quaggy: Giles hugging Buffy in Season 6 (Tight)
[personal profile] quaggy
Title: Dénouement
Show: BtVS
Category: Post-Chosen
Rating: PG
Pairings: B/G
Notes: My first offering for this year's [community profile] summer_of_giles. This picks up right after that last closing shot of Buffy smiling. (Also, while I didn't intend them to be companion pieces, my fic In Midst of the End works as an effective prequel.) The movie that Buffy quotes is Hard Day's Night.



In the moments after Sunnydale fell, everyone responded true to their personalities. Xander and Dawn joked. Willow marveled at the possibilities. Giles obsessed with the practicalities. Faith teased and moaned about wanting to sleep for a week. Buffy, though, stood by in contemplative silence.

“What do we do now?” Dawn asked.

Buffy started to smile. . . .

“Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m planning on passing out from blood loss right about now.”

She said it so calmly. As if she announced that she was going to get a cup of coffee. Everyone was still for a moment, trying to figure out if she was joking. Everyone except Giles, who had already begun to yank off his jacket as he lunged towards her. When Buffy collapsed, she collapsed in his arms.

“Sword to the back. Went straight through,” she told Giles. Giles cursed and called for the first aid kit. Xander, the first to recover, started running towards the bus, calling for Vi who had become the group’s self-appointed medic. Dawn grabbed Giles’s coat and, kneeling, spread it on the ground. Together, she and Giles arranged Buffy so that she was on her uninjured side, with her head cushioned in her sister’s lap. She was mostly faced downward so that Giles could reach her back easier, though she could turn her head and still see everyone, pretty much.

Once he saw the severity of her wound, Giles’s swearing increased in strength and frequency, as well as in volume.

“That bad, huh?” Buffy said, sympathetically.

“Yes, that fucking bad!” Giles spat, as he took the first aid supplies from outstretched hands.

“Oh god, B! When you got back up, I thought you just had the wind knocked out of you.”

“Nope. Parlor trick,” Buffy replied, grinning at Faith as she was the one to then curse. Giles momentarily froze, then turned to Buffy with wide eyes.

“You mean to tell me that you used that godforsaken. . . .” Giles’s voice trailed off as he quickly returned his work.

“Yup. Told you it would come in handy one day.”

“What are you talking about?” Willow asked, worried and bewildered.

“Do you remember how Buffy would sometimes get a fast-bleeding cut. . ?” Faith paused, unsure how best to describe it.

“And she would just sort of freeze it? Like an invisible Band-Aid?” Xander finished.

“Yeah, that’s it,” Faith nodded. “It used to freak the hell out of Wesley.”

“B-but she could only do it for small cuts and not for very long,” Willow said. “You know, just long enough to keep the blood from dripping on her clothing.”

“I saved a lot of cute tops that way,” Buffy agreed. Her voice was getting weaker, but she still seemed completely relaxed.

“After which you would then pass out for several hours, scaring me witless in the process, because your damn ‘parlor trick’ was too much of a strain on your slayer healing,” Giles grumbled. “The Slayer completely incapacitated after a dust-up with a few goddamn fledges.”

“That was early on. I only had just figured out how to do it. Saved it for slow nights. Got bored with it eventually. Turns out it works a lot better with a heavy-duty dose of adrenaline.”

“That remains to be seen,” Giles replied as he finished bandaging her back. He and Dawn carefully shifted Buffy so that she was now tilted upward. Giles then turned his attention to Buffy’s exit wound and let off a string of curses so violent and blue that even Faith looked surprised. Dawn bit back a sob and stroked her sister’s hair.

“Don’t worry, Dawnie” Buffy said, looking up at her sister, grabbing her hand reassuringly. “If Giles is cursing like that, it’s means it’s only pretty bad. You know it’s really bad when I’m the one who’s cussing from the pain. And when Giles then starts singing to get me to stop.” Dawn managed a slightly watery laugh, as Buffy had intended, but Willow turned her face into Xander’s shoulder with a sob.

“To get you to sleep,” Giles corrected, beginning to finish up. “Which I never would have had to resort to at all if you would have ever just let go and let your slayer powers do their damn job.”

