A Little Bit of Night Music
By Lauren

Once upon a time, there was a fic challenge posted (and of course I flubbed up and deleted it, but not before I got the chance to check it out, and I think Koala sent it).  This challenge involved a picture of Giles in a hospital bed and a dim image of a tombstone bearing the name "Buffy Anne Summers"... here's my take on the story behind it all..

Title:  A Little Bit of Night Music 1/1
Author:  Lauren
E-mail:  crashsite3@juno.com 
Distribution:  If you want it, just ask for it...
Disclaimer:  Rupert Giles belongs to Joss Wehdon, WB, Mutant Enemy, 20th
Century Fox Film Corp., etc., etc., etc...
Content:  Giles is in the hospital, Buffy is dead...  

The Council was paying for his hospital stay... It was the closest they would ever come to admitting their hand in the death of the Slayer. 

Death of the Slayer. 

It sounded so remote and impersonal when it was phrased like that... Just another casualty in the war against the Dark.  Closing his burning eyes, Giles rested one unbruised cheek against the pillow.  He had no tears left to shed. 

He had nothing left now that Buffy was gone, and after his release from the hospital he wouldn't even have the Council.  Memorio damnatia.  He didn't exist for them now... Not even as an object of ridicule or to be cited as a warning to other young Watchers. 

His whole life was gone with the stopping of his Buffy's heart.  *His* Buffy.  He wished he could have died beside her.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

By the time he was physically well enough to go home, most of the Scooby Gang had managed to find their way to England.  They made a solemn party as they all walked through the hospital in a quite huddle around Giles' wheelchair.  An air of horrible loss hung about them, dimming even the bright shine of Willow's red hair, as the little group---clothed in unrelenting black---left London behind. 

Not a word was spoken for many miles as Oz carefully drove the rented auto deeper into the countryside.  They had long since passed out of the city, but Giles still did not speak.  He stared straight ahead with bloodshot eyes at the rolling green hills.  He scarcely seemed to breathe.

When he was home he would tell them.  When he was home they would know what had happened.

* * * * * * * * *

They didn't reach the edge of the moor until well after dark, but the cottage was ready for them.  Lights glowed warmly in the multi-paned windows, flickering softly as only the reflection of a welcoming fire can.  Pulling Giles carefully from the car, Willow wrapped her arms around him and led him to the front door.

The rooms inside were still faintly cool from disuse, but the fire crackling on the kitchen hearth soon chased away any remaining chill. Giles immediately settled himself into an old wooden chair next to the fire and stared into the flames.  With a bit of fumbling, Willow and Xander rifled through the larder to find Giles' stash of tea leaves, and a box of crackers without an expiration date on them from the last decade.  It was poor fare, but strangely comforting.

Soon a steaming cup of tea was in everyone's hands and Giles began to speak.  His sentences were halting at first, as if he couldn't quite remember how to speak, but soon the words came tumbling out like a deluge.  He told them of how Buffy had come to him the week before her twenty-first birthday, and asked him if the Council was planning another Test.  He didn't know, but he thought they should be prepared just in case.

They hadn't prepared enough.

The Council sent a Death Squad after Buffy on her birthday.  Somewhere in the struggle, Joyce Summers was accidentally wounded and she bled to death in her daughter's arms.  It is amazing how quickly one can bleed to death.  All it takes is two minutes.  Just two minutes.

None of the Squad ever reported back to the Council.

When Giles found out about Buffy's plans to take her battle directly to the source, he could do nothing but follow.  He couldn't let her die alone. 

Whether it was a trap, or the gods were smiling down upon them, didn't bother them in the slightest when they managed to sneak into The Watcher's Compound after dark one night.  Creeping through the quiet halls, they traced their way ever deeper into the heart of the Council's stronghold. 

Buffy didn't want their deaths---she'd had enough of killing---she wanted something infinitely more dear to their hearts.  She wanted to destroy their records... Their charts of bloodlines... Their very foundations.

Without their cache of ancient writings, they were nothing.

Giles stopped for a moment to sip absently at his tea.  His small audience sat perched at the edges of their seats, battling between overwhelming sorrow and morbid curiosity.  As the seconds of silence stretched on, Curiosity quickly won, and they urged Giles to continue.

As if seeing the leaping flames of a larger, more dangerous blaze, Giles began to tell them of how he and Buffy had set the records burning.  It was so easy.  The papers were dry and brittle---perfect tinder for a right good blaze---and they went up quickly in a soft whooshing sound. Standing for just a moment with their arms about each other, Giles and Buffy stared into the Hell-bright room.  As they turned to leave, Giles spotted a pile of mildewing journals by the door.  A strange compulsion bade him to take one. 

