A/N: No copyright intended, just written for plain old fun. I was talking about some of my grievances, particularly season 7 and that horrible mutiny confrontation, and this lengthy one-shot emerged. I'm posting it before I read it and start a revision process that could turn it into something either beautifully or horribly long.

IN THE MAGIC BOX: Tension is thick as the group tries to decide how to stop Glory's ritual and save Dawn.

"Pretty simple math, here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?" Buffy's arms crossed as she paced a few steps to the right.

"If my calculations are right. But Buffy –"

"I don't want to hear it," she said, turning from Giles.

"I understand that –"

Buffy twisted around, her arms uncrossing. "No! No, you don't understand. We are not talking about this."

Giles jumped up from the tarot table and yelled, "Yes, we bloody well are!" The Scoobies, Buffy included, were silent a moment, shocked by the sudden outburst. In a more subdued and controlled tone, he added, "If Glory begins the ritual… if we can't stop her…"

"Come on. Say it," Buffy said. "We're bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister."

"She's not your sister," said Giles.

Buffy took a moment before she responded. "No. She's not. She's more than that." Giles' jaw set. "She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her… and I feel closer to her than…" Buffy looked down and sighed. "It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn… is a part of me. The only part that I –" She stopped, seeming unable to put to words the complexity of her true emotions.

"We'll solve this," Willow said. "We will. Don't have another coma, okay?"

Buffy offered a small smile.

"If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death," Giles looked up to Buffy, "including Dawn."

"Then the last thing she'll see is me protecting her."

"You'll fail. You'll die. We all will." Giles sighed and turned from the table, walking away slowly.

"I'm sorry," said Buffy. The others all looked up at her, Giles still walking from the table. "I love you all… but I'm sorry." Buffy turned and stalked back to the training room, Giles turning to look at her just before the door closed behind her.

Once in the training room, Buffy went straight to the storage cabinet and pulled a book off the top. She flipped through the pages to a spell she'd marked days before. Now, as she checked and double-checked the supplies needed, she made quick work of setting up the contents of the spell. She needed to know what to expect in the next few hours.

She combined the herbs, minerals and other ingredients in a stone bowl and ground them down. Next she pulled out a feather from the book. Double-checking the incantation, Buffy took a deep breath and let it out in a slow wave, calming her nerves. Loosely translated, she said:

"Chronos, Keeper of Time, I beseech your help.
Please show me what Time has in store for me
that I may defeat darkness and serve the light as is
my destiny."

She lit the feather on fire and dropped it into the bowl, repeating her plea. At first, nothing happened. She waited for at least five minutes, expecting at any time a rush of winds or emotions or a 3D projection of her future. Something. She sighed and blew out the flame in the stone bowl, already regretting the foul smell it emitted.

A sound like something between the rushing winds of a tornado and a high-pitched whine engulfed her and she grabbed the edge of the table. As objects spun around her too fast to see, she closed her eyes. Like a movie playing in a language only she could understand, she watched her life over the next year and half.

Dying. Heaven. Her resurrection.

All the things she felt, all the horror and hatred and – oh God, she has an affair with Spike? – everything was there. A true out-of-body experience, she saw everything that happened to her. She couldn't believe the things that happened between her friends.

Tara's death. Willow's rampage to end the world.

The First Evil? Again?

As she watched herself training and planning, the potentials, fighting with Giles, with Wood, the details slowed down.

The whooshing sound died down.

Then she found herself standing in her living room, a group of injured potentials and Scoobies all confronting her. Dawn was talking. Dawn was alive.

"Wait, what?" she said, trying to catch up.

"I said this is my house, too. I'm sorry."

Buffy waited for the memories to fill in on the last five minutes, and when they did, she exploded. "If you want to kill yourselves, be my guest!"

The entire room seemed to be sucked free of air for a moment.

"Buffy –" Giles started.

"Oh don't you start, Giles," she said, turning to him. "You lost the right to tell me what to do when you gave up on everything we had."

"Are you really going to make this about my leaving last year? This is ridiculous."

"Tell me how I'm supposed to trust you when I was in my own living version of hell." She turned to the room. "I was dead. Gone. Up in that nice pie in the sky, warm and happy and done with time served. This group – my friends, they like to call themselves – decided they just couldn't handle it without me and called me back." She glared at them, Willow shrinking away.

