quaggy: Giles hugging Buffy in Season 6 (Tight)
[personal profile] quaggy
Title: In Midst of the End
For: [dreamwidth.org profile] summer_of_giles 
Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Category: In-fill fic during "End of Days" and "Chosen"
Rating: PG
Pairings: All the canon ships and slightly Giles/Buffy because I apparently have trouble coloring within the lines
Notes: Since this takes place mainly in between scenes, I've included quotes from the show in italics as markers. It originally was meant to be a general piece reconnecting with Buffy with her friends (like they did season 4 and should have season 7) and maybe solve a few plot holes while I was at it. But about halfway through the fic, I realized I was mainly reaching for Giles POV because he was the one that was the most marginalized in those last episodes. So I decided to give the man the attention he was due. It wasn't meant to be shippy at all, but I don't think I succeeded. It's been a long time since I've used a beta, so a BIG thank you to [livejournal.com profile] amycurl for having an early read and then proofreading for me before I posted.




The weight of what they had done hung heavily upon him. As if the force of gravity was suddenly so much greater. He saw the same grief in Dawn. Willow and Xander too, he would assume, but they had other . . . distractions. The four of them, they knew it was wrong even as they turned their backs on Buffy, but it seemed to be the best of all bad solutions at the time. Now he was not so sure. How can anything be right when she wasn’t there?

In the end, Giles did not go with Dawn and the others to find Buffy. The best place for him was at the house with the remaining girls. Or at least that’s what he told himself. In truth, he wasn’t sure if his presence would actually have been much have a benefit. A hindrance even. Even before his alliance with Robin, he and Buffy struggled to reconnect. His fault mainly, he was certain. He was the one that kept leaving. And now he was the one left waiting with his guilt and his grief.

But there were Jaffa Cakes. So that was something.


*
“I’m afraid we have slightly worse news here. Faith hasn’t returned with the other girls. Something’s gone wrong.”
“We have to go to her.”
“Guess so.”
*
“We’re leaving.”
“Is there more?”
“There’s always more. Let’s move.”
*


Buffy leading the girls out into the sunshine was an astonishing sight. One that they were fully unprepared for. But when Buffy saw them her shoulders relaxed slightly.

“Oh, thank god! We’ve got wounded.” Her voice held no anger. Just the relief that backup had arrived. “Faith has it the worse. She’s completely unconscious and not in the good slayer-healing way.”

“We’ll need to go back and get the car,” Xander said.

“There’s a couple of abandoned trucks around. Might be faster if you could hotwire one of those,” she replied, casting a glance over to Giles, who nodded his assent to her unspoken question. Despite the situation, he could feel a faint smile begin to tug at his lips. She did have a way of calling upon his Ripper days at the most unexpected times.

Back at the house, Buffy was everywhere, still in General mode, with that strange axe-like weapon never far from her side. They all took her direction without question. They were lost and she had found her way. Maybe they had been in the right before, but they had handled it poorly. Now that it was clear that they were in the wrong, Buffy held no grudge, had no harsh words. Did not even seem to feel that her forgiveness was required. Mistakes and bad judgment calls happen no matter how pure your intentions, as far as she was concerned. She didn’t seem to recognize how rare her generosity and kindness actually was. But then, that’s was why she was the hero.


*
“It didn’t work out.”
“Guys, it was a trap. It’s not her fault. It could have easily happened to me.”
“So are you. . . Are you, like, back?”
“I don’t know. I guess I’m not leaving.”
*
“We've still got work to do.”
*


Buffy ushered Giles and Willow into Willow’s room, pausing only to speak with Dawn.

“Research or wounded?” she asked. Dawn paused to consider.

“Wounded. But pull me in if you need extra help.”

Buffy nodded and patted Dawn’s arm. Dawn took the opening and pulled her sister into a full hug. The two girls clung together for a long moment until Buffy finally pulled back with a regretful sigh. Dawn smiled and headed downstairs, only to pause when her sister’s voice called out.

