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Heaven

by SusanMD

     Subject: Intro & Fic (BtVS): Heaven
     Date: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 10:07 PM

     Title: Heaven
     Author: SusanMD 
     Fandom: Buffy 
     Rating: G
     Timeline: Alternate Universe
     Character: Giles
     Date: October 31, 2002
     Feedback: Gratefully accepted (smvd@att.net)

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox own Giles, all other characters are mine.

Summary: Alternate universe with Giles living in England with his family. Though he is a member of the Watcher's Council in this universe, he is not nor has he ever been Watcher to a Slayer, but something is in the air. This is Giles and an original character.

Dedication: For Lesley, whose beautiful fiction and skillful writing have been an inspiration and for her endless encouragement, support, and insightful suggestions on this story.


     "One runs the risk of weeping a little if one lets himself
     be tamed."
     ... Antoine de Saint Exupery, "The Little Prince"

I wait. My face turns skyward and my eyes close. I can barely feel it landing on my skin, like tiny flecks of gold. The rustling I hear is more than the breeze. He's getting closer.

"Put your coat on." His voice sails across the top of the tall grass. I open my eyes and look toward him. I bend my knees and sink into the grassy sway surrounding me, just enough for it to obscure my vision. My eyes focus on him off in the distance while the seeded heads of the grass in front of me fall out of focus, giving him a hazy ethereal quality. He can see me. He picks the top of my head out of the vast field of green grass and wildflowers by my dark hair. He smiles. He knows what I'm doing. He's seen me do it many times with my fingers. Hold them close to my face, fingers spread. I explained it to him once. He tried it for himself but I don't think it works the same for him.

"It's raining. Put your coat back on. You can take it off again when we get there if it isn't raining any harder."

Raining? I raise my face to the sky again and hold my hand out in front of me, palm up. This isn't rain. 'Think of it as a light moisturizer,' my mother would say when we went out in this kind of weather. Barely a mist, a long way to go before it can even be called drizzle. I do as he says.

He's beside me. The grass has grown since we were last here. It's up to his waist now. It's almost taller than I am, I tell him. The gray sky of yesterday is gone. I see bits of blue up there and huge clouds, the big puffy kind. Some are white, some are darker, bordering on blue-gray. Those are the ones holding most of the water, but they release it slowly for the time being.

The sun skirts through the clouds on a day like this. We're still hours away from noon so when it does come out for a minute the rays skim everything and catch in his hair giving him a golden halo. Even Pegasus is glowing. I lift my hand toward the rays to catch some of the gold. I feel my heart smiling, my soul smiling, but I don't allow a smile to cross my lips. Never.

"Hold your hand out to Molly, so she can smell you."

I do so. When I know the horse is reacquainted with me I wrap my arm around her leg, leaning my head against her muscled chest and smell her in return.

I offer up a correction: the horse's name is Pegasus.

He squats down beside me patting the horse's leg and patiently explains that she's been called Molly for a long while. She knows that name and responds to it. Suddenly calling her something else confuses things. If the horse's name is to change, it must be done by everyone not just me and that's not going to happen. I watch him intently as he tells me this. His eyes are kind and warm as they always are when he speaks to me.

Molly is such a pedestrian name for this horse, I respond. She's Pegasus, winged horse born of a god, servant to a god, carrying the lightening and thunder to Zeus on Mt. Olympus. Pegasus is a name befitting of this horse. He smiles. He knows I've been reading his mythology books again. We have this same conversation every time.

He hands me my riding hat and stands, checking one more time that the saddle is secure. I sigh quietly and place the hat on my head. I don't like it but I know of its importance to adults. That was explained to me in gory detail in the first 10 minutes of my riding lesson at the stables. The same place Erin takes lessons. I attended only once. The instructor explained to him that I had no affinity for horses, I would never ride well. She suggested he find another hobby for me. His face was tight when we left. I'm sure she thought it was just concern. But I knew the difference. There's a small muscle on the side of his mouth. When he's concerned it's relaxed, when he's angry, it's tight. It was tight that day.

Since then he takes me riding. He teaches me about horses. Erin still goes to the stables. She's been going there for several years, has friends there and loves it. She even competes. He and Samantha didn't tell Erin the truth as to why I never went back. She would have quit out of solidarity. She's like that.

I watch as he climbs onto Pegasus and situates himself. "Ready?" he asks. I look up into his eyes and lift my hand toward him. He leans way down, grabs on to my hand and pulls as I jump. The momentum carries me high into the air where I swing my leg around and land in front of him on the saddle. He never lets go. We've had to work on perfecting this move but it's worth it. It's a taste of flying. Samantha saw us do it once and told him it wasn't good for me. I could hurt my arm and she was afraid I would fall. She said he should put me in the saddle first and climb up behind me. So we never do it in front of her. But then, if she knew what we did next, she'd probably faint.

