Author's Note: This is the third part of a Buffy fanfic I wrote, featuring a Willow/Giles pairing. It is a romance but there will be a lot of sex in future chapters so never fear. Refer to my profile for links to the other parts. Disclaimer - I don't own BtVS, I'm not Joss Whedon, this is not for profit, etc etc.
"If you don't mind Italian, there's a place I'd like to go to. See if it's still there, of course, and if they're still the same. It was one of my favorite places, actually, and I'd love to take you there. Ah, it's nothing fancy so neither of us need change, though I can't help feel I should shave..." Giles rubbed his chin, "I'm sorry I look a mess. Ah. Damn, I left this in, too. In any case, is, uh, now... a good time?" He grinned at her sheepishly, reaching up to take the earring out.
Willow couldn't help but laugh. "I don't know, somehow it suits you," she blushed again, looking away. He said he looked a mess but she thought very much to the contrary. "I wouldn't mind if you go as you are," she mumbled.
Swallowing, Giles felt very much like a high school lad asking a pretty girl out on a first date. And though the ages were a bit wrong, the principle wasn't too far off of the reality. He looked down, bashful.
"Italian sounds fine," Willow said to clear the suddenly awkward silence. Unfortunately with how off her guard she was by the whole situation, if he had suggested the trashiest dive in Sunnydale she would have been at his side without question. Luckily for her, Giles - flustered as he seemed for whatever reasons - still had taste. She was only too happy to provide him the company he so wanted, and touched that he'd chosen her. "I'll tell you everything," she stood, bending forward for a few seconds to pull at her stockings. "As long as it makes you feel better. Buffy was her usual self, of course, but it is always nice to focus on the victories, you have a point there."
Giles smiled, having no trouble picturing the team getting along just fine with out him. It made him proud, albeit a little sad, but he knew they had all grown into strong, amazing people. His Slayer had stayed alive much longer than most, which was in itself an amazing feat. He didn't attribute himself to it too much, knowing Buffy to be exceptionally strong, but he was definitely proud of them all. More so now than ever.
She wanted to tell Giles he shouldn't have worried for them when he obviously had so much of his own to worry about when he'd been away, but she admired that even during his own struggle, his thoughts had been with them. So she didn't say anything. Willow moved closer to him, instead of toward the door as would be logical.
He watched her as she moved closer to him, a bit befuddled. He smiled, placing his hand on Willow's arm. If she liked the way he looked, he was in no hurry to change it, leaving the earring. Reaching for his jacket after an awkward moment of not knowing what to do, he pulled it around his shoulders and managed to highlight how different he looked. He was as handsome as ever, of course, but more rugged and, if the word could possibly make sense, he looked younger. Indicating toward the door with his head, he moved and opened it for her.
"I'm afraid my car was towed while I was away, but I, ah, procured a different method of transportation on my way home. It's a bit uncomfortable, and the restaurant isn't too far, if you'd prefer to walk." He walked outside with her and pointed at a motorcycle sitting in the driveway. It wasn't too flashy, much like its new owner, and looked a bit worn. There was something distinct about it, though what it was couldn't actually be seen and identified.
Willow blinked, looking from the motorcycle back to Giles. Things suddenly felt really different. It was exciting, though, and she felt giddy imagining pulling up at the restaurant on the back of Giles' motorcycle. She walked down the driveway, as if inspecting the vehicle. "No, this is fine," she beamed at him, "looks... fun?"
"It is, surprisingly. I hadn't thought I'd enjoy it so much, as I was quite pressed at the time and it was the only thing available. But, ah, it has its charm," he moved to the bike, picking up the helmet. He only had one, and he offered it to Willow, "I'm afraid I'd rather be the one breaking the law and risking serious injury, if that's okay with you."
He helped her put the helmet on, standing close and carefully brushing her hair from her face before knocking on the top of it to make sure it was working. Smiling at her, he clipped the belt and then moved back to the bike. Turning the engine, he released the stand and held the bike steady with one foot on the floor, holding one hand out to her.
If it had been anyone else, she might have suspected a midlife-crisis, but this was Giles, and he had real problems to worry about. So she had already chalked up his changed appearance to his time in England, and the bike - well, he had
said his car had been towed. Still, there were a lot of changes at once and she wondered if she shouldn't at least pay some mind to them. Later, maybe, when her brain had resumed normal functioning, she decided.
"So how do I get on this thing?"
"It's quite easy. Like mounting a horse. Just hold on tight, around my waist, if you're scared. I promise, I'm quite a good driver." He smiled, the motor of the bike purring idly as he waited for her.
