AN: Well, I never thought that BtVS would be the second fandom I would delve into, but here we are. I hope it's not too OOC, but if you like, you can help me and make suggestions and tell me whether it was good or made you cry in despair.

Anyway, this is set shortly after Angel loses his soul.

Loss and Gain

"Why does she always have to get herself in trouble like this?" was the first thing that crossed Rupert Giles's mind when he saw Buffy sitting on the steps in the library. They all knew that taking the next step in their relationship hadn't been good for either Buffy or Angel, but at least the vampire had escaped the emotional repercussions that followed. Just one of the more or less convenient side effects of losing one's soul.

For Buffy, however, this whole affair was as close you could get to hell without actually burning inside. Not only had she lost a boyfriend. No. She had gained a deadly enemy, as well as the burden of knowing that she might one day – rather one night – have to kill the first man she had ever loved and who had apparently loved her just as much.

Giles sighed to himself. It was really quite a lot to deal with, especially for a seventeen-year-old girl. Her eyes already resembled those of a person far older than her. Until now it had all been bearable. True, she had lived the life of a Slayer, but she had always been able to cope with whatever the world or the Hellmouth threw at her.

Even dying hadn't affected Buffy like this had. No matter what she'd gone though, Giles had always been able to see a certain spark in her eyes. When he looked at his Slayer now, he saw little more than a shell of the girl he knew and had, over the past year, come to love like he would any daughter of his own.

There were dark circles under her eyes, so dark that they might be mistaken for bruises. Nightmares had always been an issue with Buffy, but they had never had such a huge influence on her waking hours.

"Buffy?" Giles said gently, not wanting to startle her. She turned to him slowly, looking at him tiredly. "Are you all right?"

She raised an eyebrow and Giles got all flustered. "Oh, um, I-I'm sorry, Buffy, o-of course you're not all right. How could you be? I just thought that, um, maybe I could help you? You know, talk about what, er, what happened?"

"There's nothing to talk about." Buffy averted her eyes. "I'm fine."

"I must beg to differ," Giles admonished her gently. "I think even Cordelia may have picked up on the fact that you are not, as you put it, 'fine'. And I'm not blaming you for that. Yes, I'm worried about you – everyone is – but I would be far more concerned, if what has happened didn't affect you at all."

She turned away from him and was silent for a minute, sitting completely still. Then she looked back at him and there was a trace of some emotion in her eyes again.

Anger. And pain.

"Well," she said in a tightly controlled voice, "Maybe you're right, maybe there is something to talk about. But it's not as if there's anyone to talk to!"

"Buffy, you know – "

"That I can talk to you about anything? Anything to do with the job, yes. But this, talking about this goes far beyond your call of duty, doesn't it? I'm physically fine, right? I bet I could go and slay some vampires right now, if my vision wasn't all blurry. And why is it blurry? Because I'm crying over a relationship you told me to let go of from the very beginning. What's going to stop you from saying 'I told you so' or 'You should have been more responsible, it's your own fault'? I know I screwed up and I know that all this is my own fault and I don't need anyone else to tell me that!"

Her voice broke and she started sobbing. Giles's heart went out to her.

Buffy Summers was supposed to be laughing with her friends or making cheeky remarks, not sitting in the library crying with no one but a stuffy, English librarian for company. But now that she was here and crying her heart out, Giles knew he had to help her as best he could and so he let the fathering instinct he had developed over the past few months take over.

He slowly went towards his Slayer and sat down next to her. But when he tried putting his hand on her shoulder, she shied away from the touch and turned her back to him.

"Buffy," he started softly, knowing he had to make her understand how he felt about this whole affair and her part in it, "I know you'll hate me for saying this, but I do to some extent know what you're going through and I wouldn't wish these feelings of guilt and despair on anyone, least of all you."

"How can you know what I'm going through? You're Giles, you don't make stupid mistakes like this."

There was some child-like innocence in the words that made the Watcher laugh gently.

"Your faith in me is both touching and entirely misplaced. I have made some bad choices in my time," he trailed off, thinking back to his Ripper days, thinking how strange it was that somewhere inside that person there had always peen the potential for this picture of respectability he presented to the world nowadays, before he was pulled back into the present by Buffy's next words.

"Okay, you made some bad decisions, but I bet you never took your boyfriend's – or girlfriend's – soul away from them and turned them into a murderous, undead psychopath."

