Spoilers: "WttH," "Halloween," "Dark Age," "Passion," "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "Band Candy," "Doppelgangland," "Bargaining," "All The Way," "Tabula Rasa." "Smashed" and "Wrecked" would be helpful
Season/Episode: 6/after TR
Notes: for mrsdrake for the W/G ficathon. Her requests are at the end; otherwise I never would've written it but man, it's been a fun ride. Many, many thanks to Gvambat who plotted this bitch with me from the start, saw me through every chapter, beta'd, critiqued, complimented, and made sure I got it done on time. Love you, girl.
Archive at will, just let me know.
A Teeny Tiny Temporal Fold
Willow curled up at the foot of her bed, perusing a spellbook Tara had left behind. She'd just cast a tiny glamour on it, making Tara think it belonged to Willow. She was sure Tara wouldn't mind, not if she understood exactly how important the book was.
She was pretty sure that she could find a way to get Tara back. There had to be a way to get Tara back. Of course, if she messed with Tara's memory again, maybe Tara wouldn't like it very much, and she might get upset again, and then, well, she'd kinda burned up all her Lethe's Bramble anyhow. So maybe somehow else. She flipped another page. What was Tara talking about, anyhow, saying she was doing too much magic? Tara kept books like Spells for Questers of the Arcane around, and that wasn't exactly pencil floating and home perms.
There were love spells, but Willow did remember Xander's love spell, and she didn't want the entire town of Sunnydale coming after her. She briefly wondered if it would only be lesbians and straight guys, or if she could manage everyone, right down to Buffy and heck, maybe even her very un-straight soc professor, who was kind of cute in a very male sort of way. But anyhow, probably not the smartest thing to try, and if it went wrong--but of course, it wasn't going to go wrong. She was going to get Tara back. She was.
The book also had time spells, and that looked more promising. At least, she hadn't already messed on of those up. Sure, they looked ridiculously advanced, but she was ridiculously good, and so long as she kept her head, she should be okay.
"A spell to retrieve objects lost in time"--tried that, Anya's necklace, led to badness. "A spell to retrieve people sent back in time"--hopefully, something she wouldn't need. "A spell to erase the effects of time on skintone and hair color"--not something she had to worry about yet. "A spell to reverse the passage of time"--living life backwards, would be fun for awhile, but eventually you got back to the bad parts of time, the parts where she was all depressed and had no lover, and then the time before she met Buffy and Giles--didn't want that. "A spell to loop time"--uh, no. "A most advanced spell, for those of great skill" that was her "which allows the observer to in truth and actuality live in another time" Excellent. That was it. To live in another time. To go back to before Tara got mad at her, and to do things right this time. No memory spells--and she wouldn't do anything at Anya's party. She'd know this time, that they were engaged, and plan ahead, and it would all work out so well. And Giles would stay. She'd warn Buffy; she'd figure out some way--she'd do it all over again.
The ingredients were all around here somewhere. First, to cast a circle, second, to find an object representative of the time required, third, to focus one's mind she grabbed all the mystical objects she could find and thrust them into a circle. She was getting Tara back. She was going back to a time when Tara was. Everything was going to be better this time around. She poured a bag of crystals into the center, found some herbs in an urn on the desk, closed her eyes, and started chanting. Focus her mind, focus her mind, on Tara, on going back to Tara
Of course, if she went back to last week, Buffy would still be all--oh, it was too terrible. Before Buffy died. Go back before Buffy died--before Glory got to Tara. If Glory hadn't gotten to Tara, she wouldn't mind so much, having her memory altered. Or maybe if she went back to when she first met Tara; she liked that time so much, and then Tara didn't object to spells. If she made Tara promise to stay, if she made Tara realize how much she needed magic she could do that. And Giles. Giles would never call her an amateur if she showed him just how skilled she was. She'd have all the skill and knowledge she had now, only she could live it all again.
Focus her mind, focus her mind.
She could feel time slip away. She recognized the sensation of looking in on other times. Some of them were strange; some of them felt just like now. She watched faces flit away, and she wasn't scared this time. So long as she got the right time. Of course, time seemed like a strange thing; people died and came back, people were alive in one time and dead in the next. Maybe she wasn't the only one who did resurrection spells. Which stood to reason. It wasn't like they were a bad idea or anything. Where did Tara and Giles get off, anyhow, telling her what she could and couldn't do with her own magic? And this wasn't her room anymore; there was Joyce for half an instant, then gone, then Joyce again: Joyce, stay. Could she save Joyce's life? And wait, whoa, wait, there were cardboard boxes and people she didn't recognize, the sun set and rose and set and rose and there were strangers in Buffy's house.
She'd gone back too far. The crystals (Tara's crystals, Tara's mother's crystals) were accelerating backwards in time, their charms singing, trying to find the charmer, and the colors were all wrong--why had someone made the whole world blue for half a second? Why? She was getting slightly dizzy, and felt a slight sensation of falling, and rumbling that could be an earthquake or the Hellmouth or maybe just the aftershocks of a really powerful spell, and then she just saw black.
When she came to, it was dark outside, and she could see the stars, and up above her was the wooden frame of what would one day be the Summers' house. She was lying in the mud, and her spellbook had vanished, as had the rest of the neighborhood. Something told her, though, that being out after dark in Sunnydale wasn't safe no matter what time it was, and she cast a protective spell over herself. When was it? How far back had she gone? Where was the handy scrap of newspaper to tell her that, well, it was ten years. That wouldn't be so bad. She had to find Buffy--she couldn't find Buffy. Buffy quite possibly wasn't even born yet.
