This Time Series
Part 3 - Last Time

written by GylzGirl





Buffy paced the sidewalk in front of Giles' apartment building. She took a deep breath and laughed humorlessly. "Boy...deja vu just isn't what it used to be," she commented to the disinterested stars above or at least the ones bold enough to peek through the fog-shrouded winter sky.

Ten years before she had envisioned this night. Only in her version, the whole gang went to celebrate their victory at the Bronze. While Willow and Xander wreaked havoc on the dancefloor, she would innocently sit herself beside Giles and shock him and every other patron of the club by jumping into his lap and kissing him until he passed out.

She realized now that it was one vision that would never come to be. This night, and its clone ten years from now, had and would again bear witness to the last stand of the complete original Scooby gang. The next time around Willow and Xander would have each other to get themselves through the grief of losing her. And Giles, well this time was for them.

She pulled her backpack higher up on her shoulder and made her way to the front door. She took a deep breath and knocked. The door opened slowly, revealing a tired and obviously grieving Rupert Giles to her expectant eyes. "Can I come in?" she asked quietly.

He nodded and stepped back. She entered, shutting the door behind her. Before Giles had a chance to speak, she slipped her arms around his waist and clutched to him. After a moment, he finally put his arms around her as well. He rested his chin atop her head. They stayed that way for several minutes until finally Buffy looked up and smiled at him. He returned it.

She took his hand and led him to sit on his couch with her. Once he sat, she reached out and grasped his other hand. Buffy inhaled deeply before looking into his eyes. "Giles...um, I have something I have to tell you..."

* * * * *

Hours later, Buffy lay beside a sleeping Giles. She was propped up on her elbow, the palm of her hand flat on his bare stomach, watching it rise and fall with each breath. While she would never have traded either of her best friends' lives for the precious being slumbering next to her, all of the tragedy and hardship that led to this one quiet moment could almost be justified by the sound of his steady breathing in the silence of the room. He snorted a little as he shifted in his sleep; his face turning toward her side of the bed.

She smiled at the sound, trying not to tear up at how ridiculously happy even that silly little noise could make her. Buffy leaned forward and kissed his soft perfect mouth for a moment before turning to the other side of the bed.

She reached down to the floor. Amongst their scattered clothing, she found her backpack and was able to pull it over to the bed. She unzipped it and rummaged around inside for the journal she had begun at her house earlier that evening. Retrieving a pen from the nightstand, she positioned the book into the stream of diffused streetlight coming from the small circular frosted glass window of the loft. She turned the pages past her explanation of how this had all started, past her chronicle of the last twenty years of her life and then she began to write.

{I've been watching you sleep beside me. Just watching you breathe. I had hopes I would find my way to your bed tonight but was fairly sure that you'd go all Watcherly on me and ...well, lets just say that you REALLY enjoyed my telling you about our first time in Egypt. I've never seen you so hot and bothered before. It was...nice to say the least.

I realize laying here that I've been so busy trying to get everything down in this journal that I haven't yet explained why I'm doing it. Giles, I know what I have to do...the next time I mean. And I know how I was when I lost you. I'm trying to leave this chronicle to share the time we've had together. The time I know I'm going to have to cheat you out of in order to save your life...and Will and Xand's too.

I don't want you to be left with crippling what if's. I want you to know just how much I love you. I want you to know that you always told me how much you love me. I'm hoping that if you realize how much time I really had, how happy I was, how full my life really was... I just want your sadness to fade as quickly as possible. I want you to go on. I want you to live...that's why I've gone through all of this. I just want you to live.}

* * * * *

Buffy stood next to the gravestone and brushed a thin layer of leaves from the top. "He would have hated this marker," she commented as she settled into her husband's lap at the base of a nearby oak.

"So you've always said."

"Yeah, well, he'd still hate it. I mean, Alexander Lavelle Harris. First off, he hated the Lavelle and secondly Alexander? It just wasn't him. He was just Xander. Just our Xander." Her voice caught with emotion. She quieted and turned against Giles' chest.

It had been a year since Xander died. The funeral was a horrible experience, Mr. Harris' drunken appearance had seen to that. Willow had been nearly inconsolable and left town soon after.

Giles ran his hand through her hair and kissed her forehead. "Now now, none of that." He slid his arms around the emerging bulge in her stomach. "It's not good for her...him...well whichever."

She smiled. "You're dying to know aren't you?"

"Well you did promise to tell me only when you could tell...all of us," he nodded toward the grave.