"That has nothing to do with –"

"Oh really, Kennedy. Because you know what it's like to be a Slayer who dies for the world – again – and gets brought back – again – and has to shoulder the weight of the world's safety – again. You know all about that because you know everything, don't you?" Buffy snorted and crossed her arms. "I've had a lot of time to think this over and I know two things: I'm right, and I am the most qualified to handle this. I've stopped more than my fair share of apocalypses, and I'm always the one that ends up making the hard choices. Some of you have helped for years, and now all of a sudden you act like I got my official Slayer destiny card in the mail yesterday.

"If you don't want to do what I say, and you don't plan on offering something better – something more efficient – then you can leave. No one asked you to come here." She turned to Giles. "No one asked you to come back and sabotage the only semi-person I can trust right now." She looked at Dawn. "And no one damn sure asked you to decide what happens under this roof since you were created and put into my care."

Buffy paced in front of them. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to end this before Caleb ends us all. And if any of you decide you don't want to be a part of it, don't let the fucking door hit you on the way out." Several of the girls gasped, Giles' face tightened another fraction, and Faith bit back a proud grin.

"Now I'm going upstairs to consider my next attack. Whoever I find down here in the morning better get their big girl panties on and deal with the decision I make. This isn't fairy-tale democracy time. This is war against the First Evil. Take some time to consider that before you walk out to your deaths."

She stalked past them all and stopped at the bottom of the stairs just long enough to say, "Giles, I need to speak to you privately. It's important on a big, scary, magic level."

Giles' jaw was clenched tight, but he nodded a fraction and followed her upstairs. Everyone was still for a long moment, considering everything she'd said. Faith finally broke the silence.

"Well, I don't know about you gals, but I'm glad she's willing to stick around after such shit treatment."

"I don't think our points were invalid –" started one of the potentials, but she was cut off by Xander.

"No, they weren't. They just weren't right, either. Buffy can't know everything about the future, but she has always gone the right way. She is doing what her instincts tell her to do. She's doing what millennia of instincts are guiding her to do." He sighed and touched the eye patch strapped to his head. "Even if it meant losing my eye, I'd do it all over again."

"People died!"

"Yeah," echoed other potentials.

"And more may still die. It's part of the fight," said Xander. He looked at Willow, who was silent and watching him. "Wil and I have risked our lives for six years helping Buffy. She's protected us as best she can, and she even tried to keep us out of it more times than I can count. We could have easily died any time. But we keep going. We keep trying." He sighed and looked at Wood, Anya, Faith and the rest of the girls. "This wasn't about Buffy, it was about failure. Swapping out Buffy wouldn't guarantee our success, it would just make us feel better about losing good people if we blamed the person who led us there."

Dawn sank down to the floor, leaning against the wall. She drew her knees up and, crossing her arms over them, lowered her head to cry.

Upstairs, Buffy pulled Giles into her room and shut the door, locking it behind them.

"I have to admit I don't feel up to talking with you at the moment," he said. He looked as if he was trying hard not to clench his teeth.

"No time to talk about issues, Giles, I have a much bigger fish to fry. I'm not the same Buffy you think I am."

He tensed, looking her up and down. "What –"

"I'm from the past. I did a spell and it didn't do what it was supposed to do."

Giles eyed her and crossed his arms. "This is juvenile, Buffy, even for you."

"Giles, I…" she sighed and closed her eyes, her fingers rubbing her temple. "The last time I remember legitimately speaking to you was about Dawn and Glory's ritual."

"Glory… but that was –"

"A while ago. But to me it's only been about ten minutes."

"So that impassioned speech downstairs…?"

"I just used the highlight reel I got when I landed here. I don't know everything, but I know enough to be pissed off at you and the rest of those people down there. Did Willow really try to end the world? I mean what the hell?"

He stepped back, lowering himself onto her bed. His gaze fell to the carpet. "I couldn't believe it myself until I saw it."

Buffy sighed. "Obviously this all needs to be prevented, but I have to get back to my time and stop Glory before she opens up that stupid portal. Apparently my death is the cause of all this badness."

