Title : Tabula Rasa
Author : Miss_Ladywriter
Rating : 12 I guess, although please correct me if otherwise
Summary : Giles and Willow are left alone when they lose their memories. What on earth could possibly happen…?!
Disclaimer : Story's mine. All characters belong to Joss Whedon, ME, Fox, UPN, and WB.
Distribution : Anyone who wants it! Just please let me know :o)
Spoilers : Up to Tabula Rasa (Season 6)
Author's notes : I love Tara, possibly more than Willow does but in a much less gay way. Giles is, of course, where the yummy goodness lies. I do feel bad that Tara loses Willow but on the bright side at least she won't end series 6 in quite the same way if she goes on a lovely holiday to Africa or somewhere. Up to this point, everything is as Joss intended, but obviously, we can't actually let Giles leave!
Thank you very much to Shannon for checking this over before posting, sorry I couldn't bring myself to change the British spellings and language idiosyncrasies ;o)
"So you were going to leave, but now you're not?"
Spike's voice, laden with criticism, echoed through the room. Seven pairs of eyes turned to him with contempt. "Shut up Spike," Xander offered.
Buffy moved forward to Giles, looking up at him with gratitude. "I promise I will change for you."
"I will try to help you, but I'm not going to live your life for you, Buffy." He smiled down at her, already feeling the weight of the previous weeks lifting. "I'm not sure I would be able to carry off some of your outfits for one thing."
"Just some of them?" Xander was grinning too, suddenly aware of his own relief and how much he would miss Giles if he were to leave again. Anya tugged on his wrist insistently. "Now Giles has told us what he was going to tell us isn't real anymore and everything is back to normal and there was really no point to this meeting, can we go and make the most of our day off, please Xander?"
Xander blushed, but was already halfway towards the door. "I am really glad you're staying, Giles. We'll see you tomorrow!"
The remaining occupants of the Magic Box exchanged amused looks. Giles flipped open a magic book absently next to him, eyes only on Buffy. Tara watched with dismay as Willow turned her head towards him and the book with instinctive interest. Dawn flicked through the jewellery in a case, whilst Buffy strode in the direction of Spike, ready to eject him from the shop, however much he protested needing sanctuary.
In less than ten seconds, as Xander and Anya closed the door behind them, all eight slumped to the ground in enforced unconsciousness. Willow's bag of brambles had burned; the spell had been cast, their minds erased.
It was dark when they awoke. Buffy was first, her eyes gradually focusing as she struggled to ascertain where she was. A blond with a terrible outfit sprawled across the counter beside her, a small brunette cuddled up to an older girl in a corner, and a couple were collapsed over a book on a table, their heads close enough to contrast curled red hair and tousled brown.
"Wha-?" Buffy caught sight of a light switch and immediately flicked the room into brightness. The redhead and the older man stirred and murmured sleepily in each other's arms, before sitting up in shock and staring at each other. The blond toppled sharply off the glass ledge on which he lay and emitted a piercing shriek. The youngest girl squeaked awake, to which the older one gave an automatic hug of reassurance.
"Who are you people?" Buffy demanded.
The dark-haired man rose to his full height. Now Buffy had a chance to look at him properly, she could see that he was quite a bit older than the rest of them, with glasses and an assured air. The redhead sprang away from him. "Who are you?"
In the corner, the bigger girl was trying to calm the teenager. "It's all right, I don't know anyone here, either."
The blond stood up behind the counter. "Well, I'm not telling you who I am until you tell me who you are!"
Buffy halted. Her brain frantically searched for an answer but to no avail. With some effort, she managed, "I don't think I know."
The shop went quiet, as they each tried to recall who they were. After a few seconds of deliberation, the older man took over with a natural ease. "Right. Can anyone remember who they are?"
Blank looks greeted his question. He raised his eyebrows. "Well, it looks as if we may be in some trouble."
A panicked slamming of the shop door interrupted anything else he may have had to say. A young couple stood facing them all, with fear showing clearly on their faces. "We need help! We've got amnesia and there are some horrible creatures outside!"
All eyes instantly turned to the adopted leader. He took a deep breath and glanced around him for inspiration. Suddenly he exclaimed with some triumph. "Magic!"
