.
"Hmm?" It was the only response he could muster.
"My arm is going numb. What do you say we take this downstairs and have tea like real men?"
It was such a Xander thing to say and the Xander-ness of it touched him, reminding him of everything he had to lose in this; and everything he had to gain. Giles had shivered slightly, then taken in a deep breath.
They had moved downstairs and Giles was feeling better for it. The longer he and Xander interacted, the more confidence he had that Xander was telling the truth. If only he could silence that dark voice in the back of his head that was telling him that each passing second would make the betrayal worse. He heard the tea kettle whistle from the kitchen. There was another crash and Xander cursed.
"Don't worry, Giles," Xander's voiced drifted in. "I've got it. No permanent damage."
Giles was about to ask if Xander needed his help when the front door burst open and Buffy came in dragging someone behind her.
"We found the problem," she announced. "And I'm feeling pretty stupid that we didn't think of him first."
She unceremoniously threw Ethan to the floor in front of Giles.
Giles felt his heart freeze and anger coursed through him as everything came flooding back to him in a series of disjoined images. Opening his front door to find Ethan there. Ethan muttering words under his breath. Yellow light flooding the flat and the dizzy sensation that overtook Giles as he fell to the floor. Before he could jump up and pummel Ethan, Buffy stepped forward and kicked Ethan in the side.
"Go on, tell him what you're here for this time."
"We're just going to skip the social niceties? I haven't seen Ripper for ages. It wouldn't…"
Ethan winced as Buffy kicked him again. Giles looked at her face. She looked outraged and worried. He wondered if that was on his behalf, but that thought was cut short as Ethan cursed and turned to face Giles.
"All right," Ethan said, sounding put out. "Fine. I'm here to separate you from your Slayer. There, are you happy?"
"Now tell Giles why or I'm going to start breaking some ribs."
"I was hired. By a demon. He's paying me quite well actually. He told me to get rid of the Slayer's Watcher. I did you a favor you know. He wanted you dead. I thought this was a lot nicer."
Giles was looking at him, feeling the rage run through him.
"What did you do to me?" It was the first thing Giles had said since they'd burst into the room.
"Just a simple spell, mate."
"It was an inner demons spell," Willow supplied from behind Buffy. Giles hadn't noticed her or her friend. "He made you see your biggest insecurities. He made them real for you. The spell was over when Ethan released you. I guess the rest is just in your head. That was why I couldn't find the magic, why it didn't seem real. It was all in your head."
Giles was nodding. So it had all been a spell, just as he'd thought, just not the kind of spell he'd thought it was. Now that he knew what really happened, he knew he should feel better, that he should just shake this off and get back to life as usual. But he couldn't. He now knew that this had all been in his head, but the images, the pain had been so real. How was he going to get past this? He realized that Buffy had moved to kneel in front of him. She gently touched his knee.
"Giles, look at me. This ends here. I know that I haven't been such a great friend to you. I've been wrapped up in me, and what's new there, but this stops. Even a demon can see what you mean to us; to me. He wants me dead, wants to rule the Hellmouth, so what does he do? Does he go after me? No, he tries to get rid of you. Even he knows that without you, we…I'm nothing. I'm sorry that I haven't been here for you. I'm going to change that. If you'll let me, that is."
Giles looked into her eyes, seeing that she did care for him and he had to blink back the tears. Wordlessly, he nodded to her. She squeezed his knee and smiled.
"So, do I get to stake Ethan now?" Her eyes brightened and a smile lit up her face.
It was an appealing idea. Giles was getting tired of Ethan coming around and messing everything up, but Giles knew if they killed the man, it made them no better than he was.
"I'm sorry, Buffy, but as tempting as that is, we actually need him. He's going to take a message to his boss for us."
"Why would I do that?" Ethan asked.
"Deliver the message and I won't use you for target practice," Buffy replied sweetly.
"Ethan will do it because he owes me at least that much," Giles said quietly.
"Oh, fine. Go and play the friendship card. Alright. I'll deliver your message. What do I tell him?"
"Tell him…" Giles paused. "Tell him that he failed. Tell him that there are other Hellmouths. And tell him if he comes near the Slayer, a Hell dimension will start looking pretty good. I won't let him hurt Buffy. I won't let him hurt any of us."
Ethan looked at Giles for a moment, then he nodded.
"I'll tell him. I'm not sure he'll listen, but I'll tell him."
Before Giles could say anything, Buffy stepped forward and hit Ethan in the face. Ethan screamed, then grabbed his suddenly bleeding nose.
"What the bloody hell was that for?"
"You hurt Giles," Buffy's voice was quiet and angry. "You won't do it again. Do we understand each other?"
Ethan pinched his nose, trying to stem the bleeding. He looked at the angry Slayer.
"We understand each other."
Giles stood, looking at the man who used to be his friend, the man who regularly put Giles through hell. They nodded to each other, then Ethan went out the door, into the night.
Giles took a deep breath, and looked at the children. Willow wordlessly crossed the room to him, wrapping him in a hug. He stiffened for a moment, then relaxed and returned the hug.
