Giles Good | Epilogue to Beer Bad

“Seriously, I'll be fine.”

“Cause we can stay…”

Giles smiled at the redhead. “You've had a long day, all of you. Willow, you have classes tomorrow, and I daresay one of you should at least take notes.”

“I do kinda have to salvage the remnants of my job,” Xander added. “I mean, with what I know now, I don't think the creep is exactly gonna quibble about severance pay.”

“But Giles…Cave Slayer…” Willow tried once more. “She might hurt you.”

“Buffy want people,” Cave Slayer contributed, slapping Giles' small television set with her palm.

“She might,” he agreed, but not any more or less than she might hurt either of you if you stay. Lock the door on the way out, and I'll take my chances. What other choice do we have? Do either of you really want to tell her mother what happened?”

Xander flushed crimson and Willow suddenly didn't have anything to say.

“I don't think that would be a good idea,” the younger man eventually managed. “Joyce isn't Buffy's mother for nothing. I, for one, would like to still retain my manhood in the morning.”

“Right, fine,” Giles agreed, staring at him while dazedly trying to absorb Xander logic, always a losing proposition. “Go home, get some sleep. Call in the morning. Willow, bring clothes and whatnot for Buffy before class.”

“Sure, Giles,” Willow agreed. “I'll be here about eight, okay?”

“Fine,” he said as his slayer climbed onto the breakfast counter. “Now I have to tend to our little problem, before she hurts herself, so if you'd both…”

They were gone in seconds. Giles heard the lock shoot home with relief as the front door closed, and Buffy leaped into his kitchen.

“No,” he said firmly when she began opening cupboards.

“Buffy hungry.”

“Fine,” he said carefully. “Giles find food.”

“Food? Want food,” she agreed.

“Want food?” he asked and took her arm gently. “Come with me.”

“No! Want food!” she objected and dug her heels in.

He swore under his breath. “All right. Food.”

He opened the refrigerator and spent the next five minutes trying to keep her at arms length while he fixed her something to eat.

Eventually he managed to swing around with some plates, kicking the refrigerator door closed with his foot, and slid them onto the breakfast bar, catching the slender body that tried to leap after them, and carrying her backwards, under his arm, out to the stools.

Before she could quite grasp what was happening he sat her on one like a five year old and pulled the plates across so that they were in front of her.

“Food,” he said, breathing a little hard from the exertion. “Now behave, while I get you something to drink.”

“Drink? Drink beer!” she proclaimed.

Giles wasn't inclined to get into another argument, and was happy to see that she'd stuffed an apple into her mouth. He went back to the refrigerator and managed to pour a large glass of juice before she demolished the entire fruit.

When he turned back she was gnawing on the last of a chicken carcass from his take out dinner the previous day. He slid the juice across.

Buffy picked it up and sniffed it. “Not beer,” she complained.

He shook his head. “Juice. Please, Buffy, try to understand. Juice good.”

“Good?” she repeated, and looked up at him for a long moment. “Giles good,” she said, and downed half the contents before smiling up at him with a grubby, fruit juice-sticky face.

He couldn't help smiling back. She did look, for all the world, like a grubby child but it was those two words, and all that they meant, that stayed with him.

“Good girl,” he said encouragingly. “Have some cheese. You like cheese.”

She found the wedge of red Leicester and waved it at him. “Giles like cheese?”

He nodded. “Yes, Giles likes cheese,” he agreed.

Buffy broke the wedge in half and offered him a piece.

“Oh, well, thank you,” he said, smiling again and accepting the gift, disinclined to argue with her after the last time.

They ate together in silence until Buffy drained the last of her juice.

“More,” she demanded.

He took the glass and refilled it. And shook his head as she drank so deeply she spilled half of it down her front.

“Buffy needs a bath,” he said ruefully, casting an eye over the tangles, the smoke and soot stains, the spilled food and the scrapes.

“Beer?” Buffy inquired experimentally.

Giles pointed to her glass. “Juice,” he repeated, hoping the distraction would work.

Buffy frowned. “Want beer.”

“Oh dear,” he said under his breath. “Um…how about cookies? Buffy likes cookies.”

She frowned again.

Obviously that term had been lost, temporarily.

He nipped back into the kitchen and got the tin down, gave her several.

They were gone in seconds. “More!” she demanded.

“Really, you'll get a tummy ache,” he complained.

“More!”

“Yes, yes, all right. More.”

She was halfway through the tin when he finally called a halt. He couldn't, in good conscience, let her stuff herself sick, right mind or not.

When the lid went back on the tin her face grew stormy and her bottom lip stuck out. “More!” she repeated, loudly.

“Not tonight,” he replied, and put them in the highest cupboard. By the time he turned back she was gone.

“Buffy!” he yelled, and charged after her.

