Disclaimer: Not mine; not making money.
Author's Note: If you can't abide the idea of Buffy and Giles and 'smoochies' in the same sentence, read something else. I assume there was an Angel episode after Flooded in which Buffy appeared of which I am, and intend to remain, blissfully ignorant. Creative license was taken by the author as to what happened for this story to work. I am dedicating this post to Kelly and Jen – you know who you are and why. ;-
"Buffy, what the devil do you think you're playing at?" Giles wondered aloud as he settled himself on the porch swing of the Summers' residence. She had been gone for a day, during which he had assiduously ignored the bills she would need to understand. He refused to take this all on for her. With her, he would be quite willing to entertain but not for...
The lit cigarette butt caught him in the chest. He brushed it away in a shower of sparks and quickly tamped out the tiny bright spots that clung to his sweater.
"She's playing at being alive, you old sod. All unprepared and not half willing, if you want to know the truth."
"Spike," a resigned groan.
"Yeah. Miss me?" Spike stepped out of the darkness and blew Giles a kiss.
"No. And what would you know about it?"
"More than you; although you suspect. You're just so hot and hard about her being back you don't really want to know, do ya?" Spike settled a hip on the porch railing and gave Giles a measuring stare.
"Of course I want to know," Giles answered, trying to sound more sure of himself than he was. And to side step the lewd, if somewhat accurate, description of how he felt about Buffy being here, whole, warm, breathing. Alive.
"Then ask her. Straight out. Stop prancing about and saying crap like 'Take your time, Buffy' and 'You can do this, Buffy'. Bloody hell! Makes me want to heave, it does."
Giles restrained himself from reacting to the insults in order to stay on the point. "In case you haven't been paying attention, which evidently you have," making an oblique reference to Spike's obvious habit of eavesdropping. "She isn't here for me to ask anything; straight out or otherwise." He leaned back with a sigh. "What do you know? Or think you know. And from whom did you overhear it?"
"From Buffy. Direct from Buffy."
Giles pondered this. "Something she didn't tell..." he waved vaguely at the house behind him.
"Those wankers? Too right."
"Because you're so much more the appropriate confidante," Giles sarcastically replied.
"Maybe I am. Who was she supposed to talk to, eh? That bloody witch was the one who..."
"I'll thank you not to use that sort of language when referring to Miss Rosenberg..." Giles had risen from his seat and stepped toward the vampire, menacingly.
"God, you've not got it for her, too, have ya? In case you hadn't noticed she's playin' for the other team," Spike scoffed catching Giles' raised fist in one hand, squeezing hard enough to bring a wince of pain to the man's face. He put his other hand flat on Giles' chest and gave him a light shove backwards as he released the fist. "Sit down, before I have to damage you. It would give me a headache and hurt Buffy a sight more, I reckon; but I'll do it if you try that again."
Giles dropped back onto the swing and sighed. "She must have been hurting badly to confide in you."
"Oh, that's nice! So you imagine she would have told you? If you'd been here, I mean," Spike responded snidely.
Giles slid his glasses off his face and rubbed his eye with the joint of one thumb; a familiar, nervous gesture Spike had seen many times. "You can't possibly make me feel worse about not being here for her when she so obviously needed me," Giles admitted tiredly, resignedly. "I feel as though I'm running as fast as I can, but I can't catch up. And I'm in the wrong race."
The look of defeat on his face was almost enough to make Spike pity him.
"You're right; I don't know what to say to her. And she talks to you?" Giles shook his head and fell silent.
Spike thought about what little he could do to ease Buffy's burden. She liked this bloke, though. Spike had to admit Giles was always good to Buffy. He wasn't quite good enough, mind, but he tried to do right by her; which was more than he could say for the rest of them. Spike made his decision. "I'll tell you what you need to know; if you're sure you want to hear it. It's not a fairy story, you know?"
Giles felt a glimmer of hope, but was still hesitant. "I wouldn't want you to break her confidence..." he offered.
Spike snorted. "She told me they 'must never know'. Doesn't include you, to my way of thinkin'; and even if it did, I'm a foul, soulless demon. What's she thinkin' trying to hold me to some code of honor?"
It was Giles' turn to snort. "You care for her and would do about anything for her, you just don't want to admit it," he accused.
"Look who's... Oh, sod it. This isn't getting the job done, is it?"
Giles gave a quick nod of agreement; no more petty sniping. "Right, then; what didn't Buffy want the others to know?"
