17 Time Passes
Days gave way to weeks and weeks to months. Giles wasn’t at all surprised, when at Aria’s one month checkup she was taken off the apnea monitor as they had stopped using it a week after he had cast the spell. It took Buffy that long to believe she would be alright without it.
At each subsequent visit her progress continued to be positive. Giles and Buffy celebrated as Aria reach each of the typical milestones that a baby should attain. Though as expected she lagged behind by a little bit.
At one visit the doctor mentioned the importance of ‘tummy time’ to strengthen Aria’s upper body. He said it was to prepare her for when she would be crawling. Aria hated being on her stomach, to the point of wailing the instant she was set down. No amount of cajoling would satisfy her. Giles took it upon himself to be Aria’s ‘coach’. He developed a little ‘workout’ regimen that would build Aria’s upper body strength. After a while she started using the living room furniture to pull herself up. Then she would use the edge for support as she cruised around the couch or coffee table. By ten months Giles was silently regretting what he had done. His field of vision didn’t include the first two feet from the floor; so on several occasions he had nearly tripped over Aria.
It was at the Magic Box where this was the most troublesome. With Buffy’s return to UC Sunnydale, Giles brought Aria to the store. It was great while she was still an infant and in her car seat or playpen. The customers would ooh and ahh at the tiny infant. Asking Anya how old the baby was and saying how great Anya looked. Anya would thank them for the compliment then tell them she wasn’t the mother and that the baby belonged to her boss.
Now, being fully mobile, Aria kept getting into the items on the lower shelves. After a little mishap that had her, trapped beneath a small shelving unit with chicken feet and canary feathers strewn about the place; Xander reinforced all the shelving units to ensure their stability. Anya took it upon herself to move all items to a three foot level and installing a grate to the front of the shelves. Thus preventing Aria from grabbing anything off of them.
Giles hired Xander to build a place for Aria to play that would be safe. Plans were drawn up and Xander was to begin work on it this weekend. For now Aria’s toys were kept in a space near Giles desk; this way he could keep an eye on her while he cross referenced his vendor orders with his receipts.
From Aria’s vicinity Giles heard, “der, ya-ya, lillo, ra-ra …” he glanced in the direction of the babbling infant. He noticed she was pointing at a section of a wallet. Anya insisted on giving her a wallet with pretend money; saying you can never teach them to young about the value of money. Anya soon learned, after finding a lump on damp paper, to laminate the ‘money’ to guard against baby drool.
Aria looked in his direction saw he was watching her then stood on wobbly legs. She began to bring the wallet to him. Losing her grip it dropped to the floor; from where Giles was sitting he could tell it was the photograph section.
Aria stooped to pick up her treasure but paused and stared at the picture presented. Her eyes grew wide with excitement. “Mum,” she said enthusiastically.
Giles stopped what he was working on then approached, “What have you there, Aria?”
Staring through her wispy thin blond hair, with her bright green eyes. It amazed Giles, how much she looked like Buffy. It was as though Riley hadn’t been involved in the child’s make-up at all. Aria pointed at the fallen wallet. “Mum, mum.”
Glancing down at the fallen object, Giles saw a picture of Buffy. It was taken during the Magic Box’s first Christmas party. He smiled, “Right you are little one; that is your mum.”
Aria plopped down on her butt and flicked the plastic covered section and a picture of Xander stared back at them. “Der.” she said.
“Very good, yes that is Xander.” He said, emphasizing the pronunciation of Xan in the first part of the name.
Giles took a seated position on the floor then placed Aria into his lap. He stretched forward retrieving the wallet. Together they went on through the pictures. He soon learned her expression for Anya was ya-ya, Willow was lillo and Tara was ra-ra. He turned the next plastic sheath and there was a candid shot of Joyce. “Gamma” she said brightly.
He kissed the top of her head, “Yes that is your grandmother.” Giles stared off distantly, “She was a lovely lady.”
“Dada.” Aria said excitedly.
Giles’ heart swelled with pride at the thought of her associating him with that particular nomenclature. She slapped her little hand down onto the wallet. “Dada” she said again to get his attention.
Giles looked to the item in hand. His heart sank deeper than the Titanic when he saw it was a picture of Riley.
Aria flipped the plastic sheath over to reveal a candid shot of him, playing his guitar. He couldn’t be sure when it had been taken. Aria touched the photo then placed her hand to his chest. “Guy-gulls.”
Giles didn’t know how to respond. He knew she needed to call him something but he definitely didn’t want her calling him ‘Giles’ that was for the older group. As he pondered the situation, she pushed the wallet from his grasp and turned in his lap; throwing her arms around his neck. Stunned for a moment, at the sudden show of unsolicited affection; he took her into a tight embrace.
“I love you too little one.”
