Author's Name: The Library Girl
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: None; Just Rupert
Season: During season three.
Spoilers: For Becoming.
Summary: Rupert's not quite sure he's over that whole Angel thing.
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: 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 in love with. Big thank yous to my other half and best friend Ann for all the love and
support. I could never write without her help and I would never want to try. I appreciate all her work. Thank
you to Jess and Michelle for listening and helping me put this is readable form.
The sound of wood on wood resounded through the library, echoing up through the stacks. It was four o'clock, school had been out for a while, but the library wasn't deserted. Two students sat at the table, looking through large musty books, though they were not the source of the noise.
The sound got louder as Rupert Giles attempted to use his height to his advantage while sparring with his Slayer. He leaned forward, bringing his quarterstaff around, putting extra force behind it. If the blow had landed, it might have bruised even Buffy. But she easily sidestepped it, bringing him off balance. He caught himself with only a slight stumble and came around for another attack.
Willow looked up from the book she was reading, her attention drawn by a gasp from Buffy as Giles moved behind her. The two were amazingly matched, trading blows that made Willow wince. Giles's size was negated by Buffy's speed and agility. The give and take was astonishing to watch, almost like a dance. Each knew the other's moves and timing, able to anticipate the blows before they came and to compensate for them.
Buffy seemed to tire of the game and she, slammed her staff into Giles's, causing him to step back from the force of it. Yet Giles did not yield. In fact, he redoubled his efforts, moving forward, his blows well aimed and calculated to hurt.
"Buffy you must stop holding back," he said testily. "You are moving too slowly. Show me how much damage a Slayer can do."
Buffy glared at him, whipping around and aiming her staff at his head. He ducked, barely missing what could have been a very painful injury.
"You are dropping your shoulder," he called, circling around.
"And you're talking too much," Buffy retorted irritably.
She picked up her speed, the staff becoming a blur as blows slammed against Giles's staff, sounding thunderous in the quiet calm of the library. Willow couldn't help but be captivated as Buffy surged forward, causing the librarian to back up a few steps, giving up ground to her superior fighting skills. Buffy spun, graceful and deadly, bringing her staff up and under his, almost pulling it from his grasp.
Giles tightened his grip on it, lunging forward, catching her by surprise, causing her to stumble a step. He came around, sweeping low in an attempt to take her feet out from under her, but she leapt over his staff, coming down to the side, putting him off balance. Before he could stop himself, he fell backwards, landing hard on the tile. Buffy held the tip of her staff under his chin.
"Do you yield, Watcherguy?"
Giles sighed, looking up at her.
"For now. But only because we have other aspects of your training to work on."
He rose to his feet in one fluid movement and Willow was struck by his grace. He was a large man and yet he was quite agile. She sighed, going back to the research as Giles led Buffy over to the bookcage for her next bit of training.
"We need to work on your listening skills." he said, his face completely serious.
"We get to play Giles Says?" Buffy asked, grinning.
He blinked at her, then rolled his eyes.
"Not exactly. I was referring to you listening to the world around you, paying attention to your environment." He gestured to the stacks. "I'm going off to hide. You will come and find me, hunting me as it were."
"This is your big plan? Hide and seek in the library?"
"Buffy." His voice held a warning in it and she smiled at him.
"Okay, okay. I'll play nice." She turned to the bookcage and closed her eyes. "One…two…three…"
Giles ran off to hide among the books as Buffy kept counting. She got to around fifty when she stopped and turned back to face Willow.
"What are you working on?" Buffy asked, leaning back against the bookcage.
"I'm researching Aplex demons. Giles heard a rumor that some might be coming here for the Winter Solstice."
"Well, that sounds fun. What do they do?"
"They aren't incredibly smart," Willow said. "But they can shoot slime out of their fingers."
"Ewww. Remind me to wear something old and ugly that day."
"Or at least something already stained?" Xander added looking up from the comic book he was reading.
"You know, I have so many…" But she was cut off.
"Buffy, you are supposed to be working, not socializing." Giles's voice ghosted down from the stacks.
"And why can't I do both?" Buffy grumbled, just above a whisper. She looked at Willow and Xander, mutiny in her eyes. "I really should teach him a lesson."
"How?" Willow asked, trying not to worry.
"I don't know." Buffy looked around the library, her gaze coming to rest on a coil of rope in the bookcage. "Maybe I should show him just how not helpless I am."
Rupert had been hiding in the stacks for almost fifteen minutes and was starting to get impatient. It really shouldn't take Buffy this long to find him. She must not be taking the exercise seriously. He sighed and moved quietly along toward the main section of the library. How could he get her to understand that he only had her safety in mind? These tasks might be boring, but if they saved her life, they were worth it.
