Guilt
By Gibberish

Title: Guilt
 Author: Gibberish
Diclaimer: Just taking them out for a test drive
Rating: PG    B/G
Summary: Challenge at Cap's site - Buffy dealing with Merrick, Giles helps her cope.
Distribution: Cap, of course. Solo, Jessica, Sai. Anyone else, just ask. Spoilers: The Movie. Becoming 1, Passion, Little bit Season 3, if you're picky.
Feedback: Please?


        Buffy stood frozen as Lothos shoved the stake through Merrick's heart. "Nooo!" Buffy screamed as she woke up. She gasped for breath as she looked around her room. "God Merrick, why did you do it?" She whispered harshly, tears streamed down her face. It wasn't the first time that she had relived that night in her sleep, she had, off and on, since it happened. What she didn't understand was why she was reliving it with such frequency lately.

   Buffy got out of bed and padded to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face. When she looked up, her reflection caught her eyes. She looked horrible, pale complexion, dark circles under eyes that were bloodshot. She quickly dried her face  and went back into her room where she threw herself on the bed and cried herself back to sleep. "I'm sorry Merrick." She said just before her eyes drifted shut once again.

 

       It was early the next morning and Giles was reading his newspaper before he left for work. He sipped his tea as he read the headlines. At the sound of the knock at the door, he nearly dropped his teacup.

    He opened the door to find Joyce. She looked uncomfortable and extremely worried. He looked behind her, but didn't see Buffy. He returned his gaze to Joyce. "Is Buffy all right?" He asked as he stepped back to allow her to enter.

   Joyce walked in and turned to him as he closed the door. "She's having nightmares." She told him. "Terrible nightmares."

   Giles didn't look surprised. "I wondered, but she hasn't said anything." He commented. "Has she said anything to you?"

   Joyce shook her head. "I just hear her scream. When I ask her about them, she tells me it's nothing to worry about. But, I know her. She's so ... I don't know, fragile. She's hardly sleeping, she doesn't eat. I don't know what to do."

   "Is she talking in her sleep?" Giles asked.

   Joyce nodded. "Some. She keeps calling for someone named Merrick. I don't ..." Her words trailed off at the look on his face. "Do you know who this Merrick is?"

   "I know of him." Giles said softly. "I never knew him though. He was Buffy's Watcher."

   Joyce looked confused. "I thought you were her Watcher. Then Wesley. She never mentioned a Merrick."

   "No, I don't suppose she would have." Giles said. "He was killed. It happened years ago. Buffy was still in LA. He was the Watcher that found her, first began her training. Vampires don't wait for Slayers to be ready though. Lothos was one of the most powerful vampires on Earth. Buffy wasn't ready, Merrick stepped in, Lothos killed him in front of her."

   "Dear God." Joyce breathed.

   "Buffy did, eventually, kill Lothos." Giles looked at Joyce steadily. "That was when she burned down the gymnasium."

   Joyce sighed helplessly. "I didn't know."

   "No, of course not." Giles agreed. "Still, it scarred her deeply. She cared for him and he her obviously. He only knew her a couple of months." He looked at Joyce. "Do you mind if I stop by this evening?"

 

     Giles stopped by the Summers' home that night on the pretext of accompanying Buffy on her patrol. They were both quiet as they made the walk to the first cemetery.

   Buffy made have been tired, but she knew Giles. "Why the sudden need to join me on patrol?" She asked him.

   Giles hadn't expected her to be quite so blunt. "Well, ... Um, your Mother came to see me this morning ..."

   Buffy interrupted him, "She told you about the nightmares." She said flatly.

   "Buffy, I knew about the nightmares." Giles told her. "The signs are all there. You train harder, push yourself, you're too quiet. You can talk to me about them, you know."

   "They aren't prophetic." Buffy said quickly.

   "That doesn't mean that you can't speak with me about them." Giles told her quietly. "I know they're about Merrick. Joyce heard you scream his name. Buffy, it wasn't your fault." He said gently.

   "That's just it Giles. It was my fault." Buffy told him in a rush. "I couldn't do anything. Merrick only stepped in because I froze."

   "You didn't freeze Buffy." Giles explained. "It's a trick vampires use to get into your head. The same trick Druscilla used on me."

   "But I'm the Slayer!" Buffy burst out. "I should have been able to stop it, but I couldn't.""That's right, you couldn't." Giles said. "Do you think Merrick didn't know that?"

   "It should have been me." Buffy stated.

   "That isn't what Merrick wanted." Giles told her.

   "You don't know that." Buffy said shakily. "You can't know that. You weren't there."

   "No, I wasn't." Giles said gently. "But I have read his diary. And I know that that is how I would have felt. Do feel."

   "Don't say that!" Buffy told him harshly.

   Giles stopped. When Buffy did the same, Giles pulled her gently around to face him. "Buffy, any of us would do that for you. Just as you would do the same for us. You feel responsible for Merrick, but you needn't. He made the only choice he could. He cared about you too much to not to act."

