The last time I posed this story, someone asked be to tag it so they could read the previous chapters. I did.
At least I thought I had. Apparently not, because nothing linked.
So I tried again. I couldn't get chapters 3 through 6 to do it. I guess the only way is to post them again.
I tried, but it wouldn't let me post the 4 missing chapters together. Too long. Here are chapters 3 and 4, and I'll do another posting with 5 and 6. If you are interested in catching up, read behind the cuts. Chapters 1, 2, 7 and 8 did link so they should already be behind the tag.
Chapter 3 - Painful Truths - Buffy's POV
Buffy woke to an unfamiliar sensation; her pillow was slowly moving up and down. Plus someone was knocking on the door, but it was a strange knock, regular and rhythmic. And her blankets were wrapped around her tightly. Her bed, which was suddenly very lumpy, moved and made a grumpy sound. Her eyes shot open.
The sight that met her gaze was at once familiar and strange. She was in her living room, but there was no sea of girls asleep on the floor. She was on the sofa, but not alone. She took a deep breath and drew in Giles' scent. She was lying on top of Giles on the sofa. She frowned slightly. Why had she and Giles fallen asleep on the sofa, and where were the Potentials?
At the thought of that word, memories of the day before flooded her mind. Oh, God, it had really happened. She had been so sure that she had cried herself out last night, but apparently not. Tears trickled slowly down her face, wetting the shirt beneath her cheek. Carefully, trying to not wake the somehow still sleeping man, Buffy eased off of Giles. Mission accomplished, she stood for a few minutes watching him. She wished she could spare him the burden of the things that he needed to learn.
Hearing steps Buffy turned and watched her Mom come downstairs. The two women looked at each other for a moment, and then Joyce went into the kitchen. Buffy followed. "Good morning," she said quietly.
"Good morning," Joyce replied, not meeting her eyes.
Joyce looked at her in surprise. "About what?"
"I was so focused on getting Giles and I declared alive that I forgot how this was going to affect you. It must be very painful for you to have me here. When Giles wakes up we'll go to his place." She looked down, twining her fingers together nervously.
Joyce looked, really looked, at Buffy for the first time since she had appeared the day before. This girl wasn't her daughter, but she was still Buffy. A grown-up Buffy, the kind of woman she had always hoped her daughter would be. Responsible, caring, compassionate. She looked so thin and tired. Joyce frowned slightly. The cut on her forehead hadn't healed. The only other time that Joyce had seen Buffy not heal quickly was after that test. "Are you all right?"
Buffy looked up, "Yeah, just tired with a bit of a headache. I feel like I could sleep for a week."
Joyce reached over the work island and brushed Buffy's hair off her forehead. "That cut hasn't healed yet."
Buffy put her hand up and felt the area. "Well, the sword through my side was a biggie so Slayer healings' been focusing on that."
Joyce nodded. "Cheese omelet okay for breakfast?" She went to the refrigerator and began to assemble ingredients.
"Um, well, okay, I guess, but you don't have to fuss."
"I'm not fussing, I'm offering."
"Then, yes, thank you, cheese omelet sounds good."
Joyce put the skillet on the stove and lit the burner. She casually asked, "Were you planning on staying in the dorm with Willow?"
Buffy sighed. "I don't know. I hadn't really had a chance to think about it yet." She looked at Joyce, then glanced away. "I didn't think you would want me staying here. Of course, Willow may not want me staying there either." She gave a huff of laughter. "Maybe Giles could move to a two bedroom apartment and I could stay with him. I don't know."
There was silence while Joyce finished breakfast. She placed a plate with the omelet and two slices of toast in front of Buffy. She followed this with a large glass of milk and a large glass of orange juice. Buffy looked at the meal. "I'm not sure I can finish all of this."
"You will eat every bite young lady. You need to build up your strength. Then you should shower and change those clothes before you do anything else. You still have plenty of things in your room."
Buffy swallowed. "My room?"
Joyce paused for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "Buffy Summers will always have a place in this house. I'm not saying it will be easy, but we'll work through this. Just remember I lost my daughter, the fact that you are here doesn’t change that. I was thinking during the night and as crazy as it sounds I think the best way for us to handle this is to act as if you had been identical twins and we lost one twin." She paused again. "I assume from some of the things that you didn't say yesterday that I was no longer alive in your world."
Buffy put the piece of toast she had been nibbling back down. "Right."
"Do I want to know how I died?
"Complications from surgery." Another pause. "Have you been having headaches? I mean, really bad headaches? In this area?" Buffy pointed to a spot on the side of her head.
"There have been a few headaches lately, but none that I would call really bad."
"Please make an appointment with the doctor. Tell him that the headaches have been bad and ask for a CAT scan. Please."
"Won't this be changing things?"
"I don't see how. This is a different reality, the future hasn't happened yet, so how could I be changing things. Besides, there have already been differences. My Giles didn't teach at the University."
"Very well, I'll call the doctor. Now, finish your breakfast."
Giles, who had been on the other side of the kitchen door listening, gave a sigh of relief and entered the room, "Good morning, Buffy, Mrs. Summers."
"Joyce please, we were on a first name basis, Rupert."
"Very well, Joyce. How are the two of you feeling this morning?"
"I'm doing as well as can be expected, but I'm worried about Buffy. She still looks tired and the cut on her forehead isn't healing."
