“Okay, Robin, thanks for calling. And don't worry, she's a fighter, just like Buffy. They'll both be fine.” Xander paused, listening. “Don't worry, Giles is on it. I'm sure he'll have it all cleared up soon. We'll call and let you know, okay?” Xander hung up and took a deep breath before walking into the living room. “Guys,” he called out, “we may be in more trouble then we thought.”
“I really don't know how that's possible,” sighed Willow, “but go ahead and tell us.”
“That was Robin on the phone. Apparently Faith and three of the other new Slayers in Cleveland have collapsed into comas like Buffy. He said they'd had been complaining of strange dreams for a couple of days, but now they're completely out of it.” He sat down and took Dawn's hand. “Whatever Buffy has, it's somehow spreading.”
The images came in flashes. The Hellmouth monster raging and snapping, Giles pushing Buffy out of the way, a sword appearing in his hands, him charging forward, yelling incomprehensibly. Smoke hung in the air, Willow was screaming somewhere in the distance, Snyder was shouting about them paying for the damages and Sineya was hissing and snarling in Buffy's ear about the need to fight.
And then the monster howled and collapsed, slowly melting about their feet. Giles stood on the library table, sword upraised, looking angry and confused. Cordelia's voice echoed around them, “There's just simply not enough therapy in the world to cover this!” and all was quiet in the library.
Buffy stood up and walked over to Giles. His face was cut and bruised and he was breathing hard and trembling. He looked around wildly. She carefully stepped up onto the table, reached out and gently took the sword from his grasp. “Giles? Giles, it's okay, it's gone now.”
Giles stared at the broken stacks of books. “I hated it,” he said vehemently, “I hated that thing. This was our place, but it was always there. It tainted everything. It was always present, trying to get you. It drew things here. It's why you were here, and why I was here. It powered everything that wanted to kill you.” His body shuddered and he finally focused on her. “I had dreams about it, about it killing you, about it playing with you before it ate you. I fought that thing every night and I always lost. I could never protect you.”
Buffy spoke slowly and carefully. “You killed it this time, Giles, I'm safe and it's gone forever.” She reached out and touched his bloody cheek. “That was the bravest thing I've ever seen.”
Giles seemed to collapse onto himself. He slipped to the tabletop and pulled himself into a seating position, looking up at her. “You said that to me once before. Do you remember? When we fought this beast before?”
She sat down beside him and studied him carefully. “I remember.”
“Do you know how much it meant to me then?”
Buffy shook her head slightly.
Giles took a deep breath. “They told me I'd be a Watcher when I was ten. I tried… I tried to fight this destiny for years in every way I could, including the worse things that I could do with Ethan and the others. But I couldn't escape it, and finally I was here, in Sunnydale. I was your Watcher. And you were nothing like what I was told to expect.”
“Yeah, I'm kinda sorry about that.”
“No!” Giles said with intensity. “No, Buffy, you were wonderful. Yes, you infuriated me regularly and confused me constantly and drove me quite up the wall, and… sorry…” He paused at her frown, “But, no,” his voice softened, “never apologize for who you were or are. You're wonderful.”
“Yay me,” Buffy laughed just a little bitterly. “You're pretty generous to someone who took over your life from age ten.”
“Please, let me explain. I think this is important for you to understand. It may or may not be needed for the spell, but I know that I want you to understand. For us.” Giles smiled at her. “I'll try not to be too wordy, alright?”
She nodded and reached out to take his hand. “Okay, talk to me, Watcher-mine.”
Giles closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. “That's just it, in a word, Buffy. 'Watcher-mine.'“ He opened his eyes and stared at her. “I was destined to be your Watcher, from the day I was born. I was yours. But I've never felt like I was good enough. I couldn't save you from the Master. I gave you that stupid test, risked your life for nothing!”
“You saved me in the end, Giles. You were fired for loving me too much.” Buffy's eyes widened. “Oh! You were fired...”
“I was a coward,” Giles said flatly. “I gave you that poison because I couldn't say no to that pillock, Travers. You nearly died because of me. I was sworn to protect you and I nearly killed you.”
“Then you did that stupid thing, nearly getting yourself killed, trying to protect me and show me how brave you were,” Buffy said angrily as she hit him. “Idiot!”
