Giles head throbbed with every pound on his door, and then he remembered he didn't have a door. He struggled to his feet to glance down at the source of the noise, stubbing his toe from his unbalanced motion. With blurry eyes working to focus, the irritated man peered over the balcony toward the disturbance.
"What the bloody hell..." he paused at the sight of the upbeat young lady waving enthusiastically from below.
"Good morning. I talked Xander into fixing your door," Dawn smiled. "I also brought donuts."
"That's what talked me into fixing Giles' door," Xander smiled and hung his hammer in his pants loop, sampling one of the jelly filled offerings.
"Oh, well that's just brilliant. Nothing I'd like better than to start my day with the gentle sounds of Xander's carpentry skills rebuilding the shambles of my apartment." Giles wrapped his robe over his shoulders and double-checked he'd worn pajama bottoms before gracelessly descending the stairway.
"I wanted to wait until later then thought...hey, there's no time like the present. Early bird gets the worm," Dawn smiled nervously as Giles flashed her a displeased glare. "Fine...ok... I wanted to make sure you were still here." She meekly held out the box of powdered cakes toward Giles who began to reject them but then couldn't help satisfying his sweet tooth.
"Dawn, I said I was going to stay and I will," Giles placed a reassuring hand on the young ladies shoulder. "Under somewhat different circumstances than before."
"Good, well...um, it's a start," Dawn set down the box of donuts and sat down at the counter by the kitchen.
"Start? Dawn, I don't want you to have false hopes in this. I'm here for only one reason, to be here for you," Giles insisted and took a quick bite of his donut. "And for the donuts. This is marvelous. Usual place?"
"I found this new place on Whilshire, they put a stick of butter in every donut," Dawn explained.
"No fat-free, lo-calorie crapola for our Watcher," Xander finished off his donut and pulled out the hammer.
"I'm no longer a Watcher. I'm just...um..."
"So you're just Giles now?" Xander chuckled as he decided a screwdriver better fit his needs at the moment. "Don't think so. You've always been and will always be our Watcher. You may not have noticed but when you moved into this sorry little excuse for a suburb, you kinda unintentionally adopted the whole gang. Like it or not... you're as much our Watcher as you are Buffy's." Xander waved the tool toward Giles to punctuate his statement. "You may have taught Buffy all there is to the Slaying gig but you've only begun to show us the finer points of self-defense."
"What? I'm sorry...are you just drugged up on glucose?" Giles decided that decrypting his young friend's message was more than he could manage without the aid of some caffeine in his system. Tea was definitely in order and he went about making some, waiting for Dawn to enlighten him on the perplexing conversation. "What on earth are you rambling on about?"
"This..." Dawn held out a sheet of paper and Giles tried to focus on the fuzzy print. "Oh...you don't have your glasses. Wait!" Dawn quickly looked around and spotted a pair on the desk, offering them to Giles. The ex-Watcher carefully examined the page, glancing over it to get a speedy concept of it's meaning. The sheet was an advertisement for a self-defense class being offered at the local YMCA. Giles noticed his name listed under the title of instructor and shot a worried glance at Dawn.
"And what might this be?" Giles asked fearfully, already knowing what juvenile logic would be offered in defense of the pamphlet.
"You've been all depressed and feeling unneeded. I wanted to show you that you are needed. And since you're staying, you need a job. So, I created one," Dawn smiled, obviously proud of her quick thinking.
"Actually, Wil and I helped with this one," Xander explained. "We came up with the idea a while ago but never thought the time was right to spring it on you. After last night's gala slugfest, I jokingly mentioned how you should have taught Spike a more painful lesson. Willow said she'd had enough of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and that your skills should be used for more constructive things. Enter Dawn. She locked herself away in her bedroom with Willow's laptop and came out an hour later with that," he pointed to the pamphlet. "Besides, kiddies livin' on a Hellmouth could use a little help. Who better to teach them than a Watcher with a perverted amount of patience and some free time?"
