Wesley knew that Xander was Buffy's friend, and he was going through a hellish thing at the moment, but the younger man could be a right selfish git at times. Buffy had lost pretty much her entire family in less than a year, and he expected her to be able to handle it the way a Slayer was supposed to handle killing demons and vampires. Part of him wanted to tell the boy to grow the bloody hell up, but for Buffy's sake, he wouldn't antagonize him. He just had to remind himself that Xander was going through a very rough time, and things would settle soon.
Not very soon apparently, though, he realized with a sigh, standing back and watching the others break into an argument after Buffy had dusted the vampire. Willow had asked a very prudent question, but it seemed that Anya was being way too overprotective of her boyfriend. Sighing, Wesley reached up and rubbed the bridge of his nose, very glad that he wasn't wearing glasses at the moment.
"Buffy, are you...?" he started to say, looking up and trailing off. "Buffy?"
She wasn't anywhere in sight, and Wesley didn't like that, not after what had happened earlier and the fact that the rest of them were acting like children. Looking around, he thought he saw movement beyond some of the tombs in the distance and quickly pealed off from the group, running through the graves. He heard the sounds of fighting as he got closer, and when he rounded a tree, he felt his heart drop.
Buffy was there...as was a rather big vampire that was pummeling her against the tombstones. Quickly, he pulled out his stake and ran up behind them. The vampire apparently heard him and turned while still holding onto Buffy, catching him in the chest with his free arm. Coughing, Wesley staggered as the vampire came after him. Luckily, the size gave him an advantage, and he was able to duck underneath the next punch. Shoving his arm up, he managed to stake the vampire, causing it to disappear in a puff of smoke.
Before Buffy dropped, he quickly reached out and caught her, falling to the ground with her. "Are...are you okay?" he asked, panting from the exertion as he held her close.
Buffy knew she was in trouble. The vampire was bigger, stronger, and faster than anything she'd faced in a long time. It'd been months since she had properly trained and Buffy knew she was soft around the edges. She was able to get one good punch in before the vampire pinned her to the tombstone and started to plummet her with its fists.
And it hurt. A lot.
She could taste blood in her mouth and hear the cracking of ribs as the creature continued to beat her. Maybe this was her punishment for not being a good enough daughter or sister. She had failed the both of them by not protecting them. Buffy knew part of her calling was protecting those around her and she had utterly failed. Xander hated her and Willow seemed to just tolerate her. And Giles had left her when it became obvious even he couldn't save her.
All she had left now was Wesley and it was only a matter of time before he left too. The thought caused her to let out a sob, just as vampire picked up. She heard movements and thought she saw Wes but wasn't sure until the vampire was gone and she was falling into Wes' arms.
"No," she said in answer to his question. "I can't do this." She started to sob, her head pressed against Wesley's shoulder. It was the only place she felt safe anymore. "I can't...please don't make me."
She got off Wesley just has Xander and the rest of them ran up. Buffy just look at them and stumbled to a tree so she could lean against it. "Wes? I want to go back to Giles' apartment. Please."
Wesley held Buffy against him as she cried, feeling his heart break. Too soon. They had come back too soon. Buffy wasn't ready for this, but they had come back anyway because she had felt a loyalty to her friends and to the town she had protected for so long.
And this was how she was thanked for that.
"No one's going to make you do anything, Buffy, I promise," he told her before she suddenly pulled away when the others showed up. He pushed himself to his feet to follow after, seeing how hurt and unsteady she was. The vampire had injured her badly.
"What happened?" Willow asked, her eyes wide.
"A vampire attacked her," Wesley almost growled as he crossed over to Buffy. He looked into her eyes, praying that she didn't fight him on what he was about to do because she was in no condition to try to walk back on her own.
"But she's the Slayer!" Xander exclaimed. "She should have been able to handle one vampire. She does it all the time!"
That was it. Wesley had had it with Xander going off and not knowing a damn thing about what was really going on. "Xander, I know that you're having a difficult time at the moment, but shut the bloody hell up. You're not the only one in pain. Buffy may be the Slayer, but she's also human, and she's entitled to deal with her grief without you judging her for it. That goes for all of you. Now, you can either help her the way she's helped all of you time after time, or you can stand back and leave her alone until she's ready."
Turning back to Buffy, he scooped her up in his arms, cradling her against him as he carried her out of the cemetery. When they finally reached his car, he helped her in, then drove back to Giles' flat, where he took her upstairs to the bedroom loft. After setting her on the bed, he went into the bathroom and rummaged around until he found the first aid kit he knew had to be there - Giles was a Watcher after all.
"Here," he said softly as he returned to Buffy, kneeling in front of her and opening the kit. "Let's get you cleaned up."
Everything hurt. Every move, every bump in the road they hit made her gasp out, and feel red hot pain shoot through her body. The last time Buffy felt this awful was when she'd gotten the flu and Angelus had attacked her in the cemetery. She wasn't sick this time and should've killed the vampire on her own. Wesley must think she was weak for letting this happen. She began to wonder how long it'd take before he left her alone.