She took off running, not sure where she was going. The Magic Box, maybe. Or maybe--
The library. There was something distinctly creepy about the library being a comforting place, given how often she'd almost died there, but there were the mimeographs in the back room which should tell her what year it was, and there would be books--not Giles's books, of course, but the other collection, the one she'd always loved. And there would be Giles's office, and even though he wouldn't be there yet
When was Buffy's house built, anyhow?
She unlocked the door with a flick of her wrist, found her way to the library, sat down in a familiar chair that was newer and shinier than it had any right to be, and found her discarded newspaper.
She hadn't even been alive in 1970. This was quite serious. Her exultation at having done such a powerful piece of magic was minimized slightly by the realization that she was stuck in the 70s, when no one she knew was even born. No one except, well, Giles.
Giles was alive in 1970. Giles was studying magic in 1970. Giles was part of a satanic cult in 1970, but whatever. Giles could help her get back home, back to the present, back where she belonged, back to Tara and Buffy and Daw--Dawn was around too, come to think of it, and Anya, and Spike and Angel and lots of other vampires whom Buffy had long ago dusted. The Master was underground--and right here, right in this library, beneath her feet, were the same hell beasties she'd battled before.
Oops, and also, she needed to get to England, pronto. She was probably too maxed from the time thingie--which, come to think of it, was a pretty awesome spell--for teleportation, but there were always mini-charms that could be done on customs officials and airport personnel. She didn't have much she could bring--the library hadn't been very useful before Giles came and made it chock full of demony goodness, the Magic Box hadn't been built until '75, and most of her stuff had gotten lost in time during the spell. All she had left was the clothes on her back, and, hello lucky: when she reached into her pocket, she found, among her linseed and sage, a note from Giles from last summer, saying he'd be late. Bonjourno, locator spell. She grinned.
It was a carefully calculated image, just the right combination of educated self-assurance and street-wise carelessness. He'd spent a good three hours getting his hair to look just that mussed, which was a shame, really, since he had decided in the end to stay in and study. It wasn't like he meant to be a complete dullard. He just sort of was, an unchangeable aspect of his personality. Tomorrow, though, he'd wear the dungarees, tousle his hair and go out and meet someone and impress her with his innate sense of style and musical flair.
There was a knock on the door to his flat. Funny, no one should be able to get up without the doorman knowing, and he wasn't expecting anyhow. A distraction, though, from the tome in front of him: woodcuts and history, Watchers who'd come before, the duties of Watchers who would come after. He ran his hand through his hair and answered the door.
She was a knock-out. Completely dazzling. Looked like she'd been crying sometime since her last shower, and her clothes weren't like anything he'd seen before, but she couldn't mask the sparkle in her eyes or the shape of her breasts or her arse or--
"Giles?" she said, a bit breathless and speaking with an American accent.
"I'm, er, Rupert Giles, yes."
"Oh, thank God. You've got to help me."
"Who--who are you?" he asked, and wondered how long after you smoked you could feel the aftereffects of marijuana.
"Oh, right. This is where I have to prove to you that I really am from the future and that I know you and you have to help me. Let's see. Your name is Rupert Giles, and you're part of a group that worships Eyghon; you go by 'Ripper,' your best friend is named Ethan--and incidentally, I'd recommend laying off on the voodoo cult stuff--"
"What? Who? You must have me mistaken for someone else, unless I've been sleepwalking I don't deal in the occult."
She was staggered for a moment, but she recovered. "Okay, so maybe not yet. But um, you like music!"
He stared at the girl, the very pretty girl, the wonderfully pretty girl who said she knew him and who wanted his help and who was speaking absolute nonsense.
"Watchers! That's it. You're studying to be a Watcher like your father was, only you don't want to be a Watcher, so you're dabbling in the occult on the side."
"That's true " he said slowly. "Are you from the Council?"
"No, no, you've got to listen to me, I'm from the future." He closed his eyes, and wished he were wearing his glasses--both so he could examine the girl more closely, and so that he could take them off and clean them. It was an unaccountable urge, something his grandmother had always done that bewildered him, but suddenly he thought he understood why.
"Giles, come on, listen to me," she said, and he finally found his manners and asked her in and if she'd like some tea. She nodded, and he got the tea things ready while she tried to explain herself. "I'm from the future. I know you. You--you were my librarian. And now I'm stuck in my past; I'm not even supposed to be born yet and I need to get back and find my girlfriend again. And you're the only person I know who's alive, and it's still--er, already-sugar and a drop of cream?" He closed his eyes, opened them, asked her to go over it again very slowly especially the part about her girlfriend. Just his luck, the first girl he really fancied in London didn't fancy men. Bloody Americans.
The spell she was asking him to do was rather a lot more complex than anything they'd covered in the elementary courses the Council offered, and sounded more like the kind of thing you could buy on the street for ten pounds, the kind that wound up with you out ten pounds and possibly with a nasty head cold.
She was powerful, though. She prepared the tea by magic, rendered milkfat out of midair, levitated his glasses over to him, managed to divine his thoughts with a flick of her tongue, and none of the blocking spells he'd learned did a bit of good. She was powerful. She was beautiful. And she was asking for his help. What man in his right mind would say no?
Giles didn't know. The Summers house not being built yet, that was fine. The library being not burned and not comforting, that was expected. But Giles was supposed to know things. Giles was supposed to be able to teach her magic, to give her advice; he was born old. She knew he had a history; that was part of what made him so exciting to think about, the wonderful things he'd done in his youth, and maybe some of the terrible things, too. But sitting in his apartment and studying Council texts, and drinking tea, that made sense, but--but he wasn't Giles. He was so young, and while a bumbling old man might be kind of amusing and maybe even sweet, in an old-fashioned way, a bumbling twenty-something was just sad.