He leaned around a bookcase to look at the library proper. Willow and Xander were still sitting at the table, reading. He frowned, looking behind him, listening to the sounds back in the books. He could hear the air conditioning, cars out in the parking lot, the distant sound of the coach yelling at the track team, but no Slayer. He broke cover, walking over to the research table.
"Willow, have you seen Buffy?" he asked, trying to keep the frustration out of his voice.
"Um…well…you see…"Willow started.
Great, this couldn't bode well.
"She stepped out to go get a soda," Xander said, not looking up from his comic.
"She…she what?" He didn't even try to hide his irritation.
"She said she was thirsty and she'd be right back." Xander looked up. "She's only been gone a couple minutes."
Rupert took a deep breath, trying to get his anger under control. Why couldn't she ever concentrate? He was trying to teach her something important and she went off playing. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became. He really needed to distance himself from the situation before she came back and he said something he regretted.
"I'll be in my office," he snapped, turning and walking toward the door.
He was just stepping through the doorframe when someone jumped out from behind the circulation desk, roughly grabbing him. His mind didn't have time to register who it was before raw panic swept him under. Images, feelings, memories flooded over him and he knew he was lost.
He felt fingers biting into his arms from behind and only one thought was left; Angel had found him again. His whole body began to tremble as he fought back with everything he had. He would not, he could not let himself be taken again.
His hands were pulled up behind him and he felt a rope wrap around them. His stomach heaved as his mind screamed at him that he was once more at the mercy of a creature who had none. He twisted violently, feeling the rope cut into his skin. The smell of his blood drifted up and he gagged, sagging forward away from his captor. He felt his knees buckle as the contents of his stomach came back up. He choked, pulling in a breath as he hit the floor. He couldn't pull in air, he was drowning in his own vomit, and then he was coughing and spiting, trying to crawl away from the demon who had him.
Hands grabbed him from behind, attempting to pull him to his feet, but he fought against them, his panic eating him whole. He twisted, kicking out with his feet and was gratified to hear a grunt as he made contact.
He heard his name, but he couldn't decipher the voice. For the first time he remembered that Willow and Xander were in the library as well. He could only hope they were still alive. He rolled to his feet, becoming aware of what was around him and found himself face to face with Willow, Xander, and Buffy. They were staring at him with undisguised horror.
He blinked, looking about, realizing that they were the only ones here. And yet, his hands were bound behind his back, so the attack had been real. He looked at them in confusion.
"Giles?" Willow whispered, easing a hand towards him, like she thought he might run.
"Willow…I…what happened?" He tried to keep the panic out of his voice, but he knew he'd failed.
"I caught you and you freaked," Buffy said, fear in her eyes.
"You…but…" He turned, bringing his bound hands for them to see.
"I did that," Buffy said uncertainly.
"You? But…" His mind screamed out that his Slayer would never do this to him. It was a lie. But if it was, then…was any of this real? Was he? He swallowed, feeling the bile rising again.
"Giles, I just thought…well, I wanted you to see that I could take care of myself. It was a game. I didn't mean to…" Her voice trailed off as Rupert began to shake violently.
No…not again. He couldn't do it again. If this wasn't real then it was Drusilla. She was back in his head making him see what she wanted him to. His Slayer wasn't there. None of them were. He backed away, needing to put distance between himself and these images. He stumbled, falling against the doorframe, his heart beating in his ears. He caught himself, barely keeping from landing on the floor again.
The voice was Xander's this time, but Rupert knew that Xander would never be a party to hurting him this way. None of this was real, he was under Angel's control again. But he would never give in. He would go down fighting like he did last time. Then a thought struck him that stole his breath. He felt himself sliding down the doorframe; his legs wouldn't hold him. The last time…he was here again…but what if he wasn't? What if he was still here? What if he'd never left the mansion?
They get inside my head, make me see things I want.
He could hear his own voice, telling Xander how it was. And yet he had let himself be convinced that he'd been rescued. What if he hadn't? Then the last six months hadn't been real. It had all been in his head. What had he said, how had he betrayed Buffy as he thought he'd been free? What had he told them that could be used against the people he loved?
He felt someone touch his face and he pulled away violently, slamming against the wall behind him. He scooted back, attempting to put distance between himself and his captors. He moved until there was nowhere to go; he was in a corner. His body was trembling as he fought down his panic.
He could hear someone speaking, but he knew not to trust his senses. He wouldn't be fooled again, wouldn't let his guard down.
"Giles, please." It sounded like Buffy. He knew if he looked, he would see Buffy, but it wouldn't be her, not really. "Giles, I need you to look at me. Please."
"You won't fool me again." He knew he shouldn't talk to them, but a part of him wanted them to know they hadn't broken him. "I can't…I won't."
