Letting Go part 2/6
Wesley examined his new quarters with a critical eye. Sunlight beamed in through the window; something his wary eyes weren’t accustomed to. Sunglasses would definitely be a necessity for the area.
“Buffy’s right next door. You might hear her from time to time,” Joyce glanced in the direction of Buffy’s room with a hint of worry. “She has…nightmares.”
“So she is physically capable of speaking?” Wesley asked, nervous about displaying his curiosity of the situation but still too fascinated by the dilemma to ignore gathering information.
“Yes…I hear her at night. She seems to dream about conversations she had.”
“Can you tell who she’s talking to?” Wesley had a hunch who it was but wanted some affirmation. He saw Joyce lower her eyes to her fidgeting hands.
“I think it’s…it’s Mr. Giles.” She turned away with a glum sighed, “I have some…uh, things to do.” As she began to walk down the hall she paused to say something then continued downstairs. “Make yourself at home.”
Home... Sunnydale, USA. These things didn't mesh in his psyche. This place was so far from home, he couldn't even consider how to go about making himself at home in such a foreign environment.
“This should be interesting,” he mumbled, setting his suitcase down on the flower print comforter. He opened the case and stared at the drab colorless clothes neatly packed inside and then scanned the festive decor surrounding him. It was light-heartedly ornamented with colorful paintings and welcoming family photos.
He closed the case and walked over to inspect a photo of Buffy and her mother. She looked happy and content. He found it hard to believe that the warm face in the photo was the same one that drove six previous Watchers to request position relocation.
‘Six Watchers in four months. An intimidating post to say the least.’
He reconsidered the difficult circumstances and could empathize with Buffy’s sudden illness. To loose one Watcher in the line of duty was hard enough on a Slayer, but to loose two was unheard of. It was far more common for a Watcher to suffer the usual fate of the death of a Slayer. They were trained to handle such hardships. A Slayer doesn’t benefit from such guidance.
Buffy had to reform the bond between Slayer and Watcher twice. The trials of a third attempt could prove much too painful. It was up to him to encourage her to let him in. Unfortunately, he would have to improvise his approach since the other Council members failed so spectacularly. Hopefully his youth and confidence would help him rise up to meet the challenge.
“I believe Miss Chase should be the local expert on shopping this region.” He grinned, searching his pockets for his notes. He realized he didn’t have them and glanced back to the bed for his case. It was gone.
‘I know I set it there.’ He looked around until his eyes fell on the missing case. It stood absurdly upright in the center of the doorway, almost mocking him. Wesley felt a chill run up his back as he returned the case to the bed. ‘Welcome to the bloody Hellmouth,’ he snickered and searched the contents for his notes.
“I thought you might want to inventory Giles' weapons so I spread them all out. The other Watchers seemed to find that important.” Willow stood beside Buffy and observed Wesley as he glided his fingers along the blade of a battle-axe.
She felt bad comparing him to the other Watchers. He’d already shown her how different he was from the others, how human. He'd called her, requesting information on the situation shortly after the return of the first replacement Watcher. Though the conversation started out very businesslike, they talked openly for hours about their views on Buffy and how to handle the difficult circumstances. Wesley continued to check in with her on the status of her friend and the troubles with the Council. He even talked with Oz when she was sick with the flu, discussing the intricacies of the lycanthropic lifestyle. Both Willow and Oz began to feel that Wesley not only cared for Buffy, but also cared for them. That was an important element missing from the other Watchers, genuine compassion and concern.
Now that he was awarded the position, Wesley seemed to be making the best of it. His clothes seemed more casual that her first impression, relaxed-fit button fly jeans, blue v-neck sweater with a gray undershirt. It was very un-Watcherly. Willow considered how Giles would have looked in such casual attire. Her attention was drawn to her hand as she felt something drip on her thumb and realized she’d started to cry. It still hurt, it was too soon.
Wesley began to turn around so she quickly wiped away the dampness, not wanting him to see the proof of her emotional outburst.
“Yes…procedure.” He paused and flashed a quirky grin. “That’s worked so well thus far.”
Willow's face fell with disappointment when she saw Buffy begin to rock. The Slayer's eyes stared blankly into the shadows. She wondered if Buffy actually saw anything there or was just zoning.
“I don’t think they trusted us.” Willow looked back at Wesley.
“The Council never appreciated what a genuine asset you were and are. You’ve been a great help Willow.”
Wesley saw the young lady shrug off the compliment and concentrate on Buffy once again.
“Has she said anything to you?”
“Not yet but it’s only been a couple days. These things can take time.” He walked over and sat down in front of Buffy. “I think I need some time alone with her. Would you mind?”
