Title: Push and Pull
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 : All At Sea : Relative Pin : Telling : Partial Derailment : Morning Glory
It was a little breezy to be walking that night in a London car park in just a strapless silk ball gown and Buffy was grateful for Ryan Appleby’s red mess jacket over her shoulders. They walked casually past the clandestine cigarette smokers as if they were out for a romantic stroll, and not the two highly skilled demon hunters they really were, but the night air did little to tax their senses and Buffy was grateful when one of Ryan’s men came running over to report a disturbance to his commanding officer.
They walked briskly to where a small gathering of his men were grimly tending to an elderly lady who had been victim to an attack. A wooden chair had been produced from somewhere and she sat somewhat dazed by the attention. Her expensive silver evening gown was scuffed and torn and a medical orderly was tending to a nasty wound on her shoulder that was dripping blood down to the ground.
“He tried to kiss me.” Buffy heard the woman say. She spoke with an upper class British accent Buffy knew commanded respect. Clearly the woman had money and influence and Buffy thought Ryan might have his work cut out in hushing the matter up. Behind the woman, standing guard, Buffy recognised two of Ryan’s elite men. They had cuts and bruises too and their clothes told a story of recent fighting. Captain Appleby took charge and asked them first for a report. They spoke of hearing the lady’s scream, intervening, and taking a rather bolshie prisoner that put up quite a protest. They gestured to a parked jeep to their right. Buffy narrowed her eyes, expecting to see a truculent demon or vampire but instead she saw that the figure standing against the vehicle, with one wrist handcuffed to its wing mirror, was Giles. Giles? He too looked like he’d been in a fight and was tugging automatically at his handcuff like a chained animal.
She knew what Ryan was thinking but she set her jaw and pushed her way past the soldiers, marching up to Giles. He seemed to be staring off into the distance in intense thought so she put herself directly in his eye line to get his attention, then resting her fists on her hips, she addressed him.
“Giles?” she demanded.
He dropped his eyes to her and assessed her appearance. Surprisingly, he focused not on her pout but on the borrowed mess jacket. “Not sure about the red with the lilac on most people, but it looks good on you,” he muttered.
“This dress is blue not lilac and what?” This was not, she felt, a good time for either of them to be distracted. “Never mind that, what the hell happened here?”
His answer came with unexpected belligerence. “They jumped me, Buffy. I just… I was merely defending myself,” he snapped. She could recognise the signs of a post-fight adrenaline rush in him. It had been a long time since she’d seen him like that.
“Yes, but why did they jump you?” she asked and when he looked back at her in some puzzlement she hissed in clarification, “Why did the lady scream in the first place? What did you do?”
“What did I-? Oh the scream, yes.” He pulled on the restraint again. He’d cut through the skin, reopening an old wound, the blood on his wrist made Buffy wince. “Well,” he mustered sarcastically “I imagine she screamed because there was a vampire.”
He looked so angry that she should doubt him that he added sarcastically, “Well what are the odds, eh?”
Behind her, the elderly lady in the silver dress had started to raise her voice. “No, no. You’re not listening to me. I wish to make a statement. Who is in charge here?” It was a voice that was used to commanding attention in a two block radius.
Giles tugged on his restraint again and Buffy’s hand wrapped itself quickly on his arm. “Don’t do that please,” she said gently. “It’s bleeding again.”
He snorted away her concern but she could see he was biting his cheek. “I really need to not be cuffed to this thing, Buffy,” he muttered. She nodded her understanding, but unable to make promises, she returned to the small military party gathered to hear the attacked woman’s side of things.
Ryan had knelt to the lady’s side was leading the questions. “I’m the commanding officer here,” he said soothingly. “And I assure you I am listening. Please tell me what happened from the beginning. No-one is trying to cover anything up.” Buffy wondered if the last bit was for her benefit.
The woman began. “I came out for my wrap. It can get chilly you know? I’d left it in the car when we came, and Henry- that’s my husband- Henry-”
“You came out to your car alone,” Ryan cut in gently. “And there was somebody else here, ma’am?”