Spike rose from his perch on the railing and sat in the armchair perpendicular to Giles' seat. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, knowing this posture would allow Giles to see his face and understand this wasn't his usual sneering, and sarcastic posturing.
"It's not just the shock of her being alive again that's eating at her," Spike began. "Maybe I'd better give it to you straight off from the beginning. Right after you left, that b... witch," he amended, not wanting to put Giles out of listening mode. "She started in on them; pushing them to help her bring Buffy back. They were all pretty much against it, much as they missed her, you know."
Giles nodded, "I know."
"Like as not, you were tempted to try it, eh? Probably could have pulled it off, too," Spike guessed.
Giles considered. "Perhaps, but I wouldn't have tried it."
"Good call. Anyway, she bullied them into it. I think, for the rest of them, it was as much for the Niblet's sake as for their own. And, from what I understand, Red made them see it as a real possibility."
"Hope is a dangerous thing, in my experience," Giles sighed.
"It is a pisser; in this case, maybe more than that. The very night they decided to try and raise the Slayer, a whole legion of demons with a nasty, wicked leader rolled into town and started tearing up the place. But the gang just went ahead - sort of a do-or-die scenario or a swell double feature."
"In other words, they would either be caught up in the destruction of the town, or they'd get Buffy back and she could slay all the demons for them?"
"Got it in one."
"The bloody, selfish fools."
"You said it, I didn't. So, off they go to the cemetery to work their magic. The demons made short work of the Buffybot and then really started the party. The gang did just manage to finish the spell and hung about for all of five seconds, then scattered so as not to end up as demon fodder. When Buffy took out the leader, the rest of the demons hit the road. The kids were celebrating; damned cocky and proud of themselves, they were, patting each other on the back and all, until they realized Buffy wasn't quite all there."
"Not quite there?" Giles interrupted. This was the part he both needed, and dreaded, to get in every detail.
"It was pretty grim. She couldn't even talk at first; more like a zombie than a person. I'll deny it if you repeat this, but it... she... scared me down to my toes. And I haven't been afraid of much in a very, very long time."
Giles could feel his insides crawling, but steeled himself to hear it all. Spike took his measure again before continuing.
"The worst was her hands."
Giles swallowed with difficulty, but he had to know for sure. "What about her hands, Spike?"
"You know bloody well 'what about her hands?'! They were all bruised and cut up and swollen. Her fingernails were near torn off in places. And there was dirt forced down so far into the quick I expect there's still some that hasn't grown out yet. They brought her back, woke her up and then ran off and left her there in her coffin. She had to scratch and claw and pummel her way out and then dig her way up to the surface. Some welcome home! I'll wager she'll still be having screaming nightmares about that little experience for another decade or two."
"Did she tell you that?"
"Not by half, but it was all there in her eyes. It was plain enough to see, especially for someone who's been through it."
"Oh God, Buffy!"
Spike paused to allow the Watcher to gather his composure. When he saw the tension in the big man's face and body begin to ease and Giles glanced up at him, Spike continued. "I saw her again the next day, after she'd started talking and interacting with the rest of them a bit."
"Just a moment. The next day?" Giles queried.
Spike shifted in his chair and looked away. "It was only an hour or so 'til sundown."
"I see," Giles said, seeing more than what Spike was admitting. "Go on."
"I wanted to let her know I was handing back responsibility for the kid, you know, and to see how she was getting on. She came out the back of the shop, all on her own, looking a bit down; so I went over."
"How did she seem?"
"Not good at all; bad, in fact. Pale and stiff, like she wasn't properly alive or not believing she was. I thought maybe there were some things we had in common, after what she'd been through; things she might need to talk about but couldn't say to those kids. I didn't know the half of it. Sort of wish I still didn't. I offered how I hadn't been in a hell dimension just lately, but I knew a bit about torment."
"What did she say?"
"Nothing at first. Just sat there, quiet like, with her arms wrapped around herself. Then she said she doesn't remember much - and here I'm a little doubtful about our girl's dedication to the truth - but wherever she was she was warm and happy and safe. Wherever she was she was loved. And her 'friends' ripped her out of there - her words not mine."
Giles let out a pained sigh and leaned forward. "I was afraid... I thought as much, but..."
"As if she would go anywhere but heaven, no matter how she died. She told me everything here is hard and violent. She says this is hell."
Giles looked up sharply, into Spike's face. "Do you think she might... you don't think she's..."
Giles couldn't speak, but gave a nod.
Spike pondered this for a moment and then shrugged. "She's depressed, that's for sure; and tired. When she does sleep she wakes up in a panic six or seven times in the space of a few hours and then gives up on sleeping altogether for a night or two."
