Flooded

SETTINGS: Season Six Flooded. How Giles' return should have gone. DISCLAIMER: Wish it was mine, but.sadly I must live with the fact that these characters don't belong to me. (I do accept donations however)

ONWARDS:

It was quiet in the Magic Box. The Scoobies were sitting around the table, every eye looking towards the books, trying to find out about the demon that had attacked the bank earlier in the day.

Distracted, Willow kept glancing towards the door to the training room, expecting to hear sounds of Buffy's fist hitting a punching bag or of feet on the ground, but there was no sound coming from the room at all. Xander caught Willow looking and she gave him a worried glance.

"Will," he warned.

"I'm sorry, but - I can't help but worry about her. I just - she's been back for nearly two weeks and - I just don't think she should be alone right now," Willow said.

"Maybe she needs to be alone," Tara suggested. "Just to sort things out."

"Yeah," Xander agreed, thankful that Tara had been thinking along the same lines as himself. "It can't be easy to just come out of hell like that. We just need to give her time to heal and deal."

Anya looked up from her book, thankful for the distraction. "You know she's doing surprisingly well for someone who's gone through months of torture. Most people usually go insane down there."

Willow looked at the ex-demon uncomfortably, hating that they had to deal with the reality of Buffy being back. Even though Willow had suspected that Buffy had been in hell, having her back and seeing the truth of her thoughts hadn't been easy at all. When Buffy had confessed about being in hell, Willow had felt her chest constrict and her breathing become almost painful, but Buffy had seemed so calm about it. Like she had accepted the matter and it was over. Obviously, Buffy still had to deal with what she had been through no matter how much of a tough girl persona she tried to put on.

"I just wish Giles were here," Willow said wistfully.

Almost as though the Powers had heard her, the bell on the door rang and the group looked up in unison to see Giles enter and place his bags on the floor.

"Giles!" Willow exclaimed excitedly. She jumped from her seat and raced over to him, nearly bowling him over with an enthusiastic hug. He patted her back awkwardly and looked around the room, trying to find his Slayer.

"Wh-where is she?" he asked softly.

Willow stepped back and cast a worried glance to the back of the store. She pointed to the training room.

"Is she - how is she?" he asked, almost afraid to find out.

No one dared to answer. Dawn sniffled slightly, trying to hold back tears, but Giles caught her expression.

"She's not coping is she?" he said sadly.

Willow shook her head a little. "No, but, she's been through a lot. She- she said she was in hell."

Giles felt his heart drop, tears coming to his eyes. How much would the Powers make Buffy endure before finally letting her rest?

Giles took a deep breath and began walking to the training room, not entirely certain of what to expect. He was fearing the worst and unfortunately, he wasn't half wrong.

He opened the door quietly, expecting to see Buffy training. Instead, he was greeted by a room shrouded in darkness with a dark shadow in the centre. Only five months ago he would have been proud of her for meditating. Today, he knew that this wasn't her intention.

He walked quietly towards her, waiting for her to say something. Her eyes remained closed and he could tell that she hadn't heard him come in.

He turned on the small lamp in the corner of the room and watched as Buffy looked up, startled.

"Did you find anything?" she asked, standing up quickly as her eyes adjusted to the light. She turned away from the brightness, quickly wiping tears from her face.

Giles felt his own tears sting in his eyes at the sight of her. She was how he remembered her, except now there was no fire behind her eyes, no spark, no life.

"Buffy," he whispered softly.

It was the soft whisper of her name that caught her attention. The gentle British voice that she hadn't heard since before she had died. The softly spoken Watcher she had been longing to see.

She turned and saw his green tear-filled eyes and felt a huge weight lift from her chest.

She had told Willow several days ago that she missed Giles. Willow had assumed that it was only Giles' aptitude for research that Buffy missed, but it was so much more than that.

He was her mentor, her saviour, her.everything really. She wasn't sure which had been more painful. Being brought back or finding out that Giles wasn't there. She could have coped if he had have been there all along.

She stood, unmoving, just taking in the sight of her Watcher. She felt her chest begin constricting, a sob rising in her throat.

Without realising it, he began walking towards her slowly, as though he feared that she would somehow disappear if he got too close. He stopped directly in front of her, lifting his shaking hands to touch her shoulders.

The instant he felt that she wasn't an apparition, he drew her tightly to him, kissing the top of her head and stroking her hair gently.

"Oh god Buffy," he whispered into her hair.

