What Guile Is This? A Luddite's Love Story
by glossolalia

Time does not flow. Without life, the flow ceases.

After life, moments simply follow moments, each one stark and discrete. Memories and the new shuffle together. Stammer.

This is grief.


The thing asked him, "What's wrong?"

It was a month past Buffy's death, and Dawn had been waking Giles, making sure he went to the shop and ate all his vegetables and got his exercise.

Exercise with her. Keep up the training, test her reflexes and, Giles suspects, keep him busy and out of the flat.

He leant against the wall, twisting a towel in his hands. Stiffened when she spoke.

"Guiles?" she asked again. Not his name; Willow had not fixed all of Spike's programming and wiring. "Was I not acceptable?"

Buffy never sounded like that, never so hopeful and fearful all at once. Giles was exhausted, and sweaty, and he could not think how to reply.

"You were fine," he said. "I'm just very tired."

She approached him then, the light behind her, hair afire in gold and red and her face shadowed. Stood before him and unbuttoned her shirt. Brought his large, sweaty hand to her breast and stepped closer.

Spike's doing. 'Tired' a trigger, it seemed, for fondling and disrobing.

"You work very hard," she said.

He curled his fingers into her false flesh and pushed her to her knees. She gazed up at him.

This is how it started, with her kindness and his weakness.


"Must have been some dream. I didn't think you knew what a card index was for."

Punch cards and catalog cards and Spike's naked-lady playing cards: Hard flat things, utterly simple. The hole is open or absent, the cross-reference made or forgotten, the ace is in your hand or his.

Absence for these things equals death; there is no shade of gray, no ghostly shape of what might have been.

"Way I figure it, Rupert -" Spike tosses back another double shot, shaking his head against the burn, before drawing two cards from the deck, "she took all the light in the world when she went."

He's not far off. They drink in the dark of the shop, of Giles's flat, of Spike's crypt. Away from the children, hiding in the shadows.

Spike is a maudlin drunk; Spike is a maudlin creature, come to think of it, and he slips into soggy-and-morose as quickly as other people blink. Giles takes comfort in this, knows that his own grief is deeper, truer, than this thing's ever was. Spike bats the word 'love' around like it's penny candy; Giles feels, values, savors it for its real worth.

It is gone. Appraisal is best done when the object is forever lost.


He is careful. She's stupid, as all machines are, and the oddest stray remark might set her memory unspooling to the wrong audience.

Throughout their meetings, whether sparring or fucking, he is careful to ask her: "What are we doing?"

And she's a good girl. She replies readily: "Training."

Replies as readily as she spreads her legs, pushes her hips against him.

"Right. We're training." His sweat spatters her face, but she never blinks. Never winces at his grunts.

She is chirpy and so eager, the sound of her voice knifing through his cock when she speaks. "A Watcher trains his Slayer."

The base of his spine incandesces and he shoves deeper. Yanks her head back with a handful of that soft pretty hair and buries his face in her neck. "Yes. Fuck, yes."


She is a screen. They all project what they need-want-miss on her. He's seen the others do it; he is not entirely alone in this.

They all use her. She was created for use. She is made for use.

"We need her - it. To keep the demons at bay," Giles says and the children nod. They want her because she looks like Buffy.

They are all together in this. They all practice the same lie.

"I kill the bad ones," she says from her corner. "I'm the Slayer."

Things left unused are wasted, denied their nature.

She is not Buffy. She looks exactly like Buffy, from the top of her head to the tip of her toes, but she is other. Else. Different. And she is useful. He can use her, he ought to use her, she is for use.

Buffy was insolent, stubborn, possessed of a will stronger than anything he has ever known.

Buffy was alive.

Buffy was never his.

But she, she is none of those things. She is different, she can be everything for him. Serve him, be used by him.


"Did I meet your expectations?"

Post-workout, and she passes a towel over her face. She does not sweat, but she knows how to act like a girl. What to mimic, and when.

It's a marvel, really.

Giles drinks from his bottle of water. "Oh, yes, you did very well."

She is better at being the Slayer than Buffy ever was; she is the Council's ideal. She is docile, eager to learn, looks at him with her hazel eyes so wide you could descry every line of her soul.

No soul. Only circuitry.

"Are you pleased?" she asks.

"What? Yes. I'm very pleased."

"Good." She gives him a short, brisk nod -- she is both child and matron (whore) in her mannerisms -- and then she smiles. Broadly, sweetly, heartbreakingly.

He smiles back. "You look happy."

"I am. I am the Slayer. I must please my Watcher. My Watcher is pleased."

He taught her that.

He has taught her so much, and she recalls everything. Perfectly and accurately.

Willow is stupid in her arrogance, so proud of her mastery of wiring and LISP, her ability to adjust the program settings, that she has missed the entire genius of this girl. Thing. Girlthing.

She is programmed through interaction. By speaking to her, answering her questions, feeding her information.

In this, she is no different from a human being.

