They spent the entire day canvassing the city, searching from one end to the other, above and below, and still the wayward Englishman managed to elude them. Once they opened for business, Xander made the rounds of every bar and drinking establishment within the city limits, but no one remembered any foreigners with British accents or large wings. Tara and Willow marched through the woods and the parks, hunting without success. The two witches attempted a locator spell, but it merely led them on a wild goose chase through the cemeteries, so they concluded that either Giles didn’t want them to find him and had somehow blocked their magics, or the personal item that they had used to augment their spell had been tainted by whatever had turned Giles into a demon. Either way, it meant no luck for the two girls.

Meanwhile, Buffy gamely continued to troop through the sewer tunnels of Sunnydale, making the rounds of the supernatural underworld and checking in every other hour with the others to see how they were doing. The day gradually passed by, dissolving into early evening. She had stepped out of yet another abandoned demon lair and looked up at the sky overhead. She was surprised to discover that the sun had set and the stars were now twinkling faintly against the deepening blue of night.

A quick report in to her sources revealed that Giles hadn’t set foot in the Magic Box all day, nor had he gone back to the house on Revello Drive. Willow and Tara had temporarily postponed their search efforts to take in scheduled evening class, and Xander, who was ready for a break of his own, was picking up a pizza to take back to Anya. Determined not to lose a minute’s opportunity yet feeling a little hungry herself, Buffy decided to head back into town and swing by one of the burger shops along the way to grab a bite before going back out to search some more.

Unfortunately, her funding was a little short, and while Buffy had craved the juicy satisfaction of a one hundred percent beef patty with all the fixings, she ended up having to settle for a medium-sized coke and the largest pack of fries she could afford. With her warm if not balanced dinner in hand, she cut through the north end of Restfield Cemetery, munching away on the salty potato goodness of her fast food meal as she headed toward what she hoped would not turn out to be just another dead end.

She was walking through one of the older sections of the graveyard when she rounded a copse of small trees and nearly ran headlong into Spike. The blonde vampire appeared to be momentarily taken aback by her presence, as she was of his, but he recovered quickly and hailed her with a cocky grin.

“Nice night for it,” he greeted the slayer cordially.

“Nice night for what?” Buffy asked.

“For whatever,” Spike frowned in return. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s a nice night for doing...bugger that.” With a sigh, he dropped the attempted pretense at friendly chatter. “Not really one for small talk anyway. So, what brings you round these parts? Kinda early to be out on patrol.”

“Not really,” the slayer returned. “You’re here. It’s dark. And that is the time vampires traditionally come out to hunt. Consequently, the perfect time to patrol.”

“Yeah, well, right.” Spike shrugged off the almost curt reply. “Uh, that ‘you’re here’ bit doesn’t mean you was after me, did it?” he queried tenuously. “‘Cause, I thought we had an understanding. Long as I got this chip in my head and don’t kill humans-”

“Relax, Spike.” Buffy smiled, her features softening slightly in the dim light. “I’m not out here to stake you, though I suspect that if I did, it would make more than one person I knew very happy. Actually, I’m looking for Giles. You haven’t seen him around by any chance, have you?”

A guarded expression fell over the vampire’s gaunt features. Stepping back a pace, his posture tensed, as if preparing to bolt. “What’s it to you if I did?” he queried defensively.

“Spike, I don’t have time for games. If you know where Giles is, then just tell me,” Buffy sighed, adding a gentle “Please!” to finish her plea.

“Well, since you asked all nice and polite,” Spike grinned, momentarily dropping his tough guy persona. “So happens I saw him. Thing is, he made me promise not to say anything should I run across one of you lot. Now, don’t go givin’ me that look,” the vampire smirked, rocking back on his heels as he regarded the slayer’s challenging pout. “I only said yes so’s he wouldn’t take off. Not that he’s in any condition to do much walkin’ at the present. Anyway, I was just on my way over to get you. Thought you might like to tuck him away someplace safe, before he gets himself into any real trouble.”

“So, where is he?” she anxiously prompted.

“Not far. Over in the old Hopkins’ section, near the south gate.”

In a flash, the slayer was off, hoofing it briskly across the cemetery toward the mentioned destination. With a shrug, Spike turned and took after her retreating heels, his long legs quickly catching and then falling into step at her side. The headstones became a background blur as they hurried along. Taking note of the crumpled bag in his companion’s hand, Spike reached out, and casually snagged a french fry to munch on as he gave Buffy an appraising sidelong glance.

