Title: In the Morning Sun
Length of chapter: 4,200
The whole goddam thing: tips the scales at 24,600.
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.
Author note: This is the end of journey for the xmas fics. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I have writing them.
“I’m afraid you have to wake up now.”
Angel’s voice was soft and reassuring but nevertheless cut through her like a knife. She sprang to full consciousness and found herself back at the hospital, back in the waiting room they allocated to the relatives they gave bad news to, she was awake and back at the time when Giles was…No. It wasn’t possible. It had been too vivid, too real to be a dream.
“I think there’s news,” Angel continued and gestured to a stern looking Robin Wood walking purposefully down the corridor towards them.
Buffy ran to the window where the familiar lights and traffic of New York greeted her. The car lights reflected in the stars of the night sky. Not a dream. No, she told herself. Robin’s sneakers squeaked closer and she couldn’t bear to hear what he had to say.
“No. I can’t do this again.” She brushed off Angel, bundled past Robin, and ran back to the ER. A nurse tried to stop her telling her it was a restricted area but she ignored him and crashed through the double doors to get to the treatment areas. Buffy felt she couldn’t trust her senses until she saw Giles. The first area was empty so she continued through another set of connecting doors and saw medical staff treating a young woman.
One of the doctors said, “Somebody call security” without even looking up but Buffy wasn’t in a mood to be stopped. She ran to a general treatment area, where the beds were curtained off to provide some dignity for the patients. She pulled the blue curtains off their poles, ignoring cries and shouts of protest. It wouldn’t be real until she saw him. A security guard grabbed her from behind but she threw off the textbook challenge easily. She ripped open another curtain that shrieked across its rail in protest where she found Giles – standing upright in just his boxers, in the act of trying to climb into his pants.
He swallowed hard and sprang a fetching crimson. “Bloody hell, what the-”
Buffy stared incredulously at the neat white surgical dressing on his lower chest that appeared to be the sum total of his entire ordeal, then she looked for his face with a desperate plea to see if he remembered anything. His eyes gave a brief flicker of happiness but then darkened as if a veil had been drawn across his mind. The security guard caught up with her again and laid a hand on her shoulder, but this time she didn’t resist. What would be the point? Giles’ reaction at seeing her was not tangibly different from the previous day and it was almost too much to bear. He was alive, but dammit, nothing had changed.
It was not, however, the security behind her, but Angel.
“Hi, Giles, how y’doing?” he asked, but he couldn’t quite keep the amusement out of his voice as he said it. Giles glared at the pair of them as if he wanted to stake something, and Buffy cherished a small hope that Giles’ anger was directed more at the vampire than at her. She had no time to put it to the test, though, as Robin, Dawn, and a male nurse quickly joined the impromptu gathering, and Giles fluctuated between anger and embarrassment at having an ever expanding audience.
“For the love of god, I’m trying to get dressed here,” he pleaded. “Can I have a little privacy, please?”
The nurse spoke. “Now, Rupert. I thought we agreed you were going to stay overnight for observation?”
“We,” Giles stressed the ‘we’ part with a great deal of sarcasm, “did not.” His exasperation threatened to reach boiling point. “I will sign whatever piece of paper you like to discharge myself, but I cannot stay here.” He pulled his clothes in front of his stomach defensively and addressed the group. “Now I am touched by everyone’s concern, but I am not conducting any further conversation without having put my trousers on, so would you all please leave!”
They withdrew and Giles pulled the curtain back so savagely it almost ripped from the railings. Robin took the opportunity to get a medical update from the nurse.
“The wound seems to have been pretty clean but we’ve updated his shots,” the young man in scrubs said. “There are stiches and he will need to keep follow up appointments to check for infection.”
Dawn took charge. “I’ll arrange those and make sure he attends.”
The nurse dropped his voice. “And he should really stay here over night.”
He did not drop it far enough, though, because an angry voice responded, “Not going to bloody happen.”
“Is there something we should be concerned over?” asked Robin.
Buffy whispered, “Is he going to die?”
The young man looked puzzled. “No, nothing like that. His heart is strong, no sign of disease. No, we’re more worried about his emotional status, he seems very easily irritated. Has he been under any kind of stress at work lately?”
