Title: Sochar Bais
Author: Laura Sichrovsky
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Rating: PG or FRT
Pairing: None Really. A Buffy/Rupert/Xander friendship story
Warnings: None that I can think of.
Season: Set in season eight, after the Slayers have moved to Scotland.
Word Count: 7400

Summary: Why is it that the bad things never come out on Halloween? Rupert has always said they hate the commercialism, but there's a lot more to the story here.

Spoilers: None.

Disclaimer: This is where I put the statement saying that I do not own Buffy, Giles (Heh! I wish!), Sunnydale, or anything relating
to the show. No one is paying me to do this and if you feel the sudden urge to send me gifts, you might want to talk
to someone about that. Joss Whedon owns all things Buffy and has not given me permission to use these characters
as I have so if you have problems with the story, please send the pretzel bombs to me, not him.

Author's Notes: Thanks need to be given, and here is where they go. Thanks to Joss for creating characters so fun to watch and to borrow
for a bit. Thanks to Tony Head for making Giles so amazing. I tried to fight it, but he was just too remarkable not to fall for. Big
thanks to Seldomifever, Deadlymistress, and Froxyn for the extreme last minute betas. I owe you guys HUGE!!! To Ann for the beta job and everything
else. You are the other half of me, my long lost sister and I love you, dear! Thanks to my amazing husband who not only doesn't get
upset when my writing takes over, and who doesn't freak about the men who live in my head. I love him so.

Sochar Bais

Firelight flickered, casting shadows about the dark room. Rupert Giles leaned forward, gently shifting the logs with the fireplace poker, stepping back as the flames briefly flared before settling into a warm, steady blaze. He leaned the poker against the wall and returned to his seat in a comfortable over-stuffed chair.

"Where did you learn to do that?" Xander asked from his place on the couch. "Every time I try to light a fire it just goes out."

"It comes from years of living in colder climates," Giles replied with a smile. "You learn to build a fire or freeze. Give it time, I'm sure you'll learn."

"But will he learn before we all ice over?" Dawn asked, walking into the room. She was followed by a steady stream of Slayers, all of them finding places about the room to sit. "I hear winters in Scotland are really cold."

"Hey, I'm sitting right here." Xander protested, scooting over on the couch to make more room for the girls.

"I'm just saying." Dawn replied with a grin, practically sitting in Xander's lap. He made a face at her, moving over as far as the couch would allow.

"Xander will learn in time," Giles replied calmly. "And until then, I'm here. Is training over for the day?"

"Finally," Rona sighed, lying on the floor in front of the fire. "Buffy had us doing extra combat moves for an hour or so."

"That's because you were all too sloppy," Buffy replied, walking into the room, pausing only long enough to pick her spot before she crossed to sit on the floor in front of Giles. "If you fight demons like that, you are all dead."

"That's cheerful," Rona murmured.

"It's not supposed to be cheerful," Buffy shot back, her voice heavy with frustration. "But it is the truth and if an extra sixty minutes of practice keeps you alive, then it's worth it."

"Buffy, calm down," Giles said soothingly, cutting off her rant. He leaned forward, putting a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Your workout is over."

He blinked when she sighed and scooted back. She lay back against his legs for a second, then without any warning, she pushed back further until she was against the chair, his legs on either side of her. She rested her head against his right thigh and he had to force himself to relax. It had been a while since she had been so comfortable around him.

"I know," Buffy replied, snuggling against him. "I also know that tomorrow is going to be slow. I just worry."

"Why is tomorrow going to be slow?" Vi asked, inching closer to the fire.

"Because it's Halloween," Xander answered quietly.

"Oh come on," Rona said, turning to look at him. "There isn't really anything to that, is there?"

"Yeah, there really is," Xander replied. "The big bads won't come out on Halloween."

"Giles says it's something about the commercialism," Buffy added. She turned to look up at him. "You know, that never really made sense to me. Why would demons care about how commercial it is?"

"Well, it's just…" Giles paused, looking down at her. He'd never been very good at lying to her and he wondered why he'd kept this one up for so long. "I…well…"

"Giles?" Buffy was frowning at him. "What gives?"

He sighed, leaning forward a bit and looking into her eyes.

"I haven't been entirely honest about that," he said quietly. He winced when he saw pain flicker in her eyes and she pulled away a bit. "Buffy, please, let me explain."

"Okay, explain." The cold tone of her voice cut though him.

"I am sorry. That first year when you asked, I knew you weren't really interested in the answer. And you already had so much against you, I didn't want to make things harder." He reached out again, putting his hand on her shoulder. "And as these things will do, once I'd told you a lie, I couldn't take it back. I didn't see the point to worrying you unnecessarily."

