Summary: Giles makes a deal to save Buffy's life, but is the price too high?
Disclaimer: Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and its characters and content belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, and 20th Century Fox Television (did I leave anyone out?).
To see the artwork mentioned in this story, please follow these links.
Rodan's The Kiss
"Anything?" Willow asked hopefully.
Giles sighed and shook his head. They'd been researching for hours. The rest of the gang had begged off earlier, leaving Willow and Giles, as usual, to finish the job.
"Maybe we should take a break," Willow suggested.
Giles removed his glasses and pinched his nose. "I suppose we might as well." He replaced his glasses. "More tea?"
"Sure," Willow said with a yawn.
Giles took her mug and walked into the kitchen. Willow followed close behind, but stayed on the other side of the counter. As she watched him prepare the tea, her mind drifted, as it had been doing all day. Her thoughts falling to last night. She smiled at the memory.
Giles turned and watched her fondly for a moment. She looked so far away. He loved the gentle smile in her eyes and the way it melted to her lips.
Willow felt his gaze and came back to the present. She smiled sheepishly as he gave her a questioning look.
"Just thinking about last night," she said tentatively. "It was--" she paused searching for the right word. She sighed a little wistfully and pushed down the things she wanted to say. "-- nice."
Giles smiled at her, wondering what she wasn't saying. "That it was. And thank you."
"Why are you thanking me? If I remember properly, you paid for dinner."
"A charming companion is worth far more than any meal."
His eyes met hers and for an instant, all too brief and gone before it could take hold, something passed between them. It was just a moment, but it held a depth of feeling and a tentative sense of future.
Willow blushed and smiled shyly before ducking her head.
Giles looked at her tenderly before coming back to himself. The abrupt shift from the possible future to the all-too real present left him slightly off-balance. He frowned down into the steeping tea, wondering what, if anything, had just happened.
Willow clasped her hands nervously. She tried to relax, to stop her blood from rushing, her pulse from racing. And from what? A glance, a few kind words. All that and so much more. She gathered her courage and looked up. She saw Giles frowning into the tea and her heart caught.
"M-maybe we can watch some TV?" she said nervously, trying to bring them back to comfortable turf.
"Hmmm?" Giles muttered as he regarded her. "Oh. Of course." He smiled at her. "I won't tell if you won't."
Willow giggled. "Deal. Where's the remote?"
"The channel changer thingy?"
"Oh. I'm afraid it's a dial," he answered a bit embarrassed pointing to the small set.
"A dial? Wow!" Willow said as she retrieved it. "It's like an antique. Cool."
Giles chuckled. "It's not quite that old."
"Can I put it in here?" Willow called from the living room.
"If you'd like," he answered returning with the tea.
He set the cups down on the coffee table and took a seat on the sofa, while Willow fiddled.
"Oh, Gigi!" she squealed. "I love this one. Can we watch it for a while?"
Giles chuckled at her enthusiasm. "That's what breaks are for."
"Have you seen it?" she said as she snuggled onto the couch.
"No, I'm afraid I haven't."
"Oh! It's great. Okay, here's the deal. Gigi, she's this girl living in Paris, and she's in love with her uncle."
Giles eyebrows knitted in surprise.
"Oh, not her real uncle, just a kind-of uncle."
"A kind-of uncle," Giles echoed with a nod, as he hid his smile behind his cup.
"Right! So, she's growing up, turning into a beautiful woman. And Maurice Chevalier sings, and it's just great."
"Okay," Giles said in obvious confusion.
Willow giggled again. "See to Gaston, that's the man she's in love with, she's just a child. But she's not, not any more. And then one day, he sees her for the beautiful woman she is and falls in love and ---" Willow sighed dreamily until she heard the soft strains of the soliloquy coming from the set. "Oh, this is it! This is where he falls in love."
She curled her legs up underneath her and held her warm mug in both hands. As Louis Jordan sang, she closed her eyes and let the words wash over her.
