The place was packed, standing room only. Giles felt very out of place in his old haunt. The crowd was younger and louder than he’d remembered. Things had changed, he had changed.
“This next song comes to us from the band the Cranberries. No Need to Argue…”
The distorted notes of an organ silenced the crowd and Giles leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. ‘Another depressing little jingle…oh joy.’ He sipped his drink and listened as the hauntingly simple song began.
There’s no need to argue anymore
I gave all I could but it left me so sore
And the thing that makes me mad
Is the one thing that I had…
I knew, I knew I’d lose you
You’ll always be special to me, special to me, to me
And I remember all the things we once shared
Watching TV movies on the living room armchair
But they say it will work out fine
Was it all a waste of time…
Cause I knew, I knew, I’d lose you
You’ll always be special to me, special to me, to me
Will I forget in time
You said I was on your mind
There’s no need to argue
No need to argue anymore
There’s no need to argue anymore
The last note reverberated into silence and the crowd applauded its appreciation. Even Giles was moved enough to temporarily release his glass of liquid comfort to clap. Though the lyrics brought uninvited images of Buffy, hurt and confusion painted across her beautiful face, he’d wished he could hear the song again. The simple song seemed to completely exhibit all emotions he wanted to express to her and couldn’t.
He’d left because he couldn’t face the inevitable. Death was the only constant companion of a Watcher. The specialized training he’d endured was only to postpone the inevitable death of the Slayer, of his Slayer, of Buffy. Giles had come to the realize that he couldn’t face that outcome again, not after he experienced the agony of her temporary absence the previous summer. He failed to protect her then and feared he would ultimately be her undoing. Buffy needed to stand on her own two feet even though it pained him to leave her. He truly loved her. He cared for Buffy beyond what his meager words could convey. If only he’d told her the truth.
“That song was a dedication to…um, is this right?” The young lady looked perplexed back at the stage manager and nodded after a quick shrug from the indifferent chap. “Right, that song was dedicated to someone called Watcher; by the request of a young miss calling herself the ugly American.”
Giles head perked up with astonishment and he eagerly scanned the crowd for who he knew had made the request. ‘No…she couldn’t be here.’ He stood up to get a better look and some impatient couples waiting at the entrance interpreted his motions to mean a table was opening up. Her familiar face was nowhere to be found, his heart strained with disappointment. Giles settled back into his chair with an unsatisfying sigh and he downed the rest of his Scotch. Upset mumblings came from the impatient couples as they rejoined the other waiting people. The sharp young bartender noticed Giles actions and lifted up a fresh bottle of Giles chosen poison for the evening. Giles nodded and leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table and burying face into his hands.
The sound of glass against the wooden table made Giles smirk, he handled depression so well. “Thank you…put it on my tab,” he spoke with is face hidden, his words barely audible thru this fingers.
“God Giles, how many of these have you had?”
He instantly knew the voice and his body reacted to its sound. A smile spread over his lips, muscles in his stomach began to tighten and his throat tensed, “Buffy?” He took a moment to collect himself and revealed his stern face to see her standing before him, beautiful as ever even with the exhausted expression on her features.
“I’d hoped you were keeping better company,” she smiled and slid the bottle of Scotch closer to him.
He reached out and wrapped his hand around hers which still held the bottle. The action was instinctual; he needed to touch her. ‘Strength old man,’ he thought and delicately glided his hand over hers to settle just above it on the neck of the bottle. He gently pulled it from her and opened it.
“What are you doing here Buffy?” He hated to be so harsh with her but knew he’d been right in leaving and this was her running away all over again. Giles filled his glass and went to recap the bottle then decided to leave it ready to service him again. This was going to be a hard discussion.
“No hello? No hi, how’s the slayage?” Buffy looked around for a chair and saw none available so she leaned against the table.
“Who’s taking care of Dawn? Who’s patrolling?” Giles had to ask the questions without looking at her; Buffy’s stare could melt his fortitude.
“Don’t worry about it. I got it covered.” Buffy smirked.
“No Buffy, you don’t have it covered. Someone else does.” Giles looked sharply up at her.
“It’s not like that…” Buffy couldn’t finish her thought; she felt her throat constrict. She waved toward the band, “Didn’t you hear the song? ‘There’s no need to argue anymore’ Giles!”
“What brings you here?” Giles insisted on an answer.
“Can we…is there somewhere a bit less…a bit more…um, quiet?” Buffy couldn’t conceal her nervousness.
Giles looked over to the bartender who seemed to be watching the whole scene with a keen interest. The young man smiled and mouthed, “Later!” Giles nodded and looked toward the obscured back entrance he used to use in his youth. He stood up and began to head for the back alley. Buffy followed him closely, showing uneasiness in the alien place.
“Is this your regular hang out?” Buffy almost yelled the question. Giles turned to see her lagging behind and reached out to grab her wrist and guide her along. After a bit of shoving and weaving in the crowd, Giles reached the back door and exited.
