Yet another Still Grrr Prompt.

Title: At The Beginning
Author: Laura Sichrovsky
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: PG or FRT
Pairing: None
Warnings: None that I can think of.
Season: Takes place between the movie and season one.

Summary: The Still Grrr prompt was for something between the movie and season one. What was Giles doing? Here is what I see as
a snap shot of his life.

Spoilers: None really

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.

Author's Notes: I actually wrote this in response to a prompt contest on Still Grrr on LiveJournal. We were supposed to
write something that happened between the movie and season 1. Of course I had to write about my Giles. grin So,
here is what I think he did. 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. To Janet, Laura (God save the
Queen!), Lisa, and Michelle for the emergency betas. I appreciate it! 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.

At The Beginning

Rupert Giles strode into the high school library. To the casual observer, he was simply an employee working late. To anyone looking closer, there were alarming hints of something more. For one, Giles was limping, his normally fluid strides were jerky and he was favoring his left leg. For another, he was muttering to himself, quiet swear words lacing his normally polished speech. If this wasn't enough, one need only look at his face.

He was holding a handkerchief to his left cheek and the cloth was soaked through with blood. Tiny drops were falling to the floor, raining obscenely onto his starched white shirt, and beginning to pool on the counter at the circulation desk where he now stood, pulling a plastic container from underneath the computer. He noticed the dripping blood and tossed his handkerchief to the side, replacing it with a paper tissue.

Yes, to anyone paying attention, this looked very bad. Unfortunately for Giles, Willow Rosenberg was a detail oriented person. He was standing, rummaging through the box with only his right hand, his left holding the tissue to his wound when she walked in. It caught him off guard, after all, it was after nine o'clock on a Friday night and students didn't even come in here in the day time.

"Is there something I can do for you, Miss Rosenberg?" He asked, not looking up from the first-aid box. When she didn't answer, he looked up at her. He expected her typical wide-eyed shocked expression and the fleeting thought that he already knew some of her expressions made him blink. He was surprised to see her just standing, looking calmly at him.

"What happened?" Her voice was soft and gentle.

Giles's mind reeled for a moment and panicky flutters ran though his body. What could he tell her? He couldn't tell her the truth. For one wild second, he imagined her face if he did. 'Oh, I'm fine, Miss Rosenberg. I was out patrolling the cemeteries and got into a fight with a vampire. When I leaned in too far, he hit me in the face and scratched my cheek. But don't worry. I cut off his head with my sword and now he's dust.' He had to stifle a laugh as he pictured her eyes going wide as she slowly backed away, her mouth a perfect O of panic and shock. He closed his eyes and drew in a breath.

When he opened them, Giles smiled reassuringly at her.

"I'm fine, Miss Rosenberg. I had an altercation with a mugger while I was out for dinner. He cut my face, but I think I scared him, as he ran off. Is there something I can do for you?"

She looked at him and shook her head, just standing there. Giles was confused.

"You…don't need anything?"

Once again, she shook her head.

"Is there a reason you are in the library?"

This time she just nodded, still looking at him.

"Is there something I can do to help you?" He was desperate to find out what she needed so he could send her on her way and get back to tending to his cut.

Again, she shook her head and watched him.

"Then would you think me terribly rude if I asked you to leave? I need to attend to this wound."

She stood for a second, and then turned and sat at one of the tables. Giles blinked. He had no idea how to proceed. By this point, he'd located all the first-aid supplies he needed; if only he had a mirror. He made a mental note to bring one as he silently swore to himself. The bathrooms were locked, even the faculty ones, and he was going to have to do this by touch.

He gently pulled the tissue away, looking at the amount of blood on it. There was more than he would have liked, but less than he feared. It looked as if the cut was clotting. He tore open a package containing a gauze pad and soaked it in antiseptic. He cautiously touched the pad to the cut, swearing loudly as it burned, his eyes closing in pain.

They flew open in shock as he felt gentle fingers on his face. Willow was there, standing in front of him, leaning in to examine the cut. Her face was expressionless as she took the gauze from his suddenly nerveless fingers. He could only stare, so great was his astonishment. She began to dab gently at the cut, pausing when he winced.

"It's not really that bad," she said softly. "It's close to the surface, so it's bleeding a lot. I thought you might need stitches, but now that I'm looking, a band-aid will probably work."

"How long is it?" Giles asked. He'd only seen it briefly in his rearview mirror.

"Only about an inch," Willow replied, tearing open a band-aid and centering it over the cut. "So, a mugger did this?"

Giles stiffened, forcing himself not to pull back. He regretted coming here at all. It had been closer than his flat and with all the bleeding it had seemed prudent at the time. He mentally slapped himself for discounting that this was a public place where he could be observed. He hadn't expected any students to be here and even if there had been someone, they wouldn't have noticed him; no one ever did. When Willow walked in, his mind grabbed for an excuse so as not to frighten her. Now he had to defend that excuse.

"Yes. I was walking to my car after dinner."

"And the mugger scratched you?" Willow asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"The edges of this cut are rough," Willow replied, smoothing down the band-aid and collecting the garbage. "A knife or weapon would make a clean cut."

