Pairing: Giles/Xander (Xander/Anya, Giles/Ethan, Giles/OFC, Buffy/Angel)
Summary: Xander flees to the place Scoobies go when they can't be near the Slayer any more. But the Hellmouth has a few last kicks in the gut to land before it's done with everyone.
Warnings: The aftermath of character death, suicide attempts, angst, hurt/comfort. Death of another major character (not Xander or Giles).
Notes: Departs from canon around "Gone"/"Doublemeat Palace", and makes season 6 grimmer. Does not end on grim, however. I promise. Thanks to glimmergirl for keeping my AtS canon straight, and to meegat for location help. Thanks to my flist for not strangling me for all the whining. Written for spring_with_xan 2007.
Word count: 24.5K
Distribution: Yup, sure!
Feedback: Makes the author happy. Even if you just say hi.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership and am making no money.
OneAt first Xander had stuck his nose to the cold pane of glass, and watched the clouds, so white and bright beneath the airplane. He imagined himself flying through them. Willow'd told him once they were frozen water, tiny ice crystals free-floating in the stratosphere, but he imagined them as warm, fluffy things, made of cotton and dust. He'd soar through them and never come down and be wrapped in a deep warm blanket and never wake up.
Then the sun had set, and he'd had to slide the shade down over the window. It sank in that he was trapped in a little chair with nothing to do but think about it for twelve hours. Think about Anya. About what had happened, that moment when Buffy had-- About how it was his fault. He'd taken one of his anxiety pills and zoned. He couldn't manage to sleep, with his knees jammed up against the chair in front of him. The only good part was not having any choices more complicated than chicken versus pasta. Sit here. Drink this. Shuffle down this walkway. Wait in this line.
He'd have no choices again soon. Giles would take over.
Xander cleared customs, then paused for a moment in the middle of the swirling crowds. He tucked his no longer virgin passport into his pants pocket and wondered what to do now. Giles would be waiting for him on the other side of the security barrier, but he wasn't ready to face Giles yet. Now that he was here, eight thousand miles from home, his stomach felt funny. The narrator inside his head was telling him that this was a mistake bigger than any he'd ever made, that Giles would not be happy to see him.
Xander pulled his heavy suitcase into the men's restroom. He washed his hands and threw a handful of cold water on his face. He looked at himself in the mirror over the sink. Shaggy hair, deep circles under his eyes. Thin face, thinner than he'd been in a while. His face was tinged blue and green in the light. He looked like hell. No point trying to comb the hair. Time to head out. Face his benefactor. Face his lecturer. Face the guy who would straighten him out and tell him the error of his ways. Not loudly. Oh no. Giles wouldn't yell. He'd be soft and infinitely accepting and so, so disappointed in Xander Harris, terminal screw-up. That's what the voice in his head said, repeating it, whispering it.
Gray corridor, dogleg right, through the gate. Lots of people moving, some of them standing waiting with signs. Nobody looking for him. Xander moved further out into the swirl and looked around. He spotted Giles, sitting at the end of a row of chairs, in a tan leather coat Xander recognized, nose in a paperback. Xander hovered, watching Giles for a minute. He looked good. Younger. Relaxed. Xander trudged over. Giles looked up and his eyes crinkled, not in a smile, but with warmth and affection. Then Xander found himself pulled into a tight hug. He pressed his face into Giles' shoulder, into the scent of tea and leather and that weird cologne Giles had always worn. A strong hand braced his back. He didn't want it to end, and it didn't. Not until Xander pulled away self-consciously and scrubbed the back of his neck.
"Hey. Hey. Hi."
"Hello," Giles murmured. "I'm so sorry, Xander. So sorry. I-- Well. Flight okay? Do you need anything? Breakfast? Something to drink?"
Xander shook his head.
"Come on. Let's get you home. We can talk as we go. It'll be a couple hours yet of traveling, I'm afraid."
He turned to head off and took two steps. Xander stood motionless, watching Giles move away. He wasn't sure he could take another step. He was so tired, and it was so pointless.
