Xander lined up the pill bottles. Brown plastic, with caps that Giles had a hard time with because of his fingers. White labels with blue and red printing, and those stickers: Take with food. May cause drowsiness. Do not operate machinery. Avoid alcohol. Finish all medication. On the first day Giles was home from the hospital, Xander got them straight and worked out when Giles had to take what. Which ones with meals, which ones on their own every-few-hours schedule. Giles wasn’t together enough that first day, and probably not the second, either. By the third, he was feeling better enough to get grumpy and make stupid decisions.
Like not taking his anti-anxiety meds.
He didn’t make a fuss about the antibiotics, at least. And his fingers were enough of a bitch that Xander could get a Vicodin down his throat every five hours or so. Xander was okay with Giles skipping those, when he could. But Giles refused to take the anti-anxiety ones, even though they might have helped a lot. Even though he woke up every night shaking.
Xander found a lot of older brown bottles in Giles’ medicine cabinet. A week ago he’d never have snooped. But now he was practically living in Giles’ place, along with Willow. So it wasn’t so much snooping as figuring out how things worked and where things were, chez Giles. Percodan, Vicodin, several of each. And a bottle of Prozac, full. That one confused Xander until he saw the date on it. Middle of March. The only surprising thing there was the idea that Giles had talked to somebody about it long enough to get a prescription. And that he’d filled it. But there were sleeping pills with the same date there, and he’d taken half of those.
A guy could get seriously screwed up on the stuff in Giles’ bathroom cabinet.
A female police officer came by the day after The Incident. Giles was quiet with her. The hospital had had to report it, of course, which meant police. She interviewed Xander as well, who’d had no trouble describing Angel in careful detail. And there’d been more police interviews because of Kendra. Giles took those seriously, because those were the ones that got Buffy off the hook. Lord knows what Sunnydale’s finest made of the whole tangled story. The important thing was that Angel and Drusilla were now the number one suspects, wherever they were, and Buffy was not. Wherever she was.
Giles preferred to dry-swallow his pills. How he did this, Xander couldn’t imagine. Xander needed water and lots of it to swallow even a single aspirin. Giles just shuddered and did them one at a time, chasing with water when he was all done.
A couple of days after The Incident, capital letters, the Acathla Thing, the Night from Hell, whatever you called it, Xander drove Giles in for a followup visit with the guy who’d fixed up his fingers. They had a nice array of specialists lying in wait there to talk to Giles, like the counselor who’d talked to Xander about the police report. Xander allowed her to continue in her misapprehension that he was Giles’ son, because it meant she handed him the prescription slip for the anti-anxiety meds. And told him some stuff she probably shouldn’t have, about how his father was doing and how it would help him to talk to somebody, and here was a referral to somebody in town who had experience with survivors of similar attacks.
Xander remembered pilling the Harris family cat, that time when it got the abcess. You had to watch to be sure it really swallowed and didn’t just hold onto the pill, to eject it five minutes later, a soggy wad on the carpet. Except that Giles had reasons, rationalizations, about why this was a bad idea.
“It’ll change who I am,” he said to Xander. “These feelings are part of me. I need to have them.”
Xander thought this was pain-med loopy talk. “Okay, big guy,” he said. “But if you’re gonna keep freaking out like that, you’re gonna keep finding us holding onto you.”
Giles looked away and didn’t say anything. It was a bit of an aha moment. From then on Xander shut up about the Xanax and concentrated on treating Giles exactly the way he would treat Willow. Or the way he would have treated Jesse. Hugs. Touch. Casual friend backrubs. Willow was just as huggy, though she was distracted by Oz and wasn’t around as much as Xander was. Willow was good for Giles, because he had an easier time accepting it from her. And Willow could kiss him, on the forehead or on the cheek.
The day after that, they took him to get new glasses, because the spare ones he had at home were scratched up, and the ones Xander had picked up from the floor of the mansion were worse. Giles tried to go right for frames that looked exactly like the old ones, but Willow wouldn’t let him. She picked out something for him. Much lighter frames. Way hipper. Giles looked at himself in the mirror and flashed a little smile at her.
After the first few days, Giles managed the little brown bottles himself. He had also reasserted himself about cooking and food, about doing small chores around his apartment. Xander left him alone more during the day. He refused to leave him alone at night, though.
One morning Xander woke up on the floor, still in the sleeping bag, and he grinned to himself. He slept downstairs on the couch that night. And the next night. That morning he packed up his stuff in his duffel bag to take home. He took advantage of Giles’ skills with French toast one last time, though. While he chewed, and washed down the bread with orange juice, he watched Giles move around the apartment, flipping through his address book. Giles was walking normally again. Fingers still splinted, and shoulder still painful, but everything else was looking better.
Giles settled his new glasses on his face, sat down at his desk, and picked up his telephone. And phase 2 of the summer began.