Giles nodded then froze, looking up and locking his gaze on her. "When did you start dabbling in magicks? And why would you try such a spell without talking to me first? What spell did you use?"

"Key of Chronos." Giles' brow flattened and he glared at her. "Hey, I was just trying to peek into the future for some kind of head's up. I didn't plan on getting shoved into the middle of an Anti-Buffy-Mutiny Party."

"No, I imagine you didn't." He lowered his eyes, his gears turning. Buffy bit her lip and stepped forward, kneeling so that he had to look at her.

"When I said I'd stop you, I didn't –" she frowned a little "- I didn't mean I'd kill you. I would never hurt you, Giles."

"That was so long ago, Buffy –"

"Not for me it wasn't," she said, putting a hand on his. "And now I've seen all the stuff that happens between us, I can't help but want to clear that up. You don't know what you mean to me. That's my fault, but you really don't."

He searched her face, stared into her eyes. He could see her there, his Buffy. Not that shell of existence he'd seen since her return. The real Buffy. His hero warrior.

"You really are from the past, aren't you." She grinned and nodded. He cleared his throat and gave her hand a pat before standing. "Let's figure out how to get you home, then."

They left the house, telling everyone they had some reconnaissance work that needed done. Once they made it to the Magic Box, Giles asked Buffy which book she used.

"It was a green one with a Celtic knot on the front."

Giles leveled a look at her. "Buffy, half the books in this store are green with Celtic knots on them."

"I don't know, Giles, it wasn't one of the normal ones," she said, waving at the shelves. "I found it in the basement next to some mummified hand and a stuffed bunny." She frowned. "And it smelled funny. Old."

"Where did you leave it when you used it last?"

"In the training room, back of the filing cabinet," she said, starting towards the back of the store. "Kept it there with the supplies I needed for the spell."

They found the book and flipped through its pages, Giles reading it a few times before he brought his attention back to her. "How did you set up the spell?" Buffy showed him, and he was more than a little surprised that she'd at least set it up correctly. "You didn't substitute ingredients?"

Her chagrined smile was accompanied with "And I was roommates with Willow how long?"

"I must ask if I'm to help you get back," he said, reading through the spell again. "How did you translate it?"

"A dictionary thingy I found out front." At his look, she said, "What, I can't research things?" She grabbed the book and flipped to the back. There, folded in the pages, was a carefully scribed translation of the spell in Buffy's curling script.

Of course, Giles immediately spotted the problem. While her translation was - mostly - correct, Buffy didn't have the contextual uses of the verbs and structure translated correctly. When he explained this to her, she stared at him blankly and he sighed.

"You asked to visit the future instead of simply being shown." Her posture deflated and he smiled the first real, soft smile he'd had since he first saw her after her return. "It was a simple mistake, Buffy. You couldn't have known."

"If I'd just asked for your help I wouldn't be here right now," she said, muttering it almost to herself.

"If you'd asked for my help… well, who knows how that would've turned out." When she looked up, he added with a small grin, "I'm told I can be a bit stubborn sometimes."

She rolled her eyes and grinned. "Sometimes."

"Yes, well," he said, clearing his throat, the Watcher Mode returning full force. "Because the spell wasn't terribly modified, we should be able to perform a simple reversal spell and send you along."

They made quick work of locating the necessary ingredients, Buffy taking care to get the names right. He watched her work and wondered to himself when he'd stopped paying attention to her. When he'd stopped noticing that she was maturing, developing a real respect for the craft and his opinion.

As she brushed her hands and straightened, his memories flashed to the day he rushed to her home. Found her mother on the floor and Buffy yelling at him that they couldn't disturb the body. His poor Buffy, finding Joyce dead and trying everything she could think to save her.

He remembered now, as he'd watched her try to cope with the pain of losing her mother, of the new responsibilities set on her as a parent, as the ever-pressing need to find Glory continued on. She became a machine. And that's when he realized a truth he'd been avoiding for nigh on two years: Buffy wanted to die that day at the tower.

"Okay, I think we have – Giles are you ok?" she asked, stepping forward and looking at his face, her own full of concern.


"You look really pale. Have you eaten today?"

"Buffy, I –" he paused, swallowed, and grabbed her shoulders, locking his gaze with hers. "That day, at the tower, you wanted to die. Spike was right. Slayers only die when they want it. When they're ready for it."

