Cold Front
Part 2 of 4
WickedFox


Couple days later...

"Thanks for coming," Dawn stepped aside with an inviting wave, peeking up the stairs as Giles entered. She figured Buffy was still getting ready for her normal evening patrol so she had a little time to talk him up.

"I still don't understand why I'm here, Dawn. Xander is much better at these sort of things," Giles shut the door behind him and stepped towards the living room.

"Yeah, well...him and Anya had plans and this just couldn't wait," she heard the quiet shuffle of Buffy's footsteps upstairs and knew she had to pick up the pace if this set up was going to work.

"So which faucet is it?"

"Huh?" Dawn 's attention was distracted by the footsteps growing louder upstairs. "Oh, it's the one in the kitchen. I just remembered... I, um... I forgot to get the mail. I'll be right back."

"I believe it's a governmental holiday. There is no mail service today," Giles headed toward the kitchen and paused with a particularly loud stomp reverberating from the second floor.

"Oh, right," Dawn chuckled nervously.

"Is that Willow? I needed to speak to her about tomorrows class," Giles backtracked to head up upstairs.

"Why don't you take a seat on the couch, I'll go get her," Dawn stepped into his path.

"That's alright, I can manage," He continued on and paused as Dawn's arm blocked his way.

"She's naked!" Dawn squeaked.

"Pardon?"

She frantically tried to make up an excuse, any excuse to keep him from heading upstairs; at least until she got out of there. "She's getting ready for a night out with Tara. I think she's changing her clothes..." She smiled. "..A lot."

"Oh...well. We mustn't have another one of those accidental run-ins. I'll just wait in the living room then," Giles shied away with a slightly flushed complexion, returning to the direction of the couch. He took a seat and started to examine a woman's fashion magazine lying on the table; unable to refuse his curiosity for a headline entitled "Make your man beg for more with just one touch". The sound of the front door slamming made him glance up. "Dawn?"

Buffy hurried down the stairs as she finished buttoning her top. "Wil? Is that you?" She paused with astonishment at the unanticipated guest sitting in the living room. "Oh...hi."

"B-Buffy?" On impulse, Giles stood up politely and his stomach began its normal edgy churning at the sight of her. She was beautiful, even in her tousled condition fresh out of the shower. "I didn't know you were..." he hesitated as a flicker of an uninvited image of Spike with Buffy interrupted his appreciation of her and the hurt he'd worked so diligently to rid himself of returned. "Perhaps I should go," Giles suggested quietly. He returned the magazine to the table with an uneasy glance and shuffled a few steps sideways to get around the table.

"No..." Buffy spurted out unexpectedly.

He glanced up with a concerned look and saw Buffy attempting poorly to compose herself, inhibiting herself from saying anything she wasn't ready to say.

"Hmmm?" He offered her a chance to decide where to take the accidental meeting.

"Don't go," she smiled. "It's just... well, I haven't seen you in like forever."

"Seems as such," he provided a fleeting smile of agreement as he slipped his hands in his pockets, nervously fumbling with the coins resting at the bottom. And then the irrational hurt took over again, making him wish for an escape from his memories. "I... I really should go."

"Giles!" Buffy stepped forward anxiously and Giles could see her eyes pleading for him to stay. "When are you going to stop this?" her tone turned annoyed.

"What?" Giles muttered, knowing exactly to what Buffy was referring.

"This avoiding me, ignoring me, hating me thing?"

"I don't hate you Buffy," Giles mumbled softly. He'd accepted a confrontation was inevitable but felt his heart wasn't prepared for a scuffle, not so soon.

"Don't you?" Buffy walked up to him and motioned to the couch. "Then would it kill you to give me a minute?" She took a seat and patted the cushion beside her, urging him to join her. Buffy watched hopefully as Giles considered his options. After a moment of indecision, he slowly sat down and scooted as far away from her as he could on the cozy sofa. Buffy's feelings were hurt by his modest action. "What's with the segregation treatment?"