   "Would they have replaced him?" Buffy asked in a small voice.

   "I I don't know." Giles said hesitantly. "Merrick had more authority in the Council than I did. He was respected and deferred to."

   "Did you know him?" Buffy asked next.

   "No. I knew of him." Giles told her. "I dare say that he wouldn't have been fired. In all honesty, he probably never would have given you the bloody test to begin with and they would have adhered to that."

   "Why?" Buffy asked.

   "He was respected." Giles said simply. "What do you suppose brought about this round of nightmares?" He asked, returning to the subject at hand.

   "I don't know." Buffy told him sadly. "I've just been thinking about him a lot lately. I go weeks without thinking about him at all and then suddenly, there he is. Sometimes, it hurts as bad as it did when it first happened. Usually though, it's just an ache that I carry around for a few days. This time, I keep seeing that night over and over again. I try to stop it, but I can't."

   "I have similar dreams about Jenny, even though I wasn't there when it happened." Giles told her. "It's called survivors guilt. The fact that it is quite natural, doesn't make it any easier." He took her hand and pulled her along.

   "Where are we going?" Buffy asked confused.

   "We shouldn't be out here, distracted as we are." Giles told her. "Besides, I think there is something you should see."

 

       Giles took her to his home and told her to sit on the couch and wait, while he went upstairs. He came back down with a book and handed it to her. "Merrick's diary."

   Buffy looked up at him. "I thought Wesley had the diaries." She took the book almost absently.

   "He left them." Giles said  "He thought we might need them." He touched her shoulder. "I think you should read it."  He said softly. Giles watched Buffy as she ran her hand reverently over the cover, then he gave her a few minutes privacy.

   Buffy was afraid to open it. She knew that Giles would never have given it to her if it were bad, but ... She opened it to the first page.

     ' I have finally located our missing Slayer. She is, of all things, a high school cheerleader. I had hoped I was wrong, she seems so unsuitable. However, I see a fire in this one. We shall see which impression proves to be accurate.

   'She has fought her first vampire and defeated it. I am ashamed to have tricked her into it, but I saw no other way. She sees the truth now, but still fights her destiny.

  ' She caught the knife. No training and she caught the knife. I must say that I am quite relieved. She is still fighting her calling though. I wish that I knew how to reach her, before it is to late.

   ' She has finally come to accept her duty. She trains and hunts, but she is not happy. Her dreams of Lothos come more frequently now, as he moves closer. She is so very frightened, as am I.

   ' I find myself becoming increasingly fond of this young girl. Her training, begun so recently, is moving along rapidly, she is remarkably gifted. I have known and trained many Slayers in my years as Watcher, methods that have been in practice for millennia, but for this Slayer the rules must be changed. She is, my Buffy, different from any other Slayer. Strong of will and heart, endlessly optimistic and, upon occasion, a pain in the ass. However, above all, she is a Slayer for which I can find no comparison.

   ' I know that there are those that will contend that to care for a Slayer is a mistake. Perhaps, they are correct. All Slayers die young. We send them out on a nightly battle. I am beginning to believe, however that we do them and ourselves a disservice by remaining detached. For the time that they are given to this Earth, we should give them everything that we can. Everything that we are. They deserve nothing less.

   ' Lothos will make his next move very soon. We both know this and yet, I find myself smiling more than I have in years. All she must do is smile herself.  I dread the day she must face him, for he has never been defeated, even to a draw. He has killed every Slayer that he has faced and I find myself trying to put off the day that they must meet. She is different this Slayer, but will that be enough? I pray that, for her, it is.

   ' The time has come, we both know it, feel it. I know my duty as Watcher, but I fear that it is not enough. I have written that the rules must change. For my dear girl, my Slayer, I will change them. I will help her any way I can.'

   Buffy moved to set the book down, aware that she was crying. Giles gently took the book from her nerveless fingers and set it on the coffee table. He gently took her in to her arms and held as she cried the tears that she has held in for so long. Healing tears.

   "I never knew." Buffy whispered through her tears. "He never said."

   "He didn't know how." Giles told her. "Except to train you harder. Prepare you. More than anything, he wanted you to survive. And you did. I should think he is very happy, wherever he is."

   Buffy looked up at him hopefully. "Do you really think so?"

   Giles smiled at her tenderly. "Yes, I do. He made the only choice he could Buffy. Until he met you, all he was was a Watcher. He died a friend."

   Buffy stayed there, in the protection of Giles' arms, sighed. "Thanks Giles." Too many nights with too little sleep caught up to her and she fell asleep.

   Giles carefully picked her up and carried her upstairs to the bed. She murmured in her sleep as he put the covers over her. "Shsh. It's all right. I'm right here. I shall always be." Just as he was certain that Merrick was.
  
END