“Want beer!” she yelled from the hallway.

“I wish I had some,” he yelled back, frustrated, as he slid to a halt at the end of it and looked both ways. She was much closer than he expected, so that he ended up almost nose-to-nose.

“Want to go home,” she said in a little girl voice.

Giles rolled his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. There was no way to begin to know which home she meant, and no possible way they could leave the apartment again until the spell had worn off. Then he thought of something.

He pointed to the floor, the surrounds. “Home,” he told her gently. “Home.”

She looked at him suspiciously, then sniffed the air, stepped closer and sniffed him. “Giles, home,” she finally agreed and half-smiled, so that Giles almost believed that it was Buffy again for a moment.

“That's right,” he said softly. “Home.” He extended a hand very slowly, his fingers outstretched. “Home,” he repeated and waited for her work it out, make a choice.

“Giles…good,” she said again, staring at the hand, and then repeated it again, almost as if testing the idea.

“Yes,” he reassured her. “Giles good…God, I feel like I'm in a bloody Tarzan movie,” he muttered, then softly, “Yes. Giles good.”

She frowned, but it was more puzzled, more lost, than annoyed. “Giles loves Buffy?”

His eyes widened. Her blue ones were looking up at him pleadingly, genuine confusion in them. How did he deal with that? It was unnerving enough to hear the workings of Buffy's subconscious filtered through her currently prehistoric consciousness. He wondered what would be left of their relationship, if anything, when the spell finally wore off.

“Giles not love Buffy,” she mourned, a truly hurt look on her face, when he hadn't spoken for some time. “Want beer!”

“Giles loves Buffy very much,” he said quickly and extended the hand again.

After a beat to stare into his eyes, she grinned and took it gingerly, allowing him to lead her to the bathroom.

“We have to get you cleaned up,” he told her, turning on a faucet.

She jumped back, startled by the rush of water. Giles took a washcloth and rubbed soap on it before holding it for a moment under the faucet, squeezing it, and turning to his companion.

He'd made no more than two gentle swipes at the sticky mess around her mouth, when she grabbed his arm. For a long, unnerving moment, she seemed to stare into his eyes as though trying to find something, trying to grasp something.

At first he didn't understand, until she very slowly reached up and touched her forehead with her fingertips, then took the hand bearing the damp cloth and brought it to her brow in a washing motion.

He swallowed hard and cleared his throat, then blinked furiously for a long moment before obliging her by tenderly smoothing her hair back with his fingertips and washing the spot where her head had been cut so long ago. When he was done, he continued his efforts to clean her up. He cleaned her throat and her chest, just below it, but her top was a mess, not only from smoke and singeing, but also from beer, juice, and assorted food.

There was a basket of folded laundry in the corner. He swiftly retrieved his favourite sweatshirt…the loosest, most modern, he owned…and brought it to her.

“Clean,” he said, holding it up, then pointing to her messy one. “Dirty.”

Buffy looked from one to the other without comprehension, but she wanted to please him. She took it and liked the way he smiled when she did. She looked at it for a long moment, then tried to pull his sweater off.

“Buffy, what are you doing?” he demanded, trying to get free of her grasp.

The tone hurt her and she let go, unsure what her error was.

“Clean,” she mimicked and held up the shirt.

“Oh Lord,” he muttered. “Not for me, love,” he said wearily. “Here,” he added, and moved behind her before she could object. In one swift movement he removed the offending article of clothing from her person and dropped it in the dirty clothes hamper, unnerved to find she was wearing nothing under it, and barely stopping her from turning.

He took the sweater from her, instead, and pulled it over her head, trying not to think how much sticky juice might still be down the rest of her front. Getting her arms into the holes turned out to be a whole different matter. For a good five minutes they wrestled, until she was wearing the grey sweatshirt and about ready to tear his liver out.

She pulled away huffily. “Giles bad!” she sulked, turning to him and scowling.

“I'm sorry,” he said gently. “Giles…Giles loves Buffy,” he reiterated and touched the sweater sleeve. “Buffy clean.”

She grinned. “Buffy clean,” she repeated, clueless as to what she was saying, but happy that it made him happy. Then she yawned widely, her eyes flickering with innocent tiredness.

Something about the depth of that innocence touched Giles, and hurt, a lot. He knew he was responsible in good part for the death of innocence in the real Buffy, the stolen youth, the weary cynicism that sat with such ill ease on a young woman who should have been looking forward with joy to the rest of her life.

“Buffy tired?” he asked, very softly.

She blinked. That word had processed. “Tired,” she agreed, and nodded.

He extended the hand again, this time not entirely because it was expedient to move her around. When she slid her fingers into his and gripped, he tightened his large hand around them. He led her back to the living room and the couch, where, at his beckoning, she immediately curled up on it, smiling when he stroked her hair, almost unconsciously.

