Title: Better Than Me
Pairing: Willow/Giles friendship, mentions of Giles/Jenny
Word Count: ~ 2000
Summary: Willow comforts Giles after the events with Eyghon.
Timeline: Season 2, Episode: " The Dark Age"
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site/LJ, Hairy Eyeball, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to KallieRose for the beta.
Author's Note: Written for the Giles Hurt/Comfort Ficathon.
A/N 2: Title taken from song of same name by Hinder.
See Awards this story has won.
Better Than Me
Giles sat in his armchair, two fingers of whiskey in a glass on the table beside him, Forrester open in his hand.
Where the slim volume had once held fond memories of his father and their shared love of books, now it only reminded him of the look of betrayal in Jenny's eyes.
Even as tears prickled his eyes, he choked back a laugh at how much fun Jenny had had teasing him about desecrating the book. She should know better than to make light of turning down pages of such an old volume, let alone marking it with ink. She did so love to tease him about his books.
She wouldn't be teasing anyone about anything in the near future, though. And it was all his fault. His demons had taken the light out of her eyes; driven out by the inhuman glow of Eyghon.
Unconsciously, he reached for the glass beside him, tossing back the amber liquid in one burning swallow. It did nothing to burn away his guilt.
The knock at the door startled him, and yet it didn't. It was probably Buffy, checking up on him, again. While part of him thrilled at the idea that his welfare mattered to someone, he really didn't want to deal with the pity in his slayer's eyes.
When the knocking continued, he heaved a sigh and pulled himself to his feet. He swayed momentarily and tried to remember how many times he had refilled his glass that evening. When he couldn't, he shrugged and set the book down on the vacated chair and dragged one foot in front of the other until he reached the door.
"I'm really not up for company, Buffy," he said, unlocking and opening the door. He had to blink a couple of times to convince himself that it was not Buffy, but rather Willow standing before him. "Oh, Willow, I thought you would be Buffy."
Willow offered him a watery smile, concern written all over her face. "Yeah, I kinda noticed that, what with you calling me Buffy and all."
They stood there, on opposite sides of the doorway, for several long moments before Giles finally roused himself out of his thoughts long enough to ask, "What are you doing here?"
"I, um, wanted to give this back to you," Willow said, holding out a photograph.
He took it, not recognizing the boy in the photo at first. When realization dawned, he gruffly asked, "What are you doing with this?"
"Xander… I mean, we, found it while we were looking for information about Eyghon," Willow admitted.
"What was Xander doing going through my personal drawers?" Giles asked, sounding angrier the more sober he was becoming. Or was that more sober the angrier he became?
Willow suppressed a giggle at the word "drawers" and tried not to picture him in just his underwear, managing to come up with some rightful indignation. "We were trying to save your girlfriend," she snapped, poking him in the chest with a finger. "While you were wallowing in self-pity and alcohol, I was doing your job." She continued to poke him as she backed him into the apartment. "I did a darn good job at it too. I figured out that the symbol was Etruscan. I found out what it was used for – which is a whole 'nother explanation you owe us, mister – and how to get the demon out of Ms. Calendar without killing her. Would a little gratitude hurt?"
Giles simply stood there blinking at Willow. He'd never heard her be so forceful with him, or anyone, before. No, that wasn't entirely true. He could remember quite clearly her yelling at him, and Angel, a few weeks earlier about not allowing Buffy enough time to be a teenaged girl, as well as the slayer.
"Yes, of course, you're right. Thank you, Willow," Giles said, making his way back to the whiskey bottle.
Willow looked at him, head cocked to the side, confused. "That's it?"
Falling into his chair, Giles asked, "What do you want from me?"
"I want… I want you to be Giles again," Willow said, weakly.
Giles mirthlessly laughed. "I'm afraid that is exactly who I am. Rupert "Ripper" Giles, at your service." He filled his glass and raised it in a mocking salute before downing the contents. "Sorry to disappoint you, but this is who I am."
"No, it's not," Willow insisted, sitting on the ottoman in front of Giles. She reached for his hand, holding it between both of hers. "You're smart and funny and kind of a fuddy-duddy. You're not some demon-raising, magic-using, orgy guy."
"But I am," Giles said. "Or at least, I was. It's who I wanted to be, for a time."
"It's not who you are now, though," Willow insisted.
"Who we were molds who we become," Giles said. "I would not be the man that I am today if I had not been Ripper then. I would not be who I am today if not for Eyghon."
"In that case, I'm glad that you were him, so that you can be the you that you are now," Willow said, a blush tingeing her cheeks.
Willow suddenly realized that she was still holding Giles' hand, and quickly let go, drawing her hands into her lap.
Giles tried not to notice how beautiful Willow looked with her cheeks flushed behind the curtain of her hair. Through the fog of his guilt and depression he suddenly realized that Willow had a crush on him.
Before he could stop himself, he leaned forward and brushed her hair behind her shoulder and raised her chin to meet his eyes. "That's a wonderful compliment. Thank you."
His words only served to deepen Willow's blush.
"It's true. If you hadn't gone through all of that stuff with Eyghon, then you'd never have become a Watcher. Never come to Sunnydale to watch Buffy, and I never would have met you. So I can't help but be a little grateful that you were such a rebel," Willow admitted.
