Chapter 11: Scones and Coffee
The next morning Giles woke from a sensual dream to the even more sensual reality of Willow's small form curled trustingly against him. Even as he marveled at her warmth, listened to her even breathing, he couldn't quite regain the sense of certainty, of rightness, that had carried them into each other's arms and into a bliss that he hadn't felt in years, since before Jenny. Over the past few months, he had fought his growing attraction to her, knowing that she could never return his interest. All the evidence he had marshaled to defend his needy heart against disappointment had not been erased by a single night in her arms. He was still more than twenty years older than she. She was his closest and most trusted colleague. She had been exclusively involved with women for the past few years. She was beautiful, intelligent, powerful…What could he possibly have that she would want?
Well, he had coffee at least. He was and would always be a tea drinker, but one morning not long her arrival, Willow had spent a cheerful half hour tutoring him in the art of brewing good coffee. He slipped from the bed, put on his paisley silk robe, and went to the kitchen, wondering what she would say when she awoke. Would she decide it had been a mistake?
He returned, bearing a tray, to find her sitting up in bed, wearing the oxford shirt he had discarded the previous night, brushing her gleaming hair. It crackled with static electricity, and he felt a quick thrill of response, partly to the magical energy he could sometimes sense around her, partly to the glimpse of her breasts in the unbuttoned shirt. Her bright smile as he entered the room was reassuring. He envied her apparent ability to read his emotions.
“Coffee! Oh, yum—and are those scones?” She deliberately mispronounced the word to rhyme with owns, as she'd done when she first came to England, and he rolled his eyes.
“Yes. Not perfectly fresh, but warmed.” He put the cup in her outreached hand. “Would you like to eat here, or shall I build a fire?”
“Here. Sit. What's the matter?” She patted the bed and he handed her the coffee cup, then set the scones on the bedside table and slipped in beside her. She took a large sip, sighed in satisfaction, and leaned over to place a kiss on his cheek.
“This mind reading ability you're developing is a little disturbing. Can't a man have any privacy at all?” Giles asked. Delaying, he knew he was delaying. He took off his glasses, but she put her free hand on his before he could begin polishing them on his robe.
“I'm not reading your mind, Giles. Do you mind if I keep calling you Giles? Because Rupert, I don't know, feels strange to me. I may have to find you a nickname.” Willow smiled confidently. “See, that proves it, because I'd know what you wanted me to call you if I was a mind reader.” She sipped again. “Good coffee, by the way. No, it's the aura thing again. I can't do this with most people, but I know you really well, and I can kind of sense things. About how you're feeling.”
“So you said, last night.” She looked at him, expectantly, so he gathered his tattered emotions and spoke. “I just…I didn't expect this, Willow. I didn't think it was possible that you returned my interest. I don't know what…what you want from me. If I can give you what you need. Uh, well, for one thing,” he paused, “until rather recently you were gay.”
Willow took a deep breath and let it out. “Okay. First of all, remember how Kennedy was right, about us? Me-and-Kennedy us, not the me-and-you us.” ‘Me-and-you us,' Giles thought, was an awkward and thoroughly appealing phrase. “One of the things she said, that day, was that I was bisexual, not gay. And I've been thinking about it a lot since then.” She stared into her coffee cup. “I was pretty young when I fell in love with Tara, but when I did…Goddess, I couldn't imagine being in love with anyone else, ever. And so I figured if I was that passionately in love with a woman, I had to be gay. The fact that I felt so much more intensely for her than I had for Oz, or for Xander….” She trailed off, looking straight ahead. Giles followed her gaze toward the window, knowing that she was seeing not dark woodwork and morning sunshine, but the past.
“But it wasn't just me discovering my sexuality. I mean it was, but it was Tara. It was just…Tara.” The name is almost a whisper, her face still distant. He is ashamed of his sudden pang of jealousy. He had liked Tara.
“She was a very special person,” Giles said. “I wish I'd known her better.”
Willow turned away to put her coffee cup down. “What I've been figuring out, since I came to London, is that it didn't matter that Tara was a woman. I'd have felt the same way if she had been a man. Something about her, just, just resonated with me. We fit together, like two pieces of a puzzle. That's why losing her made me…” Willow turned to Giles, her eyes glistening. “I never, never thought I'd feel that way again. I was so empty, I thought I'd never be…. I didn't expect this either. I've known you forever! And then I looked at you…and you were…” She started to cry, and he gathered her in his arms, feeling her shoulders shake, wanting to be strong for her, wanting to be everything she could ever want or need.