“Ow!” Giles rubbed his shoulder. “I thought you said I was brave!”
“You were an idiot!” She climbed off the table and headed for the doors. “Come on!”
“Wait a minute! What happened to trying to understand my feelings?” Giles said in a bewildered and slightly injured tone.
Buffy stopped and turned to stare at him. “I got it. You spent your whole life reluctantly preparing to help me, you failed me, got fired, lost all reason for living, tried to get yourself killed protecting me and felt all validated by the fact I thought you were brave.” She glared. “Did I miss anything?”
“Um, no, I think that probably sums it up. Diminishes it a bit, but summarizes it rather neatly.”
“And just now, you got to save me again by killing the Hellmouth beasty that you hated for years as some symbolic representation of redeeming yourself for all past sins,” Buffy continued angrily.
Giles thought for a moment, before nodding cautiously and sliding off the table.
“So I guess we've worked out an issue now, right? We've determined that you're an idiot. A brave one maybe, but an idiot just the same.” Buffy started shouting. “An idiot who doesn't understand that I need him alive, not dead. Not dead then, not dead now, not dead ever!”
Giles rushed towards her, arms outstretched. “Oh dear lord, Buffy, I'm sorry…”
Buffy pushed him away angrily. “Why did you come here?” she cried. “This wasn't your fight!”
Giles stopped abruptly and stared at her. “What did you say?”
“I said this wasn't your fight.” Buffy sniffed. “Damn it, Giles, I'm the Slayer. You’re my Watcher. A Slayer slays. And a…”
“And a Watcher watches.” Giles sighed and stepped towards her cautiously. “I know, Buffy. But I can't do that.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “I can't just standby and watch you fight.” He gently pulled her into a hug. “I'll do anything to keep you alive. You can't leave me again. I can't ever do this alone again.”
“I don't want to lose you.” Buffy clutched at him. “Giles, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I ever let you doubt yourself. I'm sorry you didn't know how much I loved you and respected you and needed you back then. I'm sorry.”
“It's okay, it's all going to be okay.” He rubbed her back firmly. “We were different people. And while we couldn't talk about things the way we should have back then, it doesn't mean the feelings weren't there.” He nudged her chin up so he could look at her. “I know that you love me and you know that I love you. Neither of us is going to take unnecessary risks to impress the other. Agreed?”
She wiped at her eyes and nodded. “Agreed.” She looked at him, surprise in her eyes. “Oh! Your face, it's healed!” She stroked his cheek gently and then frowned slightly, looking around the room. She spoke again more loudly. “Agreed!” She paused. “Damn it.”
“What's wrong? What were you hoping for?” Giles asked confused.
“We just resolved an issue, right? So why aren't we home?”
He looked around the library and said formally, “Agreed!” When nothing changed he sighed. “Apparently there's more to cover. What do you feel is unresolved?”
Buffy shook her head. “I don't know, but I'm not really up to more resolution right this minute. Let's go see if this brain of mine has an ice cream store, or oh! Maybe there's an Espresso Pump here, and I can get a double espresso latte while you sing your feelings to me like you did before. That would be way better for handling this resolution stuff.”
“I don't really think that… Wait a minute, you heard me?” Giles asked incredulously.
“Didn't we just determine that you've always been my stalwart standing fast?” Buffy laughed before continuing thoughtfully, “Actually, I don't think I really heard you then, but I hear you now and I remember it now. It must have been in my mind all this time. Come on, let's see if we can find you a guitar.” She took his hand and pulled him towards the doors.
“I don't think I'm going to sing for you now.”
“It might help resolve something,” she said teasingly.
“Well, perhaps…” Giles paused. “Buffy, I can't believe you're working all this out like this.”
“You mean the mind games? No biggie. Even if Maggie Walsh turned out to be an evil government scientist creating Frankenstein monsters underneath the school dorms, I actually did learn a little bit about psychology in her class.”
“I see. I may have to revise my opinion of that fishwife.”
Buffy laughed and paused in the doorway to look at the library again. She pointed with her free hand at the sword lying in a pool of melted demon. “Did that feel good? Was it real carcinogenic?” she asked.