“Yes, I was alone and then he, I…” she took a breath and closed her eyes as if reliving the moment for sake of veracity. “There was someone behind me and I felt a hand on my throat and I turned and there was a loathsome tramp trying to kiss me. All bushy beard and bad breath, you know the type? Disgusting. I shouted for help, lost my footing a little I suppose, slipped down and that’s when that kind gentleman,” and she pointed to Giles very purposefully, “that’s when he appeared and there was some sort of scuffle. I wasn’t paying attention from the ground. I don’t know what happened exactly then. Your men, I gather, arrived sometime after that.” She said with some reproach before looking down at her wounded shoulder. “Good heavens, he bit me. He actually bit me! Am I going to need some sort of rabies shot?”
“I don’t think so, ma’am, but we should get you to hospital just for a check-up” Ryan rose, pulled a face, and silently handed Buffy the cuff keys.
“I can help you find the ‘tramp’,” she offered.
“No, my men can manage, now that they’ve arrived,” he added ruefully. “You just get your personal Jekyll and Hyde out of here.” He shook his head in amusement. “Take him home Buffy, or calm him down or something, before I start to remember those useful contacts of mine.” He grinned. “Didn’t I say once a demon hunter, always a demon hunter?”
Buffy took the keys gratefully and unlocked the handcuff on the wing mirror. She scowled at the man she’d just released, angry that he should have acted so rashly.
“You took on a vampire by yourself, Giles? Are you completely insane? Which way did it go?”
“It didn’t go anywhere,” Giles replied somewhat huffily, “because funnily enough, as it turns out, it is like riding a bicycle. I spotted it out here and I followed it for a bit and when it attacked, I staked it. So why don’t you go back to your dancing soldier? I’m doing fine here all by myself.”
“You did what?” Buffy saw red. “You knew I was here! You should have come and found me.”
“I didn’t need you. I don’t need you,” he said with great dignity.
Buffy snapped the open cuff on her own wrist and threw the keys over her shoulder. Giles’ great dignity was replaced by equal parts uncertainty but Buffy didn’t give a rats ass.
“Come with me, now!” she ordered and pulled the connection so hard that Giles gave a surprised yelp. She yanked again gave him a menacing look. “Walk or be dragged along face first, I really don't care which at this point.” She set off at a brisk pace and Giles opted to sullenly keep up with her.
She moved determinedly, and headed back to the main house and then skirted round the kitchens and fire escapes till she found a quiet dark alcove with large yellow dumpsters full of trash. There was a thin amber light from a window above but otherwise only moonlight to see by. She pushed him violently against the far wall.
“You could have been killed.”
“Well thanks for the vote of confidence,” he replied angrily.
“Do you do this a lot? Going out and hunting? I really don’t want to have to worry about you pulling this sort of shit.”
“No I don’t, but it’s really none of your business if I did.” He tried to push her away. “Isn’t your boyfriend going to notice we’re missing? Or is he OK with that sort of thing? Did you tell him you were dragging me off for a quickie?”
At that snarky remark, Buffy punched him full in the jaw. Giles went down untidily and Buffy, tethered at the wrist as she was, fell with him. They wrestled and disturbed a cat feeding in the trash. It shrieked off into the night with a great deal of offence. Giles slapped away Buffy’s hands and managed to get his knees. He loomed over her bitterly, cutting off the slim light from above.
“Does he know about your visits? How I can barely get the door closed before you’re ripping my clothes off? How you screw the old man’s brains out, just to give him something to never forget?” His spite and anger was palpable as tried to grab her wrist. “So he’ll be a good boy and won’t do anything stupid till she comes round with the treats again.”
Buffy slipped his grasp and punched him again. He hit the wall and she tried to roll on top of him.
“It’s not like that, you jerk. Stop it. Stop saying these things.”
“Why? It’s what we do and this is where we belong isn’t it? Getting down and dirty where no-one can see us? Like it was with you and Spike.”
She had never known him capable of such venom. “It’s not the same thing at all,” she protested, pulling at his sleeves and managing only to rip the fabric.
Giles pushed her hard and tried to stand again. “I don’t want a vampire’s sloppy seconds,” he snarled. “So be a dear, take a hint, and fuck off.”