Giles was at his side again, murmuring something. Xander felt a hand stroke down his back. Then Giles took the handle of the suitcase away from him and slipped his free hand under Xander's arm. He led the way gently through a mess of airport stuff.
Xander peeked, interested despite himself. Heathrow. Pretty big place. LAX had been big too. People, rushing around looking stressed, or blank, or distracted. Xander searched for signs he was in a foreign country. Fashions were different; people wore more clothes. Everybody was a lot paler than he was used to, a lot more white. This was what British people looked like, he guessed. He wondered if he'd get a chance to ride in a car on the wrong side of the road.
"Did you drive?"
"No, not this morning. Took the train. Don't worry, just follow me. Got all the tickets ready."
They went down an elevator and along more corridors to a subway station. A long train was already there, doors closed. It didn't look much like the subways Xander had seen in movies. Way more high tech. Xander had never ridden a train before either. Never been more than fifty miles from home before. Lots of firsts this week, in his starved sucky life.
Some announcement thing happened, and the train doors opened. Giles led him in, tucked his bag away on the luggage rack, and sat Xander down. He sat right next to him, close enough to touch. His shoulder and leg were warm. Solid. Xander looked at his hands. When he glanced up, he saw Giles watching him, patient and quiet. If he was disappointed, there was no sign of it on his face. The refrain in his head had shut up, which was a relief. Xander was getting tired of what his subconscious had to say to him.
Xander looked away, trying to see out the window. All he could see was his own reflection, and he didn't want to look at that. The tunnel flashed past, outside the train, dimly lit pillars and pipes flickering by. Then the walls brightened. The train emerged into daylight. Xander could see why Giles had told him to bring a warm coat. It was snowing, the air filled with white flecks drifting down, like dust from the sky, smearing over the roofs. Another first for SoCal Xander. He looked over at Giles and cleared his throat.
Giles seemed to take it as some kind of invitation to talk, because he said, "How are you feeling?"
Xander wasn't sure, but he answered anyway. "Kinda numb. It cycles in and out."
Giles nodded, as if Xander had said something meaningful. "I'm so sorry, Xander. I shall miss Anya deeply. She was a friend."
"Yeah. She, she liked getting your letters." Xander wrapped his arms around his stomach.
"I enjoyed hers. She had a unique perspective on humanity. I mourn with you."
"Humanity," said Xander, softly. The outsider's view.
Giles leaned closer to him. "I know... perhaps not exactly how you're feeling, but very near. I also lost a lover to... to the Hellmouth."
Miss Calendar. So long ago that sometimes Xander forgot. So long? Four years. Not so long. Giles had also tried to kill himself afterward, though he'd been way less lame about how he'd tried to do it. The reminder helped. He'd always known he could trust Giles, but now he remembered that Giles would understand. Everything. He relaxed inside, a tiny bit. Giles might even let him do it, all the way.
"It does. In fact, it--" Giles stopped himself again. "It'll do you good to be away from it for a while."
"You know what happened, really?"
"I know." At Xander's look, "I talked to Dawn. Extensively."
Xander watched the buildings slide by. It looked like they were in a city now. After a while, he said, "It was probably worse than Dawn told you."
Giles said nothing, but he slipped his hand down and gripped Xander's wrist. On the outside. No pressure on the stitches. Just like Giles, to avoid them without needing to be told.
"Buffy blames herself, but it wasn't her fault, not really. She just did her thing, even when she was stoned out of her mind. But she's freaked. Once she came down from whatever it was Willow did, and she figured it out, she freaked."
"Angel is with her now. She'll be all right."
"Who'da thunk I'd be grateful to see Deadboy? But I was."
"I rang him the moment I got off the phone with Dawn."
Giles must hate Angel less than Xander did. That was odd, given the reason why Giles and Xander now had something in common. But Xander had been grateful to see him, grateful that he'd taken Buffy and Dawn off his hands. It had freed him to lock himself in the bathroom and do it. Or try to do it, anyway. Xander flinched away from that memory. Next time, another method. No more razors. No more blood, for obnoxious interfering vampires to smell. He shifted uneasily in the seat.