“Carcinogenic?” Giles asked confused. “Oh. You mean cathartic.”
“Damn. I was on such a roll.” She turned and they walked side by side out of the library into the mansion's moonlit courtyard. “Damn,” she repeated. “This is so where I don't want to be.”
“Back for more, lover?” Angelus sneered as he wandered out the double doors in front of them and trailed his fingers through the jasmine blooming on the lattice. “Oh, and you brought me your Watcher this time. How very considerate of you to deliver him to me like Chinese takeout.”
Giles stopped short as Buffy stepped in front of him protectively. “You're not going to hurt him this time.”
“Buffy?” Angel's voice made her pause and she swiveled back around to see him standing on the landing above them, concern sparkling in his dark eyes. “What are you and Giles doing here? Is something wrong?”
Buffy and Giles looked back and forth between the two vampires. Buffy finally shrugged weakly and spoke with attempted bravado. “Giles, I think this is carcinogenic.” She gestured toward the duo.
He stared at the two vampires intensely, shifting his eyes slowly between the one looking confused on the landing and the other posed arrogantly in front of them. “Quite the contrary, Buffy,” he said slowly. “I feel if we deal with these two, it might be very cathartic, indeed.”
“Oh, Giles,” sighed Angel. “Don't hate me because I'm forever young and beautiful. Or,” he said thoughtfully, “because I got there first.”
“Oh yes, that was sweet,” Angelus added. “Although I think this will be sweeter.” He charged towards Buffy.
Giles rushed forward to help defend her, but in a flash of black, he found himself seated and bound to a chair watching the two do battle. “Be with you in a bit, Rupert!” Angelus called back cheerfully before swinging at Buffy. “And I promise that you'll break this time.”
He turned back to Buffy, toying playfully with her as she ducked and weaved. She landed a series of swift punches, all apparently ineffectual as the vampire continued to fight unfazed. Then, with a quick jab, he grazed her chin, smiling as she cried out. She shuffled a few clumsy steps backwards. “That hurt!” she gasped, shocked.
“You always hurt the ones you love,” Angelus said with a toothy grin.
“That's true,” sighed Angel. He leaned against the railing looking sadly at the fight below. “Love had brought me nothing but pain.” He stood up. “Well, I should put the past behind me and go be a hero.” He turned and started pulling furniture out onto the landing.
“Giles, what's wrong here? I don't have any strength!” Buffy asked as she dodged another punch.
“That would be my fault, dearest. I do apologize.” Ethan gave a jovial wave and strolled confidently up to her. “Or… not so much, actually. I am very thankful for your reluctant gift. It really is quite exhilarating to wield such power.”
Angelus stepped back with a 'you first' gesture. Buffy whirled around and threw a punch which Ethan caught easily. “Careful, girl,” he chuckled, tightening his grip. “You're not the Slayer you used to be.” He slowly twisted her wrist until her knees buckled with the pain and she began to crumple to the ground.
“Ethan, let her go,” Giles barked, struggling furiously in his bindings.
“Or what? You'll sit there and glare at me?”
“Giles does give good glare,” Angel hollered down from his position above them. He was busily signing various documents being retrieved from a briefcase and fed to him by a suited gentleman nearby. Piles of paperwork began to materialize around Angel, with legal folders scattered along the balcony ledge.
“Help her, Angel, you bloody git!” Giles demanded as his ropes went taut.
“Please be quiet, Giles,” Angel huffed with a roll of his eyes as he continued to sign and arrange the paperwork before him. “I'm doing important work here. Saving the world and fighting for peace, justice and the American way. I'm doing the good work. It's what she wanted me to do.”
“What she wants you to do now is to help her!”
“I think you made it quite clear that staying away was the best way I could help her.” Angel stopped playing with the paperwork for a moment and looked mournfully off into the distance. “It is all just too tragic and painful for me to be with her and not be with her…”
Giles snorted. “You're a selfish bastard. And while part of me hates you, mostly I just pity you now.”
Angel twisted in his chair to study Giles. “I think you are jealous that I could actually offer her something special; love, understanding, strength…” he paused for a long moment before continuing on with a sly smile, “…eternal youth. After all, what can you offer, Watcher? All she ever hear from you were useless words and prophecies promising her a life of pain and death.” He shook his head. “All she would ever see when she looks in your eyes was her birthright, the burden of her duty, her curse.” He waved the papers about. “I know all about curses. It amazes me that she doesn't hate you.”