Finally, she turned a damp face to him. A resolve face. “Giles, I know you're older than I am, and I know that I'm bisexual, and we work together, and that might be a problem for you. But I also know I'm in love with you.” She smiled, still a little shaky with tears.
“Oh, Willow. Willow. I do love you so. We'll figure it out, whatever we need to…” and then they kissed, frantic and passionate and hungry, and their bodies took over what their brains were still trying to understand. The plate of scones was knocked to the floor, unnoticed as they made love for the second time, as if sealing an oath, every touch promising that this would not be the last time, that they had found something precious and would not let go.
Chapter Twelve: Shanshu Who?
The investigation into the mystery of William Givenson continued. Since his human past had been verified, or at least its paper trail established, Giles reassigned those researchers to discreetly gather additional materials, from the growing Council Archives and from libraries and databases across Europe. While Ellen compiled a detailed history of Spike, also known as William the Bloody, Neville, who had a slightly weaker stomach, searched for any records or prophecies that mentioned a vampire becoming human, or a vampire with a soul. Many of the latter clearly referred to Angel, but some were more ambiguous. Giles and Willow carefully reviewed everything, while she continued seeking memory spells. A love for research had been the common ground on which they met since their earliest days in Sunnydale, and both were enjoying the new pleasure of having a lover who understood and shared that enthusiasm.
Initially, they had hoped to keep their relationship, if not secret, at least not widely known. But like any office, the New Council was a hotbed of gossip, and the fact that Willow had been living at Giles' flat since her arrival had given the rumor mill a running start. While most of the staff seemed to accept their new closeness, one morning Willow overheard an unpleasant remark in the ladies room, to the effect that Giles' virility required the dual stimulus of both youth and witchcraft. More angry on her lover's behalf than her own, she considered her response carefully before she flushed the toilet and emerged from her stall. Conversation halted as she washed her hands, so she filled the awkward silence with the cheerful observation that, while Giles could reassign staff to unpleasant foreign posts, she had the capacity to turn them into small, vulnerable amphibians.
After that, talk died down. Giles maintained an English reserve at the office, but became more demonstrative and relaxed at home, showing a playfulness and passion that Willow had suspected but never seen. They spent a fair number of their evenings in Giles' office, assessing the bits and scraps of information found by Ellen and Neville. “Here, this is interesting,” said Giles on one such night. Willow reached up from where she was sprawled on the newly installed leather sofa.
“Give it here. Wanna see.” He handed it to her.
“That's Neville's translation. He's damned good,” said Giles. “Apparently there was a fifth-century document in Latin that had then been encoded, using a cipher based on ancient Sumerian. The fellow who wrote this down was a cautious bugger.”
She was already skimming the pages. “Shanshu. The vampire with a soul will fulfill his destiny…. crucial role in the coming apocalypse. He will shanshu and….become human?” She met Giles' eyes. “It fits. Didn't Angel's letter say they were trying to stop an apocalypse? If they did, maybe Spike got rewarded.” Willow began to laugh.
“And the funny part is….?” Giles raised an eyebrow in a manner calculated to make her laugh harder.
“Oh, stop being English at me.” Willow shook her head. “I'm just thinking, if this was Shanshu and Spike's the one who got it, wouldn't Angel be pissed! Pissed-angry I mean, American pissed, not drunk. Though he might want to get drunk, too.”
Giles smiled at the thought. He'd come around to a grudging, posthumous respect for Angel, although he would never learn to like him. “Indeed.” He pushed his swivel chair back from the desk. “That's just a summary, by the way. I'd love to check the original, but according to this, the Scroll of Aberjian was in the hands of Wolfram & Hart. The Los Angeles branch.”
“Long gone, then.” Willow sat up. “So, do you think it's time to bring Bill Givenson in on this? He has a right to know who he is. And if it's really Shanshu, maybe it's a reward from the Powers that Be. Maybe it's a good thing instead of a plot.”
