Title: Maybe Tomorrow
Pairing: Willow/Giles post Season 7
Summary: Willow and Giles meet up and reconnect with one another in and around London.
Disclaimer: I in no way own these characters, though I love and miss them greatly.
“Can I take this chair?”
“Sorry, I'm expecting someone,” Willow answered without really looking up from her laptop, taking a sip of her drink and tracing an idle finger around the countless interwoven rings on the table from long forgotten ones. Chequers was small and dimly lit, an overcrowded L-shape full of life and noise and shrouded in a haze of ever shifting smoke.
She sat in the corner, seating at a premium, her small, well-ordered suitcase tucked beneath her, her impractically fluffy rucksack on the seat next to her. She felt him coming even before he walked in, in truth, from the moment he came out of the Tube station at Piccadilly. His power, or the capability for it, always resonated throughout all the spaces between them.
She sat and watched as he stepped a cigarette into the pavement outside and then moved through the door, raised a hand to him in a wave of greeting. His smile was quiet but broad, eyes twinkling behind his glasses, speckled from the misting drizzle outside and she couldn't help but return it. Not that she didn't want to but she was still trying to get a handle on what about Giles made all seem right with the world. He nodded toward the bar and she raised her drink as she shook her head. He ordered a pint of Guiness and the time it took to steep and settle and be topped off seemed to last an age. He looked tired, rumpled and at ease, a weathered coat and a silver sheen of stubble.
She rose as he came towards her and moving around the table, hugged him tightly
“It's so good to see you,” she breathed into his shoulder, smelling of rain and warmth and damp, smoky wool. It was a place she'd buried her face before now, at funerals in times past, her tears doubling for rain in the sullen heat of California.
“I wouldn't miss your coming for all the world,” he answered somewhere above her head. They came apart and he took up her bag from the spare seat as he sank down into it, grinning slightly as he fingered the assortment of little badges pinned to it. “You have no idea how old some of these make me feel,” he added as he lingered over depictions of music groups long since disbanded.
“Old enough to know better – smoking I see,” she reprimanded him.
“A disgusting habit and one that I reserve solely for London,” he sighed and ruffled the rain out of his tousled grey hair.
“You live in England and you don't carry an umbrella?”
“I'm from England, that isn't what we'd call rain,” he grinned at her. He always looked smaller than she remembered and more keenly defined. Of course that always changed whenever she parted company with him and all that he was filled him out again. “It's so good to have an excuse for a respite,” he added, removing his glasses and pinching at the bridge of his nose.
“They can't be that bad, I mean mine all seem to have been very…chipper,” Willow smiled. Giles' expression was kindly yet withering.
“Looking after a band of unruly teenagers again is somewhat taxing,”
“We weren't that bad, I mean sure, there were…incidents, but we rose above them,” Willow defended, Gile's expression leant more towards withering.
“How long are you staying again?” He asked teasingly.
“You're not getting rid of me that easily,”
“That's not what I meant and you very well know it,” he chuckled.
“As long as you'll have me, I like to think I make an excellent houseguest,” she answered emphatically, the chill of the dank weather steadily seeming to slip from her.
“I don't doubt it,” he smiled as he took a sip of his pint. “The council can spare me a week or two,” he paused, frowning reflectively “it seems utterly surreal,”
“Oxford. It used to be, was only ever intended to be, a bastion of knowledge, now it's entirely changed. It's become a hub, a keep, a barracks of sorts,”
“Not liking having drawn weapons on the hallowed ground?” She interjected.
“Something like that,” he nodded ruefully, “I have to say I find it profoundly amusing watching some of the older set attempt to lecture from their own ‘extensive' field experience,” he sneered. “But forgive me, where are my manners? How was your flight?”
“Fine, just playing catch up on some research,”
“Really, anything of interest?”
“Well, the later seasons of the West Wing are at least passable,” she smiled sheepishly. “Tried catching up on some letter writing too, I've been something of a lacklustre correspondent of late,”
“How are the others?”
