Magic's Cost
written by Kathy P.


Rating: FRT
Spoilers: Set Season 1, Post "Witch".
Summary: Picks up right after the episode "Witch", was there a cost to Giles' use of magic?
Thanks: Thank you HeadRush. The bestest of betas, ever!
Feedback Author: Kathy P.



Buffy Summers backed through the library doors, arms full of musty spellbooks, a dirty beaker, and a bag that contained one very dead toad that had sacrificed some part of it's anatomy to save her life.

That Amy Madison's mother had not only been ready, but more than willing to sacrifice both her daughter and Buffy in an insane quest to recapture the glory days of her youth still unnerved her. Buffy was slowly coming to grips with the fact that destiny had singled her out for the dubious honor of spending the rest of her possibly extremely-short life slaying vampires and demons. Some part of her recognized that she might someday, very soon, die while fighting evil.

She hadn't thought it might happen while she was spelling out words with her arms.

Fate was a bitch, sometimes.

But then, the same fate that seemed determined to present horrors for her to fight had also sent her Giles, and that was of the good.

Giles had saved her life tonight. She'd been helpless, and he'd been amazing. She'd seen something in him tonight that she hadn't noticed before. A power…a focus. Giles was often self-conscious and self-effacing.

Not today. Not when she'd been directly threatened.

She'd told him he'd been a God, and she'd meant it.

He'd been pleased with the compliment. She could tell. He'd seemed a bit embarrassed, but he'd been pleased.

He'd started acting strange shortly after that. He'd seemed distracted, his answers vague and his movements slowing. When Willow and Xander had offered to escort Amy home and stay with her until her father came, he'd muttered something that sounded like, "Yes. Quite. Very good," and vanished in the direction of the library, leaving Buffy with the cleanup of the science lab.

She was the Slayer, wasn't she? Mystic defender of the innocent. The Chosen one.

How'd she end up doing the dishes?

"Giles?" she called, letting the doors swing shut behind her. She heaved her burdens up onto the counter with a grunt, then headed for Giles' office.

"Hey, Giles! Way to bail on clean-up duty." She rounded the end of the counter and strolled into the office. Her Watcher was at his desk. "You know, almost-died girl, here. You could've helped… Oh-my-God!"

Giles was hunched over at his desk, his first aid kit open before him. His hands were burnt red, from the fingertips to mid-forearm. Blisters were beginning to form in a few spots.

Buffy's memory of Giles working the spell that had saved her was a bit hazy, but she did remember him plunging his hands into a bubbling beaker of water and spell components.

She dropped to her knees next to him, resting her hand on his shoulder. She could feel him trembling. "Giles?" He was sweating profusely, his skin waxy and pale, and shaking so badly that he had knocked over a bottle of sterile water that he had apparently taken out to treat his burns.

"Giles? Hey, are you Ok?" She didn't like how he looked, or that he was not responding to her.

Glassy green eyes turned on her, blinking owlishly. "B-Buffy…"

"Giles, you're scaring me. I'm going to call an ambulance."

"No. C-can't…Spell…It w-weakened me. Just n-need… need." He would have toppled out of the chair if she hadn't been there to catch him.

Fighting down a rising sense of panic, she gathered his suddenly limp form against her and dragged him the width of the office, settling him carefully on the couch. Dashing back to the desk, she grabbed the phone and pulled it across the room, so she could have it next to her while she tended her stricken Watcher.

She dialed Amy's number, relieved when Willow answered. She described what was happening. Amy came onto the line.

"Buffy, the spell he did… He offered himself, his energies, to the dark powers, to get them to release you. It might have been… Sometimes the offering is just pain, but…"

"Like when he stuck his hands in the water?"

"Yeah. But sometimes… The spell offered them his energy. I think it went, "Feast on my energies, and be sated."

"So, what? They're still with the feasting?"

"I think so."

"How do I make it stop?"

"I don't think you can."

"Then what do I do? There has to be a way to stop this!"

"I think you have to let the spell finish."

"But…He's all unconscious, and he's burning up."

Willow came back on the line. "Buffy, Mrs. Madison has lots of magic books here. We'll look and see if we can find anything to help."

"But…There has to be something…."

"He'll be Ok, Buffy. He's, like, really strong."

"Giles? Will, I knock him on his ass almost every day."

"Yeah, I know. But, you're the Slayer, and he's just Giles…And he gets up every time."

"He wouldn't…I mean, this spell. He wouldn't risk…I mean, he couldn't…"

"Buffy. He would have done anything to save you. He's your Watcher."

"Oh, God, Will."

"Look, Buffy. You can help him. You said he was all hot? Like, with a fever?"

"Yeah."

"Ok. I think, I mean, I don't know, but I think that means his body is fighting, like it would with a virus. Try and keep him cool. See if you can get him to drink water. And stay with him. You might have to hold him down if he gets delirious."

"Will…"

"Xander says he'll come back to help you."

"No. You guys stay there. The more of you looking for a way to stop this, the better."

"'Kay, Buffy. We'll…Take care of him, Ok?"

"Ok, Will…And…" she looked at Giles as he lay motionless on the couch.

"Hurry."