"Surprised you didn't come yourself."
"It was Angel's idea that I not, that instead you come to me. He thought you needed, ah--"
"Yeah." Angel. Swooping in on dusty black wings to save the day.
Giles put his arm around Xander's shoulders and squeezed, gently. Xander leaned against him and soaked it in. It was weird how everything felt better with him around. Everything. Even incredibly sucky things. They'd been close once, Xander and Giles, before Anya had come along and monopolized his attention. Before he'd figured out some things about himself that had him staying as far away from Giles as he could. Xander had missed it.
The train was moving through real city now, and slowing down. It pulled into a station. It looked like a big one, huge arching roof over the top, lots of parallel tracks. Long platforms, lots of people, moving steadily along the platforms. So many people. Xander had been to LA a few times, but never to crowded places. Giles led Xander toward the busy part, the part with kiosks selling magazines and coffee, and video displays listing trains going to places that sounded like they were on the east coast. Bristol. Reading. Oxford. Giles stared up for a moment, then found what he wanted. He tugged Xander gently back into motion and led him to the right, to the first platform. A train was waiting there. They walked along it, past a string of cars marked first class, to a regular car. Giles released his arm, and Xander stepped up into the train.
Xander sat next to the window. Giles was once again next to him, close enough that they were touching.
"Ninety minutes," he said. "We can talk more, if you like. Or save it for when we're home."
"Home," said Xander. "Long way away."
"No, just a short ride away."
How long was he supposed to stay here? Xander was unsure what he'd agreed to when he'd listened to Giles' plan on the phone. He'd been doped up on whatever the hospital had given him. He'd ask Giles eventually.
The train began moving, sliding out of the station. Faster. Through tunnels and the ass-side of a city. Xander zoned out and watched it roll away. Towns passed. Stations. Trains on other tracks.
He glanced to the side, and saw Giles watching him.
"Are you just going to stare at me the whole way?"
Giles' mouth quirked. "I haven't seen you in months. I... I was thinking about how much I missed you. Everyone, really, but especially you."
"You're bs-ing me, but thanks."
"Why do you say--"
"Cause you missed Buffy more."
Giles snapped his gaze away from Xander at that, and looked at his hands clasped in his lap. "You may be right. But she... she made her feelings quite clear. Before I left. And in answer to my letters. Dawn asked me to stop writing her."
"Oh." Xander had known Buffy'd been upset, angry even, but hadn't thought her capable of staying mad at Giles. "Why did you leave us?"
Giles shook his head. "I thought... thought it was time for separation. Buffy needed to learn that she's strong. I second-guess that decision every day, Xander. Never more than now."
"You screwed up."
Giles did not look up from his hands. "Yes. I did. Though not perhaps in the way you think."
Xander clenched his fists. He was so angry he wanted to smash the window next to him. He imagined himself doing it. Pounding it until it shattered and sliced through his hands and arms. Leaping through, streaming blood, and flying through the air. Coming to land next to the train, blood on his hands. He wrapped his arms around his stomach, wrists protected tight against his sides, anger held in just as tight. Everything had started sucking the moment Giles had moved back here. Everything between those two airport hugs had been something Xander could do without.
He was shaking. Giles touched his arm. Xander flinched and turned away from him. Pressed his nose against the window glass and tried to get control again. He breathed himself down. He had pills in his shoulder bag, for when he had attacks like this, but he didn't like to take them. They made him feel strange. He counted to one hundred, then counted up again. It faded slowly as they fled London. They were well out of the city now, running through farmland. Or something. Bare trees, open sweeps of land and hedges. There was snow on the ground in patches. Dark gray skies. More snow, dusting over the fields.
They arrived in Bath around noontime. Giles got Xander's attention with a touch on his elbow, then took care of the suitcase for him. He carried it down and out from the station, with Xander trailing behind uselessly.