“Eh, sleep is for the weak,” Buffy said faintly. Giles rolled his eyes as he wiped his hands.

“Yes, my darling, and with a hole that is the size of a rock in your side, I think you qualify.” Giles leaned over and smoothed her hair back. “Now, rest.”

Buffy closed her eyes and Giles kissed her forehead. She smiled faintly, eyes still closed, and then her breathing fell into the rhythm of slumber.

“Damnable woman,” the Watcher said with a sigh. He then straighten and lifted Buffy into his arms to carry her back into the bus. Dawn gathered up his jacket and followed closely behind.

“What was that?!” Kennedy demanded, voice shaking a bit. It wasn’t so much that Buffy had been hurt, but the calm, routine way that Buffy, Giles, and even Dawn were treating it. This wasn’t an apocalypse. This was just business as usual.

“That is something that you’ll never have to experience,” Faith supplied, her eyes still on Giles and Dawn’s retreating figures. “That is what it’s like to be ‘The One Girl in All the World’ with only your Watcher to patch you up when things get rough.” Faith thought about the few times that she had tried Buffy’s parlor trick. The amount of effort that it must of taken Buffy to just stand up unaided, let alone start fighting again, was staggering. The fact that Buffy had stayed conscious for as long as she did should have been impossible. Not that Faith would say any of that out loud. No sense scaring the Baby Slayers. They’d find out just how hardcore Buffy really was on their own.

“Don’t try this at home, kids,” she murmured. With a shake, Faith turned her attention back to everyone else. It was on her now. “Come on. The sooner we’re back on the bus, the sooner we can find civilization again.”

Slowly, everyone shuffled away from edge of the crater that used to be Sunnydale. The big stuff was over. Time to take a breath and figure out where you stood.

~<*>~ ~<*>~~<*>~~<*>~~<*>~

Buffy was slowly waking up, drifting happily in that twilight state with only enough brain power to decide if she should make the effort to climb those through those final levels of consciousness or to let herself fall back into slumber, when she heard someone slowly enter the room. Even as tired as she was, it should have thrown her senses in to high alert, but no matter how silently he moved, Buffy would always recognize her Watcher.

“Giles?”

“I didn’t mean to disturb you. Go back to sleep.”

“No. Feel scuzzy. Want a shower. Too tired to do it.”

Giles took a moment to consider. After an injury like hers combined with her parlor trick nonsense, Buffy needed more rest. But she would sleep better if she showered and had her wounds rebandaged.

“I’ll help you,” he offered. Lord knows, it wouldn’t be the first time. In response, Buffy groaned and pushed herself into a sitting position.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“A small hotel near Sagrario. We were lucky to have found a place that could take us all. There have been a number of Sunnydale refugees, as you might imagine.”

Buffy nodded. Sagrario was the closest large town near Sunnydale and surprisingly demon-free for all that it was (or had been) so close to the Hellmouth.

“Where’s Dawn?”

“With Xander. They’re both fine. They were watching some cartoon marathon with Willow and Kennedy. So, I showered here.” Buffy nodded, knowing that, while he had often showered with her only a few feet away outside the door, back when she was in high school, he would have been more uncomfortable to do so with Dawn. “When I returned, they were all asleep, as are the majority of our group.”

“Good.” Buffy didn’t ask about anyone else and Giles didn’t offer information. There would be time enough for grief later after Buffy had healed completely. Anya wouldn’t have minded the delay.

Finally shaking sleep’s hold, Buffy focused on the room around her. It was early evening, if the bedside clock was to be believed. Giles’s battered duffel was near the bathroom door. Hers was closer to the bed. It had been a fairly last minute decision for everyone to bring a bag with them, in case they couldn’t return home right away. Buffy had privately thought that they were just asking for the school bus that Robin had turned into Slayer Transport to be destroyed, taking along with it all their precious belongings (and, in some cases, only belongings). Instead, it had proved to be a near prescient idea. It took Buffy a few moments to realize how strange it was that both their bags were together and Dawn’s wasn’t.

