A Little While Longer
By Darcy Galvan

TITLE: A Little While Longer
AUTHOR:  Darcy Galvan
SPOILER WARNING: Nothing really. This could pretty well fit in anywhere.
DISCLAIMER:  Everything Buffy belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Warner Brothers.
RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY: Dealing with tragedy is, of course, very difficult. Especially when you can't find anyone or anything to blame but yourself; no matter how wrongly. The most important thing in times like these is having support from those you love. In this tale Buffy gets a little added bonus.
FEEDBACK: Yes please!


Her nails were dark red.  Almost black.  It took me a minute to decide, but I figured it out.

I watched her hands when she held that sucker, cherry, I think, it matched her lipstick.  Watched her hands when she grabbed his face.  When she kissed him. I wanted to put a stake through her eye first.  Then the heart.  Not much you can do when you're chained.

At least Willow came for me before she could touch me.  Her hands were probably cold and smooth.  Gentle but terrifying because you knew what she liked to do with them.  She said she particularly liked scratching peoples' faces and eyes.  Don't know why she told us that.  Crazy bitch.  They're all probably a little crazy, the women.

Willow and Oz and Giles found us, came for us.  Don't know how.  Willow said something about a detection spell, tracking spell, spells confuse me.  Didn't hear too much.  Her mouth moved, I'm pretty sure about that, sound might have come out, but I'm not quite sure.  I could be wrong.  She found me anyway.

Oz staked the woman.  Didn't see Xander at first.  Giles had to turn around and see him slumped against the wall.  He had some of her lipstick smeared on his lips still.  They'll clean that off before the funeral, won't they?  Willow just stood there.  Didn't know what to do.  I think she was trying to decide between screaming, crying, killing herself, or killing someone else.  The woman was already dead, Xander was too.  He didn't feel Willow start to hit him after she dropped to her knees.  Giles cleaned up her cuts later.  I doubt she noticed when the antiseptic stung and bubbled on her knees.  He didn't feel it when she lifted him into her lap and held him either; when she cried on his face.  Don't do that, he doesn't deal with crying well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Buffy, are you hungry?" Joyce asked gently.  The Slayer had just sat there for the last eighteen hours, staring blankly at the TV.

Buffy turned dull, sad eyes on her mother.  "No thanks, Mom," she said, trying to produce a smile, failing.  She turned back to the TV and commented colorlessly, "Why doesn't Ricky ever let her be in the show?"  The young woman suddenly rose, dropping the blanket onto the back of the couch, brushing invisible dust off of her pants.

"Buffy?"

"Later, Mom," Buffy said, exiting the house.  Joyce hurried after her daughter.  The Slayer moved with incredible speed and was already disappearing around the corner, into darkness.  Joyce turned back inside and closed the door, heading for the phone.  She hastily dialed the number and twisted the cord impatiently in her fist, her fingers nervous and rigid.

"Mr. Giles?...Yes, it's terrible...How are his parents doing?...I never liked that man one bit he's not fit to be a...Mr. Giles?  I called because Buffy just left...I-I don't know, I couldn't catch her and, God, I hate this, you probably know where she'd go better than I do.  Could you bring her back.  I don't know if I could make her come home, and, and I'm afraid she'll get herself hurt....Thank you, hurry.  Thank you."  She hung up, letting her hand linger on the phone, not sure what to do with it once she dropped her hands and was isolated again.  She resolutely removed her hand and began making hot cocoa for Buffy when she returned.  Fourteen marshmallows.  Just the way she liked it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy blames herself for Xander's death, thinks she should have been able to do something.  She takes too much on herself.  Anything that goes wrong is her fault, in her own mind.  Sometimes I want to feel she's just the stupidest girl for that.  I can't blame her, though, can't point out the error of her ways, I do the same thing.  I think it very well may be a common Watcher, Slayer fault. Well, I suppose it really is our fault when something happens, isn't it?  We're assigned protectors of the world and it's inhabitants; we botch something up, some poor soul dies.  Isn't that the way it goes?  We can't save everyone. The other children always had the ability to realize that there were some things out of their control.  The pipe that knocked Buffy out was out of her control.  So were the chains.