Tears flowed from both of them, Buffy clinging tightly to him.

"You're alive. You're here. I thought I'd lost you," he sobbed.

She shook her head emphatically, glad for the first time to be alive and in his arms.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered.

He moved his head back and lifted a hand to her chin, tilting her face up so he could look her in the eyes.

"Willow told me, but I didn't really let myself believe-"

She gave a small smile. "I take a little getting used to. I'm still getting used to me."

"It's, uh, you're-"

"A miracle?" she suggested lightly.

"Yes. But then I always thought so."

His tear filled eyes searched hers, thankful to be able to see them once more. He brushed away a stray tear with his thumb and felt his heart jump when she leant into his touch.

Without hesitation and without thought, he bent his head down and kissed her softly, not daring to pressure her. When she began responding, he was shocked to say the least. She pulled away, her eyes scanning his and seeing love, fear and sadness, she pulled away.

"Buffy-"

"I'm sorry," she said quickly, pulling away from his hug, her arms going around herself, wishing that she could be back in his embrace.

"No, Buffy. Y-you have nothing to be sorry for. I shouldn't have-"

"I wanted you to!" she exclaimed.

He looked at her, confused and a little bewildered by her outburst. It seemed as though the last three months had suddenly been erased and they were just as they had been before her death.

"Buffy, I shouldn't have done that. You're hurting and.and I was being completely selfish and-"

"Giles, stop, okay. Just stop," she cried.

"Buffy-"

"No! Just, please, let me talk," she said.

He nodded and waited for her to continued. She began pacing nervously until she finally have up and sat down on the sofa where she and Giles had had their last conversation before battling with Glory.

"Ever since I've been back, I've - I've been - I don't know. Upset just doesn't seem to cover what I feel."

"Buffy, that's to be expected," Giles said, walking across and sitting next to her on the sofa. "After what you've been through, I was expecting worse."

She looked up at him, her pained eyes telling him what he needed to know of where she had been. His eyes widened as he saw what she was silently telling him. She hadn't been in hell as Willow had thought. The truth was so much worse. She had been in heaven.

"Good lord."

He hesitated a moment, but finally drew her into his arms, holding her tightly.

"I'm so sorry," he whispered.

She leant her face into his shoulder, crying softly.

"Willow said that you.that you had been-"

"I lied," she mumbled into his shirt.

"Oh Buffy.why?" he asked gently, pulling away so he could see her face.

She looked up at him and wiped her tears away.

"How could I tell her? Everyone was so glad to have me back. I.I couldn't."

He smiled gently and brought his lips to her forehead. "Selfless to the last."

"But I'm not!" she cried, pulling away from him and standing up abruptly. "I don't want to be here! Do you have any idea how tempting it is for me to find some building and jump? To just go back to where I was? I was always so afraid to die, but.now it's all I can think about," she admitted softly.

"Buffy-"

"No. Let me finish. Please," she said.

He watched her begin to pace from his space on the sofa.

"When Dawn told me that you had gone.it felt like I'd been kicked in the ribs. I couldn't breath, I couldn't think. But.everything else.not matter what I was told, I just didn't care. Willow and Anya told me I was broke and I nearly told them that it didn't bother me. Nothing got to me. Nothing except you," she said.

"If I had known-"

"I know.I do. It's not your fault. Willow should have told you before she tried to bring me back."

"I wish she had," Giles said. "As happy as I am to see you standing in front of me.I hate that she didn't consult me. That she was careless enough to do the spell without consulting higher powers about it."

"She thought I was in hell," Buffy said, weakly defending her friend.

"There are ways to contact the dead," Giles exclaimed. "She shouldn't have played with the forces of nature like this."

"Giles please.please. Promise me you won't tell her," Buffy begged, kneeling in front of him on the couch. She took his hands in hers, her eyes pleading with him.

"She needs to know," he said gently. "Buffy, she has to understand that she can't just bring people back to life like this. She's playing with forces that shouldn't be disturbed.

"No!" she yelled. "They can't find out, alright? It would kill them."

"Well, maybe they deserve it," he yelled back.

Buffy took an involuntary step backwards, surprised by Giles raising his voice, even though she knew it wasn't directed at her.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "It's just.you deserve so much better than this. You'd done more than your fair share for this sorry world. It's not fair on you to be subjected to even more," he said sadly.

