A Tiresome Speech About Responsibility And Sacrifice
written by Ruth


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Tabula Rasa
Summary: Inspired by Giles' dream in 'Restless', and the season 4 'romance' that wasn't.
Thanks: To Rari the Magic Beta: see you soon, hon!
Feedback Author: Ruth



"I don't know"

That was one of the things Giles liked about Olivia. She gave it to you straight even when the situation wasn't. Over the disappointment that chilled the warmth of the good Burgundy in the pit of his stomach, he was oddly grateful. He didn't need bullshit like "I'd face anything for you" or "I know you'd keep me safe". There were no guarantees in this life he led and in the short time she'd been exposed to its reality she'd somehow understood.

They finished the bottle in silence. By then it was almost evening. She had to leave early in the morning to continue her hectic schedule: a swimwear photo shoot in Hawaii, then back to London for some catwalk work. Every time he saw her on the front of some women's magazine on a news stand he allowed himself a little self-congratulation, an antidote to all the 'old guy' quips that the teenagers thought so witty, that he pretended to pay no heed to, picking the barbs out of his ego in private.

<< Still young enough for a beautiful woman to be interested in me, to come a thousand miles to share my bed. Good enough for her to let the bloody neighbours know every night>>

Not good. Drinking had a tendency to make him sour and self-pitying. Luckily it wasn't Scotch. His tolerance levels were high enough that mere wine barely scratched the surface of sobriety. His hand was perfectly steady as he gathered up both empty glasses and put them on the table next to the empty bottle. Olivia shifted against him, sitting up further to look into his face. An invitation, this night only, no promises, just the offer of the basic connection of skin against skin. Giles wasn't about to be noble and say no. A feast at the oasis against the coming journey in the desert: who knew when, or if, he might be sustained this way again?

This had never been a "love of my life" gig. Olivia was too fond of her freedom for that, and he was too afraid. Whenever Rupert Giles really loved, he put himself on the line: the last time he'd given his heart, it had been crucified in Jenny's cold blood. He had brought fire to destroy Angelus in his lair, but the fire of his rage and sorrow had burned hotter: there was a part of him that still lay in ashes. He and Liv were just very good friends who fancied each other and knew how to give one another a good time. In a life marked by compromises big and small, it wasn't the worst. He would very much have liked to carry on making it.

Olivia's cat eyes lit up mischievously as they passed the record player on the way to the staircase.

"Did you ever do that music?" she asked.

On her previous visit they'd had a long wrangling discussion about rhythm and pace, jazz and rock and classic and folk, that had degenerated by way of alcohol and innuendo into a sexy denouement both out of and eventually in bed. Afterwards she'd joked that he should compile a soundtrack album for lovemaking; not the conventional hearts and flowers songs, nor the crude club anthems about being 'horny', but the real deal, how he'd do it given enough time and energy, every diversion and twist on the path, his unique take on the act, expressed in music. Only half seriously he'd accepted the challenge. Weeks later he'd filled in one of the seemingly endless blanks on his calendar surfing the Net for tracks and samples and storing them on the hard disk. Willow had shown him the bare skills needed and obligingly burned him a CD of the results, but she hadn't been at all curious about the strange mix of titles; the days when she had wanted to know everything that he knew were clearly long gone.

Giles set his jaw defiantly as he made his way over to the desk. The *children* wouldn't get this anyway, wouldn't get that the old Watcher had basic drives like any man, that he had imagination and experience and a desire to use them. He held up the silvery disc for Olivia to see and she giggled.

"Come on then, Ripper, play me your demo, show me why you're a star"

He snagged the portable player off the kitchen counter and started up to the loft. She checked the lock was on the door and held up the phone handset in query.

"Rupert? *Private*life?"

He sighed inwardly, had a brief battle with conscience, then told her "Turn the bell right down and set it to pick up"

Not that he was called much these days, but he'd internalised the idea of constant availability too strongly to let it go. Upstairs, he set the player down on the floor and slipped in the CD. After a beat, the crystal tones of a harpsichord sounded through the room, and Olivia, at the top of the stairs by now, laughed aloud.

"Bach? God, Rupert, you're full of surprises!. Old J.S.B. isn't exactly sexy"

"Thirteen children. Must have got something right"

Giles stood poised on the balls of his stockinged feet and extended his hand across the narrow space between them, taking her fingers in a light, stylised dance grip. She put up her other hand to loosen her hair, myriad tiny plaits swinging around her face and shoulders as they traced a stately Baroque dance form, turning tight in the confined space, keeping each other's gaze.

