Although I can't seem to articulate the profound impact BtVS had on me the way some of you have been able to do over the last few days, I have been thinking about how, in addition to its brilliant storytelling and dialogue and themes and rich characterizations, the show and the fanfic both depicted characters that I yearned to be (or be with) and provided ways to explore thoughts that were tumbling around in my head as I went off to college and tried to figure out whether I would ever be desirable and what I wanted in a relationship, for example. When I re-read this story, I see one angle of what I loved about Willow/Giles; an attempt, after a very different first draft, to take the usual flow of events in a different direction; and an examination of my own habit of developing crushes on teachers and professors.
Anyway, here it is if you're interested, college-age writing quirks and all. 1,500 words, rated T or something. IIRC, back in the day, synn suggested that Giles analyzes the situation too quickly, but I never did fix that. Feel free to pretend that he pauses to make tea and gather his thoughts at some natural break in the conversation.
The former librarian’s eyes snapped up.
“Willow,” he sighed, pushing up his glasses. “Nearly gave me a heart attack.”
“Sorry.” She looked down at the floor for a moment, strands of red hair slipping across her face. She was wearing a red t-shirt and long violet skirt and had an overstuffed brown leather satchel slung over one shoulder whose strap she was clutching uncertainly. “You didn’t answer, and—and your door was open.”
“Ts’all right,” he said, more genially this time. He squinted at her.
“Good book, huh?” Willow asked. “Cuz you must have been really into it, not hearing me knock and all.”
“Not particularly. They’re rather difficult translations.”
They looked at each other for a few moments.
“Where’s Buffy?” he asked.
Her mood seemed to dim. “She’s coming later. Has a thing.”
“Ah. What brings you here on such a fine afternoon?”
She looked at him. “It’s raining.”
“Ah.” He then noticed the small wet spots already fading on her clothes. “How unusual.”
“Guess you haven’t looked out the window either.”
“So—why are you here?” His voice rose at the end of the inquiry in typical, British Gilesean fashion. “Hopefully not simply due to inclement weather?”
“Oh, no! I—I wanted to come.” She added quickly, “To say hi,” and it came out like a question. She attempted a bright smile to compensate.
He knew her better than that. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothin’,” she tried to answer lightly, but ended up close to tears. After a moment of surprise, Giles rose from his chair and moved to put a hand on her shoulder. She stepped away from him.
He frowned and drew back his arm. “What’s happened?”
“Nothing… Everything… Giles, I—I can’t, I just can’t…” She turned to run out of his house.
“Stop!” he ordered. She obeyed and looked at him with wide eyes. “What’s going on?”
“I have to go.”
“Away,” she said, and seemed to give in to having a conversation. “Away from Sunnydale. From the Hellmouth. I have to leave. I can’t be with the Scooby Gang any more.”
“Why on Earth not?”
“I—” She couldn’t continue.
“Willow, I’ve never seen you like this before. What in God’s name happened?”
She didn’t answer.
“Did you and Buffy have an argument?”
“Something to do with your family?”
Then he looked at her eyes failing to suppress her panic, and knew. “Did—did s-someone hurt you?”
She paused. Then she nodded.
“Dear God,” he said, barely audible. “Did Spike…Is-is he…?”
She shook her head no.
“Was it—” He paused to gain a bit of control. “Was it a demon of some sort?” He looked at her neck, but found no marks: scratch the vampires. And Spike’s chip failing wasn’t responsible either. He could see, though, that her heart was pounding, rapidly.
Again, she shook her head. “No, nothing like that.”
“Someone at your school?”
She shook her head again.
“I don’t want to talk about it. I’m all right. I just want to go.”
“We can help you get through this, whatever it is.”
“No. You can’t.” She put a slight emphasis on the ‘you.’
“I said I don’t want to talk about it, Giles! I came to say good-bye.”
“Willow! You bloody can’t just—after all we’ve been through!—and what about your magic—and Buffy? Buffy needs you very much—”
At that, she turned away. “Yeah, Buffy. Buffy this and Buffy that.”
Willow was still talking. “Buffy killed five vampires last night, Buffy was excellent at yesterday’s training session, Buffy’s the best Slayer ever, Buffy’s got a good head on her shoulders, let’s all change our plans because Buffy needs us… Look, Buffy’s my best friend, but I can’t take it anymore, Giles. I’ve got to go.” She hefted her bag on her shoulder.
