Sunrise | Epilogue to Something Blue...

“Giles? Buffy…?”

Willow crept in the door. Xander and Anya had gone home and Buffy had gone ahead to return Spike to his bathtub while she loitered guiltily. The air had been decidedly cool and she wasn't looking forward to facing Giles.

The apartment was quiet. She could hear the muffled sounds of television coming from the bathroom at the end of the hall but only one lamp was burning in the sitting room.

“Giles?” she called a little louder.

“Over here,” a voice said quietly.

He was sitting in his armchair in the shadows.

“A…are you okay?”

“If you mean am I still profoundly blind, not quite. If you mean am I very angry…” he trailed off.

Willow bit her lip and edged further into the living room. “I didn't mean to hurt anyone, honest I didn't. I just…I wanted the pain to go away.”

“I know.”

Willow scowled and stepped toward him. “No…no you don't. That's the trouble. You came to see me and stupid me thought just for a second that you gave a damn but you just wanted to lecture me about my responsibilities and to get the stuff for your lousy truth spell!”

Giles made an exasperated noise. “Willow, if all I cared about was lecturing you I could have done that on the telephone, done my own research and picked up my own bloody ingredients.”

Willow swallowed a hard lump in her throat. His visit had been the last thing she expected…more than any of the others had done since the first days after Oz left…
Being demonstrative wasn't a Giles thing, never had been, and yet he'd come all the way to the college because he was worried…

She sighed a ragged sigh. “Giles, I don't know who I am any more. I don't know how to fight this. I can't even see str…well, you know what I mean. My judgement is way off, my objectivity is way off.”

“Yes,” he said softly. “It made for a rather interesting Thanksgiving.”

She couldn't help a half laugh. “God, I turned into my mother. That was scary. Why did you let me talk to you like that?”

“You're not a child any more, Willow. You had an opinion, some points of which were perfectly valid, and I respected that…but it didn't mean I had to agree with you.”

Willow frowned. He was still sitting in the shadows. She itched to go and turn on the light, but instead she sat on the couch.

“But…but it wasn't entirely my opinion. And I was like, way harsh. It's…it's like I've had PMS the entire time Oz has been gone.”

Giles gave a guffaw. “Then I pity the man who gets in your way, or Buffy's for that matter. The two of you could write a book …”

Willow laughed then, too. “I'm sorry,” she said softly.

“I know you are,” he sighed. “But I need to know that you realise the extent of the irresponsibility of that spell…of using magic so frivolously.”

“I understand,” she told him. “I saw. A demon guy…the one who made Anya a demon…showed me. I can't believe it worked. I can't believe I did it in the first place. Giles, do you want me to leave?” she asked, suddenly uncomfortable with his seeming withdrawal.

“Did I ask you to?”

She shook her head and closed her eyes.

“Willow, answer me,” he said a moment later.

Her eyes flew open and she rose in one movement and went to his side, knelt alongside the chair.

He was aware that she was there but he was looking the wrong way.

“Giles? Giles, I reversed the spell. What's going on?”

His head turned jerkily toward her. “It's coming back. It is. It deteriorated very slowly and it's coming back the same way. Infuriating really,” he whispered.

Willow could see now how drawn his face was, how frustrating it must have been for him to find the others all back to normal while his condition continued.

She put her hands on his arm, tears trickling down her cheeks. “Giles, I'm so sorry. Why isn't Buffy still here?”

“I told her to go home, that I was fine. Those two didn't stop slanging at each other from the moment they walked in the door til he was back in the bathroom and the door closed behind her when she left,” he sighed.

“Is it…is it bad?”

“It's…frustrating,” he admitted, not quite steadily.

Willow could smell a faint scent of whisky but there was no bottle or glass near him, nor anywhere to be seen.

“When was the last time you had anything to eat or drink?”

He frowned. “Whisky, I think. When Spike and Buffy were… For the nausea....” he added dryly.

Willow suppressed a smile. “How about tea for now and something to eat as soon as I see what you've got in the refrigerator?”

His hand came across and covered both the small ones gripping his arm.

“I'm all right, Willow, truly…and tea would be wonderful.” When she gulped and sniffed, his fingers squeezed her hand for a moment before patting them as she rose.

“I'll just be a minute,” she croaked.

Almost as good as her word, she was back in four. Giles could smell the Earl Grey tea and something appetizing as well.

She put the tea carefully into his left hand and warned him that the cup was full. “I found a jelly donut in the refrigerator and I've made you a salad roll, the way you like it. If you want something hot I can do that too, but it'll take longer…like soup from a can, or eggs or something…”

He raised his free hand. “This will do splendidly for now,” he told her. “Thank you.”

She sipped her own tea while he savoured his and made his way through the roll, which she'd made with restraint so that bits of salad hopefully wouldn't fall out all over him when he bit into it, and also because he could hold it without having to struggle with cutlery or locate the food with his fingers.

When he was done she could see colour in his cheeks, even in the dull light. “Giles, is it okay if I turn the light on now?”

He nodded, putting the mug down.

She skipped over, flipped it on and returned just as swiftly to his side.

“Willow, it's very late. You should think about getting back to the campus,” he pointed out when she lifted the tray from his lap.

“Just a second. I'm taking this to the breakfast bar,” she explained for his benefit. When she turned she could see clearly the tension in his face, the right hand gripping the arm of the chair…too tightly.

“What can you see?” she asked softly after touching his arm so he wouldn't be surprised by her voice.

“Shadows,” he said surprisingly calmly. “If it follows the previous pattern the shift from nothing to this will have been the fastest stage. One moment I was blind as a bat then suddenly I wasn't. It's dark, but when you move so does the part of the darkness that's you. Does…does that make sense?”

Willow nodded, then cursed silently and not very prettily when she realised she'd done it.

