They walked in silence. The only sound was the dry crunch their boots made on the graveled trail. There'd been a brief dispute upon arrival at this place, even before getting out of the car. What was the matter with him? She didn't want to walk up a mountain, she'd insisted. Well, what had she thought he meant when he'd suggested a day in the mountains? She had no response to that. So they walked.
It was late morning. Buffy was squinting up at the typically over-brilliant sun parched sky when, without warning, the air spoke to her in a whisper of the first Slayer's voice. `You love with all of your soul. It's brighter than the fire...blinding. That's why you pull away from it.'
The voice was soft but the words clawed at her brain, demanding acknowledgment. She ignored them and stumbled.
Giles scrambled forward, catching her by the shoulders as she skidded backwards to him. She yelped and quickly righted herself, dusting off her backside and tugging at her shirt as if she had actually hit the ground. "Thanks," she muttered, embarrassed.
"You were looking up at the sky." Wisps of her hair fluttering in the warm breeze distracted him as he spoke. Her face was flushed. "You should really keep your eyes on the trail when climbing such a steep incline. If you want to look around, stop where you are. You'll be able to maintain your balance better."
She steadied herself against one of the yellow-leafed trees lining the trail up the mountain and dug a stick into the tread on her boot. A stone fell out and she dropped her foot onto the ground with a thud and screwed up her face. "Ok, so tell me again why we're doing this...again. I mean didn't the first vision quest weird me out enough? You want more?"
"I thought this could be less quest and more...vision." His voice was gentle as was his gaze.
"This isn't quite the same as before." Her frown forced him to elaborate. He gestured up toward the trail. "Mountain instead of desert." He patted his backpack and pointed at her water bottle. "Food and water."
"How about a magic gourd. You got one of those in there? "
A small, embarrassed smile took hold of him for a moment. "No gourd, I promise."
"Then what's the point?" she sputtered.
"I thought you could use a break. Time away from...everything." He removed his glasses and began cleaning them with a cloth from his pocket avoiding the too familiar, of late, look on her face; the look covering up the emotion within, which he suspected she feared even more than the hell God she had to face. A cold stare had become her armor.
"Giles, I don't have time for time away from anything, let alone everything. Dawn needs..."
"Dawn is being well looked after. It's only for the day; we'll be back by nightfall. And, in all fairness, you were the one who brought up the problem."
She sighed and he heard the irritation etching her breath. "What problem?"
"Wasn't it you who, just a few days ago, told me something was wrong, that you felt emotionally shut down and you didn't like it?"
"Yeah, but we did that quest thing."
"I'm not certain it helped..." he began.
"Great." Words rushed out of her, trampling over his. "Another visit from my muddy mystical predecessor offering words of wisdom that won't tell me what I need to know." Her caustic tone silenced Giles for a moment. He sank his hands into his pockets. "Do you want to tell me what she said?" he asked, not expecting an answer.
"I told you on the drive home from the desert."
"Actually, you said very little."
"I did to...I said it was stupid and nothing we didn't already know." Buffy ripped a leaf from a tree. "She just put it in a way I'd never thought of. It was...doesn't matter. I just hope if I see her again she has something useful to say."
Giles sat down on a large rock near her, his elbows resting on his knees and looked at her. "Buffy, I've been thinking about this quite a bit since you first brought it up. The emotional shut down, that is." He removed his glasses and held them gently in his fingertips waiting for any indication that she was listening. None was forthcoming but he continued. "Your experience is perfectly understandable and normal in many ways." She turned toward him, the leaf now shredded in her fingers. "You're holding everything in...not allowing yourself to feel." He watched her face shrink in confusion and realized stating it delicately wasn't going to get through to her right now. He changed tact; hoping bluntness would penetrate her emotional denial. "You're repressing your emotions."
Her confusion crumbled away, replaced by a gasped exclamation. "Me?! You think that I'm repressing my emotions? Ha. That's pretty funny coming from Mr. `I invented repressed emotions' guy."
He replaced his glasses firmly, stared at the ground for a moment and then back at her. "Yes, I see how you might think that, and it might even be true, but it doesn't change what you're dealing with. You've had a great many major changes in your life lately. The most recent being the hardest." He stood and moved toward her gingerly, treating her as the skittish thing she'd become. "In losing your mother you've lost your anchor, and I'm concerned that you're finding it easier to ignore the pain than to allow yourself to experience it."
She stared at him, unblinking for a moment and then spoke, her voice as strained and tight as her mouth. "You think I don't feel...her...her..." He watched her struggle wordlessly until she ran her tongue over dry lips and was able to continue. "You think I don't feel the pain of it?"
"I think you feel it profoundly, so much so that you've buried it in order to find some relief. You can't even speak of it. And what you really need to do is express your feelings in order to release the pain, not hold it all in."
She opened her clenched fist and threw the shards of shredded leaf onto the ground, staring at them as if waiting for some sign of life. "Giles, I vent, if that's what you're driving at. I'm the chosen one with the venting."
"Pummeling vampires isn't the type of venting you need. It might be helpful in exercising your anger but not the hurt, the loss, anguish...and emptiness." His voice trailed off.
Something vulnerable flicker across her face, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared. She looked away. "It's all the same. You'd be amazed at the satisfaction I can get from dusting."
"It's not the same, Buffy. You and I both know that from experience."
She shot a look at him that carried a mixture of anger and regret.
"I know that losing Angel was a very different experience from losing your mother..."
"Yeah, particularly since I was the one who killed him."
"That..." He swallowed and heard his voice softened more than he would have chosen. "...and the fact that he came back."
Upon hearing just those few words her eyes exuded something childlike, reflecting a nave and unrealistic glimmer of hope. He caught his breath as he swore he saw the word `Mom' form on her lips. Empty seconds passed as he searched for the right words; words to comfort, words to ease her pain. It seemed endless. A groan rose up from the impatient earth as it turned and in the end he could only speak the truth. "Buffy, you know that she won't be coming back. It's not possible."
Her face fell imperceptibly as her eyes iced over. "I know," she whispered, turning away as if looking at him and speaking to him at the same time was overwhelming. "Dead people don't come back, at least not as humans. They come back as things I have to kill."
He was speaking to her in that low soft voice he used when feeling her pain. There was a time she liked that voice. It meant he understood what she was going through, but now she hated it. She didn't want to be understood; how could anyone know what this pain was like? All she wanted was to bury it, to hide from it. `Go away, go away!' the voice in her head screamed at him.
He continued. "Holding things in and not allowing the people who care about you to help didn't turn out well in the situation with Angel."