“I take it you’ve been out pounding the pavement looking for your Watcher,” he said, licking his salty fingers as he chewed.

“Pretty much the whole day,” the slayer responded back with a sniff.

“Lucky for you then I come along when I did, eh?”

“Well, you could have saved me some wear and tear on my new shoes if you’d found him earlier,” Buffy tersely observed. Quickening her step, she broke into an impatient trot. “How’d you find him, anyway?”

“Word through the grapevine said you was out on the hunt. Didn’t take much to figure out who you was lookin’ for.” Spike’s eye grazed over his companion’s taut features, taking in her obvious concern for her missing Watcher. “Ever occur to you, pet, your old man might have a good reason for not wantin’ you to find him?”

“It occurred to me,” she responded without breaking her stride. “At this point, I’m really not caring much what Giles wants.”

“Suit yourself,” Spike shrugged. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Somethin’ tells me he ain’t gonna take too kindly to you interruptin’ his little party.”

“P-party?” Buffy pulled up short, her feet suddenly digging into the ground. “Wh-what kind of party?”

Realizing that he was walking alone, Spike shuffled to a stop and craned his neck to look back in the direction from which he had come. Buffy was standing, her body frozen like a statue, her small fists clutching the bag of french fries to her chest as she stared at him, eyes big and wary and wide with trepidation.

“It’s just a figure of speech, luv,” Spike chortled, informing the trembling blonde, but Buffy didn’t move, not one inch from the spot where she had become rooted.

Shaking his head, Spike's chuckle grew to deep rumbles in his throat, his lips twisting into a mask of amused cruelty. He found it funny that someone like the slayer, a girl with super powers who fought monsters and evil nearly every night of her life could be struck helpless with fear at the mere thought of her Watcher having a good time. Of course, a good time for Giles these days involved plenty of grunting and the company of naked women, so it was only too obvious why Buffy would be hesitant about stepping in where she didn’t feel comfortable.

“Don’t you worry your pretty little head, slayer,” Spike assured his companion with a sly sniff. “Your Watcher Boy was all on his lonesome when I left him. Well, ‘cept for that bottle of scotch. And the way he was huggin’ that thing, wouldn’t surprise me one bit if he decided to romance ‘stead of drink the bloody thing.”

This additional bit of news seemed to do nothing to discourage the girl’s reservations.

“Giles has been drinking?” Buffy’s voice was a tremulous whisper.

“No,” Spike retorted calmly. Moving in closer, he slowly circled the slayer as he continued to speak. “Drinking would be that thing you do when you actually wait for the booze to hit your tongue so’s you can appreciate its taste on the way down. Giles is beyond anything like that. He ain’t drinkin’. He’s drowning. And I don’t reckon what with the way he was suckin’ it down, he’ll be comin’ up for air any time soon.”

Buffy was fumbling her hands at her jacket by this point. With a curious frown, Spike watched as the slayer tuck away her fries in one pocket and then extracted a small cellphone from another. She proceeded to punch several buttons on the small receiver, and within seconds the quiet cemetery was filled with the incongruously cheerful musical tones of the modern outside world.

“Who you callin’?” Spike frowned. He was irritated with the notion that the girl was bringing in an outsider. This wasn’t part of his plan. Not that he had formulated an actual plan, but if he had, this certainly wasn’t it.

“Xander,” she replied, pressing the receiver to her ear.

Spike could hear the tinny electronic ring of the connection trying to get through. With a short laugh, he rudely dismissed the girl’s vain attempt to call in reinforcements.

“You think that wanker’s gonna protect you from Giles?” he snorted disdainfully. “Your Watcher’s a demon now, pet. If he got the notion, he could eat that boy up and spit him out without breakin’ into a sweat. Come to think of it, he probably coulda done the same ‘fore he went and got himself all winged and monstery. It’s obvious your old man’s been in a fight or two back in his days, and from what I seen this past week or so, he knows more than just a thing or two about how to handle himself. Harris wouldn’t stand a chance against the thing what’s waitin’ out there.”

“I’m hoping it doesn’t have to come to that,” Buffy mumbled, but Spike could detect the trace of anxiety in her voice as she tried to convince herself of her own words.

With a sigh, Buffy brushed her hair back from her face. The line in her hand stopped buzzing and a muffled voice spoke out of the night.

“Oh, hey, Xander!” she cheerily addressed the instrument in her hand. “Yeah, it’s me.”

