Chapter 94: Dear Agony (Part one)
Cleveland, Ohio. Three Days Later. Faith POV
I don't think I've ever felt more outta place in my entire fuckin' life. And that includes when I was trying to fit in with the Scooby gang when I first showed up in Sunnydale and was trying to act cool so they would accept me. But right here, right now, this is the most uncomfortable I've probably ever felt, and I have no idea what to do about it. I mean, am I supposed to get up and go over there? Am I just supposed to sit here and wait for B? Like that would do any good. She's been so distant and withdrawn from me since we got here. But this isn't about me, so I need to stop all this bitching before someone thinks I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm not. I just don't know what to do, and I get anxious when I don't know what to do. And I'm not going to fuckin' leave just in case B does need me.
I should probably fill you in on what's been happening the last three days. When B told me about Giles, and I slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road, we were damn fuckin' lucky no one was behind us. I didn't wanna believe what she had just told me, and I was in total fuckin' denial over the whole thing. The ride home was full of tears — hers not mine. Giles wasn't sick, Giles wasn't dying. The world just doesn't make sense without the stuffy Watcher in it. But when we got home, her whole attitude changed. She lost the tears and instead turned into the slayer. She started packing her bags like mad, and was hella organized about the whole thing. The kids were freaking out, wanting to know where their mommy was going and why her face was so red. How do you tell your kids that their grandfather isn't going to be alive at the end of the week? How do you fuckin' do that?
I couldn't tell them, not when I was so worried about Buffy and how she'd just shut down like that. I sent 'em back to bed and tried as hard as I could to talk to her about it. I know that she needed to get to Ohio as soon as possible to be with him, but we also needed to talk things through. Would the kids be going with us and staying at the house that was built as our home away from home when we're there? Would I be staying with the kids, and she would go to Ohio to say her goodbyes, and I would say mine at the funeral? I didn't have a fuckin' clue, and she wouldn't talk to me. She was so busy packing, getting everything organized perfectly in her bags so they would all fit, and then halfway through the process Willow showed up. She didn't knock on the door, just teleported right into the damn bedroom. I almost punched her in the face it scared me so fuckin' bad.
As soon as Buffy and Willow locked eyes, the tears were back. Buffy fuckin' broke down and ran to her friend for comfort. I know that they've known Giles the longest, they're the Scooby gang and always would be, but I'm not gonna lie. The fact that she was wrapped in Willow's arms and being comforted by her instead of me hurt a little bit. I guess that's just something I need to get used to 'cause that's how it's been the last three days. Anyway, after Willow showed up, and they cried for about ten minutes, she helped Buffy pack up, and they teleported to the school. Buffy said she would be back the next day to fill me in on what was going on. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and then picked up her stuff and grabbed onto Willow and they were gone. I wasn't happy about that at all. Not because she left, but because now that she was gone, I had no more excuses not to tell the kids.
I didn't even bother looking in Addy or Joey's rooms. Whenever B and I get in a fight or something big like this happens there's only one place I need to look to find them. So I went into Mattie's room and all three of them were in his bed. The little ones were curled up right around him, and he was doing his best to comfort them both. Seeing them all squished together like that made my heart melt a little and tears welled up in my eyes. I felt so much fucking regret right then because they weren't upset about Giles, they were upset because their mom was upset and had just taken off without a word. They never really got to know Giles, and I feel like such a fucking asshole for it. I'm the one who didn't wanna live on a Hellmouth, I'm the one who didn't want to live in a place that gets really cold, and I'm the one who kept my kids from getting to know one of the most important people in Buffy's life.
