"Perhaps what we are called to do may not seem like much, but the butterfly is a small creature to affect galaxies thousands of light years away." Madeleine L'Engle
"Think they're really sleeping?" Dawn asked. She, Willow, and Xander were in the Council car on the way to the docks.
"Um," said Xander. "Maybe?"
"That means no," Dawn said.
"Most of the girls are underage, even in this country. I think we should go easy on the alcohol," Willow said, making herself a list. "And isn't there, like, a lot of stuff in the warehouse?"
"I mean, it's good, Giles and my sister, but I can't really think of Giles as my brother," Dawn said. Xander nodded in agreement.
"Like, a boat? And a fleet of cars? And big weapons?" Willow asked.
"But Buffy is kind of like a sister-mom hybrid," Xander said. "Besides, who needs labels?"
"We can move the cars and maybe even the boat, but the weapons…" Willow said.
"For heaven's sake, Willow, we'll move the weapons!" Dawn said. "Can you focus up please?"
"Yeah, but move them into where?" Willow asked.
"The boat, Wil, what does it matter?" Xander asked. Her eyes got big and she shrunk down into her seat.
"Never mind," she muttered.
"Is there something wrong?" Dawn asked her, crossing her arms. "You've been all sketchy since you've got here."
"I just…" Willow shook her head. "It's nothing."
"That was convincing," Xander said.
"I don't know," Willow said. "I mean, I do know, I'm just not ready to talk about it. Let's just focus on the party and Christmas."
"And the fact that Giles is probably defiling my sister right now," Dawn added. In the front seat, the driver made a small noise that sounded like suppressed laughter. "Hey, I hear you up there and I'm pretty sure that confidentiality is built into your contract."
"Yes, Miss Summers," the driver said.
"Be nice," Xander scolded. "Try to think back when we were poor. Remember? All the girls living in Buffy's house?"
"I know, I know," Dawn said. "Sorry."
"We're here," Willow said. She seemed eager to get out of the car. The warehouse door was locked with a big padlock. Dawn leaned into the driver's window.
"Maybe you could hang out for a bit?" Dawn said and the driver nodded and drove around to a parking space.
"Anyone have a key?" Xander asked.
"I've been known to open the right kind of lock," Dawn said, only half joking.
"I'll just…" Willow pointed her finger at the lock and it opened. She opened the door and stepped into the warehouse. "You see? Stuff!" There were several cars, a boat on a trailer and the bulk of the oversized weapon collection.
"Yowza," Xander said. "What the hell are we going to do with all of this?" Willow made a huffy noise and crossed her arms.
Giles couldn't stop touching Buffy. His hands slid over her even after she'd dozed off. Her hair was everywhere, across her pillow and his. When she woke up, she'd be embarrassed by the tangles but now it was just one more thing to love. He touched the jutting bones of her hip and the white scar on her stomach and the gold cross she wore around her neck. She sighed a little, but didn't wake up.
Somewhere inside her pants on the floor, her phone began to ring.
"Ignore it," Buffy murmured, surprising him.
"What if it's important?" he asked, his lips moving over her shoulder.
"It's Dawn," Buffy said. "It's her ring." He ignored it but when it began to ring again a minute later, he got out of the bed long enough to retrieve the advice and answered it as he slid back in. Buffy rolled into his arms. He closed his eyes against the expanse of temptingly bare skin when he answered.
"Hullo," he said, gruffly.
"Giles? Where's Buffy?" Dawn said.
"Er… indisposed," Giles said. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Oh, ew." Dawn said loudly enough for Buffy to snicker. "You sound… ew, guys, he sounds totally satisfied. I can't talk to him. Here."
"Giles?" It was Xander.
"Yes?" Giles responded.
"So, sorry to interrupt, but there is a lot of stuff in the warehouse," he said. "Did Buffy have some sort of plan for it all?"
"Um, hang on," Giles said, and put his hand over the mouthpiece. "Darling, they want to know what to do with all the stuff."
"Burn it," Buffy mumbled, her breath tickling the hair on his chest.
"She doesn't have a specific plan," Giles said into the phone. "Move what you can and we'll come down to help you."
He hung up before Xander or anyone else could protest and tossed the phone onto the nightstand where it slid on the smooth surface and fell to the floor.
"Don't wanna go," Buffy mumbled and tightened her grip on him. He could feel where she was still moist and stick from their lovemaking against his hip and he pressed back a little.
"We have a little time," he said, diplomatically. "Though, I thought we might use it for sleeping."
"Hmph," she said, and wriggled so she was on top of him, though her face was still heavy in his neck. She wasn't quite awake but was definitely not asleep.
"A man needs some recovery time. A man so very, very old as I am," he teased.
"I'm no spring chicken either," she said, the first full sentence she'd spoken in a little while.
"Oh yes," he laughed. "I might have to trade you in for a newer model."
"You'd better not," she said with a smack and punished him by rolling back onto the mattress. "I need a shower."
"Oi," he said, grabbing her before she made it out of the bed. "Can't you do that from here?"
"Not successfully," she said, regaining her energy more quickly now. "I guess I could go meet my friends and my baby sister smelling like sex."
"Fine," he said. He let her go and she stood, stretching her arms over her head. He watched her move around in the sunlight. "Magnificent." She threw him a saucy grin over her shoulder before she slipped on her robe.
"Room for two, you know."
It didn't take him long to follow her into the bathroom.
It was nearly an hour later when they finally reached the dock. The hot shower had made Giles cleaner but no less sore or tired. He walked with a light limp.
