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They were all in Joyce’s kitchen, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch when Buffy told them the bad news. It was Willow, though, who seemed to be upset the most. Buffy was feeling something also, but she had learned to hide it well. Unlike others, she couldn't be a slave to her emotions. After all, she was the Slayer.
"Fired?" Willow asked, trying to control her hostility. "I can't believe Giles was fired. How could Giles get fired?" She took the butter knife in her hand and smudged the peanut butter goodness across the top of her bread. "I mean... Oh! Look it's all messy now!"
Oz looked down at his girlfriend's sandwich. Wow! She's really upset about this. I mean she's usually so neat and tidy, especially when it comes to her food. She just really knows how to cut those corners. "So, Buffy," he began, turning his attention back to the Slayer, “how did you manage to kill Kralik?"
Joyce Summers reached over and placed another jar of Jiffy on the table. Everyone else, except for Buffy, had spread on his or her bread.
"Oh, she was very clever," Joyce began, before catching a raised eyebrow from Buffy. "But, uh, you go ahead and tell it, dear. You tell it better."
Joyce turned away from the Scoobies and went to the sink, glancing briefly at her watch. “Where is he?” she asked herself. He's usually on time...for a stuffy Englishman. She took a deep breath. I sure hope that he didn't change his mind. Especially with what happened yesterday.
Buffy sighed and opened her mouth---
"Now, when you say-'fired', do you mean 'fired?'" Willow asked again excitedly, interrupting Buffy’s chain of thought.
Xander licked some jelly off of his thumb. "You're not cruising past that concept anytime soon, are you, Will?"
"I don't know," Oz interrupted. He just loved to see his girlfriend get so worked up for something like this. It showed that deep, down underneath there was a fiery and energetic redhead just waiting to get out and let loose. "Unless of course, 'fired' means something else...you know. In a parallel universe."
Xander took a bite of his sandwich. "Trust me. I have been 'fired' in this universe and the next. It all means the same thing. Unemployed. Collecting no income. Avoiding the bill collectors. Making a dent in the sofa in front of the TV." He took a gulp from his milk. Man, peanut butter sandwiches and chocolate milk. Mrs. Summers is just so awesome! Do you think Buffy would be upset if I kidnapped her and made her my mom?
"Well," the red-head shot back, "It's just...I mean, he's been fired! He's unemployed! He's between jobs."
"Don't worry, Will." Buffy began looking around for a knife. "Giles isn't going anywhere. He's still the school's librarian." He's just not my Watcher anymore. "You know, nothing's really change. The important thing is that I kept my special birthday tradition of gut-wrenching misery..." And Giles isn't my Watcher anymore.
Joyce turned around again and watched her daughter. Poor Buffy. He's really been the only sense of stability in her life ever since they moved here to Sunnydale.
"Bright side of everything," Oz said, as Buffy reached for the new jar of peanut butter.
What bright side? She had to stop herself from asking. The only person who cares for me more than my own mother is not allowed to hang around me and will probably be replaced by someone more tight-assed and British as he is. I’ve just managed to start loosening Giles up, and then some other British prima donna is going to walk in and care for me like a Slayer than like a…
She stopped herself. …like a daughter. Did Travers really say that? Does he really believe that? Does Giles really feel that way about me?
She remembered the look on his face when Quentin Travers, the head of the delegation of Watchers, told Giles--her Giles--that he was fired. "She passed, you didn't."
Giles was in the corner of the library, leaning in the doorway of his office. "What?" He stood straight up and made eye contact with Travers. Buffy jerked back because she thought that Giles was going to maul Travers right then, right there.
She could see the huge purplish area on the left side of his face. He had gotten it when he had rescued her and her mother from the boarding house where they kept that abomination--monster was too kind of a word--called Kralik.
And through it all, Giles maintained his stoic character, and not even winced at the pain. Buffy knew that it hurt like hell. Had to. But, he was Giles--all English and superior--and she knew that he would never allow her to see him in pain. She wanted to walk over and to hug him, to get some ice from the cafeteria, and numb the pain on his cheek. But...