“Ha!” Giles had evidently been listening to the conversation because he snorted that from behind the curtain.
“I think it’s fair to say the elevated levels of irascibility are pretty normal for him,” Robin spoke diplomatically. “So if he wants to check out, then we should let him.” Buffy knew what he was thinking: Giles under the curse tended to hulk out at any form of confinement. “He can stay at my place tonight,” Robin added. “I have security.”
“No,” Buffy ground her teeth a little. “Giles is staying with me and Dawn.”
Angel offered his opinion. “Is that wise? It’s only a small apartment.”
Dawn cut in sweetly and seemed to deliberately misunderstand him. “Why? He’s not that tall. Giles is my guest. You’ll have to find another couch, Angel.”
The two sisters practically kidnapped Giles into a cab as soon as he was officially discharged, leaving Robin to deal with Angel. The vampire had not objected to the arrangements nor made any suggestion he would see them on the Monday, which made Buffy wonder how much of the situation he actually understood. She was glad for that because she found herself rather tired of explaining things to him.
While Dawn helped Buffy put fresh linen on her bed, Giles, rather sweetly, knocked on the bedroom door, to ask if it was OK to come in. He’d washed himself down as best he could in their small shower whilst not disturbing his dressing, and shaved too, making him look more like the Giles she remembered. His hair was still wet and rumpled and he’d changed into black jeans and a lemon colored shirt that stopped Buffy’s breath for a second. It looked remarkably similar to the one that he’d worn in Tivo hell, except for the fact it was in serious need of an iron.
“There’s really no need to go to all this trouble. I can sleep very comfortably on your sofa.”
“No, Giles,” Dawn said with exasperation. “I can barely sit very comfortably on our sofa. I have to get up early tomorrow to go to class, Buffy is a lady of leisure, and therefore she gets the couch.”
“Yes, but I don’t want to…”
“Giles, you were stabbed today. You are so not sleeping on our couch and that’s final.”
Dawn had gotten impressively forthright since Sunnydale and she brooked no arguments now. Buffy couldn’t help but grin as Giles swallowed hard and nodded.
But that had been over two hours ago, and Buffy was having trouble sleeping on the couch herself. She had curled up as best she could but all she could do was watch the light stream from under her bedroom door. Was he OK in there? Would he come out to see if she was OK? It was exasperating not knowing whether the past five days she thought she’d lived had been real or not. Slayer sense said yes, but if no-one else remembered them, then what did it matter? Giles still seemed uncomfortable around her and showed no signs of relief at having been freed from his torment. Maybe he was alive, but was he still cursed? Was she back to square one after all they’d experienced?
She tapped very lightly on the bedroom door so as not to disturb Dawn and took his wary “Hello?” as an invitation. Giles was fully dressed and sitting on her freshly made bed, his only concession had been to remove his shoes. He was reading some trashy looking paperback novel and took his glasses off as she entered. She felt oddly self-conscious in just her pajamas.
“Can’t sleep?” he asked.
Buffy broke eye contact and bustled into a dressing gown from the back of her door. “I was going to make some hot milk. Would you like some?”
He replaced his bookmark, put his glasses back on and nodded.
The apartment was small and cramped and blessed with all of Dawn’s books piled high on every surface she could find. The living area looked like it might topple into the kitchen space at any moment. Buffy kept the lights low so as not to disturb Dawn but she was conscious of his gaze on her as she worked the stove and poured the milk into two mugs. Giles took his and leaned his back against her refrigerator.
“Why was Angel here?” he asked, sipping the milk casually.
Buffy put the pan in the sink with some water. It was a small kitchen area and she had to brush past him to return to the counter. She tightened the cord on her dressing gown after she did so.
“He came in person to warn me about the Shadowmen wanting to end the Slayer line.”
The milk was far too hot, but Giles was busy hiding behind it for Buffy to clearly see his reactions.
“He couldn’t just phone?” he finally grumbled.
“You didn’t,” she reminded him.
“He let himself into your apartment though.” He shrank back almost immediately. “Sorry. It’s really none of my business.”
