Title: The Monster Inside
Timeline: S6, AU. Giles never left.
Synopsis: After Willow loses Tara, she seeks revenge. Giles and the others try to stop her before she’s completely lost.
“You fuck him every night, don’t you?”
Buffy looked up from her position on the floor, Giles’ head resting in her lap. She stared into the black eyes smiling back at her. “What’s happened to you, Willow?”
“Me?” Willow smiled and lazily paced back and forth in front of the couple on the floor. “I’ve grown as a person.”
Buffy shook her head quickly. “No…you’ve become a monster. Look what you’ve done to him!”
The smile faded from Willow’s eyes, the dark veins streaking across her face stark against her pale skin. “I’m no monster, Buffy. My lover was killed in front of me. Your lover was able to save you. I couldn’t save Tara.”
Buffy’s eyes narrowed as her rage built. “So that gives you the right to try to kill him?”
Willow chuckled mirthlessly. “Oh, I wasn’t trying to kill him. If I had, he wouldn’t be breathing now.” When Giles moaned softly, Willow smirked. “And, he’s definitely breathing.”
Willow crossed her arms over her chest and rolled her eyes as Buffy whispered soft words of encouragement to Giles. “You didn’t answer my question, Buffy.”
Buffy raised her eyes and glared at Willow. “Possibly because it’s none of your fucking business.”
Willow snorted and knelt on the other side of Giles’ body. “You might just have to give him a few weeks to recuperate before you take him for a ride.” She placed her hand on his sternum and pressed down, smiling when Giles cried out in pain. “Yeah, scream for me, baby.”
Buffy lashed out with her arm, knocking Willow away from Giles. “You ever touch him again…”
Willow stood and dusted herself off. “You’ll what? Lecture me to death on the differences between right and wrong?”
Buffy’s eyes blazed with rage. “I’ll kill you.”
Willow grinned and walked to the door of the Magic Box. “Give it your best shot, Buff. But later, okay? Right now, I have to find Warren.” She glanced back down at Giles and sighed in mock-concern. “Might want to get him to the hospital. He could have a few broken ribs.”
With that, Willow turned and casually strode out of the ruined building.
Buffy stared at the door for a few seconds, fearing that Willow would return. And she was in no condition, physically or emotionally, to take on her one-time best friend. She ran her fingers through Giles’ dust-laden hair.
“She’s right about one thing.”
Giles opened his eyes, gazing wearily at her. “What?”
Tears welled in her eyes as she caressed the side of his face. “I should get you to the hospital.”
“No. We…we need to stop her before she finds Warren.”
Buffy shook her head quickly as a tear rolled down her cheek. “I’m not losing you too, Giles.”
He raised his hand and carefully wiped the tear away. “I’m not going anywhere, love.”
“If we go after her now, in the condition you’re in…it could kill you. She could kill you.”
He offered her a gentle smile and then glanced towards the backroom. “Anya?”
Anya walked into the room, stepping over a fallen beam, a book in her hands. She looked at him nervously and shook her head. “I’m not so sure about this, Giles.”
Giles smiled and gave her an understanding nod. “I am. Go ahead.”
Anya met Buffy’s eyes before she sighed heavily and knelt next to Giles, placing her hand on his chest. She took a deep breath and began to chant. Giles clenched his eyes shut and screamed in agony. Buffy’s eyes widened in panic as she gripped Giles’ hand.
“What the hell are you doing to him?!” She screamed as she reached out to knock Anya away.
Giles’ scream ended abruptly as Anya spoke the last word on the page. Anya looked apologetically up at Buffy as she removed her hand from Giles’ chest. Buffy looked down as his hand relaxed in hers.
“It was a restoration spell.” Anya offered quietly. “Giles asked me to perform it if either he or you were hurt by Willow. All it did was mend his broken bones…but setting bones can be painful.”
Giles’ eyes fluttered open and he took a deep breath before pushing himself up. Buffy stared at him and shook her head. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it wouldn’t have worked if she killed him.” Anya stated as she stood and replaced the book under the front counter.
Giles stood and gently squeezed her shoulder. “Willow would have known, Buffy. She can read you. And…if you had known about this…”
“She wouldn’t have stopped before she killed you.” Buffy finished quietly.
Buffy took a shaky breath and nodded. “Okay, we should find her.”
Giles offered his hand to Buffy, pulling her up when she accepted it. “Yes, we should. The problem is, I have no idea where to even start looking. She’s cloaked her essence, so I can’t perform a locator spell on her.”
