2. Tara’s Day
Tara stood alone outside Giles’ apartment. She wondered again if this was a good idea. It was well into the afternoon and she hoped he’d had more time to recover from his obvious hangover after she and Willow had woken him that morning. But, this was the only time she could sneak away. Willow was still working on decrypting the Initiative disks, and Tara knew she wouldn’t notice her returning from class later than usual. Tara also knew deep in her heart that she needed to talk to this man. She needed to make sure things were right.
The timid blonde stepped forward, but hesitated again. That’s when she heard the music coming from inside. She recognized his voice from the coffee shop and listened. He was singing a sad song. One that talked about losing and leaving. The pain in his voice gave her the prod she needed. She loved Willow and already liked Mr. Giles, and she couldn’t be the one to make them both unhappy.
Taking a deep breath, she knocked on his door and waited. Several minutes passed before it swung open and revealed him, now dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt. His eyes went wide with surprise at the sight of her.
“Tara,” he said, obviously looking for her constant companion. “Did… did Willow forget something?”
“Oh, no,” Tara ducked her head shyly. “S-she’s still working on the disks. I was w-wondering if I could please talk to you.”
Giles gave her a curious stare for a moment before seeming to shake his mind into gear. “Yes, of course. Please come in and make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you anything? Tea?”
The girl walked past him with a small, grateful smile. “You don’t have to bother. I’m fine.”
“I’ll make you some tea,” Giles practically fled to the kitchen. “I think I’ll be needing some myself.”
Tara took a seat on the couch and patiently waited for his return. When he finally did set the tray of tea on the table in front of her, she noticed that he hesitated, like he didn’t know where to sit or what to do with himself. “I’m sorry if I’m making you uncomfortable, Mr. Giles,” she murmured.
The Watcher gave a deep sigh and took a seat on the couch next to her. “It’s not you, Tara. I just wasn’t expecting… Though I’d guessed this conversation was inevitable, I thought I’d have more time to prepare myself for it.”
The pretty blonde looked at him with a quirky smile. “I like the way you say my name,” she said shyly.
Giles couldn’t help returning a grin. He relaxed a little and poured the tea for both of them.
“I’m…” he cleared his throat. “I’m not sure where to start. May I ask how much Willow has told you? I assume you are here because of our… somewhat odd relationship?”
Tara carefully took the cup he held out. “Willow hasn’t told me anything about you and her.”
“Ah,” the large man nearly deflated in front of her. “It seems I have gone and, as Xander might say, put my foot in it. As I can’t take back what I’ve already said, let me assure you that it’s nothing you might be imagining. It’s… it’s just something that is.” He pulled his glasses off and began to polish them uncomfortably.
“It’s okay, Mr. Giles,” Tara tried to reassure him with a smile. “I know that Willow is in love with you. And, from your reaction right now, I’m pretty sure you love her, too.”
Giles slid his glasses back on and looked into her lovely and surprisingly un-accusing eyes. “I’d thought we were better at hiding it.”
“Oh, don’t worry. It’s not like you were rubbing my face in it. I really wasn’t sure until…” She gave him another disarmingly sweet smile. “It was when we all saw you singing that night. The way Willow was looking at you. It was in her eyes. And… w-well, her aura changes when you’re around. You make her happy. Yours does it, too. I’ve never seen you without her around before. But I can tell you’re thinking about how she makes you feel right now.”
“I am sorry, Tara. Please don’t think we’ve put you in the middle of something scandalous here. It can be explained.”
“I didn’t come here to accuse or confront you, Mr. Giles.”
“No?” his eyes widened in confusion.
“I came because I really do l-love Willow. And, even though I don’t know you well yet, I know that you’re one of the kindest men I’ve met. I just don’t want to be the cause of unhappiness… for either of you.”
“Oh, dear girl,” Giles sighed. “There are a great many things to keep Willow and I apart. Please know that you are the one I’m glad for. I’ve long wished Willow a partner who will treat her with the care and love she deserves.” He tenderly brushed back a lock of hair she was shyly hiding behind. “I don’t imagine she could have made a better choice.”
