"Your turn, Giles."
Xander's solitary eye meets his, then focuses on the game again.
It's not the first time they've traded inconsequentialities while waiting for the apocalypse.
They've sat around this very table.
They've sat in other places; the school library, his old apartment, the magic shop.
But one thing is qualitatively different this time.
At some point, when he wasn't looking, the exasperating boy with the irreverent manner and flippant tongue became a man.
True, they still haven't much in common, but he'd be proud to call Xander a friend one day.
A pity this is probably their last.
In retrospect, he thinks he should have acted sooner.
The need to have everything how she wanted it was always there, after all.
Some might say he could be forgiven for thinking it harmless when all it amounted to was wanting her friends to be happy.
Some might say one couldn't foresee the quiet, studious girl becoming so powerful she could end the world with a gesture.
Despite what some might say, he can't forgive himself, and he should have foreseen it.
Not that it matters now. She'll either save them all, or kill them.
His failure won't change anything.
He was ready to kill her once.
It's shocking, even to him, to know how easy he would have found it.
Not a young girl. Not Buffy's sister. Not human at all.
Maybe it was because, under close scrutiny, his fake memories of her seemed so...fake.
Or maybe it's because, since Drusilla stuck her black claws inside his thoughts, he's had a horror of anything tampering with his mind.
(As torture goes, more painful by far than Angelus at his most inventive).
Dawn looks up from her book and meets his eye. She doesn't smile.
Perhaps, deep down, she knows.
There have to be more aggravating people in the world.
He knows there are, in fact. The Watchers' Council is full of them.
But Anya would win first prize for doing the unexpected.
Look at her now, sleeping away what might be the last night of her life, when everyone around her is wide awake and jumpy as scared cats.
Not the first time she's marched to her own drummer.
He remembers so many occasions over the years when even trying to be human was beyond her.
Most of all, though, he remembers what it was like to kiss her.
The look Spike gives him as he sweeps past in Buffy's wake isn't friendly.
Well, they're not friends. Comrades in arms, maybe, but only of necessity.
If he has one regret where Spike's concerned, it's that Wood failed to kill him.
He should have done it himself, when he had Spike chained up in his bathtub. Instead, he deluded himself that a vampire that couldn't bite was harmless.
But that didn't stop Spike causing mayhem.
Still, today will probably be the end of him, as it will of all of them.
Hopefully, he'll be some actual use before he dies.
"I think you've taught me everything I need to know."
The firm click of the door closing in his face had the sound of finality.
There's regret. Of course there is.
He'd like her to have always thought well of him.
But while he'll mourn the loss of the girl's perfect trust, he's proud to see the woman she's become, and to know that he played a part, however small, in shaping her.
The Hellmouth's open. He raises his weapon, braced for the onrushing wave of Turok Han.
If he dies today, it doesn't matter. His best work's behind him.