“It…it makes perfect sense,” she told him unhappily then took a large hand in both of hers. “Giles, Thanksgiving…a-and today…I didn't mean to take any of it out on you, h-honest. It's just…” Her head dropped. How did she explain without embarrassing both of them?

Giles' head tilted a little when the silenced stretched. “Willow…?”

“I needed to yell at somebody…All this time a-and he wasn't here to be angry with…” she said in a tiny voice.

He closed his eyes. “And you substituted me? How very thoughtful of you.”

She let go of his hand and sat down on the floor shaking her head, again forgetting he couldn't see it. “I didn't know…I didn't know I was doing it at first. I didn't know until after you came to my room and I got mad again. You're the only one…the only one who wouldn't…wouldn't….”

The muscles in his face slowly relaxed and he opened his eyes again. “…Stay angry with you?” he finished almost gently.

She sniffed again, unable to stop the moisture that trickled over the thick dark lashes.
“That too,” she admitted, looking up at him. “You were the only one I was sure wouldn't hurt me back. The only one I knew for sure would still be there...after…”

“And I came to see you and proceeded to reproach you with all the subtlety of a sledge-hammer,” he said wearily.

“I deserved it,” she said ruefully.

“Well yes,” he agreed and smiled when she giggled. When she fell silent again a moment later and stayed that way, he frowned, annoyed at the limitations of not being able to see her expression. “Willow?

“He had his stuff sent to him,” she said hollowly. “I don't think he's coming back.”
The frown deepened. “Perhaps, perhaps not. We will just have to wait and see. You at least can rest in the knowledge that he is safe and well…somewhere.”

Willow closed her eyes. There was no reproach in his voice but more than any barb or rebuke from the others, his gentle observation slammed things into perspective. Oz was alive…and there was still a very real chance he might work through his doubts and come back…which was infinitely more than Giles was left with after...

“You're right,” she told him softly, seeing things more clearly than she had in a very long time. “Time for me to let go. Maybe he'll come back, maybe he won't, but grieving isn't going to make it happen any more than being angry.”

His hand felt its way over the arm of the chair, his fingertips locating her hair before he brushed her cheek with the backs of them.

“Good,” he said. “No more tears.”

“No more tears,” she agreed and smiled, her eyes glowing with affection for the big Watcher. “Giles, have I ever told you…?” She stopped, self-conscious all of a sudden.

When she didn't speak for several more moments Giles lifted an eyebrow. “Willow?” he prompted yet again.

She drew herself up to her knees and rested her elbows on his armrest. “I'm fine. I just wanted to tell you something and I chickened out.”

“Tell me what?” he asked curiously.

She swallowed then rushed on. “How much I love you,” she said, before she could chicken out again. “I…I know you don't like…but I just wanted you to know…I-I should go,” she rushed on then hesitated again. “Do you want me to help you up to your room first?”

He shook his head. He didn't want Willow to know how difficult he was finding it, how close he was at times to panicking. It had been all very well for a few hours, but when Buffy had failed to find the ingredients for the reversal spell the claustrophobia of the relentless darkness, the sheer helplessness and frustration, had begun to wear him down. And when he'd found himself alone while they all searched for answers…

“I'm fine,” he told her then smiled, deliberately ignoring the screaming panic at the thought of being alone again. “It's a myth you know…”

Willow frowned, puzzled. “A myth?”

He nodded. “That I don't like…” he quoted softly.

“Oh,” she said, smiling shyly. “Oh…well, then I'm glad I told you.”

“So am I,” he said warmly, then gathered his courage. “You should be getting back to the campus. It's terribly late…”

“Yes it is,” she agreed, watching the nerve jumping in his jaw, the long fingers digging into the opposite arm rest again. “And I really should.” She drew herself to her feet and moved to the front of his chair.

He was sitting very still, unaware that his face, his body, betrayed him. Willow put her hand over the fingers on the armrest, lifted them, took his hand in hers and tugged gently.

Bemused, he let her draw him to his feet. “Willow…I don't want…I can't sleep.”

“That's okay,” she said, guiding him to the sofa and sitting down on it with him. “Nor can I. So we're going to watch the sunrise together,” she explained, lifting his arm and resting her head against his chest.

Giles closed his eyes and Willow felt the tremor that went through him before he slid the raised arm around her shoulders and drew her closer.

“S…Sunrise?” he whispered, overwhelmed both by her gesture and the sheer childish relief of not being left alone in his dark world, even for a few more hours. He'd worked it out, almost to the minute, as soon as he realised why he wasn't cured like the others, but it still seemed like forever…

“If my math holds up,” Willow confirmed, her heart constricting when she heard him exhale slowly and unsteadily. “And it'll be your turn to make the tea,” she teased, unable to keep a wobble out of her voice.

He chuckled. “It will be my pleasure,” he said, his fingers finding her hair, then her face a little clumsily, before brushing her cheeks.

“Just checking,” he explained.

She looked up at his profile. “No more tears,” she promised.

He smiled a little and nodded.

Satisfied, Willow buried her head in his sweater again, felt his arm tighten.

Moments later she smiled into the wool. His previously bolting heart rate had dropped to a slow, steady rhythm and the earlier watch-spring tension had slowly dissipated so that she could actually feel how relaxed he was now. Guilt suddenly overwhelmed her.



“There must be something I can do to make things up to you, tomorrow…?” She said without moving. “I could bake cookies…you don't have any left, you know. Or I could dust, or do the washing or feed Spike for you?”

“Interesting ideas,” he mused, resting his chin on the top of her head and obviously considering.

Willow wasn't sure she liked how cheerful he was beginning to sound.

“Ah,” he said several moments later. “I have just the thing…I wonder what I did with that car care kit Xander gave me for Christmas...”

* * *