It was strange to him how peaceful things were now. Willow and Kennedy were off doing who knew what. He heard from them periodically, but for the most part they had taken to their newfound freedom and ran with it. Kennedy knew sooner or later she would need to return, she would need to train and hone her skills but for now she was fine.
Xander, well, he was having a hard time adjusting to life with only one eye but he and Dawn had gone to Los Angeles to stay with Hank Summers. Xander was employed, though Giles had not paid close enough attention to recall just what it was the young man was doing.
And Buffy, she had taken off shortly after her last success at saving the world for a European tour. Not that she did not deserve a little respite; Giles believed wholeheartedly that she did. On the other hand, every time he had tried to get away from Sunnydale and his responsibilities as a Watcher he kept getting sucked back into it.
Where was his European tour? Where was his break from reality? Giles had begun to believe he did not deserve one, that somehow he had been dealt a hand that while not bad never seemed to improve. It was not like him to be so pessimistic, but living alone with no one around him anymore gave him plenty of time to dwell on the unhappiness of things. He had never dreamed how important Buffy and her friends would be to keeping him sane and sober. Of course there were various stages to both sanity and sobriety.
A light rapping at his door brought him out of his dreary thoughts. He set his glass down and felt in the dark for his glasses. Once he had found them, he glanced at the VCR clock he had avoided looking at earlier and saw that it was close to midnight. He wondered if he hallucinated the knocking but then it came again and he realized he obviously was not that drunk.
He opened the door and thought for sure he was hallucinating when he saw his slayer standing on his doorstep. "Buffy?" he asked incredulously.
"Hi Giles," she said brightly. "It's nice to see you too," she said with a pout as if her appearing on his doorstep at this time of night was commonplace.
"Where are my manners," he said as he stepped aside, wordlessly inviting her in. He had broken down and bought a house outside of Cleveland. He had been tempted to return to London, but with the Council gone he thought close to the active hell mouth was the place for him. Of course, he had no Slayer to help him guard it, but Buffy was no longer the only Slayer out there. "Do you need a hand with your bags?"
"Nope, got 'em, Giles, thanks though," she said as she walked in his foyer taking it in.
He showed her into the living room. "What can I get for you, Buffy? Something to drink? Eat?"
"Look at you, Mr. House Owner all hospitable and everything. I'm fine. I could use a place to crash, though, if you don't mind."
"Not at all, you're welcome here for as long as you need to stay, you know that."
"I was hoping. I don't really want to head to LA right now."
"Did something happen?"
"No, I just," she shrugged as she set her bags down. Giles watched as her eyes took in the living room. "I'm Californiad out."
"As am I," he said dryly.
"Did I wake you?"
"No, not yet. I was about to go to bed, but I can show you to your room. I'm afraid the only other room I have made up will require you to share a bathroom with me."
"Hey, no problem, I shared one with Dawn for years, no big."
Giles smiled. "Right, of course."
"You've got all of these rooms and only one room made up?"
"I don't have guests very often, Buffy. Willow and Kennedy came by over a month ago, but that's about it."
"Any action here?"
"Not much, I'm afraid. Nothing I haven't been able to handle at any rate."
"Good," Buffy said simply.
"You look well," Giles said. He could not help but notice. The outfit she wore barely covered the parts that required covering. She was tan and Giles wondered if she had tan lines before he mentally kicked himself for thinking it.
"Thanks, I feel well. Europe was just what Buffy needed."
"Good," he said as he picked up one of her bags. "I'll take you upstairs."
He was ashamed to admit the room he led her to was one he had decorated with her in mind. It was feminine without being girlish and he hoped she liked it.
"It's great, Giles," she said as she walked to the window that overlooked the large backyard. He had wanted a house that would offer him privacy, and he had found it.
"I'm glad you like it, Buffy, and hope you will feel comfortable here. We can certainly set up a room for you elsewhere if these accommodations are not to your liking."
