Rating: FRT (T for Teen)
Summary/Timeline: Season Six. How Giles could’ve come back to Buffy. Warning: Major angst ahead!
Feedback: Always welcomed and appreciated.
Notes: [Thoughts] *Emphasis*
Thanks: To Elizabuffy, the marvelous: you made this better even if it did break every one of our ‘we should never do this in a fic’ rules. Thanks again for getting the change tracking of doom back out to ply it for me. You rock. All corrections are hers, all remaining mistakes are mine.
Disclaimer: These characters aren’t mine. Plot lines aren’t even really mine; they’re just beamed to me via satellite. All hail the mighty and benevolent Joss for making it all possible.
Dreaming, he stirred. A tattoo showed on his forearm as he rolled, exposing wide shoulders tapering into slimmer hips. The duvet covered half his body, enough for modesty and comfort. The rest lay bare to the room – salt and pepper sprinkled through the hair on his chest, the strength in his arms, the character in his chin, the blood pulsing through his throat.
In his dreams, Giles watched Buffy slam Spike against a wall and heard the telltale scratch as she pulled his zipper down. He watched it all. He saw her with the vampire again: at the Bronze, against a wall somewhere, down in that dank cave he called his home. He wanted to laugh at the doubled irony – the slayer fucking her prey. He watched the frenzied sex of the vampire and slayer and recognized it for what it was: like met like; predator and predator. There was no yielding, no fumbling, no awkwardness. Only strength and power.
He wanted scream the question “why?” at their flushed faces. But he knew. Steel reinforced flesh. Pleasure and pain. She craved it by whatever means.
He woke, sweating, every muscle tense, knowing he craved her touch as much as the vampire did. His blood beat for her, an ocean away. He woke knowing the dream might’ve been prophecy or prescience or their bond. It didn’t matter. It was true.
He reached for the bottle on the nightstand, pouring whiskey in a glass barely dry. He hadn’t slept long. As the first sip slid down his throat, he mused on dreams…and slayers.
He’d often wondered how Buffy had satisfied the demands of a slayer’s body. The increased strength wasn’t always a blessing; most channeled it with constant training. Or Faith’s constant excess. Buffy seemed unaffected by that sexual need in her high school years, a fact for which he’d been grateful at the time. The thought of having to convince a sixteen-year-old that she had ‘needs’ was abhorrent him. And when she was older, she’d had the Teutonic Poster Boy, and had seemed to get along just fine.
He’d always known she was different, believed she was special, assumed she was unique: that she wasn’t affected by that aspect of the slayer, that it was part of what made her different. He believed her friends and family had balanced the frenzied calling. Perhaps he’d been blind, even about Angel. Was that why she’d been drawn to him? Not for the storybook romance but because of the torture?
The glass rose of its own accord to his lips, the deceptively silky taste smoothing across his tongue. He sipped again, and again, thinking. There was another reason slayers had watchers. He’d just never seen the need in Buffy before: the need for conflict that went deeper than the dusting, the want to struggle against the pain, until it becomes white hot and burns away the impurities. She was born for that. He was born for it, too.
He laughed drunkenly to himself – born for this and she chooses a vampire. [How was I so blind that I didn’t see? It’s the other part of her, so buried no one notices it…so buried not even I noticed it.]
However, Spike wasn’t the one for her. Spike was a danger, chip or no. If she kept going as she was, Spike on one side, the rest of the vampires on the other, she wouldn’t be living anymore. Some day, she’d require that he push too far. Giles realized he’d made a colossal mistake – he’d missed the signs completely. He’d left just when he could have helped her the most. She didn’t need a father, didn’t need him to act the mother-hen. She needed something only he could safely give her.
Whoever sent this dream, I’m glad; glad to know so I can set things right. This is my duty. This is my calling. She. Is. Mine.
