Characters: Giles, Dr Carole in this one.
Trigger warning: Mental Health issues (I probably should have warned for Giles’ PTSD long before this).Series: Bookends. All the Companion pieces in the series are listed here... It might not make much sense on its own.
Notes: so yeah, sorry. This one went up only on ff.net last November and because LJ ate my post I got a little huffy. I'm working on the next arc of stories though and should get next instalment out within a couple of weeks.
Giles wasn't sure if it was shock or awe he was feeling as he muttered, "This is getting out of hand."
And indeed, the table in Sir Stuart's private study was practically buckling under the weight of selections of fruits, salads, triangular sandwiches and delicate cakes perched on tiered platters. Eschewing temptation, Giles continued to stare morosely at the fayre with his hands firmly in his pockets.
"Totally," agreed Dr Carole Daniels. Though less sympathetically, she grabbed a bone china plate and proceeded to load it. "There seems to be even more than last time. It is rather a lot for just the two of us."
"It's like something my grandmother used to do," Giles offered gloomily. "She used to do an incredibly formal High Tea thing on a Sunday afternoon."
"I gather Lady Sophie likes to cater for her guests whatever the circumstances. I'll have another word with her, though do try the salmon thingies. They are delicious."
"I'd rather not." Giles pushed away from the table and sat himself on one of the high backed leather chairs that the Master of the college used for tutorials in his home. He waited as his doctor investigated the selection of exotic tea bags on offer, and grappled with the plunger mechanism on the hot water flask.
"So then," she began, as she swirled the teabag in her cup. "How is the academic probation going with Sir Stuart?"
"It's fine. No complaints about my homework. No poor grades to report back on. Everyone is being very kind. Understanding. Hospitable." He waited for the next question but Carole fixed him with her patient look, the one that said 'I know there's more you're not telling me.' "Alright, I'm finding it extremely uncomfortable if you must know. I hate being on everyone's radar. I hate being a cause for concern. A cliché. Poor old Giles. He lost his family you know. We must all be terribly nice to him. Pamper him. Let him eat cake."
Carole removed the teabag with the back of her spoon then gestured to her plate with it. "This really does bug you, doesn't it?"
"It feels uncomfortably like a reward," he admitted. "For being a good boy this week, for getting my Latin declensions correct and not starting an apocalypse."
She looked at him thoughtfully. "For my NHS consultations I'm lucky if I can find a vending machine that works let alone produces a decent cup of tea, but I can arrange a meeting space at the local hospital if you'd prefer that?"
"Good god." Giles narrowed his eyes. "I'm not looking to be punished, just not quite so lavishly rewarded. This is fine. It's very good of them to let us use their house for our sessions. I'm not ungrateful, really. I just don't want Type II Diabetes from our time together." He smiled playfully. "But you tuck in by all means."
She smiled firmly back and brought her tea and plate to the seating area. Arranged in the leather chair opposite she asked, "How are you and Craig getting along?"
"Fine. We've settled into a routine. Shopping, cooking. He's even got me out running in the park with him."
"Running?" She seemed impressed. "Running is good. Exercise, endorphins, adrenaline, fresh air..."
"Shortness of breath, looking a prat, having a cardiac arrest by the roadside," he interrupted. "I haven't been running since I left Sunnydale. It was rather expedient hobby then. There was a lot of running after Buffy one way or another, but I forgot how much I enjoyed it."
"That's good. I approve."
"And," he added, "It has the advantage of being a socially acceptable form of self-harm. So that's good too."
She ignored the provocation. "How are you adjusting to other aspect of the living arrangements? Have you shared with anyone before?"
"I had a vampire chained in my bathtub for a time," he deadpanned, though he immediately regretted it as she returned a look of 'and you're going to tell me all about that someday'. "It's a really long story," he added. "It's not important right now."
She shrugged. "Did you and Olivia ever live together?"
"No. We weren't the sort of people who wanted to merge our living arrangements. Or if we were, we never found out about it in time."
He watched his therapist sip her tea and wished he hadn't been so stubborn about making one for himself.
"Is it a big enough house for two people?" she asked. "There were concerns about space."
"The second bedroom is very small, just a single bed really. More of a child's room. It's not really suitable for Craig. He's got a girlfriend who works in London. She comes up for weekends sometimes. I did wonder if I should offer to swap bedrooms with him?"
"Why? Is he asking you to swap?"
"No. He hasn't mentioned it."
"It's your house, Rupert."
"I think you'll find it belongs to the College," he said tartly, but she wasn't to be deflected.
"You are the main tenant. He's living there rent free because he volunteered to take on some of your Warden duties and because it's not appropriate to your recovery to be on your own right now."
"And what happens when he finds it too cramped and he wants to move out? Will you find me another babysitter?"
"Does he want to move out?"
Giles shook his head. Craig seemed happy enough with the situation for now but he knew that would alter someday.
Carole raised a new tricky point, "How do you feel about his girlfriend staying over?"
"Oh it's not a problem," he answered quickly. "Really. I go away for the weekends when she's up. It's uncomfortably cramped otherwise. She's nice, really nice. I don't have a problem with her. I just don't want to be a problem for them. I can't expect him to live like a monk."
"So where do you go on those weekends?"
The need for tea became too great; Giles rose impolitely to make himself a cup.
"To either Ethan's or Buffy's," he said over his shoulder. "They vie for my presence. It's like having divorced parents fighting over me. Or so I imagine." He kept his back to Carole as he fussed his own cup and saucer. "So I really don't need to give him the larger bedroom. Excellent. I'm glad we've talked this through."
