it rains when she arrives
by august

It rains when she arrives. The knock on his door is unexpected, a frustrating interruption. He's halfway through a book he's been waiting six months to read and anyway, no one he cares to see visits London these days. But, still, he opens the door and there she is: slender silhouette, a scarf, a suitcase. He knows too much of these static moments, breathing in and no explanations. He steps aside, she moves past him and this is how he comes to live with his slayer.

 

These are the lives they were born to live. A watcher and a slayer have that in common, at least. When he was younger, when she was younger, her narcissism angered him. The burden was never hers, never alone. She was given superpowers and the ability to save the world. He was given a diary that told him his charge will, too, die young.

He thought if he were asked again to do this, he'd refuse. He knows this isn't true. Destiny and duty are words he uses like currency but mostly he means fear. She's lived longer than any other slayer and he's lived longer than he deserved. He was mediocre when he served Eyghon. And unlike Ethan he was never interested in pain, only thighs parting and orgasms.

She could leave, did leave, the Council. It didn't change anything for her: she was still the Slayer, she still saved the world. But when she left, she took the Watcher from him. A Watcher without a slayer is old, redundant. An ex-librarian, shopkeeper. A pebble trying to dam the flood.

 

Angelus tortured him for hours, hours only. There is a dull deficiency in language because he says hours and it's no hint, no explanation for the way in which that time is stretched in his mind. There is no place in the ordinary world for these conversations. He's tied to her, to his life in the Magik Shop, if only because of this.

Ask Willow and she'll count off on her fingers the number of times she's been attacked. Or, now, the time she tried to destroy the world, Willow-in-black. There was no sex without repercussions in his Californian life, no attachment without consequence. Olivia never came back to America. Jenny's corpse was laid out like an invitation.

He met a girl on his holiday in Majorca. She sat next to him at a bar, said something about American professors on sabbatical being the country's greatest export. Didn't stop when he told her he was British. He was too old for her of course, but he came to Majorca for sunburn and rum and there was no part of him that didn't want to fuck her.

He could be different in the dream-world-gonna-fuck-you-without-knowing-your-name-tourist-town. He thought he could tell this girl a story and not use the words 'chosen one'. Wanted to see her on her knees before him, cheeks hollowed out. Didn't have to be Giles with an encyclopedic memory in the blink of an eye.

Could look at a sunset and think about a girl's shoulders, not the end of the world.

The girl at the bar thought she was seducing him, he supposed. Maybe she didn't. Maybe she was. She folded arm over arm and leant towards him. "A bird flew into my window today and died. I think that means bad luck, what do you think?"

He thought: the end of the world, the end of the world. He lied and said, "I've never been superstitious." He moved a little closer, limbs unwinding from his chair.

In his hotel room, the black and white beads of her bracelet clinked together on her wrist as her hand circled his cock. She smiled, red lips, took him into her mouth. He had a fistful of her hair and it was like he imagined, her cheeks hollowed out. Her bracelet grazed his thigh.

He wasn't Giles but he wasn't Ripper. There were times, before, when he hadn't cared who he fucked or killed or both. Hands and mouths were indiscriminate, like the language he used to describe them. Receptacles.

Her hand kneaded his knee like a cat. He came quickly in her mouth. He thought about the bird flying into her window. And when she smiled up at him again he said, winding her hair around his fingers, "I was tortured, once, for hours. I have no fingerprints on my left hand, only scars."

He poured another drink and didn't turn to watch her leave.

 

He wasn't the first Watcher to bed his Slayer. It was an unusual relationship: they were bred for each other. He is tied to her through bloodlines and duty. He was twenty when his father left his mother, twenty-one when his father came back. He has vague memories, shadowy memories of his father crying at his desk, his mother refusing to attend the Slayer's funeral. The tragedy wasn't in the Slayer's death; it was in his father's emptiness afterwards. A pebble trying to dam the flood.

It was the first time Giles realised the burden of the blood running through his veins. He had thought, then, it was something he could escape, out-run. He'd tried, he'd almost destroyed his life trying and he keeps the tattoo on his forearm as a reminder.

