WDWG - Chapter 39: Questions

"No, Giles-" Buffy said stubbornly, her stance defiant, and her chin raised in challenge.

"Buffy-"

"No. Look, you're going to see Anna after we meet up with Xander and Willow at the airport. Just wear the brace until you get to her office."

Giles glared at her. He'd had absolutely no intention putting that bloody contraption back on once he'd realized that he was pain free and had full use of his dominant hand upon returning from Stonehenge the evening before last, and he certainly wasn't going to put it on now. Since his discovery he'd started using his left hand normally again and it had become a source of contention between the two. The Watcher warily looked over at the bored wolfhound, who was lying on his bed watching yet another argument unfold, and decided that tact was better than letting his frustration rise to the surface.

"Need I remind you that I have been battered and bruised before and know when I have healed and when I haven't," he said, his voice low and calm, not wanting to risk the ire of his fiancée's canine protector. "If we were on the Hellmouth, I wouldn't have had this much time to recover. I would've been back on my feet within a week assisting you the best I could."

"And we're retired from active duty. We don't have to rely on a quick patch up anymore, so you can take all the time you need to heal, even getting in some physical therapy. Giles, we can have some semblance of 'normal' and let our bodies recover properly," she entreated. "Look, I get it if you don't want to wear it around the house, but heading to Heathrow on the train, it's going to be crowded and you're likely to get bumped."

"I've banged it a few times already doing chores around the house and in the barn. No damage, see?" He held up his hand for inspection, wiggling his fingers. "I have no stiffness in my fingers, hand, or wrist, and I have full range of motion, but if I keep wearing the splint, the muscles and tendons will tighten up and cause pain," Giles explained. Upon seeing the concern in her eyes, he compromised, "I promise you, if Anna says I must keep it on after my visit, then I shall put it back on."

Giles wasn't going to relent and Buffy knew she wasn't going to win. She took his left hand in hers and gently started to prod at it, feeling for anything out of the ordinary. Not that she had been able to feel whether he had broken the bones when he'd first injured himself, but she was listening for the slightest intake of breath from him that would indicate pain. She heard none. And upon further inspection, she was surprised she couldn't see the little scars on his hand and fingers that she had noticed upon her return from her self banishment in LA. Nor were his middle and ring fingers slightly crooked anymore. She looked up at him in confusion.

"I noticed it this morning as well."

"Were you going to tell me?" Buffy turned in frustration and let go of his hand, settling her attention on the birds perched on the feeder just outside the window.

"Buffy, I only noticed it this morning and you've been in a horrible mood since yesterday when I stopped wearing the damned splint. I haven't been able to talk to you without it devolving into an argument."

"Well, what do you expect, Giles? I mean it's not even been a whole month yet since you've broken it and you don't have Slayer healing. So, I'm just supposed to take your word for it that your bones had knitted back together in that short of time?"

Giles took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm trying, Buffy. I feel... different. I don't know how to describe it really, perhaps less..." he paused trying to find the right word and then gave up in defeat, "old."

"You aren't old," she said petulantly, her arms folded across her chest.

"The reality is that I am a man in my late forties and I have abused my body in so many different ways, the most significant of which has been waging a war against demons and the Hellmouth for the last seven years. I wake up in the morning stiff-"

"There's an understatement."

Giles heard the amusement in her tone and, even though she had distanced herself, he felt the smile creeping up on her face as her anger started to fade. He took a risk and circled his arms around her from behind and nuzzled his cheek against her hair. "That too," he whispered into her ear, drawing her closer into him when she didn't pull away.

Buffy leaned back into his solid frame and sighed, "Go on."

"The point is, I feel... well, I feel like I did when I was thirty and in the finest health I had been my entire adult life. The aches and pains that comes with age and sacrificing one's self to battle aren't there anymore."

She lightly caressed the fingers on his left hand. "You're in better shape than most men in their thirties, Ru."

Ah. Their disagreement was definitely over, she'd reverted to using the familial nickname she'd picked up at Greys Keep upon their arrival in England.

"Thank you, love, but that doesn't mean that I don't feel more aches and pains than most men my age."

She turned in his arms. "So what gives? You think that magick boost at Stonehenge might've given you more than just a mystical hard on?"