The snow fell around them as they emerged from the station onto the street. It wasn't thick. Softly falling snow, whispering down like dust from the sky. It melted on Xander's hands. Giles led him away from the station along a street that curled around what looked like downtown. They walked for maybe a mile, mostly uphill, through falling snow. Xander was breathing deeply, pulling cold snow-scented air into his lungs, sweating despite the sharpness in the air. He looked at the brick sidewalk in front of him, at the snow silting up in the interstices, at the snow ghosting over on the curb and on the bare branches of the trees. Falling softly, over everything. The buildings were all alike to him. Everything around him looked old, older than anything he'd ever seen before. Old gray stone, dead and chilled. Except for the street signs and the lights, they might have been deep in the past.
Giles lived in the bottom floor of one of those old buildings, on a street that looked like it hadn't changed in two hundred years. They went down six steps from the sidewalk to a little entryway. Giles unlocked the door and ushered Xander in. Warm. Xander rubbed his nose, then unbuttoned his coat. Giles showed him where to hang it up.
It was small, more cozy than cramped, but still not the airy space that Giles had lived in back in Sunnydale. Giles showed him around quietly: living room, with sofa and armchair; little kitchen; office; bedroom. Bookshelves on all the walls, except in the kitchen. Even there, a short shelf held cookbooks, and the remainder of the walls were covered with hanging pots and pans, a spice rack, a barometer. The office was crammed with books and notebooks and strange objects. Xander recognized a bunch of stuff from Giles' office at the library. There were windows high up on the walls, open to the street.
"I work here, from my flat," Giles said. He was standing in the doorway just behind Xander, very close. "Translation, mostly, and some research for the Council. I've put your bag in the bedroom, if you'd like to shower and change. I'll make some lunch for us."
Xander didn't bother to tell Giles he wasn't hungry. He just nodded and slouched off to get clean. The bathroom held a huge clawfoot tub and not much else. The toilet was in a different room. Weird places, these old buildings. The bathroom was older than most of Sunnydale. The shower part was kinda grafted onto the tub, one of those old-fashioned metal showerheads, like a sprinkler head. Xander pulled the plastic curtains around the tub and let the hot water run down his face until it went cold. And then he stood there some more, until he was shivering. Not as cold as Anya was. Unless she was in hell, and burning. Hell was real, wasn't it? Yes, it was, the voice in his head said. She's there, and you sent her. Your fault.
The shower curtain shot open. "Xander? Are you--?"
Xander cupped his hands over himself and flinched away. "What the hell?"
"Sorry, sorry. You didn't answer my knock, and I-- " Giles pulled the curtain closed again. "Please come out now, Xander. Lunch is ready."
Giles reached a hand in through the curtain and spun the water off. He handed in a towel next. Xander took it and rubbed his face dry, reflexively.
"I'm sorry," Giles said again, from outside the curtain. "But you must understand we're all worried about you. You'll have to expect some, ah, hovering from me. After your attempt."
"I get it. I'm sorry. I didn't come here so I could... I'm not gonna." Well, he might. But not on the first day. Not without telling Giles why.
The door snicked shut again, and Xander stepped out of the bathtub to dry off the rest of the way. He put on warm clothes. Baggy jeans and a flannel shirt over a t-shirt. Thick socks. He was deep-chilled after that shower.
Out in the kitchen he wrapped both hands around the mug of tea Giles handed him, drank it without thinking. It tasted good. Xander had never had tea before, he realized. He'd always reflexively refused it in favor of soda. This stuff was warm, sweet, milky, and fragrant. Xander remembered Giles saying once that tea was soothing. He could buy that.
He sat at the little table when nudged, and picked up his spoon. Dipped it into the tomato soup, ate some. Ate the chewy wheat bread Giles set next to the bowl. He dropped the spoon. It was wrong to enjoy things, wrong to like the taste of the soup, the bread, the tea, when Anya was dead because of him.
"Done?" Giles raised his eyebrows over his glasses, then, when Xander didn't answer, took Xander's bowl away.