“Dawn! Has anyone called Robin?”

“Don’t think so. I can do that too, if you like.”

“Yeah, thanks!”

With a mental shake, Buffy turned into the room where Willow and Giles were waiting for her. They were both standing stiffly, ready to hear whatever she was going to ask of them.

“This is. . .” Buffy looked down at the weapon in her hands, trying to figure out the right words.

“What Caleb was guarding. In the Vineyard,” Giles stated. Buffy looked at him with her old, tired Slayer eyes and simply nodded. It had never been her style to rub it in when her instincts proved, yet again, to be right. Giles sighed and nodded too.

“It’s not like I had much to go on. I got lucky,” Buffy offered.

“You did not,” Giles replied and then offered her a sheepish smile. “One of these days, I will finally learn that your instincts are sufficient evidence.” He was rewarded with a slightly bashful smile of her own.

“Well, my instinct didn’t tell me that I had my own personal version of The Sword and the Stone waiting for me.”

“You pulled it out of solid rock?”

“Yeah. Caleb wasn’t expecting that one. I have a feeling he’d been trying to get at if for a long time. He’s scared of it. As he should be,” Buffy said, as she studied the weapon. She then turned that probing gaze on the man in front of her. Giles fidgeted slightly as Buffy regarded him. Suddenly, she smiled.

“Here,” she said, offering him her precious weapon. Giles took a step back, intimidated.

“It won’t. . . mind?” Giles fumbled, not sure he was phrasing it the right way. The whole situation seemed wrong. Did Arthur ever offer Merlin the chance to take a few practice swings with Excalibur?

“Giles, how are you going to know what it can do, if you don’t test it out? You’re my Watcher, aren’t you?” She froze suddenly, perhaps realizing what she had just said. Then, in a much smaller, guilt-stricken voice, she repeated, “Aren’t you?”

“Always,” he replied seriously. Then, as he had done so many times before, he let go of his self-doubt to be the man Buffy needed and, with a deep breath, placed his hands on the proffered weapon. He got the vague impression that he had been judged and found acceptable by the weapon itself, which made him feel slightly more confident, if unnerved. He took a couple of practice swings and could immediately tell that this was the weapon of dreams. He simply had no words for it. Buffy smiled at him fondly and with complete understanding.

“But what is it?” Willow asked, unaware she was disturbing the moment of stupefaction that Giles was sharing with his Slayer. The warm connection lost, Buffy turned her attention to Willow to answer her question.

Giles fussed with the thing that Buffy declared to be a scythe to hide his emotions, only looking up to glare at Willow’s terrible pun. It all felt like it did before all the estrangement and distance. Before it all had gone so terribly wrong. And just like that, the weight he had been carrying was lifted. It made him feel light-headed and giddy and he had the sudden urge to pull Buffy into his arms and swing her around the room. He took another few practice swings with the Scythe instead.


*
“We'll start work immediately.”
“Yeah, don't worry, Buff. We'll find out everything there is to know.”
“Good, because right now, that thing's all we've got going for us.”
*
“How are we supposed to narrow this down? The illustrations are never clear enough! Oh, damn! We're running out of time. We really haven't got anything useful.”
*


It was a helpless feeling not being able to provide Buffy with any answers. In spite of everything that had come before, she was depending on him again and he just couldn’t stand the thought of letting her down. Not that he ever wanted to let her down, but to be so close to possibly regaining what he and Buffy had lost made a failure seem more dire.

But then a stray comment from Willow triggered a memory about "M" plus glottal stop, leading to their first breakthrough of the evening. They had just started to consider whether it was enough to inform Buffy, when she appeared, her damp hair smelling strongly of her shampoo.

“So I just had a thought. I got a bump of energy when I first grabbed the Scythe. Felt better than I had in a long time. What if the Scythe has healing properties? Gives the old slayer-healing a boost.”