At first thought, Giles was going to refuse the position, but after hearing the surprisingly well-expressed explanation he found it hard to oppose. The innocents of this unlucky town did need to acquire skills in order to survive. Besides, though he never admitted it, he always had enjoyed teaching. He missed training and now that Buffy seem so self sufficient, Giles had given up all hope of ever tutoring another student in the defensive arts.
"I see you've given this much thought..." Giles smiled. "Or at least a couple minutes worth. I'll do it." He saw an irrepressible smile spread along Dawn's lips and lifted a cagey finger to prevent her over enthusiasm. "One class. We'll see how the turn out is and if it works out well, I'll continue on. Agreed?"
Dawn pulled him into a hug so fast he didn't have time to react.
"I knew this would work," she said confidently, affectionately nuzzling into the lapel his warm robe in an unusual show of familiarity. Giles felt a flush of embarrassment at the contact. Dawn certainly had grown comfortable with him all of a sudden.
"Yes...well, hmmm..." Giles pulled awkwardly away and gave the over-enthusiastic young lady a brief grin. "You will attend the class, Dawn. You need some sort of training. I'm sure I don't need to remind you the likelihood of danger for members of the Slayer's immediate family and friends. I expect you to be there Xander, as well as the others. Willow, Tara, and Anya will come to good use. We need attackers and who better than experienced fighters..."
"How bout Buffy?" Dawn suggested optimistically and took a donut.
"Um...I think it best..." Giles face fell and his eyes focused on the floor. "She'll need to patrol. It's best she remain consistent with her responsibilities."
'Give him time,' Dawn thought. 'He'll come around.'
"Did Giles call?" Buffy asked anxiously before the front door shut closed behind her.
"Um...no. Not really. But that doesn't mean anything." Willow said defensively.
"He hates me," Buffy threw her stake to the ground.
"He doesn't hate you. He probably doesn't even despise you. It's barely been a day..."
"Last time I checked, 24 hours kinda covers the definition of a day, Wil. It's been a whole day!"
"Ok, so it's been a day. But you need to give him a chance to think things through."
Buffy moped over to the couch and dove face first into the cushions. "I'm a bad person. I'm a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, bad..." Willow rolled her eyes at the muffled ramblings of her overreacting pal.
"Ok, enough already with the self-inflicted slander. You're not a bad person. You are a confused, short-sighted, and irrational person...but not bad," Willow sat down on the edge of the couch. "Beside, I think Dawn has an quasi-evil plan to get you in good with Giles again."
"Great. A plan... cause plans work out so well for me."
Buffy sat up and crossed her arms with a full-fledged pout spread along her lips. "The thing with Spike...it was a plan to make Giles jealous. A really stupid plan...a bad plan. A bad, bad, bad, bad..."
"You had serious smoochies with Spike to get Giles jealous? Are you nuts?" Willow couldn't hide the frustration in her voice. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be judgmental but...are you insane?"
"It wasn't supposed to happen that way. Spike got all like cool and then all like hot and... then there was beer... don't forget the beer!" She paused at the flabbergasted expression on Willow's face. "I got it Wil...bad idea. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad ..."
"Ok...enough already. What's done is done," the irritated redhead shot her unhappy friend a guarded glare. "It is done...right!"
"It was never not done. I mean it was never started. So not happening...or not happening again...no. No more Spike!"
"Fine, ok then. So go about your business and let the Scooby gang work their mojo," Willow suggested. "These things can only heal with time. Giles needs time. You owe him that much."
Buffy sighed. "And so much more..."
A week later...
Buffy missed Giles.
She knew it was ridiculous; she spent much longer periods of time away from him before. She'd even managed to forget him for a time while in college. But this was different. She ached to see him, hear his voice, or simply touch his hand. She reconsidered whether visiting him the night the power went out was a good thing or bad thing. True, she now knew his feelings for her, but getting so close to him, touching him only sparked a longing in her. Now she craved the contact, the simple, innocent touch of his hand; it's all she wanted.