Giles walked over to Buffy and took her face in his hands. He examined the cut, pressing gently against the skin surrounding it. "There doesn't appear to be any infection. It's possible that it's taking a little longer because she's so run down. I'll make sure she takes things easy today."
Buffy made a grumpy sound. "I am still in the room."
"Of course you are," Giles gave her a little pat on the shoulder and she rolled her eyes at him. "When you've finished breakfast, I'd like to check the dressing on your wound."
"It's probably okay; my side doesn't hurt this morning. Even so I'd better take it easy on patrol." Buffy stopped abruptly. "Patrol. I forgot all about it last night. With the funeral notice in the paper the vamps must have run wild last night." She looked distressed.
"Buffy," Joyce broke in, "that young man from LA, Wesley, said that he and Angel would stay in town and patrol last night. We didn't tell you then because we didn't want to bother you."
Buffy sagged in relief. She placed the fork on her plate and pushed it away. Half the omelet and one slice of toast remained. "I'm sorry, but I just can't eat anymore." Before Joyce could comment, Buffy grabbed the glass of juice and downed it, then did the same with the glass of milk. "Got my vitamin C and D, I'm good. I'll go grab that shower. Be right back." She rushed out of the room and they heard her running up the stairs.
Giles and Joyce looked at each other in uncomfortable silence. Joyce spoke first. "Would you like some breakfast?"
"Just some toast would be fine. I find that I'm not very hungry myself this morning." Giles took off his glasses and polished them. "Buffy and I need to discuss a great many things. I thought perhaps that we should go to," he paused, "my flat and talk there. If you have no objection."
"Why would I have any objections?"
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "I'm finding it a little difficult to comprehend the changes in my life. Yesterday my Slayer was a 16 year old girl whose mother knew nothing about her Calling. Today, my Slayer is 22 years old, and not only does her mother know, so do several other people. People who had a history with my counterpart, yet I have never met them."
He rubbed his face tiredly, wincing when he came into contact with his swollen jaw. "Take that Wesley chap, for example. Buffy said that the Council fired me and made him her Watcher. What did I do that was so bad that they fired me, and if I was fired, why am I still here? If he replaced me, why is he in LA working with Angel?" He sighed. "I just don't understand."
Joyce placed the toast in front of him, giving him a sympathetic look. "The simple answer is that they fired him because he cared too much. She refused to stop going to him for help and advice so they fired Wesley because he couldn't control her. When the Council refused to give her information on a major demon she told them to go to hell, that she didn't need them." Joyce gave Giles a very serious look. "If it hadn't been for the fact that he had let Buffy have her friends, her Scoobie gang, this world wouldn't have been here for you to come to. Sunnydale would have been destroyed on Buffy's graduation day."
"Yeah, when Wes stood up to Travers for me it was the first time he had ever bucked authority. He's come a long way in the past year. Killing demons in LA with Angel and Cordy has been the making of him." Buffy spoke from the doorway.
"You finished your shower already?" Giles blinked. "Did you say that Cordeila was in Los Angeles working with Angel?"
"Baths are for lingering, showers are just to get clean." Buffy handed him the first aid kit, placing a book on the counter top. "Cordy was trying to break into show biz but the first audition she went to the casting director was really a vampire and after Angel saved her she figured she would be safer working for him." Buffy looked sad. "Things don't always turn out the way you plan." She lifted her t-shirt so he could treat her injury.
Giles frowned at her exposed side. The wound was still seeping and didn't look much better than it had the day before. He was also concerned about the fact he could clearly count her ribs. "Buffy, I still believe you should go to the hospital. This doesn’t look like its healing."
"Can't. We didn't mention anything about me being stabbed to the police. If I went to the hospital with this it would just raise a whole lot of questions that we don't have answers for." Buffy put a hand on Giles' arm. "It's probably healing from the inside. Really, it hardly hurts at all now. You were up and moving the next day when you…" she broke off, her eyes filling with tears. "Oh, Giles."
She wiped the tears away angrily. "No," she said fiercely, "it won't happen this time. I'll make sure it won't." She swallowed. "We really, really, need to talk. I think it would be best if we went to your place. This world's Giles' dairies are there and they might make it easier for you to understand everything that happened." She lifted the book. "This is my counterparts' diary. I'm going to take it to compare their points of view on things."
Giles looked at her for a long moment, then nodded and began to dress her wound.
Joyce watched, curious at the ease between the two. Perhaps it was the shared trauma. Perhaps it was just the connection they had had to their own Buffy and Giles. Thinking back she remembered how she couldn't understand Buffy's ease with the school librarian when they first moved here. For a while she had thought that Buffy was using the man as a substitute father, but that was only until she had seen the two of them together. This Buffy certainly appeared to have been close to her Watcher, her grief at his loss was so clear.
Her Buffy and Giles hadn't been that comfortable with each other, at least not lately. They had never really regained their trust in each other after Buffy's 18th birthday. And something else had upset Buffy a couple of months back, but she wouldn't talk about it. A bouquet of daisies had arrived from Rupert everyday for a week and Buffy had thrown them away. Joyce couldn't imagine what Rupert had done to upset Buffy that much and when she had asked Willow if she knew anything about it, Willow had just giggled.
Joyce was pulled from her thoughts by the sound of Buffy's voice. "Hello, Earth to Mom." She looked over at the others to see them smiling at her. "Sorry, I was thinking. Did you need something?"
