For heron_pose and lena7623, hurt/comfort, snark, enemies, Giles-Ethan friendship. Or enemy-ship. Heavier on the h/c than the snark, however. Perhaps a bit of "Dust" prequel.
The bell went again, and Ethan threw the wood chisel to the bench in frustration. He was never going to finish the work with these interruptions. And who the devil was it? He wasn't expecting anybody. He rattled down the stairs and flung the door open impatiently.
There was Rupert, clinging to his railing. Ethan recovered his composure and sneered.
"Ripper? To what do I owe the honor?"
"Buffy's dead. S'all over."
Then Ethan saw that he was clinging to the railing because he was having difficulty standing up. His tie was half-undone, and his shirt stained with something along the side. He reeked of drink. Ethan flicked his gaze each way along the street. No supernatural activity at present; no one was watching. He hitched Rupert's arm over his shoulder.
"Let's get you in."
Levered him in-- gods, but the man was more solid than he seemed under that poncey suit-- deposited him on the sofa in his sitting room. Where Rupert flung his arms around Ethan and began weeping into his neck. He was smearing snot all over the collar of his best shirt. Ethan rolled his eyes, but declined to shift. Shirts could be laundered.
When the fit seemed to have passed, Ethan said, far more gently than he'd ever imagined he would, "Tell me about it. How did it happen?"
"Wasn't a vampire. No piddling demon did my Slayer in. Was a hellgod. Except not."
"Oh?" What could one do, in this circumstance, but politely encourage the man to talk? Ethan eased him out of his jacket, attempting to see what that dark spreading stain on his shirt was. It looked like blood, fresh.
"She did it to close the portal. Only way to do it. Or there'd be a rip between dimensions. Apocalypse. She stopped it. Jesus. Ethan. She's dead. Really this time."
The one thing Ethan understood from that was that it was only just sinking in for Rupert. It must have happened a few days ago. Funeral, flight to London, interview with the bastards, reams of paperwork. Nothing quite like paperwork for bringing things home. Ethan remembered endless hospital forms after his father's death, each signature required like another coffin nail driven in. And the sons of bitches on Gower Street were great ones for paperwork.
There, shirt finally pulled from Rupert's trousers, slipped up to reveal a nasty wound. Ethan wanted to recoil, but did not. Stitches, ripped open. No sign of infection, but it needed to be cleaned and re-bandaged. Ethan disentangled himself from Rupert's arms and stood.
"'Nother drink?" Rupert said, hope in his voice.
"Yes, of course. Let me just fetch a bottle." Ethan did no such thing, but fetched the phone. He rang the number of a medical friend who owed him several favors, and cashed them all in at once. Rupert owed him now. Not that Ethan would have the heart to call this one in any time soon. Growing sentimental in his middle age, apparently.
He poured a glass of water and carried it back to Rupert. He put it into Rupert's shaking hands and helped him drink a little. Rupert subsided back onto the sofa and covered his face with his hands.
"I killed the hellgod."
That gave Ethan pause. "What? How?"
"Human host. Smothered him. With my bare hands."
"Sweet Janus, Rupert."
"Had to be done. Buffy couldn't. She's allowed to kill demons, not humans. That's my job. Killer. For her. Only it wasn't enough."
Rupert was weeping again. Ethan swallowed the flip remark lurking behind his lips, and held onto the man. Best mate, after all, despite everything. And Rupert had come to him. Not to those bastards the Watchers, not to the children he'd surrounded himself with in Sunnydale.
"Hold on then. Got a doctor on the way."
"Won't help," said Rupert, but Ethan knew better.
For kivrin, psychoadept, and secondalto: Giles/Tara, hurt/comfort + swords, friendship shading to romance, in England.
Giles gave Tara the little room under the eaves, the one that had been his when he'd been a boy. It was a good place, a healing place, with excellent feng shui. His idea was that she'd need time and space and aid in healing, and that England was where she needed to do it. Far from the Hellmouth, and the house where she'd seen her lover killed by a bullet meant for another. He'd made the offer to Xander as well, and to Buffy and Dawn, but only Tara had accepted.
It had been more restful than he'd feared. Neither of them were given to storms of tears or displays of strong emotion. They'd both mourned Willow quietly. Giles tended his roses and his horses, Tara the herb garden. They cooked together, ate together, spent their afternoons apart in reading and studying, their evenings together in conversation. Sometimes she watched him train, moving through his exercises with sword and bare hands against imaginary opponents. She was far more self-assured than he'd remembered her, and as she emerged from her grief, even impish. He was surprised to find himself happier than he'd been in years.
One afternoon Buffy called to tell him of Warren's conviction for the murders of several women; Willow had been one in a long line. Justice had been done. Giles sought Tara with this news, and found her in his mother's rose garden. She was gathering rose hips, for tea and potpourri. She listened solemnly, then nodded.
"So that's done, then. We can let her go, now."
Giles thrust his hands into his pockets. "Have you given any thought to what you'd like to do?"
"The blessing we discussed. I'd like it very much if you would assist me."
A minor casting, performed often at the passing of a practitioner of the art. Giles approved. "It would be an honor."
"This evening, perhaps."
Raindrops pelted them. A sunshower. Giles and Tara smiled at each other, then ran for the refuge of the gazebo. They waited out the rain, sitting close to each other on the little bench.
"Are you all right?" he asked, though he knew the answer already.
Tara considered the question with more gravity than he expected. "It's been a strange experience. I couldn't have predicted this. That I'd end up here, with you in England, because I liked the girl in the Wiccan circle who was the only other one who believed it was real. So many strange and horrible things have happened. And wonderful ones."
He counted. Three years, she'd been with them all. He'd lost track.
"I'm glad it's over, though. Glad to be able to settle, at least a little. Things with Willow were too, too dramatic. At the end. She burned her candle at both ends, you know?"
Giles understood that.
"The other thing I need to say to you is that I think Willow was already lost. No matter what you or I did. She'd chosen a dark path, and I think the bullet was a mercy. Maybe this is too harsh?" Tara looked unsure of herself.
Giles cleared his throat. "No. This I knew, I'm sorry to say. There was a reason the coven had me ready to go."
Tara turned an inquiring look on him, but he didn't explain further. His last-ditch plans were embarrassing in retrospect, as unnecessary heroics often were.
"Anyway. Time to think about what happens next. We'll talk tomorrow."
She stood, then bent and kissed him, a soft brush of her lips against his, over before he'd realized what she was about.
Tara moved off into the garden, heedless of the rain. He'd remained, bemused, lips tingling where she'd touched him, wondering what she'd meant by it.