“Good, Xander's in the Midwest, he sent pictures when he and his group were at Disneyland,”
“I got the email; if anyone else had suggested a pirate hat and a hook I would've thought it in remarkably poor taste,”
“What is this ‘email' of which you speak?” She teased him,
“I'm not that old,”
“I never said you were, I'm impressed, it's good to see you and the technology getting along,”
“There's no need to be patronising,” he stated, to which she just made a face. The silence drew out between them “How is she?” he asked.
“She's bearing up, I think she's still dealing,” she thought back over some of the more terse phone conversations she'd had with Buffy of late.
“Understandable, it was a grievous blow to lose them in such an abrupt manner, though I doubt that's the last we'll see of them,” he remarked into his pint.
“You think?” She asked, a little surprised.
“I'm certain of it, Angel and Spike both have pre-ordained roles to play, either that or many of the prophecies we steer by aren't worth the parchment they're inscribed upon,” he answered, shaking his head.
“I think that's the way she sees it,” Willow agreed.
“Still, it's probably for the best that she didn't see them again before the event, saying your goodbyes to the same soul too many times over can be a cause for despair,”
“Or hope,” she added optimistically.
“Or hope,” he reluctantly agreed.
“She's with Faith at the moment anyhow,”
“The men of Rome have my sympathies,” Giles replied with a wry smile.
“How do you know I didn't mean that she's with Faith?” Willow teased him.
“I was there when she was having it off with Spike, I highly doubt I'd start being judgmental over a fact such as that. Though that would make the third of her lovers to have tried to kill her at one time or another,” he noted with a trace of regret.
“I guess that'd go both ways,” Willow nodded, then shared a smile with Giles at the unintentional entendre. “Walked right into that one didn't I?” Giles nodded.
“And what of you?” He asked her.
“What of me?” She asked evasively.
“Kennedy?” He specified. The ripple in Willow was enough to stir the lowering drift of smoke.
“I shan't venture any further questions on the subject,” he retreated and took another sip. She smiled appreciatively at him.
“No, no, things are fine, she's hooked up with Caridad, they're taking a couple of weeks to eliminate a nest down in Agudo. I just felt like I needed a break. Besides, it's been too long,”
“It has,” he nodded “and a break you shall have, you've been working yourself into the ground my dear,” He observed with concern.
“You're one to talk,” he smiled kindly at her and his eyes looked more tired than ever.
“No rest for the wicked.”
They stayed in the pub past last orders and then took a cab to an apartment the council kept in Mayfair, calling briefly at an overpriced off-licence on the way for slightly drunken snacks and bottles of red wine.
The décor of the place was rich, overwhelmingly so, deep hues of red and umber, dark woods and a smattering of shade loving plants. It wasn't him. He set several of the wine bottles in a rack above one of the kitchen benches.
“Average Australian fare but it'll do, I'm oftimes guilty of depleting the reserves,”
“Nice for a bolthole,” Willow commented as she look around, “big fans of the Morocco vibe I see.”
“We seem to be drawing more charitable investment now that less one-sided results and tangible forces for good are in play,” he explained as he opened a bottle and fetched glasses from a cupboard.
“Nice to know we're not so alone anymore,” she rubbed at her neck with one hand as he handed her a glass.
“So why are things fine ?” Giles enquired as she sank onto a couch and tucked her feet up, he coming to sit in an armchair opposite her.
“I knew you weren't going to let that drop,” she smiled at him. “Lotsa reasons I guess, work gets in the way,”
“Hiding behind your work is very often a smokescreen for more deepseeded issues,” he raised his glass at her.
“I think my relationships can make her uneasy or unhappy, moreso even than my past. It's just a raw spot of jealousy we come around to from time to time, nothing I haven't dealt with before now. It's just Buffy and Xander and you, you all have…are a part of me that she wasn't there for, and I think she'll always feel a little left out of that,” she explained, brow furrowed.
“Well few could rival the bond you have with Buffy or Xander, even fewer would want to have experienced the history you've been through. I suppose it should be taken as a good thing that she wishes to be closer to you,” he mused over the positives.
