The Watching of the Blind
By Kathy L

Title:  The Watching of the Blind
Author: Kathy L
Email: ladyvorlon@mindspring.com
Part: 1/1
Feedback:  Please!!! It makes the muses dance.
Spoilers:  Through 'Something Blue'.
Disclaimer: Joss own's them. I merely borrow.
Distribution:  Solo, I'd be honored.  Anyone else, please ask.
Summary:  My version of what might happen if the events in the Buffyverse continue on their present course. Warning, serious angst ahead!!!
Dedication:  To Lily.  Thanks for taking the time. You rule.


It had been a bad night.  As he made his way through the streets of Sunnydale, Spike cursed the piece of silicon in his head for the millionth time, and the fates as well for their abject cruelty.  It was bad enough that he couldn't feed, but now they were making him go up against his own kind.   Using the promise of a supposed cure to lure him around and do their bidding like a dog on a leash.

The plan had been simple enough:  bring the sweet little Slayer captive to the big bad demon and let her go to work.  He had argued with Buffy that she didn't need him for this, but the tunnels around Minoch's lair  were crawling with the demon's vampire minions, and she was afraid that Minoch would escape if the alarm was sounded too early.  As usual, he had flatly refused to cooperate, until they threatened yet again to give up on their efforts to partly reverse the effects of the v-chip.   She hadn't told him what was to come afterwards, but he should have known.  As soon as the Slayer engaged the demon, Riley and his crew showed up to deal with the vampires while the little witch cast her spell to send Minoch back to the netherwold.   Several of the vampires, whom he knew personally, hadn't let their imminent death stop them from letting him know that most of them considered him a bigger traitor to their cause than Angelus ever was.  As if he had a choice in the matter.   Now all he wanted was to go home, forget the whole thing ever happened, and get to sleep before the sun came up.

He continued walking in the direction of the mansion when he heard footsteps behind him.  He turned around and realized that the night's events weren't quite as over as he thought they'd been.

"What the hell did they do to you, Spike?  How'd you become the Slayer's pet?" said Milton, one of Spike's former employees, as he took slow and leisurely steps towards the helpless vampire. 

<Oh bloody hell> Spike cursed to himself. <Could the night possibly _get_ any worse?> 

"Well, actually, it's kind of like this," he said, and promptly sprinted down the street.  He wasn't sure what he was going to do.  It infuriated him that he had been reduced to running away from vampires that he would have once wiped the floor with in a heartbeat.  But until Willow or the Psychotic Professor found a way to restore his ability to fight, the only thing he could do was head for the nearest crowded public place. And there just weren't that many options at three o'clock in the morning.

Milton was closing, so Spike veered, cut through an alley and leaped over a fence, which brought him into someone's backyard, and very nearly their swimming pool as well.  He darted through the front gate, overturning trash cans as he went and continued running down a street which was beginning to look vaguely familiar.  Giles'.  He almost laughed out loud at the irony of William the Bloody running to a Watcher's house to escape a scrawny vampire like Milton.

There it was, ahead on the right.  And the lights were even on.  He sprinted up the steps, tried the door and kicked it open when he found it locked, praying that Giles hadn't revoked his invitation since the last time Spike had been inside.  He stepped across the threshold just as Milton slammed into an invisible wall.

"Sorry, mate.  Better luck next time." Spike taunted.

"You've gotta come out sometime, Spike. I can wait." said Milton.

"Oh, Slayer..." Spike called out loudly, while still keeping his eyes on Milton. "Got another one for you..."

Milton's eyes went wide with panic and he took off at a run.

"Well, that settles that, then," said Spike happily.  He expected to turn around to find the ex-Watcher glaring at him, but no one was in the living room.  He didn't want to go back out again, and he thought he'd see if Giles wouldn't mind giving his relic of a car a workout.  Faced with that, or spending the rest of the day together, he thought he had the upper hand.

"Giles?" he called, looking around the first floor and finding no one.  He realized that at some point the furniture had been moved around.  Come to think of it, he couldn't exactly remember the last time he *had* been at Giles' apartment.  After Buffy had become involved with Riley and then the Initiative, the gang had gotten organized.  Strategy meetings were held in conference rooms at the compound.  Research was done by a team of historians, demonologists, and linguists that were on-call twenty-four hours a day.  Willow had told him that she suspected some of them may have even been members of the Watcher's council at one time.  Giles joined them when he could, but his job at the museum occupied most of his time.  Which was just as well with Spike. After Angel's little trip to Sunnydale, Watcher and Slayer had been getting much too close for the likings of anyone of the undead persuasion.  He had big plans for Sunnydale once he was cured, and he knew from experience that, even with the Initiative in the mix, the real threat was those two.  But it looked as if they were going their separate ways, and it was only a matter of time before Willow's reversal spell suceeded.  After that, there was a little toad of an alchemist in Santa Barbara who claimed he could magnify the effect for a full cure.  And then the world would be his again.