"I just wanted to say that we're going now." Buffy paused, looked at Giles then back to Joyce. "This could take quite a while. It depends. There are a lot of things to cover. I might stay there tonight. I'll give you a call if I'm not coming back here." Buffy looked down, thinking. When she raised her head again there was a mischievous gleam in her eyes. "Did the thing with the candy happen here?"
Joyce blushed deep red and Buffy giggled. Giles just looked confused. Buffy grabbed his hand and started to pull him out of the room. "Talk to you later, Mom."
"Thank you for breakfast, Mrs. Sum, er, Joyce." Giles gave her a bewildered look as he was whisked through the door.
Joyce started to clean the kitchen and heard the faint sound of the front door closing. Poor Rupert. He was in for a number of shocks. And he wasn't the only one. If yesterday was anything to go by Riley was in for a rude awakening too. Good, she had never liked him that much. It was her opinion that if Buffy hadn't had that tiff with Rupert, Riley would never have had a chance.
Life was about to become very interesting.
The walk to Giles' apartment had been in silence, both of them lost in thought. When they finally stood in front of the door, Giles hesitated before using his key. He opened the door and gestured for Buffy to go in, then slowly followed her.
Buffy looked around, smiling. She hadn't really meant it when she said that perhaps she should move in with Giles, but now she wondered if it might be a good idea. This was the one place she had always felt safe. This apartment felt more like home than her own, especially now. She turned around.
Giles, on the other hand, looked ill at ease. She tried to see things from his perspective. While she was taking a trip down memory lane, he was being bombarded with the evidence of a life that he hadn't lived, but that somehow he had. Talk about freaky. He must be wigging out, in a very restrained Giles kind of way. Buffy looked around for inspiration.
"You probably want to get a little more comfortable before we get started. Plus the sleeping in the clothes after I cried all over them. Why don't you go take a shower and I'll make some tea?"
"What should I wear?" he asked, lost.
"Whatever you think can take sitting and reading for the next few hours as long as it's not tweed. My Giles hadn't worn tweed in years. And I warn you, I'll probably cry on you again. There are some pretty nasty things I need to tell you about." Buffy walked over to him, turned him towards the stairs to the loft and gave him a gentle shove.
Giles went up the steps and Buffy heard him open a drawer. There was silence for a few seconds, then the drawer closed and another opened. Rustling sounds then that drawer closed. A door opened, again a few seconds of silence, then the rustling sounds. The door closed. A few minutes later he came back down with a bundle in his hands. Giles gave her a strange look before he went into the bathroom and in no time Buffy heard the shower start. She went into the kitchen and filled the kettle, setting it on the stove, but not yet turning on the burner. She moved restlessly around the small kitchen, opening doors and looking in the refrigerator. When she heard the shower shut off she started heating the water.
There was a knock on the door and Buffy went to answer. "May I help you?"
The man on the doorstep looked surprised. "Is this the residence of Rupert Giles?"
"Yes. May I help you?"
"My name is Adrian Cartwright and I am from the British Embassy."
Buffy smiled, "The accent was a give-away. Come on in. I'll see if Giles is ready." Buffy closed the door after Mr. Cartwright and went down the hall to the bathroom. "Giles? The man from the embassy is here. Will you be much longer?"
Giles opened the door and peeked out, showing her a face half covered in shaving cream. "I'll just be a few more minutes."
"Okay." As Buffy walked back to the living room, the teakettle started whistling. She went into the kitchen and turned off the stove. She turned around to face the pass through and began making the tea as she spoke to the man in the living room. "Giles said he would be out as soon as he finished shaving. Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, thank you." Adrian watched the girl make the tea, wondering who she was and how she fit into Rupert Giles' life. She certainty seemed at home in his flat. And there was the matter of the injury on her forehead. Most women would cover that up but this girl didn't seem to care. He stood as she carried the tray into the room.
Buffy placed the tray on the coffee table. "I made it the way Giles likes so I hope its okay."
Adrian noticed that there were only two cups on the tray. "You're not having any?"
"No, I made it for Giles; I'm more of an ice tea drinker in the summer." Buffy moved over to the bookshelves and began to look for the diaries. She had just spotted them on the bottom shelf when the bathroom door opened and Giles came down the hall.
"I apologize for keeping you waiting…" Giles broke off when he saw the man. "Adrian? They didn't say that you would be the one bringing the papers." He stepped forward to shake the man's hand. "How are you?"
"Better than you." He took a closer look at Giles' face. "You really were banged around, weren't you?"
Giles put his hand up to his bruised jaw. "Yes, well, it's better than the alternative." He looked down at the tray. "Ah, tea. Thank you, Buffy." He sat down and fixed a cup.
Adrian resumed his seat, looking over at Buffy. "Buffy? This is the lady who was with you?"
"Yes." Giles took a sip of his tea. "The police told us that we were incredibly fortunate. The thieves could have killed us. Instead they just tied us up and left us where we wouldn't be found to give themselves time to get away. They think that perhaps it was some teenagers who just wanted to ride around in a nice car and spend some money."
Adrian looked closer at Giles. His voice had been so calm, almost detached, but his face was pale and strained and his hands were shaking slightly. Adrian glanced over at the girl. She had stopped looking at the books she had pulled from the shelf and was sitting with her eyes closed. Her face had also paled and he could see the faint trail of a tear on her face.
Giles sighed and put the teacup down. He rested his head in his hands. "Bloody hell, I need to see about getting another car. I'll need to talk to the insurance people to file a claim, and god only knows how long it will take to get the money." He straightened back up. "I'll need to go to the bank as well. I don't know if I can still access my account." He sighed again. "Bugger all."
