The Hills are Not Alive | Epilogue to The Dark Age

“Giles, you're just not with it. I think we should call it a day.”

Giles straightened, the practical look on his face at odds with the pain in his eyes. “We could still do a little fencing. You were enjoying…”

Buffy shook her head. “I'm not about to risk Giles shish-kabob. Too messy, for one thing.”

“Buffy…” he began, annoyed, but his logical mind saw her point even before his pride could argue and he trailed off, turned and dropped the quarterstaff on the table.

“You can go,” he said quietly. “It will at least save me from another round of your callisthenics music.”

Buffy watched his back hunch a little for a moment then tense again as he rested his hands on the table and leaned on them.

It would have been nice to get away early, have a couple of hours to herself before patrol even, but…

She sighed a long sigh and crossed to his office.

When the footsteps faded, Giles turned to put the weapons and the padding away. The routine was soothing and helped distract him from his irrational disappointment at Buffy's hasty departure.

He'd only just locked the door of the weapons cupboard when a kettle whistle startled him.

“Buffy? I thought you'd gone…”

She turned from the mugs she'd just filled and the plate of shortbread she'd retrieved from the jar Giles thought he'd successfully hidden from them all.

“Tea?” she said brightly.

Still leaning around the door, he smiled a weary, but affection-filled smile. “Lovely,” he agreed.

Giles demolished two cups of tea to Buffy' one, but silence reigned and the shortbread went untouched.

Buffy looked up at him when he put the cup down a second time. “You okay?” she asked quietly.

He looked down at her, startled. Her uncharacteristic solicitousness was almost unnerving. “Buffy, there's no need to feel sorry for me—”

Buffy frowned. She did…kinda…but put like that, he made it sound pretty awful.

“Maybe I do,” she said in a burst of honesty, “but…and correct me if I'm wrong, here; you and me…friends, right?”

That gave him pause. After a beat he nodded.

“I thought so,” she said, with typical adolescent logic. “You want to patrol?”

Giles blinked at the change of subject, but that was Buffy…and anything would be better than going back to his apartment alone and reliving the last couple of days over and over…not to mention spending every other hour worrying about how Jenny was…

“S-sounds like a splendid idea,” he agreed.

Buffy looked up at him knowingly, an oldness in the youthful eyes.

“*I* thought so,” she rejoined cheekily.


********

Giles watched Buffy move through the cemetery and marvelled at how far she'd come since her arrival in Sunnydale. When he'd been assigned a Slayer in such distant parts, and under such difficult circumstances, he never dreamed she'd be as exceptional, or as maddening, as Buffy was.

A wave of sadness washed over him. He'd also never dreamed he'd find, for perhaps the first time, a woman he could possibly contemplate a future with…a woman he might even be falling in love with…or the exquisite pain that realisation had brought with it now that his own youthful stupidity had returned to haunt him…and to estrange her from him...

He looked up at a muffled noise and realised Buffy was out of sight. Moving quickly, but resisting the impulse to call out, he followed in the direction he'd seen her going earlier.

Buffy was surrounded by trouble…three demon loads of trouble.

Judging by their numbers and the fire pit burning close by, she had almost certainly interrupted something. He frowned as she circled, trying to remember whether he'd seen them before, or read about them. And then one of them turned from a deep blue colour to a suffuse heliotrope, and he suddenly remembered.

He tore across the clearing to her side. “They're Chameloids,” he puffed.

Buffy frowned without looking around. “Nice to see you again, too. They don't look very camel-like.”

Giles snorted. “Their pigment changes—”

The frowned cleared. “That's it? They change colour…how bad could that be?”

“Not…” he puffed, “that is, until they turn…”

“Orange,” Buffy finished as the first demon to lunge at her began turning a horrible shade of burnt orange.

“Orange,” he agreed, back pedalling with her. “The orange colour is a chemical reaction of its body to the toxins that just rose to the surface of its skin like sweat.”

