Seeing Isn’t Always Believing
By Selenay

Title: Seeing Isn’t Always Believing
Author: Selenay
E-mail:
selenay@talk21.com
Summary: Buffy gets caught in the backlash from a spell. Although she has lost her sight everything else becomes much clearer.
Spoilers: Mentions of season four events.
Rating: PG
Distribution: Solo (of course), Sai Lane, anyone else just ask and ye shall receive
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, WB et al own everything in the Buffyverse. This is just for fun and believe me if I made money from it many of my worries would be over
Feedback: Go on. Brighten up my day. Please?


Willow shouted the last word of the spell, straining to be heard over the roaring wind. The demons Buffy and Giles had been fighting froze and began to glow. The witch threw herself on the ground and covered her eyes, Xander and Anya quickly copying her. The Watcher and Slayer paused a moment to make sure the demons had frozen, then they too threw themselves down and covered their eyes. The light increased in intensity as did the wind, which began tearing branches off the trees around the park. Buffy could hardly hear anything over the noise now and almost jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She was going to have words with Giles later about the dangers of crawling around when there were demons destroying themselves nearby.

A branch struck Giles on the shoulder and he gasped in pain. Buffy screwed her eyes shut, determined not to open them. She could feel pebbles and small twigs hitting her back and briefly regretted the destruction of another coat but kept her eyes shut. Xander had covered Anya’s body with his own and could feel the stings as tiny stones rained down on him, picked up from the paths by the wind. The light grew brighter until it was a faint glow even through closed eyes. There was a loud crack as a pine tree gave up and toppled over in the wind. The temptation to open their eyes was overwhelming.

Another tree gave up and fell. Buffy could hear the groan as the trunk split apart and then something heavy fell across her shoulders. The shock of it forced her eyes open for a moment and that was all it took. The light should have been too bright for any human to look at but it held her mesmerised, and even though her eyes were tearing and painful she could not close them or look away from the demons that were now aflame with brilliant white light.

It was only a few seconds later that the demons began to dissolve into the light but the damage had been done. The light abruptly cut out, as did the wind and for a moment the group lay in the silence unsure whether it was safe yet.

Then Willow opened her eyes a crack and sighed with relief.

"It worked!" she called, her voice sounding unnaturally loud in the silence.

She, Xander and Anya stood up and began assessing their injuries. It took them a moment to realise that Buffy and Giles were not with them.

The main trunk of the falling tree had missed them, but a branch was pinning Buffy to the ground. Giles knelt beside her pulling in vain at it and calling her name in a frantic whisper. Xander and Anya immediately joined in and they managed to raise the branch just enough for Willow to pull Buffy out.

She could feel hands on her trying to pull her and as soon as the crushing weight was gone from her shoulders she took a deep breath, gulping in the oxygen. As her head cleared she began to panic. She could hear the familiar voices of her friends around her and she reached out blindly. A hand grasped hers, callused and rough but more welcome than anything else.

Gripping the hand tightly she said in a frightened voice, "Giles, I can't see anything."

A hand gently touched her face, brushing her hair away, and she moved towards it instinctively. The fingers began to softly stroke her forehead, soothing some of the fear away and she knew it was Giles. With the loss of her sight her other senses sharpened and she could smell his familiar scent of tea, books and spicy cologne wrapping around her like a blanket.

Another hand took her free one, this one small and soft, and she heard Willow’s gentle but frightened voice. "Buffy, it’s ok. We’re here. Do you hurt anywhere?"

Buffy concentrated, trying not to let her fear overcome her. "My shoulders ache and I think I’ve got some cuts on my legs."

"Good. Can you wiggle your toes?"

She tried but she couldn’t tell whether she was successful.

"That’s great," Willow reassured her. "We’re going to take you the hospital to get checked out. Did you open your eyes before I gave the all clear?"

Willow’s voice took on a sterner tone and Buffy flushed with embarrassment. "I didn’t mean to! The tree hit me and I was surprised. It’s not . . . permanent . . . is it?"

Giles fingers paused momentarily in their soothing caress. "I’m sure it’s not," he said, but she could hear the uncertainty in his voice.

"Buffy, Giles is going to carry you to his car. Is that ok?" Willow asked.

She nodded and almost panicked when the hands holding hers disengaged. But a moment later she felt Giles’ arms sliding beneath her shoulders and knees and then he was gently cradling her to his chest. As she had so long ago, when a witch had cursed her and Giles had carried her as he tried to find a cure, she snuggled against him and sighed. For a brief moment her stomach had fluttered at the evidence of his strength, but it made her feel warm and secure. Her head nestled against his shoulder with her forehead pressed to the warmth of his neck. Even the slight jostling as he walked did not frighten her here.

Giles ignored the pain from the bruise on his shoulder the flying branch had given him and concentrated on carrying Buffy. Despite her strong front she now appeared fragile, and he was sure if she lost the three pounds she was always worrying about she would fade to nothing. He could feel her breath on his neck sending shivers through him, but his fear for her overwhelmed even that. It was tempting to move his head just a little so he could kiss her forehead and try to take away her fear, but it would be out of his normal character and so would worry her even more.

When they reached the car Giles offered up a silent prayer of relief that he had the foresight to buy a mini-van when he was replacing the Citroen. They were able to lay Buffy down on the back seat with her head resting in Willow’s lap so she could reassure her. Anya and Xander sat together on the seat in front of them so Xander could talk to Buffy and distract her with jokes and silly stories. The weapons and Willow’s magic gear were stashed out of sight and Giles climbed into the driver’s seat. His arms felt empty without Buffy’s slight weight but they needed to get to a hospital quickly and safely.

