Author: Kat Lee
Dedicated To: With infinite love, though it may not always seem that way, to my cherished better half, Drew
Challenge/Prompt: Beatles' Rubber Soul: You Won't See Me
Word Count: 1,050
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their rightful owners, not the author.
He knows what he has to do, and it's tearing him up inside, heart and soul, just thinking about it. He knows what he has to do, but he wants to scream bloody murder against the mere notion. He knows what he has to do, and it's the hardest thing he's ever done.
Burying Jenny, burying all the many people he has buried over his years as a Watcher and a student of the occult, was nothing compared to this. The pain he endured at the hands of Angelus was microscopic in comparison to how this makes him feel, and he hasn't done it yet.
But he must, he tells himself yet again while watching her. He has to do it. It's the only right thing to do. She doesn't need him any more, but she'll keep trying to rely on him as long as he's nearby. She'll keep trying, and he'll continue to allow her. How could he not when he loves her so?
Which is exactly why he must leave, and he must do so quickly before he loses what little courage he still has where she is concerned. He has to walk out on her if she is ever to attain her own life. He has to leave her if she is ever to be able to become her own woman.
She doesn't look at him how he yearns for her to. She doesn't even look at him as a friend or as a Watcher still. He has become a father figure to her, and Joyce was right so many years ago when she first confronted him about his place in her daughter's life: He has no right. He has no right to still be in her life. He has no right to be there for her as her real father, that lousy bastard, should be.
He has no right to tremble deep inside with longing every time her small hand touches his gently or her young face graces him with a smile whose beauty constantly threatens to make him stammer and reveal himself before her. He has no right. He's not her father, and he's not even a real friend to her. A true friend would have left her long ago when he started having these feelings that he knows can never be reciprocated. A true friend would have removed himself from her pathway not to hurt her -- no, never to hurt her but to save her from depending on him forever and never leaving her teenaged years behind.
He wants to tell her. He wants to promise her a world he can not deliver, to give her a life that is not his to give. He wants to take her into his arms and tell her that he feels he has to leave her. He dreams of it every night, and in every single one of those dreams, she turns her big, watery eyes up to him and begs him not to go. He, of course, does not in his dreams, and they live happily ever after, as is apt to happen with every couple who is merely alive in one's imagination.
But this isn't mere imaginings any more. He's helping her in ways he shouldn't. He's caring for her more than anybody else has, and he knows it will disgust her if she ever guesses how he truly feels. He can't go to her not now, not ever again. He can't tell her the truth. He has to leave.
He heads for the door but turns around as he hears her singing again. God, her voice is so beautiful! He knows they're under a spell, but their feelings are still real and he's never heard anything like it. A trembling smile passes over his lips, but there are tears shining in his eyes behind his protective spectacles. He wants to go to her. He wants to sing to her. But it's not place nor even his right. Those privileges belong to Spike, of all cretins.
He grabs the door knob forcibly. He must leave. He can not tell her. Still, he wants to go to her. His heart is begging him to take those last few steps to cover the distance between them and tell her what is weighing so heavily on his mind. He should at least have the decency to tell her goodbye, but if he does, he knows he'll say too much. He'll go too far.
He's imagined that conversation every way it could possibly go. In many, she begs him to stay. In several, she screams at him that she'll hate him forever if he abandons her. In others, she calls him a coward, and in yet others, she simply falls to her knees and sobs alone while he is pulled away.
There's one in particular which he imagines now. "You won't see me," he would tell her if he could. "You won't see me, but I'll be looking in on you every moment, Buffy. I'll know if you need me, and if you do, if you truly need me, I'll come. I'll never be too far from you."
It is, of course, utter and complete horseradish. A foot away from her is too far some days, he feels, and to be on the other side of the world from her would truly be unbearable. He also couldn't watch her all the time. He couldn't invade her privacy like that, and even if he could, watching her love other men while he is in her life is Hell enough. He daren't imagine what it would be like if he could not even touch her a single time as a friend, not see her once again in person.
He bats back tears and smiles grimly as he finds another lie to delay the inevitable. She needs him for this mission. She needs him to research and find out what Demon is causing this. They're caught in the middle of a spell, singing out their emotions as they're doing. He can't leave her now. He cries as he sings a song no one hears. He can never leave her, and yet he must. He knows, too, when he does, a part of him will die and he'll never want to live again.