Buffy, Giles et. al. belong to Joss Whedon, Fox Television and the WB. I'm just playing with them. No copyright infringement intended.
Giles was fighting with Willow's scanner when his door banged open.
"You're leaving!" Buffy's tone was accusatory and hurt, her eyes flashing with too many emotions for him to catch.
"Willow let it slip, and before you go getting all mad at her, she didn't mean to, and then I wheedled it out of her. Giles. You're leaving?" She went from angry to pleading in a heartbeat.
He shook his head, getting up from the desk. "I'm sorry, I-"
"You can't!" she burst out. "I need...how else can I figure all this out? What I am, what I can do. I can't do this on my own, Giles, I told you that yesterday. And now you're just gonna drop everything and-"
"Buffy," he cut her off and took hold of her shoulders for good measure. "Calm down."
"No, I won't calm down!" She squirmed away form him, pacing into the living room. "God, Giles, how can you just give up like this? Leave everything, leave me and-"
"Buffy!" He raised his voice to get through to her. "I'm not going anywhere."
A long moment of silence as Buffy stared at him blankly. "Oh."
"I was planning on returning to England, which is what I told Willow. But-"
"Why did you tell Willow and not me?" Her voice was small, hurt.
He cleared his throat. "She was helping me with a project and she needed to know the reason. And I was going to tell you, yesterday. But then you asked me to serve as your watcher again and.... And those plans got shelved."
"Just like that?" she asked softly.
"Just like that," he confirmed.
She let out a huge sign and sank to a seat on the couch, her fingers raking through her hair. "And you won't change your mind?"
He paused a moment before answering. "I won't say it won't ever happen, but for now.... England's my home, Buffy. Sometimes I miss it terribly. I haven't been back even for a visit since I came here. And lately it's been getting harder...." He moved to the couch, then paced away. "This past year has been...particularly difficult. Losing the watchers, losing the library.... And then you starting college, and your involvement with the Initiative. There wasn't a place for me here any longer. You didn't need a watcher, and if I wasn't your watcher.... What was I?"
"But I do need a watcher," she insisted. "I just didn't realize it. I thought I could do it all on my own, thought I didn't need anybody. But I was wrong. There's so much going on with me, Giles. In me. Things I don't understand. I want to know what it all means, what I can do. I know there's all this untapped...power in me. I want to find it. But I need your help."
Giles gazed at her. She was no longer a child. She'd grown up in the past year. There was a maturity and a confidence in her he hadn't seen before. As a teen, she'd fought against her calling, struggling to be "normal". Now she embraced it fully and reveled in the things which made her different. Before, she was a very special girl. Now, she was a magnificent young woman.
"And you shall have it," he vowed softly. "For as long as you need me, Buffy, I'll be here."
She looked up at him, pleading. "Promise?"
He smiled gently. "Promise."
She sighed and closed her eyes, leaning back on the couch. "Thank God," she whispered, and when she opened her eyes again, he was stunned to see them glitter with moisture. "I know I've treated you badly this last year," she said, the tiniest of tremors in her voice. "Heck, I've treated everybody badly. Willow...Willow was going through all these huge changes and I never saw any of it, not 'til she hit me over the head with them. And I lived with her! What does that say about me? And Xander.... I've been ignoring Xander lately. Of course, part of that's 'cause I really don't like Anya, but it's so unfair to him. And you...." She looked up at you. "I'm so sorry, Giles. I really am."
He sat down next to her and took her hand. "I understand," he said gently. "Your college years are a time of new experiences and great growth. It's a time to spread your wings. I understood that. It was only a pity that your newfound independence and my own...mid-life crisis...coincided."
"But independence doesn't mean ignoring your friends," she said. "I mean, even after that spell, this past summer, I should have been coming around more, and I didn't. I...I could feel all these changes, all this stuff was happening with me, and I should have come to you, but I...didn't. I don't know, I thought maybe...I felt like maybe I wasn't so welcome anymore."
He stared at her, aghast. "When have I ever-"
"Nothing you said, but...well, you know, you looked like you were trying to have a life without me. Olivia. And the singing thing. I felt like I was intruding."
"I was struggling to have a life without you because there was no more life with you," he said.
"Yeah, but even when I asked for help, you-"
"I wanted to give you your freedom, Buffy. I never meant to cut you out." He looked down at their joined hands. "I wanted you to be able to think independently. Little did I know just how effective the lesson would be."
Buffy frowned, her head lowered. Then she raised her head and her face cleared. "You know, you're right," she declared, pulling her hand away. "I don't need you. I can do this by myself."
Giles felt his heart plummet to his toes.
"But I want you," she said softly. "I want you here, with me, helping me. Maybe I can do it by myself. I'm thinking I don't want to. I'm strong by myself. I can be even stronger with your help. That's what I want. Help me, Giles."
His heart resumed beating, back in its customary spot. "That's what I want, too," he said, unsurprised to hear the catch in his voice. He gazed at her, at her beautiful, serene countenance, and felt his heart swell with love and pride for her.
