“I don’t get it.” Willow looked over to Anya in a sort of disbelief.
“Too veiled for you? We. Had. Sex.”
“How long for?”
“Anya! I don’t know, I wasn’t timing.”
“How many orgasms?”
“Ooo, that means he was good. Experience pay off?” The ex-demon looked at the glaring girl in front of her with amusement. If there was one thing she loved about her life post- being sacked, it was human reactions to her unsubtle questions and comments. Although it made her mad that Xander was constantly trying to ‘teach’ her social niceties, it also gave her those funny fuzzy feelings she got when she made him happy, because she now made less of said comments around the other Scoobies. Of course, he thought it was because she was becoming more “civilized,” when in actual fact, she’d just learnt most of their reactions and they were less easy to shock. Willow’s secret, however, she felt could give her a whole new world of facial expressions- such as the pink- tinged glare she was receiving now. Deciding to put the redhead out of her misery, she continued her questioning.
“Anyway, that’s not what I don’t get- you keep making allusions to The Watchers’ Council. Why would you two bother them so much?” A heavy sigh was emitted for Willow’s general vicinity and Anya sensed she’d touched on a fragile subject.
“The Council weren’t originally set up to aid The Slayer- they were founded to kill her-” Willow’s explanation was cut off by a squeak.
“Yes. The founders believed that if they could control such a supernatural force as The Slayer, then her energy could be used to close portals such as The Hellmouth or those to other dimensions- kind of like The Key.”
“So they were trying to use The Slayer like Glory wanted to use Dawn- but in reverse.”
“Yeah. The Founders selected trustworthy men and women, and sent them throughout the globe to find the best humans they could: warriors, astrologists, astronomists, witches- anyone with power and/or knowledge. These people became The Council. A complex- breeding programme. For millennia they’ve bee trying to breed the ultimate watcher. Intelligent, powerful, adaptable. Compliant. Somewhere along the way they adopted The Slayer- at first to control her, then to include her-”
“In the breeding?”
“Yeah. And of course- their original goal was also lost someplace- now they just keep on with the unnatural selection. Their best are chosen to do tasks such as lead, train future slayers, watch the present slayer and, for some reason, look after their main library in London.”
“So Giles is one of the best?” A sad sort of pride crossed Willow’s face.
“You ever doubted it?”
“Of course he’s not anymore. He may have been smart, brave, strong, skilled, and definitely not too bad to look at… but- he wasn’t conformist, wouldn’t follow orders. And he’s been made to pay.”
“Does The Council know about you?”
“They do now. They found out in September.”
“When R-er-Giles was in England?”
“Why’d he go over there?” Anya watched the Willowy, but bitter smile cross the girl’s face with a kind of dread, knowing that each memory she recounted was leaving her with the pain of fresh wounds.
“We were going to live there. We were going to get some finality at last. You know it’s two years since he asked me to marry him-”
“He proposed? You were going to run off to live happily ever after in England and leave Xander and Dawn and Spike and I to look after The Hellmouth?”
“You were, weren’t you. Is that why you brought Buffy back?”
“You selfish little-”
“Hey! Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same with Xander if given half a-”
“So was it romantic?”
“The proposal? ‘Cause Xander only proposed because he thought we were going to die.”
“He’s Rupert. Of course it was romantic… there was salmon and melon and chocolate lime cheesecake and a violin, candles. The works…”
“And the ring?”
“The single most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen- except for him of course.”
“One of the most beautiful nights of my life…”
Buffy looked at the few pages she'd just found. They were pages from her best friend's diary. Willow had torn up and stopped keeping her diary at the same time as Dawn; when they'd discovered it was all a lie. But for some reason these pages had remained. As she began to read, she realised why.
'I fell in love tonight. Don't get me wrong, I've been in love with Rupert for months, loved him for longer, but tonight, as he knelt in front of me and asked me to marry him... I felt like I was actually falling into him. What I feel for him is so intense, he pulls me into him, and I fall into his soul as he does mine.
The ring's gorgeous; I really don't want to know what it cost. It's a diamond eternity ring: I just wish I could wear it all the time, Rupert's also bought me a long thin platinum chain to wear around my neck though- I can put the ring on that. I feel so guilty sometimes, he spends so much money on me, and I know he must get questions from his dad and brother, if not from Mr Travers himself: He's going to get into trouble because of me and I want to help him, but I can's because I'll make it infinitely worse.