"Are you saying there's something to worry about?" Dawn asked, scooting closer to Xander.

When he didn't reply, Buffy turned around completely, looking up at him with big eyes.

"Giles?"

"It's not something you have to worry about, per say," he replied quietly.

"Okay, so why do the bad guys stay in on Halloween?" Dawn asked.

"The Boogeyman," Giles replied simply.

"I'm sorry, the what?" Buffy asked with a frown.

"The Boogeyman," Giles repeated.

"You mean that imaginary guy who hides under kids' beds and makes noises in the dark?"

"No, that would be a Quathar demon and I assure you, they aren't imaginary. And they don't live under beds. They live in closets so they can eat the clothes. Scaring people is just a hobby."

"I knew I didn't misplace my favorite blue blouse!" Dawn exclaimed. Everyone looked at her and she blushed. "Well, I didn't."

"It very likely could have been a Quathar," Giles nodded. "Xander and I will look into it on Monday."

"Okay, clothes eating demons aside," Buffy interrupted. "The Boogeyman?"

"Well, he's the demons' demon," Giles replied. "He's the thing the dark ones fear."

"And we don't worry about him why?" Buffy asked with a frown. "I mean if he's that bad, shouldn't we be hunting him down?"

"He's harmless to humans, Buffy," Giles answered.

"I'm sure there's an explanation for this," Buffy said, arching an eyebrow at him.

Giles noticed her anger seemed to have ebbed and she moved closer to him again. He smiled, his fingers unconsciously stroking her hair as he slipped into lecture mode.

"You'll remember that this world is very old," he began, his accent slightly more pronounced.

"Older than you know," Xander said, grinning.

"And demons walked the earth well before there was man," Buffy added, smiling up at Giles. "And there was one girl in all the world."

"Do you wish me to finish or would you rather just make fun of me?" Giles asked. He tried to look stern, but Buffy's smile robbed him of his indignation.

"We can make fun of you tomorrow," Buffy said, trying not to laugh. "For now, lecture away."

Giles shook his head and sighed, trying his best to look wounded as he continued.

"Fine then. The Boogeymen are some of the oldest demons. They've been in this world since before man walked the land. And they were at the top of the food chain, as it were, hunting and killing other demons."

"What does that have to do with Halloween?" Rona interrupted.

"After men came and the demons went into hiding, the Boogeymen began to die off. Their prey was scarce and they took to hunting each other. In the end there was only one left. And he adapted to this new world by hibernating. He only comes out two nights a year, killing demons and feeding on them."

"Halloween?" Buffy asked, her eyes wide.

Giles nodded.

"And the night before. On those nights, he walks the world hunting for enough food to keep him alive another year."

"And he doesn't eat humans?"

"I understand he doesn't like the taste. Besides, humans are animals. He would never deign to notice them, let alone eat them."

"Why Halloween?" Vi asked with a frown. "If the demons know he's out then and hide, wouldn't a different day be better?"

"Yes, but the humans would notice him. He may not want to deal with them, but although we can't kill him, we can hurt him. So, he just tends to avoid us. And at that time of year, most cultures celebrate Halloween by…"

"Dressing up!" Vi interrupted. "So we'd just think he's another trick or treater!"

"Exactly," Giles said with a smile. "And he can hunt with impunity. It's the same reason that the term 'boogeyman' has come to mean an imaginary monster. No one ever sees him and likely they never will."

"So he's really a good guy?" Rona asked.

"Oh no, don't get that idea," Giles answered. "He's a demon, a pure demon. And he doesn't like humans any more than the rest. At this point in time he has no reason to harm mortals, but that could change."

"So why don't we kill him?" Dawn said.

"Because we are already fighting too many other things," Buffy answered, frowning. "Hey Giles, this thing hunts vampires too, right?"

"It does. Anything with demon in it."

"But wouldn't that include us?"

"You lost me there, Buff," Dawn said.

"Well, not you, but me and the other Slayers. We're part demon, aren't we?"

"You have demon essence," Giles corrected. "That is markedly different."

"So he wouldn't eat us?"

"I didn't say that," Giles replied quietly.

"So he would eat a Slayer."

"He has in the past."

"Giles!" Buffy was staring at him, her face a study in shock. "Why didn't you tell me this?"

"It wasn't necessary," Giles said soothingly. "It's true that he's killed Slayers in the past, but he's not coming after you."

"How do you know this?" She was shaking a bit and he went back to stroking her hair to calm her down. "I mean, how do you know he won't just show up here tomorrow and kill us all?"