"I guess that explains why you two have plenty of opportunity to talk; but it doesn't really answer my question."
"Until a few days ago, I think she wouldn't have done it for their sake," Spike said, with a tilt of his head toward the house. "I know she's damned serious about not letting them find out what they've done to her. But the strain of pretending that she's the same old Buffy and oh-so-grateful to those louts for bringing her back is getting to be too much for her." Spike lit a cigarette and blew out a cloud of smoke. "I've been hanging around nearly all the time, lately; in case she tries it."
"Why? What would you... you wouldn't..."
"No," Spike snapped, "I wouldn't. But I can't abide thinking of her going off all alone. And that's what she'd do, so as not to inconvenience any of them."
"Yes, she would," Giles sighed, slipping off his glasses and scrubbing his face with one hand. "The question is - what can we do, if anything?"
"Things have been a bit better since you finally turned up. You're not so busy pretending everything's all right that you're ignoring what's going on with her. You'd only been here a couple of hours before you were convinced she hadn't come out of this 'undamaged'."
Giles startled. "You didn't tell her I said that..."
"Didn't have to, mate. She was standin' right outside on the back porch when you had your go at the witch. Bravo on that, by the way."
"Bloody hell," Giles exclaimed. "Can't one have a private conversation around here?"
"We probably ought to be wondering who's listening in on us right now," Spike offered in agreement.
"I can answer that," Buffy's voice came out of the darkness at the side of the house.
The two men flinched. Spike rose and paced to the porch steps, meeting Buffy as she reached the top.
"Are you going to slay me now?" he asked with a grin.
"That depends. Will you patrol for me tonight?"
"Sure, luv. I hope I meet up with something mean and nasty, I'm just itchin' for a good fight." He tossed a wave at Giles. "Ta, Rupert. Good luck," he said and melted into the darkness of the street.
Buffy stood facing Giles with her arms crossed and her expression neutral. Giles wasn't sure whether she was actually seeing him or not.
"Are you going to slay me now?"
A smile. "No. Sorry, I was just thinking." She sighed and stepped over to the swing, surprising Giles by sitting down right next to him. He put his arm around her shoulders and she surprised him again by not only allowing the contact but by leaning her head against his shoulder.
"How is... how did it go with Angel," he finally asked.
Buffy shrugged. "'Hi, Angel; yup, I'm alive again.' 'Hi, Buffy; yup, I'm undead and cursed, still.' That about covered it."
Giles snorted. "Somehow, I doubt that's a complete transcript."
"No," Buffy corrected him "that was it. I knew there wasn't much point in going. I just needed..."
"To get away?"
"Yes," she admitted.
A small shake of her head. "No, I came back because of you." She shifted herself upright so she could look him in the eye. "Much as you did."
"Ah," he waited to see if she would say more.
Buffy continued to regard him silently for several long minutes. "Giles, I've had some time to think and I realized I'm seeing things very differently since I... came back."
"That's only to be expected, Buffy. You need to give yourself time to..."
"No, Giles. That's where you're wrong; where I was wrong. I've been trying to pick up where I left off, like nothing has happened and I'm the same person; but it has and I'm not. Even they," she nodded toward the house, "have changed. Trying to go back is not the answer. I think you understood that all along, didn't you?"
Giles thought back to how he had felt when Willow called him with the news about Buffy. Despite his burning need to see her, to revel in the existence of her, it had been all he could do to force himself to return to Sunnydale. He had wrenched himself, painfully, out of this life and this place - where the best and the very worst of his experiences had taken place. If she had been anywhere else in the world, he realized, among any other group of people, he would have made it to her side as quickly as humanly possible. He had gone to England for a few weeks. She had gone to another plane of existence for months; perhaps much longer, from her perspective.
Buffy had been watching the changing expressions play across Giles' face and nodded when he finally gave her a look of understanding. "You see what I mean."
"Yes, I do."
"I need to find out who and what I am, now." Buffy explained. "And..." she hesitated.
"And?" Giles prompted.
Buffy took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, as though fortifying herself for a difficult task. "And I have to stop pretending that I can afford to wait and see what happens in my life, instead of going after what I want. Even if I don't get it, at least I'll know I've tried."
"What do you want?" Giles asked softly. "Do you know?"