When got to Giles' apartment, Buffy laid back on the bed and took deep breaths. Her ribs were broken but by morning they should be close to healing. They still hurt and when Wes returned with the first aid kit, she nodded. She then slowly took off her shirt, followed by her jeans. Her body was riddled with cuts and bruises and she almost pulled the blanket over her. How could Wesley stand to look at her like this?
As Wesley did his thing, Buffy avoided looking at him. Instead, she pulled the first aid kit closer to her and pulled up a roll of gauze. Hidden underneath were a few pain pills Giles had collected from various trips to the hospital. She placed one of the pills on the bedside table, knowing she would need it later.
"Wesley?" She whispered, tears coming to my eyes. "You're going to leave, aren't you? You think I'm weak and should've killed that vampire, right?"
Wesley wanted to cringe when he saw the various cuts and bruises across Buffy's body, but he knew that probably wouldn't help, so he suppressed it. Instead, he set to work, gently cleaning her injuries and bandaging the ones that needed it. Even though he knew with Slayer healing, she be better by morning, he hated that she was obviously in so much pain. That had obviously been a somewhere older and powerful vampire - a fledging wouldn't have caused so much damage.
He was just shifting around her on the bed when Buffy's question went straight to his heart like a dagger.
"What?" he asked. He couldn't believe that she would actually think that, not after what they had come to mean each other. Reaching over, he gently cupped her face and turned it toward him, staring into her blue eyes. "Buffy, I don't think you should have done anything. This has been hard for you, and that vampire obviously was able to take advantage of a situation you weren't ready for. For the last several weeks, it's just been the two of us, working together - you haven't had others around, haven't had to think about what you left behind. But with everything you went through here, of course coming back was going to throw you off."
He caressed her face softly with the tips of finger, brushing very lightly over her skin, not wanting to cause her any more pain by accidentally pressing down on her bruises.
"I will never, ever think you weak, love, because I know better. I know how strong you are. You just need time to adjust. And I think I'd be a pretty poor boyfriend if I were to up and leave you when you needed me. I've screwed up relationships before, but never because of a selfish action like that." He leaned in a bit closer. "Besides, I'm quite in love with you, so don't think you're getting rid of me that easily."
With a gentle smile, he kissed her softly on the lips.
Buffy waited with baited breath for Wesley to agree with what she'd just said. He could do so much better than her and he was going to realize it. But, when he started to talk, and didn't say what she was waiting for him to say, she could do nothing but stare at him. Wes was going to stay with her. He wasn't going to leave her behind like so many people in the past. He understand what she felt and knew it wasn't her fault.
But most of all, he was in love with her.
"Wes," she whispered after they'd broken the kiss. "I'm sorry...I just thought...I don't have to best track record when it comes to people staying and I just thought..."
She leaned against him and took a few shuddering breaths. "I want to protect them," Buffy quietly said. "Willow and Xander and Tara. After I sent Angel to Hell, I ran away from home. I was gone an entire summer and when I came back, all of them were mad at me for leaving. It hurt and I don't want that to happen again."
Buffy then pulled back and looked up at the man she loved. "I love you so much, Wes," she said before cuddling against him. "I never want to be without you."
"Honestly, love, I don't think either of us have had the best track record before now," Wesley told Buffy after their kiss and she had apologized. She never needed to apologize with him. "We'll figure it out together, I promise."
Wrapping his arm around her, he rubbed his hand up and down her arm, listening to her as she spoke, wishing there was a way to take away the pain she was obviously feeling. He remembered reading the reports before he had come to Sunnydale the first time and how there had been curious gap in the reports the summer of 1998. Now, he understood why - Buffy had been gone because of what had happened with Angel, and Giles had protected her by not telling the Council. If he had, he knew that the Council would have sent more people to look for her.
"I know it's hard," he told her, resting his cheek against her head. "But just give it time. They love you as much as you love them."
When she told him she loved him, Wesley smiled softly. "You have me as long as you want me, which since it seems to be forever, works out quite nicely for me." Kissing the top of her head, he carefully shifted them so they could stretch out on the bed, wrapped together in each other's arms. "Why don't we rest for now? We'll figure out what we'll be doing in the morning."
Buffy gave Wes a small smile as he reassured her things would be okay. It was a start - a big one at that - and it made her feel a little better. She still had a lot of healing to do, something she hoped would happen eventually, but until then she was going to be thankful for the man beside her. Buffy knew Wes loved her for who she was inside, and not because of what she could do.
"Maybe tomorrow we can go to the cemetery and visit Dawn's grave," Buffy suggested as Wesley pulled them down to the bed. She snuggled close to him and sighed. "It's all kinds of weird going to the place I patrol to visit my sister's grave. I guess it's the way our lives are now." She let out a small yawn and snuggled against him.
Buffy was starting to feel both emotionally and physically tired. It'd been a long day and she had the feeling things weren't completely finished. They lived on a Hellmouth and there was always something going on, even though she often wished there wasn't. All she wanted was a few weeks off with Wes so they could go somewhere nice.
"Love you," she murmured as sleep started to take her over. "You're a good Watcher, Wes." And with that, she fell asleep.