Buffy had always hated not being able to see where she was going when she was travelling. She found it unnerving and not being able to see anything at all, even Willow’s face above her, made her feel even worse. Xander was trying to distract her, and she tried to concentrate on that to subdue her rising panic.

It was not long before she felt the van stop. Willow helped her down the high step from the van and then Giles lifted her into his arms again. Buffy felt slightly bad that she was using this crisis as an excuse to let him hold her, but in his arms she felt safe and cared for.

As soon as the nurses in the emergency room reception saw the blood smeared group they rushed around them. A gurney was quickly brought for Buffy and they began to wheel her away. She reached out for Giles’ hand and almost cried with relief when she felt him clasp hers tightly. A nurse tried to take him away to get cleaned up but she held on and for the first time felt hot tears run down her cheeks.

"Let me stay with her," he pleaded, and she thought she heard desperation in his voice. "Something’s happened to her eyes. She can’t see."

Buffy heard a warm, friendly voice saying, "She’ll probably feel calmer if there’s someone familiar with her."

There were sounds of approval around her and Giles’ hand stayed in hers. Then she felt a jolt in the gurney as they pushed it through some doors. After that everything became slightly confusing. She could hear orders being given, although what ‘chem sevens’ were was a mystery to her, and people were poking and prodding at her. Someone warned her that something would sting and then she felt a sharp stab in her wrist. Not being able to see what was happening made everything seem much more intense than it should have been and she tried to pull her hand away from the pain. But Giles began talking to her softly, explaining what was happening and she calmed again. The feel of his warm hand and the sound of his voice became the only things she could cling to: her beacons in the darkness.

It felt like a long time later when the room emptied apart from one nurse. Buffy could feel her moving around and fussing over Giles. She lay on the gurney wondering how everyone else was, trying not to think about her sight. The doctor treating her was apparently arranging a neurological consultation because there appeared to be no obvious damage to her eyes other than some redness. She doubted that the neurologist would find anything wrong either. It was unlikely that he would believe this was the result of a spell.

Suddenly something the nurse was saying caught her attention.

"You’ll need to go to X-ray. I’m sure your friend will cope without you for half an hour and I want to be sure your shoulder isn’t broken." It was the same nurse who had let Giles stay earlier. "You’re all very lucky people. There’s a man next door whose car was hit by one of those falling trees. It’s not pretty."

"Thank you but I think-"

"Buffy do you want me to find one of your friends to come and sit with you so Mr Giles can get X-rayed?" the nurse interrupted.

"Go on Giles," Buffy instructed. "I’ll be fine."

She tried to put on a brave face so he could not see the fear she felt at the idea of being alone.

"I’ll wait until Willow or Xander are free," he assured her, not fooled for one moment.

"Wait here and I’ll see who is about," the friendly nurse told them and Buffy heard her leave the room.

"This will only be temporary, I’m sure" Giles tried to reassure her.

"I know," Buffy told him, putting some false cheerfulness in her voice. They sat in silence until Willow arrived. She began babbling cheerfully, reporting that Xander and Anya were fine and they had tracked Joyce down and she was on her way. Giles brushed his fingers gently against Buffy’s cheek and she reluctantly freed his hand.

***

When he returned from X-ray the room was full of people. Anya and Xander stood behind Willow and Joyce stood on the other side of her bed. She was tearful and clutched the Slayer’s hand, as though afraid she would vanish if she let go. Buffy was sitting up with a strained smile. As soon as he drew near she turned her head in his direction and her smile turned into a genuinely joyful one.

"What’s the verdict?" Buffy asked.

"How did you know I was here?"

"We’ve worked together for four years. I know your scent as well as I know Willow or Mom’s." Buffy flushed. "No offence. I don’t mean to say you’re smelly."

"None taken." Giles walked to the bed and rested a hand on her blanket-covered foot so she would know he was there, although with her Slayer senses that was probably not necessary.

"Your shoulder?" she reminded him, calmed now that she could feel him near her.

"Bruised. A little sore," he admitted with a rueful smile.

She could hear the smile in his voice and also the slight understatement. "I guess that means it’s got a huge, icky bruise and hurts like hell."

"Something like that."

The ease with which they talked was a direct contrast to the strained conversation Joyce and Buffy had been having before he returned. Neither had raised their voices but Joyce had been laying accusations at everyone and Buffy had been defending them.

Willow had seen the joy on her friend’s face when Giles entered the room and the relief when he rested his hand on her foot. She began to speculate a little, and a glance at Xander showed he, surprisingly, was doing the same thing.

Joyce turned to Giles, and he almost winced at the anger he saw in her eyes. Over the years she had blamed him for so much of her daughter’s destiny. He supposed she needed someone to blame other than fate for taking away her normal, cheerleading daughter but he wished for one moment that Joyce could see past the fights and trouble Buffy got involved in. Buffy herself admitted that she was a better person because of the Slaying despite some of the things she had been forced to do.

"Mr Giles, tell me the truth. Will Buffy see again?" Joyce asked.

He answered as honestly as he could. "She should do. It will take a few days but I don’t think there has been any permanent damage."

"How could you let this happen? You’re supposed to be her Watcher. You’re supposed to look after her!"

"Mom, it’s not his fault," Buffy protested.

