Thanks to everyone for another great SoG. This is for a series I’ve been adding to every year. If you haven’t read the first two, I’m afraid you will be as lost and confused as Buffy is with this one.
Title: Lover’s Inquisition (3rd in The Lover’s Series)
Rating: FRM (for language and talk of past sexual trauma)
Characters: Buffy, Giles, Willow, Spike
Timeline: Begins the morning after chapter 5 of Lover’s Noose (A New Man).
Summary: Third in the series after Lover’s Knot and Lover’s Noose. Buffy is determined to find out exactly what happened between her friends at the hands of Spike. But will she be able to handle the truth she’s hunting?
A/N: Thanks to ashlynvance, my beta. This is written for il_mio_capitano. At the end of Lover’s Noose she expressed a desire to see more of Buffy dealing with and coming to terms with the newfound closeness of her friends. So this is that story. I hope it does not disappoint.
Part 1 – Giles
Buffy reached in to knock on the door, still hanging from only its bottom hinge, with her other hand pressed tightly over her eyes. “Anybody there?” she called uncertainly. “Is it safe to come in?”
Giles looked up from his morning tea and newspaper. He didn’t know whether to smirk in amusement or sigh in exasperation. He was sure his face was doing an unattractive dance between the two, and part of him was glad Buffy couldn’t see it. Thoughts of the night before quickly pulled him back to a serious frown. “It’s all right, Buffy. I’m quite alone.”
There was still a hint of caution as the Slayer lowered her hand. “Willow’s not here?” she whispered, stepping over the threshold.
“No,” Giles looked back to his paper. “But you knocking is a novelty I might learn to enjoy. Did you happen to catch Spike?”
She glanced at the floor and huffed, “No.”
“Spry for a dead man, isn’t he?”
Buffy studied him as he sat, calmly sipping his tea. “Do you think this is a laughing matter?” she finally asked.
“No,” he sighed, setting everything aside and standing to face her. “After Xander lost you last night, he came back here. We made a quick inventory of the things we will require to fix this mess, and then he and Anya walked Willow home. I don’t know when he will arrive today with the supplies,” the Watcher squared his shoulders, “so I suggest we get on with what you came here to do.”
“And just what do you think that is?” Buffy asked with an arched brow.
He blew out a slow breath. “The pummeling, or the quartering, or whatever gruesome fate it is that you’ve decided I deserve.”
The Slayer watched as he stood tall before her, like a man facing a firing squad. It amazed her how much his certainty saddened her. “You really think I came back here to hurt you, don’t you?” She finally forced out, the words almost choking her. “That’s what you’ve been expecting all along.”
He removed his glasses and set them on the desk, all the while never looking into her eyes. “I hurt your friend. It’s only right.”
“But, Willow said--”
“Willow is a naive and trusting young girl,” his sudden growl made her jump. “She refuses to see the hard truth of what happened. She refuses to see what I had to become that night.”
“What was that?” Buffy whispered, tears pricking at her eyes as she watched her mentor suddenly begin to crumble in front of her.
Giles finally looked up at her, his gaze fiery, but oddly hollow. His voice was an airy hiss, “She had to choose her rapist that night. She chose me.”
“Giles… you’re not…”
“What else can you call it? I had intercourse with a young girl who had no intention of being intimate with me otherwise, and was only coerced into it by the threat of death.” He collapsed to the floor, the full weight of his actions falling on him as heavily as they had that night long ago.
A shiver of horror ran through her at his words, but, as she watched his body shake with a barely contained sob, she couldn’t bring herself to feel anything but sympathy for him. She knew that Willow was perfectly fine, and that her friend may even love him, despite, or even for, what happened. And yet, he was still torturing himself over it. Dropping to her knees, she wrapped her arms around him, holding on as he tried to refuse the comfort. “You’ve been waiting all this time for me to find out. You want me to punish you for what happened.” She whispered the revelations into his ear as her own tears broke loose.
“If Willow hadn’t stayed with me that night,” he breathed, “it might well have been my last.”
“Don’t you see, Giles? This is why Spike made you do it. This is what he wanted to happen to you.”
“You don’t think I know that?” Giles’ sorrow suddenly turned to anger. “I know why he keeps reminding me. I know why he thinks all his little jokes are funny. I’m not even surprised he turned up here when he did, the perfect time when Willow was distraught over Oz and trying to turn to the nearest source of comfort she could find. Asking me for things I can’t give her…”
“Why didn’t you just tell me Spike couldn’t be here?”