Willow perhaps too much liked the feel of his hands on her hair and under her chin as he helped her get the helmet on. She took his hand, and put the other on the seat of the bike for added balance. She swung a leg over and slid on, bunching up the skirts of her dress under her legs so that they wouldn't get caught in anything. She threaded her hands about his waist, pressing herself to his back. "I trust you," she said, though she was a bit anxious about riding on the thing, even more so now that she felt the rumbling of the frame under her, and they hadn't even pulled off yet.
Giles laughed, making sure she was settled and safe before driving off. He drove them to a small diner, making sure not to go too fast despite the impulses. He couldn't help but love the way the bike moved, and the added bonus of having a beautiful girl riding with him didn't help him in his efforts to remember his actual age. Pulling into a parking spot, he stopped the bike and hopped off, playing the gentleman and helping her from it.
"That wasn't so bad, right?" He said with a smile, unclasping the helmet and taking it off. He hooked it to the handlebars, turning back to Willow and playing with her hair a bit. It didn't look too flattened from the short ride. Really, he was just using it as an excuse to be near to her.
Offering her his arm, he led her inside. They were seated by a man that seemed to know Giles quite well, and were soon joined by a chef and a man in a suit. They all spoke to Giles exuberantly, having not seen him for a while, and he introduced them to Willow. They exchanged amused glances and Giles told them to get back to work. Laughter and light teasing about how young she was and how hard he was apparently trying to impress her followed, and soon enough they were being waited on by a woman who also knew Giles. She looked a little less than thrilled that he had brought a date. He had never done that before.
The waitress took their orders and did her best to be nice, though her obvious regard for Giles made it a bit difficult to be as civil as she wanted to towards Willow. She went off to get their food and Giles looked at Willow, embarrassed and sheepish.
"I, uh. Used to come here a lot," he explained, "I've known the owners for years now, and they all, ah... seem to like me around. I apologize for the teasing. That wasn't... appropriate, really. I hope they didn't embarrass or offend you."
In truth, Willow was a bit embarrassed by the teasing. More than that, it made her uncomfortable at how they assumed she was his date, and not just an old friend. That's all she was, right? The reactions to the two of them being out together confused her, made her remember all the time she had spent wishing for something like this to happen - to go on a date with him, or well, just have him acknowledge the idea of a relationship. But she had spent almost equally enough time trying to make herself see how futile the hope she nurtured had been, and to be put into this situation where nobody knew about their complicated past but still – if even lightheartedly - insinuated things about them, it flustered her.
It bothered her the most when they commented on her age, that stung because it reminded her that even after all these years, she was still so young next to him. There was still just as much of a gap between them in years, though she liked to think she had done a lot of maturing in those years. She'd gone from being a naive 18-year-old to a woman in her mid-20s, but it was like that didn't seem to matter. It wasn't fair for her to read into the comments like that, though, to taint them with her own thoughts and troubles, and she knew she had to have thicker skin, so she tried to put on a positive face.
She patted Giles' arm. "It's okay, really," she reassured him, "though I couldn't help but notice how that waitress was looking at me," she bowed her head, laughing nervously. She didn't feel like asking if there was a more specific reason for that or if the waitress was simply fond of him on her own.
"Ah yes. She's always had a crush on me, I suspect, though honestly that's quite... unbecoming of her. She's married. Has been for years. I suppose she's just a bit territorial. She never lets anyone else serve me when I come here, and actually got mad a few times when I was here on her days off. It's a bit silly, really," he laughed, shaking his head and looking thoughtful.
Glancing around, he smiled at the cozy setting. It was quiet, subdued, and rather unnoticeable against the larger, more romantically viewed restaurants of the area. But it fit Giles perfectly. He felt like it was far too underrated for how utterly romantic it was, though he couldn't share the idea out loud without looking like a goon. He had a thing for what others thought mundane or boring, and he knew that. Books, libraries, antiques, little home-run diners: they each had their own brand of romance around them that the Watcher appreciated.
"Well, I'm glad this place is the same as you left it, anyway," Willow looked up again. "You said you were worried about that."
"In any case, the food here is very nice. I, uh, I wanted to bring you here a couple of times, over the years, but never worked up the nerve or found the appropriate time. And then I yelled at you for something I very well shouldn't have, and then vanished for months on end. I apologize for all of that. I know I'm... I've been difficult."
Willow, too, had noticed the subtle romantic appeal of the restaurant, though she had been doing her best not to think too much about it. Until he started apologizing, and admitted that he had wanted to bring her here before. She was f***ed to face her feelings, address the things he said in words. The last time hadn't gone so well, when he'd scolded her jealous behavior before he left for England, and the whole subject was so emotionally charged that it was difficult to talk about even without that added experience. Still, though, he had
apologized, and though she dreaded mistaking it for more than what it was - after all, he could just be concerned for her feelings, without his own opinion having changed - it did seem like a rather pointed attempt to get to talking about their interpersonal issues.
