“Wow, so this whole building is for us?” Buffy looked at her benefactor incredulously. She never imagined that such a place could be used for her and the other slayers. She could tell the building was old, but it was sturdy and quite beautiful with ornate carvings all around. Anais had been more than welcoming. She’d been wonderful. It was nice to think that they might be able to stay put, for a while at least. Moving around, staying ahead of the bad guys had put a lot of stress on her. So much had happened, and she and Giles still haven’t truly talked, not in years.
“Yes Buffy. I would imagine that you can use it as a school of some kind. Some of these girls are still quite young.”
“Anais, you’ve been more than welcoming, how” she paused “How can I accept this as well? Will we be safe? I know people and other… things are after me and the other slayers. This could put your family in danger.”
“Buffy, this building is on our property. It’s been in my family for generations. Don’t worry we have signs and sigils everywhere. Especially Angel signs. This building also has a few Devil’s traps as well. This is the safest that I think you girls will be.”
“Well, Faith and I thank you for your generosity. I think a school is fitting…… wait, Angel signs and Devil’s traps?”
Anais chuckled because she was wondering if Buffy had caught that. “Yes, one of my, shall we say, Uncles is an Angel.”
“A what now?”
“An Angel, his name Is Castiel and he is one of Tamriel’s brothers, I think. Not really clear on Angel relationships, but he says Tamriel is his brother, so we just go with it. Castiel has been helping the Vampire Council for a long time and as long as we don’t hurt any humans he won’t smite us. He checks up on us every once in a while. He even taught me Enochian, the Angel language, ever since I was a child.”
“I guess with everything I have seen, Angel’s shouldn’t really surprise me.” The name Castiel though had triggered an unexpected response in her heart. For some reason the name was familiar and she thought she should know it.
Anais laughed, laid a hand on Buffy’s shoulder and said very seriously “He’ll be glad you like it. You know he was a wreck for the longest time and when you needed him again, well, it made him very happy.”
This was bittersweet news to Buffy. Although she came to understand Giles reasoning for leaving, it still hurt and there was so much that happened in such a short time with protecting the potentials and fighting the First Evil they still hadn’t talked. And just before the big offensive against the First, Giles and the others had thrown her out of her house. The pain from that had not gone away. She knew that she and Giles needed a good long conversation, and soon if this was going to work.
“Yeah, well there are a lot of things we need to talk about.”
“Giles told me everything Buffy, and for what it’s worth, I’m on your side”. She looked long and deep at the girl that Giles loved so much, wondering if they would be able to heal this rift between them. “Anyway, this place is safe, plenty of comfortable rooms for living and teaching. You just tell me what you want or need and we’ll see that you get it.”
“You know, Anais, I actually kind of hated you at first. But, I think I am starting to change my mind.”
“It was a lot sprung on you all at once. I’m sure you had a lot of questions with no answers and I’m sorry for that. When you are more settled, you and I should have a long talk. I want Rupert to be happy and having you, Dawn and the other slayers here, well, that makes him very happy.” With that Anais turned and walked away leaving Buffy alone in the gigantic building. She slowly walked through the halls and looked in as many rooms as she could and thought to herself “This could work.”
Giles stood back to let his wife and Buffy have a few minutes together. He knew that there was a lot of hurt and anger still on Buffy’s part. They hadn’t had time to discuss the revelations of him being married, his leaving when he did or the fact that he was instrumental in breaking her down in front of the others. He also knew there was no going back to the innocence of their time together at Sunnydale High. He always tried to protect her, more than he was able to protect Angeline. The pain of losing his daughter was ever present in his mind and he supposed that for a while, training, protecting and yes, loving Buffy eased some of that pain.
Now, he didn’t know how to get her back. It’s not that he completely lost her, but their relationship was damaged, hopefully not beyond repair. Anais found him sitting on a bench outside the large beautifully ornate building. She sat next to him and put a hand on his shoulder, showing him comfort and support.
“You should go to her.”
“I’m afraid.” He admitted.
“My Ripper is afraid? What are you afraid of my love? Not being what you were to each other? Well, too much has happened to both of you and you haven’t talked. Not about me, not about what you felt when you had to leave, not about anything. She’s been here for weeks and the two of you avoid each other like the plague. Yet, you each ask after the other. So, go to her, find out where you stand with one another. You love her don’t you?” He nodded his head yes, “So, go try to fix it, just remember it won’t be the same, but maybe just maybe it will be better”.
