The harsh ring of the phone startled Giles, engrossed as he had been in his book. He glanced at his watch: 1:17 AM. Who the hell would be ringing him at this hour? The likely answer brought him to his feet and the phone quickly.
"Is this Rupert Giles?" an unfamiliar male voice asked.
"Speaking. Who is this, please?"
"My name is Herbert Walker. I'm calling from Sunnydale General Hospital. A Buffy Summers was admitted here a short time ago."
"What? Is she… what happened? How is she?"
"I'm sorry Mr. Giles; she was badly injured and is in serious condition. The doctors are with her now. It would be best if you could come to the emergency room immediately."
"Of c…course. I'll be right there."
Giles slid to a stop in front of the desk in the ER.
"I… I…" he began breathlessly, in the general direction of the three people behind the counter. "My name is Rupert Giles. Someone called me about Buffy Summers."
A beefy man in his thirties rose from a chair and came around the counter carrying a clipboard. His name tag read 'Herbert Walker, Admit Nurse'.
"Hello, Mr. Giles. The doctors are still with Buffy." He led Giles by the arm over to a row of chairs against a wall in a partially glassed off alcove. "Someone will come to talk to you as soon as they can. In the meantime, I need you to fill out these forms." He handed the clipboard to Giles and put a hand on his shoulder, then indicated a chair.
"Yes. Yes, of course. But how is she? What happened?"
Walker shook his head. "The paramedics brought her in and the doctors are helping her right now. I'm sorry but that's all I know."
"I see," Giles answered, still disoriented and in shock.
Walker gave him a sympathetic smile. "It would be a real help if you can get these forms filled out. Just bring them to me when you've finished."
Giles nodded. "Has… has anyone called her mother?"
Walker frowned slightly. "No. You were listed as her emergency contact," the nurse tapped the small card attached to the forms on the clipboard.
Giles dropped his eyes to the card, fingering it lightly. It was a typical personal information card such as one might find included in a new wallet. He easily recognized Buffy's handwriting, but not the home address she had listed. Below her own information, in the section titled 'In Case of Emergency Contact' was his name, his home phone number, the number at the library and under 'Relationship' the entry read 'Partner/SO'. There was some handwriting on the three blank lines at the bottom of the card that read: 'To Whom It May Concern: Keep your opinions to yourself and don't give him any crap.' On the very bottom edge of the card she had written 'Giles, Over' and an arrow.
Giles depressed the spring loaded clip to release the card and turned it over.
'Giles,' he read. 'If you're reading this, something worse than the usual bad has happened; or you're rifling through my purse for some reason - either way, not good. Check the zippered compartment in my wallet. There's stuff in there you might need. Buffy'
Giles looked up at the nurse, who still stood watching him. "Do you have her wallet?"
"I'll get it for you," the man told him. He walked back over to the counter and spoke to a nurse, who glanced around the desk for a moment before handing him an object. Walker returned to the alcove and gave the wallet to Giles. "Just bring me those forms when you've finished," he reminded him before returning to his desk.
Giles opened the wallet to find an ID card, a blank spot where the personal information card had likely resided, a photo of Xander, Willow and Buffy and a few dollars. A zipper ran along the back of the inside of the wallet. Giles slid it open and reached inside. He pulled out an envelope that had barely been contained within the compartment. His name was written on the front, in Buffy's handwriting.
Giles took a deep breath and opened the envelope. He found several sheets of paper inside. The first was a typed medical history and insurance information with a note scrawled at the bottom of the sheet: 'Giles, This covers my first sixteen years. You can decide what, if anything, they need to know about recent stuff. Buffy'
Giles sighed with relief and quickly filled out the first form on the clipboard. He hesitated only at the section that asked for Buffy's address and phone number. He hadn't recognized the address on her personal information card and no phone number had been listed. He finally filled in his own address and phone number, hoping Buffy would not find it necessary to beat him senseless at some later date for his audacity. The rest of the forms required very little information from him, primarily his signature to show that he agreed to let them do things to her that he really didn't want to think about. He rose and returned the clipboard to the nurse, keeping the personal information card to be replaced in her wallet.
