“Giles, we need to talk.”
Giles looked at her through glazed eyes. “So, talk.”
Anya sat down, shaking her head as she reached for the tumbler of scotch he held. He rolled his eyes, but handed her the glass. Then he immediately picked up the nearly empty bottle and held it protectively against him.
“Fuck’s sake, Giles…you being drunk isn’t going to help anything.”
He looked into her eyes, not bothering to hide the sadness in his. “And me being sober is?”
She sighed heavily and shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know. But, this isn’t what she would’ve wanted for you.”
“I’m not going to drink myself to death, Anya. I just…I’m just working through it.”
She arched an eyebrow and looked at him dubiously. “This is you working through something? I’ve never seen you use this method before.”
“I’ve never watched Buffy die before.” He said, nearly inaudibly.
She placed his tumbler on the coffee table and gave him a look that she hoped was as empathetic as she felt – these emotions were still hard for her to show properly, even when she felt them. Giles didn’t seem to notice though – he was too busy picking at the label on the bottle in his hands.
“I know you loved her.”
“Mm.” He mumbled, slipping his thumbnail under the edge of the label.
Anya hesitated for a moment and then sat up a bit straighter. “I know you were in love with her.”
Giles’ jaw tensed briefly and he lifted his eyes. He shook his head slowly. Anya gave him a sad smile.
“Giles, you don’t have to deny it – and you never did have to hide it.”
“No. No, I’m not denying it. But, it’s not were.”
She furrowed her brow in confusion. “Huh?”
“You said ‘I know you were in love with her’. It’s not were, Anya.” His glazed eyes began to glisten. “It’s are. Or…am, if I were saying it.”
“I’m sorry.” She whispered.
He glanced towards the window and took a shuddering breath. “If I knew she were safe, I could process this better, I’m sure. But, she closed the portal…the portal to a hell dimension. And…god help me, I have no idea what that means for her. And I don’t know what to do.”
“Well, drinking yourself into oblivion isn’t going to help whether she’s in a hell dimension or not.”
“I suppose not.” He agreed softly, a tear forming but catching on his eyelashes.
“Giles…if you cry, I’m going to cry. I’m okay with you crying, but if you can’t deal with me crying…you’ll need to hold it back until I leave.”
He slowly turned towards her, the tear falling from his lashes and rolling down his cheek. “I’m fairly certain I can deal with you crying, Anya.”
She looked at him for just a moment before wrapping her arms around him. He stiffened briefly and then returned her embrace. His hold on her tightened when he heard her sniffle. And suddenly, they were comforting one another. His tears were silent, but steady.
“She loved you too. You know that, right?”
He swallowed thickly and exhaled softly as he nodded. “We…we were together, Anya. Buffy and I. We…”
She pulled back gently as he trailed off. “You were in a relationship?”
“We…yes. Yes, we were. We were going to tell you all after…” He cleared his throat, wiping the tears from his face. “After we defeated Glory. We were supposed to come back…and we were going to tell you.”
“Giles…” She whispered, her eyes glistening.
“I don’t know what to do.” He admitted, rubbing his thumb along the band of his ring. “Everything I did was for her and…”
“Now she’s gone.” Anya finished.
“Yeah.” He nodded slowly, meeting her eyes. “And I’m lost. And heartbroken. And…angry.”
Anya tilted her head slightly, but said nothing and waited for him to continue. He clenched his fist and took a deep breath.
“I’m so fucking angry.” He bowed his head and lowered his voice. “But, I’m also so very proud. I’m not surprised by her actions, but I wish she’d found another way…or that I’d been able to give her another way.”
“There wasn’t much time.”
“No. No, there wasn’t.”
“Do you want me to stay? I can tell Xander I’m helping you not drink your entire liquor cabinet.”
To her surprise, he chuckled softly. And then he handed her the bottle that was still in his hand.
“No. I’m just going to go to bed.” He looked up and into her eyes. “Thank you, Anya.”
“We’ll get through this, Giles. We’ll figure it out. We have the BuffyBot to help out until we…” She stopped suddenly and stared at him. “That’s why you refuse to be around the BuffyBot now.”
“I…can’t.” He stood up, pausing to steady himself before attempting to walk. “That is…far too painful for me at the moment.”
Anya nodded, watching him walk towards the hall. “I thought you were going to bed?”
“I am.” He smiled sadly and glanced up at the loft. “But, I can’t go up there right now.”
“Too hard to climb the stairs?”
He hesitated, tears threatening to spill again. “The sheets still smell of her. I don’t want to change them. But, it hurts too much to be there – without her.”
He gave her a gentle nod and turned to continue down the hall without another word. She sat there on the sofa, a nearly empty bottle of scotch in her hands, and decided to wait a while. At least long enough for him to fall asleep. Just in case he needed her.
* * *
Anya was flipping through a magazine (that she was sure had been one of Buffy’s) when a knock sounded on the door. She furrowed her brow as she put the magazine back where she had found it and stood up. It wasn’t overly late, but if it had been one of the Scoobies, they would’ve just let themselves in. She opened the door slowly…then narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest.
“What are you doing here?”
Ethan Rayne smiled. “Have we even met?”
Anya rolled her eyes. “Giles made sure we all knew you by sight after your last fiasco.”
“That’s fair.” Ethan replied quietly. “Is he here?”
She studied him curiously, surprised by his response. “He’s in bed.”
He arched an eyebrow, a playful grin appearing. “And you’re not with him?”
Anya dropped her arms to her sides and furrowed her brow. “No, why would I be? I have a boyfriend waiting for me to come home so we can have sex.”
Ethan looked genuinely confused. “Then…why are you here when he’s in bed?”
“Because he needed someone to talk to.” She answered without thinking.
He straightened and looked into her eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s been a bad week.”
Ethan took a step forward, pausing when Anya didn’t move. “Oh…may I come in?”
“Why? So you can turn him into another demon?”
Sadness flashed in Ethan’s eyes. “No. That’s done. I’m honestly not here to cause any problems.”
“Then why are you here? Because from my understanding, that’s pretty much all you do.”
“I overheard a conversation about a dragon appearing over Sunnydale last week. That sounded very much like a Rupert thing…and I was intrigued.”