He’d had 18 hours to think about the words he wanted to say. More than eighteen hours, really, as he’d started thinking the moment he woke. In truth there weren’t any proper ones. Seven living languages, dozens of dead or unrecognized ones, and every single word deserted him. Every time he tried to gather the right ones, they fell like burned ashes from his mouth.
He’d found the right words for the travel agent, who’d put him on a plane that afternoon. He’d found the proper responses to customs, who had passed him through without a second glance. Those were the mundane ones, the simple ones, the commonplace words that never left him. They secured him a rental car, and then the only thing between him and Sunnydale was the road.
He knew showing up on her doorstep was unexplainable. But he was here now. He stood in front of the door she’d called home for the last six years, breathing in the Southern California air and trying to gather his courage. He still had nothing but his certainty that she needed him, and that, finally, he could be what she needed; that he had to be what she needed. Otherwise she would die, again.
Before he could move to knock, the door opened, and she was revealed. He was shocked and scared at her appearance. She looked hollow. How could she be so empty? So bone thin? Was she this bad when he’d left her?
Then, when she recognized him, her face lit with joy. He saw the shutters she put on her soul open for the briefest of moments, and her voice was filled with hope when she said, “Giles?”
He responded, to the look and the need and her voice, “It’s me. Buffy, it’s me.”
But, before he could move forward, before he could even reach out his hands, the light was gone. As quickly as it appeared it retreated, to be tucked away. Her shoulders hunched and her body curled around her as if she needed to protect herself, even from him.
Her stare became flat and hard. “What are you back for?” The words weren’t angry; they were lifeless and cold. The kind of cold he knew. He was far too familiar with it. It was the kind of cold that would’ve left him reaching for a bottle if he’d been the one in her place.
He’d known this was going to be difficult, but the gravity of her stare turned him to stone. He knew nothing he could say would break the walls she’d so firmly shoved back into place. Particularly when he’d been part of what put them there.
There were no magic words. So, he tried the truth then, instead.
She stared blankly at him, as if his answer wasn’t an answer at all. It was as if she hadn’t heard him. She crossed her arms, pulling them tight to her body, and turned to walk into the house. Over her shoulder she tossed, “Better come in. It’ll be getting dark soon.”
He followed her, watching the way her shoulders moved under her blouse, seeing all the danger signs. The shadows on her skin filled him with horror. She had bruises around her neck, one on her forearm, bruises that wouldn’t have been there if she had been taking care of herself. They would’ve healed in minutes. Instead they looked days old. She had unhealed cuts and scratches up her forearms. Cuts that wouldn’t have been there in the first place had she been at full strength.
But he knew, he knew with the certainty of a man who’d just spent eighteen hours on a plane flying across an ocean on the strength of his dreams, that he was to blame. He’d walked away because he had no place in her life, because he’d been so certain that it was futile for him to try to make one. And every scratch, every discoloration, every tense and painful moment he wanted to absorb, so she didn’t have to anymore.
He steeled himself for what was to come.
Buffy walked into her living room and stopped abruptly, arms still wrapped around herself. Not for comfort, no, never that. She wrapped her arms so Giles wouldn’t see the tremors that raced up and down her nerves, so he wouldn’t see that she was nearly frantic. The surprise of his appearance had stopped them from shaking for a second, but the shakes were back, stronger now because she wasn’t out there, fighting or killing or fucking something.
But she also stopped, arms still wrapped tightly, because his very presence drew her. It always had, and she’d always locked up the feelings, the thoughts, locked them tight and hard because she knew it wasn’t what he saw in her. Now her arms would betray her in more ways than one. The look, the look she’d seen him give her when she opened the door, made her shiver with need. Her betraying arms wanted to grab him and hold him as tight as she could, surround herself with him and his hope and his love and for once have the shaking cease.
Her constant sorrow became a desperate kind of rage. What have I become that I need him so much? He says nothing, but somehow it seems like everything. How dare he? Leave me… when I need him most, leave me to become this, then come back? How dare he do this to me?