Buffy grunted and began circling the tree, making it easier to avoid his eyes. "Like there's a good way to deal with it. And I'm not going to run away again, if that's what you're worried about. I've got Dawn to take care of and Glory to deal with."
"I'm not worried about you running away, at least not physically. But I am concerned we might lose you in other ways." A scowl followed by a sidelong look from her urged him on. "You said it yourself. You can't feel anymore...except, I think that you do feel anger and frustration."
"And you think climbing around in the mountains when I should be fighting Glory is going to help?"
"I believe a few hours escape from the constant strain of slaying and protecting your sister might help, might start you on the path to healing. You need to allow yourself time to grieve, if even just a little." He reached out to touch her shoulder but pulled back when she stepped out of reach. "You'll be stronger for it." She kicked a rock onto the trail on her next circuit of the tree. "You may not believe this, but I do know what you're afraid of." She stole a glance but when their eyes meet, she jerked hers away again. "You fear that if you allow yourself to feel the pain you'll fall apart completely, that you won't be good to anyone, that you won't be able to protect Dawn or defeat Glory."
She stopped circling. "And you don't think that's what'll happen?" Her voice had a practiced hardness about it as she stepped back against the tree for support.
"I know it won't. I've seen you through a lot; I know what you're capable of. And...you have people who love you standing at the ready, if you'll just allow us to help."
She closed her eyes, shutting out the world. Her jaw throbbed from endless clenching. The ever present, ever-denied ache inside pitched and frothed until it began to seep out the chinks his words were making in her armor. It poured over her, quickly crystallizing into a hard resin trapping her emotions inside while keeping him and everything else out. She took a breath. Strengthened by the protective barrier, she pushed herself off the tree and marched up the trail.
Giles sighed, grabbed his backpack and followed after her.
She shot ahead of him but he caught up on the flat portion of the trail that circled the small mountain. They were midway to the peak. Barely 10 feet behind her now, he watched as she put the earpieces to her Walkman on and sighed knowing that, once connected to her music, there'd be no talking anytime soon. She rounded a bend and crossed into the shaded side of the mountain. He followed.
Buffy stopped and pulled the headphones down around her neck, staring at a spot on the mountain beside her. "Giles, look." Not waiting for a response she moved toward a small clump of leafy bushes, pushed them aside and vanished.
Giles pulled up abruptly. She was gone. Literally gone. He stared far too long as his mind dragged him back to the summer she disappeared. When he hadn't known where she was...or when...or even if she was coming back. The hammering in his chest brought him back to the present. "Buffy?" He ran to the spot and trampled down the bushes. He didn't know if he was relieved or frightened by what he saw. There in the side of the mountain was a hole.
A hole so small a young child might pass through upright but an adult, never. A few deep breaths squashed his panic even as adrenaline charged through his system. He wanted to shout her name, but instead forced himself into Watcher mode, observing and listening. He strained to hear something, but all was painfully silent. The earth that had swallowed her wasn't groaning now. He knelt down and reached toward the opening. A curtain of cool air hung down dividing his space from what was within. He leaned toward it and called out to her. "Buffy?" There was no response. The chest hammering returned. He called louder and listened.
A subdued but steady voice finally answered, "In here." He swallowed hard to keep the relief from overtaking him and called to her, "Are you all right?" She didn't answer.
It was time to follow her in. Grabbing his water bottle, he dropped the pack on the trail and crawled through the hole into the unknown void that held Buffy.
Emerging into blackness on the other side he froze, again observing and listening. Stillness punctuated the room, stillness of air, stillness of sound, even stillness of breath. He'd been holding his and let it out slowly and quietly so as not to disturb anything. At least until he knew for certain what he was up against. As his eyes adjusted slightly to the dim surroundings he could see the dust he'd kicked up looming in front of him, waiting for a breeze to push it on but there was none. Nothing moved. It smelled as though nothing had moved in here for a long, long time.
"Buffy?" His voice sounded muffled to his own ears and the word hung in the air as though even sound didn't want to move. He called more forcefully. "Buffy?"
"Giles, it's a cave." A wave of excitement carried her words to him. "Did you know this was here?"
He turned again and finally found her, a ghostly figure in the haze. "No, I didn't. It wasn't on the map."
His vision continued to adapt to the shadows and he surveyed the interior. The small entryway hid the truth of the expanse inside. The floor dimensions weren't large but the height was overwhelming. The ceiling vaulted at least 25 feet above his head; he couldn't be precise because of the darkness. It was cool and dry and seemingly barren. Everywhere he looked he saw only brown or gray; all other color sucked from the room by the absence of light. And there was nothing soft or kind about this place. No chirping of birds, no life nestled in the rock, no lush sounds of water flowing, no hushed words of warmth or caring.
He'd always appreciated solitude but this was different. This was isolation. This was nothingness. A tomblike silence surrounded by dead, stale air. His eyes ached to see details through the murkiness but instead all that came to him was the noise made by Buffy's footsteps as she wandered the room. It was the quality of the sound that struck him most, empty, without resonance or depth. He wondered: were remnants of the unheard noises of this cave trapped up above them, rising as heat does, collecting at the summit so far above them to create a quiet cacophony that only those with the ability to ascend would ever hear?
He shifted until he could see her again. She was walking the interior wall, running her fingers along the angles and crevices of the rock, touching and exploring. He saw her stroke a broken vein of gray earth that was inlayed in the wall of brown clay. She was within herself looking almost content as she made contact with the earth's crust. Then he saw her look upward. Was she wondering about the sound too?
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"Yeah...this is kind of cool. I mean "neat" kind of cool, although the temperature is perfect too. No AC needed in this little hideout." Her eyes scanned the room as she continued to roam. "It's got walls protecting all sides with just a small entrance point. Sort of like a fortress really. Nothing could get in or out without my knowing. In fact, I could determine what comes and goes." A hint of a self-satisfied smile crossed her face. "Yeah, I think I could get used to this."
Giles relaxed. "Control." The word was out before he thought about it.
"Control. It would give you almost total control of your surroundings. That's what appeals to you about it."
"Yeah, I guess it does." She craned her neck up. "Not to mention that cathedral ceiling."
He smiled to himself. "No electricity for a chandelier, I'm afraid."
"Xander could figure out a way to wire this place." She laughed but the sound didn't ring true through the room; it hit the wall and fell, followed by fine particles of dust.
The movement drew her eyes downward and she cocked her head as an unbidden hush came over her. All her senses snapped to attention. The hair on the back of her neck pricked the skin. Whether it was Slayer senses or just basic gut intuition, something called to her. She turned slowly, examining the room. The stillness of the enclosure magnified as she scoured the space until finally her eyes landed on him, apprehension in every blink. They shared an acute questioning look. He had sensed it too.