She should be sleeping in a comfortable bed. He looked over his shoulder at the loft. In any other situation he would have given her the world, not just his bed, but it wasn't possible in this one. The complications didn't bear contemplation. Even if Buffy woke as herself in the morning, he doubted that she would react well to finding herself in a man's bed after a bender, regardless of where he said he'd spent the night.

He looked back at her and saw that her breathing was already rhythmical, like the instant sleep of any wild thing. Very quietly, he slipped away and returned with a real pillow and a blanket from the closet. She didn't wake when he lifted her head and gently put the pillow under it, nor when he tucked the blanket around her.

She didn't even stir when he crossed to sit in his armchair, sighing heavily and settling, at first to look at his untouched paper, but soon just to watch her sleep. So rarely did they see each other lately that it did his heart good to be able to just look at her, to be really relaxed in the knowledge that she was truly safe, for a little while at least….

Eventually weariness, and not a little melancholy, drove him upstairs, where he fell into a restless sleep.

He was facing the window when the first rays of the morning filtered through it and caressed his eyelids. They flickered open grudgingly…Giles had never been a morning person, but something was subconsciously nudging him to resist the temptation to float back down into the abyss of blissful slumber.

Then he remembered.

One grubby Cave Slayer, loose in his apartment…

He still hadn't moved. Mind willing or not, making his body stir in the mornings without an alarm was akin to waking the dead. Then, slowly, his brow creased into a frown.

The weight against his back was more than just the quilt and there was something across his middle....

He moved experimentally, then froze when he heard the tiniest groan and an arm slid away from his waist. It took a little doing, but he managed to turn his body so that he could see.

He couldn't help the tender grin that lit up his face, or resist the urge to brush his fingers over the damp, rumpled hair. She was wearing another of his sweats, and curled up, half under the quilt, her brow having previously been up against his back, her arm draped across him.

When he succumbed to temptation and brushed a rosy pink cheek very gently with his thumb, the blue grey eyes flickered and opened.

“Giles…?”

“Hello,” he said softly, but without panic. He mustn't panic. “Sleep well?”

The disorientation in the blue eyes was less than momentary. “Slept good,” she replied warmly, her eyes shining almost mischievously. “With Giles.”

He gasped with surprise as she moved into his arms, laid her head on his shoulder and said contentedly, “Giles good.” He closed his eyes and allowed himself to hold her, just this one time, certain of impending disaster. “Yes,” he said a little sadly, knowing the moment would never come again. “Giles loves Buffy, so very much.”

Disaster, apparently, was right.

Buffy made a tiny noise but didn't move, or speak again until, moments later, when she slipped out of bed and fled.

By the time he got to the front doorway she was out of sight. He started to run back to the stairs to go and dress, then stopped, his eyes widening in dismay.

He stood on the spot for a long time before turning back and going over to where the first sweatshirt he'd given her, was lying on the back of the sofa. He picked it up. It was sticky around the throat and down the inside, probably from the residue of the previous night's juice, which must still have been all down her front when he put it on her.

Things were starting to fall into place. Suddenly the colour left his face and he sat down hard on the table behind the couch, his hands not quite steady.

Her hair had been damp. She'd smelled like his soap and she'd not only been wearing a clean shirt, she'd been rosy and clean herself…and she'd opened the locked bloody door like she'd done it a hundred times before…

He lowered his head into his hands for a long time, still holding the sweater, and stayed that way until the silence screamed at him.

He was about to stand up when the door opened again. His heart dropped. Just what he needed…

Willow, or worse, Xander and Anya, asking questions…

He straightened slowly, forgetting that he was still holding the sweater, and faced his visitor.

“Buffy,” he said softly, trying to compose himself and to disguise his surprise. “It is you…isn't it?”

She nodded silently, still digesting the image of him moments earlier.

“I got to the corner. I…I'm sorry I ran. It was w-wrong. I didn't mean…”

He looked at his hand suddenly, dropped the sweater and stood up. “Can I make you some tea…?” he offered uncomfortably, gruffly.

Buffy's eyes flashed with affection. “Tea would be good,” she said softly, watched him turn, and followed him to the kitchen.

“Was I really awful…yesterday…last night?”

Giles shook his head as he filled the kettle. “You were fine,” he assured her. “You don't remember much?”

“Some.” Buffy smiled at the stiff back. Her head was killing her and the thought of tea was making her violently nauseas, but she stayed, nonetheless. “I was probably horrible,” she guessed. “My hair was disgusting and I smelled like something the cat dragged in…something half-barbecued, half football-locker, she recalled disparagingly, then added very softly, “thank you for taking care of me.”

He put the kettle down on the burner and turned very slowly.