"Shouldn't have yelled at me? Giles, I was out of line," she started, shaking her head, "it's... it's not my place to have a say in your life," she pursed her lips, "as much I used to think it should be. Still think... oh," she sighed, raking a hand through her pretty red hair. She didn't want to make a mess of this, or rehash everything she had said before, so she addressed the next point.
"I know you had to leave, it was important, and-- and I'm sure you had reasons for keeping out of contact with us, so don't think I blame you for that." That much was true, as hard as it had been to deal with his absence, she suspected the matter had been out of his control, for the most part. "It-it seems like you don't want to talk about it, though, so that's all I'll say."
Giles nodded, looking down at the table distantly. He was thinking about the events in England, unsure of what he was ready to share with her. He looked at her, smiling thinly, and he shook his head with a sigh.
"I understand where your concern for my choices comes from. I must admit, though I never let you see it, I was a bit flustered whenever I heard you were on a date," he didn't know how to say what he wanted to point out. How he understood that if he was having trouble with it, he imagined it must have been much more difficult for her. But how could he say that without looking like a jerk? He shook his head, "I think it's foolish to pretend we don't have some stake in one-another's lives. We... always will, I daresay, depending on... how the future unfolds from here."
Willow nodded through his explanation, certain key things he said causing those feelings in her to well up from where they were supposed to be suppressed. Depending on how the future unfolded? He had been flustered about her inconsequential dates? She had worried herself so much over the thought that he had all but lost interest in the agreement they had made all those years ago. It had been so long, and she often felt idiotic for blindly carrying a torch for him... but she couldn't change how she felt. Now she wondered if, maybe, the time had finally come, but she didn't want to get her hopes up. Maybe he would just tell her, despite their bond, he still wasn't ready. She didn't know. Everything was still so complicated. She prodded at her food with her fork until she was ready to speak.
He frowned, not liking how enigmatic he was being. Rubbing the back of his neck, he smiled as their food was served and they were left once more to talk. Or, more reasonably, eat. He played with his food, but dark memories had settled on him and he was finding it difficult to concentrate.
"I was called away to settle a matter with the Council," he said vaguely, "they believed me responsible for something and... ah... I had to show them that I wasn't involved. It got a bit complicated. In any case, there's a lot that I'm not proud of, and I worry that I may... I may still be in some trouble. I wish I could explain it to you, but I don't... I'm just worried you, if you don't already because of everything else, may... stop liking me..."
"You know I want to help you, if you're in any trouble," she said, moving pasta sauce around on her plate. "I... it's been seven years, Giles. I don't know what you could say that would change my feelings," she smiled, but it was marked with sadness. "Maybe it's stupid and I'm just living in a fantasy land, but I never stopped... liking... you," she was hesitant to use the stronger word. "It's been incredibly hard, but I value our-- friendship. I want to know what happened, when you're ready to tell me. You don't have to deal with, with whatever's troubling you on your own. I want to be there for you, when you decide the time is right," she sighed.
Giles frowned at his plate, then nodded. He wanted to tell her, but now he didn't think the setting was right. Irony was a cruel mistress. He looked up when her comment of how long it had been sank in, though it was a little while after she had said it. He drew a breath. Seven years. He felt horrible for that, very acutely, when he saw she was doing her best to downplay her feelings for him, even then. And he had selfishly made her wait, all the while knowing he had no idea what they were waiting for.
"I value you," he said, not bothering with the word 'friendship', "much more than I've been letting on. It's been so long since... that night, I can't honestly believe it. It feels strange to even be talking about it now, like it's still relevant or binding. I can't imagine how bitter with me you must have been at some points, forcing you to wait for any kind of sign from me that it... it did, in fact, mean as much to me as it did you. I don't suppose I feel very much like giving signs or being subtle any more. But telling you now is just as selfish as keeping you waiting, isn't it?”
"It... meant as much to you..." she turned the words over in her mouth, struck with a barrage of confusing emotions now that he was finally being direct. It meant more to her than she could convey, for him to admit to that after all this time, but she felt a selfish return to the feelings she'd had as a teenager. Why had they been made to wait at all? There had been so much inadvertent pain along the way, but she knew she was terrible for feeling like that since she had been the one to suggest waiting in the first place. And she knew why they had to wait, she knew the logic behind it, though after a few years it just seemed like he'd been drawing things out for no reason. When she's finally gone off to the University of Sunnydale, somehow that hadn't been enough. When she had come back from college, that wasn't enough either. When she'd expressed jealousy, he'd counseled her to become less attached... all the while never admitting that he had been just as moved as she by what they'd shared. It was hard to get a handle on all of it.