Xander stumbled over the threshold of the store as he stared over his shoulder. “Looking for Scary Willow? You might want to try Miller’s Woods.”
He turned to find the three occupants of the building staring at him. “Big flash of light over there. Along with a girly man-scream. I think she may have found Warren.”
“Dammit!” Giles cursed loudly and motioned towards the door. “Go!”
Buffy widened her eyes as Giles ran to the phone. “Giles?”
He held the phone in one hand, using his other to caress her cheek. “I’ll be right behind you. Go now.” He gently pulled her to him and leaned down, placing a loving kiss on her lips. “Please be careful.”
She nodded and pulled him down for another kiss, deepening it briefly before pulling back. “I love you.”
He smiled softly. “I love you too. Now…go.”
With a quick nod, she ushered Xander and Anya out the front door. As they piled into Xander’s car, Xander turned and looked at Buffy. “It’s really bad, isn’t it?”
When Buffy hesitated, Xander sighed. “It’s just…Giles has never been big on the pda front. And…well, he was just then.”
Buffy caught a glimpse of another flash of light in the woods. “We’re losing her, Xander.”
Xander gave a quick, sad nod and started the car.
* * *
Giles stared at the glass orb resting on the counter as he hurriedly spoke into the phone. “I need it now, Rima. She’s…if we don’t stop her…she’s going to kill. And once she does that, she’ll come after those I love. This needs to happen now.”
He closed his eyes and rested his hand on the orb when it began to glow.
* * *
Willow had found Warren easily enough. She smirked as she paced back and forth in front of him, his wrists and ankles lashed to the surrounding trees, holding him spread-eagled as he pled for release.
“And why the hell should I let you go?”
“Because…it…it was an accident!” He stammered, panic showing in his eyes as the bullet hovered in front of his chest.
“Oh. In that case…” Willow tilted her head thoughtfully and then shook her head. “We’ll just take it slow, huh?”
As the tip of the bullet pushed against his skin, he screamed. Buffy, Xander, and Anya ran through the woods, skidding to a stop when they came to the small clearing.
Willow turned towards the voice and smiled. “Buffy. How’s Rupert feeling? Not too many broken bones?”
Buffy’s eyes darkened in anger. “Let him go, Willow.”
“No.” Willow flicked the end of the bullet, which was now halfway embedded into Warren’s skin. “He deserves to be punished.”
“Yeah, he does. But…not like this.” Buffy softened her voice, hoping to be able to get through to Willow.
“He killed Tara.” Willow’s eyes blazed for a moment. “This is exactly how he deserves to be punished. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth…bullet for a bullet.”
A shimmer in the air caught Buffy’s attention. Willow followed Buffy’s eyes and nodded appreciatively when Giles stepped out of the shimmer.
“Rupert. Nice that you could join us.” She raked her eyes over his form as he took a step towards her. “You look much better than you did the last time I saw you. Interesting.”
“Let him go, Willow.” He stated firmly.
“Again…no.” She crossed her arms defiantly and stared at him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Giles saw Buffy step forward. He quickly held up his hand, a silent command for her to stop. Willow chuckled.
“Good trick, Rupert. Does she sit and beg too?” She licked her lips and narrowed her eyes slightly. “Or does she only beg for your cock?”
Xander’s eyes widened in shock at Willow’s bluntness. “Uh, Will?”
Willow rolled her eyes and stared at Xander. “We all know they’re fucking. Have been since before she died and I brought her back. It’s no secret to anyone that they’re together. They don’t even try to hide it anymore. We’re not kids, we know what goes on in the bedroom.”
Xander nodded slowly. “Well, yeah. But, this isn’t like you.”
“No. This is the new me. I like the new me.” Willow smiled and turned her eyes back to Giles. “Don’t you, Rupert? You know…you might be able to persuade me to give another go with a man.”
Buffy clenched her fist as Giles shook his head slowly, a warning tone in his voice. “Don’t do this, Willow.”
“Remember…I’ve seen the two of you together. You know…that time I accidentally walked into the backroom of the Magic Box during your ‘training’ time.” As Giles stared at her, she grinned. “What you didn’t know is how hot it made me to watch you fuck her.”
Giles’ eyes narrowed dangerously. “Do not degrade what Buffy and I have to nothing more than animalistic sex.”