So how was she supposed to undo the time spell now? She was lying on Giles's couch while he was in the other room, changing for bed, and he'd promised her that in the morning, they'd look into it, see if there was anything over in Council archives that was useful, and she smiled at him and sent him off to bed. He had such a hangdog look about him, and he kept staring at her breasts. Not that she minded; she had been wearing her clubbing outfit after all, which was designed for just that purpose, but to see Giles thrown by her was--okay, it was kind of exciting.
She wasn't entirely sure how this boy had grown up to be the librarian she loved so much, but there were hints. Moments when the fog of uncertainty and awkwardness vanished and he was Giles, really Giles, when maybe he didn't have the answers, but at least he knew where to look. And then, then there were moments when he was a silly little boy, like Xander as he used to be, whipped and beaten and looking to her and Buffy for help, Xander like she used to want to hold and make all better. And she wished she could. She'd been so angry at Giles, for leaving Buffy, only now she was sorry for him, and he looked like he couldn't hurt a fly.
He was in the living room now, wearing some sort of terrycloth and looking kind of ridiculous and kind of hot. It was weird, how he could do that. She stared at him for awhile, then said, "Can I get you something? Give you a hand? Anything I--I guess I'm kind of imposing on your hospitality."
"Not at all. Er, I'm quite--I don't have a spare bed."
"That's fine," she said. "I'll take the couch," and suddenly his couch (it wasn't the same couch he had back in his Sunnydale apartment, where she'd eaten cookies as sat with Tara; that would be too strange) was a foldout bed, already made, sheets folded back. "I can manage."
"Right then. I'll just pop off to bed, and in the morning, perhaps this will make--some sort of sense."
Willow grinned. In the morning, she was going to get Giles to send her home. Suddenly, a voice came into her head, Tara's lecture voice, reminding her that if you messed with time travel, things always went wrong, that you should try to change as little as possible. She shook her hair free of the ponytail she had it up in and resolved not to worry. Tara was always overly cautious, and really, what could possibly go wrong? She got Giles to do a spell, maybe talked him out of seriously dark magic, and next thing you know, she's back in her bedroom. Maybe pop forward not quite all the way--there was still time to fix things with Tara, fix things with Buffy, with Joyce, to fix everything.
He didn't sleep that night. He kept trying to remember if he'd gone walking on the flip side of town, the ones where vampires would suck your blood for a fee and warlocks gave you spells for free and you ended up quite trashed in the morning. He'd only been out twice before, looking for something, looking to find the world that he read about in the Council books, but there'd been nothing, not even a tingle of the supernatural. It was just like the world he had grown up in, quietly despairing, empty, the same music, the same money, the same scams.
Now he was tingling all over. Just having Willow in the house made his skin feel electric, and not just because she was so pretty, and not just because her clothes looked like they belonged on a whore while her vocabulary sounded like it belonged at Oxford (only she had that appalling accent). She was magic; the magic breathed through her, and even though he'd never so much as attempted a potion before, he knew that there was something out of the ordinary about the way she played with magic, like it wasn't even a challenge.
He stared at the book he'd brought home for the weekend, the diary of a seventeenth century Watcher in Paris who'd helped avert what was evidently the dullest apocalypse in history and in the process lost his Slayer. The diary was long, precise, and dreadful, each word chosen carefully to convey as little actual emotion as possible.
In the next room, sound asleep on her magically made bed, Willow was seething with emotion, frustration and grief and pride bursting from every too tight seam, emotion so powerful he could feel it. He assumed she'd changed for bed, probably doing that by magic too, and he imagined her curled up under the covers, sleeping peacefully, ready to go back to a future where he was--he wasn't even sure. A librarian. Like the job they'd offered him at the Council once he finished schooling.
But he couldn't be a part of Willow's world. He could help send her back to where she belonged, with her girlfriend, with her other life, without him. He cautioned himself against falling in love with her. He was in training to be precise, careful, methodical. It was not wise to fall in love with a girl from the future--with a lesbian girl from the future who thought of him as a librarian. But he had to confess, he did rather fancy her. And she was the first person in London who'd spoken to him like he actually might have something of interest to say.
He got up early to make breakfast, which he made a mess of, not having cooked breakfast for himself since, well, never having cooked breakfast, or indeed much of anything. But Willow laughed when she saw the burned eggs, and clapped her hands to prepare a meal for him, and said, "Don't worry; you've got other talents," in a way that was almost, but not quite, flirtatious.
As he ate, she made a list--he was shocked to see her actually using paper and a pen--of books she thought she'd need to complete the spell. He watched her with unmasked wonder. Of course, he knew a rather vast section of the Council's archives; he'd been training for months. But he wouldn't have the faintest idea of which books he'd need to perform any given spell; he imagined he could do it with some patient cross-referencing, but to just know like that.
"You've awfully good with magic, aren't you?"
"I'm an awesome witch and you know it," she said with a grin. "But with the books? That's old news. You taught me most of this. See? The original spell was in Spells for Questers of the Arcane, so you want that, and any sequels it might have. Then Basics of Witchcraft and Doings and Undoings are pretty basic texts for any kind of spell or reversal. Specific reversal spells are in these books, and then this list deals with time and dimensions." As she talked, she leaned over his shoulder, and he realized that what he'd thought was flirtation was actually, well--it was as if he were her father. The carelessness with which she touched him, the way she held her body, neither inviting nor standoffish
"I'll get these books, then, and we can--what can we do?"
"Silly, then we'll figure out how to get me home. And I can teach you how to research," she said, and laughed.
"Oh, research I think I could manage--just point me in the right direction, and I'm excellent at reading and taking notes."
"I'm sure you are," she said, not unkindly.
"Okay," said Willow, looking up from her text and glancing at the list Giles had made for her. "I'm pretty sure I understand what went wrong. See, I was supposed to be focusing on the time I wanted to go back to, but my mind was all over the place, and so the spell just sort of--took off. Once it got momentum, it kept going backwards."
