Author: Theef (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spoilers: No serious ones. Takes place up through season four, before Riley became a central character.
Disclaimer: These character belong not to me, but to Joss Whedon and those affiliated with the show.
Rating: PG13 for angst I guess
Buffy had been dreaming a lot recently. She couldn't remember exactly what the dreams were about, but she would wake up each morning covered in sweat, with a feeling of terror building in her stomach. She hadn't told any of the others about the dreams, not even Willow, who shared the dorm with her. She wasn't sure why she hadn't. Although she was pretty sure that it had something to do with the old idea of ignoring something until it goes away.
Just because Buffy hadn't told them anything didn't mean that no one had noticed. Even the normally oblivious Xander had commented to Anya that Buffy had seemed a little off recently. No one wanted to speak up though, each unwilling to be on the receiving end of Buffy's anger.
One night the gang was all gathered at Giles' to research a demon that Buffy had fought but failed to defeat the night before. Buffy was characteristically late, so everyone was taking advantage of this to talk about her recent behavior.
"She's been sleeping normally, but she still seems really tired," said Willow from the chair she was sharing with Oz.
"Yeah, she hasn't been her usual cheerful self lately," said Xander. "I mean come on, that demon last night wasn't anything compared to most of the stuff she's faced." Xander and Anya had been with her when the demon had attacked, and he seemed shaken up by the whole event.
"She has been unusually inattentive during our training, if she even remembers to come. It is as though she has been walking about in a daze," said Giles thoughtfully.
Oz, who had been watching the exchange quietly nodded his head at Giles' comment. But whatever he had been about to say was cut short as Buffy hurried through the door.
"I'm so sorry I'm late guys," she said. "I forgot and then I was coming through the Park and there was a vamp and I'm really sorry," she finished.
Willow, Oz, Xander, Anya, and Giles all exchanged looks, which Buffy missed as she fumbled out of her coat. She sat down next to Giles on the couch and picked up a book. "So, what're we looking for," she said with a forced smile.
"Buff come on, we're looking for the demon from last night," said Xander. "What's with you?"
"I'm sorry. I've just been so tired lately. What with all the studying and homework and slaying there's been barely any Buffy sleeping time." There was a finality in Buffy's tone that suggested strongly that these words were meant to be the end of the topic.
The conversation ended there, everyone sitting back with a book to research. As Willow opened the heavy volume on her lap she thought about how little studying Buffy had actually been doing lately. What in the world was going on with her? She wasn't the only one worrying. Research was slow going with everyone distracted by their individual concerns for their friend. And Buffy herself was essentially useless, distracted by her own inability to focus because of the aching fatigue that she could feel building behind her drowsy eyes.
It was late when Anya finally identified the demon that had attacked them. Giles was surprised. Xander had been right. Buffy certainly should have been able to handle herself against such a creature.
He watched the children gather their things in preparation to leave. As Buffy struggled with her coat sleeves he noticed just how pale and weak she looked. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy. He made a mental note to talk to her about it tomorrow when she came over to train.
* * *
Willow and Buffy chatted about pointless things as they got ready for bed back at the dorm. Willow nodded her approval when Buffy climbed under the sheets and clicked off her lamp right away. Maybe she really was just tired. Who knew exactly what a slayer needed in terms of rest. Willow turned out her own light and settled in for a good nights sleep.
Buffy didn't sleep as well as her friend. She woke up after only an hour with tears on her face. She shuddered as bits of her dream came back to her. The pieces weren't all there, but she could put together enough to figure out what the basic theme had been. It was Angel and Faith together, like when he had fooled her into thinking that she had successfully rid him of his soul. Only in her dream he wasn't pretending to be bad. She had given in to temptation again, given Angel his moment of happiness, and now he was making her pay for it. In her dream she had watched as he and Faith tortured her friends.
A sob wracked through Buffy's tired body as Giles' pained face flashed through her mind. She got out of bed and sat at her desk with a book. She couldn't go back to sleep now, not if it meant another nightmare like that one. There's my solution, she thought with a bitter smile. No more sleep equals no more dreams.