He looked into her eyes, his calm, logical demeanor returning as quickly as it had left. “Because then you would have insisted on knowing why. We couldn’t put the burden of this on you as well as the two of us.”
“I’m the Slayer, Giles. Burdens are kinda my job.”
“Yes, and it’s hard for me to remember sometimes that I am no longer your Watcher. I still want to protect you from the few I can.”
He got up and headed slowly into the kitchen. Buffy watched his back, her mouth hanging uselessly open. “But you are my Watcher,” she finally whispered feebly.
She heard the water come on in the sink, and some faint splashing like he was using the cool water to clear his face and mind. The stream then took on the hollow drumming of the kettle being filled. Buffy was slowly standing up and trying to sort through her own confusion when she heard him call out softly, “Would you like some tea? There’s also juice or some instant coffee if you prefer.”
Sitting on a stool at the pass-through, she looked at him with concern. “Is that it? I’m not gonna hit you, so now you’re just gonna shove it all back down inside?”
There was a deep sadness in his eyes when they met hers again. “What else is there to do?” He glanced pointedly to the tray of alcohol before turning back to the stove.
“You can forgive yourself for doing what you had to…” she mumbled. “Looked to me like Willow has.”
He planted his hands against the oven and dropped his head between hunched shoulders. “Willow is an angel with a capacity to forgive far beyond my own.”
“That’s not true, Giles. The only person I haven’t seen you forgive is yourself. You even forgave me when I let Angel--”
“No!” he turned around sharply. “Don’t start that. Nothing he ever did was your fault.”
“And what Spike did was yours?” Buffy returned gently.
Giles sighed, shaking his head with a small smile of defeat. “It’s not the same, but I will let you have the point.” There was a moment of quiet as he poured his hot water into a teapot. “So, if not to give me my just deserts, why have you come this morning?”
“I can’t just come see you?” she smiled lamely.
He quirked a soft grin, “Not for some time now.”
The Slayer growled softly as he made up his tea tray and headed for the couch. She plopped down beside him and huffed, “One day you’re going to be wrong, and I’m gonna be there to see it.”
“But today is not that day,” he prompted good-naturedly.
Buffy sighed, trying to decide if she should tell the truth after his earlier break down, or if she could quickly make something up. But it was no use, she needed to know. “I came back because I need to know what happened that night between you and Willow. I need to know what Spike did to you.”
Giles gave a small nod and took a sip of his tea. “I told you what happened… last night.”
“No… You gave us the Cliff’s Notes version. I want the novel.”
He gave her an odd sidelong look. “You’ve never asked what happened to me before. After any number of incidents.”
“I know, I know… But that’s because I thought all they did, all Spike did, was hurt you… you know, physically. And I didn’t want to hear about it because I couldn’t stand thinking about you in so much pain, because of me. And I know you’re strong and you can handle pain and stuff, but I didn’t think I could handle it, yours… in detail.” Her voice faded into a mumble.
Compassion filled his expressive eyes as she tried to explain. Giles pulled her comfortingly against his solid side. “Oh, Buffy. I’ve never blamed you for anything. Not once. And, even if you had asked, I wouldn’t have told you.” She took a deep breath, accepting his comfort. “Just like I’m not going to tell you now.”
She sprang back, her eyes wide as she stared at him. “Why not?”
“Because… what happened is between those of us who were there. You already know all you ever need to.”
“That’s not true. I need to know how Spike… I need to know what he… I need to know if the people I care about are…” Buffy sputtered. “I need to know if you and Willow are…”
Giles sighed, “You’re getting closer. You need to know if Willow and I are what?”
The Slayer’s face twisted in thought as she tried to figure out what exactly was bugging her. “A few weeks ago Willow spent the night here…”
“Yes, more than one, as I remember,” he nodded.
“Well, I know she was taking care of you after those demons beat you up. But, before that… You guys weren’t really working on a prophecy, were you?”
“No, we weren’t,” Giles answered calmly.
“I knew Willow sounded different. I knew she was acting weird… and that was when your girlfriend was here.” Her eyes went wide. “Don’t tell me…”
Shaking his head with a sad chuckle, Giles sighed, “Sometimes your imagination is a dangerous thing. Buffy, Willow came here and found me something of a mess. She stayed to watch over the self-pitying, old fool. That was the day Olivia left me.”
“Olivia dumped you!?!” Buffy sounded incredulous. “How could she do that?”
“It was what was right for her. But thank you for at least acting shocked.”
“Wills is right, I’m completely blind when it comes to other people’s relationships. I had no clue about Olivia, and I didn’t even see any change between you and Willow.”