“We sharing a room?”

“Yes, for now, since Dawn is currently passed out on what was supposed to be my bed. I didn’t want to leave you alone while you were so injured. Dawn and I can switch back later tonight,” he said, nodding to the only bed in the room.

“If you can wake her,” Buffy replied with a snort.

Buffy got to her feet unaided and Giles followed into the bathroom. It was a familiar routine. Giles turned on the water as Buffy slowly began to remove her dirty and blood splattered clothes. It was a Watcher’s duty to be able to provide emergency care for his (or her) Slayer and Buffy’s loving nature and sense of fair play meant that she usually demanded that she return the favor. The long years of being each other’s primary medical support had removed most of their prudishness. There were some lines that had never been crossed. Neither had ever seen the other without their underpants, thankfully, though there was at least one time that came close. There was nothing quite as humiliating as having to drop your trousers so that your sixteen-year-old Slayer could clean and re-bandage an unfortunate wound from a crossbolt and he had thanked every deity that he could think of that the arrow hadn’t entered a few inches higher. But Buffy hadn’t displayed a shred of embarrassment, diligently cleaning his wound while keeping up the same level of chatter that she normally subjected him to whenever she would help him shelve books or sharpen swords. Giles knew her sangfroid was a carefully maintained illusion for his benefit and he loved her for it.

A few months later, when she was bruised and hurting after a battle with a particularly nasty breed of winged gremlin-like demons, he was able to return the favor. She had sustained a number of scrapes and cuts on her upper body from the demons’ claws. Her shirt had been in shreds and he had silently promised himself that he was never again going to roll his eyes at her leather pants, since they were the sole reason that her legs hadn’t suffered the same indignities. In the end, holding a towel with one hand to her breasts to preserve her modesty while trying to keep herself upright with the other so that Giles could bandage her back had proved to be too much of an effort. She had made some crack about not wanting to offend his British sensibilities as she dropped the towel, but Giles could tell she was mortified. So, he, in return, dropped his tweedy persona completely and was truly himself with her for the first time – a man who, despite his uptight exterior, had survived the 1970s London underground scene with most of his sense of humor intact and who had seen more than his fair share of naked female breasts, as just a matter of course. With a shrug, he told her that he wasn’t so sure how much respect Buffy would have had for British sensibilities if she knew about The Sun’s Page 3 girls, which then led to him explaining who The Sun’s Page 3 girls were. Buffy had been completely indignant at the thought and it had served as effective of a distraction as he had hoped. It became something of a running joke between the two of them after that.

But Buffy made no jokes about “Page 3-ing it” as she let her bra drop on top of her shirts. Clad only her briefs, she used Giles to brace herself as she stepped into the tub. Normally, she’d tell Giles to close his eyes and then step out of her underwear before getting under the water. The fact that she had chosen to wear them into the shower was an indication that Buffy hadn’t been entirely confident that she wouldn’t need Giles’s help halfway through.

“I’ll leave the door open. Call if you need anything. And, Buffy? If your wounds start bleeding again, for god sake, let them damn well bleed!”

“Trust me, Giles, I’m all out of tricks right now, parlor or otherwise.”

As Buffy showered, Giles turned down the bed and fetched her bag to find something clean for her to wear. He smiled as the first thing he saw when he unzipped Buffy’s bag was Mr. Gordo, but he grew serious when he saw a man’s black t-shirt right on top, as if stuffed in at the last minute. The last of Spike’s worldly remains. After a moment’s consideration, Giles took the black shirt and quickly routed around in the bag for a pair of knickers. (He and Buffy may have still maintained certain reserve with respect to their own bodies, but they had completely abandoned all formality when it came to clothing. They had done laundry for each other for far too many years.)

“I bled a little, but not as much as it looks, so don’t freak out,” called Buffy as a way of letting him know that she was ready for him.

Buffy had tied a clean towel low around her waist, leaving her wound exposed. Her underwear was lying wet at the bottom of the tub along with a towel that had some bloodstains, which was not exactly a surprise if her wounds had started to bleed again in the shower. Giles handed Buffy the clean underwear and set about filling the tub to let the towel soak. He threw in her soiled clothes as well.

