Title: All At Sea
Characters Buffy/Giles. Post Chosen. Giles has a new life. Buffy won't let go.
Companion pieces (Chronology unclear. Please arrange in any order that works for you) Keeping in Touch : Barricades : Spread My Wings : Relative Pin : Telling : Partial Derailment : Push and Pull : Morning Glory
All At SeaBuffy padded back from the tiny kitchen and set down her (marshmallow-less) cocoa on a delicately spindled table next to Giles’ generous leather sofa. She wrapped herself in the fleecy blanket with her feet across the middle seat, albeit tucked to one side, retrieved her mug and flicked the TV remote to resume her French film. She had seen it before in Paris but the late night screening in England was giving her subtitles, and hence the opportunity to pick up on some of the nuances she’d missed. The romance was still pretty lame but the plot held up.
It was late but she wasn’t worried about being on her own. If anything she felt a little silly waiting up for Giles, he was a grown man after all, even if he had been quite boyishly embarrassed when he’d explained he’d double booked himself for her visit. She’d teased him about whether he needed the place to himself and he’d stammered that the situation wasn’t ‘like that’. She looked at his clock again and couldn’t help but smile at the idea that maybe it was ‘like that’, and maybe Giles was finally on the mend. She’d been worried. Well, they’d all been worried.
It had been two months since the gang had picked this academic town and Giles had moved in without argument. The ancient wards afforded Buffy a welcome break from the slaying too. It was pleasant to have everything so normal in the outside world. Giles wasn’t really talking much but it was good to know that when she was away, he was safe from that kind of harm. He needed stability in his life right now. He’d earned the right to some sort of normalcy, even if she wasn’t sure how long he needed it for. The doctors hadn’t really wanted to commit themselves.
The only slight concern she had as she sipped her drink and drifted her attention away from the TV was that the weather outside had turned really atrocious in the past hour. The wind was howling at the upstairs sash windows despite the paper wedges Giles used to plug them, and the rain was nosily trying to breach the front door. She hoped he wasn’t getting too wet.
The key turned in the lock and she grinned at the teasing she could unleash. Alarmingly, any hope that Giles had managed to stay dry was misplaced. He looked like he’d have swum along the river that meandered nearby. Buffy turned on the sofa to face him, her eyes wide. “Couldn’t you get a taxi back?” she asked.
Giles stood on the mat after locking his front door and thought about her question for just a little bit longer than should have been necessary.
“Walked,” he declared finally.
He was standing very still, looking at the carpet and dripping disturbingly large pools of water. His hair was flattened and thin. His glasses bore so many drops of water he couldn’t possibly see through them.
“Giles?” Buffy gripped her mug. “Do you mean you walked her home?”
“No.” His answer was clear but his thoughts were miles away. Buffy rose and circled towards him carefully. He looked shipwrecked.
“You should get out of those wet things,” she said softly to which he nodded. “Do you want me to help?” He shook his head. “Did you two have a good dinner?”
He looked lost to her again. “I remember soup.”
The shower had been running for nearly twenty minutes and Buffy couldn’t stand to listen to the water heater in the kitchen anymore. She took the stairs quickly and knocked on the bathroom door. Steam was pouring out under the doorway and racing to the windows and his books. She hated imposing herself but when he didn’t answer to his name she opened the door and found Giles, still dressed and sitting on the floor, as the shower vented waves of steam to obscure her view
She killed the water, opened a window, grabbed a towel to put on the floor beside him and sat very cautiously. He was very wet. He looked like he was melting into the floor. She risked a shoulder to his and when he didn’t object she leant back. It was if there had been a great sea storm and Giles was a small defenceless boat that had been pulled from his moorings.
“I had to leave. You understand?” Giles muttered. Buffy made no reply but trusted a little more weight against him.
“Mary, well, she was in tremendous danger.”
Buffy’s eyes widened as her mind raced. Damn. They had been so careful. Willow said she had researched the town thoroughly; Faith had even taken a sweep and declared it clean. How could something dangerous have gotten through? Buffy needed to kill it and then they needed to find another demon-free zone for him. He couldn’t afford setbacks. Her thoughts were interrupted by Giles dreamily declaring, “I had to leave her before I got her killed.”
