TITLE: A Questing We Will Go
AUTHOR: JK Philips
RATING: PG (It will probably eventually get to R, if not NC17. For now, plain PG)
SUMMARY: Where did Dawn learn to fight like that in “Grave?”
TIMELINE: Immediately after “Grave”
DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters; they are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy & Fox. I simply am doing this for fun, and non-profit use.
EMAIL: . Feedback always appreciated.
MY WEBSITE: www.jkphilips.com
--------------------------------------------------- He only came back because he had to. That was the thought Buffy brooded on all night, turning restlessly, chasing sleep. Nothing short of the end of the world would have brought Giles back to Sunnydale. Certainly not because she needed him. Not because his slayer had been ripped from paradise by her friends and needed someone to lean on just a little. That wouldn’t have been enough to bring him back and definitely wouldn’t be enough to keep him here. She finally felt like she belonged, like she’d reclaimed that piece of herself she’d left behind in her grave. What if Giles took that piece of her with him when he left again? What if she went back to feeling disconnected, depressed, and just plain wrong? The last time Giles left, she’d kissed Spike against the staircase of the Bronze, kissed him and closed her eyes and pretended that she wasn’t willingly throwing herself deeper into hell. Spike could make her forget heaven, because he was so far from it, there was nothing to remind her of what she’d lost. You know, I always wondered about you two. Had anyone else wondered? Because having lost Giles once and now having him back, she wondered a bit herself. The idea of him leaving again wouldn’t tear her up inside like this if she only thought of him as a friend. A shove from the nest by a father figure wouldn’t have sent her off to bang the first cold body she could lay her hands on either. When I kissed you? You know I was thinking about Giles, right? A person didn’t kiss someone and think of their father. Not a normal person, at any rate. When Giles left this time, what kind of colossal blunders would she make? Would she start ignoring Dawn again? Not notice her friends falling apart around her? Go through the motions of life without really living? And was she really afraid of losing Giles, was she really beginning to suspect she had feelings for him, or was she just afraid of losing herself and reverting back to the empty shell she’d been after her resurrection? Three days ago, she would have waved him off at the airport with a few parting words about keeping in touch. She had thrown him a goodbye party even. She’d known he was leaving. And three days later, she’d forgotten. Three days of hanging out with him 24/7, just her and him and Dawn, working as a team to solve this sudden mystery… The easy camaraderie reminded her of what she’d been missing without him. She’d stopped thinking about his leaving, pushed it out of her mind until Xander had brought it up again while patrolling. And now the possibility loomed front and center in her thoughts. And her feelings about the prospect were very different than they had been three days ago. She trudged wearily down the stairs to breakfast in the morning, having worried over the subject for most of the night. Giles was awake already, his bedding folded neatly on one end of the couch. It made his stay seem even more temporary. She should suggest moving him into her mother’s old room. Willow wasn’t using it anymore. He glanced up from the book he was reading. “You didn’t sleep well last night?” “How’d you guess?” He nodded towards the ceiling. “I heard you moving around more than usual. Plus, your eyes…” He wiggled his fingers in front of his eyes, not quite finishing his sentence. She covered her face. “Great. Raccoon eyes. I’m a middle aged woman with bags under her eyes, worrying about her teenage daughter, and stuck in a dead-end job. Which reminds me, can’t call in sick four days in a row. Gotta suit up for the DoubleMeat doubleshift today, so you and Dawn are on your own with the research.” She headed off to the kitchen for cereal. Giles had cooked them eggs the last few days. Tara used to make pancakes. She didn’t feel like asking for anything today. Best get used to cereal again. Giles followed on her heels. “The DoubleMeat? What are you talking about?” “I told you.” She poured a bowl of sugar something that would turn her milk pink before the last bite. Mental note: Dawn not allowed to buy groceries in the future. “Remember when you zapped in to stop DarkWillow? You asked what had been