Transformations - Chapter 5

It came down to this: Giles didn't want to be alone.

He might, had he possessed the inclination, have resumed his attempts at restoring some order to the cartons of books that currently occupied his flat--but, except for one or two brief forays into the outside world, Giles had struggled with that task since he'd returned from the ruins of the library early the previous evening, and quite frankly, he was not only fed up with the sight of books and boxes, but his back ached badly as well. He needed to actually sleep, or to get outside of these four walls again, walk, breathe some fresh air. Wesley and Cordelia had apparently been distracted during their emptying of the stacks, and volumes had been crowded in together with no apparent relation to their original positions on the library shelves. He hadn't even begun to locate and retrieve the most crucial, so that they, at least, might come easily to hand.

Barring the continuance of that useful work, Giles considered--as he showered off the smells of bookdust and old leather--that the sensible thing really would be to go to bed. Perhaps, in fact, to his bed this time. He ought to make the effort, as Cordelia had commanded, in her peremptory way, to get in a full eight hours sleep. Or four. Or two.

Not bloody likely--he hadn't even attempted to shut his eyes the night before.

He felt a great need to talk to someone face-to-face. Willow, by preference, who generally made at least an attempt to understand what he meant to say. Where would Willow come to him now? They'd always met and talked at the library--which made him, with yet another sharp pang, miss his old home-from-home all over again. Where could he meet Willow? He couldn't go to her, and she rarely visited his flat on her own.

Besides which, Giles reminded himself, It's Willow's last night before Oz's departure.

Poor girl, she certainly didn't need to spend these last hours listening to the ramblings of a middle-aged ex-librarian.

Perhaps Xander? Giles never liked to call Xander at home. The boy's father nearly always answered, and Giles could, at no time, exchange so much as a word with the man without being seized by the most fervent desire to beat him bloody.

Buffy needed to rest--she'd told him as much herself--and he mustn't disturb her. When she was ready, she would come to him. Giles shivered lightly, remembering the touch of her hand on his thigh, how even in the midst of all that tension, loss, destruction, it had nearly undone his resolve. She would come to him. She must. And he must, in turn, remember what they were to one another, and fight to control himself. If he had feelings, they ought to remain, by necessity, secret ones.

Unable to bear the confines of his flat any longer, Giles slipped keys and a bit of money into the pockets of his new jeans--he'd quite forgotten the comfort of casual clothing, and feared he might soon succumb to the temptation to dress in such a manner on a regular basis--and went on his way.

He wandered without aim through the peaceful-seeming streets of Sunnydale. Late-afternoon light cast a golden glow upon the stucco exteriors of the houses he passed, and gave a burnished warmth to their terra cotta roofs. Small rainbows hung in the air as sprinklers sprayed lazy steamers of water over the unnaturally green lawns. The breeze smelled of cut grass and, only faintly, of smoke.

Giles hadn't meant to head towards the school again, but found he could not help himself. There the odour of burning thickened, though most of the pall he'd glimpsed the previous morning had dispersed. Torn paper and bits of rubble still littered the ground, and again he noted the bloodstains, as well as hardening pools of some repugnant substance that might well have been the last remains of Mayor Richard Wilkins III.

Giles paced around the perimeter of what had once been his library, trying to recall the location of each familiar space: his office had been here, over there the steps to the upper level, there the rare books cage where Oz spent three nights out of each month. The boy had, at times, a tendency to flirt with disaster--Giles hoped that he would observe proper precautions "on the road," as it were.

Even knowing that this second visit was even more pointless than the first, that there was no hope of restoring what had been lost, Giles could not help but experience a wave of nostalgia. So many memories, for good and ill. He needed to leave here, to be with people, as he'd originally intended, and not allow himself to become enmeshed in the past.

Turning, he caught a flash of something bright from the corner of his eye, there underneath the trees. For a moment he considered investigating, but in the end did not. He found his steps carrying him toward the hospital.

Reduced to seeking out bloody Wesley's company, old man? he thought, and shook his head. As Cordelia would no doubt say, "pathetic, much?" But Moira, perhaps, might also be there, and she was always good for a bit of conversation--a decent argument, if nothing else.