<<He has the most beautiful eyes. I don't *want * to make them sad. But I won't look into them and lie. Just tonight then, just tonight>>

"Courtship" he was saying, as they completed the figure, and bowed and curtseyed to the final chord. " A very necessary precursor to, er, intimate pursuit". His impish expression, eyebrows raised, mocked the teacherly tone.

The music changed to English folk, a saucy song about a bachelor weaver and his amorous adventures. The rollicking rhythm kept merry time for them as they stripped the cover off the bed and then each other, tossing clothes all over the floor, playful, not intense. This place had seen enough grand passion - and tragedy - already. They smiled, laughed, and shared admiration at the sight and feel of each other's bared bodies: her slender shapely figure, his broad -chested, long limbed strength. She sneaked a look in the shaded light and could see that the mood was taking him, readying him physically, a slow steady burn for serious staying power. One of the many benefits of an older man.

Relaxed and amused, but starting to feel a buzz of anticipation, she knew the next piece at once. L'Apres Midi d'Un Faune, the languorous erotic dream sequence to which, according to legend, the dancer Nijinsky had climaxed on stage in public performance. She'd told Giles that this was her ideal, the height of sensuality in melody, and here it was, but at the start, not the end of the lovers' concert.

"Cheeky" she said, and he smiled agreement, wolfish, unrepentant.

They knelt on the bed, facing each other, swaying to the plaintive, yearning voice of the flute. Palms pressed to palms, thigh to thigh, they undulated against each other, starting to kiss and caress hungrily as the intensity of the soaring music grew, then ebbed, then flowed anew in time to the movements of hands, lips and tongues. Rupert was *really*good at this, Olivia told herself, not for the first time. If she was going to run for her life out of this place - and she was pretty sure she was- she could hold the flight a long time for some of this. He was using his perfect white teeth to tease her nipple, pulling her firmly against him with both hands cupping her bottom, supporting her weight as she arched slowly back, a steadying hand on his shoulder, the other twining in his soft curling hair, rolling her hips slowly to press and grind on his erection. She leaned forward again as he made his way lower down her body, encouraging her to kneel right up and spread her knees apart, his bent head intent on the journey across the curve of her belly. He shifted to curl his long frame round her as he stretched out on the bed, fair skin and grizzled tawny hair the perfect contrast to hers, all chocolate and earth and ebony. As the ballet reached its climax he reached his goal, a precise sweep of a tongue tip the single evidence before he stopped, her grunt of frustration let out before she could help it.

He met her outraged stare with a cocky grin, inclining his head to the source of the music as the first of the suggestive songs from the Carmina Burana began to talk of a man's sexual ardour, of his burning and dying in its flame, begging the girl to quench him. As if to illustrate, he ran hot trembling hands all over her, getting up first to hold her close, winding up the tension in both of them and groaning hoarsely as she handled him with firm, stimulating touches, getting him even harder, enjoying how it felt. They dropped in a writhing tangle back onto the sheets, crawling head to tail, she taking him in her mouth the exact instant he returned to her hidden core.

The CD cut to a sultry Latin dance number, a sensual salsa with a lazy beat for them to follow as they kissed and sucked and licked, harder and wetter, longing for the end yet wanting to ride the wave a bit longer, tormenting themselves exquisitely. The next dance upped the tempo, spiced it with the heat of a Cuban night, backing drums rumbling and rolling.

Panting as if they had really been dancing, they released each other at the first screeching guitar chord. The air vibrated with it, the volume cranked up and the bass thumping, driving, insistent. To Liv, Giles looked in that moment again the would-be rock god with wild hair and wilder ways, whom she'd first encountered when she was still a child, who spoke of mysticism without drugs, of faeries and spirits. She'd been fascinated by him way back then, seen the anger of a brilliant mind allied to a free spirit fighting to escape entrapment, the intensity behind the laid back mask. In all the changes since, the eventual surrender to what she'd called 'the system', but he saw as his Destiny, the mystery he carried with him, he fascinated her still.