He knows now he had no more choice in this than her. He is tied to her by bloodlines and duty, by her tragedy, his history. When she died, when Dawn lived, he became that which he had spent his life trying to out-run: empty, obsolete. He sat at his desk like his father before him; he cried. But he had no wife to hide his grief from and his loss could only be measured with the same language he used to buy bread and milk.

She wasn't the only one who was freed by her death. When they raised her, they raised the Watcher in him, roped him back to this life with obligation and duty. He had put her in the ground and finally allowed himself to imagine it another way: them driving south north east west; tending bars in Mexico, tending bars in Alaska. Breath-gasp pushed between lips (last dying gasp, he thinks, hand at her throat, her fingers curled on his sleeve). His daydreams were full of them driving away, his hand between her legs in the back of his black BMW. Of sunburn and skin peeling. The end of the world, the end of the world.

And then Xander called and, "Giles, you gotta come home, we brought her back." Eighteen hours sitting upright, compartmentalised food and how was he supposed to look at her now he'd let himself think like this?

 

She came back wrong; he saw it straight away. She seemed no more real to him now than the robot but he chose to ignore it, maybe. His life had been changed by her death so it was possible when he touched down in LAX, he had came back wrong as well.

They were tools, the Watcher and the Slayer, and they should have come with warranties.

 

He kept his flat in London, didn't rent it out. And every month he sent cheques for the phone and the electricity and the heating he hadn't cancelled. He didn't say a word about it. He felt like he was crossing his fingers behind his back while he slept in her living room and looked through the newspaper without intention for a place of his own.

She took the newspaper off him every time she caught him circling houses. "You don't have to rent, Giles." "I can't sleep in your living room forever." "Why not?" He looked at her, realised she meant it. "You're here all the time anyway. Think of the money I'd save on late night emergency phonecalls." "I'm your Watcher, Buffy, it wouldn't be practical." "Why? It's not as if either of us have well-rounded lives." She laughed a little and it was vicious.

He looked up, surprised. Last year, Giles would have spotted her anger well before it hit him in the face. Would have analysed, settled and responded as easily as breathing in. He didn't see this one coming.

He carefully folded the newspaper and rested it on his knees. "What's wrong?" "They raised me and you weren't here." "I know." "No, I mean, they raised me and you weren't here. I looked for you, it was, I was like Spike's fuckbot. I looked for you and weren't here." "I've asked you not to call it a fuckbot, Buffy."

"These things don't make sense without you." "They don't make sense, even when I am here." "I need you to be here. I'm not safe if you're not here."

He thought, 'nothing can keep you safe.'

Often, she knows things that others don't. "You're not staying, are you?" "No." "No," she repeated.

That night, he woke suddenly, wasn't sure he was awake. She sat in front of him and said, "please don't leave me again."

He wanted to point out he hadn't left, she had died, but it seemed uncouth. Instead, he sat up and tried to ignore the quick rush of blood to his head. He reached for his glasses and as he leant across her, she kissed him quickly on the lips. Flashing anger and he pushed her away with a force normally reserved for the training room. Any other person would have been on the floor but she was his Slayer. She sat back and watched him.

He was surprised at his anger. "You think you can kiss me and I'll change my mind?" "No, of course I don't." He heard her but maybe he didn't care. "You're the Slayer; your body is not a tool to ensure the continuation of co-dependent relationships." She started to say something but he spoke harshly, over the top of her. "And if nothing else, I'm disappointed I haven't trained you to be a little more tactically bloody minded."

He slept in a black t-shirt. The room was lit by the VCR clock and distant white light of the streetlights. They sat in silence.

She had the courage of a Slayer and she reached for him, small hands circled around his own. "You're the only one in the world I let protect me. The only one. And I have the entire world to protect. What's so wrong about asking you to stay?" He thought, 'nothing'. But he picked her hands off his and put them back in her lap. "Not like this. This is not what you want." "This is not what either of us want, to be here, in Sunnydale. Alive."

Her sadness made his stomach twist; made him wish he lived a life where desire and loss weren't always intertwined. He sighed as he pulled her shirt to cover her shoulders. "If I had known, I would never have allowed them to bring you back." "Wouldn't have allowed them? You'd have left me all dead-like?"