The blond gave him a cynical look. "Sorry?"
"We are in a magic shop. I'm willing to bet that this is the doing of some magic, possibly by one of us. We must all know each other, maybe the creatures outside were summoned by us?"
Giles couldn't help but be impressed with his quick thinking and by the look of it, the redhead in front of him was too. He gave her a confident smile and her eyes widened in response.
"You two were all over a magic book when you woke up together." Spike's voice was accusing.
"We can't start making judgements about each other, we need to find out who we are."
The older girl on the floor spoke calmly but shyly, and was pleased when Buffy nodded enthusiastically. "That's right! Cards, jacket name-tags, check everything you can for a name!"
There were a few moments of quiet as each person hurriedly checked their clothes, desperate to secure themselves an identity.
"Alexander Harris." The newcomer pronounced. "And this is Anya. We were holding hands when we woke up so we figure we're together."
"I'm Tara Maclay. Can I help you with yours, sweetheart?"
"Dawn. No surname, just Dawn."
"Rupert Giles. I can apparently drive, although my licence photo is awful."
"I'm Willow Rosenberg." At last, the girl beside Giles spoke, her voice quiet. "I'm a student at SU."
He looked down at her, matching the face to the new name. "Hello Miss Rosenberg."
A small blush graced her cheeks unwillingly. "Hello Mr Giles."
The outraged blond ripped off his jacket and threw it to the floor petulantly. "I'm a Randy!?"
Buffy would have laughed had she felt anything other than sorrow. "At least you have a name."
Spike immediately stopped his vitriol and turned to her with some sympathy. "You have a name, pet. You just don't know it at the moment. Choose one yourself and we'll all call you it?"
She managed a small smile at him. "How about Joan?"
He returned the grin, unable to identify what made him so want to please her. "Sounds great, Joan."
"I think we should all go to a hospital. They deal with people who have lost their memories, don't they?" It was Anya speaking.
"But what about - ?"
Xander's words of warning were too late as Spike started to open the door. Two vampires from a large group on the street suddenly advanced into the shop, grabbing the opportunity of the open door.
With instincts born of years of slayer training, Buffy had pinned one up against the wall. Driving a stake quickly through his unbeating heart, she suddenly caught up with what she was doing and dropped the wood as if it were a flaming match.
"What was THAT?"
Spike grabbed the other demon and threw him out of the door before turning back to Buffy. "I think we have some business to attend to, Joan."
Giles stepped forward. "It appears that Joan and Randy are capable of great fighting. As we have some… creatures after us, I suggest that Anya, Xander, Dawn and Tara go to try and find a hospital whilst Joan and Randy distract the demons."
Anya and Dawn nodded earnestly at this suggestion, but Xander looked suspicious. "And you are going to do what exactly, whilst we are running around town?"
Willow hesitantly looked up at the tall Englishman. "We are going to try to find the spell that was done and make it stop."
He looked back at her, a small smile playing about his lips. "We certainly are."
Willow leafed half-heartedly through a thick tome, aware of Giles' eyes upon her. He had been watching her steadily where she was sitting since the departure of the others and it was beginning to make her cheeks warm. She cleared her throat nervously, preparing to speak, but he beat her to it.
"Aren't you wondering, Willow?"
She halted her movements entirely, before slowly bringing her head up to meet his scrutiny across the table. A quirky amusement lingered in his dark green eyes, which did not cease their unwavering study of her.
"Aren't you wondering what we are to each other? I mean, Randy was right when he said we were all over each other and that book earlier. We must be pretty close in real life. Aren't you even the slightest bit curious as to how close?"
Willow flushed even more. This guy was cute but very intense. She returned her gaze hurriedly to the pages before her. "No I wasn't actually. I was too busy trying to work out exactly how to get to real life again by finding the spell that was done and reversing it."
"But it was us, wasn't it? It had to be, all over the spell book like that. The others didn't look particularly magical!"
Willow shrugged exasperatedly. "I don't know! I guess so, but that's not the issue here, Mr Giles – "
Her deliberately formal use of his name was met with only an ironic smile. "I bet that's not what you call me usually. Call me Rupert, sweetheart."