Willow shook her head, understanding the request but not wanting to miss the moment when Buffy broke form her haze. She hesitantly began to walk upstairs. “Just holler if you need anything. I’ll be in the kitchen with Buffy’s mom.”
Wesley watched the door close and felt a little more at ease. It was the first time he was left alone with his Slayer... his first Slayer. What an honor. He glanced back at Buffy who exhibited no interest in him whatsoever and continued to stare off into space.
‘Now what?’ Wesley thought and spotted some knifes beside her.
“Which weapon do you favor? I find myself gravitating to the crossbow but I do enjoy the occasional broadsword.” He stood up and casually explored the variety of tools displayed around the basement. He paused with notice of a particularly handsome crossbow and reached out to touch it. A whizzing sounded past his ear followed by the piercing crack of metal to stone. He looked over at the wall to spy the handle of a throwing knife protruding out from the old brick at eye level. Swallowing down his intimidation, he removed the knife.
“I see…impressive power.” He said and scanned the weapons collection for the knife’s proper home. He peeked over at Buffy expecting to see her facing him with a grin on her face but found her still positioned in the same direction; facing away from him. She continued to rock and stare into the shadows but there was a hint of a smile playing on her lips. “I’ve never been good with these myself.” Wesley decided to act casually and searched for the knife’s proper place.
<”I’ll remember that!”>
‘Nice shot but aren’t you cutting it a bit close?’ Buffy smiled, watching the faint figure approach her.
<”What do you mean? I intended to hit him.”> Giles emerged from the dark and crouch down beside her, noticing her fretful expression. <”You seemed troubled. I-I mean…um, m-more than normal.”>
Buffy pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms securely around them. She lowered her head to her knees and watched Wesley examine all the tools of her trade.
‘He was going for your favorite…” she glanced quickly at Giles and looked away, “…your crossbow.”
<”I wasn’t going to hurt him, love. I was fooling …really.”> Giles placed his hand on her knee and she slid her fingers under it, entangling her fingers with his.
‘I know.’ She couldn’t help but smile at the tenderness of his concern. He was so attentive to her now, so intimately devoted. It was something unfamiliar until recently. They had grown so close over the last few months, closer in death than they ever were in life.
She tickled her fingers along the back of his hand, still amazed by the sensation of Giles' ethereal touch. Rather than tactile contact, it seemed more like an extra sense, an impulse blanketing her skin with a tingling cold. Such familiarity would have been shocking over four months ago. But now it seemed almost necessary. It upset her to think how she neglected having such a bond with him during his life.
“There, all better. I wouldn’t want to upset Willow’s hard work.” He turned to Buffy and saw her hand trembling on her knee. ‘She could be having an episode. Need to keep her focused.’ He walked over and joined her on the boxes.
“It’s quite chilly in here. Perhaps I can acquire a space heater.” He wrapped his hands around hers. Stunned at how cold they were to the touch, he rubbed them gently, trying to warm them up.
Buffy stared curiously at the young man as he worked on her as if preparing her for a prizefight. His hands were manicured and smooth, unblemished by battles or any hint of labor work. What an odd show of humanity by an inhuman machine of the Watcher’s Council.
Giles clenched his teeth and stood up, obviously shaken.
<”That’s twice now! He’s touched you twice in as many days.”> He began to pace around the basement.
‘So?’ Buffy smiled and saw Wesley pause at her expression.
<”It’s not… not proper.”> Giles stopped and glanced at Wesley who pulled his hands away, suddenly shy. <"You better keep your bloody paws off...">
“Um…that should do the trick. Get the blood flowing and all.”
He stood up and stepped backward to the stairs. “I think that’ll
be enough for today. Start slow and all.” He tripped awkwardly on
the first step and turned around to catch himself from falling. Once Wesley
had composed himself, he began to climb the stairs.
‘What was all that about?’ Buffy looked to Giles for an answer. He stood poised with a stern glare and folded arms in the center of the basement. After a moment of what looked to be serious contemplation, his expression grew distraught as his gaze fell on the basement door.
He shifted his eyes to the floor and lowered his head, obviously bothered by something.
<”I’ll tell you later.”> He mumbled and dissolved into the shadows.
“I don’t agree with this.” Xander objected as Wesley walked with Buffy along the darkened path of the cemetery. “This is too soon. You’ve barely been here a week.”
“We're not patrolling. I’m simply walking with her. Trying to get acquainted with my Slayer,” Wesley explained plainly. “Besides, I’m growing weary of talking to a wall. I needed a change and Buffy could use some exercise and fresh air.”