“Overheard a conversation? Who was conversating about it?”
Despite the situation, Ethan chuckled softly…earning him a glare from Anya. “Sorry.”
“Who was talking about dragons?”
“It was underground. A couple of scabby monk types.”
“Fuck.” Anya muttered. “What else did they say?”
“Something about Glorificus being defeated because Ben was killed.”
“Did they say anything about Buffy?”
“No. Buffy wasn’t mentioned.” He paused and looked at her carefully. “What about Buffy?”
Ethan’s eyes widened. “What about Buffy?”
Anya opened her mouth, then closed it. Ethan noticed the glistening in her eyes before she stopped the tears from fully forming.
“Oh, shit.” He gasped. “Please…please, let me go to him.”
“Because he loved her. And…if she’s gone, he’s going to implode.”
Anya thought about that statement and gave a small nod before taking a step back, allowing him an unspoken invitation inside.
“Thank you.” Ethan whispered, walking by her and turning towards the stairs.
“He’s not up there.” She said, closing the door.
He turned to look at her, gesturing towards the loft. “You said he was in bed…”
“Yeah.” She glanced towards the hall. “Guest room.”
Ethan’s eyes widened in disbelief. “They were sleeping together?”
Anya stared at him. “How did you jump to that conclusion?”
“I know Rupert.” He replied, quickly making his way towards the hall.
She thought about that and then followed him down the hall. He was already in the guest room by the time she caught up with him. She stayed back, just inside the door, and watched him make his way to the bed where Giles was snoring softly.
“How much did he have to drink?” He asked, looking back at her. He saw the silent question in her eyes and smiled. “He’s only ever snored like that when he was drunk. And…there’s definitely an odour of alcohol about him.”
“I don’t know.” She sighed heavily, glancing at Giles. “He was drinking from a nearly empty bottle – but, I don’t know if that was all from tonight…or if there was more.”
Ethan nodded and exhaled softly. He knelt next to the bed and gently stroked Giles’ hair. Anya raised an eyebrow at that, but said nothing.
Giles stopped snoring and then murmured Buffy’s name. Ethan smiled sadly and shook his head.
“No mate, it’s Ethan.”
Giles’ brow furrowed and then he slowly opened his eyes. He took a steadying breath and then rolled his head to the side towards Ethan.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“I came to talk about a dragon, but…turns out maybe we should have a much deeper conversation.”
Giles stared at him for a moment, giving his eyes time to clear somewhat. And then he took a deep breath.
“And why the fuck would I talk to you?” He started to shake his head, then thought better of it. “Seriously, Ethan…if you’re here to fuck with me again, just bloody well put me out of my misery this time.”
“I’m not here to fuck with you, Rupe. I honestly came to…I don’t know, make amends?”
Giles snorted a laugh that held no amusement. “What, are you dying or something?”
“No.” Ethan replied softly. “I just…missed you.”
“Those days are long gone, Ethan.”
“I’m not talking about that, Rupert. I’m talking about you…your friendship. Before I fell into Chaos.”
Giles narrowed his eyes slightly. “What happened to you?”
“Not important.” He answered quickly. “What happened here?”
“Hellgod. Hosted by a human. She wanted to open a portal to go home…needed Dawn for that.”
Ethan tilted his head slightly. “Dawn?”
“Buffy’s sister…but, not.” He licked his dry lips and turned his eyes back to the ceiling. “She was the Key, a ball of energy made into human form for protection…and placed in Buffy’s care as her sister.”
“The ritual was started – blood, of course. The only way to stop it was for the blood to stop flowing.” A tear rolled from the corner of Giles’ eye. “She wouldn’t sacrifice Dawn. She closed the portal herself…to save the fucking world. And then I buried her. And then I came home…alone.”
“How did you know?” Giles whispered, closing his eyes.
“I watched her try to kill a demon and then realise it was you. And then I saw how you looked at her afterwards.” Ethan shrugged a shoulder and smiled. “It wasn’t all that hard to see, mate.”
“I don’t know how to do this.” Giles said, pain evident in his words. “I knew it would be hard as her Watcher. I didn’t expect to fall in love with her. And I sure as fuck didn’t expect for her to fall in love with me. I wanted so much more for us.”
“Rupe – ”
“My official job is finished. Faith is technically the next in line, but – ”
“You need to not make this about your job.” Ethan interrupted gently. “Because what you’re going through right now has nothing to do with a loss of employment and everything to do with the loss of a lover.”
Giles opened his eyes and looked at Ethan once more.
“She was more than my lover.”
“I know.” Ethan whispered.
“What do I do?” He asked, his voice quavering with emotion.
“Right now, you sleep. Tomorrow we work on staying away from the alcohol. And you don’t give up. I see it in your eyes, you want to. But, I won’t let you.”
“Fuck you, Ethan.” Giles murmured.
Ethan smiled and ran his palm across Giles’ forehead. “Sleep now, mate. Rest.”
Giles’ eyes closed and he took a deep breath. Ethan sat back on his heels, watching him for a moment before blowing out a soft breath.
“What was that about?” Anya asked, staring at Ethan.
Ethan jumped slightly, having forgotten that she was there. “What was what about?”
“You putting him to sleep…”
“He, uh…he needs the rest and he needs to sleep the alcohol off.” He reddened lightly as she arched an eyebrow at him. “It’s something that used to help him years ago.”
“Using magick to put him to sleep helps him?” When he hesitated in answering, she continued. “What’s the real deal between the two of you?”
“The real deal?” He tilted his head slightly, still kneeling next to the bed. “We were friends once. Best friends. Then we created a demon and got caught up in magick and drugs and sex…”
“With each other?”
Ethan glanced at Giles and cleared his throat. “I don’t think I’m comfortable with this discussion right now.”
“Did you love him?”
“Part of me will always love Rupert.” He exhaled slowly and stood up, slipping his hands into his pockets. “That…stays between us, yes?”
They both looked towards the hall when the front door opened and closed.
“Gil-eo, I’m here to give my report!”
“Buffy?” Ethan asked, taking a step towards the hall.