Anyway, I sat down on the edge of the bed and explained to them what was going on. Well, the little kid version of what was going on. Grandpa Giles is really sick, and we don't think he's going to get better. Mom had to leave right away 'cause she wants to be with him, and she wants to know exactly what's going on, but she'll be back tomorrow. They were upset, but they were mostly upset because they know Giles is important to Buffy. They kept asking questions about what Mom was going to do, if Mom was going to move to the slayer school and take over, if Mom was going to be really sad and not get out of bed like one of their friend's moms did when her father died. I didn't have most of their answers. The only one I could really answer for sure was that B was not moving to Ohio, that Andrew was the new headmaster, and that wasn't gonna change.
That was three days ago, and now I'm standing in Giles' bedroom, leaning against the wall with Sky and Lily while our significant others sit by Giles' side. Willow and Buffy have been crying almost non-stop since we got here, and Xander is trying not to cry, but it's not working out too good for him. They've been in their own little Scooby bubble while we sit and wait on the sidelines, and I know that's just how it goes when something like this happens, but it's making me really fuckin' anxious. I don't know what to do. I need to know what to do so I can settle down, but there is no right answer. Remember when the world used to be so black and white? Yeah, I wish I could be six again, too. That would be really fuckin' awesome. Except for the part about my drunken mother, that was pretty fuckin' rough.
"Giles, can you hear me?" Willow asks, and her voice sounds so fucked up. It's like she can barely get the words out 'cause all her body wants to do is cry. She's sitting by his side, holding onto his hand, and those big Willow-tears are streaming down her face. I can tell this is killing Sky, but she's holding herself back. What they really need is some Scooby time, and we need to let them have it. "Do you think he can hear us?" Poor Willow is breaking my heart. It's bad enough that B is going through hell and isn't responding to me, but hearing Red sound so fuckin' broken is just adding salt to the wound. And we don't even like each other that much.
"Willow, I can hear you just fine," Giles says, and I let out a little sigh. They had me scared for a second. It's not like the guy is in a coma. I mean, he looks really sick. He doesn't look like the Giles I know and grew to love. He's really thin, like skeleton thin, and his skin is all dried out and cracking in some places, and it's just really bad. But he can still talk, still has most of his memory. But he's really weak. He can't sit up on his own, and he needs a nurse twenty-four seven just to keep him comfortable. Every doctor worthwhile in this country has said the same thing, though. It's a miracle he's still functioning this well, and it shouldn't be long now. I can't believe I just said that about Giles. Almost seems like a bad fuckin' joke.
"Giles, is there anything I can do for you?" Red asks, and she sounds like she's on the verge of tears. I look over at Sky, and I can tell this is ripping her heart out. I slowly reach out, and hold onto her hand. I may not be big on comforting people, at least not people who aren't named Buffy, but Sky really needs this right now. She looks like she needs it anyway. Her hand is limp in mine for a milisecond, and then she's clinging onto me like I'm the only thing stopping her from drifting away. Thank fuckin' God I'm a slayer or she'd be breaking bones right now. "Do you want some tea? I remember how you like it. I could make you some tea, and get you some scones to go with it. Would you like that, Giles?" I feel my lips start to quiver, and I don't know how long I'm gonna be able to hold this shit back.
"No thank you, Willow," he says, and he sounds so out of breath all of a sudden. I can see his chest rise really high, and it takes it a while to fall. His skin looks even clammier now, and it's the color of ashes. What the fuck is going on? Why does he look even worse all of a sudden? My whole body tenses and this weird feeling settles over the entire room. No one says a word, and I swear you'd be able to hear a fuckin' pin drop. "That's quite...alright." He's having trouble breathing now, and I can't help but wonder if this is it. If we're all going to be in here with him when he goes...wherever it is he's going to go. Buffy thought she was in heaven when she died, I hope Giles ends up there. Sure, he's made his fair share of mistakes, but he's more than made up for them.