happening, Willow abusing the magicks, Anya getting her vengeance on again... Remember? I told you all of it. Dawn’s a klepto, I’ve been slinging burgers-” “I thought you were kidding.” He sagged against the counter, face completely deflated. “I laughed.” “It’s okay, Giles. I laughed, too. It felt good to laugh about it.” Giles shook his head, and in his eyes, she could see he was rerunning their past conversation. “After finding Willow in that state, and then learning where things stood between Xander and Anya… And then you kept going, rattling off a whole list, and I couldn’t believe all of it. I thought you were putting me on. After you said you’d been sleeping with Spike, I knew you were.” His face changed as he began to realize the truth of her words. Buffy’s cheeks burned with shame. She couldn’t meet his eyes. “Yeah, all true.” She snuck a glance to measure his reaction, his real reaction, but he was busy polishing his glasses. “Disappointed?” He examined his lenses before donning them again. “No. It’s not my place to judge you. You’re a grown woman. You’re free to choose your… your lovers… as you see fit. It’s just…” “Just what, Giles?” He did meet her eyes then. She didn’t see the disappointment she’d feared or even the disgust she thought she deserved. He looked sad, concerned even. “It’s just that he doesn’t deserve you. You’re so much better than him. I wish you could believe that. And I wonder how he convinced you otherwise.” That’s not your world. You belong in the shadows... with me. Buffy shrugged off the whole Spike badness as inconsequential, while part of her wanted Giles to press the issue. She wanted to confess how Spike had made her feel dirty and shamed and less than human, so far beneath her friends, so undeserving of love, that he seemed the only alternative. She wanted Giles to know what Spike had almost done, how powerless she had felt, how frightened, the guilt she still carried that she might have brought it on herself by using him and discarding him and turning violence into foreplay. Reap what you sow. She’d said no so many times before without meaning it, pushed him away with one hand while reaching with the other. Spike couldn’t take all the blame for what had happened in that bathroom. She had to have known on some level that that was what came from fucking a soulless vampire. She didn’t say any of it. She just shrugged, told Giles she’d ended it and Spike had skipped town, and waited for him to push her to fill in the blanks. He didn’t. He let the Spike issue rest where she’d left it. “And the DoubleMeat, Buffy? Are you really working in some fast food establishment?” “We needed the money.” “The check I gave you-” “-didn’t last as long as I thought it would.” Buffy glanced towards the staircase and lowered her voice. “Turns out Dawn was sneaking money to pay off the stores that caught her stealing. I didn’t know where the money was going, but it was going and I had to work somewhere if I was going to keep up. After I found out about the whole klepto thing… well, the rest of your check paid for the rest of her criminal spree. Happy birthday, me. Kinda was stuck slinging burgers to pay the bills after that.” “I hope you insisted that Dawn take some responsibility for remuneration.” “What’s she gonna do, Giles, work the DoubleMeat register next to me?” Buffy emptied her half-eaten cereal in the sink. Giles had complained during training that she’d lost weight, but she didn’t feel much like eating at the moment. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a score sheet, and she’s slowly paying me back. No screaming fits or slamming doors, no complaints about taking the trash out, dinner’s on the table when I get home from work, no skipping school, homework done everyday, and no allowance for like ever. Trust me, Giles, I’m getting way more mileage out of this than if I sold her off to a sweatshop somewhere. She helps Anya at the shop on the weekends to pay her back, or at least she did until the shop went kablooie. Dawnie’s not getting off scott-free this time. You were right about the spinning out of control, and I was wrong to try and dump it on you. But I got it covered now. New and improved Buffy. Take a mental picture, ’cause when I get back in a few hours, I’m gonna be tired and smelly Buffy.” He shadowed her out of the kitchen and up the stairs. “You needn’t work a degrading, minimum wage job. You can surely find something more suited to your talents.” “Something involving hitting and running and jumping and pointy sticks? Nothing comes immediately to mind.” He sighed. “You’re a smart girl, Buffy. With talents