Somewhere Beyond (Where We Are)
By Kelly B.
Title: Somewhere Beyond (Where We Are)
Author: Kelly B
Timeline: Post Season Six.
Spoilers: Through season six.
Disclaimer: Joss owns it all, but I am borrowing them, and I might not give Giles back.
Feedback: Please…just play nice!
Distribution: My site (kelshouse.com) and buffygiles.com / Otherwise, just ask!
Summary: Giles is ready to head back to Bath after helping Willow. Buffy gets emotional.
Somewhere beyond the breathless sobs, she could hear their overlapping voices.
“What should we do?”
“I think it best we let—“
“You’re going to miss your—“
“I can’t leave her. Not like this.”
She started gasping. There was no air coming in and her head was pounding. Her hands were dripping and she opened her eyes against them, now tasting the salt of sweat and tears. She didn’t want to look, didn’t want to look up and see them watching—
Which voice was it? Not Dawn’s, too deep. And not his, no accent. Xander, she guessed. Xander trying to reach her the way he had Willow. Willow? She wasn’t that far gone, was she? Was she so deep in the sadness that—
She could smell him then. The familiar musky scent of soap and faint whisper of tea. “Buffy…can I take you inside?”
The not-quite-concealed sorrow in his voice, the tentative desperation, only made it worse. She felt her insides convulse; the tears stopped but the wracking heaves of grief shook through her like earthquakes.
She moved her mouth to tell him to go, but there was only a wordless sound that escaped her, one so pitiful it scared even her. She tightened her eyes, pressing her hands harder against her face. She tried to pass out and not think, because he was picking her up then, and she knew she was being carried inside.
The sensation of going up, the smell of vanilla spice candles in her room, the plush softness of her comforter. She knew she was on her bed, and could not remove her hands from her eyes. The tremors still ran through her, the desperate sounding sobs still escaping her, but she was too dry to really cry anymore. She knew he was sitting there, next to her, and she knew that the last thing she wanted him to see was her this way. Still, she could not stop.
From between her fingers, she could see it was dark. It was morning, morning when he had stopped by to say goodbye, on the way to the airport. And now it was night, and her face felt swollen and her head felt sore.
Her hands seemed to be stuck to her face. She pulled them away, then opened her eyes. Through the blur of sleep and puffiness, she could see a single candle burning across the room.
Slowly, she sat up, swung her legs over. They felt unsteady as her feet reached the ground. There was a deep rumble in her stomach and with wits about her, the loud growl would have embarrassed her. She swiped at a run away hair stuck to her face, and upon looking for the lamp, she saw Giles was there.
She tried to speak. “I thought you—“
Her voice sounded hoarse and hollow to her. His gentle one spoke quietly.
“Can I get you anything?”
She tried not to meet his gaze, because even in the dim candlelight, she knew his eyes would pierce her.
“I—I guess some aspirin. I mean, I can get it.”
“Everyone is downstairs,” he said.
“Oh. Right. I think there might be some up here in the bathroom. I’m just going to take it and go to bed.”
“We can’t ignore it forever. We can ignore it tonight, but not forever.”
Her hand found the switch. Let there be light.
He didn’t say anything. He rose from the chair and walked to her, stood close.
“Don’t do this, Buffy. I want to be here, but I can’t be if you do this.”
He was not going to make it easy.
“I can’t talk right now. My head is—and I just want to go to sleep—” She started to leave for the bathroom but the faintness took over and she stumbled.
For the second time that day, his arms were holding her up. And for the second time, she went against her nature and let him hold her.
“You need to sit down, and probably eat something…”
He led her back to her bed and set her there.
“I am hungry,” she admitted.
“I will bring you something to eat,” he said, looking down at her. “And I’ll tell the others you’re fine, so they can go. And then you can go back to sleep. And in the morning…”
“Your plane—did you reschedule your flight?”
“Buffy, I can’t go back right now.”
“Can’t…” she echoed.
He cleared his throat. “I don’t want to leave. I want to be here right now.”
“Buffy, I know my leaving again was hard—on all of us, but I also know that’s not all that’s going on here. We have things to work out, and I am not going to be diplomatic and pretend that it’s alright for you to work them out alone, or confide in someone else. I want—I need, for me—to be here for you right now. And I’m staying.”
Her words struck her, but some place too deep for her to respond in kind. She nodded, simply said, “Okay.”