Hanging up the phone, she thought for a moment, then began tending to Giles. Taking his scissors from his desk, she cut away the dark-red sweater that he'd had on. Then she removed his tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and removed his socks and shoes. Filling his teakettle at the sink in the small office bathroom and grabbing a handtowel, she began to bathe his face and chest with cool water. She noticed a patch of dark bruises on his left side, and guiltily remembered how delighted she'd been to pound him with quarterstaffs earlier in the week. Apparently protective gear was not all that protective against Slayer-strength.

He stirred and shivered, muttering, but didn't waken. Pulling the first aid kit over, she found another bottle of sterile water, and carefully washed his burned hands, applied antiseptic cream, then bandaged them.

After a time she noticed that his breathing eased, pulse slowed, and fever started to cool. She left him for a brief time, using the phone at the library counter to call Willow and Xander with an update. When she reentered the office, she was surprised to find Giles awake.

"Hey! Passing-out guy. Are you Ok?"

"Buffy? What's that?"

"You passed out, Giles. And you got really hot. Amy said it was part of the spell you did."

Giles passed a hand over his face, scowling, while Buffy poured some cold water into a cup for him. "Possibly. I'm afraid I hadn't considered the extent of energy the powers might require to release you from a spell so well established." Buffy offered him the cup, then slid her arm behind him to support him as he struggled to prop himself up enough to drink. He drank down the cup, but the effort seemed to drain him. He fell back against the couch, momentarily spent.

"So, you didn't stop to worry about what would happen to you."

"No. Not really. As your Watcher…"

"You're supposed to watch."

Giles' eyes locked on her. "It's my duty and responsibility to protect you, Buffy."

Buffy looked crestfallen. "Oh."

Giles reached out with one bandaged hand and raised her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes again. "And, I couldn't bloody well stand by and watch you die. Not without doing everything in my power to help you."

"To save me. Giles, you saved my life. And you nearly lost yours." She gave him a watery smile. "It was the bravest thing I've ever seen. Like I said, you were a God."

He tried to sit up. Almost immediately the room started to spin around him, and he offered no resistance as Buffy gently pushed him back into a prone position.

"Whoa, easy, Watcher-mine." She waited a few minutes, until his color returned to something resembling normal and his eyes cleared again. "Ok now?"

"Yes, better. T-thank you." He gave her a rueful smile. "Not very God-like, I'm afraid."

"I'll be the judge of that. This is America, British-guy. Freedom of religion is one of the alien rights we're guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence. I'll call "God" whoever I want to call God."

Giles passed a hand over his eyes. "Inalienable, Buffy. It's `inalienable'. And freedom of religion is a part of the Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence."

Buffy grinned. "Glad to see you're feeling better." Giles gave a snort of laughter, but made no further attempts to get up.

"Giles, you said you've never used magic before. Does it always affect people this way? I mean, shouldn't your books have warned you, or something?" She offered him another cup of water, and was glad to see that, this time, he was able to prop himself up on one elbow without assistance. His color was getting better too.

He looked into the water in the cup in his hand. So innocent. She was so innocent…

"I've used magic before, Buffy. But, I'd never worked a spell like this."

"Huh?"

"There's different kinds of magic, Buffy. This kind of working requires little in the way of gifts or power. You follow a ritual, make an offering, and beseech some power for something. Other types of magic are different. More powerful, more…elemental in nature. They require great skill and discipline from the spell caster. More power and control from within."

"And, you've done this kind of magic?"

"Yes."

"As part of your training?"

"Yes."

"So, you have this `power' in you?"

"Yes."

"Is that what this spell-thingee was feeding on, then?"

"Probably, yes. My power, my life-force."

"And, if you didn't have this power? If you were, like, just a normal guy? This spell…They could have fed off you until you were so weak that you'd die, couldn't they?"

He dropped his eyes, clearly flustered. "Ah, well…actually, I…"

Her hand gripped his shoulder. "Never again, Giles. Nobody dies for me. I'm supposed to be the hero, here."

His eyes came up. "You are. That's why I couldn't stand by and let you die out of some foolish woman's desire to recapture her youth. The world needs you. You're the Slayer. The Chosen one. There are many Watchers who could take my place, but only you can protect the world from the Hellmouth."

She stood up quickly, paced a few steps away, then turned. "You're wrong, Giles." Her voice dropped, softening. "No one could replace you. Now, rest. I'm going to call Willow and Xander and tell them you're Ok."

Giles fell back onto the couch, staring at the ceiling. Good Lord, but he felt bloody wretched! He knew that such a simple spell should not have affected him this severely. The power had probably been compounded because of the emanations from the Hellmouth. It was a stern warning: that magic was not to be trifled with here. Still, it was what had been necessary to save his Slayer. He'd do it again, and more, to keep her safe.

He thought about the conversation they had just had. Was this his first dabbling with magic? If she only knew!

No, on second thought, he prayed that she'd never know the levels he had sunk to during his experimentation with magic.

Experimentation? Hell no, Rupert. Call it what it was, addiction. He'd been addicted to magic, and more.

No. She must never know.

Because, for the first time, tonight he had seen respect in those blue eyes. Respect, and concern. It was vital, absolutely vital, that they become partners, a team, if they were to keep the denizens of the Hellmouth at bay.

For all the risks, it was imperative that he maintain that respect.

He sighed, weary to the core of his being. Then a rather foolish smile crept across his face.

"She said I was a God!"

END