"Hey!" Buffy greeted, walking into the warehouse. The cars had been moved outside and half the weapons were moved into the cars or onto the boat but some were too big to do anything with.
"Hi!" Dawn said. "We were beginning to wonder if you were coming at all."
"Traffic," Buffy lied, easily. Xander watched Giles move more slowly toward the group while shaking his head.
"Oh man," Xander said, laughing. "You look… oh Giles."
"Do shut up," Giles said, with a grimace.
"It's times like these when I miss Anya the most. She could always say what I was thinking without getting into trouble," he said. Giles smiled at him a little. Xander was only just now able to speak about Anya in normal conversation.
"And what would she say?" Giles asked.
"Oh no," Xander said. "I'm not walking into that trap."
"I will," Willow said. "You look freshly fuc-"
"Now, now," Giles said, shaking his head. "Language."
"Giles!" Buffy called. "Let's put the boat into the water."
"Can we do that?" Xander asked, surprised.
"We have a dock," Giles said. "It's just a matter of getting the boat to the water and then navigating it into the dock."
"Neat," Xander said. "I've never driven a boat before."
"Well, it's not really like driving a car and, not to cast doubt on your abilities, I think depth perception is rather essential," Giles said, carefully.
"Oh," Xander put his hands in his pockets. "That makes sense."
"Just…" Giles sighed. "Take one of the women with you." Xander grinned and ran up to Dawn so they could start organizing the project. Giles watched Buffy start to push some of the heavy weapons to the side of the warehouse. Cannons and other antiquities that had been used in battle before more modern inventions took their place.
"Supervising this one, are you?" Buffy called. Giles moved closer before he responded.
"I'm a tad sore," he admitted. She smirked, looking pleased with herself. "I'm afraid I'm out of ideas as to where to put these."
"Let's just leave them. What's more appropriate décor for Slayers?" she said.
"Good point. I think Willow has a list. Perhaps I'll go do the shopping," he offered. Shopping seemed safe and fairly non-violent.
"You could take some of the girls," Buffy suggested.
"Or not," he said.
"Maybe Willow?" Buffy said, pointing to where Willow was watching Xander hitch up a car to the trailer with growing apprehension.
"Some reason you don't want me to go alone, my dear?" he asked.
"I just don't want you to come back with only scotch and smelly cheese for party food."
"I shall not dignify that with an answer," he grumbled walking away.
"Willow!" Buffy called. "Go with Giles!"
"Okie dokie," she called back. Giles glared.
"Hey, it's part of the whole shared leadership gig you seemed so gung-ho about," Buffy said lightly. "Have fun."
Dawn was a teeny tiny bit drunk. It wasn't the first time, but it was the first time with both Buffy and Giles in the same room as her. There were so many other people there, however, that Dawn poured herself another drink without a care in the world. Besides, she was legal in the U.K. and would be in America in less than a year. The party was a success and several of the Slayers had even convinced a couple of the local university boys to attend.
There were also several Watchers standing against the walls making sure nothing got too out of hand. Anyone under eighteen was strictly forbidden to drink alcohol and two of the Watchers were guarding the door making sure no one snuck out to do anything unseemly. All in all, it was a fun party, but not too fun. Still, the Slayers took what they could get.
The music was loud, the lights low, and the dancing close and intense. Dawn had already found a couple of boys to dance with but now she was just content to lean against the wall and watch. Before too long, Xander came and stood next to her, resting his elbow on her shoulder affectionately.
"Hey lush," he said.
"I'm not drunk," she said. "I'm…"
"I have no problem with you being drunk," he said.
"Good to know," she said, leaning against him. "Finally, a Christmas that doesn't suck."
"Amen," he said, clicking his beer bottle against her plastic cup.
"Thought I keep waiting for something horrible to crash through the door or the ceiling or even the floor," she admitted.
"Oh that already happened. You missed it," he said. "Three demons. Not the smart kind, crashing a Slayer party."
"I missed it?" she exclaimed. "I always miss it."
"I saw Giles put his hand under your sister's sweater," he said. "I mean, if you're looking for horror." Dawn smacked him hard.
"You suck!" she said. "As if I didn't have enough to haunt my dreams!"
"I thought you were cool with Giles macking on Buffy?" he said.
"I am, but I don't need you to paint a freaking picture," she grumbled. "I need some air."
"Well, I hear there's a boat in the harbor," Xander said. "I bet it's pretty full of air right now."
Dawn glanced meaningfully at the Watchers posted by the door.
"I don't know if I can escape on my own," she teased.
"What if you had an escort?" he said. "Someone who works for the Watchers Council, perhaps?"
"Are you offering?" she asked. He stuck his arm out and she took his elbow.
Giles saw them walk by.
"That's interesting," Giles murmured. Buffy looked up from her plate of food.
"Xander just left with Dawn," he said.
"Oh, I'll kill him until he's good and dead," Buffy said, setting her plate down and heading for the door. Giles grabbed her arm.
"I'm sure they're just going for a walk," Giles said. "Don't overreact."
"Overreact? Did you just tell me not to overreact?" she asked.
"I simply mean that Xander and Dawn have been friends for a long time. You shouldn't jump to conclusions."
"I'm not jumping anywhere," Buffy muttered. "It's just that he's too old for her." Giles laughed.
"Oh Buffy," he said, patting her shoulder. "Unlike you and I, you mean?"
"Well, we're different!" she said, stomping her foot.
"If you think about it, Dawn has existed for a millennia. Really, she's too old for him," he said.