“I don’t think any of that is particularly salvageable,” Buffy observed.

“It never hurts to try.”

Buffy smiled. It was a regular exchange for them over the years, Buffy being certain that her clothes were beyond repair and Giles willing to at least make an attempt at salvaging them. Once he was finished, Giles helped Buffy onto the bathroom counter and he set about rebadging her wounds.

“Giles?” Buffy’s voice was soft. Giles paused in his work and slowly looked up, knowing what question was coming. “Something happened to Anya, didn’t it?”

“Yes, Buffy. I’m sorry.”

Buffy closed her eyes and held herself vey still as she tried to keep her emotions under control. Giles found himself blinking back a few tears of his own. It would take some time before any of them would be able to accept that she was gone.

“I thought so. She wasn’t standing next to Xander like she should have been. Amanda is gone too. I saw her fall.”

Giles nodded and, at Buffy’s unspoken request, listed the rest of the casualties. Most of the new Slayers were fine, thanks to their slayer healing. Rona was on the mend, but was being kept overnight at the hospital along with Andrew and Robin.

“Andrew was hurt during the fight?”

“No, after we arrived here in Sagrario in the most ridiculous way possible. I never got the whole story and I still don’t have enough energy to find out.”

“Right. We’ll just let that one be for now. Wait. You said that Robin’s still in the hospital? But his mom was a Slayer. He had should have inherited even more slayer healing than you did from your grandmother.”

“I don’t think mystical healing works by mathematical percentages,” Giles laughed. “Besides, my healing was nothing to speak of until I became your Watcher. I don’t know if it will do much good, but I did recommend that Faith stick close by his side.”

“You got that vibe from them too?”

“Yes, though they seemed to have responded more to their sexual attraction than any Watcher/Slayer bond.”

“Makes you wonder what we would have done if you had been a little less tweed and I’d been a little less high school when we first met.” Giles looked at her in disbelief and then bit back a smile as she realized how her words could have been taken. After a long beat of awareness, they both cracked up. “Oh God! I can’t believe I just said that! So not the conversation we need to be having right now.”

“There’s a limit that jokes about Page 3 Girls can do, Buffy!” Giles replied, still laughing.

“Ignore me,” Buffy commanded. “Did you tell them why?”

“It caused a little bit of consternation. For Faith, because she hadn’t considered the possibility before. For the others, I think it was the idea that I had a Slayer in my lineage. Xander and Willow were particularly confused since they thought I meant my Watcher grandmother.”

“‘That’s not your grandmother. I’ve seen your grandmother. She lives in your house’,” Buffy paraphrased. Giles grinned at the reference and her halfway decent imitation of Scouse.

“‘Well, everyone's entitled to two, aren't they?’ But now that I think of it, I’m surprised that they never questioned my ability to take a knock to the head without further health ramification.”

“I did! I don’t know how other Watchers managed.”

“They didn’t. That was why they generally stayed out of the fight.”

“Oh, it wasn’t because they a bunch of condescending stick-in-the-muds?”

“That too.” Finished with his work, Giles gave Buffy’s front wound one final examination before he cover it with fresh bandages. “It looks like it will scar,” he sighed.

Buffy didn’t scar very easily. Her slayer healing took care of most of her injuries quickly. The ones that did leave a mark were generally from encounters that were traumatizing emotionally as well as physically. The faint outline of her bullet scar. The knife wound from Lothos. The way that the Master’s bite mark still remained while Dracula’s had vanished after a few days. But now she would have one more to add to her collection and he hated it.

“That’s okay. We’ll be twinsies,” Buffy said, her hand slipping under his t-shirt to find his own scar. Giles smiled slightly, but gave no other indication that Buffy was taking a few more personal liberties than either one of them normally would be comfortable with. He didn’t mind, after all. Quite the opposite. This physical closeness felt more natural than the reserve than was enforced between them as student and teacher.

“Yes, well, fortunately I don’t think the one on your forehead will. One is enough.”

“You are the only one that even sees that scar anymore.”

