After Buffy left the library, Giles' first course of action was to gather up every text on vampire lore that he could find- The Black Chronicles, The Tiberius Manifesto, and countless others, including the Council's own manifest, handed down for generations. Their bible, so to speak. Giles knew the Council's teachings by heart but he scanned the text anyway, searching in vain for some mention of vampires retaining their souls or being capable of procreation.
As he and Willow poured over volume after volume, Giles was achingly aware of the young woman sitting across from him- and achingly aware of things left unsaid. Several times, he looked up from his book to find her studiously ignoring him, her eyes locked on the pages in front of her. He watched as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and worried her lower lip with her teeth, feeling a twinge of lust as he remembered how those lips felt against his. How sweet her mouth had tasted, how warm...
Giles shook his head to clear his thoughts. *Christ, Ripper! You stupid bloody git, will you never learn?* One night only, that was what she had said. To wish for anything more was insanity. It was bad enough that he had last night on his conscience. She was only a friend- a colleague, an ally in the fight against evil...
She was only seventeen.
They couldn't ignore what had happened between them. Couldn't pretend that everything was fine, that nothing had changed. The tension in the air was thick, heavy- nearly suffocating in its oppressiveness. Giles could hear her feet shifting nervously under her chair and he closed his book in frustration, knowing that he'd never be able to concentrate if things continued as they were. He cleared his throat.
She started at the sound of his voice and her head snapped up, a blush spreading across her skin when she saw him staring. "Yeah?" she squeaked out.
"Willow, I think we should talk...a-about last night."
She bit her lip and shook her head. "There's nothing to talk about. I told you, I'm fine...everything's fine, Giles." Her voice was slightly high-pitched and panicky as she tried to convince him. "It happened and now it's over. We- we shouldn't dwell on it, right?"
When Buffy had left the library, she'd taken Willow's self-confidence with her. Alone with Giles, Willow could feel the awkwardness and tension growing every minute, and she wished she'd thought twice about offering to stay behind and work on the research. Images of the night before kept crowding her mind, making concentration nearly impossible. Giles had kissed her...had seen her naked...had been 'inside' her... He knew her more intimately than anyone else on earth. And now, sitting here facing him...
She wanted to turn tail and run.
Willow watched as Giles removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, the way he always did when something pained him. Obviously, that something was her. Panic swept through her like a hot wind, bringing tears to her eyes. All of her fears were becoming reality- fear that he wouldn't be able to look her in the eye again, fear that she'd ruined their friendship, that she'd lost his respect. All because of one selfish act.
"Oh...oh, no..." she whispered, pushing away from the table and standing on shaking legs. At the sound of the chair legs scraping against the floor, Giles looked up and mimicked her actions, rounding the table to stand in front of her, effectively blocking her quick exit.
"Willow, we need to discuss this. What happened was..." Was what? How did he put into words what he was thinking...feeling? High priced Oxford education be damned...his grasp of the English language was precariously thin at the moment and the feeling of utter helplessness put him on the defensive. "Dammit, Willow! I bloody well don't know what happened! I only know that you can't ignore it...y-you can't keep all of this bottled up inside- not Oz, not Buffy," his voice softened, "... not us."
She wrapped her arms around her waist, her hair falling forward as she hugged herself tightly. Denial, denial...just float away on that river like Moses in his little reed basket, she thought to herself, wishing that Giles would just go away and leave her alone. I can't do this, she moaned inwardly. I'm not strong like Buffy...I can't face my demons. I don't know who that girl was last night, but she wasn't me! I'm "hide-under-the-covers-don't-stick-your-foot-out" girl. She mumbled under her breath, "I 'can' keep it bottled up, I 'want' to ignore it..."
Giles grabbed her upper arms and shook her, forcing her to look up at him. "Willow, stop it! This isn't healthy, this- this avoidance! Just tell me...tell me how you feel," he pleaded in a low, husky voice.
