Chapter Three: No Such Thing as Coincidences
Buffy spent the day drifting in and out of uneasy sleep. When she was awake, her head pounded, her stomach turned and she continually felt as if she was about to throw up. It was also easier to avoid her mother's fussing, which was worse than ever, when her eyes were closed. Normally Buffy quite enjoyed a bit of attention when she was sick, but Joyce was over-doing it, barely leaving her side. Buffy could only conclude that either she was sicker than she realised or her mother felt guilty about something.
Joyce had phoned the doctor came sometime in the afternoon, who had said it was probably just a nasty bug that would only last a few days. Joyce continued her fussing after he left, and Buffy decided it had to be the guilt reason.
"Mom," she finally croaked when she opened her eyes to see Joyce sitting beside her. "What's wrong?"
Joyce's eyes widened in surprise. "What? Nothing's wrong, honey. Other than your being ill, I mean."
Buffy struggled to sit up slightly. "Mom, you're a crap liar."
"Watch your language, young lady."
"Don't try to change the subject." Buffy fixed her mother with what she hoped was an interrogative stare. "Spill. What's bugging you?"
Joyce dropped her eyes. "Buffy …"
Her mother sighed in a resigned way. "All right, you win." She paused. "Buffy, how well do you know Mr. Giles?"
Buffy blinked. This was not what she had expected. "He's the school librarian, Mom."
"I know that." Joyce sounded slightly annoyed. "But you are always in the library with your friends, and he made a personal phone call to make sure you were all right when you didn't turn up at school."
"He did?" Probably to make sure a demon didn't get to me last night, Buffy thought.
"Has he said anything to you, Buffy? Anything… strange?"
"Strange like how?"
There was a long silence. Buffy waited. Joyce's hands were twisting nervously, and she finally blurted out, "I used to date him."
Buffy's mouth fell open. "Huh? What?"
"I dated a Rupert Giles for a while – when I was in England," Joyce explained.
"And you didn't mention this before because …"
"Because I didn't know it was him. Not until I heard his voice on the phone earlier." Joyce closed her eyes and sat down on the bed. "And I have no idea if he knows it's me or not."
Buffy's mind struggled to take in her mother's words. "Well, you won't know unless you ask him, will you?"
Joyce sighed. "You're right. I should call him back." She stood up, and said, "Actually on second thought, if he doesn't know it's me, telling him over the phone is perhaps not a good idea."
"Tell him to come over." By now Buffy had rolled over and was beginning to doze off again. "M'sleepy now."
"I'm sorry, honey." Joyce kissed Buffy and left her to fall asleep again.
After half an hour of trying to muster the courage to call Giles back, Joyce decided to take an alternate route and instead looked his home number up in the phone book. She left a short message on his answering machine, telling him that he was welcome to come over after work to see Buffy for himself. She wasn't sure what else to say.
Around four o'clock, Giles found the message and called back. Joyce was hanging out the washing at the time, and Buffy stumbled out of bed and picked up the phone. Not wanting to embarrass Joyce if it turned out her mother was wrong, she didn't say anything to Giles about why Joyce had requested he come over, and so she told Giles it was fine if he, Xander and Willow all came over to visit. She was not feeling so bad now – hot and shaky, but a little stronger and eager to see her friends.
Joyce re-entered her bedroom as Buffy was getting back into bed.
"Mom, that was Giles – he and Xander and Willow are on their way over."
"What?" Joyce stared at her. "I only asked Rupert to come."
"Sorry, Mom, I didn't think it was my place to say anything."
"It's all right, honey." Joyce sighed. "I can talk to him while you're with your friends, I suppose. It's not the perfect arrangement but I can't just blurt it out over the phone."
"No, that wouldn't be good. Don't worry Mom, I'll keep Xander and Willow distracted for a while so you guys can have some privacy to talk." Something occurred to her, and she frowned. "Just as long as you're just talking."
Buffy was awake and reading when the doorbell rang, and Joyce, stomach squirming in nerves, took a deep breath and slowly made her way downstairs to answer it.
Rupert Giles would be on the other side of the door. This was the moment she'd fantasised about regularly for so many years. And she was shaking.
What if he doesn't even recognise me? she thought as she pulled it open. She was greeted with three anxious faces.
"How's Buffy?" Willow said before Joyce had even finished opening the door.
"Sh-she's not too bad at the moment. Why don't you all come in, Willow, Xander …" She swallowed as the two entered the house and started upstairs. Up until this point, she had avoided his eye, but she forced herself to raise her gaze at meet it. "A-and you must be Mr. Giles."
He was polishing his glasses, eyes down, but replaced them as he spoke. "Oh," he said, "please do call me R-"
"Rupert?" Joyce whispered, clutching the doorframe for support.
He looked at her properly, for the first time, blinked several times, and his mouth fell open.
A long silence stretched as the two of them stared at each other, neither of them really believing what they were seeing. It wasn't until the silence was shattered by a yell of "Mrs. Summers!" from Buffy's room that either of them moved. Joyce turned and hurried up the stairs with Giles close behind.
"What's wrong?" Joyce asked, but realised the answer as soon as she entered the room. Buffy was no longer sound asleep; she was fitfully tossing and turning, moaning lightly.
"She was fine a few minutes ago!" Joyce moved forwards and tried to wake her daughter up. "Buffy, honey?" Her temperature had shot right up.
"Joyce, I think she should go to the hospital," Giles said. Joyce nodded.
"I think you're right. Could you go and open my car? The keys are on the kitchen bench." She made to pick Buffy up, but Giles put a hand on her arm.
"No need. I'll take her."
Joyce nodded. "All right. I'll get the keys."
Willow and Xander had remained quiet, hovering worriedly, only speaking up when Giles lifted Buffy in his arms and made to leave the room with her.
"We're coming too."
Giles just nodded.
The atmosphere in the waiting-room was tense. Giles and Joyce were the only ones there; Xander and Willow had gone to seek out a coffee machine.
"She'll be all right," Giles said. Joyce turned to look at him, and he smiled. "She's tough."
Joyce smiled weakly. "You noticed too, huh?"
He stood and walked over to her. "Come on, Joyce, sit down."
"What are you doing here, Rupert?" she asked quietly.
He looked surprised at the question. "I'm worried about Buffy."
"I don't mean here in the hospital." She met his eyes. "I mean here in Sunnydale." There was a pause. "Did you know I was here?"
Giles shook his head. "No, I didn't."
Joyce gave a small laugh. "Right, you don't leave your home country for years, and then you decide to move to America where you just happen to end up in the same town as me. I wouldn't even take the same state as being a coincidence, Rupert."
"Haven't I always said there are no such things as coincidences?" He smiled at her. "Maybe we were meant to meet again."
"Maybe." Joyce wasn't sure what to think. She started to wonder if he had done the maths yet, and if he was thinking of the possibilities.
She shook herself. That didn't matter right now. What mattered was Buffy.