Laid to Rest
By Sandra Pascoe
TITLE: Laid to Rest
AUTHOR: Sandra Pascoe
RATING: PG warning: contains ghosties and certain long-legged beasties!
DISCLAIMER: The characters do not belong to me and I'm only borrowing them for a short and extremely profitless time.
SETUP: This is in response to a Halloween challenge set by Gileswench: Rumours abound in Sunnydale about an old Victorian house. Choose your own reason as to why Giles ends up in the house late at night on Halloween. It is up to you who is with him; whether the house is haunted or not and if so, whether the spirit is friendly or not. ALL OF THE FOLLOWING MUST BE INCLUDED: Giles telling someone that nothing supernatural ever happens on Halloween; A black cat; Candles; A Power Outage; A reference to any famous horror story Dracula, Frankenstein etc or anything by Anne Rice or Stephen King. AT LEAST 2 OF THE FOLLOWING MUST BE INCLUDED: A mention of the Great Pumpkin; Someone wearing a costume that requires an explanation because it is either entirely inappropriate or completely unrecognisable; Trick or Treaters; The Monster Mash; Spiders; A Diary Yay me: everything included!
SETTING: Season 6 my version of S6: Buffy's back, Giles has stayed in Sunnydale and is still proprietor of the Magic Box.
SUMMARY: Buffy and Giles try to lay a ghost to rest both literally and metaphorically.
"Bloody hell," cursed Giles under his breath. He brought his finger up to his mouth to suck the blood from it. Damn paper cuts, he thought and sighed heavily. The mail order side of the business had far surpassed expectations but, thought Giles, the one major drawback is that I am completely useless at wrapping parcels. He looked down ruefully at the package on the counter which looked, he admitted, as though a cat had been at it. He pushed the parcel to one side. Anya can do that tomorrow, he thought, recalling with a touch of irritation how she'd managed to badger him for the day off. Anya had, rather forcibly, insisted that, as it was Halloween, it was only right and fair that she should have the day off. The logic in that argument had completely escaped Giles, who had soon found himself backed into a corner and unable to say no, especially when Xander had arrived and joined the fray. Giles sighed once more and glanced over at Buffy, who had, much to his surprise, agreed to help him. She sat at the table, listlessly nursing a now cold cup of coffee. Buffy had been quiet and certainly not herself for a few days and Giles had hoped that some time alone with her would enable him to discover what was bothering her. He had taken one look at her as she arrived in the shop and immediately decided that today was not the day for questions. Giles glanced up as the door opened and a short, balding man entered the shop.
"Good afternoon, Robert," said Giles with a smile.
Robert grinned, reaching into his pocket and drawing out a small bunch of keys.
"There you go, Giles," he chuckled as he handed the keys over. "Good luck with the ghost-hunting."
"Thank you. I'm sure it will be an enlightening experience."
"Oh, I'm sure it will." Robert moved back to the door. "You can drop the keys back anytime after the weekend."
He left; slamming the door on his way out before Giles had a chance to reply.
Giles jumped slightly at the sound of Buffy's voice and then glanced towards her and shrugged. He moved across and, pulling up a chair, sat beside her.
"That gentleman owns the old Manor House just outside of town. It's supposed to be haunted."
"It is," replied Buffy seriously. "The stories I've heard about that place wait a minute, I remember that man you were arguing with him the other day."
"I was not arguing it was merely a slight difference of opinion."
Buffy smiled at the self-righteous look on Giles face. "So where does the ghost-hunting come in?"
"Robert maintains that there are no such things as ghosts I, rather stupidly, found myself drawn into a rather in-depth discussion of the subject, resulting in me agreeing to spend the night in the Manor House."
"Oh?" Smiled Giles. "I take it you don't see me as an intrepid ghost-hunter, then?"
Buffy regarded him seriously. "Actually, I've always thought of you as a sort of Van Helsing figure."
"Van Helsing? From Dracula? You've actually read Dracula?" Giles sounded shocked and Buffy grinned up at him.
"Nah," she replied, "but I've seen the films you know, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing."
"I should have known," muttered Giles. Buffy smiled and then a sudden thought hit her.
"Giles, you're going ghost-hunting tonight? But it's Halloween." Buffy remarked incredulously. Giles sighed heavily.
"Buffy, I have said this before and I have absolutely no doubt that I will say it again. Nothing supernatural ever happens on Halloween."
"And of course you're usually right about that." Buffy remarked sarcastically, remembering previous Halloween's. Giles decided to let that comment slide when he spotted the spark of interest in her eyes.
"So, now you know my Halloween plans I take it you'll be partying the night away?"
Buffy grimaced. "Not if I can help it."
"I thought you liked Halloween?"
"Not anymore," she sighed. "Giles, I fight demons and vampires and all sorts of other nasties every day of the week. Then along comes Halloween and we all dress up as things I'm supposed to kill. We party and have a good time and it's like like " Buffy ran out of words and glanced appealingly at Giles.
"Like we're celebrating the darkness." He remarked solemnly. Buffy grinned at him.
