Aftermath II

Summary: Buffy and Giles come together after the final battle, and soon discover why they didn't see each other before.

Rating: M - Some highly descriptive love scenes and some language. You've been warned!

Spoilers: Villians

Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, though at times I wish...please, Joss, I beg you! Rhea is one of my own creations however. Long may she live!

Author: E. Quackenbush aka NephilimEQ (previously known as edq-ocd18)

Author's Notes: Truly enjoyable to continue writing...thank you, my reviewers!

aftermath (n.) - the consequences of an event or series of events

Buffy was barely aware of the rest of the girls on the bus as it moved down the highway, carrying them to an unknown destination. Robin Wood drove, which meant that Giles was right beside her.

After a few moments, she felt his hand reach out towards hers, and she willingly took the offer.

He softly gave a slight reassuring squeeze and she gladly accepted it. He was the comfort that she was going to need in the unsure days ahead. She glanced to the side, and they caught each others' eyes. He gave her a soft smile, and she smiled back. And that was when she realized where they needed to go.

She leaned forward in her seat. "Robin...I know where we're going."

As they unloaded, Buffy saw Angel watching from inside of the hotel. It wasn't the best of circumstances, but the Hyperion had what they needed for the amount of people that she had.

She reached up for a bag of weapons and winced slightly as a pain lanced her side. She glanced down and saw blood soaking through her shirt.

Immediately Giles was at her side, a hand outstretched towards her shoulders, instinctively moving to stable her. He motioned for a couple of the other girls to take the bag, and Buffy let him look at her side.

As he examined her side, his jaw tightened and his eyes became steeled. She looked down at him, wondering what was making him react in that way. Suddenly, before she even realized what was happening, he had swung her up into his arms and was walking them through the entrance of the Hyperion.

A slight giggle escaped her. "Carrying me over the threshold, Sir Giles?"

His jaw was still tensed as he answered her. "Not exactly...Buffy, you have a severe injury, and even with your healing, I don't know how you've lasted this long."

The apprehension in his voice was palpable, and she felt a twinge of fear pass through her.

Angel approached them as they made their way over to the elevator, and from her position in Giles' arms, she could feel his whole body become as taut as a wire.

"Are you okay?" The worry in Angel's voice was obvious, but Giles shifted Buffy in his arms so that she had to cling tighter to him, and she soon realized that that was his intention. Angel watched as she held tighter to her Watcher and a brief shadow flickered across his face, but it soon dissipated.

Giles gave the vampire a cold look, and tried to keep his voice even as he spoke. "She needs immediate medical attention. What floors are open for us?"

It took a moment for Angel to answer, but then he did so quickly. "Uh, the fifth floor all the way up to the last one, the tenth, is free."

Giles nodded, and then tried to push the button, but was unable to do so as Buffy was in his arms. Angel reached forward and quickly did it for him. As the elevator doors opened, Giles realized that because Buffy was in his arms, Angel was going to have to come with them, as he would be unable to push any buttons.

Angel realized this as well, and hesitatingly followed them onto the elevator. "Which floor?"

Giles glanced down at his Slayer in his arms, and then brought his gaze back up Angel's. "The tenth."

Angel's hand hesitated over the panel of buttons. He knew that this was Giles' way of deliberately cutting him off, keeping him away from Buffy. The top floor got the most sun...and Giles knew that.

He pushed the button.

Within moments, they arrived at the top floor. Giles stepped out of the elevator, and without a glance back at the shadow of the man who still stood in it, quickly moved down the hall towards a room. He soon heard the ding of the elevator doors closing, and he let out a sigh of relief.

Buffy had fallen asleep on the elevator from extreme exhaustion. Apparently, it had finally caught up with her.

Giles moved down to a room at the far end of the hall. Room 1025. He looked at the rudimentary lock, and then at the woman in his arms. He gently placed her down on the floor and then kicked the door in.

He swung her back up into his arms and carried her into the room, placing her on one of the beds. As he did so, he realized that he would need his bag.

He didn't want to leave her here all alone, but it seemed that he had no choice. He leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. It was slightly warm.

That was not a good sign. If she was warm, then that meant a possible fever, a fever meant infection, and if he couldn't treat the infection then that would mean some severe consequences. He glanced back once from the doorway, and then rushed down the hallway towards the elevator, determined to be away from her for as little as possible.

He soon disembarked on the first floor and looked around frantically for either Xander or Willow.

Before he could find them, Dawn was next to him, holding something in her hand. " left your bag down here. I thought you might need-" She was cut off as she was suddenly enveloped in a tight one-armed hug from her sister's Watcher.

He quickly let her go, and made his way back to the elevator, the bag in his hand.