Xander sat and listened to Giles washing up. He was being a bad guest. He ought to be doing the dishes for Giles. But even when Giles came back, and asked him what he'd like to do with his afternoon-- do a little sightseeing, talk, shop for some warmer clothes-- Xander didn't have an answer. He didn't deserve any of it. Not that he could tell Giles that. So Giles told him that he had some translation to do, part of the work he was doing for the Council. He led Xander into his office, to watch while Giles translated.
The office smelled like incense and books. It was cluttered, comfortable, and being inside it was like being hugged by Giles. Giles sat Xander down in the armchair tucked in the corner, between two shelves. The desk was against the wall of the house, under one of those high windows. Cold gray light filtered in. Giles switched on his desklamp. Hovering yellow glow from the lightbulb. Giles then surprised Xander by sticking a CD into a little stereo. There were a pair of speakers mounted on his walls.
There were surprising things in this apartment. Like the CDs. Giles had a couple of shelves of them. Xander poked through them. Some of the same stuff he'd had on vinyl in Sunnydale. Classical stuff, Mozart and Beethoven and Bach. And a bunch of names Xander didn't recognize that looked modern. He didn't recognize what they were listening to at all. It was very quiet and slow, with pianos and bell things. Echoey.
Hanging from the ceiling was a huge kite, six feet wide at least. A simple triangle shape, rainbow stripes across it. It swayed gently in the room's air currents. Xander couldn't remember anything like it in Giles' Sunnydale apartment. He'd never flown a kite. Was it one of Giles' hobbies? Cross-referencing, translating from the Greek, killing demons, flying kites.
Xander slumped in the armchair and watched Giles write, fountain pen in his left hand, right forefinger tracing his progress across the scroll. Warm room, warm light, warm music, his friend nearby, snow flickering down outside the window. Xander slowed down, stretched out. He stared up at the ceiling and watched the kite. His mind went quiet for the first time in a long time.
He woke to find the room dim and a wool afghan tucked around him. He couldn't remember where he was for a second. Then he remembered everything. His chest hurt and he curled around it for a minute before he could move again.
He stood and shuffled toward light and the sounds of life. Giles was in his kitchen, doing something. Xander stood in the doorway and blinked in the light. He rubbed his eyes.
"There you are. Good nap?"
To Xander's surprise, it had been a good nap. He hadn't dreamed. Or if he had, he didn't remember it, which was just as good. "Yeah, I guess. What's up?"
Giles had a row of pill bottles set across the counter. "Looks like it's time for your antibiotics. Do you have any special instructions for these, other than what's on the bottle?"
Those were his pills. That meant-- "You went through my stuff!"
"Xander. You attempted suicide. For a while, until you've regained perspective, you're going to be under... a certain amount of scrutiny. I went through it myself. After Jenny."
Scrutiny? He couldn't remember that. Xander thought back. He hadn't been paying much attention. He'd only started getting close to Giles after the torture thing. "Buffy?"
"Buffy. She spent three days glued to my side. Didn't leave me alone for a second. Bloody annoying at first."
Giles came over to Xander and took his face in his hands. Warm hands, dry. Xander met Giles' eyes. "You're my friend, Xander. I do this because... because you're my friend. I want you to live. All right? Now. Did you get any special instructions for your pills?"
Xander sighed. Might as well give in. "Nothing. I don't have to take the Xanax all the time. Just when I start freaking. Mostly it's just the stuff for the, um, stitches. And the daily happy pills."
Giles handed him two pills and a glass of water to take them with. Xander swallowed them down and drank the water.
He said, "Wesley packed my bag. I don't even know what's in there."
"Ah," said Giles. "Well. It's all unpacked into a drawer in my bedroom. I'll show you later. Hungry? It's dinnertime."
Xander was, a little bit, to his surprise.
"Go out or eat in? I have some shepherd's pie I could warm up."
"Whatever you like. I don't want to put you out."
Giles considered him for a moment. "Let's go out, then. Take a little walk in the snow, while it's still pretty."
It was cold outside, even with the winter coat. It had stopped snowing, and the sky was cloudless and black. Xander's breath puffed out in front of him. Snow on the ground glittered in the light from streetlamps. The magical snow that Buffy had said the Powers sent to save Angel, that stuff hadn't been real. Hadn't been like this. Cold air in his nose, stinging his face. A sharp smell in the air, woodsmoke and something else, something he'd never smelled before. Was that what snow smelled like? He breathed in deep.