"That's it that's it exactly." The smile dropped off her face. "I just don't feel like it this year."
"You're more than welcome to accompany me," replied Giles softly. "Although, I warn you, it'll very likely be extremely boring."
"It won't be " Buffy broke off, unsure of whether to continue her sentence. Oh, what the hell, she thought, it's been on your mind for days, might as well say it. "It won't be boring because I'll be with you."
Giles grinned suddenly and Buffy felt her heart miss a beat as she saw the look of pure joy and delight on his face. Oh boy, she thought, is he gorgeous when he grins.
"Well," she said, standing up and fervently hoping that her legs would support her, "I'd better go and get ready."
"Get ready?" Asked Giles incredulously. "It's not even 3 o'clock yet."
"Hey, you've sort of sprung this on me," she replied. "I've got a lot to do."
"Pack a bag with food, warm clothes and hot drink. Get a camera oh, maybe I could borrow Willow's video camera torch "
"Okay," interrupted Giles. "I get the picture. I'll pick you up around 6?"
"Yup. See you later, Giles."
Giles watched with a smile as Buffy bounded out of the shop. She was completely different from the listless, depressed Buffy that had entered the shop earlier. Giles stood up with a sigh. Tonight, he thought, I'll talk to her tonight.
It can't be 6pm already, thought Buffy, panicking slightly as the doorbell rang. She glanced up at the clock and groaned. You'd think Mr Punctual would be able to let it slide for once. She ran to the door and flung it open.
"Giles," she said as he stepped inside, "I promise I'm almost ready."
"Almost? Buffy you've had three hours."
"Yeah, well, Dawn was being a pain," she replied, going back into the kitchen.
"Where is Dawn?" Asked Giles following her, grinning at the trousers and thick, black sweater she was wearing. She's dressed for the Alaskan wilderness, he thought, still looks lovely though.
"Staying with one of her friends," replied Buffy and Giles watched in amazement as Buffy quickly and efficiently packed away a variety of foodstuffs in a holdall.
"How long are we planning to stay at this house?" Giles remarked with a smile. Buffy opened her mouth to reply when the doorbell rang once more and she groaned.
"Get that for me, will you?" She said, thrusting a small bowl of assorted chocolate into his hands. "It's probably Trick or Treaters."
"Not this early, surely?"
"They get earlier each year," she replied distractedly, biting her bottom lip and gazing around the kitchen. Now what have I forgotten, she thought. Giles sighed and walked to the front door. Upon opening it, he was confronted with a seemingly never-ending gaggle of children whose hands immediately reached for the chocolate. Giles lowered the bowl and let them help themselves, relieved that this was probably the one and only time this year he'd have to endure this ritual. Within a few seconds the bowl was empty and the children retreated, yelling "thank you's" and waving happily. Giles couldn't help grinning at them, shaking his head slightly.
"You survived then?" Remarked Buffy as she joined him, noting how relaxed and warm he looked in a pair of faded jeans and a dark blue sweater. A large black overcoat completed the look and made him appear even taller than he was.
"Just about," replied Giles. "We never had Trick or Treat when I was a child so it was a complete surprise when I first moved here."
Buffy giggled at the wistful tone of his voice. "Don't worry, Giles. Next year you can dress up and I'll take you Trick or Treating."
"I'll hold you to that," he said, flashing a wicked grin at her. The grin quickly metamorphosed into a look of shock and surprise. "Good God, woman!" He exclaimed and for a brief moment Buffy thought her heart had actually stopped. Woman, she thought, he called me woman not girl woman. "How much stuff do you think we'll need?"
Giles was regarding the large rucksack and holdall with extreme suspicion and Buffy sighed and shook her head.
"Giles, it's all essential, I promise you," she replied, gazing up at him appealingly. Her pleading look won him over, as she knew it would and Giles shrugged.
"Okay, okay," he muttered, reaching down and hauling up the rucksack. God, this weighs a ton, he thought, I dread to think what she's got in here. "Come on, we'd better be off."
Giles made his way to the car whilst Buffy locked the door. He dropped the rucksack with relief and opened the boot no, trunk, he corrected himself. Dumping the rucksack inside, he glanced around to see Buffy standing beside him, a disapproving look on her face.
"Careful with that, Giles. Will's video camera's in there she would do me some serious damage if anything happened to that."
Buffy and Giles swung around to see Xander and Anya strolling towards them. Giles raised his eyebrows at their costumes. Anya's was easy to work out. She'd obviously decided to dress up as herself her demon self. Giles briefly wondered how she'd managed to make it look so realistic before deciding that, on this occasion, he really didn't want to know. Xander's costume, however, was a complete and utter mystery. He was wearing what had obviously once been a white overall, however it was now covered in writing. A variety of index cards and miniature books were attached to pockets and zips and the whole ensemble was finished off with a large, gold coloured "G" on his chest. Buffy and Giles exchanged quick glances and Giles shrugged.
"Okay, I'll ask the obvious question, shall I?" He said, frowning at Xander. "What are you supposed to be dressed as?"
