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To say he has misgivings in Willow’s plan is an understatement. What he really wants is to scream and laugh and run away back to England, but he can’t. A Watcher’s duty may be over when they no longer have a Slayer, but Giles can’t leave Dawn and the others, and he senses the Hellmouth won’t let him go either. So here he is, preparing the training room at the back of the store, laying out equipment, weapons, wearing protection as if it’s just another workout with Buffy.

But the figure standing motionless in the room is most certainly not Buffy. It looks like her, but to Giles, it mocks her memory, and besides, he has strong doubts that the plan to bring the Buffybot back online will really fool the gathering demons. It’s doomed and stupid and hateful, but he has no better suggestion to offer.

“Training mode.”

He activates with voice command and the thing opens its eyes and smiles a too perfect Buffy smile.

“Hello, Guyles. How are you today?”

“Training mode,” he repeats stubbornly. He’s not going to pretend to make small talk with the thing. He takes up position and they begin the ritual. It punches and kicks as it spins and hits his heavy gloves with the same amount of force. Everything is just code to the bot. It only knows what it’s been programmed to do. The Council would probably consider that an ideal Slayer.

Buffy, his Buffy, was a natural though. Even in the early days in the library, she could kick his ass with a range of weaponry she didn’t even know the names of, let alone how to handle properly. Losing so often and so early had come as a surprise. Yes, she was the Slayer, but Giles could take on any number of other Watchers and pummel them. He’d thought he would’ve sulked more or been more determined to win next time. Surprisingly, he had just been immensely proud when she’d beaten him and looked for ways to push her harder.

“Enough,” he commands.

“How did I do?” Its form was perfect, it’s timing flawless. Giles simply grunts.

He picks out heavy clubs and they swing at each other. The bot doesn’t really need to work on its muscle tone, but the rhythm is pleasant and lets his mind drift to doing this with Buffy. If there was one thing he did teach her, it was patience. To enjoy an activity for the time it gives you to think.

He takes the throwing stars from the wall and signals his intention. The bot doesn’t acknowledge it but slightly crouches in preparation, so Giles throws the first one at it. The bot deflects it easily whilst still swinging the heavy clubs. A second is clubbed away also, so Giles disguises that he’s holding two stars and launches both. The bot is confused and flails. The thrown stars actually miss the target, but the swinging clubs get entangled and smash into the Buffybot’s head. Unlike a human, the bot doesn’t fall to the ground, even though the back of its head is caved in, instead it turns its head from side to side as if perplexed by the sudden change in weight up there.

“Are you alright?” The question is natural, but he bites his tongue. He has expressed concern for a mass of circuits and clever code. Of course, it’s not alright in a damaged sense, but it doesn’t feel pain. It doesn’t feel anything.

Giles drops the stars and sheds his padding. Willow will be upset with him, but clearly the thing isn’t ready to face actual demons.

“Deactivate.”

But the bot continues to slowly turn its head in puzzlement. And then it stops. Its gaze is glassy and fixed directly at Giles. The feeling is unnerving. Like being watched, like being punished by Buffy from beyond the grave. He stares back and then the bot resumes the head wiggles, but this time never taking its eyes off him.

“Turn off. Stop. Switch off.”

None of the commands work and Giles has a bad feeling in his stomach. The bot just keeps its head slightly moving, always staring, always assessing. Like it has a target.

In a second, it’s in front of him and in a blur of powerlessness, he is flying and crashing headfirst into the back wall. Before he can react, it picks him up and throws him again, and now he’s sliding across the floor, making hard contact with the training pommel. There’s pain in his knee and his back but he scampers for cover as best he can. Sheer instinct tells him to keep something solid between him and his attacker. But the pommel horse flies away with an easy toss from the bot and she’s on him again. Giles lashes defensively to free himself, but he only minimises the blow to his head and splutters to the ground again.

His head hurts and he can taste blood and adrenaline and fear. He thinks back to the night she died. The last words he remembers – “If anyone goes near Dawn, I’ll kill them.” – this is how it would’ve happened. He’s seen Buffy express a thousand emotions, but this is something frightening. Her face is bland and determined. Buffy was always so talented and better than him, and now she is going to kill him.

“Think, Giles, think,” he mutters. There is no one in the store and it’s not like he’s going to make it to the door. Besides, he doesn’t want to die with his back to danger, running away. Weapons. He needs weapons.  There are swords in the far closet. He just needs to get past her. Easier said than done as her hands are painfully on his shirt collar and he’s sailing to another hard smash. Twisting, he takes the blow in a curl and scampers to the closet, grabbing a heavy axe.

She’s still doing the head tilt thing and Giles knows it’s him or her now. One of them has to die. He screams and runs, wildly slashing with the axe, disregarding every ounce of training and logic, and going with instinct and a wild, unpredictable assault. He was prepared to die for Buffy, real Buffy, his Buffy. He could even accept his Buffy killing him, but not some cheap knock-off robot who couldn’t even say his name right.

Because although the Hellmouth may not be done with him, Giles is damned if he is going to die today.