Momentum was merciless, much to Rupert's dismay.
He raised his arm to crush Anyanka's power centre and lowered it, marble paper-weight and all, into the back of some bloke's skull. Not a pretty sight, that; splattered blood and matted hair made for a gruesome display.
The demon's pendant was no-where to be seen. Rupert glanced about the flat, finding the demon herself gone as well. And, come to think of it, some odd details of the flat were subtly off. Since when did he have a window next to the door? But this was certainly his flat, and that was definitely his desk. Rupert forced his attention back there. Denial helped not one whit.
Pondering the circumstances did raise the question of what, exactly, this rather dead fellow had been doing with his head on Rupert's desk and one limp hand outflung towards a tumbler of scotch. Rupert pulled the head back and essayed a glance at the ruined face. He looked away quickly, gorge rising.
This had to be another reality, perhaps the one mentioned by Cordelia. But that insipid girl was wrong in at least one regard: things weren't necessarily better here. If they had been, he wouldn't be face-down on his desk in a pool of his own blood with the selfsame blood coating the paper-weight in his hand, blast it all.
Rupert spent the next couple of days holed up in his utility closet with a bottle of scotch belonging to his deceased counterpart, but he came no closer to wrapping his mind around the enormity of the events upon which he wouldn't allow his thoughts to dwell overlong.
The stirrings of a macabre curiosity, spurred by the mutterings of the clearly incompetent police who didn't search the flat, sent him forth to the cemetery on the third morning. A man shouldn't have to attend his own funeral, Rupert mused. Unnatural and strange. Made every fiber of his being protest as the old C of E words were spoken to the assembled.
This god-forsaken California place didn't oblige with a satisfying thunderstorm, nor mourners in black trenches, nor umbrellas unfurled like so many black-winged birds. No, bright and obscene shone the sun as it reflected off the golden hair of one particular tiny girl, bowed and broken, clutching the arm of a woman who must be her mother.
Rupert shook his head, considering the girl's other self whom he'd met so briefly. Hard as nails, that one; wouldn't see her tearing up over a dead watcher. Replaceable tool herself, with a replaceable wielder.
Rupert stood a bit away from the small group, hat tipped down to obscure his resemblance to the deceased. He studied the others with curiosity, seeing Oz but neither Larry nor poor Nancy, rest her soul, and noting that Cordelia was apparently alive and well. He gasped with alarm to see the Master's most vicious vampire allies by her side. Still, they were standing in open sun without any sign of combustion, so they must be harmless here; probably didn't dismiss him as book-guy or white hat whilst slaughtering innocents. Likely they didn't think of him much at all and were just here in support of the Slayer.
Rupert noted with a small pang that Ethan wasn't among the mourners. Perhaps Ethan was dead in this reality as well. What else would have kept him from the funeral of his oldest friend and erstwhile foe? Rupert had attended Ethan's funeral, officiated at it, actually; he'd been minister and mourner in one. He closed his eyes at the memories, leaning against a tree and waiting for this, too, to pass.
Of course, perhaps the Sunnydale contingent was conducting the whole thing quietly, since doubtless his remains would make their way back to England for interment. It appeared, actually, that this service was symbolic in nature, what with the lack of casket. Rupert wondered why they'd picked this spot; perhaps it had some significance.
After they'd all cleared out, he went and read the headstone near which they'd congregated. The name inscribed there was of some Jennifer woman whom he didn't know. Well, perhaps his theory was wrong. He didn't much feel like talking to these mirror-distorted echoes, familiar masks over unfamiliar souls, to discern their intent.
Back to his flat it was; police tape be damned -- he didn't have any place else to go. With the aid of more scotch, he fell into a troubled sleep, neither making it up to the loft nor down the hall to the utility closet, but sprawled on the firm green cushions of his self-same couch from home under a discarded tweed coat.
He woke to a tiny, strong hand shaking him. "Who are you? Why are you in Giles's..."
Confound it, it was the Slayer. And Rupert really had no chance to say a thing, since at this point in her tirade she pulled the coat off his face and started weeping. "What are you? Stop looking like him!"
Couldn't be avoided any longer. "Miss Summers -- Buffy, is it? I assure you, I cannot look any other way. I'm afraid I am indeed Rupert Giles; but I'm from a -- how would one put it -- parallel reality."
"You're Giles! Giles!" And she hugged him with crushing strength.
It had been so long since someone had held him; since Ethan's death, actually. Rupert let the embrace go on longer than was prudent, taking some small comfort from one who would have none once he spoke anew. She sobbed into his shoulder, rumpling his tweed further.
"I assure you, I'm not your Watcher. And you're not the Buffy Summers I knew."
"I don't understand," she protested, holding him tightly. He longed, for just a moment to stay here in her arms. But his guilt and her grief were intertwined.
He pulled away from her and touched her upper lip. "When I met you, before, in my world, you had a scar here." He tried to steel himself for the confession that must needs come.
"So that wasn't me. And you're not my Giles. But you can stay, right? Be Giles?" She embraced him again with passion sprung from desperation and loss.
He pulled away again. "See here, my dear -- this is not my world. Everything here is wrong, and I cannot stay and play a part."
Buffy's lower lip trembled. "But why? Please, Giles, I need you to stay. I need you so much."
"Because I cannot, d'you hear?" Rupert paced and turned away from the upset girl.
Buffy's voice hardened, chilling in hurt and anger. "Give me one good reason."
"Because..." He turned to face her; she deserved that much. "I killed your Giles."
Buffy gasped, tears flowing in earnest, anger and frustration joined by devastation and loss in her stricken expression.
Rupert had to get through this, get it all out. He swallowed and continued. "I smashed in your Watcher's skull, and it makes me sick to consider it. I can't look at you and see you looking back at me like you accept me as a replacement for the man I murdered. Now let me be!"
He flung open the door but made it only a few steps into the courtyard before seeing a young woman coming down his steps.
Her bright eyes and chestnut hair caught the afternoon sun, glistening along with the pendant at her throat. "Is Buffy in there? We need to talk."
Rupert stepped out of the way, gesturing an invitation. "You're not going to be able to cheer her, I'm afraid, but you're welcome to try." She nodded and entered.
Sitting on the edge of his fountain, Rupert trailed a finger in the water and watched it repair itself behind his hand. There was no comfort for him; he would leave no trace. "I am a traveller of both time and space" he sang quietly, before catching himself in a moment of horror.
He recognized that pendant; he knew that girl's voice, though now it rang clear and undistorted, speaking of heartbreak and wishes.
He followed her back inside his, no, Giles's flat, with resolute strength guiding him. Perhaps the Ethan of this world lived and would laugh and love once more with Buffy's Giles. Perhaps that Giles and Buffy could share the bond he saw in Buffy's tears. But another destructive wish could only consign more souls to the hell in which he existed.
Buffy's protests, Anyanka's howl of dismay -- both were immaterial to the needful destruction at hand. He tore the pendant from the demon's throat, positioned it on the desk, and raised his trusty Ma Bell rotary, his paper-weight having apparently landed in some evidence locker.
He looked for a moment into Buffy's eyes, reddened and teary and pleading with him, and wished once more that he could abide. But it was not to be, and wishing could not make it so.
Momentum carried his arm forward, and he would not change it ere he could.
An instant later his world exploded in green light.