Spoilers: Set shortly after Nightmares
Summary: Coming to terms with your nightmares can be as scary as the nightmares themselves.
Rating: FRT for very mild violence, complex, messy emotions
Pairing: B/G friendship
Category: genfic, episode epilogue
Distribution: If you've had my permission in the past, you have it now. All others, ask and ye shall receive.
Feedback: Constructive criticism always welcome. Praise abjectly sought.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc., etc., etc. I just let them have all the fun Joss won't. I own nothing except my twisted mind which you really don't want. Please don't sue.
Notes: This one comes to you courtesy of Pythia’s request for a fic involving the following: Buffy and Giles patrolling, a thermos of tea, Buffy teasing Giles for wearing a scarf on patrol, and an unusual use of said scarf.
Dedication: to Pythia for her unfailing ability to come up with challenges that take me back to Watcher/Slayer basics and make me fall in love with Buffy and Giles all over again.
“I don’t know why you had to come along tonight,” Buffy grumbled as she trudged through Restview cemetery. “I thought I was doing okay. Killing nasties, not getting killed, meeting whatever mystical quota you have in mind…that’s it, isn’t it? There’s a quota and you didn’t tell me and now I’m not killing enough vampires and you’re here to kick my butt. Is that it?”
Giles shook his head desperately trying to keep up with Buffy’s dizzying changes of mood and leaps of illogic.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said tersely. “I’d simply like to keep an eye on your form, your technique. I haven’t gone into the field with you for some weeks. It’s important that I make certain you’re using the skills I teach you properly.”
“And the reason you’re wearing that stupid scarf would be…?”
“It’s night. I always wear a scarf against the night chill.”
“Right. The night chill in Sunnydale.” Buffy smiled and her eyes danced with mirth. “Sometimes I don’t know how you don’t melt, Giles. Besides, scarves on patrol are a big no-no. They give the vamps something to choke you with.” She sobered slightly. “Don’t give them an advantage. Isn’t that in the Watcher handbook?”
“Probably in the same paragraph where they discuss appropriate clothing for the Slayer and reject miniskirts and high-heeled boots,” Giles shot back.
“Hey, at least I’m fashionable for both the place and the season. You look like you’re going Christmas caroling in…in Prague.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Buffy.” Giles stopped and leaned against a monument. “Perhaps we could stop just a moment.”
“Tired?” Buffy taunted. “You know, for a Watcher who trains a Slayer, you really ought to be in better shape.” A shadow crossed her eyes. “Look, if you’re tired, maybe you should just go home.”
“I’m not tired. I just thought perhaps we might share this.”
From the depths of his coat, Giles produced a thermos and two cups. While Buffy watched curiously, he unscrewed the top and poured hot liquid into the cups.
“Tea.” He handed her a cup, smiling. “I find it refreshing when the demons aren’t coming out. And perhaps we might…talk a bit.”
“Talk? What about?” Buffy took a sip. “Nothing big is coming up, is it?”
“No, no, not that I’m aware of,” Giles said quickly. “No, I just thought in light of our recent experience with…with Billy…you might want to…I don’t know…talk, perhaps.”
“What’s to talk about?” Buffy settled herself on a headstone and looked at the ground. “It was all just stupid nightmares. None of it was real. I’m not a vamp, my dad likes me okay, and everything went back to normal. All done.”
“The incident is over, yes, but nightmares have a way of staying with us even when we wake up.”
“I had a good weekend. Dad even bought me new boots. Mom had a fit, but he said he liked seeing me smile.” She took another sip of tea and glanced at Giles out of the corner of her eye. “No more nightmares for Buffy. It’s okay, really.”
“I’m very glad to hear it,” Giles said quietly. He sipped his tea and sent a sidelong glance to his companion. “Nightmares can be quite disturbing. Sometimes they color our actions and attitudes for days after.”
“Not me,” Buffy said as she swung her heels out so she could admire her new boots. “I shake ‘em off real fast. No big. I wonder if I should have gotten the red boots instead of the blue. What do you think, Giles?”