“I'm scared, Willow, of everything, and I don't know where else to turn. I honestly feel like I'm on the edge of something terrible, and I... I believe earnestly that they'll know what's in my heart better than I do. I fear you're in danger."
He sighed, looking up. He hadn't eaten anything, but now he didn't want to. He wanted to take her home and keep her safe. All his fears were in his head, all his imaginings and his nightmares, and all the warnings he had been given in England. He trembled, putting his fork down and hiding his hands in his lap so she might not notice.
"God, I'm a fool for doing this," he said to himself, unable to look at her.
"In danger? How? Giles, what's going on?" Willow's eyes searched his face from across the table, full of worry and concern. "You're back with us, now - all of us. As a team, we're strong. Are you... you don't think that terrible thing you're speaking of is something we can't face?" She had a bad feeling. The last evil entity that he'd doubted anyone else's ability to defeat had led to such a horrible experience. The demon, the turn to black magic. Willow's face fell as she remembered it, so long ago but still so clear in her mind.
Giles spoke again. "I don't want you to face it. Any of you. It's... I can't talk about it here. I don't know. It's not safe. I shouldn't have come back at all, I know, until I was certain it was done with. But he escaped and I couldn't be buggered to stay any longer. If something happens, it will be entirely my fault."
He shook his head, standing and dropping money, way too much, onto the table. He continued to shake his head. "I can't think about this right now. Come with me. I'm sorry about rushing you out of here. Just come with me." He offered his hand to her, looking desperate.
"I want to be with you, Willow, while I can."
Willow's head was spinning. She rose abruptly and took his hand, weaving her fingers between his as the left. She hadn't pictured that the long yearning wait would end like this, on a note of danger and urgency and anxious tension. But she accepted it, she wanted to be at his side in this delicate time for him, she wanted to do anything she could for him even if he didn't want any of the Scoobies involved. But what he said worried her, both in tone and words.
"Giles," she watched her feet as they moved from the restaurant floor out onto the sidewalk, "'While you can'? What does that mean?" She stopped him, put a hand to his cheek, her fingertips running over the rough stubble. "I-I don't think I could bear to lose you again."
"Let's walk," he said abruptly, turning from her gentle touch and leading her by the hand. He didn't care too much about the motorcycle, anyway. He had stolen it, so it only seemed fair for someone else to take it now. Besides, the last thing he needed at the moment was to be caught with it by the police. He knew his friends at the restaurant would take care of it for him. They owed him that much.
Willow looked over her shoulder, back at the bike, but Giles kept pulling her forward so she didn't say anything. She kept pace with him, her legs taking longer, quicker strides to match his speed. Her heart was racing, an unsettling mixture of confusion and... something approaching happiness... though she couldn't focus on that now. She didn't feel it was right to, anyway, not at that moment, because he seemed so serious and she was scared.
He didn't know where he was leading her, walking blindly while thinking. This was too messed up, even for who he had become. He couldn't just drag her away, get her involved in his life, and leave her to run from chaos and the threat of death should he be caught. It would be terrible for her, but in his heart he knew that him going to her now or leaving her absolutely clueless would make no difference in the long run. If he couldn't stop the chaos that was coming, that which he knew was coming, they would find Willow anyway. She was the only woman, after all, that he held in his heart. There had been no other real relationships. And all of the other girls he knew were loved on quite different levels. Willow was in danger, regardless of what he did now.
He just couldn't figure out how to tell her that.
"I did terrible things," he said quietly, as if to himself and against his own will, "while trying to free myself of a terrible lie. The cruelty of the situation is that I deserve everything that comes of it. I betrayed someone, and they betrayed me, and I fear he won't be content with how things had gone. The Council will turn a blind eye now, and he will come here. He'll find me and... and he'll find you, Willow. He's seen inside my mind, my heart. I'm sorry..."
She held tight to his hand with both of hers, clinging to him as they walked aimlessly along. After he spoke, she felt her stomach twisting.
"Betrayal--" her mind was turning, connecting the dots, "Giles is it, it's not..." she was hesitant to say his name. He had already wreaked so much havoc in all of their lives over the years, but this new development seemed to be very bad indeed, and Giles had kept from saying it himself, cautiously doling out meager details. “Oh, it is... isn't it? It's Ethan?”
"B-but I'll be safe with you, right?" she spluttered, her mind unable to truly process the gravity of his warning. She didn't like this, she didn't like that his return had to be on such a chaotic note, and that she was, somehow, still causing trouble for him. It wasn't rational, or logical, to think that, but she did. Because he cared for her, that put her in danger, which in turn kept him in danger.