When he saw her body it wasn't his life that flashed before his eyes. Every Watcher has written in the diaries a truth: a Watcher will always put his Slayer in the ground. But there was nothing in those parchments that prepared him for this second chance.

He looked at her hands, curled into each other. "I carried your body back from the construction site, did you know that?" She shook her head. "Of course you didn't." He wasn't angry with her, exactly. "There are things I do for you, that I have to do for you. You can't ask me to do more, to stay."

Years before he slammed Synder against the wall, blood pumping at the memory of the ease at which a human neck can snap. There are things she can't do that he can (must) and he knows that, accepted that, lived it, even. He suffocated Ben for her. If he hadn't have been speared, he would have eventually killed Dawn.

"I wouldn't have brought you back. Not like this. I wouldn't have done that to you." She presented her hands, like a child, for inspection. "My knuckles bled; I had to punch my way out of my grave." "I know." "You're the only one who can't leave me," she said, not suddenly. Maybe because he didn't say anything she continued, "you belong to me. You told me. We were bred for this."

He was tied to her through bloodlines and duty, then tragedy and loss. And he had no more choice in this than she. When he thought of her he knew he had no more choice in this than she. And he couldn't help it, his hand moved to cover hers. His fingers followed her veins up her forearm, pressed into her shoulder.

He kissed her in the dark, like a vampire, like one of her vampires. He was losing himself again.

 

His guest bedroom makes him feel like an old man.

There's more than forty years of theories and phenomena, magiks and weapons tucked in this London house. She stands at the door and he takes piles of books off the bed and makes piles of books on the floor. She opens the wardrobe door and pulls out a chain-mail vest hanging on a wood and wire coathanger, "chain-mail chic."

"Yes, I'd, well you see, I haven't-" He's tired and he's old. He's a tired old man.

There is violence in his desire for her, a compulsion that made him feel like a jealous teenage lover. He wants her because he doesn't want anyone else to have her. Wants to keep her safe or, at least, wants to know if there's a tragedy coming.

Months ago, he stretched over her in her bed. The coven in Dover had felt the power growing in Willow and begged him to return to Sunnydale. And as always, when it was over she came to him, found him burnt-out on magik.

He was impatient when he kissed her, wanted to say, "hurry, there's not enough time, there's not enough time." And he was old and she was the Slayer, so maybe there wasn't. He pinned her hands above her head - she let him pin her hands above her head. She was tiny; a tiny shadow of a girl with five times his strength. He thought about their bloodlines and her death and his duty as he kissed her collarbone, as she shifted underneath him legs parting and back arched, breathed, "Giles" into his ear. They fucked for hours, fucked through tragedy and bruised ribs and the end of the world, the end of the world.

He woke the next morning and head-in-hands vowed never to touch her again. Vowed again to leave Sunnydale and return to England. Vowed to protect himself from her, to not let her take away his life (a Watcher without a Slayer is a ) again. But she finds him in London and stands in front of him, her silence like a question. And it turns out he can't guard against losing himself, no matter how hard he tries.

He says, quietly and reluctantly, "you shouldn't have come here." "How else was I supposed to bring you home?" He believes it when he says, "we'll never be like other people and you must know that." She looks at him like he's a child, like it's something she's understood from day one: "we're not other people."

His house is full of books and dust, not people, and she's been dead twice so there's no unreality as she lifts off her shirt and stands before him. Hard to imagine she's saved the world several times over yet still shivers in the cold. He's full of resolve but she has scars on her stomach and, he finds later, her back. His slayer isn't supposed to scar.

"You've scarred, Buffy." "So have you."

Angelus took the tips of his fingers, left blunt callused skin. She leans against his knees, rests her hand on his shoulders. He closes his eyes against her belly. He says, voice muffled by her skin, "I have no fingerprints on my left hand." Her hand smooths the side of his face, "it's probably better that way."

In the afternoon, in his guest bedroom, he traces the scars on her stomach with his scarred fingers.

This is the life they were born to lead.

 

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