Dawn knew something was wrong, so she quickly gestured to Xander and Willow to come over. They quickly came over, and, before Giles could get away, they managed to shove themselves onto the elevator with him.

Giles barely noticed them, so intent he was on getting back up to Buffy. Dawn soon made her presence known to him, however, by suddenly bombarding him with questions. "What's wrong? Where's Buffy? Giles, what's going on?" Xander and Willow, on the other hand, remained silent, recognizing that he was in Watcher mode, and that he would tell them everything when he felt that they needed to know.

They left the elevator on the tenth floor, and followed after him down to one of the rooms.

They trailed in after him, and Dawn had to stifle her soft cry of horror. Buffy lay on the bed, asleep, but her shirt was so covered with blood, and she was so still, that it was like seeing her dead all over again.

Giles rushed to her side, opening his bag as he went. Xander sat himself on the other bed in the room, watching in absolute silence, his mind flashing back to when she'd been shot. He'd been the only one to ever see her in such a state.

Willow watched silently, recognizing ingredients as he pulled them out. She saw elder flower, yarrow flower, peppermint leaves, and hyssop leaves.

All of those ingredients combined into a tea helped reduce fever...however, there were some other ingredients that worried her. They worried her because she knew that they were for reversing the effects of curses. She saw him throw a few of them together into a pestle that he'd pulled from his bag and begin to make a paste.

Dawn sat on the bed next to Xander, wrapping both of her hands around his right arm, needing reassurance.

Xander looked down at her, and then back at his best friend on the other bed, still not quite processing what was happening.

Giles took out his surgical knife that he kept in his bag and quickly sterilized it. He glanced over at Dawn. " might not...uhm...want to see this."

At those words, she turned her eyes away and pressed her face into Xander's shoulder, her right hand gripping his arm tightly.

Giles reached down and ripped off the bottom portion of her shirt, needing to see the wound in its' entirety. Oh dear was deep. Too deep. But he had no choice. He slid on the surgical gloves that he'd pulled out of one of the side pockets on the inside of the bag, and then placed a bracing hand on one side of the wound.

After using a needle to place a local anesthetic, he was ready.

He brought his other hand to her side and began to slowly cut through the partially healed tissue. Blood stained the gloves almost immediately, but he had steeled himself for the sight.

With each slice, he felt that he was closer to the object that was still inside of her.

Willow watched, taking in every detail, amazed at Giles' strength as he cut open his Slayer to save her life. In the past, the sight of blood bothered her, but now she had almost become numb to it...however, the sight of her best friend's blood seemed to be affecting her more than she realized.

She felt dizzy, but she shook it off. Now was not the time to get squeamish.

It was a part of battle. That's just how things were.

He finally felt it. With his left hand, he dug slightly deeper into the wound, gently feeling around for the hidden shard...there it was! He felt a hard edge, so he lightly pulled, but it didn't budge. It was firmly lodged inside. He glanced up at Willow and then over to Xander, a bead of sweat running into his eye from his brow.

He'd taken off his glasses for the surgery so that he could see properly...and he now could see that he needed Xander's help. He merely looked at the young man, and he knew.

He passed Dawn over to Willow, and went over to help Giles.

Without any words being spoken, Xander and Giles worked together perfectly. Xander had pulled on an extra pair of latex gloves, and he now had a hand inside of his friend.

Xander glanced up at Giles as he got a firm grip on the object that was slowly killing his friend. They both knew that the instant that he pulled it out, the wound would start bleeding profusely, and Giles would need to be there in an instant, or else Buffy might bleed out. Her Slayer powers were drained, and they weren't going to save her now.

Giles nodded, and Xander pulled it out. Giles immediately went into action, placing a thick cloth gauze pad on the wound, wrapping it with surgical tape as tightly as he dared.

Xander placed the bloodied shard on the dresser that was against the wall, leaving it to Giles to figure out what it was.

Giles reached for the paste that he'd made earlier and placed it just under the gauze, into the wound. Hopefully, it would counteract whatever curse had been on the object embedded in her.

He looked over at Willow, and motioned for her to make the tea. Willow nodded, not able to find any words to speak, and placed Dawn back on the edge of the bed. Dawn watched in silence as everyone found a small task to get done. Willow was heating water and adding ingredients, Xander was using alcohol on the surgical knife that Giles had used, and Giles was gathering Buffy's bloodied clothes.

At that point, he turned towards Dawn. "Dawn...would you like to stay with her tonight?"

Dawn finally found words. "Yeah...if that's okay, I mean." Giles gave her a soft smile and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Of course it is."

With those words, he turned back to his Slayer and, after asking Xander to turn his back, stripped the rest of her shirt off of her and put her in one of his softer oxford shirts.

He then reached underneath and deftly undid the back clasp of her bra and slid it off from under the shirt.