Buffy shuddered, except she didn't, it was the room that shuddered. She looked up and Giles followed her sight line upward. The haze became thicker as dust began filtered down, followed by larger particles of dirt falling on her face. She stepped back and sputtered, swatting at the grimy air in front of her.
The room shuddered again, this time accompanied by a groan. The ground beneath them rumbled, then swayed and finally bucked. Buffy stumbled to keep her balance and shot a look at Giles, angry that something was unsettling her newfound sanctuary.
Giles tried to speak but his voice seized up as he saw a swell of earth roll toward her gaining momentum as it moved. He ran and pushed her to the nearest wall, throwing himself over her.
The fury had begun.
An enraged storm built and blinded them with a downpour, but it wasn't water. It was all earthen hardness. In a tsunami of thunder, debris fell. Dust, pebbles, and rocks crashed through the stale, long-undisturbed air. Angry whirls of black billowed, engulfing them in a swirl of confusion as a dust storm whipped furiously through the room. The earthen waves grew until one grabbed hold and pitched them sprawling in different directions.
Then it stopped as it had started, with little warning.
Buffy lay where she had been thrown for several minutes before realizing that both the roaring and the waves had stopped. The noise she heard now was only an echo inside her head, a remnant of the storm, accompanied by the soft crackles of pebbles and dust continuing their descent to the ground. Breathe, she told herself, except each breath scratched like sandpaper and her lungs rattled with loose dirt.
She heard her name, muffled, as if coming from much further off than she knew it could be. She didn't try to speak but raised her arm, only to realize he couldn't see it because she couldn't see it, the air was so thick with dust, the visual equivalent of white noise. She closed her eyes and listened to it fall. A thought entered her mind that had nothing to do with rescue or personal safety. It was simply: if only she could stay like this, lost in nothingness.
Her cough was his lifeline. He came upon her curled up in a ball lying on her side. He moved close to her face and saw her wide-eyed expression. "More," was all she managed to say. He realized she was warning him and soon enough he heard the telltale rumble. There was no time to regroup. They sprang in opposite directions, rolling out of the way as rocks and boulders crashed down on the spot where she had just been lying.
He lay stunned as a new torrent of dust roiled, shouting its anger at having been disturbed from a peaceful endless slumber. He spit dirt. It was bitter, as if something vile had died there long ago and decayed into this dust and grit that made its way, unguarded, into his mouth. He couldn't see anything, still. He wasn't sure he could speak but he tried.
She heard him and choked out his name. "Giles."
"Buffy, are you hurt? Talk to me so I can find you."
"Here," she gasped amid raked coughs.
Blindly feeling his way along the ground, finally, his hand latched onto her arm. She was lying flat on her back. "Buffy?" he whispered as he moved to hover over her. He quickly pulled out his handkerchief, unfolded it to a double layer of cloth and placed it loosely over her mouth and nose to protect her from inhaling more dust. "Are you hurt?" Buffy didn't move as her eyes transfixed on a point in space above her. She blinked rapidly in a useless effort to guard her eyes from dust and pointed as she mumbled through the cloth. "Ahngehl."
Her blinking gaze didn't falter as she focused above her. "Ahngehl," she repeated.
"Angel?" Giles waved his hand through the thick air in a futile attempt to clear a space to see her more clearly. "Did you hit your head?"
She moved the cloth from her mouth momentarily. "No, not Angel...angel." She pointed vehemently above.
He turned to look and froze, staring in amazement.
A kaleidoscope of sparkling hues of yellow flitted about high above them. A swirl of glowing translucent fairies sprinkled with flecks of gold danced amid the muddy browns and grays of the ceiling. "Good Lord," he uttered. It was beautiful.
"That's what I said...angel."
It only took a moment for him to understand what they were looking at.
"Buffy," he leaned near her in order to look clearly into her eyes, "that's not an angel." Her eyes shifted to scowl at him. "A hole's been knocked in the roof of the cave. The sun is shining through and illuminating the dust in the air. That's all it is. Once it settles we'll be able to see the sky...thankfully." He sat back and tried to survey the damage to the cave. "It'll help get some fresh air in here, too."
Buffy moved to sit up and Giles grabbed her arm to help her. "I kind of liked the idea of it being an angel," she replied returning her gaze to the fairy dust.
"I didn't," he coughed. "And keep your mouth covered." He pulled her to her feet.
The dust hung in the air, dense and no longer stale or waiting for movement. It descended over them ever so slowly, leaving a layer of grit everywhere. "Here, let's move to the wall and wait for things to clear a bit before we try to find our way out." His voice was raspy, ruined from inhaled dirt. They found the wall and sat back against it. Giles insisted Buffy not speak and that she keep her mouth and nose covered. He pulled the neckline of his t-shirt up to cover his own mouth and nose as they sat in silence. Each sneaked frequent glances at the new skylight and Giles tried not to imagine the condition of the small access hole to the cave, their only way out.
The floating dust thinned at a painfully tedious pace but they could see further and further into the room. Eventually a mottled blue sky appeared above them and Buffy turned to Giles, pulling the cloth from her mouth. "Rockslide?" she asked.
Her question was met with a furrowed brow as he couldn't believe she didn't know what happened. "Brought on by an earthquake," he replied.
A sharp intake of breath triggered a brief coughing fit. With widened and watering eyes Buffy scoured the room while the spasms slowly subsided. Visions of demons rising from cracks in the earth filled her mind. "Giles, earthquakes and me...we don't get along."
He patted her back gently in an effort to help with the coughing and also in an awkward attempt at comfort. "It'll be alright. I'm sure it's nothing demonic."
"You always say that." She stood and shot across the short length of the cave, nearly tripping over the pile of rocks and stones left by the new gaping hole in the ceiling. "We need to get out and get back home. Giles, anything could happen. I need to be there." Panic rose in her voice.
"Buffy, we're over 150 miles from Sunnydale. It wasn't a large quake and they might not have felt a thing. The epicenter most likely is nowhere near them."
"Really?" She wondered if it was the truth or an attempt to placate her. She took a deep breath, aggravating another bought of coughing, but it was easier this time. Giles moved to her side and handed her his handkerchief again.
"Try not to breathe too deeply just yet. The air is still heavy in here." Each, unknown to the other, was searching for the entryway. Their eyes met.
"Giles, where's the hole in the wall?"