unrelated to your calling as the slayer.” He had followed her right into her bedroom. “Giles, I’m going to change into my uniform now. You gonna stand there and watch?” They both blushed. Somehow that had sounded different in her head. “Sorry. Sorry.” He ducked out in a hurry. “Smooth, Buffy, real smooth,” she muttered as she donned the ridiculous outfit that came with her lame job. He was waiting in the hallway for her when she emerged a few minutes later. To his credit, he did attempt to keep a straight face. “You’re allowed to laugh.” He did, doubled over, gasping for breath, with the same amusement he’d shown back in the Magic Box when he’d first returned and had thought she was joking about her litany of tragedies. “I’m sorry, Buffy.” He’d get himself under control, and then bust out laughing all over again. “It’s just the hat… You’re honestly required to wear that?” “Haven’t you ever been to a DoubleMeat Palace before?” Long pause. “Never mind. Dumb question.” Giles shadowed her down the stairs, wiping tears of mirth from the corner of his eyes, glasses dangling from one hand. “Seriously, Buffy. Let me pay your expenses until you find a better job. Think of it as an apology for leaving.” For leaving now or then? “I’ll think about it. Right now, I gotta go to work.” He seemed inclined to argue with her, so she decided to let him off the hook. “It’s not just about the money, Giles. Something’s up at the DoubleMeat. Last night I dusted one of my supervisors. That makes three so far this month. Seems like more than coincidence, seems like something I should check out.” Pausing at the front door, she added, “Tell you what: I’ll bring you back a DoubleMeat special for dinner.” “Must you?” *** “So what’s this testing for?” Dawn sat cross-legged in the middle of the living room floor while Giles circled her, lighting candles. “Your ability to remain quiet for five minutes.” “And that tells you what? That I have stealthy slayer power?” “That you can remain quiet for five minutes.” Dawn rolled her eyes. “Look who’s Mr. Snotty when Buffy’s not here to dish it back.” “Look who has yet to remain quiet for five seconds.” “Fine, fine, I’ll zip it.” Five seconds lapsed. Giles positioned himself across from her, closing his eyes and focusing inward. Another ten seconds passed. “So really, what’s this testing?” “My patience.” “Ha. Ha. It’s a spell, isn’t it?” His eyes popped open, and he leaned forward eagerly. “Can you feel it?” She crinkled her nose. “No, but I can smell it. Stinky magic herbs. What’s the spell for?” He relaxed back, trying once again to reach some sort of meditative state. “I’m attempting to see if you have untapped magic potential. Perhaps manifesting itself in some sort of slayeresque-” He bowed his head. “Bugger. I don’t know, Dawn. I’m grasping at straws.” “You don’t have to figure it out today, you know. You can stay as long as it-” She paused as he lifted his head to look at her. “-takes,” she finished. “Hey! Let’s go visit Buffy at work. We can be rude customers. I can get away with it if you play too.” “Dawn, don’t you want to know why you have these abilities? I was under the impression you desired answers as much as we did.” “Yeah, but…” She turned bashful. “But then you’re leaving again, aren’t you?” She fiddled with the clasp of her bracelet. “I was kinda getting used to having you around. I was kinda getting used to the way Buffy is when you’re around.” “What do you mean by that?” “Nothing.” *** “You don’t look sick to me, Summers.” Buffy stopped mid-flip, the burger patty still on her paddle. Halfway through her doubleshift, and things just kept getting better. Of all the supervisors she worked with, why couldn’t Todd, Mr. I’m Getting My MBA At Night School While You’re A College Dropout, end up as the undead special? “Yeah, Todd. See, I stayed home while I was sick. Now all better. That’s why it’s ‘calling in sick’ rather than ‘coming in sick.’” “Yeah. Well, you probably heard the bad news about Mr.Hatmore…” “Yeah, saw him last night-” Buffy froze. Uh-oh, quick save needed. “-last night in the paper. Read about it. Just awful.” “Third mugging we’ve had in the parking lot this month.” “Mugging. Right.” “Just watch yourself after dark, Summers. You’re one of the only employees we’ve got that’s lasted more than two months.” Todd headed towards the front to offer the cashiers advice about smiling at the customers or selling them extra items or the mighty political structure of the Palace. He added almost as an afterthought, “Oh, and we’ll need you to pull another double tomorrow, too. We’re a little shorthanded. Josh never showed up this