PAIRING: (Buffy,Giles), (Buffy/Spike - latent)
GENRE: flashfic, angst
SPOILERS: up to 7x18 – "Dirty Girls"
DEDICATION: for Annie Sewell-Jennings who requested Buffy,Giles and lots of angst
AN: written for the 1000-words Livejournal flashfic-a-thon, Easter 2003
* * *Hope
She peddles hope these days, or tries to. Thrusts phrases on everybody like overripe fruit about to go off, whether they want them or not. Eat your vitamins, they're good for you. Train and you stand a chance. We're not beaten yet. We're an army. We're the power.
Sometimes she can't stand the sound of her own voice.
Buffy herself has neither time nor need for anything as complicated and fragile as hope. She has a job to do. A mission. But the others - they need something to cling to.
Here, have some hope, and in return give me your strength, your arm, your life. Your eye.
Tonight she ran out of things to say.
It's almost dawn outside, the sky already losing its blackness, when she steps into her house, weary to the bone after long hours at the hospital. Giles meets her in the hallway. The house is quiet. Dawn, Andrew, Faith and the remaining potentials are asleep.
"You were right," she tells him, "We knew nothing. Now we do."
Now Buffy knows that the First has two more faces to taunt her with: Molly and Sara.
One look at her drawn face and Giles refrains from saying what he's thinking: 'But at what cost?' Instead he informs her: "Spike told us what happened. How is Xander?"
"Hanging on. Already making pirate jokes." It costs her every ounce of strength not to burst into tears. Words cannot express how glad she is that the First didn't get to add Xander to its growing repertoire of faces.
Annabelle. Eve. Chloe. Molly. Sara. There will be more before this is over.
Giles looks angry but his voice is soft. "How is Willow?"
"She didn't go vein-y and vengeance-y, if that's what you're asking. She and Kennedy are staying at the hospital, in case Caleb tries to finish what he started."
"I called the coven and told them about Caleb. Their seers are doing everything they can to find out more about him."
Buffy nods. She doesn't allow herself to hope that the coven will miraculously pull a magical weapon, amulet, or spell out of a hat, that will send the First packing. You can't build a strategy on hope.
"I'm gonna go check on Spike," Buffy hears herself say and steps towards the basement. Not that Spike needs checking. It's just a lame excuse to get away from the carefully restrained disapproval she can feel radiating from her ex-watcher.
She turns around, arms folded in front of her chest. All she wants is to look in on Spike, take a shower, check on Dawn and sleep for a year or two. If this is another lecture on the gravity of the situation then she doesn't want to hear it.
"I'm here to help you, Buffy," Giles says in his best Watcher-voice, "but if you dismiss everything I have to say because you resent me for trying to deal with Spike, then you're putting yourself and everybody else in grave danger."
It takes a moment for the full implication to sink in. "Are you saying Xander lost an eye because I was being petty?"
"You were angry and it affected your judgement. Buffy, I need you to understand that the decision to remove Spike wasn't personal. I agree it was for Wood, but—"
"Remove? Giles, you went behind my back. You lied to me to kill a—a man who is on our side. If the trigger had been in Xander's mind or Willow's, would you have done the same?"
Admittedly, he never asked himself that question. Giles takes off his glasses and tries to regroup. "That's not the point, Buffy, and you know it. You risked lives by keeping him around. Believe me, when it comes to Spike you're not objective anymore."
"Oh but I am. I am so objective, it's hurting me, Giles. I've pushed love and friendship so far from my mind they make Australia look like our front yard. To win this war I'd sacrifice Spike, Dawn, you, myself. I killed Angel when I loved him more than anything in this world, so don't you dare tell me I'm too infatuated to do the same to Spike. What I feel for Spike has nothing to do with how I fight this war."
"What you feel--. How can you possibly feel anything for him, Buffy?" How she can even bear to look at her assailant, let alone defend him.
The disgust in his voice must have given him away because her eyes widen in understanding. "Who told you?"
"Was it Xander or Dawn?" Her voice is calm.
"Does it really matter?"
"No, I guess not." She sighs and when she continues her voice has lost its angry edge, is patient, almost serene. "Giles, I told Robin and I'm telling you: I have no time for vendettas, not even my own. I don't need you to fight my battles, either. I don't care how you feel about Spike. Get over it."
He wants to tell her he's sorry. Not for becoming Wood's accomplice, but for letting her down long before that. However, the words are stuck in his throat because suddenly it is like his vision shifts and there are two Buffys, overlapping: the young, often foolish girl he has trained and led, the girl whose father he would have liked to be; and this young woman, who is standing tall, moving uphill without looking back, who is ready to take on the very source of Evil itself.
The time when she needed him to stand by her side, to take her hand - that time is past. Time to let go and join the ranks.
Buffy is looking at him, waiting for his reply.
"If anyone can beat the First, it's you," he finally says with conviction and for the first time in months he believes there might be hope for the world yet.
She gives him a faint smile. "Good night, Giles."