In The Shadows
by Trekker


Ethan’s voice was oily and somehow still, like the man himself. It seemed to curl up in the shadows of the empty hotel room, like a large cat, with sharp teeth. Giles pushed the door shut behind him and didn’t bother to reach for the light switch. The shadows were only darker for the hint of the hallway light that fell around the edges of the door. It wouldn’t be right to see him in full illumination. Even if he wasn’t really there.

He crossed the room straight to the small refrigerator, shedding his sweater and glasses on the way. He grabbed the first bottle his hand touched and then dropped heavily onto the bed behind him.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see his silhouette.

“Come now, don’t tell me you have nothing to say to your old mate. You know, I still remember a time when we had no secrets from each other.”

His hand fumbled at the bottle cap, shaking too hard to get a good grip on it.

“Of course, that was before you let them kill me.”

The liquor slipped out of his hand and hit the floor with a dull thud and a tinkle of liquid, sloshing within. Giles buried his face in his hands. Not real. He’s not real.

“You know, even up until the very end, I still believed you would relent.”

Not real, maybe. But some things were true. Ethan was dead.

“You’d come along and get me, show up like you do, all cavalier and sexy, and pluck me from the maw of death. After all, wouldn’t’ve been the first time... you always did like to see how far you could push me, didn’t you?”

And he was dead because Giles had let them have him.

“Shut up.”

“Oh, shut up, is it? You can’t even spare a few moments for me? Is that it? Tired of me, are you? Perhaps you’d prefer-”

“-Me,” Jenny said.

“No. No,” he said, his voice rough now. He couldn’t resist it, though, lifting his head away from his hands just enough to catch a glimpse of the light from the hallway, traced around her profile like the corona of an eclipse, and a few stray photons, catching the edge of her dark, devastatingly beautiful eyes.

“So, Rupert, what do you want? Because I think it’s kinda selfish of you, not even giving me the time of day, here. After all, I did die for you. I loved you, you know. That’s why I did it. So that you would take me back. I wanted to prove myself. And because of that--because of *you*--- he killed me. I was so scared, Rupert. So scared.”

He groped between his feet on the floor, teeth clenched so hard his jaw ached. Rough carpet, the light touch of the bottom of the comforter against his wrist, then finally, cool, smooth glass. He grabbed the bottle like a lifeline.

“I thought I’d gotten away. I thought, for a second, I was safe. Then, there he was... and I couldn’t run anymore. I can still remember how it felt, his hands... so cold, so strong. He grabbed me so hard he broke my jaw. And then, then he looked me in the eye and snapped my neck. And he laughed. God, Rupert-”

“Shut UP!” he screamed, and hurled the bottle at her, saw it flash cleanly through the non-corporeal form and then heard it shatter somewhere across the room.

“Giles... I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

And this... the most devastating of all. Buffy’s slender form, crossing the room. It was always when in her guise that the evil would stand closest to him. Close enough for him to touch, if he could have touched it.

“I mean, what good are you, anyway? You can’t even help me kill ONE vampire, let alone a whole force of darkness. God, you’re nothing now. Nothing. Worse than nothing.”

No matter where he was, it was like this. At first, he’d tried to avoid it. He’d leave the room, play music, try to read. Nothing stopped it. Every night, all night.

“Do you know what he *did* to me, Giles? What he made me do? I’ve come through *apocolypses* with less bruises than some nights with him. And he made me think I wanted it. Made me think I deserved it. Made me think that he was doing me a *favor.*”

Sleep had become a treasure, measured in snatched minutes, an hour or two, if he was lucky, or passed out drunk.

“He tried to raped me. You know he doesn’t love me. You know what he really wants. And now... now he could kill us all. Look, just because I can’t see it... Giles, that’s what I need you for. That’s what you’re good for. Please, can’t you see? I’m begging you.”

He squeezed his eyes shut.

“You are not her.”

“No,” said her voice, so gently, just centimeters from his ear, “But I can see she’s hurting. And you’re letting it happen. Come on, Giles. Do what I can’t do. Be my strength where I’m weak. Otherwise, you know, you really are useless. And how long do you really expect me to keep you around, then? You say you love me. Prove it.”

He sensed the presence move away, and stood up shakily, grabbed the next bottle off the top of the fridge, and twisted off the cap. Unwittingly, he shot a glance across the room. Ethan was sprawled in a chair, legs slung up on the tiny table. He was singing softly under his voice, an old song. Their song.

Giles sat down slowly on the bed and tossed back a long swallow of the stinging scotch.

Ethan’s voice was oily and still, and it curled up in the shadows.

The End
back home