“If you really knew something about curses, Angel,” Giles growled, “or if you really loved her, you would have investigated your own. Your selfishness gave us him again.” He gestured with his chin at Angelus, who stood watching Ethan toy with Buffy.
Angel stopped signing for a moment and looked thoughtful. “You may be right, Giles. I'll brood on that a bit when I'm done here.”
“Oh Ripper, what do you know about pity?” Ethan called out as he twisted Buffy's arm. When she cried out, he gave her a wink. “Did that hurt, Buffy? So sorry. Now be a good girl and make nice with your demon Romeo. I want to have a chat with my dearly disillusioned Rupert here.” The sorcerer sent Buffy flailing over the fountain. She collided into Angelus, who caught her with an amused chuckle.
“Now, lover, tell me again how you were going to kill me,” the vampire chided as he grasped her neck. “Really, you need to see someone about all that anger you've got bottled up inside.”
“Angel…” Buffy choked as she felt her feet leave the ground, “…help me!”
“Be with you in a second, Buffy,” he answered, as he covered the receiver end of his cell phone. “Right after I finish this call from the Paris branch. Got a business to run here, a city to protect. City of Angels , you know.”
“Nice to see he has his priorities straight.” Ethan nodded, pleased. “But your cheerleader doesn't seem to be fairing as well. Seen better days, old man?” Ethan shook his head with sympathy and smiled down at Giles. “See, Rupert, you should have killed me when you had the chance.”
“You're going to die. And I'm going to be there,” Giles snarled.
“Promises, promises,” Ethan whispered in his ear as he evaporated into mist. Giles suddenly found himself standing alone on the empty landing where Angel had been moments before. Below Angelus tightened his grip around Buffy's throat.
“Time for a final farewell, lover.”
“Could you have chosen a cheesier line?” Angel casually strolled up beside Angelus and crossed his arms, unimpressed. “I’ve heard better deliveries in a Three Stooges skit.”
“It’s psychological battle tactics, you fangless wonder. Something you know nothing about,” Angelus snarled, focusing his attention on Angel, his grip on Buffy loosening. She pried herself free as Giles came down the steps to her aid.
“You know, you’re just as bad as Spike!” Angel shoved Angelus. “With this ridiculous ‘I’m so evil’ thing.”
“I’m nothing like that bleached buffoon. I’m the real deal, you domesticated and useless pansy. I terrorized all of Europe !”
Angel dismissed Angelus’ words with a casual wave. “Yadda yadda… been there, done that. This song is getting old. I mean, when’s the last time you tried to end the world, or even wipe out a small third world country? I think you're losing your touch.”
“Look who's talking. Save any kittens out of treetops lately, champion?”
“Give it up already…”
The two vampires continued to argue as Buffy bent to pick up a wooden stake. She reached out, took Giles’ hand and placed the stake there.
“Here. I'm done with them. They're all yours. I don't think you'll have any problem with them now.”
“Are you sure? You and Angel…” his voice trailed off uncertainly.
“Are so over.” Buffy shrugged. “First love, tragic romance, star-crossed lovers and all that was fine when I was a teenager, but I want a bit more reality in my relationships now.” She touched his arm. “I loved him and I still love him, but I'm not in love with him. It was beautiful and exciting and mysterious and wonderful and then…” she shuddered, “…it was really really scary and horrible and gross.”
Giles smiled sadly.
“But the thing is, it's over, I'm done with him and you need to decide if you want to do that cardiac thing with them or not.”
He groaned. “Now you did that one on purpose.”
“Hey, a little punning before staking was always a speciality of mine!” She grinned smugly before turning serious. “So, Giles, what will it be?”
They turned to look at the squabbling pair.
“Moping after a Slayer, for god's sake! You're a disgrace to vampires everywhere,” Angelus taunted.
“You played with Dru's dolls!”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Decide fast or I may just stake them myself to shut them up.”