Spike growled. Jamming his hands deep in his pockets, he leaned up against a headstone and waited testily for the slayer to do her business. If he’d been even slight bit interested, he could have used his acute vampire hearing to listen in on the conversation, but he was bored and anxious to get on with it. Eavesdropping took too much of an effort. Besides, he’d much rather use the moment to ogle the slayer while she was preoccupied. Buffy was looking very posh that night in a pair of red leather pants and black lace camisole top that peeked out from under the open front of her jacket. The glowing moonlight perfectly suited her pale complexion and blonde hair, which for a change hung free, sweeping about her shoulders with each subtle move of her head while she talked.

“Yeah, I got a lead on Giles.” The slayer’s speech was broken, almost disjointed as he paused often to allow her companion on the other end to reply. “Spike says he’s seen him. Spike. Here. At Restfield. We’re heading toward the south gate. Think you could pick us up? Yeah. Uh-huh. Oh, and it might not be a bad idea to bring along those things we talked about earlier. What? No. The other things.”

There was a long pause as she listened to the noise on the other end of the line. Spike could hear a faint rambling patter, and then suddenly, silence. Another sputter of noise soon followed, and then Buffy heaved a sigh, her lips turning down in a sullen but attractive pout.

“What do you mean they’re not there?” the slayer tossed out in response to some comment made at the other end of the line. “They’re always there. That’s where he keeps them.” She shot a furtive look toward Spike, who pretended to study the chipped paint on his nails. “Well, then, try looking someplace else.” This suggestion was met with a brief inquisitive bluster. “How would I know?” the slayer snapped back. Throwing another glance toward the vampire, the slayer turned her back on him, and lowering her voice to a tense whisper, hissed into the phone. “Well, maybe he was using them. Or loaned them to a friend. Look, just bring some rope or something, okay? And the tranq gun. In case.”

With an exasperated huff, Buffy flipped the connection off and stuffed the phone back into her pocket.

“What the matter, slayer?” Spike smirked sarcastically. “Watcher been borrowin’ your play toys for a bit of his own fun and games?”

“Spike?” the blonde sighed, her tolerance for his humor at wit's end. “Could we just not right now?”

“Fine by me,” Spike shrugged. Pushing off his headstone rest, he stood upright and adjusted his coat around him. “Probably best we got moving along, anyway. That last bottle I bought Giles didn’t have much in it when I left him. No telling how long he’ll stay put once it’s all gone.”

They struck out again, falling in side by side, walking briskly across the rows of precisely landscaped graves. Up ahead of them, Buffy recognized one of the many mausoleums that had loomed into view. The boxy pseudo-Grecian architectural piece was rectangular and boxy, its moonlit walls covered in a trace of brittle vines. Over the doorway the name Von Hauptman was carved in tall, deeply shadowed letters, and the iron gate below was securely fastened against the entry of unwanted intruders. Or, at least, so it was hoped.

As they swept past the building, a crush of unpleasant memories came dredging up to haunt Buffy. This tomb had once been the hiding place of a mystical artifact know as the Glove of Myhnegon, the recovery of which had led to some painful events in her senior year of high school, among which was a brief lapse in trust between her and her Watcher.

Even back in those days, the full extent of her relationship with Giles had defied definition. On the simplest of levels she was the slayer, and he her Watcher. But what they had went well beyond just that. Giles was her mentor, and her friend both. He could be stern and worrying, imparting the wisdom of his age and experience with all the pompous banality of any parent. Yet he was also graciously nonjudgmental of her many thoughtless and immature mistakes, forgiving her readily of even those that had caused him personal aguish. Theirs was an alliance that had stood the test of betrayal, and heartache. Even death. And through it all, Giles had stayed true to her, always putting her needs first, choosing her happiness over his own, and never once demanding she prove herself to him in return.

And now this.

Tugging her jacket tightly around her, Buffy continued to tromp steadily past the endless line of neatly arranged gravemarkers. There had been a time once when she would have believed she and Giles could get through anything, so long as they did it together. Now she wasn’t so sure. She had changed. She wasn’t the same person she’d been then. And Giles? Well, he wasn’t Giles anymore either. He might look human, and maybe could even pretend to convincingly act like a human most of the time, but deep down inside Buffy knew that she couldn’t trust her Watcher to be anything more than what he was. A demon. Just like Spike.

Buffy’s footsteps faltered, stumbling to a sudden halt. A glimmer of omniscience slowly dawned within her tortured thoughts. With narrowed gaze, she took in the vampire at her side, her heart racing to catch up with the realization that had found its way through the reflective fog of her mind.