"Oh come on," replied Xander in disbelief. "Look, I'll give you a clue: the theme is 'something familiar.' Dead give-away."
"I told you it was a stupid idea," said Anya triumphantly.
Buffy glanced from Xander to Giles and then started to giggle. Xander grinned and did a little happy dance.
"Yes! One up for the Buffster!"
Giles sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Will someone please put me out of my misery?"
"He's you," replied Buffy succinctly, trying to stifle further giggles.
"I beg your pardon?" Giles glanced back at Xander, who immediately struck a pose: hands on hips, legs apart and chin up.
"I am G-Man," he intoned. "I am Super Librarian!"
Giles immediately roared with laughter and the other three looked at him in astonishment. They quickly realised they'd never seen him really laugh before and Xander grinned, suddenly feeling inordinately proud that he'd manage to produce this kind of extreme reaction. Anya gazed at Xander, a smile crossing her face. Xander's happy so I'm happy, she thought as she linked her arm with his. Buffy was gazing up at Giles as though seeing him for the first time. Why have we never seen him laugh, she thought as she started to giggle again. The sight of her normally staid and serious Watcher leaning back against the car, laughing helplessly, was causing a myriad of feelings to well up inside her. She wanted to wrap her arms around him, she wanted to laugh with him, cry with him, share everything with him. Oh God, Buff, she thought, you've got it real bad. Slowly Giles managed to get control of himself although he still broke out into occasional giggles.
"Xander," he gasped, "that's even better than 'Moon Pie'." Giles giggled again and then continued, "what made you think of that?"
"Ahh," replied Xander, raising a finger. "Let's just say I was inspired by the Great Pumpkin."
Anya let out a groan and shook her head. "Not that again," she said. "One more mention of that Great Pumpkin and I'll "
"So," interrupted Xander quickly. "What wild party are you crazy kids off to? You could do better with the costumes, you know."
Buffy glanced quickly at Giles.
"Oh," she said, shrugging. "Just some demon that's causing a bit of trouble. You know us: work, work, work."
Giles struggled to keep his face neutral, understanding that a ghosthunt would be like a red rag to a bull as far as Xander and practical jokes were concerned.
"Yeah?" Xander replied. "So, if a demon's stirring things up on Halloween you won't have had to put up with Giles' 'nothing supernatural ever happens on Halloween' lecture lucky you!"
Buffy giggled again and Giles glared at Xander.
"Don't you have somewhere to be?"
"Oh, yes we'd better be going. We can't be late don't want to miss my dance."
"You said you wouldn't do that this year!" Anya pulled Xander around to face her. "I am not watching you do that that mash thing again!"
"The Monster Mash, An," replied Xander, "and it's a classic."
"Not the way you do it, it's not!"
Giles watched in puzzlement as Xander and Anya walked off, still arguing.
"Is he really that bad?" Giles asked Buffy who was still giggling quietly.
"Oh yes," she replied, getting into the car. "He clears the entire dancefloor whenever they play 'The Monster Mash'."
Giles shook his head and started the car. They waved briefly at Xander and Anya as they passed and the rest of the drive was passed in a comfortable silence, each of them occupied by their own thoughts.
Buffy's eyes widened as the Manor House came into view. She felt a shiver along her spine as all the stories she'd been told flooded into her mind. They cruised slowly along the drive and Giles stopped the car near the front door, swivelling in his seat to face Buffy.
"You don't have to do this, you know," he said softly as he saw the trepidation in her eyes.
"Have you heard any of the stories about this place?"
"A few," he said carefully and then shrugged, "but I want to find out the truth for myself."
Buffy found herself grinning at the stubborn expression on his face.
"Okay," she said, taking a deep breath. "Why don't WE find out?"
A slow smile crossed Giles' face and Buffy felt her heart rate increase once more. I wish it'd stop doing that, she thought, I'll be openly panting after him next. Quickly banishing the mental image that careered happily across her mind, she got out of the car and gazed up at the house before her. It appeared to loom over her, dark and forbidding with an inescapable air of menace emanating from every beam, every window. She shivered once more, hugging herself as she remembered all the stories she'd been told: the sounds that had been heard; the figures that had been seen gazing out of windows. Buffy swallowed nervously. Maybe it wasn't just Giles that was causing her heart to thump wildly. A hand suddenly dropped onto Buffy's shoulder and she jumped violently, biting her lip to stop herself crying out.
"Alright?" Giles' concerned voice served only to turn her nervous fear into a brief flash of anger.
"God, Giles! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?" She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself. "How do you manage to creep like that? Do you cast some spell so that you hover everywhere or something?"
Giles smiled. "It's a childhood thing," he replied, moving past her and unlocking the door. He remembered his Father's stern and scolding words: "Children should be seen and not heard."
He pushed the door open and confidently stepped inside, his smile widening as he took in the large entrance hall with the huge winding staircase. Giles immediately pictured it as it could have been in its heyday, ignoring the dust and cobwebs that coated everything; the flaking paint and the wallpaper that seemed to be attached to the walls only by sheer willpower alone.