"Because he would be breaking our agreement and I would banish him to a Hell dimension for the rest of his sorry existence." He said it calmly, but his word choice spoke volumes as to his agitation. Buffy arched an eyebrow at him.

"Your agreement?"

He looked at her, knowing he should have told her years ago. But he hadn't wanted to give her anything else to worry over and so he had kept it to himself. Now it seemed rather unnecessary to say anything, but he knew Buffy and she wouldn't let this go until her curiosity had been satisfied.

"It was the Halloween of your senior year," He said quietly. "You already had so much to worry about. You had just recently come back to Sunnydale and we were still fighting with Principal Snyder about your status in regards to school. I had been doing studies on this demon's attack pattern and by my calculations it was due to be in our part of the world. I didn't want it sneaking up on you and I didn't feel you were emotionally ready to handle having this information."

"So you went after it alone?" Buffy asked, her hand going to his knee.

"Not exactly," He replied. "I didn't precisely hunt it and I wasn't alone."

"Tell us?" Buffy asked.

"Oh, storytime!" Dawn said, settling closer to Xander.

Perhaps it was time they all knew the truth. Giles sighed, leaning back in the chair and looking past Buffy into the firelight.

******************************************

October, 1998

Rupert Giles could feel the beginnings of a headache. He blinked, focusing on the page he was reading, blocking out the library around him. He'd spent weeks collecting this information. Why wasn't it making sense? Perhaps he was just looking at it wrong. Yes, if he moved the Romanian incident back three years, then…

"I just finished putting the last one up," a voice said, interrupting Giles's concentration.

He looked up from his book with a frown, staring at the slight girl with the long black hair. When he didn't say anything, she fidgeted, shifting from one foot to the other and looking at the floor.

"Um, I put it on the window glass. I hope that's okay."

He blinked, looking behind her at the round windows in the library doors. One had a black cat right in the middle, the other a smiling jack o lantern. His frown deepened as he looked around the library at the tacky paper Halloween decorations the girl had put up. Given his choice he wouldn't have put up anything at all, but the student council had taken it upon itself to make the school festive and so Giles had no choice but to let the girl decorate.

He looked at the girl, noticing that she was biting her lower lip and he realized that he must have been looking too stern again. He took a deep breath, relaxing his expression.

"The window was a good choice. You've done a fine job. The library looks very…decorative." He knew the praise sounded hollow, but the girl seemed pleased to hear it.

"Well, then I'll be going now. Um…Happy Halloween." Her smile didn't reach her eyes and Rupert couldn't help but hear the relief in her voice.

Before he could respond, she was gone. Not that he minded. Her puttering about had disturbed his studying. He shook his head and turned back to the book. After a minute he picked up a pen and began writing calculations in his notebook.

"And so if that cycle holds…but there is the Canadian aberration to consider…"

"Talking to yourself again, G-man?"

Giles jumped in his chair, looking up to see Xander smiling at him. Now how had the boy gotten in without him noticing?

"Wow, Watcher observation skills on the fritz?"

"I was merely concentrating."

"What's so interesting that you didn't hear me stomp in? Oh, is it some kind of demon porn?"

"It's nothing of the sort," Giles replied indignantly, glaring at the boy.

Before Giles could stop him Xander reached over, pulling the book across the table. As Giles reached for it, Xander picked it up, his brow furrowing as he read.

"Xander, please give me the book back. I've research to finish." He once more reached for the book, but Xander stepped back, looking up at him.

"What is this?"

"It's one of the Watcher diaries. I really do need…"

"Giles, it's about a Slayer being killed."

"Yes, I know," Giles replied gently.

"How can you read this?" Xander was frowning. "The creature proceeded to gut her? God, how could the Watcher write this? Is this the kind of stuff you write?"

"Of course not," Giles answered.

"But you would if Buffy died, wouldn't you?"

"It would be my job." Giles heard his voice catch and he looked away.

"Could you do it?" Xander's voice was just above a whisper. "Could you write the details of how she died?"

Giles was quiet for a minute, weighing out how he should answer. He swallowed hard and looked at Xander.

"Honestly? I don't think I could."

Xander nodded and looked back down at the book.

"Why didn't he help her?"

"I'm sorry?"

"The Watcher. He just…well, watched. Why didn't he pull out his crossbow or sword and go after the thing?"

"Despite our training, most Watchers serve in an…instructive capacity."

"Are you telling me these Watchers can't fight?"

"I'm telling you that they don't fight. Now may I please have the book back?"

"So they just send their Slayers out and then watch them die?" Xander asked, ignoring Giles's question.

"They teach them, they train them, and that is really the extent of the job."