He looked at the place where he knew it had been, then removed his glasses, still remarkably intact. "I'm not sure. It should be over there." Buffy sprinted to the spot Giles indicated while he fiddled with his glasses a moment longer. He replaced them on his face, only to squint and remove them again. He blew on the lenses and succeeded in removing the only outermost layer of dust. Sighing with resignation, he followed her. They stood looking at what was once the entryway to the cave. In its place was a mass of large rocks.
"Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod," Buffy muttered in a desperate chant before determination bolstered her. "Okay, I'll just move them, that's all. I'm like super strong so I can do this."
"Be careful, it may not be stable. More rocks could come down," Giles cautioned. He moved forward to help her then thought better of it and stepped back again to give her room to work.
She approached and nudged her foot against one rock, a good candidate to begin the digging out process. When nothing bad happened, like another rockslide, she gingerly took hold of the chosen one and pulled, stepping back quickly in case they tumbled. Nothing moved. Mumbling, she grabbed onto the rock and pulled with her full strength. Again, nothing happened. She focused in on another. Fierce, shallow breath stabbed at the rocks as she fought to move one just an inch. With a final exasperated gasp she staggered back and looked at Giles with narrowed eyes. "I think it's stable."
His face twitched at her sarcasm. "Yes, I can see that." He moved to her side and wordlessly they chose a rock and put their full weight into moving it. They were fighting an immovable wall that allowed nothing out and nothing in. The irony did not escape Buffy that she now had the closed off sanctuary she had only a while ago hoped for. The implications of the reality were wildly different from her imaginings, as the concept of choice had been removed. A huge cosmic joke, it seemed to her, but she wasn't laughing.
"Giles, we're trapped." She honed an accusing scowl on him. "This is all your fault."
Giles was catching his breath from their last frustrated attempt. "It was my idea to explore a cave? I seem to recall I was in favor of a nice hike in the fresh air."
"Exactly. This whole expedition was your idea."
He walked to the center of the room and peered up at the hole, surrendering himself to their circumstances. "Well, at least we'll have the fresh air."
"I suppose," Buffy muttered as she grabbed her forgotten water bottle and gulped a quick drink before throwing it back to the ground. "And food and water."
He squeezed his eyes closed with sudden realization and said meekly, "Water." She whipped her head around to glare at him.
"Oh no, you didn't. You left your backpack outside?!"
"I didn't plan on getting stuck in here; it seemed pointless to drag it in here, so I left it..."
"Great work, Giles." She planted her hands on her hips. "So, tell me, exactly how long can we live without food?"
"With water...an excruciatingly long time." Just as he said it his demeanor brightened. "But it won't matter. We won't be here very long."
"Ooo-kay, and do you mean that in a good way or in a `there's a big ugly spider in the corner that's going to eat us' way?"
"Xander and Willow know where we are, generally speaking. If we aren't back by nightfall they'll worry and most certainly begin searching for us."
She eyed him suspiciously. "That sounds like a possibility, except how will they know where we are?
"I left directions."
"You did?" Buffy asked with surprise in her voice.
"Yes, of course. We'll be out of here in the morning. I'm sure of it."
"Well, the sun doesn't set until 9:30 today, and that's only dusk. It won't be truly dark until 10 or after. If they give us another hour at least for apparent tardiness, it'll be 11 or even midnight. The drive is over 2 hours and it would be very foolish of them to try hiking the trail in the dark." He paused, concerned for them as he envisioned their search in the dark. "I do hope they wait until dawn." His eyes returned to Buffy. "Once on the trail it will be another hour."
"Yeah, but how will they know we're trapped in this cave?"
"My backpack. They'll find it, search the immediate area, find the fresh rock slide blocking the entrance and surmise we're inside." He almost smiled at the inherent logic while Buffy narrowed her eyes at him.
"Great plan, so it's a good thing you left it out there after all." Her voice was edged with sarcasm, honed by yet another crisis to deal with. "They'll just use the dynamite you conveniently packed to blow a hole in the mountain." She walked away from him to the blocked entrance and began kicking at the rocks.
Giles revised his timeline. "Well, maybe mid-morning then. Either way, you know they're very capable people. They'll figure a way out...or in, as the case may be."
"Why can't I figure a way out?" A stony glare bore into rocks at the blocked entrance. "Why can't I have useful superpowers like laser eyes that burn through rock or the ability to leap tall buildings or at least tall ceilings?" She directed her muttering complaints to the wall but Giles knew she blamed him in at least a small way. "I mean, what I got sucks: above average strength and agility. Yippee, I can be a gymnast when this is all over...if it's ever all over...and I'm still alive."
She heaved a sigh and looked up at the now well-lit cathedral ceiling, gauging the distance. At first she'd been enchanted by the possibilities of such a vaulted ceiling, but now it seemed merely to be lording over her, pinpointing her faults, her inability to jump that high or scale the inclined walls. Drawing attention to yet one more of her failings.
Sitting against the wall, he watched her stand and stretch her legs after sitting for forever. She kicked at the rocks in the blocked entrance and turned her head slightly toward him and asked slowly, evenly and sternly, "Why don't you have a cell phone? This is the end of the 20th century after all."
"Do you have one?" he inquired, rhetorically.
"Well, no, but I'm just a poor college student. You're supposed to be a professional...something." Her foot smashed pointlessly into the rock pile one more time. "But I'll get one as soon as we get out of this hole." As she spoke she unconsciously dropped her hand over her right pocket as if checking for a phone, instead bumping her small radio, completely forgotten until now. A squeal of delight sounded. "Agh! Giles..." With the radio in her hand she stretched it out to him. "We can use this!"
Giles jumped up. "What?" He stared at the small device she held up.
"This. It's my radio. We can use it to send messages...like an SOS."
His arched eye told her differently. "Buffy, it's a radio receiver not a transmitter."
"Well...we can make it one. I saw MacGyver do it once. You must know how to do it, don't you? This is your kind of know-how-it-all..."
"I haven't the vaguest idea." At her look of disdain he continued with a tinge of sarcasm, "I'm very sorry that hotwiring a miniature sound system is not my forte.
Ignoring both his tone and his words she began pulling off the battery cover. "Well, I'm pretty sure all we need is a cork and a needle, or maybe it's a paper clip. You gotta have a paperclip in one of those pockets."
"You're thinking of a compass."
"No, a paperclip...very different thing." She shook the radio hard in an attempt to get inside. "Come on, Giles, be helpful."
His lips pursed. "Buffy, a cork and needle are used to make a compass not a radio transmitter."
She shot him a sharp look. "I thought you didn't know how to do this?"
