Black Magic Part 2 - (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
Author's Note: This is the second part of a long Giles/Willow story. No sex yet (yes there is sex, it's already written), but I prefer the slow burn.
Willow was surprised when she arrived at Giles' apartment and didn't see any cars she recognized from the group. She didn't think too much of it, simply rang his doorbell and tried to quell her anticipation, smoothing wrinkles from her billowy dress out of nerves more than anything else.
Giles was sitting in his living room, trying his best not to feel anxious. But of course he did. He couldn't help it. It had been so long, not just because he had been in England, but before that. He couldn't remember the last time he had needed the company of one specific person so badly. Maybe he never had felt anything like this.
The Watcher was leaning forward in his armchair, guitar on his knees, head slightly bowed as he played and listened to the notes. He played without sheet music or previous knowledge, letting his impulses guide his fingers and reveling in the sounds that the old guitar produced. Music tended to sooth him, almost as much as books did. He played when his mind was too alive for reading, his thoughts and fears and worries all turning into notes.
His ears perked at the sound of the door, and he stood abruptly, nearly knocking his chair back. Putting the guitar down carefully, he crossed to the door, hesitating and back pedaling to look himself in the mirror. Besides the evidence of a fight, he was looking quite good. Better, in fact, than when he had left. Grimacing, he knew why. Hopefully she wouldn't notice. In any case, his hair was shorter, cut and colored to hide his identity in England. It was just growing back from being buzzed short, an odd look that he absolutely despised, though now it had some of its old life back. He still had his earring in, but failed to notice it as he moved to open the door.
He smiled when he saw her, looking at once relieved and calm. All of these things had been distant memories to him before that moment, his previous situation not calling for any of them. Stepping out of the doorway, he invited her in.
"I-it's good to see you, Willow," he stammered.
Willow stepped inside graciously, though her lips quirked as she looked at him. There was something... something she couldn't put her finger on that was different, and it wasn't just his hair. Nor the cut on his temple-- but that distracted her for the moment, filled her with concern. Almost on impulse she halfway reached out to touch at it, before drawing her hand back and cradling it as though she had accidentally touched a hot iron. She wasn't sure how to feel or act and she wasn't taking any measures to hide her confusion.
"Giles... I'm so glad you're back with us," she said as she cast her gaze about the room. No Buffy. No Xander, Anya... just his guitar. She smiled and looked back at him, perplexed but still awash with relief at his safe return, and the way it made her feel to hear him say it was good to see her. She noticed the earring then, and something about that called back to the feeling she had had of offness
upon first looking at him, but she was too overwhelmed with seeing him in the flesh to think very clearly or put things together in her mind. She stood awkwardly near the front door, nudging the toe of her shoe into the carpet. She hadn't felt quite this disarmed in some time. "What happened to you? Are you all right? Your-- you have a cut," she said dumbly, shaking her head almost immediately after the words left her lips. "Not that that's obvious or anything," she sighed.
Giles looked confused for a moment, then lifted his hand to his temple and winced at the memory, though actually touching it didn't hurt him at all. Shaking his head, he offered a smile to shrug the concern away.
"It's fine. Ha, it's just been quite a, ah, long trip. Please, ah, d-do come in," he ushered her toward the living room, closing the door behind her. It was difficult not to cast a wary look around, so used to hiding as he had become. He imagined his anxiety and paranoia would be high for some time. "Can I, uhm, get you some tea or some- actually, no. I don't think I... have anything here, yet. So. Uh. Oh dear."
He ran a hand through his hair, bewildered for a moment. He was put off with having her near him again, and feeling like he was suddenly facing everything he had been shoving to the back of his mind. How silly that was! To turn into a boy with a crush at the least appropriate time. He had invited her over, after all.
"That was quite ill planned of me. But I thought... I don't know what I thought. I wanted to see you. It... ah, feels like too long. I'm sorry I was away. In England and... b-before that."
Willow took a few tentative steps inside, before finally she f***ed herself to sit down on the couch. She didn't know why it was suddenly so hard to move about as normal, maybe because she was alone with him now. For the first time in a long while.
"It's okay," she waved her hand at the subject of tea. "I understand, you just got back," she laughed. "Gosh I'm really inconsiderate, I should have brought a- a gift or something," she was rambling a bit from nerves, "like, like a re-housewarming? Hmm," she started to chew her lower lip but caught herself. It was a habit she'd been trying to break.