"But not yours." Xander looked at Giles, his expression serious. "You really care about her, don't you?"

"I care about all of you," Giles said, looking at his hands. "And I really do have research to do."

Xander nodded and handed him the book, sitting across the table from him.

"So what is that thing? And why are you researching it?"

"It's the Boogeyman," Giles said absently, concentrating on finding his place in the narrative.

"Hey, if you don't want to tell me, that's fine."

"What?" Giles looked up, fighting his irritation at being interrupted again.

"You can say you don't want to tell me. You don't need to make something up." Xander looked hurt and Giles was confused.

"I did tell you. It's the Boogeyman."

"Oh come on, Giles. And he works with his partners Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy?"

Giles blinked, looking at the boy in confusion.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Everyone knows the Boogeyman is just something your parents tell you will eat you, just to get you to clean your room and come in before dark."

Giles arched an eyebrow at him.

"Okay, so maybe not everyone's parents." Xander shrugged. "But that's not the point. Anyone over the age of ten knows there's no such thing as the Boogeyman."

"Just as there are no such things as vampires?" Giles asked pointedly.

Xander looked at him, studying his face for any sign he was joking.

"Seriously?"

"Seriously," Giles replied with a nod.

"And this thing is a danger to Buffy?"

"It…well, we can't jump to conclusions as to how much danger Buffy could be in."

Xander reached across the table, tapping on the book.

"I'm calling this big danger," he said quietly.

Giles sighed.

"Yes, I would have to agree," he answered, rubbing his temples in frustration.

"Hey Giles, why do you think it's coming after Buffy?"

Giles looked at Xander, wondering how much of this burden he could share. It was wearing him out, robbing him of sleep. But in the end, his sense of responsibility won out and he shrugged.

"It's nothing really. Just something I read and thought I should look into."

Xander reached across the table again, but this time he pulled the notebook over, looking at the pages of even, deliberate writing.

"Nothing, huh?" Xander looked up at him. "You seem to have an awful lot of nothing here."

"Xander, please," Giles sighed, knowing this argument was going to get him nowhere.

Xander turned a page, frowning.

"Is this a timeline?"

"Well, it's…" Giles trailed off, not sure how to continue.

Xander looked up at him, his eyes wide.

"You're tracking this thing. That's how you know it's coming here. Giles, this information goes back like five hundred years. How much work did you put into it?"

Giles merely shrugged at the boy, secretly pleased that someone noticed all the time he'd devoted to this project.

"You know, I think you're right," Xander said, looking up from the notebook. "It looks like this demon will be visiting the Hellmouth for Halloween. So, what do we do now?"

"We do nothing," Giles replied, reaching over and reclaiming his notebook. "I will take care of this."

"Oh, you are so not cutting me out of this!" Xander exclaimed, looking angry. "If I can patrol and fight vampires, I can do this. I care about her too, you know."

Giles sighed.

"This isn't a vampire. It's a pure demon and I'm not putting you in danger."

"Fine," Xander said, standing up and collecting his books. "I'll just see what Buffy has to say about this."

"I don't think that would be a good idea," Giles said, rising to block the boy's exit. "She has enough on her mind without this."

"Which is why she needs her Watcher in one piece. I can't let you fight this thing on your own."

Giles looked at him, weighing out the options. He didn't want Buffy finding out, so it seemed he had no choice. He ignored the part of him that was breathing a sigh of relief that he wasn't in this alone anymore.

"You will do exactly as I say," he said sternly to Xander. "You will take no unnecessary risks and you will not argue. Are we agreed?"

"Whatever you say, G-man."

"And you will stop calling me that."

Xander just grinned at him as he dropped his bookbag and sat down again.

"So, what do we do now?"

Giles shook his head as he passed Xander a book. He was having second, third, even fifth thoughts about this. But it seemed he didn't have a choice.

"Well, let's start with a little background," Giles said. "This earth is older than you know."

********************************

A slight breeze ghosted through the trees, rattling branches and adding to the eerie atmosphere of the evening and the full moon cast an unnatural light over the forest. In all honesty, Giles was used to the unsettling feelings he had from a night out on the Hellmouth, but this felt different, more oppressive.

Maybe it was that he had Xander with him. He had argued with the boy, stressing that while he had been invaluable with the research, there was no way he was going out to face this creature. And as before, the boy had threatened to tell Buffy and here they were.

It was eight 'o clock on the night before Halloween and they were wandering through Breaker's Woods in the dark. As the wind picked up, Giles pulled his jacket tighter around him, marveling that the days could be so comfortable, yet the nights so chilly.