"I'm leaving," she said, walking away with the sound of his laughter behind her.
Christmas morning took place in the afternoon on account of everyone stumbling home in the wee morning hours. Giles was the first out of bed, sneaking away from Buffy to go downstairs and start brewing coffee instead of tea. They hadn't gotten a Christmas tree, but there were still gifts piled by the fireplace in the parlor. Xander had informed him already that it wasn't the tree that made the holiday, but the people one spent it with. Next year they would be all moved in and a tree would be in order. This year, they were just happy to be together and alive.
Willow woke up next and joined him in her pajamas, holding a cup of coffee.
"What time is it?" she asked.
"Nearly two," he said. "Though I can't blame anyone for sleeping in."
"Yeah, that was a wacky night," Willow said, sinking into an arm chair. "Did you have fun?"
"I…" he paused. "It was nice that everyone got to blow of a little steam."
"Very diplomatic answer," she said with a smile.
"I had fun," he amended.
They sat in silence for a while. Eventually Xander wandered out to sleep on the sofa instead of the bed and eventually Buffy wandered down too and snuggled up next to Giles. They were slow and lethargic, drinking coffee and watching the rain outside. Finally, Dawn stumbled out of bed.
"I can't believe you didn't wake me," she said, rubbing her eyes. She was still wearing her clothes from last night – her black pants and what looked like Xander's sweatshirt. Buffy socked Giles hard in the arm.
"Ouch!" he said, rubbing the spot.
"I told you," she seethed.
"Whatever, weirdoes," Dawn said. "Let's open some presents." She sat down next to Xander who lifted his feet to make room for her and then plopped them back down onto Dawn's lap. This time, Giles was smart enough dodge Buffy's fist.
"Stop," he scolded. "You'll break my arm."
She crossed her arms and glared at Xander. Willow decided to get up and start doling out packages. The next couple hours were spent opening gifts and laughing at old holiday memories. No gift was too extravagant – Buffy and Giles had just bought a house, and Dawn was a poor college student, and while Xander and Willow both got paychecks from the Council, they were by no means rich.
Eventually Giles extricated himself from the pile of ribbon and wrapping to go find breakfast or, more appropriately, a late lunch. He stepped over Dawn who was sprawled on the floor with her new sweater from Buffy over her face.
"I'm never drinking again," she moaned.
"What is it with the Summers women and booze?" Xander asked. "Can't hold it."
"How would YOU know?" Buffy demanded. Giles slipped into the kitchen. Willow found him staring into the refrigerator looking befuddled.
"Find anything?" Willow asked.
"A jar of pickles," he said.
"Sweet or dill?"
"Sweet," he responded and she stuck her tongue out.
"Blergh," she said. "Let's just order something out."
"It's Christmas," he said. "Just because I can't see it doesn't mean there is no meal here."
"Well more power to you," Willow said, seating herself at the kitchen table. "So, I think I'm going leave in the morning." He turned to her with a surprised expression.
"So soon?" he asked. "The day after Christmas?"
"Why do I have to keep reminding everyone that I'm Jewish?" she laughed.
"Well…" he said. "Don't you worship the goddesses?"
"And Pagan," she said. "Whatever. Not big on the Jesus. Plus I have to be somewhere."
"Willow… I know you've come to terms with your power, but… you are being careful, aren't you?" he said.
"Yes," she said, with appropriate disgrace. "I have to go meet someone. I do have other friends, you know."
"Is it Oz?" he asked. Her face answered his question better than anything she could say.
"How did you know?" she asked. He shrugged. "We're not, well, you know, the way we were because I'm still really gay, but we're trying to be friends again."
"I think that's wonderful," Giles said, returning to his task of finding food. He discovered some tins of soup in the cupboard and dumped them into a pot. "I was always extremely fond of Oz."
"Thanks," she said. "Giles, I think we should do the spell before I go."
"The anchoring spell," he said, knowing exactly what she meant.
"Yep," she said.
"While I appreciate the option, I'm not sure Buffy and I are ready for that sort of… commitment," he said, uncomfortably.
"I think you are," Willow said.
"Perhaps," he said. "But it's not like either of us are going anywhere."
"It isn't about keeping a leash on one another," Willow chided gently. "But I don't have to tell you that."
"No," he said, stirring the soup slowly as it heated.
"You named one another," Willow said. "The hard part is done. The spell is just icing."
"I know," he said.
"If you want me to do it before I go, I'd be more than happy to," she said, standing.
"Yes, thank you," he said. Soon they were all sitting around the table eating the soup. It was boring, but warm and would tide them over until they got cleaned up enough to acquire a real meal. Buffy helped him wash the dishes – she held the dish towel waiting for Giles to hand her another wet bowl. She dried methodically and quietly.
"All right?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said, drying a spoon a little too vigorously. "Did Willow tell you she's leaving?"
"She did," he admitted. "It's been nice to have her around again."
"Is there something else?" he prodded. She stared at him looking like she wanted to say something but she didn't know how to say it. "Buffy, you know you can tell me anything," he reminded her.
"Giles, I want to do the spell," she blurted.
"Ah," he said, resuming his scrubbing.
"I know you have reservations but… I want it. I want you."
"Of course," he said, leaning and kissing her lightly. "We'll do it tonight."
"That's it?" she asked, surprised. "No more convincing?"
"I'd give you the world if I knew how," he reminded her. "I'm flattered you want this so badly."
"Well, good," she said. "I do."