“Could be; I'm not completely convinced yet. In any case, I can't see a well-bred Englishman like our Mr. Givenson being thrilled to learn he was once William the Bloody, known for his creative use of railroad spikes.” Giles stood, stretched. “Let's go home, love. And remind me to give Neville a raise or something.”
“Or at least a day off.” She rose, and they carefully locked the files away. Just as Giles was about to shut off the lights, the phone rang.
“Oh, let it ring,” Willow said, “don't be all responsible-guy.” But Giles picked up the receiver.
“Hello….Kennedy! What's happened?” Willow was suddenly alert. She poised her finger over the speakerphone button, and Giles nodded.
“Giles, it's Andrew. We got attacked by vamps tonight, and they had a demon with them.” Willow could hear the exhaustion in Kennedy's voice.
“Is he all right?” Giles asked.
“He will be. He's in the hospital now, he just got out of surgery. But Giles, he, he....lost a leg.”
Chapter Thirteen: A Small White Room
For a long time, Willow hadn't had much feeling about hospitals, one way or the other. As a healthy child, she hadn't spent much time there until high school, when the supernatural brought emergency room visits into her routine. But it wasn't until those hours at Xander's bedside at Sunnydale General, looking at his bandaged head and knowing what dreadful absence was hidden under layers of white gauze, that she had truly learned to hate hospitals.
She squared her shoulders, tried to shift from resolve face into something a little friendlier, and entered the small white room. “Andrew?”
He looked small and very, very young, but gave a wide smile and a little wave from his bed, which was cranked up to a sitting position. Three or four comic books were scattered around him. Willow set a vase of daffodils from the hospital gift shop on the bedside table and leaned over to touch his shoulder, holding back a smile at his Star Wars pajama top.
“Hey Andrew, how was the trip back from Rio?” She didn't want to look at the flatness of the bed under the pale blue blanket, where the bottom of his left leg should have been. There were plenty of other bandages, and one side of his face was dark with bruises, but his expression was cheerful.
“Fine. By which I mean, I don't remember any of it, which is fine with me, because plane travel, boring, but I was so drugged up, it was like transporter technology! One minute I'm in Brazil, then I wake up and they tell me I'm in London.” He paused. “To be honest, I'm still pretty druggy, so if I don't make any sense, that's why.”
“Andrew, don't worry. I promise not to expect you to make sense.” Willow smiled wryly, sitting down on the molded-plastic chair beside the bed. “Giles is going to try to come by later, he's got a bunch of appointments today.”
“Oh, okay. I know Obi-wan's a busy guy. So how are you?”
“Obi-wan? Do not let him catch you calling him that.” The joke reassured her: Andrew might be maimed, but he was somehow unchanged.
“I used to call him that all the time. It made him do that really cute eyebrow thing and get all pompous and British. But, really, he is our wise old guide, who teaches to use the Force for good, so it fits.”
Willow thought of the first time she came to England, when Giles' voice, telling tales of his own experience with magic, had pulled her out of her terrible darkness. Yeah, Obi-wan. “Well, young Jedi, Obi-wan said to tell you there's a job at the Council waiting for you, if you want it.”
Andrew grinned. “Really? Could I be his assistant again? Or I could do research. No more field work for this Jedi, anyways.” His face fell. “I blew it again. At least nobody died saving my life this time. Kennedy was so awesome! I'm really glad she's not dead.”
“Me too,” Willow said softly. “How is she?”
“She's great….” Andrew looked at Willow, but her head was lowered, a curtain of hair hiding her thoughts from him. “Not, I mean, not that she doesn't miss you. Because she did, does, but I mean as a Slayer. It was great working with her.”
“So how are things in the barrio? Did she get those vamp nests cleared?” Willow wasn't sure what she wanted to hear: that Kennedy was happy, or that she still missed her. A change of subject was safer.
“Oh, totally! Between her and Father Miguel, teaching the people in the slums to use crosses and holy water and stakes, the vamps pretty much stopped seeing them as easy prey. The poor no longer need fear the threat of the Vampyre ,” he intoned. “Well, not as much, anyway. But then they started moving into the nightclubs, there's a fabulous club scene in Rio, and mostly everybody's so high they don't even notice till they're half drained. So we used to go out dancing every night, except we were really hunting. My mission was to ID the vampyres and point them out to Kennedy, and then she'd lure them to a dark corner and dust them.” He coughed, pointed to the bedside table, and Willow poured water from the plastic jug into a matching cup. Andrew took a long drink.