"Hey Giles, are we almost there?" Xander asked, walking faster to pull even with the Watcher. "We've been walking for over an hour. Don't tell me we're lost."

"We are not lost," Giles snapped. "I'm just not entirely sure exactly where the clearing is."

"Giles, that's the definition of lost. I know this because I was just studying for the SAT." Xander frowned at him. "Are you saying we're lost in the dark, in the woods on Halloween and Buffy's alone with the big scary monster?"

"We aren't lost," Giles reiterated. "And the creature won't just blindly attack. It's very intelligent and will likely reconnoiter from a safe point."

"And you think that point is these woods?"

"It makes the most sense."

They rounded a stand of trees and Giles felt relief flood through him. This was the clearing he'd been looking for. He would never admit it to Xander, but he had been on the edge of panic. He had a good memory and an excellent sense of direction, but even he had to admit that in the woods, all clearings looked alike.

But this wasn't any ordinary clearing and if he was right it would be the thing that saved his Slayer from a fight with a slavering green monster.

"Ah, here we are," he said with barely disguised relief as he put his duffel bag down. "Will you help me set up over there please?"

"So why did we need this specific clearing?" Xander asked, taking some candles from Giles and walking off to set them around the edge of the glade. "We passed at least six big empty fields."

"We needed this one for its mystical energy," Giles responded absently, digging though his bag for herbs. "It was used by a local coven for their Black Sabbaths."

"We have a local coven?" Xander asked, stopping to look at Giles.

"Six actually, but don't worry. With Breaker's Woods becoming more popular as a camping spot they've found other places to worship."

The two men worked quickly, Xander making a perimeter with sand, while Giles put together the ingredients he needed. At last, he finished by lighting a small fire and then they were almost ready.

"Whatever happens, stay out of the circle," Giles stressed as he dug the last item from his bag. He held the long, thin bottle up to the firelight, studying the rich red liquid for a moment.

"Whatever happens? Giles, that doesn't sound good." Xander sat on a log just outside the sand circle, looking at Giles with a deep frown. "What exactly is going to happen here? I mean, this isn't going to be some Mad Monster Party or something, is it?"

"It will be fine, Xander," Giles replied, opening the bottle and pouring the contents on the ground around him. "I'm protected by the circle. I just don't want to worry about how much danger you are in."

Xander nodded, watching Giles sprinkle the last of the liquid on the dirt.

"Is that part of the spell?"

"Not exactly," Giles said, looking off into the woods.

"Not exactly meaning?"

"It's demon blood." If Giles had been paying more attention to Xander he might not have answered so candidly, but his concentration was focused on the dark woods around them.

"I'm sorry, but demon blood?" Xander's voice had gone up an octave, a sure sign that he was worrying again. "If it's not for a spell, then why do you have it? And where did you get it? And have I mentioned ick?"

"I took it from the Plathial demon Buffy killed three weeks ago. It's been in my freezer since then."

"The same freezer I take ice cream sandwiches from? Okay, remind me not to ask this stuff. And why do you have it?"

Giles was still staring into the darkness. The wind was causing the shadows to shift, making them look alive in the chill of the night and Rupert was worried the demon would sneak up on him. He frowned, shifting slightly to search another section of forest.

"Giles?"

He sighed, turning to face the boy.

"You need to be silent now," Giles said, just above a whisper. "The blood is to lure the demon here. He will come expecting food and we will trap him. But I need you to stay still and make no noise so as not to attract his attention."

He could hear Xander swallow from across the clearing and he turned in time to see his barely perceptible nod in the darkness. Giles returned the nod and went back to his vigil, his whole body tense and ready. He could hear Xander shift quietly and then the only sound was the wind through the trees.

Giles expected to have to wait most of the night for the creature to appear, if it came at all. There was always the chance that his calculations were decades off. But he would rather spend the whole night in the woods than be wrong and lose his Slayer to this monster.

He knew he was likely to hear it before he sighted it, so he quieted his breathing and listened intently, trying to distinguish the noises of the night from something much more sinister. The sighing of the wind, the whisper of the leaves, the rustle of the occasional animal; his mind put a name to each sound, dismissing it as a threat and moving on.

And then he heard something different, something larger, more determined. It was still some distance off, drifting on the wind and impossible to locate in the darkness. Giles tensed, straining to see through the trees, desperate to find the creature. The sound was coming closer, definitely not an owl or raccoon, something with much more weight. But he still couldn't determine what direction it was coming from. He began to feel a bit frantic, straining to hear anything that would give away the demon's position.

A branch cracked, close enough to make Giles jump, yet he still couldn't pinpoint a direction. He was just starting to panic when a sharp gasp caught his attention. He looked over to see Xander sitting rigid, his eyes wide, focused on an area behind Giles. Rupert turned quickly, finding himself looking at red eyes, glowing in the darkness.

