Not While I'm Around
Title: Not While I'm Around 1/1
Author: Tricia Stewart (GylzGirl)
Disclaimer: BtVS characters are owned by Joss Whedon, WB and the Fox conglomerate. Lyrics are from the musical Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim. I only own the story and am making bupkis.
Distribution: Solo if she wants it, Anya, WorstWitch, HeadQuarters, ASH
Shrine. Anyone else, please just ask.
Type: Angst, you're soaking in it! (AKA Aww I need a Hug)
Feedback: Yummy! No flames please.
Timeline: Sometime ahead of where the series is now, and under the assumption Oz comes back into the fold. Vague much?
Author's Notes: Thank you's to Kazza, Meawan and Koala. I think they know why. :)
People always say that there are moments when time stands
absolutley still, where everything moves in slow motion. I've
never believed that. How many times have I been watching as Buffy
came close, too damn close, to certain death in battle, only to
have her triumph. You'd think if it were going to happen, it
would have by now. I guess after everything, I'm still a skeptic
at heart. I said I never believed, and I didn't. Until now. Why?
Because it finally happened to me.
She was fighting wildly, spinning like a cyclone. My Buffy. My Slayer. Her fists were moving so fast it was a blur to the eyes. She was pummeling a Chaos demon, one that towered over her by at least three feet. I was running to her side, having just finished off the demon that had tackled me. She never saw the vampire behind her. But I did. As soon as he reached over and unsheathed his daggar, everything slowed down.
"Buffy!" I called to warn her. Too little. Too late. She struck the deathblow on the demon before her and stood, looking into the darkness for me. The same moment her eyes found me, the vampire thrust the blade through her back.
Her bright beautiful eyes widened in shock. She screamed as the knife's point broke through the skin on her chest. I was screaming as well. As she dropped to her knees, I brought up the crossbow I had held loosly and leveled it at the vampire. He was so busy gloating over The Slayer's bleeding body, he never even saw the bolt until it struck him and erased him from existance.
I dropped the crossbow and ran, so slowly it seemed, to my Slayer's side.
"Giles?" Tears stained her pale cheeks.
"It's all right Buffy," I lied. "I'm here. Be still. It's going to be all right."
"Take it out! Oh God it hurts! Pull it out!"
"I mustn't. I could do more damage that way. Just hold still so that I can try to stop the bleeding." She quieted then, whimpering slightly and biting her lip, denying the pain as I attempted to staunch the blood flow around the silver.
If that had been the end of it...but this is Sunnydale. Not even a minute more passed when we heard voices in the distance. They were calling to their compatriots, the ones laying dead at our feet.
Buffy reached a shock-clammy hand to my forearm and squeezed weakly. "Go."
"Go!" Her eyes were teary but her determination was clear.
I brushed her hair away from her face and smiled down gently. "I will never leave you."
"Giles!" She broke down then, sobbing heavily. "Don't die for me. Please...go. I have...have to know you're safe."
"Shh. I need your help here." I wrapped my coat around her, bundling her up as I slipped my arms beneath her. "Hold on to me as best you can." Her lower lip trembling, she moved an arm around my shouders. "Brace yourself Love, this is going to hurt."
I knelt, then stood. Buffy buried her face in my shoulder, tears of pain wetting my sweater there. As I held her in my arms, I quickly looked for some sort of sanctuary. I knew I couldn't carry her far because of the damage being jostled was potentially causing her. Unfortunatly, the smell of her blood was going to make us far too easy to track.
Up the road, I spotted a new housing complex, still partially under construction. I gripped Buffy tighter and began to walk, quickly. The first house I found displayed an "open house" sign out front. Too much of an invitation to our vampiric pursuers, so we moved on. Two houses down, I kicked open the door on a two story home whose construction had only recently been completed.
I moved her to the very center of the first floor, to the end of a long hallway. I didn't want to try for the second story, lest they find us and attempt to burn us out. I lay her down as carefully as possible. She had been fluctuating between sleep and consciousness the whole way over. For now, she slept. I touched her hair once more before moving off to secure the door.
I shut the door as seamlessly as I could manage. There was no real point in barricading it. The lack of invitaton would be barrier enough. I searched for a bit, coming up empty handed in the quest for a phone, or medical supplies, or a simple blanket. I made my way back to the hall.