Anya quickly grabbed his arm. “Not exactly. Wait here.”
He nodded, even though he had many questions racing through his head. He watched Anya run down the hall towards the living room, then turned back to Giles when he heard him murmur incoherently in his sleep.
“What the fuck is actually going on here?” He asked softly, to no one at all.
* * *
“Hi, Anya – where’s Giles? I came across…” The BuffyBot paused, staring over Anya’s shoulder. “You’re Ethan Rayne.”
Ethan nodded slowly, eyes wide and mouth open in surprise.
She walked around Anya, tilting her head slightly as she narrowed her eyes at him. “You tried to kill Giles.”
“Why is he here?” She asked Anya, still staring at Ethan. “What did he do to Giles?”
“Nothing.” Anya reached out and grabbed the bot’s arm. “Giles is sleeping – Ethan is going to help him.”
“Help him do what?”
“I’m…really confused here. What the hell?” Ethan said, finally finding his voice.
“Ethan…meet the BuffyBot.”
Ethan glanced at Anya, then looked back at the bot. “Bot? As in…robot?”
“Yeah.” Anya nodded, crossing her arms over her chest. “Spike had her made a few months back. We found out, deactivated her. Realised we could use her against Glory. And then, when Buffy died…we figured it would be best if people didn’t know – so, we put her to work. It’s better than nothing…”
“Why did Spike have a robot made that looks like Buffy?”
“Oh, Spike loved me. We had mucho sex.” The bot replied with a bright smile.
Ethan stared at the bot in disbelief. “You’re a sexbot?”
“Well, not anymore. Now I’m the Slayer.” The bot looked at Anya. “And I need to give Giles my report.”
Anya shook her head slowly. “No, from now on you give your report to Willow. You don’t come here – you go to Willow.”
“Why? Giles is my Watcher.” The bot furrowed her brow in confusion.
“I was Buffy’s Watcher.” Giles said quietly, causing everyone to turn to look at him. “You…are not Buffy.”
“I make you sad, don’t I?”
Giles stared at her for a long moment. The bot sighed and shook her head.
“Your heartrate is inconsistent. Why do I make you nervous?”
Giles’ jaw twitched, his eyes began to glisten.
“Oh.” The bot’s eyes were drawn to a framed picture on the coffee table. “You look very happy there.”
“You should go.” Giles said, clenching his fist then releasing it.
“You loved her.”
“Please go.” He repeated, shaking his head. “I can’t do this…talk to you.”
“I don’t exactly understand – ”
“You don’t need to understand.” Anya interrupted quickly. “You need to go to Willow. Give her your report and tell her that I’ll come by to talk to her later. This is important…very important. You can’t come here again.”
“But, who will train me?”
“You’re a robot. You don’t need to be trained. You need to be programmed. Giles can’t program you – Willow is the computer person.”
“Yeah, but – ”
“Anya, please.” Giles spoke, cutting the bot off. “Get her out of here.”
Anya looked between Giles and Ethan. “Will you be okay?”
Giles nodded, briefly looking at Ethan. “We’ll be fine.”
Anya returned his nod, wrapping her hand around the BuffyBot’s arm. “Come on, BB. Let’s go see Willow.”
“BB?” She questioned as Anya led her to the door.
“Uh-huh.” Anya opened the door and gently pushed the bot outside. She turned back towards Giles, one hand still holding the bot’s arm and the other on the door knob. “You sure?”
“Thank you.” Giles said quietly, running his hand through his hair.
Anya looked at Ethan and Ethan smiled back at her. As the bot started babbling about something regarding marzipan, Anya rolled her eyes and closed the door.
Giles sighed heavily. Ethan’s smile faded as he looked at Giles.
“I’m surprised you’re awake. You used to sleep for hours after – ”
“Buffy’s voice trumps your magick.” Giles interrupted, glancing at the liquor cabinet. “Care for a drink?”
“I’ll make tea.”
Giles rolled his eyes, but sat down on the sofa. “Fine.”
Ethan paused and then sighed heavily, walking over and sitting down next to him. “Talk to me.”
“You know everything…”
Ethan snorted a laugh, shaking his head as Giles looked at him. “Mate, I know that the last time I saw you, we got very drunk and had a very pleasurable evening together.”
“Mm.” Giles mumbled. “And then I woke up in the morning – you gone and me a demon. Not as pleasurable.”
“Yeah, well…” Ethan sat back and crossed his legs. “Thing is…I didn’t know that night how you felt about Buffy.”
“No, you didn’t.” Giles agreed, rubbing the side of his neck. “She didn’t either.”
“So how did that happen?”
Giles looked at him warily. “What are you doing, Ethan?”
“You need to talk about it. About her.” He reached over and put his hand on Giles’ knee. “This is going to kill you otherwise.”
“How long are you staying?”
Ethan pulled his hand back and shrugged a shoulder. “How long do you need me?”
“I don’t know.” Giles whispered, sudden tears forming.
“Ah, fuck Rupert…”
Ethan moved quickly, placing his hand on Giles’ shoulder as Giles broke down.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
One Week Later
Ethan leaned against the dresser, watching as Giles picked up a pillow from the bed. “You sure about this?”
“No…” Giles shook his head slowly, gripping the pillow tightly. “But, you can’t keep sleeping on the sofa…and we can’t share a bed. So…here I am. Changing the sheets on the bed that I shared with her…so you can take the guest room.”
“Have you been up here since?”
Giles lifted the pillow to his nose and inhaled deeply. Then he exhaled shakily and cleared his throat.
“Long enough to get some clothes.” He glanced at the bedside, sighing when he saw the earrings he had removed from her ears the last time they made love. “Jesus…”
Ethan watched him gingerly pick up the earrings, noticed the tears threatening to spill. He watched as Giles curled her fingers around the jewellery, saw the muscle twitch in his jaw.
Giles huffed a sad laugh, slipping the earrings into the pocket of his jeans. “No.”
“And that’s alright.” He pushed himself away from the dresser and sighed. “Rupert, I’m fine on the sofa.”
“I need to do this, Ethan.” He whispered. “She’s…gone.”
“What can I do?”
“I…” Giles sat down on the edge of the bed and shrugged his shoulders. “Fuck if I know.”