Their eyes held for a very long time.

Buffy smiled at him. “You need a new sofa,” she told him dryly. “And did anyone ever tell you how thin your spare blanket is?”

He reddened, smiled, and dropped his head.

“It was nice,” she said after a beat, looking up at the loft. A shadow passed her over her face. “And I really needed not to be…” She stopped, frowned. “Anyway, I came back to tell you…I'm sorry about…” Her eyes flicked upward a second time, “and that I'm really sorry…about wigging like that…”

Giles lifted his head and looked at her again.

“I didn't mind,” he finally said, very quietly. “And I understood…about the rest.”

Buffy resisted the urge to cry. “I know,” she told him, annoyed when a stray drop escaped over a un-mascara-ed lash. When another soon followed it, she turned away quickly.

A moment later she felt strong hands slide onto her shoulders and a dam broke as he turned her into his arms and drew them tightly around her.

For a time Buffy forgot everything except that safe harbour that was Giles, and the lancing of the wound that had been Angel, the ache that was Parker…

She held on, anchored, safe…home…for perhaps the first time since becoming the Slayer. Held on almost as tightly as he was holding her…

…Until the kettle started to whistle and they jumped apart, then laughed at each other, before falling into a self-conscious silence.

“Tea?” he asked hoarsely, turning off the flame.

She shook her head and winced. “A new head, maybe,” she said ruefully. “I'd…better go home and get changed for class this afternoon.”

He nodded uncomfortably. “Yes, but let me give you a lift…u-unless of course you want to wait for Willow to bring your things…?”

“Oh…you're expecting Willow?”

It was his turn to nod. “At eight. She's bringing clothes, um, etcetera.”

Buffy smiled with great tenderness. “Thank God for the etcetera,” she teased. Then her face became serious, despite the warmth in her eyes. “I'll wait. Maybe you could dig out that coffee you surprised me with after Cathy…uh…went home…? Black, three sugars.”

He chuckled a little, relaxing just the tiniest bit. “That, I can do.”

She bit her lip. “You can do a lot more than that,” she said and watched the green eyes flash up to hers just as Willow came bursting into the apartment. After a further beat he turned back to making the tea and finding the small jar of coffee.

Willow didn't stay, dropping the clothes off in a whirl that included something about a ride waiting out front, an assignment no one had told her about, Quantum theory in less than half an hour, did Buffy want a lift, and waking up that morning with a boatload of PMS.

“Good Lord,” Giles exclaimed mildly when the door slammed shut.

“That's my Will,” Buffy grinned. “Same every month. You just don't usually get to see us like that…well, maybe, actually…kind of both of us now. I get do get pret-ty Cave Slayer around that time.”

Giles grunted, turned to pick up the cups and put them on the tray before taking it back to the kitchen.

Buffy watched him go, with a half smile. “Are you still taking me back to the campus?” she asked when she saw him reach the sink.

“Of course,” he called back. “Whenever you're ready. When you've tended to your etceteras, perhaps…?” he added, and smiled to himself when he heard her actually laugh.

The student parking lot was fairly deserted when Giles slid the Citroen into one of only a couple of empty slots.

“You're sure you're all right now? No after effects of the spell, nothing too unpleasant…?” he asked as soon as he'd turned the ignition off.

She nodded. “Except for the force eight hangover…just fine,” she confirmed, though a shadow passed over her face. “But I really, really don't want to go to class today.”

“I do understand, I really do. It will pass, you know. But the classes…Buffy, you know you have to work hard to—” He stopped. She was smiling widely at him, and her eyes were very bright. “What?” he asked suspiciously.

“You,” she said softly, and turned to climb out of the car, stopped for a moment, then turned back and silently put her arms around his neck and hugged him hard. “Just you.”

After a beat for the shock to wear off, Giles returned the embrace. “It's over,” he said softly, holding her quite fiercely. “That pillock will never hurt you again.”

Buffy leaned back after several more long moments, to find his gentle eyes with hers and to smile.

“Giles loves Buffy?” she asked in her alter ego's voice.

His eyes glinted with amusement and pleasure. “Very much,” he confirmed softly.

She grinned back at him for a moment, then her expression sobered.

“Buffy loves Giles, too…” she whispered tremulously and touched his stunned face, before gathering her things and slipping away.

He watched her until she disappeared inside her building before starting the car. When it sprang to life, despite the sticky clutch, he paused for a moment, and laughed emotionally, shaking his head as his eyes closed.

A divot appeared in his brow and he squeezed his lids together for several more moments, before taking a deep breath and putting the Citroen in gear.

Perhaps he didn't need to consider going home after all…

Perhaps the decision could wait another year…

He looked over his shoulder at Stephenson hall again and smiled.

It could wait…



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