“Oh, that’s right. You two make love…you don’t fuck.” She chuckled and looked around at Warren. “You didn’t know, did you? You didn’t know that you tried to kill the almighty Watcher’s lover, did you?”
Warren groaned in pain, the bullet slowly making its way through his chest.
“Willow…” Giles reigned in his anger and softened his voice. “It’s not too late to stop this. Turn him over to the police and…”
Willow rolled her eyes and waved her hand towards Warren. “Bored now.”
Warren screamed as his skin peeled away from his body. The scream died abruptly as his lifeless body slumped against his bindings.
“Jesus.” Giles whispered in disbelief.
Xander’s mouth dropped open as he stared at the flayed body. Anya shook her head sadly. Buffy quickly averted her eyes and covered her mouth.
Willow brushed the sleeve of her shirt and took a deep breath. “I feel better. How about you guys?”
Giles swallowed thickly, whispering one word. “Vincere.”
Willow stared at him as the magic enveloped her, binding her. “Well, well, well…Daddy’s been brushing up on his magicks.”
Giles made his way to Buffy and pulled her into his arms as her tears began to fall.
“Oh, how cute. The Watcher comforting the Slayer. Can I watch you comfort her even more later?”
Giles closed his eyes and held Buffy tighter. “Do shut up, Willow.”
Willow grinned. “And who will comfort you when your precious Buffy dies again?”
His eyes snapped open and he slowly turned around to face the witch. “You come near her and I’ll kill you myself.”
“And we all know you’ve killed before, haven’t you?” She repositioned her gaze on Buffy’s tear-stained face. “I have a theory about the reason Rupert left when you died. Would you like to hear it?”
Buffy stared at her for a moment, collecting her thoughts. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to hear anything from you right now.”
“Okay.” She paused for a moment and then smiled. “Rupert couldn’t stand looking at the BuffyBot and not being able to touch her. See, the Bot wasn’t programmed to love him. I was going to reprogram it, but Xander talked me out of it. Apparently, the Bot wouldn’t have been good enough for Rupert. He only wanted the real thing. And the poor guy just couldn’t take it.”
“Enough.” Giles spoke sternly.
“Six months of fu…um, making love to you on a regular basis…he just fell apart. And so he left to go back to merry old England…probably to drink himself to an early death.”
“I said that’s enough.” Anger sparked in his darkened green eyes.
“I heard. But, I’m not finished.” She took a breath and exhaled slowly. “When I brought you back, he was on the next flight to Sunnydale. And even though I was the one who dragged you out of Heaven, he made you feel alive. Didn’t he? The way you held on to him when he walked through the door I was sure you were just going to throw him down right there and – ”
“That’s fucking enough!” Giles glared at her, almost daring her to continue.
“For now.” Willow stated quietly, her ever-present smirk widening.
Giles swallowed and glanced at Xander. “Help me cut him down.”
Xander nodded as Anya stepped forward to stand next to Buffy. As the two men cut the body from its bindings, Willow closed her eyes.
“You know this won’t hold me for long.” She opened her eyes and stared at the Watcher. “And when I get free…I’ll kill every one of you. Starting with her.”
He took three long strides towards her, reaching up and gripping her throat with his hand. As he tightened his grip, she struggled and choked out her next words.
“That’s it, baby. All you have to do is kill me…and you’ll be lost to all of them. And yourself.”
Buffy ran over and wedged herself between them. She grabbed his head and forced him to look down at her. “Giles, don’t.”
When his eyes didn’t focus on her, she softened her voice and lovingly ran her fingers through his hair. “Come back to me. Don’t let her do this to you.”
As the darkness slowly seeped from his eyes, she took a deep breath. “Let go of her and come back to me.”
At her words, his eyes finally regained their focus and he shuddered, dropping his hand from Willow’s throat. Buffy placed her palm on the side of his neck and rubbed her thumb along his jaw.
“There you are.”
Giles took a shaky breath and stepped back, pulling Buffy with him and away from Willow. Willow snorted and shook her head.
Giles glanced at her, but quickly returned his gaze to Buffy’s eyes. “Thank you.”
Anya gently nudged Xander and whispered softly. “What was that?”
Xander took an unsteady breath. “That…was Ripper. It always kinda freaks me out when it happens.”
“Does it happen often? Because…I don’t like it.”
Xander offered her an understanding smile. “Only when Buffy’s threatened. And it seems like she’s the only one who can get Giles back when it happens.”