"Wow! Wow. It's-- it's cold."
"Won't last," Giles said. He was smiling, and looking around himself. "Need to go north a bit if you want real snow, deep snow. But s'pretty now."
Giles led the way down the hill. Xander walked alongside him, listening to the snow squeak and crunch under his shoes. He thrust his hands deep into his coat pockets. He'd known in the abstract what cold weather, real cold weather, would feel like, but the reality was annoying at the same time that it was neat. He wished he had a hat.
It was about a mile of walking. At the end of it Xander was feeling much warmer, and strangely good. Almost hungry. Then they were stepping through a door into a restaurant, into warmth and the steamy smell of garlic sauce. They knew Giles, and stuck him into a table in the corner where he had a good view of the door and the whole room. It was much smaller than it would have been in Sunnydale, almost like a little house had been converted into a restaurant instead of the building being made for it. Which Xander supposed might be the case.
Giles ordered for both of them. Xander felt the ghost of pleasure passing through him. It was exactly like it had been in Sunnydale, only with forks instead of chopsticks. Giles didn't eat his eggroll, but Xander had to steal it from him anyway, exactly as he always used to. Back when he and Giles hung out together all the time, talking about the world and people and things. Back before Ahn--
Xander dropped his fork and pushed his plate away. Giles signaled for the check, and paid it while Xander stared at the table in front of him. He was staring at Anya's body. At the amount of blood there could be in a body. At the color of it, which wasn't quite human. The smell. Nobody ever mentioned that blood smelled like that. It had been one of the first things he'd learned, hanging out with Buffy. Buffy killed things. Buffy killed everything. Buffy was death.
Giles led him out of the restaurant and into the street. Xander followed. He was still thinking about what it meant.
He was tired again when they got back to Giles' flat. Tired and more than a little freaked. His thoughts kept going around in little circles. The voice was silent, but it had been treading that path so much that he could follow it just fine all by himself.
Giles dropped his keys into a bowl by the door, and took off his coat. After a moment, Xander did the same. "Where do I sleep?" he said.
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose, under his glasses, a gesture so familiar that Xander's heart constricted in his chest. He'd missed Giles so badly, worse than he'd known. "Are you going to be all right alone?"
"No, I mean... can you promise me you will not attempt to harm yourself?"
"I ... yeah. Jeez. I can promise that for tonight."
Giles searched his face for something, then nodded. "Here, then. The sofa. Let's get some things from the bedroom."
He showed Xander the drawer where his clothes were. Xander pulled out his sweats and a t-shirt. Giles took an armful of heavy blankets from his closet. They carried the lot back to the sitting room.
"Bit cold at night this time of year, I'm afraid. But these should do you. The flat is well-insulated, at least. Please, wake me if you need anything. I mean that."
He touched Xander's arm, and went off to his bedroom. Xander heard the door snick shut. He was left alone in a strange place at night. He had a light on at the end of the sofa, but it felt strange. Smelled strange. Sounded strange. Unfamiliar things ticked. Hissing pipes. Something groaning and clanking. The noise of a car driving past, coming from a strange angle from the high windows. Xander climbed under a pile of the wool blankets and tried to get comfortable. The sofa was okay. He'd slept on worse. But the place... He hadn't felt this scared at night since Angelus had been rampaging around Sunnydale. Since he'd discovered vampires existed. He pulled the blankets over his head and told himself not to be an idiot. He was with Giles, the safest man in the world. But Giles hates you, the voice said. Because you killed his friend Anya.
Xander shot out of bed. This sucked. Just as bad as it was before. He needed a pill. Where had Giles put them? He stumbled down the hall and fell into Giles' door. Opened it and went in. Giles sat up in bed and clicked on the light. He was in pajamas. Blue striped pajamas. Xander stood staring.
Giles got out of bed and came over to him. "Xander?" He put a hand to Xander's head and held his wrist. "Hell, you're-- Come here."