"Rupert, if you like I could take you to your bank and then on to the insurance office. I can lend an official presence to your return from the dead. It might help things along."
"Thank you, Adrian." Giles turned to look at Buffy. "Do you wish to come with us?"
"No, that's okay. I need to do that research. We can talk when you get back." Buffy bent down, opened the bottom drawer of the desk, and pulled out some files. "You should take these with you." She walked over to where Giles sat. "This is all the information on your car, and this file is your bank records. You might want to stop at the phone company too."
The two men stood and the trio moved to the door. Giles took a step out, and then turned back. "Are you going to be all right here alone? The research can wait until later."
Buffy gave him a gentle shove. "I'll be fine. Go, do." Buffy moved back to the desk and sat. Reluctantly she opened the first diary and began to read.
Five hours later Buffy closed her counterparts' diary and drew a deep shuddering breath. She looked up at the clock and frowned. What was taking them so long? Her eyes went back to the books. It had been bad, worse than she had imagined, reading Giles' thoughts on the events of their lives. God, she had been so blind. Blind, childish and selfish.
She winced when she read the early parts of her counterparts' diary. She wished she could say that she hadn't been that self-absorbed, but she knew that she had been. Page after page about Angel and their star-crossed love. Going on and on about how it had affected her when Angel became Angelus. One brief paragraph when Jenny Calendar had been killed, totally ignoring Giles' pain.
If reading her counterparts' diary had been an embarrassing ordeal, reading Giles' diaries had been eye-opening. In the first place, she had discovered that he kept two sets of diaries; the official one for the Council records and one filled with his own thoughts.
Wow. She didn't know that Giles knew those kinds of words. She knew about his time as Ripper, the magic and so forth, but knowing and really understanding what that meant were two different things. His vocabulary was quite…. Impressive. So many entries so full of emotion. The emotion that he had never let himself show because he had been taught that to show emotion was being weak.
It had been a good thing that she hadn't eaten all of her breakfast, because what she had eaten came back up as she was reading his account of when Angelus tortured him. And that had been followed by his anguish when she disappeared that summer. His embarrassment over the band candy incident, his nightmares when he found that Angel had returned. Entry after entry where he had poured out all the feelings he had hidden from her and the others.
The helpless rage he had felt when the Council made him give her the test on her eighteenth birthday had shown in more than words. He had been so angry at times that the pen had gone through the page. And the words that he had used to describe Travers? Whoa. She hadn't recognized half of them. They were either English gutter slang or foreign curse words.
But the entry that had affected her the most had been one written after the test. Pages had been filled with his despair at being fired, his anguish at the thought that she would never forgive him and his shock at the realization of his love for her. Although he had told Travers that he wasn't going anywhere, for a brief moment during the dark hours of the night he had contemplated leaving. He had been so positive that she would never see him as other than an authority figure. In the end he had decided that being around her without her knowing how he felt would be his punishment for giving her the test.
From everything she had read the events in this world had been identical to her world until the day after graduation. Here Xander's parents had kicked him out of the house and his Uncle Rory's car had broken down at Giles' apartment complex. Xander had gotten the job with the construction company right away and had spent the summer sleeping on Giles' sofa while saving money for his own apartment.
Anya had gotten a job at the Magic Box and when the owner had been killed she had had tried to buy the shop. Since Anya hadn't had enough money to buy it outright, and since she had no credit history, Giles had co-signed the loan, becoming her silent partner. It had been this business connection that had led, in a convoluted way, to Giles getting the teaching job at the University. After Anya had taken over the Magic Box, Xander had used his construction skills to fix the upstairs into an apartment and the two moved in together. However, the back room was still a training room for her and Giles.
The problem with the vampire named Sunday hadn't happened here. The date with Parker had happened, but this Buffy hadn't fallen for his line, had in fact broken his hand when he had gotten a little too touchy-feely. Buffy had gone out with Riley a few times, but nothing serious; i.e. no sex. Olivia had visited, although it had been a couple of months later in this timeline, and this world's Buffy had walked in on something far more embarrassing than Giles in his robe.
The resulting confrontation had been revealing. According to both diaries, Buffy had told Giles that he belonged to her, and had demanded to know why he was having sex with another woman. He had responded by saying that she hadn't been to see him for over four months, and that his sex life was none of her business. The argument had gone downhill from there. When she had thrown the candy incident in his face he had told her to get out and not come back until she had grown up.
This world's Buffy had gone to Willow to vent her anger, and instead of sympathizing, Willow had just laughed. According to the diary Willow had laughed so hard she had fallen off her bed. Buffy had left in a huff. There had been a week of stubbornness, then Giles had given in and called. She hung up. He had sent flowers. She threw them away. At the limit of his patience, Giles had shown up at her dorm room. When she had answered the door he pushed his way in, grabbed her, and kissed her senseless. They had become lovers two days later.
This Buffy had moved out of the dorm and in with Giles, but they hadn't told Joyce yet. They hadn't told anyone yet, not officially, although Buffy was sure Willow knew. Buffy had written that she had broken up with Riley; that he hadn't wanted to accept it and that he kept bugging her to go out again. Giles, or Ru as she had called him in the diary, had wanted to straighten Riley out but Buffy had wanted to take care of the problem herself.