"...relieved of your duties as Ms. Summers' Watcher. You’re fired," Travers had calmly stated.
Giles moved forward. Buffy could see that he was getting worked up, trying to control the Ripper inside of him.
Fired? But...how?
Buffy looked over to Giles. No…
"On what grounds?" Giles asked.
And then Travers told him. And Buffy Summers couldn't believe her ears. You have a father’s love for the child.
She snapped back into reality.
"Give you a hand with that little lady?" Xander asked, reaching across the table. Buffy handed him the jar of peanut butter that she couldn't get open.
"I just can't wait to get my slayer powers back," she moaned. So, I can fly to England, rip Traver's heart out, and feed it to him on a silver platter.
"Oh...C'mon, Buffy," Xander began, the jar in his left hand while he tried to twist the top off with his right. "Sometimes you just need a big strong man..."
…like Giles.
Joyce had just sat down and took a bite out of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The doorbell rang and she looked down at her watch. Right on time, she thought to herself. "Oh...Buffy...can you get that for me?"
The Slayer was just wiping the milk mustache from her face, and watched as Xander finally surrendered his false machismo and asked for Willow's help.
"Sure," Buffy said, hopping up from her chair. She crossed into the front room, and opened the door to find Giles standing right there.
She took a deep breath.
"Oh..." Buffy began. "Giles." She didn’t expect to see him. She expected him to be cowering in his apartment and flogging himself with anguish and doubts over what had participated in. Against his will, Buffy quickly added.
Her Watcher—correction, her former Watcher—stood there in the doorway, dressed in his gray tweed suit and glasses. The small purplish area around his left eye had gone down somewhat but Buffy knew that the wound was more than superficial. It cut down deep into his psyche.
It cut down deep into their relationship.
What was their relationship now? Buffy asked herself. Was it just now student and librarian? Was he just someone she would see roaming the hallways between classes? Was he just the person she was supposed to talk to about overdue library books? Would he still care about her the way he wasn't supposed to? Would he still care about her the way he wasn’t allowed to?
Buffy noticed that Giles carried a package in his hands--a small box wrapped in a white paper and decorated with a beautiful pink bow. What's this? she asked. Was he going to take out a knife and just kill me? Right here? Right now? In front of her family and friends?
Because that would really make this birthday complete.
"Buffy," Giles began. "Can I...can I talk to you?"
Buffy folded her hands across her chest, and Giles was quick to notice that she had just told him to stay away from her. She could still feel the area on her arm where he had stuck the needle filled with muscle suppressants and relaxants to take away her powers. Poisons that had not only drained her Slayer strength and skill, but her faith and trust in the man who had been destined from the age of ten to serve and protect her from the things that go bump in the night.
Buffy took a deep breath. Just calm down, she told herself. This is Giles. Mr. Tweed. Dark Lord of the Tweed. The Tweed Avenger. How many times had he believed in her? How many times had he defended for her? Stood up for her? To her mother? To that juvenile delinquent, Dawn? To that vile weasel of a man, Principal Synder? It was Giles who told him that he couldn’t keep Buffy Summers out of school, away from her classes and the people who had enough courage to call themselves her friends. Especially after all of the things that she had done that drove him mad.
"I suppose,” she simply said.
Giles reached for the door handle to open the screen-door. But Buffy stopped him. "Let's talk out here."
Giles swallowed hard. "Of course," he said, and he gave her and the door a wide berth. She stepped out onto the porch and walked over to the lounge swing on the far end. She sat down on it with her knees in her chest and her arms wrapped tightly around them.
Giles followed her, but he didn't sit down next to her. Once again, her body language told him to stay away. He leaned against the hard concrete ledge, and stared down at her. He put the gift down on the concrete slab next to him. The little pink bow waved in the wind.
