Summary: After her mother dies and Riley
leaves town, Buffy feels like she’s losing her ability to love. Giles suggests a quest into the desert where Buffy learns
of her greatest gift – and is given glimpses of what could have been.
Disclaimers: Contains dialogue from BtVS 5:18 “Intervention”. Part
Two contains references to Angel 2:18 “Dead End.” Plot borrows heavily from Star Trek the Next Generation 7:11
“Parallels.” To quote Joss: “Sometimes I’m derivative and lame.” You do not have to have seen
the STTNG episode (and frankly, you’ll think I’m more talented if you don’t) but watching “Intervention”
is probably a good idea, since I’m writing with the idea that the main plot is understood (Glory, Dawn, et al.)
PART ONE – Turn to Stone
just starting to feel…uneasy about stuff.” Buffy walked slowly from the kitchen into the living room and sat down
on the couch, looking down at her hands.
Giles followed after her, drying his hands of the dishwater. He seated himself next to her on the couch and looked at her
Slaying. All of it. It’s just…” She looked past him, biting her lip as she searched for the words. “I
mean, I can beat up the demons until the cows come home…and then I can beat up the cows.” She paused with a slight
smile, but Giles simply stared past her, lost in his own thoughts. “But I’m not sure I like what it’s doing
to me,” she finished.
Giles looked back
at her, somewhat surprised, considering all the strides she’d made recently. Asking him to return as her Watcher. Training
far more industriously than she had since being Chosen. Even showing an interest in Slayer history and study, which she’d
never displayed before. Of course, since Joyce’s death…He drew a deep breath and looked back at her reassuringly.
“But you’ve mastered so much. I mean, your strength and resilience alone…”
Buffy nodded, leaning
toward him. “Yeah. Strength. Resilience.” She looked back down at her clasped hands and then faced him again,
her face set, the eyes wide and earnest. “Those are all words for hardness. I’m starting to feel like being the
Slayer is turning me into stone.”
Giles looked back
at her, shock stamped on his face. “Turning you into stone?” He asked softly, and then shook his head, reaching
out to her. “Buffy…”
Buffy stood up abruptly
and walked away from him, shaking her head as her arms crossed defensively before her. “Just think about it.”
She turned away from him, staring out at something he couldn’t see, and he watched her, helpless, as she wrestled with
herself. She turned back to him. “I was never there for Riley,” she said, her voice stuttering briefly over the
name and then her voiced softened. “Not like I was for Angel.” Her eyes pleaded with Giles to understand. “I
was terrible to Dawn.”
Giles shook his head.
He knew of the guilt and anguish Buffy felt over the imposed memories of impatience with her younger sister, and then the
real guilt over how she had pushed Dawn away as Joyce’s illness grew more severe and they learned the truth about Dawn’s
origins. “At a time like this,” Giles began, seeking a way to make her understand that so much of what she now
felt stemmed from her grief over her Joyce and her current fears for Dawn.
Buffy shook her head
resolutely, her eyes meeting Giles’ with the most adult expression he could ever remember seeing her wear. “No,”
she said firmly.
Giles looked into
her eyes, saw the green darkened with pain and guilt and something deeper, darker that he wasn’t sure that even Buffy
herself could put name to. “You’re bound to feel emotionally numb,” he continued as if she hadn’t
spoken, remembering his own pain over Jenny that his duties and responsibilities hadn’t allowed him to fully express.
Even his own feelings of loss about Joyce, knowing that Buffy and Dawn’s grief took precedence.
But Buffy looked
back at him solidly, refusing to allow him to give her comfort, to grant justification. “Before that,” she said,
stepping from behind the walls she had thrown up over the past years. The walls that screamed out, “Slayer!” and “Alone!” and “Strong!” She wrapped her arms tighter around her body as if to take the place of those walls as she faced
saying this to Giles and saying it to herself. “Riley left because I was shut down. He’s gone.” She blinked
rapidly, tired, oh, God, so tired of the tears. “And now my mom is gone – and I loved her more than anything.”