From the look of Riley at the house yesterday, he was going to be a pain in the ass. He saw this as a new beginning for him with a new Buffy. Buffy frowned. It could be dangerous if he told others about what he had seen and heard yesterday. The first thing she needed to do was find out if the Initiative existed here as well. What she knew about them could give her an advantage. Buffy hunched her shoulders. She would worry about that later.
Buffy looked around the living room, not seeing anything that would indicate that her counterpart had lived here. On impulse she went up the steps to the loft. There, in the middle of the bed, was Mr. Gordo. She went to the closet and opened it. The right side was filled with women's clothes and she recognized some of them. No wonder Giles had given her a strange look. She couldn't remember if her Giles had found out about Mr. Gordo before the Master or after. If he knew, this Giles must really be wigged. If he didn't know it wasn't any better. He knew a woman was living here, but he didn’t know who. No wonder he hadn't come back yet, he was probably half way back to England.
Buffy leaned against the closet door, gazing at the bed. A version of her had slept in that bed with a version of Giles. Slept, made love, held each other through the nights, woke in each other's arms in the morning. She though of her Giles, of his last words, of all the things that might have been.
Buffy threw herself on the bed, clutched Mr. Gordo and cried. Cried for her friends, for her world, for the opportunities that she had lost.
Chapter 4a - Painful Truths - Giles POV
Giles woke when Buffy moved off him, but kept his eyes closed and continued to breathe deeply. He needed a few minutes to re-group before facing her. He heard footsteps coming down the stairs, then two sets leaving the room. He sighed and opened his eyes.
This was real, yesterday had been real. His Buffy, his dear sweet girl, was gone. His Willow, his Xander, all of his life. The weight of the reality was almost too much to accept. The only thing that kept him going was that this Buffy had lost just as much, and that she needed him. He sat up, took a deep breath, and headed for the kitchen.
He lingered outside the door, listening to the conversation inside. It was a little incredible, but perhaps Mrs. Summers' idea was a good one. Keep the two of them separate from their counterparts by thinking of them as twins. Identical faces, but different experiences.
The time alone with Mrs. Summers was awkward; in his world she had been suspicious of his connection to Buffy. Here she had clearly accepted his place in Buffy's life. Not only that, they were apparently on a first name basis. And there was that reference to 'candy'. He had the feeling that it had something to do with his counterpart and Mrs. Summers. Joyce, he reminded himself. He was supposed to call her Joyce. It might cause difficulties if he suddenly became formal with her in the presence of others.
Even though he had allowed her to brush it off, he was very concerned by the fact that Buffy wasn't healing as quickly as she normally did. The wound was a severe one, and he wished he could insist that she go to the hospital. And she was so thin. What had her life been like that his counterpart had allowed her to get in that condition?
The walk to 'his' flat passed in silence, both of them lost in their thoughts. In fact he was giving serious consideration to Buffy's off hand remark about them sharing an apartment. If she were under his roof he could see to it that she ate properly and got enough rest. He paused in front of the door.
He had felt so uncomfortable here yesterday, like he was trespassing. So much was exactly like his flat, yet there were enough differences to make it feel alien. He hadn't spent much time here yesterday, just long enough to take a quick shower and change into some clothes that were in the bathroom. He had felt an overwhelming need to get back to Buffy, as if he could only be sure that this wasn't a dream when he was with her. Xander had paced the living room and had seemed as ill at ease as he was.
Giles watched Buffy as she looked around the room. She was smiling and looked more at peace than since they had first faced each other the day before. He stood, uncertain how to proceed. When Buffy suggested that he take a shower and change, he complied blindly.
Opening his dresser drawer he found it full of women's' underwear. He froze. Dear God, his counterpart had a woman living here with him. What if it had been one of those girls he hadn't known yesterday? Oh, dear lord, what if he and Mrs. Summers (Joyce he reminded himself almost hysterically) had been involved here. He slowly closed the drawer and opened another, this time finding what he was looking for.
He approached the closet door with the air of a man that expected something to jump out at him. Opening it confirmed his fears. The entire right side was filled with women's clothing. He looked closer. These didn't seem to be the type of clothes that a woman Joyce's age would wear. He frowned thoughtfully. In fact, that dress looked like something he had seen Buffy….. He slammed the door on that thought.
Giles quickly chose slacks and a shirt and closed the door. As he turned to go back down stairs a flash of color caught his eye and he turned toward it. There, in the middle of the bed, was a pink stuffed pig. He blinked at it a few times and the name Mr. Gordo popped into his head. Buffy's Mr. Gordo. He leaned weakly against the door. The Buffy and Giles of this world had been living together. Bloody hell.
No wonder Buffy had kept touching him yesterday. She and the Giles in her world must have been together as well. Giles went down the stairs and on into the bathroom in a daze. He had never imagined this kind of relationship with his Buffy. He avoided looking at himself in the bathroom mirror.
Well, to be perfectly honest, and since he was alone there was no reason not to, he had, occasionally, had the odd dream or two. Dreams of what might have been if he were younger or Buffy older. And here she was, older. Still too young, of course, and grieving for her own Giles, but maybe…….
Giles cut that thought off and climbed into the shower. He washed quickly, toweled off, dressed, then began to shave. Buffy knocked on the door to tell him the courier from the Embassy had arrived and after that events seemed to gather speed until he was swept along helplessly.
Adrian Cartwright was an old friend that, thankfully, hadn't been recently in touch with his counterpart. When Adrian offered to take him around to do the various errands he accepted, needing to get away from Buffy until he had come to terms with his discoveries.
