Title: In the Morning Sun
Length of chapter: 3,600
Setting: Post Chosen but AU straight away. So no comics and no Angel Season 5.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Joss characters but I would if I could
Warning: This is BUFFY/GILES but fasten your safety belts because it's going to be a bumpy ride.
Buffy watched the dexterity Dawn displayed with chopsticks in a mixture of shock and awe. She herself was competent enough but found them far too fiddly as weapons to be really effective for speed eating. But Dawn, it seemed, suffered no such impediment and was like lighting across her plate and the others in the centre of the table. Giles, Buffy noted with some amusement, was also watching her with something akin to professional respect.
“What?” Dawn stopped, a piece of chicken suspended mid-air, she eyed them both in amusement. “We don’t eat out all that much and who knows, with Buffy out of a job now, this might be the last decent meal I get.” She ate the chicken and smiled.
“You’re not about to starve,” Giles said as he thwarted her attempt to steal from his plate. She’d been launching sneak attacks at his duck in black bean sauce all night and he’d been surprisingly adept at fending her off. Being left-handed possibly helped, Buffy mused it must be like playing tennis against a leftie for the first time. Dawn was fast, but to her confusion, he had the angles covered. Buffy stabbed a hole in some beef that refused to be gripped any other way and contented herself that she was way better with a broadsword than either of the two of them.
It had only been a couple of hours since Buffy had told Robin what she’d thought of him and his suspicions, and his ingratitude, and his whole anti-Giles-ness, and had quit the New Watchers Council. She knew the repercussions of unemployment would kick in at some point, but for one night, having managed to get both Dawn and Giles to herself in Chinatown, she just wanted to relax and enjoy a normal meal. Usually the sisters just grabbed take out and headed to their apartment, but Giles had insisted on paying for a proper sit down restaurant and Buffy had readily agreed, suspecting he would want to disappear as soon as he’d accompanied them home. This way, she got to spin out her precious allotment of time before he inevitably booked out of her life again.
He needn’t have been nervous about meeting up with Dawn. She’d greeted his surprise appearance with a warm hug and a “How’s the curse treating you these days?”
Buffy had felt embarrassed at the bluntness of her sister’s enquiry and the obvious pain it must have caused, but Giles had replied dryly that “Some nightmares are better than others”, to which Dawn had grinned and persisted “Still sucks to be you then?”
He’d smiled rather warmly at her and she’d beamed back and Buffy had been a little shocked to understand that he was actually enjoying having Dawn tease him. This was in stark contrast to her relationship where everything seemed to be High Drama, the End of the World, or Watcher Goes Walkabout and doesn’t contact his Slayer for months. Giles and Dawn had an enviable connection that she lacked, and Buffy had spent a lot of their meal in silence watching a camaraderie she ached to be a part of.
“Well volunteering at the medical centre I see all sorts,” Dawn explained. “It’s gonna be real embarrassing if we have to bed down there ourselves one day. Unless the wage earner is going to go back to using the phrase ‘do you want fries with that?’ ?”
“Hey, I have other skills-,” Buffy began indignantly but Dawn and Giles were already laughing. She stabbed more beef and shook her head in mock disapproval. It was fun to see Giles actually laughing, his face was lit up by yellow paper globe lights that hung around their table like suns, giving him shades of warmth and colour. Everything in her periphery seemed out of focus, only their table mattered to her at that moment. Even Giles’ blue check shirt, though seriously crumpled at the collar, had a charm that was homey and familiar and brought out a green in his eyes she didn’t often see. Perhaps she’d stared too long because his frameless glasses glinted at her briefly before he returned to the conversation with Dawn.
“Buffy mentioned you were hoping to go to study to become a doctor. How are you finding the medical centre?”
“It’s cool. I’m only working in the office so no actual medical stuff. It’s more social work really. Crazy thing on the first day there, oh my god.” Dawn flapped her hands to get his attention. “A few of us turned up to see what it was like,” she explained, “and they were totally short staffed and the phone was just ringing constantly, so I grabbed it and started dealing with the calls.” She took another mouthful thoughtfully. “All that apocalypse call handling I did for you guys. End of the World? Please hold.” Buffy watched as Giles smiled warmly again at her sister. “People come in with all sorts of problems they need help with so I’ve figured out a list of contacts at agencies and charities to call around.”