"Are you settled?"

That's his hint that he's ready to go but he knows I haven't done my ritual yet. I bend forward and bury my face in Pegasus' mane and stretch my arms around her withers, patting gently. I sit up. He reaches his arm around in front of me and pulls me toward him, testing that I'm close enough, then with the reins in one hand he gently urges Pegasus forward onto the path. This part of our excursion is always an easy walk.

I reach up to adjust my hat. He stays my hand with his; he thinks I'm going to take it off. I like to feel the wind in my hair and he knows it. I look down at my riding boots. My feet don't reach any further than the last time. It's one of the ways I check if I've grown.

My mind wanders while I'm up here. It's my safe place. On our first ride I was eager for the sights and leaned forward with my head moving constantly in order to see everything, but now I mostly look at the sky. It's a delight to be this high off the ground. He's explained to me how to sit properly on a horse but oftentimes I ignore that and lean back against him, allowing myself to settle into his warmth, strength, and safety. He'll reach up and rest his hand against my cheek when we're like this. It's one of the few times I let myself get this close. I have to be careful. Whoever it is that watches me might see and that always ends badly.

I'm not meant to be happy. I have a purpose. Whoever or whatever it is that watches has decided this for some reason, so I'm very careful. There was a time when it wasn't a problem because happiness was unthinkable. Then I came here. Now I have to work at it more. I've trained myself to associate pain with happiness. It seems to be working. A moment of happiness is always followed by fear.

That's why I don't smile or laugh. The things that make me happy also make me vulnerable. As soon as they see something makes me happy it could get torn away, destroyed. Like the last time, only I didn't know then. Now I do. So I'm careful.

Suddenly he brings the horse to a stop and points off to one side and whispers, "Look."

I do. It's a mother deer and two babies. They are feeding in the next field over. We sit and watch until they move on. After they've disappeared I discover I am leaning into him with the side of my face resting against his chest and both my arms wrapped around his arm. He is holding me in return.

I find myself doing these things without even knowing it. It's why I have to be more careful. Can't let this sort of thing happen. They might see. Whoever it is that watches. I used to wonder if it was God who watched, like the priest said, but I know it isn't true. He can't be everywhere; it just doesn't make sense. He must have angels or something like that who do the watching and report back to him. I don't know, so I'm careful.

I pull away and sit up properly. We ride on.

This was all his idea. I told him it was a bad idea, that nothing good would come of it. I said I should stay where I was. I had everything I needed at the orphanage: a bed, food, clothes, and they let me be. They didn't know what to do for me anyway; they didn't have the resources to deal with my special case they said. As long as I didn't make a fuss or cause problems I could do as I pleased. I could read all I wanted. It was simple. No one to worry about. No one I was responsible for anymore. But he said it would be good and everything would work out. He wanted me with him. I let my weakness rule me. It was a bad decision; I know that now. I knew it then, in my gut, but I let my weakness rule.

And now they take care of me, he and Samantha, but he's the one who wakes up at night when I wake. I don't know how he knows. He'll come in and sit with me, read to me. "The Little Prince" is my balm. I carry the story in my heart. We've read it so many times that now he'll just open the pages at random and begin reading. It's the cadence of the words that soothe me, and the sound of his voice. I don't tell him my nightmares but he knows I have them and he'll sit with me, stroking my hair, sometimes singing softly until I fall back to sleep. Once in a while I'll wake in the morning to find him there next to me, sound asleep. That's when the fear hits hard.

He told me that we are meant to love people, that it's our purpose in life. Yes, it can be risky. You can get hurt, probably will at some point, but it's worth it. That's what he said. He doesn't understand. I don't think he really knows how hard it can be. He's got Samantha and Erin and he doesn't know what it's like when they take that away. I hope he never knows. That's one of the reasons I have to be extra careful. I don't want my purpose to impact on him, not in that way. I promised myself from the beginning that I'd be good, do as they say, be grateful for what they give me but I couldn't risk loving anyone.

Sometimes, when I'm alone, I tremble with fear because I know it's too late. It's gotten to the point that if anything ever happened to him, I'd just dig a hole and sit in it until the world ended. And I know if anything happened to Samantha and Erin he'd be the one to sit in the hole. So now I have to be careful for more than just me, for him too. This is the trouble with loving someone, the enormity of the problem grows. Now I am responsible for four people.

His arm tightens around me for a second. "Are you warm enough?"

I nod and lift my face to let the speckles fall on it and inhale the moist air. I move my legs up toward my body in the position I've seen racehorse jockeys use and lean forward like they do. I can practically feel him smiling behind me as he grabs hold of the back of my coat to keep me in place. Sitting like this lets me feel Pegasus' muscles move as they perform their work. Their strength makes me feel stronger, even walking slowly like this. My heart beats a little harder in anticipation.