The demon was larger than he had expected, standing about eight feet high, solid muscle that rippled beneath gray-green scaly skin. It was hairless, its face animal-like with a deeply ridged brow and a blunted snout. Its nose was twitching as it stalked into the clearing, following the scent of the demon blood. It stopped about six feet away from Giles, tilting its head and sniffing the air. Giles swallowed hard, prepared himself for what came next.

"Giles?" Xander's voice ghosted across the clearing, tense and worried.

"It's all right," Giles said, not taking his eyes off the demon. "Just stay where you are."

Rupert felt his heart speed up and he forced down a wave of panic. Now, if the demon would just step into the circle, everything would be fine. Only a few more feet to go. He took a deep breath and waited. The demon looked around, his gaze settling on Giles. After a moment, its eyes narrowed.

"Just a few more steps," Rupert thought. And then it was there, in the circle with him and he stepped forward and threw a handful of herbs into the fire.

The flames leapt up, turning a deep emerald green, and the sand circle began to glow gold. The demon turned, looking around, then faced Giles again.

"Why have you done this?" Its voice was rough and deep, its accent harsh. It sounded like a creature from hell and Rupert suppressed a shiver. "Why do you court death?"

"You won't kill me," Giles replied quietly. "I'm a mortal animal and beneath your dignity."

"You have trapped me." Its eyes glowed brighter. "I will do what I must to be free."

It started forward, not hurrying, but determined. Rupert looked into its eyes and held up his left hand.

"Stopadh in ait mboon!" His voice echoed through the silence of the night. The fire blazed again and the creature stopped, struggling against an unseen force. It's snout crinkled in a frown.

"You have magic," it ground out. It looked at him, assessing the man who stood before him. "Why have you trapped me here? If it is to kill me, you will fail. I cannot be killed by a mere mortal."

"I know that," Giles replied, moving closer to the fire. "I brought you here to make a request."

The creature made a low growling, coughing noise that Giles realized was laughter.

"A request? Do I look like a genie? Make your wish elsewhere and release me!"

"This is not a wish," Giles replied sternly. "It's a request only you can grant me."

The creature looked at him, saying nothing, it's breathing harsh in the darkness.

"Tomorrow is All Hallows Eve," Giles continued. "I know you will be out hunting. The Slayer is here and my request is that you let her be."

The creature tilted its head, studying him.

"A Slayer makes an easy meal. Why would I not hunt her?"

"Because she will not be an easy meal." Giles looked the demon right in the eyes. "To get to her, you will have to deal with me."

The demon laughed again.

"You? And what will you do to me, human? You have some power, but nothing that can harm me. You cannot kill me, you cannot hurt me, why ever would I be afraid of you?"

Rupert took another step forward, his eyes hard, his gaze never wavering.

"If you go after the Slayer, I will banish you to the Nether Kingdoms."

"You don't even have the power to do that," the demon scoffed. "No human can send me away."

Giles moved forward again, stopping a few feet from the demon. He said two words.

"Sochar bais."

"You would not!" the demon growled, its eyes now a deeper shade of red.

"I would," Giles replied. "I would do anything to protect my Slayer." The demon watched him, assessing his intent and Giles stared back, his fear behind him now. "If you agree to leave Buffy and any other Slayers who might come to my care alone, I will let you go. If you do not, I will perform the Sasamh Fein Iobairt and banish you to the underworld forever."

The demon's eyes narrowed.

"I don't believe you human."

"That is a grave mistake," Giles answered.

He pulled a long ceremonial knife from his coat pocket.

"Faoi choinne diuthchara." His voice was strong and steady as he placed the sharp edge of the knife against his throat. He stared at the demon. "Feidmigh sin ceangail."

"Giles?" Xander's voice cracked and Rupert could feel his panic from there. "What are you doing?"

"Saving Buffy." He began to draw the knife across his throat, gasping at the sharp sting.

"No!" The demon and Xander yelled at the same time.

Giles stopped, looking at the creature.

"Do we have a deal?"

"We have a deal," it rasped. "But this agreement only lasts as long as you are Watcher."

"Understand that I will enforce this," Giles said, returning the knife to his pocket. "If you harm the Slayer or any of my charges, I will banish you. You cannot run and I will find you."

"You must uphold your side," the creature growled.

"I will. We will leave you in peace."

The creature nodded and Rupert returned it, his answering nod short and crisp. He clapped his hands and the flames leapt up again, turning violet. When they died down, the glow of the circle was gone. Without another word the demon turned and stalked off into the night.

