Setting: Post Chosen, Future AU
Word Count: 1,539
AO3 Mirror: Here
“Will you wait for me?” she asked, turning to face him.
“In heaven, will you wait for me?”
Author's notes: This is very much the opposite of my last fic – definatley no immortality here. Please be warned, this is very, very sad. It has some major character death/illness in it (well, soon to be character death). So please don’t feel you have to read it if you find this sort of thing very upsetting. =)
There will be joyful, unashamed smut on my next posting day (Sunday), which I hope will make up for the sad, angsty nature of this.
Disclaimer: Not mine. They belong to the almighty Joss. I’m just playing in his sandpit. Sad, sad times.
“I’m sorry,” he said, polishing the lenses of his glasses on the hem of his jumper.
“What for?” she replied, stilling the movement with her hand.
They were sat in the summer sun, amongst the rose bushes and fruit trees in Giles’ garden. The air was heavy with the scent of flowers and freshly cut grass. Bumblebees buzzed lazily in the air around them, floating on the warm currents of the breeze. It was a true English summer: middlingly warm and often wet, quite unlike the dry heat of California. Buffy tried to remember if she’d ever experienced anything like it before she came here. She probably had, she reasoned. Perhaps when she’d lived in Rome, or Paris, or Copenhagen. She’d lived so many places, so many lives, it was hard to recall the specifics. But none of those places had felt quite like home. Not like here, in England, in Bath, with Giles.
She’d been here for five years now. Five long, mostly happy years. Her home his spare bedroom.
Giles gave her a grateful smile as she draped the blanket around his shoulders. A hideous thing, all burgundy tartan and itchy wool, but it did the job well enough. She watched as he pulled it tighter around himself. He was always cold, despite the heat of the summer sun. Perhaps it was the weight loss, or the drugs, or illness. Buffy didn’t know. She wasn’t entirely sure it really mattered. Not when there was nothing she could do.
“You don’t have to stay with me, Buffy,” he said. She scowled. They’d had this argument before, both before and after the diagnosis. “You should be off making a life for yourself. Seeing the world, having adventures. Not sat here keeping a rather boring old man company.”
Buffy took his hand in hers. He felt fragile beneath her touch, almost as if he would snap under the weight of her palm. It was as if he were a living skeleton, little more than brittle bones covered with too thin skin. So different to the man he used to be, the man she remembered. It was unsettling.
“You’re not old, Giles.”
“Lord knows I feel it,” he said with a sigh. It rattled in his chest, filling the air with little pops and wheezes. “Nevertheless, you should be off gallivanting around the world with the others.”
Yes, they’d had this argument before. Many times over, but it was one she always won.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you didn’t like me.” She grinned at him. “Always trying to get rid of me, like a pest. Is that what I am to you? A pest?”
His eyes shone with amusement. Full of life, probably the only part of him that still was, yet so tired. Just like her own.
“Hmmm, let me think,” he said, tapping a thin finger against his chapped lips in mock deliberation. “A difficult to get rid of nuisance that eats all my jaffa cakes. I think you fit the definition.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Perhaps I ought to call the exterminators.”
“Rude.” She stuck out her tongue at him. A childish gesture. One reminiscent of the girl she’d been so long ago, back when her problems consisted merely of homework and the odd apocalypse.
“Yet you‘re still here. I believe that says more about you than it does about me, my dear.”
“Very probably.” Buffy gave his hand a gentle squeeze before releasing it. Something in the back of her mind told her to remember the sensation of his skin beneath hers. To remember something for all those nights she’d spend alone, with little more than his books for company.
Giles reached into his pocket, pulling out a long gold chain. It glistened in the sunlight, the tiny links flowing like liquid across his palm. Buffy watched as removed the ring that hung loosely about his little finger, the one with the onyx stone, and threaded it onto the chain. He turned to face her, his green eyes boring into hers.
“I want you to have this,” he said, dangling it from his hand like a pendulum, the ring swinging gently back and forth between them. “To remember me by when I’m gone.”
