Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
Monday, May 20th, 2002
Buffy wrapped Spike's arm around her shoulders when she returned from the bathroom, cuddling in at his side in his armchair in a way that might have been uncomfortable if Spike had carried any excess weight or Buffy hadn't had the appearance of a bulimic teenager. She wasn't quite sure whether she wanted to hug him to make sure he was still in there or kick his ass for having any part in this idiotic stunt. She settled for the former, knowing with his hand on her bare arm he could pick up on her every wave of "pissed off"-ness just as easily as if she was bawling him out, and those waves reached some pretty impressive peaks whenever she realised that Spike's mind was on those things that didn't look like they were going to be happening any time soon rather than the current proceedings.
Angel's presence had proven to be less than constructive. It was only when his clothes had finally been judged dry enough to wear and the vampire had been packed off to find Connor and the others with only an extra inch or two of ankle showing, his shoes still squelching and the orbs protecting him from the late afternoon sun, that the group had made any real progress. Truth to tell, the former watcher was reluctant to talk entirely freely in front of his pseudo daughter at first, but Buffy had made it clear that she wasn't about to leave two of the three people responsible for her fiancé's current lodger unsupervised together any time soon. Giles knew that oversimplified her reasons for staying, but even though he was embarrassed on one level about the things she might become party to, on another he was glad to have her moral support.
"Didn't you listen when I was talking before, Rupert?" Spike was saying, but the cadences and speech patterns weren't his and there was no inherent snigger at the watcher's name.
"I heard perfectly well but the mere sound of your voice, or rather Spike's voice, is not sufficient to turn me into a saint. Logic tells me that the entity who walked out of here five minutes ago is not the same demon who killed you and tortured me, more for pleasure than because he actually wanted any information. That does not mean that I no longer feel sick to my stomach just to be in the same room as him. He took you from me and with your death he took part of me."
Spike sighed. "It was my time, Rupert. Would you have reacted the way you did if I had been run over by a bus or struck by lightning or I don't know... if I slipped and fell on the stairs and broke my neck?"
"You didn't die like that. You were murdered by a demon, and worse you were murdered because you were trying to help him... because I brought you into my world and the darkness I live with took you from me." The watcher raised his head from where he had been polishing his glasses and replaced them on his face, almost staring Jenny down as his voice rose in his passion. "And don't tell me it was your time. Some people may find such fatalism comforting, but I choose to believe that the path I've taken as a watcher makes a difference. If people are simply slated to die at a given moment then not only has the bulk of my life been pointless, but the very concept of watchers and slayers is futile. If we are helpless to change events, all Buffy's achievements and sacrifices are meaningless, as is any contribution that I may have made to aid her. That is not a concept that I am prepared to accept under any circumstances."
"You didn't bring me into the situation with Angel. I was born into the situation with Angel and I didn't say that my death was inevitable, that there was some hourglass on a shelf in a room somewhere with my name on it and the last sands ran out at the instant he snapped my neck. I said that it was my time. We all die, Rupert, even if some of us keep walking around after the event. It's possible, if Angel hadn't killed me, we might have been raising a kid or two by now and, if we were, I reckon that they'd be pretty cute kids, but that would have been the best case scenario. It's probably just as likely that we would never have been able to rebuild the trust that I betrayed. We might not have been able to make it work. I might have ended up getting run over by a drunk driver or fallen prey to any one of a thousand natural causes. We'll never know. All I know is, that night in the school turned out to be my day to die. It comes to us all and Buffy can tell you death isn't an end, it's simply a transition... and, yeah, I know it's a cliché but I have a peace in death that I never knew in life. I'm with some of those I loved and some day, hopefully far into the future, I believe I'll be with you again. Sometimes I miss you but it's kinda abstract, there's no pain to it, and in the meantime is it wrong to want to see you happy? Is that so bad?"
"All I know is that I found someone with whom I hoped to spend the rest of my life and he took her away from me."
"Rupert, I can see that I'm not irreplaceable. Why can't you?"
Giles' eyes seemed to look straight into the soul in Spike's body, a wealth of sadness showing in them. "Because, even four years on, part of me is still in love with you and the part that's left over for anyone else can't believe in happy ever after any more."
Spike grasped Buffy's hand, pulling her after him even as he was helpless to prevent Jenny from bringing him to his knees in front of Giles' chair, his other hand reaching up to rest against the watcher's face. Spike's vision blurred as his eyes welled with tears. "Four years is long enough to mourn," Jenny said softly. "It's time you moved on. I don't know whether that means allowing yourself to feel more for Olivia or finding someone else who won't let you keep her at a distance, but I know that it's insane to commit to a half life for the next couple of decades. The man I knew wanted to have children but that's not a reason to tie yourself indefinitely into a relationship with a woman you're not in love with and I know you... even if your relationship eventually made you miserable, if there were children involved you wouldn't leave.
