Transformations - Chapter 7

Buffy woke once in the night, needing to pee. At first she couldn't figure out where on earth she might be. Then, as matters became more urgent, she realized exactly whose bed he'd been sleeping in, and that she had no idea where the bathroom might be relative to her position. She stumbled into the closet by accident, got turned around and blundered through what felt like acres of tweed, until she half-thought she'd gotten so far back it couldn't be possible, as if any minute she'd end up in a forest in Narnia. Finally she managed to work her way backward and out. Behind the second door she tried rose another mountain of boxes, no doubt containing even more books.

Luckily, the third door actually led to the bathroom. She lurched in gratefully, answered nature's call in the dark, then switched on the lights to look around. The upstairs bathroom, which she'd never used before--there was another bath off the kitchen--had more of the pretty tile that surrounded Giles's fireplace and decorated the risers of his stairs. The towels were dark green and folded neatly. Everything, in fact, was neat, the porcelain scrubbed, the chrome shiny. Still, she got the inarguable sense that a living, breathing guy actually used this room--the tidy array of shaving things and, when she snooped inside the medicine cabinet, other kinds of normal stuff: toothpaste, eyedrops, aspirin and prescription allergy pills. She hadn't even known Giles had allergies. There was another prescription, recently refilled, for migraines--she hadn't known he got those, either--and a bottle dated from just over a year before still about a quarter full of some pretty serious pain pills, the kind they didn't give you for just anything. The kind you might need if you'd been tortured by a vampire. She shut the door quietly.

She'd managed to wake herself up fairly thoroughly, enough that she wasn't sure she'd be able to get back to sleep. She hoped she hadn't made so much noise with her fumbling that she'd woken Giles up. God knew he needed what sleep he could get--then she heard a woman's voice talking softly, beneath her feet. Trying to make no sound at all, she crept to the top of the stairs.

Buffy had good eyesight, pretty much a gimme for Slayers, and could see the screen clearly, even if it was a dinky little thirteen incher. Giles appeared to be watching a grainy, badly-made tape of a crazy girl: just looking at the girl's eyes was enough to tell Buffy she'd gone over the edge a long time back, and was just trying to hold it together enough not to sound like a total fruitcake. Another lady's body lay across her lap, and the crazy girl's fingers on one hand kept twisting in the lady's hair, while her other hand roamed up and down the lady's body. The woman might have been sleeping, or unconscious, or dead. From the big, soaked wad of clumsy-looking bandages around her neck and the paleness of her skin, dead appeared to be the best bet.

"That's all," the crazy girl on the screen said. Buffy watched Giles hit the remote, rewind the tape, and start it over again. She didn't really want to hear what the girl said, but she listened anyway. When the tape had run through a second time, Giles shut off the TV and said very softly and sadly, "Oh, Helena." Then he got up and started to pace again.

Buffy felt weird, watching him. She edged back into his room and sat cross-legged on his bed in the dark. The crazy girl was a Slayer, she knew that. The other clear thing about that particular Slayer was that she'd had a great big tragic thing with her Watcher. Every word she'd said made Buffy's heart want to break--they way the crazy girl fought so hard and the Council still wouldn't ever let her go. The Council had sent them both to that all-vamp place, Potterville, knowing they'd die. The crazy girl wouldn't ever have screwed around with a vampire, she knew who she loved: her Watcher--even if that did have a little bit of ewww factor involved. Buffy recognized about herself that she wasn't always as open-minded as she intended to be.

The name Potterville rang a bell with her: that was the town Moira told her about, where her Slayer died. And Helena--that must have been the crazy girl's name--had talked like Rupert--her very own Giles--was the second coming. Totally nuts and getting ready to die, she'd still been able to come up with nice, loving things to say. As opposed the things Buffy herself called him: stuffy, boring, loser, old guy, not to mention that other steady stream of ewwws she delivered any time he even thought about doing normal man-things.

She found herself wanting to walk very quietly back downstairs, sit beside him, put her hand on his shoulder and return that sweet kiss he'd given her, when he thought she'd been asleep. But she didn't. Instead, she curled up in his bed, cried a little, and once more, drifted away.

Buffy woke suddenly, again with no idea of the time. The sun blazed outside the closed blinds, and the room itself had begun to get warm. She stripped the used sheets off Giles's bed, then managed to find new ones and make the bed up again, so at least she wasn't the world's worst houseguest. She also located another polo shirt--a green one, this time--and decided to borrow it until she could get home to change. Her tanktop from the night before still had vamp dust in it, and once she'd taken it off, she couldn't stand to put it on again. She borrowed a towel and took a long hot shower until she realized she'd drained the tank. As late as he'd been up the night before, Giles might still be sleeping and, selfish as she was, she hadn't left any warm water for him to use.