The permanent anchor spell was similar to the one they'd shared in Scotland but not quite the same. Willow had given them a full disclaimer that things would be deeper, intimate, and much more meaningful but Buffy had assured everyone that she'd wanted it and Giles wanted what Buffy wanted. So they'd performed the spell and the tether was back. Giles could feel Buffy and Buffy could feel Giles and everyone went to bed just as the night before.
But it wasn't the same, not exactly.
Their room was dark and they were in bed. Buffy held her hand above her head and poked at her tattoo. Giles was next to her, sleeping. He'd participated in the spell and it had drained him. His face was pressed into his pillow. She poked her tattoo again. She could feel Giles next to her both physically and magically. It was an odd sensation, but a comfortable one.
"Stop it," Giles said, rolling over to face her.
"What?" she asked.
"I can feel you prodding," he said. "Go to sleep. We have our whole lives to figure out how this works."
"I'm not tired," she said. "I think maybe I'll go patrol."
"Alone?" he asked worriedly.
"Yes alone. I patrolled alone for years and I did it on a hellmouth. Don't think just because you're having sex with me..."
"Fine," he said, rolling back over. "Goodbye."
She dressed in the dark and rummaged around the trunk at the foot of the bed for a weapon. She slipped a couple of stakes in her pocket. She wished she could take a sword but walking around London with a sword wasn't easy. She was always stopped by law enforcement and how often could she use 'it's a gift for my boyfriend' for an excuse? She opened the door quietly.
"It's not just sex to me, you know," Giles said.
"I know," she said. "Me either."
"Come back to me unharmed."
"Will do," she said and left him alone in the bedroom.
It was bitterly cold outside. Too cold for Buffy anyway. She could stand it, of course, because she was a Slayer but she was also a thin-blooded Californian and so she set her jaw against the biting air and started making her rounds. She stayed in the neighborhood at first – it was a decent neighborhood but she occasionally ran into a Burberry clad vampire in her parts.
Not tonight, she realized. It was, after all, Christmas night. Vampires tended to stay dormant on most major holidays. She moved out of their neighborhood and toward a more seedier area but the farther away from Giles she got, the more she wanted to return to him. It wasn't that she missed him, exactly, but that she knew that being far away from him was just… it was wrong somehow.
It was slow, so she started back.
Giles was awake when she crept back into the bedroom. He was reading a book by the light of a soft lamp.
"Hey," she said.
"I couldn't sleep while you were gone," he admitted. "In fact, all I wanted to do was go out and find you."
"I felt you tugging," she said. "Before, I could feel the connection but… now it's like, very, very adamant. Stay close, it says."
"Perhaps your patrolling days are behind you," Giles said softly.
"What?" she exclaimed. "Perhaps you'll just have to come."
"I mean, there are plenty of girls to do nightly patrols. You're in charge of them all now. You must learn to delegate," he said. "You changed the world, darling. You're going to have to change along with it."
"This is way too much for my brain at four am," she said. "Can we just go back to sleep?"
"We could," Giles said, setting is book aside. "Though aren't you curious as to what else this connection can do?" He smiled a very suggestive smile.
"Oh," she said. "Okay!"
Their first big argument as a couple was over Dawn's graduation.
"Buffy we cannot both go to California. One of us needs to stay here," Giles said for what felt like the hundredth time. "You go and I'll stay and it will be fine."
"Fine?" she asked. "Setting aside the fact that Dawn will be crushed if you miss her graduation, if you don't go, I can't go."
"Don't be ridiculous," he said.
"Giles, I can hardly go across town without you. I can't go to America without you!"
"I know it will be uncomfortable, that sort of separation, but for this we must simply grin and bear it," he assured her.
"You're coming with me," she said, crossing her arms and giving their connection a good tug to prove her point. She saw his balance waver for a moment – when she pulled hard enough, she could topple him.
"So that the council is left defenseless?" he asked. "Is that what you want?"
"Twenty Slayers live here at any given time, not to mention their Watchers, Watchers-in-Training, security personnel, and the coven in Devon!" she said. "Giles, you can leave London for a week. The world won't end."
"Please, I've asked you not to joke about that," he said, rubbing his face.
"It's not a joke," she said. "Call in Xander or Robin or Faith."
"I'm just not sure," he said, and she knew he was showing signs of relenting.
"You're the one who taught me that being a Slayer doesn't mean I have to give up my life," she said, touching his arm. The contact filled him with a warm, traitorous buzz. "The same goes for you. Dawn wants us there. We're her family."
"I wish we hadn't sent Portia to Rome," he said. "I'd be most comfortable with her."
"What if we call in Faith," Buffy said. "You can put whatever Watcher you want in charge. Maybe Philips or Richardson? We won't leave any loose ends."
"All right," he said, feeling not at all confident in her decision.
"Thank you," Buffy said, kissing him lightly.
So they bought the tickets and Faith flew in from her new station in Sydney for the week. Buffy picked her up and though their relationship was better, it was still a little strained.
"Thank you," Buffy said again, and Faith rolled her eyes.
"B, seriously, it's not a favor, it's a duty," Faith said. "You think I wanted to leave Australia to come to Tweed central?"
"I know," Buffy said. Faith was tanned and strong. The hellmouth in Sydney was more active now than ever and Buffy was always sending girls down to her. "Giles is worried about leaving."
"No big," Faith said.
"Five by five?" Buffy asked with a small smile.
"You know it," Faith said and with the tension broken, Buffy felt more confident about their trip to California than ever.