But happy thoughts...
After dinner we went back to his apartment and made love- really made *love*- for hours. It was so intense that every time I looked into his eyes I started crying. And the best thing was: he cried too. I love him so much it hurts; and every time I look at him, I fall deeper and deeper.
I hate when I'm not with him. The reason I'm here now is because Buffy showed up on his doorstep at 2am, just after we'd nodded off. He waited until I'd dressed and made my usual escape from his balcony to the one next door before letting her in. It's an improvement on last week when she stormed straight in and immediately made her way upstairs. I'm not mad at her. I'm not. I used to be sort of jealous of the relationship they have. Now I'm just jealous of the time it takes up. There's never a time that I know she's not going to show. This is the third time in the past ten days she's shown up like this in the middle of the night. And it's difficult. But doable.
What with Buffy, The Council, and everything else, I don't know when we'll be able to get married, so tomorrow I'm going out and I'm going to find him an engagement ring too. That way we both have something.
I'm going to sign off how. I'd better get to sleep before tomorrow. I have to face Percy in the again in the morning. I'm not quite sure I can cope with him on less than four hours' sleep. But we'll see.
Buffy felt a single tear roll down her cheek. Her best friend had been through so much and she'd never brought it up, never even tried to seek comfort through metaphors or her relationship with Oz. Willow'd been the perfect best friend while she, Buffy Summers, had failed to see any of it. Where had her infamous sixth sense been for the past three years?
As she assembled the story from the letters, diary entries and other assorted pieces of paper in front of her, her heart wept for what her best friend had done for love. And now... now she was having to deal with even more. Someone with a soul as beautiful as Willow's shouldn't have to deal with this much.
It was 4am when Buffy finally went to bed, but she was raging so much she didn't sleep for over an hour. She was so angry: at Willow for having put herself here, at Giles for loving Willow so much and then moving back to England... no matter what his reasons, at Angel and Riley for never crying as they loved her, at Spike for messing up her head. But mostly at herself: for never seeing through the Oz facade, for never being a proper best friend, for relying on Spike instead of facing the world, and so much more. From now on Buffy was going to be the best friend ever; whether Willow realised or wanted it or not.
Late Season 3
Pushing open the door to the library, Willow took a step inside, looking around to see, as she suspected, that none of her friends were there.
“Giles? Rupert?” Seeing no one in the main part of the library, the girl made her way around to her lover’s- no, fiancé’s office. Seeing him sat at his desk, a smile broke over her face and her pace quickened, before she came to a dead halt.
“Freeze.” Looking away from the back of Rupert’s head, she turned to face the neatly pressed shirt of the man two inches in front of her. Raising her head she took in the self-important, pompous expression on the man’s face and raised an eyebrow.
“Can I...?” she gestured to the doorway behind him.
“You most certainly cannot. This is a private area of the library, open to staff only. Students may not enter without the express permission of a higher authority.”
“Did I not just ask for permission?”
“But I have yet to grant it.” She looked witheringly at the man, before smiling and opening her mouth to shout.
“Giles, can I come in?” Without looking up or turning around, the librarian granted his permission.
“Of course Willow.” She loved it when Rupert was so involved in something, as he was now… and she also loved the challenge of distracting him from whatever it was, so her expectant glance at the suit-clad Englishman in front of her was tinged with more than a little frustration.
“That does not-”
“Can you tell the tight-ass that I’m allowed to come speak to you?” Willow hadn’t meant to be catty, but she couldn’t deny the small thrill that ran through her as a look of wounded shock crossed the man’s face. She hadn’t stopped glaring at him for a few minutes now, and as she felt Giles come up behind the man, she also became aware of her fists placed firmly on her hips.
“That’s Mr Wyndham-Pryce to you Mr Giles, and I believe it is highly inappropriate for a man of such stature as yourself to be consorting on such an intimate level with such a foul-mouthed, young American as this girl. Your time here should be devoted entirely to the welfare of Miss Summers-”
“I will remind you that I am a faculty member here, and as such-”
“’Foul-mouthed, young American?’ I will have you know ‘Mr Wyndham-Pryce’ that I may be a student, but I am perfectly capable of mature decisions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being an American- and should you have a problem, I suggest you get on the soonest flight available, and… FOUL-MOUTHED?”
