Weeks had passed since her resurrection, and since Giles' return. The joy he had felt upon seeing her, hugging her, had been infectious, but the sensation had been over too soon. She had been empty ever since her return, and seeing Giles again (and him so overjoyed to see her alive) had only instilled a feeling for a very short time. It had passed too quickly, and Buffy felt empty and soulless again. She had instantly known that coming back to life would make her feel much worse than she had been while in the hereafter ... but she hadn't suspected at all that she wouldn't be able to produce any kind of genuine emotion. Living without feeling anything, "going through the motions", didn't seem to be a fair bargain, and in fact, made her crave any kind of emotional sensation.
The only emotion she had been able to feel so far -- apart from that one moment in the Magic Box -- was anger. Anger towards anything and everything, and everyone. Towards Dawn, towards her friends, towards Giles, towards, well, life in general. Spike had given her the physical sensations of lust, and she probably ought to thank him for that; but apart from those, Buffy hadn't been able to experience any kind of emotion. With that, she had dismissed the vampire, although she knew he had meant well and had been straightforward with her concerning his feelings. She figured he probably deserved better than that, better that getting used by someone hunting for an emotional rollercoaster to experience.
Certainly, her anger -- sometimes turned into hatred -- had proven to be helpful, sometimes, when patrolling. It made her more effective, more ambitious. But oh, how quickly she had grown sick of it. Sick of pushing everyone away. It had been clear to her that she wasn't going to be able to resume her life just like that, but she craved variety, longed to be the Buffy she had been, or at least a version of her -- not just this empty but lethal machine.
Therefore, she had recently consulted Willow about it, and while she had shocked the witch with her directness, her friend had been very understanding. Buffy didn't notice how Willow almost tore up upon hearing how empty and hollow Buffy felt since her resurrection. She had only meant well by bringing her back; she had never imagined that returning could prove to be torture for Buffy. All the more did she want to help the Slayer, and after one or two weeks of research with Tara and Anya, Willow had found an ancient spell that seemed to promise hope. Not daring to perform it without consulting with the others, Willow called everyone to the Magic Box to make sure that the others, too, thought it was a good idea to give it a try.
The spell in question would connect Buffy to another person, emotionally, making her experience their feelings the way the other individual would experience them. Of course, emotions couldn't be transferred completely, so there would still be a difference between one's own and the other person's feelings -- it would always be perceptible whether one was feeling their own emotions or somebody else's. Casting the spell, though, was going to have the effect of getting to know another person's feelings and also, inevitably, their points of view. Through that procedure, Willow announced, a coven had taught a Slayer who had been robbed of all her emotions by a demon to feel again. That had been centuries ago, but Tara, too, was convinced that there was hope that casting the spell upon Buffy to link her to someone else's emotions would have the same effect.
The question of whose emotions to connect to Buffy roused a fervent discussion. Anya, Xander and Dawn all thought themselves to be the perfect choice; Tara didn't dare to say anything. Willow couldn't join Buffy to herself since she was going to be the one to cast the spell, and Buffy herself only listened, trying not to feel annoyed. Giles hardly participated but always provided good arguments whenever the discussion was getting too heated. Meanwhile, Tara re-read all they had on the spell, which consisted only of a piece of medieval parchment, written in Latin. As the noise level in the Magic Box again rose to a dangerous-sounding extent, Tara spoke softly, making herself heard only through her gentleness which stood in full contrast to the heated discussion.
All eyes were on Tara now, Willow's filling with pride.
"Sorry to interrupt. I just discovered something that we must take into account or this could go horribly wrong. The text says it's crucial that the link be made with someone of great strength, of great stability and maturity, and with as much experience as possible."
