Summary: A Giles & Willow character metastudy, with pretensions to stream-of-consciousness
Chronology: Mid-second season, early fifth, summer between sixth and seventh
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Joss Whedon, ME, and various other sundries that are not me.
She watches him, and she wonders if he notices.
Not Watches, like he does, because theres a capital W there and its his job. For her its a hobby, pure pleasure, like bird watching. The thought makes her grin, but its not far from the truth. She watches him in his own natural element, quietly, unobtrusively observing his little quirks and peculiar mannerisms, like shes taking note of a new species. Homo sapiens sapiens custodiens, she thinks, and almost smiles again, but she bites her lip before she has the chance. Its best not to draw his attention, or hell realize what shes been doing and get all flustered.
Hes reading, as usual, but for once its pleasure reading and not research. She can tell because of the way hes sitting, with his chair pushed back from the table and the book balanced in one hand on his knee. Research books always go flat out on the table, and he pushes his chair in and hunches over the pages like the answers will come to him more quickly if hes closer to the words.
He reaches out with the other hand (the right onehes left-handed, which she finds strangely enthralling) to turn the page, and her eyes follow the motion of his long fingers. She likes his handslikes them a lot, actually, and the thought makes her blush a littleand pays particular attention to the way he uses them, carefully and unceremoniously at the same time, to take notes or clean his glasses or make a pot of tea. It makes her think, only half joking, that they must have classes for that at Oxford, because how else could he have learned that grace and purpose of movement?
He looks up suddenly. Hes watching her now, and her eyes dart back to the book in front of her, and she hopes her cheeks havent gone as hot and red as they feel.
She watches him, but she doubts he notices.
Its not a silly teenaged crush kind of watching anymore, because she got over that well before Oz left, and she has Tara now, so theres no point in remembering the awkward embarrassments of her high school years. Now shes watching for his sake, because she doubts anyone else is. Its been weeks since he told her he was going back to England, and while shes reasonably sure Buffys latest epiphany has nipped that little issue in the bud, it cant hurt to keep a little hairy eyeball on things for a while.
Hes been keeping himself quite busy latelywith training, of course, but also with the Magic Shop. She approves of that project, partially because it means easy access to herbs, amulets, and texts she used to have a terrible time getting her hands on, partially because it keeps Anya content and out of everyones hair, and partially because it keeps him occupied, and thats all for the best. Hes got to be happier with something to do, and to be perfectly frank she thinks shes better off as well. Last year, when he was doing the whole lounging-around-in-bathrobes thing, he made up for his lack of official Watcher duties by watching her more often than was strictly comfortable. Now hes traded her back in for Buffy, and shes a bit relieved. Its not like shes a kid fooling around with flying pencils anymore. She doesnt need the constant supervision.
And neither does he, she figures out after a little while. Shes had enough with watching; its time to start doing her own thing.
She watches him, and she knows he notices.
She watches him move, like she used to, and flinches at the stiffness she sees, because she knows its nothing to do with age and everything to do with being beaten and bruised and flung from floor to ceiling. For weeks she watches, and gradually the bruises fade.
She watches him, clings to him in this oh-so-foreign place of peace and simplicity, and in her own all-too-familiar mental place of anguish and turmoil. Watches him riding like its the easiest and most natural thing in the world, although she doesnt take him up on the offer of lessons (You should come with me sometime. I guarantee safety and fun, and her tongue tastes of ashes). Watches him talking with the others, the witches at the coven who seem to know him so well and who know her, shes certain, more than shed like.
She watches him be Giles, and thats a lesson she does take him up on. She listens to him and the others go on about power and the Earth and how its all connected, and for once she bothers to absorb it. She watches him with his guitar, hears him singing in the evenings when the pain is at its worst and they both pretend she doesnt know the quiet, gentle voice is for her benefit. She watches him watch her, and it makes her feel safe and loved, not like Tara made her feel safe and loved because that was Tara and shell never have that back again, but in a way that she hasnt felt in a long, long time.
She watches his eyes and is stunned by the deep, deep intelligence and wisdom there, and realizes that his version of the intellect is very different from hers. Shes smart, shes brilliant, and she knows thisshes been told this her whole lifebut she realizes now that her kind of intelligence is an easily-defined character trait or a cheap, stereotypical way of classifying somebody. Shes a computer whiz, has practically memorized Grays Anatomy, can conjugate irregular verbs in Greek, Latin, and Gaelic, and knows how to summon the powers of a hundred different gods and goddesses, but she looks at him and cant forget that he knows the way people work inside and out, has carried the words of ancient philosophers and scholars on his lips since he was ten years old, and has learned that there are times when you call instead on a deeper and abiding power. His intelligence is hard-earned and grown from inside. Its not a surface part of him like long red hair, dimples, and small freckled hands, but he reminds her gently that he was young once, too, and if she wants, there is time still for learning.
She watches him, and he watches back, and she finds she doesnt mind so much after all.