"Why did it stop, then?"
"I'm not sure. Something disrupted the spell maybe it was the house. The floor I was sitting on--"
"I fell through."
"And the circle was broken," Giles said, and Willow wasn't sure whether to congratulate him on his first success or to shrug it off as she normally would, just Giles being Giles. She opted for the shrug.
"So, anyhow, to fix it, we'll probably want to do a simple undoing spell--messing with time probably wouldn't be pretty, especially since the future's bound to look different now that I've f--messed up the past."
"So, we should reverse the last spell you did? That's fairly trivial, isn't it?"
"Yeah, only I've done about twenty and a half spells since then."
"What about one of the objects you used in the spell?"
"Most of them went poof when the house collapsed "
"Then perhaps we should try something more specific--perhaps the last spell cast in that location?"
"Well, given that--you know, actually, yeah, that might work. Just hope that whoever's in charge of magic doesn't creatively interpret 'last'. Given, you know, time weirdness."
"Then we'll need these herbs, and somewhere to cast, and I should probably mention I've never done anything like this before "
Willow almost cracked a smile. It was research mode all over again, with the books and the planning and no one calling anyone a rank amateur. The way they were supposed to be. "Do you know where a good magic shop is?"
Giles nodded, and as she followed him out of his apartment, she felt happier than she had, well, since the fight with Tara, the first one. She was going to set things right; she was going to set things right.
The walk to the magic shop was quiet. She wondered what Giles was thinking, if he was planning to miss her or if he'd be glad to have her out of his hair, the way he was probably glad to be in England and away from adolescents in the Future, which had acquired a capital letter and a great deal more significance now that she was no longer in it.
As they entered the shop a bell clanged, and Willow was struck by the similarity to their own precious Magic Box. "You're going to own a shop like this one day," she whispered, and Giles blushed and stammered something, which he'd been doing regularly since he'd gotten home from the archives. She was beginning to think he might have a kind of a thing for her, which was sublimely creepy and again, kind of exciting.
Once they'd made their purchases, Willow said, "All right, this shop has got to have a back room, and I think we're about to take it over."
"But wouldn't it be best to go back to my flat ?"
"Right, and then I wake up thirty years in the future and explain to the new tenants that I'm a time-traveling witch from the future. Back of the shop would be better."
"Whatever you say, of course."
Willow smiled. There was a time when Giles was giving the orders, when she'd do whatever he said, because he was always right. Now was not that time, and she was almost sad to be leaving. Still, girlfriends to retrieve and mistakes to rectify. She cast a blinding spell on the owner, causing Giles to say, "As a future shop-owner myself, I must say I find this violation of his rights rather--" before she cut him off and hurried him into the back room. The pushed aside boxes of inventory and started sprinkling their herbs in a circle. Willow closed her eyes to prepare, then opened them and explained to Giles one last time:
"You've got to sort of--propel me forward, when it's time. I'm going to be thinking of Sunnydale and channeling some pretty powerful magic, and you've got to sit here and think about sending me towards the future. If you can think '2001,' it might be helpful."
Giles took his seat behind her, and she could feel the forces starting to build. Not just the little stuff she always had on tap, but real magic, dark stuff, primal stuff, totally consuming, twisting and flickering just out of reach until she said the right words and burned the right candles and grabbed the magic right out of the atmosphere, making it hers, tasting it and using it and absorbing it through her skin and through her hair and through everything in her body.
She started to tremble and could feel Giles's body behind her, could feel his energy, just the faintest hints of power, fueled by compassion and by vulnerability and by boredom, by everything he was, and everything she was, and the swish of sparks through the air was incredible, and Sunnydale, Sunnydale, home, maybe it was built over a hellmouth, maybe it was the seat of incredible evil, but it was home, "erase the magic, erase the dark spell, allow things to return," and she swept her fingers along the concrete floor and allowed the energy to build, thinking of Sunnydale, trusting the herbs to do their job.
Her fingers brushed Giles's and she felt something crack, something terrible, something that wasn't meant to break. It wasn't a part of her body; it was part of the atmosphere, part of the energy that they were creating, and they'd destroyed it, destroyed it utterly. It was wonderful and warm and glowing and broken, a shattered shard of lightening on the floor of the back room. She felt a final tug, and the candles burned out, and she knew when she reached back, Giles wouldn't be there.
It was like acid. That was the only experience that even remotely compared to the feeling of coming down from that spell. The energy was overwhelming, and he was choking on the incense, and some sweet and bitter taste filled his mouth, something that was magical and earthy, something he couldn't identify. He opened his eyes, finally, and saw Willow. She'd collapsed. He pressed his fingers to her neck, found a pulse, and decided she'd just passed out from the intensity. Words from his manual came back to him. Victims of magic-related injury, those who have received a toxic dose of powerful magic, and those whose bodies cannot handle intense spells. There was a section for everything in the Watchers' Manual; if only he could remember what to do get her away from the shop, he thought, and ignoring the bewildered clerk, he raced out of the shop carrying Willow with him.
She didn't come to for nearly a quarter of an hour, and when she did, she only gasped, "water," which he found for her. He walked her back to his flat, lay her on the couch, and waited. "News," she said finally. "World news."
He twisted the knob of his wireless, and listened to the news, occasionally glancing at Willow to see if she'd heard what she wanted to. He knew when it came, though. "An earthquake struck the California town of Sunnydale early this morning, as predicted by seismologists at nearby California Institute of Science. While most of the residents were prepared, there was one serious injury "
"A protection spell," said Willow. "The last spell cast in Sunnydale was a protection spell, and we broke it." Then she promptly passed out again.