"I'm so sorry, Giles," Willow whispered up to him.
"For not paying attention to you. For being so concerned with me that I didn't see you. That this happened to you. Everything I guess. I'm going to try harder to be a good friend. I know! We can have lunch together once a week! Can we?"
Giles found himself laughing and hugging her closer. It seemed almost surreal to him. He'd been so empty, so sure everything he cared for was gone; now here he was laughing and being hugged by Willow. It was a wonderful sensation.
"Of course we can, if you really want to. Don't do it just because you feel you have to."
"I want to. I totally want to," Willow smiled up at him and hugged him again.
"Hey Wil, stop hogging the G-man," somewhere in all the confusion, Xander had come back into the room. He was carrying the tea tray and smiling. "Let everyone have a chance to grovel, you Watcher's pet."
The next few minutes were a blur of hugs and apologies for Giles. Everyone, Tara included, felt the need to tell him that he really did mean something to them. Lunch dates were made and a movie night at Giles's flat was arranged. For the moment at least, everything felt right with Giles's world.
Buffy had stood off to the side, watching as everyone crowded around Giles. She knew him well enough to know that while he enjoyed feeling wanted, all this attention was wearing on him. After giving everyone a chance to hug the Watcher, Buffy stepped in.
"Okay, time for Giles to call it a night. He's had a very long day."
Everyone grumbled, but they agreed, hugging him one last time on their way out the door. Buffy walked over to where he stood. She noticed that he refused to look at her.
"Giles, what's wrong? I mean besides the obvious here. You…there seems to be something else. Talk to me."
Giles sat down on the couch and Buffy sat next to him. He seemed to be thinking very seriously. After a moment, he shook off his thoughts.
"It's nothing to worry about."
"Giles," her voice was firm. "If it worries you, I want to know."
"It's…Buffy, it's rather personal."
"Giles, it's the personal stuff that comes back to get us. You never told me that you felt left out and look where that got us. I thought I'd lost you. Do you have any idea how much that scared me? Tell me?"
"Buffy…" He seemed at a loss for words. "It's just…well, I-I-I realized that…I've been hoping that someone I care for very much would care for me as well. I know now that I've been unrealistic. I just need to face it. But I think I'm too tired to do that tonight."
"There's someone in your life? Is this Olivia?"
"No, not Olivia."
"Do I know this woman?"
"Buffy…" He took a breath and looked at her. "Yes, you do."
"Giles, have you talked to her about how you feel?"
"Buffy, that wouldn't be…no, I haven't."
"Then how do you know she isn't interested?"
"I know she isn't. She could never see me that way. I understand that now. It's just as well. She deserves so much better than I could give her."
Buffy looked closely at him. She could see the pain in his eyes, his naked insecurities. It was an odd thing to think of Giles this way, to see him as human and emotionally fragile. She realized that she had fallen into the trap of seeing him as confined to his job as her Watcher. Oh, she thought of him as a friend, she even cared deeply about him, but it seemed that somehow she had never let him out of the role he played for her. Even when she thought of 'my friend, Giles,' she was seeing him dressed in tweed, crossbow in hand. It really wasn't fair to him, but she supposed that might be human nature. She wondered how hard it was going to be to see beyond the character for him that she had created, to see him for what he was. She tilted her head, really looking at him. After a moment, she realized that if she stripped away all the trappings of the Watcher, she could actually see him as the man he was. She had worried that she might not like seeing him this way, but as she looked at the man on the couch next to her, she smiled, reaching out to take his hand.
"You know Giles, you always think the worst about yourself. I guess I kind of do the same thing. I know how bad I really am. But whenever I start in on myself, you always have something nice to say. Hey, I know. Since you do that for me, I'll do it for you too. We can keep each other from being too hard on ourselves. So, the next time you say that you are too boring, I'll tell you that you are the smartest guy I know. Deal?"
Giles smiled at her.
"Does that mean that the next time you say that you are not smart I get to tell you that your smile lights up my day?" He blushed as he said it.
"Exactly. So, Giles, tell me more about this woman."
She could tell from the way his head whipped around to look at her that he'd thought she'd forgotten about the woman. She just sat there, holding his hand, waiting for him to talk.
"Who is she? You say I know her. I want a name."
"Good Lord, no!" He pulled his hand away from hers as if he'd been burnt. "I think we've exhausted this conversation. I'm going to go to bed.
Buffy reached out, reclaiming his hand, not letting him run from her.
"A name, Giles."
"Giles, a name."
"Buffy, stop, please."
"Not until you tell me."
"Giles, tell me."
"It's you. There, are you happy?"