“Sorry. They said the meds would give me drymouth. Anyway, we had this great routine going, I used to carry this little spray bottle of holy water, and be like ‘I'm so hot, I need to cool off,' and spray it around and see how people reacted.” His smile faded. “But then I guess they caught on. Half a dozen vampyres and this really smelly demon jumped us on the way home one night. I thought I was dead for sure, but Kennedy….she saved me.”
“She said you fought really well.” Willow could picture the scene; she had always been awed by Kennedy's grace and power in battle. Andrew was a mediocre fighter at best, but he hadn't given up, and her ex-lover had defeated six vamps and a demon, then run two miles to the emergency room with a bleeding Andrew in her arms.
“I don't remember much after the demon bit me. But she did take off her bra and made a tourniquet out of it so I wouldn't bleed to death. She's very resourceful.” Andrew waved his hand, and Willow handed him the cup again.
“Giles didn't tell me that detail.” Willow smiled sadly, remembering Kennedy's fierce energy, the intensity that shone from her dark eyes.
Andrew's eyes had closed. “Um, Willow. Morphine drip taking effect here… Before I fall asleep again? Tell Giles I'm sorry I blew my first field assignment. But I still want to fight evil, okay? I mean, if Xander can fight evil with one eye, I guess I can do it on one leg.”
“Oh, Andrew. Giles is just glad you're still alive, and so am I.” She reached over to gently stroke his hair, wondering where Xander was at that moment. Andrew smiled up at her, eyelids drooping. “You've done fine, Andrew, and you're one of us, okay?”
He mumbled something that might have been ‘that's all I wanted,' but he was already drifting into sleep. Willow took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and concentrated on his aura. The color patterns she remembered were still there, tinted with a shimmer of pain, but steady; oddly, the aura remained whole around the place where his leg had been. Yes, she decided. She could tell Giles that Andrew was going to be all right.
“I'll see you soon,” she whispered, and quietly took her leave.
Chapter 14: Whose Past Is This, Anyway?
Bill sat back in his chair, his arms folded over his chest, and glared. Willow and Giles, seated on either side of him at the end of the long, polished table, shared a glance.
“Bill,” Willow began, “I realize this is hard to believe, but when you've seen as many unbelievable things as I have, it gets easier. All the evidence—”
“Evidence!” He cut her off, blue eyes blazing in an unnervingly familiar way. “A bunch of bizarre theories, a physical resemblence and some foolishness about recognizing my aura. You're telling me that my entire life, everything I remember, is a lie. That I'm really a vampire.”
“Well, not anymore, obviously, but yes, you used to be. Your new life is your reward. You saved the world! Possibly more than once!” Willow looked beseechingly at Giles. “Help me out here, will you?”
Bill was up out of his chair now, pacing around the conference room. “And this last time I saved the world, you say, was four months ago. Which, frankly, I think I would remember. You're saying I never went to Oxford. I never lived in Hong Kong or Geneva or Romania. I never broke my arm on a climbing trip in Switzerland. Bollocks!”
“Please calm down, Mr. Givenson.” Giles' voice was quietly authoritative. “We understand this is difficult to take in, but your past may have ramifications that will affect your future. We have taken some pains to confirm our suspicions, and we felt it unwise to leave you in the dark any longer.”
“My past. My past as a ruthless, vicious vampire for over a century, who reformed himself and got a soul at the end.” Bill spat the words at them. “That's the past you expect me to accept? Have you any idea what it feels like to be told all your memories are falsehoods, that your mind has been manipulated?”
“Actually, yes,” said Willow mildly. “I have a friend who's really a mystical key between dimensions. She was created in human form as Buffy's sister by a bunch of monks, who figured the Slayer would keep her safe. There was this hell-god…well, it's a long story. But yeah, it was pretty weird when we found out Dawn hadn't always been Buff's little sister, because she was there in our memories.” She turned to Giles. “Maybe we should have Dawn talk to him. She knows what this feels like, remember how she flipped out when we found out what she was?”
