Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Challenge/Prompt: For the 2016 summer_of_giles fest
Warning(s): Character Deaths, AU
Word Count: 2,411
Date Written: 25 July 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
When the Vampire mentions how seeing the Slayer gave him his first hope in over a century, Giles says nothing. He still doesn't entirely trust Angel, formerly known as Angelus, and isn't sure exactly what to make of his story. He certainly doesn't like the way his Slayer looks at him, all doe eyes as she'd call it were the expression on any other girl, and he's got his own story that he will never tell.
Watching them together reminds him of a simpler time in his own life, but it also reminds him of that story and all the things he must never say. He remembers, too, seeing his Slayer for the first time. He remembers that her blonde hair shone like a halo in his drug-induced vision. He remembers how fresh her face looked, how unmarred and innocent, how beautiful, and how he wanted her.
He could have had any girl in London back then, but she was the one he chose. All the other birds paled in comparison to the beauty he saw in that one shot, but he knew he could never have her unless he cleaned up his ways. He's been clear for years now, but with his cleanliness, his new life untainted by drugs, smoke, and magic, comes many harsh realizations, not the least of which is that he'll never have the girl in his visions. She is his Slayer. She is his to protect and love from afar, and that is all. Giles turns away as Angel and Buffy kiss again.
He sits in darkness, his fingertips thrumming with the power that could be his if he only reached out and touched it back. It still wants him after all this time, and he desires it more now than he has in a very, very long time. Just a small amount of it would be enough to make the Vampire truly suffer in agony for the rest of eternity.
But he knows what else lays down that path. He's seen it first hand. He sacrificed a friend to it. If he calls to it now, it will want an even greater sacrifice. He's already lost Jenny. He can't bear to lose any more.
She wouldn't approve, he knows, and although his first thought is not of Jenny, he quickly redirects his train of thought. His Slayer would not approve, but Jenny also would not. She was a practitioner, but she always dealt with the light stuff. She would have no tolerance for the darkness that once consumed him.
It would be so easy to let the darkness have him, but he's not ready to pay the price it would demand. Again, his mind goes to his Slayer. He knows she's hurting, but so is he. He rises in the darkness and switches on the nearest light. He could reach for real power, but he doesn't. Instead he loads himself with every crossbow, stake, and axe he can carry and sets out to do what he should have done months ago. Angelus is his Slayer's darkness; he will rid her of it just as he sometimes wishes some one would have rid him of his own darkness years ago.
He sits alone again, once more in darkness. His friends have left him once more, and they don't even know the full truth of his past. They have left him, and that is how it should be. They are, after all, decades younger than he. He should be ashamed of himself, always filling their space, never giving them time to be children, always thinking of them, always thinking of her . . .
But he isn't. He tried for years now to contain his thoughts, but they always come back to the one brightly shining light in his life. They always come back to his Slayer, and it is of her that he begins to sing without even realizing it.
His fingers have been strumming his guitar for over an hour. He's been trying to write a new song, but instead he goes back to the first one in years. Instead, he goes back, as always, to her. He sings of her light and her strength. He sings of how she saves the world time and time again, always rising above impossible odds, so rarely truly listening to him, and so often being better off because she chose not to adhere to his lessons. He sings of her, the greatest heroine the world has ever known and yet whose name will never reach the history pages. He sings of her, the brightest spot in his life, his dearest friend, the love he'll never have.
He's imagined telling her how he feels a thousand times. He's imagined singing this very song for her and then professing his love, but he knows what would happen if he ever did. She'd turn from him, and he'd deserve no less. He can never deserve her light, let alone her love, so he keeps his words of love to song and he keeps his desire to the shadows alone.
Part of him thinks he shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be leaving her when she thinks she needs him the most, but he knows the truth, he reminds himself as he removes his spectacles and sets, with a weary sigh, to cleaning them yet again. She doesn't need him. She hasn't now for years. He's taught her all he has to teach her, and she's taught him so much more.
The horrid truth is that he's only standing in her way when he's there. She doubts herself. She asks what he would do or have her do rather than listening to her heart first, and the years have taught them both that Buffy's heart is a far better judge than he'll ever be. He makes things too easy for her. She's come to rely on him, and that's a dangerous thing. She'd understand if she knew how he really feels, how he has always loved her since the first time he saw in that vision so many years ago.
She'd do more than understand; she'd leave him in the dust in a heartbeat. She'd leave him in the dust like the old relic he is. She'd leave him as she has every right to do. It's easier this way. This way, she'll never know. This way, his old heart will never crumple when she looks at him with hatred and repulsion. This way, she'll always love him as a friend and never see him as the threat he is.
Yes, this is the easiest way. It's what's right, what's best for them both, but the further his plane moves away from Sunnydale, the more Giles thinks of his Slayer. He sees her standing on the ground, gazing up at the plane with tears in her beautiful, green eyes. As tears fall from his own eyes, he says not a word. He's surrounded by people, and yet again, he's alone with only the memory of her shining light to comfort him. Giles cries but does what he must.
"Giles," Willow says, and from the note in the young Witch's voice, Giles knows he's been caught at last.