He pushed himself up, stalking her on all fours like a hunting panther. Time to let herself be caught, devoured, to sate and be sated. Time to chase away the shadows, forget the menace and terror of that face at the window, the darkness in this town, in the whole world if he was to be believed. The heavy seventies rock played on and on in continuous loop, shaking the floor, beating up the bed frame, coming in through the soles of their feet to their racing pulses, their need for more air, more noise, more feeling…

Time for him to let go, to lose himself in the primal sensation, to know nothing, feel nothing save the urgency, the imperative of heaving thrusting sweating bodies and breathless pleasure, to know that he light at the end of the tunnel was a train and not to fucking *care* because it felt *so damn good* as it rushed towards you and slammed into you with the force of a hundred tons

*bang*

They shouted out the shared orgasm together, and heard the echo of a screaming synthesiser die away in the background. She looked into his flushed, triumphant face and laughed shakily.

"Show off" she teased fondly. "That was just bloody lucky timing". She shivered luxuriously as he withdrew gently, still covering her, supporting himself so she didn't take his full weight.

"Do I…get the…contract then?" he asked, looking down at her, still recovering breath and awareness. His tone was light but there was seriousness apparent in his eyes: come back, at least sometimes; it's not everything I could give but it's yours if you want it; don't leave me for good.

Wordlessly she drew him close, resting his sweating brow against her neck, letting him relax fully onto her for a second before he rolled away to lie on his back, eyes shut partly from sheer exhaustion, partly to shield himself from her compassion. Rupert Giles didn't do pathetic.

She snuggled in to his side and whispered "Go to sleep. We'll talk in the morning"

* * * * *

He lay propped on one elbow, watching her pack. Zipping the last bag, she turned to him and cleared her throat.

"I … I need to do a lot of thinking about all this, what you said about this whole Watcher/Slayer, duty and destiny stuff that you do. I'll call or write. Promise. Not sure how long it'll be, but you'll hear from me"

She kissed him on the cheek, put a hand on his chest to stop him rising.

"Sleep in, Rupert, I can see myself to the taxi"

"Goodbye, Liv"

"Bye" And that was that.

There was no word from her for months afterward. If it wasn't for the fact that he had rarely known her to make a promise, but always to keep one she'd made, he might have thought she'd forgotten him. As his life spun further out of control that year, he certainly wondered if Buffy and the rest of them had, if indeed he had himself. He knew he should do something, stop drinking so much, stop frittering away his time on pointless 'hobbies', have a really stinking row with Buffy over her carelessness and neglect.

In the end, of course, they'd all joined in, Spike's tinder box of insinuation providing the spark and setting the whole thing alight. The alcohol had rendered Giles too numb to be really angry, so he'd slipped into sarcasm mode, acid dripping off his words, shrinking away, like the others, from his Slayer's contempt. His: that was how it had been, in the old days back at the school; she'd been his charge, his pupil, wayward and contrary to be sure, but she'd needed him. Now against all the shiny hi-tech antiseptic Initiative science, its instant communication and no-nonsense firepower, was stacked only the invisible, the intangible. His decades of learning and experience, his practice of the magical arts, the smelly knowledge wrested from musty books in the middle of the night, his devotion professional and personal. He didn't doubt, of course, that young Riley was devoted too: to Buffy, and her friends and to the safety of the town and his country. But Giles knew he had doubts about the mystical, supernatural framework of Buffy's calling: he found the grey areas of her life: Oz, Angel, *Spike*, hard to accept. Demon hunting was part of his job, but if he'd been called to the mountains of central Asia to fight terrorists threatening the American way of life he'd have gone there just as readily. He wore the uniform of a demon hunter. It did not wear him.

Ever since the long ago day when his father had called him into his study, not for the anticipated congratulations on his Scholarship, though that had been briefly touched upon, but to tell him what his life's work must be, Giles had believed he had a vocation. Even when he had run away, he had still believed it, believed that if he took it seriously it must demand first place in his life, that there might be no room for ordinary ambition, for loving and being loved, for a future and a family of his own.

But there were supposed to be compensations. To be assigned an actual Slayer, to share her dedication to the sacred cause of fighting evil, was the hope of every Watcher. When the Council had received word of Merrick's death the mages had consulted their prophecies, and he had been genuinely excited and honoured to be sent to America to serve her. Instead of a dedicated fellow warrior he'd met a shallow, reluctant child who wanted to do things her way or not at all, who consorted with a vampire and bunked off training to get her manicure done. They'd reached an accommodation in the end, though Giles felt *he* had done most of the accommodating, and he had come to admire her spirit as much as her gift for slaying, to appreciate Buffy the person, to think of her as a friend. Yet he was never quite sure whether she truly counted him among hers. There had been so many times when she had been callous about his welfare to the point of cruelty, when she had mocked him and never apologised.