She placed her hand beneath the necklace and he dropped it into her palm. It was warm to the touch.
“You are not going to die, Giles,” she said, trying to make the words sound ridiculous, but failing after the first few syllables. The catch in her voice had taken away any chance of reassurance. She couldn’t deny reality. Giles was going to die and there was nothing she could do to stop it. She could only watch as he faded before her, a shadow of a shadow, unravelling slowly at the edges.
There was something almost obscene about the normality of it. They were Buffy and Giles, Watcher and Slayer, everyday superheroes. They’d fought demons and vampires and gods, saved countless lives between them. Even saved the world on occasion. It was their destiny to go out fighting, their final moments a blaze of glory, not to die in their beds, sick and frail and alone.
It was a vile, twisted joke, Giles’ own cells managing with ease something no demon had been able to achieve.
“You have to face it sometime, Buffy,” he said gently. “I’ve accepted it. I’m probably not going to see autumn and definitely not Christmas. Please, I need you to accept it too. I can’t bear to see you unhappy.”
“Yeah, well, what with the dying thing, you’re not making it easy.” She pinned him with a watery glare, cursing silently as she felt a hot tear run down her cheek. “Kinda makes the unhappy Buffy thing hard to avoid.”
He looked contrite, almost guilty, as though it was somehow his fault. Buffy felt her heart twist in her chest at the sight.
“Giles, please, stop apologising.”
He opened his mouth as if to say something then promptly closed it again, his gaze falling to his lap. She watched as he ran a hand through his thinning hair, the strands more salt than pepper now. He looked older than his 54 years, his tired face etched with ever deepening lines. The dark shadows under his eyes told of nights spent alone and sleepless. He was so thin now, barely more than skin and bone and sarcasm, that she felt afraid he’d snap if she tried to hug him. That he’d shatter into a million pieces under the weight of her affection.
She unwound the mess of chain in her palm, brushing her hair aside and fastening it around her neck. The weight of his ring rested heavily against her breastbone, close to her heart. She wrapped her hand around it.
“Will you wait for me?” she asked, turning to face him.
“In heaven, will you wait for me?” A small, sad smile curled at the edges of her lips. “Because, you know, I don’t want to get there and find out you’ve run off with some with some floozy ghost lady.”
“Oh Buffy,” he said, cupping her cheek gently.
“And no getting your Heffner on either, buddy. Because the last thing I want to see walking though those pearly gates is you getting all up with some flirty little winged tramp.” She grinned as his expression turned to one of mild offense.
“Not even a bit?” he said with a mocking pout, folding his arms like a petulant child. “I could be waiting an awfully long time.”
She gave him a playful smack on the shoulder. “Not even a bit. You’ve already waited a life time, what’s a few more years?”
He frowned, his expression turning serious. “I’d hope it would be more than a few. Decades would be a good start.”
“Yeah, well, we’ll see.” She placed her hand upon his arm, her thumb rubbing small circles against his the soft wool of his jumper. “I love you, you know.”
“Do you think, if things had been different…”
“There’s no point dwelling on ‘what ifs’, Buffy.” His shook his head gently, his face sombre.
“I wish we’d had the chance to find out,” she said quietly. “I kinda miss all those things we didn’t have.”
“We have what we have,” he replied, leaning back in his chair, his eyes closing. “But I’m very glad you’re here. With me.”
She smoothed a hand over his cheek, the skin rough with silvery stubble. It didn’t take long for him to doze off, the warmth of the afternoon sun making him drowsy. She slid her hand down to his neck, holding it there until she was sure she could still feel a pulse, however weak. A ritual to make sure he was still alive, that he wasn’t going to slip away before she had the chance to say goodbye. She wanted to hold him, to kiss him, draw him close to her and never let go. To have all the things time had taken away from them.
Instead, she simply sat beside him, her hand in his, and listened for the small sounds that told her he was still breathing.