Title: Cold Comfort
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 seasons two and three, while Buffy was AWOL.

Summary: This one is a sequel to Against His Better Judgment. Seeing Giles risk himself for his duty had to hurt the Scoobies. Who do you think it hurt the most? I vote for Xander. How will he react?

Spoilers: Gives away the season two finale ending.

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: When I wrote Against His Better Judgment, this scene nagged at the back of my head. Xander had such an absent

father and Giles filled a space for him. I think it would hurt him to think of Giles dying. I think we needed more of

these bonding moments in the show. 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, and Michelle for the betas. I appreciate it! To Ann

for everything. You are the best and I love you, dear! To Samuel for being Samuel. 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.

Cold Comfort

"And you had no further problems?" Rupert Giles asked, looking down at the leather bound journal in which he was writing.

"You don't think having a vampire try to make a snack out of us is a big problem?" Xander replied, his usual bantering tone carrying a sight edge. He was standing slightly apart from the group, leaning against a bookcase.

"Xander, please," Willow admonished. She turned her attention back to Giles. "That was it. Two fledglings."

Giles put his pen down and closed the book, putting it to the side of the desk at which he was sitting..

"You've all done excellent work," he said, looking up at the children sitting in his living room. "This brings the total for the summer up to fourteen. Very good results for civilians."

"Since when have we been civilians?" Xander asked, looking at Giles with narrow eyes.

"I meant no offence, Xander," Giles replied mildly. "I was simply saying you lot aren't Slayers."

"No we aren't," Xander said quietly. "But we stopped being civilians the minute Buffy ran out on us."

No one said anything, all of them looking at the floor. Giles sighed. He couldn't begrudge Xander a bit of anger. This summer had been hard on all of them.

But Giles was incredibly proud of these children. With the Slayer temporarily gone, he had been certain that the demon population would get out of control. He'd tried to deal with it on his own, but his injuries had slowed him down and put him in danger. Then Xander, Willow, Cordelia, and Oz had stepped up and formed a rather efficient demon assault team. They had trained with Giles and had taken over patrols while he'd recovered from the injuries Angelus had inflicted on him.

Now that he was up to full capacity, they alternated nights. He usually took one or two of them with him and he was terribly proud of the warriors they'd become. Admittedly, he still felt terrible about making them deal with any of this, but they never complained. He looked at them and smiled.

"You lot go home and get some sleep." He stood to let them out.

"You are still coming on the picnic tomorrow, right?" Willow asked, stepping up beside him.

"Well, I thought…" Giles trailed off, looking at the floor. He didn't want to inflict the company of an old man on them.

"Giles." It was all she said, but her voice carried an edge that made him look back up at her.

"Um…of course I'm coming," Giles hastily replied.

Willow seemed satisfied, smiling at him.

"Good. We all need the break. You included. Besides, it wouldn't be the same without you."

Giles returned her smile as he opened the door. He did love these children, although he'd never say it out loud.

"You will be careful on your way home," he said, as he watched them leave. It wasn't a question.

"Always are," Oz replied, as they waved at him and walked into the darkness.

Giles watched until he couldn't see them any longer, then he closed the door and went back to his studying. This had been a long summer for Giles. Between doctor's visits and last minute trips around the country to search for his Slayer, he hadn't had much time to catch his breath, let alone study. But he was still the Watcher, even if Buffy was on extended leave.

And that was exactly how Giles thought about it, how he had to think about it. She would be back. He knew that the odds were against him on this, but if he gave into that kind of thinking he would never get out of bed. And so, every morning as he dressed for his day, he would wonder if this would be the day she would come back to him. Deep inside he knew it was pointless, but he went through the motions, struggling to keep his dying hope alive.

Giles now sat studying, sipping on his tea, lost in his books. He wasn't sure how much time had passed before he heard a sound just outside his door. He looked up, wondering if it was merely his imagination. After a minute or so he was convinced his mind was playing with him until he heard it again.

He put the book down and rose slowly from the desk, moving noiselessly to the door. He felt an equal mix of terror and anticipation. Anyone could be on the other side of his door. It could be a demon or it could be his Slayer. He quietly opened the hatch in his door, looking out and seeing nothing. He sighed, worrying that he'd missed whoever was there. He'd just shut the viewport when he heard the noise again.

Fearing the worst, Giles took a stake from the pocket of his coat on the hat rack and cautiously opened the door about six inches. Not seeing anything, he opened it a bit more and leaned out. He froze as he saw a shadow standing in the courtyard. His heart was pounding as he took a step forward, stake at the ready. He advanced in slow, quiet steps, edging along his neighbor's entry way. Unfortunately, in the dark he didn't see a small potted plant, kicking it, sending it bouncing along the walkway.

"Not really good at that stealth thing are you?" Xander's voice startled him. "Bad trait in a Watcher. You should work on that."

Giles walked over to Xander. In the dim light from the half moon Giles could see that the boy was leaning against the fountain, just staring into the night. Giles stepped up beside him and since one could never be too careful on a Hellmouth, he pulled a cross from his pocket and in one fluid move, he pressed it to the side of Xander's face. There was a profound silence and Xander turned his head, looking at Giles.

"I should be offended at this."

"You are the one sneaking around outside my flat at…" Giles paused, realizing that he had no clue what time it was.

"Two a.m.," Xander supplied for him. "Well, two fifteen, really, but you get the idea."

Xander looked up at the stars, quiet for a minute.

