Nobody Else
By Denorios

TITLE: "Nobody Else"
AUTHOR: Denorios
DISTRIBUTION: Anywhere, anytime...just let me know.
CLASSIFICATION: As always, shameless B/G.
SUMMARY: A small episode addition to What’s My Line. Is it just me or did Buffy seem kind of jealous of Giles and Kendra? Hmmm, the possibilities....
SPOILERS: What’s My Line, of course, and Prophecy Girl, as well as teensy weensy blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ones for Nightmares, Bad Eggs, Go Fish
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own any of these characters; Joss Whedon and those lovely people at Warner Brothers do. I’m just borrowing them for a day or two--I’ll give them back in mint condition, I promise. Although they may have developed some naughty ideas.
FEEDBACK: Please, please, please, please....’nuff grovelling yet?

Before he walked into the library Giles glanced through the small window, on habit. After living for so long on the Hellmouth he had learned to check before he entered. It seemed if any ambush took place, it was always his library the demons chose. Only natural, after all, as it was the one place he and Buffy were most likely to be; he just sometimes wished the Hellmouth would relocate itself somewhere less near him. It was hell trying to explain to Snyder all the broken furniture and windows. And that was just the ones Buffy destroyed.

The object of his thoughts was the only one occupying the library at this point, and from what Giles could tell she did not look happy. Scrunched into one of the chairs surrounding the oak table, her small form pulled tightly into seemingly as small a ball as she could make, Buffy was leafing half-heartedly through one of his books. From where he stood Giles could not make out exactly which, but it looked remarkably like The Codex. He hated that book. Quite unsurprisingly--it was the book that had forewarned him of Buffy’s death. Intellectually he had always known that Buffy had indeed died--the Master could not have risen otherwise--but her continued presence in his life had always convinced him that it wasn’t true, that she had merely been unconscious or in cardiac arrest. Giles recognised denial when he was experiencing it. He was no Joyce Summers. But Kendra’s arrival in Sunnydale had brought home with some force the fact: Buffy had died. His dear girl, his Slayer and the light of his life, had lain all alone on a cold hard floor, and died. He had failed her.

Buffy lifted her bright blonde head as he pushed the swinging doors open and strode in, striving for a insouciant air. She gave him a weak smile that somehow still managed to brighten the room. "Hey Giles," she said, uncurling her legs from beneath her and stretching. She winced slightly in doing so, her leg was still quite sore. Giles noticed, and dropping into the chair beside her, asked if she was alright.

She nodded, the weak smile returning once more. "I’m okay," she said. "You know the drill. I’m not invincible."

"I think I forget sometimes," he said, reaching past her to lift the book she had been reading. He was right--it had been The Codex. If it wasn’t so necessary he would have burned the damned book months ago. "Looking for a bedtime story?" he asked, pushing the wretched tome underneath several less heart-rending texts. "Or perhaps proof?"

"A bit of both, I think" Buffy admitted, looking down at her fists clenched in her lap. Her hair drooped over her face, shielding her from his view, and Giles felt a pang go through him at the lack of contact between them. She was in pain over something, and he suspected he knew what it was. The same thing that pained him whenever he thought of Kendra and how she came to be called.

"But...hey!" Her voice had noticeably brightened and she pushed her hair back behind her ears. Buffy’s ability to bounce back from any misfortune never failed to amaze him. He admired her more than he had words to express. She was truly remarkable. "Did you read the bit in there about the eggs and the fish? I’m supposed to be afraid of eggs and fish now? That’s one weird book you got there, Giles."

"It has its uses," he said, trying for a light-hearted tone and failing miserably. Her mood was infecting him now--he was finding it harder and harder to keep the smile on his face. Weeping and wailing over something that happened months ago wasn’t going to help Buffy now; she needed him to be strong while she worked through whatever was bothering her. And something was clearly bothering her--he may flounder helplessly out of his depth in trying to understand Xander or Cordelia, but Buffy he could read like a book. He knew her better than he knew himself, and, although he was well aware that neither he nor Buffy would ever admit to it, she knew him better than anyone else ever had done or likely ever would.

"So I guess you liked Kendra, huh?" Her tone sounded deliberately casual and uninterested, but he could detect the desperate eagerness and need for approval behind it. He had suspected the question would come at some point in the conversation. He only hoped neither Xander nor Willow chose this moment to barge in. It was only understandable that Buffy was having some trouble handling the situation they found themselves in. For most things they faced there were precedents, the experiences of previous Slayers and Watchers to fall back upon. But this...? For the first time in history there were two active Slayers. Buffy was no longer alone, and it was obvious she didn’t quite know what to do about that.