"Buffy, you should rest," Joyce told her.

Giles could see immediately that this was the wrong thing to say.

"Mom, I’m blind - not dying. This isn’t his fault and he’s not my Watcher anymore! I take care of myself. I knew I shouldn’t open my eyes but I was kinda surprised by a tree falling on me."

"But it was his spell-"

"Actually that would be my spell," Willow piped up in Giles’ defence. "And there wasn’t any other way to kill the . . . tomatoes. Yeah, the tomatoes were, uh, getting out of control."

Giles looked to the door where a nurse was looking at them with a puzzled expression.

"Tomatoes?" Xander mouthed to Willow. She shrugged.

"Buffy needs to be transferred to a ward," the nurse told them. "Are you all going with her?"

Xander and Anya exchanged glances. "We’re going home," Xander said.

"I’d better get back to the dorm," Willow agreed. "I’ll pack a bag for you Buffy."

"Thanks."

Giles looked at Joyce, who still seemed to be fuming, and said, "I’ll drive you all."

The Gang trooped out leaving Buffy and her mom alone.

***

Buffy lay in the dark, bored. Her mom had started to sound tired so the Slayer pretended to fall asleep so she would leave. But this left her alone, in a silent hospital and unable to sleep. She could not tell what time it was - for all she knew it could be morning already or Joyce could have only left a few minutes ago. Buffy sighed and rolled over.

Riley had not been to see her yet. She knew Willow had phoned him earlier and left him a message but he had not visited or even called to see how she was. Actually she was relieved. Before Faith he had been fragile and troubled by what happened at the Initiative and with Walsh. Now there was all the guilt over what he did with Faith to deal with. He no longer seemed the safe, pain-free choice she had thought he would be. < I can’t go through all this again > Buffy thought.

She heard footsteps in the corridor and they paused at her door. The creak as the door opened was only loud to her Slayer-enhanced hearing but it almost made her jump. The footsteps approached her bed, trying to be silent, but before she could panic she caught a whiff of scent - tea, spice, old leather. It had to be Giles.

"Hey," she whispered.

She heard a sharply in drawn breath and a rustle as though he had jumped. In her mind she could picture the startled look he would be wearing, and the faint blush that would follow it, and she giggled.

"Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you jump." Her tone was not apologetic, and she was still giggling quietly.

"I-It’s quite all right. I didn’t realise you were still awake."

"Couldn’t sleep. I guess I’m still a bit wigged out."

"That’s understandable. Sudden loss of such an important sense as sight can be a little unnerving."

"Do you English always understate everything?"

"It’s considered bad taste to exaggerate." Buffy could hear the amusement in his voice. "I brought something for you."

She felt fur on her hands and clasped the familiar shape of Mr Gordo. "Thank you! I must look pretty pathetic getting excited over a stuffed pig."

"Not at all. You look quite lovely getting excited over a stuffed pig."

Buffy flushed with pleasure at the unexpected compliment although she was sure it had slipped out with out him being aware of it.

"I-I, uh, i-is your mother still here?"

"She left when she thought I was asleep. What time is it?"

"About two."

"Then what are you doing here? It’s not a crime to sleep, you know."

"I couldn’t. And I thought you might appreciate having the pig-"

"Mr Gordo."

"-Mr Gordo here when you woke up."

Buffy smiled. "Thank you."

There was silence and she heard a scrape as he pulled a chair near the bed so he could sit down. "Talk to me Giles?"

"What do you want me to say?"

"I don’t know. Anything. I don’t like silence right now."

Buffy wished he would take her hand again so she could feel his warmth and life, but he would probably not feel comfortable with that now.

"Have you got a book on you? What am I saying! You’re Giles. You die if you get fifty feet from a book."

"I’m killing myself with laughter," Giles said dryly.

She grinned. If sarcasm were an Olympic sport he would get gold every time.

"Please?"

Giles sighed and she heard another rustle as he pulled a book out of a pocket. "I doubt my book will interest you."

"Giles, let me be the judge of that. I’m the bored one. What’s the title?"

There was a pause and Buffy wondered it he was embarrassed about it for some reason. "It’s a children’s story. I haven’t read it since I was ten so I-"

"Wow. Long title."

Buffy decided she was glad she could not see the glare he was probably giving her although she could hear the long-suffering sigh.

"The Hobbit."

For a wonder Buffy recognised the title. "That's by, uh, J. R . . . something.

"J. R. R. Tolkein. How did you . . .?" The astonishment in his voice was almost comical.

"I’m not completely unaware of stuff. And it’s on your shelves. I sometimes look at the titles when I’m waiting for you."

"But you never actually read them."

"And risk getting caught and my reputation shot to pieces? Uh-uh."

She heard pages turning and Giles cleared his throat. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit . . ."

As Giles read the book Buffy became caught up in the tale of hobbits and dwarves and wizards. Or to be more precise to the sound of Giles’ voice telling the story. Despite all her teasing she loved the sound of his voice. It was so much like him; warm, expressive, passionate, and beautiful and there was that sexy accent. After the first chapter she managed to persuade him to sit on the bed with her. Gradually she manoeuvred them so he was lying next to her with an arm under her shoulders. Buffy rested her head on his shoulder and wrapped an arm around his waist. She could feel him breathing and the gentle rumble of his voice through his chest. It was comforting and exciting at the same time. She was where she had always wanted to be.

By the time Bilbo had run out of his house to begin his adventures Buffy was asleep.