Could you love her? Could you be head over heels, giddy at the thought of her, till death do you part, wide as the ocean, high as heaven in love with her? If you tried to open up, could she be the one?"
Giles shook his head. "Jenny, by the time I met you, I had long assumed that my career would be my life. You brought alive dreams and aspirations that I hadn't seriously considered up until that point and when he took you from me, I found that being a watcher was no longer enough to satisfy me. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that while I dream of family, I don't live in suburbia and even though I've tried over the last year or so to distance myself from the hellmouth and all the negative elements which that entails and build a more normal life, it seems that I'll never be able to. I live in a world filled with monsters, and any woman I bring into that world is going to be in danger. Can you blame me if I don't want to fall for anyone else the way I fell for you? Olivia and I may not be head over heels but we care about each other, we respect each other and we were friends before we were ever lovers, and even though she is considerably younger than I, she is of an age where if she wants to have children it's safer for all concerned if she has them sooner rather than later."
"You're settling, Rupert," Jenny answered, her tones rich with frustration. "You're a magnificent, exceptional man. You're capable of loving deeply and passionately. You have it in you to give someone the sort of love they dream a lifetime of and you're settling." She took a deep breath and looked into Giles' eyes as the tears that had been threatening for so long finally spilled over Spike's dark lashes.
"Answer me this," she said sadly. "What happens if you go ahead, and you have your 2.3 children with Olivia and then five or ten years down the line she finds someone who makes her feel the way you made me feel? Could you deny her her happiness? Would you just step back and let another man raise your children? Another man giving her everything you've held inside... giving her what you're too gun-shy to give her. Maybe it still wouldn't be too late for you to find someone else, but it won't make any difference if you can't open up...
If Olivia could be the one, I would be so happy for you, but the ability to procreate doesn't make a family, love does. My father died when I was in my teens, but my mother always said she would rather have had the nineteen years that she had with him than fifty years with anyone else... until she met my stepfather. He showed her that loving someone deeply and losing them isn't the end, that if you're capable of that level of feeling, then, chances are you can find it again with someone else and it doesn't make what you had with the first person any less real. They were devoted to each other until the day she died, and I can tell you for a fact that my dad was glad that she wasn't alone and that she was happy.
That's what I want for you, and if kids come with it, then my heart just might burst seeing you finally get what might have been, but the love has to come first because, if it doesn't, children won't be enough to make you happy. And if Olivia is never going to make you feel that way, maybe you should be looking elsewhere.
I love you, Rupert. I always will but it was me who died four years ago, not you." She let her hand drop from his face and deliberately toughened her voice. "The sooner you wake up to that and get on with actually living the rest of your life as opposed to filling time while you wait for the reaper, then the sooner I can go home."
"That- that is a grossly unfair thing to say. I-I have not given up on life-."
"No? You isolate yourself from everyone you care most about. You're dressing better, but other than that, your appearance has gone to hell. You don't go running or anything any more-."
"I'm ever so sorry that sub-zero temperatures don't make me reach for my running shoes," Giles responded sarcastically.
"Neither do midsummer ones either, any more. You have a fried breakfast almost every morning and you always did like an occasional drink but they're not so occasional any more... and drinking on your own? I doubt a coroner would rule it as suicide, but if you're not trying to have a heart attack then I don't know what you're doing."
"Rubbish. I have a couple of glasses of scotch to unwind at the end of the day. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing... in itself though I wonder quite what you're unwinding from. It's where it all fits into the overall pattern that's the problem. Have you actually made any effort to get another job since you went back to England?"
"It's not uncommon for people my age to take early retirement, and between my investments and my share of the profits from The Magic Box, I have sufficient income for my needs."
"I would give you that if you were out on the golf course every morning, or writing your memoirs or something, but then, wasn't that what all those diaries were about? So, you've already done that, I suppose, but considering that when you're in England, the highlight of your day is watching 'Richard and Judy', I think my case is made."
"They sometimes have some very interesting guests."
Spike snorted. "Come off it, watcher. She's got ya. There's only two types of people that would watch that crap, and the other one is a paraplegic that can't reach the remote."
"This from the man who watches Passions."
"In case you didn't notice, it's not like I had the option of actually going out and doing stuff while Mr Sunshine was about, an' at least Passions has a story not just some stupid old bint and her 'not really young enough to qualify as a toyboy any more' husband yammering on about stuff no one in their right mind gives a damn about."
