Again, this is one of those stories that came out of absolutely nowhere. I wanted to write something in honor of Jenny...preferably with a lot of pain to dear Angelus (and I have an idea for it.) But this came instead.
Buffy was driving. Giles was in no fit state, so she sat in the driver's seat of the librarian's Citroen, feeling distinctly out of place in the old-fashioned car. Her Watcher sat next to her, staring out the window. Hardly moving. Hardly breathing.
She remembered how he'd shouted at her as soon as he'd gotten his breath back. "Why did you come here? This wasn't your fight!"
She'd hit him across the face to get her point across before bursting into tears. It had hurt to realize that he hadn't understood. Or, at least, had forgotten. He was her Watcher, and if it weren't for him she would be dead already. Angelus was on the move, killing more and more people every day. Tonight, he had almost joined the ranks of the dead.
He would have, if I'd been a second slower.
"I used to hate you, you know," she said quietly.
The words came unbidden, from some hidden corner of her mind set free by the recent crisis.
Without looking around, Giles replied: "You used to frustrate me to no end."
Buffy smiled sadly. "You mean I don't nowadays?"
"You don't hate me anymore?" Giles countered.
Buffy shook her head. "No…I mean, sure, we don't always see eye-to-eye, but…you lightened up. I knuckled down. We balanced out."
Of course, the relationship had been much more complicated. She hadn'thated Giles when she'd first come to Sunnydale, but she'd come close a few times. He had been an obstacle to her central goal of living a normal life and coping with the Slayer business only when necessary. He'd never stopped talking about research, or the latest vampire threat, or some new demon that would soon be trying to claw her eyes out. He'd felt…separate from her. Like her father, someone who tried to understand her life but never quite made it. Sometimes it had seemed like he didn't even try. Sometimes it felt like he sent her off to die without a second thought.
Giles, on his part, had had to endure endless confusion and frustration in his first few months as Buffy's Watcher. She turned absolutely everything he'd been taught on its head, and the more he tried to stand on his own ground the more she fought against it. She was beyond books or rules, and both were things he knew better than anything. He did not know teenagers. No matter how he tried to help, she had kept him at a distance.
Things had changed for both of them the night the Master rose.
For Giles, it was one of the first times he'd seen Buffy as a sixteen year old girl, and the first time he'd realized how truly over her head she was. It was the first time he'd realized how unbelievably unfair the entire Slayer system was, and how much of an idiot he'd been for playing along.
It was the first time he'd seen Buffy as a teenager over her head, but it was also the time she'd impressed him the most. She'd ranted and cried and had her temper at the news that she was to die. She'd had every right to.
But she'd gone anyway. She had set off to die, fully intending to take her foe with her.
On Buffy's part, it was really the first time she'd even felt close to the man. He had told her she was to die, and she'd wigged. She hadn't expected him to change his mind, hadn't expected him to care. But he had. When she'd returned to the library later that night, it was to find him fully intending to go in her place. What impressed her most was the fact that she'd had to knock him cold to stop him.
She'd lived through the night, even though she'd technically died anyway. And after that, the connection that had sprung up between them that night grew. She was a bit more serious about her "duties". He was a bit more lenient about letting her be a normal girl every so often. And he also started understanding. He hadn't just taught her, he'd learned to support her. The Giles she'd first met probably wouldn't have stood with her when she buried Ford, or lied to her on request. He wouldn't have been so amazingly calm and understanding on the night Angelus returned, talking to her as an equal and promising his support.
Tonight, it had been him who had gone off to die. But Buffy had been quick, and pulled him from the flames. She knew he was hurting inside. Not just hurting, but bleeding. Dying from the pain of what he'd seen. Once, she'd subconsciously thought adults could handle anything. But she'd seen him tired and scared and hopeless before, and now she saw him sad and defeated and grieving.
She pulled the Citroen up outside her Watcher's apartment and stopped the car. Glancing at him, she asked: "You all right?"
Giles gave her a look.
"Do I really have to answer that?"
Buffy smiled bleakly. "No. Listen, I want you to stay here. Don't go doing anything stupid. And no getting drunk, okay?"
He paused for a second, looking divided. But he nodded.
"And I'll be calling in at midnight to check on you."
"I'll bring your car back to school tomorrow."
He got out of the car, bid her a good night, and walked up the path to his apartment.
Buffy watched him protectively, until he'd closed the door behind him.
Now it was her turn to provide support.