A Decision - An Observation - A Realization
Gabriele Schulz

TITLE: A Decision - An Observation - A Realization
AUTHOR: Gabriele Schulz
EMAIL: gabi@gschulz.de
DISTRIBUTION: Everyone who has my general permission. Others please ask first.
SPOILERS: Buffy vs. Dracula
FEEDBACK: Love it. Especially if you like the story ;-)
SUMMARY: After the treath of Dracula, Buffy is back safe in the arms of her love. Or is she? B/G
DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Productions, Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox Television, the WB Television Network, and whoever else may have a hold on them. I do not mean to infringe upon any copyrights.
NOTES: This is based on the following spoilers for the episode: Giles contemplates leaving Buffy, because he thinks she doesn't need him. And Dracula controls Buffy and Xander in some way.
DATE: 09/14/2000

I Giles

For a moment his heart just stops beating.

Then he knows she is safe and no amount of words can describe the relief he feels.

She drops into Riley's arms. Xander is swept into Anya's demanding grip. And Tara puts an arm around Willow and kisses her temple, sharing her relief that her best friends are safe.

His heart stops pounding after a while, returning to the normal beat. And as he calms down he realizes that things haven't really changed. Here he is - alone. Yes, he has saved Buffy, but Riley would probably have managed with the help of the others. Even if he hadn't rushed in at the opportunity to do something for Buffy. To prove to himself that she still needed him.

The truth is, she doesn't need him. The people she needs are here. Her best friends and her boyfriend. He sees how she looks at them, smiling, taking Willows hand without letting go off Riley. How she laughs about Xander, while Anya expresses her joy to have him safe again in ways that approach indecent behavior.

Has she even looked at him once? He can't remember.

Maybe they wouldn't even notice if he would leave now.

He looks at the ground, trying to decide what to do. To stay or to leave. Not only for now, but forever.

He looks at them in turn.

Willow, who has found the perfect partner in Tara. Someone who shares her interests, understands her and encourages her in ways that he has never dared to. Xander and Anya who, no matter how hard to understand their relationship, may very well be perfect for one another. And Riley and Buffy. He watches how tightly he holds Buffy. If she wasn't the Slayer it would probably hurt.

When he brings his gaze up, he notices that Buffy is watching him. Just a few moments ago she seemed so cheerful. Her reaction to Xander and Anya was so much herself. And it seemed as if she comforted Riley as much as he comforted her.

But now she isn't smiling. Tears are forming in her eyes and suddenly she pushes Riley gently but firmly away with a smile.

And before either Riley or Giles know what is happening, Buffy has swung her arms around Giles.

She buries her face in his shirt and he is too stunned to do anything. Then he realizes that she is crying.

Tentatively, he puts his arms around her. He feels her grip tightening and he begins to stroke her back. He makes soothing sounds and he feels how she slowly calms down a little. He keeps stroking her hair and her back. Her sobs subside, but he keeps holding her, just as she keeps holding him.

They stand like that and it is that moment he knows that he will never leave her as long as they both live.

II Riley

His hands are shaking terribly. They shouldn't. He should have them under control. He should be prepared for dangerous situations, but the truth is nothing could have prepared him for Buffy. For the world and way of living in it that she introduced him to, for the strength and responsibility in a single person and especially not for the love he feels for her. Years of soldier training couldn't prepare him to deal with the fear of losing her.

Then she drops into his arms and he knows he hasn't lost her.

His hands stop shaking, and instead clutch her. He can't say a single word. Instead, he just holds her. He hears her whisper "I'm okay, Riley. I'm okay." but he can't stop his grip on her.

She is his life. She has changed everything forever. And he has no idea how he deserves her.

He feels her reaching out to Willow and laughing about Xander. He wants to laugh, too. He wants to smile and tell her how happy he is that she is fine, but he just can't stop holding her.

Then she suddenly pushes him away. He sees her smile, but also the tears that are in her eyes. He doesn't understand. One moment she is telling him she is okay, laughing about Xander, and the next moment she rushes into Giles' arms and cries.

No, not Giles' arms. The Watcher is as stunned as he is. He isn't even holding her. Why does she want him, when he doesn't even hold her?

But then his arms do fold around her. And his hands aren't clutching. They run smoothly along her back and her hair.

Riley looks down at his own hands. They have started shaking again.

Buffy has stopped crying.

But she's still in his arms.

And at that moment Riley wonders if the only reason he hasn't lost Buffy is because he never had her.

III Buffy

She drops into Riley arms. She has made it again. She has beaten death. She holds Riley as tightly as he holds her.

"I'm okay, Riley. I'm okay."

She has to smile about him. He cares so much about her. Just as the others do.

She looks at Willow and Tara. She can see, no, *feel* the relief in her best friend and she reaches out to ensure her that she is fine.

She sees Anya bestowing one kiss after another on a squirming Xander, and she has to laugh.

It's like always. They survived. Xander is okay. She is okay. Only, she isn't okay. She nearly died. She faced her greatest enemy and she failed. Failed to protect herself and Xander. She could have been dead. And sooner or later she will be dead. And Riley will be clutching a coffin.

She knows that she shouldn't think like that. She can hear the words in her ears. And they have a British accent.

She looks at Giles. He is watching the others. One couple after another. Those who are not alone.

But he isn't alone! She needs him.

He looks at her back, where Riley keeps clutching at her and then he looks at her face again and there's surprise and worry. And she knows there'll be comfort. And that there'll be no clutching.

She pushes Riley away. She tries to smile, because it's not his fault. That she will die and that he can't understand - and that he's always clutching.

She rushes to Giles, and now she doesn't have to pretend or be strong. Here's only understanding.

Then he puts his arms around her and it is even more. It is exactly what she needs and it's the only thing she needs. The only person she needs. The only person she wants. Her grip tightens and he starts stroking her back. His movements calm her down. His closeness makes the sobs subside.

But she keeps holding him. And she never wants to stop.

It's at this moment that she knows that no one will ever understand her like he does or comfort her or be there for her. And that she doesn't want it any other way.