Giles listened to the rest of the broadcast, but there was nothing more about the injury. Willow slept on his couch, still made with bedclothes that she'd created out of ether. And Giles sat on the floor, his head in his hands, and worried.
The Council warned against using magic for personal reasons, warned about the dangers of overdosing, and while he'd never believed such a thing was possible, it certainly looked like Willow had--
He was just about to resolve never to use magic again if Willow made it out of this alive when she finally woke up, looked around her disdainfully, and asked for something to drink. She shrugged aside the water he offered her, asked oh so nicely for something stronger, and he opened his liquor chest and asked her what she preferred. When she shrugged, he decided since she was a girl, she probably wanted wine or something, so he produced the one bottle of merlot he kept in the chest on the off chance that he'd ever be entertaining a girl in his flat.
She smiled at him as she accepted a glass, took a sip, then said, "Wasn't that so cool?"
"The spell! I mean, it didn't work, but if it had it was so amazing! All those sparks and--did you feel it, too? The way we reached out into the air and broke it? I've never done anything like that, never. It was awesome."
"I, uh, it was--"
"Oh, come on, you have to have felt it too." Her voice got a notch lower. "And is it just me, or did it feel kinda--sexy?"
"I don't--that is--no!"
"No?" she asked, and was shocked when she slid across the floor, pushing aside the wine bottle, and kissed him gently. "Not at all?" She kissed him again. "Not even one little bit?"
It was his first kiss. His first kiss and then his second kiss, and then the first time a pair of hands had cupped his face and stroked his cheeks. She maneuvered so she was on his lap, and then she said, "So, what do you want to do?"
"Aren't you--didn't you say you had a girlfriend? I don't mean that you aren't, because you are, you're lovely, but "
"Shh. Just kiss me."
"Like this?" he asked, taking an experimental lick, aware that he was getting rather hard and that he hadn't the first clue what he was doing.
"It's not really that different from kissing anyone else, Giles."
"Yes, I imagine not, only, I've not--and don't you think you'd best call me Rupert? I mean if you're going to--if you want to--"
"You've never--" and she untucked her legs, leaned back, and laughed. "Rupert Giles has never kissed a girl before. Holy, well, Holy Diana, goddess of virgins."
"I've been waiting," he said, trying to sound convincing, trying to think of something more laudable than you're the first bird I've met daft enough to want to shag me. "Waiting for someone special."
"That's--that's almost sweet, in a really high schoolish sort of way," she said. "Really, that's sweet. I've never been with a virgin before. Listen, are you sure you want to? If you want to wait awhile, like, till you've known me a whole week, that's okay. Really," she said, and her voice sounded different than he'd ever heard it, soft, and kind, and gentle.
"No, no, please don't --"
"Well, if that's how you feel," she said, and she was kissing him again, and he was lost.
She was kissing Giles. It was like being with a movie star, like Angelina Jolie or someone else like that, like someone famous and sexy and untouchable collapsing at your touch. She tried not to imagine Tara, tried not to remember Oz, except for the abstract thought that she was with a guy again, that underneath his jeans (Giles in jeans, always sexy) Giles had man-parts and not girly bits.
She concentrated on kissing him, which she knew how to do, and on holding off unpleasant thoughts, which she was equally adept at. Just sex was all. Just sex. She brushed his cheek with her hair, loose from its bun now, swaying lightly. Guys liked that kind of stuff too, teasing? She tried to remember, slid a hand under his undershirt and was momentarily disarmed by the presence of chest hair and the absence of breasts, but she regained her composure and started toying with him in earnest.
It took all her willpower not to try the first spell that came to her head, a simple happiness charm, make everyone more laid back for a few minutes. That would help both of them calm down enough to get on with things. But that spell reminded her of Tara--not because Tara had liked it, but the opposite; Tara had objected to her using it one time last summer when they were making love and Willow was just trying to make them both feel a bit happier. "I don't need to be high to enjoy you, Will. Do you need it? Because if you do--" No. She shut those thoughts out too, tried to get to the place where her brain shut down and her body took over.
She slipped her shirt over her head, heard Giles gasp audibly, smiled and buried her lips in a kiss. She straddled his legs, tried to grind against him but found that he was hardly moving, he was so shell-shocked, and she furrowed her brow and pulled a hand away from his crotch and flicked it towards the atmosphere. A little bit of aphrodisiac never did anyone any harm, and now she remembered something.
Giles' smell. It was the same. It was something like a magical signature, something you couldn't change. She loved it. It was musty and alcoholic and delicious and she was drowning in it and all right, so he wasn't trying very hard but he had a good deal of natural talent and he did taste like magic and he was very carefully lifting her skirt, and his hands were strangely large and not gentle at all and pushed aside her panties and oh.
She did another spell, one she could cast in her sleep, to heighten sensation, and she tried it for Giles too but something told her that it hadn't taken, that Giles had never felt this much sensation in his life. God, Rupert, and I thought you had a life when you were a teenager but whatever, that was--right, man-bits. She dragged along his chest, down the line of chest hair to his navel and then sense-memory took over and she knew just where to stroke and just what oh he'd found her clit, by accident doubtless but still, the body tells no lies and betrays no secrets.
She made sure she came at least once before she carefully guided him inside.
He hadn't been serious about the saving himself for someone special thing--well serious oh maybe but not truthful ow; that felt like fingernails, that can't be right but he was beginning to reconsider. Virginity wasn't like an exam; you do it wrong the first time you do it another spell, must've been, felt like it at least over again, no this was more like didn't know he had nerve endings there, well, like something else ahh, how did she know to altogether, and he almost wished he hadn't mm, tongue again, she seemed to know exactly decided to do it for the first time with someone he so tight, so bloody tight, like, well, like had only just met but it wasn't like he could go back on it now squeezing, that wasn't fair, wonder what muscles a girl's got to use to; a deal was a deal and he'd pretty much consented when he let her put her hand there yes, there, and why does it feel so much like pain; it was just like every time he'd done it for himself so why was this so oh. So very oh. Of course a lot of it was magic, he supposed, but he knew magic, it was familiar and dusty and Council-approved and this was--this was. His first. She was his first and her hair was red all over and he felt like oh he didn't know, so good, so warm so wet so soft so Willow.