“You're right, I know, it's just how she feels sometimes - she seems to have this odd irrational fear that somehow my love for both of them is symbolic of this great rift in my sexuality,”
“Sounds more ominous than the hellmouth, forgive me for saying so but I thought your predilections were firmly fixed upon those of the female persuasion,” he asked, cocking an eyebrow.
“Then what was Oz?” She answered with a thoughtful expression. He often forgot how much each of them had dealt with, come to terms with, defined in their own ways - bereft of the support of anything resembling normality.
“A werewolf last I checked,” he responded dryly. She looked like she would have laughed but instead opted for a weighty sigh,
“I always had to be one thing or the other, clearly defined, black and white, right and wrong, good girl, bad girl, square shut in, apocalyptic, world-destroying witch, straight, gay. Y'know there are a lot more grey areas in life than I'm comfortable with - bananas outside of scheduled lunchtimes,” she waved her wine glass about as she reeled off the list.
“I know the feeling, except perhaps the banana portion,” he empathised, scratching the side of his jaw.
“I hoped you might,” she nodded. There was some weight to the remark.
“Meaning what exactly?” He asked carefully.
“Did you and Ethan…ever…?” she paused and he glanced idly at the fingernails on one hand. Buffy had asked him the same question before now, he'd lied to her when she was younger, unsure of how she would react, a wrong he'd righted in more recent years. Willow of all people indeed had the right to know.
“Yes…as it happens…” he paused, old memories flickering back at him, she seemed relieved and smiled kindly and a little foggily at him. “More wine I think,” he remarked absently, looking down through the scarlet ebb in the base of his glass and swirling the motes of sediment.
“Was it serious?” She asked him as he got up to fetch the bottle.
“The age we were, the person I was, I'm not sure if I really took anything seriously. The whole thing was so terribly cavalier, more wrapped up in our machinations against one another,” He explained as he opened another bottle, “But it was fun too, free and liberating - but at a cost, people come to distrust you, are ever wary of you, they're never comfortable with things they can't readily categorise or pigeonhole,” he did his best to clarify as he poured another healthy glass.
“One thing or another,” Willow nodded, repeating her own words.
“Indeed, I think it speaks more of their own fears and allaying those for them seems to be part of the bargain.” The many reasons he and Olivia hadn't worked out sprung quickly to mind.
“I get tired of doing that sometimes – justifying thoughts…feelings…”
“You feel backed into a corner?” He put to her delicately as he came to sit back down.
“At times, other times things are perfect…voraciously perfect even…there are just times when I get tired and I miss what things used to be like, which is insane – on many levels, but I liked our unruly band of teenagers,” She sighed somewhat wistfully.
“As did I,” he nodded quietly, “as did I.”
They rode the tube to Richmond and then walked the crowded streets, Willow tripping up countless people bundled up against the weather with her small, wheeled suitcase. They'd woken late and many an espresso later, she was feeling tingly and jammering away incessantly.
The house they came to was perfect. It felt like Giles from a mile away, it was like any other in the row, neatly trimmed hedge, drooping, forlorn tree, creaky iron gate, well-worn front steps, solid, immoveable front door. The echo of magic was indisguisable, like ripples in a great pond. Crossing the threshold was like static electricity, everything within having a personal, handwrought impression upon it. The whole place felt painted over with some ethereal sketch of magic, all of it unmistakably Giles.
The front hall was gloomy and he stooped to gather up post before turning on the lights, dispelling the clarity of the designs Willow knew only the two of them could see.
“Bills,” he muttered. “I'll put your things upstairs.”
“Tea?” She offered.
“Please,” He smiled as he took her bags from her.
He disappeared upstairs, touting her luggage and she unzipped her boots, sodden and bedecked with mouldering leaves. She relished the feel of wooden boards and slate tiles, ran a finger along the spine of countless leatherbound books as she moved through the house and down the steps into the kitchen. With a word and a gesture she brought life to the candles firmly anchored to the wooden table by their own spilt wax. She breathed deeply of the scents of drying herbs, flowers and spices, opened a cupboard, found a teapot, began conjuring from earthenware jars and containers.
