Title: What I left behind was me

Author: Erin Giles

Rating: G

Disclaimer: As much as I dream about them being mine, all characters belong to Joss (aka God!) Damn him! Except the plot! All from my noggin!

Feedback: Would love some! But be kind! (My friend's don't call me Ripper for nothing!)

Distribution: It's mine all mine! Mawhahahaha. I'm only joking! If you want it ask!

Summary: Set three years after Buffy's death. Giles disappeared not long after Buffy's death and no one's heard from him since. Story is about what's happened in those three years to him.

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Been far away and wide,

But that hole inside,

Never really leaves.

When I went away,

What I really left,

Left behind was me.

"Million Miles Away" The Offspring

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As Willow picked her way through the gravestones a figure up ahead caught her attention. She watched him as he shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other, before reaching a hand up to run it through his untamed mop of hair. She stopped a couple of gravestones away, hardly daring to breath, afraid that he might run.

Afraid that he might run again and she would never forgive herself if that happened. She watched as he wobbled unsteadily on his feet as he bent down beside the gravestone. His right hand traced the name on it and Willow took the opportunity to read the engraving for what seemed like the millionth time. She shuffled forward as he brought himself up to his full height again.

He seemed a lot taller than she remembered him and his clothes hung more loosely, but it had been nearly three years.

Three years without a word.

Three years of looking, of wanting to share so much with him.

Yet now that she found herself in his presence again she couldn't think of anything to say to him, except to confirm his identity,

"Giles?"

The man turned to face her, and she took a sharp intake of breath, shocked by his gaunt appearance. His face was thinner; paler than she had ever seen it before and his once sandy coloured hair had aged to innumerable shades of grey.

Willow found it hard to distinguish between the deep twisted lines of his face and the scratches that now covered his once handsome features. His brow was furrowed deeply yet below them there seemed softness, as Willow eyes met his. She felt herself falling into the warmth of his eyes, the kindness of the deep woods of green, where you could get lost for hours and never be scared.

As Giles face twisted into that of a pained smile Willow suddenly realised how odd it was to see the man without glasses, but even though his physical appearance had changed somewhat considerably, he was still the same Giles,

"Willow, how are you?" he asked his accent slipping slightly,

'Same old Giles,' she thought as she watched him for a moment longer, 'Always thinking about others before himself.'

"I'm good," she said nodding, a smile forming on her lips now the initial shock that Giles was in front of her had passed,

"You?" she asked taking a couple of unnecessary steps towards the man as he swayed noticeably on his feet. He didn't look well,

"As well as can be expected." He said before moving to lean against a headstone. Willow sighed, not believing him. She turned to look at Buffy's headstone, reading it again, before returning her gaze to the dishevelled form of a man she would always look up to,

"Why did you leave? Why did you just go without a word to any of us? What about Dawn? What about Xander? Anya? Me? Were you scared we would remind you too much of her? Could you not stand to be around us anymore? Didn't you love us?" she paused as tears rolled down her cheek,

"Didn't you know we loved you?" Giles watched Willow for a moment, quite taken aback by her sudden outburst. He watched as Willow descended into sobs, before leaning off the gravestone to go to the red head, but Willow was already there. She flung her arms around him, but did not hear the painful grunt that came from Giles lips.

Giles held the girl close letting her cry into his arms as guilt began to wash over him, but he knew his reason for leaving, and obviously so did Willow,

"I'm sorry I left you Willow." He whispered through clenched teeth. Willow broke away from him accepting his apology for the moment. She gazed into his eyes again, and there was a silence between them that spoke volumes, both relieved to see each other. Giles bear paw reached up and gently wiped away the tears from beneath Willow's eyes a frown becoming more prominent above his pained eyes. Willow caught his hand on the way back to his side,

"Giles, you're not alright." She said watching him concerned. His mouth opened to protest but instead he descended into a fit of coughing, pulling his hand from Willow's to clutch at his ribs. Willow saw him sway heavily as he reached out for something to support his weight, and Willow was there in an instance,

"Giles I'm taking you home." She said matter of factly, a resolved face on her tanned features. She knew how stubborn the Watcher could be but she could also see that he was too tired to even think of arguing. She let him recover himself, worry lines etching her slender face as his eyes met hers,

"Willow, I-" Willow stopped him from talking as she started to lead him back down the hill to her car, talking as much weight of the largely built frame of the Watcher she could carry. Her mind raced to the number of possibilities of things that had happened to the man, but she soon stopped herself as she helped him into the passengers seat. Her gaze wandered up to the hill again to Buffy's grave.

She had Giles back now, if only she could have Buffy too.