“Dear Lord. . . Faith!” Giles breathed.

“Exactly!”

“Do you want to take it into her?” Willow asked.

“I think it might be better if one of you do it. Two Slayers in the room might short-circuit the thing.”

Willow nodded and picked up the Scythe, leaving Watcher and Slayer alone in the room.

“So, any luck?” Buffy asked. Giles filled her in on everything he and Willow had managed to glean. Including the location of the pagan temple’s burial grounds. Buffy found it as unlikely as he first did.

“Giles, I’ve been all over that cemetery a million times this month alone. I think one of us would have noticed some weird-ass pyramid these past seven years.”

“It looks like the tomb has been hidden from the casual visitors. There supposedly is a ritual that will allow you to approach it, but Willow and I still need to confirm that the ritual does what it claims to do. I’m sorry, Buffy. I know it’s not much.”

“It’s enough. If you can figure out how I can see this invisible tomb, I’ll do some recognizance and you and Willow can keep with the research thing. We’re getting there.”

“I just wish that we had found all this before nightfall.”

“Well, I think the Scythe finally puts the advantage on our side. I’m pretty sure I’m safe to go wandering around after dark,” she said with a grin.

And though he knew she meant nothing more by it, he suddenly recalled the full ramifications of what he had allowed to happen only two nights before. The guilt that Giles thought he had finally shaken off crashed back over him. They had sent her out after dark. Kicked her out of her own home. Did they even give her any weapons to protect herself? He should have gone with her. He should have—

“Hey. Hey!” Buffy cried, shaking his arm, her eyes full of worry. “Giles, do not go there. Not now. I need you here with me. We’ll talk about it later. About all of it. I promise. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t you dare! It’s not your fault! It’s mine. I should’ve—” Giles’s arms crashed around her, pulling her roughly to him.

“Hush. It’s alright. You’re right, of course. Not about it being all your fault.” He chuckled a bit as Buffy shook her head in refutation even as she burrowed closer. He tightened his own arms in response. “But you are right that now is not the time to debate it.” He paused a moment to savor the embrace. Then with a sigh, he pulled back, though he kept his hands on her shoulders, and bent down slightly to better look in her in the face.

“There is, however, just one thing I would like to take issue with now,” he said, seriously.

Buffy tensed, braced for what she knew was going to be a fair criticism. It was so much harder to hear what you did wrong when you already knew you were in the wrong. But Giles only smiled.

“Earlier you said that the good guys weren’t good at communicating. I assume that you were including the two of us in that assessment? But that’s where I disagree with you. You can read me like no one else, without me ever saying a word. And—” his right hand left her shoulder to lightly trace across her cheek “—you have the most expressive face. I usually can tell what you are thinking. We both have come to rely on that. To a fault. Sometimes you need to say the words. To clear up confusion. To stress what is important. Or just because they are nice to hear.”

“So we should maybe start to practice communicating using actual words?”

“I think it’s a good idea.”

“But not now.”

“Oh good god, no! But, Buffy, because I’ve let these words go unspoken for far too long, let me just say that you are, have been, and always will be the most important person in my life.”

“Right back at you. Even if my actions lately might seem to contradict that.” Giles only laughed and pulled Buffy back against him. “Geez, two Giles hugs in one day! I’m clearly on a lucky streak! All the baddies are going to be running away from me!”

“Are you saying that I should hug you more often?”

“Absolutely.”

“Done.”

They stood there, wrapped in each other’s arms, until Willow called out that Faith was waking up.


*
“There's only supposed to be one. Maybe that's why you and I can never get along. We're not supposed to exist together.”
“Also, you went evil and were killing people.”
“Good point. Also a factor.”
“But you're right. I mean, I guess everyone's alone. But being a slayer? There's a burden we can't share.”
“And no one else can feel it. Thank God we're hot chicks with superpowers.”
“Takes the edge off.”
*


“How is Faith?”