“Perhaps being forced to live inside each other is punishment enough.” Giles turned serious, looking at the stake for a long moment before shaking his head. “Despite the fact that I found Angel to be callous in his treatment of you, I think he's learned his lesson. He's trying to be a better man now.”
“I did break then, Buffy, but he wasn't the one to do it. I can walk away from him and I win. But,” his voice turned cold and deadly, “if I ever meet Angelus again in the real world, I won't hesitate to kill him immediately. No matter who shares his body.”
Buffy nodded solemnly. “Agreed.”
Giles handed the stake back to her. “I won't take the good memories of Angel away from you, and I have never held you responsible for what Angelus did. We can't change the past, just accept it.”
“Do you think I need to dust them to prove that to the spell?” Buffy studied the arguing vampires. “Or perhaps,” she said thoughtfully, “just to show you that?”
Giles closed his eyes and stood still for a long moment. Finally he opened them and shook his head. “No. You let Angelus live once, but you killed Angel when you had to. I respect you for that, even more than ever now that it's my past with Ethan haunting us… all because I couldn't kill him when I had a chance.” He took the stake from her and threw it into fountain. “We're done here. Let's go.”
The applause started slowly behind them. Buffy and Giles turned to see Riley standing in the doorway of his dormitory. “Very nice, very dramatic.” He clapped twice more and then turned. “I always knew something was up between you two.” He shook his head in disgust as he walked into the dorm's lounge.
“Damn, this is exhausting. I don't think I can take another walk down Memory Lane.” Buffy walked into the dorm and plopped down on one of the couches in front of her old boyfriend. “What do you want?” she asked him.
Giles followed her, looking tired. He sat down next to her, taking her hand in his. She gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Don't you feel icky, Buffy? I mean, he's old enough to be your father!” Riley started pacing back and forth.
“No, I don't feel icky.” Buffy sighed. “Giles is not my father and I don't care about his age. When you've dated guys who were in the middle of their third century, five decades really isn't that bad.”
Riley gave her a look of pure frustration. “It's not normal!”
Buffy looked at Giles, then at Riley, and finally back at Giles again. “Oh, I get it!” she exclaimed happily. “This is going to be an easy one. Plus I think it's mostly me, right? I mean, do you have a lot of issues with him?”
Giles shook his head. “No, not really. He meant well, although he never really understood things.” He looked around the lounge sadly. “If the truth be told, and I think it must be here, I was miserable your freshmen year. But it wasn't Riley's fault.”
“No,” she said sadly, “it was mine.”
“Buffy, we're not playing the blame game.”
Xander and Willow's voices echoed around them. “There's no ancient prophecy about a Chosen One and her friends.”
All three looked around the empty room.
Riley frowned. “What's going on here? Why are things always so peculiar around you?”
“Because I am peculiar, Riley. You just never got that, did you?” Buffy replied exasperated. “I'm not a normal girl. I never was and never will be. I get that now. I wanted to be, thought maybe I could be, but it just wasn't going to happen.” She stood up and tugged at Giles' hand. “Come on. Like I said, this one's easy. Attempt at normalcy? Not for Buffy. Ignoring friends who understand me? Really bad idea.” She smiled up at him. “Loving a man who loves me for exactly who I am? Best idea in a long time.”
“Buffy?” Riley whined. “I really loved you, you know.”
“I know, Riley. And I loved what you represented. But in the end, you needed someone who was just a little less peculiar, right?”
All turned at the sound of Maggie Walsh's voice coming from the corridor. “Riley, dear, don't worry about that girl. She's not good enough for you. No one's good enough for you.” She stepped out into the room. “She's lacking a strong father figure.” She held her arms out to Riley and he stepped into them, laying his head on her shoulder.
“Fortunately, Riley seems to have a strong mother figure,” whispered Buffy. “Come on, let's get out of here and let them work on their own complexes.”
“With pleasure.” Together they walked out the door and into Restfield Cemetery.
Buffy stopped and looked around. “Aren't we done yet?”
“Hello, Pet. Miss me?”
“I guess we're not.” Buffy rolled her eyes upward. “You guys are missing a few! Doesn't Parker rate a moment?”
Parker walked out from behind a crypt.
“And there he is,” Buffy muttered.