Giles was nervous getting onto the airplane and his nerves washed over Buffy in big, crashing waves. It made her jittery – she dropped her ticket and her phone in the narrow aisle and caused a small commotion pausing to fish them out from under a tiny seat.
"Buffy," Giles snapped and she gathered her things and sprinted back to her place in line.
"Sorry," she said. "You're making me all…" She waved her hands and sent her phone flying again. The man behind her groaned and Giles whipped his glasses off for a cleaning the likes of which she hadn't seen since Sunnydale. She fetched the phone again and put it in her pocket quickly. Finally they found their seats. She offered him the window and he accepted. She would be stuck in the middle seat with a stranger on the other side for hours and hours. She hated flying.
"I hate flying," she said, shoving her bag under the seat in front of her and collapsing into the tiny seat dramatically.
"Welcome to the world," Giles said, so grumpily that Buffy huffed a little and turned her face away from him. She understood he was reluctant to leave the Council but everything had been all arranged and it would be fine. It had to be. They had to stop living their entire lives like it was one big crisis after another. Feeling a little sorry for him, she turned her face back and patted his knee which was cramped into the tiny space provided for him.
"How long is the flight again?" she asked. She was just trying to make conversation but he sighed and looked at her like he wanted to throttle her – like she was his Slayer on the hellmouth once more and had blown off patrol to go to the Bronze with a boy he'd never even met. In reality, she was not that Buffy. She didn't even look like that Buffy anymore – she'd died her hair a dark brown last month and it had changed her dramatically. Giles liked it – it suited her, and it made her harder to recognize for those who wanted to kill the last original Slayer, but it still startled him sometimes. Buffy was a woman now, his love, and not a sixteen year old girl, begging him not to send her to her death. "Sorry," she said now.
"Several hours," Giles said. "It will just make you crazy to dwell on the amount of time." Giles knew that a Slayer, especially Buffy, could not sit still for very long. In his pocket he had a sleeping pill for her; it was the only way they would both get through this. She was quiet through the take-off. A middle aged woman had sat next to her and she seemed relieved by this non-threatening entity. The woman had put on her headphones and closed her eyes almost immediately. It would be morning when they landed in California.
When they were in the air, Buffy slipped her hand into his. She squeezed it and he squeezed back.
"This is the first time I'm flying to California when I'm not flying back to you," he said, finally.
"I'm with you," she assured him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I'm not going anywhere."
"I know," he said, kissing her forehead.
"Was it scary? Flying to Sunnydale for the first time? Not knowing anything about me?" she asked.
"Very," he said. "And yet, it was my job. My calling."
"What if I had turned out to be like… I don't know, different?" she asked.
"You were different," he assured her with a chuckle. "Not at all what I was expecting."
"I wasn't exactly embracing my destiny," Buffy admitted. "But that was before I knew you were such a hunk of burning man love." He smiled, blushing lightly. Even though he knew she was poking fun at him, he also knew she was being honest.
"Don't you miss California?" Giles asked. "It is your home, after all."
"Did you miss England?" she asked, sitting up straight. The flight attendants were beginning to move through the aisles with their bulky carts offering beverages. Buffy would get a soda and Giles would get a tiny bottle of whiskey.
"I missed England a great deal," Giles said.
"I guess I miss parts of California," Buffy said thoughtfully. "The beach. The warm weather and constant sunshine. The fashion." She shrugged. "But it isn't my home. Not anymore. And I don't know if you remember, but California wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs for me."
"I remember," he said. Their conversation paused for their drink order and then a crackling announcement from the captain about altitude and flight times. "Why do you think Dawn wanted to go back?"
"Besides UC Berkeley?" Buffy asked.
"There are other Universities that offered the program she wanted," he pointed out.
"I think she was tired of following us around," Buffy said. "It was hard to let her go but now we're getting her back."
"Buffy, while we're there, would you like to… I know you haven't been back to… What I mean to say is…" he shifted in his seat, searching for the right words.
"Do I want to go see the crater?" she asked. He nodded in relief.
"I'll drive you, if you'd like."
"I don't know," she said. Their drinks arrived and Buffy sipped at her Diet Coke. "I know that my mom is down there somewhere but when I left it behind I swore to myself I'd never go back."
"You did?" he asked.
"Are you really surprised?" she asked.
"It was your home," he said again.
"You're my home," she assured him with a poke in his chest. "You always have been. Ever since I met you. The library and then your flat and then the Magic Box and now this tiny seat in this airplane in the sky."
"Thank you," he said, softly. She put her head back on his shoulder.
After their meal, she began to squirm and took her pill dutifully.
"Welcome to Oakland International Airport. This is a non-smoking terminal."
Buffy was still a little groggy as they made their way to the baggage claim. She held on to his elbow, a little unsteady on her feet.
"What did you give me, horse tranquilizer?" she asked.
"You're the Slayer," he said. "Nyquil wasn't going to cut it."
"I can't feel my arms," she said, clutching him more tightly and then loosening her grip when he hissed.
"You're fine," Giles assured her. "Let's just go get our bags and rent the car."
"I want to see Dawn," Buffy said.
"Dawn is taking her last final," Giles reminded her. "We're going to check into the motel and rest for a while."
"I'm tired of resting," Buffy said, stumbling onto the moving sideway. Giles leaned tiredly against rail as it moved them forward. They slugged their way through customs before he continued their conversation.
"You said you can't feel your arms, Buffy. I don't think lying down is asking too much," he said, sitting her down in a chair near the baggage claim. "I'm going to go get the car. If you see our luggage, try to grab it?"