"Giles?" he called out again. <Where _is_ the wanker?> he thought, as he climbed the stairs for a quick check.

As he approached the bedroom he saw a pair of trouser-clad legs hanging slightly off  the end of the bed.  He called out again but there was no movement.  He walked in and found Giles fully clothed, asleep on the bed.   The smell of alcohol hung in the room like a cloud.

"Aww bugger!" he exclaimed, as he realized that if Giles was drunk enough to be passed out there was very little chance of him being driven home. He reached over and shook Giles shoulder but he didn't stir.  As he was leaning over, he saw something on the floor on the other side of the bed.

Scattered near the dresser were several small yellow pills.  He bent down for a closer look and found an empty little plastic vial lying half-under the bed.  He didn't even try to read the drug name, but as he scanned down the label he discovered that it was a prescription for sleeping pills.  It was then that he noticed the half-full bottle of scotch and the overturned glass sitting on the nightstand.  It suddenly ocurred to him that the breathing sounds coming from the bed were too slow and labored to be the simple result of a drunken stupor.

"Well would you look at that,"  he said, incredulous.

His first instinct was leap for joy and get the hell out of the house.  He was halfway down the stairs when he saw the front door hanging off its hinges and realized that if he did so, one of two things would happen. Either Milton would reduce him to a pile of ash in a matter of minutes, or Buffy would take one look at the front door, torture him for awhile, and then reduce him to a pile of ash in a matter of seconds. 

He slowed his descent and tried to figure out what to do.  He supposed he had to make it look like he at least tried to save the ex-Watcher, for his own sake if for no other reason.  He picked up the phone and called for an ambulance, trying not to laugh as the 911 operator commended him for his calmness and quick thinking.  And then came the other phone call.

He found, to his horror, that he was hesitant.  What he and Buffy had never told anyone was that Willow's spell had made them fall out of love with each other, but she hadn't made them forget it.  In that respect they were like two people who had loved - and now hated- each other with a blinding passion.  The memories were still there, brought forth by the spell but no less real in their truths.  He knew for a fact that his news was going to devastate her, and he was disgusted that the thought actually bothered him.

***

"I'm up, mom" said a muffled voice under the bedcovers as the telephone continued to ring.  After a moment, a hand emerged and felt its way around the night stand.

" 'lo?" said Buffy, still trying to stay partially asleep so she could easily go back to her slumber.

"I think you'd better get over here, pet.  Something's happened."

"Spike?  It's..." she glanced at the clock, "four o'clock in the morning! No more bad guys..." she mumbled.  "Go to bed."

"I'm a vampire, luv. It's late afternoon.  Now wake up and listen.  Your Watcher's in the hospital."

The mention of Giles name jolted her fully awake and a chill swept through her.

"What? What happened?  Is he okay?" She threw off the covers and began rooting through drawers looking for clothes. "Spike?!?!"

"Well, it could have been the half a bottle of scotch, or maybe it was the sleeping pills.  Not  sure, actually."

She tried to stop the world from spinning and make sense of what he was telling her.

"WHAT?  Is he okay?" She was holding the phone so hard she could feel the plastic starting to crack. She forced herself to take a deep breath and calm down.

"I don't know," said Spike with genuine sincerity.  "He was alive when the ambulance left."

"You didn't go with him?" she said angrily.

"Ah, no, I thought maybe you'd like to go down there and fawn over him yourself. I'm not his bloody keeper," he said testily.

The harshness of his tone was just enough to burst her thin veil of calm, and she suddenly felt tears streaming down her cheeks. "Oh god, Giles....."

"Get hold of yourself, luv. Weepin your eyes out isn't going to do either of you any good." He was being nice. Why was he being nice?  <She's the bloomin' Slayer, mate. You're supposed to be happy about this.> said the little voice in his head.  And he was trying to be happy, but the tone in her voice sounded exactly the same as her reaction when he had told her how Angelus had made him a vampire.

