Shades of Gray

The ominous thud of the bedroom door slamming shut is still ringing in his ears, and the sound is so loud that Giles doesn't realize that he's in the graveyard until he passes the row holding Jenny's grave and stops at the one holding Joyce's. It occurs to him that he shouldn't be out on his own in the middle of the night like this. He finds that he can't really bring himself to care enough to move from where he's sitting.

Sepia tones wash across his vision. Blues turn to dull shades of mist, greens to browns and reds to dirty blacks. In an instant the world has been reduced to its basic components: black and white, light and dark and all the shades of gray in between.

Giles is beginning to hate the color gray and all the uncertainty it contains because he woke up one morning to find that he couldn't sense anything else.

He hears gray in Xander's increasingly-less-hesitant suggestions in their strategy meetings to produce the most undead carnage with only minor acceptable good-guy casualties. Giles isn't sure when they stopped talking like they used to, but he knows that the relationship he had with Xander before he left is, in the young man's mind at least, gone and buried. What exactly does that leave them with besides battle scenarios and weapon counts?

He sees gray in Willow's once-green eyes whenever she looks at Kennedy and remembers that Tara is supposed to be sitting by her side instead. Long ago, back before things went so horribly wrong, it was always Willow who understood him best. They inhabited the same wavelength. Now, Giles looks at her and feels like he's staring at a stranger wearing Willow's pretty face and it makes his heart ache. He can't bear to bridge the gap between them because he isn't sure why it's there: is it because he can't forget she almost killed him or that she can't remember that he forgave her for it?

He tastes the color in the air every time Spike's name drops from Buffy's lips and every time she makes another choice that puts real living, breathing people's lives at risk. Giles lets that thought fade away, because at the moment anything having to do with Buffy hurts too much for him to manage and he keeps getting stuck in mental replays of the last seven years as he asks himself what he did wrong. The more he looks, the more answers to that question he gets. When did they stop being Slayer and Watcher and start acting like two hostile strangers with nothing in common?

And Giles feels that grayness seeping into his soul now as he finds that has no words to tell Joyce that as of tonight her oldest daughter is on her own because it turns out that the bond between Watcher and Slayer--the bond between him and Buffy-- is a lot easier to break than any of them thought.

Giles is sure that somewhere in the great big world, there's a thick bright line marking the boundaries between right and wrong. That place just isn't here.

Someday, if he lives through Sunnydale and then lives through the few days after that, he'll go and find that place. Maybe he'll take Buffy with him.

In the meantime, though, Giles looks around at the monochromatic world that holds his shattered dreams and finds that he misses the clearly defined moral colors he'd always taken for granted before this.

With one last shake of his head reality shifts back to normal and the night wind bites into his cheeks and he suddenly feels like an idiot for sitting here looking at a piece of stone that isn't really Joyce. The brief realization that everyone else besides Buffy is still looking to him for guidance through this wasteland of bad decisions is enough to make Giles hope that he doesn't go completely blind to colors before he dies.

Nothing makes sense to him any more. All of his solid footing seems to have been yanked out from under him when he wasn't looking.

But now Giles is looking, and he sees with sad, old eyes that there is really only one thing left for him to be sure about.

…And that one thing is his Slayer's voice saying, "I think you've taught me everything I need to know."

Giles looks at Joyce's gray tombstone and realizes that in this moment he hates that color almost as much as he hates himself for succumbing to it and dragging the whole bleeding world down with him.

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Author's Note: This turned out...well, a lot differently than I expected it to. Giles is by far my best character, but sometimes it's hard to tell what he's thinking. Especially when season 7 story arcs never gave us the slightest clue into what what going on behind pod-Giles. Tell me what you thought of it. Cheers.

For the perspectives of the other three Scoobies, read the other stories in this quartet of vignettes: Bits and Pieces (Buffy), Light at the End of the Tunnel (Xander), and Enforced Solitude (Willow).