Ethan sat down next to him. “You know I’m here.”
Giles nodded slowly and looked at him. He looked at him for a long moment and then leaned into him, kissing him softly.
Ethan pulled back and shook his head. “Ah, fuck Rupe…”
Giles sighed. “I’m sorry. I…I didn’t – ”
“It’s not that I don’t want to, Rupert. But, I can’t let myself go down that road.” He smiled as Giles looked at him in confusion. “That’s a road that’s very hard for me to turn off from. It’s different for you, always was.”
Ethan stood up and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I can help you work through your grief – help you find a way to carry on without her. But, I can’t do that by falling into bed with you. If it’s sex you need, you’ll need to go elsewhere, Rupert. Because…I can’t.”
Giles nodded slowly.
“And you have no idea how fucking hard it is to say that to you, do you?”
“I know how hard it is for you.” He admitted quietly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have put you in that position.”
The corner of Ethan’s lips quirked into a smile. Giles rolled his eyes.
“Poor choice of words, but the sentiment is the same. I’m sorry.”
Ethan nodded in acknowledgement of his apology. “So, let’s get these sheets changed, yeah? Small steps…”
“Yeah. Small steps.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Three Weeks Later
Anya looked up as Ethan walked through the front door of the Magic Box. “Hey…”
“Hey.” Ethan looked around and narrowed his eyes. “Where is he?”
“Back room – hitting things or throwing things.” She looked towards the door to the training room and sighed. “He’s really pissed off today.”
“I’ll go talk to him.”
“Make sure you duck when you open the door. You’re liable to get a face full of some sort of weapon.”
Ethan chuckled softly. “Thanks for the heads up.”
He started walking towards the door, then paused and looked back at her. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Xander’s at work. Dawn’s at school. Willow and Tara are working on something with BB before Giles takes her head off.” When Ethan raised an eyebrow in a silent question, she continued. “BB said something about Giles needing to find a girlfriend and Willow needed to step in between them.”
“I take it that the bot doesn’t know about the relationship between Rupe and Buffy?”
“No. I think that would be a little weird, don’t you? Considering she was built as a sex toy for Spike.”
“Where is Spike these days?”
“No clue. If he’s smart, he’ll stay gone though.” Anya placed a charm on the rack she had been restocking and sighed. “Which means he’ll probably be back tomorrow, because he’s a fucking idiot.”
Ethan grinned and nodded, making his way to the training area as a couple of customers came in through the front door.
Giles spun towards the door, glaring at Ethan as he walked through the door and closed it behind him. “What do you want?”
Ethan arched an eyebrow at him. “Well, that was uncalled for.”
“I don’t have time for this shit right now, Ethan.”
“Obviously you’re in the anger stage.” When Giles merely stared at him, Ethan sighed. “It’s normal to feel angry, Rupert.”
“Not like this.” Giles muttered, picking up a knife and flipping it in his hand.
“How do you mean?”
“I’m not just angry that she died.” He admitted, throwing the knife at a target across the room.
Ethan’s eyes followed the knife, which embedded in the center of the target. “Okay.”
“I’m angry at her for dying. For taking that leap.” He picked up another knife and threw it as well, harder than the first one.
“That’s normal, you know.”
“I can’t even look at Dawn. I’m supposed to be helping take care of her – and I can’t bring myself to do anything for her. Because she shouldn’t be here. Buffy sacrificed herself to save something that didn’t even exist to her less than a year earlier.” A third knife was thrown, with deadly accuracy. “And I’m so fucking angry with her.”
He picked up a fourth knife, but didn’t throw it. “And then I feel horrible for being so angry…because I love her so much and I miss her. And I’d give nearly anything to just hold her again.”
He sighed heavily and looked at Ethan. “I’m trying my best to work through it, but I’m having a very difficult time with this step.”
“She didn’t even give you a chance to say goodbye.”
“Ethan, don’t.” He said with a warning tone.
“Is that the hardest part for you? The…non-closure?”
Giles took a step towards him, eyes dark. Ethan held up a hand and shook his head.
“No, mate. You don’t get to pummel me over this – for once, I did nothing wrong.”
Giles stopped and closed his eyes. “Did she ever love me?”
“That’s the real source of your anger? Bloody hell man, you know she loved you. From everything Anya has told me, love was never an easy thing for her. She said that Buffy never told Captain America that she loved him…”
“What the hell is up between the two of you?”
“Jealous?” Ethan smirked.
Giles rolled his eyes. “Fuck off.”
“Look, she’s the only one of you who didn’t know me. She gave me a chance – because she could see that I just wanted to help you. Everyone else is always wondering what I’m up to…waiting for the other shoe to drop, as it were.”
“Tara didn’t know you.”
Ethan sighed heavily. “Yeah…she did. But, that’s not important right now. Anya…she doesn’t pull any punches. You never have to wonder what she thinks. That’s refreshing.”
“Xander would do his best to hurt you if you try anything with her…”
Ethan laughed and then exhaled a deep breath. “I need you to really listen to me right now. But…I kind of need you to put the knife down first.”
Giles looked down at his hand in surprise, as though he’d forgotten he was holding a knife. He placed the knife back in the case and slipped his hands into his pockets. Ethan walked over to the pommel horse and leaned against it.
“You have to know that she loved you – and that love was pure and honest…and ran very deep.”
“There is no way you could know that.” Giles responded, nodding towards the pommel horse. “And…could you please move away from that?”
“Huh?” Ethan looked at the object he was leaning against. “Why?”
“Because I asked you to. Please.”
Ethan looked at him curiously, but moved away as requested. He nodded towards the green leather sofa. “Okay if I sit there?”
“Yes.” Giles said absently, walking over to the pommel horse and lightly touching the leather.
“So what’s up with that?” Ethan asked, gesturing towards the piece of equipment.
Giles shook his head, then made his way to the sofa and sat down with Ethan. “I would have killed Dawn.”
Ethan looked at him, but said nothing.
Giles sighed, resting his head against the sofa back. “I did suggest that to Buffy.”
“She told me that she’d stop me if I tried.” He swallowed, staring at the ceiling. “I killed Ben instead.”