He glanced up and down the hallway, seeing very little activity and no one who looked like a doctor. Giles paced over to a vending machine and purchased a cup of what could only under the most forgiving terms be called coffee. He briefly considered the pay phone next to the vending machine. He checked his watch and found it was now nearly 2:30 AM. No point waking up Willow and Xander when all they could do was wait and worry. He would decide when to call them and what to say once he had spoken to a doctor. What about her mother? Giles sighed deeply. He couldn't ignore the fact that Buffy had chosen him as her emergency contact. She would not have done so on a whim. He knew that Buffy and her mother had been estranged since her disappearance and return but he apparently hadn't known how badly the situation had deteriorated. Hoping for a clue to Buffy's wishes, he went back to the waiting area to see what else Buffy had thought he might need.
The second sheet of paper caused Giles to choke on his coffee. It was a formal, notarized manumission document stating that Buffy was free and responsible for herself. It was dated a little over a week after her return from her three month absence and had been signed by both Joyce and Hank Summers. It was now moot, of course, since Buffy had turned eighteen and was legally an adult; but Giles was confounded that Buffy had not told him about something this important. It had to have been difficult for her to go through this, no matter whether it had been initiated by mother or daughter. He shook his head in consternation and put this sheet aside with the medical history.
The remaining two pages were a letter. Giles took a sip of coffee and settled back to read.
I hope you never have to read this but I'm learning that it's a good idea to be prepared for anything. I intend to update this once I turn eighteen but, me being who I am and life on the Hellmouth being what it is, who knows? I'll try to cover all my bases in one letter, just in case.
In this envelope you'll find my medical history and a copy of my manumission papers. You'll also want to look for a folder filed under 'U' for 'Uh-Oh' in your file cabinet in the library. It contains a power of attorney to give you any rights you might want or need to deal with anyone who is either helping or hurting me. Call anyone you feel you need to, but not on my account. Whatever is going on, if you're here that's enough for me.
Please don't be offended that I didn't tell you about the manumission. It was between me and my parents and I didn't want to drag you into it for two reasons. 1) It was something I needed to do on my own. If I needed your help, it seems to me that would mean I wasn't ready to be responsible for myself. 2) I didn't want to further confuse this already fairly complex relationship we have. If you knew I was sans parents while I was still seventeen I just know you would have been inclined to try and fulfill the father role for me.
Giles, you're not my father. You're much more important to me than that. As a person grows, they rely on a parent less and less. The more I've grown and matured (was that a snicker I heard?) the more I've come to rely on you. Please don't let this alarm you too much, Giles; I can take care of myself. But I have learned the value of a person who expects me to live up to my potential by learning from my mistakes instead of blaming me for making an error. I'm not sure if I can make you understand how much it means to me that you have always treated me with that kind of respect.
If you're reading this because I'm sick or hurt, I trust you to make the right decisions for me and the world. I guess I should be blunt and point out that if I'm not likely to recover sufficiently from whatever happened to go back to Slaying, it would be better for the world if I don't recover at all. I don't want to cause you any more pain, but you have been right all along - we have a sacred duty. 'Nuff said.
If you're reading this because I'm already dead – what can I say? I could write a hundred times it wasn't your fault, maybe I even got the chance to tell you so. Whether you believed me or not, I doubt it makes you feel any better. What you should believe, because it's true, is that knowing you has been a joy to me and everything you taught me made my life better and longer. Can you truly regret that?
"No," Giles whispered in answer. "I could never regret knowing you."
He replaced the medical history and the manumission papers in the wallet, but slid the letter into the inside pocket of his jacket.
It was another twenty long minutes before a doctor came to find him. "Mr. Giles?" the doctor asked, somewhat unnecessarily since Giles was the only occupant of the waiting room.
