Author: Kat Lee
Dedicated To: Happy Birthday, littleotter73!
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Warning(s): Future AU, Character Deaths
Word Count: 1,395
Date Written: 5 July, 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Sometimes, she wonders if she's really even here. She should have died years ago; no Slayer on record has ever lived as long as she has. She has died twice, but she's come back both times. No girl should have to see as much as she's seen or endure as much as she has, but still, she keeps going.
She keeps going for them. She can remember times, growing up, when she wondered if her friends were a part of her overly vivid imagination. Her life was so crazy that she wondered if she wasn't holed up somewhere in an asylum, her friends mere figments of her imagination created to make the battles survived seem a little less harrowing and a little more believable. She recalls an opponent who really worked on her mind to make her believe that very thing, but in the end, it didn't work.
In the end, it never works. She's always here to fight another battle or she's called back from Heaven itself to continue her never-ending work. They're always here. They go evil. They date evil. They turn away from her or shut her out on her own. They fight. But in the end, they always come back to her.
All but one. She waited over a year for his return when he was taken so unexpectedly from them in battle. She still remembers that night. He fell, protecting her as she'd always feared he would. The others have been here for her time and again, but he's almost always put her first. He rallied against everything in which he'd been taught to believe to protect her when she was only a teenager. He tried to shield her from the darkness of his past, fearing her reaction, and from his true feelings for her, fearing her rejection.
But she could never reject him. The years fall away whenever they're together. Age ceases to matter. The world itself even seems to cease to matter when she's got him smiling and laughing, that certain twinkle in his eyes. She has him that way now, and yet, it's sometimes hard to believe that he's back with her.
At the same time, it feels, when she stops to over think the whole situation between them, like he's never left, like he's always been here for her. Indeed, she never once stopped talking to him. She talked to him the night he fell. She spent hours with his body, talking and weeping, grieving not just for him but for all the others they lost before him. It was his death that finally broke down her last wall, and she crumpled.
She spent months barely existing, just surviving the battles without even trying. Willow stopped a Vampire once from staking her with one of her own stakes; Spike saved her another time. Dawn begged her to be more careful. Xander called her out on her death wish.
But she couldn't stop. She couldn't stop fighting, and she couldn't stop seeking her own death. She wanted to be with him so badly, and then, one Halloween night, around the stroke of midnight, there he was. When he called her on her death wish, it was different. She stopped. She listened. She cried, but he was there to hold her again. Suddenly, the world didn't seem to unyielding a vicious nightmare.
The next day, she talked to Willow about it. She confessed that the veils are thinnest during the Witching Hour on Halloween night as the old year comes to an end and the new ones begins and that she'd often used that time to see Tara again. Buffy was glad for the moment she'd had with her Watcher, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't nearly enough, and soon, she was trying to be just a little too slow in battle once more.
Until the night he again stepped between a Vampire and what would have been a killing blow for her. She was so surprised to see him that she dusted the Vampire almost without thinking about it, and when the monster's dust literally rained through Giles, she realized that he was still a phantom. But he was no longer a phantom of her imagination. He had taken the dark magic he'd learned in life, combined it with what he knew as a spirit, and was back beside his Slayer, back he claimed where he'd always belonged.
It still takes a lot of concentration for him to stay with her, but he does it. He's there on every patrol. He's there for her to talk to and ask questions of her. He's there to guide her, to help her, and when she closes her eyes and he touches her cheek just so, she can forget, for a moment at least, that he's only a phantom. She can imagine the touch of his flesh gently pressing against her own, the feel of his lips cascading down upon her upturned mouth again, the feel of his hand on hers --
He's learned to do a lot without a corporeal form, but there's still so much they don't have. She hasn't told the others she's here, despite hearing them whisper amongst themselves in concern that she may be losing it again when they catch her talking to what appears to be no one other than herself. She suspects Spike and Willow know or at least guess at the truth, because every time Xander, Dawn, Faith, or somebody else mentions that she's losing touch with reality again, they look away with sly, little smiles. She knows they're diverting their attention. She doesn't know why, and she isn't going to ask. She doesn't want to talk about Giles to anybody.
She only wants to talk with him. She only wants to make him laugh again, to feel him close once more. She wants to see the little crinkles that form in the corners of his eyes when she makes him throw his gray head back with laughter. She wants to feel like she's his whole world when he smiles at her. And if sometimes she does think she's gone crazy again, so be it. It's worth it to be near him again. Any price is worth it to have him back with her.
"Buffy -- " he speaks softly, and she can tell he's trying to find the words to tell her what he needs to say. She nods her understanding. He's been with her for hours today, and she knows doing so takes an exhausting toll on him.
"It's okay," she says, smiling radiantly at her Watcher who's always been so much more. He was her lover in her life, the first who never broke her heart other than through his death, and he'll always be her dearest friend. She shrugs, her bright smile still in place. "I need to catch a few z's any way before tonight's patrol."
"I'll see you then?" There's a note of a question in his tone, almost like he's afraid she's going to tell him to leave. That's never going to happen.
She nods briskly, smiling wider. "You betcha." Then, more softly, she admits, "I'm counting on it." He reaches for her. She leans closer, expecting to feel no more than the shift in the air as he passes her. She gasps when she actually feels his fingers grasp the back of her hand.
He squeezes her gently, and she knows he's practiced so long to be able to do just this much. Tears sparkle in her astonished, green eyes. "I love you, Buffy."
"I love you too, Giles. Happy Birthday," she adds quickly as he fades. It's his birthday, and yet, as usual, he's the one giving her a present to which nothing else can compare.
She feels him pass through her cheek as he departs. Her blonde head lowered, she stares for a moment at their table. The hand he touched is still there, fingers inches away from her own, barely touched cup of tea. Sometimes she wonders if he's really there, but she knows, in her heart, that he is, even if the only proof she has is his cup of drained tea and the tingle of her flesh where last he touched her. She smiles, a single tear running down her face and splashing into her tea. "Happy Birthday, Giles."