Giles closed his eyes, gathering his thoughts. He loved when students were intelligent, but this one was starting to ask too many questions.

"Miss Rosenberg,"

"Willow," she interrupted.

"Excuse me?"

"My name is Willow."

"Willow," he began again, feeling uncomfortable. He put the first-aid kit under the desk and walked around the counter. "I appreciate your help with my injury, but I assure you that I will be fine."

"You're limping," she said, giving no indication that she'd heard him.

"Miss Rosenberg…Willow, I really must insist you leave. It's late and I wish to go home." When all else fails, retreat.

"This isn't the first time you've been hurt," she said, not making a move to leave. "Last week you had a black eye, three separate cuts, and a bruise on your hand."

"Miss Rosenberg…" He tried to gain some control of the conversation, but she kept talking.

"My mother says that sometimes people get into bad relationships and they don't know how to get out."

It was a simple statement and it was all Giles could do to keep from laughing out loud. She thought he was being hurt and from the expression on her face, she was worried.

"My mother also says that people, especially adults, don't know who to talk to when they are being hurt. Sometimes it helps to talk to someone, even someone you think can't help."

And she wanted to help. Giles was touched. He hardly knew this young woman, but she wanted to help him. He smiled, knowing that as sweet as she was, she couldn't help him with his problems. He, alone, was going to have to be the one to hold the Hellmouth until his Slayer arrived. He wondered how to reassure her, convince her that there was nothing she could do.

"Willow," his voice was gentle. "I appreciate your offer of help, but I don't need it. I am not being hurt. I'm simply accident prone."

She looked unconvinced.

"I am not being hurt," he repeated, looking into her eyes, willing her to see the truth of his words.

She frowned, then nodded, still looking worried. He smiled at her.

"I do appreciate your concern. I had no idea anyone had even noticed me at all."

"You're the librarian," she said as if that explained everything. "You work where the books live, so I noticed you."

Now it was his turn to stare. His brow furrowed.

"Where the books live?"

She smiled at him.

"That was how I described it when I was five. It's how I still think of the library." Her body language told him she was relaxing.

He gathered up a few things, nodding at her.

"You like libraries?" He walked towards the door, gratified when she followed.

"I love libraries." Her response was enthusiastic. "You must too since you work in one."

"I do, very much," Giles said, pausing to lock the library door. "I've been reading for as long as I can remember."

Willow was quiet for a minute, just walking beside him.

"Do you ever miss it?" She asked, her voice very quiet.

"Miss what?" Giles asked, turning to look at her.

"England. You left your home and family. That has to be hard."

"It's…different," Giles smiled at her. "I'm getting used to things though."

"Do you…" She paused, looking at the floor, her stride slowing. He slowed to keep with her.

"Do I what?" He asked gently.

"Nevermind. It was a rude question."

"Please, what was it you wanted to know?"

She stopped walking, looking up at him, her brow furrowing with her seriousness.

"It's just…I see you around town sometimes. You're always alone. I…I just wondered if it was hard for you to make friends."

Giles was a bit taken aback by the question; not that she'd asked it, but rather that she'd noticed enough to wonder. He was so sure that no one ever saw him. He looked at her and for a minute, he considered telling her the absolute truth. He was so desperately lonely and afraid. He was overwhelmed at the enormous responsibility that he'd been charged with, so sure that he wasn't up to the task. The fate of the world rested on the shoulders of the Slayer and the fate of the Slayer rested with him. He could not, he would not fail and that burden terrified him, it woke him from his nightmares, a scream hovering on his lips.

He looked at her and smiled.

"It's never been easy for me, but I'm sure that I'll make friends soon."

"It's not easy for me either," she said just above a whisper.

"I suppose we'll both have to make more of an effort," Giles replied, walking towards the door. She fell into step beside him.

"Maybe it would be easier if we both just moved in with the books," Her tone was light, obviously meant to be a joke, but he could hear the edge to it.

"Perhaps we could just visit them on weekends?" Giles supplied, smiling at her.

They had reached the door and Giles looked into the darkness.

"You have a way home?"

"I was going to walk."

"I'll drive you." It wasn't a question. Giles was not comfortable fraternizing with a student; he was less comfortable sending her out alone into the night.

The ride to her house was quiet, broken only by her directions to turn left or right. When he pulled into her driveway, she turned to him.

"Thank you for the ride."

"Thank you for your help and concern."

"You'll be careful?" Her voice was full of worry.

"I'll make you a deal, Miss…Willow. I'll take extra precautions if you will."

"Me?"

"Do not go out alone at night. Don't be alone with people you don't know."

She nodded at him and he was struck by how familiar the gesture looked on her.

"The usual Stranger Danger stuff. Okay. I'll be careful, but you have to be too."

"Agreed."

He watched her walk into the house and sighed as he backed out of the driveway. He'd just promised to be careful when he was the sole defender on a Hellmouth. It was almost laughable; almost. He wasn't qualified for this, hence all his injuries. He could only hope he'd survive until his Slayer arrived and he could turn this responsibility over to her.

The End.