His cellphone interrupted them from his jeans pocket. To Buffy’s irritation, he actually answered it and turned his back on her for some privacy, leaving her with two mugs of overly heated milk and no way to get past in the small kitchen area.
“What do you want?” he answered brusquely. Buffy couldn’t actually get past him and back to the living area so she waited, and listened. “No, I’m fine. Well, somewhat impaled, but I’ll live….Really?....Well, yes, mother… though, next time, could you ring me before I get stabbed? It’s not a premonition if you call it in late, it’s just smart alecking hindsight….yeah, sure…Not if I see you first,” he concluded and punched the call off.
The idea that he had a phone, that people called him on it, and he answered, still rankled with her, that he could be that rude to them, took her jealousy to whole new level.
“You talk like that to your mother?” she asked in astonishment.
“What? Oh, no. That was Mr. bloody-let-me-tell-you-your-future, Ethan Rayne,” he railed.
“You remember Ethan? He was calling because he said he'd had a notion I’d been killed. Well, stabbed anyway, given I was obviously speaking to him, and so couldn’t actually be dead.”
Giles’ irritation did not obscure a very important fact for Buffy.
“Ethan is alive?”
“Oh yes, insufferable as ever and twice as helpful. I suggested he call me in advance next time. Be far less painful.”
She thought she would cry, Ethan was alive but Giles didn’t remember. Why should he? Everything had been reset. That’s what the brothers did of course, rewind and replay, but Buffy didn’t think she could stomach the big reset button in her life.
“What is it? Buffy, what’s wrong? Tell me.”
“I think you did die. I don’t think it was a Slayer dream. I think I actually lost you.”
“Ah.” There was a dreadful moment when she thought she’d gone too far, that he’d think her crazy but then suddenly, beautifully, he took his glasses off and started to clean them on the hem of his shirt. “I’d rather hoped that was the painkillers, or the shock. It’s all a bit fuzzy and blurred. Like a dream.” He looked up. “How long was I dead?”
“Five days. I couldn't find a way to get you back sooner, I'm sorry.”
Giles dropped his gaze as he tried to work it out. “Feels like longer and yet when I woke up, it felt like I’d lost something important. Rather a lot happened in that time,” he said very quietly as if he were ashamed of it. Buffy felt her hopes erode again. If it were hazy for him, a dream, then the very vivid night they had spent together could have been forgotten altogether.
“But why would Ethan call? What’s that got to do with him?”
“Because he crossed over to find you, only he got killed just outside the Church Du Lac by your little pal Bitchy the Vampire-ho.” She regretted the bitterness of her tone, but Giles only blinked in disbelief.
“But that can’t have been Ethan…He wouldn’t ordinarily be seen dead at a church.”
“Well, hey, whaddyaknow, irony,” she shrugged.
“He always said they were bad for him,” Giles continued to ponder to himself.
“Yes, and why is that, by the way?”
“On account of he once got married in one…” He pulled himself together. “Ethan came to find me?”
“It didn’t look like him, of course due to…” She couldn’t remember exactly why, but it didn’t matter. “Some contrivance, so we had to be in disguise.”
Giles went very pale and Buffy thought she couldn’t actually hear his heart thump. “We?” he said in a strangled voice.
There was an extremely awkward silence during which Buffy deduced not everything was a hazy dream-like blur for him. He was looking about as stunned and upset as if he’d been told as a child his pet dog had been run over.
“Yes, well,” Buffy snipped. “I sincerely hope you hadn’t been expecting Faith.”
“But… but… but… Oh god.” Giles’ coloring morphed from pale to crimson in front of her very eyes. “You… we… I… you… Oh god,” he stammered on.
He really wasn’t being very gallant about the revelation and it irked Buffy considerably.
“Are you going to be trying for sentences anytime soon?” she prompted coolly.
“Oh god…we…” Giles started opening cupboard doors and drawers, pulling pans and crashing them on to the stove for something to do. Buffy folded her arms and watched his flapping performance. “Are you hungry?” he asked in a flushed and slightly high pitched voice. He opened the refrigerator door and buried his head inside. “I could cook something. You’ll feel better with something inside you. Oh god…”
Buffy was spared any further whimper by Dawn suddenly barreling out of her room to demand, “What the hell is all this noise?”