“She’s not you’re Slayer.” Xander felt his stomach twist in knots at the young Watcher’s words. How dare he try to take over, how dare he try to make them forget Giles.
“Miss Summers doesn’t seem to be bothered by my acceptance of the role. Why should you?” He smiled at Buffy who continued to walk with her all too familiar blank expression on her face.
“Giles is her Watcher.” Xander grabbed Wesley’s arm and swung him around, eyes quivering with anger.
Wesley’s expression saddened, “Not anymore my friend. It’s time you face that reality. The sooner you can come to grips with that…the sooner we can get Buffy back.” Wesley tried to pry Xander’s fist from his arm and felt his grip tighten.
“I’m watching you…Watcher!” He motioned to his eyes and pointed a threatening finger toward Wesley, finally releasing his hold when he was certain his point was made. The Watcher swallowed hard as he watched Buffy’s young friend run to catch up with her down the path.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Wesley whispered and allowed the space between them to continue as they headed back to the house.
Buffy sat on her bed with her back against the headboard. She stared out the window, wishing she could be out in the night, hunting.
<”You miss it, don’t you?”> An eerie mist encircled the chair in the corner of her room. Buffy smiled as it coalesced into the benevolent figure of Giles. He seemed somehow different to her. His dress was more casual rather than the formal tweed suits she was used to seeing him in. Perhaps he was a bit jealous of the new boy-toy Watcher. This could be fun.
“I miss you!” she looked at him and bowed her head shyly, ‘I don’t miss it…I crave it. Like chocolate.’
Giles smiled. <”You want chocolate?”> He stood up smoothly maneuvered to the bed, almost strutting to her. After a mischievous wink, he joined her on the bed, wrapping an arm over her shoulders and drawing her closer. <”I’ll go possess some prat and get you some.”>
“You know…you don’t act like I remember.” She examined his brown leather coat, blue sweater and jeans and felt a bit disappointed. Gazing into his welcoming eyes, she spoke softly, “You’re more like…um, like an evil Giles. Like you should have the little black mustache and beard.”
<”Well, far be it from me to have a little depth of character.”> He flashed a grin and saw she was being serious. He suddenly felt awkward being close to her, like he was intruding on her space. He withdrew his arm and folded his hands in his lap. <”True, I'm not the same man. Death tends to put things into perspective. It brings to light a certain simplicity, Buffy. Somehow the responsibilities of human existence seem trivial in the thick of it all.”>
“I miss the old you. Where’s my Watcher Giles? My bookman…my nervous twitchy tea-guy?” Buffy’s smile faded.
<”He’s here, love. Never could leave you.”> He placed his hand on hers and his face grew solemn.
“What’s wrong?” Buffy’s forehead creased with concern over his sudden change of mood.
<”What do you think of this new Watcher chap?”>
“Seems nice. Very confident. Kinda cute in a suppressed, stiff-lipped way.” Buffy saw Giles eyes sadden.
<”You like ‘em then?”>
“Sure…we’re running off to get hitched tomorrow," she snickered. Giles diverted his concerned look, glancing to the window and she directed his chin back to face her. “He’s no Giles…Giles.”
<”Yes, I suppose. We’ll see,”> he mumbled.
Maybe teasing wasn't what he needed right now.
Giles lips spread into an irrepressible smile as he settled back against the headboard, wrapping his arm comfortably around his Slayer. He’d heard this tale one to many times but loved her telling of it.
“I was checking out an empty crypt when two vampires jumped you. You were caught completely off guard. I heard you. You didn't actually yell... I just heard you, your silent call. I ran as fast as I could. I found you trouser-less, gagged with your own tie, hanging upside down from an oak tree with two very hungry vampires ready for a tasty treat.” Buffy giggled.
<”It’s not funny!”> Giles said sternly but was unable to mask his amusement. <”It could have ended badly. For both of us.”> He tried to look serious for a moment then let out a little giggle. <”Luckily for us they were too busy mocking my apparel to get down to business.”> They laughed together at the memory.
“How bout that time in Breakers Woods...” Buffy offered.
<”Christ! Do you have to bring that one up every bloody time?”> Giles shook his head and pulled her in close, cozying his chin up to her hair. He wished he could feel her, like she could him. It seemed so odd he couldn't feel her yet she could act as if he was physically interacting with her. Something as simple as the sense of touch was completely lost to him now, he'd taken it for granted in life. He cursed himself for all the times he struggled to keep proper distance between him and his Slayer, determining mentor/student etiquette demanded separation. It was such a silly apprehension, worrying about the impression such closeness might spurn. And now he had to work to allow her the comfort of his counterfeit touch. Every meager attempt required concentration in order to make that physical connection with her. Just one stroke of her hand was all he wanted but could never have. And though the unfair conditions bothered him, he couldn't deny her? He would give her the affection she deserved, the love she needed.