Fuck, why am I even thinking that? I shouldn't be fuckin' thinking this. If I'm thinking this fucked up shit and he dies it's gonna be like I'm the one that killed him. How did any of this even happen? Giles was healthy, like annoyingly healthy. How did he even fuckin' get cancer? Before anyone can ask if he needs anything, his nurse walks into the room. She takes one look at him, and goes over to one of the machines he's hooked up to. She pushes a couple buttons and the fluid dripping down from the bag and into the IV starts dripping faster. I look over at Giles again and watch. After about a minute the color starts to come back to his face, but he still looks really fuckin' weak. I guess that's something that's not gonna change.
"He needs his rest now," the nurse says, and turns so she's facing everyone standing at the bed. Fuck, I hope I don't have to step in. Knowing B as well as I do, there's a high possibility she's gonna refuse to leave. I'll have to pick her up and drag her out, and she's gonna hate me for it. But Giles looks so fucking exhausted, and I know he's keeping himself awake so he can spend time with them. Red, Xander and B are like his kids. "Someone will come get you when you can see him again. Please, go now." She puts her hands on her hips, and she doesn't look pleased at all. In fact, she looks kind of like an impatient mother waiting for her kids to do as they're told. And I know 'cause that's what B looks like when the kids are taking forever cleaning their rooms.
"Giles, we'll be back soon, ok? I promise," Buffy says, and she leans down and she presses her lips against his forehead. He doesn't say anything back. I don't know if it's the medicine or if he's just that tired, but he seems pretty out of it now. The three of them turn after one more glare from the nurse, and they walk away. I step towards B, try to rub her back, but she walks right past me. It's like she didn't even fuckin' see me standing here. I get it, she's going through hell right now, so it's not like I don't understand. I'm not gonna lie, though, 'cause that stung just now. I'm her wife. When things get hard, I'm supposed to be the one she turns to for comfort, not Willow and Xander. But they're the Scoobies, and this is Giles, so that bond runs just a little bit deeper than marriage. Fuck, why is this happening?
"Do you want anything to eat?" Faith asks, and I shrug. That's all I've been able to do for the last couple of hours. She asks me a question, and I shrug. She offers me comfort through touch, and I feel slightly numb to it. She's trying to be here for me, trying to help me through this. What a ridiculous thing to say. "Trying to help me through this," like I'm one of our children when they were little and needed a shot at the doctor or something. We helped them through that because eventually it would be over, and they could forget it even happened. What the hell is Faith going to do for me? Take me out for an ice cream and promise I'll never have to do something like that again? She can't help me through this, no one can help me through this, and I'm getting so sick of everyone trying to make me feel better when there's no point to it.
"B, you need to eat something," she says, and she sounds really worried. I haven't been able to eat since Andrew called and said that Giles is...since he told us the news about Giles. I've tried eating, mostly just to make Faith feel more comfortable, but I haven't been able to keep anything down. The doctor here at the school says that it's just stress, and the stress is understandable considering what we're going through. I look into those light brown eyes with little flecks of gold, but I can't hold her gaze for more than few seconds. Who would have thought this would be me? Buffy the vampire slayer; Buffy the badass; Buffy the Drill Sergeant; Buffy the coward. "You haven't had anything all day, babe. You need something in your system."
"Faith, please, I'm fine," I say, but I can't look her in the eye when I say it. I'm not fine. The man who loves me like a daughter, who's more important to me than my own blood father, has cancer, and he isn't going to make it. God, just thinking that feels so wrong. Like accepting it is betraying him or something. There has to be something someone can do. The doctors can't do anything, but magic is an option. I know magic and medical care isn't supposed to mix, but Willow is a lot more powerful than she used to be. She rose me from the dead, almost destroyed the world, called every slayer on the planet; there has to be something she can do for Giles.
"Buffy, we both know you're lying," she says, and she sits down next to me on the couch. The house is quiet, unnaturally so. She didn't have any of the witches on campus cast a spell or anything to soundproof the house. No, it's much more simple than that. The kids are gone. Willow has been teleporting them back and forth from here and Nevada. As soon as they get home from school she's waiting for them, and she brings them here until it's time for them to get up and leave in the morning. They haven't been in to see Giles yet. Faith doesn't want them to. She doesn't want their last memories of their Grandpa Giles to be him lying on his death bed. I'm not sure if they should or not, and I'm too afraid to ask him about it.