To be a Watcher was to be part of a brotherhood, to know the respect of ones fellows, to have the backup of an international organisation with unparalleled financial resources and influence in high places. But Giles was not a company man: he tried to conform, to bow to received wisdom, but whenever tradition seemed to him to dispense with ordinary decency, with compassion, he questioned, even disobeyed. He had some friends in the lower reaches of the Council, but many in authority disliked him, withholding information, snubbing him subtly. When he went against precedent for the sake of his Slayer they cut him loose without a backward glance.

Giles had tried to make the best of it, to see an opportunity in the reversal. It had seemed a possible solution to the tension between Buffy's unconventional life and the traditions that didn't fit her. Free from his obligation to his employer, he'd stayed loyal to her. They'd defeated the Mayor. Angel left town, Buffy repudiated the Council. It should have been a new start for them both, a chance to relate as adults, not as teacher and pupil. She would blossom and grow, away from his direct supervision. He could try to strike a balance between having a vocation and his own life. Except it hadn't played out so neatly.

Now he was out of work, left out of Buffy's life, and nearly out of options. As he shut the front door after Willow and Tara, feeling as though he had caught his head in it, he wondered what Olivia was doing at that moment, halfway across the world, early evening in London. She might be heading out for a night on the town, or to a dinner party. She might even have a new lover. He wished she would write; tell him how she was, stay a friend even if the chance of something more was gone. With the help of a dose of painkillers and a bottle of water, he managed to dull the hangover to a tolerable level, shaved and dressed, and went to collect his post.

The usual junk and bills; a book he'd ordered; the Watchers' Circular smuggled out of HQ and sent on by a remaining contact; and a handwritten letter. It was from Olivia. He waited until he could sit down with a fresh cup of tea before opening it. It was probably the long anticipated regretful dismissal.

What he read made him sit thinking for a very long time.


20th May 2000
"Dear Rupert,

Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. To tell you the truth I started a letter lots of times, but it was hard to put down just what I wanted to say. I hope it makes sense in the end!

Life's been hectic but I've missed seeing you. I hope life is treating you well, that you're happy and the gang is fine.

I've been thinking about everything you told me, about being a Watcher, how it's your duty to stay and look out for Buffy. I get that she's Supergirl, that she's the only one with the strength and skill to hunt vampires and demons, all that stuff. But a chosen Watcher, chosen by prophecy? It seems odd. It reminds me of when I was a kid, Pastor Jacob preaching about being predestined, 'washed in the blood of the Lamb'. Just picture language to make you feel your choices had some cosmic significance. If you were called personally, how come they sacked you, sent another Watcher? You said Buffy's given up on the Council, got involved with this American government monster hunting group instead. So where does that leave you?

I understand that you care about her, about all of them, but they're young adults now, you can't go on protecting them forever. And who protects you? You train hard and work all night shifts, give it everything and get what back? I've seen all the pain pills in your cupboards; you have so many scars it looks like you were tortured by some fascist dictatorship. Maybe that 'sacred duty' idea you were fed is just to keep you there, save some other bastard from the front line. What do the other Watchers do, if the Slayer's the only thing that matters?

You could come home, Rupert. No-one can say you haven't earned it. You've seen Buffy to adulthood, she seems a very capable girl. That clever red haired girl can do research, Buffy's soldier boy can spar with her. If the Council think it's so important that she has their backing, they can send someone. You could have a chance at a life of your own.

You're within your rights to say I 'm talking out of the back of my head, but there's a reason why I'm saying all this. I wanted to bring this up while I was in Sunnydale actually, but with everything that happened, it didn't seem the time. I'm 35 next year; not getting so many contracts, younger faces on the scene, you know the score. I'm planning to sink some capital into a business. You remember Lucy, she was with Bryce Models. She wants to set up her own partnership. I'd get some steady income, not be travelling so much.

I always planned to have a child someday. Well, now I think it's time. The clock's ticking away, time to settle down and nest. I'm not with anyone at the moment. It's just something I feel ready to do. I'm not going to trap some poor guy into getting me pregnant by accident. I want to ask a man I trust, be open about it, give him a chance to play a part in the child's life. Kids need a Dad.