“And where do you get off speaking to Giles like that?”
“Miss Willow, I believe-”
“Wesley! Will you stop believing and go make yourself useful. Buffy will not be in the library until fourth period and I suspect Faith will not appear until at least then also. So find yourself something to do for the next three hours. Preferably away from here.” Willow watched as Wesley began, again, to argue and then, seeing the faces of the two others in his presence, decided against it and headed for the library doors. Once they’d swung shut, Willow felt herself relax before she turned back to Giles.
“Fresh from the mother country.”
“Sorry I was mad- he made me… grrrr.”
“He seems to be awfully good at that.” They shared a smile before she followed him into his office, pausing only to close the door and drop the blinds before depositing herself in his lap and pressing her lips to his. Pulling back she revelled in the slightly dazed expression on his face.
“Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?”
“Missed you since last night- well, two this morning.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and leaned his forehead against hers.
“I’m sorry about that.”
“Don’t be, I’m over it. You should be too. It’s not your fault Buffy’s not psychic. Plus, you more than made up for it in advance.” She reached into her top and pulled out the almost invisible chain to swing it and the ring hanging from it in between their faces.
“I tried wearing it on the wrong finger but it was kind of conspicuous- of course I couldn’t take my eyes off it, so I was kind of biased…” She trailed off, again almost hypnotised by the ring. Giles opened his mouth to speak just as she restarted. “Anyway. Last night meant the world to me and I wanted to pay you back a little- I figure this is probably going to be one of those long term engagements- what with me being a student and Mr Pryce-Guy being around, so I decided to make this a two way deal.” Sliding back off his lap, she fell to her knees on the floor before him and reached into her pocket, pulling out a small box. She was about to open it when something occurred to her. “I’m meant to be on one knee for this, aren’t I?” Adjusting her position accordingly she looked up to catch his eye
“Rupert? Rupert Giles. Will you do me the honour of becoming my husband?”
Absorbing the past few minutes of Willow-speak, and staring in shock at the ring in front of him, Giles realised that despite the security of last night, right now was as nerve-racking for Willow as yesterday had been for him. The fear of rejection was clear in her face, and along with it, the uncertainty and shyness that seemed to shadow all her actions. Knowing she was waiting for an answer, he took the sides of her face in his hands and pulled her up to kiss her.
“Of course I will.” He watched as her face broke into a huge smile and wondered if anyone else knew that the sun actually radiated from Willow Rosenburg.
She struggled to take the simple ring from its box and put it on his finger and he looked down to admire it. It was made from two thick bands, crossed over once on each side of the ring to hold them together. One was silver, one gold.
“Thank god it fits- I was so worried. I figured it probably wouldn’t destroy your manliness if you were to wear it, and the gold-” he cut her off with a soft kiss.
“Put yours on.” Giles’ voice had dropped a few notches and it sent a thrill down Willow’s spine. Taking off her necklace she put it in her pocket and slipped the rind onto the appropriate finger. Holding her to him, Rupert spun the swivel chair before sitting her on the desk in front of him and standing up. He kissed her fleetingly, a mere brushing of lips against lips. Later he told himself he’d fully intended that to be it, but when one of her hands strayed to rest on his chest, and the other moved to the side of his face he figured one more kiss wouldn’t hurt. Nor another, nor another.
When Willow felt her fiancé’s hand begin to creep under her skirt, there was no way she could say she was displeased. Mildly surprised, definitely: Rupert was usually so worried about someone seeing the two of them that events such as last night’s dinner were a rarity, let alone serious groping in his office, but no matter how much he might moan about it later, there was no way Willow was even going to consider removing his rapidly ascending hands as she began to busy her own in running through his hair and undoing the buttons of his shirt, and when she found herself lying, topless, across his desk she wasn’t complaining about how tightly he had now pressed himself between her thighs to continue kissing her. But as his mouth left hers and travelled down the column of her neck to lavish attention on her breasts, she was definitely going to object to the open office door and the figure standing in it.