* * *
Buffy spent the next day in a haze. She couldn't focus in any of her classes, but she had no problem staying awake. She kept remembering more and more of last night's dream and it upset her so much that sleep was the last thing on her mind.
She surprised Giles by arriving for training on time. The two of them cleared a space in the living room where they could spar. Right away Giles noticed that Buffy's focus was elsewhere. After he had knocked her to the ground for the third time he suggested that they have a break. He watched from the couch as she slowly lowered herself into a chair, drinking deeply from a bottled water. He noticed the way her eyelids drooped low, open just enough for her to know that she was still awake.
"Buffy, I think that we need to talk."
"Sure Giles, what's up?" she asked with forced enthusiasm.
He decided to get right to the point. "Something's wrong and I'm worried about you. Have you not been sleeping well lately?"
"Giles come on, I told you last night that I've just been really busy with the whole school and slaying combo. It's really nothing to worry about. Look, I'll go back to the dorm and go straight to bed." She hopped up and patted him on the head. Despite her sudden peppiness, Giles could hear the strain in her voice. Something was truly wrong, and she wouldn't tell him about it.
He followed her to the door. "Buffy, you know that whatever is bothering you, you can tell me about it."
She smiled at him, but he saw pain flash briefly in her eyes before she turned to go. As the door shut behind her Giles silently cursed her for closing herself off to him yet again. Whatever was troubling his slayer needed to be dealt with. Not only was it dangerous to have Buffy out fighting in such a condition, but he hated to see her suffering like she was.
* * *
That night sleep overcame Buffy, despite her best efforts. She woke up to the sounds of her own terrified screams. Looking frantically around the room she was relieved to see that Willow wasn't there. She didn't know exactly why, but she knew that she wouldn't be able to tell Willow what she had dreamt about. If she told her then Willow would know that the painful torture Faith had inflicted upon her had been all Buffy's fault. Even if the whole thing was just a dream, it had been so realistic that Buffy couldn't help the humiliating shame that she felt. She sat up and pulled the blankets protectively around her. Her eyes once again filled with tears at the thought of going back to sleep. The nightmare had been so vivid this time. She turned on the light and tried to prepare herself for another sleepless night.
* * *
Giles was sitting at the table reading when he heard a knock at the door. He opened it to find Xander, Willow, and Oz standing on the doorstep. He ushered them inside, the worried looks on their faces not going unnoticed.
"What's the matter? Is it Buffy?" he asked.
"Oh Giles, I just don't know what to do. This morning she looked so bad. She looks like she's going to fall apart any second. I don't know what happened last night, but whatever it was it couldn't have been good." Willow leaned against Oz, worry written plainly on both of their faces.
"Did she sleep last night? Was she out patrolling to late?" Giles asked the young girl.
"I, uh, I don't know. I wasn't um, I wasn't exactly in the room last night." She cast an embarrassed look over her shoulder at Oz.
Giles nodded in understanding. After all, he had been young once himself. He was surprised to notice that Xander hadn't made any comment about Willow's nighttime activities. The boy must really be worried, he thought.
"Giles, you really have to do something. I saw her this morning. She wouldn't give me any clue to what was wrong," Xander said quietly.
"Alright you all, here's what I'd like you to do. Tell Buffy that I'd like her to come over tonight for some extra training. I'll try to talk to her. If she won't let me know what's wrong then I don't really know what can be done. Buffy has to want to be helped for anything to happen. But I think she'll speak with me. Alright then," he nodded his head and showed the three of them to the door.
"She's seeing something real enough to scare her. Whatever it is, she might not want to tell anyone about it," Oz said softly to the older man as the others hurried down the steps.
"I'm afraid you're probably right Oz." Giles said to the empty room as the young man shut the door behind him. He remembered Buffy's guilt over Angel, and her fear after the initial defeat of The Master. He was well aware of her ability to punish herself for things that were in no way her fault. He couldn't imagine what it could be this time.
* * *
Buffy was running late as she headed for Giles' flat. She has been surprised when Willow had told her that he wanted her to come over. They didn't normally train on Saturdays. She hoped it wasn't some new big bad. She didn't think that she could handle anything like that right now. She was distracted, worrying about the possible new threat, so she failed to notice the demon from the other night emerge from behind a nearby tree. She fell to the ground as the demon hit her from behind. She tried to roll away so that she could leap up to counter the attack, but her eyes were blurry and her head pounded from the blow. She felt another punch slam into her stomach, knocking the wind out of her.