I expect you can see where this is leading. This isn't a proposal, Rupert; we don't even have to live together. I know if you did this you'd take the responsibility seriously. You're a good man, intelligent and caring. You'd try to be a real father. But you can't do it from California if we're in England, and I'm sure as hell *not* going to live there. That town is *freakish* and *scary*. Anyway my Mum's here, I can't leave her. She told me to tell you "say yes". She's always liked you, you know.

Think about it. Think about coming back home, back to England, us seeing each other again, maybe doing this thing together. It's a very big decision I know. Take your time, I'm at this address until October at least. Then I'm thinking of buying my own place, big enough for two (or three), with a garden or near a park. When you're ready, let me know either way.

Love,
Olivia.


Then came the sheepish phone call from the Slayer, the awkward group meeting on campus, the harnessing of Magic to defeat the half-demon. For now, this was still his life, the weapons, the fight, victory against the odds. But in his Slayer-haunted dream he saw the choice, just as he had while sitting in his living room over Liv's letter. Buffy was not a little child playing at monsters, in need of a father figure to lead her by the hand. She had the heritage of a thousand generations of mystic warriors, allied to the love and support of her talented friends. She had outgrown him, and perhaps the time had come to accept it. Perhaps his role as her Watcher had come to its natural conclusion: she'd lived longer and triumphed over more foes than any of those he'd read of in the Diaries. Perhaps he could do something normal with the rest of his life.

It was an unusually cool June in Sunnydale. Instead of sheltering in his flat to escape the heat and noise of everyone living their lives out of doors, he walked or jogged around town, noticing the ordinariness that seemed to carry on despite the twilight population of vampires and demons that Buffy (according to her friends' report) was still despatching on a nightly basis. The young people spent their time with their own families and friends, visiting out of town, or holding barbeques and picnics to which he wasn't invited.

On the rare occasions when some of the gang did drop by they never stayed long. Giles made a tentative suggestion one afternoon that they might all go for a walk in the woods. Anya rolled her eyes and pronounced the idea "boring", Xander shushed her but his face said he agreed. Willow and Tara fidgeted, looking at their feet. It turned out that they had chiefly come for a free drink on their way to the mall.

In the end he went alone. A soft rain started up as he walked, and he lifted his face to it, drinking the raindrops like he used to as a boy, back in Somerset. At a clearing among the trees, he saw the white scud of a deer's tail darting away at his approach, heading for the river. He followed its trail, and stood on the riverbank, watching the gentle flow of the current and letting his mind flow where it would. Once the rain had stopped he took a book out of his knapsack and, finding a sheltered spot where the ground was still dry, sat down to read. It was, appropriately enough, "The Wind in the Willows", a childhood favourite reread many times, the inside cover bearing the words "To Rupert from Father, Christmas 1961"

The scent of moist air and damp grass caught him suddenly with a wave of homesickness so intense he gasped. Summer in England. Rolling grassy hills, fields dotted with sheep or black and white cows, bustling market towns built of buff stone, evenings in the pub talking with friends, real grown up friends with common interests, afternoons on the Cherwell, just "messing about in boats"…

Home. He wanted to go home.


1st July 2000
Olivia,
I've been thinking a great deal about what you said in your letter. It was a bit of a shock as you can imagine. I'm flattered that you think well enough of me to entrust me with such a huge responsibility in your life - and someone else's.

I'm coming home, Liv. There is a lot to be sorted out here first; I need to make sure they will be able to manage when I leave. Give me a couple of months or so. I'll phone to let you know the date I arrive. But I think my time in America is finally finished.

The other thing I'm going to need a *lot* more time to mull over. We really need to talk face to face, for you to be absolutely certain it's what you want, to see if it's possible for us, if it's the right thing to do. Meantime keep well, be safe. Don't go down any alleys after dark. England has monsters too.

All the best
Love,
Rupert.


* * * * *

"I need you to be my Watcher again"

It was so simple to her. Ask and you shall receive. Buffy was like a little princess: beautiful, charming, used to having her way. She needed answers: he could help her find them. Ergo, he would; and the sense of being needed and valued again was so sweet that he told her nothing of his original decision, of his thoughts during the summer.

He had forgotten, until he took the trouble to list and categorise them all, just how many of his texts and magical artefacts had belonged originally to his father, (and before that to his Watcher grandmother). Despite his tendencies towards pomposity and pedantry, his difficulties with expressing emotion and his unrealistically high expectations of his son - and of himself - he had been a good man, decent, dedicated, compassionate. Giles knew that he resembled him in many ways, increasingly so as he matured. Being a Watcher had been the one fundamental truth of his father's life. He would no more have thought of deserting his post than of inviting a stranger into his home after nightfall. But there had still been time for him to be a husband and father, to play cricket and do The Times crossword. Had he been assigned to an active Slayer, things might have been different; but he never had.