He arrived to the sound of raised voices inside the young Watcher's room--but laughter, as well. Wesley's laughter, it appeared. Giles considered, and realized that he'd never before heard the younger man laugh: the tone of it seemed to share some of the quality of Wesley's rather unnerving screams.

"...Well, of course they did!" Moira was saying. "What do you think? She'd enormous stake in it; that's what drove her mad."

Giles rapped softly on the door before entering, catching his old friend with her hands gesticulating in the air, and fire in her dark-green eyes. "Who'd an enormous stake?" he asked.

"Oh, hullo, Rupert." Moira gave him her nearly feral smile. "Do come in."

Wesley had acquired, beneath the bruises, a slightly sour look, and Giles realized that his presence, at that place and at that moment, was not exactly appreciated by the younger man. He chose to blithely ignore the fact.

"How do you feel?" he asked mildly, taking a chair on the opposite side of the bed to Moira. "I say, Wesley, you're looking a bit black-and-blue round the edges."

"Well enough," Wesley responded, a touch resentfully. Well, he'd reason enough to be resentful, but he oughtn't ever to have come to Sunnydale in the first place, as Giles felt quite sure Moira had told him in no uncertain terms.

"We've been arguing about Hamlet," Moira said. "Wesley insists, quite wrongly, that Ophelia was utterly pure and chaste, which I think is drivel. I'm of the opinion that one doesn't go mad over someone with whom one has done no more than but exchange loveletters."

"And kissed," Wesley put in. "I never said they hadn't kissed. You're a teen-aged girl. You've a mad crush on a man of--oh, let's say--thirty or so..."

Giles couldn't help but smile.

"And I don't mean that!" Wesley snapped with sudden fury. "I'm speaking of Ophelia, a fictional character, not of Miss Chase, who at any rate..." He stopped, suddenly, lowering his eyes.

"At any rate?" Giles asked.

"At any rate," Wesley said, flushing, "Doesn't much care for me."

"Wesley?" Giles realized that his tone might be construed as dangerous--he felt oddly protective of the girl. Rather foolishly, he supposed, because if any young woman could take care of herself, that young woman would be Cordelia Chase. Still, he remembered her lying in her own hospital bed, those few months before, in a room just down the corridor. Stripped of her makeup and her fashionable clothes, she'd revealed to him her true face--that of a sad, betrayed, deeply hurt girl. Was this what made Cordelia, just yesterday morning, weep against his shirt? Some bit of churlishness on Wesley's part?

"What is it that you'd like to hear?" the young Watcher responded in clipped tones. "I haven't hurt her. I doubt that anyone could."

"You're wrong about that," Giles told him, in a more neutral tone.

"You'd like me to humiliate myself, wouldn't you? What shall I say? We attempted a kiss--two kisses. They went badly. I believe Miss Chase's exact words were, 'Wesley is...yuck. He kisses like a flounder.' What is a flounder?"

"A bottom-dwelling fish," Moira supplied. "Rather like a small turbot, I believe."

"Or a largish sole," Giles added, unable to help himself.

"And am I happier knowing this?" Wesley sank back against his pillows, staring at the ceiling. "There are no ways left in which I can make a fool out of myself. I suppose she only expressed interest in me, in the first place, to get her own back from that annoying boy."

"There may have been an element of that," Giles agreed. "Xander injured her quite badly." He glanced at Moira, who was occupied in watching the two of them with her usual intensity. "And, no, I've no interest whatsoever in seeing you humiliate yourself."

Wesley muttered something under his breath.

"Sorry. Didn't quite catch that."

"I believe," Moira said, "That he was stating something along the lines of 'you could've fooled me.' Much more properly, of course. This is our Wesley, after all." She ran her hand down the younger man's bare forearm, a soft, stroking caress. Giles felt his own skin tingle in response, knowing exactly how such a touch felt.

Wesley glared at the ceiling quite fiercely.

"It's clear to me that you need your rest, love," Moira told him. "I'll be back tomorrow, shall I?"

"If you like," Wesley muttered.