Something snapped inside her and her eyes flashed with green fire. "What do you want me to say?" she desperately cried out. "Do you want me to tell you that I wish it had been Oz last night? Is that really what you want to hear? God, Giles... What I did was bad enough, do I have to say it out loud?" Tears of frustration and embarrassment shone in her eyes. "I know I shouldn't have used you like that, but last night, I didn't care. Last night, all I wanted was..." She closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. "All I wanted was to know what it felt like, to have another person inside me...the way...the way that Oz would have...been." Willow opened her eyes in time to see the hurt reflected in his.
"I'm sorry, Giles."
He released his hold on her and bowed his head. He'd known, deep down, that last night had been born out of desperation. That he'd been nothing more than a replacement for a boy dead and buried in the ground. He understood it- all too well- but still... That didn't make the cut any less painful.
He sighed. "Willow, you don't need to apologize. You offered something and I took it...knowing full well what I was doing. I was selfish in my own right... I-I should have stopped to consider the consequences."
She lowered her eyes and her voice was soft as she answered him. "I didn't want you to stop. I wanted everything that happened."
Giles reached out, running his finger along the curve of her jaw before tipping her chin up to look into her eyes. "Why me? Why not Xander? Why didn't you just try confiding in Buffy, your best friend?"
"I- I couldn't. You know, I've loved Xander for most of my life. And when we were little, I always ran to him when something bad happened. But we're not little anymore...and he's hurt me so many times, maybe not intentionally, but... He really cares about Cordelia. Going to him would only have piled hurt upon hurt. It would have felt wrong. And as much as I love Buffy...even though I knew it really wasn't her fault, I still blamed her for Oz's death. Besides, I needed more than just a shoulder to cry on." She shrugged. "I trusted you, Giles. And part of me has always..." Willow looked away, whispering, "Part of me has always wondered...what it would be like...with you."
She returned her gaze to him, finding some hidden reserve of courage. "I knew that you would make it all right. Going to you 'felt' right. You weren't just a choice, Giles...you were the only choice."
Her admission stunned him. He wasn't sure what he had expected to hear- that she chose him because he was older, more experienced? That Xander would have complicated things, Giles had already known, but to hear her say that she'd thought about him, in that way, before? All this time that they had been working together, had she been imagining the same things that he had? *Only seventeen, she's only seventeen...*
"Whoa," she said, pulling away with a shaky laugh as she tucked her hair behind her ears. "I never thought I'd tell you that. I never 'meant' to tell you, actually. It was only a fantasy- just me, daydreaming- it didn't mean anything."
She held up a hand. "You don't have to say anything. I mean, I know last night was only a comfort thing, I'm sure you never in a million years ever considered-"
Her hand fell to her side and for a moment she couldn't breathe. "You did what?"
His eyes were deep and penetrating as they stared into hers. "I considered it...more than once. You're a beautiful and intelligent young woman, Willow, and all of those nights, here, just the two of us..." His lips quirked up in a half-smile. "Of course I imagined what it would be like. I'm only human, after all."
"But- but, I thought- I'm not-" She shook her head in bewilderment. "I'm not beautiful, Giles. Other than Oz, no boy has ever found me attractive. I'm okay with that, I'm used to it. I'm just...me."
Giles constantly found himself amazed at the stupidity and ignorance of teenage boys. A girl like Willow glowed from within, how they could be blind to that inner light was a mystery unto itself. He reached out and brushed a lock of crimson and gold from her forehead, his expression both tender and serious. "Listen to me, Willow, and listen well. Oz's taste in women was...light years ahead of other young men his age. You remind me so much of a girl I once knew, and to this day, I've seen very few women who can compare to her beauty. The boys at school may not have the good sense to realize what is beneath their very noses, but I assure you, there are men out there who do. Smart men, like Oz."