“Feeling better. Where’s Willow?”

“Gone to prepare the ingredients that we will need for the ritual.”

“You guys aren’t going to make me do anything funky are you? Hop backwards on one foot? Dance with a goat?”

“I promise you, Buffy, the ritual is goat-free. We anoint you with scented oil and you repeat a statement that your intentions are honorable. It’s all very straightforward and unremarkable.” Buffy nodded, but there was still an air of unease about her.

“Is something troubling you?” he asked when he finally caught her eye.

“Giles, did Faith know that I died the second time? I mean, did she know while I was still gone?”

“I honestly have no idea. Why do you ask?”

“She just said something right now about how there can only be one. But Faith didn’t know what it was like before. She has nothing to compare it to.”

“And you are thinking about Kendra.”

“How do you know me so well? Yeah, when I found her on the floor of the library, I never felt so alone. Not even when Merrick died. I never really talked about it with Faith because, well, you know Faith. She probably wouldn’t take it the right way.”

“Buffy, speaking as a replaceme—”

“No, don’t. Not now. Not when—”

“Not when your mind needs to be on the mission. I know. I apologize.”

“You asked. I answered. Not your fault. But later, though? Because, Giles, you and the word ‘replacement’ shouldn’t even be in the same sentence.”

“Later. When things are settled and I can make you a proper pot of tea. Now give us a hug and go quickly so that you can come back to m— to us.”

“I’ll be back before you even have a chance to miss me.”

“Well, that’s unlikely as you would have to return to me in less than ten minutes.”

“So, I’ll run,” she grinned and allowed her Watcher to sweep her up once again. “A girl could totally get used to this.”

“That is the general idea.”


*
“All right. All right. Big secret mission. It's fine.”
“It's not a secret. Well, I mean, it is, but that's the point of the mission. Find out the secret. This thing was forged by… I don't even know. I mean, something about a tomb on unconsecrated ground. That's what I have to do. I need to find out what this is and why I have it.”
*
“Does this mean I can win?”
“That is really up to you. This is a powerful weapon. But you already have weapons. Use it wisely and perhaps you can beat back the rising dark. One way or another, it can only mean an end is truly near.”
*
“Did you find out anything about the Scythe?”
“It slices, dices, and makes julienne preacher.”
Caleb?”
“I cut him in half.”
*


How sad that no one was even that surprised that Angel had made an appearance. The large file he had given Buffy was a far more interesting development.

“Dear Lord, with whom has Angel been speaking?! I’m going to need to take my time with this, Buffy. I don’t want to miss any buried information or be misled in my interpretations.”

“Understood. I am also going to need a quick turnaround on another mysterious object of dubious origins. Angel was his usual cryptic self and I’d like a little more to go on than just that it’s the ‘scrubbing bubbles’ of tacky jewelry,” Buffy said as she passed the amulet to Giles.

“No need,” Giles replied after a moment. “It’s a purifying amulet. Multiple names for them. The most common being ‘daylight gem’ or ‘day-star’. If what I recall is correct, it releases a beam of pure light that can incinerate evil. I know of at least two slayers that regularly used one. But I’ve never heard of one so large. Most daylight gems are quite small, the size of a thumbnail at most. It’s generally thought that anything larger would be too temperamental to use successfully.”

He passed the amulet to Willow, who closed her eyes to try to get a reading.

“I think Giles is right. It’s . . . quirky. Kind of like a . . .  sticky trigger on a crossbow. Or a remote that you have to hold at a certain angle for it to work.”

“Has it been claimed?” Giles asked.

“No, no one’s ever used it,” Willow shook her head. “But it’s old. Real old.”

“Would it make a difference if it had been used before?” Buffy asked.

“Yes. Daylight gems are meant for one wielder only. It bonds with you, almost like a living thing might do. Generally, once its wielder has died, the amulet is then destroyed.”

“Angel said that it needed to be worn by a Champion. More than human, but still with the soul-having.”

