TITLE: On Loss

AUTHOR: Shadowlass

EMAIL: shadowlass2000@yahoo.com

SUMMARY: Giles reflects on his estrangement from Buffy. Post-"Empty Places." In response to Chris' challenge to explain Giles' apparent lack of trust in Buffy.

RATING: PG

DISCLAIMER: Joss owns all. I own surprisingly little.

It's a peculiar conceit that I continue writing in this diary—the symbol of an ancient organization now in ashes. But it is what I have done for so long it is second nature. Something would be wrong if I didn't do it. Of course, everything is wrong already. I find it comforting to indulge in its pages at the end of day. It orders my thoughts and calms my spirit, to put my thoughts to paper.

Even if there will be no one to read it in the future.

That's not the way I should think, I know. It isn't what I tell them—the children. Willow and Xander and Anya, and all the girls in there, girls who should be back with their parents, fresh-faced, looking forward to their spring dance, and instead have the worn look of age and responsibility, and anticipate only how soon they will die.

It's what I steeled Buffy for, so many years ago. Caught in this nightmare, it seems like an eternity ago. Buffy, so reluctant to assume her duties. She would do anything to escape them. I remember her words with such clarity—"if the apocalypse comes, beep me."

Now, her face darkens at the mere idea of the Potentials in her care spending an evening out dancing.

I didn't give her the Slayers' Handbook for a reason., and it wasn't that she wouldn't read it.

Actually, I suppose, there were two reasons after all.

The primary reason, though, was that in her impulsive, independent way, she was a model Slayer. It was as I told Travers years later—I taught her to win. All those other Watchers, the ones who never deviated from the strictured lives laid out for them by their families, they gave their Slayers the handbook.

My girl has outlasted them all.

She lied to me. That night in the cemetery, when I attempted to distract her while Wood dispatched Spike, I asked her what she would do if faced with another situation like she was two years ago, with Glory. When the hell-god had wanted to use Dawn to open the portal between her world and this, and Buffy was faced with preventing yet another apocalypse. There was one sure way of preventing Glory from using Dawn, and that was to remove Dawn from the situation. Permanently.

And Buffy said one manufactured being was more important than the world.

She closed the dimensional rift, of course—stepped into it, and closed it with her body. Her blood.

It should have been Dawn.

I'm not sure what it is that compels Buffy to perform such drastic acts for love, but this girl—strong and devoted and giving—would allow the world to be destroyed to protect someone she loved. Or allow herself to be destroyed to prevent it. Despite what she said, I know that has not changed.

I have seen, clearly, how she had been privileging Spike. Insanely risking her life to retrieve him from the First's nest, spending almost all her time with him. After Wood failed in his attempt to remove Spike, Buffy turned me out of her life decisively. And behind the door she had shut in my face, I could hear voices, muffled. Buffy and Spike. He had been waiting for her.

She didn't sound surprised.

Wars cannot be won when the first thought is not defeat of the enemy, but protection of the fighters. She has said he is her strongest weapon, but she cannot even bear for him to fight his own battles.

She thinks I lack faith in her, but she is wrong. Despite my fears, I know that Buffy will ultimately triumph over the First. No matter how it strikes, no matter what form it assumes.

But there will be casualties. There are in any war, and this war has already seen losses on the side of good. I don't want Buffy's attention to be divided. The First has observed Buffy for years. He knows her weaknesses. He knows how devoted she is to those she loves.

I don't want her to value someone else's life above her own.

She thinks I don't trust her, but again, she is wrong. I do trust her. One way or another, the world will survive.

I just want to make sure she will.

The End