He felt the rope loosen off his wrists and pulled his arms up to hold himself. He winced as pain shot up his shoulders. He pulled his knees up, hugging them to his chest. Better to be a smaller target. He swallowed hard, fighting his body as it continued to shake. No more weakness. He wouldn't break again; he couldn't afford to.
Buffy was in so far over her head that she couldn't even hope to know what to do. It had all been a game, just in fun. She was going to tackle Giles, tie his hands up so he couldn't fight back and take her down; the Slayer's version of tag. But it had all gone horribly wrong.
He'd fought back and at first, it was nothing more than she'd expected. He would never just stand there and let her tie him up. And so she'd gotten rougher, pulled his hands behind his back as he struggled against her. But then, he was fighting harder, pulling against the rope. She heard him gasp and looked down to see blood dripping to the floor. Before she could process that, he was vomiting and shaking.
She thought he was having a seizure of some kind, but when she tried to help him up, he'd almost kicked her in the head. Willow and Xander had run over when he started yarfing on the carpet and they tried to help her calm him. But somehow it just seemed to make things worse.
And now her Watcher was sitting in a corner, rocking and shaking. Every time one of them touched him, he flinched like they were flaying his skin off. He wasn't saying much, just cryptic bits about being fooled again and Buffy had no idea what was going on. She turned to Willow.
"What do we do?"
"I…Buffy, I don't know what's wrong." Buffy had never seen Willow so shaken.
"We need to get him help," Xander said from where he was crouched in front of Giles. "He doesn't even seem to know we're here."
"Okay, but what if he's possessed or something?" Buffy asked. "We have no idea what's happening here."
"Buffy, we can't just ignore that something is wrong," Willow said, frowning.
"Maybe if we can get him to his apartment?" Xander interjected. "Someplace familiar?"
"This library is just as familiar as his flat," Buffy said absently. "He's here all the time. Why won't he talk to us?"
"I don't know," Willow replied, frowning. She turned to Giles, leaning slightly towards him. "Please. You need to let us help you."
Something about this must have gotten through to him because he turned and looked at Willow.
"You don't want to help me," he hissed, just above a whisper. "You want information. Well, you won't get it. You fooled me once, but not again. I know where I am."
Buffy blinked, feeling more lost than ever, but Xander was staring at Giles with wide eyes.
"Oh God," he said, swallowing. "You grabbed…and then with the rope…oh God."
"Do you want to share with the rest of the class?" Buffy asked tartly.
Xander turned to her and she was startled to see tears in his eyes. He looked at Giles and shook his head. When he spoke to Buffy, it was only one word.
"Angel," he whispered.
"What does Angel…" And suddenly she saw it all. The way he fought, the panic on his face. She hadn't seen how Angel had treated him, but she remembered Xander saying Giles had been tied up. The rope…he must think… She turned to look at him, curled up in a ball, completely terrified. And it was all her fault in so many ways. "Oh Giles, no."
She wanted to go to him, pull him into her arms, offer him the comfort he so desperately needed. But she knew that if she touched him now, it would make it worse.
"What do we do?" she asked Xander. "We have to prove to him that we're real and he's safe. How do we do that?"
Willow was still frowning, but now she leaned forward, gently touching Giles's knee. He flinched, pulling back and looking up at her with wide eyes.
"Giles," she said gently. "Giles it's Willow. I know you don't believe that, but I am. How can I prove to you that I'm really me?"
He was watching her with a serious expression and she could see the war behind his eyes. Part of him wanted to listen, but the rest was afraid to even consider it. Willow reached out again and this time Giles just looked at her hand on his knee.
"You've been there for me so many times," Willow whispered. "Let me help you now. Please? What can I do?"
Giles looked at her, his eyes searching her face.
"What's…" His voice faltered and he looked away. He took a breath and turned back. "What's something I wouldn't know?"
Buffy was confused, but Willow seemed to follow his logic. She considered the question carefully.
"In the upper drawer of you desk," she said suddenly. "Yesterday I was getting those colored pencils out. When I put them back I hid a Hershey Kiss for you to find."
Buffy and Xander turned and looked at her in surprise, but she didn't even notice them.
"Did you find it yet?"
Giles shook his head, still staring at her.
"Then go look. If it's there, you know I'm me. How else would I know it was there?"
He seemed to consider that and after a moment he struggled to get to his feet. Xander jumped forward, putting out a hand to help him. Giles looked at it.
"If she's real, I am too," he said simply.
Giles pushed himself up, using the wall for support. He walked into the office and they followed him, keeping a comfortable distance from him. He went to the desk, slowly opening the drawer. He rummaged around and for a panicked moment, Buffy was afraid he wouldn't find it. But then he stood up, looking down at the little silver candy in his hand.