Why do I still refer to them as children?  They gave up childhood the moment they declared themselves her Slayeretts.  Why did I let Buffy socialize?  Ah, there's my guilt.  I knew I'd find it somewhere.  But, no.  Think about it, Old Man, they were all safer for knowing what was going on, for knowing the Slayer.  They knew what was going on and knew how to deal with it, protect themselves.  Protect themselves as far as any person possibly can.  I suppose it wasn't enough.  I know it will never be enough.  At least it might keep them a little while longer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He found her wandering around the cemetery.  Normally, she would have gone to The Bronze to get away, especially during the summer.  But he knew that's not what she wanted.  Thank God she'd been in the first place he'd checked, instead of wandering the streets and park, on the moved, desperately harder to find.  But he found her.  Giles almost drove right past the figure, drifting through the trees on the other side of the fence.  She was wearing dark blue, blending into the shadows and darkness, but her hair, pale blonde and shining as always.  He threw the car into reverse, it made awful, protesting noises and he winced.  <Best not do that anymore.>  But no matter.  Buffy glanced up at the sound and saw the car.  She gazed at it for a moment as she continued walking, then her head turned and she ignored it again.

Giles hopped out of the car and searched swiftly for the nearest entrance to the cemetery.  He'd lost sight of her, but caught again the flash of blonde and caught up to her.

"Buffy," he said gently.  She didn't turn.  He took her arm and she spun around.

"Giles," she commented, her voice calmly surprised, as if she'd just noticed him.  Her soft voice was at odds with her rigid body.  "You come to join a gal on her rounds?"

"Buffy, your mother was worried, she sent me to come bring you home."

"Aaaah, Mom's always worried about one thing or another."

"Buffy, I was worried too.  You haven't had time to heal yet.  Why are you out here?"


"Someone's gotta kill the baddies."

"I think Sunnydale can survive without you for one night."

"No, no it can't."  Her voice was low and strained.

Giles turned her to face him.  "Buffy, Xander's death is not your fault.  You were unconscious, first off, and then you were chained.  You couldn't have done anything."

She stared at his chin for a moment and then continued walking.  "You going to help me patrol or what, Watcherman?"

"Buffy, are you even listening to me?"

"Yeah, I heard, I processed, very useful, very sensible, now let's go stake something."

"Buffy, no, it's only been eighteen hours.  You're not ready.  Come with me, get in the car."

"Can't go home until I make it-"

"Buffy!" Giles said sharply.  She stopped and he saw the lines of her shoulders and back, rigid.

"I...Can't....Giles.  Not...until...I'm finished."  She forced the words out, trying to keep her voice calm.  He heard the slight waver.  She pressed her lips together tightly, turning them pale and bloodless.

"Buffy, please?"  She drew in a shuddery breath and turned, headed for the car.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yeah, sure Giles.  What?  What's that you say?  It's not my fault?  Sure, I buy that.  Everything's hunky dory now.  He's dead, it's not that simple, you don't get it.  It *is* my fault.  I shouldn't have let him come patrolling with me in the first place.  It *is* my fault for not being able to break the chains.  Where's that fabled Slayer strength?  Shit, where was any strength?  I felt like my shoulders were going to rip out when I pulled on them.  They were too strong.  They're not supposed to be too strong.  That's not the way it works.

I want to find every dark, evil thing in this town and kill it.  Run a stake through its heart and cut its head off.  Turning back time is impossible.  On the Hellmouth you should be able to do that.

Then he came and stopped me.  Stopped me from the only thing I have to do.  He came in that stupid car, used that damn accent and soft voice against me.   Why can't he be whining and irritating like Wesley's voice?  Can't go home.  Can't go home and watch another episode of The Brady Bunch.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She wanted to hit me, I could tell, I'm thankful she didn't, my jaw doesn't respond too well to abuse.  Her jaw wouldn't respond too well to it either, and I don't think that the vampire that would inflict the sore jaw would stop at that.  She isn't up to it and she knows it.  Why is fighting the only thing she feels she can do.  She can't face it and I don't know if I have the right to blame her.

She always does this.  Acts like nothing is wrong. Like nothing can touch her.  He's dead and it's gotten her.  But she's the Slayer, she can't just cry and accept it.  She has to be strong.