"Ewwww," Buffy's voice broke into his thoughts and he glanced down at her.
"What is it?"
"You'd think they would at least keep the place clean."
Giles shook his head sadly."No point really," he replied. "They're going to demolish it in a few weeks."
"No money to be made in an old house that no-one will go near because it's supposed to be haunted," shrugged Giles. "I dread to think what complete and utter monstrosity will replace this really quite marvellous house."
Buffy watched the emotions play across Giles' face as he looked around the entrance hall and she was struck by a sudden thought.
"You grew up in a place like this, didn't you?"
Giles turned to face her. "Yes, I did," he replied, "and, before you ask, yes, there was a ghost."
"Friendly, I take it?"
"Oh yes," replied Giles, brushing past her to get the bags. "I always felt quite safe knowing she was watching over me as I slept."
"And so the watched became the Watcher," muttered Buffy, turning to watch Giles struggle through the door.
"Don't help, will you?" Giles' voice dripped sarcasm and Buffy smiled sweetly at him.
"Don't worry, I won't," she replied. "So, what's the plan?"
Giles dropped the bags with a sigh, glancing around once more.
"I suggest a quick recce before it gets dark so we can get the layout of the place clear. After that, we can find a comfortable room and set up a sort of base-camp."
Buffy saluted smartly. "Yes, General."
"Now whose turn is it to abuse sarcasm?"
To Giles surprise, Buffy smiled and grasped his hand.
"Come on, then," she said, pulling him towards the staircase. Giles considered pointing out that it would make more sense to start downstairs, he even briefly considered resisting but he was enjoying holding her hand and seeing the enthusiasm replace the fear in her eyes.
"Alright," he replied, squeezing her hand gently, "but carefully, okay?"
An hour later and they were downstairs once more, having found nothing more interesting than one wing of bedrooms, all of which were in a similar state of dilapidation. The other wing of the house had been sealed off, presumably, thought Buffy as she fiddled with the video camera, because it was unsafe. Giles had decided upon one of the reception rooms just off the entrance hall as being an ideal base-camp and was now hunched over the large fireplace, trying to coax a fire into life.
"Any luck?" Asked Buffy, glancing around and noticing the shadows getting longer. She moved across and flicked the light switch, breathing a sigh of relief as bright light flooded the room. Giles grunted in response, grinning as the fire suddenly caught and flames flickered into life. He sat there for a few minutes, gently tending the fire until the larger logs were well and truly ablaze, before finally sitting back and looking around. Buffy had thrown a blanket over one of the two moth-eaten and dust-covered sofas in the room and was perched cross-legged on the edge, frowning at the video camera in her hands.
"Something wrong with it?" Giles soft voice cut into her thoughts.
"No," she replied, putting the camera down and reaching for her holdall. "Willow's put this neat infra-red, night vision type thingy on it. I wanted to make sure I could work it."
Giles grinned. "Well, you're on your own with the technical stuff. Anyway, " Giles walked over and sat beside her, "we probably won't need it."
"We've got to see something," replied Buffy, holding out a small tub. "Sandwich?"
"We've only been here an hour and you're eating already?"
"Hey, watcherman," she smiled, "Slayer needs strength."
Giles grinned and sat back, watching the fire as it gathered strength. There was something innately soothing about a good fire. He'd always found himself able to stare into the flames for hours, letting his mind wander aimlessly. He lost himself in memories, remembrances of cold winter evenings with a fire always roaring in the grate, the smell of cooking drifting around the house and an endless stream of people bustling back and forth.
"So," said a soft voice beside him, "what gives?"
"This house," replied Buffy, settling back. "I take it you've put in more than a few hours of research about this place? Silly question, really."
"Actually, I have," said Giles with a frown, "but there didn't seem to be a lot of information about it. It's like this house and everyone in it merely carried on with their lives it all seemed quite normal. All the inhabitants died a natural death with one exception."
"There just had to be one," said Buffy with a sigh. "I take it that ghost-wise this person is our prime candidate."
Giles shrugged. "I suppose so. Her name was Vivian Lawrence. She died in a fire in 1898. She was just twenty-one years old. After the fire, which damaged one wing of the house, her father sealed it off, refusing to even contemplate rebuilding."
"Understandable," remarked Buffy, "but wouldn't it be like a permanent reminder?"
Whatever Giles was about to say was cut off as a loud thud sounded above them. They glanced briefly at one another before Buffy reached for her camera and Giles grabbed his bag. He unzipped it and took out a large torch. Buffy raised her eyebrows.
"We don't know if all the lights work," Giles whispered.
"Good thinking, Batman," she whispered back. "Well, we've got lights, camera now all we need is the action."
Giles grinned, shaking his head. "Come on."
"Giles," Buffy grasped his free hand with her own, "why are we whispering?"
