Author: dragonydreams (Elisabeth)
Summary: After the silence, the truth can be revealed.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site, my LJ, Happy Endings Ficathon, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to kallie_kat, velvetwhip & emeraldswan for the beta.
Note: Written for the Happy Endings Ficathon, for southernbangel, who requested Willow/Giles, set post-Chosen, with Willow working helping the Watcher's Council in London. I hope this is what you had in mind.
"I don't know about you," Willow said, closing the book she'd been reading a little harder than intended, wincing at the noise it made, "but I've got a whole lot of nothing."
She turned in her chair to look at Giles, who was sitting a couple of seats down from her at the conference table.
"Sadly, I'm not faring much better myself," Giles reluctantly admitted.
He carefully set aside the book he'd been perusing, then stretched in his chair. "What would you say to a small break?" he suggested.
"I'd say that sounds heavenly," Willow agreed. Standing, she stretched her arms over her head, causing her top to rise, displaying a smooth inch of milky white flesh to anyone in the room. As the only other occupant in the room, Giles' eyes greedily took in the sight, before he forced himself to turn his gaze from her.
He moved over to the 'tea table', as Willow called it, and turned on the electric kettle. Resting against the wall as he waited for the water to boil, he surveyed the room.
As much as he often missed both the high school library and the Magic Box for the memories they held, this was by far his favorite place to research since becoming an active Watcher. He knew that the room wouldn't be half as inviting if it weren't for Willow's touches when setting it up.
The new Watchers Council library was certainly a room that inspired study. The outer walls were covered with floor to ceiling bookshelves, occasionally broken up by computer terminals. Giles smiled as he took in one of the terminals – a definite mixture of himself and Willow. She had insisted on having several computers available for the Watchers' use, knowing that most of them were quite fond of the machines, despite Giles' reluctance to use them. Giles had grudgingly agreed to their inclusion in the room, but insisted that they blend in with their surroundings. Hence the wooden desks adorned with slimlined machines and monitors. Each computer had its own printer and scanner, which were tastefully hidden in a cabinet beneath the desk.
The large conference table they had been working at was in the center of the room, and could easily sit 20 people for meetings. For those who chose to use them, there were also a couple of loveseats in the "sitting room area" at one end of the room, near the fireplace. The tea table Giles was standing next to was one of two beverage tables in the room – the other being for coffee.
This was easily his favorite room in the Council building – a large warehouse that had been among the previous Council's holdings, but which they had spent a great deal of money converting into the new headquarters. Aside from the library, the building also held offices, classrooms, and training rooms.
Giles was startled out of his brown study by the whistle of the kettle, and turned his attention to fixing the tea.
"You know, that thing never fails to make me jump," Willow commented from the couch she had moved to after building up a fire.
"Especially after the quiet of research," Giles agreed. He carried two steaming mugs of tea to the sitting area and joined Willow on her couch.
She took a grateful sip of the hot liquid, sighing with contentment.
Her eyes glanced over one of the computers and she sighed again, this time from weariness. "I guess I should try the computer next," she suggested, not sounding very enthusiastic over using one of her beloved computers.
"I think we've done enough for tonight," Giles said, feeling as tired as Willow looked. "Perhaps tomorrow you can wrestle with one of those infernal machines."
"Hey," Willow exclaimed, warming up to the familiar debate. "You should be very happy to have those 'infernal machines' here. After all, they contain all of the books that we had in Sunnydale."
"Yes, you keep reminding me of that," he teased. "Now aren't you glad that I made you spend that summer scanning my entire library?"
"At the time, no; but now I can definitely see the benefit. I still say that winter is a much better time for archiving than summer."
"I didn't think there would be another winter for me in Sunnydale, if you remember," he pointed out.
"Did I ever tell you how glad I was that you stayed around after that?" Willow asked. "Things really never were the same after you left. I mean later, when you left."
"I'm glad that you think so," he said. And he was. He had missed her, and the others, terribly when he'd left.
"I mean, if you'd left when you wanted to, we never would have gotten to hear you sing, and that's something that I would have hated to miss out on." Willow was grinning, knowing Giles still got nervous when his singing career was brought up.
"Yes, that would have been dreadful," he said, his voice laced with sarcasm.
"I don't know if you knew this, but if Tara hadn't been there, I probably would have done something really embarrassing that first time I saw you sing."
Giles perked up at that admission. "Really? And how so?"