She looked straight at him, conceding to a small smile. "Rupert."
He gave her a dazzling grin, stretching back in his chair luxuriously. "Mmm, that sounds nice."
Willow mentally shook herself before her gaze could travel too far down his body. "Well, how about I call you it again when we find out exactly what has happened and how to fix it?"
Rupert Giles ruffled his hand through his hair and chuckled. "Fair enough, Miss Rosenberg. I, for one, am perfectly happy to spend my afternoon flicking through magic books with a beautiful girl opposite… but if you are so insistent that everything return to normal, then I will, of course, oblige."
Beautiful… he said beautiful! Willow couldn't help the thrill that shivered her. She could feel traces of very strong feelings for this man lurking beyond the surface of this strange reality and wondered whether he felt the same. She had been so very comfortable in his arms when they awoke, as if it were where she belonged but she was certain that in real life, things were not so straightforward. She wished she knew for sure.
The man was staring at her again. "What are you thinking, sweetheart?"
"Willow, I'm Willow." She was trying to remind herself more than him. "Nothing. No, really, nothing important."
He was smiling again, laughter lines crinkling beside the rich jade eyes. "Bet you're not usually this nervous around me, Willow. You should relax a little, this is probably just a temporary break from reality, we'll be back there soon enough, you look like a smart enough girl and one of us is responsible so one of us can fix it. The others can take care of themselves, all we have to worry about is each other… and exactly what we'd like to happen here."
"Wh-what do you mean, happen?" The words were out before she could censor them. Mentally kicking herself, she composed her features and attempted a cold, business-like tone. "I mean, we have a job to do, Mr Giles. I don't think we should let any form of attraction between us jeopardise the lives of those people we were with…"
Her words tailed off as the tall ex-watcher stood before her. There were still traces of humour in his face but his eyes held a more intense expression as he moved around the table to touch her bare arms. "You admit that you're attracted to me then."
It was a statement rather than any form of question. His hands were light on her skin but the effect was as fire. Almost hypnotised by the powerful gaze, Willow allowed him to raise her to stand beside him.
"So… beautiful…" He murmured, as his fingers skipped over her arms to rest in her hair. She was sure he could hear her heart as it pounded through uneven beats but he made no other movements. Lifting her head up bravely, she bit her lip. "You're attracted to me?"
Rupert answered her question with a gentle smile before slowly placing a brief, delicate kiss on her forehead. "A man would have to be insane or deprived of his senses to be able to resist you, Miss Rosenberg. And in reality, I doubt I am either. You draw me towards you and I must have you. I'm not sure what the protocol is in this existence but I feel I should ask if I may kiss you now."
Still the confidence in his voice made no question of his intentions. Willow managed a mute nod, before feeling her legs melt under the passion for his touch.
The second kiss was neither as chaste as his first offering, nor as gentle as his hands had been. The redhead was astonished to find herself responding as furiously as he, as they both gave in to the surging electricity between them.
"Fuck…" She heard him mutter when they wrenched apart for breath. "You must be a hell of a powerful witch, Rosenberg…"
Confidence and strength poured through her body, urging her to take his mouth again with her own. The liberation of desire was making them both frantic and she realised with shock that this supreme release could in no way be reflective of reality. Between heated kisses and bites, she whispered frantically, "this is not what reality is like, Rupert. It's what it should be, but it can't be. We could be sent back any minute and I need to have you while I can."
The ex-watcher's response was a deep, hard kiss, which pushed her back onto the table. As she gripped the wooden edge, her eyes locked into his. The fervour barely wavered as he removed his shirt, revealing a well-defined chest and muscular arms. "That… should not be a problem, my little Willow."
Giles lowered his head and crushed her body to his. Stumbling from the fury of his actions, the pocket of Willow's black blouse cracked against the tabletop and spilt the contents. Seconds later, as the wicca raised her hands to run through her lover's hair and accepted his fingers slipping down inside her jeans, her feet moved to keep balance.
The crystal was decimated under her heeled boot. The spell was broken.
