Pairing: General, hints at Buffy/Giles
Rating: Overall R/ This chapter PG
Setting: Season 5 AU
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: On a camping trip, the Scoobies stumble upon a hidden hiking trail, named YellowBrickRoad, with a weird backstory to it. Once they trek down the trail, nothing is as it seems.
Author's Note: I started this fic last year and didn't get to finish it due to technology issues. But I thought what was more fitting for my last day of posting than by finishing the fic I started for last year's SoG. So, without further ado, here's the conclusion to YellowBrickRoad.
Author's Note 2: For those who didn't read it last year, or want to re-read the first five chapters, the links can be found under the cut.
The paranoia was finally starting to die down, only ever hitting Giles full force when his sleep was plagued with dreams of that damn trail. He sat on the window seat of his hospital room and stared out the window. Once he had made it out of the woods and collapsed on the road, he had been found by a passing couple and taken straight to the emergency room. Besides the mental damage, the only thing the Watcher suffered from was slight damage to his eardrum. But he was willing to take a small loss of hearing if it meant that he was as far from the YellowBrickRoad as possible.
Even though he had been put in the psychiatric ward for what the doctor had called a mental breakdown, Giles was assured that the local authorities were looking for his friends. It only took a matter of hours from when he was admitted to the hospital that the Willow, Xander, and Buffy were found. He wasn’t allowed to see them once they were admitted into the hospital, but one of the nurses usually updated him on what was happening. And after a few days, Buffy was released and became the one to give him news on Xander and Willow. Of course, the Slayer hadn’t been allowed in his room while he was still mentally breaking down but that had come to a gradual stop two days ago. Not that he was leaving anytime soon, the doctor still wanted him under psychiatric evaluation to make sure he wasn’t going to revert back to how he had been when he first arrived.
“Giles?” the sound of Buffy’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts.
He turned around to find his Slayer standing in the doorway, a small smile on her face. He watched her walk further into the room and pull one of the small chairs closer to his perch at the window.
“I thought you weren’t coming by today.”
“I did too, but then I thought that today might be the day Willow wakes up from her coma or the day Xander gets better. Or the day you get released.” She explained as she sat down. “How are you doing anyways?”
“The same as I was yesterday, only no nightmares last night.” Giles replied, leaning against the window.
“Yay for small victories, huh?”
They shared a small smile before falling into silence. The Watcher looked back out the window for a moment, staring down at the sidewalk below his room. He let the silence continue for a moment more before looking back at Buffy.
“Have you seen Willow and Xander, or am I the first one on your visit?” he asked.
“Willow still hasn’t woken up, but her brain activity is getting stronger. So…hopefully in a few days she’ll be up.” She told him.
“Will there be any damage?”
“Doctor said it’s hard to tell right now, but the strong brain activity is a good sign that there won’t be too much brain damage. I guess Xander didn’t really do as much damage as we thought.” At the slight confused look on Giles’ face, Buffy continued. “I know he did damage, but it’s not as bad as I thought when I saw them. I thought he had actually split her skull and gotten to the brain. Turns out, the head just bleeds a lot when the scalp’s cut up. You’d think I’d know that from all of your head injuries.”
Her last statement earned a small chuckle from him.
“The only thing he did to her skull was indent it slightly.” She finished once the chuckling had died down. “And then I went and checked in on Xander.”
There was a pause as Buffy looked at him, and he knew that she was looking to see how he’d react to that. During his breakdown, he had to be restrained due to how he reacted at the news that Buffy had been left alone with the younger man. His conviction that Xander was going to hurt Buffy had come from the paranoia, and now he knew better.
“How is he?” Giles asked, noticing the brief look of relief on his Slayer’s face.
“Still fluctuating between remembering and not remembering what he did.”
When Xander had been brought into the hospital, he had been knocked unconscious by Buffy when he had attacked her in the woods. And since then, there were times when he knew what had happened but had no recollection that he was the one who had beat Willow with a rock and the one who nearly sent a stick through Buffy’s heart- although, Giles was still trying to figure out how the stick had been embedded in the blonde without breaking. Then there were the days where Xander remembered everything and had to be sedated for his own safety.
