Non Omnis Moriar
Duchess Stephanie

TITLE: Non Omnis Moriar
AUTHOR: Duchess Stephanie
RATING: PG-13 (Angst warning!)
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters are mine.
DISTRIBUTION: To Solo, and anywhere else that wants it, so long as it is archived with my name on it in its entirety.
SUMMARY: The last visit he never knew occurred.

He slept, but he did not dream. This she knew. Lounging in the window frame looking over the darkened bedroom, his still body, she remembered him like he was something to be forgot, and knew that his sleep would be thick and colorless and airtight as a locked room.

Better for him. He had much in his mind to build nightmares with.

She slipped one slim leg over the sill, stretched her foot gingerly until she felt the solid reassurance of the floor under her toes, and slid the rest of herself over like a boneless, silent spirit. He didn't stir, and she waited while her eyes adjusted, catlike, to the lack of light.

She made out shapes, big, blurry forms that must be his dresser and the closet and the closed door. Himself, he was lit in a blue haze by moonlight streaming in through the curtains, spreading over the sheets and among his wrinkled clothes on the floor.

Of course he wasn't taking care of himself. There was a smudged shotglass on the bedside table, and the acrid, distasteful odor of hours-old excessive alcohol and cigarette smoke filled the room invisibly, adding to the layers of misery therein.

She moved about the room without making a sound, shaking out his wrinkled slacks, his limp dress shirt, his three or four scattered ties, lain strewn over the room like so many hangman's nooses, still knotted. His shoes she laid side by side under the clothes she had folded neatly over a nearby chair he had upended.

The diary he had kept so meticulously, the pages upon pages in his neat, squint-worthy calligraphy, were ripped out in great handfuls, and blanketed the corner by the overflowing wastepaper bin liked an isolated snowstorm.

Crouching, holding one torn shred in her hand, she held it up to the silvery light to read it:

...for the funeral. I didn't stay. I couldn't. They tried, I know they did, but I left, and went somewhere. I don't remember. It's all a hazy mess, and I just keep telling myself that this is a bad dream. A nightmare. Not real...

And little bits of word, snatches of cogent thought amidst the places where the ink had smeared under an assault of tears.





That, so many times over, even sometimes just a letter or two, and it was still obvious. On one page, he had written that one word, over and over, until the lines blurred together and overlapped, and the stream petered out in a barely readable fragment. Either his will or his pen ran out, it was difficult to tell.

She picked up the pieces, and crumpled them neatly, packed them into the trash can until they all fit. It took several tries.

There was other debris around and about: a stack of open and unread cards of condolence on the desk, some books forgotten under a pile of unsorted papers and mail, and a photo album on top of all the chaos, open to the picture of an alarmingly beautiful, smiling girl with white-blonde hair and blue eyes.

That she left alone.

When she finally made her way to his bed, she bit her lip, and sat down on the edge. At the shifting of the mattress under her weight, he rolled over, and nestled his head into his shoulder like a little boy hiding from the things under his bed that go bump in the night.

Tentatively, her fingers tentatively floating in dead air for a moment before landing softly on the warm surface of his breathing flesh, she touched his face, and ran her fingers over his closed eyes. The skin just below them was puffy and blotched with the remains of hidden, shameful tears, and the delicate veins red and inflamed. Pitifully, pain hovered just above his eyelids, ready to fly in when he opened A few tiny, and some not so subtle creases had furrowed themselves in tight concern at the edges of his eyebrows, and she ran her finger over those, too, as if they might disappear. His lips were dry and chapped, and he opened them without waking, murmured something that was unintelligible despite the heavy silence.

She tilted her head down, placed her ear just above his mouth, and heard only his soft exhale; felt the feeling of his breath on the side of her face. It occurred to her that he looked rather old. Despite their great, clanging age difference, the breach of culture and generation and education that neither had ever quite crossed, that had never occurred to her... that he could be a victim of Time. It didn't seem right.

Looking further down, she found his hand, having fallen heedlessly down, all by itself on the side of the covers. She took it between hers with the same deliberate care, and traced the strong lines of his fingers, the rough callouses at the tips and where his thumb joined his flat, wide palm. She dropped a kiss there, and closed his hand into a fist, leaving it there.

"Giles," she whispered, breaking the astounding quiet. "I'm here."

He still didn't open his eyes, and that was just as well, since she never really intended for him to. He licked his cracked lips once, twice, and she put a finger to her own lips.

"Shhh," she said. "Sleep..."

And he did, and she watched him, and he was a magnificent vision, better than a dream, a very live portrait of beauty and hurt and deep, ingrained sorrow. It lay with and above and below him, and it lurked among the shadows in the room, ready to follow him. She doubted if he would ever escape it. His resolve was strong, but it had been cracked in two, and maybe it would not be enough this time.

"She loved you," she said, suddenly, quite conversationally, not bothering to hush her own voice, a wild, wrong echo through those lonely walls. "Very much. Always."

His face was turned towards her, and she talked to him, though he didn't answer. He was sleeping, after all, and what would he say?

"She never meant to hurt you. She never forgot you... no matter what it looked like. You were too close to home, after him..." she paused for the sake of old memories, and drifted on easily. "She knew you were always there for her. She knew you would die for her. She would die for you."

With that, she stopped again, surprising herself at the emotion that came with those words. Her own, and not hers, she was speaking about someone else that just happened to be her old self- who used to be her, and who maybe still lived deep inside her, trapped by the death and the pressure of the void way down in the vault of her memories.

"You couldn't save her," she said, simply. "She wasn't meant to be saved. She wasn't meant for you, old man."

And she stood up, sensing the motion of the moon on her back, sensing the fact that he was on the verge of another bolt-upright-and -scream night vision that would attack him out of nowhere, sensing that maybe he might not sleep again for a long time, and then all of what was left would be lost.

She leaned over, and kissed his damp, leathery cheek.

"Sweet dreams, Giles."

The other.

"For Buffy."

And then she closed her own eyes for the space of only one breath, and looked up at the ceiling, feeling a tugging at her own features; the mask of her kind. Fangs and horrible golden eyes, and deadly dead body poised to spring, she bent again to his side and pressed her cold mouth to his.

"For me. I love you. Goodnight."

And then Buffy turned away, her head full of moonlight and the mindless, instinctive want of life. With the same ebullient grace she had possessed in life, she sprang from roof to grass, and hit it running, running, the hunt before her and morning at her back.

She thought no more of him. Watcher, love, best friend, worst enemy... he already believed he had killed her. Given time, he might do so again, this time on purpose.

But she would leave him alone. He didn't know she existed yet, in that form, and she didn't see any reason why he should.

All he remembered was the girl with the white-blond hair and the blue eyes. And sometimes, she knew, he would dream, and wake up wishing that he had really seen her, kissing him goodnight.

The End