“That's a thought,” Giles said. Bill was sitting again, his head between his hands, slender fingers rubbing his temples. “Connor has been through this as well. Perhaps we can invite the two of them to London, or at least set up a conference call, get the benefit of their experiences.” Giles and Willow shared a glance, then looked sympathetically at the young man they couldn't help thinking of as Spike. He looked up, reached out a hand toward two thick files Giles had placed on the conference table.
“Look, I'm a bit… gobsmacked by this. I can't accept it. I'd like to look at the information you've gathered, get a sense of what you…believe to be true. But right now, I'm telling you that I'm a human being, I was born in 1973 in Kent, and my name is William Lawrence Givenson.” He stood, straightening his shoulders. “I am not Spike.”
Giles stood, nodding. “Take the files and review them, by all means. I understand that this makes very little sense to you; unfortunately, that doesn't keep it from being true.” The look Bill shot him was pure hatred. Giles had seen that look from Spike before, when the vampire had been chained in his bathtub, subsisting on pig blood and fury. But the young man took the files and stalked from the room without a word. He would have slammed the door, but the pneumatic hinges held and it closed behind him with a sound like a sigh.
Giles sat down in the chair Bill had vacated, his discouraged posture mirroring that of its last occupant It never got easier, giving people bad news, even though he had done it so many times: Your daughter is a Vampire Slayer, chosen to fight evil. You used to be a vampire who was known for torturing people with railroad spikes. Your friend has lost an eye, a leg. Your daughter is dead. He scrubbed his hands through his thinning hair, wanting nothing more than to wrap himself around Willow's body, drown himself in her warmth, forget everything, false memories and real ones alike.
And then she was beside him, one hand gently rubbing the back of his neck, the. He sat back, looking up into her tilted face, with its wry, enchanting smile.
“Well, that went badly,” she said.
Re: Coming to Merrie Olde!
Just wanted to let you know, Dawn & I will be coming to see you! She's decided she doesn't want to go back to the U.S. for college and is checking out schools in England. Things are pretty quiet here in Rome for once, so we get to do some shopping and hanging out and girl talk! Yay.
Thanks for letting me know about Andrew. He's a pain, but I'm glad he's not dead. If anyone's going to kill him, I'd like it to be me, LOL. I haven't got a reservation yet, but I'll email you when I know when we're coming in, probably a week from tomorrow. See you soon!
Chapter 15: Bracing for Wig
Willow knew what Giles was thinking. She'd been thinking the same thing. Buffy was great, Buffy was her best friend, Buffy was going to wig. Facing an apocalypse was one thing, but they were anticipating the mother of all freakouts.
“So which one do you think will be worse?” she asked, curling closer to him on the sofa “The Return-of-Spike Wig, or the Willow-and-Giles -Eww Wig?” He laughed and put his arm around her.
“At least her reaction to Spike's return won't include making me feel both elderly and perverse. She never did like the idea that I might have a personal life.” He stroked Willow's hair, enjoying the way it gleamed in the flickering firelight .
“Well, you did sleep with her mother,” she observed. Giles turned to her, an eyebrow raised.
“I never slept with Joyce.” He grinned evilly. “It's very difficult to fall asleep on the hood of a police car.” Willow snickered, but he continued in a more serious tone. “I suppose Buffy would rather have seen me with her mother than with you, if it comes to that. We were of an age, and Joyce was a lovely woman. But she was also my Slayer's mother. It would have been…complicated at best.”
“You were the closest thing to a father Buffy had,” Willow said quietly. “Tell you what, I'll handle the me-and-you freakage if you'll deal with ‘Spike's not dead again.'”
“It's a deal.” He kissed her forehead to seal it. “The last time I saw her, I had to tell her that Spike had returned and died again. I won't be surprised if she stops believing anything I say after this.” They sat quietly for a few moments, basking in the gentle light from the fireplace and the simple sense of being at home in one another's arms.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Giles said. “I had a rather convoluted voice mail from Andrew today. Full of mysterious portents. Some sort of pattern he's uncovered whilst reading The Times, which he thinks we ought to be concerned about. ”
Willow yawned. “Probably the black market in Star Wars action figures. I was planning to visit him, this week anyway. I'll find out what he thinks is up.” She closed her eyes and stole a peek at her lover's aura. Gold and green, the hints of tension around his head and shoulders fading…and that deep glow that signaled the earliest stages of arousal. She smiled and turned to kiss him, as the flames leaped in the fireplace.