“Well yes, ‘a champion of the people’ is one way to put it. It’s believed that the supernatural element helps with the bonding. A slayer. A questing hero. A sorcerer dedicated to the side of good. I suppose an ensouled vampire would qualify, but generally it means a human with a sacred calling. More importantly, someone with pure intentions. A daylight gem reads your soul – your objectives – and uses that as its energy source.”

“Wait. Go back. It reads your intentions?”

“Yes. It reads your intentions and the intentions of those that are . . . closely associated with you, I suppose is the best way to express it. There was a Korean Slayer during the Joseon dynasty who wielded one. She was a shaman before she was called and continued to practice after. She was quite adept with her daystar. Legendary, in fact. It is generally thought that was due to her spiritual training and her strong ties to her home shrine.”

“Huh. I wonder if that’s why,” Buffy muttered, mostly to herself. Catching the curious looks of those around her, she shrugged. “Angel planned on wearing it, which, all good, you know? The more muscle on our side, the better. But then I suddenly got the feeling that . . . That this was a very, very bad idea. Like world-ending bad.”

“Angelus?” Giles asked with concern.

“No. Angel was definitely still himself. It’s just. . . I don’t know how to explain it. It just felt like this was the worst mistake I could possibly make.”

“Did you tell him that?” Willow asked.

“No, of course not. How could I? I told him that I needed him back in LA to prepare for a second front. In case we failed.”

“Oh, that’s a cheerful thought,” Xander said.

“If we fail, there won’t be the possibility of a second front. It will already be too late,” Giles said.

“And more with the good cheer!” Xander groaned.

“I know that. Angel probably does too. So, of course, he totally saw through my excuse. But then he latched on to the idea of Spike being the reason why. So let’s hear it for jealousy.”

“How did he know about Spike?” Xander asked.

“Angel said I smelled like him,” Buffy shrugged. Willow and Xander exchanged mildly grossed out looks.

“You smelled like him?!”

“I don’t know. Spike and I. . . Well, we spent last night together. Not like that! But, yeah. Close. I mean, I’ve hugged, held, and carried more than a few people since then. Not mention had a quick shower before I went out tonight. But I guess, theoretically, he could. . .”

“He could have learned about your association from these papers?” Giles asked mildly, reaching over to show Buffy the passage in question. Buffy leaned forward to get better look and fell back in her seat with a sardonic snort.

“Figures. Anyway, he decided that Spike was the reason I didn’t want him to stick around, so he let it go.”

“Buffy, you wouldn’t. . .” Willow’s voice trailed off.

“Put the world at risk, just to save Spike’s ego? Of course not. Besides, Spike would have gotten over it once. . . Look, Angel hasn’t fought alongside me since high school. How well do you think he’d take to Generalissimo Buffy?”

There was a pause and then everyone cracked up.

“I’d actually pay money to see that,” Xander said.

“And then Spike would get to feel all smug and superior and he loves it when he gets to be all smug and superior. It would have been fine.”

“Except your spidey-sense went all a-tingly,” Willow said.

“To be fair, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Angel that was the problem. Especially if the company you keep matters. Honestly, how much do we know about Angel’s life in LA? We don’t even know who his source is and why they gave him the amulet in the first place.”

“Well, better the devil you know and all that,” sighed Xander. “So Spike’s on deck now?”

“Does it really have to be Spike at all?” Buffy asked. “Giles, you said that slayers have used daystars in the past?”

“Are you thinking of wearing it yourself?” Giles asked, trying to mask the concern in his voice.

“It had been my first thought, yeah” Buffy admitted. “Faith could take the Scythe and I’d wear the amulet. Angel said it was too volatile, but—”

“You need to be leading,” Giles gently interrupted. “Not dealing with oversized gems with tricky triggers.”

“Then, if Faith is willing, what if she wore the amulet?”