Anya looked over at Giles and Buffy, who were holding on to one another tightly, and then glanced at Willow. “What do we do about her?”
“I don’t know, An. I really don’t know.” He replied, the sadness in his voice breaking Anya’s heart.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Willow struggled against the spell that Giles had cast to render her temporarily unconscious in order to transport her back to the Magic Box. But in the end, she succeeded only in draining herself of her energy resulting in the spell taking effect quicker.
Not wanting to test their luck any more than they already had, Giles took her to Xander’s car and instructed the young man to get back to the store as quickly as possible. Xander took him at his word and sped through the quiet town, running any red light or stop sign that was in his way.
He tried to keep from looking at the backseat, but failed miserably. Willow was wedged between Buffy and Giles, Giles had his arm along the top of the seat…his fingers gently stroking Buffy’s hair as he whispered to her.
It wasn’t a scene that Xander really wanted to see. Swallowing hard, he reached over and held onto Anya’s hand as tightly as he could.
* * *
Buffy helped Giles carry Willow into the Magic Box and just as he finished the spell to strengthen her bindings, she awoke.
“Home sweet home.” Willow’s eyes sparked with a black flash as she looked around. “I have to say…the Magic Box has looked better.”
Buffy opened her mouth to respond, closing it when Giles caught her eye and shook his head.
“Ignore her, Buffy. She’s only trying to provoke you.”
Willow chuckled. “You’ve got it all wrong, Rupert.”
Giles ignored her, continuing to pull various books down from the nearest bookshelf. Buffy sat at the table, her head in her hands.
“Nice little trick you pulled earlier, Rupert. Teleportation isn’t for beginners.” Willow licked her lips and stared at Giles. “I think you’ve been holding out on me.”
Buffy glanced over at Giles, wondering herself how he had managed to teleport to the woods. Seeing this, Willow grinned and flexed her fingers.
“Even your girl is wondering how you did it. Wondering how much like me you really are. She knows that you’ve taken a life or two…” She winked as Giles stared at her. “We all know, Rupert.”
“Stop calling him that.” Buffy muttered.
Willow turned her dark eyes to Buffy. “What was that, Buff?”
“You calling him ‘Rupert’. It’s creepy…stop it.”
“But, he likes it.” Willow stated with a smile. “Longs to hear his name…especially in the throes of passion.”
Giles narrowed his eyes dangerously and took a step towards Willow.
Her smile grew as she felt his anger grow. “He wishes you’d call him ‘Rupert’ more often. Wishes you’d scream his true name as you rake your nails down his back. It turns him on to be called by his given name. You’d be surprised at what – ”
“Enough!” Giles bellowed, causing Buffy to jump and Willow to turn her gaze to him.
“Giles?” Buffy whispered, biting her bottom lip.
He turned towards her, his glare softening as he registered her confusion. He took a deep breath in an attempt to calm himself and reached out a hand to her.
“Come with me, love.”
Buffy glanced at Willow, suppressing her shudder at the coldness in Willow’s eyes. “I…”
“Please, Buffy…” He whispered tenderly. “Please…come with me.”
“You know it’s true, Rupert.” Willow snarled.
“Hiljaisuus!” He narrowed his eyes as Willow’s mouth continued to move, but no sound could be heard. “You talk too fucking much, Willow. Talk, talk, talk…but, you say nothing of any value.”
When she darted her eyes to Xander and Anya, who were huddled together on the other side of the room, Giles quickly uttered a string of words and Willow widened her eyes in surprise.
“What did you do?” Xander asked, rubbing his temple and tightening his arm around Anya.
Giles took Buffy’s hand and gently pulled her from the chair before looking over at Xander. “I…blocked her from entering your minds. She can’t speak, but she’d try…she’d try to communicate with you…”
“Like she did before Buffy came back.” Xander whispered, staring at Willow who was glaring angrily at Giles.
“Stay away from her, but watch her. If she shows any signs of doing anything other than the nothing she’s doing now, scream. And then run.”
“Scream, run. We can do that.” Xander nodded. “Um…will you be long?”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Anya snorted a soft laugh. When everyone, including Willow, stared at her, she shrugged a shoulder but didn’t say anything.
Giles gave Willow one last glance and then led Buffy into the training room, carefully stepping over the fallen beams from their earlier altercation. He sighed as he started to close the door, only to have it fall completely off its hinges.