They crept from the room, heading towards the stairs. It was now quite dark and Giles decided to trust to his torch rather than fiddle around looking for light switches besides, he thought, it's much more atmospheric this way. Buffy had finally worked out how to operate the camera one handed and was happy to keep a firm grip on Giles' hand. She flicked constantly between normal vision and what she now thought of as "Willow's special", telling herself that ghosts may show up on one or the other and, after all, how was she supposed to know which one? They crept quietly upstairs, pausing at the top and listening intently. Buffy tugged on Giles' hand.
"This way," she said softly, "I can hear something."
"What?" Giles whispered, trusting Buffy's senses.
"Not sure," she replied, "movement of some kind."
As they moved along the corridor, Giles was aware of a sound at the edge of his hearing. It was soft and light, not footsteps, but it was definitely indicative of movement. They stopped outside one of the bedrooms and Buffy pressed her ear to the door.
"It's coming from in here."
"Right," said Giles, letting go of Buffy's hand. He reached out and grasped the doorhandle. "Are you ready?"
Buffy stepped back, now holding the camera with both hands.
"Do it," she said.
Giles took a deep breath and flung the door open, his torch bathing the room in light. There was a sharp howl and a dark shape leapt at Giles. He immediately stepped backwards, throwing up an arm to ward off his attacker. Giles was aware of a shriek from Buffy and, trying to turn, he tripped over his own feet and landed on the floor with a thud. His torch hit the wall, immediately going out and leaving them in complete darkness.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Giles sat up, rubbing the back of his head. Buffy swung the camera around so that she could see him.
"It was a black cat," she giggled. "Don't worry, Giles, I've recorded the whole thing for posterity."
"Oh bloody great," he replied, feeling around for his torch. "I suppose you'll put it on a continuous loop in the shop."
"There's an idea," she said brightly and Giles groaned.
"I don't suppose you can see any light switches with that thing?"
"Hang on, I'll look," replied Buffy, swinging the camera around. "Yep, found one."
She walked a few steps along the corridor, reaching out and flicking the switch. Light flooded the corridor and she lowered the camera. Giles sighed with relief as he spotted his torch. He picked it up, gazing ruefully at the broken and mangled casing.
"Well," he said, standing up, "my torch has definitely died a death."
"My torch isn't as big and butch as that one was," said Buffy, "but "
She stopped as the lights suddenly flickered and died.
"Ummm, Giles ."
"It's an old house, Buffy," said Giles softly, "the wiring's probably a bit dodgy."
Buffy sighed and raised the camera once more. Focusing on Giles she moved across and took his hand.
"You know," she said, "this night vision thing or whatever is really cool. I can see quite clearly."
"Oh, good for you," replied Giles snippily.
"Cranky. Just stick with me and don't let go of my hand."
I wouldn't dream of it, my dear, thought Giles as he shuffled along beside her. They reached the top of the stairs and Giles groaned. Buffy swung the camera around to face him.
"What's wrong? Are you hurt?"
"No," replied Giles, "but I hoped it was only the upstairs lights that had gone."
Buffy lowered the camera and gazed down into the entrance hall. Their "base-camp" as she now thought of it was in darkness except for the light from the flickering fire.
"Ah well," sighed Giles, "there are plenty of candles around."
"You do realise," said Buffy as they walked downstairs, "that if this was a horror film there would be a thunderstorm raging outside now."
"Yes," replied Giles, "and the power would have been cut deliberately by an axe-wielding maniac who is about to burst through the doors and slice our heads off."
"Giles!" Exclaimed Buffy with delight. "I didn't know you were a closet Slasher movies fan!"
"Heaven forbid," he remarked. "You lot never seem to stop talking about them though so I suppose it was only natural that I picked up some pointers."
"We'll get you watching one soon Giles?" Asked Buffy as they entered 'base-camp, "you have brought some matches with you, right?"
Giles let go of Buffy's hand and picked up his bag, moving across to the fire to see better.
"Of course," he replied. "They're in here somewhere."
Buffy settled herself on the sofa once more, watching as Giles moved slowly around the room, lighting all the candles he could find. She missed the feel of his hand, missed him standing so close that she could smell his aftershave. She sighed, leaning back on the sofa. How am I going to tell him, she thought, I can't just blurt it out I have to lead up to it in some way.
"Better?" Asked Giles as he sat beside her once more. Buffy sat up, smiling at all the candles. Does he know how romantic this is, she wondered well, it would be if it weren't for a ghost stomping around somewhere. Giles watched the combined effect of the firelight and candlelight playing across Buffy's face and he shook his head slightly. Don't go there, Giles, he thought, don't think about it. You're supposed to be finding out what's bothering her.
"What do you say we give it another hour and then go on a little wander?" Buffy turned to face Giles and he raised an eyebrow at her serious expression.
"Fine," he replied, "but it's unlikely that we'll see anything on the first night."
"First night?" Asked Buffy and Giles smiled.
"I had planned to spend a few nights here."
"You are quite crazy, you realise that?" Buffy shook her head. "You don't seem to be nervous about ghosts is that because of your little childhood playmate?"
"In a way," replied Giles. "She usually only appeared when I was upset or really unhappy. It was quite comforting, really."