“Faith!” Giles’ head shot up as he spun around, giving Willow something to hide behind as she hurried to re-clasp her bra and button her shirt.
“Been giving Will some extra lessons G-man?”
“W- I- er- well…” Running a hand through her hair, the witch slid off the desk and around Rupert to give him a chance to restore his own dignity.
“Faith- you’re early.”
“Thought I’d come,” she dragged the word out, “offer Giles my company. Figured a forty- something year old librarian would have as little to do on a Wednesday morning as I. Guess I was wrong.” Willow turned her head to look at Giles, who had a sort of… anguished look on his face, and then back to look at the slayer.
“Faith. Let’s go. Let Giles finish his… work.” The girl smirked but allowed herself to be led out of the office, refusing to be submissed once in the main library.
“Say Red, didn’t you have lip gloss on earlier?” Willow searched for her bag, flushing before realising a) it was still in Giles’ office, and b) this was the first time she’d seen Faith in a couple of days. She looked up to see the self-satisfied grin on Faith’s face.
“I hate you.”
“You too- I was thinking maybe I stood a chance with him. I’m guessing not now. Nice ring.”
“Shhhhh-” She cut herself off before the curse emitted itself.
“Relax, you could do worse- you could’ve got him.” Spinning around, Willow saw whom Faith had nodded at.
“Faith, meet Wesley. Your new watcher.”
"I think you know the rest." Willow prodded her ice cream, half- smiling at the memories.
"Faith found out? Did anyone else?"
"Spike. Almost you."
"How the hell did you keep Faith and Spike quiet?"
"There's this spell- `Tabula Rasa.' It effectively wipes memories- gives the subject a clean slate upon which to place their own."
"So they forget whatever happened and replace the void with something mundane?"
"Basically- it'll be like one of those days where you can't remember what happened, `cause nothing significant did."
"But still- that's pretty impressive that only three people were close to discovering you."
"Spike found out more than once."
"That was careless."
"He stole our chains!" A seriously heated colouring of cheeks followed the exclamation, as Willow realised what she'd just said. "I… I mean…" She blushed until she was almost purple at the devilish look on Anya's face.
"Oh I am so getting the `chain' details later. But first you have to tell me the rest."
"Willow, I can't help you until you finish the story. From what you've told me so far everything was peaches and cream. You were engaged; you were going to run off to live in England together. But we both know that's not how it ends. Cummon. R and J me."
"R and J you?"
"Romeo and Juliet. Give me the sad ending. Why is he in England, and why are you giving me all the details instead of contacting him to give him the happy news?"
"Happy news indeed. Believe me this is the last thing he wants to hear."
"I doubt that's true. You have to tell me Willow, I can't help you if I don't know why he left. You only have to tell me this once, and then you don't have to go through it again. If you don't tell me now then you'll only keep replaying it until you do." Anya felt suddenly heartless as she looked up and took in the tear stained face of her friend. The memory was obviously still fresh and oh-so painful. Unless Willow was a lot stronger than she looked, Anya knew she'd be dealing with an almost broken girl by the end of the afternoon. But she also knew that although it would be hard, recounting the details would make it so much easier for Willow to deal with once she wasn't keeping it to her self anymore.
Leaning across the table, the shopkeeper offered the only support she could and took the witch's (ex-witch's) hand.
"I'm here for you Willow, you know that. That's why you came to me." The nodding head was barely perceptible, but Anya knew it showed Willow had made up her mind and was about to recall what she'd been trying to forget.
"Hello, Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless."
"We're Angel Investigations, a private in-"
"Yes I know where I'm phoning, I just want to know who you are."
"Oh, okay, I'm Fred. And you are..."
"That's the one."
"Did you want to talk to Angel? Cos he's-"
"I want to talk to Wesley."
"Oh, okay. I think he's in, let me just check." Buffy heard the line become muffled as the silencer button was pressed- although she'd never understood why it was called a silencer when the other person could still her- just not as well... especially when people yelled that loud.
"Fred!" Buffy smiled at the annoyed male voice.
"Sorry. Is he coming?"
"Buffy's on the phone for you."
"The dead one."
"Yes, thank you Fred. Hello? Buffy?"
"Hi. How long were you a member of the council?"
"Better part of fifteen years. Father signed my life away."