“If that’s what you think you need, then”—he swallowed—“then I will stand by your decision. …But who hurt you? I—I won’t tell anyone, if that’s what you want.”
She laughed, short and bitter. “Funny, Giles.”
“Now what the devil is that supposed to mean?”
Willow caught herself. “Nothing. I don’t—nothing.”
“Willow,” he tried again, sure that if he didn’t get through to her now, she really would run from Sunnydale without telling them why. “Willow, look at me.”
Eventually, she did. He held her gaze, waiting for her to give in, hoping desperately that his plan would work.
And then it did.
“It’s you, Giles! All right?”
“Me? I—I hurt you? How—? Willow, I’m so sorry—whatever it is I’ve done, I-I-I’m sorry…”
“You have no idea what you do to me,” she said to his shoes, and her face was nearly as red as her hair now. “I can’t stand being around you, it hurts so much. I think about you all the time, in class, while I’m trying to do spells, on patrol, at night, I can’t concentrate… Every time I see you I wonder how it would feel to really hold your hand, to kiss you, hold you, to— And all you can talk about is Buffy…”
Giles was at an utter loss for words.
“It’s totally inappropriate, I know. And it's your job and sacred duty to watch over Buffy. I get that. And now I don’t know what you must think of me—I have to go—I’m sorry, Giles, I’m so sorry—”
He reacted on instinct, took a step closer, reached out and caught her arm as she turned to go. He pulled her into a hug. Her bag dropped to the floor, landing on his foot.
“Don’t,” she said, pushing half-heartedly against his chest. “Don’t do that to make me feel better, it’s worse than—”
He kissed the top of her head.
She started to cry.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Then he steered her to the couch, sat and tugged her down beside him, holding her to his chest. She clung to him like a child while he struggled to organize his thoughts.
At last, he said, “I love you too, Willow.” She took in a shaky breath at his words. “Not in the way you would like, perhaps, but I couldn’t bear it if you were to leave.” He sighed. “May I be perfectly honest with you?”
She managed a soft, “Yes.”
“I think you are profoundly lonely,” he began, and though he spoke gently she tensed in his arms. “You’re still in pain from Oz’s departure and your breakup with Tara. Buffy has been consumed with her work lately and Xander is distracted with Anya. You’re a healthy, lovely young woman who needs affection and attention and who has a seemingly endless supply of love herself. But rather than attempt a relationship with someone your own age who has the potential to hurt you again, you’ve chosen me as a convenient target for your feelings.”
“Not a target,” she murmured. “And I didn’t ‘choose’ you. It just happened.”
“Sorry—poor phrasing. What I mean to say is, some part of you knows that your love for me is safe. You may not realize it consciously. It’s easier to love someone who is a bit of a mentor, a role model. We’ve been through a lot together in the last few years, and I’ve tried to be there for you. I’m not going to patronize you and call this a crush. But I do believe part of the reason you feel safe in loving me is your conviction that, even if I were to reciprocate your feelings, I would never act on them.
“Is that why you were ready to run? Because you’d reached a point where you couldn’t stand to daydream anymore, but a worse option was telling me and risking my reaction? If I’d rejected you, you’d be hurt again; and if I’d returned your sentiments, you would have found yourself facing a relationship you weren’t ready for and weren’t really planning to pursue.”
She was silent. He stroked her hair. “Willow, I want you to answer a question for me, now.”
“Do you honestly think you would be happier in my bed than sitting here like this, receiving advice and comfort?”
She was silent for a long time. Then she said, “No.”
He relaxed a little. “You know a romantic relationship between us would be inappropriate; you said so yourself. I’m much older than you are, and while I care very deeply about you, my affection is not of a sexual nature. I love you and Buffy and Xander, and, God help us, even Anya”—she cracked a smile at that—“as something like my own children. I can offer you the love of a parent and guide. You are not alone, and I’ve made it my responsibility to make sure you know that—but it’s not my place to be your boyfriend or even your confidant. I want you all to find happiness, but I must remain necessarily separate. I’m the Watcher. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?”
“Yes,” she said.
And, hey, have my favorite line from the original draft, which gave the Word document its title:
Call me Ripper, he whispers in her ear.
Originally posted at http://bironic.dreamwidth.org/354419.html, where there are comments.