"Yes, doctor," Giles answered rising to his feet.
"Hi, I'm Doctor Mansfield," the tired looking man said, offering a handshake.
Giles shook the doctor's hand briefly. "Where's Buffy? May I see her?"
The doctor motioned for Giles to take a seat and slowly sank into a chair nearby. "She's in surgery right now. We're doing our best to help her get through this."
"What happened?" Giles asked again.
"She was hit by a drunk driver. According to the police and paramedics she somehow managed to jump high enough to avoid being crushed into a stone and wrought iron wall bordering a cemetery. The car was a very large SUV and the collision was so violent the driver was killed outright. Unfortunately, she couldn't avoid impacting the vehicle and, ultimately, the road."
"How… how badly is she hurt?" Giles asked, afraid the answer would tally with his mental picture of the crash the doctor had described.
The doctor sighed. "She has a concussion and a subdural hematoma along with some pretty nasty scalp and facial lacerations. She broke her left clavicle and her left arm in two places. She has several broken ribs, one of which punctured a lung. She has additional internal injuries that will be completely assessed and repaired during surgery. She has a great deal of deep bruising and has lost quite a lot of blood."
Giles swallowed with difficulty, a bleak look on his face.
"Mr. Giles…" the doctor began, and then tilted his head, thinking. "Does she call you by your last name?"
"Y…Yes, she does," Giles answered, wondering if he would ever hear her say his name again.
The doctor smiled. "She was quite insistent that we 'Call Giles'. As badly as she was hurt, she wouldn't give us any peace until we assured her we'd phoned you. She's a very strong-willed person."
This statement brought a swift, sad smile to Giles' face.
The doctor shifted forward in his chair and gave Giles a serious but open look. "Mr. Giles, her injuries are very severe. Frankly, we were surprised she survived to reach the hospital. The fact that she remained conscious until we sedated her is amazing. I don't mean to give you false hope, but she is young and in extremely good health. And with her determination and will I just can't assess her with the same level of concern as I would anyone else I've ever seen with these kinds of injuries. She's a unique young woman and we're all pulling for her."
"Yes, she is," Giles said. "And thank you."
The doctor put a hand on Giles' shoulder. "I'm going to go see how her surgery is going. Someone will come back as soon as we have more news for you." As he walked away, the doctor recalled the fierce intensity with which the remarkable young woman had demanded they call the person who was listed as her 'Partner/SO' on her emergency card. After meeting this quiet, self-contained and reserved man and seeing the incredibly vivid way in which his devotion to her shone in his eyes, Dr. Mansfield sent another prayer to whoever was listening that the outcome of this particular case would be better than he had any right to hope for.
Over the next two and a half hours Giles had time to sit and pace and replay in his mind every significant and a great many ordinary moments he had experienced with Buffy. He had trained for many years to prepare for a chance to be the Watcher for the Slayer. Once he had purged his youthful resistance to his destiny, he had considered it to be a worthy goal for his life. What he had not anticipated was what a rich, varied and all encompassing experience it would be. Nothing he had read in the journals of a hundred Watchers had prepared him for the depth and range of the bond that had sprung up, grown and strengthened between himself and Buffy. As far as Giles knew, their connection, their union, was unique between Slayer and Watcher. Quentin had certainly been troubled by their relationship. Had the Council, over the centuries, intentionally terminated associations between Watchers and Slayers they considered to be too close, too un-businesslike? As badly as Giles felt at this moment he pitied all those past pairs who had not had the time and opportunity to experience what he and Buffy had.
Giles sighed and rose to pace some more. Buffy had been right, after the disaster of the Cruciamentum. They needed to be true to each other and to their destiny, not to the Council. As long as they did their duty to the best of their ability, and when had they not, those hidebound cowards had no right to try and limit their potential; to keep them under the Council's control.
Giles sank into a chair and dropped his head into his hands. She had to survive. They had much more to learn about themselves and each other.