As another blow fell on her head she gave up on defending herself. Pain coursed through her body, and Buffy longed only to have Giles there to take her into the safety of his arms. "Giles," she mumbled weakly, just before she passed out.
* * *
Giles had been sitting in the living room, waiting for Buffy to arrive when someone began to pound on his door. He opened it to find Spike holding a limp slayer in his arms.
"Come in quickly, Spike. Set her here on the couch and tell me what happened." Giles tried to keep the panic out of his voice as he took in Buffy's injuries. She had a trickle of blood on her temple and he could see a bruise forming over her left eye. Her chest was rising and falling erratically.
"Listen Watcher, I've got to get out of here. I may have this bloody chip in my head, but I've still got my reputation to hold onto." His voice softened as he watched Giles gently lift Buffy's head and put a pillow behind her. "It wasn't a bad demon. I took him down quick enough. Saw him hit the Slayer though. Came up behind her and knocked her right out. You'd best give her a good going over. Something's not right if she's loosing to a sodding Fyarl demon." With that Spike turned and darted back out into the night.
Giles had little time to marvel at Spike's behavior as Buffy let out a little moan. "Giles?" she said, her voice shaky.
He knelt down next to the coach. "Yes Buffy, I'm here. Can you sit up and tell me what happened?"
With his help she sat up and leaned wearily into him. "I've been so tired. It just came up behind me and I didn't even see. Giles, the thing just hit me once and I was on the ground. Two hits and I was out cold. I don't know what's wrong with me." She began to sob and he pulled her gently into his arms, rubbing her back soothingly.
"Alright Buffy, things will be better now. We're going to get you cleaned up and in bed and you're going to rest. Then tomorrow you will rest more and you and I will talk this out, figure out what's happening." He tilted her head back and smiled at her reassuringly. "Okay?"
She nodded, wincing as pain blossomed behind her eyes. "Maybe I should stay down here. I don't want you to have to sleep on the couch. And besides, I'm pretty sure I can't make it up those stairs."
"Nonsense," he said firmly. Giles stood and leaned over to pick her up, cradling her gently in his arms. He walked easily up the stairs, her face pressed into his chest and her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. He set her down on the bed and hurried to the bathroom to get water and his first aid kit.
Buffy lay back and shut her eyes as Giles cleaned her wounds with alcohol.
"Did it get you anywhere else?" He asked as he covered the cut on her head with a bandage.
"My stomach, but I don't think there's much that you can do about that. I think I may have cut my chest or something when I fell though. It stings." Her eyes remained shut tight.
"Alright then Buffy, I'm going to take your shirt off and have a look at you." He shook his head at his choice of words, thankful that she wasn't coherent enough to tease him for it.
Buffy whimpered a little as Giles eased her out of her shirt. He noticed her tight pants and decided that they wouldn't be very conducive to a restful sleep. Oh well old man, you've already got the girl's shirt off, you may as well finish the job. How much worse could it look?
Buffy opened her eyes and looked at him questioningly as he undid the button on her jeans. "You'll probably sleep better without these one. It is warm out." He groaned inwardly, realizing how bad he sounded. But Buffy simply shut her eyes in silent consent. Giles marveled at how very much she trusted him. He let a smile touch his lips and then turned his attention back to her.
She shivered as he ran his fingers over her stomach, wincing when he touched the spot where the demon's fist had connected with her body. There was nothing that he could do that would be any better than letting time take it's course. He cleaned the scrape across her chest, bandaging it carefully. He helped her pull on one of his undershirts, wincing when she hissed with pain. He smoothed her hair back from her face and pulled the covers over her shoulders.
"You rest Buffy, we'll see how you're feeling in the morning. I think sleep will help."
As he turned to leave, Buffy's voice stopped him. "Giles, wait. Please don't go. I'm tired but....just don't leave. Please." Her eyes were wide as she stared up at him pleadingly. There was no way he could refuse her.
