Chapter 3 pt. 5


* 'Thank you Giles. Thank you for trying to explain. You didn't have to do that' *

Giles replayed Buffy's words over in his mind, trying to untangle the emotions they raised. The Watcher was proud of Buffy, he loved her and her daughter, he was angry with Joyce for starting the arguments in the first place, he was upset with himself for continuing them, he was concerned about Spike's visit, and worried about what would happen when they finally made it back to Sunnydale, but the most predominant emotion was guilt. 'This must be what Angel deals with everyday,' the Watcher mused uncomfortably, returning his mind to Buffy's earlier words, and his response that they would talk about it. The discussion was long over due, but Giles was still concerned about it.

Giles knew Buffy was grateful that he hadn't sabotaged her efforts to familiarize Erin with Angel, and his ideosynchrasies, but the sincerity in Buffy's voice had made Giles pause. He wondered if she had really expected him to tell Erin that Angel was a monster. What made things worse for Giles, is that for one split second a part of him had wanted to destroy Angel for Erin, sure that if Erin couldn't accept Angel, Buffy would not pursue the relationship. Thankfully, sanity had returned, and he hadn't even needed to think of what it would do to Buffy to lose Angel again to tell Erin the truth. *Angel* was not a monster. Rupert had realized that a long time ago, but was only recently realizing that he had never told Buffy of his change of heart. Because they hadn't spoken of the ensouled vampire, except for occasional passing comments, since their departure from Sunnydale. Now, the guilty glances Buffy had thrown in his direction during her earlier argument with Joyce, and the gratitude in her voice when she thanked him for talking with Erin made Giles wonder how much of the silence had actually been because he didn't want to bring up painful memories for his Slayer. How many times had Buffy herself avoided the subject of Angel, because she was trying to protect Giles?

Giles wondered anew exactly how many of Buffy's fears and concerns she'd kept locked inside, afraid to share them with him because of the way they related to Angel. Rupert was afraid that he'd just discovered a deeper well of hurt in his Slayer than he'd previously suspected. He'd known that there were unresolved issues on Buffy's part regarding the ensouled vampire, but the Watcher was no longer sure what they were. He was fairly sure that by avoiding the topic of Angel he had kept Buffy from having a much needed venue to pull out her memories of her love, from having someone to talk with that knew Angel as well. Instead of sharing her memories with Giles, she'd made Angel real for her daughter, so she could remember her time with Angel with someone who wouldn't condemn her actions.

Giles had told Buffy that he looked on her as a daughter, and was sure the small Slayer was aware that he loved her. But, looking back at her argument with Joyce, and relating that with the way the topic of Angel had been avoided for years, Rupert was starting to wonder if Buffy was secure in his love. He wondered if Buffy feared his love and affection for her was conditional, just has her parents love had proven to be. Her father only had time for her when it was convenient, and Joyce either tuned out, ignored, or condemned anything Buffy did that she didn't approve of. Was Buffy afraid that if she let herself cry on his shoulder about Angel, or if she shared her hopes for a future with the vampire with him, he would let her down? Had she expected Giles to condemn her decision to work things out with Angel as her mother had?

Giles pondered those questions, shifting uneasily in his chair. He was uncomfortably reminded of the time right before and right after Xander had discovered that Angel was back from Hell, and that Buffy was hiding him. Giles had made every effort to be supportive of Buffy, to help her mourn her lost love, but she had pushed everyone away, burying her feelings to make everyone else happy. Then, upon discovering that Angel was back, he had not only participated in an 'intervention' that had turned into people jumping down Buffy's throat, he had bitingly accused her of having no respect for him, and not caring about his feelings. Rupert laughed harshly at the unpleasant memory, realizing with the advantage of hindsight that they had all unwittingly validated all of the fears that were behind Buffy's decision to keep Angel's return a secret. From that point on, though it was never said outright, Buffy's friends and family had been forcing her to choose between their love and support, and Angel.

Scared and uncertain about where she stood with Angel, Buffy's feelings took a back seat to what everyone else wanted; apparently, she had even listened to Spike, if Giles had understood the vampire's overheard conversation with Joyce correctly. With Buffy being pulled apart emotionally, Angel had taken the brunt of the fallout with her repeated efforts to stay away from him. It was no longer any wonder to Giles that Angel had taken the initiative and left on his own; he'd spent hundreds of years suffering in Hell, only to come back to a home where no one but Buffy trusted him, and everyone he came in contact with told him he was only ruining Buffy's life.

"Giles?" Startled, Giles looked up to find Buffy hovering uncertainly in the doorway coming from the balcony, evidence of recent tears on shimmering on her cheeks, trepidation in her hazel eyes. The Watcher waved her in, rising to offer his chair as he tried to gather his thoughts for the conversation to come. Buffy waved him back and stood before him, arms wrapped around herself defensively, avoiding his eyes as she began to speak. "I really did mean what I said earlier Giles. Thank you for not ruining Angel in Erin's eyes." Giles felt his heart wrench at the all too familiar sight of Buffy shutting down her emotions in an effort to protect herself as she continued. "I'm sorry about earlier today. I didn't want my plans to come out that way, in a fight with Mom. I guess that's what I get for putting of this discussion, huh?"

