I wrote this for Summer of Giles 2010 on Livejournal. I hope you like it.
Title: Who Will Care For You?
Author: Laura Sichrovsky
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: PG or FRT
Warnings: None that I can think of.
Season: Takes place in Season Four.
Summary: Giles gets injured demon hunting without the Scoobies. Willow comes over to help him patch up his cuts and realizes
how bad he was actually hurt. How will she handle it?
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 for. To Rupert for putting this in my head to start with and for hand holding me through it.
To Trich and Kris for looking this over and for encouraging me to finish it. You two are the best. To Ann for the
beta and, well everything. You are the other half of me, my long lost sister and I love you, dear!
Who Will Care For You?
"Ouch, damn it!" Rupert Giles swore through gritted teeth. He dug his fingers into the couch cushion, willing the pain away, but failing.
"I'm sorry," Willow said quietly, scooting back slightly. "I was trying to be careful."
"I know," Rupert sighed. "I wasn't upset at you. This never should have happened."
"While we're on the subject, how did this happen?" Willow asked, moving closer and dabbing at the cut over his eye again. He shifted on his couch, attempting to give her better access.
"I was hunting a demon," he growled.
"I got that part. But wasn't it supposed to be slow and stupid? So how did you end up looking like you were on the losing end of a fight with a motorcycle gang?" She picked up a clean gauze pad from his coffee table, gauging the size she would need for the cut.
"The book said it was slow, stupid, and fairly weak," he responded with a sigh.
"The book said? Like a published book?"
"Well, as close to that as you get in this profession. Most treatise on these subjects are very old and hand written."
He winced as she taped the edges of the gauze down. She nodded.
"That makes sense, I guess. I mean, I can't say I've ever heard of demon press or anything." As the cut was attended to, she moved on, fingering gently along the edges of his blackened left eye, assessing if there was any damage beyond the bruising. "So, it wasn't slow or stupid?"
"No." He gasped, swallowing against the pain of her touch. He drew a deep breath, fighting the urge to pull away. "And it wasn't anything close to weak. I went in expecting an easy fight. If I'd have known it would be that strong, I would have taken Buffy."
"Why didn't you?" she asked, frowning as she noticed a cut back by his right ear. "Or at least Xander or me?"
Rupert sighed again. He'd known this question was coming and he still hadn't come up with a non-pathetic way to answer it.
"The demon was supposed to be harmless," he said quietly. "Why should I have taken Buffy away from her time with Riley? Or taken you away from your studies? And Xander deserves some quiet time with Anya, don't you think?"
"Giles, it wouldn't have been a problem," she said, picking yet another cotton pad up off the coffee table. "I think Buffy would have rather given up a night at the movies than had this happen."
"Well, yes, but I didn't think it was going to happen, now did I?" Rupert groused, closing his eyes against the sting as she cleaned his cut. "I didn't wish to bother you if it was nothing."
"Bother us?" Willow sat back, looking at him. "Do you think we see you as a bother?"
He weighed out how to answer that. Of course that was what he thought. Since they had started university, Rupert and slaying had been nothing more than an unpleasant duty to all of them and he knew it. They all ran off to do other things, coming to him only when there was something apocalyptic that they needed him to deal with. Not that he blamed them. They had earned lives of their own. And he would never dream of making them feel guilty about it.
"Of course not," he lied, looking away so she would not see the truth in his eyes. "But if it wasn't a real threat, then why pull you lot into it?"
"I suppose," Willow replied, distracted by yet another cut that she had found on his hand. "You know, you really should contact the guy who wrote that book and complain."
"I would do that, if he hadn't died 200 years ago," Rupert responded with a gentle smile.
"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," she said, making a face.
Rupert chuckled, moving to get to his feet. As he straightened up, a loud gasp was drawn from him, pain shooting across his back and shoulders.
"Giles?" She was looking at him, a worried expression on her face.
"I'm fine," he ground out. He took a step forward, biting his lip against the sudden stab that went through his hips.
"Giles, how badly are you hurt?" Willow asked, getting up from the couch and standing next to him.
"I said, I'm fine."
"Willow, I appreciate your concern, but I do not need to be mothered," he snapped. He turned to look at her, feeling instantly guilty. "I'm sorry."
"Giles, what is wrong?" Willow was watching him, an unreadable expression on her face. "I know you are in pain, but this is so unlike you. Talk to me."
And tell her what? That he was tired of feeling old and useless? That he was hurt because they had abandoned him to this solitary, lonely existence? That he was feeling ancient and pointless? That he didn't want her pity, but was afraid that was all that was left for him? That it was a moment of anger at his inability to locate any of them that had made him take a chance and go after the demon by himself?