"ARRRGGGHHH!!!" he punched a hole in Giles living room wall as he screamed in frustration.  It hadn't ever happened, and he had to keep reminding himself that. It was just an aftereffect of Willow's damned spell.  Memories that were still rolling around in both their heads of conversations they never had. It was enough to drive him insane.

"Spike?" said Buffy, but suddenly there was nothing but silence on the other end of the line.

***

"Come on, come on..." said Buffy, who was on the verge of putting the phone down and heading to Sunnydale Memorial on foot.

"Give him a minute, Buffy, he's probably asleep," said Willow, who was doing her best to remain calm but who in fact was on the verge of a total panic.

"Yeah," said a groggy voice on the other end of the line.

"Graham? It's Buffy.  Wake up, please... I need a favor."

"Buff? What's the matter?" said Riley's best friend as he tried to clear the remnants of sleep from his head.

"We need a ride. Willow and me.  To the hospital.  Xander's not answering, and I can't find Riley and Spike called about half and hour ago and what if we're too late?" she said in a panicked voice. 

"What's going on? What happened?" said Graham with concern.  The sweep of Minoch's lair had been clean, and as far as he knew everyone had gotten out unharmed.

"It's Giles...Graham just hurry, please? I'll explain on the way."

"Okay, Buff.  See ya in 10."

Buffy and Willow sat in relative silence waiting for their ride, both too overcome with worry to try to comfort the other.  Buffy told herself that there must have been a mistake.  First of all, Giles didn't take sleeping pills.  And why would he try to kill himself?  Things were going great.  He had fought off Immigration's efforts to deport him, thanks to her mom finding him the job at the Museum.  And now that she was involved with the Initiative, he didn't have to worry about her nearly as much as he used to.  Maggie had put an entire army at her disposal, and although it was weird, she had to admit, she was relieved that her friends weren't on the front lines anymore.  Willow helped her out with incantations now and then, and sometimes Giles as well, but other than that, the fighting was left to herself and Riley's units.  And on those occasions when her friends were present, she could now fight with complete focus, knowing that they were protected.

So why would he do it?  The question still nagged her and she didn't have an answer.  He had seemed happy in his new job, and although his research was mostly taken over by the Investigations division, they still went to him for advice. Granted, not nearly as much as before, but she had thought that was a good thing. He had given up so much for her, and it was time that he had a life of his own.  He had told her once that it was time for her to take care of herself, and that's exactly what she had done.  Was he really that unhappy about how things had turned out?

She heard a car outside and looked out the window to find Graham's Cherokee pulling up in front of the dorm.  Buffy and Willow grabbed their bags and headed outside to meet him.

"Buff?" Graham said, as he got out of the jeep and closed the door.  One look at her face told her that whatever had happened, she was seriously riled. He had never seen her riled. Over anything.

Her face hardened with determination.  Graham looked like he was going to hug her and if he did she'd probably collapse right then and there on the lawn.  She marched past him saying "Thanks for coming, Graham. Let's go." and got into the car.  <Hold it together, Buffy, you at least owe him that.> she thought.

They filled him in on the way, and although they tried several times to get a hold of Riley from the car, he was still nowhere to be found.  Normally she would have been concerned, but she had more important things to deal with first.  She sent Graham off to find him and she and Willow walked into the hospital.

***

Xander and Anya, who had somehow gotten the message she had frantically left on Xander's machine, were already sitting in the waiting area of intensive care.  By the looks on both their faces when she walked in, things were bad.  Very bad. 

"How is he?" she said brokenly.  Damn. With every minute that went by it was getting harder and harder to be Calm and In-Control Buffy.  What she wanted more than anything else in the world was to burst through the double doors in front of her and find her Watcher.   If she didn't do that, she was afraid she was going to be Emotional Wreck Buffy very very soon.

Xander looked at her with compassion and said, "Not good.  They're trying to get all the crap out of his system. That's all they'll tell us." He didn't want to tell her but he thought she had a right to know.  She was closer to Giles than anyone.  Xander tried to get the words out, but he couldn't say it.  He and Anya exchanged glances, and the ex-demon added, "Buffy, they- they wanted to know if he belonged to any particular religious denomination..."

"Oh God...Giles-"  she cried as she began to rush towards the doors that led to the emergency room beyond. 

Xander caught her in his arms before she had taken more than a few steps, saying "You can't, Buff. Let them work, they're taking care of him."  She had held it together long enough, and she could no longer hold in her grief.  She sobbed silently into his shirt saying, finally, "Why'd he do it, Xan?"