"Oh, you know," she said, gesturing with her hands as she tried to express herself without embarrassing either one of them. "I might have run up on stage and kissed you like some kind of slutty groupie."
Giles chuckled, hoping it didn't sound as sad as it did in his ears. "I hardly think you would have done that, even without your girlfriend's presence."
"Oh, I don't know. You were pretty sexy sitting up on that stage, wearing that earring, and caressing that guitar."
"I was a middle-aged man searching for some kind of distraction, something apart from slaying," Giles said.
"But you were sexy while you were doing it," Willow pointed out.
"Well, there were a few women who asked me out after each performance," Giles admitted, the memory of those women bolstering his fragile male ego.
"Really?" Willow asked, only slightly shocked and kind of jealous. "Did you ever go out with any of them?"
"One or two. Not many. They were highly disappointed to learn that I was unemployed."
"It's funny. Aside from Ms. Calendar and Olivia, we never really knew about your love life. I'm glad to hear that you had one."
"I'd hardly call it a love life. I went on dates occasionally. It's not like I could easily allow a woman into my life as Buffy's Watcher."
"Yeah, I get that. We lead dangerous lives. It'd be hard for an outsider to understand what we face every day."
"That it would," Giles agreed.
They both lost themselves in memories of lost loves. Each of them had had a lover ripped from their arms. They didn't need any words of consolation or understanding. It was enough that they knew the other recognized their pain.
Willow was the first to rein in her emotions, taking a sip of her cooling tea. "I think that's one reason I got together with Kennedy." Giles merely looked at her, understanding showing on his face. "She knew about vampires and demons. She was preparing to fight in the same battle that I was. Plus, she was kinda relentless in her pursuit."
"I rather thought that was the main reason you two were together. Under different circumstances, I don't believe that you would have chosen her as a partner."
"I think you're right. Guess that's why it didn't last after we won and the excitement of an impending epic battle wasn't driving us. It didn't even really hurt when we broke up."
"I'm relieved to hear that. You've had more than enough painful break-ups to last a lifetime."
"Amen to that," Willow agreed. "Oh, that reminds me, Xander asked me to say 'Hey' to you."
"Please say 'Hello' to him from me the next time that you speak," Giles smiled. "How is he doing?"
Willow shrugged. "He's coping as best as he can. As weird as their relationship was, he really loved Anya. The romantic in me always thought they'd find a way to get back together, despite everything they'd been through. I think he did, too. But you know Xan; he's throwing himself into his work, glad to be making a difference."
"Anya was an extraordinary woman, even as a demon," Giles agreed.
Willow giggled. "Yeah."
They both drifted into silence again, sipping their tea and watching the fire.
This time it was Giles who broke the silence. "How are you settling into your flat?"
"I guess I'm pretty much settled," Willow said. "It's nowhere near as nice as your place in Westbury. But it's really quiet. I haven't lived anywhere so quiet since I lived with my parents. Especially after living in a house with dozens of Potentials, the quiet is…strange."
"Would you have preferred to live in the dormitories with the new slayers?" Giles asked.
"Oh, no, thank you. It may be weird being so quiet, but it's much preferable to living with so many other girls, even if one is your girlfriend. At least now I have privacy."
"Yes, that was a rare commodity at the Summers home," Giles smiled.
"That must have been the hardest part for you, wasn't it?" Willow asked. "Being surrounded by so many young people all the time."
"It was rather trying on my patience," Giles agreed. "I've lived alone for most of my life. To suddenly have to share a home with so many young women…" he shuddered, "I believe there are realms of hell filled with teenage angst."
"Living with me must have been a walk in the park, in comparison," Willow said. "I was just me. Depressed and guilty me, but still just me."
"You had earned those feelings, and I did not begrudge you feeling them," Giles said. "I rather enjoyed that summer together. I missed you a great deal when you returned to Sunnydale," he quietly admitted.
"Me too," Willow said, unconsciously moving closer to him, as if she could make up for the time apart by closing their physical distance now. "Not just because things were kind of strained with Buffy, Dawn and Xander when I got back. But we had a routine, and a…a comfortableness that I never really found with them."
"That's it exactly," Giles agreed. "You brought life to my home. Even when you were having a bad day, we were able to have someone to talk to. Someone who understood. The house felt incredibly empty after you left."