"What just happened here?" Xander asked, jumping off the log and running up to Giles.

"We made a deal," Rupert replied, stooping to place spell ingredients in his bag. "The demon will leave Buffy alone."

"But how did you do that?" Xander asked, frowning. "How do you know it will hold up its side of the deal? And why didn't it just kill you?"

Giles sighed. He was exhausted and the slight cut on his neck was oozing just enough blood to be sticky and sting. All he wanted to do was to go home, take a long, hot shower, and go to bed. But Xander had stuck with him. And having that moral support had actually made a difference, had made Giles stronger. He bent, tossing sand onto the fire to put it out.

"It agreed to leave her alone so that I wouldn't banish it. It didn't kill me because I trapped it with an ancient Celtic spell."

Xander squatted down, also pitching sand onto the dying flames. He looked over at Giles.

"But what was with the knife?"

"That's how I was going to banish him."

"With your magic knife?"

Giles turned and looked at Xander. The boy deserved to hear the truth.

"Xander, he is a pure demon. I don't have the power to banish him. Not even with magic."

"So how…"

"This was a deeper magic, older," Giles cut him off. "And for something like that to work, there have to be certain…sacrifices."

"I don't understand." Xander was frowning at him.

"For the powers that be to grant my appeal and banish the monster, I would have to perform the Sochar Bais. It literally means 'death agreement'. I would have given them my soul to grant my petition."

Xander stared, his eyes wide.

"You were going to kill yourself?"

"It was the only way. The powers would have accepted that and banished the demon to a hell dimension for eternity. Buffy would have been safe."

"But…but…" Xander's voice faltered and he simply looked at Giles, his expression troubled.

"Xander, it's my job to keep her safe."

"But not to die for her. The Council isn't paying you to sacrifice yourself for her."

"No, they aren't." Giles stood and looked about the clearing, making sure they had cleaned up all evidence they had been there. Now he turned to Xander. "I would have done it out of love, not duty."

Xander pursed his lips, frowning.

"Love?"

"Buffy, indeed, all of you, mean a great deal to me, Xander. You ceased being an obligation long ago." He looked at the boy, seeing that he was still bothered. "You asked me if I could ever write of Buffy's death and I told you that I couldn't. I meant that. I never want to have to detail her demise. Or yours for that matter. I don't think I could bear it."

Xander nodded, wordlessly following Giles as he left the clearing. They walked silently through the trees, heading back to where Giles had parked his car.

"Giles? What happens when you die?"

"I'm sorry?"

"With this agreement. If you die then Buffy is back in danger, isn't she?"

"Well, yes, she would be." He turned to look at Xander. "I suppose I should be more careful now."

"You really should," Xander agreed. "And not just for that reason. Giles? Could you teach me?"

"Teach you?"

"How to…I don't know." Xander frowned at him. "I…if something happens to you, I want to be able to keep her safe too. Can you teach me?"

"You anticipate my death?" Giles smiled at the boy.

"Well, no, but this was a huge thing you just did and I don't want it to be for nothing if you die. Can you teach me?"

"I can try."

Xander nodded and the two men walked off into the dark night.

******************************

"Wait, so you were going to kill yourself to protect me?"

Buffy was staring up at Giles, her eyes wide and shocked. He smiled down at her, gently touching her face.

"It was the only way."

"But…Giles, how come you never told me any of this?"

"It never came up and you didn't need to know." She opened her mouth to argue and he continued. "As the Slayer, you have the weight of your destiny on you every day. I did not wish to add to it with something that has already been settled."

She nodded, but still looked troubled. Before he could reassure her any further, Dawn interrupted.

"I don't get it."

"What is it that you don't get?" Giles asked, look at her.

"You were going to kill yourself to send the demon away."

"Yes."

"Okay, so, like Xander said, if you die, we are all completely screwed?"

"You weren't listening to the end, Dawn," Giles said with a smile. "You needn't worry. We have it under control."

Dawn looked at Xander, who was sitting next to her on the couch.

"You mean you really did teach him how to do that spell?" Dawn asked, her eyes wide.

"He's not exactly a Watcher," Giles said, looking at Xander as he spoke. "But I think he has more than exceeded my expectations. If something happens to me, I know you will all be safe."

Xander looked up at him, his good eye wide with surprise. Giles smiled at him and nodded and Xander looked at the floor. Giles suspected he didn't want any of them to see the tears in his eye.

"Hey, I have a question," Buffy interjected, gently touching Rupert's knee.

"Yes?"

"Well, you said I was safe as long as you were the Watcher. But you haven't been my Watcher for years."

