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The Journey Back

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Giles loaded the last of their bags into the back of the car and waited for Buffy. They had said their goodbyes to Mary and Jed with promises to return with Dawn.  A few minutes later Buffy appeared with travel mug in hand. “Want me to drive?”

Giles shuddered visibly and then snatched the keys. “I’d rather be trapped in a hell dimension.”

“Ha! Ha! Then I call dibbs on the tunes!”

“What? No please. It is not a good idea for the driver’s brains to dribble out their ears.”

“C’mon Giles. Please. Besides that was like centuries ago.” Her bottom lip protruded into a pout.

He closed his eyes and nodded his silent acquiesce. After eight years Buffy’s pout hadn’t lost its potency. She could still twist him around her little finger with that one look.

“Yay! I win!”

After a tense twenty minutes of channel surfing, Buffy remarkably settled on a classic rock station currently devoting an hour to the Beatles. She studied Giles’ profile as he concentrated on the road, wondering if he was even aware that he was quietly singing along. “You have a great voice, Giles.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her before returning his attention to the slow moving caravan ahead. “Oh really? Funny, the others said you were, err, wigged. So I rather thought you didn’t care for it.”

She grimaced. This weekend they had resolved many of their past issues, particularly those involving Angel and Spike, but they had studiously avoided discussing Riley or her year at college. “I’m sorry, Giles. It wasn’t my finest moment. And the only time I’ve heard you sing was during that little episode with Sweet.”

Giles looked at her sharply. Buffy had steadfastly insisted that she had not heard any of his songs while they were under the influence of that demon.

Correctly interpreting his look, she offered, “I’m sorry about that too. I just didn’t know how to deal.”

Giles took a deep breath and bit back his anger. Buffy had always played fast and loose with the truth. Under their old relationship, that of Watcher and Slayer, he could excuse some of it due to her youth and her natural tendency to rebel against authority. But now if they were going to lead the new Slayer’s Council their dynamic needed to change, starting with being honest. “I admit, it did hurt when Dawn let it slip that you had in fact heard me that day.”

“Look Giles, my so called friends had ripped me out of heaven and the Watcher that I thought would look after my sister had high-tailed it back to England, so forgive me if I was a little pissed and not in the mood to share.”

Giles pulled the car off at the scenic turnoff. He suspected this was not a conversation to be had while driving. “Every time I looked at Dawn I saw my failure. You died because I couldn’t come up with another way to close the portal. It didn’t help that Dawn was sticking to Spike like glue.”

His attempt at humor further raised Buffy’s hackles. “I thought we resolved the whole Spike thing.” She made a rolling gesture with her right hand.

Giles sighed. “Buffy, although I now have a better understanding of why you kept Spike around, it doesn’t change the fact that I will never like him. Or trust him.”

“You’re jealous!” She accused. She slapped her forehead. “God, you are no different than Angel or Riley.” She reached for the door handle, “I think I’ll just call Willow and have her zap me back to Rome.”  It wasn’t until Giles drove off without another word that Buffy realized her belongings were still in the trunk.

“Bloody stubborn woman,” he cursed. It seemed that a reconciliation with Buffy was truly out of the question. “Especially after leaving her at the turnout, Berk.” He sighed. Yelling at himself was not going to solve the problem, which was how to get Buffy’s belongings back to her without alarming Dawn. Although if Buffy had indeed called Willow then it was all moot, for Willow found it impossible to keep any kind of secret. He shook his head. That was neither fair nor accurate.  Willow had certainly kept how deeply she had delved into the dark magics a secret from him. He pulled the car into the drive and was immediately greeted by an angry Dawn and a concerned Willow.

“Giles! What the hell happened? I thought you two were supposed to make up? Is stranding my sister in the middle of the English countryside some new Watcher thing?”

He rolled his eyes. The teen grew more sarcastic with each passing year, no doubt due to the amount of time she spent in Spike’s company. “Dawn, I did not strand Buffy. She had her cellphone and said she was calling Willow for a teleport.”

The bravado dropped and she asked more meekly, “What happened? I thought you two were going to work things out?”

Giles hated to disappoint the teen, but he also didn’t want to lie. “Dawn, we warned you not to get your hopes up.”

“So you’re giving up?”