“This place is lovely,” she enthused as he trooped into the room.
“I like to keep somewhere apart from things, my house in Oxford is fine but it still feels so closely bound to my work there,” he sighed contentedly as he sat down at the table.
“I have trouble keeping goldfish…you keep a house in Richmond - inadequacy abounds,” she said, looking perturbed as she boiled the kettle.
They sat at the kitchen table, looking out through the conservatory doors as the wind whipped leaves from the trees in the back garden, the thin, grey light expressive of the howling and buffeting going on without.
“I don't have much in I'm afraid, looks like it'll be takeaway for dinner at this rate,” he apologised, turning his cup in his hands.
“That's fine, hangovers never leave me feeling particularly health conscious.”
They ordered Indian dishes of a wide variety. There was far more than they could ever hope to eat though they made a fair try at it, supping wine and listening to music. The living room proved a delightfully cosy shelter from the state of the weather outside.
The spare room was wonderful, candles and books, incense and flowers and no shortage of intricate old things. There were no flowers or candles in Giles' room, she doubted there ever would be again. He saw her to bed and disappeared off with a worn looking book.
She lay awake thinking on things for a time. She had never really seen Giles as a father figure. He was just an incontrovertible presence, undeniable, incorruptible, he was all knowing, all seeing. When it became apparent that he was, in fact, only human and as deeply flawed as the rest of them, she only loved him more, not less. She recognised something of the same darkness within him, the tight restraint over primal power. There was something calming about his presence, a lulling peace over the carnal forces within. It had been like that with Oz, peaceful on the surface, tumultuous undercurrents below. Like being fixed in the eye by a predatory animal, you gave yourself over to their influence.
There was a great trust in their care for one another, she knew she could forever rely upon him to do more than what was right, he would do what was necessary, what needed to be done. She'd been distracted by action and torn by emotion at the time but it hadn't prevented her from sensing him suffocating the life from Ben. It went both ways, he'd taken her desire to fight him in her darkest days as a sign of care, hate and resentment born of love and scorn – if she hadn't cared she would've wished only to dispatch him straight. Magic was her only vice, her outlet, her great and terrible gift. It was a power far beyond his own and he well knew it, the thing that had made her extraordinary under already extraordinary circumstances.
Giles hadn't slept well. He washed incessantly, let the hot water seer his skin, scrubbed until his flesh sang and was chafed raw. He forced thoughts he felt best left unthought from his mind and then let the self-reviling regrets that these meetings dredged up wash over him. He placed his hands either side of the shower before burying his head in the torrent of water. He rested sideways against the cool of the tiles and sank slowly to sit in a crouching heap in the tub, lost to remembrance.
They ate a decadent breakfast, the two of them, long and late. They couldn't decide between pastries and donuts or croissants and bagels and had instead purchased them all. They spent the morning dissecting the myriad sections of the Sunday papers before moving onto works of research or recreational literature. She devoured a series of novels while he pored over old tomes and charts, inserting pins in maps and coloured dots on globes.
The following days were much more than pleasant, though correspondence and calls were incessant - more slayers, more things for them to fight. They went into London in the evenings, watched old films at the Prince Charles and threw popcorn at one another. They had refined dinners, greasy pub meals, closeted themselves in smoky jazz holes and shoestring theatres, walked the lengths breadths of galleries and museums. At night they knew the telltale signs of their enemies, vampires that loitered a little more openly than was want. They always retreated, the demon in them knowing instinctively when its power was outmatched.
To Giles, Buffy's power had always been precision, she was a weapon built into a girl or a girl built around a weapon, it was often hard to tell which. Willow was a more elemental thing, no less refined but a conduit instead of something so self-contained, Buffy had the power of ages of strength and courage and violence, Willow had the power and the force of the world, this one and the ones beyond, behind her, flowing through her. His relationship with Buffy was more paternal, more contentious, understanding through antagonism. Willow was a kindred spirit, understanding through unity, knowledge of self, oneness.