Willow blushed. "Giles, you don't have to- "
"I meant every word. Last night was more than just comfort for me. You...helped me rediscover a part of myself that I thought had died with Jenny. I- I never expected to feel that way again after..."
His voice trailed off as the pain of losing Jenny resurfaced. He closed his eyes for a second as he regained his composure, then focused his attention back on Willow, taking her hand in both of his. "Now, tell me...you're truly all right? I wish to God that I hadn't hurt you the way I did..."
She smiled and reached up with her other hand to touch his face. "I'm fine, Giles. Really and truly fine." Her smile faltered and her hand slipped down to rest against his chest. "What happens now? Did I...did I ruin everything? Can we still work together? Are we still...?" The words caught in her throat and she swallowed heavily.
"Still friends?" he finished for her.
She nodded fearfully, waiting for his response.
Giles gave her a small smile and kissed the hand that he was holding. "We are still, and I hope always will be, friends." He felt the air leave her body and pulled her close, pressing his lips to her forehead. "As far as working together is concerned... I sincerely doubt that I would be able to manage without you. We are a team, yes?" he murmured against her hair.
"Yes," she answered, tears of relief filling her eyes. "Always."
They stood there together for a moment, his head resting against hers. Reluctantly, Giles released her and they looked at each other in complete understanding before dropping their gazes to the pile of books on the table next to them.
"Right then," Giles said. "Back to work?"
"Back to work," Willow smiled, as she moved to take her seat again. "Did you find anything at all in that pile?"
"Not a blasted thing. Perhaps we should turn our attention to the journals? See if Lucien's diary gives any credence to Anne's story?"
Willow nodded and handed Giles the Watcher's diary, then resigned herself to searching through the remaining stack of books. This time, it was a comfortable silence that fell over the library as they settled into the familiar routine of working together.
>From the Diary of Lucien Aubry
1 June 1435
Anne seems distracted of late. She does not come home until sunrise and is nearly incapable of paying attention during her lessons. She insists that there has been an increase in vampire activity which requires her to spend longer hours slaying. I myself have not noticed this increase, but she is the one who must face the horde each night and thus would have more knowledge of this than I. Perhaps the numbers will dwindle as summer approaches and brings with it longer days, and Anne will be able to spend more time on her training sessions.
There is little that has been written about the current Master, Guillaume. He is said to be a fierce and deadly fighter, and there are rumors that he has dispatched more than one Slayer. Anne has not mentioned him as yet, but it is only a matter of time before she must confront Guillaume and attempt to defeat him. I can only hope that she is ready when the time comes.
12 June 1435
Anne has still not faced Guillaume. She avoids speaking of him, telling me that she has not found his lair and that his minions refuse to impart any information, even under threat of torture. It is troublesome, I admit, but I have no doubt that a meeting between them is inevitable. As Master of Rouen, Guillaume will not suffer a Slayer to live, and it is Anne's sacred duty to destroy any vampire which stalks our city. She will either defeat him, or perish in the attempt.
27 June 1435
I am concerned about Anne's current state. She seems listless- uninterested in her lessons, and her attention wanders most annoyingly. I must remind myself that she is a female, and as such is prone to flights of fancy and irrational behavior, but it plagues me still. I cannot fathom why Slayers are not young men, instead of girls. Females are difficult beings, lacking common sense and strength of character. I fear that my earlier misgivings about Anne are coming to fruition.
Marie-Therese prattles endlessly about love and marriage, no matter how I strive to correct her. Anne is not meant for such a life- it is her destiny to fight the forces of darkness and nothing more. Why does Marie-Therese not understand that Slayers do not live long enough to bear children? A Slayer who survives her sixteenth year is a rarity, and one who surpasses the eighteenth? Unheard of. Anne is fifteen now and already showing signs of becoming weary. I do not think that she will last much longer, more's the pity.
"YOU BLOODY PILLOCK!"
Willow looked up with a start. "Giles?" She stared with concern at the unnatural redness of his face. "What's wrong?"