“Oh.” Buffy let her own anxiety drift and gently probed, “So you left her in the restaurant and then …walked. How long ago was this?”
“There was soup,” he recalled.
“I see. So you bailed during the soup course? Nuts. Will she be upset?”
He nodded again. “I imagine so.”
“Oh Giles, I’m sorry. I can call her in the morning and try to explain, or you can.”
He pushed a foot against the pedestal of the sink and stretched. Water ran off his pants to the tiled floor. “Of course,” he mused. “I must have stuck her with the bill too.”
It had been hard work coaxing him out of the wet clothes, but after his shower he’d picked out pyjamas for himself and swallowed the two tablets without the water she offered. Buffy cleaned the debris from the bathroom and hung out his clothes to take to a laundrette the next morning. She heard him moving around on the stairs and the door to the spare bedroom open. The crates in there had lain untouched since they’d arrived. She thought of the first time she’d stayed over and they’d quibbled over who should take the couch. She had suggested clearing some space in the spare room how she’d lost his eyes to the seas. She knew better now than to ask him when he was going to go through his father’s belongings. She heard the door click again and then the creak of his bed springs in the master bedroom.
Buffy finished her salvage operation and checked around the windows and front door to see they were secure. She switched the lights off and took the narrow staircase back upstairs. Giles had cocooned himself in the centre of the bed with the duvet tightly drawn around him. She slipped into her sweat pants and stole one of his tee-shirts to wear, and then she lay to one side to his back, not touching him and not pulling for the duvet.
“I called Dr Clarke,” she said matter-of-factly. “He can see you tomorrow.”
“I’m fine. A bit of rain won’t hurt anyone.”
“And Mary seems to have left a bunch of messages on your answering machine.” He grunted a response. “She sounds concerned rather than angry,” Buffy persisted. “She sounds nice.”
“She is nice.”
Buffy slept fitfully, her senses tuned in to any movement from Giles. He was warm and dry now but not safe. She suspected he was trying to stay awake and the fact that he hadn’t moved a muscle, hadn’t acknowledged, or even moved away from her, rather confirmed her theory.
The street outside was deathly quiet. The wind had finally dropped and the squalls of rain were subsiding. The buses and trucks wouldn’t start to rattle his windows for another hour; it amused her that she was so tuned to the transport network outside his house. It was still dark and she yawned.
“She was in terrible danger.” Giles offered unexpectedly. “Mary was in danger,” he added by way of explanation. Buffy said nothing but reached to stroke the hairs on the back of his neck lightly. He was still adrift but looking to find a way back to the shore. ”She was going to die.”
“It was just a date, Giles. It was just too soon.”
“They all die on me.”
“Couldn’t do that to her. She doesn’t know how I can get them killed.” He started to get agitated and Buffy touched her hand on his arm.
“It’s not really your fault though,” she soothed.
He bunched his arms away from her. “They always die on me just the same. Everyone I care about. It’s only a matter of time.”
“It’s alright Giles. It was just a bit too soon to be dating again. I shouldn’t have encouraged you.”
“They all die on me,” he stated again. As if she didn’t know. As if she hadn’t been there.
“Try to get some more sleep. We’ll see the doctor in the morning. You’re doing really well.”
“You died on me too.” His tone was so accusatory she didn’t know how to answer at first. She made to hug him but he twisted round in the bed to face her and caught her arm. His eyes were bright with fear. He wanted to come back to the harbour but he didn’t trust the beacons.
“You died on me too. Are you a ghost Buffy? Are you really here?”
“Of course I am,” she whispered.
“I can’t believe that. Are you real? Or maybe I’m the ghost that haunts you?”
“I’m here, Giles. Feel me.”
“Don’t leave me, Buffy.”
And everything felt so right as they fell into their sorrow. A touch, a caress, urgency and reassurance in balance. She had no thoughts but to save this man that had suffered so much. As the world began to rise and assess its own storm damage so Buffy and Giles made love without shame or remorse. It was an instinctual comfort they had stumbled upon. A need to be lost in sensations other than regret or and guilt, and it was passion and it was sublime. Reckless and breathless; no boundaries or awkwardness, only movement and equality and in the face of the half light of daybreak there came understanding and tranquillity and Giles came back from the rocks at last and into calmer waters.