Buffy responded by barrelling into him with all her energy and taking the ground from under him. Her momentum slammed them hard into a dumpster causing it to tumble and shed its putrid contents around them. The smell of rotting vegetables, milk and meat was appalling but they rolled and wrestled for control, crashing through the plastic bags that split and vomited more garbage as they fought. Giles had bulk and size and an anger she’d never seen in him before, but Buffy had guile and slayer skills and a greater willingness to hurt him if she had to. She kneed him in the stomach, caught him off guard with blow to his shoulder and threw herself astride his chest, pinning his arms as he fought for breath and bucked against her dominance. She held up their cuffed wrists as a reminder.
“Oh no, Giles. I am not letting you go. You left me in Sunnydale. Said I had to be strong. Said you were leaving me for my own good. But that’s not how it works.”
Giles wriggled in a momentary panic. “So what, this is revenge is it?” His voice betrayed an edge of fear at his vulnerability. It occurred to Buffy that it was highly unlikely he’d been in such a situation since his father had been turned. His breathing was very raggedly. “Do you want to hurt me? Is this what this has all been about?”
“No, of course not,” Buffy felt a little sick that he should ever think that. “It means I know what’s the right thing to do.” As Buffy took some deep breaths to calm herself, Giles still looked warily like she was about to literally tear his head off. “I know what it feels like to be you right now.” Buffy spoke calmly and tentatively let her hand release its grip on his arm. “I know you hate yourself so much and you don’t know why. I know you want to drive everyone away so they won’t notice when you finally disappear yourself. Well newsflash, Rupert Giles, I’m not letting you do that to yourself.”
“Fuck off, Buffy,” he spat back. “I don’t need your pity.”
“Tough shit, Giles. I’m not going anywhere. You want to hit rock bottom? Fine, but I’m coming right down there with you.”
“Why?” he challenged bitterly. “You weren’t bloody there when it mattered.”
His words cut her more than the swearing and the crude insults had done. Because there was something in the way he’d spoken them that set her senses to maximum. There had been an edge in his voice that stung a little more than the mere cattiness of his statement.
“I was picking up Dawn from the airport. She called and wanted to surprise you on your birthday,” she stumbled in explanation.
Surprisingly he shrank back from her. “I know,” he said. “So you’ve said. I know. I’m sorry.” He didn’t want to talk and Buffy knew there was more.
“But come on, say it. You’ve never said it. Say I should have been there that night.” Her words were slow and thoughtful. She searched his eyes in the faint light of the alcove.
“Yes. You were late,” he snapped petulantly.
“Is this British reserve and politeness?” she mocked. “ ‘cos come on Giles, you can do better than that.”
He glared and rocked under her but she held him fast and waited.
“You were late, Buffy. You were fucking late.” His anger rose and spilled out. “You are always late. The Late Buffy, it’s no wonder you’ve died twice. Always fucking late and leaving me to pick up the pieces, leaving me to kill my own...”
A cold chill gripped Buffy’s soul as she waited for him to finish the sentence that he was fighting against.
“You remember,” she said quietly.
All the fight and bluster evaporated from Giles. She felt the tension in his body sag.
“Shit. Leave me alone.”
Buffy waited. She could wait all night and they both knew it.
“I tried so hard to wait for you and you were so fucking late. He was going to turn me and I ran out of time waiting for you. I pushed a stake into his frail ribcage and I heard the bones snap like twigs. Oh god. I killed him, Buffy. I actually had to kill him. Like riding a bloody bicycle,” he choked.
Giles was nothing beneath her, his bulk and mass seemed to have vanished, like a small boy caught in a painful confession and shrinking into the earth. He’d wanted to crawl into the dumpster with the garbage rather than tell her and she’d ripped it out of him anyway. Buffy slipped off his chest and hugged his face and shoulders. He was sobbing hard and shaking, not wanting her to see his pain but also too tired of the struggle to push her away completely. Buffy hugged him tightly in her arms sharing an intimacy of emotions he’d tried to lock her out of for so long. As they rocked and cried together among the trash, Buffy knew she had gone beyond the physical, and finally made an emotional connection to Giles.
[OK, so I know I have said in comments that this was going to be the last of the series, but I've had a change of heart. I can think of a couple more.]