Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Mostly gen featuring Giles and Ensemble but there is some very light Xander/Anya, Willow/Kennedy, Angel/Buffy, and Angel/Cordelia
Warning(s): Character Death, Dark AU (Giles is dead, but far from gone, and Anya lives.)
Word Count: 2,589
Summary: He may be dead, but he's still watching over them.
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, not the author, and are used without permission.
She feels him every night, standing beside her, sometimes behind her. He's always there, watching over her better than her father ever cared to do or even her mother could. Sometimes, he feels so near that she thinks, for a moment, that if she just her eyes she could pretend that he really is there. At other times, she wonders about asking Willow if she could do a spell to make it so that his ghost can truly appear and maybe they could talk again at last.
But she never asks Willow. She keeps this secrets to herself and begins to hunt alone. They don't understand. She says it's because she doesn't want to put anybody else in danger. She claims no one, not even Spike, can match her for speed and strength. She tells them she wants to be alone, but the truth is she's never alone any more.
She remembers, in her mother's last days here on Earth, when Joyce told her that she could hear her mother's voice in her head. Her grandmother's been dead so long that Buffy scarcely remembers the kindly, old woman. She used to worry about her mom when she heard the voices of the dead. She even asked Giles if that was a sign that her own death was coming. She remembers the way he smiled at her, that secretive, patient smile he always wore for her when he thought she was being silly and naive, before he started abruptly cleaning his glasses again, a sure sign that there was something on his mind which he didn't wish to share.
It's funny, but Buffy thinks she understands him now better than she ever did before. She certainly understands her mom. The voices of the dead don't come to the living because death is drawing near to their lives. It's quite the opposite, really: The voices of the dead return, because the dead are craving once more to be among the living, to be there with them, flesh and blood, so they can hold and protect them, they can be with them again.
She knows he's there every night. He's still watching out for her. She can't count the number of times, and she doesn't dare to try, that she's felt him behind her and then had a strong sense of urgency. Those silent messages have saved her from an attack more than once. He may be dead, but Giles still has her back every night. And every night, she cries.
She can't even turn on her computer most nights without thinking of him. Giles hated computers, but he was always near whenever she was researching some Hellmouthy problem. He was always there for her, silently encouraging her, watching over her shoulder, being amazed at what modern technology could do. He never once admitted it, of course, but she could see it in his eyes, the way the corners of his lips turned up when she found what they needed, and even the way he cleaned his glasses when he was befuddled by what she was doing.
There's so much in her life that has changed, and she knows she owes a lot of it to him. There were so many nights that she would have given up if he hadn't been there, silently encouraging her to keep trying. There were so many living nightmares from whence she would have shied away, if he hadn't needed her. He even encouraged her to learn about magic, and when she delved too deeply into it, he was there to pull her back time and again.
She wouldn't be here, she knows, if not for him. She wishes with all her heart that she could bring him back, but it wouldn't be fair. It wasn't fair of her to resurrect Buffy. She understands that now, but what's done is done. She doesn't regret bringing her friend back, but she does regret the pain she caused her. She won't do that to him. She respects him far too much, and besides, he also told her, during their time together in England, that he couldn't be resurrected.
Her fingers scale the lid casing of her laptop as she pauses her search, wondering if he had cast that protection spell before or after she resurrected Buffy. It doesn't matter. She won't hurt any one else like she did Buffy. She won't invade anybody else's privacy. He taught her that and so much more.
"Giles," she whispers, "I know you're there. I'm having trouble finding this one. Is there something else I can use to search?"
No answer comes. She didn't expect him to talk to her, although she wishes he would. She remembers, with sad fondness, Cordelia telling her about her ghost friend, Dennis, and how he would even sometimes wait on her by bringing her a soda when she was too tired to move and how they fought over who got to watch what on the television.
She's been returned to her search for several minutes and is still finding nothing when a book suddenly falls onto the floor. She jumps slightly, still not used to sudden noises even after all these years, but then she smiles at the pages begin moving as though a breeze is rustling them. They stop; she goes back to her screen. They start again, but her eyes stay on her screen until they stop a second time.
This time, she rises and retrieves the book. She's smiling before she ever looks at the page. She knows it will have what she needs. Thank you, Giles, she thinks but doesn't dare voice the words least her admitted knowledge of his presence scare him away. She does, however, pick up her remote and turn his favorite program on on BBC before sitting back down at her computer.
She hesitates before typing again, remembering how she once told Giles that she has the world at her fingertips when she's online. She wishes that was true. If it was, Buffy never would have died, and neither would he.
"Get the snacks, Xander. Make sure the girls have plenty of clean clothes. Make sure they do their homework," Xander mutters as he busies himself with the day's dishes. Sometimes, he thinks they forget that he's more than just their houseboy. He knows they take him for advantage sometimes. They save the world, they think, while all he does is do the chores and fix the things that are broken.
But that, he remembers, is what he does best. He picks up the pieces of their lives and patches them back together. He mends broken hearts, does what he can with shattered souls, and once even saved the world single-handedly by talking his best friend out of anger and into the next stage of grieving. He's done a lot for his friends, and lost a lot too (the empty socket where his eye once was hurts tonight, thanks to the rain), but at the end of the day, who does he have to comfort him but an ex-vengeance Demon who is sometimes more trouble than his life is worth.
He wants more. He deserves better. "More money," as Anya would say. She thinks that solves everything, and whereas it would help to get them a larger house, more and better weapons, and a bed for every one, money is the least of his wants and concerns. It's happiness he craves, happiness and safety for them all, two things he fears will never come until they're cold and dead in the ground like Buffy's Watcher.