Everyone swallowed at that, since this instruction ruled out everyone except for Giles, who fulfilled all of the forementioned criteria. All eyes turned to him, and he blushed slightly, trying to cover that by taking off his glasses and cleaning them with the edge of his pullover. Willow broke the slightly embarrassing silence and said, "Well, Giles, it seems that you are the lucky one. I don't think anyone is going to argue about you being the only one providing all the requirements. We, um, should be glad to have someone as experienced as you." And with that, Willow and Dawn started to draw a chalk circle onto the floor of the Magic Box, carefully tracing the symbols which Tara described to them, reading them from the parchment. Xander watched in great respect while he tried to comfort Anya who was sulking over not having been chosen (repeatedly mentioning how, because of her age, she was much more experienced than Giles) by hugging her.
Finally, all was prepared and Giles and Buffy had been seated in the center of the circle on the floor, back to back, with their eyes closed. Had Buffy been able to perceive emotions the way she had been able to before her death, she would have noticed Giles almost shivering with worry, for fear of his emotions being revealed too openly. Not only had he been, in the light of recently past events, very changeable in his feelings and tried to conceal them, but there were, in fact, more dark depths to his emotional reserve than he would ever have shown anyone; he carried more weight on his shoulders than he would want anyone to know, and secrets he had so carefully tried to bury. "Okay, before I start, just so you know: This is only going to work one-way, Giles, Buffy is going to sense your emotions but not the other way round. Also, there is no break from this. Until we, um, dissolve the spell again, you'll be connected all the time. Also, you guys, there's no guarantee that this is going to work. But you know I'm trying my best." She caught a lovely smile from Tara and began.
Dawn watched in awe as Willow's incantations, supported by conjuring movements made by Tara, evoked colourful dust and all kinds of lights sweeping through the two seated on the floor. The walls seemed to tremble, until the buzzing in the air that had accompanied the spell reached its peak and all fell silent. A jolt went through Buffy and Giles, and they opened their eyes. The Watcher was facing Willow; he gave her a nod, a hint of a smile, and said, "Thank you, Willow. I'm sure this is going to help. And your p-powers are impressive; take good care of yourself." She shot back a bright smile, but he could see in her eyes -- and in Tara's hint of a nod -- that the redheaded witch knew exactly what he meant.
Giles stood up; Buffy had already risen to her feet and was in the process of being hugged by Dawn. It really was a process -- Giles had been surprised upon his return how kind and warmhearted Dawn had grown up to be, and just now, she was clinging onto Buffy as if she was to stay in her arms forever. He smiled slightly at the sight, but something about it made his heart wince a little. He could see Buffy react instantly; she was still buried in Dawn's loving hug, but he saw her flinch, and for a tiny instant, felt the urge to slap himself for having been so inconsiderate about his feelings. He should have tried to stay calm for her. This was all new to her, so he shouldn't have startled her with unpleasant feelings right at the beginning of this.
Buffy carefully freed herself from Dawn's hug and smiled at her, then turned around to look at Giles; he gave a wary smile. Her look told him she had noticed every little change in emotion, and he was pleased to know the spell had worked. "Good job, Willow," Buffy said, without turning away from Giles. The witch was all giddy about it, but obviously trying to contain herself. "I'm glad, Buff. There's just one more thing, I don't know over what distance this is going to work, so you should probably stay in the same house for a while if that's okay." Dawn saw Xander take a deep breath. Buffy instantly responded, "That's not a problem, I'm sure Giles will let me sleep on his couch, won't you, Giles?" Tara realized she was still behaving almost as coldly as before, but didn't say anything. Hopefully, this bond was going to help her. They all missed "old" Buffy, and surely a little kindness from his Slayer wouldn't do Giles any harm. She had noticed the furrows around Giles' eyes had become deeper with sorrow and concern and only hoped that the emotional connection would help Buffy transform a little towards her former self.
Giles was caught unawares by both Willow's implication and Buffy's suggestion, but instantly agreed, nevertheless. He would do anything to support Buffy in trying to, well, feel again. "Good thing that's settled, then," said Xander, "but both of you, let me know if the, um, closeness is too much for you, ya know, if you're treading on each other's toes, I'm sure Willow knows more possibilities." Dawn grinned, and Anya retorted instantly, "Xander, it's for the spell. It's not like they are going to jump into bed, you know? They're not us." Xander blushed, and Anya took him in tow, Dawn and Tara following, their arms linked, and both giggling. Willow smiled and collected her utensils, then wiping away the chalk symbols. "I'll bring some of your things to Giles' place, I know you have to go patrolling," Dawn called from the door.