***

Giles stopped reading and looked down at the girl sleeping so peacefully next to him. He carefully put the book down on the chair next to him and debated moving. But he did not want to wake her. She looked so fragile, but at the same time at peace and there was a slight smile on her face. Her long blonde hair fanned out across the pillow and his chest making her look like a fairytale in his arms. The temptation to kiss her was overwhelming so he lowered his head and gently kissed her hair, stroking her soft cheek at the same time. She shifted slightly and muttered but stayed asleep.

For a long time he lay there watching Buffy sleep. Eventually his eyes began to burn and he closed them. Before sleep took him completely he kissed her forehead again and whispered, "I love you."

Giles was never sure whether he or not he was dreaming when he heard her murmur, "Love you too."

***

A nurse patrolled the corridors just before dawn. She was just in time to see a blonde man in a long leather coat get up from his chair outside the Summers girl’s door and walk away. He looked dangerous so the nurse cautiously looked through the window in the door to make sure everything was all right. Ms Summers lay on the bed curled up next to an older man she had seen earlier. They had contented smiles on their faces so the nurse left them. It was always lovely to see a young couple, however mismatched they appeared.

***

When Buffy woke for a long moment she lay with her eyes closed, enjoying the warmth of Giles’ body and hoping that everything would be back to normal. However the nurse who had shaken her awake would not allow that. Buffy opened her eyes but could only see darkness.

Giles looked down at her and saw the disappointment etched on her face. "It will take a few days but you will see again, I promise," he whispered.

"I know, I just hoped . . ." she trailed off. If anyone knew how she felt at this moment it was the man holding her in his arms.

The nurse who had woken Buffy left once she had taken the Slayer’s temperature, so Buffy and Giles were left alone on a bed together. For a brief moment Giles held her close, but then he seemed to realise what he was doing and began to extricate himself from their tangle. She could tell he was trying not to touch her, but the slight brushes of his hand sent heat rushing through her anyway. Buffy found herself, for the first time, glad that she could not see. If she had been able to see the passion he probably had in his eyes at that moment she was not sure she would have been able to let him leave. Knowing how he felt only made the way she felt worse and was one of the many reasons she had pushed him away so much. When he was standing by the bed Buffy had to force herself not to pull him back.

"I’ll . . . uh, you need to . . . I’ll g-go now," he managed to stutter.

Buffy grinned at the stutter in his voice. If he had felt half of what she had felt a moment ago it was no wonder he was stammering. She wished she could see the blush that she knew was spreading over his face.

"You’ll be back later?" Buffy asked hopefully.

"If you want me to be."

***

Giles was not able to see her later. The neurologist could find nothing wrong and concluded that the blindness was temporary, brought on by trauma. He discharged her with an outpatient appointment to check her progress but otherwise reassured Joyce that her daughter would be fine. The Slayer’s mother took little comfort in that but took her home.

Buffy concluded that Joyce had never led a blind person before. Instead of guiding Buffy she dragged her and frequently forgot to tell Buffy if there were things in her path that could trip her. To Buffy’s complete frustration as soon as they got home she was put to bed ‘to rest’.

"As though that will cure me," Buffy muttered as she punched her pillows for the tenth time.

"How are you feeling?" Joyce called from the doorway.

"Bored," Buffy replied flatly. "Can’t I at least come downstairs?"

"You need to rest."

"Mom, I don’t have flu - I just can’t see. And I’m bored. Please?"

"It really would be best if you stay in bed. Do you want anything to eat?"

Buffy sighed and gave up.

***

The enforced ‘rest’ gave Buffy plenty of time to think. In fact there was nothing else she could do because Joyce would not even bring a radio up for her to listen to and she could not sleep. Thinking was something she had been avoiding for weeks now. In fact she had tried not to think ever since the day she decided to try the relationship with Riley. She was afraid that if she though too deeply she would realise what a mistake she was making. Riley was sweet, affectionate and undeniably good. She was fond of him and enjoyed his company. But if he left her it would not shatter her world the way Angel had. That was why she had chosen him.

After all she went through with the vampire the idea of another intense relationship terrified her more than the worst demon alive or un-alive. But her relationship with Riley, which at first seemed like a good idea, was turning out to be just as painful although in different ways.

To make matters worse Buffy knew, deep in her heart, that Riley was not really who she wanted. There was someone else that she loved more than anything but if he left her it would be even more painful than Angel’s departure. And over the years everyone she loved with that intensity left.

The question in Buffy’s mind that was becoming more persistent as she lay in the dark was whether she wanted to continue trying to ignore her feelings or whether she could have the courage to follow her heart.

***

The decision was taken out of her hands when there was a knock on the door.

"Buffy?" Riley’s voice sounded hesitant.

"That’s me," Buffy quipped, trying to sound cheerful.

"Hi. Your mother said I could come up."

"You’re lucky. I’ve already heard her turn everyone else that knows me away."

"Well, she tried to. But I used my innate charm and boyish good looks to lull her into a sense of security."

"And that worked?"

"No, but flattery really will get you anywhere."

Normally Buffy would have grinned and made a joke at that, but his voice still sounded unsure. "What’s wrong?"

"Wrong? Why would anything be wrong?" Now Riley sounded as though he had been caught with his hand in the till.

"Uh, because you sound weird?"

"I hoped you not seeing would make this easier."

"Would make what easier?"

"Buffy . . . I, uh . . . this is harder than I thought it would be."