"It wasn't mystical," he answered.

"Huh?"

"My, uh, hard on," he clarified, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "It doesn't take much to get me randy when you are near."

"Aww, you say the sweetest things!" Buffy laughed, slapping his upper arm in jest.

Giles chucked. "In all seriousness, yes, I am fairly certain the magicks there had something to do with the healing. I'll talk to Willow about it later and we'll research in the days ahead." He checked his watch. "However, if we don't leave now, we'll miss our train to the airport."

Throwing his splint into his leather briefcase in an effort to keep the newfound peace between him and his fiancée, Giles said, "Just in case,"

Buffy retrieved it and tossed it in the nearby bin, "Have her give you a new one if you need it. This one is getting rather fragrant and not in a good way, and no amount of washing has been able to fix that."

He nodded and guided her out the door.

"Be good, Seamus," she called. The wolfhound huffed in response.

XxXxXxXx

"So, now that we're together and I can see your face, tell me about domestic life. How is it shacking up with your honey? It's good, right?" Willow asked Buffy while they were waiting for Xander at the meeting point outside the international arrival area. Giles had excused himself a few moments before to find coffee and tea for his party since Xander's flight had been delayed by an hour.

"It's good," Buffy answered as a smile spread across her face. "Great, actually. I mean, he's just... Willow, why didn't I wake up and smell the Giles much earlier?"

The witch gave her a quick smile before answering sensibly, "Because as much as you two have loved each other over the years, neither of you were ready to get all couple-y and do the in love thing."

The Slayer nodded. That was the simple truth. Trust Willow to break it down succinctly as though it were a math problem or some complex scientific theory like they were studying for a test together. And as Buffy thought about it, much of the conflict between her and Giles over the past few years had been about redefining who they were to each other after her death and resurrection. It was this conflict that had led to their multiple disagreements, and which had ultimately culminated in their falling out over Spike and her inability to see anyone's perspective when she was thrust into a leadership position with the potentials.

Once the new Slayers had been activated and the First Evil driven back, Buffy was able to put the past behind her and see Giles for who he was and who he was meant to be in her life - and who she was meant to be in his, and even that had changed in the last week when she'd become his confidant.

"You're right. We've had some growing pains and whatnot, but we're both really happy."

"And the wedding plans?"

Buffy sighed, "Nada. We were supposed to meet Father Knowles when we got back from Hawkingridge, but we haven't yet."

"Well, we'll just have to fix that! We'll also get some bridal magazines, start taking notes, pick colors, eat lots of chocolate, and then we'll sit down with Giles and nail down a few dates."

"A few dates for what?" Giles asked, passing two mochas over to the girls before taking a sip of his tea.

"Wedding planning," Buffy responded.

"Good lord, we have been remiss on that, haven't we?"

"There's just been so much going on and it just sort of feels like we already are," she said, looking up at him with a loving smile. "I guess it sort of just slipped our minds."

"Oh, no! No slipping of minds! You guys don't get to do the whole 'inertia' thing. There will be a wedding. We're all expecting a wedding!"

Giles ducked his head in contrition while Buffy laughed at her best friend's exuberance, "Okay, Will, there will be a wedding, but clearly we need a planner to help get us moving."

"I can do that," Willow volunteered.

"I'd hoped," Buffy responded, putting her left arm around the redhead and pulling her in for a hug.

"God help us," Giles muttered, trying to hide the smile behind his cardboard cup of tea. After countless, mind-numbing minutes of listening to the discussion of the latest bridal fashions and color trends, he feared his brain would leak out his ears and decided to get up and wander around. Besides, he was feeling restless and needed to stretch his legs.

Checking the arrivals board, Giles noted that Xander was due to come through the security doors at any moment and took up sentry nearby. He watched the weary travelers stream out into the meeting area and listened to the flat tone of the average American accent.

He then caught the sight of a young man dressed in baggy khakis and a black t-shirt beneath an open red button down shirt with flames on it walking through the doors carrying a backpack and a carryon bag. He smiled warmly when Xander recognized him. The younger man set down his bags and embraced him tightly.

"Missed ya, big guy!" Xander said with a sniff as he pulled away.