God, she looks awful.  She's still beautiful, I don't think there's much that could diminish that, but it's a tragic beauty.  She looks tired, broken.  That's one thing I never thought I'd see in her face-defeat.  When she ran to L.A., she must have looked like this.  Even then, I don't believe she was as lost as this.  She thought she destroyed him, but it was for the world.  Xander died because of an unbalanced vampire.  Because of the iron around her wrists and ankles.  She didn't kill Xander for some great cause, he was lost to us all and she knew it was her fault.  Knew in her heart.  She knew wrong.  Didn't stop to think she couldn't have done anything.  Nothing anyone could have done.

Get her home, just get her home safe.  The funeral is Thursday.  Thursday is so far away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Buffy, are you okay?" Joyce asked, her voice flooded with relief as she ushered Buffy inside and into the kitchen.  Giles entered more slowly, closing the door behind him and then following the two women.  Joyce sat Buffy down and poured her a cup of cocoa, one for herself, then offered Giles a cup.

"Yes, thank you, that would be lovely."

"Buffy, why did you run off like that?"

"Had to patrol."

"But, Buffy, you're not up to it.  Not yet, you know that.  Why do you have to run from everything?"

Buffy winced and bit back the urge to slap her mother or shatter the mug clasped between her cold hands.

"You can't ever just end at 'are you okay', can you?  You have to just rip out my lungs and show them to me, don't you.  'Here, Buffy, here's what's wrong.'"

"Buffy I just..."

"Save it, Mom."

"Buffy, your mother is right," Giles said, taking a drink of his cocoa and setting the mug carefully on the counter top.  "You have to accept this.  He's gone and it's not your fault."

"Sure, Giles, I never thought of that.  Boy, thanks for the cure, doc, how much do I owe you?" she asked snidely.

"Buffy."

"Listen, I know I'm being a total witch.  I-" she took a jerky breath and blinked viscously.  "I just can't-" she closed her eyes and shook her head, resting her forehead in her hand.  "God, he's gone and I can't ever get him back.  Can't get him back for Willow or for anybody.  I've screwed up so many times and this time Xander is *DEAD* because of it."  She slumped against the counter and lowered herself to the ground, pressing against the side of the counter in the kitchen, sobbing.  She struggled and gasped for breath, painful sobs jerking her shoulders.

Giles dropped down next to her on one side, Joyce on the other.  Joyce gathered Buffy against her, resting her head on Buffy's, murmuring gently.  Giles grasped her hands in his own, pressing them to his cheek.  He hesitated a moment before doing this, unsure.  He and Buffy had never really used physical touch as reassurance, they were always more apt to articulate their feelings, their support of one another.  It didn't feel odd, or wrong.   It didn't feel anything but right.

<Watchers and Slayers were never meant to be anything but close and loving.>   A few minutes later, Buffy fell asleep, her cheek pressed against her mother's chest.  Her breathing evened out and she drifted off to sleep for the first time in twenty-four hours.

Joyce looked at Giles.  "I can't carry her.  Haven't been able to even pick her up since she was twelve.  I was younger then.  We both were."  Her eyes had focused on a point somewhere beyond Giles' head, face sad and troubled, tired.  Giles nodded and picked Buffy up gently.  She whimpered in her sleep and tucked her head against his shoulder.

Joyce pulled back the covers and he placed her on her bed.  Giles was going to remove her shoes when he saw she was barefooted.  Grass and pieces of earth stuck wetly to her feet.  He stared dumbly at them for a moment.  She didn't even stop to put on shoes.  Didn't even notice.  He brushed them off before covering her up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He looked at me with hate this time.  At least the fear was gone.  I couldn't take the fear, or the tear that ran down, next to his nose, after she kissed him.  The tear was blood this time.  This time he stared reproachfully at me.

"You didn't even try."

Yes I did.

"You didn't give a damn about me, about anyone but yourself.  After Angel left, all you could do was wallow in self pity and then deny that you were.  No, nothing's ever wrong with Buffy that she can admit.  Didn't even stop to think that it wasn't a good idea for me to come, did you?  That deaths had been higher lately.  Didn't think, you were too busy checking yourself for possible faults, reasons that you were alone.  You weren't alone, but you could have cared less.  Look where it's gotten me."