But then Willow never was all that adept at social interaction. So skittery-mouseshy and fearful, she might have once been useful to him, eased his needs, just as she is, does, now.


Fewer than six months ago, he nearly tore out Travers's throat for calling the Slayer an instrument. He was so righteous when Buffy was alive, so good at playing fierce protector and loyal supporter. She was special, chosen more than the Council could ever know, she made him seem a better man than he was.

Than he is now. Than he's let himself become.

Slayers are toys, identical and replaceable. They are made to be broken; it's the watchers who endure. Who remain afterwards, stalwart in their grief, having loved and watched and lost.

She mispronounces his name. Giles no longer corrects her. He is not himself with her, he is Guiles and it's more appropriate than any of the half-literate children could possibly appreciate.


"Tell me the story again," she says.

This is how he does it. After the shop is closed, but because it is still summer, the sun hangs low and pendulous in the sky. Brassy light through the arched windows, shadows in the corners where the mats are piled. A small girlthing handing him a glass of Scotch and sitting in his lap.

"One girl in all the world -"

"Yes! That's me."

No, it's not.

"One girl, the chosen one. She alone is born with the strength and skill -" Holds her in his lap, indigo cloudshadows passing over her face, hand up her skirt, rubbing her.

Rationalize, justify, reason. Analyze. All are his fortes, his gifts. All he can offer the world. Himself.

All flicker and vanish when he cups her pussy, damp soft cotton, and pushes his tongue into her open mouth.

She twists a little, hooks her arm around his neck. Pulls away, continuing the story. "To hunt the vampires, to stop the spread of their ev-. Oh!"

Two fingers inside her and her eyes widen.

"Enjoy this," he whispers in her ear, strands of her hair catching on his dry lips. "This is for you, all for you, this is -"

"Yes." She tightens around his hand, her head dropping back, long tan neck lengthening as her nails dig into his arms. "Guiles. Watcher. Watch me -"

He watches her (pretend to) come.

Pantomime, playacting, mummers' show, clockwork orgasm: Nothing but reflexes and information processing, gears grinding.

He comes in his pants anyway, short harsh gasps and jerking limbs, burning balls. Makes her clean him up afterward.

It's the guilt that accelerates the shuffle of his deck of memories.

It's the guilt that sweetens each piece, every twist of her hips and bat of her lashes. He is nothing before her.


She is like, almost Buffy, frozen in the amber of circuits and electricity. She wears Buffy's clothes, takes Buffy's name, sleeps in Buffy's bed.

She is an innocent without eyes from which the scales will never fall.

She is modern wizardry, an electronic golem. All technology is magic, from the first murderous rock to fire and steel, rockets and H-bombs, and it is all a lie. A prosthesis to let man believe he has a measure of power in this world, is not entirely inconsequential and weak. That he is not naked and helpless as a baby in the savannah grass, squirming under the lion's claw.

She is a lie, and therefore perfect.

She is a ghost. A solid ghost, palpable. No dissembling, no higher thought. Everything is immediately visible on her face, instantly legible. A simulacrum of the girl he still loves.

Only now he can touch her.

She perfects him.

He can do what he wants, needs, fears most to do, and worstbest of all, she asks him to. She says she wants him to. He takes her words, because those are all she has to give. There is no want behind her word, just the thing itself, flat as paper, sharp as scalpel.

No emotion, therefore no soul to soil, no heart to break.

Only his own, over and over, again and again.


"Is this correct?"

On her knees, her hands grip his thighs and her lips hover just before his prick. Black mascara clumped on her lashes.

He touches her hair. Soft, spungold hair, beautiful as old, now-foolish words. Tresses. Locks. "Yes, just right."

She smiles. "Good. Spike liked it when I -"

Rage electrifies his vision, screams toxically through his system.

He backhands her, across the face, sends her sprawling on her back. Tackles her, knee between her legs, hand over her mouth.

"No Spike. No Angel. No more fucking vampires, do you hear me?"

Nodding, she wriggles beneath him. He'll hit her til she shuts up. She's a good girl. She takes the blows as she takes his prick, never complains.

He killed Ben like this, hand on his mouth, the cold wet tongue pushing feebly at Giles's palm like a slug.

Giles always does what's needed.

She does not bruise. He wishes she bruised.


Programming is his version of life, how he passes the empty time. Speaking and doing, performing with her.

He has nothing else. Only scenarios to enact.

You do magic with incantations; you program the same way. Voice and gesture.

He only indulges this particular subroutine when things are truly bad. When he's fallen again on patrol, when Spike's sarcasm has reopened, then deepened, old regrets, when Dawn edges away from him because his breath is sour with drink.

He tells her to put her hair up in a barrette, don the clingy white top he's kept at the back of his closet for almost four years, still smelling like lilies of the valley, and then he grabs her.

Holds her tight, like he should have then, and says, "You think it's coincidence, your being here?"

She struggles against his grip. Can't (won't) pull away. Not this time. "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"

"You have a duty."