morning. And I’m sure you’d like to make up your sick time, anyway.” Buffy imagined it was Todd’s face she was pressing into the grill instead of the imitation meat patty. Another DoubleMeat employee missing. Now she was sure something was up. *** Buffy patrolled on the way home, avoiding going back to the house and buying herself some time to think. She encountered no vamps, killed no demons. They could probably smell her coming. But she did accomplish a lot of thinking and even some decision making. She would talk to Giles that night. She’d ask him to stay even after they figured out the deal with Dawn. Buffy needed her watcher. Willow had proved unreliable. Anya’s loyalties could be considered questionable now that she was technically employed by the other team. Xander and Dawn weren’t big into the research, and Buffy couldn’t do it by herself. She’d ask him to stay as her watcher. She’d promise not to be all clingy and needy. She’d promise to deal with her own stuff if he helped with the book stuff. Like old times. And if his staying meant she’d have time to figure out her own feelings and come to some kind of conclusion as to why his leaving bothered her so much… well, that would just be a bonus. She came in the back door, hoping to sneak upstairs for a shower before having that conversation. But he and Dawn were in the kitchen, washing up dishes, and they saw her come in. “Buffy!” Giles turned and leaned back against the counter, flipping the dish towel over his shoulder. “I took your threat of fast food at face value and cooked dinner. I’ll warm you up a plate.” He was grinning at her. It was probably still just the silly hat, but the way he was grinning at her… Her stomach did that topsy-turvy thing, and her heart started beating faster, and oh God, she did have feelings for Giles. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all those months he’d been gone, and she’d been fantasizing about him coming back while her life was falling apart around her. Fantasizing not in the she-was-in-love-with-him- and-wanted-to-jump-his-bones-in-the-airport-lobby kind of fantasizing, more like the she-missed-her-friend-who-always-gave-her-a-hand-up-when-she-needed-it- and-had-always-been-her-emotional-sanctuary kind of a fantasizing. But somehow it had all gotten mixed up in her head over time, and it didn’t help that he’d zapped in from England looking all sexy and intense and suddenly a big magic expert who could go ten rounds with a pissed off Willow. Without his glasses and wearing that coat and all super cool, swooping in to rescue them in the nick of time, not at all the old fuddy duddy she remembered from high school. For just a second, she’d thought she’d imagined him, so that when she’d said his name, it had been almost a question. Anya had told her he was dying. He didn’t have much time left. And somehow that had been worse than Willow’s vengeance spree culminating in a possible apocalypse. Time apart, and now she no longer saw him through a child’s eyes. She saw her best friend, who knew her better than anyone else, the one person she could confide in, things she could never tell anyone else. The first one she’d told about killing a souled Angel to close Acathla, the first one she’d told about Dawn’s true nature, the first one she’d called while standing over her mother’s cold body. She panicked, muttered something about needing a shower, and escaped from his presence. This was bad on so many levels. She stopped short in the foyer. There was a woman sitting on the living room couch, reading, one foot tucked delicately beneath her. The woman lifted her eyes from the text and smiled. Thin, wire rimmed glasses perched on the tip of her nose, dark hair swept back in a sophisticated chignon, poise, class, elegance. Everything Buffy lacked. A soft, cultured, British accent greeted her. “Ah, you must be Buffy. Rupert speaks of you often. I feel as though I know you.” Bad on so many levels, because Buffy never got a drop of happiness that wasn’t followed by getting the rug pulled out from under her. “Yeah, I wish I could say the same, but…” Giles came up behind her, one hand touching the small of her back as the other gestured towards his guest. “Buffy, this is Emily, a new friend from back home. I believe I might have mentioned her when I was here the last time.” “Yeah, except for the her being a her part of it.” The only thing that could make this moment worse would be if Buffy were wearing a hat with a big, ugly stuffed cow’s head on the front and a rooster tail on the back, which- oh, right- she was. ***
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