"I am tired," he said, sighing deeply. "And I am sorry that I was short with you."
He turned to walk away, possibly to go upstairs, anywhere to get away from her probing eyes and the guilt they brought. Her hand on his arm stopped him, but before he could turn around to face her, she was pulling up his shirt. His mind was still assessing what was happening when he heard her gasp.
"Giles, your whole back is one giant bruise!"
He turned around, gritting his teeth against the pain that shot through him.
"Giles, what happened? How badly were you hurt? And don't give me that, 'I'm fine' crap, because we both know better." She looked at him, her expression becoming very serious. "I'm breaking out my 'resolved' face here."
"Willow, please. I don't…" A wave of dizziness washed over him, making the throbbing in his head worse. He closed his eyes, trying to get his equilibrium.
Suddenly she was there, her hands on his arms, guiding him to the couch. And he let her, too tired and ill to care. He let her help him sit, leaning back into the softness of the couch, ignoring his protesting back. He felt her move and opened his eyes to see her standing in front of him, looking down.
"Oh, Giles, another concussion?" Her voice was gentle and surprisingly free of pity. "Is there any part of you that isn't bruised?"
"Not that I'm noticing," he sighed.
"Why didn't you tell me when I first got here?"
"You were fussing enough helping me bandage my cuts," He looked up at her. "I didn't wish to bother you further."
"There's that word again," she said, reaching out to gently run her fingers through his hair. "Do we really make you feel like you are that much of an inconvenience?"
"Sometimes," he replied candidly. "But I understand that I represent all the things that keep you from a normal life, so I don't fault you for it."
"Oh, Giles." She moved to sit next to him on the couch. "I'm sorry. We…I never meant to make you feel that way. I hope you know that I don't see you that way."
He turned his head to look at her, wincing slightly. He didn't know how to respond to her, so he just looked.
"I really am sorry." She said softly. She put her hand on his arm. "Can you turn a bit so your back is to me?"
He sat up, breathing deeply against the pain. He shifted his hips to the right, settling again, curious as to where this was going. She put her hands on his shoulders and lightly kneaded. He knew she was trying to be gentle, but the wave of pain that shot through him drew an actual noise from his throat and he jumped.
"Oh, I'm sorry! You really are beaten up, aren't you?"
He made a noncommittal noise as she put her hands back on his shoulders. This time she barely touched him, her fingers gently drifting along his shoulders and back. He was surprised how soothing it actually was.
"Giles?" Her voice was quiet, just above a whisper. "Tell me what happened?"
He sighed, relaxing under her touch.
"There really isn't anything to tell," he said, closing his eyes.
"Please?" she asked. "I know that we were tracking it. I thought you would tell us when you found it."
"I…" He paused, wondering why he was keeping this from her in the first place. He opened his eyes and turned to look at her, wincing with the movement. "I tried to tell you. But I couldn't locate either you or Xander and Buffy was getting ready to go on a date."
"Did you tell her why you were calling?" Willow asked with a frown.
Rupert looked down at his hands.
"I didn't wish to disturb her for something I could easily handle."
"So you just went on your own?" Willow asked, her frown deepening. "Without any regard for your safety?"
"Willow, the demon was supposed to be harmless. I thought that I could take care of it without having to inconvenience any of you."
"But it didn't work that way?" She leaned back on the couch, watching him intently.
"It most definitely did not." He shifted to a more comfortable position, his sore muscles protesting the move. "When I got to the cave in the woods, the demon was eating a coyote. I moved in on it reciting the spell from the book, the one that was supposed to render it unconscious."
"It didn't work?"
"All it did was flood the cave with green light and make the demon angry." Rupert shook his head. "It dropped the coyote and came after me."
"Tell me that you at least had a weapon," Willow said.
"I had a crossbow. As soon as I realized the spell had failed, I tried to load a bolt onto the bow, but the creature was much too fast. I simply wasn't expecting such speed."
"You must have been terrified," Willow said, reaching out and taking his hand.
"I was too startled to be terrified," Rupert replied, sighing again. "And then it was on me. It threw me against the wall of the cave and I understood that if I didn't do something, it was going to kill me."
"That's how your back got that lovely purple coloring?" Willow asked, one finger stroking along the back of his hand.
"Well, that and when it repeatedly slammed me against the cave wall after it tried to crush my throat."
"Giles!" Her eyes were wide with alarm. "How badly did this thing beat you up?"
"Enough that I will be quit sore for a few days," he replied with a grimace. "I'm just lucky that it likes to play with its food."
