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The Blood Tie

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The Blood Tie

She awoke before dawn. It wasn't really light outside yet, but the world already had taken shape again. Breathlessly, she sat in her bed, shivering. What had awakened her felt like the memory of an almost inhuman cry of pain, and yet, she hadn't dreamt of anyone crying; also, apart from the faint rustle of early bees outside, everything was motionlessly quiet, so she felt fairly certain nobody had actually cried and woken her up. Still, she knew something was more than wrong. She closed her eyes to make use of her Slayer senses and intuition. What was it? Who was it?
When she felt her breath getting almost regular again, it hit her like a weapon she hadn't seen coming.
It was Giles.
Somewhere, somehow, Giles was calling her. How exactly his cry could have been conveyed to her, she didn't know. Again, she heard it, and yet, it wasn't a real cry; it seemed to come from inside of her, from somewhere inside her chest, running through her veins, pulsing in her racing heartbeat. She jumped out of bed, quickly changing her pyjama pants to sweatpants, slipping first into a thin wool jacket, then into her black boots, and running downstairs and out, frantically trying to follow Giles's cry of immeasurable pain.

***

She ran and ran, almost like a trapped animal, changing directions every now and then when she felt the direction she was hurrying to had to be a dead end. It almost made her break down; not knowing where to go but certain of his life being at risk, not seeing anything, and having to listen to something that was shouting, suffering deep inside her, coordinated with her heartbeat and flushing through her whole body with her blood.

She couldn't lose Giles. She just couldn't lose him. She had made that clear to him, and to the Council, and to everyone else who had allowed the faintest idea of doubt about the subject to surface. She had to find him. It was still dim, and she felt as if still trapped in a nightmare, but this was just far too real to be a dream, or a vision. Too real to be a spell, too. She kept running, already breathless but driven by what she was sure to be a matter of life and death. Soon, she had run through more than half of Sunnydale. The first place she had passed by had been his place, but her, well, her pounding blood had told her before she even came within sight of his door that he wouldn't be there.

Only after several minutes did she realize she had started crying. Not that she cared. Oh, Giles. After all she had done to him, after all the twisted ways in which she had accidentally or deliberately hurt him, after all the time she had ignored and avoided him, after everything they had survived together, after the countless times they had saved each other's lives, averted an apocalypse, changed the course of time, tricked fate, he couldn't be dead! No, he couldn't - he wasn't allowed to be! Still, she could hear his voice roar inside her regularly; the longer she ran, the more pain his cries inflicted on her, also physically. Running down a particularly long avenue, she felt her own pain increase the farther she ran and hoped to conclude she must be getting closer to him. Her own tears burned upon her face, and she sent godless prayers up to where she hoped there might still be something or someone to help her. She couldn't let him go like this. Not without telling him how much he meant to her. What a difference he had made in her life. How closely she thought they had bonded, and how sorry she felt for having ruptured their connection. How much she needed him. That she couldn't imagine herself living without knowing he was alive, too. How much she cared about him. That he was more than a friend. That she ... loved him.

***

Her desperation became fuelled with anger; anger at herself, anger at the world and fate's ironic twists, anger at all the circumstances that had driven them apart, and driven her into a coldness she couldn't seem to get out of on her own. The tears, still running down her face, left marks on her hot cheeks; panting, she fell, but didn't give herself even the slightest amount of time to pay attention to her palms and knees. As if she were running for her own life, she got up the same instant she had fallen, her footsteps echoing in the sleepy town that came to life only slowly now, the scattered earlybirds staring at her in horror. Another inhuman cry shook her to her core, louder than ever before. She fell again, only to rise again without any loss of time, not acknowledging the blood on her limbs that she unconciously mixed with the tears in her face. Praying that she would find him soon, she reached the end of the avenue, ignoring the dead end and running on into the grass and down a slope to the wooded riverbank, the cries that seemed to be both hers and his guiding her, her pulsing, boiling blood speaking to her, drawing her into a certain direction. Once more she fell, rolling down the slope a bit, but immediately forcing herself to keep running. Stumbling, crying, and bruising herself as she hurried through branches and roots, she finally reached a strip of the bank that was bare of trees, making out a slumped figure a little further away by the bank where the wood grew again. The cries within her and the throbbing of the blood in her veins made her cry out herself in an inarticulate, unwordly roar which would have frozen the blood of anyone in their right mind.

Without slowing down the slightest bit, she broke down on her knees next to the seemingly dead body that was Giles'. She had already recognized him from a distance, her heart throwing itself against the walls of her chest from the inside, her very core almost dissolving against the choking feeling of the death of a loved one. Breathlessly and without words, she shook him, only to discover that he was unconscious, and his left wrist slit, apparently by himself, in such a way that his blood must have been flowing into the river for far too long a while. Her restless eyes flickering between the water and his arm, she detected faint clouds of red and a faded channel of blood leading into the comically peaceful waves. Later, she wouldn't remember herself shouting, calling his name, not even that she tore off her wool jacket and floral pyjama top which she tore into deceivingly kitschy stripes, leaving her only in her bra. She wouldn't remember tieing the flowery fabric around his wrist with an unrepeatable, herculean strength, the pressure drawing weals into his skin. She wouldn't remember the cold of the dawn that increased her trembling, lashing against her bare skin; only the stifling desperation which she felt at his sight, and at her helplessness.