He nodded. He did like the girl. Pitied her more than he knew she would appreciate, but he liked her nonetheless. She was attentive and eager, obedient, a quick study and possessed of a bright keen intelligence: every Watcher’s dream. "Yes, I do. I wonder at how her Watcher could have let her come here in a cargo hold. Although something tells me he didn’t quite know. But nevertheless she’ interesting girl. Very dedicated." Inwardly he congratulated himself upon his non-committal reaction, but his elation quickly evaporated as he saw Buffy’s face fall. Somehow, someway, he had managed to put his foot in it again. Perhaps at times he didn’t know her quite as well as he thought.

"Dedicated?" Buffy echoed, pulling her legs up and retreating back into her ball. She rested her chin on her knees, wrapping her arms across her shins, and nodded, a rueful grin tugging at her lips. "Yeah, she certainly is that." She sighed, a heavy sound in the silence that enveloped them for several minutes whilst Giles sought for the appropriate response.

Settling for the direct approach, he said, "Buffy, what is wrong? D-d-didn’t you like her? I...I know she nearly killed Angel, but she wasn’t to know and he is a vampire. Her first instinct would be to..."

Buffy held up her hand, cutting his speech off as neatly as if she had cut his larynx. Her beautiful face looked as serious as he’d ever seen it, not angry, not disappointed, just terribly terribly sad. The sorrow in her eyes broke his heart. She looked suddenly many years older than sixteen. Sometimes he forgot she was still so young--she always managed to convince him otherwise with her maturity and simple acceptance of her awesome responsibility. Without thinking he reached forward and took her hand in his. Her skin was as smooth and soft as he’d always imagined, and it struck him that this was practically the first time he had ever touched her, skin to skin. He had always held back before, afraid that somehow through the fleeting contact she would be able to read just how strongly he felt for her.

"I’m sorry I can’t more like her for you," Buffy said, and Giles froze in place, paralysed by the great shock he felt at her words. Was that what was troubling her? She actually thought he wished...oh no. He shook his head fiercely, struggling to find the words to allay her doubts. How had she ever convinced herself that he would wish her differently? He had never....Giles sat back in his chair, remembering suddenly the look on her face as he and Kendra conversed cheerfully about the various books they had both read. He should have noticed, he should have seen...this sudden mood of Buffy’s had nothing to do with her and Kendra, but all to do with him and Kendra.

Before he could deny the truth of her words, Buffy was speaking again, horrible pained words that tore at his heart. How had he led her to believe he preferred Kendra? How could she believe something that could never ever be true?

"I know I’m not perfect," she was saying, her hair once more hiding her face from him. He longed to reach out and push the silky barrier aside, but he knew it wasn’t his place. Let Buffy have her say. He owed her that much at least. "But I didn’t know how not perfect before. I mean...I didn’t even know there was a Slayer handbook, and you said it would be no use in my case anyway. What kind of basket case am I then?" She looked up at him, her voice despairing, and he was horrified to see the bright shine of tears in her blue eyes. He felt like the worse kind of cad, that he had been the cause of those tears. Even as he watched one fell loose and coursed down her cheek.

"Look at Kendra. Nothing is more important to her than slaying. She doesn’t even have friends! And then look at me. ‘Buffy the vampire Slayer’. I don’t study the books and...and I...I don’t know about all the demons. I don’t follow procedure, I run off on my own and get into trouble, I don’t listen to you when I should. I haven’t kept my identity secret, and...and Kendra would never fall in love with a vampire! Why didn’t you ever tell me I was a bad Slayer?"

"Oh no, Buffy, no!" The words burst out of him, even as he leaned forward to wipe away the tears that fell in a steady stream. She closed her eyes, fighting to hold them back, but Giles could see it was no use. He hated himself for bringing her to this. Dimly he could hear the ringing of a bell and knew Buffy should be on her way to class, but he couldn’t force himself to make her go. Not like this. He could always write her a note. "You’re not a..."

"I would have tried, Giles. wouldn’t have been easy, but I would have tried for you. You only had to say..." His dear sweet girl looked up at him with so much sorrow in her eyes that he had to choke back his own tears. He had never known she felt this way. The longing to draw her into his arms was like a physical ache inside. He had never loved her more. And there were yet more words, more pain. "Kendra’s Watcher probably doesn’t get half the headaches you do because of me. I should just quit while I’m ahead, shouldn’t I? ‘This town ain’t big enough for the both of us’ and that. I thought I was doing okay, but Sunnydale isn’t any better off because I’m here. The Hellmouth’s still there, and the vampires still kill people. I haven’t made a difference at all. One Slayer dies, and another one is called to replace her. I...I’ve been replaced, Giles. And she’s better than me."