"Buffy." Giles thought about how to begin. "I'm sorry."
Buffy just looked out into the street, trying to avoid his gaze. "Don't. Okay? I'm just so upset about the whole entire thing. And I don't know whether I should just ignore you or throw you out into the street. You know…” she waved her atrophied arm at him as she was trying to throw a baseball. “…even if I could.”
Giles adjusted his glasses. "I suppose that I deserved that." How many times would he have to apologize to her? How can she look at him now with anything but distrust and suspicion?
Well, at least she IS talking to me. He took a deep breath. "You know that I would never ever—voluntary—do anything to hurt you. Or your mother..."
But Buffy just looked up at him, again.
He turned around and looked at into the street. He thrusted his hands deep into his pockets. Blast! He told himself. This isn’t going to go well. "I really don’t know what to say…”
But Buffy still only looked at him. This time with more disappointment on her face.
“You know, Buffy,” Giles began, “Quentin Travers may be an egotistical and arrogant pompous ass, and I would probably kill him after what he done…if I had the chance…but…”
Giles could feel Buffy’s eyes on the back of his head. “He is right..."
Buffy stopped. She listened as her heart skipped a beat. She just stared hard past him as his confession sinked into her.
He what? So she did hear right last night. He what?
Giles turned around to see the reaction on her face as her eyes widened in surprise.
He loves me!
...And they fired him because of it! Those bastards! They fired him because of me! Because of the way he felt for me. If I hadn't been his Slayer, he would've probably still been a Watcher. He would probably still have a job.
Buffy took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, too," she said.
Giles blinked in surprise. "Excuse me?" He looked at her, looking up at him. Her eyes were deadpan. Serious, yet vulnerable.
"I said that I'm sorry, too," Buffy spoke again. She took a deep breath. “Giles, you once told me that to forgive someone is an act of compassion. So, can you please be compassionate and forgive me?” She looked at him intensely with puppy dog eyes, not knowing what to expect. “Please.”
Giles took out his handkerchief and wiped his glasses. He was surprised, mainly not because Buffy never ever apologized for anything, but because she had never let him in before. He always knew that there was something more beneath that cold, fussy exterior of hers. But, she had never ever let him see it. She had never let him see her so open, so vulnerable. Even after the events of last night.
He rationalized it, thinking it was probably because she was the Chosen One, and she was supposed to be objective and detached. She was supposed to be a good little Slayer and ruthlessly and efficiently kill all of the bad guys that got in her way. She was supposed to be unemotional, objective, and cold. She was supposed to be heartless and fearless. She was supposed to be a warrior who never allowed emotions or feelings to interfere and cloud judgments. She wasn’t supposed to be a girl…correction…a beautiful young woman with hopes and dreams and faults.
Besides, it was either Angel or Willow that Buffy came to when she needed a heart to heart. Never Giles. He was just the guy who researched demons and vampires for her. He was the guy who was supposed to have all of the answers for her about slaying and surviving. Giles was the sniveling tweed-wearing Watcher who always lectured her about honor, duty, and sacrifice. Never mind the fact that he was a human being who could ever have the ability to love. He was supposed to be research-guy or book-guy or stiff-assed tweed guy. Never mind the fact that he could actually develop feelings for this beautiful young woman who was his ward and charge.
He even had to trick her into telling him how she had to kill Angel when Acathla opened up his great big mouth and started to swallow the entire world. So that she could deal with what she had done. What she had to do to save her friends and their world.
"Buffy,” he began, puzzled. He put his glasses back on. “Whatever for?”
Buffy stood up and started to pace. "For everything."
She had realized it after he had brought her home. After he had been fired and Travers had left. He had gone over to her sitting at the table in the library, and he had kneeled in front of her, and he had ever so gently tended her wounds.
At first, he was worried that she would pull away, that she would be angry with him. But, she didn’t. She sympathized for him. And as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t punish him. He was Giles after all. He had done all he could and tried to protect her, and they had fired him because of it. Because of her. He had taken that white towel, dipped in warm water, and very careful wiped the blood from her face just as he did many times before when she had come home to the library after patrolling.