Moira rose, her hand still curled lightly around Wesley's, then bent to bestow upon him a deep but gentle kiss. "Hmn," she said, straightening. "Nothing even remotely fishy. Goodnight, dearest. Pleasant dreams."

Wesley had flushed quite dark, and his expression, to Giles's eyes, seemed to combine shame, anger and desire in equal parts. Giles felt sorry for him, and hoped that this was not one of Moira's ways of gaining the upper hand, but he waited until they'd stepped outside the door before saying a word.

"He's vulnerable, Em. Perhaps you ought to..."

His friend shot him a look. "Advice from the world's greatest expert on love?"

"Yes, yes, I know. I'm utterly miserable at it, aren't I?" Together, they made their way onto the crowded lift.

Moira never seemed to mind what she said, or where she said it. "Did you ever love me, Rupert?"

"Em, I do love you. Only..."

"I don't mean a friend's love, Rupert," she said thoughtfully. "I meant, what you felt for Randall. What you feel for Buffy now."

Though they hadn't yet reached the lobby level, quite a few of their fellow riders disembarked upon the opening of the doors.

"" Giles suggested.

"That's answer enough. If it's any consolation to your tender conscience, I never loved you either--in that way. I quite like Wesley, though. I rather suspect there's a fine man lurking in there somewhere, if I can chip off that brittle shell."

"I suspect you may be right," Giles agreed, shuddering lightly as Moira curled her fingers round his arm. Something about his friend made her slightest touch erotic--perhaps that was a bit of the strangeness and the magic passed down along her own family line, as a darker magic and an attractiveness to the wild, fearful things of the world traveled along his own. If Camelot had ever existed, it was Moira's ancestress, the stories said, who caused its fall.

"He's safer than you, Rupert, at any rate," she said, as if reading his thoughts--and to his great surprise. He'd never thought of Moira as a woman who craved safely, in love or anything else. "Can I come to your flat? Will you cook for me?"

Giles smiled, laughing a little. "Please, do invite yourself, Em--though I'll warn you: there's not a thing fit to eat in the house."

"That," she said, "Can be remedied."

It was getting ridiculous, Buffy decided. She and Willow had gone to visit Wesley at the hospital, and found him asleep. He'd slept the whole time they were there, in fact, which pretty much null and voided their act of kindness. She'd left increasingly cranky messages on Giles's answering machine, and circled by his place three times, each time finding him not home.

What if she'd had an emergency? How serious was Giles, really, about her not requiring a Watcher? She needed someone to read the stuffy books, and to hit until he fell down. She needed...she needed Giles, her Giles, just to be there. She decided to swing by his place one last time, and after that, he was on her shit list, he could come to her.

When Buffy got to Giles's apartment, there was a lady there, probably the same lady Cordelia had talked about, and Buffy knew at once where she had to be from--no one could be that tailored and not be with the Watcher's Council. She glanced at Giles's face, searching for signs of anger or tension, but there weren't any, not even that blanked-out expression he sometimes got when he was mad and holding it in. The apartment smelled good, like someone with some talent in that area had been cooking, and Giles looked close to relaxed, nearly happy.

That, in turn, made her tense. There was even music playing in the background, sophisticated, old-people music, the kind she'd had to listen to in Music Appreciation Class--Gershwin, or Cole Porter, one of those dead guys.

"I'm in the mood for love," sang someone who might have been Ella Fitzgerald.

Simply because you're near me.
And, because you're near me
I'm in the mood for love...

Yeah, that was how Giles looked. Maybe in the mood for something. She remembered what her mom had told her. Maybe she'd interrupted a little one-on-one between him and the Watcher-lady. Who he'd kissed, Cordy had said, and maybe even touched someplace Giles didn't have any business touching anyone.

Buffy flounced into the room, knowing she was acting like a child, and hating herself for it, but unable to fight down the weirdest feeling. She couldn't give the feeling a name, but if she thought about it at all, it almost felt like jealousy.

What is she doing here, Buffy thought. And why's Giles looking like the cat that ate the canary? She couldn't believe she'd thought that--the phrase was one of those hokey sayings her mom used, and it always made her picture Sylvester and Tweety. If Sylvester ever got to eat Tweety, that was.