Giles stared into the air, trying to figure out how to best guide Buffy into the right direction emotionally, without making her discover everything he had never wanted her to know of. "So pensive, Watcher-mine. What are you worrying about?" He turned around to see that Buffy seemed to look genuinely concerned. Maybe this was going well after all. "Oh, nothing, Buffy, just thinking about this b-bond and how we should approach it." She smiled cautiously. "I'm sure we'll work it out, Giles. Thank you for letting me connect to your emotions. I ... I really need help with this."
"You're most welcome, Buffy," he smiled lovingly. Willow, having finished packing, sneaked out of the Magic Box, smiling. This was definitely developing into the right direction.
* * *
After patrolling -- in quiet assent, since several vampires demanded their full attention -- , Giles and Buffy walked to his place. It was a calm, moonlit night, with the occasional breeze stopping by; soon, it was going to rain. "You're worrying again," Buffy said very matter-of-factly. She didn't sound as if she cared, but Giles knew she had felt it; he couldn't deny it. "Yes, Buffy. You have been without genuine emotions for a while, and I-I don't want to overwhelm you with my thoughts and problems." She swallowed. She had never given Giles' feelings too much thought, at least not when there wasn't anything immediate endangering him. Of course, she had worried about him often and suffered with him when Jenny had been murdered, but rather converted that into guilt than open concern for him. "I'm sure it's going to be fine, Giles. I trust you," she replied quietly. She felt him smile faintly. "Thank you."
At his house, Giles started to busily clear the couch and table, making space for Buffy for stay and putting on sheets which he retrieved in the bathroom. A little insecure, she just stood by and waited. When finished, he looked up at her. "Y-You know, you could also sleep in my bed, Buffy, if the couch isn't comfortable." She almost blushed, partly mirroring his emotions. "No, thank you, it's going to be perfect." Breaking the embarrassing silence that had just started to follow their exchange, the doorbell rang. It was Dawn, her cheeks a little flushed from hurrying and carrying, bringing one of Buffy's suitcases. She seemed very excited to help, and Giles couldn't help being moved. "Thank you, Dawn, it was very thoughtful of you to pack for your sister." They smiled at each other, and suddenly, something seemed to spread to Buffy and she briefly hugged Dawn. "Thanks, Dawnie, that's sweet." She took the suitcase and carried it over to the couch, starting to rummage in it for her pyjamas. Giles gave Dawn another smile. "Good night, and thank you again. Take care." He almost winked at her and Dawn felt confident that Giles was going to make this right, to repair her sister's feelings.
He locked the door, then leaned against it to watch Buffy, who was fishing different pieces of clothing out of her tightly packed suitcase and sorting them on his armchair. He couldn't help it, a small wave of joy swept through him. To think that she had been dead! - and brought back! He remembered the hug she had given him upon his return, and his heart turned a tiny somersault. Buffy paused for a second, having felt it, too, not yet fully realizing what it was, but was pleasantly surprised by the positive emotion. She smiled at him without clearly understanding his emotions, but comforted by his joy.
"Tea?," he offered. "Yes, that would be nice, thank you, Giles." He turned to go to the kitchen and pondered how differently she was talking to him. She, too, had caught herself thinking how polite and friendly she was being to him, and remembered her earlier behaviour with a trace of guilt.
Just as Buffy had finished sorting her clothes, having found all that she needed for the night, Giles came back from the stove with two mugs and placed them on the couch table, sitting down as he did so. Buffy cuddled against the pillows, carefully lifting her full mug and blowing the tea's surface a little. Giles had taken to cleaning his glasses.