"You can't break the chains, you tried," Willow's voice told me through Xander's lips.  "It's okay.  No one can do it all.  Go to sleep."  But I have to unchain Xander, she'll be coming back soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy woke up and looked at the clock.  It was seven forty-five.  She dragged herself out of bed and brushed her teeth halfheartedly.  Downstairs, her mother was skimming the newspaper, cup of coffee and an orange sitting in front of her.

"Hey, honey, you feeling any better?"

"How long have I been asleep?"

"Since the night before last."

"Really?" Buffy scrubbed a hand across her face.  She poured herself a bowl of cereal, hunger gnawing at her stomach.  She ate slowly, stirring the flakes around in the milk more than eating them.  A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door.  Joyce looked at Buffy, who sighed tiredly and waved at her face.  "With this?"  Joyce laid her paper neatly on the table and went to see who was at the door.

"Buffy, it's for you."Buffy pushed her chair back and stood.  It was Willow.

"Willow."  The redhead stood in the doorway, Oz behind her.  The guitarist's face was usually passive.  This was beyond that.  Sad, tired.

<Everyone looks tired.  Why are we tired.  Just  wanna sleep.>

"Hey, Buffy," Joyce chose this moment to disappear, but the two girls didn't notice.

"Willow, I'm so sorry."

"Buffy, it's not-" she bit her lip and  Buffy wrapped her in a hug.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don't know what to think.  I know it's not Buffy's fault.  We knew what we were getting into when we joined up.  Joined up.  Like we're an army.   But I guess we are, huh?  Last line of defence.  Some part of me, though, wants it to be Buffy's fault.  Someone to blame.  He wouldn't have even been there if - no.  We knew, we accepted.  We accepted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Buffy."

"Giles, I can't sleep."

Giles had opened the door at one-thirty in the morning, robe carelessly tied at the waist.  He fumbled with his glasses.

Buffy pushed past him.  "Somehow I was under the impression that you never slept."

"Common misconception."

Buffy stood by the couch and breathed in slowly.  "I know it's not my fault, Giles.  I know it logically, but I just don't want to accept it.  I guess if I did, I wouldn't have anyone to blame.  It would just be another one of those things.  Someone who just fades away, they're just gone, no one ever paying for it, no one ever taking responsibility.  Can't look at them and say, 'That's why they're gone,' and feel better 'cause you know there was a cause."

"Buffy, there was someone to blame.  There was the vampiress.  She killed Xander.  You saw her.  Oz staked her.  Her dust is probably still there."  His face was hard, his voice strained.  It made him furious the way she kept insisting that blame be placed on her.

"She didn't have a name, didn't really pay for what she did.  She was just, gone.  But he had no reason to be there.  No right.  You can blame stupid people who get caught in the middle of the night.  Who wander off with people they don't know.  He was there because *I* let him come.  I never let them patrol with me, I..."

Giles grabbed Buffy by both shoulders and shook her sharply.  "Damnit, stop!"

Her eyes widened and a lone tear slipped down her cheek.  She twisted free of his grasp and pushed her hair back, face becoming calm.  "I can't help it," she said simply.  "I know, I know it's not my fault, I just..."

Giles sighed deeply and sat on the couch. "Buffy, don't.  Don't start again."  He dropped his head into his hands and didn't move for a moment.  "Please.  I'm so tired of us trying to always place blame.  Always making ourselves pay for things out of our control.  If I could find some way to blame myself, I would.  Xander is dead. He's gone, and..." he pulled in a long breath.

Giles thought about the way he'd felt when Buffy had told them that Willow had been turned into a vampire a few months ago.  The way he hadn't been able to breath for a moment.  How the words 'I failed them' echoed over and over in his mind.  He'd known he'd had nothing to do with it, but he couldn't believe it.  Now Xander was gone and Giles didn't think his breath had come back yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Giles silence and stillness scared Buffy.  She sat down next to him and took his hands, pulling them down, away from his face.

"Giles, I'm sorry," she said quietly.  He looked at her.  Wondered how she'd managed not to kill herself with guilt yet.  After everything she'd been through.  He knew that she blamed herself in some small way for every death that occurred in Sunnydale.