“It’s credit towards college and surprisingly not as grisly as a room of wannabe slayers playing spin the bottle. I still want to be a doctor. That’s still my goal.”
“That’s admirable.” Dawn beamed unabashedly at his compliment. “Joyce would be very proud of you,” he added as if worried his veneration alone would not count for enough in her eyes.
He was treating Dawn like she was his family; a niece, maybe even a daughter, and he was totally fine with it. He was not uncomfortable with her directness, her attention, her teasing, her wanting to tell him all that she’d been up to the past ten months and win his approval. And Buffy pondered on her own relationship with the man since he’d picked up the curse for killing Glory. For them there was awkwardness, mis-understandings, and a serious reluctance from him to get close to her. She knew if she were to brush against his shoulder now, he’d probably bolt off to another continent. But she also knew he trusted her with the big stuff, that he had absolute faith in her ability as the Slayer. She sipped her soda. Was she no more than a very good slayer to him? He’d played a supportive role to her in the past when she at school and missing her dad, but he’d dropped that pretty quickly as she’d got older. They’d even become good friends for a time before she’d died jumping off the tower to save Dawn, and he’d killed Ben, bringing a whole bucket load of vengeance down on himself from Glory’s hell god brothers. Everything had been spoilt then.
As she mused she reached for one of the dumplings in the sweet and sour sauce, only to have it slip from her sticks and hit Giles’ blue check shirt, depositing an impressive red tangy red stain just above his heart.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry.” She grabbed her napkin but he was already on his feet and backing away.
“That’s OK. I’ve got it.” He tried to wipe it but had seeped through the cloth like acid. “This shirt was not destined to last the night.” Giving a faint reassuring smile he set off to the restroom.
Dawn waited until he was out of sight and then squealed in undisguised excitement.
“You found Giles! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s hard to know if I found Giles or not. I don’t think he will be staying,” she added cautiously.
Dawn was beaming in conspiracy. “So, what’s the what with you guys?”
“There is no what,” Buffy answered carefully. “We are without what.”
“But he’s back again. You haven’t seen him in like ten months, and he’s all heroic and day-saving and world-saving and most importantly, Buffy’s ass-saving. And you’re telling me there’s no what?”
“This is my Watcher we are talking about. My elderly, ancient Watcher.”
“Still doesn’t mean there’s no what. And he’s hardly ancient.”
“Dawn, nothing has changed.”
“I’m not buying. It’s the happiest I’ve seen you in ten months.”
“Nothing has changed for him,” Buffy said sadly. “He still all uncomfortable around me, he’s probably bailing out of the bathroom window now. And I don’t know if that’s because I’m his Slayer or his daughter or his protégé or anything else.”
Dawn gave her one of those direct looks that Joyce used to favour. “Have you asked him?”
“God, no. I can’t. You know how this curse affects him. I say something nice and he thinks I hate him.”
Giles stopped on his way back to answer his cell phone. Buffy watched with a twinge of hurt that she didn’t know he even had a cell phone, let alone what his number was.
Dawn persisted with her uncomfortable shrewdness, “Does that mean something has changed for you?”
Buffy watched him take the call and be polite yet firm to whoever it was. She knew his body language so well because on cue he removed his glasses, jutted out his chin and started speaking again.
“I don’t know,” she mused aloud. “I don’t honestly know how I feel and in the circumstances, it doesn’t really matter. I’m trying hard not to get too close, for both our sakes. Please don’t say anything to him.”
“I got it. My lips are sealed.” Dawn patted her hand. “You two, are without what.”
“What’s that?” asked Giles, mercifully catching only the very end of the conversation on his return.
“Buffy wants to know, who you were speaking to.” Dawn smiled angelically at her sister while Giles checked under the table to reassure himself his travelling bag was still there.
“Oh that was Robin Wood. He wants you to call him, but you’re not picking up. Wouldn’t say what it was about to me, but I suppose it’s Council business.”
“He’s got some nerve.” Buffy exclaimed, but she couldn’t stop herself from adding “And he’s also got your cell number?”
Giles shrugged as he picked up his chopsticks. “Why not? He pays the bills on the thing.”
“For now,” Dawn said shrewdly, and Buffy realised she hadn’t thought of that. Robin had obliged her by paying Giles an allowance the past ten months and she wondered if that would stop now that she’d quit working for him. What if they were all looking at an uncertain economic future? Giles must have been brooding on the same thing because a heavy silence hung over the table. Fortunately Dawn displayed her enviable practical side.
