Summary: When the Scoobies take Buffy to task for her recent bitchy behavior, she fires back with both barrels – figuratively speaking.

Timeline: post season 4 (no Dawn/Glory yet)

Warning: may come off as bashing a little, but most of it is a misunderstanding. I just read a story that was blaming Buffy for everything apart from the COVID-19 outbreak (and I'm sure if that had been a thing then, that would have been her fault as well). The story ended happily, but still pissed me off, so I wanted to offer a different reason why things fell apart during season 4.

A/N: Not sure if they ever said when Giles' birthday was on the show, but I'm just saying it's in the summer. Un-beta'd so if you find any grammatical or spelling errors, feel free to point them out.

Disclaimer: BtVS/AtS characters belong to Joss Whedon/Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.

Giles' apartment

Buffy walked into Giles' apartment to find the gang there, sans Giles. The girls were stringing up decorations while Xander was setting out food and drink on the pass-through from the kitchen.

"You guys called me and told me to come over right away. What's up?" she asked in an overly casual manner.

Willow scowled at her attitude. "You're kidding, right?" she demanded.

When Buffy didn't respond, she added, "It's Giles' birthday. I reminded you last week."

"Yeah, and I gave him a card last night with a gift certificate for the bookstore," Buffy replied in that same off-hand tone.

"Don't knock yourself out worrying about the perfect present or anything," Xander snarked.

Buffy just shook her head and remarked, "You really think he wants to celebrate being another year older?"

"We want to celebrate him being part of our lives!" Willow exclaimed, starting to get angry at the Slayer. "We'd think you of all people would want to make up for last year."

Tara noticed a slight tightening of Buffy's jaw and fists and hoped this wouldn't turn violent. She moved towards Willow to try and stop it from escalating, "Willow, maybe-"

Xander cut her off, "It wouldn't kill you to be less of a bitch to Giles, you know. He's been more patient with you than you deserve…especially seeing as how your boyfriend tortured him for hours," he taunted Buffy, pissed that she was cutting Giles out again.

Wincing, Tara knew her hopes of calming things down had vanished with those words.

Outside, Giles had heard Xander's comment as well through the open window, and was about to go in to defend Buffy, but part of him wanted her to suffer as much as he had this past year, so he remained silent and waited.

"Angel was my boyfriend, not Angelus. Angelus was the one who tortured Giles, not Angel. Get it through your thick skull," she ground out.

"Like it makes a difference," he shot back.

Buffy snorted, but it wasn't a happy sound. She pointedly looked at Anya and asked, "Then I suppose I should start calling her Anyanka rather than Anya."

"It's not the same thing-" Xander started to defend his girlfriend.

"You're right! She chose to become a vengeance demon, and while Angel feels remorse for the evil Angelus did, she revels in her days as a demon!" Buffy yelled.

"We're getting off track," Willow interjected, wanting to keep things from getting too ugly if at all possible.

"No, we aren't!" Xander contradicted her. "We're trying to make Buffy understand how much Giles suffered since she wasn't around to pick up the pieces when she ran away."

Buffy shot him a glare that would have most demons cowering. "I know how much he suffered at the hands of Angelus and Drusilla. I felt every cut…every broken bone…every burn they inflicted on him," she said, surprising them. Giles almost went through the door at that but forced himself to stay put.

"What do you mean?" Tara inquired gently.

"The bond we shared meant I felt everything. It's also the reason he survived; I used the bond to send him my healing powers." Seeing the shock on their faces, she scoffed, "Do you honestly think that he would have been out of the hospital mere hours later after all those injuries if he didn't have some help? You never even questioned that? Typical."

"Why did you let him spend all summer searching for you?" Willow asked in a more subdued fashion. She still felt Buffy was out of line, but obviously they didn't understand everything.

"He didn't need to search all summer. He could have used the bond to find me right away. I don't know if he was pretending not to know or what," Buffy answered with a confused shrug of her shoulders.

Xander still wasn't willing to let her off the hook. "So, if this bond is so great, why couldn't you feel how unhappy he was last year?"

For the first time, they saw tears fill her eyes. "Because he broke the bond when he gave me that stupid test on my birthday. I can't feel him anymore."

"But you could have seen how unhappy he was," Willow insisted.

"You don't get it. When he broke the bond, it was like removing one of my senses – like my sight. I thought I finally was getting the hang of it when school started and he told me that I had to handle things on my own," Buffy told them, having trouble holding back her tears.

Willow defended the Watcher, "But he came after you…"

"For how long, though?" Buffy asked semi-rhetorically. "If he could turn on me when we were bonded, how could I trust him not to turn on me again without the bond? I only accepted his part in the spell because Adam was too big of a threat not to take the risk."

"So now you know how he feels when you asked him to help Angel," Xander interjected, desperate to find a way to keep the blame more on Buffy than on Giles.

"I think I've been punished enough for that," Buffy snapped.

"How do you figure?" Xander shot back. "You made him face the person who tortured him."

"Again, it was different. I asked him to help Angel, not Angelus. I needed to save Angel or it would have made everything…" she broke off for a second, then continued unevenly, "if Angel wasn't worth saving, then I was a monster because of everything he did since we slept together on my birthday."

Finally, she started sobbing. "Besides, what you guys are doing to me…what you have been doing to me for the past year is a hundred times worse. You're demanding that I help the man who tells me each day that I'm not worthy of his forgiveness. That no matter what I do, he will never restore the bond. Even after Ethan's last visit I hoped so much that it would finally be enough…but it will never happen!" she screamed.

"Maybe he doesn't know he needs to restore the bond?" Tara offered. She hoped that was the case because she could tell they needed each other.

"Yeah, right," Buffy snorted in disbelief. "I know something about Watchers and Slayers that he doesn't? I don't think so." She backed away from them and said, "I can't do this anymore. Tell him whatever you want, but I can't pretend not to be okay being around somebody who doesn't love me as much as I love him."

With that, she ran past them and out the door, not seeing a stunned Giles sitting on the ground under the window.

A/N: There are a few ways I could move forward with this. One is a complete dissolution of the group (unlikely unless I'm super pissed off). Another is a strengthening of the Watcher/Slayer bond. Final is that plus a romantic element between them.