Chapter 4

When Giles woke the next morning, it was after eight o'clock and the sunlight streaming in from between the living room curtains hurt his eyes. He sat up and rubbed his hands across his face. After a minute of feeling around he discovered his glasses on the coffee table and slipped them on. A short note in Buffy's handwriting materialized into focus, lit up by the errant beam of light.

"Giles—wanted to get some food for the house and take a walk in the park. Took Will with me. We're going to get mochas and catch up a little. Dawn's still in bed. You get breakfast duty!


A feeling very much like relief washed over him. He stood and stretched, wincing as his back popped from its abuse the night before. Giles rummaged through his suitcase still sitting in the entryway and ended up with the first outfit that came to hand. Half an hour later, he left the bathroom feeling relatively human again, freshly showered and donned in an old gray t-shirt and jeans.

Dawn looked up from reading the back of her cereal box as he came into the kitchen. "Aren't girls supposed to take longer in the shower than guys?"

He raised a haughty eyebrow at her and tried not to laugh. He turned to the stove and put the teakettle on. "As I have been informed by many women, including your sister, female time in a bathroom is relative; what is only a few minutes to the occupant can seem like hours to those outside."

The teen raised an eyebrow at him and pointedly chewed on a massive mouthful of sugarcoated chocolate puffs. Giles realized all at once that he would have missed her quite badly had he left. He settled across from her and blew across the surface of his tea. "Really, Dawn, I can't understand how someone of your intelligence can bear to digest something so unhealthy as that sugary rubbish."

Dawn swallowed and shook her head mournfully. "You really had no childhood, you know that? I mean seriously, did you have oatmeal like every day of your life before you came here?"

"No," he said stiffly. His green eyes twinkled a little. "I'll have you know that my mother only gave us oatmeal four times a week."

She was still laughing when the phone rang a minute later, so Giles picked it up. "Summers residence."

"G-man!" Xander's voice greeted him.

The British man heaved a heavy, heavy sigh. "Xander, one of these days, when you use that abysmal nickname again, I am simply going to go insane."

There was a thoughtful pause at the other end of the line before the younger man replied, "Don't see how we're gonna be able to tell the difference if you call your behavior now sane, Giles."

He chuckled despite himself. "Was there something you wanted?"

"Yeah," Xander said evenly. "We need to talk, do the man time thing. You free for lunch today? I've got the afternoon off."

Giles smiled softly, looking over at Dawn and taking a moment to watch the sunlight play across her lovely face. "There's nothing I'd like better. Come pick me up whenever you get off. I'll pay."

"You got it," Xander agreed with a smile in his voice. "And Giles? It's good to have you back."

"Thank you," the Watcher murmured. He reached out to tussle Dawn's hair as she walked by him and grinned at her shriek of indignation. He knew that somewhere in Sunnydale, Buffy and Willow were walking through a sunlit park. "It's good to be home."

They weren't out of the tunnel yet, Giles knew. But there was hope, at least, and that was something he'd forgotten existed.

For the first time since Buffy's death, Giles' mind was full of sunlight after a long, dark imprisonment to the whispers of the night.


Author's Note: I had to get the Giles/Dawn moment in there, just because their relationship is such a fun thing. And a normal Dawn is one of the things I missed most in season 6. So, here it ends. Tell me what you thought of it. I greatly enjoyed writing this; it was a relief to find a mostly convincing outlet for all the "what ifs" left over after Tabula Rasa. And hey, if you really didn't like this, tell me why...and then go write your own. Thanks for the reading time and for your comments. Cheers!