Turning Points...
by suricata

Authorial Note: this was supposed to be smut. No, really. But they pulled a fast one on me...
As always, don't own anything but the twisted idea. Characters, locations and set-up belong to Joss, and all affiliated corporations. No money, no foul, no lawsuit.






"Fired? What fired? What is with fired?"

Giles turned around to see Willow barging in through the library doors. It had been a remarkably quiet door for the past twenty four hours, he thought rather wistfully. Ever since he had put Buffy into his car, and driven her home. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder... but when he had awoken her, once home, her body language had changed. It was as though he were a stranger.

Who are you?

Your Watcher. Now... I don't know. The icewater which had flooded him at Quentin's pronouncement returned in full. I don't know what I am any more.

"What's going on, Giles?"

Willow had planted herself in front of him, and in another lifetime the determination on her face would have been amusing. But he couldn't find amusement within him any more. There was nothing but the numbness of exhaustion. The cold beyond pain, all he had left to call his own.

"If you know, which you obviously do, then you also know why." He tried to sidestep her, to make it to the silence of his office, but she stepped with him, still blocking the way.

"No! I.. I don't accept this!"

If only it were that easy. If only not accepting things made a damn bit of difference to how they are in reality.

"Willow, please. Don't make this any more difficult that it already is."

It was only then that she saw the boxes.

"You're.. you're leaving?" Where anger had filled her voice before, now it was tinged with shock. Just another blow to the system. The center cannot hold.

"Snyder has taken advantage of...recent events, to give me my walking papers."

Willow stood as though poleaxed, and he felt a stirring of concern grow within the numbness. "Willow? Are you all right?"

"Just like that? You..leave? Us?"

She stared at him, those expressive eyes seeking some reassurance in his face. But what she found... was nothing.

"You bastard."

And with that, her face ashen, she turned on her heel and left.






It wasn't supposed to be like this.

He wasn't quite sure how it was supposed to be. Different. So very very very different...

He looked at the glass in his hand. Scotch had always worked for his father. Why did it just make him run around in circles, like Amy...

Oh dear. Amy. He would have to do something about that before he left, wouldn't he?

"Set things aright, old boy. As much as you can, from this whole bolluxed mess."

He could hear the front door opening. Part of him remembered, hazily, that he had never disinvited Angel. He would have to do that. Someday.

In the meantime, he had some more drinking to do. Perhaps the trick was to finish the bottle. He hadn't had any dinner this evening, so it should do a good job of anesthestizing him.

Or killing him.

"Tha' too," he murmured to himself. "Tha' too."

Someone was standing behind him. He could feel their presence. Not Buffy -- she was congenitally incapable of remaining quiet this long. Neither Xander nor Oz would come here alone, and Cordelia had already said her goodbyes. Quickly, to prevent anyone from seeing her get teary over a librarian.

Not that there was really any point to running down the list. He had known who it was from the moment she came in.

"Willow."

"I was... kinda out of line. before, I mean. in the library. When I said.. what I said. I mean --"

"Willow." His voice sounded unbearably weary, even to his own ears, but it was enough to shut her up.

"Right. I just... I wanted to comebyandsayI'msorry." It all came out in a rush, and she sounded like a five year old admitting a falsehood before she could be called on it. He turned his head slightly, to look over the back of the couch at her, and the apartment tilted in an interesting fashion.

"Oh. Ow."

In an instant, she was on her knees in front of him, taking the glass out of his suddenly-unsteady hand and sniffing it curiously

"You really like this stuff, huh?"

"Yes. I do." he tried to reclaim the glass, but she held it away from him easily. Sniffing the pale gold liquid again, she raised the glass to her lips and took a careful sip.

"Willow!"

She coughed once, delicately, then looked down into the glass again. "Oh. Warm. Nice. Kinda doing the burn-thing, but nice."

"You shouldn't be drinking that."

"I shouldn't be doing a lot of things I've been doing. I .. I shouldn't be hurting this bad either. My mom and I talked about it tonight. The hurting thing. I didn't tell her why," she added before he could get a word in, the tang of alcohol making her brave. "Just the hurting part. That... that I'd said things to.. a friend. And that they weren't fair. And that saying them hurt.. and ..."

Willow stopped, then put the glass down firmly on the coffee table beside her. "That it was probably hurting my friend, too."

God. Why was she doing this? Why couldn't she just let it go? Let it all go. What did it matter any more, one more hurt piled on top of a great fucking bloody wound. He didn't want to look at her. Didn't want to be forgiven. Didn't want to forgive.

"If you're going, then.. then you're going to go. But I wish you wouldn't. I... I still have so much to learn. And Amy? What about Amy? And you know we're not going to be able to keep Oz a secret, without the cage, and..."

Her voice was worming its way into his skin, getting into the solidified veins and pushing sluggish blood to move again. Desperate to stop her, to stop the warming before it bled his heart dry, he grabbed at her shoulders, meaning to shake her into silence.

But the moment his hands closed on warm skin, his anger flooded away. This was Willow. His student. His budding witch. As much as Buffy had found his way into him, so had they all. His children. His legacy. His pain.

"Willow. Apology accepted. Now go home."

He let her go, sinking back into the sofa and closing his eyes. Let her go. Please god, if there was one, if it chose to be merciful for once, let her go home.

"No."

He felt her weight settle on the sofa next to him, tentatively, like a cat finding its footing. "I'm not going to leave you alone."

"I'm in no danger of doing damage to myself," he said dryly. Why bother? The worst damage had already been done. Anything else would be redundant. Even dying would not put paid to his bill.

And he owed too much to allow himself that easy an escape.

"You're doing that inside yourself broody thing. Angel did it better."

That broke into his self-absorbtion, and he cracked open one eyelid to glare at her. She was sitting there, very much like a cat, her legs drawn up to her chin and her arms clasped around her knees.

"Not that I don't think you couldn't do it as well," she hurried to reassure him. "Only he had more practice."

"Several hundred years more," he said dryly. It was impossible to stay angry around Willow. Too much anger always seemed as though it would flatten her. And while he knew her to be much stronger than her physical appearance would suggest...

Much stronger. Always the backbone for them all, when things became darkest as night could get.

A few more moments, and his hand reached out, encountering her own somewhere in neutral territory. Fingers twined together, palm to palm.

"Stay, Giles. We need you."

And he needed them. God help them all.

"I'm not allowed to have contact with Buffy. The Council decreed--"

"The Council can take their collective decrees and shove them up their collective asses." Willow stopped, agahast. "Did I just say that? Oh I did. I can't believe I did..."

The laugh felt as though it came from a long way away. But it felt good.








The End?