Spike was a demon. And not just your average run of the mill “kill, crush, destroy” demon. He was a clever, conniving, and maleficently manipulative being, someone who would stop short of nothing to get what he was after. And lately, he had made it very clear just what, or who it was that he was wanted.

Suddenly Buffy saw the conversation she’d had with Spike that morning in a whole new light. A dozen tiny innocuous inconsistencies that she had chosen to ignore at the time began to twist into burning questions as she reviewed facts from a newer perspective, the most glaring being Spike’s initial argument about not wanting to babysit Giles. He’d made a very vocal protest that he had “better things to do”, that it would be “boring as all get out”, adding several repeated complaints that his furniture might not survive the experience. So then, when he’d finally given in, why hadn’t Spike bothered to protect his precious possessions by doing the obvious and restraining the rambunctious demon Watcher in some way? A shackled Giles would have been a lot easier to look after than an unshackled one. Which raised the question, why would Spike have allowed Giles to run free? Because it meant that Giles would get into trouble, which she guessed was the reason he’d agreed to the arrangement in the first place. That, and the fact that he could lord it over her that she owed him one.

Sensing that he was walking alone, Spike stopped and turned to look back at the slayer behind him.

“Now what?” he sighed, scowling impatiently at his companion.

Buffy stared back, her brain finally beginning to find some sense in the crazy roller coaster ride of events during the past week. “How stupid can I be?” she said, muttering aloud rhetorically to herself.

Spike chortled devilishly. “You want I should answer that one?”

The slayer’s eyes hardened, her glare chilling to an icy point. Poised, hands on hips, she regarded the peroxide-challenged vampire with a calculating coolness.

“What I want you to answer is this,” she curtly frowned. “Tell me why you didn’t tie Giles up last night.”

It was obviously not the question Spike had been expecting. To his credit, however, the vampire managed to immediately come back with a flippant response.

“Well, now,” Spike sneered, his blue eyes flashing with a teasing twinkle. “While I don’t usually turn down an opportunity for some bondage fun, it so happens I prefer my partners a bit more on the dainty side than Giles.”

The leer resting precariously at the corners of his lips migrated upward to invade his piercing gaze, and with a swaggering saunter, Spike stepped up closer to the slayer.

“You wouldn’t be offerin’ your services?” he purred suggestively, his white teeth glittering in a menacing leer. “Might have me a pair or two of handcuffs lyin’ about the lair. We could let your old man live up to that job description o’ his. He could watch while his slayer get hers.”

“I suppose that turn about would only be fair play,” Buffy returned. She allowed herself an easy smile, coyly playing out the game, carrying the vampire’s salacious train of thought a step further. “After all, you were the one stuck doing all the watching last night, isn’t that right, Spike?”

“Can’t say as I minded all that much,” Spike smirked, falling into the trap. “It was entertaining, right ‘nough. Might even say it was educational.” The vampire chuckled, sharing his devious delight. “Learned myself a few things ‘bout your Mister Giles, too,” he snorted with a sarcastic emphasis. “He’s not quite the respectable and proper gent he likes to let on to be. Least ways,” he snickered, adding an impish wink. “...not once he’s got his hands down inside a bird’s knickers.”

“But, that’s not Giles,” Buffy protested defensively. “He’s only doing bad things because he’s a demon now.”

“You go right on telling yourself that, luv,” Spike answered knowingly. “But don’t bother wastin’ your breath tryin’ to convince me. I’ve been around long enough to know better. A body doesn’t do what I saw Giles do ’less they already got them a wicked notion or two festerin’ away deep inside, and the kind of naughty your Watcher was thinkin’ generally carries a heap o’ history lurkin’ ‘round with it, just itchin’ for a chance to bust itself out.”

“If you’re trying to shock me, forget it, Spike. You haven’t told me anything I don’t already know. I’ve met Bad Boy Ripper.” At the vampire’s amused cock of an eyebrow, Buffy ventured a seemingly jaded philosophical perspective. “Look, everybody’s entitled to make a few mistakes when they’re young. Even Giles. But that’s all buried past now, so let’s just lay this sleeping dog to rest in its grave.”

“You don’t get it, do you?” Spike chortled, shaking his head with a gleeful maliciousness. “Your precious Watcher was never the man he pretended to be. Face it, Buffy. The only reason your green-eyed boy hasn’t shown his stripes ‘fore this is ‘cause the bastard’s too scared of what you and all your little sorry-assed friends thought of him.”