Having tied all the usable bits she had left of what had been her top around his wrist to stop the bleeding and close the wound, she suddenly realized she had been wordlessly roaring, then shouting his name at him and into the river for the whole time. Hoarse from her cries, she called his name again and again, shaking his body. He had had a pulse, she had seen it give the blood that had been flowing into the water a rhythm. God, he looked so pale, so transparent; she didn't think she had ever seen anyone look this vulnerable. She cried out again to all the powers there might be; she couldn't lose him. She couldn't lose him. She couldn't put up with his loss, and she wouldn't survive it, that she thought to know.

Again, she shook him, her cries not ceasing, her hands both racking and caressing his body. Only later would she remember to have shaken off his glasses, causing them to break against the gravel that continued to shred the skin of her knees, now unprotected by her pants. When she couldn't bring her voice to shout anymore, she decided to slap him; he did still have a pulse, and what could she possibly lose? As he didn't react, she slapped him again, first on his left, then his right cheek, whimpering to the air that surrounded them. She had sat him up and awkwardly hugged him from one side, shaking his shoulders, covering the cheek she could reach with small, tearful kisses, mixing both their blood on both their skin and clothes. She held him tight, sobbing into his hair, her crying almost noiseless as there was nothing left in her anymore that could have made a well perceptible sound, rocking both of them desperately through her hug.

***

After what had felt like several lives being drained out of her body and all her senses robbed, she noticed that his arm had moved ever so slightly. Immediately, she loosened her grip and shouted his name, only making it sound like a loud, eerie, hoarse whisper. He had opened his eyes; within barely one moment, he understood she had found and saved him, and burst into uncontrollable, soulless sobs against her shoulder. Again, she held him tight, rocking him; later, she would be surprised at the fact that she still had tears, even when her voice had almost left her. After an endless while of their shaking bodies pulling at each other as if pulling at a rescue rope, Buffy spoke.

Her voice was still not hers; it was hoarse and sinister, and almost lifeless, almost imperceptible. Still, he listened, shaking. She told his hair, and it welled up out of her trembling body, her accusations not even questions.
"What did you think you were doing. What on earth made you think you could leave me for good. What the hell made you believe you are allowed to leave like that. When did you forget that you are my best friend. I love you so much. How could you think I'd ever let you go. Giles, I love you like my own life. In fact, even more. I can't live without you, not one minute. Why did you do this. Not the worst stroke of fate, not the most painful blow from me, not the stupidest blunder or blindness from either of us entitles you to do such a thing.
You mustn't leave. You mustn't die. You can't be anywhere else than by my side. I know I've all but made myself clear in the past, but I do now. Oh, Giles, you don't know what you mean to me. You have forgotten that we are connected. I could hear you cry inside my blood, and your pulse guided mine. I don't know what I'd do without you. You can't go. You can't leave me. Especially not where I can't follow you." Now, even the hoarse little voice she had left after all her shouting failed her and she broke. Sparging him with her tears, she held onto him as though he could slip away or dissolve any moment.

***

Giles had stopped sobbing during her speech, very slowly trying to fill up the emptiness he had let himself feel and which had driven him to go this far. He felt his reason to live return to him, incredibly slowly, spreading through his veins and immersing him in the warmth her body beamed at him. He, too, sounded hoarse with tears, the pain that had bottled up inside him for years audible in his every word as he spoke, his voice trembling, but not stuttering for even one moment. "Buffy." He felt her take a deep breath, as if to sigh, but she held it. "I thought that after all this, our... bond was broken. I thought you didn't want me anymore. I thought that you had meant to push me as far away as possible. You have become the purpose of my life, not just as a Slayer, but as ... you. I lived for you, and I thought the distance that has ... built up between us meant that I should lose you forever." She breathed out and swallowed, quivering, as if losing him were still a possibility. His head was still against her chest and her cheek on his head; he heard her heart pound as if it was about to break free from her ribcage. "I, too, love you, Buffy."

His last sentence worked like a spell. Very slowly, she pulled away to look into his eyes; just like hers, they were bloodshot and lustreless. Tears and drops of blood on their faces and each feeling as though having exhaled a whole life, their gazes locked. Her voice was still hoarse and crackly. "Then, that is why you must stay." He raised his brows, his heart still in pain. "I can't," he whispered. "Even if I stay to live, I can't stay with you. Not like this, not anymore. You are everything to me, and if I can't have you, I shall not see you again, for it causes me greater pain than any human being should have to experience. Your rejection torments my soul, Buffy."
Trying to regain a bit of herself, she whispered back, "This must be the biggest misunderstanding of world history, then." The corners of his mouth twitched, as if for a smile that never followed. The wind swept through the forest, the quivering of the poplar leaves almost whitewashing their whispers. "Giles, I love you. With all my heart. I love you like ... like my second half. I can't be whole without you. We belong to each other. Don't you understand? I love you."

Her words electrified him, and she read first horror, then indescribable love in his eyes, trying to reflect it with her own. Desperately, their lips crushed against each other, as if to draw all the love, all the life out of the other to exchange against their own. His hands cupping her cheeks, the bandaged wrist brushing her neck, he pulled her closer while her arms which still found some strength to pull at him held him tight against her body. Neither of them would remember later when exactly they had stopped shaking, only that, when the first sunrays caressed the river's surface from still behind the horizon, they allowed themselves to pull apart gently, smiling at each other the first fully genuine smile of their lives.