He smiled wanly and tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, trailing a hand across her cheek.  "I know, Buffy."

"Can I hang around for a while?  I still don't think I can sleep and if I go home, in the morning, Mom'll just start offering me waffles and ice cream and peanutbutter sandwiches all over again."

"Of course.  Would you like a cup of tea?  If not I believe I have some cocoa around here somewhere."

"Um, no, tea'll be fine.  But add lots of sugar and anything else you can to make it taste less like tea."

"Then why drink tea?"  Buffy shrugged and he quirked an eyebrow.  "Would you like chocolate syrup or perhaps some paprika in there?"

"Just make the tea," she said with a small smile.  A few minutes later, they sat, sipping tea.  Giles yawned and Buffy suddenly thought about what she was doing.  "Maybe I should leave now."

"You don't have to, Buffy.  I'm fine."

"I just don't want to go to sleep.  I dreamed about him four separate times last night."  She gave a trembling smile and Giles put their cups on the table.  "I miss him."  She leaned forward and Giles wrapped his arms around her.  She leaned gratefully against him.  Buffy didn't cry.  She didn't have anything left.  She just felt sorrow at the loss of her friend.  Xander had so much more to do.  People who loved him.  He'd never gotten to explore the world outside of Sunnydale.  He hadn't even had the chance to be happy yet without the underlying fear that the world was about to end or a vampire or demon was waiting to get him.  Now he'd never get another chance.

He felt her breathing even, the way it had the night he'd found her in the cemetery.  He didn't want to move her, so he slid down against the arm of the couch and closed his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I woke up and didn't quite know what to think.  Then I remembered I'd fallen asleep at Giles' last night.  I almost jumped off the couch as fast as I could.  Not supposed to care about Slayers, are we, Giles?  You're not my Watcher anymore, though, are you?  Not officially.  Screw the Council is what I've always said.  No reason to discount that now.  You're soft.  And warm.  I'll just stay here a little while longer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Buffy finally stood up.  Her mother would be wondering where she was soon.  <Probably think I've gone and killed myself or something equally dramatic.>  She supposed her mother couldn't help it, she was a mother, it was a mother thing to worry and expect the worst.  Giles grunted and she turned.  His eyes were open, no sign of tiredness.

"How do you wake up that fast?"

"Practice."


Buffy reached out and took his glasses off the coffee table and handed them to him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why didn't you put your glasses on when I gave them to you?  Unsettling.  Watching me without the glasses.  I could see everything.  Nothing between us.  Stop it, I'm not used to that.  I can't stand it when you look at me.  I feel like you know everything when you look at me.  At least now I can see something of you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I gotta go, Mom'll be up soon."  Buffy hitched a thumb behind her, indicating the door. Suddenly, she lowered herself next to him and dropped her upper body lightly over him in a hug, pressing her cheek to his.  "Thanks for letting me crash here."  She looked up and her eyes met his.  Buffy brifely brushed her lips across his and got up and left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why in the world would she do something like that?  What was she thinking?  Motive, anyone?  I suppose she's still in shock, not sure what to do now that one of her best friends is gone.  I hope it's not uncomfortable the next time we meet.  But still, that's no excuse to screw with my head like that.  It's allright that you nearly gave me a coronary Ms. Summers, no trouble at all.  But, damn.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So he'll only think you're a little insane.  Way to go, Buff.  What did I do that for?  You know why you did it.  You felt like it.  That's the last time I ever decide to go with sudden urges.  Not that it wasn't nice.  What?  It was nice.  I like touching him.  I like hugs and kisses and touches.  I hated not being able to be close to him.  I hug all my other friends, why not him?  I didn't think he'd ever hug me back.  Okay, obsessing much?  Stop it, brain.  Mom'll be up now.  I'll be inside before she notices I was gone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The funeral was on an infuriatingly sunny day.  The earth had no right to be bright and warm, gentle breezes ruffling the trees.  It had no right when one of the best friends anyone could ever have was being lowered into the ground.  Of course, they knew inwardly that Xander deserved a day like this.   His life had never had more than momentary spots of sunlight when he was with his friends.  He deserved a whole day of sun with birds singing him away.