Lightning cuts through the sky and almost hits the window. Xander yelps and drops the cup he's cleaning. It's only when he picks it up again that he really takes a look at it, and then he's thankful he didn't break it. "Youth," he mutters. "They have no respect." He stops, shocked at the words that have come out of his own mouth, words he's heard before. "Damn." He shakes his head. "I'm sounding like him now."
He pulls the plug to empty the water (he'll not wash anything more tonight with the storm getting worse) and sits heavily down into the first available chair. He's still holding Giles' favorite coffee cup. He looks down at it and turns it slowly around in his wet hands, moving it with such care as though it might be gold or an ancient, treasured artifact.
He always thought Giles was ancient, but then he also thought he would live forever. He thought he'd always be there for them, always be there for Buffy, always be there for him. Tears well in his one remaining eye as he remembers a private moment he shared with the Watcher and about which he has never spoken again, not to Giles or to the girls or to any one else for that matter.
He almost walked out one night, one night when Willow wasn't talking to him because she was mad about Cordelia, when Buffy didn't have time for him, and when he felt like the loneliest and least needed person alive. Giles found him in the racks at the library, pacing back and forth, running his hands through his hair, and talking to himself. He'd finally found something he wanted in Cordelia, a woman who was good to him in private even if she did rip him apart in front of his friends. He finally had a chance at being happy, and his best friends didn't want him to take it.
He remembers wondering who he was to even consider them to still be his friends. Buffy was out saving the world on a nightly basis, and Willow was her Command Central, always steering her with the right answers from her laptop that, even then, she'd worked like a government whiz. They hadn't needed him. They hadn't wanted him.
But then Giles had spoken to him. He had thanked him for being brave enough to stick him out and stand by his friends. He had thanked him for loving those two girls unconditionally and wanting only to help make them happy and keep them safe. And it hadn't ended there.
"They need you, you know," he'd said, and Xander had scoffed. If they needed anybody else, it was Giles, not him. "I have done things, Xander, things you can not imagine and which I do not wish to discuss. I watch over them. I guide them, true, but there is only so much I can do. You are their link to humanity. They need you far more than I."
He bows his head, remembering. Tears spill from his eye. He aches for Anya to come find him like this and cheer him up, or Willow, or Dawn . . . Heck, it would even be nice to have one of the new Slayers come in. Any one to distract him would help.
He feels a hand touch his shoulder. He looks up, but there's no one there. He sees a shadow out of an eye that is no longer present and smiles sadly, his heart breaking a little more even as he's reassured. "You're still watching over us, aren't you, big guy?" The clap of thunder seems to agree. He bows his head once more, looks at the cup, touches it gingerly, and cradles it. After a while, still alone but not quite so alone, he takes it to his room and hides it where no one will ever find or use it again.
He walks the shore alone as the full moon and waves ride high. He remembers the one day he spent with Buffy. Both she and Cordelia loved the ocean. They liked to play in the waves. He got to chase Buffy in the waves for a short time, but he never even got to tell Cordy he loved her. He still thinks of them both every night, still senses them. Buffy's patrolling right now in Sunnydale, and she's no more alone than he is.
He looks up at the moon. He knows he's being watched. The souls of the lives he took are never far away, but tonight, he feels more than them. She's watching over him, but there's another standing beside him, watching the same waves, and thinking of the same two bold, brave, and beautiful girls.
"I never got to tell her goodbye. You didn't get that either, did you?" His hoarse voice echoes across the sands. "I'm sorry I took that from you, Rupert. I'm sorry I took her. You deserved to be happy with Jenny." Not like him. He doesn't deserve happiness, and that's why everybody he loves either leaves him or is taken from him.
He gazes up at the night sky. The stars shine brilliantly back at him as tears fill his dark orbs. "Do you ever talk to her?" he asks the spirit he's not supposed to know is there. "Do you ever see her? Ever see Doyle? Can you . . . Will you . . . tell them I'm sorry? I miss them? I love her? Buffy would want me to tell you the same things, if she knew you were here."
And suddenly, he's not. Angel's alone again. The beach has swiftly turned cold and now feels like giant abyss threatening to devour him. Angel doesn't run. He has nowhere to run and no one to whom to run. He stands alone, wishing the souls of those he's damned would come and take him and knowing they never will for to live without one's love is truly the worst damnation of all.
They still gather at his grave once a year. Dawn makes sure to bring his favorite flowers. Willow does a fresh protection spell and takes a little of the cemetery's ground with her. Kennedy holds to her hand; Anya hugs Xander. Buffy stands alone.
It's always Anya who starts to speak, though she's the one who knew him for the least time. She speaks and babbles and laughs, and with each laughter, another tear drops from her eyes. She tells him of what's changed, and she speaks again of what a wonderful man he was and of how he helped her find her humanity and her place in the world. She would have still found her humanity with Xander, she admits openly, but without Giles, she would have been penniless. He taught her how to run a business and so much more.
He taught them all so much. One by one, they begin to speak, relating tales that never grow old, remembering, with great fondness, all he did for them. He saved them time and again and not just their lives, but their souls. One by one, they speak, and one by one, they break down until they can talk no more for the tears they're crying. Then and only then do they leave. Buffy is always last. Dawn always goes back for her while Angel looks away.
Each night, under the silver light of the moon, on the anniversary of Giles' death, Spike stands by his grave, a bottle of blood in one hand and a bottle of Scotch in the other. He mixes the two, makes a toast to the Watcher they all know is still watching, downs one and leaves the other on the grave, just in case . . . just in case . . . After all, the dead know it's hardly a real world where the dead never rises again.