"I don't want to die." Those same words echoed in his brain from a different time, a different fight. She was just sixteen and flinging books at his head.

"You may think that now, but you make a decision up on that tower. I need you to understand that when you go back, you can't let the ceremony start." His grip tightened on her shoulders. "You die for Dawn that day, Buffy."

"Okay, Giles," she said, softly, putting a hand to his chest. "I'll stop it. I'll stop this."

He hugged her then, surprising himself with its intensity. "I… I need to send a message with you. May I have a moment to write it?"

"Sure thing, Giles. I need to clear my head anyway," she said, giving him a final squeeze before they broke apart. He removed his glasses and turned from her, heading back to the filing cabinet. Buffy watched him a moment before she moved to the circle they'd created, slipping inside and sitting down. She crossed her legs and closed her eyes, began a slow breathing exercise to calm her emotions and thoughts.

A few moments later, Giles came to her with a slip of paper folded tight. "Give this to me when you return. It's everything I'll need to know to adjust and help as quickly as possible."

She grinned. "Thanks, Giles." Buffy took a deep breath and smiled up at him. "I'll see you on the other side. Love ya."

Then she spoke the incantation in front of her, dropped a burning feather into the bowl, blew it out, and vanished.

"I love you, too, Buffy." He sighed and sat, waiting to see if his existence would merely end, or if he'd have to go find the Buffy of his time and make amends with her.

"Buffy, what the hell?" Xander cried, falling away from her to the floor.

Snapping her eyes open, she took a deep breath and stood. Adrenaline was already coursing through her.

"How long was I out?" she asked, stepping towards the front.

"Out? Buffy you were in the middle of your own mini-tornado for like five seconds." He stood and brushed his hands on his pants, glaring at her. "What did you think you were doing? Giles is going to –"

"I need to see Giles, now!" she said.

"He just left!" said Xander.

Buffy ran past everyone's confused looks, out the front door, and saw Giles' back disappear around the corner towards the parking lot. "Giles!"

He stopped and turned, his body tense at the sight of her. "Buffy, what's wrong?" he asked, already walking toward her.

"I need to talk to you, now, it's important."

He stopped when she reached him. "Did you find something else to help fight Glory?"

"Boy did I," she said flatly, pulling the note from her pocket. "First I need you to read this."

Unfolding it, his face grew more concerned and confused with each word he read. "Buffy, where did you find this?" His face changed and his gaze snapped up to her. "You performed a spell?"

"Louder, Giles, I don't think they heard you in China," she said, glaring at him. "You said you would need this to adjust and help me."

He read the missive twice and sighed. "I have to trust myself, I suppose," he said, pocketing the note. "What do you need of me?"

"We have got to get to the tower as quickly as possible," she said, turning back to the store. "Is there anything we can do to try to enhance the effects of the Dagon Sphere?"

His brow furrowed as he jogged to follow her. "Possibly."

"Then that's what we'll try before we go." She stopped and turned back to him, her hand landing on his chest. "Giles, I'm going to weaken Glory, but I need you to kill Ben when she hides."

"I – Buffy –"

"You were going to do it, anyway, and I know you're ashamed of it. I already know. I saw it." Her voice lowered a fraction and she gave a small smile. "When everything's done, I'll tell you all about what we avoided." She turned from him. "Right now, though, I need to talk to Spike."

Giles followed her into the store and started working with Willow to see if there was anything that could be done about the potency of the Dagon Sphere. Buffy pulled Spike into the training room and shoved him against the wall hard enough to shake plaster dust from the ceiling.

"Listen up, because I'm going to say this once. When we get to the tower you get your ass up there and grab Dawn. I don't care if you have to jump and cushion her fall with your body. You do it and you'll live and I might even be nice to you. Understand?"

"What the bloody –"

She pulled him forward and slammed him back again, this time hard enough to send a crack up the brickwork. "I said, understand? No fighting, no protecting me. You get Dawn off that tower and hide her. Got it?"

"Yeah, I got it," he said, growling. Buffy left him in the training room to recuperate his pride.

"Find anything?" she asked, looking to Willow and Giles.