"So what do you think, Rupert? More fun than sitting home alone, huh?"
"Was it as good for you as it was for me? It was--it was good. I liked it."
"I hadn't thought it would be so "
"Never mind," he said, and realized something had to be pretty amazing to make him want to share his thoughts.
"I've always wanted to do that, you know. With you. I mean, you've only known me for a few days but I've known you for years and years and I always thought that it would be fun, that I'd just come up to you one day and you'd slide your hand up my skirt and say 'Come on, Willow, I've got something to show you' or some other awful pickup line and then we'd, you know. Only you were older, and supposed to be sort of suave and gentlemanly and I hadn't actually done anything at the time so it was mostly just silky curtains and hazy smoke but still, and here I am seducing the virgin Giles and all and it's just--it's just."
He didn't have the faintest what she was going off about, but he liked the sound of her voice, something to hold onto in the bewildering loss of innocence.
"You can tell me to be quiet, you know. Just this once. Because it's a special occasion."
"No, please, carry on. I like it."
She wrinkled her nose and kissed him gently. "You're something out of an old movie, you know," and curled up against him, crowding him off the couch but really, there was no cause for complaint.
She wasn't going home. She knew that really since she got there but that sort of clinched it. If she went back, she'd have to see Tara, and she'd have to tell Tara that she slept with Giles, and if she told her that, well, it just couldn't be true in the future. The future was a place where things like that didn't happen, where Giles wasn't a virgin and she never called him "Rupert" and he had had sex with, well, with lots of people, and not with her, and here he'd had sex with one and it was her, and she was his first and okay, she was probably his girlfriend now.
She was Giles's girlfriend. Like, going to parties and going clubbing and telling people, "No, sorry, I'm seeing someone" when they asked you out on dates, that was her and Giles now. Maybe not absolutely, but the kind of guy who didn't sleep with someone until she was a special someone didn't sleep with someone and then just say "I'll call ya" and to be entirely honest, she wasn't that kind of person either, the kind of person who sleeps with a person she doesn't love.
So that meant she loved Giles.
Well, yeah, she loved Giles (who was snoring, gross-out and cute at the same time, like everything in this whole wacky past-verse), always had. It was one of those things that was certain, like--well, like other certain things in a town where nothing was especially certain at all.
She shook him awake, aware he probably wanted to sleep off his exciting virginity-disrupting adventure but she was longing for companionship. "Let's go out. I'm feeling itchy."
"Er, well, all right. Where would you like to--?"
"What's one club you always wanted to go to, the one that's the coolest of the cool, where all the pretty people are, and maybe just a couple of not-people, a vampire haunt, maybe? A mixed bar, humans and demons? And you just weren't cool enough to get in, wouldn't even dream of showing up at the door?"
"Well, there's the Little Pot, on East--"
"Well guess what, Rupert. Tonight's your lucky night. We're going to be brave, huh? First time for everything."
She dressed both of them, the old-fashioned way for him, because it was fun to watch him squirm beneath her fingers, herself the easy way, because, well, because it was easier. And they marched out of Giles's walkup apartment like they were famous British rock stars. She tried to think of some British rock stars, but she was absolutely stumped.
She wanted to teleport, show him how to travel in style, but she was way too maxed for that. That spell they'd done, God, that spell. The scent of the candles and herbs clung to her the way sex couldn't, rubbed into her skin. There was so much extra energy that she had to diffuse. It was funny, it was all funny, her being here, being with Giles, all that.
"You'll try to go back again, I imagine? Once you're, er, stronger?"
"Oh, yeah, of course," she said absently, her eyes flicking from side to side, watching the passersby and wondering if any of them had friends to go home to, or if they were all out looking for someone. She reached out and grabbed Giles's hand, and he held it awkwardly, his hands clammy. She wanted gloves.
The bar was--well, it was a pub, dartboard and pool table and a bar against one wall, people three deep asking for refills and screaming for peanuts and grabbing each other. There was no band, just a forlorn jukebox, and there was something awkward about the way people moved.
"Well, it's not the Bronze, but, you know. It'll do," she said, trying for funny. "Grab us a table?"
Giles blinked at her, reached for the glasses he wasn't wearing, and led her through the crowd. She could sense power among the throng, real power, like she felt when she brought Buffy back. The girl with her back to them, wearing a long skirt with her hair in a tangled braid; she'd tried a resurrection spell. Willow could feel it. And the man she was dancing with was a vamp, but not a normal vampire; there was something off about him. She sniffed the air.
"So, what do you say we liven this place up?"
"It seems lively enough already to me. Do you want to, well, to dance? Perhaps? Or a pint to drink?"
"Oh, thanks, I'm good," she said, still trying to figure out what was wrong with the vampire. "I was thinking more in the way of sitting and watching the crowds. You ever wonder what it would be like, to mingle with the supernatural?"
"I must confess, I've been curious--"
"Vamp," she said, pointing. " 'nother vamp, witch, demon I think but I'm not sure what breed, probably halfblooded, and that guy over there?"
"The one in the corner, with the white shirt?"
"He's gay, Gile--Rupert. Totally, one hundred percent, all Am--all English homegrown homosexual."
"You can tell that by magic?"