Giles's place looked even darker than usual, and Buffy realized that was because of the nine hundred boxes stacked up against the back wall. The furniture had been moved around to accommodate the mountain of cartons, but all his stuff was still there, so it wasn't like he was moving, the boxes were probably just full of the anti-hell-sucking books that used to live in the library. Either Giles was going to have to get a new apartment, one with a lot more bookshelves, or come up with some other place to put them.

She glanced back at him and the Watcher-lady. The woman was tall--with her not-so-high heels on, only an inch of so shorter than Giles--which meant both of them loomed over Buffy herself. She had auburn hair, a darker shade than Will's, and green eyes, darker than Giles's, almost an emeraldy color. She was old--okay, not old old, but about Giles's age and, Buffy had to admit, pretty. Really, really pretty, in a Greek statue, don't-mess-with-me kind of way. Standing shoulder to shoulder, looking so comfortable together, they made what her mom would call an "attractive couple."

She hated the thought, hated it so much the first thing that came out of her mouth was totally rude. "What do you want here?"

Instead of taking offense, the Watcher-lady chuckled, and threw Giles an amused glance. At least not another Gwendolyn Post, then--not if she knew how to laugh. Giles looked a little embarrassed on Buffy's behalf.

"Moira," he said, letting good manners prevail, "I'd like you to meet Buffy Summers, the Slayer."

My Slayer, he used to say, Buffy thought. He didn't now. He was going to leave her, she knew he was. Maybe he and the Watcher-lady really were something coupley and he was going to go back to England with her. She almost missed Giles's next words.

"Buffy, this is Moira Bannister-St. Ives, Lady LeFaye."

"LeFaye? Like in Merlin?" Buffy said.

"It's a film they had, last year I think," Giles supplied. " Richardson. Perhaps."

The Watcher-lady laughed again. "You have to give him credit for that one, Buffy. I believe you and your friends have been a good influence."

Giles blushed. "Or a bad one."

The lady, Moira, touched his cheek, making his blush deepen. He looked cute that way, and Buffy realized that was she was feeling was definite jealousy. Definitely. She blushed too.

"Look, Rupert--" Moira picked up a small black bag. "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable." She had a low, sexy voice, that made the statement sound...well, exactly what it sounded like. "Then we'd best be off, I suppose?"

"Of course." He indicated the stairs. "Up there."

The Watcher-lady went. She moved fast; she obviously had a lot of energy.

Buffy sank down on the couch, feeling drained. She hoped the mountain of boxes wouldn't tumble down on her head. "I thought we..."

Giles sat beside her, only not exactly beside her. On the other end of the couch, and it was a fairly long couch. "Moira's going out with you tonight. I'd like very much for you to talk to her. Will you, as a favor to me?"

"Favor. Sure." Buffy stole a glance his way. Giles was leaning toward her, looking serious, and sweet. He really wanted this, whatever it meant. For some reason, that made her mad. "I told you I was through with the Council. I thought you backed me up on that--or was that just to piss Wesley off?"

"No," Giles answered softly, pulling back into his own corner. "I'll support you in all your decisions. Haven't I proven that to you yet?"

Giles went to the mansion. He took care of Angel. Where do you get off treating him this way? said her voice of reason, but she'd lost her ability to listen.

"Well, I thought so--but it's not like you haven't fooled me before."

Giles jerked as if he'd gotten an electric shock.

"Buffy," the Watcher-lady said, in a voice that made Buffy jerk too. She didn't even yell, but it was like being hit with a whip. Moira rested her hand lightly on Giles's shoulder. "I'll see you soon, Rupert, yes?"

He glanced up at her, another of his blank looks on his face, the one he used when he was hiding something that hurt. "Yes. Lovely." He looked at Buffy. "Be careful. And don't worry about Moira. She's able to handle herself." He walked them to the door.

"So, Mo--" Buffy said, as the door closed behind them. "You here to talk me back into the fold? 'Cause if you are, you're wasting your breath."

"Good Heavens, no. Although it may have dreadful consequences, it's clearly a choice that Helena and I ought to have made."

"Helena being?"

