"Hey, Buff," Xander said, sheepishly, as he pushed himself up from the floor.
Buffy rolled her eyes, but didn’t mention their eavesdropping. Instead, she proclaimed, "I still want to restore Giles’ soul." As she had expected, this was met by a chorus of incredulous ‘what?’s.
"How can you say that, after everything he’s done?"
"Guy’s, please. Look what happened to me last time I tried to kill him! I can’t do it. And I can’t let him go on the way he is."
"I don’t think he’d want you to do it now. Not after what he’s done to you,"
"If I can forgive him for that, he can forgive himself."
The gang exchanged glances
"But there’s no way to do it," Xander reminded her. "Giles destroyed all the copies of the curse and the Orb."
"No, we’re just not looking hard enough," Buffy insisted. "There has to be some other way to restore a vampire’s soul." She looked at her friends expectantly. "
"Me? Why do I always have to come up with the ideas? I have no idea."
"Faith?" Buffy prompted, turning to her co-Slayer.
"I’m usually more concentrated on the killing of vampires to think about rehabilitating them and making them into upstanding members of the community again."
"Angel?" Buffy asked, desperately.
"No," he said. "I didn’t even know it was possible to re-soul a vampire until it happened to me. It’s not really the kind of thing that’s talked about in the writings of Aurelius."
They all looked over to where
"The writings of Aurelius!" she exclaimed.
"Huh?" Faith said, vocalising the thoughts of all of them.
"How will that help to re-soul Giles?" Buffy asked.
"Well, I don’t want to say anything unless I’m wrong, but…no, I really don’t want to say anything unless I’m wrong."
"So find out whether you’re right!"
"Yeah, um…’End of the millennium’…’the feared warrior will become a vampire’…’made by one that she loves’…" she trailed off and looked up at the rest of the gang to see if they were thinking the same as her. From the looks on their faces, the answer was in the affirmative.
"There was a *prophecy* about this?!" Buffy exclaimed. "God, I hate that!"
"See, this is the problem with most prophecies, though. You don’t know what they’re referring to until after the event has happened,"
"Okay, annoying psychic vampire’s aside, what have we got to do?" Faith asked.
"That won’t make the demon stronger?" Buffy asked.
"No, it says ‘They will both be taken from the fold of darkness.’ Essentially, you and Giles with have the same soul, so there won’t be any happiness clause for either of you."
"Hey, hey, wait a minute," Angel said. "You mean there's a way to re-soul a vampire *without* the happiness clause?" He raised his eyebrows at them. "You knew about this last summer, and yet here I am, not brooding because it looks good but to save lives. Can anyone see where I'm going with this?"
"Excuse me," Buffy said, turning to him with her hand on her hip. "Firstly, did anyone ask for your input - no; secondly, do you have any conveniently souled offspring lying around? No. Shut up." She fixed him with a death stare for a moment before turning back to
"Okay, so we need, well…you." She turned to Buffy. "You’re the main ingredient here, seeing as its your soul that’s being shared. We’ll also need something that belonged to Giles. Preferably something that was really special to him."
"Easy enough, we can get something from his apartment," Faith noted.
"That’s a bad look, right?" Buffy said.
"We also need an Orb of Thesulah. You know - that shiny thing that Giles destroyed."
"That’s not call for a major panic," Buffy said. "Xander, the magic store on
"Sir, yes Sir," Xander muttered, as he headed out of the room.
"Anything else?" Buffy asked.
"Some candles, a pentagram, couple of herbs and runes…nothing I haven’t got right here."
"So sort them out," Buffy ordered. "Faith and I can go to Giles’ and look for something personal."
"We can?" the dark haired girl enquired. A look from Buffy gave her the answer she seeked. "We can," she nodded.
"What about me?" Angel said, jumping to his feet in front of Buffy.
Buffy considered him for a long moment, before announcing what his role in this would be.
"Go home," she said.
* * * * *
A few hours later, they were set. The pentagram was drawn, the stinky herbs were a-go and the candles were lit.
"Ready?" she asked.
"As I’ll ever be," Buffy replied, taking the proffered objects.
Buffy set the goblet down on the ground, then took the knife and cut evenly along her forearm. Her blood dripped slowly in the goblet. When it was full, she pressed her hand against the wound. It didn’t hurt too much, and it would be healed before long.
"Not dead, nor not of the living. Spirits of the Interregnum, I call," she recited. "The Sire and the Childe, connected by blood, shall now be connected by spirit. With these words let it be so. Let this orb be the vessel that will carry the soul." The orb of Thesulah glowed dimly.
"Let it be," she whispered. "Let it be!" She was yelling this time. "Let it be!" The panic rose in her voice. "Let it be! Now!"