He removed his glasses and started his usual nervous habit of cleaning the lenses. "I haven't a clue what you're..."

"Don't! You know exactly what I'm talking about." Buffy's voice cracked under the strain of holding back and Giles watched her turn away, trying desperately to control any display of emotion. "I miss you," she mumbled softly.

She needed to get her words out before she collapsed into a bawling heap. "You spend all this time with Dawn and the others. I watch you working with them, hanging around with them. All the while, giving me the cold shoulder."

He could feel a lump rise in his throat. Buffy was right of course; he'd been avoiding her. Seeing her only brought back unwanted memories of that dreadful evening he'd walked in on Spike and her polishing his apartment floor in a lustful frenzy. Even now with her eyes full of tearful regret, he couldn't bare to look on her. The image of that demon's dead flesh tainting the precious gift that is her company made Giles' heart sour.

"Buffy, I'm sorry if my friendship with the others somehow pains you. But I refuse to..."

"To be civil? To be... human?"

"To be blind!"

"God, I don't know what else I can do..." Buffy shook her head in defeated. How had this conversation turned so harsh? "I am so sorry for what I did that night Giles. Spike meant nothing... is nothing... will never be anything to me."

"I don't believe that," he glanced worriedly at her and looked away. "You have an inexplicable connection."

"No... no connection... no anything. He is nothing!" She insisted.

"And yet you felt him worthy of you... your passion...your heart," Giles icy gaze couldn't mask the hurt hiding behind his emerald eyes. If she was going to drag him into this discussion, he was damn sure going to express his feelings and get some answers.

"He never had my heart," Buffy corrected. She slipped closer, wanting to comfort him. "It was nothing. After you sent me away, rejected me...I was so hurt and confused. I needed to feel wanted." She timidly reached out to touch his hand and quickly retracted with his uncomfortable fidget at her attempt.

Giles rose to his feet, flustered and uncomfortable. After taking a few aimless steps, showing no intention of leaving but not wanting to continue the argument, he stopped and lowered his gaze to his glasses that still dangled uselessly from his fingers. "I-I couldn't accept..." He paused, not wanting to continue but he knew she needed to hear his heart. "... Accept you loving someone like me. I wouldn't let myself believe it, until Willow came to see me and told me the morning after our conversation." Giles glanced back over his shoulder, guardedly watching Buffy from the corner of his eye. "She insisted your feelings were true... she convinced me that you cared... not just a passing fancy. Genuine, heartfelt..."

"Love..." Buffy interrupted with a glimmer of hopefulness.

He turned away, annoyed by her interruption, pausing a moment before continuing on. 'Love, how easily the word flowed over her lips,' he thought. "Within a day of exclaiming your so-called love, I see you w-with him."

"Giles, I do love you. I was incredibly drunk and incredibly stupid. Spike tricked me..."

"You gave yourself willingly..."

"No... well, yes...kind of. It was nothing..."

Giles whipped around and heatedly charged toward Buffy, "Yes, it bloody hell was something, Buffy!" She was shaken by the pure vehemence of his voice. He'd never sounded so angry. He stood above her, eyes fixed on hers with a furious intensity, gazing down at her shrinking form. She wished she could melt between the cushions of the couch to avoid those eyes.

"What you showed me that night was that you'd rather sacrifice your self respect and escape into the arms of that... that soulless demon than come to me... to give me a chance," Giles angrily tossed his glasses to the couch and paused his rant when he caught a glimpse of Buffy's furrowed brow. He took a moment to collect his temper before continuing on, rubbing a hand over his weary eyes to give her a temporary reprieve from his anger. "Buffy, you are an extraordinary woman, capable of so much more than you'll ever know. You are the Slayer, the chosen one and yet you allowed him to make you less than you are...you lowered yourself to his level. And for that..." he finally let his disappointment show through, "For that, I am not ready to forgive you."

