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Rose Petals

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He's seen too many people die in his lifetime. Not just nameless, faceless ones. Not only victims of war or disease or very ordinary, if senseless, human violence. He's seen too many people he loves die, and though he knows that he should have been prepared for her death, part of him wished he wouldn’t have to see it.

But it's a pointless wish, because for those who are in this liar's club — for those who are in the know — there's no escaping. Ever. The knowledge follows you everywhere. England, America, a jungle deep in Peru or Mongolia or however far you try to run. It's quite simply everywhere.

Willow used dangerous forces to bring Buffy back, but it’s not the first time she’s worked with them, and it won’t be the last. It was a breathtaking failure of ethics and reason, but he wouldn’t be so furious if it were only that. There’s something about this that stings. It's not that he though he was free. It's that death is such an easy thing to grow accustomed to. It's that no one else was important enough to merit the risk.

He sometimes wakes up in the morning to realize he's forgotten about Jenny.

She's the only one he's lost that he loved with the same intensity he loved — loves — Buffy. He ached deep in his gut when she died. Yet he forgets her, not because he's moved on, but simply because the loss of her is no longer so acute, and he just goes about his daily affairs without thinking about her — without missing her — for weeks on end.

Buffy's death came as no surprise. Every Watcher must ultimately face the reality that he'll likely outlive his Slayer. But Giles knows that he'd never go a day without thinking of Buffy, without a wistful catch in his heart knowing that she wasn't there. She's more to him than a Slayer, than a daughter, than a friend. She'll always be more important than any lover. In fact, she's so important that four stupid youths risked the powers of Hell to resurrect her.

And he keeps forgetting about Jenny. Betraying her with every memory fallen by the wayside. Now, especially now, that his old apartment's rented again, and someone else is living there, and someone else is sleeping in the room where he found her. Everything to remind him of her is gone. Angel is little more than a phantom presence in their lives. The school where she died burned to the ground at his own hand. The only room he has left that she's set foot in is the magic shop, and it's barely the same place anymore.

Also…technically not his.

Giles brought roses, red ones. Profane perhaps, but hers, always hers. He bends, scattering petals on the ground before placing one long stem at the base of her gravemarker. When he left America, it was just one more thread he was cutting. Now he's back, and not sure if the thread can be spliced. Or if he'll feel the nearly indiscernible pull of Jenny forever.

"I sometimes forget about her."

The voice from behind him is startling. "Buffy." He turns. "You're back already."

She shrugs. "Yeah."

" is Angel?"

A bit of a frown purses her mouth as she stares past him at the headstone. "Fine. He spent the summer in Tibet."

Ah, running. Always running, and never getting anywhere. They fall silent for a moment, turning to look at the headstone. It’s already beginning to weather. “I do, too. Forget about her. Sometimes."

Buffy looks at him in surprise, and he hates that the expression quickly melts into understanding. She bends to pick up a blood red rose petal, fingering it's softness. "I should remember. People like me need to remember our failures."

"Buffy..." He trails off, not knowing quite where to begin. "Jenny was not a failure on your part."

She meets his eyes, and replies sturdily, "Yes, she was." The petal falls from her fingers, fluttering to the ground where she steps on it absently. "I'm trying to get used to this whole, 'only girl in all the world' thing again." She turns away, admitting, "It's...harder the second time around."

His hand falls on her shoulder, as it has thousands of times before. This time, she turns into him, and he lets his arms wrap around her. She laughs ruefully. "I hated high school. But sometimes I wish I could go back to the way things were. Everything is different now. Harder. I knew the rules then. Now — it's like there are none."

Giles pulls back, hands on her upper arms. "There aren't. None that help, at any rate."

Buffy nods, and turns away, walking back toward the magic shop. He follows her, walks away from the grave and the flowers, back to his life. A Watcher, a mentor, a friend.

Back to forgetting about Jenny.