Buffy offered an encouraging smile. "You did seem a lot happier when you were running The Magic Box than when you were... between jobs. I'm not sure that people like you are meant to retire. And I know I'm not the only one that missed you. I mean, we didn't want you to feel guilty about leaving us or anything 'cause we thought you had all this exciting British stuff to do, but apart from the fact that Anya would probably kill you if you try to take back The Magic Box... I bet there are other exciting retail opportunities... or maybe you could do the memoirs thing except maybe embellish a bit. I bet Stephen King would have nothing on you."
Spike grimaced. "Love, not that I want to spoil your little plan, but I've read some of the stuff the watcher here wrote an' he was doin' a pretty fair job of makin' The End of the World sound as tedious as a shoppin' list... An' not the sort of shoppin' list Anya makes up when she's trying to give the builder a treat neither."
"Not helping, Spike!" Buffy elbowed the vamp in the ribs as she shuffled forward to kneel next to, rather than slightly behind, him. "Okay, so maybe not writing, but I'm sure there's plenty of things you could be doing. You liked being a librarian, right? Well, except for the bit where you were working for Snyder and all the kids... I mean there's bound to be a library in the new high school. They're going to need someone in charge, and it's not like you haven't already proved that you could do it. Or maybe, UC Sunnydale or the community college. It'd be kinda cool popping in to visit in my lunch hour again, or the City library."
Giles sighed. "As I discovered several years ago, for some reason those in authority are generally reluctant to hire a librarian whose last library didn't just burn down but exploded loud enough for the whole town to hear. I think the fire marshals' suggestion that I was slightly negligent to have failed to notice people piling up van loads of fertiliser might have something to do with that."
"Okay, so librarian is out, as well, but there has to be something you can do... We'll figure it out later," Buffy pleaded. "Just come home. Please."
"You were the one that said bein' a watcher gave you a purpose in life. I'll lay odds you get to kick a bit more demon butt over here than you do in Bath." Spike added his twopennorth.
"I think, in all honesty, Buffy no longer needs a watcher," Giles rebutted.
"She doesn't need a roguishly handsome master vamp, neither, but that doesn't mean I don't help her out now and again. An' even if Buffy doesn't need you, what about the witch ...or the dark slayer, if she doesn't head for the hills? If those two don't need a bit of guidance, who the hell does? Think our little jailbird is gonna put up with anyone the council tries to land 'er with? Or all the wannabes that are gonna be arriving by the truckload... You gonna leave them to QT an' his bunch of academics that have never seen the sharp end of a fight? Maybe you're gettin a bit long in the tooth to be in the front line on a regular basis, but I bet you could do a better job of trainin' up the bite-sizes than any of the wankers that came to visit me the last time the Council came callin'."
Jenny shook Spike's head in disbelief before continuing. "You know, I think there might almost have been a compliment somewhere in the middle of that. But he's right, being a watcher is part of what makes you who you are, or who you used to be. That whole 'leaving for her own good' was just as much crap when you pulled it, as when Angel did... I know there are a few people back in England that you call friends, but all the family you have left are right here in this town. I don't care what any DNA test might tell you, that is your daughter sitting right there, and Dawn and Xander and Willow, maybe nieces and nephews. It seems to me that you went to England looking for a family and walked out on one instead."
Spike cut in. "An' she hasn't even mentioned Tinkerbell. You were right there when you all told her she was family... an' even I gave in to that one in the end an' you couldn't give me Harris if you threw in a '57 Chevy."
Buffy looked up at the man who was more to her than just her watcher. "You're right, I don't need you. I don't. The thing is, whether I need you or not, I want you.
I asked you to give me away rather than my own father... and we didn't even try to stiff you with the bill for the wedding," she added with a wry smile. "That should tell you how much you mean to me. Whenever we see something 'new' on patrol, my first instinct is still that I have to tell Giles.
I don't necesssarily need a watcher. I mean there's always research that needs to be done, but we muddled through, even before we talked Wes into coming back. I will always want a Giles. Not on the end of a phone, not thousands of miles away, but here, where I can see the disapproving look in your eyes, and watch you polish your glasses, where you can teach me some new training technique and where I can come to you for a hug when I've had a crappy day and 'cause I know you're too British to ask for one."
"I think what she's saying, Rupert," Spike added, with his normal snide tone as he said Giles' name, "is that, as much as you belong anywhere, you belong here. An' since your former has spilled all your deep dark telly watching secrets..." The blond gave a smirk. "I don't think she'll take no for an answer."
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