“Maybe we should bag the rest of this to go?”
They’d taken the subway home largely without incident except perhaps for Giles replying with a glare when Buffy had suggested she should carry his travel bag for him.
“I’m not completely infirm,” he’d muttered. This was a slightly fortunate interpretation given her real motives boiled down to ‘If I have this then you have to come with me and won’t run off again’.
He was twitchy in the elevator as they made their way to their floor. Dawn was making light conversation and though he was really trying to nod in the right places, Buffy knew he was anxious at the confinement. Perhaps they should have taken the four flights of stairs after all? She’d been thinking more about Dawn’s long day at the Centre. Her own anxiety suddenly spiked as she stepped off the elevator and approached their door with her latchkey in hand. Instinct, honing, smell, whatever it was, Buffy knew there was a vampire waiting for them in her apartment. Behind her Giles had also stiffened in apprehension but that could have been his usual reluctance to enter any private space with her. He was certainly gripping the handle of his bag with heightened intensity as Dawn happily chatted about their life in New York now and her plans and how happy she was to see him.
“You are so staying here tonight, Giles. We can make up the couch,” Dawn was saying. “It will be like old times.”
“I really wouldn’t want to be in the way.”
Buffy slipped her fingers to the stake in her pocket and pushed the door open sharply. There were very few vampires who had been in her apartment and all had needed the appropriate invitation, but she wasn’t taking any chances. The small reading lamp on Dawn’s desk was the only light and it showed a figure sitting in the armchair, waiting for them.
“Angel?” The man in the dark overcoat rose rapidly and she confirmed his familiar build and features as her first lover.
“Buffy, thank god. I was worried,” he said.
“Angel.” She spoke his name again and snapped her eyes around the room defensively but he was alone. She let go of her stake and found herself rushing forward and letting him sweep his broad arms around her. It was a familiar gesture in the uncertain world of shadows they both lived in.
“I had to come. You’re in danger, Buffy. All the Slayers are. The old Watchers are looking to regain their power and reverse Willow’s spell.”
She relaxed visibly and said playfully, “Ah, then I’m afraid you’re too late.”
“Oh god,” He reached for her hair protectively. “I went to your office but Robin said you’d left. I am so sorry.”
She found the contact nice at first. His other hand was on her waist, and their closeness stirred her body’s memories until she realised that the hand on her cheek had a coolness that she suddenly found unwelcome. He’d always lacked a respectable body temperature of course, but it had never mattered to her before, now it suddenly mattered to her a great deal. It was a tiny signal that she wanted more than from a relationship than he could give her, but even so she smiled at the memories of the time she used to think he could give her the whole world. The harshness of the reading lamp emphasised his monochrome appearance. He was black and white to her, devoid of colours other than the ones she’d bestowed on him. He bent his head to kiss her and she felt incredibly self-conscious about that act in front of an audience. She gently broke free and looked for Dawn and Giles behind her but there was no sign of them
Buffy fled to the hallway to see the elevator descending. “Oh crap,” she muttered and headed for the stairs at pace. Angel pulled her apartment door shut and followed instinctively.
“What’s going on, Buffy?”
“Giles is here. Well was here.” She swung round a corner in the stairwell. “I’m guessing Dawn isn’t letting him leave so fast.”
“Is he in some kind of trouble?”
“He will be when I catch up with him,” she grouched. Angel jumped the railings on the last two flights and waited for her at the bottom.
“So what’s the problem exactly?”
Buffy joined him and exited the lobby and out to the street.
“Have you ever tried to entice a wounded kitten to come into your house for milk?” she asked.
He looked puzzled and offered with a degree of self-mockery, “No, but I’ve eaten a couple.”
She rolled her eyes playfully and spotted Dawn remonstrating with Giles across the street. She heard him stutter, “You, you already seem to have a house guest.” and Dawn flicking a hand dismissively and replying, “Oh, Angel doesn’t count.”
“I think he counts a good deal to Buffy.”
The two of them were too busy arguing to notice the young guy in the hooded sweats make his move. Buffy saw though. She saw as he deliberately barrelled into Dawn and cut the straps of her shoulder purse.