"You're not ready to forgive me? What about me forgiving you, huh?" Buffy's anger couldn't be contained any longer. "Attention guilt-trip guy, you rejected me. I came to you, spilled my guts out to you and you trampled all over them. I gave you a chance that night, Giles. But you had to be all mister morally superior and mister 'I know what's best for you'. I would never have touched Spike if it weren't for you!"

"You dare blame me for your absurd frolic with that beast?"

"That's it! I can't go on like this," Buffy jumped up in a rage as a tear trickled down her cheek. "I made a mistake, Giles. News flash...this just in... I will keep on making mistakes. I'm human! Sorry I crushed your little impression of perfection you had of me but I can't go on doing this!" Buffy marched around the table and stormed toward the door. As her hand gripped the doorknob, she turned back and wiped away the tears in her eyes. "Believe it or not Giles, I love you. I always will. But I can't apologize anymore. I can't punish myself anymore." She tried to open the door and it wouldn't budge. Once again, she turned the knob, pulling and tugging uselessly at the unmoving barrier.

"Shit!" Buffy threw her hands up and stepped away from the door. "I suck at exits!"

"What is it?" Giles took some uncertain steps toward her.

"The stupid door won't open," she felt her eyes well up with tears and knew she was loosing control. She just could do anything right.

Giles walked over to try the door for himself and after a brief attempt he back stepped and examined the doorframe. "We'll have Xander look at it." He turned to look at his sobbing ex-Slayer and was momentarily overcome with regret. "Buffy, I...I think it's best if I leave." He walked past her and toward the kitchen, heading for the back door.

"Fine! Look who's running away now!" Buffy accused and followed behind him.

"What? I'm not running. I'm trying to give you space... give you..."

"Guilt! You're trying to make me feel guilty and it won't work. The bags are unpacked, canceled the plans, no more with the guilt trip."

"If you are feeling guilty...it's of your doing, not mine," Giles could feel the anger rising once again in him. He had to get out of there before he said something he'd truly regret.

"Winner and still champion... Rupert "tear your heart out" Giles. You are the king of guilt. No one dishes it out like you," It was nonsense. Even Buffy recognized her outburst was ridiculous, but she just didn't know what else to do. She was certain she wasn't about to give him the last word. "Leave then."

Giles wasn't about to dignify her irrational tirade with a response. He heaved an agitated sigh as his hand gripped the back door latch. This discussion couldn't end soon enough. He flipped it open and tried the doorknob. The door wouldn't budge. He slammed his fist into the wood frame and took a deep cleansing breath.

"Looks like there won't be any escape from our lovely little dialogue." He leaned forward, resting his forehead against the door and after a second he jerked back at the sudden wave of cold that seeped through to his skin at the contact.

"Oh no you don't! I'm not doing this anymore. Get out!"

"Wish I could, luv. But this bloody house has other plans!" Giles pulled back the window curtain and noticed frost forming along the corners of the glass. "What is going on?"

Buffy noted the ice and glanced at the other windows that were also showed signs of the freakily early frost. "Is it getting cold in here?" She felt a chill run up her spine and rubbed at her arms to relieve the startling coolness.

"I feel it too," Giles inspected the other windows, peeing back into the living room. Sure enough, ice crystals were forming along the corners of the windowpanes. "Something's not right here."

"You're a quick one Sherlock!" Buffy grumbled and forcefully pulled Giles away from the door. "And I just fixed this door..." she winced and gave the door a brisk kick, growling as it stood there undamaged and unmoving, as if mocking her.

"Buffy, stop. I think there is more to this than..."

The unrelenting Slayer rushed toward the door, slamming her shoulder into it with as much force as she could muster. It remained steadfast as she yelped in pain at her defeat, rubbing her bruising muscles.

"Would you please listen to me just this once?" Giles grabbed her wrist and held it firm, carefully examined her arm with tender pokes and caresses as he searched for injury. "I think we may have something otherworldly occurring here. Using brute force isn't going to accomplish anything but damaged limbs..."