Not the one on top, but the third one.  The third one.

Giles had stopped again, this time to calm his breathing.  Willow watched with bright, worried eyes as he shakily stood and reached one arm into the wide hearth and pulled a stone loose with his bare hands.  She could smell the sweet scent of burning flesh as the heated brick left its imprint in Giles' palm.  He didn't even notice the added pain.

Struggling to stay in her seat and not launch herself at Giles before he seriously hurt himself further, Willow gasped as he pulled a tattered collection of papers from the hollow.  It was the journal.

He rocked for a moment with the papers clutched to his chest, while Oz, Willow, and Xander moved closer together, pressing tightly to each other's sides.  This small stack of papers was the reason Buffy had died.

Feeding the papers one by one into the fire, Giles continued his story. He told them of how they made it back to his cottage safely just one month before with the journal in his jacket pocket, and of how he and Buffy slowly deciphered the blurred writing.  It was the journal of a Watcher named Gerald Morgan. 

It was a name Giles had never heard before, and Giles had long ago memorized the names of every Watcher who had ever served with the active Slayer... no matter how brief. 

Giles had never really given much thought to how the Council knew when the next Chosen One was to be born and where.  He had always believed the Slayer was identified through the use of extensive astrological charts and other methods of divination.  Gerald Morgan told another story. 

Buffy was the oldest active Slayer on record.  They all knew this.  Most Slayers never passed the test given them on their seventeenth birthday. They had always assumed that failing the test equaled death. 

Death might have been the better option.

Yes, the tests were designed to measure a Slayer's skills, stamina, and cunning.  Yes they were meant to weed out the weaker... but in the Council's eyes the weaker ones were those that escaped in the end.  The Test was designed to see which Slayers were completely loyal to the Council's ways.  Those who "failed" and disappeared were taken back to The Watcher's Compound---they had successfully lived by the Council's guidelines and performed exactly as they had been trained.  Those who somehow survived the tests (such as Buffy had), were then broken down with the loss of their Watcher or worse.

A strong Slayer could eventually become a threat to the Council, and must be destroyed... those who complied with their ways were honored by becoming Breeders.

This was why Buffy died.  She went back after the others.

* * * * * * *

After Giles finished his story (for he would not speak of Buffy's death), he sent the Gang to bed.  The cottage had enough rooms for several more guests, but the small hours of the morning found Willow, Oz, and Xander in one room... One bed... Struggling under the cover of darkness to gain comfort by the most basic means left to them. 

* * * * * * *

When Giles could no longer hear Willow's soft cries, or the answering voices of Oz and Xander, he went to his room.  There in the quiet gloom, he sat on the edge of his bed---the bed where he had spent one glorious month with Buffy nestled in his arms---and he began to cry. 

With the last of his resolve, Giles moved into the bathroom and found a small packet of razors in the back of a drawer.  He would be with Buffy soon enough.  Running a sink full of warm water, Giles carefully sliced up the center of one wrist, placed his arm into the sink, and watched the water slowly cloud from pale rose to deep red. 

When a small, pale hand removed his bleeding wrist from the sink and drained the dark water away, Giles was too drowsy to protest.  The soft strains of Mozart's Night Music were playing on the old phonograph in the corner.  The hand led him to his bed, calmly tying a soft bandage around his wrist the whole time, and then gently tucked him in. 

Sobbing raggedly, Giles felt too weak to even be curious as a warm pair of arms curled around him.  He opened his eyes to find the bleary image of an unnaturally tall man, swathed nearly from head to foot in white, with just a bit of faintly blue skin showing around his eyes.  With a thin wavering---like an image on water torn by a breeze---he vanished, leaving behind a hollow voice.

"This is my gift to you.  It is not a payment of debt, or a signal of debt owed.  Enjoy what you have regained.  As you once gave me the woman who became my mate, so now do I return the favor."

Giles slowly turned in the arms that held him, and found himself face to face with his Beloved.  She held a shaking finger to his lips. 

"Buffy is dead.  I'm Elizabeth now..."

"Elizabeth," he breathed.  Placing a soft kiss on her lips, he sighed. "I'm so happy to meet you..."

Mozart continued to wind around them, the strings running with a soft flourish, but they never heard the ending.  They were fast asleep, curled tightly in each other's arms as the dawn crept into the window and the old phonograph ground to a halt.  Soon morning would come, and the other sleepers in the house would have to be bound into secrecy, but for now they all slept, curled up tightly in the arms of their lovers.