Title: True to Life
Word Count: ~ 2,000
Summary: An afternoon of shopping has a surprising outcome.
Timeline: After "New Moon Rising", but without the Tara relationship.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site/LJ, Hairy Eyeball, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to KallieRose for the speedy beta.
Author's Note: Written in honor of Hairy Eyeball's 3rd Anniversary.
"Don't you find this just a little creepy?" Willow whispered to Giles as they looked over the table of books before them.
"Hmm?" Giles distractedly responded. "No, not really." He picked up a book and began to thumb through the pages, carefully. "No more so than if we were at an antique or used book shop."
"But we're not in a shop, er, store," Willow pointed out. "We're going through some dead person's things."
Giles glanced around the room to see if anyone was listening to them, relieved to see that the only other occupant of the room was on the far side, ignoring them. Giles pulled Willow aside and quietly said, "If this was going to bother you so much, why did you wish to come along?"
Willow nervously looked at her feet, twisting the strap of her messenger bag in her hands. She couldn't tell him that it was because she wanted to spend some time alone with him. "I didn't know it would be so creepy. I've never been to an estate sale before."
Giles smiled softly down at her. Sometimes he forgot just how young she was. "I promise you, there is nothing creepy about attending this event. No more so than if we were at an auction house or antique shop."
"I know," Willow mumbled. "I was just looking around the room and started thinking about how this was a really nice house and Mr. Smithson must have really loved living here. But he wasn't living here anymore because he was dead. And now here we are, pawing through his things like greedy children."
"Mr. Smithson had a wonderful collection of books and artifacts that he could have donated to the university or library. We are lucky to have this opportunity to select from his collection. This being Sunnydale, we may find some valuable resources." Giles raised his eyebrow, hoping she would catch on.
Willow's eyes widened and lit up as she caught his meaning. "Oh, you mean he might have-" she quickly looked around the room before whispering, "demony books?"
"It's a possibility," Giles agreed. Seeing her interest was once again piqued, he asked, "Can we get back to the books now?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry," Willow apologized.
"No need to apologize," Giles insisted as he returned to the table of books he'd been looking at.
Willow thumbed through some of the books on that table before deciding that Giles would better know what was useful to the team and wandered away to the next room.
This room held Mr. Smithson's art collection. Willow slowly walked around the room, taking her time to look at each piece. Most were local artists that she'd never heard of.
There was a series of paintings by one artist that were incredibly dark, depicting creatures that were surely vampires. Willow shuddered. The paintings seemed out of place in the brightly lit room of this dead man.
The estate agent noticed Willow's attention caught by the series and approached her.
"Fascinating paintings, aren't they?" she asked.
"I was thinking more scary, than fascinating," Willow said.
"Did you know that this series was painted by Mr. Smithson, himself?" the agent asked, hoping that this girl would buy them simply because they were done by the deceased.
Willow shook her head as she spoke. "No, I didn't know that. He certainly had an active imagination, didn't he?"
Stepping closer, as if to impart a confidence, the agent said, "It's said that the old man grew quite insane in the time before he died. He raved about demons, vampires, and other creatures of fantasy, saying they walked along our very streets."
Willow laughed a bit hysterically. "You don't say? Vampires in Sunnydale?"
The agent laughed, much more earnestly. "I know."
"Excuse me, I think that I should check in with my friend," Willow said, backing away from the paintings.
"Of course," the agent agreed. "If you decide you'd like to purchase these paintings, I'll be around."
Willow muttered that she'd think about it and practically ran back to the room she'd left Giles in.
She found him a couple of tables down from where she'd last seen him; a couple of books tucked under one arm.
"Giles," she said, latching onto his arm when she reached him.
"What is it, Willow?" he distractedly asked, annoyance at being disturbed evident in his voice.
"How did Mr. Smithson die?" Willow asked, hurriedly.
"What difference does that make?" Giles asked. He looked at Willow and noticed the real panic on her face. "Willow, what is it?"
"Could it have been vampires?" she quietly asked.
Giles frowned. "What makes you ask that? He was an old man, I'm sure it was completely natural causes that brought his death."
"But what if it wasn't?" Willow pressed.
"What makes you think it was vampires?" Giles patiently asked, despite his patience waning.
"There's something you need to see," Willow said, pulling Giles back to the room she'd just left.
Curious about what had Willow so spooked, Giles allowed himself to be pulled along. He was surprised when Willow stopped in front of a collection of paintings. He waited for an explanation, but Willow simply gestured to the paintings, so Giles focused on them.
He had to remove his glasses, clean them with his handkerchief and rub his eyes before he could comprehend what he was seeing.
Vampires. But not just vampires, he realized as he studied each painting in turn. In a couple of them, the vampires were fighting a blonde girl. Buffy.
Giles nearly dropped his books upon recognizing his slayer captured in paint before him.
Looking around the room, Giles caught the eye of the estate agent that had spoken to Willow earlier.
"I see you've brought your father to check out the paintings too?" she said to Willow.
"He's not my father," Willow said, bristling at the idea. "He's my…friend."