“I think changing the subject to fashion was rather pointless. If you want to distract me, your shoes aren’t going to work.”
Buffy deflated slightly and pulled in her heels.
“Look, I know the waking nightmare thing was a big wiggins, but it’s over. Why spend all night in share mode? I’d rather forget the whole thing.”
“You’ve really thought about being turned?”
Buffy slid off the headstone, set her cup down and headed into the darkness. Without worrying about what happened to his tea, Giles followed her.
“Just because you don’t want to face it doesn’t change your fear, Buffy,” he said as he raced to catch up with her. “Do you really think you’re the only one who fears such an end for you?”
“It’s not going to happen,” Buffy said stubbornly. “It’s just a stupid dream. And no, I don’t think anyone else thinks it’ll happen, because it won’t.”
“Really. And just what do you think happened to all the other Slayers?”
Buffy stopped short in her tracks. She stood stiffly, her back remarkably straight.
“I don’t,” she said. “I don’t think about it.”
“Yes, you do. You can’t help yourself, can you?”
Buffy didn’t move a muscle. Giles took the opportunity to get close, but made no move to touch her. When she was this tense, it might well be deadly to do anything that might startle or upset her.
“It’s only natural that you’d wonder,” he said quietly. “You are a link in a very long chain, and you don’t know much about all those other links. If it’s any comfort, Slayers are rarely turned. A vampire who had been a Slayer in life would be incredibly powerful, and few vampires want the competition. So you see, you’ve been frightened of something that’s very unlikely to happen.”
“Great,” she said after a moment. “So, a short life and a quick death are what I can expect, if I’m lucky. That’s nice to know.”
Her brittle tone saddened Giles.
“If it’s any comfort, I intend to do everything in my power to give you as long a life as possible,” he said. “After all, I don’t want my nightmares coming true, either.”
She turned, her eyes wide and confused.
“Y-you mean…? I didn’t know you got nightmares.” She looked down, frowning at the dirt. “Why?” She looked up at him again. “Why, Giles?”
“Why would…why would you be scared of me dying?”
“Scared doesn’t begin to cover the matter,” he said attempting a light tone that came out more strained than anything else. “I should think ‘abjectly terrified’ comes closer to the mark.”
“But why?” she persisted. “If I’m gone, you get to go back to England and whatever it was you were doing before you started librarianing at Sunnydale High. Or is it that you don’t want to blow it when the Watchers put you in charge?”
“Hardly in charge,” he murmured as his hands stuffed themselves into his pockets. “Don’t be silly, Buffy. ’In charge’ sounds as though you listen to anything I say.”
“I listen. I hear, even. I just don’t always do,” she said. “Admit it; when I don’t do what you say, I’m usually the one who was right.”
“Oh, yes, that helps immensely. It’s a good thing I have you about to bolster my ego.”
“Don’t get so grumpy, Giles. Anyway, you didn’t answer my question. What’s with the abject terror? I’m a troublemaker and a pain in the butt. Why would you miss that?”
He didn’t say a word. Instead, Giles looked at her. Buffy couldn’t meet his anguished gaze. She stubbed a toe in the dirt and looked everywhere but her Watcher’s face.
“It’s getting late,” she said abruptly. “I don’t think anything’s going bump in this night. Anyway, I have a test in history tomorrow I didn’t study for. Better get some sleep so I can be wide awake when I fail.”
“No. Stop right there, Giles. Don’t say anything heavy. I can’t take it right now, okay? Anyway, you’ll be freaked tomorrow if you say something you can’t take back. Things would get weird.”
She started to walk away.
Buffy came to a sudden halt and squeezed her eyes shut.
“You just had to say it,” she sighed.
“I…well, I rather like you.”
He got no reply. She just continued to stand stock still, staring at the ground.
“If anything were to happen to you – “
“But if it did, I’d be devastated. Not just because the world would have lost such a talented Slayer, but also because…I would have lost you.”
For a long moment, they stood in silence, still divided. All at once, though, Buffy’s shoulders began to quiver. The tremors spread through her small frame until Giles realized she was crying. In an instant he bridged the gap between them and put his hands on her shoulders. She turned and reached blindly, wrapping her arms around his waist and burying her face in his chest.