"Riley, whatever it is just spit it out." Buffy paused. "So long as it’s not gum. Anyway, the point is I’m temporarily blind, not emotionally crippled."

"That’s it."

"What’s it?" Buffy asked, completely lost.

"Telling you this now feels wrong but if I don’t it’s just going to be worse."

"I really have no idea what you’re talking about."

Buffy felt the bed dip as Riley sat down beside her.

"I think we need to take a break. Sort out our feelings and where we are. So much has happened that – what?"

Buffy suddenly realised that she was smiling, which was probably not the reaction Riley had expected. She quickly tried to school her face into as suitably depressed look, but it did not work. Her decision had been made and she felt relieved and excited rather than shattered into pieces.

"Buffy, usually when a guy asks for a break grinning madly is not the way he expects his girlfriend to react." Riley sounded hurt.

The blonde Slayer knew she needed to explain and was glad that she could not see the hurt that was probably on his face at this moment. "Riley, I think you’re wrong. I don’t want to take a break. I think we should break up. Completely."

"I don’t . . . I don’t understand. I know things aren’t easy right now but-"

"It’s not you. It’s me. You see there’s this guy – this not-you-guy – and if he wasn’t around then I’d probably be devastated right about now. But I’ve been thinking a lot and – do you really want to hear this?"

"Is this the guy from your past?"

"No! This is . . . he’s not you. And I’ve been afraid that if we were together eventually he’d leave and I’d die. So I chose you instead. This sounds really bad when I say it aloud. But if I keep being afraid I’ll never live and that would be worse than him leaving. So I’m gonna stop being afraid and live."

"I . . . well, I don’t really understand but I have to accept. I love you Buffy."

"I love you too, just not enough."

Riley stood and she heard him walk to the door. "Giles is a very lucky man," he told her and then left.

For a while Buffy sat still in stunned amazement, and then a slow smile spread across her face.

***

Buffy was not sure what time it was when she picked up the telephone. Joyce had been in a few times to check on her and give her some food but was apparently too busy to stay and talk for a while. Lying in complete darkness and quiet the Slayer was reaching new depths of boredom.

So she called Giles. It took a couple of attempts to get the correct number, and she cursed the day she did not put it on speed dial, but finally his warm voice was answering. They talked for a while, commiserating about Joyce’s unhelpful attitude, and then Buffy asked him to read to her again. Giles again read to her until she fell asleep.

***

"Honey, I have to go to the gallery for an hour. You’ll be ok, I’m sure."

With that Joyce left Buffy sitting dejectedly on the couch. In some ways this was a slight breakthrough. Joyce had finally been persuaded that Buffy did not need to lie in bed all day and allowed her to sit downstairs. However she had not allowed Buffy to choose her own clothes and the Slayer had nearly fallen down the stairs when her mother accidentally pulled too hard on her hand. Buffy was trying to convince herself it was Joyce’s way of caring, but as the days went on she was having more trouble.

After a few minutes Buffy sighed. TV was hard to follow without sight, particularly when she could not even tell what station she was not watching, and the radio had been moved while she was at college. A lot of things had been moved while she was away and it felt like she was trying to move through an obstacle course some of the time. All Giles’ night training had depended on her being able to at least see a place and memorise its layout.

< Now I’m thirsty > Buffy thought with another sigh. Unfortunately once that thought has appeared if there is nothing else to focus the mind on it just gets worse. < Gather up your courage, we’re going to find water. How difficult can it be? I’ve lived here for over three years after all. >

Buffy discovered that finding water actually could be that difficult. She managed to feel her way to the kitchen only stubbing her toes once. Then she had to find a glass. As far as she could remember the glasses were in a cabinet over her head on the left of the door. So she felt around until she found the handle and opened the door. She put her hand inside and realised that it was the wrong one when she felt packets of food. Carefully she opened the next one and put her hand inside.

"Oops, not the glasses," Buffy muttered.

A cascade of plates and bowls rained down on her and smashed loudly. For a while Buffy stood with her hands protecting her head until she was sure everything was still again. Then she stepped to the side to continue her search and screamed when something pierced the bottom of her foot.

***

Giles screeched to a halt in front of the Summers house and ran up the path. He knocked at the front door and peered through the window but could see nothing. When there was no sound from inside he ran around the house to the kitchen door where he knocked and shouted. Looking through the door he heaved a relieved sigh when he saw Buffy sitting on a counter. Then he panicked again when he saw her shoulders shaking and tears falling from behind her golden hair. He tried the door but it was locked.

"Buffy! I’m here, just open the door," he shouted.

She continued crying and as he looked down he saw the broken china on the floor beside her and the blood smearing the floor.

"Blast!" he muttered and began looking for the key.

Not unsurprisingly there was a key under a flowerpot next to the door so in moments he was standing beside Buffy brushing hair off her wet cheeks. She looked up for the first time and smiled tearfully.

"I’m pathetic," she said, hiccuping slightly.

"No, no you’re not," Giles reassured her. "You’re frightened and in pain but I’m here now. We’ll get you cleaned up and you’ll feel better."

"Thanks," she whispered.

Giles moved to her side, broken china crunching under his feet, and lifted her into his arms. Buffy immediately sighed and snuggled closer, wrapping one arm around his neck. It was slightly distracting but she still occasionally shuddered from the aftermath of crying so he put that to one side for the moment. The Watcher carried her through to the lounge and carefully laid her down on the sofa.

