Healing by Coast2Coast
Giles stood outside the bathroom door, regarding the note with a sense of foreboding. Buffy had meant for her voice to be light and uncaring, but he had heard the tense undertone. He glanced back up at the door for a long moment until he heard water running in the sink then returned to the living room, unfolding the note as he approached the desk lamp.
I had hoped it wouldn't come to this but you've left me no choice.
We had a long talk about responsibility and consequences when you came back from wherever you ran off to the last time I confronted you about this 'vampire slayer' nonsense. I've had to bring it up again and again as it became clear you still weren't listening to me. I'm your mother and I love you and as long as you were a minor I did the best I could to guide you.
Now you are an adult, legally anyway, and the events of today removed any hope I still had about you giving up your destructive and violent behavior. I still love you but I can't allow you to live under my roof unless you mend your ways.
If, in the future, you decide you are ready to be a responsible adult we can talk about whether or not it would be a good idea for you to come home. You can arrange with Mr. Petersen to pick up the rest of your things while I am at work; I have already changed the locks and he has a key. If you haven't come for them in three months I'll put them in storage and leave the information with him.
Believe it or not, I only want what's best for you.
Giles read the note through twice and still couldn't believe it. "Bloody hell," he groaned, pulling his glasses off and scrubbing his face with both hands. He thrust the note into his pocket and went into the kitchen to get Buffy's juice and brew himself some tea.
The sound of the door knocker interrupted him and he retraced his steps. He glanced through the peephole, sighed and opened the door. He stepped back a few paces to let the visitors in but left the door open and positioned himself to make it clear he didn't expect them to stay.
"Yes, what can I do for you?" he asked Xander and Willow.
The two teens shuffled their feet uneasily, something clearly on their minds and a little uncomfortable with Giles' unusual lack of hospitality.
"Um," Willow said.
Xander, always the more direct, got straight to the point. "We're looking for Buffy."
Willow, emboldened now that Xander had broken the ice, chimed in. "She's been so un-Buffy-like lately. We're really worried about her. Her mom said something about vampires. She didn't go on patrol as weak as she's been, did she?" Willow asked.
"No, she... there was a fight but Buffy will be all right."
"She was hurt?" Giles noticed that Xander had glanced briefly at the duffle bag and was now staring at the wall in a direct line of sight toward the bathroom.
"Nothing too serious. She'll be fine."
Xander switched his gaze from the wall to Giles' face. "Her mother kicked her out." Willow looked down at her feet.
In the tense silence that followed this pronouncement, the sound of the tap in the bathroom cutting off seemed louder than the distant rush of water had. Willow's head snapped up, realizing what Xander had already deduced. The two teens exchanged a meaningful look and said, in unison.
"I don't think it's a good idea for her to stay here."
Giles straightened up to his full height and crossed his arms. "She needs care and rest. Both of which, I assure you, I am capable of rendering." He gestured to the door. "I think you two ought to get along home now."
Xander and Willow exchanged another glance. Xander seemed to be ready to stand his ground, but Willow reached out, touched his arm and gave a tiny shake of her head. Xander nodded marginally and looked back at Giles. "Okay," he allowed. "But tell her either one of us can give her a place to stay if she wants."
Giles took a step toward them, and the door, herding them out. "Don't worry. Everything will sort itself out in short order, I expect."
The teens looked doubtful, but took their leave without another word. Giles shut the door and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. He looked up to see Buffy leaning against the doorway into the kitchen, watching him. He pulled the note from his pocket and handed it to her. She glanced at it briefly and then moved into the living room. Giles followed her and saw her drop it into the bag and pull the zipper closed. She tried to lift the bag to sling it over her shoulder, but the movement pulled at the wound in her side and she dropped it to the floor, grimacing.
"Buffy!" Giles admonished her, coming to her aid. He lifted the bag up and replaced it across the stools. "Would you mind terribly letting the stitches stay in for a few minutes before you pull them out?" he said in exasperation. He turned and tried to get Buffy to meet his eyes. "That's why you told me not to bother ringing the bell. You knew she was there but wouldn't answer."
Buffy nodded. "I figured as much when I saw the bag." She shrugged, trying to appear composed. "It's not like she didn't warn me."
"But, she loves you! I don't understand how she can... can..." he trailed off, unsure what to say. Abandon you? Cut you out of her life? Hurt you like this?
Buffy gave him a small smile. "Her only daughter has the life expectancy of a fruit fly and roams the night fighting the forces of darkness. Can you blame her for wanting to believe that, if I would just 'grow up', I could go to college, get a good job, get married, live in the suburbs and give her some grandchildren?"
"But she knows you're the Slayer. She knows you can't just..."