"I don't want -"

Pushes her against the wall, knees open her legs, shuts her up when his teeth clack against hers, when his tongue stuffs her mouth. Memory and unfulfilled need brighten and metastasize as she writhes against him, as he yanks up her skirt and whips open his fly.

He can't leave her alone. He is on her, all the time, he always watched her, always wanted, and now, now, in the dark afterlife, he gets. He gets and takes and takes some more.

If she were real, she'd bleed around him.


She is perfect as Buffy never was; with her, he can be perfect as he never allowed himself to be. Perfectly masterful, the perfect summation of a Watcher, of a man.

When there was life, when she lived, he was filthy. But he was also busy, devoted, stammering and thoughtful. Life emboldened him, swelled him, carried him forth.

This is the filth and detritus left behind. Scraps and shards.


He tests her. Reviews her lessons, assures himself of her knowledge.

"Being a Slayer is not the same as being a killer," she tells him.

"And what is the difference?"

She tilts her head. Her thinking posture, gross mimicry of a real girl, of actual thought.

"I kill bad things."

"And a killer?"

Ben barely struggled. Randall had struggled, hissing fire and Eyghon's wrath, but Ben lay there and took it, smothered and choking then dead. Giles knelt over him, looming, last shred of dignity glowing in his empty heart as he killed the man.

His cock was granitehard. He was desperate and wanted a struggle, wanted to rain fists on the stupid, the disloyal, anyone who dared to hurt Buffy.

Instead he choked off an injured, already-dying man.

After they murdered Randall, he and Ethan fucked like dogs for hours, for days.

"You're a killer," she says brightly. "And I'm the Slayer. We're different."

"Good girl."

He takes her over the pommel horse, her ass in the air, tart's skirt pushed to her waist. Position of whores and lonely men, of housemasters and schoolboys, of animals in the jungle.

When he tells her to scream, she obeys. Begs him for more.


Worlds opened, shrieking and blazing, the world teetered, but Buffy saved them all. Her leap dazzled and blinded.

Now they are all fumbling. Wandering. No one looks to him any longer, elicits his judgment, makes use of his knowledge. Any respect for him plummeted with her. Buffy took him with her.


He was supernumerary and useless long before her death. Ogling the children as they grew, tongue cracked dry, craving their flesh just at the moment it ripened. Girls and boys, spunsugar cunts and hard, feverhot pricks, holes tighter than hell on both of them. BuffyWillowXanderOzCordelia. Orgies in his head and he the ringmaster, glutton at the librarytable buffet, gorging himself.

He is free now. Good riddance to her.


He thrusts, hard and short, inside her. Only his pleasure.

This is how the Slayer was made: A girl spread open by and for the men, alien (evil) energy pouring inside her. Raping her. With her, atop her, he performs a kind of black mass of the first creation. A rite not so much inverted as it is repeated in miniature.

Her small strong hands skate over his shoulders, down his back, clutching him close. Panting his (new) name. Guiles Guiles Guiles. Pink lips on his, lean legs around his waist.

Pink nails in his hair when he goes down on her.

He wonders where she stops. Where the illusion ceases, how far inside her mouth, her cunt, the lie reaches before resolving into plastic, resin, electricity. Gears and pulleys.

She tastes correct, she moves under his tongue as he rams it inside her hole, and he gasps, pushing hard, seeking the end.

It is his duty to learn, to know. His duty. His.


He craves her. Touches her and the hunger flares and she gives him everything and he gorges.

"Good, so good, fuck, so tight -" He babbles, it doesn't matter, grips her waist and shoves inside, no one's here to hear him.

Riding him, pink nails in his chest, perfectly random vibrations milking his cock, she grins down at him, golden curtains of hair brushing his skin.

"Buffy -"

He chokes on the name even as the sounds spew from his mouth.

Eyes widening, hazelbright and depthless, she purses her lips before leaning down. Before speaking. "I love you."

He never taught her that.

She flies through the air just like a real girl, a body that thumps against the wall, rolls, goes still and dazed.

Being the perfect Slayer means being too hard to love at all.

But she is soft. Kneeling over her, turning her head with gentle fingers, seeking bruises that cannot form, sparks that might fly, he cannot forget how soft she is. Inside and out.

People lie. Machines are true. The hole is punched or whole. The gear engages or it slips. The bit is 1 or 0.

She is splayed out on her back. Eyes closed. Twitching like a rat under the electrode.

"I'm sorry, so sorry, God, please, so sorry -" Phonemes without sense, nothing meaningful to arrange and cohere the pieces, Giles can hear himself speak as surely as he feels the tears well up hot and poisonous. He hears, knows, and these random noises are the only truths.

The first nonlies he has spoken in months.


One day soon she will tilt her head after one of his lessons.

She will ask him why he is still here.

She does not need him.

She does not need. Vaucanson's duck could digest at least; she is simply a collection of holes and limbs and a voicebox. No need, no hunger. She is honest.

He will go, then.

Twice-abandoned and doubly grieving, broken and no one to tweak his wiring.

Time will keep stuttering.


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