"I’m just going to get something to clean you up with and then I’ll be back, I promise," he told her and brushed her cheek with his fingertips before leaving.

When he returned with a bowl of water and first aid kit Buffy allowed him to gently remove her sock and roll up the leg of her jeans so he could examine her foot. The cut was not deep but he could hear her sharp hiss as he cleaned it. Absently he caressed her ankle to calm her as he cleaned. Layers of gauze and bandages followed and he patted her leg when he finished. Realising what he was doing he jumped and began to clear up the first aid kit.

"Aren’t you gonna kiss it better?" Buffy asked, extending her foot with a cheeky smile.

It was the first genuine smile Giles had seen since he arrived at the house so he smiled at her, even though she could not see it, and quickly kissed her toe.

"I guess that’ll have to do for now," Buffy sighed. She quickly changed subject. "Can I stay with you?"

Giles dropped the bowl of water he had picked up. "W-w-what?"

"Can. I. Stay. With. You." Buffy replied slowly.

"I-I-I th-thought that was wh-what you said."

Buffy sat up and gingerly put her foot on the floor. "Mom is great but I think she’s scared by all of this. She just . . . isn’t coping. I hate to admit this but I need help and she either gives too much or too little. And she doesn’t have time to be with me. I spent all yesterday in my room alone and now I’m gonna be spending all day today in the lounge alone. I want to be somewhere familiar, where I’m not tripping over furniture that wasn’t there last time I was home and knocking plates out of the cup cupboard. I want to stay with you. Please?"

Even though she could not see him she turned pleading eyes in his direction and Giles almost lost himself in them.

"Uh, you’re supposed to agree now," Buffy prompted.

"You’re mother will kill me."

Buffy shrugged. "She’s due home soon, I think. You can explain things-"

The telephone interrupted them and Giles handed it too her.

"Hi mom!"

Pause. "No, no one called."

Pause. "A couple more hours? No, that’s fine. If you have to stay . . ."

Pause. "I had a little accident but it’s fine now. I called Giles."

Buffy held the telephone away from her ear and Giles could hear Joyce’s outraged shout. "Who else was I going to call? The window cleaner?"

Pause. "Riley isn’t an option anymore. We broke up. I think I told you about twenty times last night."

Pause. "I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were organising my relationships now as well."

Pause. "If you want me I’ll be at Giles’."

Buffy winced at something Joyce said. "Until I’m better. Bye."

Giles looked at her as she turned the telephone off.

"I know how you’re probably looking at me right now and I don’t care. Just . . . help me pack?"

***

They spent the afternoon sitting out in the courtyard so Buffy could enjoy the warm sunlight, talking and drinking tea. It was the most comfortable they had been in months. When the breeze began to chill a little Giles helped Buffy inside, letting her lean on him so she did not put weight on her healing foot. They sat on the couch so Giles could read to her and Buffy rested her head on his shoulder.

Listening to his soothing voice calmed something inside Buffy. Calling Giles had been her first instinct when she panicked in the kitchen. Admittedly she had been trying to think of a way to see him earlier. Joyce had made it very clear that she did not want Buffy to have anything to do with Giles and Slaying while she was ill and had even chased Willow away.

Giles paused at the end of a chapter and she felt him turn his head. Without her sight she could not tell how close his face was to hers so she put a small hand up to it. Whatever she had been thinking floated away as she began softly tracing his face. She felt the slight lines at the corners of his eyes, the smooth cheeks and proud nose. Shifting around she raised her other hand and cupped his face. Giles raised his hands to lightly grip her wrists but did not pull her hands away. Buffy could feel her heart racing and she rubbed her thumbs over his lips, at the same time licking hers. She could hear his breath catch in his throat and she grinned as she slowly leaned forwards.

A knock at the door shattered the moment and they sprang apart as it opened.

"Hi! You’re here!" Willow babbled. "I wasn’t sure. Your mom sounded a bit upset and just said you were with that man and at first I thought Riley because . . . but then I thought no, your mom likes Riley so I figured it must be Giles and here you are!"

Willow paused to take a gasp of oxygen, which allowed Xander to speak. "So, what are you doing here? Is the world going to end again or are we just dealing with your average evil demon."

"Xander, can’t I just hang here without the world ending?" Buffy asked. She could hear Giles pacing on the other side of the room.

"You just don’t normally," Xander responded. "Not lately."

"Why aren’t you with Riley?" Willow asked.

"We broke up," Buffy told her.

She heard Giles pause and then resume his pacing. Willow and Xander sat down on either side of her and gave her a group hug.

"Are you ok?" Willow asked.

"Surprisingly yes." Buffy replied, pulling back slightly so they could see her reassuring smile.

Willow tried to comfort her. "Just goes to show all guys are poopheads."

"Hey!" Xander exclaimed. "Guy still here."

Willow and Buffy giggled at his outraged voice. "Are you sure you’re ok?" Willow asked again.

"Uh-huh," Buffy nodded. "It was kind of a mutual thing."

"Well, that’s, uh, good?" Willow said uncertainly.

"It’s good."

"Buffy, if you don’t mind me asking," Xander began, "although I’ll ask whether you mind or not. Why?"

"Because of a guy."

The two friends tried to ask the Slayer who but she refused to tell them. Eventually they left with promises they would be back tomorrow to continue the grilling.

The room was silent for a while, although Buffy could still hear Giles moving around, and then he spoke.

"I’ll, uh, make some supper."

