Rating: PG mostly for implications
Summary: Willow is working on her thesis and Giles distracts her.
Timeline: Willow's senior year would be S7, but this characterization is continuous from about S4.
Notes: Happy birthday sk8eeyore"! Indulgence fic for Sarah and me. If you're likely to be indulged by Willow-thesis and Willow/Giles gooiness, feel free to share it with us. Not art, though. Just sap.
Willow rested her head on her keyboard, frustrated. "I can't do it," she announced to the world at large. "Do you hear me? I just can't do it."
Buffy flicked an eraser across the room at her. "I don't see what the big is. It's not even due for two weeks." She gestured at the pile of books on her desk. "See? No stress. You want to take a break? Go out somewhere? We could round up Xander and Anya and the kidlets and watch super-unrealistic horror movies."
Willow picked her head up off the desk and spun her desk chair around to face Buffy. "Sorry. I've got, uh, plans."
"Does plans mean Giles?" Buffy asked with a shudder. Willow nodded. "That's cool," Buffy said, obviously biting back a tart remark. She was usually pretty good about Giles-stuff, but Willow knew it still made her feel more than a little uncomfortable. "Well, in that case, I'll just head out now. Maybe do a quick patrol before I settle down to the serious business of the night."
"Thesis?" Willow asked, prodding her computer's mouse pointedly.
"Riley," Buffy corrected, and started rummaging around in her closet.
Willow sighed and stared at her computer screen. Pages and pages of thesis, all right there. There were the notes from Henson, and the thoughtful analysis of Chadwick that she'd thought was brilliant at three the night before but that was beginning to look like it had been written by a kindergartner. It was all there... it just didn't make any sense together.
"Willow, it's Friday night. It's not due for two weeks. For all of our sakes, please take a break some time tonight?"
"I will," Willow said automatically. "When will you be back?"
"Probably not tonight. What about you? Spending the night here or, uh, at Giles's place?"
"Don't know," Willow said, and started typing. She registered that Buffy had left, then turned her attention back to parsing a particularly difficult phrase.
She had her head in her hands and was staring at the footnotes to Hornberg chapter three, still unsure exactly where he was getting his information from. She'd spent an awful lot of her life checking footnotes, and it was kind of worrisome that Hornberg didn't seem to share her need for accurate citation. "I've seen demonologies with better footnotes!"
"Giles!" She leapt up. "I didn't hear you come in."
"I noticed," Giles said, smiling at her. "I hated to interrupt you when you seemed so absorbed."
"Oh, please, by all means, interrupt. I'm about to throw it all away and become a circus freak."
"That bad?" Giles asked sympathetically, taking a seat on the edge of Buffy's bed.
"Not really," Willow amended. "It's fun. I mean, if you think that research and cross-referencing and writing pages and pages of meaningless drivel is fun."
"Meaningless I'm sure it's not," Giles said. "And as for the rest, well, I think you know where I stand."
"I wouldn't be able to do it at all if you hadn't taught me how."
"I find that hard to believe." They looked at each other for a moment, then Giles stood up abruptly. "But I believe we had other plans for tonight. Would you like dinner?"
Willow hit save and switched off her monitor. "I was thinking maybe we could just go to your place? I'm kind of exhausted."
"That's fine. Should you leave a note for Buffy?"
"No, she's out all night. And God knows Tara won't be here," Willow gestured at the third bed. "Wicca stuff."
"Of course. I suppose you're all hard at work on your theses?"
"Tara handed hers in last week... and Buffy hasn't even opened any of those books."
"Of course," Giles smiled. "But I imagine you're tired of thesis discussion."
"Entirely. I just want to curl up on your couch with some tea and cookies."
Giles smiled. "Whatever you want."
When Giles came back into his living room, Willow had opened her knapsack and had books spread all over the couch. Giles hemmed at her. "I thought you wanted to rest."
"I do, but I'm just so busy. This is due in two weeks, and I'm not even sure on my final organization. I mean, of course background should go first, but then I'm not sure if I should incorporate the historical stuff into that or just make a timeline or..."
Giles fought back a smile and frowned at her. "Willow," he said. "We're in my flat. And in my flat..."
"Your rules," Willow said with a sigh. "And that means no thesis?"
"I'm sure you'll be fine," Giles said. "You deserve a break."
Willow looked like she was about to object, so Giles picked up all the books, closed them carefully, and placed them on his own bookshelf. "They'll be safe there," he said. "Enjoying the company of their fellows. In the mean time, we can enjoy each other's company. Here: I made toast with jam."
"Thank you," Willow said meekly. "I really do want to spend time with you. I'm just so worried..."
"I know," Giles said. "Still, the world won't end, regardless of how well you do -- and you'll do wonderfully. You always do."
"And then there's graduate school," Willow said, ignoring him. "I've got the acceptance letters, but I'm still not sure if that's what I really want. I know you can't leave Buffy, and Buffy and Sunnydale are kind of a package deal, so what if...?"
"We'll talk about it later," Giles said, wiping a dab of jam off her lip.
Willow put her plate of toast down and frowned deeply. Giles sighed, put his hands on her shoulders, and said, "Do you want to feel worried?"
"No, I just..."
Willow looked up at him, and the fret in her eyes, the worry written on her forehead, were disconcerting. Smile, love he thought, and Willow did, a little.
"It really will be all right," Giles said, brushing her hair away from her eyes. "Come here." She wiggled closer to him, and he felt the same thrill of joy, the same throb of love, that he always did when Willow rested her head on his shoulder, when she curled into him trustingly. He had his own worries about balancing his love for Willow, his friendship with Buffy, his responsibility as a Watcher. But he took his own advice, suppressed the worry, and put his arm around Willow, kissing the top of her forehead lovingly.
They could always worry tomorrow.