He knew she was right. Buffy had been angry at him since he left her four years ago. And, there was so much that happened all at once that they hadn’t talked about it, any of it. Giles made a decision right then to go to Buffy, and try to at least explain some, if not all, how he was feeling. He grabbed Anais’s face in his hands and kissed her long and deep. His wife, the antithesis of the things he had helped his slayer fight, was the wisest most wonderful being in the world. “Your right, as always, we need to work this out. And, yes I love that girl, sometimes too much. You helped pick me back up when I thought she was dead and I don’t know if I could survive……” Anais knew what he was trying to say and just laid her hand on his and simply said, “Go to her Rupert.” He let go of his wife’s hand, got up and went in search of his slayer.
She heard the familiar even footsteps and turned when they stopped. They were in a large room with many chairs and not much else. “This would make a great classroom. Don’t you think Giles?” She said while turning to face him.
“I never could fool you, could I? You always know when it’s me. All those times I made you practice blindfolded paid off.” He joked.
Buffy tilted her head to the side and for a minute Giles saw the young, scared teenager he had first met at the Sunnydale High library.
“Giles, I…..” “Buffy, I…..” they said at the same time.
“Buffy, you go first.”
“Giles,” She stumbled on her words, not knowing where to start when she suddenly, angrily said “You left me. I was in pain, I was hurting and you left me. And only came back when you needed me to help you protect those girls. How could you do that Giles?”
“Buffy, you know why I left. You were not making your own decisions; it was almost as if you were sleepwalking through life. That wasn’t my slayer. Even as much as you rebelled against your calling, you knew who you were, what you were and didn’t question it after you finally accepted your destiny. But, when you came back, when Willow pulled you back, you weren’t my slayer anymore.”
“Giles, I was in Heaven, at least I believe it was. I remember being at peace no more fighting, no more decisions, just me and…..and…….” She looked away wistfully, trying to remember something important, some memory that had been knocked loose, but hadn’t quite surfaced.
“No, though I did, or think I did, see her. No, this was different. I felt loved, like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Almost as if my soul was complete…..” She looked off in the distance, trying to remember what or who made her feel this way. Suddenly very angry she picked up a chair, threw it across the room, where it splintered into a hundred different pieces, turned to Giles again and yelled, pouring all of her anger, pain and frustration that had built up over the last four years. “Be strong Buffy, take care of Dawn and everyone Buffy, Stop seeing Spike Buffy, Buffy help us, Buffy we need you, well what about what I wanted Giles. I was expelled from Heaven. No one asked what Ineeded. No one helped me, I was ON MY OWN.” She screamed out. Gilescrossed to her, grabbed her and wrapped his arms around her, knowing that she could easily throw him across the room. She beat on his chest letting all of that pain pour out of her in tears.
“Buffy….” He had no words. He had only ever seen his slayer break down once, when Joyce, her mother, died of a brain tumor years ago. He just held her, as she sank to the floor, still pounding his chest, but the blows were weakening as she lets out years of heartache and frustration. Giles held her tighter, rubbing her back, calming her down, just saying her name over letting her know he was there for her.
“I’m sorry, Giles. I think I just ruined your Mr. Professor jacket there.” She joked, while the tears kept flowing, no longer as painful, but somehow soothing. “Giles,” she said quietly “I was so angry at you. Telling us about your wife, then leaving, Willow going batshit crazy, then a few months later showing up on my doorstep with these girls, these potentials and telling me I needed to protect them. I was overwhelmed and no one was listening to me,” here she almost whispered, as if the shame of her relationship with the Vampire still lingered “except Spike.” She paused because she suddenly realized a truth about herself that she had been ignoring for so long “I think I’m broken Giles and I don’t know how to fix it. Something’s missing and has been for a long time.”
“Buffy we all let you down. You were always so strong but we, I, should have seen how much pain you were in. I was used to the strong, self-sufficient Buffy, not the broken, scared girl that I left. I’m so sorry that I let you down.”
“Giles, it wasn’t just when you left. It was when you came back too. You didn’t trust me. You didn’t trust my judgment. Yes, two potentials were killed on my watch, but you know what? The stakes we were playing for were high. They died and that is always going to be on me. But none of you backed me up. There was no way that someone wasn’t going to get hurt.” She closed her eyes and laid her head on Giles chest, weary from all that pent-up rage, weary from the tantrum, weary from the running and trying to remember that piece of her that was missing.
Giles, still stroking her back, tried to soothe his slayer, for in his mind she would always be his slayer, “Buffy, you’re right. All of us let you down. We should have tried to understand what we put on your shoulders instead of expecting you to carry it all yourself.”