Willow didn't seem to find the humor in that statement. She was looking at him with a very serious expression.
"How did you get away?" she asked quietly.
"It threw me face first against the wall and when I landed, I realized the crossbow bolt was right next to my hand, so I grabbed it. When the demon picked me up again, I stabbed it through the eye. There was a lot of blood and it landed on me when it died, but I survived to come home and call you to help patch me up."
"Giles, you do get that you could have died, right?" she asked, her expression troubled.
"Willow, I…" He looked at her, at the worry on her face and he wanted to ease her fear, but he didn't even know where to begin. "I supposed I could have. But…"
"No. No butting!" The intensity of her anger surprised him. She was genuinely upset. "Don't you get it? You could have died. No more you."
"The Council would send a new Watcher," he said soothingly. Apparently, it was the wrong thing to say.
"A new Watcher? Is that what you think we want?" She let go of his hand, looking at him, her gaze piercing. "Giles, we need you. We want you. We…I don't want some stuffy, rule-bound, British jerk coming in and thinking he's our Watcher."
"Willow, I am stuffy and British," he said, smiling at her.
"Yes, but you are you."
At his arched eyebrow, she sighed.
"It's hard to explain, but you are Giles and it makes all the difference in the world."
He smiled at her, reaching out to take her hand again, trying to reassure her.
"Willow, I appreciate your affection for me, but…"
"No, I don't think you do," she said, cutting him off mid-word. "If you can sit there and say that, and then follow it up with a 'but', you aren't understanding me."
He frowned at her, confused.
"Giles, yes, you are the Watcher, official or not, but that isn't what I'm saying. The only thing your being the Watcher has to do with any of this, is that you know how to protect us. But, you know, I think you would have figured out how to do it anyway, even if you hadn't worked for the Council. It's just who you are. And that's the point."
Now Rupert was even more puzzled.
"Well, yes, I likely would have," he conceded, still frowning at her. "But I don't see what that has to do with anything."
"It's everything," she said, tightening her hold on his hand as she turned to look at him. "You were Buffy's Watcher, but never have you been under any obligation to Xander or me. You could have ignored us or left us on our own. In fact, I think the Council's orders were that you do just that."
"Yes, they were, but, do you think I could have done that to you?"
"Of course not." She smiled at him. "And that is exactly my point. The man you are overrode the orders you were given. You couldn't have turned your back on us anymore than you could have abandoned Buffy. Do you understand how much that meant to us? To me?"
"Willow, all I did was make sure that you wouldn't be killed. I knew there was no way that you would have listened to me when I told you to stay away, so the least I could do was to make sure you could take care of yourselves."
"But Giles, it was more than that. Unless you are an amazing actor, we were more than a duty."
"Of course you were." He smiled down at her. "You risked your lives every night to help me. You faced certain death to keep the world safe. And both you and Xander are good people. How could I not grow to care for you?"
"You were the only one who did," she said, just above a whisper.
He frowned at her again.
"I'm sure that's not true."
"And I'm sure it is. Do you think there were any other teachers at that school who cared if we even survived until graduation?"
"Well, there was Jenny," he said after thinking for a minute. "She worked with us to protect you."
"I hate to say it, but I think she was only working for her own ends." Willow sighed. "I really wanted to believe that she cared for us, but she was only trying to get close to Buffy so that she could watch Angel. In the end, she let him turn and she would have let him kill us, just to get Buffy to kill him."
"Willow, I don't think it was that bad."
"I know you don't, but Giles, she had to know how that curse worked. She'd translated it. Did she feel bad about what she was going to do? Yeah, I think she did. But I think she would have still done it. It was what she was here for. She could not let him not suffer."
Rupert was troubled. It wasn't as if he hadn't thought these things himself, but hearing Willow say them out loud made them more real. He shook his head, turning back to look at her.
"Alright, I suppose I will grant you that. But you all had parents."
Willow laughed, but it was cynical and troubled him slightly.
"Right, my parents. The ones who were too busy with their own lives to even notice me? I came home with cuts and blood on my face and they never even looked at me. They were always out of town at some conference or on vacation and I was an afterthought. And Xander's parents? I was so worried that his father was going to put him in the hospital. But the way they talked to him was worse." She pursed her lips, her eyes filling with tears. "I was at his house studying one night and his father got upset because Xander hadn't taken the trash out yet. Stupid, waste of breath, idiot, I wish you'd never been born. These were the nicer things he said to Xander. Even Buffy's father couldn't be bothered to call her. And then there was you."
Rupert looked at her, seeing the raw emotion in her eyes.
