Title: The New Adventures of Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Spoilery: The Gift, Season Six.
Summary: Giles has his own version of what happened.
Disclaim: Joss Wheedon owns The Tweed One. And Buffy. And the others.
Etc: Oh, dear. This may be verging on the post-modern. Blame Tom Baker.
- - - - - -
He has an alternative version of his journal. One where Buffy doesn't die, and she closes the Hellmouth and they all live happily ever after.
He knows it isn't the truth, and he knows as he writes that the ink flowing onto the paper doesn't change anything, but it's good to have another version of what happened. What didn't happen.
The original version, the real version of history, the one he wakes up in every morning, doesn't satisfy. The ending is too tragic for a story so light despite its themes.
At the end of the real version, the heroine dies. She dies not because she wasn't good enough but because she was good enough. Buffy had to sacrifice herself, or the story would be left hanging as she grew older and further from the myth. Or she might have been hit by a car, left a sense of futility in the pages of the genuine narrative.
But the most fitting ending is not always the one you want. So every night Giles places the key into the lock and opens the plain wooden chest and takes out the journals. He takes the last volume of the true story and places it on the desk. He needs it for inspiration - his story would be nothing without the source material to draw on. When he gets stuck he looks back to the things he can't quite remember and reads about something funny that Xander said and that he wrote down because it was inappropriate and secretly amused him. Secrets are safe within this binding.
The lies are positioned carefully on his desk, nestling against the truth. Each evening he leafs through the previous entry to refresh the details in his mind. He is strict with himself that he cannot retrospectively change anything that happened in the real world before the Slayer's death, because somehow that feels like cheating. But he can stretch things a little, skew them in a new direction.
He runs his fingers along the spine of his hard-backed alternative. The book is already worn, time and movement taking their toll. Entropy - everything breaks down in the end. It strikes him as slightly surreal that something so plainly a part of the real world should contain such fantasies within it. But such is the purpose of a Watcher, unfolding the absurd within the mundane.
Lesson one, said his father, was that nothing was ever quite as it seemed. His eyes had twinkled as he said this, and he had produced a two shilling piece from behind his son's ear, shining and unexpected like a comet in the daytime.
Opening the book feels like opening the door to another reality. He catches his breath on the similie and tries to suppress a shudder. He fails, just.
But that didn't happen in this version, and he flicks through the pages breathing in the scent of paper and ink because they if nothing else are real.
He picks up the pen, sleek and expensive. A gift from Buffy the Christmas before last.
He presses the stainless steel nib down onto the page and starts to write.
Today, Buffy was late for training. Apparently she had Willow had been "checking out" a sale at the Sunnydale Mall. Willow had bought some new shoes, which appeared to be made of string and cardboard. But the girls liked them and that's what matters. I gave them what Dawn calls my old person sigh and we laughed at the generation gap.
That's a good start. Trivial and safe.
Buffy apologised for her lateness though, and Willow watched her practice with the crossbow for a while before heading off to meet Tara.
Because he hates to see Willow upset, and his version kept the two witches together. They were very happy together and no one could possibly imagine them parting. He had said so to Buffy the other day, as she helped him shop for groceries.
What happened next?
He glances over at the truth and frowns. He takes his glasses off and polishes them. He gazes idly at the clock. Tick, tick, tick, time's running out.
He can't leave it half-finished, because he always writes his journal in one sitting and to change that time-honoured ritual might suggest that something else has changed.
He sighs, slips the spectacles back over eyes.
He wonders if any of the others do this, if Willow has a folder of carefully faked emails, or if Dawn mentions Buffy in the present tense in those brightly-coloured diaries of hers. Perhaps Buffy took her sister to see N'Sync last week and then complained to him about it solidly for three hours. Yes...
Buffy is still going on about Dawn's taste in music. I suggested that Dawn is growing up and perhaps it's not the music she's interested in. Buffy pulled a face and said that Dawn doesn't have oestrogen.
Buffy died - almost conveniently - as he neared the end of a volume. So he had finished with Buffy's death, spacing out the words to cover the final pages. Keeping everything neat. A blank page at the end would have mocked him, drawn attention to her failure to continue her life. So he made the words fit.
The next day he went out and bought a new journal. It was the same style as the previous ones, heavy and contriving to look antique. He didn't quite know why he'd bought the thing, but it seemed a shame to waste it. He'd unwrapped it from the cellophane, static sticking the plastic to his fingers. He'd placed the journal in the centre of his desk and stared at it. It opened with a satisfying creak, like they always did. He tested the texture of the paper with his fingertips. Smooth and thick and expensive. Such a shame not to...
He'd picked up the pen and started to write.
These days writer's block is another thing to give him nightmares. Before, he occasionally spent a few moments calling the right word to the page, but now he has to invent the stories and the details himself. He writes in pieces of reality sometimes - Dawn's grade in a test at school, Anya's newest faux pas - but he keeps these intrusions to a minimum, in case he lets the real world take over. In this book the rules are different, he is building a new canonicity of his own.
He worries that the longer he writes this, the further the Buffy in the fake world will diverge from his memories of the real Buffy. He worries that he will give in to the demands of a story and upset her. But for the moment, everything is fine. He gives Buffy some minor misadventures, but she triumphs in the end. She always does.
There has been very little demon activity of late, but Buffy continues to patrol. She looked tired at training this afternoon, so perhaps we might be able to cut down for a while, until the vampire attacks return. I should make her keep fit though, in case something unexpected happens. She is the Slayer, after all, and we have to remember that.
He looks at the last sentence and wonders if it's too harsh. No, he decides, he would have written that, it's authentic. He has to include these things, to make the story more convincing. He has to be careful, he knows. He can't let the fictional Willow become more intelligent than the real one, can't let Spike lose his cruel streak. He has to be very, very careful.
It was a quiet day today, he thinks, nothing bad happened.
Buffy did very well today, and I allowed her to go home early. She has a date with some boy or other. I'll have to remember to look disapproving when I see her next.
This is denial, he thinks, but he isn't deluding himself entirely. He is aware that all this is a fabrication. He is aware that the real story ends with pain. He knows what really happened.
He just likes his version better.
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