Disclaimer: Fox and Joss own BtVS. And they own what they've done with it this year. Hang your heads boys. This is what they've driven me to.
Distribution: Gabi, Dee, and Dword if they want it. Anyone else just ask.
Type: Angst? You're Soaking In It! (aka Aww I need a Hug)
Timeline: After "Wrecked" (Will be AU soon I'm sure)
Author's Notes: Thanks for the encouragement Karen. And the beta. You rock!
Giles opened the living room window and shed his sweater on the way back to his desk. It was unseasonably warm that day. In fact, it was bizarrely warm for Bath in December. 'It almost feels like California,' he thought before he could stop himself. Thinking of Sunnydale inevitably brought on a maudlin mood that lasted the rest of the day. It always made him think of her, and how lonely he was here without her.
He laughed at his own ridiculousness. He'd bought this flat in the mid-eighties and lived in it until the day he left for America to claim Buffy as his Slayer. And now he was still living out of packing crates, too uneasy with being so far from *home* to really get comfortable.
'Home is where the heart is.' He cringed, knowing that it really was going to last all day again. He sat down to his desk and opened the text he'd been reading earlier. He'd gotten about a paragraph further when the phone rang. He reached out and picked up the receiver.
"Hi," the voice was terse and quiet, but he knew it instantly.
"Buffy? What's wrong?"
"Does something always have to be wrong for me to call you?"
He sighed. "I wish it didn't. So... what happened?" He could feel her glaring on the other end of the line.
"A lot. A lot's happened. I just got back from taking Dawn to the airport."
Giles stood and began to pace with the phone. "Why?"
"Your leaving made me think about a lot of things. You told me you were going to get me killed. Maybe you were right. Then I realized, I'm going to get Dawn killed."
"I can't watch out for her by myself and be the Slayer. Tara moved out and Willow's in no better shape than I am. So I called my father. I told him that he had no right to expect me to raise his teenage daughter when I was only 20. I told him that CPS was going to put her in foster care if he didn't come and get her. He sent a plane ticket. He couldn't be bothered with coming here for her himself. I think he's going to send her to boarding school. At least she'll be safe there."
Giles' mouth clenched in anger. He took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice level. It wasn't going to do anyone any good to provoke her into hanging up with him. "And how did Dawn feel about that?"
"She hates me. But that's for the best really I guess."
"How can it possibly be for the best?"
"I'm not going to be here much longer."
"Buffy you promised..."
"So? So did you. I decided if you didn't have to keep your promises, then neither did I. I'm gonna give some big bad out there the reputation it's always wanted. I'm gonna let it bag a Slayer. And then the Council can go and break Faith out of prison, or kill her and get some brand new meat. Whatever. It's not my problem any more."
His anger was soon joined by immense sadness and despair. Had his leaving made worse what he was trying so desperately to fix? "This isn't you Buffy," he spoke softly, letting his emotions seep into his voice. She had to know he still cared. "Talk to me. What's causing this?"
"It isn't me. You're right. Me died. And I didn't come back. I wasn't supposed to come back Giles. It was my time. It was my time to go." Her voice broke into soft sobs. "What came back was this mess... scraps of emotion here and there. Parts of Buffy... but not all of me. I felt like me when I was with you. And when you left, so did the rest of me. What I've done now... I can't ever undo it. I'm a disgrace. To you... and to me. To what I was. I've ruined everything." She began to cry in earnest.
"Buffy, there's nothing you've done that we can't fix together. If you need my help... need me to come back... I will." He swallowed heavily. "Whatever you want, I'll do."
"It's too late."
"I slept with Spike."
He sank into his desk chair. "P-pardon?"
"I said I slept with Spike, Giles. I had sex with him. I don't ever want you to see me again... see what I am. I feel like such a whore." The self-hatred in her voice cut at his heart.
"Buffy... no mistake is worth your life. Certainly not anything to do with... Spike."
"Why don't you come and stay with me for awhile? Get away from Sunnydale altogether for a few weeks?"
"I'm sorry Giles. I'm so sorry. And I'm just too tired. It's too hard here. I'll... I'll miss you."