“I’ll be back.”
While he was downstairs, she dragged herself to the washroom, changed her clothes, washed her face, grabbed the aspirin bottle. She looked in the mirror and wanted to cry again. Her eyes were opened half way, absorbed by red puffiness and dark circles. There were red blotches under her nostrils—God, had he even blown her nose while she lay there weeping? She couldn’t remember how the time that had passed between entering her room and waking up there.
She returned to the bedroom and looked around. Her Doublemeat uniforms still laid disregarded on the floor. She had quit the day after Willow had---whatever, and was set to be starting on at the YMCA as an instructor. Five aerobics classes, three days a week. The pay wasn’t better than the palace, but the hours were, and overall it would be more fun and less smelly.
Giles walked in with a plate mercifully full of comfort food. He passed her the grilled cheese, Doritos, and chocolate pudding, and set two cans of Coke on the bedside table.
“Perfect,” she said, taking a bite of the sandwich. “Thank you.”
“I brought this too.” He handed her a bottle of ibuprofen.
“Made it to the bathroom. I’ll let the aspirin settle first.”
He sat down, sighed, and stretched his legs in front of him.
“You don’t have to watch me eat, Giles. I won’t choke or anything.”
Her removed his glasses, looking as tired as she felt.
“I’ll take your dishes down when you’re done.”
She studied him as she chewed.
“Why don’t you take Dawn’s bed tonight? You’ve been couching it for three weeks.”
“I’m fine,” he said.
“You’re exhausted and your back probably hurts,” she answered.
He smiled. “Right on both accounts, but I’m not sure one night on a pillow top mattress will make a big difference.”
“Well, the offer is there…”
“I’m certain Dawn is probably in bed already. Willow as well. Xander and Anya just left.”
“I can’t believe they were here all day waiting—“
“They were scared, Buffy. We…all were scared.”
She finished her first Coke and opened the other before answering him. “I’m sorry. I just don’t really know what happened. The whole day feels...kinda lost.”
“I’m not surprised, and…I can’t believe you haven’t burned those pants in effigy.”
She glanced down at her white tank top and the loose pants, now cut to shorts—all brown and white tie-dye and t-shirt-y. “Ugly, yes, but good for the sleepin’…”
A brief laugh from that, and she set her empty plate roughly on the table. “Giles, what did happen today? I obviously know part, but…”
He removed his glasses and swiped at his eyes. “I stopped by, nine or so. Everyone was here, Xander brought donuts for a ‘Scooby’ breakfast, he said, and that was lovely. Willow started to cry, when I said goodbye to her, and, in her defense I suppose, Dawn got mad at me. Xander started to calm them both, and when I turned to you, you were already on the ground. Just…crumpled there. Hysterical, Buffy…more than…”
She hadn’t been the woman he knew, the Slayer he knew. She had been lost and grievous and full of despair and unable to control it.
“And you carried me here, and wiped my tears and watched me sleep…”
“Yes.” He set his glasses down.
“Typical Giles. Giles picking up the pieces of my mess.”
“This isn’t the same as anything else, Buffy. You are not typically in pieces…And tomorrow, after you’ve rested, I need to understand why.”
She grabbed a pillow and held it in her lap. “I’m not all that sleepy right now.”
“You want to talk now?”
This wasn’t like his Slayer either.
“I think I need to, Giles, or I’m afraid it will just…feel worse.”
“If you’re sure, then…”
“Why don’t you get comfortable…could take awhile…”
“Giles, get a grip. It’s what—12:30 at night? At least take your freakin’ shoes off and go…make some tea. OK? If I’m going to do this, no distractions and even playing field…”
“The playing field is—“
“You’re in a fancy Ralph Lauren sweater and I am wearing the biggest fashion mistake of my early adulthood. Please?”
He shook his head, smiling, but stood up. “I’ll be back in a few moments.”
She watched him take the remnants of her dinner and leave the room, and before she could catch it, the weight of that morning began to close around her again. All the images, the mental sound bites, all of it—
“How could I? And how can I?” She whispered it to herself, not surprised by the tears welling in her eyes. Twenty-four ounces of Coke and she was re-hydrated and ready to go.
“Will this do?” Giles entered the room in faded black sweats, a gray t-shirt, and stockinged feet. He carried a single steaming mug, a liter size bottle of water, and a box of tissue.
“For you,” he said softly, setting the water and tissues on the nightstand. “I thought we might need it.”