She cuddled into his chest and continued her embarrassing patrolling tales.
Buffy and Giles reminisced through the night, unaware that Buffy was being overheard.
“Buffy, please let me in. I’ve precious little time. I need your help.” He pleaded in the direction of the giggles. ‘No sleep for me tonight!’
The Next Morning…
Wesley knocked at Buffy’s bedroom door and waited for a response.
“Miss Summers? Are you awake?” He waited. After a moment of silence, he turned the knob and peeked in. Buffy sat upright in the center of her bed, fully dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants.
“Oh, I see you are ready for calisthenics today.” He breathed a sigh of relief at the first hint of a normal routine he’d seen from his new Slayer. “Shall we then?” He motioned toward the door. When Buffy stood up and exited the room, he smiled at his quick progression with her. ‘I knew I could get through to her,’ he thought as he followed her down the stairs.
Joyce came out from the kitchen and noticed Wesley’s workout attire.
“I’ll warn you, she can be a handful.” She warned.
Wesley grinned, “Mrs. Summers, a Watcher must undergo vigorous physical and mental training to be rewarded with the duties of a Watcher. I believe I can handle a simple morning jog.”
“Ok, “ she smiled and tossed him a cell phone. “Call me when she loses you!”
“I assure you, she will not lose me.” He insisted.
<”Did I sound this pompous when you first met me?”> Giles formed beside Joyce.
‘No…you were just weird.’ Buffy smiled. ‘You were all…’This is what you’re looking for’ and creeped me out with that vampire book.’ She stepped outside and took a deep breath of the crisp fall air.
<”Came on a bit strong, did I?”> He followed.
‘Yep. Major wiggins. If it hadn’t been for Willow, I would have never set foot in that library again!’
<”Right. Point taken!”> He began to run and Buffy followed.
Wesley realized she’d started without him and he struggled to catch up. “Miss Summers, please.”
Joyce yelled out the door, “Phone number’s on speed dial. Number one!” She chuckled as she went back into the kitchen to continue her morning ritual.
<”Swing those arms! How many times must I remind you that the momentum…”>
‘Shut up, Giles. I’m swinging already.’
“Buffy, you’re pace is perfect. You’re rhythm is flawless.” Wesley praise brought a smile to Buffy's lips. She could get used to the compliments. “A slight suggestion, though. Don’t bring the arms up so much. We’re running…not swimming.”
Giles clenched his jaw, <”Now…lose this wanker!”>
he hissed through his teeth.
‘Not yet. Let’s give him a chance.’ She changed direction, leaving Giles faltering at an intersection as Wesley kept pace with her every stride.
“Much better Miss Summers. You’ll find you’re legs carry you better without such top heavy motions.” Wesley said as Buffy allowed him to run up beside her.
Giles evaporated from his location and re-appeared beside Buffy. Time to regroup. She was just teasing him. No need for concern. Any moment now she'll leave him choking on her dust trail as she blazes off into the sunrise.
“My training regimen will follow that of Mr. Giles until we’ve expended all the notes he’d left. Then I plan on pressing on into new territory. We’ll delve into the fighting arts with emphasis on weaponry.” He grinned as he explained his outlook to her. “Most of which will be old hat to such a seasoned Slayer as you. But I do feel that we must reaffirm the strong foundation Mr. Giles built before exploring new directions in your training. Is that alright with you?” He ran swiftly beside her, waiting for a response. He got none.
‘He uses too many words…like you!’ Buffy thought with a smirk decorating her face.
<”Not as eloquently as me.”> Giles concluded. <”Blokes riding on my bloody coat tails.”>
‘Later!’ Buffy snickered and her legs exploded with a burst of power and speed, leaving the phantom Giles and her new Watcher rapidly falling behind.
< “Yes!”> Giles declared with a taunting finger at Wesley < “Take that you prat!”>
“Amazing young woman.” Wesley wheezed, as he stumbled to a full stop.
<”You haven’t seen anything yet my friend.”> Giles smiled proudly at his departing Slayer. His smile faded upon further consideration. <”She’s a miracle.”>
Wesley’s eyes darted around to investigate his surroundings. He already knew that Mrs. Summers warning had been realized. He shook his head and swallowed his pride as he dialed the Summers residence for a ride to his temporary home. “Simply amazing!”