"Truth will come to sight"
-- William Shakespeare
"So...ah...how badly are you hurt?" Giles was suddenly all business, the emotions that had been evident on his face hidden now. "Buffy?"
"It's not as bad as it looks." The Slayer glanced down at herself, all muddy, dishevelled, and roughly bandaged. "Sorta. Had an argument with a demon, got a little sliced and diced, but I'm OK..."
"I should take you to a hospital..."
Buffy shook her head violently. "No. No hospitals. I just need some sleep and I'll be good as new. Shiny new Buffy." Using the banister and her one good arm, she hauled herself to her feet -- and almost fell as yet another wave of dizziness washed over her. Hastily Giles stepped forward, catching her before she could hit the ground.
"OK. Might have lost a little blood too," she added weakly, leaning on his shoulder.
The Watcher bit out a curse. Buffy blinked. "Giles -- I didn't know you knew that word..."
"And you didn't hear me say it either. First aid kit?"
"Right. Come on." With that he helped her stand, one arm going around her back to support her, the other beneath her right elbow. Buffy closed her eyes and leaned into him, letting him do the steering, finding his strength comforting. It had been a long night -- too long -- and reaction was finally beginning to set in, her body starting to shut down in protest of all the abuse she had heaped on it. Just a little longer, she told herself firmly. Just need to hold on a little while longer...
Silently Giles helped her towards the kitchen then set her down in one of the chairs, shooting her a quick, worried look before turning toward the cupboards.
"Under the sink," Buffy supplied helpfully, content for the moment to just sit there and ache quietly. Giles nodded, pulling out a medical kit which he tucked under his arm. Then he turned to the fridge and began to rummage inside.
Buffy frowned. "Uh...Giles? In pain here. Is this really a good time for a snack?"
"Not for me. For you. You need to eat something, start replacing some of the blood you've lost."
A faint quiver of nausea went through her. She really, really didn't feel like eating...but she should, she knew. She would recover faster if...
At that moment Giles turned and thrust a bottle of -- something -- under her nose, which immediately began to wrinkle with distaste.
"V8? Giles -- ick!"
"Yes, ick...and full of iron...I expect." He paused, shot a dubious glance at the list of ingredients on its side then shrugged slightly and handed it to her, followed by...was that broccoli? Raw broccoli? Buffy stared down at it in disbelief.
"I think I was better off with the demon..." she grumbled quietly.
"Stop complaining and get that down you," Giles set the kit on the table and pulled it open.
Buffy took a cautious sip of the vegetable juice, almost gagging at the taste. "You know," she said through her grimace, "I think there's a rule somewhere that says Watchers aren't allowed to poison their Slayers. Or if there isn't -- there should be."
He gave her a look. "Vegetables or hospital. Your choice."
Hastily Buffy took a large swig from the bottle, shuddering as she forced the clammy fluid down her throat. "Yum. Liquified vegetables. All that taste of...green. Just gotta -- Ouch!" Buffy shot Giles a baleful look as he unceremoniously reached out and began to unwrap the bandage on her arm.
"OK, great bedside manner...not so much."
"Um...ah...sorry. This is probably going to hurt."
"And you couldn't tell me that before?"
"Sorry. But I need to..." With that, Giles removed the last of the rough dressing that Spike had wrapped around her...and his voice trailed off. Almost reluctantly Buffy turned her head, not really certain she wanted to see what he was...
Whoa. That was...whoa. Buffy stared in sick fascination at the three deep gashes running parallel down the back of her arm from shoulder to wrist, the cuts dark with caked-on blood, the edges jagged. "Well -- this is going to make an interesting conversation piece," she said weakly.
Giles said nothing. He was staring down at her injuries with an unreadable expression. Finally though, he wrenched his eyes away and turned, ripping open a sterile cloth with undue force. He didn't meet her gaze. And Buffy found herself watching him a little warily.
"Um...Giles. Are you mad at me?"