“Hey!” It was Angel that shouted. The thief was startled to see him and Buffy across the street and tugged viciously at the purse, wrenching it from Dawn’s grasp. Giles stepped across but the guy punched him in the chest to spill him cleverly onto Dawn. They both tumbled onto the sidewalk as the robber took off. Angel snarled and took up the chase. He looked incredibly feral and Buffy, fearful he was over-reacting, started to run too. She heard Dawn cry out her name and she wondered if she had been hurt in the fall, but she didn’t dare leave Angel to the pursuit alone. Besides she knew Giles would see to it that Dawn was OK: he would not run off if she were injured.
The thief was either incredibly lucky in his choice of escape route or knew his way around the back alleys with a studied professionalism. They covered four blocks, jumping sheds and railings and even slipping through a gap in some wire fencing and though Angel had a degree of bulk in handicap to the guy, he was counter-balanced by a limitless ability not to get out of breath. There was no moon in the sky and the clouds had conspired to block out even the light from the stars. As they ran across some derelict gardens, the vampire finally caught up and pulled the mugger down in a tackle around the waist. The guy kicked and punched in fear but Angel was wearing his vampire face and hit him hard across the jaw.
“Angel, stop!” Buffy shouted, chasing to catch up having almost lost a shoe in the pursuit.
He turned to her, the demon inside him clearly relishing the hunt. He fought to control his features before answering her.
“He might know something about the Old Watcher’s plans.”
“What?” It hadn’t occurred to her their conversation had been interrupted. “No, Giles and I took care of that threat earlier. This is just your regular street robber.”
“But they hired some mercenaries.”
“Yes, demon mercenaries. Pooky-something or other. Big sharp claws, look like Cousin It, probably can’t ride the subway without trench coats and fedoras,” she mused before snapping back to the point. “But we took care of them earlier. This guy is no-one. Let him go.”
Angel climbed off the terrified thief, picked up Dawn’s bag and addressed the street punk menacingly.
“I better never hear of you near that apartment block again. In fact I don’t want to ever hear of you taking another purse ever again.”
The guy nodded readily and scrambled to his feet.
“Or I will finish what we started tonight.”
They watched him run and then began the walk back home. Angel smiled. “At least he’ll think twice about hanging round your building again.”
“I don’t need you to do that for me,” she answered sharply. “I don’t need your protection.”
“I wasn’t really going to hurt him.” He looked wounded at her slight rejection. “At least we got Dawn’s things back.”
They crawled back through the wire and walked slowly back the route they had taken to reach her apartment block. Angel had been silent for most of the way but as they touched upon the comfort of paving slabs and street lighting, he spoke.
“So Giles saved the day, huh? Isn’t that a bit risky in his situation? I know a thing or two about curses.”
“It’s a different curse to yours. Giles’ version makes him unhappy, keeps him away from me.”
He stopped and took her arm gently to seek out her eyes. “And mine doesn’t?”
Buffy felt uncomfortable and really didn’t want to play comparative games.
“It’s just different with Giles,” she said.
“Yes, I suppose it is. He’s always been like a father to you hasn’t he? I know it’s difficult for you, and he loves you, sure.” Angel’s words surprised Buffy. “But not the way I do,” he concluded and she realised she really was going to have a serious conversation with both men one day. But probably best not at the same time.
Angel pulled up in his walk suddenly and stood very still. “There’s blood,” he said.
“Eww,” she teased. “That’s really gross, you know.”
But Angel was looking at her in some sort of anguish she didn’t comprehend, and then he started running back to her building. She ran too and saw a small clump of people had assembled where she’d left Dawn and Giles. Feeling like a fist was ripping up her throat; she ran faster, overtaking Angel and pushing her way through the crowd.
On the ground Giles lay very still while Dawn was on her knees feeling for a pulse and shouting instructions to the bystanders.
His check shirt had a lot more dark stain than the sweet and sour sauce she’d hit him with earlier. It had pooled out onto the sidewalk too.
Her sister looked up with angry eyes. “Buffy, where did you go? I can’t stop the bleeding.”
“What happened,” Angel asked.
“He had a knife,” Dawn snapped at him “You guys didn’t see the knife!”
“He stabbed Giles?” Buffy could barely hear her own voice. “Is he going to be OK?”
Dawn shouted at Angel, “Go out to the corner. When the paramedics come, flag them round here. Crap. Come on Giles, don’t do this to me now.”
Buffy’s body succumbed to its own numbness as she watched her sister began CPR. She could hear a siren very distantly but it never seemed to get any louder as Dawn went through the routine again. And again. And again.Continue to chapter Two...