"Oh, I see, my apologies," the agent said, hoping she hadn't screwed up this sale by making the assumption. What people did behind closed doors was none of her business.
"Excuse me," Giles said, drawing the agent's attention to him, "but could you tell me more about this series. I understand the late Mr. Smithson painted them."
"Yes," the agent said, excited by this man's interest. "They are new pieces the deceased painted, just a few weeks before his death, in fact."
"Had he always painted such fanciful scenes?" Giles inquired.
"Never. His family assumed it was his old age and senility that caused him to paint such fantastic images. The visions of a man scared of death."
"Did he happen to have a sketchbook for this series as well? Perhaps a journal that he recorded his ideas in?" Giles hoped that he would be perceived as someone interested in the process, and not so much the subject matter.
"I believe that he did have a sketchbook with his notes in it," the agent said, thoughtfully. "If you are interested in the paintings, I could probably include the sketchbook for free."
"That would be wonderful. I'll take the entire series, as well as the drawings," Giles said.
"Excellent!" the agent said. "I'll have someone wrap these up for you. Are you finished looking around or would you like more time with the rest of Mr. Smithson's collection?"
"No, just these books should do," Giles said, handing over the tomes. From what he'd seen, he didn't think there would be anything else useful, and he wanted to get these paintings out of the public eye as fast as possible.
"Of course. Right this way, sir, and we can discuss payment," the agent said, motioning to an assistant for the paintings to be brought along.
After their business was concluded and the paintings were stowed safely in Giles' car, he drove Willow to the cemetery Mr. Smithson was buried in.
"Thank you for bringing those paintings to my attention," Giles said, glancing over at Willow.
"You're welcome. I knew you'd want to see them. That was kind of a close call, huh?"
"Indeed," Giles agreed, pulling into a parking spot at the cemetery. "Let's go check on our dearly departed Mr. Smithson, shall we?"
They climbed out of the car and began to wander among the headstones. "It's a nice change doing this during the day," Willow said, tipping her head back to enjoy the warmth of the sun on her face.
Giles paused to watch her, the sheer pleasure she was exhibiting in such a simple action. He swallowed, hard. "Y-yes, it's wonderful doing this with the sun out."
Willow grinned at him and resumed walking. Giles followed a few paces behind her, allowing himself to enjoy watching her bare calves below her skirt.
"Oh, here he is," Willow said, bouncing in place before a headstone. "I found him."
Giles breathed a sigh of relief that she'd been looking, as he had been concentrating on her, rather than on their task. "That's wonderful," he said, coming to stand beside her.
He breathed a sigh of relief. "It appears that Mr. Smithson merely observed the vampiric activity and was not a victim to it."
Willow's foot tapped at the undisturbed ground. "Yep. Good thing. I'd hate to see what an 87-year old vampire looked like. I mean, a vampire that was made when the person was 87. Because Angel, he's way older than 87 in vampire years, but he's still all young and attractive, 'cause he was killed when he was a young man. And so's—"
Giles couldn't help himself. As he listened to Willow babble, he gave in to his nearly-constant urge, and kissed her, stopping her mid-babble.
Willow didn't react at first, too surprised by the fact that Giles' lips were on hers. Then her brain caught up and she wrapped her arms around him, kissing him back good and proper.
When they parted, they wore the identical confused, happy expressions.
A million and one thoughts were running around Willow's head. She wanted to ask where that came from. She wanted to know if that was to be their only kiss, because she'd really enjoyed it and hoped that it wasn't. She wanted to know if he'd wanted her as long as she'd wanted him.
Instead, she saucily asked, "So, cemeteries turn you on?"
Giles laughed and pulled her closer. He leaned down and whispered against her ear. "I thought it was rather obvious." He grinned as she shivered against him. "You turn me on."
Willow rubbed her cheek against his neck. She licked up to his ear and whispered in return, "You turn me on, too."
Giles pulled back, stunned by her revelation. "Please tell me you're not just humoring an old man."
"I'm not just humoring an old man. 'Cause you're not old," Willow insisted.
"Willow, as that woman at the estate sale pointed out, I'm old enough to be your father," Giles said, kicking himself for giving her a chance to push him away.
"Do you think that I care about that?" Willow asked. "As far as I can tell, older men have it all over young men. I mean, just look at Xander."
"I thought you were rather in love with Xander for a long time," Giles said.
"Yeah, it took me being with Oz for Xander to notice me. And you remember how that turned out," Willow said.
"Yes, you in very tight leather," Giles said, practically purring at the memory.
"Yes, I mean no! Well, yes, I wore that really cool leather outfit, but because of vampire me from another universe."
"Ah, but with me, there is no ex-lover to wreck vengeance upon us," Giles said.
"That is true," Willow said, allowing Giles to pull her back into his arms. "The gang's gonna be wigged, though."
"Screw the gang," Giles said. When Willow giggled, he added, "Well, not literally."
"That's just for me, right?" Willow asked, hopefully.
"Most definitely," Giles agreed, claiming her mouth for a proper kiss.
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