“It’s called self-restraint, Spike,” the slayer shot back in an icy tone. “And it’s exactly what made Giles the man he was.”

“Well, now he’s a demon. That means he’s no better than the likes of me. And if that X-rated tryst o’ his with the Banger Sister Trio didn’t convince you of that, then the torch act he pulled last night should’ve proved that your precious fair-haired Watcher boy isn’t so bleedin’ high and bloody mighty virtuous as you’d like to think.

“And before you start in cryin’ ‘bout how there’s ‘special circumstances’ and crap involved,” Spike spit, heading off the slayer’s protest with a contemptuous vengeance. “It wasn’t like anyone had to twist his arm to get him out in that back alley. All he needed was a beer and a bit o’ kiss an’ tickle from the first bit of skirt that came along.”

“And just how did Giles get to that bar and order that beer?” Buffy demanded with a skeptical frown. “When I left last night, he was so far out of it, he didn’t even know where he was. And don’t bother feeding me any bull about Giles having amazing demon instincts, or how he sniffed his way to the Fish Tank blind. The man could barely stand on his own. Somehow I doubt he drug himself half-way across town without help from a ‘friend’. A friend, I might add,” she grumbled bitterly. “Who promised me that he’d look out for him.”

“Yeah, well...” Spike fumbled, searching to come up with a plausible explanation. “Didn’t say where I had to do it. Fig’red that was as good a place as any other.”

“Right, because Giles could resist anything, just so long as it isn’t temptation,” the slayer grumbled, her tone bitten with bitter sarcasm. “Spike, what you did was take a man who couldn’t swim on a boat ride to the deep end of a lake, and then push him overboard. And as if that weren’t enough, while you were waiting to see if he’d drown, you threw a couple extra buckets of water at him, just to be sure.”

The despair that she had been feeling roiling around inside her for weeks began to build itself into a righteous rage as Buffy confronted Spike.

“Why are you doing this?” she said, lashing out at the vampire with her words. “I trusted you. My God, I-I left my sister with you! Is this how you took care of her when I was gone? Did you take her out boozing and screwing, too?”

“That was different,” Spike objected with a brooding scowl. “You know I would never hurt Niblet.”

“I’m not sure I know anything anymore, Spike, except that you’re not above lying through your pointed teeth!”

“So, maybe I can’t help lettin’ a fib or two slip now and again,” Spike growled back peevishly. “At least I’m not some soddin’ ponce who don’t know enough to keep his hands off his slayer! Or have you conveniently forgotten ‘bout Giles pawin’ at your bristols?”

Buffy shuddered, cringing uncomfortably at the memory. “I haven’t forgotten,” she grudgingly mumbled. “But that’s not the point, Spike. What Giles did has nothing whatsoever to do with what we’re talking about here.”

“You’re wrong, slayer,” the vampire announced with a smug jab of his finger toward her. “‘Cause it has everything to do with this. Way I see it, you got yourself different standards for your Watcher than you got for me. Oh, it’s perfectly understandable if the Great Rupert Giles cocks up. After all, we’ve got to make certain allowances for demon behavior. But Heaven forbid it’s poor Spike that’s the bad boy. Can’t give him the benefit of the doubt. Not till he proves he worthy.”

“You’ve had your chances, Spike,” Buffy defended. “Plenty of them. It’s not my fault you always go and blow it for yourself.”

“Yeah, well, I say it’s not fair,” Spike grumbled in protest. “Giles ’s done stuff what’s a lot worse than me. How come he gets special consideration?”

“Because I love him, that’s why!” she shot vehemently back.

Spike blinked. Once again the slayer’s unexpected response had caught him off guard. Her words continued to ring out, filling the death-like stillness of the night with their endless echo, and as he stared at the blonde, Spike could almost detect the exact moment she finally realized what she had said. An expression of dismayed shock washed over Buffy’s features, replacing the anger that had been there only moments before. With wide-eyed terror, her hand instinctively clamped itself over her mouth, but it was already too late, and the vampire had let rip with a roar of laughter.

“Well, isn’t that just precious,” Spike chortled, his lips curling in a snarling grin. His taunt held a malicious bite, the derisive tone adding just enough validity to his words to give them the edge of sarcasm he desired. And while at any other time Buffy might have detected the blustering of false bravado, interpreting Spike’s teasing for what it was - jealousy - the distraught slayer was far too concerned with how her own faux pas might have been interpreted to give notice to anything else. Buffy gulped, her face flaming red with a self-conscious blush. She felt flustered by the accusing glare Spike had pinned upon her, and her tongue twisted with guilt, her words sticking in her dry throat as she stammered out an explanation.