Giles was soon the recipient of a very wet, open mouthed kiss to his cheek. Buffy and Willow had been teaching her to give kisses but she hadn’t grasped the important fact of closing her mouth before applying her lips. She grabbed the discarded wallet then sat back in his lap.
The bell, over the door to the shop, rang alerting everyone to the incoming person. When Aria saw who it was she squirmed away from Giles, toddled to the edge of the fence and started calling out to her mother.
Giles slowly stretched out his limbs, reacquainting them with circulation then stood. He scooped Aria up into his arms, settling her on his right hip then walked up to Buffy. He placed a light kiss to her forehead before handing Aria off.
“I see she’s in full babble mode today.”
“On the contrary, she actually knows the title of ‘Mum’ belongs to you.”
“What a smart cookie.” Buffy said as she tickled her daughter’s tummy.
Buffy was informing Aria and Giles of her day at college when the rest of the Scooby gang arrived. Buffy had asked Willow to drop by when she had the chance and Xander just happened to arrive at the same time, to wait until Anya was through work.
“Willow, you wouldn’t mind watching the munchkin for me would you? I feel the need for some serious training right about now.” Willow nodded her agreement then Buffy turned to Giles, “Come on I’ll even let you drill me to exhaustion.”
The room became very quiet as everyone stared at the petite blonde. “What? What did I say?” she asked in all honesty.
“Wow, for an older man you must have great stamina. The ability to exhaust a slayer sexually. Can you teach Xan…”
“Yes, well,” Giles interrupted, “Leaving my abilities aside. Buffy was speaking of training, Anya. Xander would you mind gearing up and going a few rounds with Buffy; while I critique her technique?”
“No can do G-…” Giles sent him a death glare, “Giles, I promised Anya I’d take her out tonight.”
“I have a quarterly report that I must finish. You’ll have to train on your own tonight.” Giles said apologetically.
“You finished that this morning.”
“I remember clearly because you had me mail it on my lunch break.” Anya said helpfully. “Have you been hit one too many times and having memory lapses?”
“Giles, what gives? If you don’t have me training alone you’ve got Xander suited in the protective stuff so I can pummel him. How come you don’t work out with me anymore?”
Giles knew he had been avoiding the physical aspects of Buffy’s training. Two weeks after he had called upon the Sylphs to assist Aria he learned of the price that had to be paid and he didn’t want Buffy to find out. He definitely didn’t want the others to know; especially Willow. He had been lecturing her on the use of magic for personal gain and how it went against the natural order of things.
“Just an oversight that I will correct today.” Giles took her by the elbow and led her into the back room. I just won’t go as hard as I usually do. He thought.
They did a few warm up exercises and stretches before squaring off to spar. Buffy could tell right away that something was off; Giles was only putting in about a quarter of the amount of effort he normally did. While she contemplated what might be wrong he called a halt to their activity.
“You are telegraphing your strikes by shifting your weight just before you punch. Remember to stay fluid.”
They began again. Buffy stepped the momentum up a notch. Soon, too soon from what Buffy could remember, Giles was signaling to stop. His chest heaving. As he attempted to catch his breath he began to cough. Not a simple cold cough this was a deep barking cough that rattled his chest.
“Giles, you okay?” He nodded in answer though he seemed unable to control the cough. She brought him to the couch, “I don’t think so. Sit down.”
Buffy went to get a bottled water from the fridge; all the while Giles hadn’t stopped coughing. She came to his side and presented the water, “Here take a drink.”
Giles took a sip of the offered beverage. No sooner was the liquid in his mouth, when he went into another coughing jag, spitting the liquid everywhere.
“That’s it, let’s go.”
“Go where?” he said between gasps.”
“I don’t need the-”
“Giles, your fingernails are bluing and even I know that isn’t a good sign. Now, don’t argue with me. I’ll ask Willow to take Aria home. She’ll be more comfortable there than waiting at the hospital with us.”
Giles regained some of his control, enough to speak without coughing anyway. “Buffy, no need. I know what’s wrong.”
“Bring me my duffle; it’s over next to the filing cabinet.”
Buffy retrieved the item he asked for and stood by as he sifted through the contents. They could hear Aria fussing in the next room. His hand circled the item he was questing for. “Perhaps you should check on Aria?”
“I’m not going anywhere mister until I see some improvement.”
“I’m not coughing anymore.”
“Yeah, but you are still breathing like a freight train and you’re looking a little pale.”
“Please, just go see that she is all right.” Reluctantly, Buffy left the training room.
As soon as she exited Giles withdrew his hand from the bag, shaking the contents in the canister. He exhaled then placed the metered device to his lips and dispensed a dose of the inhalant. Buffy returned just as he was about to take a second dose.
“Giles?” she said, her brow knitted. “Since when do you need an inhaler?”