She stopped, her mouth moving wordlessly until she was able to force them out. “And I don’t know if she knew.”
Giles leapt from
his seat on the couch to rush to her, stopping just short of embracing her and instead gripping her shoulder gently. “Oh,
she knew.” He looked into Buffy’s eyes, seeing her, seeing the woman she’d be in a few years, the woman
her mother had been. “Always.”
Buffy shrugged, pushing
her shoulder against Giles’ hand, needing his mortal, human strength despite her resilience. “I don’t know.
To slay. To kill.” Her eyes hardened on Giles and he looked desperately into them, needing to find the words to tell
her that love shone out from her like something mystical as she continued on, cutting into herself as if to bare the stone
beneath. “It means being hard on the inside. Maybe being the perfect Slayer means being too hard to love at all.”
firmed on his face, but he could feel her tremble beneath his hand. “I already feel like I can hardly say the words.”
Giles tightened his
grip on her shoulder. “Buffy…”
Buffy shook him off
and turned away, and then turned back quickly, her hands splayed out before her as she looked at him desperately. “Giles…I
love you.” She said the words emotionlessly, as if to just taste them in her mouth. “Love, love, love, love, love,”
poured out of her mouth frantically, the word turning into a meaningless alphabet soup. “Giles! It feels strange.”
He allowed himself
a brief laugh, smiling at her even in the midst of his worry. “Well, I shouldn’t wonder,” he answered dryly.
He started to give another pat answer about love and grief and life and death, and then paused. “How serious are you
about this?” he asked suddenly, turning to perch on the edge of the coffee table.
Buffy stopped, looking
at him as if he had just joined the conversation. “Ten,” she answered, settling herself across from him on the
couch. “Serious to the amount of ten.”
Giles looked at her
thoughtfully, wondering if the answer couldn’t be this simple. Even if the ritual turned out to be useless Watcher lore,
the time alone could be..."There is something,” he said finally. “In the Watcher’s Diaries. A quest.”
Buffy looked back
at him, her nose wrinkling in thought. “A quest? Like finding a grail or something?”
class is perusing Arthurian legend, Giles thought to himself, smiling. “Not a grail,” he answered back. “Maybe
answers. It would take a day.” He paused, considering everything she had gone through lately. “Perhaps two.”
He leaned forward, knowing that convincing her to leave Dawn and her responsibilities behind would require a light touch.
“Some Slayers found it helpful in regaining their focus in learning more about their role. There’s a sacred place
in the desert. It’s not far.”
He saw the struggle
mirrored on Buffy’s face as she battled between her desire to be gone for a while and her belief that she alone could
keep Dawn safe from Glory. “Dawn will be fine,” he said reassuringly, reaching for her hand. “She can stay
with Willow, Xander and Anya. I will help Willow with a protection spell that should be more than sufficient for the brief
time that we will be gone.”
Buffy looked up at
him, biting her lip, and he saw the battle won by her complete and utter trust in him. He felt his breath tighten in his chest.
Pray God that he never did anything to jeopardize that trust. At last she nodded firmly and stood.
go tell Dawn.” Her mouth quirked. “I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to get to hang with the big kids while
I’m off Oming in the desert.” Buffy frowned suddenly, imagining her sister in dire danger yet enjoying popcorn
and Ho-Ho’s and Xander’s creepy ghost stories while she herself enjoyed sheltered anonymity in the desert with
scorpions, hot winds and, ick, getting sand in her hair. She and Dawn were both
Chosen, but somehow it seemed that she never got the Ho-Ho end of the deal. She shrugged and turned to head upstairs to fill
Dawn in and grab some supplies.
Giles said softly behind her. She turned back to him somewhat fearfully, afraid that he had changed his mind. He looked back
at her for a quiet moment, twirling his glasses in his hand. “Just so you know…I
love you, too.”
Buffy smiled back at him and headed