"You are a little sad," Buffy stated. Giles put his glasses back on; none of his feelings would pass undetected, and he found himself confronted with something of a challenge. "Indeed, I am. S-Sorry about that."
"No, that's okay. I should experience all of this. So, thank you. But, um, why are you sad?" Carefully, she took a sip; Giles held his mug between his hands, partly to warm himself (it had been quite cool outside already), partly in an attempt to steady his almost imperceptibly trembling hands. He sighed. "Oh ... It's about Jenny, isn't it, Giles? I'm so sor-" He interrupted her calmly. "Yes, it is. I-I just thought how the last time I've made tea in two mugs and brought them here l-like this to drink it together, sitting on the couch, was with Jenny. I know we've had tea since then, and sat here, but I just had an odd feeling of déjà-vu. Sorry. It just came back to me for a second."
While he had explained, Buffy had felt the sorrow they both felt deepen, until it had a firm grasp on her heart. With bated breath, she said, "I'm so sorry, Giles. It's really my fault. I should have killed Angelus while I had the chance to do so. I know that Angel is a different person now, but back then, there was nothing inside him except the soulless that he was, I-I should just have staked him. I'm sorry ... I just didn't have the heart. I was still hoping he'd magically come back." She put down her mug and cracked her knuckles nervously.
"Well, he did." Giles sounded raspy. He took a long sip of tea. The emotion (what was it? Sorrow?) still wrung her heart and her eyes filled with tears.
"I know he got his soul back, but that was after he ... m-murdered Miss Calendar. After he mocked you. After he...he t-tortured you." Her voice was trembling and she had started crying.
Seeing how intensely his emotion had transferred to Buffy, Giles almost felt guilty; but not only was she stating the truth, it was also necessary for her to be reminded not only of past facts, but also of the feelings that emerged with them, and he couldn't really make this any easier for her. He really tried not to think about the hours in which Angelus had tortured him, broken him at the factory, though, but he couldn't avoid having his mind flash back at the agony he had felt, at the pain he had suffered through, at how ready he had been to die that day when Buffy had, finally, punched him in the face and then hugged him, held him, while they had both been sobbing. Remembering those moments, he couldn't stop tears run down his face. He looked at Buffy and she, too, was crying. She suddenly hugged him, certainly feeling, too, what he had just felt; he could barely manage to set down his cup as she wrapped her arms around him.
"Oh, God, Giles," Buffy wept into his shoulder, trying to calm down but holding Giles who was also trembling. "I had thought I'd known what you felt, and yeah, sure, I had, in a way, but ... but n-now I ... I feel it. I know now what you felt and ... God, how didn't I see this back then?" She was sobbing; he held her closer. "I made sure you didn't let yourself get hurt when you went to the factory, but Giles ... oh God." She sniffed. "I knew he tortured you, but ... I don't even know what to say. I know now. I'm so sorry." She hugged him tighter. He blinked away tears that had been trying to follow their predecessors. "I know, Buffy. Y-You know I've forgiven you." Again, she sniffed, having stopped crying. "You have?," she asked, and he felt the same insecurity in her voice that had only just captured him. Still caught in her hug, he nodded. "Yes." He could feel her smile into his shoulder. They carefully pulled apart. "Thank you," she said, briefly touching his hand.
* * *
She wiped away her tears, and he took to cleaning his glasses again while she turned her attention to her tea. There had been a sudden flash bolting through both of them when their hands had touched. She knew it had to be mirroring something he had felt, but she knew that, apart from feeling his, her own emotions were slowly coming back to her - sorrow, pity, concern, regret, guilt, gratitude - and wondered whether this shiver had still been entirely his.
"Hmm?" He put his glasses back on and took his mug again, seemingly focusing on something unbelievably important inside it. She could feel his vulnerability; he seemed so defenceless and open and, at the same time, unexpectedly fragile. She couldn't remember having seen him like this; it was as though there were no barriers between them. Maybe that was to do with the fact that he couldn't hide his emotions from her, but facing him like this felt so unknown and at the same time so oddly familiar and comforting. She found herself regretting that she hadn't really gotten to know him, hadn't really cared to talk about him about anything apart from the Hellmouth.