"Did you ever find out who she was?"
"I believe so," frowned Giles. "I couldn't be 100% certain but I do believe that it was my maternal Grandmother. She died not long after I was born."
"That's actually quite sweet," remarked Buffy thoughtfully. "You've never really talked about your childhood before."
"You've never asked," replied Giles.
"No," Buffy gazed up at him, "we never did, did we? We I never really considered the life you had before the life you gave up to come here."
"I never had much to give up," smiled Giles but Buffy shook her head.
"You didn't get a lot in return, though," said Buffy. "Just a lot of insults, aggravation and heartache."
"No," disagreed Giles. "I received much more than I ever thought possible. You, Willow, Xander, Tara, Dawn and even Anya make it all worthwhile. You are all my family and I love you all of you more than I ever thought possible."
"I don't deserve you, Giles," replied Buffy shakily.
"Is this is this what's been bothering you recently?" Asked Giles tentatively and Buffy shrugged.
"Partly," she said guardedly and Giles frowned, wondering how far he could push her.
"When I died," continued Buffy softly, "the one regret I had was that I had left so much unsaid. Coming back again gave me a chance to put that right and I have to a certain extent. I've spoken to the others, told them things I should have said long ago and you're the last." Buffy smiled at Giles. "The last but the most important and the most difficult."
"Difficult," smiled Giles, "me?"
"Yes," replied Buffy, "you. I just need a bit more time, just to get a couple of things clear in my mind before I launch into it. Is that okay?"
"Take all the time you need. I'm not going anywhere."
"Right," nodded Buffy. "Now let's eat."
"What time is it?" Yawned Buffy.
"Almost 2am," replied Giles. "Time for another wander. Unless you'd rather sleep?"
"Not a chance," said Buffy. "I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Giles grinned and stood up, grabbing a candelabra. He turned, holding his hand out to Buffy when an ear-splitting scream echoed throughout the house. The pain and terror evident in the scream shook Buffy to the core.
"Jesus, Giles," Buffy visibly trembled and Giles took a deep breath. He didn't feel much better himself.
"We can either leave right now and not look back," he said in a much calmer voice than he had expected, "or we find out what's going on once and for all."
"No," said Buffy decisively. "We came here to find a ghost so I guess we have to go and look."
Buffy picked up the camera, steadying it carefully before grasping Giles' outstretched hand. Without another word, they left the room and headed upstairs. They walked fairly slowly, Giles not wanting to risk the candles going out. He'd dismissed Buffy's small, pen-torch earlier, claiming that the tiny modicum of light it cast was pretty much useless. Buffy had claimed that Giles just preferred the thought of wandering around with candles as it added atmosphere. Stuff and nonsense, thought Giles as they reached the top of the stairs. Giles raised the candles high, peering around. Buffy suddenly gasped, tugging his hand. Giles swung around, just in time to see a vague white shape disappear through the sealed door into the fire-damaged wing of the house.
"Giles," said Buffy excitedly. "I think I managed to film that!"
"Marvellous," replied Giles distractedly. He pulled Buffy across to the sealed door. Placing the candelabra on the floor, Giles let go of Buffy and ran his hands over the rough surface. He pushed on the door experimentally, feeling it give a little.
"I think we can get through here," he said and Buffy frowned.
"To find out why she's not at rest. What is it that's caused her to walk here? Why was there such pain in that scream?"
"She did die in a fire," replied Buffy but Giles shook his head.
"No," he said, "there's something else I can feel it."
"Okay," replied Buffy. "Stand back and hold this."
Buffy handed him the camera and he took a few steps back, watching expectantly. Buffy took a couple of deep breaths and then launched herself at the door, landing a couple of roundhouse kicks that practically smashed the door from its hinges.
"Well done," remarked Giles as he peered through the doorway. He handed the camera back to Buffy and picked up his candelabra.
"Ready?" He asked and Buffy nodded, grabbing his hand.
They walked slowly and carefully along the corridor, Giles' concern over the possible damage self-evident. As they rounded a corner, the white shape was in evidence once more, drifting towards a large door at the far end of the corridor. It suddenly stopped and appeared to turn and face them. There were no features visible, nothing recognisable, just a vague, human-like shape.
"It's almost like it's waiting for us," whispered Buffy. She felt that she should be feeling nervous but the ghost didn't appear at all threatening and Giles was radiating an aura of calm relaxation that Buffy found remarkably reassuring.
"Maybe it is," replied Giles and then he raised his voice. "We would like to help you if we can."
The figure turned around once more, drifting through the door and Buffy groaned.
"Maybe this one's unlocked," replied Giles, eagerly pulling Buffy along the corridor. He reached out and rattled the doorknob.
"Locked," he said, raising an eyebrow at Buffy.
"Okay," she sighed, "here we go again."
Trusting Giles with the camera once more, she kicked the door open, gasping at what was revealed within. A skeleton was lying on the ground and, as Giles held up the candelabra, Buffy could see a chain running from one of the skeleton's ankles to a large ring in the wall.