"It's good to see you again," Giles replied affectionately before leaning over and picking up the carryon. "Is this all you've brought?"

"I travel pretty light these days."

The Watcher noted the exhaustion in his friend's voice with concern, but covered it up. "Let's get you home. Come, the girls are over this way."

XxXxXxXx

Buffy felt as though she'd never get used to the eye patch, a scathing reminder of how she had failed Xander and the potentials in her plot to draw Caleb out. It was the first thing she saw when Giles and Xander approached, and she quickly covered up her grimace with a welcoming grin.

As if reading her mind, Xander gave her an easy smile and picked her up, twirling her around. "Hey Buff! How's my hero? Man, you are a sight for a sore eye!" he joked, pulling a face before giving her a brotherly kiss on the cheek.

Buffy relaxed at his teasing and affectionately pushed him away. "You're still a big goofball, Xander Harris!"

He then moved over to Willow and wrapped her in a strong embrace. "Hey, Will." They stood clutched together in each other's arms for a long time, words and feelings absorbed through osmosis rather than spoken.

As close as Buffy was to her two best friends, she couldn't compete with the intimacy they had shared with each other since they first attended preschool together. Giles circled his arm around her waist and pulled her close as they waited for their friends to finish their reunion.

Xander touched Willow's forehead with his before finally letting her go and turned to Giles and Buffy. "So, what's the plan?" he asked, shifting his backpack and eyeing them expectantly.

"Well, I am going to drive you and Buffy back to the farmhouse," the redhead answered, looking up at him.

"And what are you up to, Giles?" he asked.

"I have an appointment in London and will meet you all at home later," the older man answered. "But I wanted to be here when you arrived."

Xander patted Giles on the shoulder and took his bag from him. "Thanks, man, it means a lot, you being here."

They turned as a group and headed towards the exit. When they approached the ramp leading down to the Express, Buffy stood on her toes and gave Giles a lingering kiss. "Love you," she murmured against his lips. "Say hi to Anna for me."

Giles ran his left index finger down her cheek and gazed lovingly into her eyes, "Safe home."

XxXxXxXx

As Willow turned the car onto the M4, Xander stated, "So I thought Giles broke his hand."

"Yeah, he did. He's going to see his cousin about it now. He thinks it's all healed up," Buffy answered, giving both her friends the running theory of how he gained the use of his hand back so quickly.

"Huh, so Stonehenge is the opposite of the Hellmouth, sort of where you go for all good things," he posited thoughtfully.

"There's a lot of mystical energy there, that's for sure, but I haven't heard of it just fixing people's ailments," Willow joined in. "It's possible, I guess, especially since Giles has magick. We'll need to-"

"Research!" Buffy and Xander chimed in simultaneously with Willow, and the trio laughed.

"Just like old times," Xander noted as he reached back and squeezed Buffy's hand.

XxXxXxXx

Giles paced his cousin's office as she read the new x-ray images of his hand.

"Amazing," Anna muttered to herself, checking each image again.

"So?" Giles asked as she enlarged one particular shot on the screen.

"Stop pacing, Rupert! You're like a caged animal today," she insisted while still inspecting the x-ray.

"Sorry," he apologized, stopping in mid stride. Still, he was going to lose his mind if she didn't say something soon. "Well?" he prompted, his impatience getting the better of him.

"It's as you suspected, there are no fractures," Anna confirmed, "and what is more important is there are absolutely no indicators that there has ever been any damage to your hand, even the little bit of arthritis that showed up in the last round of images are gone."

Giles pulled his glasses off and polished them before returning them to his face. Anna took the moment to sit down at her desk. "What else do you want to tell me?"

"Anna, I feel like I'm young again. Nothing aches, my body doesn't crack and groan when getting up from a chair or out of bed in the morning, and I have energy to burn."

"Hence the pacing," she pointed out. He hadn't even noticed he started up again. "Yet, you still need your glasses."

"Some things never change."

"And you don't believe it's due to the rest and relaxation."

"Do you?" he questioned with a hint of sarcasm.

"No," his cousin replied. "Not a change this drastic. And all this after visiting Stonehenge."

"Yes, I wanted Buffy to feel the energy there."

