TITLE: Lonely As You

AUTHOR: Erin Giles

PAIRING: Jenny/Giles

RATING: PG

SUMMARY: 'What hope was there for the rest of them if Giles couldn't cope?'

DISCLAIMER: I'm just borrowing them for my own little pleasure. I'll give everything back when I'm finished Joss, I swear. May keep Giles for a little longer though! ;)

*~*~*~*~*

Giles discarded his glasses on the table, leaning back in his seat as he rubbed tiredly at his aching head. He was beyond tired, beyond stressed, beyond pain, so far beyond reality that he was not even sure if he was actually sitting here anymore, or if he was dreaming it. He pulled himself into a standing position, readying himself to go into his office to put the kettle on, tea the only thing that got him through the day now, when the library doors swung open.

Where he expected to see Buffy and company he found a herd of students being shepherded into the library by Miss Beakman, calling over them to get his attention. Bloody marvellous – not even the end of first period and his library had already been invaded,

"Miss Beakman," he smiled politely at her as he gathered his research into bundles, not the best of times to be letting the rest of the faculty realise he was into the dark arts, and sacrificial rituals involving sheep. He closed the book over hastily, book marking it with his notes as he turned back to her while the rest of the class milled about the card catalogue index,

"What can I do for you and your students?" He smiled again, picking his glasses off the table as he ran a hand though his unruly hair, glancing nervously at the students as they threatened to mess up the card- cataloguing index. She glanced over him once, taking in his rumpled appearance, before smiling politely, doing her best to ignore the musty smell of moulding librarian, which he was sure was present in the room after hardly leaving it for two days solidly. The rest of the staff had never really learned much of Rupert Giles, except that he seemed a rather clumsy individual that didn't seem to have a home to go to,

"Well they need to research for their paper on particular English novelists. Is it all right if I tell them to browse by themselves and come to you if they have any questions on the whereabouts of books, or could you possibly point us in the direction of..."

"Oh yes, um, of course." He pushed his glasses back up the bridge of his nose,

"The first three rows up the top are dedicated to the Classics, if they're looking for more modern, they're in the, uh, the stacks behind." He pulled his books and notes into his arms,

"Listen up class." Miss Beakman called over the din that was rising in Giles' normally blissfully quiet haven, giving Giles a thunderous headache,

"Classic's are in the first three rows at the top of the stairs..."

"I'll be in my office if you need me." Giles said briefly as he left Miss Beakman and her class to it,

"Thank you Mr. Giles." She replied curtly as Giles closed the door behind him, dropping his research onto the desk before filling the kettle. His hand shook as the water ran into the kettle, the effort to hold the weight of water for two cups of tea, too much. He hoped that Xander would take pity on him and run an errand to the doughnut shop when he came in. He flicked the switch on the kettle before turning back to his desk, searching for the book he was halfway through skim reading for at least the third time today. He rolled his eyes to the ceiling as he realised he had left the book on the study tables outside.

He exited his office and pushed his way past aggressive teenagers, too tired to excuse himself, in search of what could be the crucial book. The doors to the library swung open as he lay his hands on it, emitting an annoyed looking Buffy, Willow and Xander trailing behind, Willow with a resolved face and Xander looking rather bewildered as he noticed the excess of students in the library,

"Good Morning you three." He said hastily before anyone had a chance to get a word in as it was doubtful that he would get more than those four words in when they began to unload the world's trouble's on his already heavily burdened shoulders. Just another day at the office, he thought, as Buffy set off in full rant mode, obviously unaware of the populace of students surrounding her,

"...I mean it's not as if I planned on doing it. It just kind of happened yah know, I mean I fully intended to revise and all, with the cramming, but I don't think a valid excuse for failing is, 'I'm sorry I didn't have time, but my ex is stalking me, oh and by the way he's a psycho killer vamp.' When are the Watcher's council going to start making notes for this sort of thing anyway?" Giles looked about, finding the students around him oblivious to what Buffy was saying,

"Perhaps we should take this inside my office Buffy." But none of them were listening to him, and to be perfectly honest he wasn't all that surprised. Willow was already doing his job for him as well, reprimanding the Slayer for her actions,

"Buffy you can't cheat just because you were out slaying. You have to learn to balance your work and... your work."

"Yeah Buff, you have to learn the teenager order of importance list. Eat, sleep, watch TV, eat some more, sleep some more and then if you still have time in the five minutes your getting dressed for school, you cram. Either that or you watch more TV."

"I can help you draw up a timetable so..."

"Will, I really don't think you understand..."

"Of course time has to be made to think about sex, eventually it falls into the daily routine of things and overcomes..."