“Good call,” she said, taking a tissue and dabbing her eyes. “Chalk one up for the Watcher.”
He surprised her by sitting on the foot of her bed, looking at her with eyes absent of lenses and overflowing with concern.
“Suddenly, I don’t know what to say,” she started.
“Did something set you off this morning? Did something make you upset?”
“I was mad at you, all over again, for leaving me. I know we talked about it, I know I said it would be okay, but I wasn’t okay with it.”
“Then why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t we talk about it?”
“Because I had no reasons left…” She pulled at the tab on the aluminum can. “Willow is getting better, and Dawn and I are alright, and the new job, and—I feel better, about taking care of things. I really do…”
He sighed. All the ducks in a row. No need for him to be around.
“I didn’t want to admit that…I just feel better, just safer, when you’re here.”
He needed to take those words at face value. She was vulnerable, and hurting, and—
“All I could think, Giles, all of a sudden, was of all these things. All these things that have happened, even…just since Glory came around.”
He looked at her oddly, but she continued to make it clearer. “Mom’s gone.” Her voice was hollow and didn’t match the stream of tears falling onto her lap. “She’s gone. And then, even in the middle of that, it was all about Glory and the Key and Dawn…and, the freakin’ demon dimensions…”
“You didn’t have the time to mourn properly…”
“That’s not all it is. It’s a lot…it’s a lot that my mother—my, anchor, is gone. And I am twenty one years old, and I am trying to make my sixteen year old sister feel like her life is normal, even though she has seen more wacky shit in her actual two years on earth than most people see in sixteen lifetimes. And I miss Mom, Giles. I…she was a pain in the ass sometimes, but she was mine. She was ours. She was the only mother around for any of us…”
He nodded, looking away for a moment. “I know.”
“When Willow and Dawn started this morning, I wanted to bang their heads together.” She almost smiled at Giles’ look of hesitant agreement. “They are both so…needy…you know, since you went away before. I mean all the stuff…Dawn and stealing, and Willow and the magic stuff. And this morning I just wanted them to shut up and sit in the corner. I Giles…” wanted it to not be about them. But then I remembered, I remembered the last time I was really angry at everyone, and it terrified me
“Do you mean when Willow and Dawn were in the car accident?” he asked.
She leaned over and took the empty mug from his hand, swallowed against the lump in her dry throat.
“Before the ritual…the…the night I died.”
He closed his eyes. There was no masking the pain of that memory, that day. Everything from his argument with her, to the—
“Giles, in all of the excitement of clawing out of my grave—” He winced. “—it somehow has been forgotten that I threatened to kill all of you if you got in my way. My last words to you all were that I would kill you if you disagreed with me.”
“Buffy, you were—“
“No, Giles, there is not an excuse. I am looking at you, and I can see it.” Her voice finally broke again, and she clenched the pillow harder as the weeping began. “You all risked your lives for me, and for my sister, who was—not even so real to us, and I was so caught up in being sanctimonious that I made my last words to my family the most hateful…the…”
She paused then, and cried harder, chin pressed to her chest. She remembered in particular the look on Giles’ face when she had uttered those threatening words. He had set his jaw like stone, searching for an indifferent response, but his eyes had betrayed him—they had been flooded with the haunted look of a deeply disappointed and near broken man.
He reached his hand out and rested it gently on her knee, saying nothing. In a minute, she had caught her breath again.
“Dawn told me what it was like, about Spike…and Willow…and…how eerily bad last summer was.”
“We were devastated Buffy, but you did…you had done the right thing.” He was looking away from her.
“I know you don’t believe that.” She was shredding the bits of wet tissue and watching them fall on the bed. “C’mon Giles. It was selfish. You said it yourself—Dawn was the key, and in the overall order of things—“
“In the overall order of things, you couldn’t have been asked to sacrifice the only blood family you had left in the world.”
“But isn’t that my job? To put the world first? I jumped off that tower, and the world was without a working Slayer for nearly four months, and who knows how long if I hadn’t come back? And I love Dawn, Giles. But for crying out loud…who knows whether I was right or wrong? I just—“
Another deep breath, a drink from the water bottle. “I know why Slayers work alone, and I know why they die young.”