"I always have to do all the heavy lifting," she muttered and he rolled his eyes and went to queue for a rental car. She watched the bags begin to circle and fall and when Giles' suitcase appeared, she wove through the crowd to grab it. She hefted it too hard, though, and nearly toppled the man standing behind her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" she said, wincing.
"It's okay," he said, rubbing his arm. "Guess you're stronger than you look."
"You'd be surprised," Buffy muttered. The man smiled and stuck out his hand.
"I'm Chad," he said.
"Buffy," she said, taking his hand politely.
"I have to admit," he said. "I saw you on the plane."
"Oh," Buffy said, keeping one eye on the rotating carousel and another on Giles gesturing wildly to the man behind the rental counter. Why did he always have to argue about price? It was a weird Giles thing, his taste in cars.
"Yeah. I may be a little forward to say this, but you were the sweetest thing I've ever seen, sleeping against your father's shoulder," Chad said, wistfully. "It's hard to find a woman these days who still cares about family."
"Um," Buffy said, scratching her head. Luckily, Giles came up behind her.
"Where is your case, darling?" he asked.
"Still waiting," she said.
"Hi," Chad said, sticking his hand out for Giles to shake. Giles glanced at Buffy but shook his hand.
"I was just telling Buffy here what a sweet girl you've raised," Chad said.
"Ah," said Giles, confusedly.
"I tried to kill him with your suitcase," Buffy explained.
"She's stronger than she seems," Chad said.
"You'd be surprised," Giles murmured and Buffy yelped as she grabbed her suitcase before it rolled by again. "Is that everything, love?"
"Yeah," Buffy said. "Well, it was nice to meet you Chad."
"Here's my card," he said, handing it to Buffy. Buffy took it and Giles glared at him as they walked away.
"Pillock," Giles grumbled. She felt the prickle or irritation from him clearly.
"He was harmless," Buffy said, laughing.
"He thought I was your father," Giles said.
"Should I go back and explain to him the difference between Daddy and Sugar Daddy?" she asked, looking over her shoulder.
"You bloody well better not," Giles said. Buffy took his hand as they walked out into the California sunshine.
Buffy was asleep when Dawn called later that evening. She woke up groggily, through a jet-lagged haze. She could hear the shower, feel the thrumming of warm contentment from Giles, and could hear him singing through the thin motel wall.
"Hello?" Buffy said, the plastic motel phone cold against her ear.
"Buffy! It's me," Dawn said. "You're in my country!"
"Yep," she said, sitting up. "Where are you?"
"At my house," she said. Dawn lived in an old house with two Slayers and their Watcher. It was part of the agreement made when Buffy let Dawn move to another country without her. The Bay Area was teeming with the undead – most places that had wealth and poverty in such close quarters drew the vampires and with the Hellmouth closed, it seemed only natural that the evil population might migrate north. Mr. Griffin, the Watcher, assured Buffy that Dawn never went on patrol. "I thought we might get dinner."
"Yeah," Buffy said. "Giles is in the shower but we'll come over when he's done."
"You're sleeping with the man, you can't call him Rupert?" Dawn asked.
"Ew, no," Buffy said. "I really can't."
"Okay, well, I'll see you in a bit," Dawn said, and hung up. Buffy replaced the phone in its cradle and got out of the bed. She brushed her teeth and was standing in front of her suitcase in her underwear when Giles came out of the bathroom, filling the room with steam and warmth.
"Did Dawn call?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said. "She wants us to come over."
"Is that what you're wearing?" he asked.
"Yep," she said. "It's a little more conservative than what you're wearing but I think it works for me."
"Sassy," he said.
Dawn's graduation was long and tedious like graduations all were. Buffy and Giles sat on their hard seats with the sea of parents and clapped loudly when Dawn's name was called. Then, they bogged through receptions and pictures and teary goodbyes. Finally, Dawn slid into the backseat of the rental car and Giles drove them back to her house. She had to pack, after all. Dawn was coming home to London to begin her Watcher's training.
Mr. Griffin was the only one home when they arrived. Dawn's graduation took place on a Thursday and it wasn't very late in the day yet. One of the Slayers was still in high school and the other had a job of some sort, though Buffy couldn't remember what it was. Something with computers, she thought.
"Congratulations, Dawn," Mr. Griffin said, handing her an envelope. Dawn hugged him. "We'll miss having you here."
"I'll miss you, too," Dawn said. Mr. Griffin was a younger Watcher, much like how Giles was when he first arrived in Sunnydale. Buffy could see that Mr. Griffin was still adapting to life stateside. At least he wasn't living on a hellmouth.
"Go get ready," Buffy said, and Dawn went to her room. She would leave most of her things in California – her bed and other furniture. Anything too big for the flight back would stay. Having a spare bed was always good for Slayers – perhaps Giles would send another Slayer to Berkeley now that the house could accommodate her.
"Send Zhanna," Buffy said. "She's done with her training and I'm sick of her."
"Are you reading my mind?" Giles asked, startling Mr. Griffin who'd just arrived with tea.
"Not on purpose," Buffy said. "Sometimes you send me your thoughts."
"Would you care for cream?" Mr. Griffin asked nervously. He was always nervous with Buffy and Giles. They were, after all, his bosses. Upon sending Dawn to Berkeley, Giles had assured her that Griffin was a good Watcher, an experienced one who would care deeply for his Slayers and take good care of Dawn.
"No," Giles said. "Thank you."
"And anyway," Buffy said, picking up their conversation. "No one wants to be her partner so she won't mind being the third wheel."