Giles listened to the song a frown creasing his brow. He tried not to fidget in his seat, but he felt increasingly uncomfortable and wasn't quite sure why. He felt a wave of relief when the number finally ended. He glanced over at Willow, her eyes were still closed.
There was no response. He watched her for a moment, enjoying the soft smile that played upon her lips. He recognized the look and the deep, even breaths. He smiled fondly as he carefully stood and retrieved an afghan and gently covered her.
He stood watching her sleep. It was one of the few guilty pleasures he allowed himself. It was purely innocent. He hadn't even realized that he'd done it the first time, and then it became more of a ritual to their late night research sessions. He'd watch her for a few minutes, it always filled him with a sense of peace - the simple beauty of it.
But tonight, as he let himself indulge, it felt strangely different. What had been pure, now seemed somehow indecent. He watched the steady rise and fall of her chest and noticed the soft curves of her breasts. He frowned and looked up to her face, but that was no better. What he had seen before as guileless beauty, now held more. He found himself mentally tracing the contours of her face, imagining the warmth of her skin, the soft touch of her lips.
He swallowed hard as his frown deepened. He shook his head to dispel the images and marched quickly away from her and into the kitchen.
'What on earth am I thinking?' he scolded himself. He was never one to leer at a woman, much less a woman like Willow. A girl like Willow. He shook his head again and let out a long ragged breath.
"Research," he mumbled. He could lose himself in the research and pretend that none of this had ever happened. Sure of that at least, he strode back into the living room and gathered a few books.
He sat down in a chair, resting the books in his lap before beginning. He knew he shouldn't, but he gave into the urge and glanced at Willow again.
She slept peacefully and Giles smiled to himself, but there was still that lingering surge of something, and he looked away.
He sighed and opened one of his books. Before long, he was a Watcher again, his mind only aware of the impending evil, as everything else fell away.
Until the morning came.
Willow rose with the sun. As first light filtered through the curtains, she pushed away the last vestiges of sleep. She felt the warmth of the blanket fall away as she sat up and yawned.
"Good morning," Giles greeted her.
"Mmmm, mornin'," she said sleepily as she stretched, turning to face Giles.
He was surrounded by books, his face rough with stubble, his hair mussed. "Did you sleep at all?" she asked knowing full well the answer.
He grinned a bit sheepishly. "I think I feel asleep during the Grekorian Codex, but then with that book, it's hard to tell."
Willow chuckled and stood. "I'll take over, you get some sleep."
"No, no, I'm all right," he said through a titanic yawn.
"Uh-huh." She crossed to his chair and took the book off his lap.
"Really," he protested half-heartedly.
Willow shook her head and gently took his glasses off his face. "Sleep."
Giles sighed and looked up at her with mock annoyance. "Are you sending me to my room?"
"Yes, now move along, mister," she said with a smirk.
The easy banter was a staple of their long research sessions - both enjoyed it immensely.
"Yes, mother," he yawned again as he slowly stood.
Willow giggled as he swayed slightly. "You need some help?"
Giles snorted and then smiled fondly at her. His eyes softened, and he impulsively reached out and brushed her hair away from her eyes. "I can manage," he said quietly before realizing his gesture was too familiar. He pulled his hand back and smiled shyly. "W-wake me in an hour?"
"O-Okay," Willow managed as he turned away and headed for the stairs. She watched him leave, wondering if she was just groggy or did something kind of, in a not actually-but-almost kind of way, happen?
She sighed and shook her head. 'Don't be silly,' she chided herself.
Dismissing the thoughts, she put the kettle on and got back to the business of research.
The rest of the week passed without incident, the big brewing evil was defeated and all was right with the Hellmouth.
With nothing else to do, the gang once again found themselves lolling around Giles' living room. Willow read the newspaper, while Buffy and Xander argued over improper hotel building on Boardwalk and Park Place. Giles took advantage of the time to catch up with his correspondence.
"That is so not fair," Buffy whined.
"What? Live with it girly-girl. The Xandman is here collect!"
"But you can't do that."
"You have to build evenly. You can't have hotel and house and then just a hotel!" Buffy yelled.