"What are you talking about, Giles, it's perfect. I'm just going to brush my teeth and stuff real quick before I crash. That flight was a killer."
"Yes, overseas flights generally are. Get a good night's sleep," he advised though he was not sure he remembered what a good night's sleep was anymore. "And we'll talk about your travels and Cleveland in the morning."
"Great, Giles," she said as she sat on the queen sized bed that would be her bed for the time being. She glanced at him, seemingly looking for something in his face. "I missed you."
"I missed you, too, Buffy, and am glad you're back healthy." It was on the tip of his tongue to ask if she was back for good, but he knew better than to get his hopes up. After over seven years of living her life for everyone else Giles doubted she had sowed her wild oats just yet.
"I am, healthy and happy." She stood from the bed and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you in the morning."
"I'll be here," he said with a slight grimace. A kiss to the cheek was not how he imagined things between them when next they saw one another months ago. He had hoped with Spike gone some time away would lead Buffy to him, evidently he could not have been more wrong.
He closed the door to the hallway after showing her how to lock the bathroom door from the inside for when she required privacy. There was another full bathroom on this floor, but it was not functional yet so this would have to do.
"Good night, Giles," Buffy called out through the closed door.
"Good night, Buffy," Giles whispered before descending the stairs in search of his unfinished scotch. Her surprise visit was welcome but it alone would not be enough for a peaceful night's sleep.
It was almost half past four when Buffy woke up in need of some water. She rubbed her eyes and took a moment to adjust to her surroundings before she kicked back the covers and slid off the bed. She had a robe, but since the bathroom was right there she did not bother with it. Giles should be sleeping anyway, so she was not too concerned about being seen. Besides, the T-shirt she was wearing was not that short.
She entered the bathroom and noticed a sliver of light shining beneath the door leading to Giles' room. Was he still awake? She filled the glass he had left for her with water and as she drank from it, opened the door leading to his room.
The sight that greeted her was not at all what she had imagined. She had thought maybe he had fallen asleep while reading and was going to turn the light off for him. Or maybe he was up late researching something despite his saying that Cleveland had been fairly quiet so far.
This was obviously not the case. It appeared he purposely fell asleep this way. He had two crucifixes hanging above his bed along with a dream catcher. At bedside was a bottle of hard liquor, nearly empty and a glass that was empty.
Deciding that he must have left the light on for a reason instead of by accident, Buffy paused in the doorway to regard him. He did not look peaceful and that bothered her. The last apocalypse was over and done with, and he had said himself things were quiet here. She saw no reason why he should look so disturbed while he slept.
She debated about waking him, asking him what was going on, but decided it was really none of her business. She returned to her room and her bed after placing the water glass on the counter, but she could not get back to sleep. Something was wrong with what she saw and Buffy did not think she could sleep until she found out what it was.
She slid out of bed once again, less than ten minutes had gone by since she had first entered Giles' bedroom. She padded toward his room, her feet sliding across the tile floor in the bathroom where she paused at the door. Did she really want to do this? Did she want to cross the line and become the advisor instead of the advisee as she had been for the past seven years? Her hand opening the door gave her the answer she sought.
"Giles," she whispered from the doorway in case he was awake.
"Jenny," she thought she heard him murmur and Buffy frowned. Was he dreaming about Miss Calendar?
"Giles," she said a little louder as she walked further into the bedroom. She grew concerned when she noticed his head shaking almost violently against his pillow, his arms stiff at his sides as if he was unable to move them. Was he under some sort of spell?
She ran to the side of the bed and placed her hand on his shoulder and shook him gently. "Giles," she said the worry evident in her voice.
"I won't tell you," he said gruffly and Buffy noticed a few tears trailing down both of his cheeks.
"Giles," she repeated not knowing what was going on. She was relieved when she saw his eyes open until she realized that he was not seeing her. Not really anyway.
