Tea and Sympathy
Title: Tea and Sympathy
Spoilers: Through The Killer In Me
Summary: Buffy and Giles share a late night cup of tea.
Rating: PG Pretty squeaky clean.
Category: epilogue/pre-het/friendship fic
Distribution: If you've had my permission in the past, you have it now. All others, ask and ye shall receive.
Feedback: Constructive criticism always welcome. Praise abjectly sought.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc., etc., etc. I just let them have all the fun Joss won't. I own nothing except my twisted mind which you really don't want. Please don't sue.
Notes: I didn't like this episode at all, and yet I found myself strangely compelled to write this odd little coda. I think I just feel a need to work Giles more into the action this season, what with his never-ending two minute cameos.
Dedication: To Rari and Joanna. Stop sniffling soon, my friends.
Buffy brought two steaming mugs out to the table and set one before Giles. She slid into a seat across the table from him and tried not to smile.
"They really thought you...?"
"So it would seem."
"Serves you right for slacking," she said. "If you'd picked up a book or something, they'd have known it was you."
"They might have guessed when I spent half an hour banging on the bathroom door the other morning," he grumbled. "Apparitions don't need the toilet."
"Poor Giles." Buffy couldn't contain her giggles anymore. "I can't believe they followed you out into the desert to tackle you!"
"Believe it. I shall be bruised in the morning."
"Need me to kiss your boo boos?"
"Funny, I think in all our time together that's the first time you've offered to kiss that part of my anatomy - though you've asked me to kiss yours on more than one occasion."
"I never said that to you!"
"I read between the lines. You certainly meant it more than once."
"Busted," she grumbled half-heartedly. Her expression turned more serious. "Giles, what am I gonna do? About this Spike thing?"
"What you always do," he said gently. "You're going to listen to everyone's advice and do exactly what you've already made up your mind to do, anyway. So what are you going to do?"
Buffy considered as they sipped their tea.
"This time," she said at last, "I really don't know. I have to do something, but I haven't decided yet. I'd ask Spike, but he's a little busy with the migraines right now. I - I think...maybe he can handle it. With the soul and everything. And it's not like the chip did much good when the First was controlling him."
"That sounds very much as if you'd made up your mind."
"And that sounds very much as if you disapprove."
"If it was up to me...I might make a very different decision, yes. But it isn't up to me. This is up to you. And, as you point out, the chip won't do much good if The First decides to use him again."
"I'm not getting back together with him."
"That, too, is your decision, and yours alone. You must do what you think best."
Buffy slumped in her chair and toyed with her mug.
"Y'know, every once in a while, I wish all this thinking wasn't up to me," she complained. "It's never been what I'm best at."
"And yet you always showed such remarkable creativity in getting out of responsibility once upon a time," he teased her. "Not to mention several occasions when you found information I'd missed in my books. You've a good mind, Buffy. More than that, you've a good heart."
"Okay, will the real Rupert Giles please stand up? 'Cause he's not usually this mushy. Not that I'm complaining. Hearing this is a big change from hearing how I'm a screw-up or a freak of nature."
"Did I say you weren't those things, too?" he grinned. "But overall, you're not at all a bad person, and you're rather a good Slayer."
"Wow. And they say hyperbole is dead."
He had the good grace to blush slightly at that.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I suppose I tend to understate things sometimes."
"Actually, it's kind of nice once in a while. It's good to know that I can come home from a long night of slaying vamps that have to bore me with their pedigrees and cover all the highlights of their careers and I'll find someone who just says: 'Only three killed tonight? Perhaps you'll do better tomorrow'. And you know, I'm sorta jealous."
"J - jealous? Of what? Of whom?"
"Of the gang. They all got Giles huggage and I didn't. I'm a little left out. Plus I've had to be life-or-death-decision girl tonight. I could use a little comforting."
"Come on, then."
They stood and embraced. Unlike most of their hugs, this one wasn't brief. Buffy continued to hold onto Giles, and he seemed in no hurry to pull back, either.
"This is nice," came a slightly muffled voice from his shirtfront. "Do you know what you are to me?"
"I've not the slightest idea," he returned.
"You're my anchor."
She looked up at him. Her chin rested on his sternum, and her brow furrowed in thought.
"Maybe I don't mean anchor," she said at last. "An anchor keeps you tied in one place, so you don't get anywhere. I think...I think you're more like my compass. You keep me going in the right direction. Thanks."
"It's my pleasure," he said.
"Not just a career?"
"Oh, it's an adventure most of the time."
Buffy curled up to his chest again.
"Pretty sucky adventure sometimes."
"And yet, I keep coming back for more."
"Why is that, Giles? Why do you keep ending up here with me?"
"Because, apparently, you need reminding which way is North sometimes." He grew silent and caressed her back slightly. "And because you're my hero."
"I - I am?"
"Bloody well assigned to me and everything," he chuckled.
"Wow. Not every day a girl hears that."
Giles pulled back at last and took Buffy's face in his large hands.
"It's what you are. It's who you are."
"Slaygal; that's me."
Giles shook his head.
"So...you think I'm headed North okay?"
"I'm not always certain what direction it is, but I seem to be heading that way, too."
"That's good enough for me." She lowered her lashes a bit shyly. "Well, I guess I better go to bed now. Another long day's journey into night ahead of us. Need my beauty sleep."
Giles nodded and let go of her. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and smiled down at her.
"Sure. You, too. 'Night, Giles."
"Good night, Buffy."
Just before she turned to climb the stairs, she stood slightly on tip-toe and kissed his cheek. He blinked, but before he could react coherently, she was already up the stairs. His hand raised involuntarily to the spot her lips had touched. A slow smile spread across his face.
The smile stayed as he cleaned up the tea mugs and made his bed on the sofa.