Untouched
written by Ruth


Rating: FRT for some slight suggestive subject matter, but mainly language.
Spoilers: BtVS S7 ep "Touched".
Summary: At least two people were left out of the love-fest at the Casa Summers….
Feedback Author: Ruth


The weapons needed sharpening and repair. Weeks of practice in half-tutored hands, without regular maintenance, had left several blades blunted and hacked, loose in their sockets or with grips treacherously worn. He had to finish as many as he could in the time that was left, working by the fitful light of a hanging camping lamp, trying to make sure everyone had at least one to their name. Stakes alone wouldn't fill the gaps.

He used to do this, late at night in the Library or at the flat, grinding evenly with a whetstone, polishing the steel with a soft cloth until it caught any available light, challenging the dark corners. A small spark alone. Better to light a single candle; better to go down fighting; one girl in all the world…

He didn’t know where she was now. Where the light had gone. How in hell they had all come to this. What he was doing here, unbidden, unwanted, preparing for battle again.

It was very dark.

A pinprick of light reflected off the sword tip into his eyes, making him flinch for a second. He'd used this one himself, in the fight against Glory. It had flashed and sliced and bitten into bone, jumping in his hands, settling and fitting in his grasp. He was not by nature an observer, a Watcher.

How many times had it risen up in his throat and chest to choke him, to seize his heart and wring it dry? This 'high calling', this 'privilege'… He could hear his father now.:

// "Chin up, Rupert. Meet it like a man. Do your duty." //

Duty. What was left after all the layers of affection and trust, of idealism and hope had been peeled away one by one. He swung the sword and as it whistled mournfully through the air he felt the pain once more; the re-making of the wound deep inside where, despite his anger at her obtuse foolishness and resentment at her refusal to forgive, love remained, untouched.

A footstep behind him fell lightly, hesitant. Not her - how could it be? Not danger - he was hyper-alert tonight. He turned where he sat on the front porch.

// Damn. //

"M-Mr. Giles. Hi." The boy sat down next to him, restricting his elbow room.

"Andrew."

Someone who was, if possible, more surplus to requirements even than he. Giles laid the sword aside and began work on the next weapon. Andrew looked on, fascinated, as he checked the fixing on a double-headed hand axe, stuck a new wedge in and tapped it smartly into place with a hammer. The readied arsenal was stacked in neat piles or leant against the doorposts; after a few minutes of being ignored by the armourer, Andrew hopped down into the lawn and wandered amongst the groups, squatting here and there to get a closer look, stretching a hand out to trace the engraving on a knife handle; a knife kind of like the one…

"Don't touch anything."

Giles' voice wasn't raised, but he wasn't asking nicely. Andrew pulled back his hand and shrugged, baring his teeth in a submissive smile.

"Okay. Sorry. It's just, like, all so…cool."

Giles' lip curled as he wound rawhide around the stock of a small crossbow, staring stonily at his working hands.

"But, y'know," continued Andrew, bouncing up to Giles like a kicked puppy trying to ingratiate itself, "we should go for something high-tech. Cattle prods. Laser beams. Or, hey: *magic fireballs*. You could attach them somehow to a hilt and use them over and over instead of just throwing them." He acted out a light-sabre contest with gusto for his indifferent audience of one.

"Take that, evil vam-pyres! I am a knight noble and pure, and thou shalt surely perish!"

Soon out of breath, he paused in his play and tried to get Giles' attention by moving directly into his line of sight. The Watcher looked at him through the sights of the crossbow, finger on the trigger, his expression cold. Andrew's bluster rapidly deflated and he sulked, scuffing his feet on the grass, hunching his scrawny shoulders.

"I know: stupid ol' Andy; getting in the way. Better out here than in there: you know everyone's…everyone in the whole house is…*doing it*," he whimpered fretfully.

"Hardly 'everyone'," remarked Giles, testing a bowstring between his teeth.

He'd left all the Potentials, Dawn electing to join them, huddled together in their sleeping bags in the living room, holding hands and whispering together in a pitiful parody of a slumber party. He'd done what he could for them, putting on his bravest face, his most reassuring 'British authority figure' tone.

Playing Dad.

Didn’t work.

It had never been who he was anyway.

But at least they had each other: Dawn and the Potentials; Willow and Kennedy; Xander and Anya: still, after everything, unable to let each other go entirely; Faith and Wood, angry and abandoned, burning away their rage and shame at being unworthy of a parent's love, of a parent's memory.

*Buffy*.

Where was she? If he thought there was the slightest chance she would accept his presence, he would have sought her out, offered to stand by her as a friend even if he could no longer follow her as a leader. But he thought he knew whom he would find with her: Spike. He who had the luxury of being able to think only of one person. Never in a million years would Giles have ever thought to end his life envying a vampire. Well then, let him offer comfort. Let Buffy take it. He only wished…no. It was all done, and only a fool would trust in a resurrection of…whatever they had been to each other.

Only a fool would still hope for it.

Andrew sat back down and watched Giles working again. Sidling a little closer, he rested his elbows on his knees and curled his fists under his chin, addressing the roof of the porch in a wheedling voice:

"Y'know, you're s'posed to spend what might be your last night on earth doing something you've always wanted to do…"

Giles made no reply. 'What he wanted' had never come into it. It was unlikely suddenly to become relevant now. He'd come to the last few damaged implements and bent forward to lay a pair of maces on the bottom step. He froze as a hand gently touched his shoulder, rested there and squeezed.

"I overheard the Potentials talking the other day, and one of them said her Watcher was… that he'd never got married, and he used to…get a lot of visitors: young men visitors. She thought a lot of Watchers must be… like that, that maybe they chose them so there wouldn’t be any, y'know, trouble, with them being around pretty girls all the time…"

"If you don't remove your hand from my person, you'll find how much being rapped over the knuckles with a pound of cast iron *hurts*," Giles told him, as quietly as he'd said everything so far. "I am *not* 'like that', and even if I were, you wouldn't interest me."

"Sorry, sorry," Andrew whined, pulling his arm back close to his chest. "I just thought: I've never…never been 'with' anyone and… maybe we could use some comfort too. In those 'coming out of the closet' articles it's always some older, more experienced guy who helps the younger guy…find his true nature. And I thought maybe you're still single because…"

Strongly tempted to tell the boy that his true nature was as a worthless waste of space, Giles forbore. A pointless act of petty cruelty was no way to crown the sum of one's days. In any case there was the remote possibility that Andrew, too, might yet justify his existence by doing his bit at the last stand.

"No. I'm single because that's the way things are."

// Because no-one stays. Because one way or another, I drive them away. //

"I get it!" Andrew said excitedly. "You're like a noble Jedi, knowing neither fear, nor anger, nor love. Watchers are all British and repressed cause they're supposed to be above all that!"

// I wish. What we're 'supposed to be', God only knows. What I *am* is, mostly, as of this minute, tired to the bone and sick to death of everything in my fucked up life and this fucked up world. Not very noble. //

"So, Mr Giles, do you have some words of Masterly wisdom, to help us through the night? 'Cause there are other ways to comfort frightened people. You could maybe tell me how it's bound to turn out okay in the end, that right will prevail, that we'll trounce those baddies and jolly good show…." Andrew's bright, false tone trailed off.

"Words of comfort, hmm?" Giles turned his head to look at the pinched, quavering features. He seemed to consider saying something for a few seconds, then turned back and looked out into the night.

"Unfortunately, I don't have any."

END