Buffy lay exactly where I had left her, motionless, eyes still closed. For a moment, my chest tightened. I feared I'd already lost her. Then she stirred and her eyes fluttered open. A breath later I was sitting on the floor, by her side, easing her against my chest.
Her fingers lightly gripped the front of my sweater. "I thought you'd gone," her voice was small and afraid.
"I'm sorry. I'm here."
"It's okay. I was," she licked her lips and took a deep breath, "I was a little scared...of being alone. But I want you to be safe."
"We're safe. Just stay with me Love. We're going to get through this."
"Giles...I-I don't think I'm going to make it."
It was all I could do to breathe, let alone speak, around the lump that formed in my throat. "You're going to be fine. You're My Slayer. I know you're in pain, but you're strong. You're going to live Buffy. Do you hear me? I won't stand for any arguement about it." I tilted her head slightly to look her in the eyes. "You are going to live." Oh God how I prayed that wasn't a lie.
"Maybe it's supposed to be this way. Isn't this how I left Faith?" She gestured at the obscene protrudence in her petite chest. "Maybe this is my punishm..."
"Stop." I took my finger and wiped away a tear that trailed down her cheek. "You didn't deserve this. This had nothing to do with Faith. It was just something that happened. I know you're not going to die. I'm not going to let you leave me." Again her lower lip trembled and the tears begin to fall. I stroked her brow with a kiss and lay her cheek against my chest one more. "Please don't leave me Buffy. I can't do this alone." Her grip on my sweater tightened and she held closer to me. I petted her hair as sleep overtook her.
My fear didn't allow her to slumber long. I woke her every few minutes, just to make sure I could still wake her. It was hours yet till dawn. I knew, if help didn't find us before sunrise, it would be too late. I knew also, I could leave to find help, but that would mean abandoning her. I couldn't. If she was to pass tonight, it would be in the arms of someone who loved her, someone who planned to follow her minutes later.
When her breathing began sounding labored, I woke her. "Buffy, I know you're tired but I need you to stay awake for me now. Help will be here soon."
She coughed and then winced at the pain. "No one's coming Giles. Even if they knew to look for us, they wouldn't know where we went. Just stay with me please?"
I blinked back tears I hoped she didn't see. "Only if you promise to fight. Otherwise I have no choice but to try to find some help. Promise me you'll stay awake?"
"You have to."
"I'll try. Talk to me? I don't like the quiet. It scares me. It makes me think I've already died."
"Please don't say that."
"I'm sorry. But I've been there once remember? Maybe I didn't stay long enough to get the light and the tunnel and all the dead relatives...or maybe there isn't any...or maybe there just isn't any for me. A Slayer's life is lived fighting the baddies until finally one of them gets luckier than you...like tonight. A Slayer is just a tool. Maybe that's all I'm supposed to be. Maybe when I die, that's it. I'm just...gone."
"That's not true. You are...you are my life. You are not so insignificant as to blink out of existance. Whatever power it is that put the universe together, you are its chosen champion."
"And you think that counts for something? Faith was chosen too, remember? Maybe not even God is perfect. Or maybe instead of being a special champion, I was just expendable."
I hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head. "You are precious. You are extrordinary. You are my Buffy and I..." I inhaled deeply, wondering how far to take this confession. If I told her, I feared it meant admitting that I thought she wouldn't live much longer. But, could I live with knowing I was never brave enough to tell her? "You are my Buffy and I love you. You took my heart without ever trying, just as you did almost everyone who's ever met you. You have to make it Buffy. You have to live."
A few awkward minutes passed in silence. I spent the time listening to her breathe, keeping the panic at the thought of that sound stopping just barely under control. "Sing to me?"
Her voice was so quiet, I wasn't sure she had actually spoke. "Pardon?"
"Sing to me Giles? Please? Keep the quiet away."
"It doesn't matter. Just sing?"
I wracked my brain and cleared my throat, hoping something appropriate would present itself. "Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around. Nothing's gonna harm you, no sir, not while I'm around. Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays. I'll send 'em howling. I don't care. I got ways. No one's gonna hurt you. No one's gonna dare. Other's can desert you, not to worry, whistle I'll be there. Demons will charm you with a smile, for a while, but in time. Nothing can harm you, not while I'm around."