“There was no choice, really. Buffy gave Ben mercy. But…Glory would have come back once she recovered. And the only way to kill her was to kill Ben. So, I talked to him…and then I took a deep breath – and smothered him.”
He rolled his head towards Ethan, meeting his eyes. “I haven’t told anyone else.”
“You’re feeling guilty about that?”
“I took a human life. Purposely took a human life. That’s murder.”
“You know it’s not that simple.”
“I would have killed Dawn to save Buffy.” He gestured towards the door. “All of them know that, including Dawn. I’ve never said those words to them – but, they know.”
“Rupert, look – you have a few different layers of grief going on here. No one is going to judge you for anything that you did or thought about doing.”
“Buffy would.” He whispered, turning his eyes back to the ceiling.
Ethan shook his head slowly, reaching over and placing his hand on Giles’ shoulder. “I’m not sure who you’re angrier at right now. Buffy for dying, Dawn for existing, or you for living.”
“It’s not Dawn’s fault. She’s an innocent in all of this. She didn’t ask for any of this to happen.”
“So don’t punish her for things that are out of her control. She needs you, Rupert.” He smiled sadly. “They all need you. They all loved her too.”
Giles thought about that for a moment and then nodded slowly. “I still can’t be around the bot. I’ll try for the others, but I can’t be around it.”
“Understandable.” Ethan exhaled slowly. “Anything I can do?”
“You’ve done so much already.”
“I can do more.”
They were quiet for a long few moments and then Giles stood up, slipping his hands into his pockets. “I keep dreaming that she comes back. And then I wake up…and she’s not there. And it’s like I’m reliving that first morning without her over and over.”
“I just want the dreams to stop.” He whispered emotionally, lowering his eyes. “It…hurts.”
Before Ethan could respond, Giles turned and walked out of the training room. Ethan sat there for a very long time…thinking.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Four Days Later
“Are you fucking insane?” Anya asked, eyes wide as she stared at Ethan. “He’ll go ballistic. And not in a ‘ooh look a new monster in Sunnydale’ kind of ballistic. The kind of ballistic where he glares at you and you’re not sure if he’s going to just walk away or punch something.”
“He doesn’t need to know.” Ethan said in a huff.
“Doesn’t need to know?” Anya shook her head slowly. “I’m pretty sure that if it worked, he’d damn well need to know. What the hell are you even thinking?!”
“My friend is hurting and I can do this. All I need to do is grow an Urn of Osiris.”
“Grow one? Why don’t you just buy one. I’m sure you could probably find one on eBay. They have everything else on there.”
Ethan stared at her in disbelief, shaking his head. “It has to be grown and I need something of Buffy’s to help it find her.”
“What, like clothes or something?”
“No…like part of her.”
“Ew, what the hell?”
“Jesus Christ, Anya…her hair would suffice.”
“So, you want to dig her up and give her a haircut?”
Ethan took a deep breath. “Yes. Or…I could pull a couple of strands out of her hairbrush that’s still in the bathroom at Rupert’s place.”
“Sometimes I wonder if you really were an actual demon.”
“Fuck you, Ethan. There was a time when I would’ve made you eat your own intestines.” Anya growled back at him.
Ethan grinned. “And then you’ll say something like that and there’s no doubt.”
Anya rolled her eyes and pulled out a pen as she flipped open her notebook. “Okay, so explain this ritual to me. And while you’re at it, explain how Giles is not going to be super pissed off at all of us.”
“The ritual I can explain. The other…not so much.”
“Great…” She mumbled, waving her pen at him. “Go on, then…”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A Little Over Three Months Later
Willow read through the pages that Anya had given her.
And then she read through them again.
She stopped in the middle of her third read-through and looked over at Anya, her brow furrowed and her eyes full of confusion. “What is this? A resurrection spell?”
Anya nodded. “Yeah, it is.”
“Where did you get it?” Willow asked carefully. “Because…there are a lot of spells in the dark books and I just don’t think – ”
“Ethan.” Anya interrupted. “Ethan’s been working on this for months. The Urn is pretty much ready.”
“What do you mean?”
“Ethan had to grow the Urn of Osiris because they need a ‘part’ of the intended for maximum potential of success. And it’s good that he told me that part, because those ones on eBay can cause problems.”
“Wait. A part? He made an urn out of a part of Buffy?” Willow asked incredulously.
“Not like a finger or anything, just some of her hair.”
Willow nodded uncertainly. “Even if this works…she’s been gone for a while. I mean…what if she comes back wrong?”
“Like that horrible movie that Xander made me watch where they buried the kid in a ritualistic Native American burial ground and he came back and killed everyone?”
“Uh…I was thinking more like…what if she came back without her Slayer powers or something, but…okay.”
“I asked Ethan about that. Because, you know…that movie freaked me out. He said that this spell is good for up to five months after death. Anything after that, it would be unwise to use this.”
“So, why did he wait this long?”
“It takes three months to grow the Urn.”
Willow thought for a moment and then sighed heavily. “I’m going to have to kill the deer, aren’t I?”
Anya looked taken aback and shook her head. “No – that’s easy enough to come by. I know a purveyor…”
“Of course you do.”
“Hey…saves you from killing Bambi, doesn’t it?”
“But, what about Giles? Do we tell him? He’s leaving tomorrow…”
“We don’t tell him. He’ll try to stop us, he’ll beat up Ethan, and then he’ll leave angry.” Anya said matter-of-factly. “So, we keep it to ourselves. And then if it goes wrong, he doesn’t have to witness it.”
Willow nodded slowly. “Do you think it’ll work?”
“Ethan wouldn’t have given it to me if he wasn’t sure. He’s also going to be your anchor during the spell. He’s the only one strong enough.”
“Great…” Willow muttered, feeling suddenly more anxious than she ever had before. “So, tonight?”
Anya nodded, but said nothing. Willow sighed heavily.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Why am I on Dawnster watch?” Xander asked quietly. “I mean, why can’t Giles watch Dawn? That way I can help you guys.”
“Giles needs to be home. If this works, she’ll go straight to him. If he’s not there…” Willow replied with a shrug.