"Who are you, the building commission?"
"Ohhh!" Willow exclaimed.
"What? What? Something good?" Buffy said excitedly.
"The revival house is showing "Camille" tomorrow," Willow said with a sigh.
"Oh. Don't get all bent like that. You got me all excited," Buffy lamented.
"Do you guys want to go?" Willow asked.
"Is it funny?" Xander piped in.
Willow shook her head. "Not exactly."
"Thanks, but I'm sticking with the funny."
"Buffy?" Willow said hopefully.
"Sorry, Wills. I'm seeing Riley tomorrow. But if you want to go Sunday, that'd be cool."
"It's one day only. Oh, well." She folded the paper back up and went into the kitchen.
Giles, who had listened to the exchange, left his letters and joined her in the other room.
"C-Camille, is-is that based on the book by Dumas?" he asked as he rinsed his mug.
Willow brightened. "Yeah. It's not as good as the novel, but Garbo is great, and it's soooo beautiful," she said with a dreamy far-away look.
Giles smiled affectionately. "If you -- that is -- if you wouldn't mind being seen--"
"Do you want to go?" Willow bubbled.
"If you'd like? I've always enjoyed a good romance," he added a bit shyly.
"Great! I - I mean good. That sounds like a plan," Willow said happily. "Uhm, it's showing all day, so maybe a matinee? If that's okay? I mean, if it's not, that's okay too. We can go later, or we don't have to go at all if you don't-"
"A matinee sounds fine," he said with a chuckle.
"Great! There's a showing at two."
"I'll pick you up at the dorm at say one-thirty?"
"Great!" she said again, before feeling silly and childish. "I-I'll see you then," she said quickly moving back into the living room.
'Can I look like a bigger idiot?' she thought to herself. 'It's just a movie, a matinee. It's not like it's a date. Get a grip.'
Giles watched her practically run out of the kitchen. He'd never understand women. He gazed across the counter at the young redhead and smiled. What was it about her that made his heart feel lighter? He shook his head and tried not to think about tomorrow. He tried to ignore the slight tingly feeling of anticipation. What was it about that girl?
"Oh," Willow gasped softly as she covered her mouth with her hand and tried to stifle another sob.
Giles shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Even in the dark theatre, he could see the silvery tears slipping down her cheeks. He knew it was just a movie, and she wasn't really in distress, but the sound of Willow crying disturbed him.
He had to admit that the film was incredibly moving, and had he not been preoccupied with Willow for most of it, he might have shed a tear or two himself. But even as he watched the movie, he found himself watching Willow watch the movie. She was so animated - gasping, sighing and continually crying.
He handed her his handkerchief and couldn't help but chuckle when she blew her nose like a French horn. But her tears kept coming, and he felt an uncontrollable need to comfort her. At first, he awkwardly patted her shoulder, but that didn't seem to have any effect.
After one particularly painful sounding sniffle, Giles put his arm around her shoulders, and she instinctively leaned into his touch. She rested her head gently on his shoulder as her sniffles slowly subsided. She fit well against him, and he smiled down at her, shaking his head at his own folly. He reminded himself that he was just a friend offering a comforting shoulder, nothing more.
He continued to hold her as the credits began their roll, and Willow finally straightened in her seat. He pulled his arm back as she turned to look at him.
She smiled radiantly as she moved forward in her chair and shifted to face him. "Wasn't that beautiful, Giles?" she asked putting her small hand on his knee.
He smiled back nervously, not sure what was causing his discomfort. "Y-yes, it was."
Her smile blossomed even wider. "I'm glad you came."
"Y-- uhm, yes. I--" he stammered as his eyes quickly darted down to where her hand still rested on his leg. "I am, too."
Willow pulled her hand back quickly and shifted nervously in her seat as she fumbled for her purse.
It was a lovely day, and they had decided to leave Giles' car at the dorm and walk to the theater.
As they walked down the street, the tension was nearly palpable. 'Ridiculous really. It's not as though anything happened,' Giles told himself.