Wesley, not wanting to intrude, but feeling the need to come out of respect for the young man, appeared briefely to give his condolences, then disappeared somewhere into the bright day.  Anya and Cordelia turned away first, heading for Cordelia's car.  She'd flown in from L.A as soon as she'd heard.  Angel didn't come. He wouldn't be able to attend the funeral and he wasn't too sure if Xander would have wanted him there anyway.  Joyce took Buffy's hand and led her back to the car, Giles behind them, headed for his own car.  Oz stroked Willow's head slowly as she watched the coffin lowered into the ground, a light hum of motors interspersed by high, clear, sweet bird songs.  Willow knelt down, mindless of the wet dirt that stuck to her knees from the light rain the previous night.  Wet earth and trees after the rain had been his favorite smell.  She shaded her eyes and looked up at the sky.  She figured God knew how important this boy had been and decided to give him everything he'd wanted.  She pulled something out of her pocket and looked at it.  A plastic spider ring.  Xander and Willow had officially decided to become best friends on Halloween and he'd given her the ring he'd gotten in his trick-or-treat bag.

"You're my Xander.  Love you."  She kissed the ring and bent over, leaning down and put the ring on top of the coffin just before it sank out of her reach.  She gave a shuddery sigh and rested her forehead against one of the flower arrangements scattered around the grave.

"Ready, baby?  They'll be waiting."  The group had agreed to meet at Xander's favorite restaurant for lunch.

"Yeah.  Yeah, I'm ready."  She stood and leaned against Oz as they headed for his van.

In the restaurant, they all ordered their lunches.  As they waited for their order, Buffy pulled something out of her bag.  A package of Ho-Ho's.  Willow's face broke into a smile, which Buffy and the remaining members of the Scooby gang returned.  The Slayer handed the snack cakes out to everyone at the table.  They peeled back the foil wrappers and Buffy held hers aloft.

"To our Xander."

"Our Xander," they echoed, bumping the Ho-Ho's together.

Cordelia dropped her head and Anya turned away.  Oz propped his chin up on his fist and contemplated the table.

Buffy blinked and bit her lip thoughtfully, then reached under the table and bumped Giles hand with her own.  <I thought you were going to give up going with sudden impulses.>  She rested her open palm against the back of his hand.  Giles turned startled eyes on her, then he returned his gaze to the opposite wall, his face softening.  She felt his hand turn and he intertwined their fingers, his warm palm pressing hers.  Buffy smiled, some of the sadness of the day seeping away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She thought I didn't see that?  Too bad, Buff.  I see all, I know all.  The great and powerful Willow cannot be fooled.  I saw your hand move.  Saw him do that startled blinky thing he does.  I see your arms kinda mushed together.  Go on.  Scoot a little closer to him, go on...yeah, that's it.  You don't have to worry.  Yeah, I lost my best friend, we all lost a good friend. We're sad that he's gone.  Doesn't mean we can't be happy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Found out he was warm that night I couldn't sleep. Hasn't changed.  Warm hands, Giles.  Nice.  I don't mind the callouses.  Long, slender fingers.  Did you ever notice you've got graceful hands?  You're all-around graceful, Giles.  Bet you didn't learn *that* from the Watcher's Council.  They couldn't teach something like that.  Here's Buffy, the great hand anylist.  Too bad the rest of them are here or I'd just lean against you, fall asleep again. Where's my milkshake?  Waitors are too slow.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You frighten me sometimes.  Usually, though, it's just that you keep me in a constant state of surprise.    You never held my hand before.  You never lost Xander before, though, did you?  I hope you still don't blame yourself.   I hate to watch you carry that around.  You can see it, you know.  You can see the guilt.  Don't see it today.  Today there's only that sad little smile.  Everyone's wearing the sadness.  We're probably bringing down the restaurant's other patrons.  To hell with them.  They didn't know Xander.  Less aggrivation, certainly, but it's their loss.  Yes, Xander, it's their loss.  No Ho-Ho toast for them.  Hope they enjoyed it.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Goodbye.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Ready to go, Buffy?" Joyce asked, picking up her purse.