Later, Giles would run the scene through in his mind endlessly and wonder when exactly their memories had returned. He had been the first one to freeze, one hand guiltily placed beneath Willow's trousers and his mouth grazing her neck. Willow's own moans of delight had turned swiftly to an exclamation of shock at their predicament and they had stayed temporarily immobilised whilst trying to reconcile their present actions with the sudden rush of self-awareness.
Neither had looked at the other. In mutually agreed silence, Willow's hands flew back to her sides and Giles eased himself free from her body. They had stood, a metre apart, Giles buttoning his newly located shirt desperately, waiting for some redemption from the awkwardness.
"Uhh…" Willow had offered hopelessly, her cheeks scorched a deep crimson.
Giles had nodded, still unable to bring himself to speak.
Then, as the pair stood, eyes firmly on the floor, Buffy exploded through the door with Spike at her heels.
"Willow – Giles! You're ok! How did you fix it? You must have been working so hard, well done! Spike – are you still here?"
"Well, fine, I give up my own time chasing demons for a Slayer, bring her back safely to her den and what thanks do I get?!"
The only response to this was an unsympathetic look from Buffy as Spike left. Willow became aware of her own hands brushing down her jeans before she heard Giles making some efforts to speak.
"I- I- I have a t-terrible headache… possible side… side-effect I imagine… I have to… um… go."
There was no attempt at communication between the watcher and the witch, but Buffy politely saw Giles to the door.
The last thing Willow heard him say was directed at her. "I- I'm… so sorry, Willow."
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Willow had been responsible. Xander, Anya and Dawn solemnly brought Tara back to the shop with them and one look at the redhead confirmed their suspicions.
"I'm sorry." The quiet phrase echoed into the still shop. Nobody responded, as they all considered the danger they had been put in and the horrors some of their returning memories contained.
Xander was the first to speak as he took Anya by the hand. "Think we should probably go home, guys. We'll call in tomorrow, but I don't want to get in the way if stuff needs sorting. Give me a call if you need me."
The last statement was skilfully directed at all the girls in the room. Buffy flashed him a grateful look, whilst Tara, Willow and Dawn maintained their concentration on the floor.
Buffy reached over to touch her sister as soon as the shop door clinked closed. "Dawnie… We need to talk."
For the first time, Tara and Willow made eye contact. They both knew there was nothing left to talk about.
Three hours later, Tara had collected all her belongings into a series of cardboard boxes and left Revello Drive. Willow lay awake, listening to Dawn's crying and Buffy's soothing. She was not surprised that nobody came to comfort her, she would not have known what to say if someone had.
Yes, she was heartbroken over Tara's departure; she could feel that ache clawing at her body. Yet the grief was being tempered by the feelings of pure bewilderment at the events which had preceded it.
"I… kissed… Giles." Whispering it aloud made it no less surreal. One of her pale hands brushed her face, remembering his lips touching it at first reverently, then passionately.
Not just any boy's lips, that would have been odd enough. It had to be Giles, her mentor, Buffy's watcher… their trusted friend. Yes, of course, she had had a crush on him in school, but that had passed. She'd fallen in love with Oz, he'd had Jenny, they had moved past her childish infatuation without his ever knowing.
"But the spell was only designed to alter memories." Another hoarse murmur. She had never heard of Tabula Rasa creating feelings where there were none.
This was getting far too complicated. A yawn escaped her mouth as she closed her eyes momentarily. Last images of Tara wiping away tears mingled with the feel of Giles' hands slipping comfortably over her body. The spell lingered in her mind, as she desperately sought to mentally clarify whether it could have possibly been responsible for making Giles become somehow attracted to her.
As sleep began to wind itself around her, she struggled to remember Giles' words. "A man would have to be insane or deprived of his senses to be able to resist you… you draw me towards you… I must have you."
It must have been the spell. She smiled despite herself. That and too many Mills & Boon romances. It was just what she wanted to hear.
Giles himself had a restless night's sleep. He had drawn the same conclusion as Willow, that the other's perceived attraction was no more than the effects of the spell, but he had a harder job ridding himself of the memories of their interaction.