"Of course I'm lying. How could I be fine with everything that's happening?" I ask, but I don't sound angry, or upset or anything at all. I don't recognize my own voice. It's hollow, and raspy, and strange. I feel like I've been taken over by a pod person, but my consciousness has only been suppressed, and I can comprehend everything that's going on. I feel her wrap her arm around my shoulder, and I allow her to pull my body against hers. She gently manipulates me until my head is resting on her shoulder. I let her try to comfort me because she needs this. I know Faith better than anyone. She needs to feel like she's making a difference. She hates just sitting around feeling useless. So I'll let her feel like she's doing something if it helps her deal.
"This is killing me right now, so I'm not even going to try and imagine how hard this must be for you," she says, and gently rubs my back. I wish that I could cry. I really do want to be able to let everything out, but it's stuck, and I don't know how to fix that. If I could, I would be crying right now against her shoulder. She would try to soothe me, whisper things into my ear, and make those soft shushing sounds like we do when the little ones are upset. If I could cry, then she would be able to bring me some comfort, however temporary, and we would both get something out of it. But I can't, so we won't, and it's so frustrating I want to pull my hair out and scream at the top of my lungs.
"I feel like none of this is real," I say and curl my legs up against my chest. I might as well be honest with her. There's no point keeping everything bottled up inside. I tried to do that when my mom was sick, and I ended up pushing everyone away. I always push everyone away and then blame them when they finally reach their breaking point and leave. I haven't been like that for years, though, because I refuse to let my bullshit get in the way of loving Faith. I can't relapse now or I might not recover from it. I don't want to lose my marriage, my family, on top of everything else. I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I don't think I would survive something like that. To lose Giles, the only real father I've ever really had, and then Faith...I don't think I'd make it through that.
"I feel like I'm trapped in some horrible dream, and any moment I'm going to wake up and we're going to be at home, and the kids are going to be fighting because they're hungry and cranky, and Giles is going to call and ask how we've been, and make me promise to send more pictures and home movies, and then ask me to do some dumb task," I choke out, and I feel like my throat is closing up. I take in a big gasp of air, and Faith reaches over and gently rubs my back. We've only been here for three days, but it feels like we've been here for years. Calling it three days feels like some sick joke. All of this feels like a sick joke. Almost like the Fates are testing us, and if we can just pass their stupid test, Giles will be ok. I know that isn't true, but maybe if I believe it hard enough it will be.
"Shhhh, B, I know," she says, and keeps rubbing my back in those soft circles that normally help calm me down. Right now they're not really doing anything, though. I'm too numb for it to work right now. I don't shrug her off, though, because she needs this more than I do right now. She thinks I've been oblivious, that I have complete tunnel vision because of everything that's going on, but that's not true. I've seen the looks she gives to Willow because I've been clinging to my best friend more than her. I don't know if it's some twisted sense of jealousy or what, but she's not happy about it. Faith doesn't understand, though. Her dad is still alive and relatively healthy. Her dad isn't lying in his bed rotting away. Her dad isn't going to miss our babies growing up. Her dad is going to be around for all of that stuff and just thinking about witnessing all of my children's milestones without Giles there, ever the stiff upper lip, it just doesn't make sense.
We stop talking, and I'm kind of thankful for it. Just trying to carry on that little conversation exhausted me. You have no idea how tiring it is to try and be engaged when all you want to do is curl up in a little ball and disappear. I lean against her, resting my head on her shoulder, and she wraps her arms around me in a warm embrace. I close my eyes and breathe in her scent. Normally this is enough to make me feel better when I'm having a bad day. But bad days for me aren't what they used to be. In Sunnydale a bad day was losing someone I loved, or having to stop an apocalypse, or thinking I murdered my mom's boyfriend, or my boyfriend going evil, or being ripped out of heaven. Now my bad days consist of dealing with temper tantrums, or PTA meetings, or unruly curls when I try to put Addison's hair up. I've gone soft, and I don't remember how to deal with this amount of pain anymore.