"We found a few possibilities, but we can't be sure –"

"Just cast them and hope for the best," she said, her order leaving no room for questions. "We have to get there as soon as possible. If we wait until the last minute the ceremony will start and I'll have to die."

Everyone stared at her as she looked from one face to the next.

"Buffy, what are you talking about?" Willow asked.

"I've seen what happens to us. I know how things will go down. I'm trying to change that. You just have to trust me and do what I say for now."

"But –"

"Just do as she says," Giles said, looking down at the book. "She can explain it to us after we've finished this."

Twenty minutes later they were loaded into a van and headed to the tower, armed to the teeth and ready to end the next apocalypse. When they arrived, Buffy pulled Willow aside. "Let me set a trap for Glory. You'll be able to do what you need to do when you see her. I'll jump her when you're finished."


She looked back to Anya and Xander. "You two need to keep an eye on Willow and Tara. Keep crazies from attacking them and watch Spike. He's going to get Dawn and might need your help if he gets overwhelmed."

"You got it, Buff."

She turned to Giles, her eyes intense. "Stay with me. You know what needs to be done." He offered a single, grave nod, and they all scurried from the van. Buffy tucked the Dagon Sphere into her hoodie pocket and grabbed Thor's Hammer. "Let's do this!"

Spike ran straight into the fray, pushing people from him and searching. He couldn't smell Dawn anywhere and guessed she was still being held prisoner somewhere nearby. Keeping to the shadows, he went hunting.

Buffy made sure the others waited while she set the trap. Swinging the hammer high, she smashed one of the support beams to the tower. It groaned and shifted, but it held true. She set to making splinters of every beam she could reach.

It didn't take long for Glory to notice.

"Hey, my minions worked really hard on that altar!"

Buffy turned slowly, holding the hammer with an end in each hand. "Pretty shoddy workmanship. A monkey could do a better job."

Glory grinned and took a step forward, but immediately stepped back, shaking her head. She glared at Buffy and started to charge. She only got a few steps closer and doubled over, holding her stomach.

"What… what's going on?" she looked up at Buffy. "What did you do?"

"Something I should've done the second you came after my family." She raised the hammer high and swung down on Glory's head. "Sometimes I just don't know when to do what needs done." She swung again when Glory tried to rise, sending her to the ground again.

Willow pulled Tara forward and screamed an incantation that Buffy couldn't understand. But the redhead's fingers disappeared in the skulls of Glory and Tara. After a few seconds, Willow and Tara fell to the ground.

"Wil, talk to me!" Buffy yelled, kicking Glory away from them. It was only a brief encounter, but Willow already had a nosebleed.

"I'm fine. Go get her, Buff."

Glory rolled away and stood, wiping blood from her nose. "You made me bleed!" She grabbed a lead pipe and cocked it back. "No one makes me bleed and gets away with it!" Flinging the pipe at Buffy, she staggered and groaned again. Buffy deflected the pipe easily and stepped closer.

"Something tells me you're just not used to disappointment," Buffy said, her tone cheerful and mocking. "Batter up!" This blow hit Glory square in the chest and sent her flying backwards. She crashed into another support beam and the tower shifted weight again. It'd come down soon enough.

"This isn't fair!" Glory crab-walked away as Buffy approached. "I just want to go home."

"Fair doesn't win any battles." Buffy cocked a brow and raised the hammer a final time. "And you'll be home soon. I promise." She smashed the hammer down on Glory's face. When she pulled it away, Glory's features melted into Ben's.

"Giles, I need you to take care of Ben!" she said. Then she was gone, running towards the few demons on site.

Ben lay on the ground, gasping for breath, bloody, bruised and broken. Giles knelt next to the boy, taking his hand.

"She… she didn't kill me," Ben said, fighting a cough. He looked to Giles as he tightened his hold on the older man. "She c-could've killed me, but she didn't."

"No, she wouldn't." Giles sighed and leaned over the boy. "She's a hero, you see. She's not like one of us. She does what is right, always. She could never kill an innocent man, even if that man posed a threat such as you."

"…Us?" said Ben. Giles clapped his hand over Ben's nose and mouth, restraining Ben's attempts to fight him off. "No, not like us. That's my calling… to do what she cannot."