But, this time it was different. They were different.
And she had said nothing. She wanted to apologize to him then, but she just let him clean her face.
They were both silent when he drove her home in the car that her and the Scoobies always made fun of. And when he pulled up in her driveway, they were still quiet, never exchanging a word about what had happened. She looked into his face, and all she saw there was disappointment and guilt and shame. It was his job to protect her from the Big Bad Wolf, and he wasn’t allowed to. She was supposed to trust Rupert Giles, but both of them suffered for his love.
It was later on when Buffy had gone to bed, clutching Mr. Gordo as tightly as she could did she suddenly realized that she hadn't been playing it straight with him either. Since he was ten years old, Rupert Giles had given up everything that he wanted, everything that he needed because of one person—her, the Vampire Slayer. He had forsaken the things and the people that had made him happy, and in return she treated him like shit.
No, she thought to herself, they treated garbage better than the ways she had treated him.
From the moment that she had met Rupert Giles in the library her first day at Sunnydale High, she had brushed him off, had argued with him, and had pushed him away. She had denied him his destiny. She had made fun of his heritage, his accent, his youth, and his car. She had mocked his social life, or lack there of, his clothes, and his all-around stuffiness.
How many times had he stayed awake in the library researching some demon or vampire so that she knew how to kill it? How many times had he stayed awake at night wondering if she was safe, and not being drained bloodless from some vampire who had gotten the best of her? How many cups of tea did he drink lying in wake before he knew she wasn't lying in some ditch somewhere slowly and painfully bleeding to death because he told her to be careful and she had just totally ignored him...like some parent or…lover?
Buffy smiled at that thought. He is kind of handsome, in a rugged English kind of way. She would be lying to herself if she hadn’t thought about Giles that way. She maybe is the Slayer, but she was also a young and vibrant woman, full of raging hormones and verging on womanhood. Weren’t all those classics that her English teacher was trying to get them to read filled with lovelorn stories of May to December romances? Emma. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Eyre. She was only as human as the next young woman who found Giles attractive and handsome.
And how did she repay him? By mocking him. By lying to him. By running away. By hiding the man who killed the woman he loved.
When she had come back to Sunnydale after running away, she could tell that Giles was mad at her. She had abandoned her post, and he had spent his own time and money crisscrossing the state at the drop of a hat searching for her. Couldn't she at least phoned and told him that she was all right?
But, this time he didn't berate her. He didn't lecture her. He didn't yell at her. Xander and Willow and her mother had done that. And she still just treated Giles as if he will always be there. Like a librarian.
And she knew how much Jenny Calendar meant to him. How much he loved her. She knew that Jenny Calendar was the only source of sanity in his insane world. Buffy wasn't his daughter or his wife or even his girlfriend, but he had stayed away from Jenny because he knew how upset Buffy was over the whole “Angel going evil” incident. Because of her. Because of Buffy. She knew how hurt he was not to have someone he loved in his life.
Then Angel came back from Hell, and instead of telling everyone about it, she hid him away from the Scoobies and from Giles. But, mostly from Giles. She feared what he would do if he found out that Angel was back. He had rightfully gone ballistic when he found Jenny Calendar dead in his bed that one night in his apartment. She knew that he was going to go to the factory with his private weapons and she went to save him…or was it to stop him?
She was just selfish. She fooled herself into thinking that she wanted to find out why Angel was back, but the truth was she was just ecstatic and selfish. And she was afraid that Giles would kill him and take Angel away from her once again. If there was one person besides the two Slayers—Buffy and Faith—that could ever hurt Angel, it was Giles. Angel could snap Xander’s neck in two, but it was her Watcher that the vampire had to watch out for. He even had Angel on the ropes for a few moments back there in the factory before Buffy had rescued him.