"Mom, we're back!" I hear Joseph yell as he walks through the front door. I can tell by the sound of his voice he wasn't addressing either one of us specifically. They always get this weird tone of voice when they do that, and most of the time it doesn't bother me, but it kind of irritated me just then. Ok, I need to keep this in check. The last thing I'm going to do is take this crap out on my kids because I'm having a hard time dealing, and don't know how to find my footing. I look over towards the front door and only he and Addison are here. They're taking off their coats, and putting their backpacks and other things away. It may be warm in Nevada all year round, well at least in the afternoons, but February in Ohio is freezing cold.
"Where's your brother?" Faith asks, and I'm really glad. I can barely handle myself right now, and I know it isn't fair, but I don't think I can deal with the kids right now. I know she understands, and she's been doing more than her fair share. When all of this is over I'm going to have to make it up to her in a big way. Maybe I could pull some money out of my savings and take her on a little vacation. Somewhere warm where we can just relax on a beach, and drink ice cold beers, and let the sound of the waves lull us into a light sleep. I cringe, and my whole body tenses. God, what kind of a person am I? I'm thinking about planning a vacation when Giles is literally on his deathbed. A horrible one. There's no other explanation.
"He's not here," Joseph says, and takes off his cap. Faith lets go of me, but as soon as her arms leave my body, I grab onto her wrist. I know I'm acting like a spoiled child, but her warmth was actually helping me a little. It's cold in this house without the fireplace going, and I want to mooch off of her body heat. She gives me a sympathetic look, and I don't have the heart to tell her she wasn't helping me emotionally. I would have to be completely cold hearted to do something like that. "Brooke was really sad 'cause of Grandpa Giles. Aunt Willow said he could stay with her at the center, and Aunt Sky is going to teleport him here at dinner time." I let out a little sigh, and sling onto Faith a little tighter. I hate the fact that Willow made that decision without consulting us first, but I'm kind of glad she let him stay. Otherwise he would have been a pain to deal with.
"Why don't you kids go to your rooms and start on your homework?" she asks, but we can all tell by the tone of her voice that it wasn't a request; it was a command. She didn't sound mean or anything, but they know she isn't messing around right now. I lean back against the couch, sinking into the cushions until there's no more give left. Maybe if I close my eyes I'll fall asleep for a little while. I've been so exhausted for the last three days, but like I said earlier, it feels like it's been years. I've been so stressed, so tense, that my back is starting to hurt really bad from the muscles contracting for so long. If I'm not careful I'm going to aggravate an old slaying injury, and the last thing I need right now is my back going out.
"I don't want to do homework right now, Mama," Joseph says, and he isn't whining. It took a while for him to get over that. The damage I caused by babying him the first couple of years of his life took a long time to reverse, but we're getting back to a more normal place. He's eight years old now, his birthday was on the tenth, and I'm not happy about it. My baby boy doesn't even look like a baby anymore, he looks like a miniature man, and he's growing up way too fast. Faith calls him her "little dude," which is cute, but other than that no good is coming out of him getting bigger. "I want to cuddle with Mommy." What the hell? He never calls me mommy anymore. I look over at him, and those big brown Lehane eyes, and my heart melts a little. He knows I'm upset, and he wants to be close to me. I have the best family on the planet.