"This!" He angrily jabbed his finger at the book in front of him. "This- this so-called Watcher! He talks about Anne- 'his' Slayer, the girl he raised as his own for ten years- he- he talks about her as if she is completely expendable, as if...as if she's nothing more than...than fodder for his precious cause!" Lucien's overbearing and self-righteous manner had annoyed Giles numerous times during the translation process, but now he was appalled at the blatant lack of concern the Watcher had shown in his musings on Anne's demise.
Giles slammed the book closed and lurched to his feet, as if trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and the offending tome. He backed away from the table and began to pace, tearing his glasses off in order to press the heal of his hand against the sudden shooting pain in his left eye.
Willow reached across the table and pulled the translated page over to her side. She quickly read the entries and understanding dawned as she realized that Giles was comparing himself to Lucien. She tried to calm him with logic. "Giles, it was a different time. Many men of that time viewed their wives and daughters as property, you know that. And you've mentioned more than once that the Council doesn't exactly promote closeness between Watchers and Slayers."
Giles whirled to face her. "That doesn't make it right!" he nearly shouted. He tried to compose himself as he shoved his glasses back onto his face. Lowering his voice, he continued, "That sort of treatment of Slayers wasn't limited to five hundred years ago. It's still going on, right now, all over the world. Young girls are isolated and taught that having emotions is somehow wrong...that to love is a weakness. You remember Kendra?"
Willow nodded. "Of course."
"Sam Zabuto is a friend of mine, and a highly respected Watcher. And yet, his Slayer is no different from the rest- her only purpose in life is to fight vampires and demons. She doesn't even remember her own family, for Christ's sake! We process these girls and send them out to be slaughtered, one after another. Expendable, replaceable... One dies and another is called...ad infinitum."
"But you and Buffy are different, Giles. She has friends and family...people who love her. 'You' are not Lucien, or any of these other Watchers," Willow assured him.
"But don't you see, Willow- I 'could' have been them, so very easily." He shook his head. "If Buffy hadn't slipped through the cracks, if she hadn't been free to develop into her own person... The Council has never had much tolerance for individuality."
"That's never stopped you before. You've always done things your own way- you've even disregarded direct orders from the Council." Her lips quirked up in a smile. "You're a rebel. Your grandmother would have been proud."
Giles couldn't help the grin that her statement coaxed out of him. "Thank you for that." He looked down at the diary and sighed. "I suppose that I should get back to this. I can only imagine what his reaction to finding out about Anne and Guillaume must have been."
Giles sat down and picked up his pen, a feeling of dread stealing over him as he continued translating.
14 July 1435
Anne grows more distant with each passing day. Marie-Therese is convinced that Anne has fallen in love, but with whom? And how could this have happened? She has had little contact with the local men in the past year, and I have closely monitored her activities during the day. No, it cannot be possible. If the Council were to hear of this, they would surely remove me from my position as Watcher.
26 July 1435
I awoke this morn to the sound of retching. Anne was violently ill, and for a few terrifying moments I feared that some sort of plague had been visited upon us. After a thorough examination, however, I determined that there were no other symptoms to indicate such. No fever, pustules or rash, nor did she experience any sort of pain. After settling her stomach with some peppermint, I performed a simple alchemist's trick to ascertain if she had been bewitched. Again, I gathered no evidence. Perhaps it was only the evening meal that caused Anne's illness, although Marie-Therese and I experienced no such upset. I shall keep a close watch over her, in any case.
3 August 1435
Anne is becoming dreadfully thin and pale. She tries to hide her illness from us, but I've heard the sounds of her wretchedness in the mornings. I cannot fathom what ails her. If I do not discover a cause soon, I must admit defeat and notify the Council at once.