"Buffy?" The line clicked once and then became silent. "Buffy?! Buffy?!" He set the handset down and jumped up from his chair. He ran across the room, throwing things out of his boxes in search of a phone book. He had to find the number for the airline as quickly as possible.
His head snapped up and he stared at the phone over on his desk.
He ran to the phone and picked it up. "Buffy?"
"Giles can you hear me?" He looked at the phone in confusion. There was not even a dial tone. "Giles?" The voice seemed to be coming from behind him and so he turned. He could faintly make out Buffy's face as it hung in the air just before him. He reached out to her and she smiled. "Giles come back, okay?"
He suddenly felt dizzy. He closed his eyes and shook his head. As he blinked his eyes open again, Buffy's image grew stronger. As she came into focus, the flat around him seemed to fade into soft gray tones. He tightly squeezed his eyes shut and opened them again.
The flat was gone. In its place, were four walls and a floor, all covered in soft, puffy, light gray material. The ceiling was painted a powder blue color; its only feature an inset florescent light panel which was turned off. The only light currently in the room was filtering in from the hallway through the small window in the room's only door. Shadows fell across the floor, indicating that there were faces at the window observing him. But Giles couldn't make them out... and didn't care to. The only face he was concerned with at the moment was smiling at him from across the room.
Buffy sat in the far corner with her legs tucked under. She reached out to him with arms as intangible as the rest of her body. In a way, he hated seeing her like this; a phantom, untouchable, so obviously barely there. But it was better than not seeing her again. He couldn't face that. Of course, that's how he wound up there in the first place.
He crawled across the room to sit by her.
"You're going to wear holes in the knees of those pajamas," she said softly.
"If I do, they have about a thousand identical sets to replace them with."
"You were gone a long while this time. I've been calling your name for days."
"Sorry," he mumbled, looking down at his bare feet.
"Was it the same one that you were telling me about last time?"
"Well... what happened next?"
"Willow and Tara broke up... and you..."
"No. You had sex with Spike."
She wrinkled her nose. "You know, I haven't liked that one since you told me you were leaving and I didn't stop you from going. If it had really happened, I could have stopped you."
"You think so?" He smiled.
"I know it. You could never resist my wily Buffy ways."
"This is true. God Buffy. I just wish I could touch you." Tears glistened in his eyes as he looked into her blue eyes, the most solid part of her.
Her smile was sad and full of pity. Ghosts of tears drifted down her transparent cheeks. "Oh Giles, why don't you ever do a happy one?"
"I can't think of anything happy any more. And... it doesn't matter. The happy ones never last long. It seems they are much easier to see through than the ones where things go badly."
"Well... let me think of one for you."
He smiled. "If you like."
"Okay... give me a minute." She looked up as though her new idea might be written on the plain ceiling above. "All right how about this... When I jumped from the tower, there was a parting in the mystical energy that I fell through. It singed me, but didn't kill me, but the fall was obviously going to. You saw me falling, and ran forward, convinced you could save me. You held out your arms, and I saw you, so I tried to get over to you so that you could catch me. What neither one of us counted on, was that I was falling from so far up that this attempt at saving me really wasn't the smartest thing that you could do."
He started to cry. "Buffy if I could have... if that would have worked..."
She ran her hand across his chin. He could not feel her touch physically. It was more the sensation of a warm breeze passing over his skin. It did, however, have the desired effect of getting him to look at her again.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, green eyes sparkling with tears.
She smiled at him. "Hush now... you're ruining my story. I gave you an opportunity you never really had."
He nodded, wiping his cheeks dry with the back of his hands. "Happier this time. Right. I f-forgot. S-sorry."
"It's okay... now where was I? Oh yeah, you stepped forward to try and catch me. But, when I landed, I hit like a ton of bricks. This big dust cloud poofed up and when it cleared, you and I both were lying on the ground, all crumply."
He couldn't help but smile. "Oh yes... that's much happier."
"Willow sent Spike to go call an ambulance."
"What about the portal to the demon dimensions opening?"
"Well... besides the fall, I also had the mystic energy. So I was dead and the portal closed. B-but... Xander did CPR and got me back."
"You should have been a writer."
"So we both finally woke up in the hospital, and both of us had broken just about every bone in our bodies."