"Buffy, Watcher is a destiny, a sacred calling, not a career path. The Council thought that they could take control and circumvent what was meant to be. Watcher is a calling for life and they didn't have the authority to fire me."

"But what about Wes?" Xander asked.

"Wesley never truly was a Watcher. He was called by the Council as retribution on Buffy and me for our rebelliousness. There are protocols, spells that need to be done to make this calling official. They skipped over them with Wes."

"So you were always my Watcher?" Buffy asked quietly.

"I still am. Why do you think I stayed on when Wes came? As long as you don't send me away, I will always be your Watcher. The rest is just paperwork."

"And that demon? As long as you and Xander stay on, we are safe?" Vi asked.

"We will make sure you are always cared for," Giles replied, his tone reassuring. Xander nodded in agreement from his place beside Dawn.

"Guess it's a good thing Mr. Giles is head of the Council now," Rona said with a smile. "And that Xander is…what exactly are you?"

"He is as close to an assistant head as we have," Giles answered.

"Cool," Rona said, grinning at Xander. "So now I know who to take my complaints to when our Council head is busy."

"And as head of the Council I'm sending all of you off to bed." Giles interrupted. "Tomorrow may be a slow day, but I still want you rested."

There were grumbles and even a few feeble protests, but finally everyone began to make their way upstairs. After they were gone, Giles went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He knew she'd come into the kitchen before he heard her. In fact, he'd been expecting it.

"What can I do for you, Buffy?" he asked, turning to face her.

"How'd you know I was here?"

"I was the one who trained you how to listen, remember?" He smiled at her. "What's bothering you, Buffy?"

"It's just…why didn't you ever tell me that you were going to die for me?"

"It's not the first time, Buffy. I was going to take your place with the Master. I was going to let Angel kill me, just to keep you safe. And I would have taken your place on that tower if I had only had the chance."

Buffy looked at him, her eyes filling with tears.

"Why?" Her voice was just above a whisper. "With everything I've done to you, all the ways I've hurt you. Why would you ever give up your life for me?"

"Buffy, I gave up my life for you the day I was called as your Watcher and I've never regretted it." He walked across the kitchen to her, gently wiping the tears from her face. "Wrong was done from both directions. I never should have committed that travesty on your eighteenth birthday and I shouldn't have gone behind your back about Spike. But just because I don't agree with you, doesn't mean I don't love you."

"But everything…Giles, I've been so mean to you."

"You've been acting out of anger. I understand that. Buffy, this is what family does." He reached out and took her hand. "We make mistakes. We yell, we storm, we hurt each other. But when everything is against us, we stand together, no matter what. And none of that takes away from the love that binds us together."

"I'm sorry," Buffy said, looking up into his eyes. "I'm sorry for ignoring you for Riley. I'm sorry about choosing Angel over you. I'm sorry that you were hurt so badly because of it. I'm sorry that I wouldn't listen about Spike. And I'm sorry that I've been punishing you ever since."

"And I am sorry for all that I did." He slipped an arm around her waist, lightly hugging her.

"Thank you," she said, her voice barely audible.

"For what?" he asked.

"For staying with me. For protecting me. For teaching me. For…for being willing to die for me."

"It's what family does, Buffy. I may fuss at you, but I will always love you."

Her eyes went wide and she looked at him, tears streaming down her face.

"I love you too. I never tell you that, but I do."

"I know," he said simply.

She slipped her arm around his waist and hugged him back, resting her head on his shoulder.

"So where do we go from here?" she asked.

"I'm not sure I understand the question."

"Well, we've apologized and thanked each other. Now what?"

He smiled down at her.

"Now we go on as we always do. We train these girls and we fight evil. And we will do it together."

"Together." Her voice was quiet, as if she were trying the thought out. "Together forever?"

"Forever and always," Giles replied, pulling her close. "You are not alone, Buffy. You never were and you never will be. I never really left you. You just needed to realize that."

He felt her stifle a yawn against his shoulder.

"Now, up to bed, young lady."

"Is that an order?" she asked, a smile playing around her lips.

"More along the lines of me worrying that you don't get enough sleep."

She nodded at him and turned, wrapping her arms around him. He hugged her back, reveling in knowing that she was there, that she was his family and that she finally understood that he had been hers all along. She stirred in his embrace and he let her go.

She stopped at the door on her way out, turning to face him.

"Goodnight, Giles."

"Sleep well, Buffy."

"You too." She turned away, then stopped, her back to him. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Buffy."

And then she was gone and he was left in the kitchen with his water. But he wasn't really alone. He had his family, and no matter where he was, or who was with him, he would never be alone again.

The End