“Better?” He asked and looked at her expectantly.
“Well…” she caught a glimpse of his serious expression and quickly stopped her thought, “Better! Yes!”
“Now…” Giles tenderly placed a hand on her shoulder, “I am very happy to see you. But I need to know you’re not here simply for me to solve some problem.”
“No, I’m not here for that. No problems! Well…um, of course I have problems, but nothing I need your help with. N-not that I wouldn’t like your help…I mean you are g-great with the problem helping thing, but…”
“Buffy, you’re rambling.” Giles smiled at her struggle to get her point across, a behavior usually exhibited by him.
“I know. I just don’t know how to start.” She looked up into his kind eyes and took a deep breath. “Ok, give me a second here. Just listen and I’ll cue you when I’m done.” She began to pace back and forth in the alley, staying just within hearing distance of Giles. He leaned against the brick wall of the pub and crossed his arms, listening for her explanation.
“When you left like you did…”
Giles uncrossed his arms and raised a finger, “Buffy, I…”
“No…listen, please. You’ll get your turn.” She glanced at him and hoped he understood how hard this was on her. “When you left, I was…um, very…”
Giles looked down at his shoes, remembering and dreading how he left things. He wanted so much for it to be a satisfying separation with mutual understanding. Instead, he’d tucked tail and ran. Not facing any of the group, especially Buffy. He owed it to her now to hear her out. His eyes slowly lifted to meat hers and he nodded slightly, knowing what she would say next.
“I was really pissed. I didn’t understand why you left. Why then, why…anything. I still don’t understand, really.” Buffy saw Giles open his mouth to speak and she cut him off with a motion of her hand. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t care. That’s not why I’m here.”
Giles forehead wrinkled with confusion and he cocked his head slightly, eager to hear her reason for traveling so far.
“The way you left…we didn’t…I didn’t even say goodbye Giles.” She looked up to the night sky and shook her head. “God this is so hard. Why is it so hard to talk to you at times?” She looked over at him for an answer and saw only an empathetic smile.
She stepped up to him and hesitantly reached for his hand. He watched intently as she blanketed his rough skin with her soft touch. Buffy pulled his hand close to her and grasped it tight between both her hands. “I had to come. I had to see you, to tell you…” she swallowed hard and felt tears well up in her eyes, “Thank you.” Buffy’s voice cracked under the strain of her choking throat.
Giles saw the sincerity in her glistening eyes and felt overwhelmed by emotion. He’d never expected to hear those words. She was thanking him. ‘God, what on earth for?’
“Thank you, Giles. For everything. For teaching me, for training me, for yelling at me, for consoling me, for parenting me, for advising me, for sheltering me, for protecting me, for working with me, for helping me, for pushing me, for…for loving me.” She stared up at him, allowing the tears collecting in her eyes to finally stream down her cheeks. “Thank you for being a part of my life. And…and I love you.” Buffy waited for a response but Giles just stood there with a blank expression. “Uh, that’s your cue.” She smiled.
He slowly took his hand from hers and stood up, silent.
“Ok, well…that’s all I had to say. I thought you should know. I need to get back to the home of the big brewin’ evil. Hope you, uh…have a good life. Keep in touch…” she looked down the alley and took a couple steps toward the road. “Goodbye.”
Giles was stunned. He couldn’t speak, he couldn’t move. Buffy had just spoken the single most touching phrase he’d ever hoped to hear and he didn’t know what to do.
“Oh, I almost forgot…” Buffy ran back up to him and revealed a little brown wrapped package and smiled. “The gang wanted you to have this.” She handed it to him and stretched up on her tip-toes to kiss him on the cheek. “Catcha later oh-Watcher-mine!” She smirked and began to walk away.
Giles opened the little box and immediately felt his chest tighten and began to sob. It was a bronzed band-aid set in a little plaque with an inscription that read, “To our Watcher and Friend…learn how to duck. Love the Scooby Gang.” He let out a pitiful chuckle and looked down the ally at Buffy who’d almost reached the sidewalk. Without thinking, he took off running toward her.
“Buffy…” he yelled out and saw her turn around. She took a few steps back into the ally and waited for him to catch up.
“Cat let go of your tongue?” She quipped with a grin.
He ran up to her and stopped right in front of her, looking down at her with his moistened eyes.
“We did good, didn’t we?” She asked and felt another tear, reacting to a sight she’d only seen once before, Giles crying.
He smiled and wrapped his hand around the back of her head and pulled her into his embrace.
“Yes, you all did quite well indeed.” He whispered rather than trust his constricted throat to clearly express the words. “Thank you.” He spoke clearly and took a deep breath to collect himself. “I needed that.”
Buffy closed her eyes and nuzzled into his warm chest, loving the particular act of compassion and affection so rarely shared between them. Giles stroked her back and held her possessively against him. “I love you too.”