She had moaned his name, seconds before they were brought back to reality. He could still hear her breathing, almost taste her neck, nearly feel the fabric of her blouse, on top of her equally silky skin. This was very wrong; the thought of her leaning back, accepting his hands within her jeans was arousing him beyond belief. It had been so warm, so wet, he whimpered softly in his bed, imploring himself to have better self-control than to keep remembering.
It seemed crazy to think that he didn't know he was attracted to her, but it was the truth as best he knew. He was not blind, he had seen the admiring looks that both Willow and Buffy received when they were out, he knew their beauty, but he had prided himself on never once having cherished any fantasies about any of his young charges. Until now.
What had she said? "This is what reality should be, but it can't be. I need to have you while I can…"
A wry smile crossed Rupert Giles' face at the unlikeliness of the wiccan lesbian ever saying that to him. He had not heard of a memory charm affecting feelings before, but perhaps her confusion over her and Tara's relationship had influenced the incantation in some way. He would need to talk to her, reassure her that he didn't imagine that what happened signified any change in their relationship, that he knew she could never be attracted to him.
The happy bubble in his stomach fizzled out slightly at this thought. He recognised the feeling from his youth, from Jenny, with more than a little alarm.
"Please, God, no," he muttered. "It would be so… inconvenient…"
As depression seized him with the thought that he would never again be able to touch Willow in the only way that he wanted, Giles slumped back into his pillows. A moan of despair was all he could manage at the realisation that he had fallen in love. With Willow bloody Rosenberg.
The sunlight broke through Buffy's curtains, gently warming the two sisters who lay cuddled up together. Dawn was the first to wake, with the aching head of one who had fallen asleep crying.
"Hey Buffy," she murmured. Last night had been a welcome catalyst for both of them to be honest with each other. Dawn had admitted her stealing problem, Buffy had confronted her reality. They had both grieved for Tara and Willow's relationship.
"Hey Dawnie." Buffy yawned in return. Her heart felt lighter than it had for a long time. "How you doing this morning?"
"I wish Tara was still here, but all right."
The blonde ruffled her sister's hair affectionately, before pulling herself out of bed. "I'm sure you'll see her soon, we have to make sure we look after Willow too, y'know."
"Why should we bother?"
A noise at the door made them both look up. Willow stood uncertainly before them.
Giving Dawn a stern look, Buffy moved quickly to her best friend's side. "Are you okay?"
Willow shook her head. "Dawn, I'm sorry. Buffy, I'm so… so… sorry – for everything!"
"Come here… Dawn, coffee. Willow, sit down."
As both girls followed orders, Buffy felt her blood pumping through her body with relief rather than distaste. At last, Buffy was back.
Anya had been so absorbed in Xander that she had dismissed Willow's apology almost straight away. Xander re-iterated Buffy's demands of her seeking help, but she could already offer the reassurance of having made an appointment with a magick addiction counsellor and the matter was dropped with a hug and the promise of a night out.
Dawn was less forgiving, but Willow could understand that. Trust needed to be built again, with both her and her sister, but there was at least the chance of a future relationship with them.
The person Willow dreaded seeing the most had been left until last. She stood alone, outside his front door, feeling her heart pound and her cheeks flame with the very memory of how they had last seen each other. It was not something she could have discussed with Buffy, not least because of Buffy's predicted response. This was something she had to deal with by herself. Worse, this was something she had to deal with, with Giles.
The door opened painfully slowly, revealing the man himself. He was looking particularly tall, particularly handsome, as the evening sunlight caught his eyes. It didn't help. Willow cleared her throat bravely.
"Giles. May I come in, please?"
They sat, on adjacent sofas with tea neatly poured into two cups before them. Despite Willow forcing the confrontation, he was the first to speak. He had had time to give this a lot of thought and knew what he wanted to say.
"I was going to call you."
Willow felt her lips curve in amusement. "Bet you say that to all the girls."
Giles smiled bashfully in return. "You know what I mean. This doesn't have to be awkward, Willow."
The way he enunciated her name, in a heartbeat reminded her of the dramatic change from his gentle, affectionate manner to stormy passion. It seemed beyond belief, she flicked a glance at his slightly bowed head and tried to imagine it happening. Unfortunately, she could recall it all too well and a flush once again lit her face.