8 August 1435
Marie-Therese believes that there is only one explanation for Anne's condition...that my Slayer is with child. Has Anne been meeting a young man while out slaying? Has she betrayed her sacred duty, her secret identity? I cannot imagine which of the men has wormed his way into her heart. She has always maintained a distance from them, always comported herself like a proper lady. Have I been blind to her true nature? How could she allow herself to be so easily led astray?
Despite Anne's physical strength and mental acuity, she is still subject to the weaknesses of her sex. Therefore, as Watcher and head of this household, it is my responsibility to put an end to whatever entanglements in which she finds herself. I shall follow her the night after next and see for myself who it is that has stolen my Slayer's heart.
If Marie-Therese's suspicions are true and Anne is with child, then there can only be one recourse. The Council has made it plain that no Slayer shall bear children- Anne will not be the first. The right amount of pennyroyal in her mead is sure to remedy the situation, and I shall make certain that she does not stray again.
Giles blanched as he read the words he'd just translated. "Dear God in heaven," he murmured. How could this man have been so cold blooded? How could he have been so callous, treating Anne as if she were nothing more than an animal to be sterilized?
As angry as he had been at Buffy's deception, Giles knew that he ultimately would forgive her almost anything at all. Each time he sent her out to fight unknown evil, he was filled with fear at the thought that she might not return. There were numerous times that he gladly would have fought in her stead, just to keep her safe. Under the gaze of her large hazel eyes, he often felt that he would promise her anything, and that he could deny her nothing. She was his partner, his confidant...and his child, as surely as if she'd sprung from his own loins. She was his reason for living, his entire life.
And his feelings for her went against everything the Council had so stridently tried to drum into him.
Giles glanced up and caught Willow's questioning stare. He shook his head slightly and contemplated the book in front of him, trying to fight the sick feeling worming its way through his gut. He knew that Slayers were normally sheltered from the outside world and raised for one purpose only- to fight demons. Kendra was a perfect example of the old world style advocated by the Council, while Buffy broke every rule and regulation in the handbook. Part of his reasoning for not giving her the bloody thing had been because he himself had thought it restrictive and outdated. He hadn't wanted a Stepford Slayer, and luckily for him, Buffy was anything but that.
He was troubled by the image of the Council portrayed in both journals. Certainly times had changed, hadn't they? The Council couldn't possibly still follow edicts that were over five hundred years old...could they? Of course, they did still perpetuate those barbarous Trials- the various tests that a Slayer must undergo when she reaches the age of eighteen. His stomach tied itself into knots at just the thought of Buffy having to endure them. Christ! There were only more questions, never any answers.
A sound from Willow gave him a welcome distraction from his brooding.
"Oh!" She exclaimed. "Oh, Giles, look at the time! It's dark already...my parents are going to freak!"
"I'm sorry, Willow, I should have remembered. I- I'll drive you right home and come back here to finish." His heart wasn't in it, but he desperately needed to know more about what had happened to Anne.
"Oh no, you won't," Willow said firmly.
"What? Of course I will- Lucien hasn't even found out about Guillaume." He pulled off his glasses and began cleaning them with a handkerchief. "I haven't learned a bloody thing yet."
"Giles, you're exhausted, same as me. The journals can wait until morning."
"Will still be pregnant tomorrow," she finished for him. "C'mon. I insist that you get some sleep. I know that you have a headache, too...don't even try to deny it."
A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. "Since when did you get so bossy? And since when have you been noticing whether or not I've got a headache?"
"Since always," Willow replied softly. "I can read you like a book."
Unsure of how to respond, Giles decided to capitulate. He did need the sleep, after all. "All right. I'll go home and get some rest, provided that you do the same. Agreed?"
"Agreed. And no translating at home, either."
Giles shook his head as they cleared the table of books and papers, making plans to meet again early the next morning. The day's stress quickly caught up with them as they left the library, causing stifled yawns to echo in the deserted hallways. Sleep was what they yearned for, but they both knew that such a simple request would probably not be granted. Not until this whole mess was resolved one way or another.