She found she was saying it out loud; facing his now unreadable eyes with her own betraying arms still wrapped tight, “How dare you Giles? If you’re back for me, why the fuck did you leave me behind in the first place?”
She watched as he began to say something, something defensive and protective and something she’d heard a thousand times before about how she needed to stand on her own and the need to leave her alone to do so. But then, as if he couldn’t tell the same lies to her again, his shoulders slumped. His head dropped, heavy on his chest. He looked towards her, and she was frightened at how naked his face was.
“I was wrong: blind and wrong.” He closed his eyes, as if he was trying to hold back tears. It made her heart clench again, “Buffy, there are no words to take back what I did. I was wrong to leave you: wrong to believe that you had to be alone. There are certain things I will spend a lifetime trying to atone for. I think leaving you may have been one of them. It is a betrayal that cannot be forgiven, yet I’m here to ask, to atone, to redeem, to beg you to forgive.” His eyes opened, and she was stunned at the regret that faced her.
His words began to sink in. In his long-winded convoluted, awkward way, he was trying to say he was sorry. For one brief second she felt his sorrow – she felt his sorrow and his ache, and they felt like the things she’d carried in her veins for months. A sullen kinship of pain.
But she couldn’t forgive. Not just like that. He’d helped to make her what she was, standing before him like a junky waiting for a fix. Slayer, indeed. And suddenly she was blindly angry, hurting, waiting to hurt.
“What do you want from me, Giles? Do you want me to tell you that you’re forgiven now? Is that what you’re here for? Because I can’t do it. I can’t tell you everything’s ok. You can’t walk back in here and expect me to fall at your feet.”
As soon as they were out, she wanted to take the words back. But she couldn’t stop them. They poured out of her like little knives.
“You don’t get to do that, Giles. You don’t get to come back here and tell me that you’re gonna make everything better. You can’t. You told me I had to live a life that doesn’t involve you, remember? There are some things sorry doesn’t – can’t – fix. And I’m one of them. You’re too late to come back here and fix me. You’re wasting your time. I hunt, I keep the vamps down, I do my job and hold it together. You can take your sorry and leave me the fuck alone.”
Giles moved towards her and she fought to stay angry against the look in his eyes. He looked like he knew, like he knew what she’d done. But he couldn’t know. If he knew how wrong things had gone, he wouldn’t be here, trying to apologize to her. She closed her eyes at the look on his face, willing her body to stand for just a few seconds longer. If she could just make it for a couple of seconds longer she could throw him out and get out into the night. She sucked in a shaky breath, trying so hard just to stand her ground.
His voice broke her, made her eyes fly open, “Buffy, I know.”
She looked at him, curiosity getting the best of her. He couldn’t really. He spoke again, his voice low and hoarse, his body canted towards her in a silent plea.
“I know. I know about the tremors. You think you hide it well but I know.” She gasped, and fear raced through her. How could he know? Dawn didn’t even know. He went on, “I know about Spike, too.” His voice roughened on the name. She had no words left to answer him. He didn’t seem to need them as his voice kept going, inexorably, driving deep into her.
“I know what you do at night. I know exactly what calls to you out of the shadows. I know you can feel the vampires crawling over Sunnydale, and they make your skin itch, like an invisible rash of malice festering on your body. I know that your arms shake when you’re not fighting, as if your body can’t come down, as if you long to fight even when you’re sleeping. As if the only time you’re real is when you’re slamming a stake into a vampire’s chest. But you’re tired, so terribly tired. Every day seems like a greater weariness, every color dulled and every sound dimmed. Until you fight again. Oh, yes, I know.”
His words were a spell, and she felt caught, the moment separating out into endless shards of sound as he went on. She didn’t want to hear, yet every fiber of her body strained toward the half-whispered words.