"Of course Buffy." He sat down in the chair next to the bed and turned out the light.
* * *
Giles wasn't sure when he had fallen asleep, but he woke up to the sound of Buffy's screaming. He leapt up, turning on the light to find her tangled in the sheets. She was still asleep, tears coursing down her face.
"Buffy! Buffy wake up! Come on now, it's just a dream." Giles carefully shook her shoulder, not wanting to aggravate her injuries. Her struggles became frantic and her shoulders shook with sobs. "Buffy, damnit, wake up!"
She jerked awake with a start, her eyes darting around frantically. He gently took her face in his hands and turned it towards him. "Buffy, calm down. You're alright now. I'm here."
Her eyes snapped into focus and she threw herself into his arms. He felt her tears soak through his thin t-shirt. Small hands clutched at his shirt front, his neck, and his hair. She was trying desperately to reassure herself that he was really there.
"Buffy, are you alright?" He asked, holding her tightly in his arms, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.
"Giles please, please don't go. Don't let it happen again. I can't stop it and I'm so tired." She lifted her head up from his shoulder, her hands supporting herself against his chest. "I didn't mean to fall asleep." Her voice was small and frightened.
"Buffy, if you're having nightmares you should have told me." He tried not to sound upset. Right now she needed his comfort, not a lecture. "You know that lack of sleep will severely weaken you. It's no small wonder you haven't been performing well lately. How long has this been going on?"
"I've been having the dreams for a few weeks. I couldn't remember them, but they left me feeling all worn out anyway." She trailed off, hoping he would let her off the hook.
"Buffy," he prodded her. No such luck.
"I know what they are now. I remember them all the time. Whenever I close my eyes I remember them. I haven't slept in three days."
"Oh, Buffy." Giles drew his slayer back against his body. He embraced her sobbing form. "You know you have to tell me about them, your nightmares."
"I know. Just not tonight Giles. Please not tonight. I'm so tired and I hurt so much." This startled Giles. She so rarely allowed her feelings to show, especially when they revealed any sort of personal weakness. A confession such as this one meant that she must really be hurting. He nodded, unable to deny her anything. Her body was still shaking violently in his arms.
Without a word Giles gently lay down on the bed, bringing Buffy with him. She mumbled something into his side as she snuggled up against him. She still shook, so he wrapped his arms around her, staring up at the ceiling. He knew that this probably wasn't a good idea, but it was what she seemed to need.
Thirty minutes had passed and Giles could tell from Buffy's breathing that she still hadn't fallen asleep. Every so often she would moan and shift against him.
"Buffy dear, what's the matter?"
There was a long pause before she finally replied. "I don't want to go back to sleep. I know you're here, but I just...." She trailed off. He could feel her fists clenching and unclenching against his stomach.
"I know you're frightened, but you need sleep. You've been injured and it's the best thing for you right now. Please Buffy, trust me. I promise you I'll be here and you'll be alright. Now sleep." He put a mock commanding tone in his voice and smiled when he heard a small giggle from his side.
Fifteen minutes later Buffy had fallen into an erratic sleep. Every so often she would begin to jerk against him. He would shush her and methodically rub her back until she settled down again. After an hour of peace had passed Giles let himself drift off into a light doze. He was surprised to wake up with the sun shining in his eyes. It took him only a moment to remember the previous night's events. He looked down at Buffy's head, buried into his neck. In her sleep she had settled herself on top of his chest. Both of her arms were under his shirt, one hand between his back and the bed and the other curled in his chest hair. One of her bare legs was sandwiched between his two pajama-covered ones. His arms were wrapped tightly around her little body.
Giles marveled at how warm she was, her body positively radiating heat. Perhaps too much heat, he realized. Reluctantly he extracted one arm from Buffy and rested it lightly on her forehead. Just as he has suspected, she was burning with fever. He sighed in resignation. It was going to be a rough couple of days.