Giles chuckled. "When you put it that way, I'm a little grateful to Ripper myself."
"Why do you talk about yourself – him – in the third person like that?" Willow quietly asked.
Giles sighed. "Ripper was a persona that I wore. A new moniker to go along with who I thought that I wanted to be. When I returned to the Watchers, I no longer used that name, nor behaved in that manner, and it was easier to disassociate with that part of my past by referring to myself as him."
"But he's obviously still a part of you," Willow pointed out. "That guy, Ethan, called you Ripper. And you weren't acting anything like your usual self around him."
"Yes, I do suppose that Ripper was closer to the surface than usual," Giles agreed. "He is an aspect of my personality that I do not often like to get in touch with, but as you saw, is still sometimes vital."
"He's your passion," Willow guessed.
Giles paused to think about that. "I suppose you could say that."
"Then why were things going so slowly with Ms. Calendar?" Willow blurted out. Her eyes immediately widened in shock as she realized what she had said.
"My relationship with Jenny is none of your business," Giles snapped.
"I know, I'm sorry," Willow rushed to apologize. "I just thought… I thought that maybe it was because you were afraid of releasing your inner Ripper."
"Sometimes you really are too smart for your own good," Giles sneered.
"I-I am?" Willow asked, wary of this new side of Giles.
"You don't get it," Giles said, standing in order to pace. "Passions are all similar in nature. I lived my life devoid of all passions but for the love of books and research. I couldn't allow myself the pleasure of a woman's company. If I allowed myself to slip… If I let my defenses down…"
Willow stood and moved to block Giles' pacing. "You weren't going to revert back into him," she said.
"You can't know that," Giles screeched.
"Yes, I can," Willow argued. "You have experience on your side. You know the consequences of your actions."
"You don't understand. It's inside me, all the time. Sex, drugs and magic are all irrevocably linked in my psyche."
"Do they have to be?" Willow asked.
"Of cour—Well, no, I suppose not," Giles let out, sounding vaguely lost.
"I mean, you don't do drugs anymore, right?"
"I quit when I stopped doing magicks," Giles admitted.
"Okay, so if that isn't even a factor, why are you so worried about the other two being linked, too?" Willow asked.
"You don't understand," Giles practically whined. "You can't. You've never experienced what it was like."
"You're right, I haven't," Willow resolutely stated, surprising herself by not being embarrassed by the admission. "So, you're saying that you've never had sex without being high from drugs or magic?"
"Well, no. I've had some fantastic sex without the aid of either," Giles said.
Despite the blush that was now forming on Willow's cheeks, she steadily said, "Then I don't see what the problem is. If you've done it before, why does it scare you so much now?"
"J-Jenny practices magicks." Giles spoke slowly, only now realizing that it was his choice of partner that was causing him to act so cautiously.
"Subconsciously you're afraid that by being with someone who practices magicks you'll let loose that part of yourself that you're afraid of," Willow concluded.
Giles sat on the couch. "I never even realized that's what I had been doing."
Willow slowly moved to sit beside him. "Now that you know, does it change anything?"
Giles allowed himself a moment to entertain thoughts of going to Jenny and sweeping her off her feet, and into bed. The sadness in Willow's voice as she posed her question drew his eyes to the girl beside him. From one temptation to another.
"This understanding won't change anything between myself and Jenny," Giles resignedly admitted. "The damage has already been done. Even if I were to allow myself to be with her fully, now, she isn't interested. Not anymore."
"It's her loss," Willow said.
Giles released a self-deprecating chuckle. "I'm flattered that you think so."
They lapsed into silence, each reveling in the break from the angry tension from before.
"I meant it, you know," Willow said quietly after several minutes.
Giles hmm'd a sound of curiosity.
"While I can understand Ms. Calendar needing some space, I think she'd be an idiot not to take you back," Willow admitted. "Teacher or not."
"Thank you, Willow," Giles said. He gave her knee a gentle squeeze, but instead of immediately removing his hand again, he found himself leaving it there. Such a simple touch stirred things in him that he had ignored for far too long. The conversation they'd been having certainly didn't help.
Before he could do something foolish, like allow himself to remember just how sexy Willow had looked in that outfit on Halloween, Giles forced himself to stand. He held his hand out to her to help her up, as well.
"It's getting late," he said. "I should take you home."
"No, it's okay. I have my dad's car," Willow said. "Besides, I don't think you're in any shape to be driving."
"Perhaps," Giles agreed. "In that case, let me walk you to your car."
"Okay, thanks," Willow allowed.
Giles picked up a stake as they headed out the door. When they reached Willow's car, Giles said, "Thank you for stopping by."
"You're our friend, Giles," Willow insisted. "I always check up on my friends when I'm worried about them."
"I'm not the safest person to be friends with," Giles pointed out.
"Psh. Who's safe in Sunnydale? Now stop arguing and just accept it."
"While I do not deserve your friendship, I will gladly accept it," Giles said in earnest.
"Good." Willow impulsively reached out and hugged Giles, but before he could react, she opened the car door and slipped inside. She opened the window far enough to say, "Good night."
"Good night, Willow," Giles echoed.
He watched her drive down the street and turn the corner before he was able to force himself to move. He suddenly found himself reluctant to return to his empty apartment.
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Copyright© April 2008