When they got home or stayed in, they sat talking and laughing long into the night, stories of the others, stories of the old days. Each time the laughter rang out into a quiet pall, bittersweet sadness tingeing the rose tint. Giles rarely ever performed acts of magic but they were elegant and artful to her when he did. The acts of anyone seemingly less powerful, less gifted were often greater so much greater. The appreciation of the act came from its achievement, from the effort rather than the ease.
“Tinkering with Tinkerbell lights,” Willow mused.
“I'm sorry?” Giles asked, confused.
“Nothing,” she shook her head, “I wonder who'll tell stories of us,”
“Who? The tired, old bookworm with a propensity for tea,”
“Not forgetting the crazy, ginger witch,” she added, “maybe I could live in a crooked old shoe even,”
“Personally, my money's on Harmony.”
They fell asleep together on his bed, awoke fully clothed, befuddled, her head upon his shoulder. They looked at each other for that briefest of instances where comfortable intimacy walks the border of forbidden fruit. It was generally that same moment when Willow became acutely conscious of what her breath might smell like.
“I should really confirm my flight today,” she yawned.
“Then I feel it only fitting that we should treat tonight with great and reckless abandon,” Giles stated, to which she simply grinned – only Giles could manage to make mischief sound quite so earnest.
Willow had seen him go outside from an upstairs window, watched as he stood, unmoving, staring about at the trees in the back garden and down at the damp grass beneath his feet. She tested the temperature of the bath water with a finger and, satisfied, let slip her robe and climbed into its steaming confines. She didn't want to leave but she knew that she had to, the longer she lingered, the harder it would be. The warmth of the water did little to relax her but did a fine job of turning her pale flesh a rosy pink.
Giles smiled at the leaves that drifted down and stared at the branches and the trunks, the sun dappling through a break in the cloud. Something in Willow had helped to draw him out of the confines in which he used to lock himself, both his personality and his person, failing an inch at a time to be either a clean slate or an island. Books were paper, paper is of a tree - sometimes he found Willow's flights of reason oddly grounding. He smiled at the grass as he turned and went back inside to get dressed.
Willow descended the stairs feeling slightly uncomfortable in a dress she'd worn many a time before and didn't really know why. Giles looked immaculate in a suit a million miles from the tweeds of old.
“You look breathtaking,” he murmured with a smile that at once set her at ease and made her stomach feel light.
They took a cab all the way to the Ritz, the cost was exorbitant but Giles had stated that he'd be damned if she was to trek about town, dressed like that, in this weather followed by some sort of tangent about footwear. They rode in marked silence, he looking out a window, putting his face to his fist, like a Rodin – contemplative, thoughtful. Without thinking she placed a hand on his other one that lay spare on the seat between them. She tensed a little as he turned to her, expecting her to say or ask him something but made no move to pull away as he turned back to the rain and the dark and the old facades.
The food was exquisite, the wine flowed freely. Their reminiscences were more formal, like parting gifts. Having decided that dancing was neither of their fortes, they chose to all the same.
And so they danced long and close and slow, currents of power running through where their fingers idly entwined, where his finger tips lightly held to her back. The smell of her, the richness of fire and blood in her hair, lingered before him, the aching grace of the woman who had blossomed from the shy-eyed teenager he had met in another world.
She looked up at him, something like indecision in her eyes, he bent his head slowly towards her.
“I'm not Buffy,” she halted him with a hesitant breathe
“I'm well aware of that,” he answered as gently.
Their lips only met momentarily, enough to ignite a world of passion and hurt within, seconds that would burn for days. Her eyes glistened with hesitancy as he leant back.
“I…I should probably go tomorrow…” she stammered.
“I think that would be best,” he nodded quietly.
She leant into his shoulder and clung to him intensely.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered.
“So am I,” she breathed back “you're such a beautiful man,”
“Shouldn't I be saying such things to you? Well not the man part of course…” he managed a smile.
“You've always made me feel that way,” she returned the smile, though it was sadder, more difficult “beautiful and special and loved,”
“Another life perhaps,” he remarked with a sigh.
“Indeed,” she tried at a sniff of a laugh though she felt like crying. “What do we do now?”
“We keep dancing.”
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