"Will can't make it. She's got finals at Oxford. She'll be back for her break next week."

"Bloody Hell woman, you're not going to make me wait that long are you?"

"I hadn't planned to."

"Oh good. You didn't tell Willow already did you?"

"Before our son's own father? Nope, she'll have to wait until she gets back to town now."

"All right then, tell me." She grinned at him and he stopped, letting what she had just said fully impact upon him. "A son?"

"That's what the Doc said. It turns out that wasn't a finger on the sonogram after all." He tightened their embrace and kissed her. "What are we going to call him?"

Giles smiled sweetly. "How about Alexander?"

Buffy's eyes teared up. "It's perfect."

* * * * *

"Rupert I'm going out. I'll do a patrol while I'm gone so I won't be back until later," Buffy called back toward her husband's den. She was more than a little surprised when he emerged from their bedroom instead.

"I think you forgot this." Her eyes widened as he threw her purple journal into the air. She caught it and hastily shoved it into the backpack that contained her supplies for the rite.

"Yes I did. Thanks."

"I read it."

"You did what?"

"You heard me. I read it."

"Nine and a half years of marriage and you don't trust me?"

"Six months ago you started telling me you were going places that I'd call to talk to you at and you'd never be there. You started putting things in locked boxes and hiding them. You never gave me a reason not to trust you until then. I read that expecting to find out you'd found a younger man...which I could have understood..."

"Rupert, you're the only man I want..."

"I never imagined what I would find. What are you thinking Buffy?"

"I have a commitment."

"Yes you do! Your commitment is to US!"

"Stop shouting. The children..."

"Exactly! You made a promise when you accepted my marriage proposal Buffy. When you made your vows to me. You made it each time you brought a new life into this world."

"Daddy?" A small fair-haired boy peeked out from one of the doors in the hall, holding the hand of a younger girl with light brown hair.

"Alex, take Jocelyn and wait in Summer's nursery."

"Bu..."

"NOW!"

The little boy ran down the hall, dragging his sister in tow.

"Don't yell at him because you're mad at me!"

"What do you care Buffy?! You're about to leave the lot of them Motherless. Do they mean so little to you? Do I? What if we'd timed Summer's conception differently? Would you have gone through with this pregnant?"

"I was careful not to."

"You had this planned even then? You knew the whole time you carried her that you'd only be her mother for 6 months?"

"I'm not leaving them Motherless. There will still be a Buffy."

"Yes, a 20 year old Buffy who's never been a mother before and now she'll have to be one to three children. Children who will pick up soon enough that she doesn't know anything about them. A 20 year old who doesn't feel the things for me that you do, yet will find herself trapped in a marriage with me."

"She does feel them! She just doesn't realize it yet!" She wiped tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath.

"Of course, that's if any of us even continue to exist after you change the timeline."

"You don't understand how hard it is for me to walk out this door tonight. Knowing I'll never see my babies again. Knowing how much I'm going to hurt you the next time I see you. Knowing I'm going to die when you've made me fully appreciate what life can be. But I have a duty. You taught me the gravity of that word."

Giles' voice broke and tears flowed down his cheeks. "Don't you dare quote my own words back to me when my whole life is about to walk through that door and commit suicide."

She rushed up to him and threw her arms around him. After a moment's hesitation, he held her so tightly that had she been anyone but the Slayer, she would likely have passed out.

"Once I decided I couldn't live with what happened to you and I interfered with the timeline, I became responsible for every change that occurred after that. I became responsible for Willow's death, Xander's, for Gillian and Jesse never coming into existence. I bought our life with the blood of our friends, intentionally or not. I have to fix that, no matter what the personal consequence. I have to make things right."

"Don't leave me Buffy. Don't leave us. I can't do this alone."

For a moment more, they remained locked in an embrace, crying over the unfairness of what had been and what was about to be. Then Buffy pulled back and looked into her husband's pain-filled eyes. "Don't make me have to knock you out Rupert, somebody has to make the kids their dinner."

"It was your night to do that too," he commented as he wiped his tears on his sleeve.

"I know. I said I timed everything right." She attempted a smile but it came out more of a grimace.

She picked up her bag and turned the doorknob. "Rupert, I love you more than anything." Without looking back, she left and shut the door behind her.

"And I you my Love." As he wiped his eyes on his sleeve again, he felt a tug on his pants. He looked down into Alexander's large blue eyes; his mother's eyes.