He turned quickly, surprise on his face. "Mad at you? No, of course I'm..." He stopped, as if re-evaluating his feelings. "Well, yes, actually, I am. Tell me -- did you even think about how your mother would feel about what you were doing, or how...how I would feel, for that matter?"
Odd, how much that echoed what Spike had told her earlier. Buffy closed her eyes briefly, remembering, then turned and met her Watcher's gaze. "But you...you do understand why I did it. Don't you?" The last part came out sounding rather tentative.
"Yes, I understand. But that doesn't mean I condone it. You should have waited, Buffy. We would have found a way to restore your eyesight, given time. We could have helped you. But once again you acted without thinking, didn't weigh the consequences. You just..."
A quick flicker of resentment shot through her -- partly because that was precisely what she herself had been thinking earlier...but mostly because he was right. Nevertheless, Buffy couldn't quite keep the undercurrent of anger out of her voice. "Oh, I weighed, Giles. I weighed everything. What do you think I was doing this past week? Learning to crochet? Do you think I decided to do this on a whim? Do you have any idea how hard it was to...to..."
Buffy's breath caught abruptly in her throat and she stopped, blinking rapidly against the tears that were threatening to fall again. She frowned, took a deep breath, then managed to say waveringly: "Uh...can we maybe postpone the whole let's-argue-and-make-Buffy-feel-guilty thing? 'Cause my arm really hurts." She flashed him what she hoped was an endearing smile. Or maybe pathetic. Right now she would definitely settle for pathetic.
"I promise to let you yell at me as much as you want later," she added hopefully.
The Watcher's face softened. "Yes, of course. You've been through a lot. I didn't mean... Sorry." Then, more sternly: "But don't think you're going to get off easily for what you put us all through..."
"Got it. A stay of execution, to be followed by penitence, repentance, and remorse. Check." Buffy hesitated. "Um --I have to ask though -- does anybody else know? About tonight, I mean? And...and did Mom and Dawn listen to their tapes?" Buffy held her breath, half dreading the response.
"No and no. Dawn discovered you were missing just before...er....dawn, and your mother called me right away. There wasn't a chance to telephone anyone else before you arrived."
Relief shuddered through her. At least she had spared Willow, Xander and the others the same worry. "And...the tapes?"
Giles didn't look at her, focused instead on digging through the medical kit. "Still where you left them, I imagine. I'd only just listened to...ah... mine, when you came in."
"Good." Buffy sat back, relief going through her. She wasn't sure how she would have handled it if everyone had heard the tapes. Some things weren't meant to be said until after...after... Then she frowned as another thought occurred to her. Maybe she was wrong. Maybe...maybe those were the things that needed to be said the most. In person.
Hesitantly, the Slayer looked back up at her Watcher. Really looked at him this time. The signs of what he must have gone through were still evident on his face, no matter how much he might be trying to hide them. Worry. Fear. Anguish. Grief.
Remorse filled her.
"Giles -- I am so sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone by this. And..." Buffy stared down at her right fist, curled tightly in her lap, then swallowed deeply and continued. "...and I meant it."
"What I said before. In the tape."
"Oh. Ah. I...I know. And...and I do too, Buffy."
Their eyes met, then the Slayer smiled, some of her distress beginning to fade, just a little. "So," she said, lifting her left arm slightly. "You gonna first aid me or what?"
* * *
A vast smile kept threatening to take over Giles' face. He fought the impulse away as he sat down in the empty chair beside the Slayer, concentrating instead on getting the bottle of disinfectant open and pouring some of the liquid onto the cloth in his hand.
The relief was incredible. She was still alive. When he had first found the tape in her room addressed to him, had listened to her voice in the darkness, thinking he would never see her alive again -- well, he never wanted to experience those feelings as long as he lived. The thought of her out there, alone in the dark, dying...