“It’s my fault that it exists.”

“Giles, you forget that I’ve read just about every Watcher Diary that I could get my hands on by now. I know how a properly executed Cruciamentum is supposed to go. I even oversaw that modified Watcher version of it for the Potentials. There was nothing standard or normal about my test from the very beginning, but you didn’t know that until it was much too late. And the moment you did, you came running.”

“It shouldn’t have taken me so bloody long to realize something was amiss.”

“You trusted in the system. Don’t blame yourself for that. So, maybe you did slip into mindless Watcher-bot mode for a while there, but they trained you to be that way. For years. And you broke all that conditioning for my sake. That’s what this scar means to me. That my Watcher loves me,” Buffy proclaimed, sweetly. Giles dipped his head and tried not to blush. “It’s good, though. Having the scar on my side. It feels appropriate that I have a physical reminder from all the times I nearly died. Or actually did.”

“Well, almost every time,” Giles said, softly.

“No, I have one from Glory too,” Buffy relied. “It’s just really light.” She indicated a small, white web-like scar, just at the base of her sternum. A lightening scar. With a frown, Giles leaned in to get a better look . . . and realized belatedly what area of Buffy’s body he was staring at. And touching. He yanked his hand away and blushed.

“Easy, tiger. You’ve seen them before. And you are hardly tonight’s worst offender of blurred boundaries.”

“Oh, I think I just moved myself into first place with that one,” Giles said with a grimace of self-annoyance. “Buffy—”

“Don’t you dare apologize!” Buffy warned. “That really will make it weird. Let’s just chalk it up to a fitting end to a strange, rule-bending day.”

“I won’t argue with the logic of that. Now let me clean that wound on your forehead, so that we can get some clothes on you before anything else happens!” While the cut was not bad, it was deeper than it looked. Giles would feel better if it had a bandage on it for another day or two.

“That’s Spike’s,” Buffy said, finally paying attention to the t-shirt that Giles had chosen for her to wear.

“I know. But you need something loose to sleep in. I didn’t think he would have minded.”

“No, he wouldn’t have,” Buffy said absently, plucking at the shirt. Giles stayed silent, waiting. Finally, almost to herself, Buffy voiced what was bothering her. “He didn’t believe me.”

“Believe what?”

“In those final moments, I told him I loved him. He said that I didn’t, ‘but thanks for saying it.’ Those were his last words to me.”

Giles didn’t say anything right away, as he continued to tend to the wound on her forehead, careful with the antiseptic so that he wouldn’t cause Buffy to wince.

“I imagine he was in something of a catch-22,” he finally said. “Of course, you love him. He was there for you in your darkest hours. Been a friend to you, to the best of his abilities. Nobel enough to sacrifice his life, simply because it was the right thing to do. Platonically, romantically, how you loved him doesn’t really matter. It never does when you when you fully let someone into your heart.”

Giles paused to glance at his Slayer. Her eyes were slightly wet but her smile was thankful and a little pleased. She knew her Watcher wasn’t just talking about her and Spike. Giles let the backs of his fingers brush her cheek before he continued his thoughts as he fixed a bandage. “But Spike was flawed enough, selfish enough, that if he truly believed that you loved him, he wouldn’t have been able to sacrifice his life. He would have chosen to stay with you. But in doing so, he would reveal himself to be unworthy of your love. So, ironically, in order to be the man that you did love, he had to believe that you didn’t love him.”

“Or maybe Spike just has a screwed-up idea about what love should be,” Buffy sighed.

“Well, yes, that too,” Giles laughed and then grew serious. “Buffy, I chose that shirt because I thought you’d find comfort in it. But if that’s not the case, you can borrow one of mine.”

“I can’t take your stuff, Giles. We all have so little as it is.”

“Yes, but unlike the rest of you lot, I still have a full closet of clothes waiting for me back in England. Assuming they survived the Bringer attack, that is. Come to think of it, so do you.”

“I do what?”

“The clothes you used to keep in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I packed them up with the rest of my things when I first returned to England. I knew I should have given them to Dawn or one of the girls, but I pretended not think about it.”