"Daddy, did you and Mommy fight?"

He sighed. "A little. It's all right now. I'm sorry I yelled at you and your sister. It wasn't your fault."

"Where's Mommy?"

"She went on patrol. She'll be back later. Get your sisters and we'll have dinner."

The little boy smiled and ran off into the nursery. Giles crossed the room and looked out the front window.

* * * * *

"Heads up," Xander called as he tossed Giles his fallen saber. The Englishman caught it expertly and spun to take the head of the vamp before him. As his companion disintegrated, the remaining vamp took a step back, right into Buffy's strike zone. Before he could blink an eye, he joined his friend as a pile of ash on the floor.

Xander helped Willow to her feet and kept a hold of her hand. The foursome moved closer together, visually inspecting each other to ease their minds. Giles tilted Buffy's chin up till her eyes met his. He smiled proudly and used his finger to wipe away the blood that had formed on her lip once more. "Good job." A smile twitched at the corner of her mouth, then her face went blank and became very pale. Her eyes rolled up and her knees collapsed. "Buffy?" Giles caught her, holding her up. She recovered quickly, and remembering the histories of this night, grabbed Giles' lapels, shoving him to the ground with her on top.

As her ears picked up the sound of the crossbow bolt being fired, she yelled, "Giles stay down!" while she rolled off of him and into Willow's legs, knocking her down like a bowling pin. The arrow imbedded itself in the wall just to Xander's side. Buffy jumped to her feet, stake in hand, ready to confront the vampire on the catwalk. Instead of her opponent, only her crossbow remained on the high metal walkway.

Her eyes darted around frantically, trying to get a lock on the one remaining vamp before he could surprise her and take out one of the others again. "Everybody out!" she yelled to her companions. As soon as Giles had helped Willow to her feet, Buffy grabbed Xander's hand. "You lead the way Xand. I have to bring up the rear."

He looked at her strangely but did not argue. At a full run, Xander, Willow, Giles and Buffy made their way to the main door. Buffy kept turning as she ran, waiting for the vampire to appear on the ladder. When they passed the point at which Xander had been injured before, she began to get nervous. She bumped into Giles' backside and before she had a chance to question why they'd stopped, she heard Willow scream.

She clasped hold of Giles' hand and used it to toss him to the ground. She did the same with Willow. As she came up from behind Xander, she saw the flash of the throwing star in the vampire's hand. He was swinging it toward her friend. With more force than was necessary, she pulled hard on Xander's arm and threw him beside her. That left her face to face with the creature that had, one by one, taken all those she loved away from her.

The vampire's blade cut across her shoulder as the Scoobies scrambled to give Buffy room to fight. She unleashed her fury on the creature with each successive blow, but it seemed every punch she threw was countered with a cut of its jagged weapon. It slashed unmercifully at her arm, causing her to drop the stake she held. She was getting weak from blood loss and every opportunity she had to reach to the floor for her stake was thwarted with the need to block the vampire's next slice. She staggered backwards and realized that soon she would be defenseless against him. He would be free to finish off the others. 'No,' she thought, 'not again.'

She kicked at him as hard as she could manage as her shaking and bloody hand reached down and closed a slippery fist on her last stake. At the same time, the vampire sliced his throwing star blade across her carotid artery. Buffy faintly heard the screams of protestation from her friends but they seemed like they were a million miles away. The vampire looked smug as it held the edge of its weapon, still lodged in her throat. It was the last expression it wore as Buffy brought her stake up and plunged it into its chest.

As the vampire disintegrated, Buffy pulled the star from her throat and collapsed. Soon Giles' face appeared before her and she could feel him pull her across his lap. She smiled and raised a bloody hand to his cheek. "I won."

He shook his head. "Yes...yes you did. Just hold on Love. We're going to get you to Hospital. Willow and Xander have gone to call an ambulance." He placed his hand over the wound but the blood seeped between his fingers and there was only so much pressure he could apply against her throat.

Her expression grew serious. "The book," she coughed. "Sent it ahead. Your house. In your bed. Read it."

"Shh." Giles was barely keeping his panic under control. "Don't try to talk."

"NO," blood gushed copiously from her neck wound. "Important. Read it so you'll know..." Her eyes began to close.

"Know what Buffy?"

"I love you." With that, she slipped away. Giles looked stunned for a moment, and then simply pulled her tighter against him as the sounds of sirens grew closer.

Read the next part: One More Time