There was a silence and he was conscious she was waiting for him to return to his seat before posing her next question. She took a bite of a sandwich and sipped her tea patiently, but her eyes never left him as he brought back his own drink and fidgeted back into his chair.
"Have you had anymore thoughts about the nightmare you experienced your first night home?"
He tilted his head in disapproval. "That was weeks ago now. I thought you didn't go in for dream analysis?"
"I don't, but you made a distinct point that it was the first time you'd been a child in any of your dreams. I wonder if you've thought any more about that aspect yourself?"
An irritation rose. "I see what you're doing. My father and I weren't always close, but as I child I was very bloody happy, thank you very much. So I see what you are doing. You are expecting some major revelation about how he wouldn't let me have a puppy."
"I'm honestly not." Carole's voice was equally firm. "I'm just asking to consider these feelings you are experiencing, why are they ones that you associate with childhood? So far you've mentioned homework, babysitters, tea with your grandmother. You keep making these references, not me."
Giles stood and paced his exasperation.
"No. All this, all that has happened, is not about my childhood. I lost my whole family to a vampire. It killed and turned my father and then killed everyone else. That's the big trauma. That's what happened, and that's all what happened." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I just need everyone to stop treating me as a child about it."
"Ah. Now that's better. Go with that. You think that's what is happening?"
"How else to describe it? The need for live-in supervision. Having my work marked. Buffy and Ethan doing Kramer versus Kramer? Maybe I just want control of my life back. Maybe I'd like my driving license back, yes, in fact, please. That would be a start. You have that in your power."
"Alright if you want to talk about that, we can. Have you experienced any disassociation episodes since your release from hospital?"
"No," he replied adamantly, but she was waiting again for him, with those damn eyes. "It was nothing," he mumbled. "Ten seconds of embarrassment in front of Craig and some of his friends." Still she watched him. Giles folded his arms. "It was nothing, it was stupid… There were no lights on at home so I thought the house was empty. I walked in, and found a group of strangers looking at me. They were just talking, it was nothing sinister but they'd stopped when I entered and stared at me… It was just a surprise that's all. I'm not used to sharing, as you said, so finding strangers in the house was a bit unexpected and I froze for a brief moment."
The silence from his therapist was getting unbearable. "Are you being paid by the word?" Giles prompted.
She rested her chin on her hand thoughtfully and offered, "Vampires can't come in without an invitation."
"They weren't vampires."
"But they were something? You were frightened by them? They triggered some sort of memory for you, something that caused you to shut down from the moment. Why was that? Where did you go? In your head, where were you?"
"It was nothing to do with childhood," he replied warily.
"I don't doubt your childhood was awash with puppies, Rupert." Her voice was forceful. "Just answer my question."
He looked to his watch theatrically, but it provided him with no relief, telling him he still had twenty minutes left on the session. Walking out would be really childish, and it would only cause difficulties further down the line. Besides, he realised, unlike the other doctors he'd spoken to, he always answered Carole's questions eventually.
"It was something from Sunnydale," he said finally. "After I'd been fired and Buffy had gone to college. We had a rogue slayer called Faith and the Council sent a retrieval team for her - retrieve or eliminate - not that they were the sort of people that made much of a distinction. They had let themselves into my home and were waiting for me. Ostensibly to ask for information about Faith but..."
"You thought they might have come to retrieve or eliminate you?"
He nodded. The bastards had enjoyed putting the fear of God into him and he'd felt so… helpless.
"The Council of Watchers didn't tolerate threats to its security, you see," he said hesitantly.
"Work through what you are feeling right now, Rupert. Say it out loud."
"In a situation like this one, they would have…" He couldn't say it bluntly. "They would have taken a more Old Yeller approach."
He didn't want a response from her to that. She didn't do pity but he didn't want professional sympathy either. Giles hated all the clichés. He hated not being in control. Automatically, he drifted to the study table to turn his back on her and pretend an interest in the catering. He loaded a plate, at first mindlessly, then gradually caring about the separation of sweet and savoury.
Eventually he returned to the leather wingback chair and sat forward on its edge.
"These feelings of childhood I'm getting. I think…I think it's not that people are treating me as a child, but that my life is not my own to control. There is uncertainty about my future. You report back to the military on my progress and they may still decide I'm too great a threat to be running around free. One slip and this doesn't end well. Or even no slip but they tire of waiting to hear everything will be ok. Then this might all be for nothing."
Carole nodded. "You've always known the military may step in. We've talked through their involvement before."
"But they could put an end to this at any time," he insisted.
Carole leant forward in her chair also. "Why do you doubt that everyone simply wants the best for you?"
"Because it's been a long time since I've allowed myself to believe that. Oh I do appreciate what you, Buffy and Captain Appleby are doing for me, even Lady Sophie's excessive hospitality. I'm just not sure what the best for me can be anymore."
She looked at him sincerely. "I promise you, we are still working on that."
Giles griped, "I'm not going to get my bloody driving license back anytime soon, am I?"
"Ten seconds is an improvement on ten minutes but it's still not safe for you to be behind the wheel of a car just yet. I speak not just as your therapist, but as a fellow road user."
Giles slumped back in his chair. "You're right that I've always known about the military. That this is a second chance and there won't be a third. I guess I wasn't bothered when we talked about it before. Funny. I seem to care about the outcome now."
"I wouldn't say that was funny, Rupert. I'd say that was progress."
He nodded and solemnly ate a sandwich.