"My Slayer, now deceased." The Watcher-lady put her hand up to her neck, like it was a nervous habit. God knew, she had a big-ass scar there, one that had been hidden by the high collar of the tailored blouse she'd been dressed in before, but not by the tank top and hooded sweat-jacket she wore to go patrolling.

Buffy had a hard time tearing her eyes away. Moira looked like something had pretty much shredded her throat, and Buffy couldn't figure out how the woman had managed to survive, so instead of wondering, she turned on the juice, mostly just to see if the Watcher-lady could keep up. She did, and to Buffy's barely-concealed annoyance, seemed amused by it all.

"Why don't we slow down?" Moira suggested at last, after they'd done about five miles. She said it calmly, not even breathing hard.

"Had enough?" Buffy wanted her to breathe hard, wanted her to suffer.

"Would you like to see my Olympic medals? I've a pretty silver one from the '72 and a prettier gold from the '76. I've kept in training as best I could, since."

Despite herself, Buffy's interest was piqued. "What in?"

"Modern Pentathlon. That's the one in which one swims, runs, rides, fences and shoots. One might have thought I watched an excess of Errol Flynn films in my youth," Moira said, with a grin. "Oddly, when combined with a solid knowledge of Latin and Greek, it's all fairly useful to one's life as a Watcher."

"I'm pretty transparent, aren't I?"

"Mmn, fairly. But my Helena did nearly the same thing when first we met, so let's just call it a rite of proving oneself." Moira smiled at her, and Buffy found herself smiling back without meaning to--the lady had a magnetic personality. If they--the Council--had sent her over instead of Wussley, Buffy guessed that she'd have had problems holding her own--or maybe she'd still be working for them.

Moira seemed to read her mind. "Were you very cruel to poor Wes?"

"Me? Nah." Buffy thought for a moment. "Nah."

The Watcher shot her a look.

"Okay, yeah. Pretty cruel. Mostly in the joking department, as in he doesn't know how to take one."

"No, he doesn't."

"Giles does."

"Mmn. Perhaps."

"What does that mean?" Buffy glared at her.

"A joke meant seriously ceases to be a joke. A random comment, made in passing, can wound as well as the best-aimed arrow."

"What is this, Kung Fu, The Legend Continues? What do you know about anything, Mo?"

"Look out!"

Buffy whirled. She'd let three vamps sneak up nearly behind her, and one of them was the size of a linebacker. Without thinking, she went into action--dislocated the first one's knee, punched his jaw, staked him. The second one gave her more trouble. He was tall and thin, with a longer reach than her own, and she couldn't get close enough to his heart. Just when she'd finally wore him down to that point, a ton of dust showered down on her. Coughing, she finished her opponent quickly.

"I wasn't going to interfere," Moira said, tucking a stake into the thigh pocket of her cargo pants, "But you seemed occupied."

"You have this whole little Emma Peel vibe going on here, don't you?" Buffy leaned over, trying to shake the dust out of her hair. "Yuck. I hate this."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah, fine. All in a night's work, yadda yadda." She glanced at the Watcher-lady. Moira looked pale, fine little tremors running up her arms and along her shoulders. She wasn't like Wes, the way he'd get so scared it looked like he was going to pee himself. This was something different, something darker, that she didn't understand. It came to her suddenly, in a flash of rare insight: This is what Giles would be like, if anything happened to me. Moira hadn't been afraid of the vamps, she'd been afraid for Buffy herself.

"Hey," she said, with unexpected gentleness, touched by the Watcher's concern. "Let's sit down a minute, huh? Catch our breath?" Buffy put her hand on Moira's back, feeling the older woman shake. "It's okay," she told her. "I'm fine. I'm fine."

Since they'd reached the park, they took seats on the roundabout, a steel handhold between them. There were still dirty globs of wax on the platform, Buffy noticed, left over from the remembrance candles.

After a while, and a lot of deep breathing, the Watcher got her shakes under control. "Is this where your mother discovered the Hansel-and-Gretel demon?" she asked.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, that was here. How'd you know?"

Moira shot her a look; she seemed to have a quite a repetoire of them, the same way Giles did.

"Oh, duh. Giles's reports."

"One wonders--after this year--what the town, collectively, will tell itself?"