What he had assumed would take an hour at most turned into nearly six hours of uncomfortable conversations with strangers. The bank manager had exclaimed at his 'miraculous' return from death and had wanted the entire story. That had been followed by the hassle of re-opening an account, the old one having been canceled when he had been declared dead. The bank manger had insisted that he wait, that the bank could issue him a new card immediately, but that they would need to bring it from L.A.
He had arranged to return to the bank, citing the need to run other errands, and Adrian drove him to the insurance company. The scene there had been the same as at the bank. Everyone in the office crowded around to speak to him, and again they had pressured him to wait, promising to complete the claim for his car immediately so that he could replace it at once. Two long hours later, he returned to the bank with a rather large check.
He was again mobbed by people in the bank, customers this time, and it was over an hour before he was able to leave. His new checks had been ordered and he had the new credit card as well as cash in his wallet. From there Adrian took him to the telephone company. More explanations, more curious people. Giles' head felt like it was going to explode.
After they left the telephone company, Adrian suggested that he go to the license branch to replace his drivers' license. Giles reminded him that he no longer had a car and said that he could take care of it later. Instead of answering, Adrian stopped at the next car lot and suggested that, since he had already received the insurance check, he should replace the car now. Giles sighed and gave into the inevitable.
It was another three hours before Giles pulled into the parking lot of his apartment complex. He parked the car, turned it off, and with a sigh dropped his head back against the rest. For the first time since he had left the flat he could relax. All of those people, expressing concern and asking questions. How many of them had really been friends of his counterpart and how many had just been curious? He looked up at the door to his flat. He had been gone a long time; he hoped that Buffy wasn't too worried. Giles picked up the sack that contained the long delayed lunch that he had stopped to buy and exited the car.
Giles opened the door to a quiet flat. He closed the door, placed the sack on the pass through and looked around for Buffy. The bathroom door was open, so that left only one place for her to be if she was still here. He climbed the step to the loft. There on his bed, clutching the stuffed pig, Buffy lay asleep.
He moved over and carefully sat on the edge of the bed. She had been crying again, he could see the evidence still on her face. Without conscious thought his hand reached over and smoothed her hair off her forehead. The cut still didn't appear to be healing, and she was still so pale. He hated to wake her; sleep would be helping the healing process, but she needed to eat. His hand moved to her shoulder and he gave her a gentle nudge.
"Buffy, I'm back. I brought us something to eat." No response. "Buffy, please, you must wake up and eat something. Please."
Buffy gave a little stretch and smiled. "Giles," she murmured and opened her eyes.
Giles caught his breath at the love he saw, then she blinked and the look was gone.
"Oh, you're back. What time is it?" She lifted up and swung her legs over to sit beside him on the edge of the bed. She looked down at her hands, keeping her face averted.
He placed his hand under her chin and lifted. He looked sadly into her eyes. "I'm sorry that I'm not your Giles."
"No, don’t; please don't apologize for being alive. It's not your fault, just like it's not my fault that I'm not your Buffy. It's just what is."
He pulled her to him for a brief hug, then stood. He extended his hand to help her up, and the two left the room, going back downstairs. "It's called survivors guilt. I'm sure we've both experienced it before."
Buffy nodded. "Just about every apocalypse." She looked at the clock. "Wow, you were gone a long time. Were there problems?"
"Not as such, most of the time was taken by all the people who wanted to congratulate me on my return. Apparently I made quite a few friends here. The longest amount of time was at the insurance company. They rushed through the claim check for the car so that I could have the money to buy another one. Imagine my surprise when I found that I had been driving a red BMW convertible."
Buffy gave a little snort of laughter. "Right, the tramp."
Giles gave her a puzzled look. "I beg your pardon?"
"I used to kid my Giles that the car was his answer to a mid-life crisis. Instead of becoming involved with a woman, he bought a used car; a two door tramp that would spend all of his money. He didn't like it at first, but then it became a joke between the two of us."
"Ah. Well, its replacement is a little more conservative."
Buffy groaned. "Not another Citroen?"
Giles gave her a little smile. "No, a Mustang."
"You wild man." Buffy smiled back for a moment, then looked around the room. "Wasn't food mentioned?"
"I stopped at the Golden Palace, where Mr. and Mrs. Wong exclaimed over me and insisted that the meal was free." Giles raked his hand through his hair. "I feel quite the fraud."
"That's the survivor's guilt again. What did you get?"
"I'm not sure; they said that they would fix all my favorites." Giles looked at her in frustration. "I only stopped there on impulse, because it was a place that I had never eaten before, only to find that apparently we had become regulars in the last few months." He sat on the sofa cradling his head in his hands. "I don't know if I can do this."
Buffy moved behind the sofa. "Sit back." When he leaned back she began to massage his neck and shoulders. It took a few minutes, but he gradually relaxed and Buffy could see the tension ease from his face. She continued for almost ten minutes, then leaned forward to see if he was asleep. Giles' eyes opened slowly and the stared into each others eyes for a long moment.
Buffy released his shoulders. "Just sit; I'll fix you a plate."
Giles lounged back on the sofa watching Buffy in the kitchen thru half open eyes. When she carried a tray in with plates for both of them he sat up. Without looking at her he said, "She was living here wasn't she, the Buffy from this timeline."
"Yeah, a little over a month, according to the diaries."
"But Joyce didn't say anything about that this morning."
"They hadn't told her yet. They hadn't officially told anyone, but Willow had to have known, after all they were supposed to be room mates at the dorm."