Ben's thrashing subsided and he stilled, his eyes the last thing to stop moving. Giles closed the lids over them, sure he'd never forget the sight of those broken blood vessels and floating eyes. He took a moment to accept the responsibility of the life he'd just taken, then stood, surveying the battle around him. Xander, Anya and Willow were fighting off minions, protecting Tara.

Buffy was using Thor's Hammer like a baseball bat against anything near her, including the tower. Giles studied the tower and realized that a few more blows could take it down.

"Buffy!" She swung the hammer at a demon and twisted toward him as she smashed in the head of another. "Make sure no one's on the tower and take it down!"

She nodded once and ran full speed up the incline, knocking demons and minions down as she went. When she was sure there was no one of importance on the tower she pulled a piece of thick rope from her hoodie pocket and secured one end to an anchor beam at the top of the structure. She tied the other end around her waist, checked the center of tower to make sure it was clear all the way down, lifted the hammer over her head and jumped.

Half-way down she slammed the hammer forward, wreaking havoc on anything in its path. She landed hard and grunted, falling forward and rolling away. She pulled the rope off and grabbed the hammer, ducking and running as fast as she could. The tower groaned, beams splintered, and any survivors of the battle – the Scoobies included – ran for cover.

It fell almost in slow-motion, crumpling and crashing, dust billowing out and up.



Willow and Xander bumped into each other and grimaced, looking around. As the dust settled, the Scoobies found one another. Xander carried Anya, Willow was cradling Tara. Giles called out her name again.

When they didn't get a response they all exchanged a dark look. Giles rushed to the remnants of the tower and started throwing pieces aside.

"Buffy! Are you in there? Please call out!"

Xander gently lowered Anya and began helping.

"Buffy?" Willow called, not even aware tears were pouring down her dusty face.

Spike appeared through the dust, a bundle in his arms. Dawn was alive and untouched. He set her down and started helping the others look through debris. Dawn turned her back to the sight. She couldn't watch them dig for Buffy's body. Instead she looked up at the night sky, praying for the first time ever that she could remember.

"What are you guys looking for?" They all froze, looking at one another. That was Buffy's voice. They turned toward the noise.

Through the now-settling dust limped Buffy, dragging the hammer behind her. There was blood on the right leg of her jeans, but she was alive.

"Buffy!" Dawn squealed, launching herself at the blonde. Buffy dropped the hammer and hugged her little sister, a single tear leaving her eye.

"Dawn, I was so worried about you," Buffy said in her ear. "Don't ever disappear like that again, okay?"

"Well it's not like I went on my own," said Dawn, her voice thick and wet with emotion.

They both giggled and stepped apart. That was enough time for Xander and Willow to rush at them. Soon everyone but Spike and Giles were taking part in a grimy group hug. Spike looked to Giles, who was watching it all with concern and care, and sighed. He stepped forward, standing next to him.

"I have some things to take care of," he said, lighting a cigarette. It bobbed as he added, "People to talk to."

"Don't let us keep you," Giles replied drily.

"I'm not. Just wanted to say one thing." He turned and looked up at Giles, his eyes icy cold and serious. "Don't let anything happen to her." Giles frowned, his eyes studying the vampire. "And don't tell her I said that. I'll deny it." With that, Spike twisted and stalked away, his duster billowing behind him.

"Ponce," Giles said, glaring.

"I don't know about you guys, but I could seriously go for a pizza or two."

"Xander!" Anya said, "How can you think of food at a time like this?"

"What else would I think about?"

"When people are sexually active and they have a near-death experience, it is crucial to reaffirm that they are, in fact, alive by having many orgasms and rest!"

Xander coughed and tried to hide his blush by grabbing Anya and leading her away from the rest of the group. Willow and Tara exchanged fond glances and Dawn just giggled. Buffy rolled her eyes and limped to Giles, nudging his shoulder to get his attention when she was close enough.

"The pizza sounds okay but I'd really like my leg bandaged."

He smiled down at her and offered an arm, helping her walk to the van. "I'm sure both can be arranged."

"I was hoping you'd say that."

The others piled in first, but Giles held back. "Buffy, I need to ask you something."


"My note… it says I should find out how much you care? It's bothered me since I first read it."

Buffy grinned and turned, wrapping her arms around his chest. "Without getting too sentimental –"

"Shudder at the thought."