"It may not be fair, but.I'm here and I'm not leaving Dawn again. Or you. It may not be fair on me, but it would be so much more unfair on both of you. Not after.well.Spike said that when I was gone.everyone was.lost."

"He wasn't wrong," Giles admitted. "Everyone just seemed to not know what to do without you here to get us through it."

"But I didn't do anything! That was always you or Will with the research and the magic. All I was good for was the killing, and with Spike here.they don't need me here," she protested loudly.

"I need you here!" Giles said, his voice rising along with hers.

He stopped, his eyes wide. "I didn't.that's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?" she asked quietly.

"Buffy please," he said softly, his eyes refusing to meet hers. "I can't.not now."

"Giles, tell me what you meant," she said, trying not to sound too demanding. "Please?"

He hesitated but finally decided that she needed to hear the truth. His kiss had given away half of what he needed to tell her anyway. Plus, he knew that he would never be able to refuse her anything for too long.

"Buffy," he started softly, hating that after so many years of concealing the truth from her, she was getting him to admit what he felt for her.

He cleared his throat like a nervous schoolboy about to tell his first crush that he 'loved' her and he took a slow, deep breath.

"When you.died," he said, "nothing was the same for me. Nothing here really mattered to me anymore. That's why I left. I thought I could escape, start all over again, but.I knew before I left that I would never be able to run away from the memories. No matter how hard I tried, you would always be with me. But.here in Sunnydale, with you gone.I had nothing."

"But.the others!" she exclaimed.

"They weren't you," he said sadly. "The others are the children I'm never going to have, but you were.irreplaceable. You were never like the others. Losing them would have been.difficult, but.losing you was like losing myself, only a lot worse."

Buffy breathed deeply. She hadn't really been expecting him to admit the truth to her, but.she could see that he obviously needed to get this out. It made her wonder how many years he had been concealing this from her.

"From the very beginning, when you first walked into the library I knew there was something different about you. And I don't just mean the fact that you are the Slayer," he said before she had a chance to jump in and remind him of her destiny. "Maybe that was part of it, but.you had such life and.you loved people so whole-heartedly Buffy. No matter what they'd done in the past, you were able to see the good that they had in them. You forgave some people who never even deserved to be forgiven. Angel, Anya, Spike.myself."

"Giles-"

"Buffy, please," he said softly, his eyes pleading for her to let him finish.

She stopped and motioned for him to continued. She sat down on the couch and watched as Giles began to pace slowly across the training room floor.

"You managed to inspire such goodness in others," he said, removing his glasses and wiping them on his shirt which had become untucked in the midst of his pacing. "After only a day of knowing you, both Willow and Xander were willing to put their lives in danger to help you out. You had Cordelia helping you out voluntarily, which is.tremendous by anyone's standards. You've had two vampires fall in love with you Buffy and I'm only too certain that there's a string of men who would kill for just a second of your attention."

"For years, I told myself that you were too young, that you would never think of me as anything other than your Watcher, or as a father figure of some sort. When you turned eighteen I thought I might have had a chance but.I hurt you too deeply to even think about telling you," he said, his voice faltering as he spoke of the Cruciamentum and his failure to protect her from himself.

"That wasn't your fault!" she cried, hating that he still felt guilty for putting her through the Council's archaic tests.

"I should have stood up to them! I.I could have done something," he said, hating the fact that hindsight was always twenty-twenty.

"But you did! You told me that it was you. You could have never admitted what it was and just pretended that nothing had ever happened and I would have been none the wiser. But you told me Giles," she said, trying to reassure him of his innate goodness.

"I betrayed you," he whispered.

Buffy stopped, unable to deny that he had betrayed her. She stood up and walked to him, standing so close that she could feel him breathing. He took a step back to distance himself from the temptation and went to continue. Buffy beat him to it.

"For months I wondered if maybe you'd done it to get back at me," Buffy said, her voice soft, not accusing him of anything, only telling him how she had felt

"Buffy no," he breathed, rushing back towards her, need to just touch her to assure her that he would never have done that to her.

"I knew in my head that I was wrong but.I couldn't help but wonder. I mean.when I first found out, all I could think was that you finally got your payback. For Angel.for Jenny."

"That wasn't-"

"I know," she stopped him. "When that Travers guy was going on about the test I saw that you hated yourself for what you had done. I felt so guilty for ever thinking that you had done it to get back at me."

"I never blamed you for what happened to Jenny," Giles said, softly stroking his Slayer's arm.

