An English Summer
written by Sandra Pascoe

Rating: FRT
Spoilers: Through Season 7, set about a year after the end of Season 7.
Summary: England. A Slayer. A Vampire. A Watcher.
Thanks: To Gail – for the absolutely brilliant beta.
Author's Notes: This fic is based on a false spoiler for Season 7 - namely that at the end of the series, Buffy and Spike would ride off together. I just wondered "what if?" Obviously "Chosen" happened differently…WARNING: Character Death.
Feedback Author: Sandra Pascoe
Author's Website: Realm Of The Tweedy Book Guy

George Williams sighed and turned the key in the lock. It creaked loudly and George smiled wryly, reaching out a gnarled hand to pat the large, wooden gates.

"Seems like your joints are getting as old and creaky as mine," he muttered, turning away with a sigh. Fifty years, he thought, I've been locking this place for fifty years. Where does the time go?

"Stop! Wait…please!" The urgent shout cut into George's thoughts and he turned around, eyes widening slightly at the young, blonde haired woman running towards him. "I have to get in there," she said as she stopped in front of him.

"I’m sorry," replied George, not unkindly. "You’ll have to come back tomorrow."

"No," the young woman’s eyes filled with tears, "it’ll be too late then." She looked up at him pleadingly and George felt his heart melt. Stupid old man, he berated himself, never could resist a woman’s tears. She stared unblinking at him and, as George looked again at those tear-laden eyes, he felt himself flinch slightly. That look, he thought, that haunted look... she’s been too far… seen too much. Old eyes in such a young face. Her eyes should be sparkling with youth… not dull with pain like this. What on earth had she seen to cause this? George shuddered slightly. On second thoughts, I’m better off not knowing. He sighed and nodded.

"Very well," he said, unlocking the gates, "but don’t tell anyone." The young woman grinned at him and George smiled in return, pushing the gates open to let her in. He held out the keys.

"Lock up when you’ve finished," said George softly, "and put the key under that flowerpot."

She nodded and walked past him, stopping suddenly and turning to face him.

"Thank you…" she trailed off, uncertain, and George grinned.

"George," he supplied, holding out his hand.

"Thank you, George," she smiled, shaking his hand solemnly. "I’m Buffy."

"You’re welcome, Buffy. I’m pleased to meet you."

"Me too," she grinned, turning and starting to walk up the gravel path.

George sighed and closed the gates. He watched the young woman walking purposefully towards the graveyard and smiled slightly. I hope you find what you’re looking for, Buffy.

Buffy looked around with graveyard with something akin to awe. So many graves, she thought, and they’re so old. She walked past the worn, weather-beaten gravestones, peering at them, trying to see names…dates…anything. Slowly, the stones became easier to read – they were newer, fresher and Buffy swallowed nervously as she reached the most recent graves. Her eyes quickly settled on a headstone in the shape of a book. She smiled slightly. That’s it… it’s got to be. She walked over and sat on the grave’s stone border. Taking a deep breath, she looked up to see what had been carved on the book.

"Rupert Giles," she read. "Protector of the Past. Guardian of the Present. Watcher to the Future."

She sighed, leaning slightly against the stone, her fingers gently tracing the intricate carving.

"I had it all planned, you know," she said softly, "what I would say… even the way I would say it. It all seems so pointless now. I don’t even know if you’re listening to me… have I managed to drive your spirit away as successfully as I did the rest of you? Are you still watching over me, Giles – or have I forfeited that privilege?"

Buffy swallowed, dragging her eyes away from the gravestone and gazing, unseeing, across the graveyard.

"God, this is such a mess… and I have no excuses, Giles. I’ve done things I’m not proud of and hurt a lot of people in the process." Buffy paused, trying to collect her thoughts. She shifted around, leaning more comfortably against the stone. "It was Willow who told me…" she continued. "She found me somehow… told me that you… you were dead. I meant to come to the funeral, Giles, honestly I did but…" Buffy trailed off. Why was this so difficult? Why can’t I explain this properly? She thought.

"Okay," Buffy took a deep breath. "I’m going to babble my way through this, Giles, so you just lie there and listen. It’s MY turn to do the long-winded explanation. I guess it all started when they brought me back. I didn’t want it, Giles… I felt so lost… so alone. Everything was so loud… they dragged me away from the most peaceful, wonderful place I had ever been and expected me to THANK them for it. Then you came back… and for a while I thought I could cope. In reality though… I wasn’t coping, was I? I dumped it on you… left you to pick up the pieces. I just couldn’t think about it, Giles… not the ordinary stuff… like where the money to live on would come from… like looking after Dawn. I couldn’t cope with being back, Giles. I missed the peace… I missed the comfort. My body may have been alive… but inside I felt dead." Buffy shifted once more, noting with surprise the ever-darkening sky. Didn’t think I’d been here long, she thought. Oh well.

"Then you left," she said quietly, "and suddenly I had to deal… and I wasn’t up to it. I was surrounded by darkness… I WANTED to feel again, Giles. I didn’t want to feel dead… and that’s where Spike came in. Amazing isn’t it? How someone dead could make me feel alive?" Buffy frowned. "No… that’s not really right. Spike made me feel… I felt pain… I felt disgust… I felt revulsion… but at least I FELT! I didn’t feel dead all the time anymore and, to be honest, I was getting exactly what I felt I deserved. I didn’t deserve any better… and I thought Spike was helping. In a way I guess he was… but he was helping himself. He was dragging me down into the darkness with him and I went along willingly. I did come to my senses, Giles… and I did it before you came back. I stopped seeing Spike… I tried to take responsibility."