They were all standing and leaving. They'd spent three hours in the restaurant after they finished eating. Cordelia had put down her fork and suddenly said, 'I called him the Zeppo.'  After that, they all started talking about the young man they'd said goodbye to today.  When the tears and the smiles mixed into one overwhelming emotion, they'd given sad smiles and called it a day.

"Uh, mom, actually, I was gonna go over to Giles for a few minutes.  That okay?"  She turned slightly, catching the ex-Watcher's eye, including him in the question.  He rolled his eyes in good humor and nodded ever so slightly.   Joyce frowned slightly, but nodded.  "Thanks, I'll walk home when I'm done."

"Well, allright, I'll see you later, Buffy.  Bye, Willow,"  she hugged the redhead and patted her cheek.  "Oz."  She opened her arms, not sure, and the shorter young man hugged her too.  She also hugged Anya and Cordelia.  She rather felt these children were her own, they were so often at her house.  They worked with her daughter on a daily basis and it seemed that their own parents, though not generally neglectful, never really gave them all the attention they needed.  "Goodbye, everyone."  The others said goodbye with hugs and kisses, Cordelia was going back to L.A. as soon as she gave Anya a lift home, so she gave extra long hugs, deciding to eschew her usual cattiness on this occasion.  Willow and Oz were going to go for a walk in the park, so they hugged and departed.

They had all paid for their own meals, and Giles took the money up to the counter to pay.  He and Buffy exited the building and once in the car, he asked, "Was there something you wanted to talk about, Buffy?"

Buffy shrugged.  "I don't know, Giles, I just...wanted."

Giles lifted an eyebrow, amused.  "Of course."  They sat in comfortable silence the rest of the ride to Giles' home.  He unlocked the door and put his jacket on the coatrack.  Buffy kicked her shoes off and when he gave her a questioning look, she cocked her head and stated.  "Comfort is everything."  He fixed them a cup of tea each, then sat on the couch next to Buffy.  Toeing off his shoes, Giles propped his feet on the coffee table.  In keeping with her seemingly irrepressible urge to keep him in his constant state of surprise, she leaned against him, sipping her tea calmly.  He lifted his arm unsurely and draped it across the back of the couch, quickly relaxing, enjoying the closeness.

"Giles, how do you think it'll be without him?"

"Certainly much quieter."  They laughed, and Giles sighed wistfully.  "Someone will have to take up the slack without his wisecracks."  Suddenly he frowned, thoughtful.  "Why in the world do you think Cordelia would refer to him as 'the Zeppo'?  Most odd."

Buffy snorted and shook her head.  "Nevermind, Giles.  You probably should give up on understanding most of what we say."

"A wise suggestion," he said wryly.  Buffy put her empty cup on the table.  When Giles was done, she took their cups and rinsed them, leaving them in the sink.  She came back and sat down, looking at Giles.

"I'm gonna miss him," she said simply.

"We all are.  We are all going to miss him."

"At lest now, I, I guess I know that it's not my fault.  And I guess, even though he's gone, he doesn't hurt anymore." Her face fell.   She leaned forward and Giles took her in his arms.  She pushed her face against his neck and breathed in his smell.  Old leather and soap, clean laundry and something distinctly Giles.  Buffy lifted her face.  "And I'm glad you're not gone too."  She tilted her chin up, towards Giles.  After a moments hesitation, he tipped his head down and pressed his lips to hers.  She pulled away and smiled lightly, then touched his lips with hers again.  She traced her fingers delicately over the sides of his face and down his neck to his shoulders as he tangled his fingers in her hair.  They broke the kiss and she rested her head once more on his shoulder.  "I love you."

"And I you."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That was probably the best thing I've ever done.  Wonder why I did it.  Never thought about it before.  It just felt...right.  But I guess that's as good a reason as any, huh?  They always say do the right thing, follow your heart, let your conscience be your guide.  Thank you Jimminy Cricket.   Good advice.

Do you approve, Xand?  I hope so.  I hope you don't blame me for you not being here to see this.  Of course, you'd probably gag and writhe about on the floor, but still.  I hope you're not mad at me.  I'm not mad at me anymore.  I *am* going to miss you.  I love ya.

END