Buffy stood to follow him into the kitchen but misjudged the distances and thumped her shins on the low table.

"Ouch!" she said painfully. "I’m gonna be so bruised by the time this is over."

She felt Giles’ steadying hands on her shoulders and breathed in his familiar scent.

"Are you alright?" he asked, concern lacing his voice.

Buffy did not answer. Instead she raised her hands and lightly brushed her fingers over his face. She heard a sharply in drawn breath and grinned.

"W-what are you doing?" Giles managed to stutter.

"Memorising," Buffy whispered.

"M-memorising what?"

"Memorising you," she breathed.

For a long moment Buffy ran her fingers lightly over his face, trying to match that with her mental image. Then she again cupped his cheeks and ran a thumb over his firm lips. She doubted he even realised that he was caressing her shoulders but he was sending delicious shivers down her spine. Reaching up she ran a hand through his hair, enjoying the feel of its softness against her fingers.

"B-Buffy what-?" Giles began but was stopped by her finger on his lips.

"Sssh," she whispered.

She rubbed her thumb over his chin and then raised herself on her toes to kiss it. Her lips barely brushed his skin but she felt warmth spreading through her and his body jerked slightly from the contact. Growing more daring she pulled herself up further to gently kiss the corner of his mouth.

Buffy felt the moment he began to resist. The hands which moments before had been caressing her shoulders now lightly pushed her away.

"Buffy, what is this about?" Giles asked, his voice sounding slightly raspy.

When she had imagined this moment Buffy had not though it would be as difficult to say what she wanted as she was now finding it to be. The speech that she had carefully planned seemed to have disappeared from her memory. < Guess I’m gonna have to wing it > she thought nervously. "Do you want to know why I broke up with Riley?"

"W-well . . . I, uh-"

"Good." Buffy sat down and began nervously fiddling with a ring, for the first time glad that she could not see his face. She felt Giles sitting on the coffee table before her where he so often had and then he wrapped his hands around hers. Some of her nerves fizzled away. "I have always believed that everyone has a forever guy. Or forever girl – oh god, you don’t have a forever guy, do you? Of course you don’t . . . sorry, babbling, stopping now."

Buffy took a deep breath to calm herself.

"Forever guy. And I’ve met him. He’s warm and funny and kind and sexy and . . . I could find lots more verbs if I wanted to. Basically, I love him more than anything and I’ll never stop. But I’ve been afraid. Whenever I love someone that much they leave and I don’t think I could survive that again. So I got frightened and decided not to tell my forever guy how I felt. Instead Riley came along. He was sweet and funny but he wasn’t the forever guy." Buffy paused for breath and although she could feel the tension in Giles’ hands he said nothing. "That was good. When he left it wouldn’t kill me. So I thought I was safe and I let myself get involved. Only the forever guy was still there. And when things started to go wrong I couldn’t work out why I was staying so involved. After all, why go through all this pain if it isn’t for my forever guy? So when Riley suggested a break I decided to take a chance. I think my forever guy loves me and I think it’s time I stopped being afraid."

Buffy could think of nothing more to say. She waited for Giles to say something but he was silent. After a couple of minutes the silence became too much.

"Do you want to know who my forever guy is?" she whispered.

"I . . . I’m not sure."

Buffy’s heart plummeted but she gathered her courage. "It’s you. You’re my forever guy."

This time the silence was even worse. She knew he needed to think – after all this was Giles and he always wanted to think things through before he did anything drastic. But she had offered her heart to him and she needed to know what he was going to do with it.

"I can’t see what you’re thinking so you’ll have to say something. The silence is killing me," Buffy prompted, almost dreading his answer.

"I-I don’t know what to say," Giles managed eventually, and Buffy could hear the hesitation in his voice.

"Anything would be good. Rejection would hurt but-"

"Of course I’m not rejecting you!" The shock in his voice would have been comical in any other situation. "I could never - I need to be sure that you’re sure. This is a stressful time-"

"The blindness has nothing to do with how I feel. It just gave me time to think and realise I can’t keep being a coward. All those moments when I’ve wanted to say something . . . if you’ve never felt anything just say so and I’ll never mention it again. I love you. You’re my forever guy. I’m always yours if you want me."

"I want you," Giles said immediately, and Buffy could imagine the way he was probably blushing as he realised what he had said. "I-I mean . . . I love you. I don’t think I can ever stop loving you."

Inwardly Buffy breathed a sigh of relief but she knew that outwardly she was almost laughing with joy.

"Buffy, I love you," Giles repeated.

This time when Buffy raised her hands to feel his face there was no resistance. He simply brushed her cheeks with his fingertips and waited. For the third time that day she held his face between her hands and ran her thumb over his lips. Then she leaned forwards and paused when there was barely millimetres between them.

"You can kiss me you know," she breathed.

"I’m afraid that if I do I’ll find that this is all a dream."

His breath warmed her lips and she smiled. "Does a dream feel like this?"

Buffy closed the distance between them and lightly kissed him. The effect was immediate – he pulled her close and almost fell off the coffee table.

"Maybe you should continue this here," Buffy commented, patting the couch beside her.

She felt him move around and then she was suddenly pulled onto his lap. "This is even better."

This time the kiss was fiery and intense. Buffy could not stop her hands moving over his back and chest, trying to learn every inch of him and the sensations he was creating were incredible. She felt his tongue touching her lips and she eagerly opened her mouth for him. After that all thought shut down and she could only feel. When she thought her lungs would burst she tore her mouth away and trailed kisses down his neck. She had not even realised that she had managed to open his shirt and she hissed with pleasure when she felt his hand on the bare skin of her stomach.