"I did. It was my fault," Buffy said, tears stinging her eyes. "I'm responsible for so many people's deaths in this town and I have to live with it. Again."

"But how many people are alive because of you?" he asked. "Because of what you continue to do? This town would have been taken over by darkness if it weren't for you."

"It's not enough Giles! It's never enough. For every person that I've saved, another is dead. In the first week I was here I couldn't even protect someone who could have been a fried," she said, remembering Willow and Xander's best friend, Jesse. "And before that, I couldn't even save my own Watcher."

Giles looked at her, surprised by her confession. In the six years he had known her, she had never once spoken about her previous Watcher or how he had died. It was obvious that he really didn't know his Slayer as well as he thought he did.

"When I came here, I thought that it would be over. I wanted to leave the slaying behind in LA," Buffy said. "But it just followed me wherever I went. I remember when mom found out, she told me that it had to stop. And you know what I told her? It never stops. Not for me. But.it did. For a while at least."

Giles nodded sadly and brought his hand up to wipe a stray tear from Buffy's cheek.

"I can't tell you that I wish you were still dead," he said. "But I am sorry that you have to go through all of this. And.I'm sorry for earlier."

Buffy went to protest but Giles held a finger to her lips.

"You have enough to worry about with Dawn and with everything else that you're going through to have to even begin to think about me. It isn't fair on you," he said.

He paused thoughtfully, regarding his Slayer, trying to read her eyes that shone with unshed tears. He wondered how long she had been keeping them in, hiding them from Willow and the others.

"Perhaps it would be better for you if I left. It was.unbelievably stupid of me to think that anything might have changed between us."

"No! You're can't leave, Giles, please," she begged.

"I'm not going to force myself onto you Buffy, it isn't-"

"Fair?" she finished. "God Giles, why can't you just think about yourself for just a minute? Forget about me and concentrate on you. What do you want?"

"You!" he nearly cried, though he managed to keep his true voice hidden.

"When.when you died," he began slowly, "the only thing that I wanted in this world was for you to be back here by my side. I was.I was going quietly insane without you but the others didn't even notice. Not that I blame them. Everyone was grieving and.I wasn't going to impose my feelings of loss onto them. And that's when the drinking started."

Buffy swallowed nervously. She hadn't heard too much of what had happened while she had been dead. Spike had given her a vague account of events, but no one had ever been very specific about what had occurred. She had kept herself awake at night, thinking of all the situations that the gang had probably encountered, the fights that would have broken out. No one had ever told her what they had done because she hadn't been there.

"Some nights were.unbearable. I drank to forget, though I never could. You were always right there with me. I hated that the last conversation we had had ended with you hating me for even suggesting that the only solution would be to kill Dawn. I hated the world and everything in it, and.I couldn't stop the drinking," he admitted.

She could remember the last time he had been turning to alcohol as a solution to his problems, though she had never really noticed it until she had needed him. She still felt guilty for that entire year that she had pretty much ignored him to be with Riley and the Initiative.

"About a month after you died, Quentin Travers stopped by and found me sobbing in my apartment. The only thing I can even remember of that meeting is the smug look on his face as though he were trying to say that it was my own fault for loving you. He came back a few days later, too early in the morning for me to have become too inebriated. Not to mention the fact that I hadn't ventured out of the apartment for nearly two weeks, and the Scotch bottle was empty," he said a little sheepishly.

None of the others even knew that he had been drinking when Buffy had passed away. He had avoided them for nearly a month before any of them had bothered checking in on him. It had been Dawn who had come around to look for him to see how he was. He had sent her away in a fit of tears, having, at first in a state of hung-over madness, seen Buffy instead of Dawn standing before him. Thankfully he had been far too drunk to stand up and fling himself at the young girl who was growing remarkably like her sister. The monks had done a good job.

"Travers wanted my journals so they could be given to the newest Watcher-in- Training. He flipped through them to the end to see if I had written about your last battle. I think he was surprised by how much detail I had put in there about it."

Buffy smiled, remembering how she had once complained of Watcher's being pricks because they never wrote in the details of their Slayer's final battles. She had assumed that they never wrote about it because it would be too unseemly for the Brits to write about death. Giles, however, had corrected her. For the Watchers, it was too painful to try and write down that their Slayer was dead, let alone how she had died and why.

"I knew you would have wanted me to have put the details in there," he said, noticing the smile that came to her face. "I remember you called us all pricks because we wouldn't write it down."