Giles turned and rubbed his soothing hand along her upper arm. “That’s because nothing had changed between us. Especially not until… well, until Thanksgiving.”
“Is that when she asked you to be… together with her?”
“Willow was lonely and scared that she’d never find what she had with Oz again. I was convenient.”
“And she thought you might because you had…”
“That may have been part of her argument,” he acknowledged. “But I told her it couldn’t be.”
“Is that why she was so upset? It wasn’t Spike, it was because you said no to her?” He nodded slowly. Buffy bit her lip for a moment before asking, “Why?”
Giles’ eyes narrowed. “Why?”
“Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong, total wiggins at the thought. But why?”
“Because I have nothing of worth to offer Willow.”
“Apparently, she thinks you do.”
“No. She was looking for momentary physical satisfaction. What she deserves is so much more.”
The slayer frowned in thought. “You never even considered it?”
“What is it you want me to tell you, Buffy? That I’m a wretched old letch? That I sometimes think of her late at night? Or is something else bothering you?”
“I just want to know what I’m up against.” Buffy looked surprised at her own statement, then quickly added, “With Spike.”
But her Watcher wasn’t fooled. He smiled sadly at her. “I still consider you my Slayer, Buffy. No one is going to take your place in my affections. I will continue to love all of you, same as I have for nearly four years now.”
“But how can you? Willow is so caring and helpful and, hell, she even remembers to come here to visit you.”
“It’s not a contest. I don’t give out points.”
“And yet she now gets the hugging and the kissing,” Buffy said quietly, her eyes narrowing a touch. “Or have I been missing that little development with Xander, too?”
Giles stood in exasperation and paced for a moment. He turned and gazed down at her, pleading in his eyes. “What is it you want from me, Buffy? Do you need to somehow feel even with Willow?” He gestured wildly at the stairs. “Should I take you up to my bed right now and have my wicked way with you? Would that somehow make you feel better?”
The Slayer lowered her eyes and shook her head slowly. “No… I don’t want that.”
“Good,” Giles sat heavily and ran his hands over his face. “Because I don’t think I could ever do that again… with any of you. Once was too much.”
His head in his hands, he almost missed Buffy’s nearly inaudible, “But you do love her.” He looked over at her, tears threatening in his eyes. “Not a contest, Giles. I’m just saying… You wouldn’t be this upset about it if you didn’t.”
Her Watcher smiled slightly at her perception. “I won’t admit to that. Willow needs to be with someone good and wonderful. And I’ll be damned if I’ll ever stand in the way of that happening.”
“Even if the good and wonderful person she wants is you?”
“A description that doesn’t come close to fitting me,” he ducked his head and whispered.
Buffy’s arms came around him. “If I had Spike here, I would kill him for making you feel this way,” she mumbled into his shoulder.
“And I wouldn’t let you.” He took a deep breath and held her arm loosely as she began to pull away. “You don’t slay those who can’t defend themselves, Buffy. Spike makes sport of turning us into things we’re not. I won’t let him do it to you, too.”
When he let her sit back, there was anger in the Slayer’s eyes. “He didn’t change you, you know. You’re still Giles. The man any one of us would gladly trust with our lives. The man we were completely lost without yesterday. Spike is going to pay for what he did to you.”
Giles swallowed hard but didn’t look at her. “You did well despite my absence. And Willow is right… Spike is of no consequence anymore. Truthfully, I’m glad he escaped you. Leave him to his impotence.” Buffy opened her mouth, but he continued. “Don’t you have class this morning?”
She was stunned for a second. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“Willow told me you had one with her.”
Buffy nodded. “Are you going to be alright?”
He raised his head and smiled at the young blonde. “Yes, Buffy. Xander will be here soon if you’re worried. But I’m fine, and you really shouldn’t skip your classes.”
“All right,” She stood and started towards the door. “Oh, and Giles… I’m sorry about overreacting last night. It was a shock. I hope you know that I wouldn’t hurt you… on purpose.”
“Thank you. And I completely understand. I… I hope you know that I never wanted to hurt any of you either. Though, I do often have my failings.”
The Slayer shook her head, but she didn’t have the heart to continue that argument. So she turned to go. When she was out of his sight, she stopped to look back through the open door. He had crossed to the pass-through and was slowly pouring himself a glass of scotch. Buffy could finally see the broken man showing through cracks in his whitewashed façade, the pieces of his soul that Spike, among others, had fractured. Her anger flared brightly once more as she spun and strode quickly away.