He helped Xander down into the bed and pulled the blankets up over his shoulders. Xander was shaking so hard that they slid down again. A moment later, or an eternity later, Giles was at the bedside with a pill and a glass of water.
"Your anxiety pills."
Pill in the mouth, gulp of water, swallow. Xander drank down the water and handed the glass to Giles. The light went out. Then the other side of the bed tipped down, and Xander felt Giles slide in next to him. He sat up hard. Giles touched him.
"What the fuck? What are you trying to do? Drug me and take advantage of me? What do you think I am? I'm not gay!"
"Xander! Where the bloody hell did that come from?"
Shit. Shit. Xander knew, but couldn't tell Giles. Giles had no clue, and it had to stay a secret. He tried to slow his breathing down. God, he was so screwed up. "Nowhere. It's nothing."
Giles shook his head. "It's not nothing, but leave it for now. Xander, stay here." Xander felt himself held, pulled tight against Giles' chest. "You're having an anxiety attack. I'm going to hold onto you until you feel better."
Xander slumped against him. Couldn't admit it felt good. "Might take a long time."
"Might take less than you fear. It did for me. A couple of weeks. What you're going through is an acute phase of grief. You'll pull through it. It's hell now, but you'll feel differently in a little while."
"How do you know? How do you know this will work?"
"I don't. I-- I'm simply doing for you what Buffy did for me. She just... she held me."
"What the hell good does that do? It can't help."
"It feels good. It told me that somebody cared. That I did have a reason to live, that she was the reason, and going on another day wouldn't be an unbearable burden."
Xander stopped struggling, and let his head slump onto Giles' chest. "Buffy? Our Buffy? She's a different person now."
"I know. Poor sweet girl."
"She's not. Not sweet. She's a killer. I'm a killer. Trail of dead people behind me. I hate it, I hate it, I hate myself so much. Let me end it, Giles, please, just let it all be over."
"No. I won't. You'll feel differently in a little while. I know it doesn't feel possible, but you will. You must trust me, Xander. "
He was shaking again. "Buffy cut her head off. Right in front of me. It landed on the ground in front of me. Her eyes were still open. Buffy laughed and told me to thank her. Then she skipped off. Skipped. Giles. I keep seeing it. Demon blood and Anya's face gone half-veiny and Buffy laughing."
"I know. I know."
"You don't, you can't--"
"Yes, I do. How many times did I see her face, her body lying in my bed? Her face, so, so, so-- How many weeks did it take before I could sleep in my own bed?"
"I used to dream about her and wake up so grateful, because it was the only way I was ever going to talk to her again."
"I wish I could, I wish. I get only nightmares. I'm having nightmares about her."
"They'll pass. Trust me."
It was so tempting, the idea of trusting Giles. Just resting his head against his chest and letting him handle everything. Except--
"Yes, she is."
"No chance of coming back."
"What do I do now?"
"You learn to live without her."
"But I killed her. Shouldn't somebody be punished for killing her?"
"But this wasn't an accident. She was killed. Deliberately. Somebody cut off her head with a sword."
Xander shifted in protest and tried to pull away. Giles held him tighter. "Buffy. Buffy killed her. But she was smacked out."
"Oh? Does that absolve her? If a drunk driver kills someone, do we let him off because he was drunk?"
Xander whispered, "No. Oh shit. Giles. She murdered Anya. I hate her. I fucking hate her. She's... she's wrong. Bad. Shit. I can't. This hurts too much. I can't feel this and keep living."
"I'm here, Xander. You're with me now. We'll get through it. It'll be all right. Lie down. There. Get some sleep now."
Xander turned his back and let Giles lay a heavy arm across his waist. He couldn't get away, couldn't move without Giles knowing and waking up. Giles had him. Slowly, slowly his heart stopped pounding in his ears. It was either the drug calming him down, or the warm body next to him, but he was finally able to release himself and fall asleep. He dreamed of the kite hanging from Giles' ceiling, carrying Anya somewhere far over the ocean.
Continued in part two.