“So you’re telling me that my clothes have been to England, when I still haven’t ever left this continent?”

“Well, we’ll fix that. If you’re willing. There’s an entire Council that needs to be reestablished. It will be easier to do so if we are based in London,” he replied, rummaging through his own duffle right outside the floor. He returned to her side with a soft gray t-shirt and slipped it over her head before she had time to object. He then handed her an energy bar.

“I’m not hungry.”

“I know. Eat it anyway.”

Buffy smiled slightly and complied. She was never hungry when her slayer healing was working in high gear, but she would be staving as soon as she was almost better. It was a bit like when you were sick. She chewed with a thoughtful expression on her face as she stared at Spike’s shirt.

“Maybe we can give it to Andrew. He’d make sure it was properly memorialized,” Giles offered. Buffy laughed.

“You know what? I think that is an excellent idea!” she proclaimed as Giles helped Buffy off the counter. He hovered as she brushed her teeth and then followed her into the bedroom to help her under the covers. He tucked a pillow at her back so she wouldn’t roll over on to her wounded side.

“Are you going to wake Dawn up so that you can get some sleep?”

“Perhaps.”

“That means no,” Buffy said with a roll of her eyes. “And don’t you dare lie to me.”

Giles sighed. She was right, of course. Dawn had fallen asleep only a short while ago and likely wouldn’t wake until morning. Giles saw no reason to disturb her, just so she could fall asleep again in a different bed.

“Giles, just get in. We’ll worry about propriety later.”

Giles was conflicted. This was one of the lines that they had never before crossed. They had never shared a bed, other than a few odd times when he had been seriously hurt and Buffy would curl up at the foot of his mattress, not wanting to leave him. (Especially once they had realized that he healed faster when she did.) Their past relationship hadn’t allowed for anything more. But the constraints of their past relationship was buried under the rubble of Sunnydale with all the other structures of their lives there. And damned if he didn’t ache to be close to her. So, without further protest he slipped in beside her, curling up on his side so that he could face her.

Buffy smiled sheepishly at him and he shrugged back at her a little ruefully. They both giggled. It was a strange intimacy, sharing a bed, even without any physical touching. To have someone you cared about so close when you were at your most vulnerable, it was both awkward and oh so wonderful. He knew that Buffy had spent the past few nights with Spike and was glad she could have that comfort. He found that he wasn’t even jealous or resentful, just sad that he had not been the one who had been able to offer her what she had needed. But that led to thoughts about when Spike had been able to offer the support that he had willfully denied her at a far more critical time.

“You’re scowling. What are you thinking about?”

“Spike. No, not what you are thinking. Don’t worry. It’s just that. . . .” Giles sighed. This was more difficult to admit that he would like. “Spike, when he came back . . . and you were gone. . . .” Giles’s voice trailed off. He looked down at her. Her eyes held no anger. With a deep breath, he continued. “He accused me of turning against you because . . . well, feelings of inadequacy, I suppose. Because, to use his blunt phrasing, you ‘surpassed’ me.”

“He was wrong. There’s no way that I’ve—”

“He was right,” Giles interrupted. “About that, he was right. You know it and I know it. You surpassed me long ago. Back when you were still in high school, I would say.”

“Well, let’s not exaggerate here,” Buffy said, making a face. Giles reached out and smoothed back her hair.

“I’m not. But the point is that isn’t why I took their . . . why I didn’t side. . . .”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t believe that—”

“Giles, chill. I know. Your back was to the wall. You’re the last Watcher and the girls were your responsibility. You couldn’t protect me and them at the same time. And I didn’t need you to protect me. They did. You were all they had. When you and Dawn. . . . It hurt like hell, I won’t lie. But I know that you two are never going to stop loving me. You are not just my friends. You’re my family. You both get passes that not even Willow and Xander get.”

Giles closed his eyes as he felt his emotions begin to overwhelm him and it was Buffy’s turn to reached up and caress his face.

“Besides, I don’t know why you let Spike’s words get to you. Soul or not, you had to know that he was going to be petty and look for every cheap shot he could get after you tried to kill him.”