Giles nodded. "I take it that this wasn't the same time that you and your Giles moved in together."
There was a clatter as the plate that Buffy had just picked up hit the table. She stared down at it. "I never lived with my Giles. The same event that brought these two together drove me and my Giles apart." A tear trailed down her face.
Giles stood up abruptly. "I'm sorry, I just assumed." He stopped. "I didn't mean to upset you." He paced over to the window. "I don't think I'm hungry now."
"Don’t be stupid Giles. You couldn't have known cause we haven't had the chance to talk yet. Come on, you need to eat too." She gave a little laugh that was part sob. "I can't do this without you."
Shoulders hunched, hands shoved in his pockets, Giles stared out the window. Without turning around he said, "I have a request. If this upsets you more, I'm sorry, but I don’t want you to call me Giles." He heard her indrawn breath and continued. "I am finding this entire situation disorienting; the Giles from this timeline, your Giles, everyone calling me Giles. I want you to call me Rupert. I need to have my own identity in all this confusion; I need to know that you know who I am." He looked back at Buffy. "I know that isn't fair to you since you have no choice but to be Buffy." He paused. "Unless you want me to call you by your middle name?"
A shadow passed over her face. "No, not my middle name. I'm fine with being Buffy, but if that's what you want I’ll be happy to call you Rupert." She had a sudden impish grin. "Rupert bear."
He gave a groan and dropped his head. Raising it again he glared at her. "My counterpart never told you about that."
"Willow told me when she came back from England." Buffy held up her hand to forestall his question. "No, I'm not going into that now. That event happened after this point in time, and was a whole other problem. We need to concentrate on comparing the three timelines up until yesterday. Now, come sit down and eat." He crossed the room and sat down. Still with that impish grin Buffy waited until he had taken a bite of food, then said, "You know, if you like, I can call you Ripper."
He choked and coughed, shooting her a glare. When he finally caught his breath he pointed his fork at her and said, "You will explain about that."
The grin disappeared. "I will say one thing and that's all. The rest is in the diaries." She paused and he continued to glare. "Eyghon." He paled and looked shocked. "Dinner now, explanations later."
Rupert continued to eat mechanically. Dear god in heaven, what could have possibly happened to make his counterpart tell her about Eyghon?
They finished their meal in silence. Buffy gathered the dishes and carried them back to the kitchen. She followed him over to the desk and placed her hand on two books that were set off to the left. "These are the diaries that this Giles kept from the day they met until the day after her encounter with the Master. The other books are the rest of his diaries in order until the day they were killed. These are just his personal diaries. I didn’t think you would be interested in the official ones right now."
"And everything in them is identical to what happened in your timeline?"
"Until the day after graduation day; things split off then." She placed her hand on two books set off to the right. "These are the diaries from that point until Monday."
Rupert nodded, drew a deep breath, and opened the first diary. There in front of him was the record of his arriving in Sunnydale, the feelings of anticipation when he knew his Slayer was coming, his shock at her denial of her Calling. He had detailed their encounter later that night at the Bronze. How odd it had been that she had picked the vampire out of the crowd because of his clothing. He had written that he was sure that her Slayer instincts had felt the vibrations of the demon on a sub-conscious level, but that she had put the sensations into a context that she could accept. A cup of tea appeared at his elbow.
He looked up absently. "Thank you." He blinked and focused. "This is very strange; he uses the exact words and phrasing that I did. If my diary were here the entries would be identical."
"I know that my refusing to tell you things has been frustrating, but this is why you need to read these first. Anything I tell you will be influenced by my point of view. You have to see things through his eyes before I can tell you my version." Buffy looked at him anxiously.
"I understand, Buffy." Rupert smiled gently at her. "Thank you again for the tea." He turned his attention back to the diary.
Some time later he read an entry, read it again, then looked over at where Buffy was sitting on the sofa. "This is different."
Buffy looked up from the papers she was reading. "Did you find something?"
"It mentions here that they discovered that the Anointed One was a child."
"Yes, Giles got some information from Ms. Calendar that she had gotten from an e-mail that some monk had sent out."
"I never knew. Either that monk didn't send out the message, or Jenny didn't think it was worth mentioning to me."
"Do you really think it was that important?"
"How did you handle the situation?"
"I let him lead me to the Master. I planned to take the Master out, but he put me in thrall and drank from me, then drown me."
Rupert thought for a moment. "My Buffy didn't know that the child was working with the Master. She would have done all she could to protect what she believed was an innocent child. That would have left her vulnerable. In fighting mode the Master wouldn't have been able to put her in thrall. That's why he snapped her neck. All he needed was to taste her blood to open his confinement; she didn't need to be alive for that." The detachment left his voice.
"My poor, dear, girl. I should have been with her. She shouldn't have died alone." His shoulders started shaking and he collapsed on the desk, sobbing. Lost in his misery, he felt Buffy pull him into her arms. "That's it, let it all out. You've been strong for me and you let it all build up inside of you. Go ahead and cry; there's no one here but me." She rocked him slightly, tears streaming down her own face.
Rupert got himself under control and pulled away. He wiped his eyes and averted his face from her. "I'm sorry. I lost control there for a while, but I'm alright now."
Buffy tilted his face up to hers. "No, don't apologize for caring and showing it. That was the problem between me and my Giles; we didn't talk. We held things in and let the hurt build up and push us apart."