"You can't fool me again. You can't. I fell for it once but never again."
"Fall for what, Giles? Talk to me. What's going on?" His eyes fell shut again. "No," she said hitting his chest harder than she intended to. "Don't go back to sleep on me, Giles," she said panicking.
"Blood," he murmured. "Have to stop him."
"Blood?" she mimicked. "Stop who?"
His eyes flew open wide and glanced rapidly around his surroundings. His arms suddenly began moving and Buffy could sense by his breathing that he was waking up.
"Buffy?" he asked in a hoarse whisper as if he had forgotten she was there.
"Yeah," she said with a slight smile, her hand resting just above his rapidly beating heart. "It's me."
He reached for her, caressing her face with his warm hand. It was obvious whatever he was dreaming about had really affected him as his palm was sweaty. Not ookily sweaty but enough to let her know he was scared. But of what? "I thought I was dreaming. I thought it was Drusilla again."
"Drusilla?" She was really confused now. "Giles, Drusilla is long gone."
"I know," he said and took a deep, ragged breath. He reached over to his nightstand where the empty tumbler was and Buffy placed her hand over his wrist stopping him from drinking anymore.
"You are awake, right?" she asked, wanting to be sure. "Do I need to pinch you or anything?"
He chuckled gruffly and shook his head. "No, no need for pinching. I'm truly awake. I apologize if I frightened you, Buffy," he said. His eyes grew wide as she crawled into bed next to him.
"I just wanted to make sure I didn't have to be the Slayer before I got comfortable again."
"No, you don't. What's on your mind?"
"I think the question is what's on your mind, Giles?"
"Nothing important, Buffy. Nothing for you to concern yourself with."
"Giles, I'm not a kid anymore. I'm not even your Slayer. I want to know what's going on with you."
He sighed heavily and she sensed that while he was close to breaking he was not there yet. "Has Drusilla been giving you trouble?" she asked. It was not unreasonable to think that Drusilla might have heard about Spike's death and sought Buffy and Giles and the others out for revenge.
"No, I haven't seen or heard about Drusilla since," Giles shrugged slightly. "A good year or two at least."
"Then what, Giles?" she asked, staring up at him. She imagined she should feel weird lying with Giles in his bed, neither of them really dressed but it felt natural, normal, right. She tapped on his chest above his heart lightly, glad to feel its beating slow to a more normal rate.
"It was just a dream, Buffy. Surely you still have dreams now and again."
"Well, yeah, but Giles I couldn't wake you up. You were crying," she whispered, unsure how he would react to her seeing him like that.
"I was dreaming about Angelus if you must know."
"Has Angel lost his soul again?" she asked confused and shivering instinctively at the thought. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Shh, Buffy, I assure you as far as I know Angel's soul is intact."
"Good," she said, more than a little relieved. Seeing him again before everything had gone down was nice, they parted on good company without fighting or bickering. She did not want to have to go on an Angelus hunt.
He sighed heavily and turned onto his side to face her, his hand resting at her hip. "My time in Angelus' hands."
"But Giles, that was like years ago."
"I realize that, Buffy."
She glanced up at the wall above his bed and took note again of the crucifixes and dream catcher. "I had no idea," she whispered, the meaning behind them sinking in. For over five years he had been trying to escape dreams of that night?
"No one did. I don't like to talk about it."
"Join the club," she whispered realizing that they were not all that different when it came to freely discussing the things that altered their lives.
"What did Drusilla do?"
He ran a fingertip along the length of her arm and she could tell by his face that he was processing his thoughts. "She made me think she was Jenny. She got into my head and knew I would confide in Jenny. It's because of me, Buffy, that you had to fight Angelus at all. It's because of me that he knew how to open Acathla."
"Is that what you think?"
"I'm afraid I do."
"Oh God, Giles, that was so not your fault. If anyone's it was mine. I should have killed him long before it got to that point. I could have killed him after we destroyed the Judge. I was this close," she said holding her thumb and index finger a mere inch apart. "And I couldn't close the deal."