“How did you do that?”
He furrowed his brow as he turned towards her. “The hinges were broken…”
Buffy shook her head quickly. “No…no, I mean…when you showed up in the woods. I…you…I didn’t know you could…and then the binding magick. And the getting rid of her voice…and the blocking her from our minds…Giles…”
“Calm down, Buffy.” He whispered soothingly, pulling her over to the couch and sitting down.
“How did you do that?” She repeated with an urgency in her voice.
Giles took a deep breath and ran his hand through his hair. “I called in a rather large favour.”
Buffy lowered her eyes, not wanting to ask who granted the favour…or why the person owed him such a large favour. All she knew was that her best friend had let magick take her over and killed someone…and her lover was apparently just as strong, if not stronger, than Willow in the magick department. She inhaled sharply when she felt his hand on the side of her face.
“Buffy?” He swallowed thickly when she met his eyes. “Oh, Buffy…please…please don’t be frightened of me.”
“It’s not you I’m scared of, Giles. It’s the magick. I’ve seen what it’s done to Willow…I don’t want the same thing to happen to you. If I lose you – ”
His eyes glistened as he covered her lips with two fingers. “You’re not going to lose me, Buffy.”
She kissed his fingertips before pulling his hand away from her mouth. “Willow said the same thing a few months ago. And…and in the woods, you…you kinda went away for a few minutes.”
“I came back.” He whispered, stroking her cheek with his thumb.
“She keeps calling you ‘Rupert’.” She took a shaky breath and looked into his eyes. “Was that the truth? Do you wish I’d use ‘Rupert’ more than I do?”
“What you call me isn’t important, Buffy.” He offered her a smile, which actually did flicker in his eyes for a brief moment. “What I see in your eyes…the love there? That’s important to me. You can call me whatever you want…as long as you love me.”
“But…you do like it when I call you ‘Rupert’…when we’re making love, I mean…”
“He prefers it when you call him ‘Rupert’ when you’re fucking.”
They both turned towards the voice, their eyes widening to find Willow standing there with a maniacal grin on her face. Willow crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against the doorframe.
“You can’t block the minds of everyone in the entire town, Rupert.”
Giles stood up quickly, pushing Buffy behind him when she stood up as well. “Xander!”
Willow chuckled and pushed off the doorframe, walking further into the room as she gestured towards the other room. “He’s alive. They’re just…resting.”
Giles quickly probed into her mind, causing her to stumble backwards. Sensing that she was indeed telling the truth about Xander and Anya, he narrowed his eyes.
“You grabbed an unsuspecting passerby…had him knock out Xander and Anya…”
“And then read a couple of lines out of one of your books for me.” Willow glared at Giles. “Get out of my mind, Rupert.”
Giles groaned and took a step back, lifting his hand to the side of his head. A trickle of blood made a path from his left nostril down over his lip.
“It hurts when a door is slammed in your face, huh?” Willow asked in a cold tone as she walked over to the weapons cabinet.
“I’m okay, Buffy.” Giles mumbled, wiping the blood from his nose. “Go…”
Willow stopped, turning and staring at the couple as she shook her head. “No, don’t go. I think it’s time that the three of us had some fun.”
With a wave of her hand, the doorway was suddenly blocked with a wall of bricks.
“How about it, Buffy? You and me…right now. Slayer versus magick…how long do you think you can really last against me?”
The air crackled around them and Buffy darted her eyes from Willow to Giles, back to Willow…and finally back to Giles. Giles’ eyes had darkened to a near black that rivalled the blackness of Willow’s eyes.
Willow clucked her tongue, grinning as she shook her head. “Oh, I think Giles has gone away for a little while. Ready to have a little fun, Rupert?”
“It’s not too late, Willow.” Giles answered, obviously struggling against his rage.
Willow smiled, waving her hand nonchalantly. Buffy screamed as she was thrown against the brick wall.
“What about now, Rupert? Is it too late now?”
Giles squared his shoulders, glancing at Buffy as a green light flickered at his fingertips. “Stop, Willow. If you stop this now, I can help you.”
“Don’t want your help, Rupert.” Willow ran her tongue over her lips. “What would you do to save your precious Buffy? Because…you know I can kill her right now. You saw what I did to Warren…Buffy’s flesh is just as flayable.”
Giles stared at her for a moment, lowering his gaze briefly when he realized that she wasn’t bluffing. “Don’t hurt her, Willow.”