Giles found a particularly sensitive point under her ear and she gasped, and then gasped again at the deep growly sound that rumbled through his chest. She briefly wondered if it was possible to actually melt from a kiss.

"Giles," she whispered, surprised at the throaty sound of her voice. "Take me to bed."

"Are you su-"

"I’ve waited a long time for this. I’m totally sure."

***

When Buffy woke she held herself still for a long time. She was pressed up against Giles’ side with her head on his chest and his arm around her waist. Beneath her ear she could hear his heart beating and feel him breathing. The hand on her waist began to lazily rub her back and his voice rumbled through his chest. "I know you’re awake."

"I know I’m awake too," Buffy replied, still keeping her eyes closed. "What time is it?"

"Eight o’clock."

Buffy took a deep breath, opened her eyes and sighed. "In all those trashy romances my sight would have come back this morning."

She felt Giles kiss the top of her head. "I know. But you will see again."

"I believe you," Buffy told him and kissed the chest below her, giggling quietly at his hiss. "I love you."

She felt the laughter vibrating through his chest. "Really? I must have missed you telling me. I thought you just wanted my money."

"You have enough money to buy me?"

"No. You’re priceless."

"And you’re corny."

"Come here, you hussy."

"Hussy? You’re calling me a hussy?"

"Who seduced who last night?"

"Don’t suppose you’d like to do the seducing this morning?"

"With pleasure."

***

At lunchtime Willow and Xander decided to keep their promises to visit Buffy. As they walked through the apartment complex Willow did not even try to keep her worry hidden.

"You know what she was like after Angel," she insisted. "She doesn’t get over break-ups easily."

"All I’m saying is-"

"That you don’t like Riley," Willow finished. "But she did. She’s probably in shock from everything she’s been through during the past couple of days."

Xander opened the door to Giles’ apartment. "She just didn’t seem – what?"

He turned and gaped. Buffy, dressed in a robe and blushing, stood at the bottom of the stairs. Giles stood just behind her only wearing a pair of jeans and even more red-faced than his Slayer.

"See, she’s over him already," Xander commented weakly.

"Buffy?" Willow asked uncertainly.

Buffy turned her head in the redhead’s direction. "Willow? What are you doing here?"

"I brought ice-cream. For, uh, a post-break-up pig-out. Guess you don’t need it."

Buffy took Giles’ hand and kissed the palm. "Could you make me a sandwich? I need to-"

"Of course."

With Giles out of the room Buffy felt her way to the couch and sat down. Willow sat down in an armchair and Xander stood beside her.

"Is everything ok, Buffy?" Willow asked carefully.

"Everything is wonderful," Buffy replied, her smile lighting up the room.

"Good. That’s . . . um . . . good. Isn’t that good Xander?"

"I’m confused," Xander said. "You broke up with Riley and now you’re . . . with Giles. What happened to ‘raise your hand if eeuw’?"

"I fell in love."

"When? How? Why?" Willow wanted to know.

"You forgot what and where," Buffy responded with another smile. "A long time ago. I was just afraid – until now."

"How are you gonna tell your mom?" Willow asked with a worried frown. "She didn’t seem to like Giles much yesterday. Oh my god, you didn’t-"

"She doesn’t know yet. I was thinking of waiting until I get my sight back. Or maybe I’ll wait for a few weeks. Just until I’m not . . ."

"Scared of telling her," Xander finished. "Piece of advice. Tell her before the wedding. Buffy? . . . Buffy? I shouldn’t have mentioned wedding."

***

"It’s been eight days," Buffy commented when Giles reached a break in the book he was reading to her. "What if my sight never comes back?"

"We’ll manage. Admittedly we’ll be broke, but we’ll manage."

"Broke?"

"Spike’s upped his fee for guarding you again."

"Ah. He’s guarding me?"

"You hadn’t noticed?"

"Not really. My mind’s been elsewhere." She reached up and kissed him quickly. "I guess I have to get my sight back soon then."

"In your own time."

***

Buffy sat on the counter in the kitchen, listening to Giles cook and occasionally tasting things. For the past day she had been sure that things were getting lighter. Rather than seeing unrelieved black everything seemed grey. Now the grey was slowly becoming colours. Faint at first, but then growing in intensity. Trying not to get carried away by the sudden excitement coursing through her she turned her head slightly and almost cried out with delight when the blurred images moved as well. Everything was fuzzy and blurred but it was slowly becoming clearer.

"Your shirt’s new," Buffy said quietly."

"What?"

"Your shirt. I didn’t know you had a red one."

Giles turned slowly. "Y-you can see my shirt?"

Buffy’s smile was almost blinding. "Yup. And I can see the kitchen and the pan that’s about to boil over. Best of all, I can see you."

"You can see?"

She jumped down from the counter, walked to Giles without hesitation and put her arms around his waist. "Yes. I missed seeing you more than anything."

"Buffy," he whispered, just as she pulled him down for a long kiss.

"I still love you," she told him when they pulled apart. "Xander mentioned weddings a few days ago and it got me thinking . . . how do you feel about June?"

"June?"

"I thought it would give Mom time to recover from her heart attack and we could spend the honeymoon in the mountains far, far away from vampires. What do you think?"

Giles swept her into his arms. "I think that I love you."

END