"I didn't mean to bother you," he continued just above a whisper. "I'm sorry."

"No need to be," Giles replied, looking up as well. "No bother. But I am wondering why you are here at two in the morning."

"I couldn't sleep," Xander said with a shrug.

"And you thought my flat would be more restful?" Giles asked with a smile. Xander just shrugged again. "What's bothering you, Xander? You've been out of sorts for weeks now."

"That long, huh?" Xander replied, looking off into the darkness again.

"Xander?" Giles spoke quietly, gently.

"Do you remember how all this started?" Xander asked, tilting his head to look at Giles.

"When Buffy left?" Giles was proud of himself for not being thrown by the subject change. Xander shook his head, the gesture barely perceptible in the darkness.

"Not that. I meant when the rest of us got sucked into the fight."

Giles looked at him quizzically.

"We were at the Bronze." Xander's voice was quiet, just above the night time sounds. Giles was confused at the turn this conversation had taken, but he just stood there, half leaning on the fountain next to Xander. "I don't know what made us think of it. It was Willow I guess. She said with Buffy gone no one was patrolling. So we went to the library. Why don't you ever lock the doors?"

"I…" Giles blinked. "In case we ever need to get to the weapons."

"Good thing," Xander said, nodding slowly. "We picked up stakes and crossbows. I think it was a whim, really. I know I didn't expect to see any vampires."

"But you did?" Giles asked quietly.

"We came around the corner of a crypt and we saw…" Xander's voice cracked slightly and Giles realized this was painful for him. After a minute Xander took a deep breath. "We saw three vampires crowded around a mausoleum."

Giles started, his body jumping slightly as he realized what Xander was talking about. He turned to the boy, his eyes wide.

"We had no idea what they were doing," Xander continued evenly. "We guessed it was a person. And then one of them moved and we saw who was trapped. Can you even image how we…how I felt?"

Giles didn't know what to say. He drew in a deep breath.

"I am sorry for that. I shouldn't have been out in that condition, but…"

"That wasn't what I meant Giles," Xander interrupted. "I wasn't…I'm not slapping you on the hand here. I wasn't angry. I was terrified. You…Giles, you keep us going, you keep us alive. If you…die…"

Giles heard the distress in Xander's voice. He wanted to offer the boy comfort, but he had no idea what he was reassuring him about.

"Xander…"

"You can't leave us," Xander said suddenly. "We need you."

"You patrol without me. You'll survive just fine."

"Who said anything about surviving?" Xander asked quietly. "Yes, you do the Obi-Wan thing for us, but you are more than that. You are a…"

Xander broke off, looking into the night again.

"A father?" Giles supplied.

"A friend," Xander responded.

Giles was speechless. He wanted to think that he was more to these children than a teacher, but he never let himself believe it. To hear Xander say it touched something deep inside Giles. He felt very close to this young man as they stood next to each other, looking off into the night.

"You're wrong you know," Xander said, breaking the comfortable silence.

"About what?" Giles asked easily.

"That we don't need you for the slaying."

"You don't. You are all very competent or I wouldn't let you patrol without me."

"But you're the leader. You do the research and answer the questions. You train us and work with us. If you died, who would take over?"

"I've thought it would be you," Giles said, his voice just above a whisper.

"Me?" Xander was clearly horrified. "I couldn't do it."

"Of course you could. What do you do when I'm off looking for Buffy and you need research done?"

"I farm it out to Willow."

"Exactly. A good leader knows his team's strengths. You know Willow can do the research, so you assign it to her. Exactly what you should do."

"No. I…I couldn't do the job."

"You could call the Council," Giles said thoughtfully. "I'm sure they would send a new Watcher."

"I am so never making that call," Xander said with a snort.

"Why not?"

"Could you even imagine it? 'Is this the Watcher's Council? Yes, my name is Xander and we live on the Sunnydale Hellmouth. Our Watcher was just killed and our Slayer is missing. What do we do? No, she's just missing. Well, she needed some time off. No, see, she had to kill her demonic vampire lover…'"

"You make a persuasive argument," Giles said with a chuckle. "I think the council would have a collective aneurism."

Xander laughed softly. After a minute, he sobered.

"Why me?"

"Why you, what?"

"To take your place. Why not Willow?"

"I think we both know Willow is too tenderhearted to do the job. If I die or am turned, I know you'll pull yourself together and do what needs to be done. I trust you."

Xander was quiet again and it took Giles a second to realize that the boy was shaking. Giles felt mild panic, turning to look at Xander. He could see tears glistening on Xander's face, but said nothing about it.

"This is why I wonder about you," Xander said, his voice rough.

"Why is that?"

"No other adult would ever trust me with anything."

"I'm confident in my decision," Giles replied. "I trust you with my life. You've never let me down yet."

Xander didn't respond at first and Giles let him stare off into the night collecting himself.

"What are we going to do?" Xander asked, his voice trembling slightly.

"Our best," Giles replied simply. "Just as we always have."

Xander nodded again, looking up at the moon. His trembling had stopped and Giles put a hand on his shoulder.

"Would you like to come in for some hot chocolate?"

"Are you trying to make me feel better?"

"Is it working?" Giles smiled.

Xander paused, looking at him, then standing and stretching.

"I'll let you know after the hot chocolate."

"Fair enough," Giles responded, walking towards his flat.

Xander followed and the two talked of nothing important, taking comfort from each other.

The End