Buffy eyes went slightly unfocused. Giles waited patiently and watched as she seemed to withdraw into her own thoughts. Buffy's mind took her back to the moment she saw him standing just inside the door of the Magic Box and remembered the thrill of joy that ran through her at the sight of him. It was unlike anything she had felt since her return. Until then, all she seemed capable of was either pain and confusion or a blank, sterile stiffness. When he had cupped her cheek in his hand it had been as if her humanity had been resurrected within her; but even that feeling had paled in comparison to the sheer bliss of his arms surrounding her and the glorious warmth and solidity of his body against hers as they embraced one another. A tiny smile curved one corner of her mouth and she surfaced from her memories to gaze softly at the man sitting before her.
"What is it, Buffy?" Giles inquired. "Can you tell me?"
No more hiding. No more waiting, Buffy reminded herself. She reached out and stroked his cheek with the backs of her fingers. "I love you, Giles."
Giles squeezed her shoulder lightly. "I love you, too, Buffy. I have for years."
Giles was a little startled when Buffy bit her lip. And was that a sheen of tears in her eyes?
"That isn't exactly what I meant, Giles. I mean I'm in love with you. You know - man, woman, deep feelings?"
Giles froze. "You... you're..." He swallowed so hard Buffy thought he might choke.
Buffy sighed. "Well, I wasn't sure you felt the same way, but striking fear into your heart and rendering you incapable of coherent speech was not what I..."
Giles cut her off by leaning forward and brushing his lips lightly against hers. He brought his hand up from her shoulder to cup the side of her face and leaned in a little more. The gentle pressure of his lips sent a jolt straight through her body, then seemed to melt her bones. After a long, sweet moment he withdrew and Buffy felt a tiny puff of breath as he moved away. She opened her eyes to find him watching carefully for her reaction. It seemed to Buffy all she could do was look into his eyes, her body still thrumming from that light, beautiful touch.
Giles gave her one of his fleeting smiles; just a slight stretch and release of his lips - a swift crinkling of lines at the corners of his eyes. "I've felt that was overdue for quite some time now. But I don't know if I'm ready for anything more just yet."
Buffy finally found her voice. "There's more?"
Giles blinked and cleared his throat. "Well, yes. I mean, of course..." He was positively squirming now. "Buffy!" he exclaimed in exasperation.
"Sorry," she said, although not quite convincingly. "It's just... that was a lot." She still didn't seem to be able to breathe properly.
"Are you quite all right?" Giles asked, suddenly concerned.
"Sure... fine... never better..." she was nodding, but her head bobbed loosely.
Then she fainted.
Buffy pried open her eyes to a scene of barely controlled chaos. She was lying on the couch in the living room. Giles was perched on the edge of the couch, the fingers of one hand pressed against the pulse point in her wrist, upper body turned toward Willow who was on the phone talking frantically. Buffy vaguely understood she was rattling off the street address of the house. Dawn stood next to Willow, gripping the older girls' upper arm with both hands, a panicked expression on her face.
"Hold it everybody. Stop right there," Buffy moaned, trying to rise to a seated position.
Giles whipped his body around and seized her shoulders. "Lie back down, Buffy! You were unconscious. The ambulance will be here in just a few minutes. Are you injured? Did something happen to you while you were away?"
Buffy drew on her Slayer strength to force herself up and out of Giles' grasp. She glared at Willow firmly. "Tell them it was a mistake." Willow hesitated. "Willow," she repeated a thread of steel in her voice. "Tell them you're sorry, it was a mistake. Everything is okay."
"Buffy..." Giles began.
"Just a minute, please, Giles." Buffy turned to Willow and Dawn again as Tara came out of the doorway from the kitchen with a damp towel. "Willow?"
Willow snapped her attention back to the phone, calling off the dispatch of the paramedics with profuse apologies before hanging up.
Buffy nodded her thanks. "Will you and Tara please take Dawn somewhere for a while; a movie or something? Giles and I need to talk." She squeezed Giles forearm when it seemed he was about to speak again.
"Buffy, are you sure..."
"I'm fine, Will. And if I start not being fine Giles can handle it. Okay?"
Willow nodded slowly. "Okay," she cut her eyes back and forth between Buffy and Giles a few times. "Should we call before we come back?"
"That would be great. Thanks." Buffy maintained her grip on Giles arm until the other three gathered jackets and left the house and then she leaned back with a sigh.
Giles rubbed his arm where Buffy's hand had been. "Buffy," he began tentatively. "Are you sure you're all right? What happened?"
"You," she said with a weak grin.
"I hyperventilated. Sensory overload, I guess," she admitted, clearly embarrassed.
