by Wendy

They talk.

They don't watch each other. They don't eat together or sleep together or tell each other where they are going. But they talk.

How are you? Fine. I'm going out now. Will that be good? Okay.

She doesn't mention the fact she nearly killed him. She tried to kill him. She wanted him dead more than anything else in the world at that moment.

He doesn't talk about the hours he spent lying on the floor cradled by Anya as he felt her destroy everything he loved about her.

She doesn't talk about Tara. She doesn't talk about getting back to school, or Sunnydale. They don't talk about Buffy, for all that she phones and talks to them. He doesn't talk about magic.

It's going to rain tomorrow. I was going to plant those bulbs for next year.

They just bring each other cups of tea, and leave books at each other's arm as if they would like to read them next. She brings the paper to the breakfast table, and he leaves her the car keys when he walks to the train station.

She doesn't ask to stay and he doesn't tell her to go. She doesn't ask him if he'll come with her when she leaves. If he'll come home and look after her there. And Buffy and Dawn and Xander and Anya. And everything would be okay.

She is sitting in the garden, watching the leaves start to change colour. "I never knew what people meant when they talked about seasons. I mean, properly. Autumn and Summer and Spring."

"Winter is actually not as bad as all those authors would have you believe." He walks along the path, pleased that she is actually speaking to him.

"All the seasons run into each other in Sunnydale. Here you need things like gloves." She looks up at him. "What else happens in Autumn?"

"Well. Quite a lot, actually." He sits beside her. "All the vegetables ripen, and all the animals are extra active preparing for Winter. The birds start to migrate, most headed south for the winter. But some new ones arrive from the North. And the..."

"Everything just runs into each other. The only way you notice change is there's school, then, hey, no school," she interrupted him. "And then people change. And I like it here that things are separate and move in time. I move and change."

"I always felt young in California. Despite what you lot thought, I was quite young. Now, I feel older. Things have changed whilst I was away." He debates adding a more negative note to the tentative dialogue, to a real conversation. "Not for the better."

"You should never go away, Giles. People shouldn't leave." Her voice breaks off, and she returns to her scrutiny of the garden. He hands her a handkerchief, and heads back to the house. He can feel a chill in his bones.

"I tried to make her come back, like I had with Buffy. I had her blood on my blouse and on my hands and in my hair and I could smell her. I tried to wake her up but I couldn't." She doesn't cry, or look straight ahead. She watches him. "Xander tried to explain. And I made him hold me and kiss me and pretend that we were still seventeen again."

"Willow. Xander cares about you." He stood where her gaze had captured him.

Her voice overrode his gentle remonstrance. "I could end the world. I could kill. I could kill you. But I couldn't bring her back, Giles. And you know, I'm starting to think that it's a good thing."

They ate dinner together. He had suggested going out, but she told him no, and she didn't want to talk to people. She said she wanted to talk to him.

He didn't know what to say.

Her hate poured out. All the worry and pain and he realised that all the words that the strange perversion that had been his Willow had spoken were true. She was letting him see everything petty and nasty within her. He caught himself praying that she would return to him in a stable state of mind.

He told her that he loved her. She still didn't stop. It was as if she had opened a vein and was purging herself of all the poison with him her leech. It was past midnight when she stopped. They sat in the darkness a while longer. Then he started to talk.

He told her everything. Long years of rebellion, of magic. And of Ethan. There was no accusation in her eyes, as she listened to his halting rendition. He uncensored memories that he had not allowed himself to remember these last years. He let her see the kernel of self-doubt that had gnawed at him. His grandmother, his father and the rest of the Watchers. He dribbled off into silence, caught in a loop of fear and recrimination. If only he'd been better, quicker, more able.

She told him she loved him, and asked him to keep going. She wanted him to feel as she felt. Deliver me from evil. She started telling him the good things. She told him about Tara like she had never told anyone before. He told her the wonderful places he'd been before Sunnydale.

They were laughing when the sun was coming up. It was then that they went to bed.


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