Giles lay holding his slayer protectively until she woke up half an hour later. He watched with amusement as she took in her surroundings. He was aware that their position was slightly embarrassing, but he hadn't had the heart to wake her by moving. She slid both of her hands to his stomach and pushed herself up. She looked at him through sleep blurred eyes and gave him a little half smile. He was startled to feel his heart do an odd flip-flop and he suddenly became more aware of her smooth, bare leg and her thin shirt. Thank God that the almost nonexistent tank top she had been wearing under her shirt last night hadn't been removed.
Without another word Giles rolled Buffy onto the bed and stood up. "I'm going to go get you some painkillers. Then you and I are going to have a talk."
She nodded and watched him leave the room. Buffy shut her eyes and pulled the blankets up around her shoulders. When she had woken up she had felt surprisingly rested. She still ached everywhere, but content radiated through her. Later, when all of this was fixed she would have to sit down and think some deep thoughts about these new feelings she was having for her Ex-Watcher.
Giles returned to find that sleep had reclaimed his slayer. He couldn't help but smile as he watched her. She looked so relaxed in sleep. He set down the tray he was carrying and turned to leave, but was stopped by the small cry Buffy let out. He turned quickly to see her beautiful face contorted in fear and pain. Well, he thought, you can't have really expected one restful night to cure her of her nightmares.
Dreaming, Buffy watched as Angel slowly dragged a knife across Giles' chest. The vampire smiled gently at her, his gaze so much resembling the old Angel. "Thanks Lover," he said with a laugh. His eyes were gleeful. He was loving every second of this. As he was advancing towards her with his knife, Buffy was jerked from the dream by Giles' hands on her face.
"Thank you." She blinked away the image of her first love standing over Giles' tortured body.
"Buffy, I know you don't want to talk about it, but we're going to have to. I can't be here all the time. You're going to have to face this. Not that I mind being here....." He trailed off and averted his eyes at his last words.
"Okay, we'll talk. I'd just like to get cleaned up a little first. I can still feel last night's ickyness all over my skin." She swung her feet over the side of the bed and found herself shutting her eyes tightly and resisting the urge to vomit on Giles' feet.
"Perhaps you have overestimated your healing powers, yes?" He rubbed the back of her neck until the nausea passed.
Giles helped her to the bathroom and filled the tub with warm water. After she had assured him that she could get herself in he left to make some tea.
Thirty minutes had passed and Buffy had yet to emerge from the bathroom.
"Buffy?" Giles knocked on the door. "Are you alright in there?"
"Um, I think there's a teeny problem."
"What would that be?"
"I can't get out."
"I can't get out. I thought I could, but I can't. The warm water made me even more tired and my stomach hurts too much form the fight to lift myself out. I'm sorry."
Giles leaned his forehead against the door and let out a sigh. He knew what would have to be done. There was really no way to do this without embarrassing both of them. "Okay, I'm going to come in and get you out. Don't worry." He hoped that she hadn't noticed the tremor in his voice.
"Alright." Buffy's voice sounded very small.
He opened the door slowly and stepped into his bathroom. There was Buffy, laying in the tub, breathing hard from her efforts to lift herself out. Before he could avert his eyes he caught a glimpse of his naked slayer. At this point Giles knew that something was stirring inside of him. His feelings had changed quite drastically. He wondered how he would deal with this.
"Giles?" Buffy's voice snapped him back to the present.
"Sorry. Let's get you out of here." He bent down and placed his hands under her arms. They both shivered slightly at the feel of skin on skin. He wrapped a large towel around her, noticing that she seemed thinner than normal. The sleep depravation had really taken a lot out of her.
The warmth of the bathroom and the smell of Giles made Buffy lightheaded and she leaned into him for support. When his arms snaked around her protectively she smiled at the wonderful feeling of safety that he could give her with something so simple as a hug. With a shiver she remembered how each hug from Angel after his return from hell had brought a tingle of fear that she could never completely shake from her subconscious. Buffy started to cry.
"Buffy, what's wrong?" Giles couldn't imagine what was making her cry so. For a fleeting moment he feared that he had given away his feelings, but dismissed the idea.
"I'm happy right now. Well, maybe happy isn't the right word. But you make me feel good and safe and cared for." Giles silently cursed all of the men that had brought the beautiful girl in his arms such pain. Buffy smiled up at him and saw the love in his eyes.
"Giles, can we have that talk now?"
