Dream Catcher

The dream catcher on his wall was tiny: merely a circle of twine with four blue feathers dangling from it. Perhaps its small size was the reason it was ineffective. Perhaps it was simply a myth that dream catchers did anything in the first place. Or perhaps the dreams of the man it was guarding were simply too numerous (or too disturbing) for even a spirit guardian to protect him from.

Whatever the case, Rupert Giles woke up screaming for the third time that night.

His eyes looked wildly around. Why was he in his bedroom? Where was the tower, Ben's body, the vortex?

…Where was Buffy?

For the third time that night, reality crashed in around him. "No," he whispered, falling back onto the bed. "No, please. Please, let me wake up." It was a hopeless request. This wasn't just another nightmare. His Slayer was dead. And this time, she wasn't coming back.

His stomach wrenched and his body responded automatically, taking him down the hall into the bathroom before his brain even noticed. It had been the same routine every night for the past two weeks. Had it only been that long? Only two weeks?

It felt like a lifetime, and like an instant. His body felt like it had been years. Giles felt old, decrepit and achy. His soul felt like it had been only moments since half of his heart had been torn away. There was a gigantic hole in his chest that ached and throbbed like a fresh wound with every thought or movement.

He felt every torturous second deep within his bones. Every moment he was away from Buffy was a moment too long, leaching the life out of his shattered being. The others had no idea what he went through every night. They were all grieving in their own way. This was one battle that they all must fight separately.

Right now, Giles didn't care. All he wanted was to have his Buffy back.

Feeling a sudden need to connect with her, Giles rose on shaky feet and stumbled back to the bedroom. Collapsing onto the side of the bed, he dug through the drawer of his nightstand. It had to be here, he hadn't moved it in nearly a year…his fingers brushed across the glossy surface of a photograph and he nearly sobbed in relief.

With shaking hands, he carefully pulled it out and turned on his bedside lamp. Buffy's laughing face looked up at him from the photograph. She'd never even known that he'd gotten a copy of the photo. Willow had shot it the day he'd opened the Magic Box, and Giles had quietly asked for the doubles of all the photos she'd taken that day. Even the redhead witch didn't know that this was the only one he'd saved.

With a finger that trembled with his sobs, Giles traced the face of the woman who had stolen his soul and died without ever knowing it. He wanted her back. He wanted to take her in his arms, to hold her so tight that everything else faded away.

Giles knew better than to ask for a second chance. But he also knew better than to think that he would ever stop loving her.

He fell asleep that night with her photo clutched in his hand and her laughing face in his mind.

Seven months later…

Giles awoke with a cry, the blue vortex spinning through his head again. It took several moments for his vision to clear. The wall of the master bedroom in the Summers household came into focus. The dim outline of several photographs and the tiny shadow of his dream catcher came into relief against the light-colored wallpaper.

Not the dream again. Hadn't he suffered through it enough?

The warm body next to him stirred as a sleepy voice drifted to him. "Giles? You ok?"

He looked down and smiled. "I am now," he murmured softly, smoothing her hair away from her face. "Go back to sleep."

Buffy pouted a little and sat up, pressing up behind him and resting her chin on his shoulder. His arms wrapped instantly around hers as they enclosed his waist. "The dream again?" she inquired softly into his ear.

Giles nodded, closing his eyes. "It wasn't so bad this time."

His Slayer sighed softly and slid her palm up his chest to rest above his beating heart. "I'm right here, babe. I'm not going anywhere."

They both knew that was a promise she couldn't keep.

Giles lay back again and Buffy cuddled into his side, her hand still resting on his heart. His hand came up to rest on hers and he heaved a sigh. "I love you, you know."

Buffy smiled and titled her head up to catch his mouth with hers. After a long time, they drew back. "I know," she replied, resting her head on his shoulder again.

A long time later, Giles stared up at the ceiling, lulled by Buffy's steady breathing. Out of his peripheral vision, he caught sight of the dream catcher hanging on the wall. He wondered idly why he'd put it there.

The Watcher looked over at his sleeping love and smiled. She was the only thing he needed to keep his dreams at bay.

After all, she'd made all of them come true. With one last kiss to her temple, Giles drifted off to dreamless sleep.

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Author's Note: The idea hit me and I just couldn't resist. Hope you enjoyed it. Many thanks to Dana, who read this and approved it even though he dislikes BG.