He gave her a serious look. "I'm not sure I can let my feelings show. I've spent quite a few years learning how to repress." He looked away again. "I had a wild period in my life and some very bad things happened."
Buffy nodded. "Randall."
He turned shocked eyes back to her. "Rupert, all the questions you want to ask me are answered in the diaries. You need to start reading again." Buffy took the next diary off the stack and placed it in his hands. She looked out of the window. "It will be dark soon; I'll do a quick patrol then."
"No." Buffy looked at him in surprise. "Give yourself another night to heal. If you were hit in that side it could incapacitate you. Please, Sunnydale will be fine for one night."
"Okay, but just tonight. Tomorrow night I patrol." She glanced at her watch. "Mom should be home by now; I'll call to let her know that I probably won't be back there tonight."
"Very well." Rupert hesitated, turning the diary over in his hands. This was unexplored territory. The life he might have had if his Slayer hadn't died. He drew a deep breath and opened the book.
Untold time later he looked up with horrified eyes, searching for Buffy. She was huddled on the sofa watching him carefully. It was almost too much to take in. Ethan's two visits, Eyghon killing Dee and Phillip then possessing them, Eyghon possessing Jenny. Ethan tattooing the mark on Buffy to make her a target. A second Slayer, Angel losing his soul and becoming Angelus, Jenny being killed, his attempt to kill Angelus that was in reality a suicide attempt. The attack that led to the death of Kendra and his capture. His torture at the hands of Angelus. His bitter condemnation of himself for telling Angelus the secret of Acathla. Buffy being forced to send Angel to hell and her disappearance for the summer. Joyce blaming him for her running away, his futile searches, the overwhelming joy of her return.
Rupert knew from her defensive posture that she was expecting him to be angry with her. Instead, all he could do was silently curse his other selves for not giving her the reassurances that she had needed. He stood and walked over to the sofa. He stopped in front of her and without a word opened his arms. She gave a startled blink then flew off the seat, landing against him with enough force to cause him to stumble back a step.
Buffy was shaking in his arms. "I never asked him. I never knew how badly he had been hurt. It was all my fault."
"No, love, no. You didn't know, couldn't have known." He held her for a few minutes, then trying for a lighter touch said, "Well, so that's how you heard about Ripper. Ethan has always refused to call me by my real name."
Buffy gave a soggy chuckle and sat back down. "No, I not only heard about Ripper, I got to meet him."
Rupert goggled at her. "Keep reading."
Twenty minutes later Buffy saw a tide of red flood over Rupert's face. "Bloody hell." His head hit the diary with a thump. Buffy giggled. He raised his head and glared at her. "I will never be able to face your Mother again."
"Why? It wasn't you. Mom and my Giles were a little uncomfortable around each other for a while, but they worked through it. I think when I found out it took the pressure off."
"She told you?"
"What makes you think it was Mom?"
Rupert blinked a few times. "No. I would never have told my Buffy about having sex with her mother and I don't believe any version of myself would do so either."
"It was a few months later, when I got hurt by a demon that read minds. It passed the ability on to me and Mom freaked. By trying to not think about it, she thought about it and I saw it in her mind."
"Telepathic demon…" he started but stopped when Buffy pointed at the books. "I know, keep reading." He sighed and returned to the book.
A few minutes later he looked back up with a frown. "He says that he's afraid that the new Slayer, this girl Faith, is unstable."
"He was right. Xander called her psycho slayer."
Rupert nodded and returned to his reading. Shortly Buffy saw him pale. "Dear god in heaven, he didn't..he couldn't. How could the Council do that to you?"
"Giles would never talk about it, but Wes told me that if Giles had refused the Council would have sent a wet-works team to take him out. He did what he had to do to keep me as safe as he could."
"Those bloody bastards."
"No argument here."
Rupert read a few more pages. "That was why they fired him? Because he was fulfilling his oath to protect his Slayer?"
"Travers said it was because Giles loved me like a daughter. Personally, I think Travers just used that as an excuse. He would have found some reason to split us up regardless of what happened. We were too successful and that was a threat to his power."
Rupert looked at her for a long moment, nodded, then resumed reading. Later he looked up to ask her a question and saw that she had fallen asleep. Silently he rose from the chair and went to the closet for a blanket. He covered her, brushing the hair away from her face, then returned to his reading.
Two hours later he closed the last book, sat back, took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. Lord he was tired. Tired and hungry. He went into the kitchen and looked around. Two items were different; a microwave oven and a coffee maker. Obviously the Buffy of this timeline had bought them. He peered into the refrigerator. The remains of the Chinese food was there, but he wasn't sure how to use the microwave and didn't want to wake Buffy. Opening the meat drawer he found packages of deli meats and cheese. Rupert made himself a couple of sandwiches, added pickles and olives to the plate and poured a glass of milk.
Taking the meal back to the living room, he sat in the armchair and ate, thinking over what he had read. He understood about Angel now, as well as Wesley. He wondered, briefly, if another Slayer had been Called, but thought not. Surely Travers would have tried to contact him? Travers. That pillock had better not come around any time soon, or he would show him what being the Watcher to the Slayer really meant.
There was a lot he still needed to absorb, and he had a number of questions for Buffy, but all in all he thought he had a grasp of the current situation. At least as good a grasp as his counterpart had had. He and Buffy needed to have Xander and Willow over for a talk as well. Bring their perspective into the picture.
But that was for tomorrow. For now he was content to sit and watch Buffy sleep.