Warning: Character death
He lays in the dark. He cradles the phone in one hand, tucked up between shoulder and chin, and in the other arm, he holds Willow, quiet and asleep at last. Tonight was hard, but once shes out, she sleeps deeply and soundly for a few hours before the nightmares begin.
Buffys voice is in his ear.
I miss you, Giles, she says. Shes an ocean and a continent away, sitting somewhere in sunshine.
I miss you, too, he says, trying to pretend he doesnt understand her meaning. Hows Dawn? he adds.
Shes fine, Buffy says, Happy, actually. More than she has been in a while. Or maybe ever, technically, you know?
Thats wonderful, he says. Willow moves in her sleep, settles against his side and sighs softly.
But I miss you, Buffy says, again. So much. I wish--
Wed be good for each other, Giles, she says, and her voice is tight and fast and urgent.
We wouldnt, he says. His body draws tight at the memory. Wrong. God, its wrong. Was wrong, is wrong, always will be--
But we know each other. We know all about the, the Slaying and the demons and the destiny--
Before, he couldnt refuse her when she begged him. When her tears wet his shirt and she said she *needed*. Needed to feel someone. Needed to feel alive. He believed her, and so hed--
Hed never thought that it would come to that. Never thought hed see her let her skirt drop to the floor, never thought hed see her naked, never thought hed touch her skin. Once, hed nearly hit a man even for suggesting such a thing. Because it was wrong.
And, in the end hed figured out that it wasnt what she needed.
Buffy is still speaking, saying, You were so-- you always touched me like something in one of those stores, you know, with the signs that say you break it, you bought it.
Buffy... he says, those things, they arent meant to be touched.
He continues, You dont need me to be your lover, Buffy. I couldnt give you what you needed if you were my lover.
She couldnt give him what he needed.
Reciprocity. He cannot take from her. And lovers must be able to take from each other. Lean on each other.
The same night shed told him he made her feel safe, said she felt like her mother was alive when he was there, shed come back from showing Dawn the check hed given her, and crawled into bed beside him, and kissed him, and he had--
Hed never come, when he was with her. Never let himself. Rarely even wanted to, except once or twice, when hed shut his eyes, and been swept away by the raw physicality.
Willow stirs again, and murmurs in her sleep. She sounds unsettled.
I have to go, he says, Well talk later.
She pauses, and he waits for her to protest, but instead, she only says, Later. Ok. Bye, Giles.
He thumbs the phone off and sets it on the night table. Willow whimpers, and in the half-light of the moon coming through the gap in the window shades, he sees her brow furrow. He strokes her arm and speaks to her, low and gentle, until her eyes open and she gasps and grips his shirt, white-knuckled tight.
Shh, its only a dream, he says, and she relaxes, a little, at least, and presses herself into him, turns her face into his side. Shes shivering.
God, Giles, she says.
He kisses the top of her head, smells the sleep-warmth of her hair. Against his side, he can feel her heartbeat slowing, can feel the soft swells of her breasts. Her hand loosens, releases the fist-full of shirt she was clutching, and then spreads out flat over his ribs, pressed against his body.
Its not just a dream, she says.
I know, he repeats.
He strokes her hair back, enjoys the silk softness of it teasing between his fingers, the warmth of her scalp under his fingertips.
He hadnt expected this, either. It had happened, though, just the same. But different. Born out of passion, not concern or obligation. A few days after theyd arrived in England, theyd fought. Shouted at each other for a thousand things, from the trivial--the mess Willowd made of the kitchen--to the earthshaking--Willows anger at him for leaving her for England, twice--and then, anger had turned to something else, and theyd ended up somehow on the floor, making love.
He doesnt know where this is going, or what this is, but she lays down beside him every night, now, and she smiles a tired smile at him over breakfast in the mornings.
Shes not his daughter, nor his student. Shes not even a girl, anymore. No one can do what she did and walk away still a child. Shes a woman, and shes tired and scarred and hurting, and that is something he understands. They are so alike.
She leans up over him and kisses his lips.
Whats wrong? she says.
She doesnt accept that. She holds herself over him on hands and knees and looks expectant. Her knee is sunk into the mattress between his legs, and her thigh is just barely brushing against his boxers, and it stirs an interest in him, makes his stomach clench for entirely different, good reasons.
He pulls her head down and kisses her, and she warms the cold spots inside him.
Maybe this is no more real than the mockery with Buffy. Maybe she will be gone at summers end, but for now, shes here, in his arms, in his bed, in his heart, and in the midst of everything thats wrong with the world, hes content.