Giles eyes snapped open and Buffy gave him a cheeky grin, the one that had always caused him to glare at her to the point that it was now a conditioned response. Buffy grinned triumphantly when he did. She did not, however, remove her hand. Instead, she moved it up to stroke his hair.

“And before your start stumbling over that, I do get . . . now . . . that it wasn’t about not trusting me and had everything to do with your protective instincts going wild. I’m thinking that, at least at the time, things were ringing a little too close to home. If I would have to take a guess, I’d say that my decisions were probably echoing how you handled things way back right before all the badness with Eyghon. And you’d do anything to save me from that kind of pain.”

“How could you possibly even know that?”

“Because I know you,” Buffy smiled. “So I get that you were all Father Knows Best-ing it something fierce.”

Giles moved her hand down so he could kiss her palm and then held her hand against his heart.

“I suppose that should have been my first indication I was taking the wrong path. Every mistake I ever made with you was when I tried to act like your father.”

“Except with the Cruciamentum,” Buffy’s voice was light and teasing and, in light of her reframing of that event, Giles found himself able to smile at her words.

“Ah, but you never met my father,” he parried back.

“From the few stories you’ve told me, I don’t think I would have wanted to.”

“Yes, and with that role model, is it any surprise I’m terrible at fatherhood?”

“You’d be a good dad, Giles. Not really good as my dad, but that’s because you kind of couldn’t be. You’re my Watcher. Classification by itself.”

“There was never a good equivalent for our relationship.”

“I guess it’s for us to figure out.”

“The world changed overnight. You changed it. What it means to be a Watcher. What it means to be a Slayer. It’s all different now.”

“More than I can manage at the moment, to be honest,” Buffy admitted with a sigh.

“Far too much for me as well, I fear. But we have all the time in the world to figure it out.”

“Well, when we do make an attempt, could I put in a request that there be more of this bed sharing thing in the future?” Buffy asked, shifting closer. “I like this.”

“I rather like it myself. Perhaps we could even discuss attempting it when neither one of us is harmed.”

“You have the best ideas,” Buffy sighed, with happiness. Giles reached out to stroke her hair and Buffy hummed in contentment. Giles was so warm. It made her feel so relaxed. She could feel her eyes drifting closed and knew she was close to falling asleep again, when an intrusive thought struck her about something that had happened earlier. “Giles? Why did Willow get upset . . . more upset when I made that joke about you singing?”

“I’m not sure.”

“But you have a theory.”

“Well, I suspect that. . .” Giles paused and Buffy could feel him struggling. “I suspect that she overheard me once. After. . . .”

“Glory?”

Giles only closed his eyes in response.

“Oh, Giles.”

“You looked . . . and so I thought I would pretend . . . just for the moment. I hadn’t realized that I had an audience.”

She had always understood that Giles had deeply grieved for her, as deeply as she would have grieved for him. She had known that it would be so even as she made her decision on the tower and had prayed that her last message would give him at least some shred of comfort. But she had not realized until this moment that part of him was still grieving, despite the years since her return. Perhaps because that part of him could never quite believe that this too wasn’t just pretend.

Buffy lifted her hand once again to her Watcher’s face. She smoothed his hair and stroked his temple. When he finally opened his eyes to look at her, she tried to convey all of her love and devotion in her smile. His eyes softened and the tension in his arms and shoulders dissipated.

“Giles, sing it again.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Whatever you sang that night, sing it again. Only this time feel me warm against your side and know that I’m all with the happy sleepy healing thing.”

Giles sucked in a breath and, for a moment, Buffy worried that she had asked too much. But her Watcher shuffled a bit, bringing his head down closer to hers and moving them both so that one of his hands cradled the back of her head and the other rested on her chest, right over her heartbeat. He kissed her forehead and then, after a moment’s hesitation, brushed his lips against hers. Buffy smiled shyly and blushed a little, in response. After a moment he began to sing what Buffy had once told him was her favorite song as child. By the time he had finished all the verses of “You Are My Sunshine,” Buffy was fast asleep. After pulling her even closer, Giles was soon as well.
 
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