"The fire never touched this room," said Giles, looking around, "so who is this?"
Buffy grabbed the camera from Giles.
"I've got to film this," she said, moving around the room.
Giles knelt on the ground, studying the skeleton.
"Buffy," he said after a few minutes, "look at this."
Buffy lowered the camera and knelt down next to Giles.
"What am I looking at?"
Giles pointed to the skeleton's outstretched arm.
"That's not a natural posture. Whoever it is they're trying to tell us something."
Giles started brushing the dust away from the skeleton's arm, smiling broadly as he noticed the loose floorboard beneath the hand. He gently moved the bones to one side and prised open the loose board.
"Ewww, Giles!" Buffy shrieked and leapt to her feet, running for the door.
"Buffy," said Giles slightly reproving, "they're only spiders."
"I am not setting foot in that room again," she said, standing by the door.
Giles grinned and shook his head. "Buffy, you're the Slayer "
"Yes," she interrupted, "and if they were little eight-legged vampires I'd have no problem."
Giles tutted, brushing the spiders away and reaching down into the hole. Buffy's eyes widened as he pulled out a dust-covered book.
"What is it?" She asked quietly.
Giles reverently opened the book. "It appears to be a diary," he said softly, before closing it once more and standing up. "I suggest we go back downstairs. I'll need better light than this."
"No sign of our ghostly friend," remarked Buffy, looking around.
"The answer to that question is probably in here," Giles held up the book. "Hopefully, this will clear things up."
"So," remarked Buffy as she gazed out of the window, "the skeleton is Vivian Lawrence."
"Yes," replied Giles. He was seated cross-legged on the floor in front of the fire and was surrounded by a legion of candles. "Two people died in that room, Buffy."
"What do you mean?" Buffy swung around to face him.
"According to this," he indicated the diary, "Vivian was pregnant. She was unmarried so it would have been a huge scandal had word got out. Even worse, as far as her father was concerned, was that the child's father was a worker on the Estate."
"So what happened?"
"Vivian's mother had died in childbirth and the Estate technically belonged to Vivian. It was her mother's family that owned everything. Apparently, the Will stated that Vivian's father could only hold the Estate in trust for her until she married. In that event, she would take complete control. Now, she fell in love with an Estate worker called John Beckett. Some of this is difficult to make out but it appears that her father disapproved he knew that if she married this John Beckett then he would lose control, this former Estate worker would suddenly become more powerful than him."
"So he killed them both."
"Well," replied Giles, "he locked Vivian upstairs she begged with him, told him she would sign everything over to him. She would give up her birthright as long as he let her marry John Beckett. He refused and left her there to die."
"What about this John Beckett?"
"Vivian mentions hearing a gunshot I would think that her father killed him. In the diary, her last entry reads: 'I can feel death waiting for me it's outside the door, getting closer by the second. John must be dead I know he would have come for me otherwise. I love him so much. I would welcome death if I knew for certain that we would be together. I don't want to die alone God help me, I don't want to lie here for eternity'." Giles looked up at Buffy. "That's all."
Buffy turned away, looking out of the window once more. Giles stood and placed the book carefully in his bag. He walked to where Buffy stood and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Are you alright?" He asked and Buffy nodded.
"Yes," she replied softly. "I was just thinking about love. It all seems so innocent, doesn't it? You think it's going to be all hearts and flowers and you never stop to consider the possible consequences not just for you but for all those around you."
Giles shook his head. "Don't go there, Buffy," he said, "it's all in the past."
"But that's just the problem," replied Buffy, turning to face him. She was relieved that he didn't remove his hand from her shoulder. "He's not in the past, is he? He's like my our ghost."
"In what way?"
"Giles," Buffy spoke softly and seriously. "Earlier, I said I had some things to tell you but that I needed to work out a few things in my mind first."
Giles nodded. "I remember," he replied, his hand moving down her arm. Buffy grasped at it, clutching it with her own.
"This is one of those things. The past has to be resolved before we can move forward and I'm not just talking Angel here."
"Alright," sighed Giles. "If you're sure you want to do this then let's go and sit down."
They moved across to the sofa, sitting close together in the centre as if to draw strength from one another. Buffy held Giles' hand firmly, her thumb gently caressing.
"I know that on the rare occasions we did talk about what happened," began Buffy, "that you never blamed me." She glared as Giles opened his mouth to speak and he shut it promptly. "I have finally realised that you were right. There was no way I could have known what would happen, no way I could have stopped it from happening but, I may not be to blame for Angelus, but I am to blame for not putting a stop to it when I did have the chance. I am to blame for running away, for hiding him when he returned. All I can say is that I'm sorry. The last thing in the world I wanted was to ever hurt you."
"Buffy," Giles decided to take a chance and risk interrupting, "we don't need to talk about this. It's over."
"We never talked about it, Giles," replied Buffy, "and that's part of the problem. We tried to pretend it didn't happen, tried to carry on as normal. It festered between us, caused us to drift apart."
Giles shook his head. "It wasn't just that, though, was it?"
"No," she admitted, "it wasn't."