“I don’t know, Buff,” Willow said. “Speaking as someone who came face to face with her own dark side, that’s a lot of pressure to put on Faith. There’s always going to be this fear that the darkness is still in you. That you aren’t good enough. Which, I guess, puts me out of consideration.”

“Giles?” Buffy asked.

“I’m afraid that’s the case for me as well. I am not a hero, Buffy.”

“That is so not true, I can’t even begin to tell you,” Buffy said flatly. Her gaze was steady and intense as if she knew every one of his shameful secrets from Randall to Ben. In fact, she likely did and still she found him worthy. Giles desperately hoped he wasn’t blushing.

“Be that as it may,” he said with a bit of a stammer. “I remain an active Watcher. One of the few left and therefore a direct living link to the Shadow Men. A rather dark mark in terms of my associations. Spike might honestly be our best option.”

“Because vampires are creatures of light and sunshine,” groused Xander.

“But Spike was a good man before he died. That has to count for something,” Dawn offered.

“His soul is still new,” Anya added. “Really bright and shiny. And he hasn’t gone on any murderous sprees since he got it.”

“Well, not willingly. Giles, what about the First’s trigger?” Buffy asked with quiet worry.

“Well, I suppose one could argue that this was not an association that Spike welcomed willingly, but the point is moot. The trigger is gone. We have proof of that. So therefore Spike belongs fully to himself.”

“And to Buffy!” Anya added.

“Anya!” Xander objected.

“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” she defined. No one in the room could bring themselves to contradict her. The evidence did speak for itself.

“But that’s a good thing, right?” Dawn asked. “I mean, in this case, that’s a good thing.”

“If you had told me even a few months ago that there would come a day when I would be grateful that Spike had fallen in love with Buffy. . .” Giles mused. He started to chuckle, in spite of himself. Life had the oddest way of falling into place sometimes. He glanced at Buffy who, having caught his strange good humor, was biting back a smile. “I’ll do some research about daylight gems, in case I missed something. See if I can’t find out the origins of ours. There has to be some sort of record of a gem this large. But in the meantime, I suggest that Spike keep it as close to him as possible. The gem will need to learn him.”

“Yeah, I’ll take it to him now. But the research can wait until the morning. It’s late. You guys should try to get some sleep.”

“You too. Oh, but Faith’s still in your bed. . . umm. . .”

“It’s okay, Will. She’s still recovering. She gets to keep the bed to herself. Honestly, even if she was fine, I’d sooner bunk with Andrew.”

“No, you really wouldn’t. He snores,” Giles said, dryly.

“So. . . Spike then?” Willow asked.

“Yeah. Well, unless he’s still being shirty. Then Kennedy might find herself kicked out.”

The two best friends grinned at each other, a thousand words spoken in a glance. Willow handed her the amulet and Buffy rose to go down to the basement. But the feeling that she was forgetting something held her back. She smiled when she realized what it was.

“As someone wise reminded me earlier, sometimes you have to say what you’re feeling. Guys, you know that you are my world, right? Everyone in this room. And Mr. Cellar Dweller downstairs,” she added with a rueful smirk. “You all mean everything to me. You are my meaning. My life would be pointless without you.” Her eyes lingered on each of them – Willow, Giles, Dawn, Xander, Anya – as if she were trying to burn their images into her brain. “I’m terrified I’m going to lose all you. Any of you. I think it would destroy me.”

“Good,” said Anya, in her usual curt way. “It’s only fair. Because that’s what we feel about you. All the time. Everyday."

Buffy looked for a second like she was about to cry and then grabbed Anya into a tight hug. Xander, of course, then threw his arms around both them, with Willow and Dawn soon joining in. Giles was content to hang back and watch, but then Buffy pushed her arm through the tangle of her friends and held out her hand to him. Clasping her hand tight, Giles stretched as far as he could to encircle everyone. He closed his eyes to savor the moment. His whole world was contained safe in his arms. He would do everything in his power to keep it that way.

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Quaggy

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