"I don't know," said Xander, somberly.

She pulled away from him and looked at him. "I- I thought he was happy.  He loved his curator job, I know he did, and for once he didn't have to worry about me... " She was silent a moment, and then fresh tears ran down her cheek as she said, "There's supposed to be signs, right? When somebody does this?  You're supposed to look back at your conversations with them and say 'if only I would have paid more attention'.  But I can't do that.  I didn't see any red flags, not then not now." She turned to Willow and, though she dreaded the answer, said, "Does that mean they weren't there or that I was too busy to notice?"

Willow answered her friend by bursting into tears once again and giving her a hug.  At that moment, a tall,  slender man dressed in scrubs came out to meet them.

"Excuse me, which one of you is Mr. Giles' daughter?" He said, glancing at the three women.

A lance went through Buffy's chest as she stammered, "That- that would be me.  How is he?"

"We've stabilized him, but he'll stay in ICU for the next couple of days.  He's going to be out for a while, I suggest you all go home and get some rest.  Miss Summers, if you'd like to stay with your father, we can arrange a bed for you. Normally we don't do this, but our occupancy rate is down to nearly half what it was a year ago, for some odd reason. We definitely have the room."
 
"Thank you," she said. "I'd like that." <'I need that,' is more like it>,  she thought, knowing that if he hadn't offered they would have had to drag her kicking and screaming out of the hospital to get her to leave.

He pulled her aside and said, "Miss Summers, I'd like you to consider having your father undergo a psychiatric evaluation.  Your cousin seemed to think that this was an accident, but with this type of overdose, we can't rule out the possibility that Mr. Giles was trying to harm himself."

Buffy was still trying to make sense of what he was telling her. "My cousin?"

"Ah yes," said Dr. Stephens, "It says in his chart that Mr. Giles' nephew is the one who discovered him."

"Oh..." said Buffy. "Yeah..."

"About the psych consult, I really think you should consider-"

"Let's...just get through this, okay?" said Buffy, trying with all her slayer strength to keep the room from spinning.

"Of course.  I'll have a word with the nursing staff and see that they set you up with a room."

"I want to see him first."

"Come with me. But just you. Unless there are other members of your family here as well."

She almost went on a tirade that her family *was* here, with the exception of her mother, and they were standing right in front of her.  But Xander and Willow were both looking at her with understanding, if not tinged with disappointment. At Willow's slight shake of her head towards the ICU hallway, she decided perhaps in this case silence was the best option.


She supposed that at some level, she was holding out hope that this had all been one giant misunderstanding.  That illusion was shattered when she walked into room 7B and saw Giles hooked up to a myriad of tubes and wires.

Dr. Stephens pulled a chair over to the bedside and said "Ten minutes, that's all I can give you."

"Okay," she said. "Thank you."

She sat down and gazed at the man who had watched over her, at the cost of his own life and his own happiness, for the better part of four years.  What had happened between them?  The last time he went into self-destruct mode, he had done it in a big way, going up against Angelus with nothing more than a flaming baseball bat.  She knew he would react that way, and that was the reason she had been able to save his life.  She remembered holding him in her arms as he grieved over Jenny, terrified that his duty had finally pushed him to the brink of his tolerance for the life he had chosen.  And now, now she had to find out that he had tried to kill himself from Spike of all people.  No warning, not even a clue that something wasn't right.  She could save him from all kinds of Hellmouthy creatures, but when it came right down to it, she was  powerless against the invisible demons of his own making. And she owed him so much more than that.  So much more than to let him die because she had let him down.She took one of his limp hands in hers, the one without the IV, held it up to her cheek, and said softly, "Don't leave me, Giles...I can't do this alone." 

***

Buffy awoke to the feel of a hand brushing hair off her forehead.  The sun had risen, but the curtains reduced its angry orange glare to a muted grey.  She caught the hand and held it, sat upright and looked at the man who sat down on the bed beside her.

She didn't say anything, she just leaned into his embrace and closed her eyes, basking in the familiar warmth. 

He held her for awhile and then said worriedly, "Are you okay?"  Not that she'd admit it if she wasn't, he knew her too well for that. But he knew how much she cared about Giles, and he knew this was shaking her up pretty badly.

"I've had better days..." she said hoarsely.  "What time is it?"

"It's almost eight.  If you wanna um...get ready, I'll go get us some coffee."

