They live together in his house, the ones left over. The ones still rooted to this earth and revolving round yesterday in this town. He looks after her, protects her as much as he can, but in truth she doesn't need much, and they hold each other up. He reads the books and tells her what to watch for but she wasn't ever one for books and she doesn't seek his knowledge. Sometimes he goes with her and calls out the dangers behind her; sometimes he just waits for her at home, until she bursts through the door, a whirlwind of motion.

She lies on the bed, late afternoon, and the sun throws its light onto her making her curves sharp. He just watches, caught by the beauty and the way every pore and hair is trapped in the glow. The tattoo stands out in its graceful shapes against the paleness of her skin, and he traces it with her finger; thinks of the needle and its power, wishes he could creep under her skin and write himself into her. He loves this mark and she gives the same attention to his, the stain of a demon. She will run her tongue around and around it, the wetness of the touch shivering through him. The first time she saw it she feigned a surprise.

"Well, I never figured you as the tattoo type, G-Man," her voice low and delighted, taking it in as if impressed. "Giles, you're wilder than we thought," testing this theory by running her hands down him again.

"You don't know anything about me at all," he said quietly, and she spoke seriously and said,

"Then tell me... where did you get it?" and he told her the story then, of black magic and forces of the other side and two men who thought they were God, of the rush that no-one could describe (she looked into his eyes) and a mesmerising young man who drew him in and circled round him as they descended, and the strength that was too much. Then she was silent and acknowledging of his nature, as if learning this for the first time.

But he knows it was only the details that came as news, he knows she could see the darkness in him as he could always sense it in her.

She's not Buffy and she's so unlike Buffy. She's always lived in a morally grey world, residing in the shadows and with none of the conviction the other had. In one way so much younger, and in another years older. For her slaying is a thrill, for Buffy it was a duty, the excitements to be repressed. But she saw the world in such sharply defined zones. Giles should know better than to sleep with a Slayer; he knows, but he's past caring. And she's not Buffy. She doesn't have that sunlight around her.

Sometimes she reminds him of Ethan, both of them with a seductive smoke surrounding them, almost tangible. And the fire in her eyes is like his, a flame raging deep inside her, scorching her from the inside out and those who looked. They could draw you in and equally likely kill you or fuck you, but it wouldn't matter, because both would be the same. Throughout her colours swirl faster and faster, whipping her into a frenzy, and she dances and screws and kills and bathes in the kaleidoscope. Others are caught, they want a taste. He draws energy from the sparkles, and he steadies her as much as he is able, and as much as he wishes.

She patrols the same streets and treads the same paths. Some nights she stays at home and he knows these times she doesn't see a point. He can't enthuse her, and they stay in, lie on the sofa and drink. They touch in the glow of liquor, the burdens floating away and just leaving a bubble round them, where everything is sweet and hot and blazing, and the only bonds are of skin and blood pumping.

She goes out a lot, and occasionally persuades him to come with her. He drinks with her and sits at the bar, watching as she whirls under a false sun, sex from head to toes and smouldering with something dark and beautiful. He tries to lose himself in the music like he once could, and very occasionally she pulls him onto the dance floor, and he feels wrong but he remains and summons a former self as she grinds against him and his hands wind up all over her and he breathes her in and responds. But he feels the glances and the disparaging remarks, and he sees countless perfectly moulded adolescents in a world he does not know, and he feels so very old. He's tired and all he wants to do is be at home with a stiff drink waiting for the return of a slayer.

She calls him Giles, and sometimes he forgets he ever had another name.

There are just as many books in his house as there always were, and the stock grows by the week. Faith teases him about it, tells him he's just a librarian at heart and always will be, how British it is. All the demon booksellers in the area know him, and usually he visits for a purpose but he always picks up a few extras while he's there. He browses through books which reek of age and power - the Fifth Volume of the Sacred Rites of Itylus, Ad Intermundia Ascendendas, the conveniently titled Darkest Magicks. People think books are staid, that books and rebellion are mutually exclusive, but he knows they're wrong. He knows anything can be written and the greatest chaos of Hades can be wreaked with the power of the word. He has seen Willow with ink engulfing her and running in her veins, lightning crackling in her fingers and her eyes and heart deep black. But he surrounds himself with the paper, and breathes in its old, thick, yellow scent. He reads the Watchers' Diaries, and sees Buffy before she knew the world and was lost to any hope or light.

She dances, he reads, she kills, he sings, she drinks, he drinks. They numb and soften and soothe each other's scars.

Hers is still there, a faded pink still clear against the tanned skin. Her hand goes to it often, unconsciously resting there as it gives her strength. He touches it and lets his tongue flicker against its softness, and she shudders with lightness and memory. He wondered long and hard over whether to give her the knife, which he found lovingly shined in a box in Buffy's house afterwards. He thought it could help her, or it could push her over the edge, but he knew in the end it was for her to have. She looked at it a long time before taking it into her hands and walking away. He's come across her just sitting, turning it over and over so it flashes silver and dark in the light. But she's never used it again; the last blood spilt on its blade was her own.

"I loved her," she said, that first night, an hour or two after she'd knocked on his door and he'd roused from his stupor and opened it knowing it could be no-one that would help, seen her with a face drawn and aged, and been too weary to do anything but wordlessly let her in. She looked ahead into meaningless space as she said it.

"I know," he answered simply, and then after a pause: "So did I."

"Yeah, like a father," she said, a little sarcastic, a little bitter, a little dismissive, but too tired to really be any of them.

"Not quite like that," he told her, because it had never been thought, though Buffy thought it had. "I loved her like a Watcher."

"'Cause Wes just adored me..." she began, leaning back and trying to smile, but he snapped at her, because he wouldn't let her corrupt what they'd had.

"I loved her like a Watcher should love his Slayer, and more than you could know." Raw pain flashed in her eyes and she hardened. Turned away, and he handed her a glass as apology, and she drank it down and looked at him straight. The anguish shone through, and her voice cracked a little.

"I loved her more than anything." He only nodded, knowing.

Later, almost drowned, with the room vague around him, he found she was very close to him and her breath was perceptible. He felt the heat of her leg against his, she turned to him and then they were kissing and all he wanted was to take her whole and obliterate everything.

She stayed after that night by unspoken accord and they grew to know each other, put out branches twisting into each other's lives. An altogether different kind of Watcher-Slayer bond, but grown to be one all the same.

He watches her and he sees the product of thousands of years in the flawless form. She carries with her so much, so many unconscious half-remembered memories which surface as instinct. Countless teachings from the wise and mistakes and techniques from the learning. She burns with old, old magic, with sand and blood from a time before time. Bones and bare trees. He sees the history in her eyes as she thrusts a stake into a heart, feels it in the pumping of her blood when she comes in and goes straight to where he is. She possesses everything every other Slayer had, she's inherited the line from his own and just sometimes he sees Buffy in her, and he clings onto that and thanks whatever powers that she's living in Faith's veins.

He lives in his books, in his bottles, and in her. He strokes her skin and the places where sharp edges have pierced her, and the magic dark in her comes out and creeps around him. His and hers merge and enfold them in soft blackness. They remember; they forget. She lies naked on his bed, and the shadows become longer as the sun sets, until eventually there's no light at all.


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