"My parents couldn't be bothered to cut their vacation short for me, but you would have died for me. The number of times that you were injured just to keep us safe? No one else ever cared for us that way. You believed in us and you made us believe in ourselves. You are so much more than just a Watcher."
"I'm a friend?" he asked, honestly wondering.
"No, you are family."
He blinked. It wasn't what he'd expected her to say. He cared so deeply for all of them, but sometimes, especially lately, he'd felt so far removed from them, on the outside looking in. She must have seen it in his expression. She reached out and gently touched his face.
"And like any family, sometimes we take you for granted. We don't mean to, but…I guess it's like we know you love us. We know that no matter what we do or how badly we screw up, you are still going to be here to help us make it right." She looked at him, her affection for him plainly written on her face. "And I guess we figure that you know how much we love you too, so we don't take the time to show you or tell you. And that's very wrong."
"Willow, there's no need…"
Again she interrupted him, this time by putting her fingers over his lips.
"No, there really is a need. I just didn't realize until now how big that need was." She removed her fingers from his lips, taking his hand in hers once again. "Giles, we…I love you. I know that I never say that, but I mean it. I couldn't do any of this without you."
"Any of this?" he asked quietly.
"School, Slaying, my teen years, all of it. I know you think we only look at you like a walking demonology book, but have you ever noticed that we come to you for everything? I mean, you helped me write reports, you advised me on how to deal with my parents, you even gave me advice on boys, as misguided as it was." She smiled at him. "I always knew someone was watching out for me, that someone cared for me. I can't tell you how much that means to me. And maybe that's the problem. How do you put a connection like ours into words? How do you tell someone that they might not be related to you, but they are deeper in your heart than the people who share your DNA? How do you tell them that while you know they would die to save you, you are pretty sure they don't realize that you would just as readily give up your life for them? How do you tell them that the person you are is a direct result of what they taught you? How do you say that your own parents' opinion means very little to you, but that you want to be a better person so that you can make…so that I can make you proud?"
Rupert looked at her, drowning in emotions that he normally kept tightly controlled. He had always assumed that they saw him strictly as a teacher, possibly a friend. To know that Willow cared as much for him as he did for her…
"I suppose the same way that I would tell you that you do make me proud, every day, everything you do. I never put it into words either."
"But you show us," Willow said. "I know that you love me. I may doubt my parents' love for me, but never yours."
"How do you know?" he asked.
"You never lock your door, even when you aren't home. Someone could take all your stuff, but you always want us to know that we can come here if we need to. We are more important. You, well, hunt demons alone so that we don't have to give up our leisure time." She gave him a stern expression, but the effect was broken when she smiled. "Giles, I know that no matter what I need, you will be here. You don't say it, you live it."
"I suppose I might not have been looking to see if it was returned," he said with a sigh. "You are, after all, here bandaging my cuts and playing nursemaid."
"You shouldn't have had to ask me to do that," she said, frowning. "I…no, we should have been here so you didn't have to go into the fight alone."
"Willow, you didn't know that I was going demon hunting."
"No, because we weren't here for you to tell." She shook her head. "We really have taken you for granted, haven't we? I am sorry."
He looked at her, not knowing what to say. All his frustration and loneliness that he had been fighting the past few months was ebbing away. It wasn't gone, but Willow acknowledging that he had a right to it helped quite a bit. He squeezed her hand again.
"It's all right, Willow."
"No, it's not. But I think it will be." At his raised eyebrow she smiled. "We are going to start with my taking care of you until your back isn't the color of grape juice. We are going to add in making sure you aren't kept out of the loop, maybe some movie nights here so we can spend some fun time with you, and we'll go from there."
"Willow, you needn't fuss over me."
"No, I needn't," she said rubbing the back of his hand. "But I want to and you are going to let me."
His first instinct was to argue, but he looked at her 'resolved' face and thought better of it. The more he thought on it, the more his aching muscles screamed, the more his head pounded, the better a little fussing sounded. He smiled up at her.
"Then I suppose it wouldn't be too much for me to ask you to make me some tea?"
"I will if you go get into your pajamas and get into bed," she said. "You need to rest and I've got it from here."
She helped him up, even helped him negotiate the stairs. Normally he would have felt like a burden, but she was smiling and chatting with him. As he settled on the bed to change his clothes, he thought about what she had said. He was to rest and she had it from there. It was an interesting concept, one he was willing to try. He was aching and tired and letting someone else shoulder the burden, even for a short time, seemed like a very appealing idea. He knew if anything truly terrible came up that she would tell him.
As he buttoned his pajama top, he could hear her moving about in his kitchen, making tea and humming to herself and for the first time in a while, he no longer felt alone.