"Whether or not my mother ever accepts the fact that being the Slayer is who I am, not something I took up to annoy her, is out of our hands," Buffy countered firmly.
Giles considered her for a moment. "You seem to be handling this better than I am."
"Well, I've been watching this coming for almost a year; sort of like oncoming headlights."
"Have you thought about what... where...?" Giles cleared his throat. "You know you're welcome to stay here - for as long as you need." Instead of the relieved expression he expected to see, Buffy turned and disappeared into the bathroom again, returning with the tank top she had shed earlier, now wet but wrung out. She thrust the damp roll of cloth into a large outside pocket of her bag and zipped it closed.
Giles realized the significance of her packing a wet garment. "Where do you think you're going?" he asked. When she didn't answer, or look at him, Giles put his hands on her shoulders, turned her toward him and dipped his head to force her to look him in the eye. "Buffy?" She still didn't answer or look up. Giles gave her shoulders a squeeze. "The correct answer is 'Nowhere, Giles'," he said. He unzipped the side compartment and pulled her wet shirt back out, walked into the bathroom and hung it over the shower curtain rod. He returned to the living room to see Buffy shaking her head.
"This is so not a good idea, Giles," she said.
"Buffy, you're tired and hurt. You need a good night's sleep and someone to look out for you while you heal." He took her hand and led her toward the stairs, she followed him meekly enough but when they had made it all the way across the living room without his giving any sign of sitting her on the couch or at the desk she slowed. When he put a foot on the first riser of the stairs she balked - digging her heels in and trying to pull her hand out of his grip. He turned to see her wide-eyed and shaking her head vigorously.
"Nope, uh uh, no way," she was muttering. She glanced up at the loft, then back to him. She managed to pull her hand away from his and moved toward the front door.
Giles, shocked at her behavior, looked upwards as she had, back to her, down at the hand that had held hers, back up to the loft... where the edge of his bed was just visible in the indirect light cast from downstairs. "Oh, for pity's sake... Buffy!" he snapped, moving toward her.
She had reached the door and put her back against it, her uncertainty and discomfort obvious. Giles held up his hands to show he meant no harm and wasn't going to grab her. "You can't possibly think I was suggesting... that I would..."
"No, Giles. I know you weren't."
"Then what the..."
The knock on the door startled them both. Buffy moved away, toward the kitchen, as Giles stepped forward. He checked the peephole, gave a deep sigh, released the locks and opened the door. "Hello, Angel," he said, resigned. "Come on in."
"Oh, perfect," Buffy moaned, her eyes slipping shut. She was swaying on her feet.
Angel and Giles both stepped toward her, each grabbing an elbow to keep her upright. They regarded each other for a long moment, and then Giles bent forward to put his other arm behind Buffy's knees. Angel dropped Buffy's arm and stepped back. Giles nodded to him and turned to carry Buffy upstairs. He laid her down carefully and pulled the covers over her. She roused sufficiently to murmur "Really not a good idea..." before she faded completely.
"Sleep well," Giles whispered.
Angel trailed Giles as he headed for the kitchen to make his third attempt at the badly needed pot of tea. "Is she all right? What's going on?"
"A great deal, and none of it good," Giles responded with some asperity. He stopped and put a hand to his forehead, visibly shaken. "Sorry," he said to Angel. "If you'll just have a seat and give me a few minutes I may be capable of regaining the ability to converse in a civil manner."
"Uh, in the mean time - did you know that Harris kid is hiding out on your balcony?"
Giles dug his knuckles into the small of his back, trying to ease the tension there. "Will you keep an eye on the kettle and an ear out for any disturbance from Buffy, please?" he asked Angel, and then paced resolutely out the door.
"Xander!" Giles called in a hoarse whisper. "Come down here this instant!"
He heard a soft thump, some rustling in the bushes off to the right, then Xander stood before him somewhat disconcerted but unrepentant.
"What the devil do you think you're playing at?" Giles demanded.
"I was waiting for you to go to sleep so I could get Buffy out of here."
"What possessed you to try something so incredibly stupid and reckless?"
Xander thrust out his chin and glared at Giles. "Because I don't want to see her get hurt. Again."
"Xander, I appreciate your concern for Buffy but I assure you..."
"You did that Cruka-whatsis thing to her, didn't you. That's why she's been such a spaz."
"Cruciamentum," Giles corrected automatically, nonplussed. "How did you...?"
"I read about it a few months ago when we were researching, in one of those Watcher books you keep locked up most of the time." Xander shook his head. "I thought it was an olden days kind of thing. I never thought you'd do it. Not you. Not to Buffy."
Giles sighed. "It's a traditional test of a Slayer's..."
"Oh, shut up! If it weren't for Buffy I'd kick your ass right now."