“I was also still so hurt you never told me about your life before Sunnydale. We only ever got bits and pieces. I know you’ve always been a private person; I get that, but Giles, you kept a big part of yourself secret. Even from me. I thought…….I thought we were closer than that.”
Giles sighed heavily. How to explain the reasons he had to keep his relationship with Anais so secret. Yes, he tried to explain it to her years ago when his Anais had come back to him, but, it seemed it was inadequate.
“Buffy, when my daughter died, it almost killed me, literally. Anais and I have a different sort of relationship….”
“You mean, kinky, like whips, chains and leather? Oh God I just creeped myself out.”
Laughing, Giles said “Actually, yes….”
“Stop, right there, I do not need to know this. What you and your Vampire wife do in the bedroom is, proudly, none of my business.”
“Well, yes I see your point; anyway I was still processing her death, separation from my family including my son Matthew. I wanted to tell you, to explain everything but things got in the way and it just became easier to hide it. I didn’t expect to……care so deeply for Jenny. She was a surprise and I needed the companionship. I used my one tell and let her know everything. Then, she died….and later you sacrificed yourself for all of us……I almost didn’t recover” Giles face closed down and Buffy could tell he was still hurt from this, from losing more people in his life, losing her. “When you came back, I didn’t want to open myself back up to you and that was wrong. I do love you Buffy, and, well, I guess I want us to become friends again, if nothing else.” Giles looked hard and long at his slayer and waited for any cues any sign that he’d gotten through to her.
Buffy took a deep breath, all the while looking back at Giles, wondering how to re-define their relationship. “Giles….” She started, trying to collect her thoughts, “I don’t think it will be the same, but I am willing to try. Friendship sounds like a nice place to start.” She felt a weight lift from her shoulders, but at the same time she kept going over in her mind the name Castiel and couldn’t figure out where else she had heard that name. It was like a memory, something just on the edge of her mind, but it just wouldn’t shake loose, no matter what she tried.
All of a sudden Faith walked in; she had been looking for Buffy when she heard the crashing of chairs, the yelling and the crying. Normally she would have thought someone who acted like that was a stupid spoiled brat, but it was Buffy. Buffy never acted like that, never broke down, but after hearing what she said, Faith felt about 2 feet tall. She knew she was responsible also for some of the pain and anger Buffy had felt. When she heard the quiet voices and the two of them were just talking she felt it was safe to go in.
“Buffy?” she said softly as she took in the scene of broken chairs and Buffy curled up next to Giles looking so vulnerable and beaten. “Hey, are you okay Buff? “
“Faith, how long……how long have you been standing there?”
Faith didn’t want to lie, not anymore, not to this woman whom she thought of as a Sister even though she didn’t always show it. “Long enough, Buffy,” She took a deep breath before she spoke not wanting to put her foot in her mouth or make a smartass remark, “Buffy, I’m sorry too. Things were going so wrong, and the girls were so scared they, we, I was angry at you. They looked up to you and my jealousy got in the way. I should have been there for you and I wasn’t.”
“Faith, thank you that means a lot. I know we haven’t always been, what you call friends, but you aren’t less than me Faith and I didn’t treat you fairly. And, I never really said, I’m sorry about the Mayor. Well, not sorry that I stopped a 30 foot monster bent on destroying Sunnydale and eating all of our fellow students…”
Laughing, Faith stopped her “Buffy, that’s okay. Yes he was important to me, but I didn’t see him for what he truly was. Let’s start over, okay? Hi, I’m Faith, I’m a slayer too.” She held out her hand and Buffy got up to take it, “Are we 5x5?”
Smiling Buffy said “Yes Faith, we’re 5x5.” She grabbed Faith and Giles and hugged them tightly, almost fiercely. “Buffy, okay Buff, we’re good, you can let go now.” She released both people, looked at them long and hard, “I want to trust you guys again, and I want you to trust me. Things have been…….too much and I need my friends right now, more than ever.” Buffy squeezed their hands and quietly walked off.
Faith turned to Giles confused, “Giles, what did she mean?”
“I don’t know Faith. Something new has been bothering her; I’m hoping she’ll eventually talk to me or at least Willow.” Faith just nodded her head and walked out wanting to take a long walk to clear her head and figure out her life since the big bad Evil had been beaten. She didn’t know what was going to happen next, all she knew was that these girls needed protecting and it was going to take all of them to do it.