Suddenly Buffy lurched again, shrieking in pain as her soul re-entered her body. But when the Orb stopped glowing, Buffy’s contorted movements didn’t subside. For Buffy, it was as though she was seeing through Giles eyes. She could feel his pain, as well as her own, and she could feel his guilt. She saw the faces of the people he’d killed…her own face…and she could hear his thoughts.
"No…" she gasped, breaking free of the visions. "Giles!"
"I have to get to Giles," Buffy said. "He’s gonna…I think he’s gonna try and kill himself. I felt it. I have to stop him." She broke free of
"Buff, you’re weak," Xander said, trying to stop her.
"I have to go," she said.
* * * * *
The eastern sky was dove grey, streaked with pink bars of cloud above the horizon by the time she found him. There wasn’t long to go until sunrise.
She could see him now, a dark, hunched shape on the brow of the hill overlooking Restfield cemetery. She hesitated a few feet away.
"Giles?" she asked, timorously.
He didn't turn round. "Buffy, get out of here."
She edged a little closer. "Not unless you come too."
She could see into his face now. Pale and set, his green eyes hard, like glass, as he stared towards the sunrise. "Buffy, this is my choice. I can't...I can't live like this. I can't live with what I've done. Let me make my own choice in this."
"No," said Buffy harshly. "I won't let you just give up like this. You think you're doing the right thing, the brave thing, but you're not. You're running away."
He looked at her then. "You don't understand," he said softly. "I've done the things I despise most in the creatures we kill. I've become the thing I've spent my life trying to destroy. I've made you one too. I can't live with that. I have nothing to live for."
"What about me?" asked Buffy, looking into his eyes, green eyes meeting hazel.
Giles turned away abruptly. "Buffy, please go. The sun will be up soon."
"I'm not going without you," she repeated. She walked in front of him, forcing him to look at her. "Giles, please." She heard his faint indrawing of breath, breath he no longer needed, and carried on quickly. "I need you, and I won't leave you here to die. This isn't just about you any more."
"How can you say that?" he whispered. "After all I've done..."
"I don't care," she replied. "And if I can forgive you, you can forgive yourself."
"I don't know if I can -" he began, before Buffy cut him off.
"But you'll never know if you don't try."
The sky was gold, extinguishing the pale lights of the stars one by one. The dawn zephyr played around them. A moment of supreme stillness, as though worlds hung in the balance of this moment.
"Giles, I’m not leaving without you," Buffy stated plainly.
"Then we’ll both die," he said, his face staring out over the horizon, his eyes intense, as though willing the sun to hurry.
"Is that really what you want?" Buffy said, panic starting to rise in her now, as she could sense the coming dawn.
Giles looked at her willingly for the first time, and Buffy was startled to see that there were tears threatening to fall from his eyes. "I killed you," he said, blankly. "I beat you." He grasped her arm. "I held you down, and I drank you, and forced you to drink from me. I could see the terror in your eyes and could hear you pleading with me to stop, but I still carried on. And I took *pleasure* in it! I *enjoyed* it! How can you possibly say that I deserve to be saved?"
Ignoring the pain where Giles’ grip was digging into her arm, Buffy whispered, tentatively, "If I can forgive you for that-"
"It’s not just you!" Giles exclaimed, suddenly throwing himself away from her. "It’s all of them! How long have I been a vampire? Not even a month. Do you know how many people I’ve killed in that time? How many I’ve tortured just for the hell of it?" From the desolate look in his eyes, Buffy could see that he obviously knew exactly how many there had been. He buried his head in his hands. "I was the vampire’s leader, Buffy. I was revered amongst those which I abhor most in the world." When he turned his gaze upon her again, his eyes were steely; his stance cold and imperturbable. "You couldn’t understand," he said, coldly. You have no comprehension of the guilt." He turned to the horizon again. The sun was coming. Just a few more minutes and it would all be over. He closed his eyes, expecting Buffy to be gone now, or at least for there to be silence.
"Oh, don’t I?" came Buffy’s voice, unexpectedly. He didn’t look at her, but she carried on regardless. You honestly think that I don’t feel guilty everytime I hear about someone getting killed by a vampire or a demon? You honestly think that there aren’t some nights when I’m afraid to go to sleep because every time I close my eyes the faces of the people I couldn’t save come back to haunt me? Because if that’s what you think, then I’ve been wrong about you all these years and you’re actually an idiot." Still, he didn’t look at her. Undeterred, she continued. "Y’know, I actually have more right than you to feel guilty. At least you can use the excuse that it was the demon in you that did all that stuff, but when I don’t do my job properly and people die, I have no-one to blame but myself." She bit her lip to stop it trembling: she was determined to get through this without tears. "When…when you died, I had no-one to blame-"
"Stop," he said, abruptly. Don’t even *think* about finishing that sentence."
"Because it’s not true."