"I suppose," Giles said.
"Tell me Mr. Griffin," Buffy said. "Do you speak Russian?"
"Of-of course," he stammered, wondering what the hell Buffy was talking about. Griffin missed the days when the ratio of Watchers to Slayers or Potentials was one to one. He tried to be fair and even handed with his Slayers, but it wasn't the same as devoting ones self to one girl. He would never have the relationship, the closeness or intimacy with his Slayers that he was witnessing now.
"We're considering sending you another Slayer," Giles said. Griffin smiled as his shoulders sagged slightly.
"How wonderful," he said. "Will another Watcher be accompanying her?"
"I'm afraid that's out of the question," Giles said, softly. He understood. "We're rather tapped out at the moment." Over half of the trained Watchers had died in the explosion. What remained were the Watchers-in-training, mostly. Giles had coaxed several retired Watchers back into the field to teach but as for Watchers up to field work… numbers were thin. Giles had even given Andrew a Slayer in London, though Giles checked up on him often.
"I see," said Griffin.
"I understand," Giles said softly. "In time, things, I hope, will even out."
The next several days were spent packing up Dawn's things. Giles spent a majority of time with Griffin and his slayers leading training techniques and going over Griffin's library. In the early days of rebuilding the council, Willow had spent a great deal of time uploading information onto a website for the council. Now, no matter where a Slayer was in the world, they had access to a great deal of information. Research in front of the computer screen instead of over books. Mr. Bradley had at least two assistants who spent their days going through the library, book by book, and uploading information.
And if the information wasn't there, they could always call the Council. That was one of Buffy's early demands – that no Slayer should fear the Council. So far, so good, Giles thought. And, in a couple weeks, Buffy's updated handbook would be back from the publisher and would be sent around the world.
Two nights before their flight back to London, Buffy and Giles were laying in bed. Neither could sleep – Giles was restless and Buffy was awake, waiting for him to tell her whatever he was keeping from her.
"Look," Buffy said finally. "Either tell me or kill me because I need some sleep."
"Can I at least pretend to not know what you're talking about first?" he asked.
"What happened to being honest to Buffy?" she whined.
"Okay, okay," he said. "I made our return flight out of LAX."
"What?" she asked. "That's like, a six hour drive from here!"
"I know," he said.
"You clearly have never been on a road trip with Dawn," she said.
"Are you angry?" he asked.
"No," she said. "Well… why? Why the hell would you do that?"
He didn't say anything. He waited, laying very still.
"Oh," she said.
"Yes," he replied.
"I don't know if I'm ready for that," she said.
"I think it's something you need to do," Giles said. "Consider it my last act of training you as your Watcher."
"You're not going to be my Watcher anymore?" she asked in a small voice.
"I'll always be your Watcher, darling, but you don't need me to train you any longer," he said.
"You think I need closure?" she said.
"It can't hurt," he said.
"Famous last words," she scoffed.
Giles wasn't sure how he ended up in the cramped back seat, but somehow, that wasn't even the worst part. Listening to Buffy and Dawn sing loudly to radio wasn't even the worst part.
Dawn behind the wheel was, by far, the worst part.
"Don't you think 95 is a little fast?" Giles said loudly.
"No cops on the 5, Giles," Dawn said.
"That's not actually true," Giles yelled. Dawn didn't slow down. He tapped Buffy's shoulder and gave her begging look.
"We have the best excuse ever," Buffy explained. "Cop pulls us over and we explain that we're going to visit the giant hole in the ground that used to be our lives. Who'd give us a ticket after that?"
"Go ahead, tempt fate," he muttered leaning back and closing his eyes. Despite the break-neck speeds, it was nice to listen to Buffy and Dawn together. Dawn would be a valuable asset to the Watcher community and Buffy would be happier having her near. Now, in the backseat, with the sun warm on his face, Giles did the impossible and drifted off to sleep.
"He's tired," Buffy said, seeing Giles' slumped form in the wing mirror. "He won't say it to me, but I can feel it."
"You and Giles are like the borg," Dawn said and then made a face. "I've got to stop texting Andrew."
"You know you don't have to come back to London," Buffy said.
"I know," Dawn replied evenly. "I want to. You and Giles are my family. I don't like being so far."
"When did you grow up?" Buffy asked affectionately.
"I think somewhere between leaving the country and my first keg stand," Dawn said.
"And the moment is gone," Buffy said.
The road now curved several miles away from the crater so they had to park at the detour signs and walk almost two miles to get to the site that was once Sunnydale. For Buffy, this was no sweat. She'd run back and forth across Sunnydale more times than she could count. Dawn and Giles walked gamely forward through the spring desert heat. Even Buffy was warm – she was used to walking during the night.
Finally, Dawn spotted the blockades that surrounded the perimeter.
"We're almost there," she said. "It's not far past the barriers."
"Those barriers are there for our safety," Giles pointed out.
"If Sunnydale hasn't killed me yet, it's not going to," Buffy said with no trace of humor in her voice. Giles was beginning to regret forcing Buffy to return to this place. The happy feelings she had in the car were evaporating quickly though she was doing a fairly good job of shielding him from what she was feeling instead. It took a lot of power to block the anchor spell and he could see the strain. Why was she using so much energy to block him? She'd never done that before.
"Darling," he said, touching her arm but she shrugged him off and picked up her pace. Dawn sent Giles a worried expression as Buffy leapt easily over the barrier. Giles only shook his head. The only thing he could do in a situation like this was let Buffy do what she needed to.