Half an hour before visiting hours.  He had planned everything down to the last detail.  Typical Riley.  She was grateful, though.  It meant she didn't have to deal with any of the trivial stuff, which she couldn't have handled anyway. 

"I'll be back," he said, as he squeezed her hand and walked out the door.

As she pulled the hairbrush out of her purse and started to rehumanize herself, she realized once again how glad she was that her relationship with Riley had stalled at the best-friend stage.  It had never worked out for her like that. Either they were cretins like Parker, or, as with Angel, she fell in so deep that she almost lost herself in the process.  Riley was different, though.  Willow was sure that, because they both 'fought the good fight' they were perfect for each other. But she and Riley both soon realized that was a big part of the problem.   They liked each other, and they had a great time when they were together, but they had absolutely nothing in common.  Nothing except whatever the Hellmouth threw at them.  They spent so much time together planning assaults, doing research, or even fighting the battles that at the end of it all they needed a break. And with every conversation inevitably turning towards the demon of the week, they didn't find it in each other.  But what started out as a romance had ended in a friendship so strong it had saved both their lives several times over.  They did love each other, dearly in fact, but without the pressure and without the possibility of heartbreak.

Riley knocked on the door and came in with two steaming mugs, setting them down on a nearby cabinet.  She was about to reach for one when she realized he hadn't touched his.

"What?"

"I just checked in with the nurse's station. He's awake."

***

She pushed the door open slowly, an inner battle raging with in her.  Part of her wanted to yell and scream at him for his monumental stupidity, and the other part of her wanted to sob in his arms with total, unrestrained relief.   He was still on an oxygen tube, and an IV, but someone had raised the upper half of the bed so he was partially sitting up.  An untouched breakfast tray sat on the cart next to him,  a half-empty cup of tea the only evidence that the meal had received any attention whatsoever.

Two years earlier she had met his reckless disregard for his own safety with a right hook to his jaw. Though she had no intention of using physical violence this time, as she saw the annoyed look on his face she decided that perhaps verbal abuse wasn't at all out of the question.  He looked away from her then, towards the window, and she realized that what she had taken for annoyance was actually deep self-loathing.  She hated to see him like this, but she was relieved all the same.  It was an admission of sorts, if only a tacit one.

"Hey," she said, trying hard to keep her voice neutral.  She went over to the chair and sat down.

He turned his attention from the window and looked at her.  For a moment, he kept his guard down, and she could see the pain in his eyes. And suddenly the pain was gone, replaced by nothing more than tired resignation. "Hello, Buffy." 

She had managed to hold it together pretty well, until she heard the sound of his voice.  That, more than anything else reassured her that he was, in fact, going to be okay.  Ever since Spike's phone call she had been worried sick, but it didn't really hit her until that moment just how close she might have come to losing him.  In spite of her resolution not to get emotional, the tears started flowing anyway and a small sob escaped her.

"Giles-"

"Buffy, don't cry," he admonished. "I'm quite alright."  She moved over to the bed and sat down on the edge, falling into his outstretched arms and letting him hold her.  She hated him so much, for doing this to himself, for doing this to her, but she couldn't bring herself to break out of the embrace.  It was too precious a sign that  he was still with her, that there was still hope that things would work out okay.

"I'm sorry," he said, in a whispered voice that gave away the fact that he was crying as well.

She pulled out of his embrace and said angrily, "You should be!  God, Giles, what were you thinking?" she let go of her anger a bit, and with more concern said quietly, "What's wrong?" The question she really wanted to ask, though, was "What's wrong *with me*?"  He had come to Sunnydale specifically for her.  He had left the Watchers, for her. He had fought Immigration tooth and nail to stay in Sunnydale, for her...it only made sense that she was somehow responsible for this as well.   She had caused him so much pain and grief in the past, she couldn't bear the idea that she had somehow driven him into self-destruct mode.

"Bad judgement, I'm afraid," he said dismissively.

"Bad judgement? That's the best you can do?  Bad judgement is when you buy something at the mall and it goes on sale one week later...or- or when you have that extra piece of pie after Thanksgiving dinner and you're already stuffed... It's not downing God knows how many sleeping pills with half a bottle of scotch."  She looked at him a moment, steeled herself, and said "Were you *trying* to kill yourself?"

He had that look on his face like he was about to lecture her, but all he said was "It was an accident, Buffy.  I wasn't trying to take my own life."

She was about to chide him further when he added, in a barely audible voice, "Though I daresay it wouldn't have mattered if I had."

