"Mr. Giles..." the kindly young nurse bashfully peeked around the door and gave a little wave. "You have a visitor, sir." Giles replaced the newspaper clipping being used as a temporary bookmark into the crevice between the pages of his text and gave a subtle nod.
"Hmmm? Oh, thank you. Bring them in, please," he said with a bit of perplexity and closed the book. He removed his glasses and started to wipe the lenses with the cotton cloth he always kept handy. 'A visitor?' he thought, racking his brain for another forgotten appointment. 'Dawn usually came on Tuesdays. Willow was in England and Xander was off on some business meeting. Who else would possibly be visiting at such an early hour of the morning?'
The nurse returned her attentions to the young lady waiting patiently just outside Mr. Giles room. She closed the door behind her and recorded the visitor in her log. "You can go in now, Miss," she motioned to the guest and then blocked the door with an eager hand. She lowered her head uncomfortably with the abruptness of her action. "You've been informed of his condition?" she asked nervously, obviously showing a hint of protectiveness toward her patient.
The pale, slender-framed dusty blonde gave a slight nod and took a step toward the door, pausing as her hand arched the latch.
"I only ask cause it can be difficult for those caught unaware. Remember, it isn't personal or intentional." She insisted and moved out of the way.
"I understand. Thank you," she hesitantly swung open the door and stepped inside. There he was, not looking a day older than when she'd seen him last but he seemed somehow different, distant. He was dressed casually but not how she'd remembered, drab colors lacking any substance or style. Like a hospital issued uniform, his appearance was free of personality or charisma. But his eyes still shined. And as she closed the door behind her, she glimpsed a hint of the man she'd known not that long ago.
"Hello," Giles quickly got to his feet and outstretched his hand, courteously and properly welcoming his company. It made her wince; he didn't remember her. "Do come in. Take a seat." He motioned to the small table by the window and waited for her to sit before following her example. "Please accept my apology for the mess..." he straightened some books spread across the table and gave a gentle smile. "I'm afraid I pass most my time reading. Most likely the same books, over and over again. It's not as though I require much of a library now, my memory is..." he caught the pained look in the young lady's eye and paused. He'd unwittingly done it again. "I should know you...shouldn't I?" he asked softly and the young woman bowed her head, on the verge of tears.
"It's ok," she barely choked out the words as she glanced out the window, avoiding the sympathetic gaze she knew Giles was giving her.
"Forgive me. Try as I might, my mind refuses to unlock certain memories. I assure you, the thoughts are still there... my memories of you remain here," he waved a finger to his head then let his hand drop wearily to the table. "But they remain hidden, just out of reach, lying in wait. Please, tell me how we know each other," he urged and reached out to her, placing his hand lightly over hers. "It sometimes comes back to me with a little reminder. Please..." She was cold; perhaps he should adjust the thermostat. But then again, he'd just forget he'd adjusted it.
She peeked up and saw his pleading emerald eyes and had to fight back the temptation to just reach out and take him into her arms, begging for forgiveness for actions she'd taken in the past, memories that were now lost to him, forever. She knew better than to question his request, she would play along with his wishes with some faint hope that a flicker of recollection might return him to the man she had once known.
"We worked together," she smiled weakly and blanketed his large gentle hand with her own, sandwiching his fingers within her tender touch. She peeked up timidly, futilely hoping to see a spark of recognition but was met with kindly but blank acceptance of her information.
"At the museum? You seem much too young for that," he smiled, "And much to beautiful to be trapped in some stuffy building with old trinkets and relics such as myself."
There it was again, that welcoming glow in his inviting eyes that always made her feel like everything would be ok. But it wasn't, not this time, not between them. It was as if their years together had never existed. And though she wanted so badly to tell him the daring tales of bravery and heroism of their sorted past, she knew he'd be better off not remembering them... better off not remembering her. "No... it was after that. It's unimportant, really."
"You seem the proper age... are you an acquaintance of Willow or Xander?"
"Yes," she mumbled. Of course he would remember them. They stayed behind for him, helped him after she'd run off. That's how she'd found Giles, discovering the fiscal records in her research. Xander and Anya worked long and hard trying to cover Giles' hospital costs. They probably never even mentioned their sacrifice to him. Willow searched the world in her spare time to find a cure. But this wasn't a disease... wasn't fixable. At least they tried. She pulled her hands away and folded them into her lap. She didn't deserve his sympathy or compassion. But he gave it unconditionally, as he always had.
"You probably know Dawn then?" His eyes lit up as he worked the connections through in his mind.
She nodded and felt a tear drip to her hands below. This conversation was slowly killing her; she needed to change the subject. "How are you?" He looked healthy, seemed ok but she needed to hear him say it, she just needed to hear his voice.
"I have my good days and my..." he let out an discomfited chuckle as he returned to cleaning his lenses "... and my not so good days. But on the brighter side of it, I haven't much to fret about. What can one worry about if you can't recall what it was you needed to worry about, right?" The stunning young woman gazed sadly at his books, unable to look at him. It hurt to know he was involuntarily causing her such anguish. He would give anything to remember her, to roar out in joyous acknowledgment of their reunion. But it wasn't meant to be. Though her face seemed so familiar, so important to him, her features remained a mystery. All he could do was enjoy her company and try to remember her the next time they crossed paths. But it was seldom if ever that an acquaintance from his past would return after an initial visit to this place. Most found it too unpleasant to face the inevitable loss of faculties that comes with age, especially when such hardships strike someone seemingly healthy and not yet reaching the autumn years of their life.
"Please, don't be sad for me." He put on his glasses and leaned forward, finding it strangely difficult to resist holding her, comforting her. It was as though it was his post, his duty to be there for her. When he saw the tears stream down her cheeks, he couldn't hold back. He moved beside her and delicately pulled the wistful guest into his arms. The young lady was awkward at first, unsure if she should hug him back. He wasn't sure why, but Giles knew she belonged there, in his arms. "I'm quite contented with my arrangement here." He caressed her silken locks, swearing the scent of strawberry mixing with the vanilla perfume of her skin was oddly familiar. 'Had we been... intimate?' he wondered as she finally gave into her need to return the affectionate embrace. 'How could I not recall such a lovely young woman?'
"I'm sorry Giles," she whispered and nuzzled into his broad chest. She hadn't known how much she needed to feel him again until his protective arms encircled her.
"You have nothing to be sorry for." His voice was low and soothing, reassuring her with his gentle tone. "Hearts and thoughts, they fade."
She held him close, not wanting to give up the feel of his warmth and compassion. But she needed to go; the sun would rise soon. "I love you Giles. I never really said it before... and meant it. But I love you." She pulled away and looked into those radiant eyes one last time, searching for that spark she longed for. He swallowed down his distress and with a faint smile, cupped her cheek.
"Thank you," he whispered and a weighty sigh seemed to overtake him as his eyes held an apologetic stare. She understood; he couldn't offer those words with the same meaning she'd intended. It would be hollow and insincere; it was something he couldn't be.
"I need to go..." she shuffled to the door and took the handle.
"Please, come again..." Giles stepped up after her with a genuine smile. "Soon."
"I will," She mumbled, not sure she was telling the truth.
"It was nice seeing you... um, Ms..."
She turned back with a wounded smile as she shed one last tear and said, "Call me Buffy." And left.
PEARL JAM LYRICS
"Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town"
i seem to recognize your face
Song lyrics courtesy of: http://www.azlyrics.com/