Willow was wrong, Buffy felt like a bad person. She'd been so self-absorbed and selfish, never considering how he felt, never considering what he was going through. Now she was paying for her bad behavior. And though she was still supported by a close-knit gang of pals, she felt entirely alone.
Buffy needed a good slay to get her mind off things. She came around the corner of 1st and Pine and she was shocked to be suddenly surrounded by a gang of excited teenagers gathered restlessly outside the normally subdued YMCA. They were chattering on about some new class being offered in the evenings, a self-defense class. Buffy was intrigued at the sudden interest in the local Boys and Girls club. Who could have brought the vacant building to life with a simple defense class? Was Jackie Chan in town?
"He's amazing," one girl sighed.
"I like his accent. He sounds so... I don't know... smart," another older girl smiled shyly.
"And he's so polite. Never had anyone refer to me a miss before. He treats you like..."
"Like an adult," another girl offered and the others nodded in agreement.
"He's old," a jealously annoyed young boy interrupted the girls doting and he received stern glares from his female companions. "But he does have the coolest weapons. Did you see the crossbow yesterday?"
'Crossbow?' Buffy thought. 'That's a bit advanced for a bunch of kids. What idiot would put such a weapon in the hands of children?' As if on cue, Giles came around from the corner opposite the block Buffy stood at. 'No way!'
When the gang of kids spotted him, they rushed over, eager to greet him, walking along side the ex-Watcher as he made his way towards the YMCA building. He smiled warmly at their enthusiasm as they paraded confidently with him.
Buffy immediately panicked, not knowing whether to take the opportunity to accidentally bump into him or to go running away to avoid his notice. She decided to take a chance and returned back around the corner, ready to try her best pratfall into Giles awaiting arms. The Scoobies hadn't come through yet with manipulating a reunion so she felt it was up to her to get the party started.
"I'm glad to see so many of you return but there isn't a class tonight. I'm just here to make more permanent preparations for the course, " Giles explained.
"So you're gonna do it again?" the previously annoyed young man asked anxiously, obviously just as hopeful as the girls.
"If you'll have me?" Giles grinned and the girls giggled at his choice of words. "We'll of course need more students in order to justify the added expense."
"I'll fill the room... you just give me the night and time," the boy smiled happily and Giles nodded.
"Check the board tomorrow. We'll have our answer by then. For now, you can practice that maneuver..." Buffy stormed impatiently around the corner and ran full speed into Giles, making them both tumble to the ground, rolling uncontrollably to the pavement as the gang of students jumped backward, startled by her unexpected entrance.
"Pardon me..." Giles quickly struggled to his feet and blindly offered the clumsy stranger his outstretched hand. "I didn't see...you..." he paused with recognition of Buffy's face, slowly retracting his hand with a stunned look donning his handsome features. Buffy got to her feet and fidgeted nervously, pivoting back and forth on either foot.
"Watch where you're going," one of the girls growled and Giles dismissed her defensiveness with a gentle wave of his hand.
"It's quite alright...um..." he strained to clear his befuddled thoughts and calm his conflicting emotions. "Why don't you all go inside... I'll follow along in a moment."
"Whose that?" A girl asked her friend quietly as they followed his suggestion and headed inside.
"Probably just another student," she suggested as the door closed behind them, giving Buffy a much-needed moment alone with her ex-Watcher.
"Hi," Buffy smiled. "Sorry about the...um, ad lib dance."
"Is everything alright? I mean... are you being chased? You seem in such
"I best move along then," Giles nodded impersonally and stepped toward the door.
"Hmm?" he paused, waiting patiently for her response.
"It... it was nice bumping into you," she smiled weakly, her eyes pleading for a scrap of forgiveness, a smidgen of courtesy.
