There is a dead woman in his bed. And not for the first time.
He wonders if two makes such things a habit. Three if he counts his mother, which he doesn’t, for the bed in question was more hers than his, the sheets bloodied with the evidence of her labour.
No, he counts only two, stiff upon crisp white linen.
He tucks her in, smoothing the sheets over her motionless frame. Her eyes are closed, her blonde hair fanned out over his pillow. If not for the stillness of her chest, the pallor of her skin, he thinks she could almost be sleeping.
He hasn’t changed the sheets. The scent of him still lingers upon them, all sweat and books and booze. It embarrasses him.
“Don’t judge me, Buffy,” he says quietly. “I wasn’t aware I’d have company.”
He catches himself waiting for her reply and wonders if he’s finally cracked.
Whether he’d even notice if he had.
Watchers always bury their Slayers. It is the way of things.
That was why he’d brought her here, to his home. Why he’d lain her broken body to rest upon his bed.
‘Where else could she go?’ he thinks.
Not with Xander or Willow. Certainly not with Dawn. The girl who wasn’t had suffered more than enough.
No, it is his duty, his responsibility; her lifeless form his to watch over till morning.
Clock chimes fill the air.
Four hours without her.
Giles wonders what would have happened had he run just that little bit faster.
Whether the world would have changed.
It’s still dark outside, the light of the absent moon replaced by that of the gently humming streetlamps. A symphony in sodium, all electrons and chemistry, chasing away the shadows that lurk in the depths of the night. He presses his head against the cool glass of the window, watching the closest fade to red as the bulb dies.
This is not his first death vigil. He’s been here before, many moons ago, another lain in his loft, her dark hair flowing across his pillow like spilt ink.
He’d loved her too.
His vision blurs and he brings a hand to his face. It surprises him when finds his fingertips are damp.
It’s almost like déjà vu, different and yet the same. Two loves lost, almost as if they never were. Last time she’d been there to comfort him, to hold him as he shed his heavy tears.
This time he is alone.
Beyond the window there is the clatter of trashcans, the yelp of a cat. He stares out into the darkness and wonders if this is to be his life. If he’s destined to forever sleep amongst the memory of the women he’d loved, sharing his sheets with corpses.
She’d failed in the end, like he always knew she would. Slayers are born to die. It is their gift, the sweetest of sacrifices. One Buffy made willingly for a sister who never was.
He hates her for it.
He wants to hurt her. Punish her for leaving him here, alone. He wants to wrap his hands around her pretty little throat and squeeze until she stops breathing. Only he can’t, because she isn’t, which is the problem.
“Useless to the cause,” he spits in disgust.
It is the oldest truth: Watchers watch as the Slayer is slain.
The anger fades with the night, washed away in the cold light of the dawn. The sky is red with the hint of one apocalypse too many, the clouds curling through the atmosphere like smoke.
His hand ghosts over the hole in his side, feeling the sting of skin hastily sewn together by a man he’d hardly known. Ben: the human face of a deity, with curves in all the wrong places and a void where their sanity had once been. Giles can still feel his lips against the skin of his palm, still see the last flicker of hope die in his eyes.
Unlike Gods, humans are fragile. Mortal. Beings of bone and flesh, they snap like twigs in a gale, crying their desperation to a universe that will not listen. So easily broken with so little force, just like Ben, collateral damage in a conflict as old as time.
But the war is over now. A god is dead. Giles wonders who will wipe the blood from his hands, murder of murderers, Nietzsche’s Madman made flesh.
He presses his fingers into the wound, feeling the stiches give a little beneath his touch. A warm wetness soaks through the worn cotton of his shirt, blossoming darkly across the fabric as he begins to bleed. It coats his fingers, leaving them hot and sticky.
The path to glory is not one of flowers, but one paved with the pain of a Watcher and the life of a Slayer.
He’s a man with friends in high places, or perhaps low ones, well acquainted with those versed in the art of death. The very nature of his duty dictates it.
As a more reasonable hour approaches, he picks up the phone, the dial tone buzzing in his ear as he punches in her number. The seven digits connect him to the Queen of the Dead, though he’d never say that to her face. No, when they speak, she is Ms. Zhang, proprietor of the Sunnydale Funeral Home. Kathryn when she’s drunk.
“I require your assistance,” he says simply.
The tinny crackle of her voice whispers her reply down the phone line.
“No police,” he says. “This is to be done quickly and quietly. How soon can you arrive?”
His nails, rusty with blood, tap impatiently upon the desktop as he waits for an answer.
“Thank you. I’ll be waiting.”
He replaces the receiver with a click, silence descending once more.
There is a knock upon his door.
Giles has a dead woman in his bed. Not for the first time.