* * *
Buffy was dressed in a pair of Giles' warm-up pants and one of his undershirts. The undershirt had taken some work to get on. Her stomach hurt when she lifted her arms. Both had pretended not to notice that the other didn't mind when Giles helped her put the shirt on. This time she had gone without the tanktop underneath, though neither was ready to acknowledge this fact.
Now they lay on the couch, Giles with Buffy between his legs, resting against his chest. He was waiting patiently for her to begin talking. With a deep breath she started, letting it all out as quickly as she could.
"It was Angel and Faith. Like when Angel pretended to be bad to trick her, but this time not a trick, you know. They were, um, they were torturing you guys. You know, you and Xander and Willow. It was really graphic. It was really.....real....." Her voice began to shake and a tear rolled down her cheek. Giles gripped her against him tightly, encouraging her to continue.
"Well, I had to watch. They tied me to a chair, and I watched. The whole time all I could think was that it was my fault. I'd messed up again. I was weak and Angel was back. They weren't even hurting me, at least not yet. It was you guys. They hurt you. God, I'm so sorry." She pressed herself against him and cried.
"Buffy, it was just a dream. You've had dreams before. I understand that this was a bad one, but you have to be able to separate your dreams from reality, however upsetting they may be."
"I know that. I mean, in my head I know that. But I can't help what I dream and what I feel." Her voice trembled as she spoke.
"Well, what are we going to do about these dreams of yours? I think talking will help you immensely."
"You're right. It's just hard. How am I supposed to tell people that I can't sleep because I keep dreaming that my undead ex-boyfriend and some crazy bitch with superstrength are killing my friends because I had sex with the guy and he turned from a sweetheart into an evil killer? What will people think?"
"Well I don't suggest that you talk to everyone about it. I was thinking more along the lines of Willow or Xander."
The sincerity behind the words startled him and he gave her a flustered smile. "Buffy, it wasn't your fault you know. Angel loosing his soul wasn't you fault. We had no warning, you couldn't have know. And Buffy, I know that you wouldn't have caused the same thing to happen again. You are too strong for something like that."
She turned her head away and sighed. "It really doesn't matter how much you say that or how much I tell myself that. The guilt's always going to be there. Giles, I'm tired."
He nodded. She did indeed look tired. There were deep hollows under her eyes and she wasn't joking and kidding with him at all. "Why don't I put a movie on and make us some food?" he suggested brightly. She nodded, happy with the change of topic.
After a late lunch of soup, a meal that Giles hoped Buffy would be able to keep down, they watched some cheap horror movies that Xander had given Giles for Christmas the year before. The older man hadn't watched them yet, but was pleased. After the real monsters he and Buffy had faced, it was nice to laugh at the ones on screen.
At seven o'clock they had dinner and then returned to the couch. Giles opened a book and Buffy curled up next to him with the phone to call her mother and friends and let them know that she was alright and would be staying with Giles for a few days.
Her mother didn't seem pleased, and suggested that perhaps Buffy would be happier at home with her. A yelling match ensued and Giles had to take the phone from Buffy's shaking hands and speak to Joyce himself.
"I know you don't like it, but it really is what's best for Buffy."
"Mr. Giles, I'm so tired of this. Things go wrong and I can't hear about them. My daughter turns to you all the time and I'm sick and tired of it. Tell her to give me a call when she's ready to come and talk to me."
"Joyce, Ms. Summers, I am her Watcher. It is expected that she turn to me. We are bonded through our entwined fates. I am aware that you don't like it, but please try to be easier on the girl." After that, Giles found himself talking to a dial tone. He tried not to be angry at the women. It wasn't as though she knew what was going on. He just wished she would be more sensitive towards her daughter. He turned his attention back to Buffy, who had pressed herself hard against his side.
"Don't worry about your mother sweetheart. Why don't you just rest."
Buffy nodded and wondered if Giles even noticed that he had just called her sweetheart. She pulled a blanket around herself and lay her head in the Watcher's lap.
* * *
She didn't remember falling asleep, and had no memory of how she had gotten to the bed. It was dark out and Giles wasn't with her. She was sure he was gone and tried not to panic.