Giles froze, his breath caught in his throat. Good Lord, he'd said it. He hadn't meant to, but she'd pushed him until his head began to hurt. He wasn't sure what he'd meant to say, but confessing his love for her, wasn't even on the list. He'd been pleased when she'd stayed behind to make sure he'd be all right. In fact, it was that pleasure that made him face what he'd been hiding from for over six months. She wasn't his, she never would be and the hope that he kept hidden wasn't doing either of them any good. He'd watched her during their conversation. She seemed to be looking at him differently, but he couldn't put his finger on what the difference was. And then, this had happened. He'd been getting frustrated that she wasn't letting the concept of this woman go. Sometimes she could be distracted; it seemed this time wasn't one of them. And now he'd made a fool of himself once again and she knew the secret he kept hidden. She hadn't said anything; she was just sitting and holding his hand. He dared a look up at her to see her smiling at him.
"Giles," she said gently, rubbing the back of his hand with her free one. "Whatever would make you think that I'm too good for you?"
"It's not that…It's…You…I," he took a deep breath, fighting against his nervous stutter. "It's rather that I know you'll never see me that way and I need to accept that it's for the best."
"You know how I feel? How? You've never asked me. This has to do with the spell, doesn't it?
He hadn't expected her to be so perceptive. Buffy's natural state was to be rather self involved and he sometimes forgot that she was really very good at reading people when she wanted to. He hated to admit to her what he'd seen, after all, it hadn't been her; but it very well could have been.
"What did I say to you in the spell?"
"Buffy, please don't…"
"Giles," she moved her hand to gently touch his face. He shuddered slightly, remembering the Buffy in the spell had done the same thing to him. "Please don't hide from me. I care about you, but I can't help you with the hurt if I don't know what is going on in your head. Tell me, please."
Giles swallowed hard. He could never deny her anything and this time it seemed what she was asking was for him. He looked at her, his eyes begging her not to let him fall.
"You said…You said that you could never want me, that I was old, that I repulsed you." His hand convulsed down on hers, as he squeezed his eyes shut against the memory.
"Oh Giles," her voice was gentle and she pulled him closer. "I could never think of you that way."
"But you do," he opened his eyes to look at her. "May I remind you that you said I was very very old and the idea of physical intimacy with me was very gross."
"Oh Giles, I never meant that. I'm sorry I said it. I…I said it for the same reason that I pushed you to know who this woman was and for the same reason I want to break Olivia's nose."
Giles looked at her again. He had no idea what she was talking about.
"You are my Watcher," she went on gently. "You are my friend. You are my Giles, not hers."
"I don't understand what you are trying to tell me."
"Giles, how long have you loved me?"
"Since prom," there was no use hiding it. Everything else was out on the table and she was still here.
She was sitting next to him nodding.
"Me too," she said, turning to look into his eyes.
"I'm sorry. You too, what?"
"That was when I realized that I could love you."
"You…what?" He was sure that he was either hallucinating or still under the spell.
"I walked into the prom, and there you were, waiting for me. Your whole body was stiff and worried, you were watching the door. I realized in that moment that nobody would ever love me the way that you do. No one would ever be willing to give up so much for me or feel so much for me as you did. I was sure that you saw me as a friend, a child and I'm not sure my feelings were more than just a crush, but they were there. And today, when I thought I'd lost you, when I realized how much power I had to hurt you, I understood that all I want to do is keep you with me, keep you safe. Is that love? I'm not sure, but I want to find out. I'm sorry I said you were old. I was so angry that Olivia was in your life that way and I wasn't. I wanted to hurt her, but I couldn't, so I hurt you. After all, you were the one who chose her over me."
"Buffy, I didn't…I never loved Olivia. She was here to make the emptiness less overwhelming. Can you understand that?"
"I think I can. What do you think Parker was? I wanted the pain to stop, he just made it worse." She squeezed his hand. "Giles, are you still empty?"
"Are you?" He looked at her, his heart in his eyes. He'd been through so many emotional ups and downs today. He prayed he could survive one more.
"Not if you'll love me back," her answer was tentative, she looked down at his hands. He reached out and tilted her face up to look at him.
"I always have."
She smiled at him, then leaned in to kiss him gently. He closed his eyes and lost himself in the feel of her lips against his. It was ironic that he'd had to face his worst nightmare to achieve his fondest dream, but if this was the result, then maybe he'd survive this after all. He leaned in further, his hand going to her head, pulling her closer, his tongue tracing her lips. After another heartbeat, she broke the kiss, looking into his eyes.
"I love you, Giles. I can't say for sure what that means, but let's find out together. And for right now, you've had a long day, mister. You need sleep."
He looked at her, not wanting her to leave his arms.
"Will you come with me? Stay with me tonight?" His voice was hesitant; he was worried she would turn him down.
"I told you that I just want to keep you safe, keep you with me. So, this would be me saying yes."
Giles rose from the couch, offering her his hand. He was tired and he was drained, but he'd come out on the other side in one piece. He still had his family, they still cared for him. And now he had his Buffy; what more could he ask for? Tonight, he would sleep, holding her close. Tomorrow they would face the world together, stronger for it.
"Hey Giles," Buffy asked as she followed him up the stairs. "What side of the bed to you sleep on?"
He turned around and gave her a mischievous smile.
"Whatever side you sleep on."
She laughed, stepping in front of him and leading him to his bed.