"Buffy!" Giles exclaimed, slightly alarmed at the resigned tone in his Slayer's voice, "You couldn't possibly have known what was going to happen. None of us could have. Not even Jen- Ms Calendar knew."

"But it still happened. Does not knowing what might happen make it okay?" Buffy asked, looking up at him.

"I won't deny that what the two of you did was rash and irresponsible, not only because of these consequences, but – " he held up his hand, as Buffy opened her mouth to interrupt, "I blame Angel far more that I could ever blame you. He's over two hundred years old and he should have known better, especially because I know that he really did care for you. But I also realise that you, er, just can't always help yourself…" He trailed off, clearly uncomfortable with the topic.

He caught Buffy glancing at him, a trace of her customary grin on her face.

"Oh, I suppose you think I know nothing about love, but I assure you I do. You know," he continued, wanting to make her smile at least a little, "there was a time when –"

"Giles!" Buffy covered her ears with her hands." That is way too much information already. This isn't Xander and Cordelia talking about their sex lives, this is, well, you! You're Giles and, and, and… EW!"

She shuddered dramatically and Giles laughed, glad that somewhere beneath the surface there was still the old Buffy, his 'daughter' who could make him laugh with her cheek and cope with anything the fates threw at her.

He laid his arm around her shoulders. This time she didn't move away, but looked up at him instead. Both quickly became serious again.

"See, Buffy," Giles prompted her gently, "The world hasn't ended and you're still you. I know you're hurting right now – anyone would – but I also know that you're strong enough to deal with it."

Buffy looked down at her knees to avoid Giles's eyes.

"Do you think that there's any hope of getting him back again?"

Giles sighed and pulled her closer to him. "I don't know. That depends on whether we can find the curse, and if we can find it, on whether we can make it work."

"So the odds are pretty much against us, right?" Buffy's voice was once again

"I'm afraid so," the Watcher answered gently.

There was a moment's silence before Buffy asked the question Giles had been expecting since the beginning of their conversation.

"Will it ever stop hurting?"

What he had not expected, however, was quite how much her actually asking would affect him. He put his other arm around his Slayer's petite form and let her lay her head against his chest while he gently stroked her hair.

"I'm not going to lie to you, you deserve better than that. It will hurt and it will hurt for a very long time, long after you think you've forgotten Angel. One day you'll remember and you'll feel guilty for going so much as a day without thinking about him. But it will get easier, once you've accepted that he's truly gone.

"But you've got to understand one thing, Buffy, this is very important." He drew away from her so he could look into her eyes. "This was not your fault. You couldn't have known what might happen and you dealt with the aftermath quite admirably."

"But I wouldn't have had to, if I hadn't been so reckless in the first place!" Buffy jumped up and started pacing. Finally she stopped and turned back to her Watcher, who was looking at her with unguarded concern on his face.

"You've always taught me to be more responsible and I ignored all that! I knew I should stop, but I didn't! I didn't care and now look what's happened! My boyfriend is a ruthless killer again. How can you still say that this wasn't my fault?"

"Buffy!" Giles said loudly, walking towards her and putting his hands on her shoulders. "You may be a Slayer, Buffy – and a very good one at that – but you are still a teenage girl. You made a mistake, but you know that and you have learned from it. So, for what it's worth, I forgive you for doing what you did. But I still maintain that what happened to Angel was in no way your fault, so if you're looking for guilt, you're going to have to look somewhere else."

The next moment Giles found himself with an armful of sobbing Slayer in his harms. He hugged her back tightly and relished the feeling of finally being able to have his daughter in all but blood in his arms and knowing that she was, for the moment at least, safe from the vampires and other monsters that were after her blood. Especially from the one that was formerly her boyfriend and who would be sure to go after her.

He was abruptly pulled from his thoughts when he heard Buffy mutter something, but her face was pressed into his tweed jacket, so he had to ask her to repeat what she had said.

"I just wanted to say thank you. Not just for today, but for everything you've done for me. I know it might seem as though I wasn't grateful for it, but I just don't really know how to show it. But I do l-love you Giles. And so do Willow and Xander, though he'd rather die than admit it."

Giles chuckled as his eyes welled with tears and quickly pulled her back against him. He wondered, not for the first time, how Hank Summers could ever have left this girl, no matter how exasperating she could be sometimes.

Well, Hank's loss, Giles's gain. He tightened his arms around her once more.

"I love you too, Buffy. All of you."

AN: Okay, I seriously hope it wasn't too sappy… And if you want to you can R&R and tell me what you thought