His other words found their way into her brain, but she didn't know what to think of them. He wanted to see her. Well, of course he'd want to see all of the Scoobies! Silly Willow, there you go again. Don't make this harder on yourself, you're already embarrassing yourself as it is.
It's not helping that he looks so good, wound and all. Shut up shut up!
"Before? But you were here," she said somewhat manically, as though desperate to rid the words of the meaning he intended, twist them into something bland and superficial. "And, well, England... you had things to do," she grimaced a little, more than things. Important more-than-things that had required his immediate attention and absence from Sunnydale for months. She didn't want him to think she was belittling anything he'd gone through, though of course she was still in the dark about it all. "Ummm, so, I guess you've already talked to Buffy? Did she have to leave? Xander? Maybe he's at work..." Willow's leg was jiggling madly against the couch cushion, but she was unaware of the nervous tremor.
"No..," he breathed carefully, avoiding the topic of England, looking down instead of at her, "they don't know I'm here yet, actually. Ah,you were... were the first person I've called. I just didn't want to bother them if, you know, if I had to go back. I'm almost certain things are settled, but one can never be sure with the Council these days. Ah, oh, not to imply that I don't mind bothering you. I just... thought... er."
He folded his arms over his chest and looked up at her, green eyes as sharp as ever. He had a rugged air about him, a well ordered stubble on his chin and even the trace remnants of what had at one time been a goatee of sorts. He had shaved before heading for home, and had only cleaned it up rather than shaved it all off once he was back. Another effort to change his appearance in England. It left him looking fairly robust, though there was more to it than simple aesthetic changes.
He was wearing dark, loose jeans and a fairly casual shirt, an old, faded leather jacket hanging over the back of his arm chair. Looking around, he suddenly found himself wishing he had done a better job of making himself normal before asking her over. Still, he was glad to have her there.
"What have you been up to, while I was away?"
"Oh," Willow inhaled, blinking. Hadn't even told his Slayer he was back?
She cleared her throat. "Not... not too much, really," her mind drifted to a few minor evils Buffy had had to face, nothing major, nothing requiring extraordinary research either. "Just, taking care of research for Buffy. Nothing very interesting. It's like evil decided not to bother since you weren't around," she had intended it as joke, reflecting her respect for his skills, but then realized there had been a reason for him to be stuck in England all that time.
"Yes, that, or perhaps I'm just too good at drawing it – evil," Giles considered, "after me, regardless of location. Though, uh, I can't say there was... m-much danger." Not the best recovery he had ever tried, but he was a bit flustered by too many other things. It was a bit overwhelming.
Willow hoped she hadn't come off too thoughtless in light of his explanation, but she moved on. "Other than that, just continuing with my rituals. Honing my skills a bit."
Giles smiled at her comment, nodding. "I am relieved to hear you all have been safe. I was worried that-ah-well. I thought maybe things would get out of hand without me. I gave myself a bit too much credit, I think. But good! You've been keeping up with your magic? And Buffy, her training? I'm sure she's fine. I'll have to call her. What, ah, what have you been focusing on of late?"
He was trying to be conversational, but he was aware that it was really strange to call her out of the blue, without calling anyone else, just to play catch up. Even he didn't know his ulterior motive as well as he would have liked.
Willow brightened at how enthusiastic he still was about her magic. He was really the only one that understood how important it was to her. Buffy could understand, in the sense that they both had a calling, a natural ability for something (though Willow's wasn't prophetic, there were at least superficial similarities) but not the passion for magic itself. "I've been doing some more with... decursing," she glanced nervously up at him. "Objects only, right now. I know it can be dangerous, but I'm being careful, I promise," she said earnestly. "Besides, the worst thing I've encountered so far, hmm... an old pocketwatch cursed to make the wearer constantly late. I know, that doesn't sound like much... and I said myself, 'Well, maybe it's just running behind!' but I looked at the, the guts of the thing and they were all in order. Then I did my spell, and yep, sure enough. Cursed," she sighed. "The removal gave me a bit of trouble. I ended up sl**ping past my next appointment with the owner," she scratched the back of her head. "But that was it. I gave it back and I think it's fine. And I'm fine. And punctual."