"Willow, it's about time for tea -- "
She opens her mouth to say something in her anger but shuts it again. He watches as she forces down her boiling anger, her fingers trembling with the page of the text book they've lifted. Her chin juts out, the words of her own darkness successfully forced down. He starts cleaning his glasses and misses the look in her eyes as she determines what she should say instead of cussing the tea.
When he places his spectacles back onto their place on his nose, she's ready for him. "Why," she asks, looking directly up at him, "didn't you tell some one?"
"Would you have understood?" he counters, taking th seat next to her.
She gestures to the book and the page she still has open. "If you had shown me this -- "
"You would have done what, Willow?" he questions tiredly. "Thought it was another prophecy we could break or change or perhaps that I was using it as an excuse to lust after the one girl who's been there for us both time and again, even when we didn't want her to be or deserve her friendship?"
Willow's face falls. "I . . . never would have thought that," she whispers quietly.
"Well, I did," he admits, bringing her eyes back to him in surprise. "I tried every way I could. I still try every way I can to put those feelings behind me, to ignore them, to keep them from their very existence. Perhaps the prophecy is right. Perhaps every Watcher does fall in love with his Slayer and their deaths always break their hearts. The bond between Slayer and Watcher is a very powerful thing."
He clears his throat. "But I can not speak for every Watcher, only for I myself. Regardless of whatever our bond may be, or whatever may cause it or the thoughts I have for our dear, cherished Buffy, a Watcher's first place is always to protect his Slayer. Her safety must always come first." He pauses, still trying to find the right words to explain his situation while pushing his sliding spectacles back up onto the bridge of his nose. "Even," he concludes, "when it is from our own selves and our filthy, unbidden thoughts from which we must protect her."
Willow's smile takes on a slightly teasing turn. "I don't know if she'd call them filthy."
"I do." He stands abruptly. "I'm over twice her age. She looks to me as a father. She'd be horrified if she ever thought I might consider the possibility of being more to her. I implore you do not tell her when you return to the States."
"I won't," Willow promises, and he knows she's a girl of her word.
He nods, then turns and walks away stiffly heading not for tea but for another shower. Even so, he knows what thoughts will await him and begin to blossom again the very moment the water touches his skin. They're always there, just below the surface. She's still the only light in his life after all this time, and no matter how hard he tries to do otherwise, he's still always reaching secretly for her, always loving her without ever daring to speak a word of it aloud. After all, to her, he'll always be a father figure, but he wants oh so much more than will ever be his due.
He stares at the roof of his bedroom as the shadows gather around him again. He's tired, so very weary beyond his bones. The fatigue has long since sank in pass his physical being. It's his very soul that is exhausted, and there's no turning back from what is to come now.
He lost her again last night. For the third time, his Slayer died saving the world. She made them all promise they wouldn't force her to return again. He hopes, wherever she is, she's happy. She grew into such a beautiful, wise, and strong woman and led a glorious life. She has every right to rest now. He'll soon be resting himself.
He lays in bed, too weak to stand or even push the sheets off of his body as the day grows hot. The younger Slayers could come check on him. Willow could come calling or even Xander. But no one comes. They think he wants to be alone in his grief, and they're right. He doesn't want the prattle of their voices to disturb the lovely memories floating through his mind.
He remembers every smile with which she gifted him. He recalls well how musical her laughter sounded and how she felt in his arms the one time they danced together at her prom. He was so proud of her. He still is.
His pride swells in his heart, but there's another emotion there, too. There's still the unspoken love he always felt for her from the very second he saw her up until now. He's always loved her, but he never dared to tell her it was anything more than a father's gentle affection for his daughter.
"I always knew," a voice he knows as well as his own suddenly says. She gifts him with another smile. "I just kept waiting for you to tell me. Why did you never tell me, Giles?"
"Because," he answers simply and honestly, "I never had the right."
"To what?" She almost laughs. "To love me as I love you?"
"You love me, Buffy?" he asks in startled surprise, not even caring that he's talking to the dead. It's probably just another dream. It must be if she loves him.
She beams up at him, her beautiful, golden-framed face even more lovely now. This time, she does laugh, and the music of her sound rings out across his four walls. "Yes!" she says, shaking her head. "I should've told you." She sighs into the wind. "Women always do have to take the initiative to get the men they want."
"You . . . You loved me?"
"Still do. Death doesn't stop love, Giles. You know that. Nothing does." She reaches out a hand for his. "Now dance with me?" she asks.
This time, he does not hesitate to take her hand, but he does let her lead. He's learned to always let her lead. They twirl in the air, higher and higher, leaving his mortal frame far behind. She lays her head against his shoulder; his cheek presses gently into her soft, blonde hair. He dares to turn his head just enough to press his lips against her blonde tresses in a single, gentle kiss. "Are you happy?" he whispers.
She looks up at him and smiles oh so radiantly. "Very," she says.
And now he can hear other voices. Willow calls to him. Xander shouts his name. The youngest ones of their battalion cry. But he doesn't care. He has Buffy in his arms. He has her love and, with it, everything he's ever wanted. They sway together to the sounds of harps as they float higher. Buffy kisses him, proving her love and letting him finally taste its sweetness, and his life is complete and joyous at last.