“Buffy, let me tell you about an emotional moment from my past so you feel like we connect and you'll sleep with me.”
Buffy sighed. “I can't believe I fell for that. Talk about a desperate attempt at normalcy biting me on the ass.” She frowned at Parker. “I hate myself for being with you more than I hate you for being such a…” she turned to Giles, “What's the word? Pillock, right?”
“Yes, pillock is one word you could use,” Giles responded with a wicked smile. “And it would please me to no end if you'd let me take care of this one for you, Buffy,”
“Knock yourself out,” she laughed. “But not literally please!”
“Oh no, not me,” Giles said with a Ripperish grin. “I wanted to do this when I first heard about you.” He pulled back and punched Parker directly in the nose. Blood spurted out and Parker fell back with a cry against a tombstone.
“Can we address me now please?” asked Spike impatiently.
Giles and Buffy turned their backs on Parker and looked speculatively at Spike. Giles gestured 'go ahead' to her and settled back against a headstone, arms crossed, watching.
“I suppose we have to.” Buffy sighed, stepping forward. “What is it?”
“I got my soul back for you.” Spike said, his voice intense.
“Yes, I know. But I never asked you to.”
“I wanted to be the man you deserved,” he said, sounding a bit desperate.
Giles snorted behind them.
“Spike, I don't know what to say to you. My relationship with you, well, it's almost as complicated as my relationship with Giles. First,” she said, starting to tick her points off on her fingers as she spoke, “You were a Big Bad, some super arch villain I had to fight, and when I think about it, I really should have killed you then.”
“Amen,” mumbled Giles from behind her as Spike grumbled, “Yeah, like you really could have.”
“And then,” she continued firmly, “you were this impotent…”
“…demon with a chip in his head that I felt too much pity for to kill.” Spike snorted in disgust as she touched the tip of her third finger. “You hung around because you were hoping we'd be stupid enough to set you free again. After that, you became… like an auxiliary Scooby or something, mostly because of that creepy weird obsessed in love with me thing you had going. Then we had that sick thing going that makes my skin crawl to think about to this day.” She shuddered dramatically. “And when that turned even sicker, that’s when you came up with the bright idea of getting your soul back. You knew what Angel was like after he got his back. Did you even think about getting something that made you insane?” Buffy shook her head. “And yeah, after all that, you finally did something good.”
“I saved the world, Slayer!” Spike protested. “And what do you mean sick thing?”
“You hurt me because you could. You got off on it, on my pain, on your pain. You got off on the power you had over me. You made me feel like you were all I deserved, a dirty thing, a dead thing.” She raised a hand at his protest. “I let you do it. I used you because feeling dirty and dead was easier then feeling good. While part of me regrets horribly everything we did, part of me understands how necessary the lesson was. It was like I had to die again before I was ready to live.”
“Buffy,” Spike reached out his hand imploringly and Buffy backed out of his reach.
“No, Spike. There are so many pieces of you, so many sides of you, that I don't know who I'm talking to sometimes. There are parts of you that are good and kind and maybe even a little bit selfless, but in the end, all that you did, you did for you. To feed some need of your own, to gain something for yourself, to be something you wanted to be. Even when you were helping me, you were doing it for you.” She paused and glanced back at her Watcher who was looking at her with tender sadness. “He never tried to hurt me simply to hurt me. I hurt him, lots, and he hurt me, probably more than you did, Spike, but in the end, everything he did, he did for me.” She turned back to the vampire. “Everything you did, it was for you, not for me.”
“How can you say that? You think it was easy getting this bleedin' soul? Goin' up in flames at the top of the Hellmouth!?” He thrust a cigarette towards Giles. “Hell, I kept your old man alive for you. If it weren't for me, he'd be some vamp snack or a bloody boozehound in a gutter. Everything I did, I did for you, because I loved you.”
“You can't believe that.” Buffy shook her head. “There was so much wrong between us, Spike. You can't honestly say you let me beat you to a bloody pulp that first night because you loved me. It was the beating you loved.”
Giles looked up grinning. “I missed a Spike beating? When?”
“Never mind, Giles, it wasn't as good as it sounds,” Buffy said sadly.
“That would be one of the nights when you were back in Old Blightey, mate,” Spike sneered. “Just another piece of the Slayer's life you missed out on.”