"Wha...bu...you..." Much as he fought it, Giles could not suppress the grin of surprised male pride that momentarily flashed across his face.
"It's not funny, Giles! If you had slipped me the tongue you could have killed me!"
"Buffy!" Giles huffed in outrage.
"Well, honestly. You could give a girl a little warning. Is it because you're so reserved the rest of the time that you, like, store up all that intensity and then... **POW**? How many women have you done that to and why didn't one of them club you over the head and lock you in her house?"
"I've never... no one's ever..." Giles leaned back and pressed his hands to his face. "Perhaps I do have a concussion. No, I'm in a coma; coma dream, that would explain everything." He dropped his hands and rolled his head toward Buffy. She was still there. "No, not a dream, evidently," he reached out, took Buffy's hand and looked her in the eye. "I swear to you," he said, seriously. "That has never before happened to anyone I have kissed or, well, done anything else with."
"Oh." Buffy's eyes flitted over his face and then her gaze went slightly unfocused. "Uh, Giles..."
"Um, your hand."
Giles looked down to see he was sliding his thumb back and forth along the back of Buffy's hand. He looked back up to her face - which was no longer pale but flushed. He snatched his hand away in sudden realization. "You must be joking," he stated, eyes wide in alarm.
She shook her head glumly. "'Fraid not."
"Good Lord," he breathed.
They stared at each other.
"What are we going to do?" Buffy asked.
"I don't know," Giles rose, paced away and turned. He ran his hand through his hair. "I mean, it's unprecedented; I have no frame of reference to..." he snapped his fingers, pointed at Buffy and riveted her with an intense look."Someone has cast a spell on you," he announced.
"What? Giles, that's ridiculous!"
Giles shook his head, a fervent light in his eyes which Buffy recognized: full on research mode. "No, it makes perfect sense." He came over and perched on the edge of the couch and began ticking points off on his fingers. "You told me you're in love with me, you fainted when I kissed you and now you're becoming... er... over-stimulated when I touch you. It must be a spell. There's no other explanation that makes..." he trailed off as the look on Buffy's face registered. "Any...sense..."
"Giles, I'm going to say this one time and one time only, so please pay attention. I told you I'm in love with you because I'm in love with you. I fainted when you kissed me because it was the most intense sensory experience I have ever had. I reacted strongly to your touch because I am feeling a very deep connection with you, not - I repeat not - because someone cast a spell on me." Buffy took a deep breath and seemed to regain some measure of calm. "There must be some way to prove that, right?" she asked hopefully. "I don't want you to doubt how I truly feel about you. Ever."
Giles nodded thoughtfully and then let out a breath. "Well, there is a simple and very accurate test. It will only reveal if there is an active spell associated with your person; not what the spell is or who cast it or anything of that sort."
"I think that should be enough; assuming I'm right, of course."
"Of course; Willow likely has everything I'll need."
Half an hour later they stood in the kitchen, Giles softly chanted Latin while Buffy regarded the smelly, green paste in the bowl in front of him with distaste. Giles finished the spell and turned to Buffy with an apprehensive look on his face.
"Please tell me I don't have to eat that," Buffy beseeched him.
Giles smiled, some of the worry easing from his expression. "No, you don't eat it." He lifted the bowl and scooped a dab of the noxious goo up with one finger. "Hold still. I have to apply this to your forehead in the proper pattern for the spell to work."
"Yeeesh," she said with a shiver, but stood motionless while Giles spread the gunk on her skin. Buffy felt a strong tingle where the substance had been applied, but it wasn't exactly painful. Giles finished the design, scraped the remainder of the potion off his finger and stepped back. He stared at her forehead anxiously.
"How does it work?" Buffy asked.
"If someone has cast a spell on you, besides this one of course, the pattern will turn red. If not, it will turn..." he broke off.
"Giles?" Buffy prompted.
Giles put his hand on her shoulder and turned her toward the window over the sink. He stepped behind her and both of them stared at her reflection.
"White," Giles finished.
Buffy considered the starkly pale design on her forehead for a moment before lifting her eyes to smile at the joyful expression Giles' reflection sported. "Cool," she said turning to face him. "So, now we know you're the only one who's got me under his spell."
Giles chuckled, a little flustered at the enthusiastic way she was looking him over. "It would seem so," he agreed. "But the question remains: What do we do now?"
Buffy considered his question, her brow wrinkled in thought. After a long moment she brightened. "We pick up a supply of smelling salts and take things slowly."
"I must say," Giles replied with a grin, "You have a positive talent for developing strategically viable plans."
~ The End ~