The dinner had grown cold, and Sharon's irritation had turned to worry by the time she heard Rudy's key in the lock.
“Where have you been? Is everything all right? And would it have been too much trouble to phone me?” She pulled the lasagna out of the cooker and pulled back the foil. A bit overdone, but it would do. When she turned around, he was standing in the middle of the kitchen, still wearing his coat. He had a vague, distracted look in his eyes.
“I went to see that doctor.” He unbuttoned his jacket, slowly. “Like you wanted.” She bustled around him, setting out the dinner, pouring drinks, her usual evening's pretense of normality.
“Well, that's good then. Do you think he can help?” She tried to keep the desperation out of her voice. She didn't want to leave him, and she was afraid of what might happen if she did, but his rages, his fears and his flashbacks had become more than she could live with . If this new doctor could keep the past from overwhelming him, maybe they could get back to their lives. She could love him again.
“I…I think so.” He seemed tired but calm as they sat down to eat. His appetite was better than it had been in a while, she noticed, and his plate was soon empty. “Pass me the…the….” He stopped, then pointed to the breadbasket. “That.”
“The bread?” She held out the plate, but he was staring into space.
“I couldn't remember the word. Isn't that odd? Bread, I knew what it was but I couldn't remember what it was called.” He shook his head. Sharon watched him carefully as they finished their meal.
“So tell me a bit about this doctor you saw. What's his name again?” He didn't respond. “Rudy? Hello, I asked about the doctor. You're a million miles away.”
“I'm sorry,” he said. “What did you say?”
“I just asked you what the doctor's name was,” Sharon replied, scraping the last bite of lasagna from her plate. He was definitely tired, she thought. Or something.
“Doctor… Doctor….” He looked up at her, and there was fear in his eyes. “I can't remember his name.”
Buffy had turned down Willow's offer to meet them at the airport. “I've saved the world half a dozen times, I think I can make it from Heathrow to the hotel,” she had said. “And I know you've got stuff to do. Dawn and I will settle in, you can meet us there around seven and we'll go out for a drink, ‘kay? I can't wait to catch up!” I can, Willow had thought as she switched off her cell phone, but it was, as ever, simpler to let Buffy set the agenda.
Her arrival at the hotel room launched a brief but intense round of squealing and hugging. Buffy looked good, Willow thought as she disentangled herself. Her hair was very blonde and sleek, and she was dressed in something that looked Italian and designery, at least to Willow's admittedly limited fashion sense. She saw her own loose gold sweater and long, black skirt in the full-length mirror and sighed inwardly.
Willow looked good, Buffy thought, watching her friend and her sister hug. Her hair was longer, her sweater was neither baggy nor fuzzy, and her smile wasn't strained. Of course, she wasn't fighting with Kennedy any more. She wondered if there was a new girlfriend in the picture? Time for a good long girls night out of catching up. She grinned.
I can't wait to get to college, Dawn thought. No matter how much time had gone by, she was always Buffy's little sister when she was with the Scoobies, always just slightly on the outside of their private club. She was used to it, but it got old. It was easier in Rome, where it was just her and Buffy. But it was time to get her own life, stop being her sister's younger satellite.
“So, what's the plan? Have you guys had dinner?” Willow asked.
“Yeah, we ate downstairs after we checked in,” Buffy said. “Flying always makes me hungry. I thought we could go out for a drink and just hang, kind of a girls' night.” She looked at Dawn, a question in her eyes.
“I'm pretty tired, you guys go catch up.” She would reread the Oxford brochures that were in her suitcase, and think about meeting cute English guys who had no idea she was really a mystical key, who'd never heard of hellgods and vampires.
“You sure?” Buffy asked. Dawn knew her well enough to hear the unspoken ‘if you really want to come, okay, but thanks for not wanting to.'
“No, I'm cool.” She waved a hand toward the bed. “I'll probably crash early, maybe watch a little cable. Go, have a good time.”
Willow gave her another quick hug. “You and me, we'll have lunch before you go, ok, Dawnie?”
“Sure, that'd be great.” Lunch would be a good time to tell her how much she detested being called Dawnie. It made her feel like a six-year-old, and the truth was, she'd never been six, and wasn't about to start.