Willow and Dawn both saw this, but said nothing, thinking that he must have helped Buffy out like this sometimes after really bad patrols where she had gotten injured.

Giles then gathered everything that was bloodied, including the jeans that she'd been wearing which he'd slipped off of her as well, and then he turned towards Dawn. "Dawn, can you put her under the covers?" She nodded, and he gave her a nod of appreciation back, and then left the room, bloodied clothes in hand.

He entered the elevator, hit the button for the first floor, and then slowly unclenched his jaw as he descended.

There were so many ways in which everything could have gone wrong, and they still weren't out of the woods yet, but they were at least closer than they were.

The doors dinged open as he arrived, and he walked through them, not noticing the stares that he got as he walked through the lobby with the clothes in hand.

Within seconds, Angel was right there in front of him. "Where is she?" He was practically snarling, and then he saw the bloodied clothes, smelled the blood, saw parts of Giles' shirt stained with it, and he lost it. With no provocation, he vamped out and lunged at Giles, who had no way of protecting himself.

Suddenly he found himself shoved against the wall next to the elevator, the button being pressed painfully into his back.

All the Slayers that were milling about in the lobby froze, not knowing what to do as they knew Angel only to be one of the good guys. Faith had left the lobby earlier, which meant that the only person of authority that they truly recognized was being thrown against the wall by a vampire that none of them were willing to face.

Giles tried not to show fear, but his mind kept on flashing back to instant. "You know, the last time I tortured someone they didn't even have chainsaws..."

Angel snarled, and with his grip still on the lapels on Giles' jacket he shoved him once more, now gripping his throat with one hand, and Giles' head hit against the wall with a thud. "What did you do to her?" It came out as a low growl, and Giles could do nothing.

Angel felt a tap on his shoulder, and without letting up on his hold on the Watcher, he turned his head around, growling.

Next thing he knew, he was on the ground, with a stake sticking out of his left shoulder. Whoever had done it, had missed the heart.

He moved to get up, but before he could even see who did it, a swift kick to the head soon knocked him out. Giles was still at the wall, leaning against it for support now, rubbing his bruised throat. He looked up to see one of the Slayers, a girl whose name he couldn't remember, standing over Angel and motioning for a couple of the other girls to take him to the back office and then close all the blinds.

She looked over his way, and then walked towards him. "Are you okay, Mr. Giles?"

He gave her a brief nod, still using one hand to massage his neck. Yes, there would definitely be a bruise.

He flashed her a brief smile. "Yes, thank you. It seems I am in your debt." She shook her head, disagreeing with him.

"No, you're not." He looked at her in confusion, and she just gave him an enigmatic look, one that left him even more befuddled than before. She explained. "You were the one that found me. I was living in China in one of the monastic temples, and you found me after the Bringers killed my previous Watcher."

He looked at her, trying to remember her name. It suddenly came to him. He remembered seeing the temple...and all of the other bodies inside of it. "You're Rhea."

She gave a sheepish grin. "Guilty as charged." With that, she began to walk away, but he joined her, intent on pointing out an error. "You do realize you missed the heart, and you're lucky that you did. If you'd killed him-"

Rhea cut him off. "I missed the heart on purpose, Mr. Giles. I know who he is...however, what he did to you was inexcusable. I'm more experienced than some of the other Slayers here, but there's no way I could match him in an actual fight."

That was when Giles remembered who her watcher was. Gan Rui Pin. He had been a master of Kung Fu, and had been an excellent teacher.

He stood as straight as he could, and gave a proper bow. She returned it, and then helped him pick up the bloodied clothes that he'd dropped on the floor. They worked silently, while all the other Slayers tried to pretend that nothing had happened. It was easier to do that than to deal with the fact that one of their own had just attacked the one man that they all recognized as having as much authority as Buffy.

Rhea helped him take the clothes to the incinerator in the back, and then followed him out of the room.

As they arrived back at the elevator, an idea came to Giles' mind. He turned towards her as they waited for the elevator. "Rhea...Buffy will be unable to patrol for quite a while, and since Angel just...well...would you...?"

She nodded her head, understanding what he meant. "I would be honored, Sensei."

He looked at her in surprise, not expecting her to give him such a title. She merely smiled and walked towards the front, but not before Giles got a look at her.

She moved as a student of the ancient art of Kung Fu would. There was grace, but deliberation with every step. She wasn't stunningly beautiful, but she was fairly pretty, with dark brown hair that fell just beyond her shoulders, and her personality more than made up for it. He smiled to himself as he got onto the elevator.

She was going to be an excellent Slayer.

He smiled again as he got off on the tenth floor. He had found Buffy's successor.

aftermath (n.) - the consequences of an event or series of events

Not quite the end...