"Don't you think ... maybe ... I don't know, maybe if you could just tell me about your feelings. Like, I don't know. I also figure none of this is my business, but maybe if you gave me examples, I'd remember. Like if you remember something, you also remember how that felt and, ya know, I will feel it." She felt him stiffen. "Or is that too personal?"
"I-I honestly don't know, Buffy." He took a tiny sip. "I really want to help you. But I'm afraid I'll hurt you w-with memories and emotions that I-I've been trying to shield you from." He looked at her and caught the puzzled expression in her eyes. "Buffy, I have experienced many emotions, I have done many things. But now that you ask me about them, I'm afraid that I will disappoint you. You'll see me d-differently once you find out certain things about me, and I'm afraid that is inevitable if you inquire about them, or about the feelings connected to them. Furthermore, I-I don't think I have too many memories I can please you with. Although I can't say I'm at rock bottom, I can't c-claim I've led the happiest of lives." He sighed, and she started to understand. "I don't want you to think badly of me."
Again, she touched his hand briefly, deliberately this time. "I won't, Giles. There is nothing that can diminish my respect for you. You should know that. I haven't exactly been treating you the way you deserved it. To be honest, well, I've hurt you a lot. I've been, um, very thoughtless and rude. But that doesn't mean I don't know what you're worth." He raised his eyes from his tea to look at her; their gazes met each other for a moment, and Buffy felt that undescribable, but now almost familiar flash again. With a hint of a crooked smile, Giles put his mug down again; it was almost empty. "Thank you for saying that. W-Well, I don't know. Tell me what you want to know."
She pulled up her legs and turned, her back to the couch's armrest, facing him. Hugging her knees, she said, "Dunno, I've felt some things now already but I'm going to ask you about other feelings. Maybe it's gonna help." He noticed that she had sounded almost cheerful. Mirroring her, he turned too, and pulled up his knees in a similar fashion. There was something slightly comic about their positions, and he chuckled, Buffy imitating him in that as she felt his amusement. They smiled at each other, and she shivered slightly.
"Okay then, Giles. Questions coming up. Hmm ... What about, um, malicious joy?" He grinned. "That's easy. You were involved. My best example of that is when you told that pillock Wesley I always said please and gave you a cookie when asking something of you."
"Oh, I remember that. God, he was such a jerk!" They laughed out loud, and it felt strangely liberating to Buffy. "Glad I was able to make you feel that way." He smiled at his knees, suddenly too shy to really look up at her.
"Well, alright. Let's see. What about ... fear?" Suddenly, he grew very earnest. He instantly thought about the moments right before discovering Buffy's dead body, and his feelings immediately washed over her, too. Sensing that he was thinking about something really dramatic and secretly guessing what he had thought about, she said, quickly, "Emotional message received, moving on." He seemed relieved not having to talk about it, and again, she felt his emotions through the connection. "Okay then, what about ... pride?" He had to think. "Well ... I felt very proud after graduating from university. Not to boast, but I d-did pretty well." He smiled warily; she smiled back. "I'm sure you did."
"Let me see ... other than that ... Well, I-I was very proud of you at your prom. B-But you knew that." Buffy felt a wave of warmth sweep through her. She felt the pride he had for her, yes, but there was something else, and she was almost sure it was love, maybe a father's love, but at least loving pride. She beamed. "Yes, I know." Her radiant smile made him almost sure he was going to melt inside; again, his heart took a tiny somersault, and Buffy's did the same this time.