Willow walked quickly. Her embarrassment over embarrassing Giles was soooo embarrassing. She tried to rein in her runaway thoughts. 'I'm being silly. We're two friends who went to see a movie. I mean it's not like I attacked him or something.'
"Would you like to get some ice cream or a soda?" Willow asked and then frowned realizing how incredibly stupid that must have sounded. A soda?
"That - that would be nice," Giles stammered.
"Really?" Willow asked in surprise.
"Really," he said with a smile. "Isn't there a place not too far from here?"
"Oh, yeah. It's just over a few blocks," she said happily.
Giles smiled at her, glad to see the spark in her eyes again. "This way?" he asked pointing across the street.
Willow saw that they had the light and turned to him and nodded as she stepped into the street. "Yeah, it's just-"
A car sped through the intersection, running the red and nearly careened into Willow. Probably would have if Giles hadn't reached out and pulled her sharply back.
"Jesus!" Giles rasped. "Willow, are you all right?" he asked as he held her by both arms.
Her eyes were wide with fear and her body shook with the rush of adrenaline. "Wow, that - that was close!"
"Are you all right?" Giles repeated as he scanned her up and down.
"I'm fine, but -- wow," Willow gasped as her breath came hard and fast.
Giles glared down the street before turning his attention back to Willow. "You're sure?"
"Yeah. Phew," she laughed nervously. "Thanks. You - you - good thing you were here." She smiled bravely, but he could tell she was still shaken. Hell, he was still shaken.
He let out a long breath and squeezed her shoulders. "Good." His heart was racing, and he knew if he let go of her, his hands would start shaking.
"Now, I really need ice cream," she said earnestly.
Giles chuckled and finally released her shoulders. "And you shall have it."
He looked at the traffic and once the light changed, he reached down and took Willow's hand. She looked up at him, and he smiled in reassurance. "Not taking any more chances with you," he said as he gave her hand a fond squeeze.
Willow beamed back and Giles looked both ways, twice, before they ventured into the intersection again. When they reached the other side, Willow noticed that Giles didn't let go of her hand. Not that she was going to complain. His hand was warm and strong. It made her feel safe. She hoped he'd forget he was holding onto her, and she could keep the contact.
Giles knew he should let go. Once they'd crossed, he should have released her hand. But he didn't want to. He didn't want her to know how much the near accident had upset him, but more than that he needed to know she was safe, and holding her hand was the best he could do for now. So he held it and ignored the other reasons - reasons he wasn't ready to admit, not even to himself.
They continued quickly down the sidewalk, hand in hand, in silence. Finally, Willow had to say something. "Uhm, Giles."
"Could you slow down? Your strides are pretty long, and unless you want me to jog-- Could you---?
Giles laughed a bit self-consciously and slowed his gait. "Better?"
The silence returned, but instead of being partnered with anxiety, it carried with it a pleasant warmth. Like any other couple, the couple-that-wasn't strolled down the avenue holding hands.
A few blocks later, they arrived at the ice cream parlor and placed their orders. When the time came to pay, Giles looked down at their joined hands and smiled a little sadly as he let go. He paid for the cones and handed Willow hers.
The decided to keep walking, hoping somehow, that the other would have the courage to reach out. But sadly, neither did and they walked home as they had arrived, no more than simply two friends out to a movie.
Giles sat reveling in the silence. For once, he had his apartment all to himself. He swirled the scotch in its glass, enjoying the subtle sounds the ice made.
He smiled to himself and sighed. Alone was good.
He sighed again.
Alone was lonely.
He shook his head. 'Enjoy it while you can, old man,' he reminded himself.
He glanced about his apartment, surprised to see furniture - a chair and no Xander, the fireplace and no Buffy, the sofa and no Willow.
Why was it that bothered him?
He'd always been a solitary man - sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance. Whatever the cause, he'd grown accustomed to it. Since the library was gone, he'd often yearned for more time alone.
He finally had some and found himself wishing Willow were there.