He blinked at them, his expression warring between relief and terror. He wanted to believe, but he was scared of the consequences. Willow stepped forward, her hand going out to touch his. He looked up at her, tears streaming silently down his face and Buffy felt her heart break.
"I'm sorry," she whispered. When he looked up at her, his eyes wide, she felt her own tears start. "Oh Giles, I'm so sorry. I had no idea."
"None of us did," Xander said quietly. He turned to Giles. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"Tell you?" His face was confused.
"That you still thought about Angel," Xander answered.
"Why would I tell you that?" he asked simply. "It's my problem, not yours."
"You know it doesn't work that way," Willow said, looking up at him. "This life is impossibly hard and all we have is each other."
"I couldn't burden you with my troubles."
"Who else can you tell?" Xander asked.
"I didn't need to tell anyone," Giles defended.
"And that's why we watched you freak in the library?"
Giles looked momentarily hurt and Willow squeezed his hand.
"Giles, we care about you," she said gently. "We don't want to be the ones who cause you more pain. Buffy would have never done that to you if she knew how you would react."
"What makes you think I knew how I would react?" He looked at her, pain in his eyes. "I thought I was past this. The panic attacks, the disorientation, the nightmares…"
He stopped and looked away and Buffy felt tears prick her eyes again.
"Nightmares?" Willow asked gently. "Bad ones?"
"Sometimes," Giles admitted, just above a whisper. "Some nights I would dream I was still in the mansion. Or that he'd come back for me. The worst ones…I dreamed he did what he threatened to you."
"Me?" Willow frowned.
"All of you." His voice caught and he looked at the floor. "I couldn't bear it if I let him hurt you."
"Giles, we are here and so are you," Willow whispered. "I know that's hard to believe right this second, but…"
She trailed off and he looked down at the chocolate in his hand. He closed his eyes and drew in a ragged breath.
"I want to believe," he whispered.
Buffy stepped forward and touched his face, wishing she had the words to say what was in her heart, how grateful she was to him, how much he meant to her.
"Believe this, Giles," she whispered. "I need you."
He opened his eyes, looking at her with a frown.
"You are the reason I'm here right now," she continued, tears blurring her vision. "You keep me alive. I couldn't do it without you. I need you. Please don't leave me, even if it is to be lost in your head."
"I never meant…" He paused, taking an audible breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you. You were never supposed to see…"
"But we did," Willow said quietly. "And look, we're still here. If you need us, we can handle that."
"I'm not sure that I can handle it," Giles answered, looking away.
"Well, tough, Watcherman," Xander said. "We now know you're human and you just have to live with that."
Giles took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"I think that I might be able to accept that," he said, his eyes still looking a bit wild. "Especially as it seems I have no choice."
"Nope," Xander confirmed. "None."
"How are you doing?" Willow asked.
"I'm feeling more…here?" Giles answered quietly.
"Good," Buffy said. "Seriously, Giles. If you need us, all you have to do is ask."
"Well, uhh, shall we…return to research?" he asked tentatively.
"If that's what calms you down, G-man, then that's what we'll do." Xander said, turning to leave the office.
They all followed him out, Giles trailing behind.
Rupert sat at his desk, writing in his Watcher journal. He'd already updated his notes and reorganized his files. Anything not to think about what had happened this afternoon. He reached for his cup of tea and sighed, cursing his weakness.
He'd lied to the children. He knew he wasn't over what had happened with Angel. True, the public panic attacks had stopped. It had been months since he'd had to leave the grocery in blind terror, unable to breathe. But it had been only three days ago that he'd sat up in bed, screaming into the darkness, disoriented, and shaking. It had been less than a week since he'd had to hide in his office after Xander had stood behind him, unconsciously looming in a way that reminded Rupert of Angel. He'd sat, trembling, trying desperately to get himself under control.
He wasn't over this, he wasn't fine. So many little things would unexpectedly spark his terror; a sound, a smell, a profile in the shadows. He'd read somewhere that people suffered for years from post traumatic stress disorder. None of them could be Watchers. He didn't have the luxury to fall apart. Or at least if he was going to come unglued, he'd have to do it quietly.
The children now knew that he had desperate moments. He would have to try harder to keep his bad days to himself. He cared deeply for his Slayer and her friends, but they needed him to be strong, to be the adult, to be the Watcher. And he wouldn't let them down.
Rupert looked at the clock noting that it was a quarter past one. He really should go home and get some sleep. He was tired and tomorrow would be a long day. He tensed to get out of the chair, but after a moment of contemplating a night alone with the darkness, he reached over and picked up a book. With a bitter sigh, he leaned back in his chair to read.