Buffy grinned up at him. "I'm sorry if the things I said earlier sounded like I would hurt you. I won't ever hurt you, Giles. Not on purpose. I care about you…" Buffy took a deep breath, let it out slowly. "I care more than I know the words to use. You're just… you're always there for me, you know?" She frowned, started to say more, but Giles stopped her, hugging her again.

"Don't. I understand."

"But there's more to say –"

"Then tell me when we're dressing this leg. I didn't think you were going to give me a sonnet when I asked about it."

She laughed and let him help her limp to the van, holding on to his arm a little more than she really needed to.

Everyone took turns in the shower while they waited for their extensive pizza order to arrive. Buffy and Giles had their showers first, and she was currently sitting on her bed with her right leg propped on a towel. She'd stopped bleeding but the cut needed to be cleaned and wrapped if it was to heal properly. Giles set to work, silent as he gently swabbed the wound.

"I don't know what else to say," she said.

"Perhaps you could tell me about this future you needed to change."

"Oh, that way leads to badness. So much. We have to talk to Willow about her magic use." Giles paused and looked up to Buffy, his brow quirked. "I think she's addicted." He nodded and went back to work. "A-and we have to find these three guys. They're gonna try to make trouble for us and eventually one is going to come here with a gun and accidently kill Tara."

Giles paused again, this time to keep his hand from shaking.

"Tara died?"

"Yeah. Put Willow so far over the edge she tried to end the whole world." Buffy swallowed hard, her eyes lowered. "She caught the guy who did it and skinned him alive in one big swish."

"Dear Lord." Giles dropped the swab and looked at her.


"What else, Buffy?"

"What?" she said, not looking at him.

"There's more, isn't there? It's not like you to tell the worst of it first."

Buffy sighed and finally opened up, spewing out everything that happened. Death. Heaven. His return. His leaving. The First Evil. The end of the Council of Watchers.

"And it all starts because I died at the tower. I mean, the Trio might still try to form, but the balance hasn't been disrupted by an unnatural resurrection. So the First Evil shouldn't be able to do all the stuff I said. It should be okay for a little while, right?"

Giles leaned forward slightly, covering her hands with one of his own. "I think the future will be much different."

Buffy sighed and relaxed, closing her eyes and tipping her head back. A moment later, Giles finished bandaging her leg and a knock sounded on the door. "Pizza!"

"Be down in a sec," said Buffy. They stood, Buffy testing her leg, and Giles collecting the medical supplies. "Hey Giles?"

"Yes?" he said, closing up the case.

"Do you think you'll stay?"

Giles' eyes shot to hers, wide and surprised. "Of course, Buffy. Why wouldn't I?" Sheshrugged.

"Just curious."

When he started to ask another question, Buffy stepped forward, hugging him again. He was frozen a moment, but relaxed into the embrace. He kissed the top of her head, the words from his letter rounding in his mind: "Don't be afraid to love her. Take your own words to heart."

They moved apart slightly, looking at one another. "We could've died today," she said. "I'm glad we didn't, though."

"As am I."

Buffy bit her lip, warring with herself about something – though what, he wasn't sure – and then she leaned up and gave him a kiss. Not a peck on the cheek. No, she set her soft lips to his and waited, just a gentle pressure, and hugged him a little closer.

After a small eternity she moved back a fraction, meeting his startled gaze. "I hope you're not grossed out –"

He stopped her nonsense by kissing her back, his lips molding to hers. She groaned a little and sucked in his bottom lip. He took over and soon they were lost in each other's kiss, lips moving, tongues dancing. When it finally ended Buffy sighed and leaned her head on his chest.

"Well that answered a lot of questions."

"Really," said Giles, "It only raised questions for me."

"It raised something," Buffy said. Heat rushed up Giles' neck to his face and she chuckled, running her hand down the side of his face. "We can talk later. Let's go eat some dinner."

Giles held fast to her, though. "You expect me to just go downstairs and eat pizza as if nothing happened?"

"No. I figured we could cuddle on the couch or something, really get a few surprised faces before everyone left. But I am hungry, and a hungry slayer is a cranky slayer."

Giles chuckled and offered his arm, which she took though she didn't need the help walking. "Very well. Let's get you fed."

"Now you're talkin' my language."