By the time they caught up with Buffy, she was standing right at the edge of the barrier – much closer than Giles was comfortable with.
"Buffy?" Dawn said.
At the sound of her sister's voice, Buffy lost her tenuous hold on her control. Her emotions were unleashed and a flood of anger, bitterness, and grief crashed into Giles. It was so overwhelming that he cried out and collapsed down onto the dirt with his hands over his head. It was horrible and he buried his chin into his chest waiting for it to pass.
When he found his bearings and opened his eyes, both Buffy and Dawn were crouched down in front of him.
"And… that's why… we don't do… that," he said, allowing the girls to pull him to his feet.
"Sorry," she said. "I… this place…"
"We don't have to stay," he said. "I was wrong to force you."
"I want to take a walk," she said. "Alone."
"I don't think that's a good idea," Dawn said, quickly. "This place… it messes with your head."
"She's right," Giles said. "I'm not comfortable with you going off on your own."
"I'll be fine," Buffy promised. "Beside, we're attached. If there's a problem, you'll know."
Giles had no logical argument to that so he shrugged and she kissed him.
"Don't be gone long," he said. She nodded and started walking away. Giles felt Dawn slip her hand into his and he gave her squeeze. "She'll be fine."
"I guess," Dawn said. They stood and watched until she was just a speck against the sky.
Eventually, Giles and Dawn waited out her return by sitting on one of the barriers and sharing the water bottle Dawn had the foresight to bring in her purse. Dawn banged her heels against the particle-board.
"I know I have a room at your house, but I don't want to cramp your style," Dawn said. "I can get my own place, if you want."
"Nonsense," Giles said. "I wouldn't allow it."
"Sorry, dad," Dawn said sarcastically, but she bumped her shoulder into his to show she was pleased. "Now, tell me about this spell."
"Uh," said Giles.
"The clean parts," she amended hastily.
"What would you like to know?" he asked.
"Willow said that you guys can feel each other's feelings. Is that what that was back there?" she asked.
"She was trying to hide her feelings from me," Giles said.
"Taking a page from your book, I see," Dawn said.
"Ha, ha," he snapped.
"But you like being all attached?" Dawn asked.
"Yes," he said. "It's taken some adjustment, but… I love your sister and now I know for certain that she loves me back."
"Duh," said Dawn, smacking him lightly. "You didn't need a spell to know that. She named you."
"Willow said the same thing," Giles said. "Named me. What do you mean by that?"
"Willow told me that the most important thing you can do for another person is acknowledge them by name," Dawn explained. "It… oh, I don't know. It validates their place in the universe. It makes them real and important and true. When I was having my wacky key identity crisis, Willow told me that no matter who I was before, now I am Dawn Summers. She named me."
"I see," Giles said. Dawn took his hand and tapped on Buffy's name lightly.
"She put your name on her body. Not only did she acknowledge you as Rupert Giles, but she marked herself permanently with your moniker." Dawn let go of his hand. "You didn't need a spell to attach you to one another."
Giles stared at her for a moment before putting his arm around her shoulder.
"You'll make a fine Watcher," he said.
Two hours later, Giles stood up.
"Something's wrong," he said. Dawn looked up from the game of Tetris she was playing on her mobile and squinted into the sun.
"I think…" Giles closed his eyes. "I think she's trying to go into the crater."
"What?" Dawn said, scrambling to her feet. "Why is she so stupid?"
"I can feel her getting farther away… getting deeper," he said.
"Well, yank her back," Dawn said. "Use your magic to pull her dumb ass out of there."
"She's stronger than me," Giles said.
"Just do it," Dawn said impatiently. "At least she'll know that we want her back."
"Right," Giles said. "Okay. I need to concentrate."
He closed his eyes and gave the strongest mental yank he could muster. He opened his eyes.
"Oh shit," Dawn said and jumped in front of Giles. Buffy was flying through the air. Giles had yanked so hard that she had lost her footing and was now coming toward them so fast that no part of her was touching the ground. When she hit, she hit Dawn, who hit Giles. They all tumbled roughly to the ground.
"Ow," said Dawn. "Ow."
"Get off," Giles begged, trying to catch his breath. "For the love of…"
"Ugh," said Buffy, the first to recover her footing. She stood up and brushed herself off. It took her a moment to understand what happened. Of course, not that long.
"What the fuck was that?" she asked, loudly, startling Dawn who had been trying to stand. Instead, she fell back down on Giles who grunted in pain.
"What about you?" wheezed Dawn. "Going in that hole."
"I thought I heard something," Buffy said.
"Oh yes, going toward the sound was the best course," Giles said.
"Buffy, nothing alive down there is of the good," Dawn said.
"Then it's my job to kill it," Buffy said.
"No," said Dawn. "It's someone else's job. You need to learn to delegate."
"Can we go back now?" Giles asked, still from the ground.
"Oh!" Buffy exclaimed and helped him up. "Sorry to smash into you."
"Why did you get in the way?" Giles asked Dawn as they all began to limp back to the car.
"Because you're old," Dawn said. "I thought she might kill you."
"Hey, we don't talk about how old my boyfriend is," Buffy said. "Just because it's Giles doesn't make that rule go away."
"That's it," Giles said over the sound of their giggles. "I'm jumping in the hole."
Dawn sat by the window on the flight back. She was asleep against Buffy's shoulder and Buffy was asleep against his. The flight attendant came by to pour him more tea.
"You have a lovely family," she whispered, with a smile.
"Thank you," Giles said. "I do."