Buffy made a distasteful noise. So I—we shouldn't touch it?” she shouted, jumping aside as it tried to grab her and the others began changing colour as well.

“I should say not!” he shouted back, doing some dodging of his own and wishing he'd brought a sword.

“How do I kill it?” she demanded, jumping back between Giles and the creatures advancing on him.

“Ah…well…decapitation, preferably with something with a long reach, or impaling through one or other of the eyes, if memory serves,” he stammered, frustrated about being shielded by a sixteen year old girl all his natural instincts told him to protect.

Buffy flourished her stake at the demons. “Not exactly a long reach,” she muttered, 'but it will just have to do.”

Giles looked around desperately as Buffy again went into battle alone. “Wait until the orange fades, if you can,” he yelled, scrabbling about under the nearest tree.

She dodged and leaped to evade the demons' attempts to box her in and waited until one of them started to change back to an almost translucent blue before lunging at it. It immediately began to turn orange again and the others were closing in when Giles came charging back into the fray with a long tree branch.

The battle joined, both Buffy and Giles fought side-by-side, one distracting and the other attacking, until one demon lay dead and each of them were locked in combat. Within minutes Buffy's demon lay dead, a stake protruding horribly from it's right eye. Giles, however, was barely keeping his opposition at bay with the branch.

Buffy watched him for a moment, trying to decided what to do, since there was no way she was going to get her stake out of the demon's head this time, and blew out a frustrated breath. She needed to be a just a leetle more aware of her own strength…

Giles was sweating profusely, his hair matted with dampness, and he had leaves and grime all over him from rolling and falling during the fight. Buffy looked up at his face as he swung the branch at the demon. His face was glowing, both from the exertion and from a kind of rage that seemed out of proportion to what he was doing. They were just dumb demons, after all…

Then they both saw it, when the demon lunged again and Giles moved aside to let it careen past. A sword, in a scabbard slung over its back. In seconds Buffy had lunged after it and snatched the blade, spinning and throwing it to Giles in one almost seamless movement.

“Your specialty!” she called, and enjoyed the grin that lit up his face before spinning back to her task as the creature regained its balance and turned again.

It was still orange. Buffy swiftly backed up to where Giles was waiting.

“Aren't you going the wrong way?” he teased.

Surprised, Buffy threw a glance up at him. He was genuinely enjoying the fight, the challenge, and it had taken his mind off…other things.

“What did you want me to do? Throw my shoe at it? I'm not exactly armed and armoured here, remember? You're the one who said not to get involved with the orange deal.”

He snorted and pushed her behind him.

The demon wasn't exactly pleased to see its sword in Giles' hand and said so in an interesting stream of demon invective, which Buffy could tell by Giles' rapidly reddening ear tips, was not for delicate audiences.

“Well you're not bloody getting it back!” Giles retorted when it was done, “unless you want it point first. And I'll have you mind your manners around the young lady.”

It went a violent shade of orange and muttered something that stiffened Giles' back.

“You'll take that back,” he growled in a voice Buffy had never heard before, and apparently repeated it just as vehemently in the demon's dialect.

“Take what back?” she was surprised into demanding, but was roundly ignored.

Giles was moving toward the creature, the point of the sword extended toward it.

“Take it back now, or I'll make you take it back syllable by syllable, piece by piece,” he snarled.

The creature barked a response and charged, clearly intending to try and regain its weapon, and possibly to make the Watcher eat his words.

Buffy watched, opened mouthed, as Giles sidestepped so that it overshot and crunched it just below the back of it's skull with the hilt of his sword, causing it to stumble and turn angrily.

“I told you to mind your manners around the lady,” he taunted as it closed on him again.

“Giles, he's not going to get all blue and Zen-like if you keep pissing him off,” Buffy pointed out.

“Good point,” he acknowledged as he moved into an attacking position with the sword.

“Just exactly how much English does it understand?”