Giles immediately lost his grin. “Look, you little prat...”
“Giles, please! It's of the past,” Buffy said.
“No, it's not,” Spike declared. “I was here for you and he wasn't. And I loved you!”
Buffy turned back to Spike. “Love? Was it love the night you wouldn't take no for an answer?”
“You didn't know what you wanted.”
“I was confused about many things, Spike, but not about what I wanted that night.”
“Come on, Slayer! Great love is wild and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes.”
“And I was tired of the fire. I hurt.” Buffy shook her head in frustration. “You wouldn't listen. You're still not listening. I'll say it again. Love and trust go hand in hand,” she said angrily. ”Attempted rape has nothing to do with love and everything to do with broken trust, power and pain.”
Giles was on his feet in a flash. “Buffy, what did you say?” he asked dangerously. He looked around the cemetery and picked up a stake on the ground. “He tried to rape you?”
“Don't pretend to care now, Watcher. You didn't care enough to stick around then, so what happened between us doesn't concern you.”
“Damn right it concerns me, Spike.” Giles took a step forward, stake clutched tightly in his hand.
“Giles, please no!”
“Come on then, Rupes! Be man enough to try to do it yourself this time,” Spike taunted. “I don't have a chip now, and after all these years of you lording yourself over me, it would be a pleasure to dance with you.”
“The pleasure will be all mine, Spike.” Giles threw himself at the vampire, sending him flying backwards. They rolled across the ground to land against the crypt's door. It opened with a crash and the men tumbled down the steps to land on the dusty floor. Spike ended up on top, fangs gleaming in the moonlight that shone through the door. He knocked the stake from Giles' hand, pinning him to the ground with a firm hand on his chest.
“Giles!” Buffy rushed into the crypt, the door crashing shut behind her. In the gloom, she slammed into Spike, but he barely flinched. He turned to look at her in surprise.
“Now, Slayer, that barely hurt at all. You feeling alright?”
Buffy pulled her arm back and punched him in the face. They yelled together as it connected and Spike brought one hand to his face speculatively while Buffy danced around the graveyard shaking her hand. “What's up, Slayer, come over like a normal girl all of a sudden?” He gestured at Giles, struggling beneath him. “Did the Watcher here drug you again or something?” He sneered. “You do everything for her, right, Rupes?”
With a grunt, Giles threw Spike off and scrambled for the stake as Buffy shouted, “Damn it, Giles, I need to get my strength back!”
Giles snatched up the stake and then abruptly stopped his forward charge at Spike, looking at his hand with a confused expression. A silver chain holding a small medallion was wrapped around the wood. “Buffy, what's this?” he asked uncertainly.
Spike and Buffy stopped and stared at the amulet. Finally she spoke. “That's the amulet that Angel found, the one that Spike wore when he closed the Hellmouth.” She looked up at him sympathetically. “His motives might have been questionable, Giles, but he did save the world that day.”
“Does that mean I have to forgive him for all that he did to you?” he asked bitterly.
“No.” She took a deep breath. “But if you hate him, you need hate me to. I encouraged him. I let him do a lot of it.”
“Loved it too, I'd say,” mumbled Spike. He stood up and walked over to lean against a wall, fumbling for his cigarettes.
“Shut up, Spike! This is so not the time.” Buffy glared at him and then turned back to Giles. “I ended it, Giles. That's what's important. I stopped it.”
“He took advantage of you. He hurt you!” Giles looked at her, anguished. “I should have been there…”
“Maybe you should have been. But you did what you thought was right.” Buffy laughed a bit bitterly. “That's more than I did. I knew what I was doing was wrong. Can you forgive me?”
Giles gave her a look of incomprehension. “There's nothing to forgive.”
“Then why do you want to kill Spike now? He's no threat to us.”
“He, he..” Giles sputtered slightly before looking down at the stake and amulet. He glanced at her quickly and then at Spike, before staring again at the objects in his hand. “I'm sorry, Buffy. I'm ashamed to say this.”