“He’s on suicide watch now.” Buffy continued. “I guess he broke the mirror in the bathroom and tried to slit his wrists with a piece earlier today. But when I was there, he was backing to not remembering what he did. He just knew that me and Willow were hurt, and that the bad man did it. Why do you think Xander keeps talking about this bad man?”
“Because, according to him, that’s who was following us back on the trail. And the one responsible for that music.” Giles explained, rubbing the back of his neck. He hated talking about the music that had heard on the trail, some part of him believing that he would hear it again if he talked about it.
“I got that, but…there was no one. And I didn’t feel anything weird.”
“No, but your Slayer abilities were also being messed with while we were there. My guess is that Xander was somehow tuned in with the trail and felt a presence none of us were aware of.”
“So you think the the bad man is what? A demon?”
“More like a spirit of some sort.” Giles said. “One that decided to possess Xander.”
“Do you think he’s still possessed?”
Giles shook his head gently. “No. I think the bad man left either when you knocked Xander out, or when the three of you were taken out of the woods.”
Buffy let out a small sigh or relief and relaxed a little bit in the chair.
“And how are you doing?” he asked.
“Fine. You can’t even tell that I had a stick impale my chest.” She said with a little smile. “Slayer healing kicked in once I got here and there’s not even a scar.”
“I meant your Slayer abilities.” He said with a brief smile. “Nothing’s off or anything?”
“Nope. You wouldn’t even be able to tell that they stopped working.”
There was another round of silence as Watcher and Slayer slipped into thoughts of the events that had happened on the trail. Giles cleared his throat slightly to get Buffy’s attention, taking a deep breath once her eyes were on him.
“I’m sorry.” He said softly.
“For…for what I did the night I left you in the woods.” Giles clarified, knowing he needed to apologize for that in case he went back to having a series of paranoid days.
“You mean the sex?” he looked down and nodded slightly. “Giles, if I didn’t want it then I would’ve stopped you. I let it happen because you needed it. And, hey, it wasn’t all that bad. So don’t apologize.”
“No. It happened, no one was hurt, and that’s it.” Buffy cut him off, giving him a reassuring smile when he opened his mouth to protest. “Don’t try to make yourself look like a bad guy for what happened, Giles. Friends have sex with each other all the time. I’m not mad or disgusted or whatever it is you seem to think I am. Okay?”
He nodded slightly and let the subject drop. The two talked about this and that for a few more minutes before Buffy announced she was going to head back home. She stood up and walked over to him, giving him a hug and brief kiss on the cheek. When she pulled back, Giles looked at her with a puzzled expression.
“What?” she asked when she noticed his look.
“You didn’t need to do that to prove you’re not mad.” He told her.
“I know. I wanted to.” Buffy laughed softly as his confusion grew. “You brought it up, so I’m just going to put it out there. When you get out of here, we should do dinner.”
“Yeah. When you were wigging out that night, you kissed me for a reason other than being scared and paranoid, right?” Giles looked down as a slight blush appeared. “So I thought we could do dinner and see if something good could come from what we’ve been through.”
“And that something good would be?” he prompted, still confused as to where this was coming from.
“That something good would be us as a couple. Kissing you and sleeping with you didn’t repulse me as you seemed to think it had, and I want to see if what I’ve been feeling since then is the real deal.” She explained as she looked at him. “So…dinner when you’re released?”
Before he could really process what Buffy had said, Giles agreed and, after another round of goodbye, found himself alone in his hospital room. He stared at the door for a few good moments as what he agreed to finally hit him. With a small smile, the Watcher made his way to the bed and thought over everything.
He knew Willow would wake up soon and be brain damage free. After all, she was a strong young woman and if she was showing strong brain activity while in a coma then she’d wake up and probably only have a major headache for a bit. He also knew that Xander would eventually remember everything and, with the help of everyone, would know that it wasn’t his fault and that no one blamed him for what happened to them. And while he didn’t know if his dinner with Buffy would lead to something more, he did know that their relationship hadn’t suffered and for that he was grateful.
As he settled into the bed and let his eyelids drift close, he thought he could hear the swing band music far off in the distance. Even if the music was playing, the faintness of it told Giles that they were all out of harm’s way. The bad man, whoever or whatever he was, couldn’t get to any of them outside of YellowBrickRoad. And with that knowledge, the Watcher let himself fall asleep easily for the first time since he first heard that damn music.