"That damned Cruciamentum," he snarled. "I should never have done that to you."
"We both made mistakes, Giles," said Buffy, "but the biggest one was that we never talked about it, never tried to make it right. I know that you really had no choice, Giles, but you still came through in the end, still tried to save me, to make it right. It took me a long time to see that. College gave me the perfect opportunity to put some space between us not give you the chance to hurt me again. All I really did though was hurt you instead."
"How long has all this been on your mind?" Giles asked and Buffy shrugged.
"Since just before Glory turned up," she smiled. "I couldn't say anything then because my first priority had to be Dawn. I didn't have time for anything else besides you know how challenged I am when it comes to talking about important stuff."
"You're not alone there," replied Giles softly and Buffy squeezed his hand.
"Better late than never," she said. "Now, where was I? Oh, yes Riley."
Giles raised his eyebrows at this, wondering what Riley had to do with anything. Brace yourself, Watcher, thought Buffy.
"I thought Riley was the answer to everything. He was the kind of boy I was expected to date. You know, safe, reliable, normal. College girl dates College boy. I did love him just not enough and not in the way that he needed or deserved. I think he knew that before I did or at least he was willing to face up to it before I could. I'm just sorry I hurt him," Buffy took a deep breath, "and I'm sorry I hurt you too."
Giles frowned, not quite sure that he followed that last statement and Buffy finally took pity on him.
"I know, Giles," she said softly. "Willow and I worked it out."
"Worked what out?" Asked Giles with a touch of trepidation. Please God, he thought, don't let it be what I think it is.
"It was after the confrontation with Adam. I started to realise then just how badly I had treated you. I couldn't understand why you had stayed. Why you didn't just pack up and leave. Willow and I started to watch you, really watch you and that's when we realised." Buffy looked up at him and grinned. "You stayed because you loved me."
"I stay because I love you." Giles instinctively converted her sentence into the present tense and Buffy's grin grew even wider.
"I love you too, Giles," she said softly and then she sighed with relief, leaning back. "God, I've been trying to tell you that for days."
There was silence and Giles took a deep breath, trying to calm his rapidly thudding heart. Get a grip, he thought, she doesn't mean it like that. She's thinking about that bloody father/daughter crap again. Buffy watched the various expressions cross Giles face and she sat up once more.
"Well?" She asked coyly, "don't I deserve a kiss for that?"
Giles turned to her, an expression of complete surprise on his face.
"W..W..What?" He stuttered, his mouth and his brain refusing to co-operate once more. Oh my God, he thought as he gazed into her eyes. Everything he'd ever wanted to see, everything he'd ever hoped for, ever dreamed about was revealed in the calm blue eyes that gazed back at him.
"Giles," replied Buffy, "I've just confessed my complete and undying love for you. Now, I'm supposed to be the mentally challenged one here not "
Giles quickly leaned forward, capturing her lips with his own and Buffy responded immediately, snaking her arms around him, pulling him closer. God, can he kiss, she thought. Wow, oh boy, oh boy can I please stay attached to his lips forever? They broke apart slowly, both breathing heavily. Giles raised a hand, his fingers gently tracing Buffy's cheek, briefly touching her lips.
"You know, Giles," Buffy said softly, her hand gently caressing the soft hair at the base of his neck, "for the first time in my life, I feel complete. It's as though you're the part of me that was missing except I never knew it was missing until now, that is. Does that make any sense at all?"
"Perfect sense, love," replied Giles with a smile. Buffy pulled his arm around her, snuggling into his chest with a sigh.
"What are we going to do about Vivian?"
"We'll arrange for her to be buried properly. I think there's a family vault around somewhere."
A few days later, the entire Scooby Gang witnessed the final remains of Vivian Lawrence being entombed within the family vault. After the funeral, they gathered at the Magic Box where Giles read aloud from Vivian's diary. They all listened in respectful silence for the young woman who had been through so much at such a young age. Robert had told Giles to keep the diary and Giles was going to donate it to the Sunnydale Museum, together with a brief, typed article detailing the circumstances surrounding Vivian's death. The house was peaceful at last and, following numerous telephone calls from Giles to England, a buyer had come forward to purchase the property. According to Giles, the house was to be restored and turned into a hotel.
"So, Buffy," said Xander as the conversation turned to the ghostwatch, "when do we get to see Giles tackle the big, bad cat monster?"
"You don't," replied Buffy, smiling up at Giles. "I think I must have accidentally wiped the tape."
"Even the ghost bit?"
"Yes," Buffy seemed embarrassed. "Looks like I pressed the wrong button in all the excitement."
"Which bit of excitement would that be?" Asked Willow with a grin. "The ghost or making out with Giles on the couch?"
"Willow!" Giles tried to glare at her but ended up smirking instead.
"Will," replied Buffy, "we didn't actually 'make out' we talked instead."
"What on earth did you two find to talk about?"
"Well," replied Giles, smiling as Buffy reached out and gently intertwined their fingers. "Let's just say we laid more than one ghost to rest that night."