Giles, she discovered, didn't own a hairdryer--but then he wouldn't, would he?

It seemed weird to Buffy to have her own wet hair smelling of his shampoo, which was a little too masculine for her, but herbal and nice in its way, and her damp skin of his soap. Giles always smelled nice. That had been one of the first things she'd noticed about him, even way back when she was so mad about him prodding her toward her destiny: that he smelled good, and that she liked to listen to his voice, and that, on the rare occasions he touched her outside of training, his touch was the most gentle she'd ever experienced.

Even though it was clean, the polo shirt smelled vaguely Giles-like, maybe like the stuff that lined his dresser drawers. When Buffy pulled it over her head, the shirt hung longer than most of her dresses, so she didn't bother with her trackpants, just padded down as she was, barefoot, the soles of her feet scuffling on Giles's stairs.

Moira had come back, and the main room of Giles's apartment smelled like brunch: like fresh fruit, which Giles was cutting with a sharp knife, and like muffins, and eggs cooking.

Moira and Giles seemed to be fighting, in a way that reminded Buffy of how her mom and dad used to fight, the way only people who'd known each other forever could--like all those years gave them plenty of ammunition. In a tacky selfish way, hearing them argue gave her a happy--two people going at it like that weren't about to ride off side by side into the sunset.

Moira's voice had started to rise, but being English, she really hadn't gotten into the realm of major volume. Still, Giles said to her, "Em, keep your voice down., please. You'll wake Buffy," in that stuffy tone that mean he was already seriously torqued and well on his way to completely pissed.

"Wake Buffy?" The older woman turned with a spatula in her hand, almost looking like she intended to whack Giles with it. "Rupert, what the hell?"

"She's upstairs, in my bed." He gave her a look, that same challenging don't-mess-with-me expression he'd turned on Wes the night Buffy said she was quitting the Council.

"And don't give me that glare, Rupert Giles."

"As if you have any room to lecture me on this particular subject." Giles attacked a perfectly innocent-looking honeydew with his knife as if he were a psycho killer and the melon was the head of his worst enemy.

"At least I was only fourteen years Helena's senior, not twice that--people wouldn't stop us and say, 'Oh, don't you have a lovely daughter,'" Moira told him.

"Considering you were different races, that was hardly bloody likely. And at least--since it seems we're trading in at leasts--at least I love Buffy, and I'm not just shagging her to make sure she doesn't stray from the fold. She loved you, Moira, more than life itself, and you used sex to drug her."

"Is that what you think?" Moira must have been furious, because she reached into the oven and pulled out a pan of muffins with her bare hands, completely forgetting the potholders. She even held the burning-hot pan for a minute before she realized what she'd done, and dropped it onto the stove, nearly sending the omelette flying. "Oh, sod it! You do, don't you? You honestly think I didn't love Helena?"

"I think you're still with the Council, after what they did to her." The knife slashed down. "God, how should I know? It's not as if you'd say, now, is it?"

"What am I meant to say, Rupert? Would you ever have resigned, or would you still be a Watcher if they hadn't bloody sacked you? I'm treading water as hard and fast as I can, and you and your Buffy should be thankful for it. Do you think it's easy for me to live this life? Do you think it would be my first choice? Far easier to be the great rebel, and that's what you do best isn't it? The cock-up with Eyghon--"

"How many times do I have to hear this bloody song--you were winning Olympic gold, whilst I, miserable worm that I am, was pissing away my life communing with the dark side. That was twenty-five years ago, Em. Give it a rest."

"I'm not talking about that, I'm talking about the cock-up last year, all your old mates dead, the Slayer's life endangered."

"Trust you to bring that up."

"Trust me to bring up anything you don't want to hear. I'm not saying you've done badly, Rupert, but you could be a whole hell of a lot more careful, and what is the poor child going to say? She's eighteen, she's fragile, she doesn't know her mind, and she doesn't need you coming over the lovelorn swain. I say these things because I'm actually your friend."

"Yes, quite the friend." Giles's voice had dropped dangerously low.

"I spoke up for you in Council against my better judgement. Travers was right, though it pains me to say it--you've lost all your perspective when it comes to Buffy. I ought to have seen you removed myself, before Cruciamentum ever took place. Honestly, Rupert, I ought to."