“Enough,” it growled and commenced to repeat in English what it had said to turn Giles' ears red earlier.

Buffy's eyes grew rounder and rounder. “Your mother should have washed your mouth…and your brain out with soap,” she told it when it was done. “For your information I have a boyfriend, and he has a lady, potty brain.”

It took a menacing step toward her and began to change colour again.

“You can go ahead now, Giles. Fold, spindle and mutilate.”

Which he did, stunningly.

The fight was violent, the creature as determined to make the kill, as the Watcher was to defend. In the end however, it was a combination of temper and hitherto un-suspected grace on Giles' part that saw him through, and a saw a head slowly changing to a dull blue colour, roll across the ground and come to rest at Buffy's feet.

“Oh…gross,” she exclaimed and jumped back. “I thought I was supposed to be the Slayer…” But was silenced when she looked up and saw his eyes.

“Giles?”

His eyes glittered as he kicked the head away viciously. He was breathing hard and his colour was high. Suddenly he swung around and smashed the blade into a tree with both hands, roaring with rage as he did it.

“Hey, I scratch a sword tip in training and you lecture me for a—!” Buffy choked off her objection when he turned and walked past her. When it didn't look like he was going to stop, she followed.

“Hey!” she called. Then more angrily: “Hey!” She caught up and grabbed his forearm. “Giles, what's going on?”

He pulled his arm from her grip. “Nothing,” he rasped without looking at her. “It's late. You have school tomorrow.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Like you ever cared about that before,” she snorted.

Giles wheeled before he realised what he was doing. “That's not fair!” he began then stopped when he saw her eyes widen and grow very round.

He turned away again. “Go home, Buffy,” he said thickly.

Buffy didn't speak, simply walked around to stand in front of him.

The silence stretched.

“I told you before,” he snarled, finally. “I don't want anyone's pity. It was my stupidity that brought Eyghon here, and my stupidity that has cost me…” He choked a little and fell silent again.

Buffy frowned with the effort to control her response to his pain, her eyes glistening and her lip trying not to tremble.

“She'll get over it,” she said softly. “She knows you. I know you.” She smiled. “Even I couldn't stay mad you. What possible hope does she have?” she teased, her voice very full.

Giles chuckled in spite of himself. “You are a dreadfully meddlesome girl,” he complained.

They both laughed self consciously and Buffy instinctively fell in very close to him as they started to walk, her arm sliding around his waist, and her head resting against him.

After several paces Giles overcame his surprise and slid a large arm around her shoulders, squeezing a silent thanks as they turned for home.

“You know what really sucks?” Buffy finally broke the silence, almost making her companion jump.

“Um…no,” he managed to reply.

“We have to go back and put the trash in the furnace. We littered,” she pointed out dryly, patted his back and drew away to straighten.

Giles threw his head back. “Blast!” he growled.

It didn't take them long to carry the three bodies through the broken doors and down to the furnace.

“Tell me again why being the Slayer is a good thing?” Buffy muttered as they closed the incinerator door for the last time and she looked for something with which to wipe her hands.

Giles straightened and picked up the coat he'd dropped on a table after they brought the first demon down there, then removed his glasses.

“Do you want the 'One Girl in all the world…' speech, or shall I just make something up?” he asked wearily.

Buffy blinked, and then spotted the gleam in his eye.

“Make something up,” she demanded.

“Well, there's the joy of a job well done, the pay is outstanding and the hours splendid. There are no overheads and you can never be fired,” he told her as they left the building.

“Yay me.”

“More?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Well, there's the added bonus of having your own Watcher: handsome, intelligent, ever diligent and alert, resourceful…”

“Giles…” she growled, bringing his whimsical recitation to a halt.

He put his glasses back on and looked down at her.

Buffy's expression was tender and amused, her eyes glistening and emotion-filled as they met the almost grim-free, dancing green ones.

“…I said, 'lie to me'.”


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