“That didn’t come out right,” Buffy sheepishly grimaced. “Now, when I said I loved Giles, I didn’t mean that I loved Giles. Not in that way. I mean, obviously I care about him. A lot. He-he’s a good friend. And he’s my Watcher, and, well, he-he’s Giles. What’s not to love? But, I could never, you know, love him. Not in the sense of having those kind of feelings. ‘Cause, Giles and me?” She laughed. “No way! I mean, come on! As if I’d ever! I mean, Giles? Ha!”

An evil grin spread like an infection across Spike’s face, his nostrils flaring slightly at the scent of nervousness that rose from the slayer’s body. It didn’t take a degree in psychology to figure out why the slayer was protesting so loudly against the idea of having feelings for her Watcher. It was because she did love him, and she was ashamed.

Time for a tactical retreat had come. While Spike wasn’t ready to accept defeat in his pursuit of the slayer’s affections, he realized that now was not the time to push the issue. He would be patient, wait her out, and eventually, she would come to her senses. Then she would come crawling to him, and he would show her that what he had to offer was better than anything she could get from Giles.

“Alright then! Can’t say I don’t know when I’m licked,” Spike said, throwing his hands up in mock defeat. “You’re right, slayer. I’m an evil undead thing. A lying scoundrel. And I cheat at cards. Obviously, you’re better suited to the company of a desperately randy old man than someone who’s as despicable as me. So, I’ll just leave you to him, and be on my way.”

With a dramatic sweep of his coat, Spike spun around and turned his back on the slayer. A sordid smile toyed smugly at his mouth as he shoved his hands into his pockets and ambled purposefully across the dark cemetery away from the slayer.

“Oh, and by the way, ducks...” Twisting around, Spike continued to walk backwards as he threw out a final parting comment. “Just so’s you know what you’re gettin’ yourself into. The other night, he was callin’ your name out in his sleep. Judgin’ by the all the groanin’, and the big sticky puddle he left behind, you must’ve had the starring role in one hell of a dream.”

Buffy gaped, frozen and speechless, her mind reeling with shock as she watched the peroxide blonde vampire saunter jauntily off into the night. Once again, Spike had been able to see right through her lies. Was there nothing she could hide from him?

Alone with her thoughts, the slayer found her recent emotional courage quickly fading away. She didn’t feel any better for knowing she had been right about Spike, that he had been using Giles to get to her. The only reason he had agreed to help out was to earn brownie points and get on her good side. That in itself wasn’t so bad, and was certainly no less than she would have expected from the vampire. Still, that he had deliberately led the Watcher astray, hoping she would become so upset she would turn to him for comfort, well, that was typical Spike, too, though she thought the recent confidence they shared would have meant more to him, protecting her form such manipulative attempts at deceit. Apparently, she was wrong.

Perhaps the worst humiliation for Buffy was that Spike’s plan had almost worked. She had come that close to giving in to tears and throwing herself into his arms. Thinking back, she couldn’t say why it was she had doubted the vampire’s sincerity, but she was certainly lucky she had, for she wouldn’t have been the only one to suffer the consequences of her misguided trust.

But knowing she had foiled Spike’s scheme did little to alleviate Buffy’s concerns. Giles was still out there, somewhere, and thanks to Spike the Watcher was most likely drunk. The last thing Buffy wanted was to face a demon with attitude and an overabundance of hormones. Well, if nothing else came out of this day, at least one thing had made itself clear. She had to take responsibility. For Dawn. For Giles. For her own life.

She had to do these things, but not because she was the slayer, or that saving the world was her sacred duty. It wasn’t even because Giles was her Watcher and her friend, or that she knew he would have done the same for her. She was going to do it because Giles was family. Just like Dawn. And Xander. And Willow, and the others. She would step in and take care of Giles because, right now at least, he needed her more than she needed him. But most important, however, was that she would do it because she loved him.

Buffy sighed. With a determined lift of her chin, she turned and faced the long row of headstones down which Spike had been leading her. The somber monuments looked like they went on forever, winding through the gloomy landscape of the night, a testament to the dark uncertainty that lay ahead in her life. Bracing her shoulder back, Buffy took a hesitant first step forward, then breaking into a stoic march, headed off to find her Watcher.

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