Someone Else's Story

The baby was screaming. Loudly.

Oz sat up, eyes still mostly shut and wandered over to the door of his room, throwing it open and staggering out into the hall. Teething sucked. A lot.

Giles emerged from his room, rubbing his eyes. He blinked owlishly at Oz. "Again?"

"Yeah." Oz looked at Giles rather desperately. "Could you take care of her tonight? Please? I'm supposed to meet with the Council tomorrow night and it'd look kinda bad if I were falling asleep while they were lecturing."

The baby wailed again and Giles winced. "Of course. Go back to bed."

Oz smiled at him and stumbled back to his room, shutting the door behind him.

Giles opened the door to the nursery, blinking as his eyes grew re-accustomed to the dark. He picked up the baby, cradling her gently against his shoulder as he walked back and forth in the tiny room, trying to lull her back to sleep. He rubbed her back lightly, murmuring softly. "Shhh, love. Go to sleep."

The baby kept screaming. Giles sighed and kept walking, searching for something that would put her to sleep. Perhaps a story...

"Long ago," he began, "in someone else's lifetime, someone with my name, who looked a great deal like me, came to know a young woman. And he was so struck by this young woman's courage that he made a promise to her that he would always be there for her, and that he would do his best to protect her."

The baby's wails grew quieter. Marginally.

Giles smiled a little and continued. "He cared about this young woman very much, giving her all the love he could, because he had no one else to give it to. Except for the young woman's friends, whom he also loved very much. And they lived, happily some of the time and a trifle desperately the rest, in a place very much like this one."

He looked down at the baby, working past the slight fuzziness that accompanied being without his glasses. "Now, in a way, it seems like someone else's story. It was all so long ago..."

The baby gurgled.

Giles smiled. "All right, not so very long ago. But it's hard to see myself taking part in it at all. You see, one day, a certain man that I was fond of saw the writing on the wall and realized, sadly, that he had lost them. And sadder then, he knew that he couldn't get them back. Some were still there in body, but when he spoke, they didn't hear him very clearly at all, until one day they were gone. Like the others, lost to life and love and random things of evil."

The baby cooed and burbled, making a silly face at Giles.

"But the man I was fond of was not left alone. One person remained behind, his life becoming someone else's story, making choices that were not choices at all. And if this young man had asked my advice, I would tell him to run away. Far and fast. Because I don't understand the decision to be lonely. But the new young man, and the man that I was fond of wouldn't have asked. They are both far too stubborn, you see." Giles touched the back of the baby's head tenderly, stroking the fine, soft hair on her head. "Stubborn, and willful, and stupid."

Giles shifted the baby into the crook of his arm, settling her back into her crib and covering her with the soft blanket. He leaned over and kissed her forehead lightly. "You are a very lucky young woman, Jeanne, because your father loves you very much. And he's stubborn, willful and stupid." He stood up, smiling down at the sleeping baby. He turned around, suppressing his sudden urge the shriek as he spotted Oz leaning against the door.

Oz grinned and whispered, "You forgot loyal, Giles."

Giles smiled slightly at Oz. "How remiss of me."

"Nice story, by the way," said Oz, as he stepped outside, shutting the door quietly behind Giles.

Giles shrugged. "It was someone else's."