“Yeah, okay…but – ”
“You’re the only one of us who doesn’t have experience in magic, Xander.” Anya said, patting his back affectionately. “You can’t help with this, honey.”
“I should be there.”
“You should stay here, out of the way.” Ethan said in a slightly annoyed tone.
When everyone stared at him, he rolled his eyes. “Besides…Dawn’s pretty taken with you. She’ll be more comfortable with you.”
“You really think this is going to work?” Xander asked softly, nervously.
Ethan nodded slowly. “Yeah, I do, mate.”
“But…what if it doesn’t?” Xander bit his bottom lip and glanced at the others before refocusing on Ethan. “I mean…you’re there with him. He’s finally starting to move forward. If this doesn’t work, it’ll crush him.”
“One…that’s why he doesn’t know. Just in the very slim case it doesn’t work. Two…he’s not moving forward. He’s doing his best to cope, but he still wakes up screaming in the middle of the night.”
“How do you know that?” Xander asked suspiciously.
Ethan gave a sigh of exasperation. “You do understand that his place isn’t all that big, right?”
“So…you’re not sleeping with him?” Anya asked, eyes narrowed.
Anya shrugged a shoulder. “I see the way you look at him sometimes. And now…well, he’s alone.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s fucking me.” Ethan said, narrowing his eyes back at her.
Xander’s eyes widened. “Whoa…what?”
“Jesus Christ…” Ethan grumbled, his eyes darkening. “This is not the time to discuss anyone’s sex life, much less mine – which does not include Rupert.”
“Mm…” Anya murmured, disbelief heavy in her tone.
“It doesn’t! Now stop, we have much more important things to discuss. This has to happen tonight – if it doesn’t, it won’t happen at all. The Urn is at its highest potency and the moon is going to be as close to full as it’s going to get without being entirely full.”
He stared at everyone until they nodded in agreement. Xander gave Anya a soft kiss and a whispered ‘I love you’ and then demanded Ethan keep her safe. With a heavy sigh, Xander turned and walked into the house to a waiting Dawn and a round of The Game of Life.
Ethan shifted the bag of supplies to his other shoulder and took a deep breath. “Okay…are we all clear on what we need to do?”
Willow tilted her head slightly as she looked at him. “So, you and Giles….that’s a thing that really happened?”
Ethan rolled his eyes and turned, storming off towards the car…a string of obscenities flowing from his lips.
Anya gave a half smile and nodded. “Yeah…that’s a thing that really happened.”
“Huh…” Willow said under her breath.
Tara sighed heavily, sliding her arm around Willow’s. “He loves him, you know.”
“Yeah…that’s why he’s doing this.” Anya said, still watching Ethan as he carefully placed the bag into the trunk of the car.
“What do you mean?” Willow asked.
“He loves him so much that he’s willing to do everything in his power to give him the one thing he wants more than anything else.”
Anya shook her head slowly. “Love. Which just so happens to be Buffy.”
“Yeah.” Willows whispered. “Do you think this is really going to work?”
“I think Ethan wouldn’t try it if he wasn’t sure.” Tara answered nervously. “This is huge…very dark magick. He grew an Urn of Osiris – that takes a lot of power. It’s not something that you just do for the fun of it.”
“Can we go, please? We’re getting a little too close to time for my liking.” Ethan called out, opening the car door and sliding in behind the steering wheel.
“Well…here goes everything…” Willow muttered, leading Tara and Anya to the car.
* * *
“What’s this for?” Anya asked when Ethan handed her one of four shovels.
“Digging a hole…”
Anya rolled her eyes. “I know that. But, why are you giving it to me?”
Ethan handed Willow and Tara a shovel each and shook his head in mild frustration as they all looked at him for an answer.
“We have to dig down to her coffin before we start the ritual.”
“Because when this works, I’d rather her not wake up in a closed coffin, six feet in the ground.”
Willow’s eyes widened. “I wouldn’t have thought of that…”
“Do we open the coffin too?” Tara asked nervously, positioning the tip of her shovel against the earth.
“No.” Ethan answered carefully. “I’ll know when to open it.”
“Okay, so we dig…do the ritual…let her out…then?” Anya asked, pushing her shovel into the ground.
“Then we help her. Whatever she needs us to do. Then we help her get to Rupert.”
“So, I was reading a little about this ritual.” Willow said, following the others and beginning to dig. “It’s pretty dark, from what I could gather.”
Ethan nodded, tossing a shovel-load of dirt to the side. “It’s extremely dark. Not something that Rupert would approve of any of us doing. But, it’s a necessary darkness.”
“How dark are we talking?” Anya asked. “Snakes dark?”
Ethan looked up. “I’ll take the brunt of the tests. No harm will come to any of you.”
“Tests?” Tara asked, her brow furrowing. “And…snakes?”
“Snakes are always part of the dark arts.” Anya said with a shrug. “Don’t know why, but they are.”
“Technically, one snake – and when it appears, you mustn’t interrupt the ritual. Protect the Urn at all costs.” Ethan said, dropping another load of dirt to the side.
No one knew how to respond to that, so no one did. Instead…they all continued to dig.
* * *
Giles looked longingly at the liquor cabinet. He ran his hand over his face and exhaled deeply. He couldn’t deny the fact that he wanted a drink. But, he’d been doing fairly well in the past couple of weeks. He was beginning to laugh more, which actually made him want to cry more. It was an interesting paradox he’d fallen into.
He was nowhere near happy, but he was learning how to exist without her. It hadn’t been all that long since he was sent to Sunnydale – he had existed for far longer without her than with her. He grumbled at himself often, reminding himself of this fact. But, then he always answered himself with another fact.
He had existed without love – he had lived with love.
Things were very much different now. He glanced at the calendar that Ethan had insisted on hanging up – then he sighed heavily.
“One hundred, forty-seven.” He mumbled to himself. “Will I ever stop counting the days?”
He rubbed the side of his neck and glanced at the ticket lying on the coffee table. A one way ticket. He wanted to think he’d come back eventually. But, he couldn’t bring himself to purchase a return flight. He needed to heal – and he couldn’t do that here. Not when her grave was…here.
