He was really smart. He'd worked at the British Museum, or *a* British museum. Sometimes he touched her - usually when there was danger, like when Xander got turned into a hyena and they were running for their lives. He made a warm shiver happen in her, even with the danger.
She knew never to speak of these feelings. She knew it was the smart thing to do. Xander was more her speed, and even he was baffling, chasing after anyone but her.
His facility with languages, his intelligent hands - she pondered Rupert Giles, knew he'd always be forbidden.
She was brave, right from the start - this wisp of a girl with formidable intellect and a sweet disposition, but no Slayer powers. "Get *off* of him!" she shouted, hurling holy water at Darla, saving him.
She'd said she needed to help. You can help me, he told her. Early on it was research, the computer. Later, there was magic. Perhaps after years of danger that never got less dangerous, eyes sore from computer and books, she craved any shortcut.
He'd never stopped needing her. He didn't know until it was almost too late that the reverse was true.
"These forces are not something that one plays around with," he said from behind the counter. But she didn't want to play with 'em - she wanted to master them.
He thought she wasn't ready. Maybe she wasn't, but she wanted to be. Floating feather, fire out of ice, and that was how she felt sometimes. Heck, she was a teenager - couldn't she ever just rush headlong into something? But that wasn't her nature.
"Are you mad at me?" she asked. *Teach me*, she wanted to say, but feared it might sound like she was coming on to him.
When Buffy and Xander told him, he had to sit down. No, not her, not Willow. The best of them, so pure of heart.
Hope died with her. Amazing, really, how that little girl had proven so essential to them, to him.
And then, there she was - herself, not dead, not a vampire. To her astonishment and his, he squeezed the breath out of her. Then he backed away, thoroughly embarrassed. She peered at him as if he were insane. The pitch of his joy disconcerted him - but there it was. She lived. He could go on living.
"Now I finally have you all to myself," she said. He couldn't take his eyes off her. He was all sexy in black with his borrowed magicks.
At last she had his full attention. If they killed each other, it would still be worth it. Buffy never appreciated him the way she did, never saw him as a man. He was her factotum, Watcher, father.
Now he was hers, for the first and last time. She had him in her hands. Up - to the ceiling. Down - to the floor. This was how it should be. She'd earned it.
They were walking on the green grass when her knees buckled. She gasped for breath, but he gripped her.
He knew she wondered why he'd brought her here, taken responsibility for her. Sometimes he wondered too.
True, she'd tried to kill him, and almost destroyed the world in the bargain, but he found he couldn't abandon her. Even when she smiled at him, the grief, remorse were just below the surface. It wasn't only that she'd traveled a path akin to the one he'd taken at her age. She meant too much to him. He would not let her fall.
"You can do this, Willow." His words were with her when she did the spell. He was the one she'd wanted to impress, the one whose regard she craved. For years he'd advised caution. *You're too unfocused. You rank, arrogant amateur*. The words had scalded her.
But now he was with her. She gripped the scythe they'd studied together. *You can do this, Willow.*
The power shot through her, an icy-warm caress, tingling from her hands to the ends of her hair.
"You were right, Giles - I did it!" she told him at the crater's edge, and he smiled.