TITLE: A Sense of Self-Preservation (1/?)
SPOILERS: Right after "Normal Again," S6
SUMMARY: After the events of "Normal Again" Buffy and Giles are forced to deal with their own respective isolations.
DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television, the WB Television Network, and whoever else may have a hold on them. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights.
NOTE: Single quotation marks (') denote thoughts.
Dedication: To everyone who commented on my first story -- you guys raised my self-esteem so much! Of course, this is also dedicated to my rockin' goddess of a beta, Angelina, who is slowly being converted to the dark side of the force Plus, she's sick, and needs an emotional boost!
Her hands hadn't stopped shaking for two days.
Washing dishes, surfing the channels, even flipping burgers at the Doublemeat Palace, Buffy couldn't control the slight vibrations of her appendages.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. It always started with her hands, then crawled across her skin until she collapsed into a curled-up ball in the center of her room, willing herself not to cry.
This, and they hadn't spoken to her since then. Since she tried…
Buffy was falling apart. She needed someone, anyone, who could look her in the eye. Someone who didn't glance with pity, or remorse over this huddled mass of shame and guilt.
That's why she decided to call Giles.
The bottle of scotch kept looking better and better to Rupert Giles.
He sat in an ancient leather chair in his home in Bath, his head resting between his hands, staring glumly at the spirit that mocked him painfully from his liquor cabinet. Since his arrival back in his homeland of England nearly 5 months ago, the cabinet had not been opened since it was initially restocked. Giles had promised himself he would not be reduced to the depressingly comical shadow of himself that appeared when he was inebriated. He would not let her do that to him again. He would be strong this time.
He blinked, once, twice, his eyes flicking up to the clock that read 8 PM. Giles debated ringing some of his "friends," or more aptly put, the acquaintances he had acquired during his time as curator of the British Museum, who knew nothing of the Slayer, his secret life as a Watcher, or the Council. Giles decided against it, unwilling to step into the costume of the mild-mannered curator-turned-high-school-librarian once more.
The Council, of course, knew nothing of his departure from the States, as he would most likely be fired once again for abandoning his recently reinstated post, or simply taken by force back to Sunnydale and his Slayer.
Giles scoffed at the idea of 'his Slayer.' The woman he had returned to Sunnydale to see alive once more was everything but that: alive. This, creature, who wore the mask of Buffy had done nothing but allow him to sink deeper into his hole of grief and guilt over the Slayer's death. Buffy was a shell housing a soul stripped of every emotion but the most primal needs. Just when Giles had placed hope in the rebirth of his heart, when he entered the Magic Box to gaze upon the Chosen One's face, back from the dead, a second chance for him to keep her safe, this doppelganger-Buffy revealed her true mask of depression, anger, and incapability to see the pain those around her were going through.
Giles was not normally a bitter man, and probably would not have had such strong feelings against his Slayer, were it not for the year before.
The year before Buffy's death was a tumultuous time, filled with varying emotions and significant events. The Slayer had dealt with the arrival of her newly formed sister coupled with the departure of her twit of a boyfriend, faced the Council once more, met a Hellgod, and lost her mother. Buffy's face that day still haunted Giles, the utter confusion and defenselessness as Buffy begged him tacitly to "make it all better."
But the underlying theme of the year for Giles was his reassertion of an "identity," and his reconnection with Buffy. She had asked him to be her Watcher again, and they grew closer as the days wore on.
He had been secretly pleased that he was the first to know of Dawn's origins, that Buffy would trust him with that information, and viewed him as a confidant, but more importantly, as a friend.
Everything in their relationship had remained fairly stable until the end days of their campaign against Glory. By the completion of the final battle Giles had given blood, ignored his love for the younger Summers, and eventually pulled out Ripper to repeat an action he swore he would never commit again -- he had killed a human being. All this in the name of Buffy. Poor, anguished Buffy, who jumped off a tower to escape the hell that had captured those around her. Set herself free in the name of martyrdom, which was all well and good until one thought about those left behind.
Giles was at this point pacing the room, his mind ranting silently. 'I put my life out for her, gave her everything I had, I was. And then I kept it together after she was gone, trained her "robotic replacement," played the role of, what did the Scoobies call it? Oh yes, "the Emotional Marathon Man." And when she came back, I played the part of the adult, when al I wanted was to cry out in grief over the loss of the true Buffy, my true Buffy…'
He trailed off and slumped down again in his chair, his eyes blandly taking in the study around him, its ornately carved bookcases, the broad fireplace, the oriental rugs and ancient oak table. To anyone, this room would appear to be the epitome of comfort, but to Giles, its silence spoke volumes, and served only to remind him of his loneliness, of his only true possession that lay across an ocean and a continent.
The gentle crackle of the fire was rudely interrupted by the shrill ring of the telephone. Giles crossed the room and picked up the receiver, a part of his heart secretly hoping that it was Buffy, or one of the gang calling to convince him he still had a place in this world.
His hopes were dashed by the duck-like voice of Suzanne, a former co-worker of his from the museum. "Rupert? Ah, yes, how are you? A group of us were heading to the local pub for a drink, and thought you might be up for a little fun?" She ended her sentence in a question, unsure of Giles' mood -- lately he had been rather peevish.
Giles sighed into the telephone. "Thank you very much for the offer Suzanne, but I'm not in the mood for alcohol tonight. Give everyone my best," He began to hand up, but paused. 'What am I doing? My present state of mind is all together too depressing. I need to get my mind off America and those in it.' He brought the phone to his mouth again. "Suzanne? Yes, I changed my mind. When are you lot going down? 9 o'clock? Sounds delightful. See you then."
Giles smiled half-heartedly to himself, then left the study to ready himself for his evening.
Buffy had decided she needed to call Giles, that was for sure. But lately, her body wasn't so eager to obey her mind's commands. In fact, her recent ticks had given the Doublemeat Palace's manager the brilliant idea that Buffy needed to relax, and so she was on paid leave for a week. If she wasn't so preoccupied with her emotional state, Buffy would've laughed at the power the holder of the "Doublemeat Secret" wielded.
As it was, more time at home meant more time alone. The gang was now officially avoiding her, still somewhat wary of the formerly homicidal Slayer. Occasionally they would speak to her in short sentences, but most of the time she only saw them as they were leaving the house after a visit, or when Dawn and Willow went off to their separate schools. Buffy was generally alone during the day, left to do housework or simply dwell on her actions, or with more and more frequency, be subject to another panic attack.
Her brain wanted desperately to call Giles, but her fingers wouldn't remember the numbers to dial.
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