"I don't, but I do know a cork and needle make a compass."
"MacGyver could do it," she snapped.
"Too bad he's not here, whoever this MacGyver chap is."
"He's a TV guy. He helps people. Catches bad guys, stops nuclear meltdowns, saves endangered animals and trees and stuff." She saw his clueless look and followed with, "He's a TV character."
"Ah, well, he'd be a big help then, wouldn't he?"
"And I bet you have a compass in that backpack of yours, don't you?"
A deep breath helped him back off of what was quickly becoming an argument. He managed a contrite smile.
"Which is outside anyway," she barked.
"Buffy, bickering isn't going to help anything."
"I get cranky when I don't eat."
"Low blood sugar," he mumbled.
"You know, sometimes it gets really annoying that you know everything except what I need to know."
"I'll try to curb that." They walked in opposite directions as far as the cave would allow.
"There's nothing we can do. It's just going to take patience."
"Not my for-tay," she said, exaggerating and mocking his earlier use of the word.
A rueful smile played across his lips. "I'm painfully aware of that. It seems we're both caught in a situation where our strengths are of little use."
They stood at opposite ends of the cave for a time, although it didn't put much distance between them. Buffy looked up at the sky. She missed the glittering fairies. The bright expanse seemed to taunt her as the sun illuminated the perfect blueness.
Giles squinted up at the light then removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes only to gasp as he unwittingly ground grit into them. She turned to the noise just as he reached into his pocket and found it was empty. She watched him make a wasted attempt to clean his glasses on a shirttail.
Itchy skin and sandpaper eyes, she knew the feeling. Pulling the forgotten handkerchief from her pocket she stared at it, then wiped her dirt-covered hands. Nothing was free of the prickly gritty discomfort any longer.
He glanced at her and thought about things he could say, but all his words felt empty like one of those saccharin-laden drinks that never quench a thirst. He edged closer, testing her tolerance for him. She felt his movement and her look told him to stay away. He replied with a nod imperceptible to anyone but those who knew him well.
Sitting. Time passed, slow and dull, leaving gaping holes of nothing to do. The long silences between them had stopped being awkward hours ago. She tilted her head and cocked her ear. For a moment she heard the calming vibrations of the ocean. Or was it the earth inhaling, gathering up force to exert its brutal power again? Her momentary hope of escape when she found the cave had turned to panic at being forever trapped. Giles had done his best to convince her they'd get out, but doubt attacked at regular intervals, like now.
She jumped up and lunged at the rock pile blocking her way out, her way to Dawn, her way back to life. Wrapping her arms around a rock, she wrestled and strained until finally a clump of dust pulled free. She held it in her hand and watched it crumble apart, sifting through her fingers to merge with the pulverized dirt floor. Sweat turned her dusty coating into mud, until it dried again adding a crackled layer to her skin. She looked down at her arms and shivered at the eerily familiar site. The first Slayer had been caked in dried mud. She pushed out of her mind the words that echoed and her breath came hard as fear and anger fueled attacks on the barrier, her fingers prying at the wall, until they were raw and bloodied.
She didn't even hear him. It took all her focus to keep at it. She fell to her knees, picking her way through the accumulation of pebbles looking for a way.
Giles moved to her side and spoke gently. "Buffy, let me help you, please." They both knew what he meant. That it didn't have anything to do with digging out of this cave.
She didn't look at him when she responded, "There's nothing you know how to do." He knew that the bitterness in her voice reflected her pain and the longer it remained the harder it would be to fight. He knew that, but he didn't know what to do about it.
Standing now. A little variety is nice, she thought, as more hours passed.
She thought about what she should be doing on the outside, and as the panic rose she focused on taking a shallow breath; her interior squeezed and shrunk a little more. She slowly walked the length of the room. Leaning against the wall opposite, not 15 feet away, Giles sat motionless, watching her. They were both stuck in this cave but she was the one truly trapped, he knew. Pent up emotion with no place to go. Her brittleness more evident as they lingered in this hole. Her face mimicked the stone: frozen, immovable, void of emotion. It looked as if it might crack if she changed expression.
He could do nothing but grieve for her...and worry. Was she getting smaller? Was her dry outer covering shrinking? He looked over at her forgotten bottle of water lying near the wall.
"Buffy, you should drink."
"I'm not thirsty."
"You look dry."
"I'm fine; I can take it."
"But the point is you don't have to."
Pacing. A third option had opened itself up to her. Sitting, standing, and now pacing.
Trickles of dust drifted downward from time to time with a laziness that saturated the air.
Leaning against a wall, Giles watched her move as she attempted to lessen her anxiety, again and again, in the methodical trance-like pace that one uses when lost in their own universe of worry.
Tense, withdrawn and world weary. Grief had taken root in her. It grew, feeding on her pain, rising up through the layers of emotions and now it wanted out, wanted to be seen, to be acknowledged, but she held it inside. It fought her, eating its way to the edges, hollowing her out to a thin layer ready to crack at the merest breeze. She built thicker walls to keep it in, fearing the worst if it ever broke the surface, shattering her to useless pieces. Grief wouldn't give up and it was leaving nothing inside, just as she secretly wanted. No pain, nothing left to feel anymore.
She looked at him and caught his expression. A subtle, irate flicker of her hand deflected his questioning look. "Giles, I've got a lot of stuff to deal with, I can't take you pushing me too."
"I know exactly what you've got to deal with and I'm trying to help you, if you'll let me."
"What do you know?" she muttered, her eyes busy and razor-like as if drawn with a too-sharp pencil.
The frustration of watching her refuse help pushed him to his own edge. Some of the thoughts he'd been holding inside poured out. "Other than that the fate of the world depends on you? I know that after a frightening illness, which you thought was over, your mother suddenly died, leaving you with the responsibility of caring for a younger sister, a sister who is a mystical energy source that could destroy the world. I know there is a hell God trying to take that sister from you for her own evil purpose. I know Angel showed up for one night to comfort you and succeeded in pushing your feelings into greater turmoil. I know a neutered vampire has declared his love for you and refuses rejection." He took a breath as he calmed. "I know vampires continue to rise nightly...and...I know your father hasn't returned your calls."
The more he said the closer he got to the epicenter of her pain, the raw place that her fear was protecting. "I know," his voice softened to a feather touch, "that you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders and that you feel utterly and completely alone with it."
Buffy's jaw muscle worked hard while her mouth remained closed tight, staring at Giles, hating him right then, for this way that he could see into her.
Buffy picked up a small stone, one with a sharp edge and began tapping against the rock interior. The repeated collisions chipped away pieces of the wall.