"I mean it, neither of us should be embarrassed about what happened." He could not see her blush, obviously.
"How can you be so calm about it?" The question was nearly too quiet to hear.
"Because it won't do either of us any good to get upset about it. It happened, we have to deal with it, it will pass."
He was still not looking at her face and missed the shade of disappointment that was hidden almost instantly.
"It was the spell, wasn't it. Made it happen. I was trying to work it out last night, trying to work out how to apologise to you. I am sorry, Giles."
Giles stared out of the window for a few minutes before replying. There were streaks of pink and blue as the golden sun set fire to the sky. He desperately concentrated, tried to clear his mind of how happy he had been with her, how much he wanted her. It was only the spell that had made her return his feelings; she had acknowledged that too. His duty now was to reassure her that she had done nothing wrong.
"I hope you can see how dangerous the most innocuous of charms can be." A lecture, he was on safe ground with a lecture. As long as he avoided looking at her.
"I do. I'm getting help for it, I promise. I didn't realise that the memory spell could change people's feelings, I'm really sorry for putting you through it."
"I'm glad you're seeking help, Willow. I imagine that the strains of your relationship slipped into the spell in some way, probably caused displacement of affection."
Willow nodded sadly. "It wasn't supposed to cause all this trouble. I didn't mean to involve you. I feel like I've used you. I'm truly sorry."
He wished he could bury these feelings so deep that they would never resurface. What would he have done before, with one of his friends sitting so miserably on his sofa? Tentatively he moved towards her and knelt down. Not trusting himself to look into her eyes, he reached for her hands instead.
"Do you need me to forgive you? Is that it? Because I already have, Willow. I forgive you for thinking you could solve everything with a stupid spell. I forgive you for being confused about love and I forgive you for enchanting yourself to feel something for me, for someone who should have protected you." His voice, which had started so calmly, began to break under the pressure, until it was nothing more than a whisper. "And all I can hope is that you forgive me, Willow, because I took advantage of you, and I was weak. I didn't think it was a problem, but I realise now that I've broken your trust and compromised your honour."
There was a silence in the room, broken only by a long, deep sigh from Giles, as he humbly dropped his head to rest on her skirt.
She was confused. Looking down at the brown tousled head in her lap, her brain worked infuriatingly slowly to figure out what he had meant.
"But the spell affected your feelings. It just made you say things that I wanted to hear. I was fine, you were the one all macho and romantic."
Giles grimaced into the velvet. "Thanks Willow. I was actually just being myself, without memories, without issues. Once upon a time I did use to have some confidence and I could talk to women fairly easily."
"You were making a move on me for real!?" This information was far too much for her to handle without seeing his expression. A sharp jerk to his shoulders brought him face to face with her.
Gradual realisation of what she had admitted occurred to the watcher and his eyes grew wide with disbelief. "You heard what you wanted to hear?"
Willow swallowed. " You were genuinely attracted to me ?"
A hint of a smile lit the green eyes opposite. "I know I'm old but I hope I'm neither senile or afflicted. I am sane and I have all my senses fully intact. Does that help to answer your question?"
Another momentary silence failed to calm the witch's racing heart.
"Do you want me to be attracted to you?"
He was unaware that he was holding his breath until she nodded shyly. Exhaling deeply, he let his head drop once more onto the sofa, this time with pure relief. Willow stifled a giggle. "You were very cocky."
Giles chuckled, turning his head to meet her gaze mischievously. "You were very naughty."
Willow ducked her head with embarrassment and laughter. "I suppose, at least you asked permission to kiss me."
"At least I wore some underwear…" The watcher murmured dryly, green eyes still dancing.
The witch blushed slightly but flickered her eyelashes playfully down at him. "You think I am now?"
"Do I have permission to find out?"
Willow couldn't help a smile at this new, relaxed, teasing Giles. There was suddenly no awkwardness as she slipped her fingers into his hair and slithered down from the sofa to join him. They sat quietly on the floor together before he slowly raised his hands to frame her face. At his touch, she felt her body begin to melt and burn at once. As he moved in to kiss her, she could manage only a whisper of reply.
"Permission more than granted, Rupert."
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