"Alright, next question. Let me think. Hmm ... I guess we can't just skip the bad ones, can we? Or, um ... or should we?" She regretted her words the instant they came out of her mouth, but before she could take any of them back, Giles answered, "No, Buffy. While we're at it ... Ask me anything. We can't avoid them anyway. Ask w-what you need to know." She swallowed and felt him tense. "Okay," she almost whispered. "What about ... disgrace?" He took off his glasses, again, and cleaned them with the edge of his pullover again. His voice sounded a little hoarse. "You remember Eyghon?" She nodded. "I felt disgrace when ... when Randall died. You know t-the story. I've felt that for years. T-To be honest, I still do." The emotion flashed through her too and she believed she understood.
"It wasn't your fault, Giles." Her mouth felt very dry.
"That's w-what everyone tells me."
She bent over towards him a little and put her hand on the spot on his arm where she knew Giles still had Eyghon's mark under the sleeve of his pullover. "It wasn't your fault. You couldn't have known."
He gave a bitter smile. "Maybe not, but I didn't care, either. People died because we lost control over him. I couldn't stop him. Dierdre and Philip came to me, remember? I was too late."
"You couldn't have helped them, Giles. It's not your fault." She tried to meet his eyes and finally found them when he decided to return her gaze. "Thank you, Buffy." For the first time in years, he felt understood, and Buffy was delighted to notice. Moreover, it made her happy to be reminded of different emotions; feeling the sensations of Giles' emotions reminded her of how one was to feel them. She knew she was getting better.
He saw her smile to herself, and before he could hold it back, he felt the sudden urge to hold her in his arms. Buffy sensed it, but pretended not to notice, telling herself that she mustn't shame him in any way. Realizing what had come over him, Giles instantly became angry with himself. How could he dare losing his self-control in front of her. She needed his help, for Christ's sake. He buried his face in his palms and sighed. "What's the matter?," Buffy asked very carefully. "Nothing, Buffy, I-" She had stood up and crouched down beside him, resting her hand on his upper arm. "Look at me, Giles. What is going on?" Shyly, he looked up, only to be taken aback entirely by what he thought to see in her eyes. They were full of concern, yes, but there was something else, something he hadn't dared for hope for from anyone anymore, and it sent tingles down his spine. Buffy shivered, now being certain that the familiar flash she felt sweep through her whole body hadn't been initiated by him, but that it was a part of her own feelings, feelings that she had apparently rediscovered, emotions that she seemed to feel for him. Her other hand joined his upper arm, and at the touch, Buffy felt oddly reassured of the first intense positive emotion she could claim her own. She felt him tremble slightly, and without thinking, lifted her head to kiss him on the cheek ever so gently.
With that, Buffy was sure her heart was burning. She felt Giles' emotions being conveyed to her, but just as Willow had explained, she was able to distinguish his feelings from her own: and doing so, to her surprise, she realized that they were one and the same. She whispered in excitement, "Giles! I ... We are feeling the same emotion ..." Tears of which she didn't know where they came from gathered in her eyes. She was trembling. Giles turned, very slowly, to face her, loosening the touch of her hands, carefully setting his feet on the carpet again. Their eyes met, and Buffy saw his glisten; the very same moment, a wave of his disbelief and hope washed over her. She smiled, no, she beamed at him in a look that he thought would be the end of him.
He almost couldn't say it. "A-Are you quite sure?" She nodded immediately, and as he lowered his head, and she looked up at him, their lips approached each other in a movement that seemed to take forever and devour them in anticipation, until they finally met, carefully, softly. Buffy couldn't remember ever having experienced a kiss that was at the same time so pure and so intimate, and a tear found its way down her cheek. He lifted his hand to gently touch her cheek, wiping away the drop with his thumb. Suddenly, she flung her arms around him, holding him tight, tighter that she had held anyone before, burying her face in his chest. "Giles, I love you," she whispered, almost holding her breath; he clasped her tight and, on the verge of tears, still trembling, whispered in what he reckoned to be absolute joy, "I w-would never have thought this was possible. I can't b-believe it is happening. Oh, how I l-love you, Buffy." They pulled apart simultaneously, only to see each other's expressions, and then be drawn together in passionate kisses.
In that moment, both could have sworn to be experiencing all the emotions there were in the world at once.