Now Giles sat over another cup of "thinking tea", weighing his life in the balance. Balance, in fact, was something he was clearly not that good at. Over the years, he had either dedicated himself to the cause with single-minded energy, keeping nothing back, or he had rebelled. This past year had been about that, as much as the years on the run in London, with Ethan and the coven: he'd begun by trying to step back from his responsibilities, and had ended up falling headlong over a cliff.

He took off his signet ring, looked at the words inscribed round the inside. Words from the Watcher's oath: Fas Legere, "to choose what is right". His father had given him the ring to mark his acceptance back into the fold, and he'd worn it as a kind of unofficial symbol of office ever since. But could he set aside the mantle of Watcher as easily as slipping off the ring? Did he wear it, or did it wear him? Did he choose or was he chosen?




Late Spring 2002

They sat on the terrace of Olivia's flat on the western outskirts of London. Morning mist had given way to hazy spring sunshine.

"So what are you up to these days, Rupert?"

"I'm Head of Research at the Council's Library in Bristol"

"Sounds interesting: right up your street"

"Actually it's chiefly management, plus a little translating of obscure texts, and correcting the grammar and spelling of other researchers' reports."

"Don't they have computers for that these days?"

Giles gave her an admonishing look. "There are quite enough sentences that don't make sense in the occult books without encouraging computer generated gibberish as well. Besides " he added, "I don't like them"

"And you're the boss"

"Something like that"

In fact, he had three sub-committees and a Regional Director to report to: if the Council had wanted the reports texted on mobile phones he couldn't have stopped them. He was just one greying man among several, toiling in a grey cavernous basement, shaded against sunlight to protect the ancient texts. At least his cubicle had a window; precise dimensions specified, he was sure.

"How's Buffy? Managing alright without you?"

"We haven't spoken since I left"

Olivia looked surprised and he was forced to elaborate.

"She won't return my calls or answer my letters"

" Little madam. You were like a father to her"

"No. I was her *Watcher*. She tried to make a parent out of me, to get me to deal with the mundanities of her life, but that wasn't why I was there. It never was."

"I know, I know, sacred calling, bound by oath, et cetera and so forth. But you *were* fond of her, weren't you?"

"Very fond. Too much, perhaps. She was so used to walking all over me that when I stood up and refused to take any more she saw it as a betrayal. But what she is - the Slayer, a mythic warrior, a leader… how can she come into her full inheritance if I'm standing in her way?"

"Well, I'll leave the realm of the mystical to you. Not really qualified to comment. I've enough challenge in ordinary life these days"

She looked fondly over to the swinging cradle where her new baby son slept soundly.

"And how are you and Richard finding parenthood?"

"Culture shock. Richard's still pinching himself, whenever he can keep his eyes open long enough. I don't think he's quite got past the "you're going to be a father" moment just yet. He's the one who thought of the name for the bump"

"Excuse me?"

"Pregnancy must-have. A name for the baby before it arrives and you saddle it with one it can hate for the rest of its life"

"So before birth little Laurence was called…"

" 'Oops' "

They shared a moment of amusement, until she continued sincerely

"But he's a very happy accident, really. It was time. Richard wanted kids, in fact his ex-wife *not* wanting them was a big factor in their break-up. He couldn't understand her not wanting that future"

Giles fell silent, contemplating his own future. His life was out of balance again, he knew. Listless, rudderless, Slayerless. Was it always so for the one chosen to guide the Slayer, once that duty was over, or was it only him? Only him who had given his life so completely to service that he could not truly take it back?

Olivia, guessing from his face the flavour of his thoughts, laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. He started slightly.

"Sorry: miles away". Around five and a half thousand as the crow flew.

"Was it worth it then, Rupert? Not coming home back then? Not giving normal life a chance?"

Seeing her here, and this child who was another man's future, how could he reply? The Watcher would speak of responsibility and sacrifice, of choosing what is right, of the protection of the world. The man Rupert Giles might talk of lost opportunities, of the path not taken, of why his life seemed so much to be about letting go, might ask whether he would ever be allowed to keep something for himself for a change…

" I don't know"

END