Buffy stood up and began to pace around the grave.

"Seeing you standing there, Giles," she smiled, "made me realise just how much I missed you. It was like… like I’d found the missing piece of myself. You didn’t stay long, though… you left again. This time I was better… happier… I coped." The smile suddenly slipped from Buffy’s face. "Then Spike came back… and the First showed up. And now it gets harder… how can I explain what I did, Giles? How can I put it into words… you were always the expert at that - not me."

Buffy sighed and sat on the grave once more.

"I guess I’ll start with the First," she smiled. "It scared me, Giles… it scared me damn near rigid. It had destroyed the Council… almost killed you… and I had no idea how to fight it. There was a houseful of potentials all looking at me… expecting me to have all the answers… expecting me to tell them what to do. So that’s exactly what I did. I became take-charge girl. I became something else in the process, Giles… I became something I didn’t like I became Quentin Travers. I looked at everyone in terms of how useful they could be in the fight… I stopped seeing people… I stopped seeing YOU as a person. I looked at WHAT you were, Giles… I never looked at WHO you were. You deserved better… you deserved SO much better than what I gave you. I’m sorry. I can never say that enough, Giles. I’m sorry for everything… every time I ignored you… every time I treated you as though you didn’t exist… every time I hurt you… everything."

Buffy stopped and looked down.

"Now we get to the hardest part," Buffy lowered her voice slightly. "Spike. I can feel him, you know… he’s out there now… now that the sun’s gone down… he’s patrolling around this graveyard. He didn’t understand why I wanted to come here in daylight… or even why I wanted to come through the front gate instead of sneaking over the fence. It’s a matter of respect… I felt it would be disrespectful to you… to everything you were… if I snuck in to see you like a criminal."

Buffy took a deep breath and looked at the carvings again.

"I know what you want to ask. Why did I constantly protect him… care for him… put him above everyone… above everything?" Buffy paused. She leaned back against the gravestone. "I know you wanted Spike to use the amulet and not Angel. I couldn’t let that happen… I felt I owed him, Giles. He went off and got a soul… for ME. He was hurting… he was confused… because of ME. I may not have been responsible for what he was… but I was sure as hell responsible for what he became. He loved me… he did all that for me… I couldn’t abandon him. He was my responsibility."

Buffy paused again, gazing up at the star-lit sky, shivering at the sudden chill in the air.

"At least," she continued softly, "that’s what I thought then. When Willow contacted me about you, I remembered a few things. I was thinking about you… which led me to Jenny… and then Angelus. I remembered the deal I made with Spike to get you out… and then I realised something else. Something I never noticed at the time. When I was fighting Angelus… Spike took Dru and disappeared. The world could, to use one of your expressions, have gone to hell in a handbasket, but all that mattered to Spike was Dru. That’s when I realised that, despite Spike’s claims, what he feels is NOT love… it’s obsession. Looking back, I can’t believe how stupid I was. He stalked me… dragged me into darkness with him… and yet I still protected him… still cared for him. He didn’t get a soul for me… he got it for himself. Everything he did… it wasn’t for me… it was for him and his obsession."

Buffy got up and started pacing again.

"Did I love him, would be your next question, wouldn’t it?" Buffy stopped pacing and looked steadily at the gravestone. "No, Giles… I felt that I owed him… I felt… sorry for him, I guess. Not very fair of me, was it? And what was even worse… I left with him… left Dawn… and you… behind. Left my real family because I was trying to take responsibility for… what I’d created. Things are going to change though, Giles. I’ve changed…"

Buffy tensed and broke off as she sensed movement behind her. She smelt the cigarette smoke… felt him watching her.

"Time to go, pet." Spike’s softly spoken phrase betrayed a hard edge and Buffy smiled slightly.

"Yes," she replied, still gazing at the grave, "time to go."

In one movement, Buffy took a stake from her pocket, spun on her heel and buried the piece of wood firmly in Spike’s chest. She barely had time to register the look of surprise on his face before a shower of dust fell to the ground.

"WAY past time," muttered Buffy, before she turned her attention to the grave once more. "Time for me to take responsibility for what REALLY matters Giles. I’m going home. I’m going to hope that Dawn, Willow and Xander can find it in their hearts to forgive me. I’m hoping that you can forgive me, Giles. I used to be able to feel you… I’d feel your presence before I walked into a room… took comfort in knowing that you were there. Are you still watching over me, Giles? Because I can’t feel you… and I need to… I need to SO much."

Buffy choked back a sob as her eyes ran over the carving once more. She thought of Giles… nothing else, just Giles. His scent… his eyes… his smile. She remembered him in the library, wearing that itchy tweed… she remembered him in the magic box… she remembered HIM. Memories filled her mind… almost tripping over each other in their eagerness to be recalled. So much of what I am is Giles, she thought. Buffy’s eyes suddenly widened imperceptibly and she sucked in a breath. There, she thought… that tingle… he’s here. She looked around… nothing. Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen. That doesn’t matter… I can feel him again.

"Hey there, big guy," she grinned. "I’ve missed you."

A feeling of warmth rushed over her and she laughed aloud. I feel… human again, she thought. I feel… loved.

"Still watching over me, Giles?" Buffy took one last long look at the grave before her and smiled. "Come on, Watcher-mine… let’s go home."