Author: Meltha

Rating: G, nothing objectionable

Feedback: Yes, thank you. Through Graduation Day 2

Distribution: The Blackberry Patch and If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary: Giles explores the Mayor's home in the aftermath of Graduation Day

Author's Note: Written for btvsats20 for the prompt "What Is Beneath Your Pillow?" for my character of the Mayor.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.

Beneath the Pillow

Mayor Wilkins had a bedroom that looked exactly as one would suppose. When Giles inspected it after the destruction of Sunnydale High, he was almost stunned by the sheer normalcy of it all. The only unusual thing about it was how clean it all was. Not a dust curl, not a cobweb, not so much as a stray hair on the floor was to be seen. He had to hold himself back from performing a white glove test on the furniture just to see for himself how utterly pure everything was. The furniture was almost austerely simple: bed, desk, chair, lamp, dresser, nightstand. Each piece seemed to have been arranged precisely. He had seen monks' cells that were less Spartan. There were no paintings or photographs. The few papers on the desk were completely mundane things like notes on his graduation speech and a couple utility bills.

A quick check beneath the bed revealed nothing at all, not even dust, though he had come to expect that. The nightstand and dresser revealed nothing but ordinary clothing. Either Wilkins's minions had made a clean sweep of the place before Giles had gotten there, or else there had simply never been anything to find. He believed it was the latter.

He was just about to leave when the idea struck him to check beneath the bedclothes. With a firm yank, he pulled the blue comforter off the queen-sized bed, revealing plain white sheets and a mattress that sagged to one side. He was just about to shrug and call the trip a failure when he caught sight of something glinting beneath the mayor's pillow, pulled into view by the force of the comforter's removal.

Giles strode towards it quickly and threw back the pillow to find a framed photograph beneath it. He stared at the face it showed, almost unable to recognize the girl in it. Her smile was unlike anything he had seen on her face since he had known Faith. She looked like a healthy, hopeful, sane, and utterly normal girl. He knew that now that same face was expressionless, lying atop a pillow in Sunnydale General in a ward where people seldom if ever left alive. It was almost a physical shock to be confronted with Wilkins's chosen image of the Slayer who had nearly brought about the apocalypse looking as innocent as any other young girl. This was how he must have seen her. For a moment, Giles wished he could have seen Faith like that in real life, wondering what the moment was that had prompted her smile.

It took no imagination at all to understand why it was there. Whatever else Richard Wilkins III might have been, it had been clear that he cared for her. Giles had done much the same, keeping a photograph of Buffy at his bedside when she had disappeared the previous year. He wondered if the Mayor had looked at it with the same guilt, anger, and barely tangible hope that he had with his own lost Slayer's image every day when he awoke and again as the last image before he went to sleep. He knew the answer.

"Perhaps not so different as all that after all," Giles said to the emptiness.

He considered taking the picture with him, but it didn't seem right. Giles knew one day Faith would wake up, but he wouldn't be happy when it occurred. There was no one who would welcome her home again, and in spite of everything, he felt a pang of grief for the girl, though not quite pity. The only one who would have been truly delighted with her return was gone. Gently, he put the photograph back beneath his pillow, turned out the light, and shut the door behind him.

"Geez, Boss! I don't get why we're doing this," Faith said, smiling a little in spite of herself.

"It's a fine, fresh, sunny day outside, and you just don't get out enough for a girl your age. It's time you had a little fun," the Mayor replied, straightening a picnic blanket on the ground.

"I get out plenty," Faith said, sprawling across it and immediately digging through the wicker basket he'd brought with them. "Chocolate chip cookies? Are you serious? Score!"

"I don't mean getting out for work, Faith," he said, sitting down across from her and surveying her with fatherly concern. She gave him a look that suggested work wasn't all she was doing. "And I just don't want to hear about any of your other 'activities.' You have your own life, I know, but there's no reason not to enjoy some of the simple things in life. You're far too serious."

She looked at him in disbelief for a second, but he seemed completely serious. With a chuckle, she pulled out a thermos that she already knew beyond any doubt was filled with milk, though if she was extra lucky it might be of the chocolate variety.

"Oh, Faith?" the Mayor said, getting her to look up, and the moment she did, he clicked the shutter on the camera, capturing a look of unclouded happiness on her face.

"What'd you do that for?" she asked, dunking a cookie in what was, yes, chocolate milk.

"Just because," he replied with a smile before snagging a cookie for himself and taking a deep breath of the ocean breeze.