"I guess the same things it has all along. You ever been to a Hellmouth before?"

"I've been to a town entirely taken over by vampires. Potterville, it was called." The Watcher unzipped and shrugged out of her jacket, stretching up her long, muscled arms. Buffy blinked: more serious scar tissue there. She could see why Moira wore long sleeves and high collars.

"What happened?" Without meaning to, Buffy put her fingers on one of the worst places, four twisted pits sunk half an inch deep into the woman's forearm.

"That? Oh, teeth." Moira shrugged. "It doesn't actually hurt anymore."

"What does hurt?"

"This one." The older woman slapped a place on her hip. "Your old friend Spike." She made a clicking sound with her tongue. "Front to back, right on through."


"A spike. A big nail. Ripped up my insides, wreaked havoc with the hip joint. Hurts like hell in cold weather." Moira shrugged again. "One gets used to it."

"Really, I meant, what happened in Potterville?"

"Something right up your alley: there were fifteen live people left. We got them out of town, then blew up the old fish-processing factory where the vampires slept. Adieu Potterville." The Watcher got quiet, rubbing the scars on her neck.

"That isn't all, though, right?"

"No," Moira said at last. "Someone had to stay with the charges, to be sure. It was meant to be me."

"But it wasn't."


"What happened?"

"You were called, Buffy. I was sent home." Moira started rubbing her hands down the thighs of her pants, like there was something nasty on them that she couldn't get clean. "Helena wasn't like you. She was clever, brave, resourceful in her way--but in the end, she still needed her Watcher. She couldn't think of another way."

"I still need my Watcher too," Buffy said. "But you've come to take him."

"Yes," the older woman answered.

"Does he want to go?"

"Yes, I think he wants it very much. I've never seen him so low."

"Well, he seems fine to me," Buffy muttered, jumping off the roundabout so hard that it rotated once, violently. "But what would I know?"

"You don't know him very well," Moira told her.

"Well, I guess that's true. He never mentioned you anyway. But the two of you probably...uh...started shagging like bunnies the minute you hit town. Don't think I didn't notice..." Buffy ground to a halt at the look of total confusion on the Watcher's face. "What?"

"Excuse me, Buffy, but why should you think I'd be having--ah, let's say relations with Wesley Wyndham-Price? Besides which, he's still in a very tender state, both physically and emotionally."


"Your Watcher. Well-groomed chap, bit of a prig, tendency to bleat under pressure?"


"I was his trainer--what we call a Handler. I've come to look out for him while he's recovering, and then we'll see Faith back to England, where she will be put in care. Wesley will have enough hardships to face back home, poor lad."

"But you and Giles..."

"Ah." Realization dawned. "You thought..."

"You two seemed awfully comfy."

"Yes, we are. Were, many years ago, if you mean it that way. You're jealous, love, aren't you?"

"Not me. Just..." Buffy looked for something in the older woman's face, but didn't see it. What she saw instead bordered on sadness mixed with amusement. "Okay, let's say protective."

"I don't believe protective's what he needs."

"Do you love him?"

Moira smiled. "With the better part of my heart. Still sure it isn't jealousy?"

"That's my story and I'm sticking to it," Buffy answered, but she did feel jealous, so much it almost made her feel sick to her stomach. Moira was cool, she had to admit. And smart. And English. And the right age. Okay, so the scar tissue was a minus, but she suspected that maybe Giles had some scar tissue of his own, especially after last year, after Angel... Angelus...

Buffy found herself rubbing her own neck, at the spot where Angel had drunk from her, and all of a sudden she launched into telling this Watchers' Council lady, this stranger, all about herself and Angel, right up to how scary and horrible it had been, to have him take from her that way, and how it had killed a lot of what was between them, put a stake in the heart of her love--she'd seen him, soul or not, as he really was.

"The getting of wisdom's often a painful thing," Moira said, taking Buffy in her arms and stroking her hair. Not like a mom--for someone her age, Moira was probably the least-Momish person she'd ever met. Maybe like a big sister, or a friend, or maybe just like a Watcher, the kind of Watcher she'd been to her Slayer, Helena. She could sense that it did something to the older woman, just to hold a Slayer in her arms again.