Giles closed his eyes briefly. “To be honest…” he paused and took a deep breath and spoke very slowly and carefully. “…to be honest, that last time wasn't only about him being a threat. Not entirely.” He looked up, eyes filled with pain. “I truly did believe he was dangerous. I did.” He looked away again, whispering softly, “But I was jealous too. Jealous of his hold on you, made all the worse him being what he was.”
“'What he was?'“ she asked, stepping to his side.
Giles looked over at her, shocked. “'What was he?' Another vampire, Buffy! Another one of the creatures who exist only to kill you, a beast you were supposed to destroy! A demon who you chose over all your friends, your family.” His voice dropped to a whisper and he turned away. “A demon you chose over me.”
“So you ask me,” he continued softly, “why do I want to kill him? I want to kill him for what he is, a vampire, a threat to you and this world. But mostly now,” he turned back to look at her, continuing bitterly, “I want to kill him because you listen to him and not me. Because you love him, not me. Because how everything and everyone always seems secondary to this warped connection you have with Spike.”
“Had.” Her voice was firm.
He looked confused. “What?”
“Had. Listened. Seemed.” She smiled at him. “Your tenses are all wrong, Giles. One of your verbs too,” she said. “I didn't love Spike. I don't know what it was really, but it wasn't love. Weren't you listening when I told him that I couldn't love him because I couldn't trust him?” She sighed. “I'm sorry, I really am, about all that happened. I can't fully explain everything I did. But I know it wasn't love.” She stared seriously into his eyes. “I know what love is. It's what I feel for you.”
“Oh.” He looked stunned.
“Before, Spike was my responsibility, his fate was my decision. When you and Wood decided to try to kill him, you didn't give me a choice about it,” she said seriously. “You simply decided that you knew best.” She waited until he nodded slowly in acknowledgement before touching his shoulder gently and pointing to the stake and medallion in his hands. “Things are different now. Let me give you a choice tonight. You decide.”
Giles stared at both of them and then slowly began to untangle the chain from the stake. He pulled them apart and hefted one in each hand, looking slowly between the weapon and the amulet.
He looked at her. “I'm sorry. I was wrong then. I shouldn't have gone behind your back.”
“Like we said, I wasn't exactly winning any congeniality contests then.”
“Enough already,” Spike interrupted. “I'm getting bored!” He waved his fists challengingly. “Come on, Rupes, give me what I deserve.”
Giles stared at him for a long moment before he smiled tightly and nodded. He took a deep breath and kissed Buffy on the forehead. “I love you, Buffy.”
She looked at him nervously. “Please be careful, Giles. I don't know what happens here if you get hurt.”
He smiled down at her. “I think the same thing that happens elsewhere. If we don't die, eventually we heal and move on.” He tightened his grip on the stake and moved towards Spike.
Spike backed up warily, circling slowly to the left. Giles stopped about three feet from him and held out his hand. “Here.”
Spike stared at him in disbelief. “Come again, mate?”
“Here. Take it. You earned it. It's what you deserve.” Giles held the amulet out and they watched as it twisted slowly in the air. He smiled sadly. “I think you loved her. I can certainly understand that. And no matter how you define it, I think part of her loved you too.” He shook his head. “I don't know if I can ever understand that, but it was her choice then. I didn't respect it before, but I will now.” He waited until the vampire slowly reached out to take the medallion. “It's a cliché, but she's who she is because of the lessons she learned from her past. If I love her, I'll accept that past.” He turned to look at Buffy. “If you're okay, I'm ready to go.”
She smiled. “More than ready. Let's go.”
“And that's it?” Spike said in confusion. “We're done here?”
“We're done, Spike.” Buffy walked up and slipped her arm around her Watcher's waist. “Thank you, Giles.” She leaned against him and he pulled her close for a moment before turning them towards the crypt door. Stepping up, they pushed it open and stood blinking against the soft sunlight pouring in. Spike jumped back further into the shadows and made his way around the side of the wall to stand at the sheltered foot of the steps.
“You can't leave me here, Buffy.” Spike ducked under his duster to move into the doorway. He looked up pleading.
“I'm sorry, Spike. But this is exactly where you belong now.” Buffy slowly shut the crypt door in his shocked face. “You've taught me everything I need to know about living in darkness. While I'm grateful, my place is in the light.” She took Giles' hand and they walked through the cemetery towards the dawn.