His expression remained cold and distant. He wasn't going to give her anything. Buffy wanted to apologize again but knew it would just make him uncomfortable. It was obvious he wasn't ready to talk. 'Give him time,' she thought and noticed him glance down the block toward the cemetery.
"Well... um... I won't keep you from your duty. Goodnight, Miss Summers." He shuffled awkwardly toward the building and disappeared behind the door, leaving a very lonely Slayer to reflect on her actions once again. Buffy felt her heart break as the door slammed shut.
"Miss Summers?" she winced and drew a regretful finger along his name printed on the paper displayed on the door. "Goodnight Mr. Giles," she whispered and began to walk down the sidewalk with renewed glumness.
Later that night...
"Plan A is a total blow-out," Dawn whined disappointed.
"What? Why?" Xander asked. "But we have the class all set up and ready for her."
"She accidentally ran into Giles tonight..." Willow sighed and took Tara's hand in hers, giving it an affectionate squeeze. "He wasn't so forthcoming with the niceties."
"He wasn't rude? He's incapable of that... it's against his genetic makeup or something," Xander explained.
"Not rude... just a bit... um, let's say frigid," Willow suggested.
"Oh... the cold shoulder. He'd be good at that. With his polite seething hatred and respectful animosity," Anya nodded and saw all eyes fall weighty on her. "Well he would be."
"So, Plan B then," Dawn said somewhat cheerfully.
"There's a Plan B?" Anya asked.
"Yep. And it will involve an old friend of yours," Dawn grinned mischievously.
A week later...
'Here it comes again,' Buffy thought as she hesitantly rounded that infamous corner of 1st and Pine. Sure enough, the excited crowd of preteens and teenagers were collected outside the entrance of the YMCA. They were fooling around, intermixing all too familiar defensive holds amongst their horseplay. Though she found it somewhat charming, it hurt to see others using the maneuvers she'd come to depend on... the moves she prized as sacred gifts from Giles.
"No... you're doing it wrong," one boy pushed another away from a supposed victim. "If I grab you like this, you twist like that..." he grasped the girl's wrist and moved it counter-clockwise, displaying how to break the hold.
"I thought it was the other way around," she said and looked to the others for a second opinion.
"Actually, it works in both directions," Buffy offered, pausing for a moment to appreciate passing on her experience to others. "Watch..." she said and motioned the boy to take her wrist. The boy immediately flushed a bright red but jumped at the chance to touch the beautiful blond. He gently wrapped his hand around Buffy's wrist and she circled her arm around, catching his arm in her tight grip as she followed through. She repeated the procedure in the other direction to show them how it worked.
"See?" The crowd seemed impressed and muttered approvingly amongst themselves as Buffy demonstrated it once more to make it clear. She didn't notice the man looking on, watching from other side of the oversized window in the front of the building.
"You can counter with an attack as well... like this," she circled her arm again and punched a quick jab that just nicked the stunned boys chin enough to send his heart all aflutter.
"Wow," he stuttered nervously, "You're fast!"
Buffy caught a glimpse of the figure in the window and did a double take, looking over to get a better view of her audience. It was Giles, leaning casually against the glass, staring impassively at her as she released the young boy from her grasp. The gangs' attentions were drawn to the window, curious as to why the stranger had suddenly stopped her exhibition.
This time, Buffy didn't smile, didn't talk, didn't show emotion of any kind. She just stared back at the detached expression of the man she cared so deeply about. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Buffy took a couple steps backward and glanced down the street. Giles was also temporarily distracted as Dawn came from behind him and tugged impatiently on his arm, trying to pry him away from the street show keeping him from his new job.
Buffy and Giles exchanged a last meaning look and then his focus fell on Dawn.
"So you know Mr. Giles?" Buffy's impromptu student and inquisitive admirer asked.
"I do..." she mumbled, watching miserably as he stepped away from the window to return to his duties. "I did."
"Who are you?" Another boy asked, wanting to introduce himself.
"Just an old student... I guess," she whimpered and continued on with her evening patrol.