Giles started and looked up to see a doctor in surgical scrubs standing in the doorway to the waiting room. "Buffy," he said, rising to his feet. "How is she?"
The doctor approached. "She's out of surgery and in the recovery room." The doctor motioned to a seat and took one himself. "Dr. Mansfield explained the extent of her injuries to you?"
The doctor took a deep breath. "Yes, well; she's in critical condition, but we're cautiously optimistic." The doctor shook his head. "She came through the surgery in much better shape than I dared hope. I know this is a cliché but, at this point, only time will tell."
"May I see her?" Giles pleaded.
The surgeon considered the request. Mansfield had conferred with him after the surgery and had expressed the strong opinion that allowing Mr. Giles to visit their patient as soon as possible might be the very thing that tipped the scales in favor of the young woman's survival. Seeing the man for himself did nothing to dissuade him from agreeing with his colleague. "All right," he agreed, rewarded by a grateful look on the concerned man's face. "But not for long," he added. The doctor rose and gestured for Giles to follow. "She won't recover from the anesthesia for at least an hour and likely won't wake up right away after that," he warned him.
"I… I… understand. I just… really need to see her," Giles answered.
The surgeon paused at the entrance to the recovery room. "Remember, she's badly hurt but she's holding her own. Try not to be too upset with how she looks."
Giles swallowed with difficulty, but nodded his understanding.
The surgeon pushed open the door and held it for Giles to precede him into the room. Only one bed was occupied, but Giles felt he would have been drawn to her if they had all been filled. His first impression was that she looked so… so tiny. He knew that the force of her personality was what made the most vivid and lasting impression. Seeing her this way was disturbing, but Giles would not have forgone the opportunity for anything.
Her head was swathed in bandages and, as he approached, he saw that the gauze continued down onto the left side of her face. A huge plaster cast covered her left shoulder and extended all the way down her arm. It was so large and heavy it was suspended with wire to a bar above the bed. There was an IV in the back of her right hand and another line disappeared under the neck of her hospital gown. There was an oxygen mask over her mouth and two probe clips attached to fingers on her right hand. A few tubes ran from under the blankets to empty into plastic bags that were clipped to the bed railings. Giles pointedly ignored the one into which drop after drop of blood collected.
He stopped when his body made contact with the bed railing, watching the slight rise and fall of her chest, listening to the hiss of the oxygen as she breathed and the soft, steady beeping of the heart monitor. She was alive. For right now, that was the only thought he felt his mind could contain. She was alive.
Giles reached out and gently laid a hand on her right arm, just above the elbow. His fingers smoothed over the unblemished skin; a precious part of her that seemed to have sustained no damage. "Buffy," he said softly.
The recovery room nurse looked up in wonder at the sheer amount of emotional content the man had managed to convey by saying a single word.
"Buffy," Giles repeated, curling his fingers gently around her bicep and smoothing the skin on the outside of her arm with his thumb. "I'm here."
Astonishingly, her eyelids fluttered. The nurse straightened in shock. The man now seemed to be completely unaware of his surroundings, focusing only on the sight of the young woman's face and his touch on her arm. The patient's eyes came open about halfway, she blinked sluggishly.
"Doctor Cox," the nurse called in a low but urgent voice.
Buffy seemed unable to completely open her eyes, but as the surgeon approached the bed he heard his miracle patient speak a single word in a rasping whisper.
"I'm here, Buffy. Everything will be all right. You just rest now."
Buffy let her eyes slide shut and she let out a sigh.
Dr. Cox watched the respiration and heart monitors ease into the steady state of normal sleep. He exchanged a look of astonishment with the nurse, and then they both turned their gaze to the calm, quiet man who stood steadfastly by their patient's bedside, maintaining a light touch on her arm while silent tears ran down his face, unchecked.
"Perhaps it would be a good idea to get him a comfortable chair," Dr. Cox said to the nurse.
~ The End ~