I heard her sigh, and then she became so quiet that I had to pause even my own breathing in order to still hear hers. "Buffy? Buffy please wake up. Please?!" I could not keep the panic out of my voice. She didn't so much as move at my pleas.
Just then, I heard the front door kicked open. I fished inside the pockets of the jacket I had wrapped around Buffy and retrieved a crucifix. It would be small protection from a horde of vampires with the smell of Slayer blood in their nostrils, but old habits die hard I suppose.
"Giles are you in here?! Buffy?! Where are you guys?!"
"Xander?" My heart was racing with disbelief, even as it panicked that my Slayer lay dying in my lap. "Xander?! Here! We're here!"
Our dark hared savior bounded into view with Willow close behind. They each held stakes and crosses before them. "You guys okay?"
"No. Buffy's been stabbed. I can't get her awake anymore. We have to get her to hospital now!"
Willow's eyes widened as she observed her best friend's pale, still form. "Oz backed his van right up to the front door. We're ready to go."
I lifted my Slayer once more, worried at the coolness of her skin. "How...how did you find us?" I asked idly as I hurried toward the front door.
"We found the body of the Chaos demon...and then the blood. Since it was red and not purple, we were afraid it meant one of you were hurt. When we heard a commotion down the street, we came down this way. Saw all the vampires on the front lawn. We ran over a few of them and backed up to the house. Not a minute too soon it looks like."
I climbed into the back of Oz's van, still cradling Buffy. "I only pray it's not a moment too late Xander."
Once everyone was in the van, we peeled out and shot through the night toward the hospital. On the way over, Buffy's breathing became so shallow and weak that I was sure she was gone. I began to weep, Willow holding me as I held Buffy.
They carted her away from me so quickly, it seemed as though I found out where that slowed down time catches up with you. The four of us huddled close in the sterile waiting room, watching the clock, counting the moments until we would hear that our lives had been irrevocably changed without our permission.
Moments stretched into newsless hours, sleep claiming each of us in alternating slivers. A light touch on my knee caused me to blink awake. I found myself staring into the gentle grey eyes of the doctor in charge of Buffy's care. I shifted Willow's sleeping form slightly and covered her ears. I didn't want the news of Buffy's passing to be what she woke up to.
"Mr. Giles?" she asked.
"She's resting now. You can go and see her if you like."
The doctor smiled kindly. "I think she will be for quite a long time, if she avoids gang turf at night in future that is. Are you the one that kept the knife in place?"
"If you hadn't, she wouldn't have made it long enough to see us. Good job. She's still weak but she was asking for you."
I looked around the room to see if any of the others had heard. Xander was grinning at me from a chair across the room. He moved to the couch I sat on, on Willow's opposite side, and eased her from my shoulder to his own. "Take her our love," he whispered to me. I stood on shaky legs and walked the hallway to her room.
I entered Buffy's room and saw her laying with her hair splayed around her on the pillows. Her eyes fluttered open and as the sunrise occured outside her window, she smiled at me. Of the two, I swear the smile was brighter. I could not help but smile back. I sat in the chair beside her bed and grasped her small hand in both of mine.
"You look tired," she said.
"Me too," she smiled.
"So I've been told. I was rather relieved to hear it."
"Was there ever any doubt? I'm Buffy the invicible, remember?"
"It seems so." My eyes met hers and I tried desperatly to keep the emotions bombarding me at bay. It was futile. Soon she was trying to comfort me as the tears spilled over.
"Do you remember what you said to me?"
I removed one hand from hers to wipe away my tears. "I said a lot."
"And I meant everything I said."
"Even when you said you..."
"That I love you?" She nodded. "Yes. It's all right you know. I don't expect..."
"Why don't you? Do you know that from the minute that knife went in my back, I was sure I was going to die tonight. And all I kept thinking was that everything was okay. It was even going to be all right if I died, as long as you were there. As long as my Giles was with me, I wasn't afraid. There was no one else I wanted there. Not Willow, not Angel, not my Mom. Only you."
I kissed the back of her hand and held it against my chest. "I'm not sure what that means," she continued. "But it does mean something. And now I have a second chance to figure out what that is. Will you help me?"
She disentangled her hand from mine and ran it down the side of my cheek."Do me a favor?"
She smiled. "Sleep."
I took hold of her hand once more and leaned back in the chair beside her, studying her face until my eyes drifted shut. Time could move as slowly as it wanted right then. I didn't mind.