By this point it was all too much, and Giles hauled Buffy roughly into his lap, his arms wrapping around her in a death-grip. With anyone else it would have constricted breathing, but Buffy was the Slayer. Not a Slayer, but the Slayer. Even with Kendra around Buffy would always be Number One to him. Her arms circled his neck with just as strong a grip, and she pressed her face into the crook of his neck as she cried. He stroked her back and the nape of her neck, and whispered fiercely, "You’ve not been replaced, Buffy. No one could replace you--not Kendra, no one!’re everything to me. I don’t care how good a Slayer Kendra is, she could never be you. I don’t want you any differently; I don’t ever want you to change, not to please me or anyone else. I love you just the way you are, Buffy, just the way you are."

"But I’m not special anymore, Giles," she whispered, the dampness of her tears soaking into his skin. He shuddered and not just from the contact of her tears. After so long the warmth of her body against his own was driving him crazy. She was so soft and yet so firm--how could he ever bear to let her go? "Before...when my parents were fighting, they would say things about me, when they thought I couldn’t hear them. They...Dad especially...blamed each other for the way I turned out, for the fact that I wasn’t smart or athletic or...or full of ‘school spirit’. I used to lie on my bed, listening to them and crying. They weren’t proud of me, at all, and that hurt."

Buffy choked back a sob and attempted to steady her ragged breathing. She squirmed on his lap and Giles loosened his embrace, ready to let her leave should she wish. But she seemed perfectly content to remain where she was, resting her head on his shoulder and turning her face into his neck. Her breath was warm on his skin. He heaved a sigh of relief, and resumed stroking her back soothingly. Her voice, when she resumed speaking, was still strained but it lacked the desperation it had held previously. "I always used to tell myself that if only they knew, they would be so proud, because there was one thing I could do better than anyone else. And that was slaying. In that, if nothing else, I was special. I’d tell myself that there was no one else in the world like me. I was unique. And now I’m not."

Giles wished more than anything that he could pound Hank Summers’ face into a bloody pulp. He knew he shouldn’t feel such things about Buffy’s father, but had any man ever less deserved the title of father? How could any man treat such a wonderful girl as Buffy the way he did? Mr. Summers rarely called, visited even less often...and all Buffy wanted from him was acknowledgement that she mattered, that she was loved, that she was important. At least her mother was better. Giles could see for himself how much Joyce Summers loved her daughter, how tolerant she was of what she could only see as her contrary troublemaker daughter. He only wished he could show her the Buffy he knew and loved, the remarkable girl who was ready and willing to die to protect a world that neither knew nor cared for her fate. He wished he could make Buffy’s mother see what an amazing child she had raised.

He tightened his arms around Buffy, whispering gently in her ear, "Buffy, you are unique. Not because you’re the Slayer, but because you’re you. I fail to see how anyone could not be proud of you, least of all your parents. I know I am. You truly have no idea how many times you have astonished me into silence, with your bravery and resourcefulness, your compassion and generosity. You are without a doubt the most extraordinary young woman it has ever been my privilege to know."

She lifted her head from its position on his shoulder, her eyes red and wet, wide-eyed with hope and disbelief. "Really?" she asked softly.

"Really." Before his courage failed him he leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. Pulling back he looked down at her, so helpless and trusting in his arms, so very beautiful and so very beloved. "There are times in my life, Buffy, when I miss my home, when I wish I could see the people I knew and loved there, just once; days when I wonder why I’m here, whether I would be at all missed if I left. At times I regret ever coming to Sunnydale-" He paused and smiled at the horror-stricken look on her face, and continued before she could finish the thought he knew was forming in her mind. "Whenever that happens, Buffy, I think of you...and I know I’ll never leave. Having you in my life has made all the pain and the sacrifice worthwhile. Being able to call you friend...well, I couldn’t ask for more."

She punched him on the arm affectionately, more like a brush by a butterfly’s wing than anything else. Considering her incredible strength Buffy’s great capacity for gentleness always astounded him. Everything about Buffy astounded him. He had never before met such a mix of contrasts housed in the one body: humour and melancholy, strength and vulnerability, compassion and firmness. "You’re just saying that to make me feel better," she said, and Giles shook his head firmly. He lifted his arms from around her and cupped her face in his palms, forcing her to look at him.

"Look at me, Buffy," he said sternly. "Look at me. Look into my eyes. Am I lying to you? Do you really think that I don’t mean every word I say? Is it so hard to believe that someone could love you, not because you’re the Slayer or because you’re beautiful, but for the light they see in your eyes? Is it so hard?"

Biting her lip hard enough to draw blood, her expression caught somewhere between a laugh and a sob, Buffy shook her head. She rested her hands over his and smiled gently up at him. Her eyes held his gently, and he found himself unable to look away. Her gaze was almost hypnotic. He smiled back at her, and she lifted her hand and stroked his cheek. The touch of her hand was almost more than he could bear. "My Giles," she sighed. "How do you always know how to make me feel better?"