Giles had been watching her surreptitiously for some time but his gaze became obvious now. The tapping, followed by screeches that made his skin shiver as she scored the wall, rock against rock, pushed him to say something. It occurred to him she might think she could signal someone outside the cave, if there were someone. "Buffy, there's no one other than us to hear."
She held her breath for an instant wanting to ignore him, and leaned her head sullenly against the wall as she continued her quiet attack on the rock face. "I know that," she said, finally letting out her breath.
"Then what are you trying to accomplish? Or are you just whiling away the hours making noises reminiscent of fingernails on a chalkboard?"
"I'm scratching our names and today's date into the rock."
Giles suddenly found this comforting, in an odd way. She was doing something very human and almost adolescent, a `we were here' type moment.
Buffy continued in a monotone voice. "And I'm going to put a slash for each day we're stuck here. That way when someone eventually finds our lifeless, decayed, dried up corpses they'll know who we were and they'll be able to figure out the day we died so they can get it right on our tombstones."
Comfort turned to a shudder. He rose and moved to her side where he rested his hand over hers, stilling her movement. Her hand was cold. "I think you may be overreacting, don't you?"
Her eyes flicked to him and back to the wall. She pulled her hand from his and resumed her work.
Giles leaned against the cool surface, closed his eyes and listened, although in reality, he didn't have to listen because the sound vibrated through his head like a slow drill. The internal debate that engaged him didn't persuade him one way or the other. Which was worse: the noise she was making or her abject silence without it?
A knife-edged shaft of light beamed through the skylight creating an oval spotlight on the ground. The light spilled further into the room with a diffuse effect. The distinct oval moved slowly throughout the afternoon as the earth drifted toward evening. They both knew that eventually the sun would sink lower than the mountain and the oval would disappear.
The lines around his eyes were accentuated by embedded dust and dirt. The compassion in his eyes pained her most of all. She watched him sitting quietly in her tomb: with her, for her, like an oasis, a caring, living, breathing respite. If she took refuge with him how could she possibly survive this desert of grief again? She knew she'd have to return to it alone.
He stood and moved toward her ignoring her obvious wish to be left alone.
"Giles, don't be nice to me. I can't take you being nice to me right now." He quietly stepped back, never taking his eyes from her.
"It wasn't supposed to be like this. I didn't mean for this to happen." He wasn't certain if she was speaking to him or herself; her voice was quiet and her face turned away. "I just wanted to get out of the light for a little while...just wanted to..."
"Escape?" He considered his words carefully. "It's not my intent to hurt you. I only want to help. Acknowledging your pain is an important step in the grieving process."
"So you think forcing the issue is going to help?"
"I'm not trying to force you to feel things you aren't ready to feel. I was just hoping to present you with a safe place to..."
"Well, by safe I meant a place where you didn't feel the pressures of being the Slayer or a protective big sister, where no demands would be placed upon you. Somewhere you could just slow down and be...at least for a few hours."
"That's sort of what I was trying to say when I told you I wanted to step back from Slaying. Then you came up with that whole quest thing."
"Yes, I know. And I'm sorry it didn't work out as we'd hoped."
Suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch, she threw her shoulders back and took a deep breath, bolstering herself and forced a false aura of resolve. "Not your fault. I'm the Slayer. Can't exactly take a sabbatical, especially now with Glory sniffing around." She met his eyes directly. "So what's the plan? I mean what is it I'm supposed to do that will help?"
No response from Giles urged her on. "See...you're clueless too."
A hint of a sad smile crossed his lips as he looked at her. "I do actually have a thought, it's just...difficult."
"Cause it's me."
"No, because of me. Years of training, generations of time-honored tradition of non-expression."
"That old repression thing again."
"Well, you better take your shot, Giles. I don't know how long I can hold onto this fake `let's go for it' attitude. Look at it this way; we're on a mountain, in a cave in the middle of nowhere. Nobody's here, nobody cares what we do. That's what you wanted wasn't it? You wanted me to get a break from being the Slayer. Well, now you can take a break from being British." Surprise flashed through him. She continued, "So what do I do? You said you know...so tell me what to do."
He hesitated for a moment, then said, "Cry?" He knew that was what he wanted to say but it came out more as a question, more of a suggestion to offer her.
She stared at him for a long moment, sorting through the confusion, before asking, "And while I'm doing that what do you do?"
He shoved his dusty hands into his equally dusty pockets and shrugged slightly. "Hold you?"
Buffy raised her eyebrows in surprise; this wasn't what she'd expected from him. "And that's supposed to be productive? I've got this evil thing chasing down my sister and you want me to take time out to cry like a little girl? Phff."
"Buffy, it won't fix everything but it might help you to feel better, more settled and able to focus on Glory."
Buffy studied him. "One problem." Giles raised his brow in a familiar questioning look. "I don't feel like crying. I don't feel much of anything, except irritation at being stuck in this cave. And anyway, crying isn't for me. I don't think Slayers are supposed to cry. It's probably written somewhere in that handbook I never got."
She moved away and he watched her shoulders drop, weary from the effort of the past few minutes.
Giles didn't know how long he'd been staring at the steady drip, drip, drip of sand falling over the edge of a small outcrop of rock near him. Each grain going over pulled the one behind it on an unseen string. If one went, they all went. It was the sound of Buffy moving that jostled him from his trance. He stretched, easing cramped muscles and resisted the urge to rub his eyes as he looked at her. She was staring at the wall.
A thin silvery light shimmered in a small crevice in the rock face. She'd been watching it quietly for a time then stood and moved close to investigate. He couldn't see anything. Concerned, he moved near to her, where she was studying what turned out to be life and death in action. She stepped back and watched the drama play itself out, a spider stalking a fly ensnared in the threads of a web. The fly fought the deceptively delicate strands, strong as the thickest rope, sticky with the treacle that enticed the insect to it, until finally the two natural enemies faced off.
Without taking her eyes from the confrontation she asked, "Which one am I, Giles, the spider or the fly?"
It was a rhetorical question, he knew, but it didn't keep him from reaching his hand to her shoulder. She dodged his touch and lifted her boot at the same time, stomping down on the spider web ending the battle.
"I win," she said with resignation in her voice.
Sitting and tapping. Possibly an entire new hobby, she thought. She was tapping her fingernail against a small rock, gently as if it was fragile and might fracture like a tiny bird's eggshell.
She stopped tapping and moved into the warm sun raining down from the skylight above. Giles stood near her but outside the circle of light, allowing her to bask in it alone. The hardness seemed to fall away as she looked at the patch of blue so far above them.