More and more often, he'd think of something he wanted to tell her, something he wanted to ask her. He'd see something he thought she might like or one of a thousand other things.
They'd been spending a fair amount of time together as of late. He hadn't stopped to wonder about it, at least not until now. It had been a subtle shift - the very occasional dinner had somehow become a frequent occurrence.
The accidental touches, now more often than not held intent. Hello was more than a casual greeting and goodbye was suddenly a parting.
The phrase implied many things, not the least of which was that there was something to part. They certainly weren't a couple. They'd never even been on a real date. There had never been anything more than friendship between them.
Then why did he feel so very lonely now?
Why did he notice what she wore? When she smiled, why did he wonder if it was for him? For him alone.
Giles shook his head and took a long swig of his drink. It wasn't improper exactly. They were both adults. But she was a friend, and that was a dangerous path.
'Putting the cart before the horse, aren't you?'
She'd given him no indication that she wanted anything more than their current relationship. 'Don't mistake kindness for affection,' he warned himself.
Then again, she did love him. He knew that, as she loved them all. Perhaps it could grow into something more. Wasn't that the strongest course? A friendship that --
"What am I doing?" he said aloud, stalking over to his bookcase.
He stared at the books. He could read and get his mind off Willow. He realized it had been ages since he'd read for pleasure. He scanned the shelves, waiting for a title to call his name.
His eyes stopped on a thick coffee table book he'd received as a gift some years ago - pictorial study of French art. Against his better judgement, he pulled the book from the shelf and returned to the sofa.
He opened it, letting the book chose the page and smiled to himself. He looked down at the bookplate and grinned at the memory. Rodin's "The Kiss".
Portents and signs were his business, and he knew better than to ignore them. This was definitely a sign.
A very good sign.
"Here's your mail, Giles" Buffy said as she pushed open his front door. "Oh, the Sunnydale Museum. Looks like an invite," she said as she held the envelope up to the light.
"Thank you," he said as he grabbed the mail from his Slayer.
Buffy shrugged. "So what is it?"
"If you'll give me a moment."
"Okay." She waited a beat. "What is it?"
"What? My natural curiosity. Some people find it charming." She caught his glare. "And some don't."
Not wanting to push her luck any further, Buffy skeedaddled into the kitchen to get some juice.
She heard him heave a deep sigh. "I'm not asking again, but I would be willing to listen if you wanted to tell me."
Giles leaned heavily on the counter. "As you know, I've been doing some consulting work for the museum, and it seems I've been invited to their Anniversary Gala."
"So, fancy party, free food. What's the big?"
"It's being hosted by Douglas Farnsworth," Giles said with obvious distaste.
"That's all. I really should attend, but--" he sighed again.
"This Farnsworth guy's really that bad?"
"And it's formal. I -- I haven't worn my tuxedo since -- since your prom," he said fondly.
"Well, it is a good look for you," she said with a smile.
Giles blushed slightly and chuckled. As he looked down at the invitation, a frown covered his face. "Buffy. May I ask you something?" he said softly.
"Sure," she said suddenly nervous.
"D-do you think --- Is it --" he struggled, finally shaking his head. "It's a terrible idea. Never mind." He turned away and shoved the invitation back into its envelope.
Buffy quickly left the kitchen and went to his side. "What is it?" she asked worriedly.
He looked down at her, his eyes mixed with sadness and hope. "Would it be--- Do you think Willow would go with me?"
Buffy had to bite back a laugh. He misunderstood her expression and tried to turn away.
"No," she said grabbing his arm and forcing him to look at her. "I thought it was a Hellmouthy thing. Let me get this straight. You want to ask Willow on a date?"
"Well, not a date exactly," he hedged.
He dared to look at her. "Yes. Tell me it's a terrible idea."
This time she did laugh. "Giles. I think it's great."
He was stunned. "You-you do? Really?"
"Yup. And may I be the first to say it's about freakin' time!"
Giles found himself laughing along with her. Relieved didn't begin to express how he felt.
Now all he had to do was ask Willow.
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