“I know what Spike does to you in the night, Buffy. I know he holds you down, he makes the world burn bright, and for a few petty minutes, a few gasped seconds, you feel real again. His body moves under you and you find you can breathe. He slams you into a wall and suddenly the tremors stop and you’ve got control. He comes perilously close to biting you and you bare your neck, taunting him, wanting him, soundlessly hoping this time he’ll take you up on the offer and drain you till you find oblivion, because you know it will feel that good. I know you’re looking for him at the end of the night.”
She felt naked before him. His eyes bore into hers, and he stepped closer to grab her wrist and pull one of her betraying arms away from her body. He held her, just her wrist and hand, and together they stared down at it like it was some strange artifact, some weird demon they had to capture. Her hand began to twitch of its own accord. She tried to clench her fist, tried to stop the tremor from showing so plainly, making it impossible to deny anything he’d said, but, as her fingers closed, his grip slid from her wrist to her hand, holding tight against her twitch.
“Buffy, I know.”
He could see it. He could see what was wrong and he wasn’t . . . he wasn’t pushing her away. Something broke inside of her. She looked up at him, feeling the tears begin to silently fall down her face.
“Giles . . .” she could barely form words, they came out hushed, broken, whispered between them, “Giles . . . help me.”
In that moment – the moment she looked at him with trust and naked despair – he did the only thing he could. Thought left, instinct remained. His grip moved, drawing her in.
He clenched her upper arms in his hands, drawing her forward with fast pressure. He put his lips against hers and gasped as the current ran through him – through them both. Lips slammed against lips, pain transmuted by contact, his fingers digging into her arms. It all twisted – the room, the feel of her skin, the taste of her mouth – as she opened to him and he opened to her, something fierce and needy clearing the way for them both. She seemed to struggle under his hands, trying to move closer, trying to press harder into him. He shouldn’t have been able to hold her so tight, but need and pain and love gave him strength. The burning fire of their mouths ratcheted hotter, wet and hard and drawing no quarter, holding nothing back, no surprise to either of them, not really. Not when all the shouting and all the curses seemed to lead to this: bodies aching and full with rushing blood, focus narrowed to the smallest of movements, every twist of tongue and press of teeth making them gasp and huff. Neither would back down, either would let go, heartbeats fast and hard and rushed, beating in furious syncopation. He kissed her with his soul bound up in every moment of his lips and tongue.
In the midst of this burning onslaught, he felt Buffy trembling beneath him. . . trembling and suddenly straining in his arms. She was trying to crush close, but he held her so her mouth, his mouth, their kiss, remained the only focus for her throbbing need. He felt himself divide, half wanting – desperate crazed need – half controlled, every fiber of his body consumed by the woman who met his lips with such boundless passion.
Still, he knew it had to stop; he couldn’t take her lust and be greedy with it, throw everything away and take her now, on the floor. He tore his lips from hers, body screaming in protest, to look at her.
She growled as he broke contact with her lips.
It was a complicated desire, this longing for her, this need, and he held it at bay with a wrenching pain that silently answered her protesting growl. Need was his purpose, but not this uncontrolled thing. Not now, not here, not this way. She opened her eyes to stare at him, fury and frustration writ plain.
“Why, exactly did you do that?” She ground the words out, slowly, carefully, barely controlled, but controlled nonetheless, “And why, exactly, did you stop?”
“Look at your hands.” His terse reply brought her up short. She turned her hands, palms up, and raised them between them.
“It’s stopped.” It seemed the obvious was occasionally worth repeating. “It’s stopped.” She looked at him with wonder. “How ... nothing, not even Spike made it stop completely.”
He nodded at her implied question, relief warring with giddy fear. He’d sat in his bed in England, so certain, so resolute. Across an ocean, assured, but nothing had prepared him for this, not even surety. Seeing her so destroyed had tested his faith in dreams and portent and certainty. But it seemed, again, that late night imaginings were right. He grabbed one steadfast hand and pulled her to the couch, unwilling and unable to let go.
“I had a dream.”
~ the end ~