Summary: There's a kiss. And a year later, she comes back.
Notes: for trkkr47 who wanted Giles/Willow, glee, and no darkfic. I'm not entirely sure I hit the middle one because this came out much more sedate (read: schmoopy) than I originally intended. But hey, nobody could accuse it of being darkfic.
He knew she was back the moment he glanced out the window and saw the kua alaya. The pink petals were garish and out of place amongst the grass and the more sedate daffodils, and he simply stood there for a moment, fingertips pressed against the glass.
Then he made his morning calls to the groups whose timezones put them at reasonable hours, and checked the dispatches that had come in during the night, and read over the latest field reports from his own team in England. He managed to concentrate a little on Robin's terse, neat prose and not at all on Andrew's scrawled hyperbole, and before he could find himself another meaningless diversionary task he was out of the back door and down the steps to the garden.
The flowers led him down the path like a trail of breadcrumbs. Several of them grew as he watched, curling up through the Earth, petals unfolding towards the sunlight. Giles thought he had never seen anything quite so beautiful, until he reached the end of the garden and saw her.
She was perched on the fence by the horses' paddock, petting the smallest of the mares - and talking to her, he realised, catching a murmur of her voice on the wind. He had seen her do exactly this many times when she was staying here two years ago, but she had been hurting and frightened then. She looked very different today, smiling with quiet delight and pausing every so often as if the horse was answering her. For all he knew, it was. Willow and her powers were a mystery now, in so many ways.
He stood watching for a moment, unwilling to disturb her, until she looked up and raised her hand. Even then, he took his time in crossing the few dozen feet of field. It was a beautiful day, the kind that the children insisted didn't exist in England ("English sunshine is a myth," Buffy had claimed, "like the dodo.") He was glad she had arrived today, with the sun shining.
He couldn't have said when exactly he stopped classing Willow as one of the children, except that it was some time after her own power almost consumed her and some time before she had kissed him in a motel room in Southern California. At that moment he had thought of Ethan, oddly; days since the spell and Willow still tasted of white magic, shocking and clear as a plunge into ice water, and by the time he pulled away from her, stammering apologies, it was already far too late.
A year, she'd said, as he convinced her to accompany Kennedy to Brazil. I'll come and visit you in England in a year.
She was ahead of schedule.
"I might go riding later," he said when he reached her, as casually as if she had spent the morning shopping in town and not been halfway around the world these last ten months. "Seems a shame to spend the day indoors."
"Ooh, I'll come with. The not-falling-off spell's nearly perfected. Anyway," she stroked the horse's neck, to a soft whinny of appreciation, "Thunder misses me."
"Yes," he said quietly, "she's not alone in that."
She looked up, their eyes meeting for the first time. "Kinda know the feeling."
Then she looked away, breaking the moment, and he let himself look at her. Her feet were bare against the wood of the fence, shoes discarded in the grass; her hair was longer than he remembered, and as she conjured a sugar cube from the air white threads ran through it and vanished again. He thought of snowdrops in February, and whether they would have hothouse flowers blazing through the snow instead, if Willow stayed.
If she stayed.
"I broke up with Kennedy," she said, answering the question he hadn't been able to ask. "Or she broke up with me. There was mutual breakage."
"Are you all right?" he asked, not quite selfish enough to be glad at something that might be hurting her, when she had been hurt so much already.
"Yep," she said, her face quite unexpectedly breaking into a mischievous, dazzling smile. "I'm okay. I'm happy. And later, I might be aiming for glee. Not that I don't, y'know, miss her," she added anxiously, face falling. "We're doing the staying friends thing and I'm not sorry I met her, and I like her a lot, it's just "
"She was the wrong person," he said. "Right for a brief time in your life, perhaps, but not in the long run."
She raised a shoulder in not quite agreement. "There's that. And kind of hard to keep it together with your girlfriend when you're in love with somebody else."
He wasn't sure how to respond to that. A declaration of his own was the obvious choice, but his mind had suddenly been cleared of anything that wasn't maudlin or trite or, he realized, in an ancient language.
He was saved when she continued, "Kennedy met this girl in Rio, one of the new Slayers. They really hit it off."
" oh," Giles said. When you're in love with somebody else. Precarious thing, the English language. Foolish of him, really, to assume that when she had said you she meant I. "How long are you staying in England?" he asked, in his best imitation of a caring but distant paternal figure. It sat uncomfortably, like a suit long since grown out of, perhaps one that had never fitted in the first place.
"Hey," Willow said, and he was still close enough to her that she could nudge him with a foot, "mutual breakage, remember? Really should've said 'it's hard to keep a relationship going when you're both in love with somebody else.'"
"Oh," he said again, his smile a mirror of hers. And if he shifted forward just a little they were on the same eye level and practically touching anyway, and it seemed silly not to kiss her. "You're staying, of course," he murmured when they broke for air, and to appease the affronted horse butting them both gently with her nose.
"By the way," she said, "just lately, there's this memory transference thing that happens sometimes when I kiss somebody so, uh, if you find yourself in the middle of a street party, just go with it, okay?"
"The Rio carnival?" He cupped her face with one hand, marvelling that he was allowed to touch her this way, now. "I always wanted to see it."
Beneath his feet, flowers from Paraguay bloomed against the grass, beautiful and out of place and utterly unnoticed.