Her voice was soft and far away. "What time do you think it is?"
It took barely a second for him to reply. "5:41."
She looked at him, puzzled at his confident and precise answer that had pulled her from her reverie. "How can you be that exact?"
Giles raised his arm turning his wrist to her. "I have my watch."
"Oh." The voice quieted again. He saw the tinge of disappointment cross her face as she spoke. "I guess we aren't that far from civilization after all. I should have figured you'd have your watch."
He moved into the light and searched the sky for the sun. "It's been a while, but I once was fairly accurate at determining the time from the sun's position." He smiled down at her still furrowed brow. "Boy Scouts."
"They have Boy Scouts in England?"
"The Boy Scouts originated in England."
"Hmm, didn't know that." Her voice was unexpectedly light for a moment, in a way he'd not heard since Joyce's death. "I was in the Girl Scouts back in L.A. Mom was the..." She stopped abruptly. A sudden cry of a flock of crows called out and she looked up just as their collective shadow engulfed her in gray. Giles watched the gloom descend across her face and the pensive look return. She stepped back away from him and into the dimness of the cave.
"Death is my gift."
"What?" He asked, certain he'd misheard.
Her voice shifted to the dull, detached tone she'd been using so frequently. "Death is my gift. I'm full of love. Love is pain." As she recited the litany from memory her eyes traced the path the sun took from the skylight to the ground, then to Giles.
"Is that what she told you, the spirit guide?"
"Death is my gift. Nifty, huh? Just what I always wanted."
"I asked her if it was a gift that I give or one I was going to be given. She didn't answer. Either way, it's my gift."
"Buffy, that's..." He hesitated, caught in the significance of the words. "Those are powerful words. We need to determine..."
She interrupted him. "Before you get too excited about the meaning behind the meaning stuff I think it's pretty obvious what she meant. After all, it's sort of in the job title. Slayer. She who slays. Kills things dead. Death."
"On the surface maybe, but there's..."
She interrupted him again. "Giles, I've perpetually got something in my crosshairs or I'm in someone else's. Say it with me...death."
He wouldn't allow himself to be dissuaded by her single-mindedness. "There's certain to be more meaning. Once I research..." He took in her pointed look of resignation. "What about the other statements, we need to think of this as a whole."
"You mean the `I'm full of love...Love is pain' stuff? Pretty clear-cut to me. I'm full of love. Love is pain. Ergo, I'm full of pain. And to top it off, death is my gift. It all fits into in a nice neat fluffy-Buffy package. This is my life." She turned her back to him as she claimed it as her destiny. Death.
She felt Giles reach toward her, attempting one of those comforting gestures she could no longer tolerate as if instinct told her she was so infinitely brittle that even a small touch could break her. She shrank from him and he retracted his hand. Another bird screeched overhead, a piercing shriek that drove a wedge into one of the fractures inside of her, splintering her thought and along with it the emotion. She was grateful. Smaller emotions were manageable. She could block them, push them aside, and entomb them like one of those ageless insects trapped in resin and buried in the earth to be discovered a millennium later as a small, hard rock with a dead thing inside.
The cave was darker now. The sun hadn't set but it was below the mountain and shed no direct light inside, as the space seemed to close in on them. Birds had been screeching overhead for what seemed like hours. Mostly single birds, but some pairs and the occasional flock. It was like a scene out of that Hitchcock movie, she thought. What was going on out there in the world to cause such a commotion, or was the world always like this? Giles barely noticed them.
Buffy sat with her body clutched tightly, arms and legs drawn up, holding herself in and keeping the world out. Giles slid down the wall until he was seated next to her on the floor, not touching, but close enough to share body heat. She stood and moved away. The meaning was clear to him. Her body language all day long had screamed `stay away, I don't want your help.' The hours alone with her had become torturous. He was wrung out and drained of ideas. How do you get through to someone who didn't want to be gotten through to? He rose and moved next to her, wanting to speak, not knowing what to say and hoping the words would come when needed.
But before she was able to move away from him, the earth rumbled, a small shudder lasting only a few seconds. She gasped and instinctively reached out to him as he did to her, hands meeting in midair, fingers intertwining, anchoring one another. Dirt fragments fell from the cave ceiling. They waited it out for a few seconds, still holding on as it quieted. Buffy was the first to pull her hand away, but Giles wouldn't let her go. "Just a small aftershock," she said as her eyes clouded over hard and gray, trying to distance herself once again.
"No." His hand held onto hers. "Buffy, I'm not letting go. I'm not leaving. I don't care what you think you want or need." He spoke with the raw voice of emotion.
She raised her head to meet his eyes and wore the frozen stare one took on while trying not to cry, trying not to concede to the emotion tearing at the edge of everything. Her glare reached into him like tentacles wrapping his nerve endings. He wavered, then gave in to his deeper instincts, ignoring that she'd pushed him away at every turn that day. He pulled her to him. She shuddered and closed in on herself tighter. Holding her close he felt her pain as if a hundred tiny knives dug into him. Escape was all she wanted but he wouldn't let her. The more she tried to pull away the harder he wrapped his arms around her. Each knew Buffy was the stronger and should have been able to pull from his grasp, but she couldn't. It frightened her as much as anything had that day. It had been a struggle for survival and now she knew she'd lost. No matter how hard she'd tried to keep herself together it still wasn't enough. Nothing worked. There was no point in fighting any longer. So she stopped.
The shaking came first, then a pain filled gasp of realization forced out the first tear. It ran down her face leaving a mud trace like a crack in the earth's crust. As the tears came stronger the sharp edges eased slowly and her body softened against his while he rocked her ever so gently. Soon her cries drowned out the silence until all that was left were shoulders heaving with each cleansing sob as the force of memory pulled the pain from her and her grief found acknowledgment.
"Dawnie, slow down! You'll get hurt," Willow shouted.
Dawn stopped and turned to Willow several yards behind her on the trail. "How far up do I go? Where did the locator spell put them?"
"Here, someplace." Willow stretched out her arms. "I couldn't tell precisely."
"Giles' car at the bottom of the mountain was sort of a clue, don't you think?" Xander added.
"Well, yeah, but the spell helped." Willow frowned at him, hurt by his sarcasm.
"I know." Xander looked at her with his `I'm sorry' expression that only she could read. "I'm just worried, Will, like all of us. Just saying stupid stuff to let out the tension. And hey, look, at least the sun's beginning to make an entrance. We can actually see and maybe stop tripping over stuff followed by almost careening over the edge to our untimely deaths."