"Giles?" She hated how pathetic her voice sounded.
"I'm here Buffy." He leaned forward, his face emerging from the shadows.
"Don't you want to sleep? Aren't you tired?"
"I'll be fine. There have been many nights that I have done without sleep. Besides, I want to be here to wake you if you have any more nightmares."
"That's sweet of you. Giles, why don't you just come lay with me in the bed?"
He sighed softly. If only she knew how much he both feared and loved that suggestion. "I'm not sure that's a good idea, Buffy. You just try to sleep. I'll be right here."
Disappointed and a little hurt, Buffy rolled over without a word and shut her eyes. It took a while, but exhaustion eventually overtook her.
* * *
It was happening again. Faith violently slashed Willow's exposed throat. Buffy felt warm blood splatter onto her face. It mingled with her tears and ran down her cheeks. She opened her eyes when she felt Angel run his tongue over her brow, tasting her friend's blood.
"Open your eyes, Lover. You did this to them, and you'll watch while we have fun." When she tried to squeeze her eyes shut he backhanded her face. "Naughty Buffy, I told you to watch. You'll be punished if you don't listen." He turned and in one fluid motion grabbed Giles' arm and snapped it. Buffy sobbed.
* * *
He was trying desperately to wake her. She was crying so hard that he feared she soon wouldn't be able to breath. Another five minutes of his frantic efforts passed with no results. Just as he was reaching for the phone to call an ambulance, Buffy's body jerked violently and then went still. He reached out a tentative hand and touched her arm. Her skin was burning hot with fever.
Giles ran to the bathroom and filled a bucket with cold water, returning armed with it and a washcloth. Carefully removing her shirt, be began to wash her fevered body with the cold water. As he was gently rubbing her neck, Buffy's eyelids fluttered open.
"Giles, bathroom," she mumbled, weakly reaching out her arms to him. He picked her up and hurried to the requested destination. As soon as she set her down, Buffy leaned into the toilet and began to throw up. It was a violent expulsion of everything she had just seen, leaving her feeling to weak to move. Her throat burned from the bile.
Giles gently washed her face. She leaned into his touch, seeking the safety that she felt only he could give.
Sorrow for the girl in his arms and anger towards Angel burned through Giles. He shook his head and turned his focus back to the whimpering Buffy. He picked her up again and carried her back to the bed. Arms wet from his attempts to cool her burning skin were slung loosely around his cool body. Without a word he climbed under the covers with her.
Under the sheets Buffy clung frantically to the older man. He held her as she wrapped her arms and legs around him and tried to make herself as physically close to him as she could. There were no tears though, just the occasional grunt as she burrowed against him. This was what frightened Giles the most. He was sure that if he could see her eyes right then there would be nothing behind them.
There was something wrong here. After a few minutes Giles began to notice that Buffy's clinging was becoming more intimate than it should be. She was moving against him, silently demanding more than he was ready to give.
"Buffy, what are you doing?" He hated to do this to her when she was so vulnerable, but he knew that this wasn't right.
"Giles, please. I need it gone. You make me feel safe. You'll keep me safe, but I can't feel you. It's not enough, because I can still see it. I need you to make it go away." The desperation behind her words was terrifying. Giles was frightened that Buffy was going to loose her grip on her sanity.
He wanted nothing more than to do just that, but he knew that this wasn't the way, not now. He ached to help her. "I can't. This isn't how it should be. Buffy, I'll stay with you. I'll stay in the bed here with you no matter what. I'll hold you and I'll keep you safe tonight. But I won't...I won't have sex with you tonight. It isn't right. I love you, and to do it now, like this, it would be cheating both of us. You matter more than that to me, and I hope that I matter more than that to you."
Buffy felt a sweeping wave of love and exhaustion wash over her, overwhelming her. She released her hold on Giles. She picked up the shirt that Giles had taken off of her earlier and pulled it back on, ignoring the pain in her stomach. Then she turned back to Giles and wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed him softly on the lips and then lay down. "Thank you," she said sleepily.