Hastily Giles shook the grisly thoughts aside. It wouldn't do to dwell on it. He couldn't, not and do his job too. It was hard enough as it was just watching her go out night after night to risk life and limb, facing dangers that would never end, would never... No. 'Just focus on the task at hand, Rupert,' he told himself firmly. Like cleaning her wounds.
And finding out what had happened...
"So, the demon that did this is...?"
"Dead. Hasta la bye bye."
"Ah. Quite. So...what happened? Exactly?"
Instead of answering him, Buffy looked away and took another swallow of the V8. Giles frowned slightly. He knew her well enough by now to recognize evasiveness when he saw it. She was hiding something.
"Well?" he prompted as he gently began to wipe away some of the dried blood on her arm.
She flinched violently at his touch, gritting her teeth against the pain. "God, Giles, do you have to?"
"Oddly enough, yes. There's a wonderful new medical technique called washing. Perhaps you've heard of it?"
"Not fair. I'm all hurt and you're being Sarcastic Giles. Where's the sympathy, the caring Watcher shoulder to lean on, the...?"
"Busy patching you back up. And you're avoiding the question."
"Yes you..." Giles caught himself in time, stopping the argument before it could escalate, before she could distract him from whatever it was that she didn't want him to know. He tried another tack.
"How much blood did you lose?"
Buffy took a deep breath then responded slowly. "Not sure. I was kind of passed out at the time. Some, I guess."
He glanced up from her wounds, trying to read her expression. And that's when he noticed it -- almost but not quite hidden by her hair. The Watcher frowned, his gaze sharpening -- and cold fear ripped suddenly through his body.
"I see," he said. Then, moving quickly, Giles reached up and flicked her hair back, revealing the mark on her neck -- the twin punctures that were so obviously the results of a vampire's bite.
"And this?" he said flatly, his fingers resting on her neck just below the bitemark.
* * *
Buffy instinctively pulled back, dislodging her Watcher's grip, her own hand going up to cover the mark. She had forgotten about that. How could she have forgotten? Her hair must have hidden it from her mother and Dawn, but Giles had seen it. He knew. Oh god. Suddenly cold, she looked up into his eyes...and met worry and anger. Lots of anger. But she didn't think it was directed at her this time. She hoped.
He was saying nothing, waiting for her answer, for some explanation. For a brief moment Buffy considered lying, or at the very least glossing over what had happened... but she couldn't. Not really. She owed him the truth -- or at least the PG-13, heavily abridged version of it. Some of what had happened -- like certain Spike-based activities --she was never going to tell anyone. Ever. But as for the rest...well, she owed him the rest.
"Spike bit me," she said at last.
Something snapped. Buffy jumped, startled, then looked down, frowning at the broken bottle in Giles' hand and the knuckles curving white around it. Then she looked back up...to see an expression of sheer homicidal rage on her Watcher's face.
"It's not what you think," she said hastily, visions of a Giles-turned-Ripper heading out to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting Spike, going through her mind. "Well, not exactly. It was...I mean...I kind of let him."
OK. So not handling this well. Unable to meet Giles' eyes, Buffy looked away, staring at the toaster. She took a deep breath then started again.
"He helped me kill the demon. He's the one who bandaged my arm and stopped me from bleeding to death. And...and it was Spike who helped me get my vision back."
"And the bite?" The Watcher's voice was vibrating with tension, as if he was controlling his emotions only by sheer force of will.
"He was dying. After...after what he had done, I couldn't let that happen. So I...he...you know."
Giles carefully loosened his hand from around the remaining fragment of the glass and set it gently on the table. "So -- and I just want to make sure I have this straight -- you're saying that Spike, also known as William the Bloody, killer of two Slayers -- saved you from a demon, patched you back up, and then somehow restored your sight? After which you freely allowed him to feed from you? Is that correct?"
"Ah. I see."
Silence. Buffy stared worriedly at the man as he continued working on her arm. "Uh...Giles?"
"Fine, thank you."
Continued in Part 18