“There doesn’t appear to be any way, Dawn. I’m truly sorry. You know I will only be a phone call away.”

“Yeah. Whatever.” She turned and ran into the house leaving Willow alone with Giles.

“Dawnie’s just upset Giles. She loves you. She’ll come around.”

He gave Willow a weak smile. “Thank you, Willow, but I think we both know that is not likely. Did Buffy arrive safely in Rome?”

Willow hesitated, unsure of whether she should meddle or just let things blow over. In the end she couldn’t leave it alone. “The teleport went smoothly, but she’s really upset Giles.”

Giles frowned at his shoes. Although he still felt some residual anger towards his Slayer, he never took pleasure in learning that she was hurting. “Perhaps you should accompany Dawn back to Rome. Take Xander too. She’ll likely want her friends close.”

“I’m not so sure Xander and I are the right people for the job, Giles.”

At his stunned look she explained, “We voted to kick her out of her house. Dawn, she kinda has to forgive since she’s her sister, but Xander and I? Not so much.”

The watcher sighed. When had things gotten so complicated?

In the end Willow teleported both Giles and Dawn to Buffy’s condo in Rome. No sooner had they materialized when Giles found himself with an armful of Slayer. He had been expecting a frosty reception, if anything. Not this. “I’m sorry, Giles.” She mumbled into his chest before grabbing him by the hand and leading him to her room where they could speak in private. She sat down on the bed and pulled him down next to her.

“It is I who should apologize, Buffy. I never should have driven off.”

“No. It was a good wakeup call. And it wasn’t like I was in any danger. Slayer here. But Dawnie called me when you got back. She was crying. Said that you’d given up on us. Look Giles, we’re bound to fight over a lot of things, but I thought we had made some real progress this weekend.”  She squeezed his hand and waited for him to have his say.

“Yes, we did clear the air on quite a few things. But we can’t go back to the way things were before. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that you are not the rebellious girl that wanted nothing to do with her destiny, but an intelligent and resourceful young woman who has not only embraced her destiny but has become quite the leader.”

Buffy nudged him with her shoulder. “Only because you pushed me to think for myself. To be better. I would have been dead a lot more times if it hadn’t been for you Giles. And if I never said thank you before than I am saying it now.”

“Well then we’re agreed? A fresh start. As equals.”

Buffy nodded and smiled happily. They two enjoyed a comfortable silence until Giles furrowed his brow. “What?”

“Buffy, why did you accuse me of being jealous like Angel and Riley?”

“Oh, err, well I kinda thought maybe we were moving our relationship to new ground and there were a few times this past weekend when I thought we were flirting.”

His eyes widened. Although it had been true that he had noticed that Buffy had matured into a beautiful young woman, he had thought he had been more discreet. He would have to remember that he wasn’t invisible to this new and more mature Buffy. “Err, sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.” He ducked his head and blushed.

“You didn’t, Giles. I liked it. And if you recall I said that we were flirting.”

“Uh, Buffy, as flattered as I am that you have even come to see me as a man rather than a textbook with arms, I think we should concentrate on our working relationship …”

“Giles. Relax. We totally need to rebuild our friendship and work through some major trust issues. But maybe someday?”

“Oh Buffy, you dear girl. You’d do much better with someone your own age. Whatever residual feelings of intimacy from this weekend will fade and you’ll be back to seeing me as old and gross in no time.”

She closed her eyes. “I really hurt you with that. I’ve never been good at sharing and I had sorta gotten used to be the center of your world. I’m sorry, Giles. But you’re right. We don’t need romance complicating things right now. Maybe later in this new relationship of ours there’ll be room for the romance. Now gimme a hug. We can still hug right?”

He stood and enveloped her in his arms. “Anytime you want, Buffy.”

“I don’t hear any shouting or breaking furniture so you guys are alright in there aren’t you?” Dawn knocked perfunctorily on the door before swinging it open. “Oh yay! Group hug!” She slammed into the two of them with such exuberance that she almost knocked them off their feet.

“Yeah, Dawnie, we’re going to be okay.”

“Good. Then you guys can feed me. I’m starving!”

“Dawn, you ate lunch before we teleported.”

“Yeah, but that was like two hours ago. Now let’s go!” The Watcher and Slayer shared a smile as the excited teen tugged them along. A shared new journey stretched out ahead.