Giles looked at Dawn in terror whilst Buffy, feeling ever so slightly flipped off by his reaction, decided not to aid him in his discomfort. It was her turn to lean suavely against the appliances.
“Giles has just recalled that he and I once cooked together.”
He let out a sort of anguished howl, but Dawn looked singularly unconcerned and addressed Buffy.
“Is this normal for him?”
Buffy shrugged. She didn’t have a handle on what was normal by Giles standards these days.
“I have to be at class early tomorrow. So Giles, please, can you do your freaking out more quietly?”
The bedroom door slammed behind her and Buffy looked to gauge where Giles was on his freaked out meter.
“This is worse than being drunk and not remembering,” he lamented.
Still at the high end of the scale then, she pushed past him and into the relative open space of her living room. Giles followed at her heels.
“This is, this is... just… just.. you knew! You took advantage of me.”
Buffy turned and glared back at him in response. She’d reached seriously pissed off at the first ‘oh god’, and he hadn’t said anything since to improve her mood.
“You better not be taking that where I think you are,” she replied angrily.
“No, I don’t mean that,” he backtracked. “I mean, you knew who I was. I was the one at a disadvantage.” His voice was a hoarse whisper so as to not disturb Dawn.
“Oh, it’s not as if it was my game plan from the outset.” Buffy also found herself loudly hissing back. “Get over yourself, Giles. It just happened.”
She stalked off to the little bathroom and surprisingly, again, Giles followed. Her bathroom was even smaller than the kitchen and there was barely enough room for the two of them but he closed the door and resumed his whispered tirade.
“But why would you let it just happen?”
Buffy took a deep breath and answered in a calm voice. “Because we both wanted it. You were there too.”
“But, it’s just…just…”
Buffy didn’t think she handle another round of his deeply unflattering, stuttering, one word sentences.
“Giles, I’d like to be alone now.” He looked puzzled so she gestured around the enclosed space of the bathroom for his benefit. He seemed to notice the tiles and the shower for the first time.
“What? Oh, sorry. Yes,” he stammered and withdrew. Buffy locked the door and sat on the closed toilet seat. She heard him pace for a bit and then it went quiet outside. She should have expected his reaction. She’d known he’d treated her differently when he only known her as Anne. It had been with respect, but a different kind of respect to that which she enjoyed as Buffy. The curse to keep them apart had died when he’d died but now it felt like it might as well be back, because he just didn’t seem to understand.
She found him on the couch, still looking dazed. She brought the two mugs of hug milk to the coffee table and sat carefully next to him but respecting a suitable gap. After a couple of minutes silence, Giles leaned forward for his mug and blew across the skin that had formed.
“I’m sorry,” he began, “but this is all so very…”
“Wiggins-worthy?” she offered.
“Quite. Right, yes, of course you would come for me. And I am incredibly grateful you did.” He turned to her earnestly. “I’m just so sorry I acted inappropriately towards you.”
“You didn’t. God, Giles, in the circumstances, it was probably the most appropriate thing in the world.”
He considered that, put the mug back on the table and confessed, “I never wanted you to see that side of me.”
Buffy wasn’t sure where he was going with that, but it sounded hopeful.
“The side that has casual sex with strangers?” she quipped.
He frowned. “It wasn’t quite like that. Somehow, Anne wasn’t a stranger. No, I mean the side that cares for you.” He seemed to have lost his breath momentarily. “Cares that deeply for you.”
He stretched his arm along the top of the couch and Buffy took the opportunity to scoot her knees up and slightly graze his lap. He made no reaction other than a shy smile and Buffy knew that everything was going to be alright. She reached a hand to his sleeve and rubbed the soft fabric.
“You do realize you aren’t freaking out,” she said.
“Inwardly, you have no idea.”
“No, I mean with me being this close. Under the curse, you were usually bolting to another room about now.”
“You’ve only a small apartment. I think we’ve done a tour of all the rooms now bar Dawn’s. I sense she wouldn’t appreciate our company.”
“Oh jokes now? Funny guy.” She moved a little closer to him.
“Nervous guy,” he admitted. “Frightened guy… and oh my god!” He suddenly groaned. “I killed you.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “You weren’t that good.” But he wasn’t to be deflected.