She could only stare at him in shock.  He hadn't caught her off guard so thoroughly since...since the night he had shown her the box with the syringes.  The fact that he was actually opening up to her scared her to death just as much as the words that he was saying.  They always talked about what was going on in her life, but he always shied away from talking about himself.   For him to admit his feelings that way meant that he was in an enormous amount of pain, and he had reached the limit of what he could keep inside himself.  He had reached the limit of what he could keep from her.

"What are you saying?" she said.

"I'm saying you've grown up, Buffy.  In more ways than one.  You have become quite a self-sufficient young woman.  The Watcher's Council was created to guide and protect the Slayer.  They never dreamed that anything such as the Initiative would ever exist.  Maggie and her organization have the resources to help you in ways that I cannot.  Of course you should take advantage of all that they have to offer you."

She looked at him in horror as his words sunk in.  It was because of her, she knew it.  He thought she didn't need him anymore, that she was better off with Riley and his commando buddies, Maggie, and all the rest. 

"That's why you did it?" she choked on her words. "Because of me?"

"Buffy, it was an accident, truly.  But I must admit that on occasion, such as last night, I have become rather ...depressed... over the current state of affairs." He snickered. "Stupid, really.   I know that you are better off where you are now, but you must understand that letting go of one's ... duty ... is  sometimes a very difficult and painful undertaking."

God, how could he be so stupid? she thought. How could he be so wrong?  She stood up next to the bed and said, "There's something I think you should see."  She grabbed the bottom of her blouse and pulled it up slowly, revealing a thin scar that ran along the right side of her stomach.

"What is this?" he said, slowly tracing it with his index finger to prove to himself it was what he thought it was. "When did this happen?" <And where the bloody hell was I?> he asked silently.

She put her shirt back down and said, "Remember that art expo you went to in San Diego last month?  While you were down there, we went after a colony of Reason demons-"

"Riezenn demons," he corrected her without thinking.

"Yeah, anyway,  we get to the caves, and I start fighting them, and then I discover that Maggie's little think tank didn't exactly do their homework.  Apparently when you injure them, they-"

"They throw their scales-" Giles said, horrified.

"That they do," she said with a bitter smile. "I should have taken some home. They're better than Ginsu knives."

"Buffy-" he said, still horrified at the thought of her unprepared for so much danger.  "Why didn't you tell me?"

She ignored his question and continued.  He thought he didn't need her? He was about to find out how wrong he was. She knew this was going to pile on the guilt, but he had to understand why she had let things go on as they had for so long.

"And that wasn't the first time they screwed up.  It's kind of funny if you think about it. They've got a library twice the size of your collection, more computers than I can count, and enough degrees to wallpaper this room, and they still don't tell me everything I need to know." She paused a moment, took a deep breath, and continued, "See, at the heart of it, they're military.  They research to find ways to kill the bad guys, but they don't care about keeping me safe.  It's not in their 'rules'.  They see duty as something that comes with the uniform that they wear, not something they were born to.  Riley's kind of different that way, but the rest of them...they're an army, and they act like one."

It was Giles' turn to look shocked.  "Why didn't you ever tell me this?"

"Because you had a *life*," she said, the tears threatening to fall yet again.  "You gave up so much for me, and for the first time you could do something that you really enjoyed, without having to put me first.  I owe you so much, Giles," she said, quietly. "I could at least give you that."

"And just how much do you think I enjoy having you out of my life?" he said, taking her hand and giving her a hurt look.

Trying hard not to start crying again, she said, "Almost as much as I enjoy not having you in mine."

He pulled her to him then, and wrapped her in his arms as they both let go of their tears.  At length, she said, "Don't leave me again...ever."  And she meant it.  She had been through so much in her life, and through it all there was one person that had always been there for her, had always gotten her through even the roughest times.  She had come to a realization, and it took nearly losing him to see what she had been blind to for such a long time.

He kissed her on the forehead, and she pulled away from him, an unspoken question in her eyes.  Her query was met with a definitive answer as he met her gaze and slowly met her lips with his own.  As the kiss ended, she saw the doubt rise up in his face, and she put a hand to his lips before he could say anything, cutting him off with "I love you, Giles.  Now and always."  She had once told Willow that she believed real love and passion had to go hand in hand with pain and fighting...she supposed deep down she had known, even then, that he was the only person she was ever destined to be with.  And for once, it was a lovely destiny, indeed.

END