"I know, Buffy, I understand your hesitancy and cannot fault you for it. You loved him, he still bore Angel's face and soul or not he loved you. He used that love to torment you instead of help you but it's obvious soul or not you occupied his thoughts."
"But that doesn't mean anything that happened that day was your fault."
"I should have known, Buffy. I knew Jenny was dead, but I wanted it to be her so badly," he said, fresh tears brimming in his eyes. "Ever since she died, ever since the spirit in the school possessed you and Angel I wanted to feel her again just once. And I let that become a weakness."
"You are so not weak, Giles," she said with conviction.
"Then explain to me why for years now I cannot sleep without seeing one of their faces, without waking up feeling the pain in my fingers and on my body where Angelus inflicted his damage on me. The only way I get a decent night's sleep is with plenty of scotch in me and even that doesn't work sometimes. Sometimes I purposely drink too much without having eaten hoping I'll heave my guts out to the point of dying just to escape it. I'm not weak, I'd never contemplate taking my own life but there are nights I wake up and wish I were dead so I could have some peace."
Her eyes closed as he spoke, his words sinking in. Had she really been this clueless over the years that she had no idea the events of over five years ago still plagued him so much that he felt the need to stay drunk?
An idea came to her then, one that seemed oddly simply even if it was a little weird for her to think of Giles in that way. He was Giles after all, though he was handsome for an older guy and in the grand scheme of things when she wanted to get technical about it he was younger than two of her serious boyfriends. She wanted to do whatever it took to get him to sleep peacefully. She knew what it was like to be sleep deprived and to be woken by dreams, wondering what was real and what was dream.
She closed the distance between them, it was not difficult to do by any means. Her hand reached for his face, her fingers skimming to the back of his head as she drew him closer. Her lips touched his and she was not creeped out by it at all. It was Giles, sure, but she did not feel weird or wrong in doing this.
"Buffy," he murmured as he drew away slightly. "I don't want your pity."
She laughed lightly. "Giles, I have never kissed someone in response to their wanting pity." Kissing Spike in response to her self-pity was another story but that was then, this was now and she had gotten over that. She had forgiven herself and she liked to think Spike had forgiven her, too.
She stroked the top of his ear with her thumb and met his eyes. Eyes that held so much knowledge and had seen so much yet they still had the capability of showing love and caring. For her? She had to be wrong in seeing that there.
She closed her eyes, refusing to think about it any longer and just went with what felt right. "I want to kiss you, Giles," she whispered, hoping he would kiss her so that it would not fall on her shoulders entirely.
And he did, her eyes fluttered open as the hand at her side slid behind her, drawing her closer to him. She gave into his prompting and scooted on the bed closer to him and basked in the warmth that was Giles. His arm around her felt good and his lips on hers felt good.
His hand skimmed her lower thigh, just below where her shirt ended and she let out a soft moan in approval.
"I've wanted you for so long," she thought she heard him say but could not be sure as her other senses were so hyperaware her hearing could have been faulty.
A week of peaceful sleep, Giles could hardly believe the difference it made on his entire outlook of things. The first night Buffy had crawled into bed with him he had been sorely tempted to make love to her there and then. But the gentleman in him refused to let him when he was in the wrong frame of mind. The gentleman had been right, Buffy deserved better than his taking her out of urgent need.
It was not just sex either that he needed from her, he believed Buffy could keep him safe. Until he was safe on his own accord, could sleep through the night without reaching to ensure she was really there he would not make love to her.
Tonight would be the true test, she was patrolling because there had been a few suspicious deaths listed in the obituaries. He had no idea how late she was going to be, but he refused to pour himself the glass of scotch that was calling his name before he headed to bed. He had gone almost a week without a drink, without that crutch, and he needed to prove to himself that it was not just Buffy that was enabling him to do it.