“It’s all right,” he told her softly. “You’re not alone. Never, Buffy; not while I’m here.”
After that, he stopped trying to speak. There didn’t seem a point since she was crying so hard he doubted she could hear. Besides, he’d said everything he could think of. Words didn’t seem much of a way of communicating with Buffy at any rate. Her constant slaughter of the English language left little room for the hope that mere words would ever be adequate in her mind. All the same Giles knew he must extricate himself from her embrace soon. Even if nobody saw them, it was still inappropriate for the high school librarian to be this physically close to a student – especially one who was only sixteen.
Reluctantly, Giles began to pull back slightly. As soon as Buffy became aware of his movement, she let go completely and took a step back.
Sorry,” she said.
“No, no, it’s perfectly all right,” he assured her. “I just thought you might want this.”
She took the handkerchief from him with a watery smile.
He watched her wipe the tears from her eyes and dab delicately at the end of her nose.
“Go ahead and use it properly,” he said. “You can give it back when you’ve washed it.”
With that, Buffy blew her nose heartily. She looked up with an embarrassed grimace.
“I’ll make sure I clean it really well,” she said. “You don’t need a hanky full of Buffy snot. Sorry about the meltdown.”
“No need to apologize. The past few days have been a bit turbulent emotionally. You probably needed to do that. Oddly enough, I feel a bit better myself.”
They began to walk toward the street without comment from either.
“Yeah, ‘cause you got all super mushy and gushy,” she smiled cheekily. “I tell you, Giles, getting in the way of your hearts and flowers parade could really turn a girl’s head. I had no idea you were such a sweet talker.”
“Do shut up,” he said with an embarrassed grin. “You’re no better than I at unburdening your heart. It’s bound to be a bit awkward.”
“All the same…it’s not so bad to know you like me for me. I do, too.”
“You like yourself? Well, that’s considered healthy on a psychological level.”
“Stop that!” she giggled. “I meant…you’re not so bad, yourself.” Her expression suddenly turned cloudy again and she pulled him to a stop and looked up at him. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, either, Giles. So don’t take any stupid chances, okay?”
“I generally keep at least a cross and holy water with me, you know. I’m not entirely ignorant of safety matters on a Hellmouth.”
“I know. I just can’t be everywhere at once. Sometimes I worry that…that I’ll let you guys down; you and Willow and Xander.”
“Oh, I imagine we can take care of ourselves, most of the time. And when we can’t, you have a way of showing up just in the nick of time. We muddle through well enough.”
“And yet you still wear that silly scarf on patrol. That’s not the smart thing to do.”
“You just don’t like me wearing it because you want to be the only fashionable one.”
“Are you kidding me? Paisley is so last decade. Possibly last century.”
She poked him teasingly in the ribs and laughed.
“Stop that,” Giles said with a valiant – albeit unsuccessful – attempt at gruffness. “The Slayer is meant to venerate her Watcher, not prod him to bits.”
“Sorry, Giles,” she said with a thoroughly unrepentant grin. “I don’t do veneration. It’s not my thing.”
“Oh? Then what is your…’thing’?”
Buffy shrugged and hopped up to sit on a headstone.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “Slaying vampires, dating cute guys, being generally lost when it comes to classes, hanging with my bestest buds, and teasing you. It’s a pretty full schedule, actually.”
“Well, at least I’m on it somewhere.”
“You’re kidding, right? You’re all over it.”
“Slaying stuff – you train me, hanging – Will and Xander hang with you, too, so where you are is where we are at least half the time, and then there’s the teasing thing. If it weren’t for sleeping in class and dating the cute, I’d never get away from you.”
Her saucy grin and a nudge from a bright blue boot told him that the teasing was still meant nicely. He grinned back for a nanosecond before attempting to turn serious again.
“I meant what I said earlier.”
Buffy’s legs stopped swinging. Her heels hung suspended in midair as she tried to follow Giles’ train of thought.