"I have more responsibilities than you do, besides..." Giles put the book he had been looking for down on the counter, leaving the three of them to argue and exited the library, his head pounding in his ears. He had to get some fresh air before he passed out.

In solitary silence he walked along the school corridors, the only noise emitting from the classrooms he passed by on his way to the exit. In his heart he prayed he didn't run into Snyder, for that was all he needed at this moment in time, more bad news on an already bad day. His stomach lurched as he was within sight of the exit, just as someone started calling his name,

"Rupert?" he fully intended to turn to the call of his name but found he couldn't as he stumbled toward the exit in a desperate attempt not to draw any attention to himself while his stomach heaved, threatening to throw up itself. He started jogging, pushing through the fire exit out into the crisp autumn day,

"Rupert?" he reached a nearby tree as his stomach wretched. It left that burning sensation all the way down his throat as he leant heavily against the tree, his energy beyond dilapidated as a part of him wished he could lie down and sleep for a week. A hand rested on his shoulder, causing him to flinch and jerk away from the tree, stumbling slightly before he had time to steady himself,

"Rupert?" he turned to face the source of the voice, finding Miss Calendar looking at him sympathetically,

"Are you alright?" he managed a half smile in the shade of the tree, nodding dumbly for a moment before he removed his glasses, averting his eyes, scared he would give away the truth,

"Quite alright thank you." Jenny nodded, not wanting to hurt his pride while she lead him to a nearby bench, watching him fall over his own feet, sheer exhaustion etched into his every move. His feelings and pride soon forgot as she eased him onto the bench,

"Somehow I doubt it." She replied dryly as she put a hand to his forehead. It was cool to the touch and he relished in it as he slouched on the bench, giving in to her,

"Rupert you look awful. You shouldn't be in today." He raised his head to give her a serious look,

"Jenny I have to,"

"I know." She said softly, teasing slightly,

"You have to save the world." She sat down beside him,

"But Rupert if you don't stop to breathe you're not going to see what's beyond the next apocalypse."

"But Buffy,"

"Buffy will always need you." She replied, pre-empting his question,

"Buffy will always need you and you will always need Buffy. She cares more than you think Rupert, but you need to care too." She turned loving eyes on him; unshed tears sparkling in their depths,

"You'll never be alone." He turned to look into her beautiful brown eyes, a question on his lips but she was already standing again,

"I'll get Xander to drive you home." She put a finger to his lips to silence him before he had a chance to speak,

"You worry too much." She ran a hand through his unruly hair,

"Everything will sort itself out. " She smiled before she turned to head back to the school. He turned to watch her go but already found her gone.

He turned back to stare lopsidedly at the autumn leaves on the trees at the edge of the grounds, sinking further into the school bench as minutes seemed to stretch out for days, before voices started to approach him,

"Giles?" Buffy sunk to her knees in front of her haggard Watcher, trying to catch his eye,

"Giles?" she asked hesitantly, concern evident in her voice. He smiled weakly back at her as Willow sat down beside him on the bench,

"Giles, are you ok?" the red head asked, trying to keep a light heartedness in her voice which just came out scared. Giles raised his head for a moment, ready to pull the mask back on but after his talk with Jenny he just couldn't. His chin dropped onto his chest as he shook his head solemnly, defeat evident in his eyes. An eerie silence surrounded them in late autumn morning, nothing but the whisper of wind passing through leaves could be heard as the three friends watched Giles for a moment, shattered by his defeat.

Xander was the first to make a move, clapping the Watcher on the back gently,

"Come on G-man. Lets get you home." Giles didn't even bother to complain about the flippant use of his name, barely able to raise his head as Buffy and Xander helped him to his feet and lead him to Xander's car. He was sat in the passengers seat without complaint, head in his hand as he rubbed tiredly at his weary, bloodshot eyes that spoke of sleepless nights haunted by nightmares. Xander gave the two girls a reassuring smile as he got into the driver's seat, urging the Englishman to put his seatbelt on.

Buffy stood, arms folded, as Xander pulled away from the kerb, eyes following the car's progress until it disappeared out of sight at the end of the street,

"Buffy?" Willow asked shyly, turning to her best friend when the car was gone from view,

"You think he'll be alright?" Buffy continued to watch the space where the car had once been, considering Will's question. The silence stretched between them as Buffy's façade fell and tears threatened to pour over, but she wouldn't let them.

She didn't know if he would be all right but what hope was there for the rest of them if Giles couldn't cope? He was strong and she believed in him, but still she could not bring herself to answer Willow's question straight,

"Would you be alright if you lost Oz?" Buffy finally questioned. Not expecting a reply, she turned away from the road and her best friend, walking back to the school, alone.