“What would you do?” She asked again.
“Giles, no!” Buffy cried out as he took a step towards Willow.
Giles ignored her, tilting his head slightly as he raised his eyes to Willow’s once more. “Let her go.”
Willow grinned, reading Giles’ dark eyes. “I had such a crush on you in high school. Having Buffy tell me what a workhorse you are in bed…kinda makes me remember the butterflies you used to give me.”
“Let her go.” Giles repeated, roughly pushing Willow against the wall. “Let her go…and you can have me.”
“Giles…” Buffy whimpered, tears spilling down her face. “Giles, no…”
Willows black eyes darted to Giles’ mouth…and as she hooked two fingers into one of his belt loops and pulled him closer, a rapid moving chain of events was started.
Willow released her hold on Buffy, allowing Buffy to fall to the floor as she screamed Giles’ name. The brick wall that had been erected by Willow’s magick exploded, Xander rushed into the room…a sledgehammer in his hand and Anya following closely behind him. Willow pulled Giles even closer, closing her eyes as Giles lowered his mouth towards hers.
The metallic clank of the sledgehammer falling from Xander’s hand and hitting the ground sounded loud in the room. Xander looked to Buffy when she sobbed Giles’ name again. Giles’ eyes cleared, his left hand coming up to grasp Willow’s throat.
Her eyes snapped open as he slammed her against the wall. Rage filled her as she realized that she had played right into his hand. His eyes were clear of the magick…but they were dark with anger.
“I’ll kill every single one of you.” She spat even as he uttered the words of the spell he had been given by Rima earlier in the evening. “And I’ll make you watch them die…slow, painful deaths. You’ll beg me to spare you…but, you’ll die the slowest.”
Willow’s eyes closed, her body going limp as the spell took hold. And still he held her, his fingers tightening around her throat. He didn’t hear the others surround him, he didn’t hear any of their words. All he could hear was the rage rushing through him, urging him to end it…
And then there was blackness.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Giles heard Xander’s voice. Xander wasn’t talking to him. At least, Giles hoped he wasn’t…because he wasn’t sure what yellow crayons had to do with anything. He felt the familiar sensation of Buffy running her fingers through his hair.
He opened his eyes to find Buffy’s worried eyes gazing down at him. “Buffy?”
“I’m sorry, Giles. Are you okay? I…I didn’t mean to hit you so hard.”
“You…you hit me?” Giles asked as he sat up, inhaling sharply as the room suddenly swerved to the right. “Bloody hell…”
Buffy caught him quickly, casting Anya an appreciative glance when the ex-demon supported him on the other side. Anya sighed heavily, glaring at Buffy for a moment.
“You could’ve killed him, you know.”
“He was going to kill Willow.”
“So? After everything she’s done…”
“He wouldn’t have been able to live with himself, Anya!”
“Stop.” Giles whispered, focussing his attention on Xander. “Just…stop, both of you. All of you…just…stop.”
Xander turned to look at Giles, his eyes red with unshed tears as Willow stared blankly at nothing. “I almost got through to her…I think…”
Giles shook his head slowly, immediately regretting the motion. “It’s going to take more than yellow crayons to get through to her, Xander.”
“What did you do to her?” Xander asked, lifting Willow’s hand and squeezing her fingers.
“I…she’ll need to be taken to Devon.” Giles responded, not answering Xander’s question.
“Giles?” Buffy whispered, gently sliding her fingers along the large bump on the back of his head. “Is she going to be okay?”
He looked into her eyes, not hiding his own concern. His eyes glistened as his voice wavered.
“I don’t know.”
* * *
“I never understood how you did it…”
Giles smiled softly, digging his hands into the pockets of his jeans as they walked along the lakeside. “I had a friend when I was younger…I helped her at one time, she promised to repay me. I called in a debt.”
Willow furrowed her brow as she pulled the shawl tighter around her when the wind picked up. “How big of a debt was it?”
“I gave her the strength she needed to walk away from Ethan.”
“Oh…” She replied, unsure of what he meant exactly. “So…she lent you her magick?”
He shook his head and looked up at the sky, squinting as the sun shone brightly. “More that she enhanced mine. To give me the power to strip you of yours.”
“Will I get it back?”
He met her eyes and took a deep breath. “That decision hasn’t been made yet, Willow.”