"I can tell that by being not entirely straight, myself. Innate talent. We used to have so much fun at the Bronze, picking out guys who were dancing with tons of girls and they totally played for the other team. Tara used to say, well, she used to say stuff. Yeah," she finished lamely.
"I'm sorry," said Giles, bowing his head a little and obviously at a loss for words.
"Hey, no prob. I could do with a beer, though. You wanna get me one?" She watched him go with a critical eye. He was nice. Funny, how things change. Six years ago a nice guy in ripped jeans buying her a drink at the Bronze would have been--unheard of, actually. And now, she totally commanded the scene. Hot guy, ten o' clock, totally checking her out, and the cute girl next to him looked more like she wanted a piece than like she was jealous. "Ooh, drinks! Yummy," she said, and kissed Giles's cheek for the benefit of the now-disappointed couple. She sipped the foam off her beer (tasted funny, probably a consequence of being from England and the seventies) and pondered the rest of the night.
"Are you all right, Willow?" asked her companion solicitously. "Anything I can do?"
"Well, I was thinking maybe we could try a couple of spells this place is supernatural, right? I'm kinda curious to see what would happen if we did some simple mind-control stuff with demons present. Just for research, you know?"
"More magic?" Uh oh, dangerous ground. If he started getting twitchy about magic, then--then oh well. Let him twitch. It was perfectly harmless and it would be fun and maybe they could pick up on some vamp-fighting techniques that could help Buf--help the Slayer, whoever she was.
"Just a spell or two. I'll need you here to ground me, and to chant, provide backup. That okay?"
"Awesome. Now, hold my hand--no, under the table, so no one will notice. Now say these words"--she scrawled them on a napkin for him--"while I concentrate. We're going to make everyone stop dancing, just for a second. They won't want to dance, they'll just get very tired--they won't remember much, just feel sorta dizzy."
The familiar feeling of power flowing through her fingertips, Rupert's hand against hers, her head lolling backwards, then snapping to--and there they were, standing around idly, and she'd done that. She wiggled a bit, tried to hold onto the moment, everyone standing still at her command, no one going anywhere--and then the moment ended, and she was still holding Giles's hand under the table, and he was still muttering to himself.
"Wha--? Did it work?"
"Like a charm. Which makes sense, since it was a charm. Well, sort of like a charm. Technically, more like an incantation; a charm would require an object to house the mystic forces--like a rock, say, or a jewel, or--you know this, right?"
"Behold the Watchers' Council. Great in theory, in practice, well "
"We really ought to be getting back; it's very late, and I should be at the archives tomorrow; and, and I've got a tutorial, and--"
"Well, I suppose if you don't want to try a light's out spell "
"Just a little spell I whipped up one night when I was bored at the Bronze. It's only the very coolest spell I've ever done--well," in a whisper, "except the one we did this afternoon."
"Very well. What must we do?"
"Just close your eyes and think real hard about darkness. I can just reach in there and grab it and focus it and poof! Darkness. I would do it myself, but it's more fun with two."
She closed her eyes and reached across the table, not with her hands, just with her thoughts, and she found the space in the swirling currents that was Giles and grabbed and there were so many thoughts, so many--it was overwhelming, but there was the darkness, and she thought her darkness and his and opened her eyes and the lights were off.
He had leaned over the table, probably knocked their glasses on the floor, and he kissed her, a swirly, beer-flavored kiss, and it almost knocked her off her feet. In the dark she couldn't see that he was young and scruffy and that his hair was too long and his clothes kind of dated; but she knew that it was Giles, could feel that it was Giles, the way his tongue pushed against hers.
It broke her concentration, and the lights sputtered on; they weren't the only couple who'd been kissing but they were definitely the best kissers of anyone there. She grinned.
Third door on the left, seven rows in, the bottom shelf. Alphabetize the books by title; most of them didn't have authors, and find a specific text relating to the suppression of witchcraft, the methods of detecting a witch, ancient and modern, and the applicability of vampire-fighting methods when attempting to disarm a witch. Research into the quantity of humanity a witch possessed, the moral quandary concerning the killing of a witch
He rolled his eyes and stared at the page of notes in front of him. He wanted to do this research. And then again, he didn't. The urge to return to his flat, where Willow was doing the tidying-up and looking at the want ads, to kiss her soundly and go back to bed, was quite strong. On the other hand, there was his father, and his father's voice reverberated throughout the whole library. This was his duty, his life's work, and it was all terribly dull.
Pages and pages of reading to do, then half an hour of weapons training at half past three, and tomorrow it would be the same thing all over again, the same dates, the same years, the same battles, but without the demons and the other facts that made it even slightly interesting.
It had been interesting, for a few weeks. There had been so many new things, so many truths disrupted, so much knowledge. And now there was just another shelf of books, another tome to absorb, another weary Watcher-in-training sitting across from him and trying to disguise the fact that she was sketching. She was young, a year or two older than he (if he stayed, he'd be in this library for the rest of his life) and had reddish hair and was as ugly as the demons pictured in the book she was not reading.
He wanted Willow. He wanted to grab his guitar in one hand and Willow in the other and go to back to the pub and she could show them a thing or two. Willow, here--it was laughable, a real witch in here with all these ridiculous books written by people who hadn't the basic knowledge needed to cast a forgetting spell. She could incinerate the whole place with a look--maybe they'd do that later. They could, do that. Anything they wanted.
When a church bell high above ground tolled noon, he left the doodling Watcher-to-be, left the anachronistic book on witchcraft, left the stacks and the tomes and the manuals and the arcane rites, took with him two or three promising books, and walked out into the sunlight.
