Packing Up
by KindKit

Giles' life needs to fit into a 20'x20' steel crate. That's all he's bringing home. Anything that doesn't fit, he'll leave behind.

Ruthlessness is the key. Giles has sold the television, the microwave, several of his less-loved pieces of furniture. Four years worth of paperback novels have gone to Goodwill, although he hates parting with books. The piles of unwearable clothes at the back of his closet, the ones stained with blood or various sorts of demon-slime, he's thrown away, no matter how fond of them he used to be. All the odd souvenirs he can't help gathering — driftwood, seashells, interesting rocks — he's discarded. There's really no room for sentiment.

And there's nothing of California he wants to keep, now that Buffy's dead. He'll shed it, abandon it. Peel off the memories, peel off his failure. All of his failures. Grow a pink new skin, unscarred and fresh.

The kitchen, which he's left for last, is easy. He can simply throw everything away. Cannisters, flatware, tea towels, plates all go into the extra-sturdy bin liners he bought just for this purpose.

Clearing out has a certain rhythm that Giles falls into, and he almost drops the mug into the waiting black plastic mouth without noticing. But the carrot on the side catches his eye.

He can't remember when exactly the mug found its way to his cupboard. It must have been one of the bits and bobs Oz was always pulling out of his rucksack. Thrift-store shirts, old postcards, cassettes of long-forgotten bands he'd pick up for a dollar in bargain bins, because you never know if they might be good. Oz must have wanted to show him the wording — spare an animal, eat a carrot — and tease him a little about his taste for bacon, black pudding, steak and kidney pie.

Whenever it arrived, it stayed, like the extra toothbrush and the tube of Aveda hair gel. On cool nights Giles used to make tea for himself and chai for Oz. He remembers the curve of Oz's fingers over the porcelain, the steam half-veiling his face, the taste of milk and spices in Oz's mouth when Giles kissed him.

Once, long after the wolf came and everything changed, Giles made chai again and drank it from Oz's mug. But of course it wasn't the same.

He hasn't used it since. It sits on a high shelf, in the back where he never sees it. In fact he hasn't looked at it in more than a year, since the time he caught Spike about to pour blood into it. Spike laughed at him for getting so angry.

There's no reason to keep it. Oz is gone, truly gone. He'll never drink from it again.

The mug's as ugly and useless as memory.

Giles takes it into the living room, swaddles it in tissue paper, and tucks it into the corner of a box.