"He tortured me for hours. For pleasure," Giles yelled (actually it wasn’t a yell--he was English, after all) at her when they all found out that Angel was back from Hell. "You have no respect for me or the job I perform." For you, she had silently added to herself. Everything that he did, Giles did for her. And she was just so selfish. Now someone was taking Giles away from her, and she couldn’t do a thing about it. What was that she pleaded with him when she knocked him to the ground as the factory burned down around them? "I can’t do this without you!"
It was true then, and it was true now. She couldn’t live her life without Giles there to guide her and watch over her and love her.
Buffy focused back on the man standing in front of her. "I need you," she said.
Giles blinked, taking this all in. He started to choke, but he controlled himself. "I know," Giles simply said. “But I am not going anywhere. I am still the Librarian…”
“No, Giles!” she protested. “No!”
She walked over to him. “I am the Slayer and the Slayer needs a Watcher that she can trust in. I know that you didn’t want to do that horrible thing to me…but they still fired you because of it. They fired you…they punished you because of me. Because you care for me, Giles.”
She caught her breath, trying not to let her tears dictate her words. “I don’t want someone who looks after me like I’m…I’m a careless, faceless machine to be my Watcher. Even if he is Hugh Grant…or Pierce Brosnan.”
She took a deep breath.
“I want someone to look after Buffy Summers…not Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” she stared to choke up. “You know what I mean?”
She looked deep into eyes. “My heart won’t let anyone else be it,” she said.
And it’s all because you love me.
The Watcher and the Slayer looked silently at each other. She reached out and slowly wrapped her arms around his torso. She inhaled deeply, and the smell of musty books filled her nose. Just like Giles to smell of something safe and comfortable. Like a library. He returned the embrace.
“Thank you, Buffy,” Giles said. “Thank you for forgiving me.”
“I know,” she simply said. “Can you forgive me?”
Giles took a deep breath. “Well, I don’t know…” his voice trailed off.
Buffy looked skeptically at him.
“I mean,” Giles began again. “Some of the those tweed comments were just cruel. And my car…that’s a classic.”
Buffy give him a look before he started to smile.
“Of course I can, Buffy,” he began. “Of course I can.”
For the first time all day, Buffy smiled. "Thank you, Giles, thank you.”
She eyed the present sitting on the ledge. “So, ahh…what’s in the box?” she asked with a devilish smile on her face.
"A present. Well, it is..." Giles corrected himself. "It was your birthday. I thought that it would make a good make-up gift. I was against it...considering what happened yesterday. But, your mother was very insistent...that...that I should give it to you. She seems to know very much what makes you happy.”
"Well, she is my mother,” Buffy began. “So, what's in the box?"
He handed it over to her.
“It's not jewelry is it?” she asked. “'Cause you shouldn't… I mean you don't have a job anymore...and frankly people at school might start to talk. It's not that I'm complaining..."
"I assure it's not," Giles said. "Actually it's something that your mother suggested...well, and you, too."
Buffy took the package and opened it with her pastel blue fingernails. Once again, her heart skipped a beat. "Giles...you shouldn't have..."
"I just wanted to continue the tradition. I know how important it is to you."
Buffy reached in and pulled out two tickets to the Ice Show. "Thank you," she smiled up at him. "You'll go with me, right?"
"Of course," Giles said, with a smile, realizing that things were now even between the Slayer and the Watcher. “And, we’ll buy popcorn and cotton candy and soda pop, and Carmel corn,” Giles composed himself. “We’ll have a nice little…pig-out.”
She looked down at the tickets for a moment and then back to Giles. "Thank you, Giles. For everything," She moved in closer and pecked him on the cheek. “Let me go get my coat.”
She turned for the door, but stopped. “And Giles,” she turned back to the man who would continue to protect and love her.
“I promise not to throw up all over you if I get sick!”
Buffy skipped inside her house to get her coat, leaving Giles all alone for the moment before he snapped back into reality. "What!?”
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