"Aren't you going to give me the Council party line?" Buffy said at last, pulling away, and accepting the clean white handkerchief Moira handed her. "And don't you people believe in Kleenex--or contact lenses?"

"One must never wear contact lenses on patrol," the Watcher said.

"Not in the dress code?"

"Not practical. Even in normal life, the slightest bit of grit on a lens leaves one blind and in pain. Imagine, if you will, that great gout of dust that results from a staking."

"Wow, I never thought of it that way. I thought it was just a stuffy Watcher thing." Buffy shook her head. "Remind me to apologize to Giles for teasing him. He could have said."

"There you are," Moira answered, in a tone that meant, You know he wouldn't, don't you?

They walked the whole circuit of the twelve cemeteries, talking softly all the time, and didn't see another vamp. Around midnight Buffy escorted Moira to the Holiday Inn, and they hugged once more before parting. Despite what the older woman said, and didn't say, Buffy found herself more convinced than ever that Giles must want to go home. She'd always thought of the Scooby Gang as his only friends, and believed he didn't mind living in Sunnydale because--their nice weather aside, which he hated--all the people he loved most were there. Now she knew he had people who cared about just as much back in England--not just Moira, but others, too. That he'd had a job that didn't suck with the British Museum, one he could go back to any time, that he'd had a nicer apartment, and a decent car. Maybe even--and this part was fuzzy, Moira hadn't talked right to the point--he maybe even had a son back home?

It all made her dizzy. She'd never thought of Giles as a guy with a past, at least not one separate from the Watchers, or the Eyghon and Ethan crap. She'd never thought of him having family, friends, stuff he liked to do. Stuff he'd given up to be with her. She bugged him, now and then about having hobbies, getting a life, but the fact was he'd had a life, a quiet one, but pretty nice, until her. And she'd never seen it. She'd told herself she'd been preserving his privacy, but that wasn't true--she'd hardly even seen him as a person at all. He was there for her, period. Not vice-versa. She wasn't supposed to have to think of him a real person, with feelings of his own. A person that she'd pretty much taken for granted would be at her beck and call.

Buffy blushed, thinking about it--and thinking, too, about how she and Willow could be best friends but still be so different. Will didn't say much, and sometimes she got a little impatient with how cautious Giles was about the magic stuff, but she was always stopping by the library. Not only about magic or Slayage issues or to check out books. Just to talk, because Giles was someone she liked and valued. Sometimes she brought him little presents, nothing major, just thoughtful things. A new type of tea she'd had a feeling he'd like, or a banana, or the heart-shaped sucker on Valentine's day. Even though she was Jewish, Will had decorated the library at Christmastime, because she knew Giles wouldn't do it for himself, and she didn't like thinking of him alone, with none of the festive stuff that other people got. Will always remembered his birthday, which she'd snooped and figured out was exactly a month after Buffy's own, but Buffy mostly forgot until after the fact, and then was too embarrassed to do or say anything. Even Xander remembered, and would leave something silly to mark the occasion, like a jelly donut with a candle in it, or that annoying card that played Happy Birthday every single time you walked by it.

Dammit, what was wrong with her? She realized she'd stopped walking. Just in front of her, thin lines of light showed around heavy curtains. Giles's curtains. Giles's place. Without letting herself stop to think, she circled around to the front of his building, climbed the stairs and knocked.

"Just a minute," she heard him call softly, then the door opened, and he looked down into her eyes. "Buffy," he said, sounding surprised.

"Yeah, it's me."

Giles had the TV remote in one hand, and in the distance Buffy could hear a woman's voice, sounding weird and scary. Giles glanced behind him almost guiltily, pointed the remote, and shut the sound off.

"I'm sorry." Giles shook his head, not looking relaxed anymore. Not even close. "Where are my manners? Please come inside."

"It's late," she answered. "I shouldn't..."

"Nonsense, Buffy." He opened the door wider. "I insist. Please come in."

Buffy stepped across the threshold, wondering why this place, that had always--even after the demon Eyghon, even after Jenny Calendar's death--seemed so quiet, safe and Gilesish, should suddenly feel like dangerous ground.

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