"No? I’m the Slayer, Giles. Not you. The Slayer slays, the Watcher watches. That’s how it’s meant to be. I shouldn’t have let you go off on your own that night. I should have stayed with you and when that vampire attacked, I should have killed him. But I didn’t do that, and instead, you died. Because of me!"
He said nothing, but he finally turned to look at her, his eyes hollow, his face expressionless. He surveyed her for what seemed like an eternity before finally speaking."
"How can you forgive me?" he asked.
"Because I love you," Buffy stated plainly, and with the emotional release that came with finally admitting that, everything that she had been bottling up at last came tumbling out. "Do you have any idea how hard the past few weeks have been? After you died, I couldn’t…I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t carry on without you there. For so long, I took you for granted. I thought you would always be there and suddenly, you weren’t…and I blamed myself and I felt so guilty. Guilty for not appreciating you, guilty for not protecting you…But I can forgive myself all that, just as long as you don’t die here today."
There was a moment of stunned silence following this outburst, then: "That’s blackmail."
"No it’s not. It’s the truth." Buffy reached to his cheek, and brushed it with trembling fingers. "I forgive you," she whispered.
Giles leaned down, and brushed his lips to hers, soft as the caress of the breeze. Then Buffy felt his arms around her, as he pulled her close, their mouths locked in passionate union, hungry for the wholeness only the other could bring, desperation and loss heightening their desire, though it was also full of the love they had only realised when it was almost too late.
When the sun rose over the horizon, they had gone.
* * * * *
Ruth Potter held her daughter's hand tightly as she listened to the priest's soothing litany and stared blankly into the dark hole in the green turf. Her mother, Willow Rosenberg, had lived a long life, touched more people's hearts than even she had probably realised. The gathering around her grave was a strange mixture - her immediate family; the huge Harris clan, led by her cousin Rupert, head of the Harris family since Uncle Xander had died five years ago, who had been a sort of extended family as long as she could remember; a sizeable group of ex-students from the various schools and colleges where her mother had taught over the years. There were even a couple of her semi-cousins from her late Aunt Cordelia's family, who had flown in all the way from
The light of the moon shone down clear and silver on the gathering. It had been one of the few directives her mother had written into the will that the funeral should be held at night. That, and the fact that a notice had to be placed in USA Today:
B + G,
Ruth sighed as the service drew to a close. She would miss her mother, but she knew that her end had been peaceful, and that her long life had been happy. She stood by the grave as the other people walked away, until her small daughter had tugged at her hand, saying she was cold and wanted to go home. Ruth smiled, and turned towards the gate of the cemetery.
There were two more mourners there, a man and a woman, though no-one saw them. They had stood on the other side of the moonlit graveyard, watching in silence as the dark oak casket was lowered into the waiting earth. In their plain black clothes that made them look almost like a patch of moving night, they easily passed for just two more people who had come to the funeral. They stood alone as the other people drifted away to their homes, and it was not until the graveyard was completely empty that they walked over to the freshly filled grave. The woman knelt to lay a bunch of delicate white roses on the newly turned earth, to join the heap of flowers that already adorned it. Then she stood, looking down at the simple marker.
1981 - 2072
REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Giles laid a gentle hand on Buffy's shoulder, and she turned and buried her head in his chest, feeling his arms around her, the only barrier between her and the world she had known for the last seventy-three years.
"I hate funerals," she whispered.
"I know," he replied, holding her to him tenderly. "At least she had a happy life."
Buffy tried to smile, but couldn't quite manage it. "Yeah. A happy life." She sniffed, and closed her eyes as a single tear snaked down her cheek, still smooth and flawless after all these years. "I just never thought I'd see the day when the last of my friends would die. I never wanted to."
"Nor did I," Giles replied softly, resting his cheek on top of the silky strands of her gold hair. "But at least we kept them safe, and protected them."
"We tried," said Buffy. "But we couldn't protect them from getting old, or dying."
"Do you wish we could have?"
"No," said Buffy. "No. That's the way it should be. I wouldn't wish our life on them."
"Have you really hated it so much?"
"Sometimes," replied Buffy, looking up into his face. "Sometimes I've thought about how alone we are, how separate we are from the rest of the world, and I've just wanted to end it. But then I think about you." She smiled, the first genuine smile of that night. "We've had so many years together we would never have had, done so many things we'd never have done. I wouldn't change that for anything."
He leaned down and brushed his lips to hers, still marveling at their sweet softness even after so long. They had been together every day for seventy-three years, hardly spending an hour apart. They had no-one else, but found they no longer needed them. They were everything to each other - family, friends, partners, lovers. Neither could exist without the other, and they would be together forever.
Giles took her white hand in his own.
"Let's go," he said.
And, hand in hand, they walked from the now deserted cemetery, leaving it to the light of the stars, and the music of the wind.