“You will never be alone, Buffy. Not while I’m here. If you need anything – anything at all – from me, well…you know…I’ll do whatever you ask of me. Be what you need me to be.” He snorted in frustration. “This isn’t coming out quite the way I meant it to.”
“I hope not, because…well…it sounded…sort of…but I think I get it anyway. So let’s drop the heavy and have some more tea. Okay?”
“I’ll go back and get it.”
As he trudged back to where he’d left the thermos, Giles cursed himself under his breath. He hadn’t meant his declaration of unswerving loyalty to sound so much like an offer to be her love slave. How could he make it clear to her that it was meant as a transfer of his sword, his soul, from the Council to the Slayer without making it sound…dirty?
He’d barely reached the spot where they’d left the thermos when a cry filled the night. Giles turned and raced back to where he’d left Buffy, utterly forgetting that there was such a thing as tea. His heart pounded in his chest.
Suddenly, he came to a halt. He stood frozen to the spot.
A large, muscular vampire had Buffy in his clutches. He’d grabbed her from behind and held her arms pinned. Her blue boots flashed in the pale, sickly moonlight as she kicked viciously. The vampire just laughed and pulled back her hair to expose her throat.
That one word hit Giles like a blow. This would not happen. His nightmare would not come true while he stood and watched helplessly.
Giles hardly knew what he was doing. All he knew was that Buffy needed him. He yanked the scarf she had mocked so recently from around his neck and threw it over the creature’s eyes.
“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”
The vampire dropped his prize and grabbed blindly at his face to remove the scarf. Giles held on tight as the creature whipped around and around in an attempt to throw him off. He was growing dizzy and had no idea where Buffy had landed or what she was doing. He tried desperately to focus, but the vampire moved too quickly and he needed to pay too much attention to keeping the beast blinded.
“So you’ve got the blindfold. Want a last cigarette?”
Even though he didn’t dare express it in the slightest muscle twitch, Giles was relieved beyond measure to hear Buffy’s quip.
“Don’t bloody offer it a smoke!” he gritted out. “Stake him!”
“Whatever you say, oh venerable Watcher.”
A cloud of dust rained down on Giles. He fell to his knees, choking and clutching at the dirt for a purchase on a swiftly tilting planet. It was several seconds before he became aware of Buffy’s small hand on his back, soothing him, even as her voice in his ear berated him.
“What were you thinking, Giles?” she demanded. “You just threw yourself on a vampire twice your size! Don’t you know that’s a great way to get yourself killed? You’ve been telling me all night I’m not alone as long as you’re around. Well that doesn’t do me much good if you let yourself get dead and aren’t here anymore, does it?”
“You’re welcome, Buffy,” Giles choked out between coughs.
Her hand stilled. So did her voice.
“I just…I don’t want anything to happen to you, okay?”
Giles sat on his haunches and turned to face her.
“Nor I you,” he said softly.
Buffy blinked hard and looked down at the grass. Giles carefully reached out and lifted her chin with his fingertips. When her tear-filled eyes were fully on his, he picked up his scarf and gently laid it in her hands.
“I am your Watcher. You are my Slayer. You have my sword, now and forever.”
The moment stretched out for what felt like an eternity. Despite the fact she didn’t say a word in reply, Giles could see the comprehension in Buffy’s eyes. The combination of relief, gratitude and abject terror was strange, to say the least, but he knew his eyes held the precise same fear and joy.
At last, Buffy blinked, sniffled slightly, and put the scarf around her neck.
“You do realize this isn’t a sword, Giles,” she said shakily. “Swords are usually pointier.”
“Well I didn’t happen to have a literal sword with me this evening,” Giles said testily as he helped Buffy to her feet. “Doesn’t that school teach you anything about metaphor?”
“Maybe when I was napping, but not so much when I was awake.”
“Perhaps if you actually read the papers Willow writes for you, you’d learn about them.”
“So not my deal, Giles. I’m a little busy saving the world, in case you haven’t noticed.”
He was gratified by the way she held his arm as they left the cemetery. Neither gave another thought to the thermos of cooling tea sitting deserted on a headstone.