"And damaged egos..." Buffy swatted his hand away and pulled free from his grip. "I'm fine."

"You're far from fine. You're overemotional and overreacting," Giles walked past her and returned to the living room.

"Overreacting? We just got done with having one of the most painful fights I've ever had in my short Chosen One existence and now I find out I'm stuck in here with you. You bet your sweet ass I'm overreacting?" She walked after him.

An awkward moment of silence passed between them and then Giles raised a curious brow, glancing inquisitively back to her, "I have a sweet ass?"

"Urh!" Buffy rolled her eyes in frustration. "Now you lighten up. I don't get you!" She checked the thermostat and saw the temperature falling a digit with every passing minute. Giles started up the stairs and Buffy couldn't prevent her eyes from falling on his rear as his legs worked to propel him upwards. She mumbled under her breath, "Sucha sweet ass. Forget the ass. Why'd I have to bring up his ass? Stop it damnit...stay mad!" She tried to adjust the thermostat setting warmer and listened carefully for the sound of moving air flowing through the air vent. She went to the bathroom and ran a hand over the vent, feeling frigid air flowing from the metal floor grade. Another check of the temperature revealed it had already fallen to forty-five degrees.

"Giles!"

He rushed back down to meet her at the base of the stairway. "All the windows seem fixed shut and impenetrable."

"How do you turn this thing off?" Buffy pointed impatiently to the thermostat.

"I would think you'd want to compensate for the falling..."

"Yeah...if it was pumping out heat. I've turned this thing all the way up and I'm getting nothing but cold, colder and freezing my tits off!"

Giles eyes were drawn downward for a moment until he caught himself from succumbing to his curiosity at her whether her choice of words held any truth. "I'll go check the furnace. Stay here and..." he started to walk away and paused to glance back. "And try to calm down." Giles went to the basement door and opened it to a chilly breeze wafting up the darkened corridor. He tried the light switch and frowned at its failure.

"Don't tell me what to do!" Buffy followed. "And I am calm!"

"Hardly..." Giles chuckled with frustration as he headed into the darkness. Suddenly he lost his footing, slipping mid-step and landing hard on his lower back on the edge of a stair, clumsily tumbling to the base of the flight of steps.

"Shit!" His aggravated growl echoed peculiarly up the corridor.

"I heard that," Buffy giggled with devious satisfaction and flipped the light switch on. It didn't work. "Are you ok?"

"Bloody wonderful!" Giles snarled.

"Gimmie a sec. I'll get a light." She remembered the flashlight her mom kept by the fridge for emergencies. Luckily, it was still there and she grabbed it, testing it on her way back to the darkened corridor. Just as she went to join Giles, she shined the light down the stairs and froze in her tracks at the incredible scene illuminated before her. The stairs were entirely encased in eerily shimmering ice that cascaded along the walls and floor. Frost spread along the ceiling and icicles began to creepily shape from the rafters above, inching their way towards the ground as if a living, growing entity.

"What...what is this? Giles?" Buffy took a single step and felt her foot slip, catching herself from joining Giles in his unintended wild ride.

"I don't know. Stay up there," He was fascinated by the frozen landscape that used to be the Summers basement, now resembling a residentially decorated ice cavern in the Antarctic. "It's as if something has put the room in a deep freeze."

"You think?" Buffy said as sarcastically as she could manage. "I'm sure Xander would make some joke about Iceman or Mr. Freeze but I can tell neither of us are in the mood."

"Agreed. I'm going to check the fuse box and furnace. I might need your help getting back upstairs," Giles reached for his glasses and realized he'd left them on the couch.

"Here..." she tossed the flashlight down and held her breath as it sailed above Giles' head. He dashed backwards, barely catching it in time to prevent it from crashing to the ground. "Sorry. Don't know my own strength. You need your glasses?"

"Let's not risk it," he teased and disappeared into the shadows.

"Butthead!" Buffy went off in search of more flashlights and batteries.

"I heard that!" Giles responded.


Part 3...