Giles hesitated before going on to his final confession. He could back out now without having said too much, though he knew that his Slayer would not allow him to leave his task unfinished.

"I uh.I also put in a warning for the Watchers to come," he said, fearful that his next words would be the end of the friendship that had taken place over the last six years.

"What was it?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. She could feel her heart racing inside her chest, a tight nervousness growing inside of her.

"Don't be afraid of falling in love with your Slayer," he said, his hand coming to rest on her cheek, his eyes meeting hers, both sets tear-filled and blurry. "No matter how hard it may be to say goodbye, the short visit is more than worth the heartache that is left when she is gone."

He breathed deeply. He'd said it. Albeit, in a roundabout way, but it was out. Buffy looked at him calmly, as though she was used to men declaring their love for her on a daily basis. He stared at her, waiting for some sort of reaction and getting none.

Finally, she smiled.

"What?" he asked nervously.

"This is going to sound way corny," she warned.

He smiled at the slight shake in her voice. She was as nervous as he was.

"This is the first time I've been able to feel my heart beating since."

"Since you've been back," he supplied tactfully.

She nodded and watched as a smile broke out on her Watcher's face. He shuffled forward, still a little unsure of where he stood with his Slayer. He bent his head down slowly, allowing her the time to pull away from him if she wished to. When she leant forward to meet him thought, he knew his answer.

Tentatively, their lips met for the second time that evening, the kiss beginning slowly. Buffy pulled back after having a sudden thought.

"When Travers said that you had a 'father's love for the child'," she said, perfectly imitating Travers pompous accent, "was he way off base?"

Giles chuckled a little a nodded. "Yes, I think it's safe to say that. I'd never really realised exactly how deeply I felt for you until that night. I had to face the thought of losing you."

She looked at him with surprise. "You didn't think I would make it through that stupid test?"

"What? No! Nothing like that," Giles exclaimed. "I knew you would survive, I never doubted that for a moment, but.when I told you the truth, I was so sure you would never trust me again."

Buffy shook her head, and too his hand in hers. "I thought you hated me. I thought that you were getting back at me and that.that the three years I had been your Slayer meant nothing to you. I was so afraid because I knew I couldn't lose you. And that asshole Travers had the nerve to fire you anyway."

Giles smiled a little, not even bothering to think to reprimand her for disrespecting her elders. He looked at her, his eyes searching hers. Part of the spark that had been missing earlier had returned, but he knew she still had a long way to go before she would regain the full glimmer within them.

"I fell in love with you that night," Buffy admitted softly.

Giles felt himself almost reel in shock. "What? Why?"

She smiled at his reaction and touched his cheek, her fingers trailing over the fine stubble of growth on his chin. "I almost lost you," she explained. "When I thought that the whole time you had hated me.I felt so empty lie.like I'd lost something huge. It hurt so much to think that I'd lost you forever."

"You could never lose me," he said quietly, pulling her into his arms even tighter than before.

"I almost did. So many times and for such stupid reasons. Ethan tuning you into that demon.Olivia taking over your apartment.and your wardrobe," he teased gently.

"You know, I distinctly remember someone calling me very, very old and that my having a personal life was gross," he teased back.

Buffy laughed and hugged him tightly.

"Ever heard of jealousy?" she asked.

Giles smiled and kissed the top of her head. "I remember I was so jealous of Wesley when he first arrived."

Buffy pulled back, shock written across her face. "Jealous of Wesley? Why?"

"Because.he was so much younger than I was. He was much better looked than I, and.the way he just looked you up and down and said 'well.hello'. I was afraid that you would fall in love with him," he admitted.

Buffy scrunched up her nose. "First of all, there was never any competition. Second of all.Ew! Wesley?! Although, Cordy tells me he's quite the hottie now. And third of all, Wesley was never my Watcher. The Council could call him what they liked, but.it was always you I went to."

"I know.and thank you for that. When you looked to me for approval, I.I could have hugged you then and there. I knew I'd been forgiven when you sat beside me on the table," he said.

He caught Buffy's chin and tilted her head up to meet his, marvelling at how well their bodies seemed to fit together. Her short stature seemed to suit his taller frame, her head able to nestle just under his chin comfortably. He kissed her gently, their lips meeting only for a moment.

"I love you," he whispered, his mind nearly going into a completely euphoric state at being able to say that aloud to her.

She smiled and leant forward to kiss him again. "Suddenly, glad to be back."