Buffy took a deep breath and lifted her face to look Giles straight in the eyes. "I love you Giles. You've taken good care of me and Erin for the last few years, and I really appreciate that. You are, for all intents and purposes, Erin's grandfather. You are always welcome in my home, and you will always have a place in our lives." The Slayer swallowed convulsively and spit out the last part of her rehearsed speech. "But, I love Angel, and I want to be with him. I'm tired of trying to live without him, and I don't want to do it any longer. I'm sorry if this hurts you, but that's how I feel, and I won't let you change my mind." Buffy then closed her eyes, bracing herself for his response.

Giles looked at his Slayer with pride. She stood before him, shaking with the knowledge that she was burning bridges behind her in an effort to keep herself from taking the easy way out of life, all the while wondering what her decisions would cost her. Giles tried to inject that fierce pride into his voice as he stated firmly, "Good for you." He watched Buffy's eyes fly open in shock. After studying him for a moment, reading the sincerity in his eyes, Buffy burst into tears of relief.

Rupert gathered Buffy into a soothing embrace as the cleansing tears washed away some of her fears. He waited patiently for the storm to pass, silently handing her a pristine handkerchief to wipe away the tears, chuckling quietly when she quipped, "I'm turning into a sobbing mess. No vampire would ever believe I'm a threat if they saw me now." They sat there in companionable silence for a while, neither willing to shatter the peace, but Buffy eventually asked, "Are you sure you're OK with this Giles?"

Giles considered his words carefully. "I'm not sure. I want you to be happy, and I realized a long time ago that only Angel has ever been able to do that for you. On the other hand, no one has ever hurt you as badly as Angel has, either." Giles managed a smile and shushed Buffy when she started to protest. "I'm not blaming him Buffy, but it's the absolute truth. You have been horribly hurt, many times, and Angel has been at the center of that pain. But, it was always the pain of losing him, and all save one of the times you've been separated it was not Angel's choice. And, with everyone telling him that he was ruining your life, and no one taking the time to show him how he made it better, it was no wonder Angel was finally convinced it would be in your best interests if he left."

Giles looked at Buffy, watching her gaze up at him trustingly from where she sat on the floor, and continued. "I'm not an idiot Buffy. I know I was being a hypocritical ass to blame Angel for what the demon did. I'm the one that taught you about the nature of vampires; the Angel you fell in love with, the one that was my friend, would have done anything to keep from hurting us. Angel proved that again when he tried to kill himself that Christmas, when he was afraid of loosing control. I know that all those horrible things Angelus did aren't Angel's fault."

Giles found himself in a strangle hold when Buffy threw her arms around his neck in a grateful hug. "Thank you Giles," she managed, smiling widely through her tears. Giles caught his breath; Buffy hadn't smiled that widely in years. "I know it would mean a lot to Angel if you would tell him that," Buffy prompted hopefully.

Rupert hated to burst her bubble, but he had to be honest. "I don't know if I can, Buffy," he said gently, wincing as her face fell. "I may know the difference in my head, and I *am* sorry that everything that happened left Angel alone again. But, the demon still wore Angel's face, and it was his hands that killed Jenny, even if Angel couldn't stop it from happening. It's still going to be hard to deal with Angel again. Just because I *know* Angel would never hurt us on purpose doesn't mean I *feel* any safer."

Buffy considered that quietly, reluctantly nodding her head in understanding. "Kind of like I *know* you're not going to hurt me, but I still flinch away from you because I don't *feel* safe," she murmured quietly, her eyes sad. Still, Giles took heart that there was hope in her eyes as well, a hope that had been missing for a long time.

Giles smiled, glad they'd talked this out, and offered Buffy another slice of hope. "I can't promise that I'll be able to welcome Angel with open arms or be comfortable with him in our lives, but I can promise you this. First, I promise to try to remember the difference between him and the demon; it may be harder to remember seeing him face to face than it is right now, with distance. Second, I firmly believe that you deserve to be happy, and if Angel makes you happy, while I may not be able to help, I can promise to not be a hinderence to your relationship. And lastly," Giles paused to tilt Buffy's chin up so he could look her straight in the eyes, willing her to believe his words. "I promise that I will neither condemn you, nor cut you out of my life because you've followed your heart, no matter what happens as a result."

Buffy smiled at him. "I love you too Giles. You have no idea how glad I am to hear that." She hugged him tightly before heading back towards the door. "I need to hunt since I was interrupted by Spike's unexpected presence." Buffy left, only to pop her head back around the doorway. "Giles, this emotional stuff is making me a basket case. Why don't *you* deal with the emotional fallout and *I'll* figure out what the Hellmouth is up to."

Giles laughed briefly. "Not bloody likely," he exclaimed, a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Go kill some nasty things; you've still got to finish that argument with your mother later." Buffy pouted at him, but Giles just shook his head at her. "I know it's hard Buffy, but you were absolutely right. It's your life, and your decisions. Don't fall back into the old patterns by trying to make everyone else happy at your expense. If it seems like it's too hard, or not worth it to keep fighting, ask yourself if being with Angel is worth it."

"I will," Buffy promised. "I'm not going to back down from this."



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