She lowered her eyes as the tears came once more. “I feel so empty…”
He felt a wave of sadness and regret flow from her as she sat down on the ground, resting her forehead on her knees as she cried softly. He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat and gently stroked her hair.
She looked up at him, her red hair framing her tear-stained face. “Giles, I’m so sorry.”
He sat down on the ground beside of her and studied her carefully. “Forgive yourself, Willow. It’s time.”
“Have you forgiven yourself?” She asked after a slight hesitation.
He exhaled slowly and plucked a small yellow flower from the grass. He nodded slowly as he handed it to her.
“I, uh…we all have a monster of some sort within our beings. Mine has made itself known on more than one occasion. It took me awhile, but…yes, I have forgiven myself for my actions in the Magic Box.”
“You should’ve killed me.” She whispered, lowering her eyes.
Giles sighed and placed two fingers under her chin, tilting her head back up. “I would have never been able to live with myself. Buffy was right.”
“How is she?”
Giles smiled softly, lowering his hand. “Perhaps you should ask her yourself.”
Willow wiped her eyes as she shook her head. “No…no, she hates me…and I really don’t – ”
“I don’t hate you, Will.”
Willow turned her head, her eyes widening as Buffy knelt next to Giles, her hand on his shoulder. “Buffy…”
She took a deep breath and then looked into Buffy’s eyes. “The things I said…the things I…did…”
Buffy smiled softly. “Yeah, not the best of times. But…you were grieving. Probably not the most healthy way of expressing your grief…”
“Sometimes I think all of this is a dream. That I…that you’re not here…any of you.”
Buffy and Giles exchanged a glance, but said nothing.
“And…sometimes I think that you stopped me, but…I wasn’t able to come back.”
Giles cleared his throat and covered her hand with his. “You’re getting better, Willow. It’s just going to take some time.”
Willow smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “You need to go now, don’t you?”
Giles nodded slowly. “We do. But, we’ll be back next week. Just…continue to follow the instructions you’re given. And…we forgive you, Willow. Forgive yourself. Please.”
Willow nodded, exhaling deeply as Buffy and Giles slowly disappeared.
* * *
Giles sighed and tenderly brushed his fingers through Willow’s dark red hair. Xander softly cleared his throat and darted his eyes between Buffy and Giles.
“So? How is she this week?”
“Slowly improving.” Giles responded after receiving a nod from Evangeline, Willow’s mentor at the coven. “She, uh…she saw Buffy today.”
Xander smiled, curling his fingers around Willow’s hand. “That’s my Will. Just keep listening, Will. Okay? And Anya told me to tell you ‘hi’. She’s…she’s still in Sunnydale, but she’s going to try to come next week.”
Xander’s smile widened when Willow squeezed his hand lightly.
As Willow’s hair lightened another shade, they knew that she had taken another step towards reality. It was only a matter of time…and when the monster inside was fully exorcised, Willow would be returned to them.
Buffy regarded Giles carefully. He still had a way to go as well. Allowing the magick to envelop him had taken so much out of him...as a result, he had frightened himself with the realization of how easy it could be to fall back into old habits. But, he had taken a huge step last night…and they had made love for the first time since the ordeal. Feeling her eyes on him, he looked at her and smiled shyly.
“I…I love you.”
Buffy smiled adoringly at him, sliding her fingers through his hair above his ear. “I know. And I love you too.”
“Can we…I mean, would it be alright if we go home?”
She lightly scratched her nails across his scalp, grinning as she watched his eyes darken slightly with desire. “Yeah…”
Giles glanced at her chest and licked his lips. She chuckled softly and gave him a wink when he looked back into her eyes.
“See you in the morning, Xand.”
Xander nodded, glancing at the couple…and then smiled when he realized what was going on. “Have a good night, guys.”
Giles nodded absently, standing and pulling Buffy with him. “Goodnight, Xander.”
Xander watched them walk out the door, feeling a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt in months. For the first time in a long time, he felt like things were going to be okay. Buffy and Giles were back on track, things were looking up with Anya, Willow was improving, and he even had a new job lined up that was due to start in a couple of weeks.
They were finally rebuilding Sunnydale High.
His smile grew as he looked back at Willow, noticing that her hair had lightened even more…and there was a small subtle smile on her lips.
“I think they’re going to get married. Neither of them have said anything to me, but…you can see that it’s heading that way. Anyway, remember how I told you that my boss was bidding on a job? Well, he got it…and I’m the foreman. You’ll never guess what we’re building…”