He glanced at the liquor cabinet again and shook his head. Then he pushed himself up and made his way over to the stairs leading to the loft.
He needed to pack.
* * *
Tara bit her lip so hard it began to bleed. The cuts appearing on Ethan’s arms caused him to gasp in pain, but he refused to scream. He fell forward, catching himself with his hands on the grass. He looked up quickly when Anya started to move towards him.
“Don’t you fucking dare stop now…” He growled, his eyes dark with magick.
The three of them continued and the Urn began to glow. Ethan coughed and spluttered, then began to retch. They increased their chanting, in speed and volume. Ethan groaned in pain and then retched again – this time expelling a snake from deep within him. Anya kept an eye on him, but Tara and Willow didn’t see the snake until it slithered across in front of them.
Willow’s eyes widened and she grabbed Tara’s hand. The snake looked at them both, its forked tongue flicking the air quickly before continuing on its journey.
Ethan sat up on his heels, staring at the Urn as he fought to catch his breath. An orange-tinged mist circled around them as the ritual continued. Ethan placed his hand on top of the Urn and uttered the final words of the spell. His fingers curled around the pottery and a crack appeared down the side. A white mist seeped from the crack, instantly mixing with the orange. They all watched as the mist swirled for a moment before diving down into the open grave.
“Is that it? Did it work?” Willow asked anxiously.
Ethan breathed heavily, but said nothing as he reached for a shovel. He carefully slid down into the grave and positioned himself on top of the lower part of the coffin. He counted to twelve and then used the shovel to pry the coffin open.
“Please let it have worked…” He whispered to himself as he lifted the lid.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles was carrying his suitcase down the stairs when his front door opened. He opened his mouth to ask Ethan if he wanted to go out for a drink – because he was sure it was Ethan who was walking into the house.
The suitcase fell from his hand at the bottom of the stairs and his eyes widened in disbelief. For a very brief moment, he thought that the bot had come by for whatever reason. But, the moment that he met her eyes, he knew…this was no bot. This was Buffy.
“Oh my god…” He whispered, taking a step towards her. “Buffy?”
He tentatively lifted his hand, it trembled as he touched the side of her face. He gasped at the warmth of her skin and tears filled his eyes. Her bottom lip quivered with emotion and a tear rolled down her cheek as he pulled her into his arms.
They held one another tightly, neither unable to contain their sobs. After a few moments, he placed a soft kiss on top of her head and took a shuddering breath.
“How? When? Are you alright?” He inhaled sharply as she tightened her hold on him. “Christ, your strength has certainly been unaffected.”
“Oh…” She whispered, loosening her arms and pulling back enough to look up at him. “I’m sorry.”
“Bruises I’ll cherish.” He murmured, tenderly brushing the hair back from her eyes. “I don’t understand…”
“Ethan, I think.” She started, then tilted her head questioningly. “Has he been staying here?”
He nodded slowly. She glanced up at the loft.
He shook his head. “Guest room.”
“So…you two…” She paused and looked into his eyes. “Do you still love me, Giles?”
He leaned down and brushed his lips across hers, lingering for a moment when she placed her hand over his heart. He kissed her a second time, deepening the touch briefly before pulling back and smiling softly.
“I never stopped loving you, Buffy.”
“So…you and Ethan? Not falling back into old routines?”
“No, love.” He whispered, his thumb gently stroking her cheekbone. “Where were you?”
“Can we talk about that later?” She asked softly. “We need to talk about it, but…right now I just want you to hold me. Is that okay?”
He nodded, running his fingers through her hair.
“Well, maybe a bath and a change of clothes too.” She added on a sigh. “I feel like I smell musty.”
“You smell…like you.” He replied emotionally, a single tear rolling down his cheek. “I missed you so deeply, Buffy.”
She reached up and wiped through the tear’s trail with her thumb. “I missed you too, Giles.”
They looked at each other for a long moment and then Giles cleared his throat. “Um, bath…yes. I’ll, uh…I’ll run you a hot bath.”
Buffy bit her bottom lip nervously – an action that Giles did not miss.
“What is it, love?”
“Do I still have clothes here?”
“Everything you had here is still here.” He answered with a gentle smile.
“Living in hope?”
“Unable to move on.”
Her eyes widened slightly at the soft admission and he took a step back from her, gesturing towards the hall with a jerk of his thumb.
“I’ll, uh…I’ll go get the bath started for you.”
He paused his movement. “Yes?”
“Can I come with you? I…really don’t want to be alone right now.”
He cursed himself inwardly, then extended his hand towards her. “Of course, stupid of me to think otherwise. I’m sorry, I’m just…more than slightly overwhelmed at the moment.”
She took his hand, curling her fingers around his. “Yeah, me too.”
“I don’t understand how this happened, but…I’m so very glad you’re here.”
She glanced at the suitcase he had dropped and looked back up at him. “I’m so very glad that you’re still here.”
“I…assume that is partly the reason of this timing.” He replied with a sigh.
“Were you going home?”
He paused and then nodded slowly. “Yes, to…try to process. It’s very apparent that I can’t process here. Not with…well, not without you. Everything here is colored by you.”
She was quiet for a moment and then squeezed his hand. “Can I go with you?”
His response was interrupted by the door opening. They both turned to see Ethan walk in. Giles stared at his friend and inhaled shakily.
“What did you do?”
Ethan bit his bottom lip nervously and looked at Buffy as he closed the door. “Are you alright?”
Buffy hesitated and then nodded. “Thank you for opening the coffin.”
Giles narrowed his eyes. “You dug her up?”
“I couldn’t let her wake up in there. That would have been terrifying for her. More terrifying than being pulled from…where she was.” He slipped his hands into his pockets and rocked on his heels. “There was no deviation from the spell and the Urn grew beautifully.”
Buffy’s brow furrowed. “You can grow an urn?”
“Oh, yes. In some cases, it’s the only urn you can use.” Ethan smiled gently. “A ritual as delicate as this called for an extraordinary urn to pull your essence from – ”
“What if it hadn’t worked?” Buffy interrupted quickly. “What if you pulled my essence and I came back wrong?”