"The quiet must have been nice though," Willow commented. "I really missed how quiet your house could be when I returned to Sunnydale. There always seemed to be noise at Buffy's house – a TV or radio or just people talking. Even the silence was loud."
Giles chuckled. "Yes, I rather remember my flat in Sunnydale feeling like that after you lot would leave for the evening."
"We kinda took advantage of you during that time between the library and the Magic Box, didn't we?" Willow asked, having the decency to look remorseful.
"Just a bit," Giles agreed, the quirk of his lips letting her know that he wasn't upset. "I rather enjoyed your company, regardless of how put out I may have appeared."
Willow took a moment to look at Giles, really look at him. She saw the lines that had appeared on his face over the years – from both laughter and stress. She saw the graying hair that was in the same style she had always loved and longed to run her fingers through. She saw a man who had seen more terrible things than anyone should have to and yet carried on as if they were everyday occurrences. She saw a man who meant more to her than just about anyone else, alive at least.
"You were lonely," Willow commented, recognizing the signs, having felt them herself. Giles looked a little surprised by her guess, but merely nodded his head. "Are you still?"
"No more so than usual," Giles answered, uncomfortable with discussing his non-existent life outside of the Council. Many people thought that he kept such long hours out of dedication and a sense of duty. In truth, he was delaying going home to his empty flat for as long as possible.
"Giles…" Willow reached out to rest her hand on his arm.
Capturing it with his free hand, Giles testily said, "Must we discuss this?"
"I don't want you to be lonely, Giles," Willow said, trying to catch his eyes.
"Well neither do I," he said, much louder and angrier than he'd intended. "But there's not much that can be done about that now is there? I don't have many friends left in London, at least not whom I'd want to spend an evening with. We've already discussed how pointless it would be for me to find a woman outside of the Council and I'm not about to go after any of the young women here. This is simply the way that things are, so please, will you drop it?"
"Not if there's something that I can do about it, no," Willow said, just as intently.
"What is it that you think you can do?" Giles asked, standing to begin pacing. "Are you going to be my matchmaker? Find me some understanding woman to warm my bed without hiding under it in fear?"
"If you stop snapping at me, then maybe I will," Willow said, rising to her feet to block Giles' path.
"What?" he asked, not believing he'd heard her properly.
"I even have the perfect woman in mind for you. She's smart, and she knows all about what goes bump in the night, yet she actively seeks to stop it. And I happen to know that she's had a crush on you for a very long time."
Giles balked at her. He mentally ran through all of his female acquaintances and couldn't imagine who Willow thought might be interested in him. "Who?" he warily asked.
Stepping up to him, Willow lifted her face to his, whispering against his lips, "Me," before she kissed him.
Giles froze. Willow was kissing him. Her arms were wrapping themselves around his body. She wanted him?
She was going to stop if he didn't respond soon. Pulling her close, Giles opened his mouth to hers, kissing her deeply, encouraged by her deep moan of pleasure.
Panting for breath, they separated several minutes later, still wrapped in each other's arms.
"Wh-where did that come from?" Giles managed to ask.
"I've been waiting for years for you to let me do that," Willow admitted. "So, um, do you think you might be interested?"
"In you?" Giles ran his fingers through her hair. "I can't remember a time when I didn't want you."
"Really?" Willow asked, tears of happiness making her green eyes sparkle.
"Truly. Gods, Willow, you have no idea how tortuous that summer we lived together was for me. Every night it took all my strength to refrain from going to your room and doing something we'd both regret."
"Do you think I'd regret it now?" Willow asked. "'Cause I'm not in mourning anymore. And I'm not seeing anyone. And I've got my magick under control."
"I believe you. But I fear that I must point something out, no matter how obvious it may appear. I am very much a man, and from what you have said, you no longer are interested in my gender."
Willow blushed. "Oh, that. Um, yeah, I think I said that so much as a way to try to convince myself that it was true. Tara was always afraid that I'd realize my loving her was a mistake and that I only wanted men. Then after she died, it seemed wrong to be with a man again right away. So when Kennedy pursued, I let her. But now…I think Tara would understand. She always knew how much you mean to me. She even knew about the crush I had on you, only I let her believe that it was totally buried, even when it wasn't."
"You really want to be with me?" he asked in awe. "There are dozens of reasons why it would be a bad idea, but at the moment I can't think of them."
"So don't," Willow said. "Just kiss me."
Giles was only too happy to oblige.