I rise to my sitting position and return my legs to their proper place, tucked in front of his legs. He wants me to feel how he uses his legs when we ride but I just like the closeness of it. His arm reaches around me again and holds me securely, the one with the reins in his hand. I see his other hand resting on his thigh as we ride quietly. His coat is open and I lean back into my secret safety and reach toward the hand on his leg. I spread my fingers in comparison and then close my hand and try to edge it under his. He lifts it enough to allow me in, then settles it back down. I marvel at how my hand completely disappears. It's warm. It's comfortable. I snuggle against him and he squeezes me gently and leans his head against mine. I know that he knows I won't let it last. He takes what he can get. He's good at that. He never pushes, but he always takes the opportunities I offer.

I died.

I know he thinks he understands but he doesn't. He can't. I've never told him. I don't know that I will.

I've learned that people have the strangest ideas about heaven. Some think they know what it's like, but they don't. I do. I have to stop myself from explaining when I hear someone talking about heaven. And it's not like what that nurse said in the hospital. I made a mistake telling her when I woke up. About how I saw my mother waiting for me in a bright place. She was holding my little brother's hand. Da was behind them, further back. I ran to her, I was so happy to see her. I didn't understand though, because the last thing I remembered was watching her body being torn apart in the explosion and yet there she was, whole and beautiful. She reached out her hand and touched my face. Her warmth filled my heart with peace and love. Life was perfect. I was perfect. I knew I would never worry or hurt again. I tried to wrap my arms around her but she wouldn't let me. She touched my face and told me I had to go back. It wasn't my time.

I told the nurse all of this. She said I died for a few minutes and it was heaven where I saw my mother. I know it wasn't. You don't get thrown out of heaven. A mother who loves you doesn't send you away from perfection to suffer alone. The nurse said I was sent back because I have a purpose in life. The problem was she couldn't tell me what that purpose was. She said I have to find out for myself. A lot of help she was. The priests I asked weren't any better. One said it was sacrilege to think I had gone to heaven and was sent back and told me to say 20 "Acts of Contrition" as penance. The other said I was blessed. That's when I stopped telling, stopped asking, stopped talking.

The sun is out again. The grass in the meadow is glistening from the mist. I see a rainbow and point. We stop and look at the colors. I follow the arc with my eyes and reach with both arms outstretched. It ends in our meadow. He laughs. "I think that may be prophetic." I can hear the smile in his voice. "Let's go find the pot of gold, shall we?"

We ride up to the gate and he reaches down to open it. Even Pegasus is getting excited. I look up asking if I may take off my coat. "Yes." I tear it off and throw it over the fence. He does the same with his. I gaze down the course. I can't see the end of it. He told me once that it's a mile long. Sometimes I wish it were longer, that it would go on forever.

We trot along the course checking the ground and the fences. At about halfway I see a fence rail has fallen. He climbs down from Pegasus and puts it back in place, testing it with his foot. He never does anything reckless or foolish especially where we children are involved. I know that Samantha would tell him this is both. Sometimes this preparation and checking seems to go on forever but he never neglects it. I wish he would. I just want to ride.

When we reach the top of the course again he climbs off Pegasus and checks all the bindings one more time and returns to his place behind me. "All right, everything is in order. Are you ready?"

I turn and look up at him. I can see the shining of my eyes reflecting in his. I bite the inside of my cheeks to keep from smiling. For a brief second I feel invincible and send up a small prayer of thanks with a promise that I'll never ask for this again. Except I never asked for this in the first place. It was his idea. Maybe he's selfish too. It's our moment of joy together. He offered it to me and I took it.

Unexpectedly he reaches down and unbuckles the chinstrap on my hat and throws the hat to the ground. "Just this once," he says. I bite harder into my cheeks and lean back against him, my breath coming faster.

He guides Pegasus to the head of the course. "Remember all our rules?"

I nod. This is it. I feel both his arms fold around me for a moment as he kisses the top of my head. I spread my arms out wide to the sides and lift my face to the sky. He keeps one arm firmly around me and holds the reins with the other as his legs push Pegasus into motion. Pegasus knows what to do. We gain speed as we gallop along the trail toward the first fence. Pegasus jumps and soars. I am certain her wings are helping. I can feel the wind on my face and hear it rushing past my ears. I see the sky in front of me, azure blue. My heart is singing with forbidden laughter. For a few seconds gravity doesn't exist and I don't want it to end.

Our landing is so soft I imagine we are sailing on an ocean of moss. I look ahead to the next fence. He leans into the gallop, always holding me. I hear his breathing in my ear. Pegasus jumps and again we soar. I hold my arms out wide and rise up off the saddle, trying to scoop the whole world into me. He holds me tighter. I know he'll protect me from anything. We're flying and this is heaven.

The end.


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