"Did she?"

"Oh yes, although at first she couldn't identify what she was feeling. We honed together and then she was able to recognize what it was. My god it was powerful, Anna! I've never felt the energy there that strongly before. I-I worry I may have leached some of Buffy's healing abilities."

"I take it you were touching when you honed?"

Giles shot his cousin a look, one Dawn Summers had patented as "Duh!"

"Right, and how is Buffy?"

"Good. She appears to be fine, loves England, or at least our corner of it. She'd been tired when we were settling in at home and then there was that uncharacteristic bout with weakness one day when we picnicked at Prior Park, but she's well rested now. She doesn't seem to have any negative effects from our visit to Stonehenge."

Anna watched him as he took the seat opposite her desk. "Glad to hear she's well. And I can see she's a calming influence on you, your aura looks good, the colors are clearer than I have seen in ages," she confirmed. "I'd like to draw some blood and have you do a stress test while you're here, cousin. Would you do that?"

"I am sure I can spare some time, but I do have a train to catch."

"I'll send for a driver. Really, Ru, don't be ridiculous."

Giles blinked at her. It was easy at times to forget the privilege his cousin had access to. Of course, if he wanted it, he could access it as well, but Giles had rejected that lifestyle years ago, preferring a more simple life. Yet, as casual as Anna was over her status, opting for more egalitarian relationships with her friends and colleagues, she wasn't about to give up the comforts her birthright afforded her.

Half an hour later, he rejoined Anna in her office, taking the seat opposite from her as she sat behind her desk. "The results of the blood tests won't be available for a few days, however, I do have the results of the stress test. You are in excellent health."

"Good to know," Giles replied.

"I'm sorry I can't shed more light as to why your hand has healed in half the time or why you suddenly feel younger. Perhaps if I had seen you and Buffy together, or had been there with you at Stonehenge to assess the magicks, but at this point, I'd only be grasping at theories. Maybe Willow and some members of the coven can help solve this mystery."

"Y-yes, thank you, I had intended to ask to them. Speaking of Willow, what did you think of the scythe?"

"Now there's a change of topic!" the doctor exclaimed, her voice teasing. "It's fascinating, to be sure. I was disappointed I couldn't feel anything, although Willow assures me she can't either. Just the Slayers, apparently."

"Yes, it's their weapon."

"Of course. Have you talked to Willow about it at all?"

"Not since she left LA," Giles replied. "Why?"

"Hmm, it's not my place. I'd only be relaying something and she might have more information now anyway."

"Anna, you can't leave it like that," he entreated.

"I'd rather not, Ru, I mean, you worry enough as it is. Another mystery-"

"And I'll worry myself more thinking the worst. Come now, out with it."

Anna gave him her put upon look. "Fine. I stumbled into that one. Willow told me she walked into her room upon returning from Spain to find the thing was glowing. Only for a short moment, but it was enough to... uh, 'wig her out.'" Giles' eyebrows knitted together in thought. "See, you are worrying."

"Well, if Willow is, er, wigged, then yes, I am concerned. Did she say anything more on the matter?"

"Nothing of consequence. Only that she'd look into it. I asked if there were any residual magicks lingering on the scythe and she said none that she could detect at the time. In Willow's words, 'it was just glow-y and then nothing.'"

"Yes, very Willow, thank you," Giles responded, rising from his chair. "Speaking of, I have a train to catch. Buffy should be home with Xander and Willow by now and it will take me a couple hours to get there."

Anna rose and walked around her desk to give him a hug. "Don't be daft. As promised I've the car waiting to take you home." She released him from her embrace. "Don't fret, cousin, maybe having your bones knitted back together and your body rejuvenated is a gift from the earth. A repayment in kind for beating back the First. Just take it as the blessing it is. And as for the scythe, well, who knows. Maybe it is an early detection system of some sort. I'm sure you and your brilliant team will figure it out in no time."

Giles gave her a tight smile and thanked her for her time, extending an invitation for dinner soon. Upon leaving Anna's office, he headed for the lift to take him down to the entrance of the hospital. For a man used to being dealt rotten cards most of his life, Giles just couldn't shake the feeling that neither his sudden healing, nor the glowing scythe, were good omens.