“I was confidant that wouldn’t happen.” He ran the fingers of his right hand through his hair and glanced at Giles. “And I had to do something. There was only one something that was going to help him – and that wasn’t going to England.”
Giles looked from Ethan to Buffy, his eyes bright with unshed tears. “Where were you?”
When she merely looked at him, tightening her grip on his hand, he gasped.
“Christ…you weren’t in a hell dimension at all, were you?” He whispered, doing his best to not choke on the words.
She shook her head, lifting her other hand to his chest. “I need you to take a deep breath, okay?”
He looked back at Ethan, a tear forming in his eye. “You knew? You knew where she was…and you took her from peace? To bring her back here?”
Ethan didn’t verbally respond, but he didn’t need to. Giles could read the answer in his dark eyes.
“Bloody hell, Ethan…how could you do that?”
“How could I not?”
Giles took a step towards Ethan, his eyes darkening. Buffy curled her fingers into his shirt to hold him still.
“She deserved her peace. After everything she’s done for this world…”
“You were crumbling, Rupert. Your anger was only going to be your final downfall.”
Buffy tilted her head and looked at Giles. “Anger?”
“I did what I could to save you.” Ethan continued, as if Buffy hadn’t said anything.
“You shouldn’t have.”
“I will always do everything I can…to help you, Rupert.” Ethan said softly. He cleared his throat and gestured towards the door. “I’m going to go. I just wanted to come by to make sure she got home safely – her speed hasn’t been affected, in case you’re wondering.”
Giles stared at him, the tear that had formed rolled down his cheek. Ethan swallowed and exhaled slowly.
“I won’t apologise for this, Rupert. I’m not sorry for keeping it from you, I’m not sorry for anchoring the ritual. This was my idea, okay? Don’t take your frustration out on the others – they were following my instructions…because they all love you. They love both of you.”
Buffy looked at Ethan, easily reading the thoughts left unspoken. “And you love him.”
He gave her a gentle smile and walked over to the door. Giles carefully pulled Buffy’s hand from his chest, placing a soft kiss on her knuckles before walking towards Ethan. As Ethan pulled the door open, Giles grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back towards him. He wrapped his arms around him in a tight embrace and did his best to control his emotions.
“Thank you.” Giles whispered.
Ethan brushed his lips over Giles’ shoulder before pulling back. He cleared his throat again and smiled. “I’ll go get a room at the Holiday Inn. Let me know if there’s anything I can do before I leave, yeah?”
Ethan arched an eyebrow at him, casting a very quick glance towards Buffy. “Um…yeah, didn’t bring her back for that.”
Giles stared at him in confusion for a moment and then rolled his eyes. “Jesus, Ethan. Don’t go as in…don’t leave Sunnydale. I need you to stay…to watch out for them. Just for a while.”
“I’m taking Buffy to England with me for a couple of weeks. But, I can’t leave them on their own. I need you to stay.”
Ethan regarded him closely for a moment and then nodded, walking out the door and closing it behind him. Giles took a deep breath and turned to face Buffy, who was looking at him quizzically.
“So, that’s weird.” She said, gesturing towards the door. “You asking him to keep an eye on our friends. How did that happen?”
“Ethan…is full of surprises. Always has been. He’s been a great help to the others, not just me. Especially to Willow and Tara.”
“You trust him?”
He nodded slowly, looking into her eyes. “I do.”
“That’s weird too.”
He tilted his head slightly. “That I trust him?”
“Yeah.” She whispered, sliding her arms around him and resting her head against his chest. “I love you.”
“I love you.” He whispered back, his voice thick with emotion.
They held each other for a long moment, her fingers gripping his back through his shirt. She sniffled and wiped her sudden tears against his chest.
“I wasn’t at peace.”
“But…you were in – ”
“There are things I need to tell you.”
She pulled back and looked up at him. “What about her?”
“We should…she should know that you’re here.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Maybe you were right. About that night. About what I should have done.”
“I’m not sure there was a right or wrong that night, love.” He said, gingerly brushing the hair back from her face.
As she opened her mouth to respond, the phone rang. He closed his eyes briefly and sighed heavily. On the second ring, he placed a kiss on her forehead. On the third ring, he picked up the phone and winced as Dawn’s voice immediately came through the line.
“Is it true? Is she there?” She asked quickly.
“Yes, but – ”
“We’ll be over in a couple of minutes. I just have to find my shoes and – ”
“Stop!” He said, more forcefully than intended.
Buffy raised an eyebrow at him.
He took a deep breath to calm himself and started again. “Let her freshen up, change clothes. I’ll bring her over within the hour.”
“But – ”
“Dawn, please. Give her that. Give us that.” He rubbed the side of his neck. “I promise, we’ll be by soon.”
Before Dawn could reply, Giles ended the call and tossed the phone onto the desk. Buffy waiting a moment and then sighed.
“Want to tell me what that was about?”
“Hm? Oh…obviously the others have made it back to your house and let Dawn know that – ”
“No, not that. I’ve never heard you have that tone with Dawn before. Not even when she spilled rohrshach all over the book you were reading.”
“I’m having some issues there.” He admitted with a glance towards the liquor cabinet. “I’m…angry.”
“At everyone. Including myself.”
“We have a lot to talk about, don’t we? Both of us.”
When he hesitated in answering, she took his hand and led him towards the hall. He narrowed his eyes, but followed her.
“What are you doing?”
“I think we both need to freshen up, change our clothes.”
He nodded silently, allowing her to lead him into the bathroom. There was definitely much to discuss, things to figure out, plans to make. But, for now…they needed to pause, take a minute, let the weight of the moment to distribute over them.
Later, he’d drive them over to Revello and do their best to cope with the onslaught of questions that he was sure they’d endure. And he’d leave the room for a moment and book a ticket for her on his flight to London.
Tomorrow, he’ll drive them to the airport and hold her hand throughout the flight. And then he’ll hire a car at Heathrow and drive them down to the country…to his family home. And they’ll be able to breathe, regroup, love.
But for now, he’d settle for a hot bubble bath with her back resting against his chest…holding her as she cried – as he cried.
But, not all of his tears would be of pain this time. For the first time in 147 days, he actually felt warmth. And that was something to cherish.