"Good. Well not good, but... I need to know their line on relationships."
"On relation- I don't understand Buffy."
"That makes two of us. Look... say a watcher asked someone to marry them, would-"
"Watchers don't marry anyone, they have partners hand picked for them. Mind is matched with strength, logic with creation. The Council is constantly trying to create a superior race. Everyone is monitored, then matched up."
"But what if they fell in love?"
"The- subject- of the watcher's affections would come under intense scrutiny. But more often than not they will be found unworthy. Either the watcher is relocated, or..."
"Buffy, why are we-"
"I need to know the 'or' Wesley."
"There have been cases where one or even both parties have been..."
"Eliminated." A cold chill ran down Buffy's spine.
"Killed you mean."
"Are you in trouble. Do you need help?"
"Wes, Giles once told me that when discussing council matters, 99% of the time they're listening."
"More like 99.9"
"Us two need to talk. Somewhere The Council can't hear us."
"I'll be in Sunnydale by noon."
"Bye." She hung up. Not sure how she was going to pull this off. But she'd manage. For Willow she'd manage.
EARLY SEASON 6 (AFTER FLOODED)
She'd threatened him. It hadn't quite sunk in yet, but... he'd called her stupid, and then... the others were too close. She'd wanted to shout at him, scream that she didn't understand. She'd brought Buffy back; she'd battled Osiris and won. And he'd...
It wasn't even the words he'd said. It was how he'd said them. She knew he didn't like her using powerful magicks, knew he worried about her. But he'd meant his words to sting, tried to hurt her. He'd never done that before. Normally it was her that accused, that got violent, that aimed to wound with words, while he soothed, sympathised, evened out the world's wrongs. He was perfect and the one time it should have been her turn to be the carer, she'd thrown it back at him. Threatened him.
Since then she'd been wandering the Sunnydale streets. It wasn't safe, it wasn't smart, but it was a darn sight better than the Summers' house. Buffy and Dawn had bonding to do. She'd get in the way.
She wasn't surprised when she looked up to see she was in front of his apartment. He was either going to be here or The Magic Box, but she was betting for here: there was more booze.
Pulling the chain around her neck out from under her coat, she kissed the ring on it lightly before pushing it aside, taking the key that laid along side it and easing it into the lock to open the door.
"Rupert?" The open bottle of scotch sat forlornly on the counter. Pouring herself a shot, she sat on the sofa, scanning the shelves, throwing back the drink she tried to put her finger on what was different. The whole room looked more... organised somehow.
She heard a noise upstairs and moved to investigate.
"Rupert?" His back was to her, but she could tell by the tension in his muscles, the slight shake in his upper arms that he'd been crying.
"What are you doing here?" Her attention was drawn to his resumed activities. He was putting clothes into a box.
"I wanted to apologise."
"For what you did?"
"For what I said."
"If you can't see that what you did-"
"I can't be sorry for that."
"Then this is."
"It's not a waste of time." He sighed deeply, before moving to a bookshelf and selecting his favourite volumes. She took in the sight around her; boxes, empty shelves, packing tape.
"Giles, are you-"
"You promised me you'd never mess with these kinds of magics, that you'd always run things by me first."
"You promised you'd always be here for me." His shoulders squared before he started to reply.
"I was away for-"
"But you're not going to be, are you? You're leaving."
"Look at me damn it!" She waited until he turned to face her, "You're going back to England, aren't you? Is this because of what I did?"
"No. Will, Love, there're some things come up that I have to be over there for."
"You know I love you right?"
"Don't you dare change the subject."
"Don't make me do this love."
"No. If you're going to leave me I want to know why." Tears ran down her face: the combination of the argument earlier and now this, too much. What had happened in England to make him want to leave her? Until tonight everything had been great. The summer, although sad, had wrapped things up nicely. He'd asked her again to marry him: this time in the immediate future, before Christmas. He said he'd come up with a way round The Council, and had gone to London to talk to them and find a place to live, including a job for him and school for her. Finally everything was coming together and now he was packing his house up to move it away. Away from her.
"Something came up in London when I was there."
"What kind of something?"
"The kind of something that means I have to go live there."
"But we were going to live there anyway. Give me a couple of weeks to wrap things up here, and then we can go."