"They will take Buffy from me only over my broken, bleeding corpse!" Giles snarled, and his eyes turned a color Buffy had never even seen before, that she didn't even have words to describe, then he and Moira were yelling at each other, not even making sense, just yelling.

"Uh, guys--" Buffy broke in, not wanting to hear any more. Moira jumped , dropping her spatula, and Giles jerked at the sound of her voice. Unfortunately, he jerked while making a cut with a sharp knife, and instead of slicing through the melon, the blade traveled diagonally across his right palm all the way from the base of his index finger to the heel of his hand.

Giles stared down at his hand like he knew he'd done something, but wasn't sure exactly what, not even reacting to the red gush across the pale green fruit.

Buffy said softly, "Oh, Giles."

He kept staring down at the wound, not doing a thing, so she lurched forward a step, grabbed his wrist with one hand, put her other palm across his and pressed down tight. That's what the First Aid teacher said to do, use your bare hand to apply pressure until you could get something else. She'd said not to touch cotton balls, or fuzzy towels, to an open cut, that the fuzziness would get inside--Buffy blushed when she remembered what the teacher had told them to use, and she had one in her bag, but she couldn't have slapped it across Giles's hand even to save his life. She would have died of embarrassment first.

"Do you know what to do?" Moira asked her, and Buffy nodded, tugging Giles with her toward the bathroom, where she made him sit down on the closed toilet seat and keep the pressure on himself while she hunted for gauze.

"Dammit, where are they?"

"Cabinet opposite the mirror, third shelf." Giles was watching her with interest, though he looked a little pale. He had blood on his shirt and on his jeans, not to mention the red stains that had dripped all over Buffy herself. Luckily, she found the box of gauze at once and pressed a big wodge of it against his hand.

"Okay, Giles, I want you to say this: note to self--no arguments in the kitchen; fighting and knives don't mix."

"Point taken." He leaned back against the tank, shutting his eyes.

"Feeling a little woozy?"

"It doesn't hurt at all. Perhaps I merely didn't get enough sleep last night."

"Yeah, like none. But what do you think this is all over us, ketchup? Is this the point at which I give you a bullet to bite and you stitch up your own wound using a dull needle and dental floss?"

"No, I believe this is the point at which I greatly alarm my poor, long-suffering Slayer by passing out on the floor and, taking advantage of my state of unconsciousness, my best friend puts the aforementioned dull needle to use."

"So that's what Moira is? Your best friend?" Still keeping hold of his hand, Buffy felt for the pulse in Giles's throat--it beat too fast and his skin was cold. She couldn't judge the amount of blood he'd lost from what was on the floor and their clothes, but then again she hadn't ever seen that much anywhere except maybe in the grosser type of horror movie. "Like, she's your Willow?"

"No, she's my Buffy, I'm her Willow. Though sometimes it's reversed. Complicated."

"But Will and I don't have any kids together. That I know of--unless she's holding out on me."

"Though you might, if you were a boy and Willow was a girl."

"Which she is."

"Ah. Yes. Quite." Giles smiled feebly. "My point being, that under different circumstances, and if you were younger, and had no one to look after you...Buffy, what am I saying?"

She stroked the furrows in his forehead with her thumb until they smoothed, then bent down a little and gently kissed his mouth. She knew Giles really must have been getting ready to pass out, because he returned the kiss--which she hadn't expected--and just as gently, his lips soft against hers. Cordy, the expert, had been right: even bleeding buckets, and not making a big production of the act, this man knew how to kiss. Maybe that was what made it different, really, from anything Buffy had felt before--that Giles was a man, not a boy, like the others she'd kissed. Or like Angel, who no matter how he loved her, no matter how perfect he seemed, could only feel cold and...she didn't want to go there.

Dead, her helpful little brain replied cheerfully.

Giles felt alive, and when he kissed her in that way, all the deep tenderness in his soul poured out to hers. Buffy's own heart speeded up. She felt like a blind person who'd been granted the gift of sight, or an amnesiac whose memories had all returned at one go. Suddenly she understood a thousand looks, words, gestures, touches--Giles wasn't a mushy guy, he didn't give Hallmark moments, and he probably didn't think he was worthy of her, when really, the opposite was true. He had given the gift of his life to her, and Buffy didn't think she'd ever get a better present, no matter how long she lived.

She pulled back a little from the kiss, looking down into his face, which was still and very pale. She'd been forgetting to keep pressure on the wound, and her clothes, where she'd touched him, were now soaked through. "Giles?" Buffy said.

He fell forward, hitting his head on the edge of the vanity and dropping, hard, onto the tiled floor.

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