"And the fun just keeps on coming."
"Hey you're the one that said if it was too happy you'd figure it out. Don't blame me for your masochism."
"I'm not the one that slept with Spike."
"Neither did I! That was your idea Mister! It's thoughts like that that got you locked up in the first place." They were grinning at each other before they knew it.
"Actually, I believe it was the non-responsiveness and drooling that earned me my stay."
"Aww, I think you'd have cute drool."
"Thank you for waiting to flirt with me until after you were dead. Perhaps I do belong here."
"Do you want to hear the rest?"
"Sorry to interrupt."
"The guys made sure we got to share a room in the hospital. We spent the next three months bedridden in each other's company. And then of course, due to my super Slayer healing, I was well enough to be released. You weren't quite though."
"Poor weak male that I am."
"But I'd gotten kind of used to being holed up with you."
"Me and my sexy casts?"
"So I kinda... threw myself down the stairs at home."
"Gotta keep it miserable enough to be real right?"
"It got me back into the room with you. But, I was a little wigged on painkillers the first night and I told you what I did."
"And I scolded the Hell out of you."
"Yup. But I also let slip that I did it because I love you."
"Which of course I don't remember saying the next day. Which puts the ball in your court."
Giles leaned his head against the padded wall and closed his eyes. "That sounds nice... mostly."
"Or you could forget the whole thing and go back out into the world."
"I don't think I'm ready."
"Giles, you don't need these delusions anymore. You need your life back ."
He opened his eyes and looked straight into her own. "So do you."
"No... what was it you said you sang to me in this last one? You... you wished that you could lay my arms down and let me rest at last? That's been done. I'm okay Giles. Nothing will ever hurt me again. I'm never going to have to fight, or be scared, or anything like that any more."
"I wanted you to live Buffy. I wanted you to have a full long life."
"That's what I want for you Giles. Live. You have to live for both of us now."
"I-I don't know if I can. I'm sorry."
She smiled. "Don't be sorry. Be Giles. Please? Please? Be Giles again."
"But if... if I..."
"You're afraid if you invite in good old Mr. Sanity, you won't see me anymore? Come on Giles, when have the Scoobies ever needed to be out of their minds to see a ghost?"
"The others don't see you though. I don't want to lose you... the rest of you I mean."
"Giles, even if that were true, you can still see me. You have pictures of me, videos, Dawn's face. You can see me whenever you like. And you know better than to think that even if you don't see me this way anymore, I'm not with you. You know I'm with you always. Every time you think of me, I'm right there."
He bowed his head. "It's not enough."
"No. It will never be enough. But... it's going to have to do."
Giles shook his head. "Buffy... I..."
"Please Giles? Please try for me?"
His eyes were sad when they met hers again. "I will... but not yet. Please? I'm just... not ready yet."
She nodded. "I know."
"It's okay. Go ahead. I'll be here when you get back."
He sighed and smiled at her. "Thank you. I'm going to try yours."
"Try to have some fun Giles."
His eyes lost their focus, looking past her phantom and staring deep into the pillow of the wall. He slumped a little more against the side of his cell and remained very still.
Outside his little window, the two people who had been watching him for a half an hour finally turned away.
"I don't understand Will. He goes completely out of it like this, then spends hours talking to nothing, and then goes back to being a vegetable."
"He misses her Xander."
"We all miss her. It's just... you know... when's he going to come out of it?"
Her green eyes met his. "When he's ready. He needs time."
"It's been almost 3 years."
"How much time does he need?"
"Xander, imagine something for me okay? Kill Anya." Her friend looked appalled. "Now, how long is it going to take you to get over it?"
He nodded slowly. "Yeah, I know. I just wish..."
"I sometimes think maybe Buffy's there with him... in his mind. He'll come back Xander. He will. Just... maybe he needs a little more time to say goodbye."
Willow hugged her best friend. They both looked into the room one more time. Giles had slid down, lying on the floor in a nearly fetal position.
Tears stung at the eyes of all who watched him, living or not. As the footsteps of his friends echoed their retreat down the hallway, invisible arms encircled Giles, providing a beacon of love that would hopefully lead him home.
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