“Really?” He stared at her with a cross of curiosity and amusement. “Please then, do provide me the answer we Watchers have pondered for centuries…”
“They give us super-strength but we’re still human.” Her eyes glistened. “That was the other conversation we had that day…about the choices. And it’s not right…it doesn’t help for someone whose mission statement is battling evil cretins on a daily basis to have all these people around, er…helping.”
“Not what I mean, Giles. Please—don’t make it harder.” He frowned as the tears flowed faster. “I just mean that having to balance how I love everyone, and make the choices, and all the people who have died because of me…”
“Tara for one…”
“That was not your fault!”
She stared at him. “He was shooting at me.”
“And that makes it your fault?”
“If I worked alone, Dawn and the guys wouldn’t be around me all the time. And when Warren came…it would have been me or no one else. And if Tara hadn’t died, Willow would not have gone all mojo-psycho—and because she did, you almost died…again…”
“Buffy, chains of events happen because that is how the world works. How many more people are alive now because of the things we’ve done—together? The mayor…you could not have possibly stopped the whole thing by yourself. And Glory—“
“You finished her for me,” she finished.
His head snapped up, eyes now blazing. “What do you mean?”
“I know Ben wasn’t dead. I know you finished because I couldn’t. Spike…kinda figured it out…”
“Figured it out, or broke in to the shop and read about it?”
“I don’t know, Giles. Does it matter?”
His eyes clouded over, and he shrugged. “I suppose it doesn’t anymore.”
He squeezed his grip on her leg as she suppressed a frustrated sob. “That’s the point. It does matter, whether I want it to or not. None of you would have gone through these things if I had just worked alone.”
“Buffy, regardless of the circumstances of your social circle, I still would have been your Watcher, and…more. “
She stared at him. “You didn’t have to be more. I was so needy all the time. Treated you like...whatever. However I wanted to. You lost your job—both your jobs, and you hung around waiting for me to quit being selfish. I expected you to drop everything, and you always did.”
“I always wanted to, Buffy—“
She shook her head vehemently. “That doesn’t make it okay.”
She had stopped crying at that point, and was looking at him in near defiance. He accepted the challenge.
“What will make it okay, then? What do you want me to say? I can’t punish you. I am not your father.”
“God, I know that, Giles! And because of me, you’ll never be one.”
He ran his hands roughly through his hair, trying to control the exasperation.
“What does that have to do with anything? If I had wanted to have—“
“What, Giles? Jenny died because I was stupid. Olivia was here
and then just gone…for whatever reason…who knows what your life could have
”I am where I want to be.”
“Yet you were going to leave—“
“…and now you’re stuck again.”
He willed her to look him in the eyes as silence surrounded them. She instead remained fixated on the candle.
Finally, her voice small, “If this is where you want to be, why do you keep going back to England?”
His sigh was audible, his pause uncomfortable. “Buffy, we were talking about you…about this anguish you’re feeling. My reasons for returning to England are hardly—“
Cutting him off, “Maybe if I understand them, I can move on too.”
“Just because I am moving does not mean I am moving on.”
“Then help me understand, Giles, because I want so much to make so much up to you, but if you go…”
“You have nothing to make up to me. Am I really to think that’s the reason for all this—“
“Despair? Drama? Why can’t it be? Has it really never occurred to you that you are the most important person in my life?”
He couldn’t hold in a disgusted grunt. How could he consider that when—
“Everything I’ve ever done has contradicted that—I know,” she continued breathlessly. The moist eyes suddenly pleaded with him. “But it’s the truth, Giles. I’m so empty without you here, and I’m so scared you’re never coming back.”
“I can’t…” he started, trying to muddle past the heaviness. “I can’t play the father, Buffy. I tried. And I—you…”
She rose from the bed, paced, then turned to him again in full tears.
“I don’t. Want. You. To be. My father.”
What? What did she want? He just stared tiredly at her.
“You are my heart. And maybe I didn’t know—not until three weeks ago when I felt your strength, when you made me laugh…
“…when I thought you were going to die.” She paused to wipe her eyes.
“I’m so stupid.” The sobs returned. “Why is it when you’re walking away…why can’t I let you go? Or just show—t-tell you, when everything is quiet and OK…”
“There haven’t been many of those times, Buffy. What is it?”
“I love you.”
Those words, nearly whispered, were barely recognizable, but he grabbed them, turned them over and over, and was so careful—
“I…I love you, Buffy. Surely you know.”