Giles pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. There was no point arguing with the young man when he agreed with him, in principle at least. "I do not have the patience to deal with you right now. Go home."
Xander pushed past him. "I'm not going anywhere without Buffy," he snapped, moving toward the door to Giles' flat.
Giles turned and followed, grabbing Xander's shoulder as he crossed the threshold. Xander whipped around and seized Giles by his shirt front and slammed him up against the wall to the right of the doorway. Before the hostilities could escalate, both combatants caught a glimpse of movement and froze.
Angel had been heading for the door, Buffy in his arms, her bag over his shoulder. "I'm taking Buffy to my place," Angel explained, unnecessarily.
"No you're not!" Giles and Xander snapped.
"Angel, put me down."
Buffy's voice, soft as it was, startled all of them. Angel moved automatically to comply, but when he set Buffy's feet on the floor her knees buckled and he clutched her to his chest once more.
"Over there in that chair," Buffy corrected her instructions, pointing to a chair between the fireplace and the stairs. As Angel carried her past Giles' desk Buffy smacked Xander lightly on the back of the head. "Let him go, Xander!"
Xander released Giles with a shove that cracked the older man's head against the wall, and then stalked after Angel. After a moment of recovery, Giles followed him, pulling his shirt back into place.
Angel set Buffy down on the chair and turned to face the other two. They all spoke at once.
"What are you trying to pull?" "I think you'd better leave." "I just want to protect her."
"Stop it," Buffy moaned pressing her hands to her temples.
The three men looked uneasily at one another. Giles and Xander moved slowly to opposite ends of the couch, Angel to a chair. They all sat down, perched stiffly on the edge of their seats.
Buffy dropped her hands from her head and opened her eyes slowly. Her gaze shifted from one to the next. When she had made the circuit twice, she spoke. "Have you all lost your minds?"
Angel spoke first. "I don't think it's a good idea for you to stay here."
"Why does everyone keep saying that!" Giles snapped.
"Because it's true!" Xander barked.
"The Cruciamentum is over. There's no need to..."
"That's not what we're talking about," Angel said.
"Well, I'm not done being pissed off about that; but he's right. That's not the problem," Xander agreed.
"Then what the bloody hell is the problem?" Giles demanded.
Angel and Xander stared at Giles for a moment, glanced at each other then looked over at Buffy. The challenging stare she gave them caused both of them to look down at their feet and shift in their seats uneasily.
"They don't think I should stay here because... because something might... happen," Buffy explained.
"Such as?" Giles inquired.
The other two men groaned.
Xander looked at Angel. "How can a guy that smart be so clueless? How is that even possible?"
Angel shrugged. "He's British."
"What kind of excuse is that? He's still a guy, isn't he?"
"Are you done?" Buffy said in a warning tone.
Angel and Xander flinched then nodded.
"Yeah, okay; done," Xander said.
"Sorry," agreed Angel.
"Good, then you can go now."
Angel rose from his chair, stepped past Giles and pulled Xander up by his arm. "Come on."
Giles stood and followed. When the door had closed behind them he locked up, and then leaned his forehead against the door.
"Are you all right?" Buffy asked gently.
Giles sighed. "I have no idea. But fancy you asking me that in this situation." He straightened and looked at her. "Just what sort of man do you lot take me for? Or do I even want an answer to that question?"
Buffy fidgeted. "It's nothing personal, Giles. It's just... well, things have been crazy and emotions are running kinda high and we're both sort of... fragile and..."
"All the more reason I wouldn't do or say anything to compromise you or our relationship," Giles said, softly. "But if you'd rather not stay I will take you wherever you want to go. I'll help you talk to your mother if you want - if you think it will do any good."
Buffy considered his offer for a moment, and then shook her head. "Maybe in a couple of days - after she's had a chance to get over the shock of what happened today. Then, even if she's still angry or scared she might listen, might talk to me but right now?" Buffy shook her head again. She took a deep breath and let it out in a rush. "For now, though, would you mind taking me to Will's house?"
"Of course I don't mind," Giles replied, gently. He moved over to the counter and lifted her bag as she rose and approached the door.
Buffy hesitated next to her Watcher and looked up into his face. "We're gonna be okay, right?" she asked a little tentatively.
"Yes," Giles assured her. "Whatever it takes, we'll work it out together - as it seems we're stuck with each other."
Buffy smiled at the teasing note in his voice. "Yeah," she agreed with satisfaction. "Even Mr. I've-Got-A-Big-Ol'-Stick-Up-My-Butt couldn't come between us."
Giles made a 'tsk, tsk' sound of mock disapproval. "Really, Buffy! What have I told you about displaying such a shocking lack of respect for your elders?" he challenged as they exited his flat.
~ The End ~