"Come here, sweetheart," I say before Faith can protest, and he gently crawls into my lap. He's small for his age, always has been. He used to be chubby as a baby, and Faith called him Moose, but since he's gotten older he's thinned out a lot, he's also the shortest kid in his class. He doesn't care, though. He says size doesn't matter when he has cool magical powers. He knows never to use them in front of...oh what do the kids call it...Muggles? I know it's a Harry Potter reference so I don't pay attention to it, but they have some slightly derogatory name for non-magical people and it drives me a little crazy. Anyway, I look over at my daughter, and she's looking a little dejected. "You too Addison, come here." She runs over to us, and crawls into Faith's lap. This little girl is more sensitive than she lets on, and everything with Giles is really getting to her.
I look over at Faith, and she gives me a small smile. It doesn't reach her eyes, and I wonder why. Is she that upset about Matthew not coming home right after school? Is she irritated with me for letting the kids stay out here when she already told them to go to their rooms? Or is she finally starting to show the weight she's been carrying for the last three days? I can't tell, and it's going to bother me until I figure it out. It's not like I can just ask right now. Not with the kids out here, anyway. I catch her eye, and lean towards her. She meets me halfway for a soft kiss, and I let it linger. I don't want her to be mad about this. Ok, yeah, I completely under minded her authority by letting them stay out here, and she can't be happy about that. But they need this just as much as I do right now, and I'm pretty sure she needs it even more than the rest of us.
Just as I'm about to doze off to the soothing sounds of Addison and Joseph talking about their day at school, and I'm not being sarcastic, it really is soothing listening to them talk about their day, there's a soft knock on the front door. I look over at Faith with a pleading look, my hazel eyes are set to puppy-dog-look, and I stick out my bottom lip in a pout. She lets out a little sigh, and rolls her eyes, and gently moves Addison off her lap. She stands up, and as soon as she's out of the way, Addison scoots over and clings to my side. Like I said, she's really sensitive and this is starting to get to her. She even wet her bed the other night when she had a nightmare. She was so embarrassed she started crying, and it took a while but I convinced Faith that she should talk with the counselor here at the school. I don't want my baby repressing anything.
"Buffy," I hear Faith say and I look over. Willow and Xander are standing at the door. As soon as I lay eyes on them the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It's like I have tunnel vision all of a sudden and all I can see is Willow and Xander standing in the doorway. Willow's face is red; she has huge tears running down her cheeks, and fluid coming out of her nose. Xander looks like he's about to throw up. I can't be here for this. I don't want to know this. I already know what they're going to say, and I don't want to know it. Once I know then I'll know and I won't be able to just not know anymore. I try to stand up, but there's dead weight on my lap, holding me down. I look down and Joseph and Addison are still clinging to me. They seem confused, and they're looking at me for answers.
"Buffy," Willow says, and her voice is so choked with emotion she could barely get the word out. I try to lift Joseph off my lap, but it feels like someone put lead weights on my arms and I can't lift them. My vision blurs over, and I feel hot tears burning down my cheeks, leaving a scorching trail in their wake. What the hell is going on? Why can't I breathe. "I think she's in shock." Am I? I see them rush towards me, I try to tell them I'm fine, they don't need to do anything, but I can't get the words out. "Buffy, can you hear me?" Of course I can hear you, I want to say. I try to say it, but it feels like someone has replaced my throat and tongue with sand. I see the kids rush out of the way and Willow sits down next to me. She wraps her arms around me, and holds me close. I lose it.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!" I scream, and my lungs are trying to suck in oxygen, but I just can't get them to work. It feels like there's a hole in my throat stopping it from reaching my chest. "No, no, no, no!" It must be getting there somehow because I can't stop screaming. I cling to Willow, bury my face in her neck, and I feel her rubbing my back, and running her fingers through my hair. I feel large, muscled arms wrap around me from behind, and Xander's chest presses to my back. I reach one hand back, trying desperately to pull him closer to me. "No, no, no, no, no!" This can't be happening, this isn't happening. This isn't real. I'm in hell. I died in my sleep, and I slipped into hell, and any moment Willow is going to cast a spell to get me out of here. "No, no, no, no, no, no!" Any minute now.