She kneeled on the floor, away from him, resting her head on the bed. “I know it’s taken me so long, and so much, just to get it. You are not the father I never had, or just some mentor or…fairy god…mother. You are…you’re mine. And that’s how I want you.”
She raised her head to prop her chin on the mattress, almost shyly catching his eye. “I want you to be all mine.”
“Buffy…” He tried to breathe slowly, to speak thoughtfully. “What are you saying?”
Now she fully stared at him. “Neither of us has anything that truly belongs to us, except each other. And I just didn’t get that, not ever. And then this morning, like it was something on the edge of my conscious all this time…when I was preparing to say goodbye to you, all I could think was that…if you went away, it was going to tear a piece of me out. That I would never be whole again.”
He said nothing.
“If you want me to explain beyond that, I don’t know if I can.”
“Get up,” he said, quietly, firmly.
“I want to look at you when I say this.”
She sat on the edge of the bed, dabbing at her eyes and straightening her posture. He sat facing her, the seriousness of the Watcher and the intensity of Ripper in his eyes.
“The day I was fired…do you remember what Quentin said to me?”
“Did you know he was wrong?”
“What do you mean?”
“He said I had a father’s love for you…and that was wrong. I did not want to be your father. I never wanted to be compared to the man who left you and Joyce, or even to the man who tried to make me what he wanted. I wanted…I wanted you to regard me the way you did the other…men…that you loved.”
“You mean…” she started.
“I can tell you I don’t mean Xander.”
“Since…when, Giles? And how?”
“Oh Buffy. I was never charged a Slayer before. I was quite certain I wasn’t supposed to get emotionally attached to you, but you had to know that I instantly adored you. You frustrated me beyond words, but it didn’t matter.
“Naturally, with no father around for you, they may have seemed the appropriate role, but…that isn’t me. That just never fit how I felt. The night you discovered the prophecy…about the Master…I wanted so to hold you and protect you. And so many times after that…my feelings just intensified, became more complicated. And as you became an adult…”
“You fell in love with me?”
She said it with awe.
“Slowly…over time…much as I tried to fight it…yes…I fell in love with you…”
“When…” She cleared her throat. “When did you realize it?”
“Sometime between Traver’s shortsighted declaration and your 19th birthday…but by then…”
“Things weren’t so great between us that year.”
“There weren’t many ‘things’ between us at all…”
“Giles…” She fumbled with the bottle, looking away from him. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”
He took her chin and raised her back to eye level. “You know why. Do you remember…Willow’s spell…when you were going to, for God’s sake, marry Spike? You asked me to give you away… I never could have fathomed you would think of me as a groom-figure.”
“I was under a spell!”
Silence again ensued. This time he looked away.
“I don’t understand what you are telling me now, about how you feel. I am flattered…and so much beyond that…that I am important to you. But in complete honesty…Buffy, it is increasingly difficult to be around you and not show you how I feel.”
“Look at me now, then, Giles.”
“I don’t understand how I feel either.”
This time, before he could block it, the tears were in his eyes.
“But I know that I love you…and not like a father. And not like any other man I have ever known.”
She tentatively reached for his hand. The instant they touched, there was a desperation. He grasped it and held so tight it may have hurt a woman who was not the Slayer.
“I’ve hurt you so many times…” She cried harder, but more quietly. “When I see you look at me the way you do…with that mix of frustration and compassion you perfected…Giles, I can remember every time I was too selfish to consider you. And it kills me.”
His hand reached her face, wiped the tears almost before they fell. “I think it’s safe to say we have suffered equally…in each other’s name. That is part of the complexity, Buffy…the myriad of events and feelings and utter…chaos that has formed our lives and our bond. But it’s here, and it will not go away.”
She formed the silent question with her eyes. He did not hesitate.
“Nor will I.”
Near frantically, she moved closer, wrapping herself around him. He held her in his lap, stroking her hair, letting her muffled tears soak through his shirt, then lifting her face to kiss them away.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “For everything I’ve done, or didn’t do, or missed…”
“Sshhhhh…” He kissed her mouth to silence her. “Let it be where it belongs, love. It’s all the past, and now, perhaps finally, we can start over.”
“I want to be with you, Giles.”
“Then be,” he said.
She cradled his face in her hands, staring in a mixture of disbelief, exhaustion, and joy. There were no words.
Smiling, she let go, reclining back atop her bed. “What a day.”
He laid next to her, burying his face in the sweet smell of her hair. “May it be the first of many we end together.”