Then she smiled, a bright expression, and reached for him, and he gathered her into his arms, hugging her tight. He'd missed this. Not the hugs, because they were few and far between with them, which made them even more special. But the closeness, the feeling of belonging. This was "right". It was the way it should be.
He let go enough to cup the side of her face. She gazed up at him with big, gentle eyes. "You've grown up," he said softly, slightly awed at the concept. "You've become a very fine young woman. I am so very proud of you."
She hugged him tighter. "I love you," she whispered. "I missed you."
He kissed her temple and let the hug ease of its own accord. Buffy remained tucked in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder with a closeness that was unusual for them, but welcomed. And, for all its rarity, there was a comfort to it, too. As if it had taken them all this time to finally feel at ease enough to allow themselves these familiarities. They didn't speak, merely sat together, enjoying peaceful silence.
Until Buffy raised her head. "There is one ground-rule, though," she said, sitting up.
"Oh?" He let his arm fall back to his side.
She nodded. "The drinking has to stop."
He went cold. "I...that is...it's not...."
"I mean it, Giles. It hurts, to see you like that. And it hurts you, too."
He looked down. "I'm sorry."
"Were things really so terrible that you had to resort to getting drunk to face them?"
He raised his head, but didn't look at her. "Yes. Yes, sometimes they were."
"I'm sorry." Her voice was a bare whisper.
"Not you. It's me. Wallowing in self-pity and...and feeling pretty bloody useless. He laughed, a cold chuckle. "Perhaps that's why I found myself with a strange affinity toward Spike. I can certainly relate."
"But that's over now. You're not useless. No one else can do for me what you can. But you have to be here, totally here, for this to work."
"I gave you my pledge, long ago, that as long as you needed me, I would be here."
"Totally here, not just here in body. I need your mind, Giles. All the stuff you know and the stuff you can figure out, and the way you look at things like no one else can. But when you drink, all of that disappears."
"I'm sorry," he murmured.
"Don't be sorry, be Giles." He looked up at her, took in her determined face, her hands on his arm, the tiny twitch of her mouth as she remembered speaking those same words to him two years earlier-over nearly the same issue, only they hadn't realized it at the time.
"I am," he said. "But unfortunately, being Giles also means being human. And being human often means being a bloody fool."
"I know you're human," she said, her gaze never wavering. "I don't want you perfect. But I don't want you drinking, either. I know it's stupid, but when you drink it feels like you're doing it to get back at me. Buffy's been ignoring me so I'll get drunk and see how she likes it." She looked away then. "She doesn't. It hurts. It hurts seeing you hurt yourself like that." The intense gaze was back. "You're so much better than that, Giles. You're worth so much more. Don't do this to yourself."
It wasn't as simple as she made it sound. He hadn't intended to turn the bottle into quite the crutch it had become. But sometimes the whiskey-haze was the only thing that kept his life tolerable. It wouldn't be easy setting that crutch aside, though he'd fought off addictions of various kinds before. The cigarettes and drugs which had once filled his life were a distant memory now. He could put the bottle away as well. For Buffy, he would.
"No more drinking," he agreed.
"For real and for good?"
"For real," he nodded. "And for good."
She smiled, a relieved look which shadowed suddenly. "Will you...I mean, do you need any help? You know, do you want me to take your bottles or anything?"
He smiled and shook his head. "I'll be all right. Truth to tell, it isn't a case of constant drinking so much as...sometimes its difficult to stop. Sometimes it hurt too much to stop. But I'm hoping that won't be an issue quite so much anymore."
She shook her head. "If I get careless and thoughtless and I'm not doing what you think I should be, don't just crawl away, tell me. And if things are going bad and you're worried, don't hide out, tell me. Talk to me, Giles. I need you to talk to me. I need you to listen when I need to talk. Nobody understands me the way you do. We need to talk. We shouldn't ever stop talking."
That made him smile. Buffy's prattle was often maddening, but there was a comfort to it as well. And what she was talking about wasn't prattle, it was talk. Real talk, between two people who depended on each other. It was heady stuff; he only hoped he was still up to the challenge. "All right, then. Talk to me. Tell me what you've been feeling, what you're experiencing. You say you've been going out at night, hunting. What brought this on?"
She broke into a big grin. "That's my watcher!"
He smiled as well. "Always."
She moved to him again and he hugged her close, so very grateful to have this second chance. Then she pulled back and gazed up at him. The whimsy was gone from her expression, seriousness in its place. "'You think you know ... what's to come ... what you are. You haven't even begun.'"
"Tara said that to me. In my dream. And Dracula said the same thing the other night. What do they mean?"
Giles frowned. "I'm not sure." He reached a hand and touched her hair. And he smiled. "Let's find out, shall we?"
She raised her hand to his, linking their fingers. She smiled warmly. "Yeah. Let's."
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