Willow had a meal ready, just sandwiches and ale, and another meal as well, of the more delicious variety. She spread her legs and hitched her skirt and breathed fire (not literally, though she could, if she wanted to) and he Rupert found himself lost between her legs, drowning and swimming all at once, struggling to breathe and grappling for the taste of her lips. She was mercury and madness, sheer madness, to leave the university and the Council and the nice pension that would last him for life and the generosity of aged sorcerers and everything he'd had, everything he'd been. She was Willow, and she set his world aflame.
Willow did magic in her sleep, muttering under her breath in Latin and French, twitching, dreaming of spells she'd done with Tara. When she woke up, a cold sheen of sweat glistened on her skin. Sometimes, Rupert was there when she woke up, and she liked that, feeling him warm and sleepy and sweaty against her. Sometimes he was out, and she didn't know where he went: not to the Council anymore, and hardly ever to the University, and he wasn't working or she'd know, he'd come home with paychecks and be dusty, but he never was. She liked not knowing where he was, too. She could pretend he had a secret life, that he was mysterious and alluring.
Mostly he was just dull, though, until they went out, to drink or dance or captivate the world. Then the supernatural made even Rupert Giles seem brighter, shinier, newer, taste of magic and ancient knowledge.
They went, once, to the darkest alley he knew of, to a pub that served their sort of clientele, warlocks and witches, though most of them were just wannabes, the kind of kid she'd hung out with in high school, the kind of girl from the Wicca group where she'd met Tara. But there was some real power, and she was vaguely high all night, though she didn't do much, just a couple of incantations to make the place darker and smokier and to make the people more interesting, though she thought the last was probably impossible.
Someone who knew Rupert from Council functions recognized him, clapped him on the shoulder, asked him if he could cover while the band's guitarist took a breather, and she looked at him, startled; she'd forgotten that Giles sang, or forgotten that her Rupert was also Giles, who sang and played the guitar and all.
Standing in front of the stage, smashed in a throng of mostly harmless magic people cheering and dancing and singing along, making noise and tasting power, was like high school: if she closed her eyes, she was listening to Dingoes and Oz would be waiting for her backstage after the set.
"They're good, aren't they, luv?" said a voice next to her, and it was British and old and grungy: not the Bronze and not high school.
"Yeah. I'm dating the guitarist," she said, just because she liked saying it, the way she had in high school.
"Oh, he's pretty," said the man next to her, cocking his head and offering her a hand. "Good for you."
"Yeah," she said, and sniffed, trying to see if he had any real power, anything worth spending another second on. He was lanky and his hair was long, and he looked vaguely familiar.
"I'm Ethan Rayne," he said, bowing elaborately, and her fingers, still grabbing his, froze. "Would you and your lad care to--?"
"No," she said sharply, a series of images flashing in her mind: Buffy in a pink dress, helpless, Jenny Calendar lying on the ground, Jenny Calendar dead, and Giles and Joyce kissing each other in the streets of Sunnydale. Ethan, you bastard, she thought. You can't have him. Mine. "We aren't interested."
When Rupert leapt off the foot of the stage, grabbing her arm excitedly, high from the performance, she tugged on his arm. "Let's go. This joint is a drag."
"Really? I rather thought you'd like it. Interesting people about; I'd heard about it before but never would have gone if I hadn't had you. You sure ?"
"I'm sure, babe. Let's go home. We don't need to come here again. Just a bunch of wannabe sorcerers. I'd rather try my magic on you," she said, and lowered her eyelids flirtatiously. She could still see Ethan Rayne out of the corner of her eye, looking for some other likely looking weakling to seduce.
She wanted to go home, to lie down on their bed and drink something sweet, maybe with a book, something prosaic, one of Rupert's textbooks. But they ended up naked, as always, which was also fine with her; there was a jar of roses on the bedside table and Giles wasn't tired, which he usually was after a full night's worth of dancing. He was chatty tonight, as he caressed her shoulders, letting his fingers trail down the nape of her neck to the top of her breasts. "I still don't understand why I didn't want this in the future, how I could not do this, how this isn't--"
"This, Rupert? You mean this?" and she ran a hand over his chest. "Mm, chest hair." He moaned. "Nope, in the future, you'd be all, 'no, Willow, that isn't proper.' Well, only you'd sound more British about it."
"Why don't you want to go back? You've recovered from the spell we did before, haven't you? You could try again, to go back. Er, forward."
"And leave you behind? Nah. 'Sides, the future's boring. Lots of rules. Lots of silliness I don't need anymore. And I'll be born in just another ten years. Another Willow Rosenberg loose in the world. Let her set things right."
"You can still set things right, though. You're still the real Willow. You could--" he had a hand on her breast, but he wasn't playing, just holding. "You could still have Tara, and you would be in your own time." It was almost comforting, hearing that. Almost right. The nasal twinge, the half-lecturing, half-teasing. It was like he was Giles or something. And then his fingers found a nipple and he was Rupert, just making small talk before the feature presentation.
But that was okay, too.
Willow had never been happier, except the one time that Xander had asked her to go to the movies after school, almost like a date. It wasn't a date, since Xander had said, "Just friends, right Will?" and had commented on all the girls they'd seen, but it had still been just her and Xander, and he'd bought her popcorn.
But she was happy now, too. Buffy was going to be her friend. Hers. She was going to have an actual friend who actually might be cool. If Cordelia wanted to hang with Buffy: okay, this was scary now. Buffy wanted to hang with her and not with Cordelia. The world was all askew and atilt.
But there was Buffy, waving at her across the courtyard, and here was Buffy, sidling up beside her and asking, "So, what's the dish on the librarian? He's, like--"
"Isn't he super cool? I mean, for a grown-up? His name is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," she swooned as she said the name, "But when he went to check out books, he said to call him Wesley, right off, right? And he's so don't you think he's kind of cute? For an old guy, right?"
"Yeah, Willow. Sure he is. You know, someone has got to get you out more."