"Brilliant! I mean, yes, dangerous, but, exciting!" He laughed, another thing he had missed doing, and moved to his guitar, picking it up and placing it in his lap as he sat down. He leaned forward, to engage her in conversation, just holding the guitar without intention of playing it. "I remember some of my first successful spells. None of them were in any way spectacular. A c***d with natural proclivity could figure out how to cast them with so much ease, which makes how hard I had studied a bit embarrassing. But really, that elation of being able to do it, alone, was enough to vindicate me from any embarrassment."
Willow devoured his praise, her eyes lit up as soon as he started going on about magic. He looked so at ease, sitting with his guitar, she almost let slip from her mind that he'd been gone so long and the reason behind it. She hadn't had such a spirited discussion about magic in way too long, it was easy to lose herself in the talk of the craft. "It is exciting," she agreed, her nerves ebbing back as her glee came to the forefront. "When I feel the magic welling up within me, more than when I just memorized spells... you know... I feel I'm able to manipulate all the knowledge I've acquired to fit the situation. But it's more than just knowledge. I mean, I might know how to throw a punch - logically, the way to do it - but I could never do it effectively. But for someone like Buffy, the action just comes. That's how it is with magic now. It's such an amazing feeling," she gushed.
Giles leaned back, smiling at her in wonder and with some degree of pride on his handsome face, "I wish I had seen it, honestly."
"When you're settled in, I'll bring my next customer's artifact over. If that's okay. Then I can show you, if you still want to see it," she smiled. She was eager to show off for him, despite her humility.
Giles grinned broadly, "yes, that would be great! I'd like to see the master at work." He nodded his head deeply, as if bowing to her, laughing at how excited she was, because it made him feel better than he had in ages. Being around good, pure magic would be invigorating to him, and to see her practicing it would appeal to many other things for him. Feeling a bit disconcerted when that kind of idea popped into his head, he began to ramble again. "Yet, still a pity to have missed this case. A cursed watch? I've heard of sillier things to get cursed. Honestly, I could imagine how utterly aggravating that must have been for the fellow. Ah! Sorry, I get a bit, ah, nerdy? I've heard you lot call me that-when I get to hear about things like this. I'm very glad you're continuing with your growth as a Witch. You've been such a wonder to teach, and I'm afraid you've far surpassed me now. I won't be able to teach you much of anything." At least not about white magic, he thought to himself with private bitterness. Smiling, he shook his head and leaned back.
Willow didn't like to think he didn't have anything to teach her anymore. It felt a bit like something being taken away from her. One of her excuses to be around him? Perhaps. But she did respect him deeply for his skills, and part of her really didn't want to outshine him, out of modesty. She blinked a few times, unsure of how to express herself.
Giles took the somewhat awkward silence as a cue to go on. "I'm sorry I called you out of nowhere and summoned you here, just to babble. I have to admit, and feel comfortable to do so to you, that it's been quite lonely
. For quite some time. And returning to England, ah, really put a lot of things in perspective. How quickly life can be taken from you, completely changed and ruined is... alarming."
He frowned, not knowing whether he should continue on this path of conversation. It had been years, and now he wanted to bring it up? The agreement they had made? And hadn't he been the one that scolded her for being too attached to him? He really had no right to confuse her again. It was shameful.
"It's okay. I... I really am glad you called," the red-head looked down at her hands, trying to wrap her mind around what he was saying. She hadn't let herself think about the possibilities much in the last couple years, having made herself ignore the yearning she had for him as a defense mechanism. It had caused so many problems in the past. "I imagine that would be a very sobering experience," she said simply after he spoke of change and things being ruined. "I could see how you could, um, gain perspective." She was treading a very delicate line now, so many emotions being held at bay only by sheer will.
Giles picked up his well-worn guitar and strummed at it uselessly, not really producing much sound so much as just feeling the strings under his fingers and going through the motions of tuning and playing a song. He looked at the young Witch, smiling and quickly looking down, when she tried her best to reply to his weird comments. He was being vague and it wasn't fair, but he didn't know how she would react if he told her the full story. So much had changed in those long months away, and he felt the weight of needing to keep it a secret from her. From everyone. He could not bear any of the gang, but Willow particularly, finding out about the things he had done and thinking less of him for it. Because he knew he would deserve their hatred, and that was the most crushing thing.
"Do you want to go out?"