He held her tightly, whispering a silent thanks that she had pulled herself together. She was still clinging, but everything was alright now. A few minutes passed and Buffy buried her face into Giles neck and began to cry. He stroked her hair and murmured comforts into her ear. After a while she fell asleep, keeping her hold on him tight even then.
* * *
The next morning Giles once again woke with Buffy on top of him. He felt her steady breath on his cheek and smiled. Carefully extracting an arm from where it rested lightly underneath her shirt on the skin of her back, he felt her forehead. Her fever had gone down a good deal. After the frightening events of last night, Buffy had slept soundly through the rest of the night. Giles had high hopes for his slayer. Now all that he had to worry about was this thing that seemed to be developing between them.
He tore himself away from his thoughts when he felt Buffy stir against him. "Morning," he said with a smile.
"How did you sleep?"
"Very well, thanks to a certain very warm and comfortable someone."
"Who is this mysterious person?" he asked playfully.
"He's very handsome. Nice green eyes. Friendly smile. All around good guy..." She trailed off, embarrassed at her own honesty.
Giles smiled, touched by her words. "You're not so bad yourself." He kissed her lightly on the forehead.
"Hey, Buddy, I never said I was talking about you."
The rest of the morning passed in much the same fashion. Buffy and Giles joked with each other, keeping things between them light. Neither wished to remember the horrible events of that night. They were both happy to dance around the topic for as long as they could.
Buffy's mother called when they were sitting down to lunch. She frostily asked Giles if she could speak to her daughter, not bothering to keep the contempt from her voice.
Buffy took the phone unwillingly, not wanting to break the spell surrounding Giles and herself. "Mom." A simple statement.
"Buffy, sweetheart. I want you to come home today. I know that you think being with Mr. Giles is good for you, but the best place for you to be right now is here with me."
"Mom, please don't do this to me, I --"
"Darling, I know this is hard, but --"
"No, you don't know. You never do, and you don't try to. Right now this is the best place for me to be. Giles is the best person for me to be with. I won't be coming home until things are better, and I need you to understand that. I'll call you, and when I come home we'll talk more. This is what's best right now. It's what I want." Giles marveled at Buffy's calm. At the moment he wanted to scream at Joyce for her foolishness.
Buffy hung up the phone, her trembling hand giving her away.
"Buffy, sweetheart, don't worry about your mother."
"I wish I could take your advice, really I do." She blew out a frustrated breath and looked at Giles across the table, her eyes tired. "Could you just come take a nap with me?"
He was about to object, worried that she had anterior motives that he wasn't quite ready for. But he saw the ache deep in her eyes, heard it in her voice. "I'd be honored," he said with a smile.
The two of them settled in on Giles' bed. At first they lay shyly on opposite sides, but soon enough they were both asleep in a tangle of arms and legs among a nest of blankets in the middle of the bed. Buffy had molded herself against Giles, her face pressed into his neck in her new favorite position. He didn't fall asleep until he felt her breath blowing in a warm, steady breeze against his skin.
Buffy was dreaming. She was tied in the chair again, but otherwise the room was empty. She could feel the panic rising in her chest. Where were Angel and Faith? Suddenly she felt the ropes loosen and she leapt from the chair, turning to face her possible attacker.
"Buffy, darling, are you alright?" It was Giles. In her dream he took her in his arms and held her as she cried over everything that had been lost to her in that dream world.
Buffy awoke with a start. Giles woke up at her movement. "Buffy, are you alright?" His voice was groggy with sleep.
"I'm fine." She smiled up at him reassuringly when he responded to this shaky reply by gathering her in his lap. "Really, I think I'm honestly fine." She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled into his shirt.
"What brought all this on?" Asked the startled man.
Buffy leaned up and kissed the side of his mouth. "You brought this on. Thank you." She moved her lips to his and kissed him softly.
Giles didn't know what to do. Something had happened, and it seemed to have been something good. He felt a release go inside of him as she continued to move her lips against his. He began to kiss her back.
Before Buffy lost herself in the smell and taste of Giles she let her mind wander. Things would be better. She would work things out with her mom. She would keep talking to Giles about her dreams. She would talk to her friends as well. Things would get better with a little work. But right now Buffy was content to just sit on the bed and kiss the man who had made it all better for her.