“No, I mean I thought the other Buffy was you. I killed you. I made love to you and then I killed you in an angry knife fight.” He rested his head against the back of the couch and addressed the ceiling. “Bloody hell. Freud would have a field day.”
“You didn’t kill her out of anger or hatred. You did it because you loved her.”
“No,” He shook his head. “Not exactly her. Only what she used to be. I should have known it was you at my side, all along.”
She stroked his arm again. “And there seems to be no more hell god curse.”
“No, that's gone, but are you sure about this, Buffy? About what it means for us?”
She leaned forward decisively, her bottom lip found his and played gently with it. Giles surprised her by probing back equally teasingly, and Buffy’s mind was filled with the possibilities of pleasures to come.
She giggled and broke contact to say, “Maybe you are that good.”
Giles smiled warmly with his eyes and leaned further across but stopped with a wince of pain and Buffy realized he must have stretched his stitches. He apologized with gritted teeth.
“That’s OK, Giles. I think we should go to bed now.”
“Er…” A look of alarm spread across his face. “I have been stabbed today. Several times in fact. I don't think I...” She just glared at his misunderstanding until he thought through the how implications of their relationship meant neither of them had to squeeze onto the couch to sleep anymore. “Ah. Sorry. You didn’t actually mean it that way. Still making adjustments here,” he added in sheepish apology.
Buffy laughed and rolled her eyes. “Jeez. I’ve created a monster.”
Buffy lay in Giles’ arms, on his good side, and contemplated the darkness of her room. She was warm and comfortable but she couldn’t sleep. They had lain together like that for nearly two hours without speaking, and she knew from the sound of his breathing that he wasn’t sleeping either. The blinds at her window emitted only partial artificial light, occasionally pulling car lights across the ceiling in a sweeping arc. New York would wait till dawn to completely shake itself awake but till then, Buffy was left with an aching, all-consuming doubt about the darkness.
“Giles, what if this isn’t real?” She felt him kiss the top of her head.
“Try to sleep,” he murmured.
“I’m afraid of what might happen if I do,” she replied shakily. “I’m afraid what will happen when I wake up.”
“I’ll still be here.”
“But is this real? Giles, why would they let you go? Why would they do that? I mean, what if this isn’t reality? What if this is just another one of their games, and we are trapped here and they are making us jump through hoops for their entertainment?”
His warm voice tried to be reassuring. “Does this feel like torture to you?” he asked.
“No, but why would they just give you another chance?”
He sighed and considered his answer. “Perhaps I became less interesting to them? Boy gets the girl usually signals the end of the story.”
“No, but I don’t understand what’s happened. How can you be sure?”
“Speaking from experience; eternal damnation in a hell dimension doesn't involve lying in bed with you. Not unless Dawn is going to keep bursting in and tell us to keep the noise down every ten minutes.”
His words at least made her smile.
“We’ll have to tell the others what happened,” she mused. “They might not understand – about us.”
“They might not, but I think that’s a ‘this’ world problem we have to face. And I can face anything with you at my side.” He kissed her hair again. “Now, try to sleep.”
Buffy sat up and away from his arms. “I want it to be real. I want to trust this. But how will we ever know?”
Giles pulled back the covers and walked over to the bedroom window. He pulled the cord to draw the blinds as far open as possible, and the darkness of New York and the brooding apartment block opposite filled the room. Hopping back under the blankets he said, “We’ll know when the sun comes up.”
Buffy snuggled back into his arms and decided she liked the plan. She would know everything was OK when the first pink rays of the clouds glowed onto their bed. She would find her answer in the morning sun. Looking at her alarm she calculated they had about forty minutes to wait.
They lay together in the darkness. For all of Giles’ calm she knew he was nervous about the new day too. She couldn’t bear the thought of being puppets in someone else’s world.
“The sun will come up for us won’t it, Giles?” she asked as the minutes ticked by.
“Yes I'm sure of it.” He kissed her hair softly as he spoke. “Because you make the sun come up, Buffy.”The End
I hope you enjoyed the bumpy ride and thank you for staying with me to the end. Let me take this opporuntity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year!