Tara touched Xander's arm lightly. "It'll be all right. I know we'll find them." She squinted up ahead. "And hopefully we won't lose Dawn along the way. Dawn, where are you?"
"Here!!" Dawn screeched causing Xander to shudder involuntarily. "Here! They're here!"
The three ran to catch up to her. Xander was the first and found Dawn standing in the middle of the trail bouncing on the balls of her feet. "Here, Xander, they're here!"
Xander looked around with growing confusion. "Where?"
Dawn picked up Giles' backpack and shoved it into Xander's chest. "Look! Are you blind?"
"Well, okay, Dawnster. Let's just slow down a minute. This is definitely good clueage, but..." Xander trailed off as Tara and Willow appeared.
That's Giles' pack," Tara said as she took it from Xander and quickly examined the contents for clues as Willow and Xander surveyed the immediate surroundings. Willow spotted it first.
"There, at the side of the mountain. That's fresh. Those rocks haven't been there long."
"A rockslide?" Tara asked.
"It looks like it." Willow's voice was uncertain.
"Guys, stop discussing and start doing. They're in there. I know it. We got to get them out, now!" Dawn demanded, pointing at the side of the mountain.
"But sweetie, we don't know for sure and, well, it's not going to be easy moving all those rocks. Before we waste time on that maybe we should first..." Willow stopped speaking when she saw Xander move to the edge of the trail, where the earth fell off at a dangerously steep grade. Her questioning eyes stayed on him as he returned. He shook his head and spoke quietly. "No evidence of anything going over the edge recently." Willow nodded and grimaced in momentary relief and recognition of what he had been looking for.
"Why won't you listen? I'm telling you they're trapped inside the mountain, in a hole or something." Dawn dropped down to the ground and desperately began pulling at the heavy steadfast stones.
Tara knelt down along side Dawn and placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke calmly. "Dawn, what makes you so sure?"
"Because I just am. I can feel it. My gut is telling me. Intuition. I thought you two were big on that." Dawn stood and planted her hands on her hips. "Or don't I get any `cause I'm just a green glowy energy thing?" Even through her anger and frustration, her words didn't fall on deaf ears.
Tara and Willow exchanged a knowing look and quickly moved into action.
"Okay, everybody up and out of the way. Tara, take my hand." Tara did as Willow instructed.
Willow looked intently in Tara's eyes. "Do you remember that fist time, when we held hands and moved the vending machine without speaking?"
"Of course, I remember," Tara replied, stuttering slightly.
"We're doing it again." Willow's voice was strong with determination. "Except this time we need a lot more control. We have to move the rocks carefully, one at a time, in case Buffy or Giles are near. We don't want to cause another slide." She looked at Tara who nodded confidently.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Xander asked.
"Yes, you and Dawn stay behind us and don't talk."
"But, Willow, are you sure? I mean maybe we should look around some more. Don't we need a little more to go on than Dawn's, uh...gut?" He glanced hesitantly at Dawn.
Willow scowled at Xander but Tara spoke first. "Xander, intuition is a very powerful tool, especially in an emotionally charged situation like this. If Dawn feels it, then it's something we need to pay attention to."
Xander nodded and grabbed Dawn's hand. He pulled her back to him, out of the way, as the witches joined forces and focused on the seemingly insurmountable task. The first rock was small, but it moved. Xander was speechless at the sight and Dawn just squeezed tighter onto his hand. The rock slowly levitated and moved to the side, then dropped to the ground. The second rock was larger but the pace was the same.
"Can't you do this any faster?" Dawn pleaded. Neither Willow nor Tara broke concentration to answer her. Xander put his arm around Dawn and they waited and watched.
Giles' eyelids fluttered as a cool breeze brushed across his hand. He opened his eyes. Buffy was sleeping, small and curled against him. He folded his arm around her and squinted up at the skylight. The stars were gone. The sky was the deep blue of breaking sunrise, royal and fresh as a hazy glow of warm tangerine began to lace the blue. The night had ended and morning was calling. He looked at her and thought about what little had happened for her, a release of some pent up anguish and a night's sleep. He hoped it was enough of a beginning for the enormous task she had yet to face. He closed his eyes and waited for her to wake.
Suddenly he felt something on his face. It was warm and tickled lightly. Sunlight. He heard voices whispering with trepidation, "They're here." Giles eyes sprang open and saw them. First Willow, then Xander crawling through a small opening in the entrance. The rocks seemed to just fall away for them as if by command. Then Tara and finally Dawn came through, each momentarily blocking the shaft of low morning sunlight now entering the cave. He held up his hand to stop them and looked down at Buffy. Giles managed a smile hoping to answer the concern in their eyes and motioned them to come forward. "Shh, she's sleeping," he whispered.
Buffy stirred and looked up at him with sleepy eyes still puffy and red from having cried herself out. His eyes were red-rimmed too, from the dust and grit she told herself. Sunlight bathed his face, then suddenly he was cloaked in shadow. She reached out to him, touching the shadowed cheek with concern in her eyes. His arm tightened around her gently. He looked beyond Buffy to her sister moving toward them, rimmed with golden morning. "Everything is fine. Dawn's here."
Buffy looked into his eyes and saw, just as he said, Dawn reflecting back at her, through him, in warm, glowing colors. She looked deep into his eyes, so deep she saw a thing she couldn't name. A shape whose edges were drawn by gold and pink hues with plumes sparkling that had no beginnings or endings, colors spiking sharp and beautiful, sublime in an easy and magical dance of light. If she were still asleep she'd have been sure it was a premonition dream; it was so otherworldly. With a slow breath, she closed her eyes for just a moment and brought herself back to reality as she knew it.
The earth hadn't opened up letting loose demons and hellfire to destroy humanity. It wasn't the end of the world, only the end of her world as she knew it, the world of a girl who had lost her mother and had to find a way to go on.
Giles loosened his hold and slowly let his eyes close on the sight of Dawn's arms surrounding Buffy.
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Title: Hold Me
Author: Susan MD [email]
Details: Standalone | PG | gen | 61k | 04/25/05
Characters: Giles, Buffy
Summary: Buffy finds herself trapped in a place that parallels her emotional state and she doesn't like it, even with Giles there to help.
Notes: Spoilers: Takes place after Season 5's episode "Intervention"
Disclaimer/Other: Disclaimer: I don't claim any rights of ownership to characters, names, etc. Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox own everything. I've written this purely for personal entertainment purposes and receive no compensation.
Feedback: All feedback gratefully accepted including constructive criticism.
My thanks to Vatwoman and Head Rush for beta work, excellent suggestions, and many kind words of encouragement.
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