"Because I know you, Buffy."

Giles didn’t quite know how but he had managed to say exactly the right thing, for Buffy’s perfect face blossomed into a smile of such radiance it quite took his breath away. This was what he lived for, this was why he could never leave Sunnydale...the opportunity to see his Buffy smile, if only once, was too much to pass up. He knew in his heart he could stand anything life chose to throw at him, if only Buffy would keep smiling. Before he knew quite what was happening Buffy had hopped off his lap, her warm weight suddenly missing, and was standing at his side, one small hand resting on the shoulder where just previously her head had lain. She stroked his face once more, from his temple down to his jaw, and then leaned in and pressed a small brief kiss to his lips. "Thank you," she whispered, her mouth just millimetres from his own, and then she was gone, in a swirl of delicate fragrance and blonde hair.

"Buffy?" Giles twisted in his seat to watch her go, having to fight the urge to reach out and pull her back. His heart felt cold without her pressed up against it, without her gentle warmth to heat it. It was quite ridiculous, he knew; he was more than twice her age, but still, as Pascal once said, ‘the heart has its reasons, which reason does not know at all’...

"Yes?" His love paused at the door to the library, her head cocked over her shoulder, the animated face smiling at him. God, he loved her smile. More than anything else in life, more than breath, more than sunshine and rain-showers, he loved Buffy’s smile. All the more so when he knew that he had been the one to put it there. It might not always be so, but for the moment that smile was there for keeps, and all because of him. It was a heady feeling.

"I mean what I said." Not all the numerous overly-ardent words he had spoken, but the three that had slipped out with scarcely a thought to their wisdom. In his fantasies, Giles had always imagined he would tell Buffy of his love for her in some emotionally-charged situation, perhaps after a brush with death or some other momentous occasion. But no...he had not even known he had said them until it was too late to take them back. And now they were spoken he would not deny their truth. He loved her. He had not chosen to, had in fact no choice in the matter at all, but he did not regret it for a moment.

She smiled gently at him, a Madonna smile that spoke of infinite wisdom and courage behind the face that wore it. Had she ever been more beautiful, more precious to him? "I know," she said softly, pulling the door open. The noise from the corridors spilled out, startling both of them. Glancing at his watch, Giles realised they had been together for over an hour. "I love you too."

He looked up in total shock, but she was already gone, the only testament to her presence the gentle swinging of the door as it closed. Mouth open, eyes wide, he sat staring at the closed door, his ears unable to believe what they had just heard. He had spent months resigning himself to the fact that there was only room for Angel in Buffy’s heart, and he was totally unprepared for the revelation that his conclusions had been quite untrue. "Well, I’ll be damned," he said softly to himself, a wry smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Who would have thought?"

"Thought what?"

Giles squeaked in surprise, jumping up from the chair in his shock. "Xander!" The boy looked up at him, innocence written all over his face. Considering his penchant for noisiness, he could be as quiet as a church mouse when he chose to be. And when it came to scaring English librarians he chose to. Giles pressed a hand over his pounding heart, a heart that in all honesty had been racing more from Buffy’s parting words than Xander’s shock entry. "You startled me."

"Yeah, I can tell," Xander drawled, shoving a pile of rare and exceptionally valuable books carelessly aside in order to slam his bag down on the table. He pulled out a comic book of some variety and settled down in the chair Giles had just vacated. "Was that Buffy leaving just now? She looked happy."

"She did, didn’t she?" Giles smiled to himself, oblivious to Xander’s curious stare. He tugged at the hem of his waistcoat, rearranging his clothes. Even tweed couldn’t withstand the rumpling influence of a distraught Slayer. He dabbed at a damp patch on his collar with his handkerchief, and then gave up. If nothing else it was a reminder of Buffy’s words. She loved him. Miracles really did happen. Living on the Hellmouth he shouldn’t expect any less. In Sunnydale the impossible had an unnerving habit of becoming rather too possible. He chuckled under his breath, tucking the handkerchief back in his pocket, and tossed Xander a jaunty grin.

"Somebody else is happy today. What’s the deal? Did I miss a meeting?" Xander twisted in his seat to watch Giles’ retreating back. "Giles?"

No answer. Ah well, he could always ask Willow. She knew everything. Xander shook his head in confusion and settled down to read his comic book. Whilst Superman didn’t quite live up to Buffy’s standards, he came close. And you had to give the guy kudos, it took a real man to wear his underwear outside his tights. He wondered if he could persuade Buffy...nah.

"Sunnydale," he snorted to himself. "You gotta love this town."