"You cannot come with me Willow."
"No. I have to go alone."
"So you're really leaving me?" The words stung him- but he was. He didn't know what to say to her
"What about this?" She held up the ring he'd given her two years ago.
"We can't get married Willow."
"We just can't."
"Why not?" She was almost screaming at him now. She didn't care, but she was aware she was.
"I already have a wife."
She stared at him, feeling his words penetrate her, sink through her skin to burn her heart. She'd been ready to deny whatever he said, any excuse. But this...
"I'm married." She focussed on the hard look in his eyes. The look she'd had to work so hard to penetrate all that time ago. He hid everything behind those eyes. Behind Blue Eyes. Inanely she thought of when they'd walked in on him singing at The Espresso Pump a year and a half ago. She loved his voice, and to hear him performing while the other women in the room drooled... never had she found it harder to keep their relationship silent than in that moment. His eyes weren't even blue. And what he'd just sealed behind them broke her heart... or it broke that she wasn't behind them with him. No emotion passed onto his face and suddenly she realised what was going on. He was protecting her. Something big was going to happen and he didn't want her to be a part of it. He'd done it before; it was annoying and sexist, but at the same time it thrilled her in a purely feminine way. True he'd never gone quite to this extreme before, but that he'd try that hard to protect her... he could have chosen a better way, but it was kind of sweet.
The pain in her face hurt more than anything he'd ever felt... that he'd caused such pain only added to it. Shutting himself off, he almost looked away, unable to take what he deserved. He watched her eyes as her head raced. The pain was replaced by a pleading and then a resolve. Momentarily they clouded in memory, before the pain was there again. Suddenly they shone in a kind of realisation and then a feminist's love. He'd seen the look before: when he tried to shield her from something, and he knew what she'd convinced herself. Knew that he'd have to break her heart twice in a matter of minutes.
"When have I ever lied to you?"
"When you think I'll get hurt."
"I'm telling you the truth. I'm packing. I'm leaving to return to my wife." She searched his face desperately for something- anything that would tell her why he was doing this. For a fraction of a second his eyes shone and she was struck by the realisation that he was telling the truth
"No." She tried to forget what she'd just seen, to tell herself it wasn't true. "No."
"How long?" She had to know. Had to know how long he'd been lying to her.
"Fifteen- you bastard."
"I didn't know." The idiocy of the words struck him as he watched her eyes glow.
"You didn't know you were married?"
"No- I knew. I just-"
"You just what? Conveniently forgot so you could go through your mid-life crisis with someone half your age?" The fact that she'd brought up the age thing showed him how much he'd hurt her- how much she was trying to hurt back.
"They told me she was dead."
"Seven years ago."
"And then they shipped you over here, right?" Don't tell me- only watchers who are out of the program can train a slayer." He nodded, confirming her suspicions. "And now that you've told them you want out of their little farming business, she's suddenly reappeared." What she was implying angered him in a strange way... that he'd let himself be played like that... that she thought The Council could manipulate him that easily... but he knew she was right.
"I'm so sorry."
"What's her name?" Confusion entered his brain.
"Her name. What's her name?"
"Pretty." He had no idea how to react. She was usually so passionate, so emotionally charged, that he didn't quite know what to do with the vagueness that had entered her voice.
"If you say so. Will-"
"Tell me you don't love me."
"Tell me you love her."
"I feel noth-"
"I have to Willow."
"She's my wife. It's a manufactured marriage with no soul, yes, but it still means something."
"More than what we have?" He turned back to his boxes before answering.
"We can't have anything."
"No, I don't accept that. Because we do."
"You have to accept that." Picking up a box he began to descend the stairs. She followed him and watched as he retrieved his jacket from a chair-back.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm leaving." He looked at her, conveying the finality of the second meaning of his words.
"I love you."
"It doesn't matter." Inside she screamed, outside she sobbed and somewhere in the middle burned with hatred. He lifted his hand and the three combined.
"Remove that ring and not only do you never see me again, the past three years never happened."
Long and hard they looked at each other; pleading, begging, burning, loving, hating. Saying goodbye. Finally he turned and walked from his own apartment, and she broke down on the chair behind her, crying the tears of a heartbroken woman and never once removing her eyes from the ring left on the table in front of her.
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