He had spent a good portion of the past five years going to bed each night numb. He could not do that any longer if he had any hopes of hanging onto Buffy. Hanging onto Buffy. Is that what he wanted to do? God, yes, it was. But he refused to enter into anything with her when either of them was broken.
He buttoned up the house and prepared for bed, leaving the bathroom light on so that Buffy would see her way clearly. He doubted the risings she was seeing to would take her too long and so he fell asleep, comforted in the fact that he would not be alone for very long.
He woke suddenly; sweat permeating off his body and gasping for air. Despite it being just a dream, he tasted bile and other fowl things in his throat as if the dream had really occurred. He went to the bathroom, knowing that when it was this bad there was no alternative for him but to empty his stomach of its meager contents. At least the nights he drank he did not wake up in this manner. He would take a hangover any day.
As if things were not bad enough, Buffy finding him in the bathroom heaving into the commode was not at all what he had envisioned for her return. How humiliating!
"Giles," she called out. "How long have you been like this?" she asked. He heard her moving around the bathroom, but felt so weak and embarrassed that he did not hasten a glance in her direction for fear he would see repulsion in her eyes for being such a weakling.
"I don't know, Buffy, it seems like forever."
Suddenly, she was near him, flushing the commode before she knelt beside him. He felt a cloth applied to his face which she had dampened with cool water and groaned in pleasure at it. "I'm so sorry, Giles. I had no idea."
"It's okay, not your fault. I have to learn to get through this on my own."
"No, you don't, Giles. It's not as if I'm going anywhere. I want to help you through this."
"And then what? You leave? I don't know that I could stomach that, Buffy."
"I hadn't really thought about it. Do you want me to stay?"
He glanced at her as she continued to sponge his face and neck with the cool washcloth. "Yes," he whispered. "I want you with me. Forever."
Her eyes looked wounded and he wondered what he had said wrong. "There is no such thing as forever, Giles."
"I'm not Angel or Riley, Buffy. I have never left you."
"But you did, when I needed you most you left."
"When you needed me least I left, my dear. I left because you needed to come to rely on yourself and your abilities where Dawn and life in general were concerned. I was sick of being your crutch while you carried on with Spike right under our noses."
"I was in a bad place, Giles."
"I know you were, but you never once talked to me about it. I'm sorry if I hurt you, and I swear to you I'll never leave you again, but it had to be done."
"This isn't just because you can sleep when I'm here is it?"
"Hardly. I was sleeping without you, I just couldn't be sober to do it."
"I had no idea you felt this way. This past week has been amazing. I've never felt so loved, so cherished, so accepted."
"And it's high time you experienced those feelings. I've felt this way for some time, but never deigned to believe you would reciprocate so I remained quiet. But the minute you crawled into bed with me, I knew I couldn't keep quiet a moment longer."
She smiled slightly at him and he wondered what she was thinking. "I don't make it a habit of crawling into bed with just anybody."
"I'm fully aware of that, which is why I knew I couldn't let you leave again. If you truly wanted to," he sighed softly.
"I'd like to travel some more, I won't deny that, but it'd be more fun if you traveled with me. Going it alone gets kind of boring after a while."
"Here here," he said with a low chuckle. He sat up slowly, his head was no longer spinning and he felt all right. He cupped her cheek with his hand and met her gaze with his own. "I love you, Buffy," he said fully expecting her to recoil from those words. He had seen her do it time and time again.
"I love you, too," she whispered and Giles could tell though the words were spoken with sincerity they had been difficult to say.
"I'll clean up in here and then you can tell me about your patrol."
"Sure," she said as she stood from the floor and placed the washcloth over the edge of the sink. "Take your time." He saw the concern for him evident in her eyes and he realized that he was not going to heal or get better over night. It was going to take time, but he felt as though a huge weight had been removed from his shoulders knowing he know longer had to bare the burden alone as he had for the past five years.