It's late, the house is silent and he's not quite sure how late it is. He doubts that anyone other than Dawn is actually asleep, in fact he suspects that they've al found their own little private corners to be quiet and mourn in their own ways. Giles isn't so much as mourning as he is lamenting the fact that he's an utter and complete failure. Despite his best efforts, he hadn't managed to save Buffy or Dawn in the end. Despite the fact that he had always known that this day would come, Giles hadn't thought that it'd be quite like this. He didn't think that he could feel this empty much less this drained.
Giles stares at the cup of tea that either Willow or Xander had made for him (he can't quite recall which of the children had made the tea and then set it down in front of him) but he does appreciate the sentiment. He lets the familiar scent of Earl Grey wash over him, inhaling deeply before he pushes the cup away from him. Right now, he knows that no matter how calming the idea of tea is, his stomach couldn't handle it if he actually drank from the cup. For a moment, he cradles his head in his hands, his eyes painfully dry despite the fact that it feels like he was on the receiving end of Buffy's stake.
He can remember them all as children in his library: Buffy, Willow and Xander laughing over something that wasn't actually funny but laughter was their only coping mechanism. He had realized that Buffy had needed her friends in order to survive, that without her friends she would be nothing more than just another dead Slayer. So he had bent the rules, he had done his best to train her and to protect her friends. When necessary, he had bandaged them himself, other times he had taken them to the hospital with his heart in his mouth. Somehow, the three of them had become his surrogate children. Buffy was always his focal point but Giles loved the three of them.
And now Buffy was gone. In the end he hadn't managed to save her or Dawn. He had done the dirty work that was necessary by killing Ben to stop Glory but it hadn't been enough. Glory's minions had set everything in motion. And Giles no matter how willing he was to kill an innocent in the guise of Ben, he couldn't have saved Dawn or Buffy if he had been up on that platform with the sisters. Buffy had done the one thing that none of them could have done: she had sacrificed herself to save Dawn. And Giles isn't sure what hurts more: the fact that he had helped to shape a reckless girl into a fine young woman or the fact that if he hadn't been her Watcher, the chances of the monks entrusting Dawn in Buffy's care would have been slim.
A bitter laugh tumbles out of his mouth, breaking the heavy silence in the house. If he had not allowed Buffy her friends, if he had followed the Council's instructions, the chances of Buffy having survived the Master would have been nil. There would have been no Xander to save her in that pool of dirty water, there would have been no Angel to guide Xander to her. Giles sighs in frustration as he throws the cup of tea at the wall, relishing the way that the china sounds as it smashes into a hundred tiny pieces.
It's Xander who enters the room, who sits down on the chair beside him.
"Should I ask what the cup did to you?" Xander quietly asks.
"No," Giles says. "How are the others?"
"Dawn's asleep with Willow and Tara. I don't think that Willow's actually asleep but the three of them are curled up together. Anya's comforting Spike."
"And you? How are you?" Giles ask.
Xander's response is a laugh, it's a humourless laugh, and Giles wonders what he's done by letting Buffy have friends. Both Xander and Willow have aged for beyond their years. Xander should still be a bumbling man-child while Willow tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. He has the feeling that they both put their lives and dreams on hold for Buffy and he can't help but wonder what it actually got them aside from heartache and more near death experiences than they deserved.
"Look G-man, I know this isn't easy and I am sure that we all feel like we failed her but you know what Buffy's like. When push came to shove, she had no other choice. It was either her or Dawn and that's not really a choice. If it had been any of us up there on that platform with her, she would have done the same thing. That's our Buffy for you: noble but just slightly crazy," Xander says. "But beating ourselves up isn't gonna bring her back."
"Don't you think I am aware of that?" Giles sharply asks.
"Deep down inside, I know you know that but I think right now, you're beating yourself up thinking that if you had only done things differently that either this day would never have happened or things would have gone down different."
"Don't try to analyze me," Giles replies. "I don't need you playing arm-chair psychologist."
"That's kind of Willow's job, not mine," Xander says. "But you know I am right. And you know that tomorrow morning we all have to put on brave faces for Dawn and this wallowing isn't going to help."
"Leave me alone," Giles finally says.
Xander stands up with a sigh, he pauses in the door frame for a moment and Giles know that the younger man is right. But it doesn't make the ache in his stomach fade, it doesn't make the empty feeling in his heart fade nor does it ease his headache or sore throat. Buffy is dead again, this time for good and nothing will bring her back. Tomorrow, he will need to contact the Council and start making arrangements. Like any parent, he had always selfishly thought that it'd be Buffy burying him and not the other way around.
Giles sighs and wonder what type of person it makes him when he realizes that he's glad that Joyce is dead. To be honest, he's not glad that she's actually dead but he's glad that she's not there, that she doesn't have to handle the fact that her daughter is dead. Joyce is the lucky one. She doesn't have to deal with the fact there is far to many words left unsaid, that she never had the chance to tell Buffy one last time how proud she was of her or of how she loved her. At least with Joyce, Buffy knew these things. Giles wonders if Buffy ever knew how much he cared for her, how proud he was of her, or how much it hurts him to know that tomorrow he has to bury her.
He hangs his head in his hands again as the pain washes over him. Nothing will ever make him feel better. Nothing will ever heal the hole in his heart. Tomorrow though, he will act like he is the adult, that he can handle the multitude of decisions that will need to be made. He'll act like his grief isn't threatening to drown him.