Tara’s eyes brightened as she looked up at him. “You mean you’re all right with me being… m-me?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Well… Willow was upset last night after e-everyone found out. About your reaction especially. She thought you were, maybe disappointed?”
“Bloody hell,” Giles groaned.
“Excuse me?” her eyebrows rose in surprise.
“That was what my stupid, drunken self said.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t because of anything either of you did. It was because I should have seen it sooner. With Willow asking me about my past, and the way the two of you had obviously grown so close so quickly.” He dropped his head into his hand. “And there I was, trying to talk her into bringing her new boyfriend ‘round. Sometimes I can be a foolish git of a man.”
Tara let a musical giggle escape, bringing his eyes back up to her face. “I think you’re a lovely sweetheart of a man.”
He couldn’t help but smile at her. “Still, I’ll have to make sure to apologize to Willow.”
After taking another sip of her tea, Tara looked thoughtfully at him. “Mr. Giles, may I ask you something?”
“If it’s about the extent of Willow and my… interaction, I’d rather you had the conversation with her. I will assure you that your relationship has nothing to fear from me. I would never let myself, or her, jeopardize what you two are trying to build. Though, I will warn you that she sometimes enjoys teasing me. But it’s only to see me, um… squirm. She means it as a kindness to a lonely man.”
The girl nodded in understanding. “Our relationship is so new. And I know you love her very much. But, for some reason, I don’t see you as… competition, like Oz when he came back. And please don’t take that as meaning I think she’d choose me over you. I’m trying to say… yours is the kind of love that’s more of an anchor. I think Willow needs you to be that for her.” Tara ducked her head when Giles developed a slight blush at her kind assessment. “And that wasn’t my question,” she murmured.
“Please,” Giles cleared a lump from his throat, “ask.”
“I was wondering if what happened last night was normal. Does the group fight like that a-a lot?”
“I have to say no. There have, of course, been arguments. What we do is very stressful. But I must say there has always been a reason. Last night seemed to come from nowhere. It was odd, now that you mention it.”
“And what about you?” Tara gave him a look that said sorry as she asked the question. “From Buffy’s reaction, it seemed that you don’t usually…”
“Drink myself into a stupor?” he provided for her. “Not to that extent, no.”
The thoughtful young woman considered for a moment. “Mr. Giles, where did you get those disks?”
“He was a demon informant I’d sometimes go to when all else failed. He came saying he’d somehow gotten hold of files on Adam and asked for money to get out of town before he became the creature’s next biology lesson.”
“Did you trust him?”
Giles sighed. “I’m not exactly making any headway otherwise. No, I don’t trust him, but it was a chance worth taking.”
“Was the stuff about the disks all he said to you?”
The Watcher glanced away, but something about her reasoning compelled him to answer. “He, um, may have implied that many in the demon world were cheering me on in my, ah, conquest of forbidden fruit.”
Tara frowned, “And that made you feel guilty?”
“I suppose. I was already questioning my motives.” He looked at her with guilty eyes. “A few nights ago I took Willow to show her a place of power in the desert.”
“Breaker’s Point?” she guessed.
Giles nodded. “I only took her there to show her the view. And nothing happened, I assure you. But, as the power surrounded us, my thoughts became less and less… innocent.”
“Mr. Giles,” Tara blushed, “the power out there would overwhelm anyone who’s sensitive. It would take incredible will power not to succumb to it. Especially if the people already had feelings for each other.”
“A possibility I should have considered beforehand. I guess, the demon’s comment pushed me to have a drink in order to forget my… shortcomings, and I didn’t stop.”
“It was a passing student in class that Willow overheard saying Buffy and some guy were talking about us. And Anya mentioned that Xander got military pamphlets in the mail. The kind they send when you request them. It’s almost like all of your insecurities are being pointed out at the same time. I know I’m new at this, but could Adam be…?”
“Oh good lord,” Giles huffed. “I’m a stupid, stupid man.” He shook his head when Tara was about to argue the point. “Of course, it’s all come to a head at this very time. I’ll bet anything Adam has been getting information from a source who knows us all too well. One who’s desperate to get that sodding chip out of his head. I should have killed that bloody vampire.”
“Shouldn’t you call the gang?” Tara smiled.
“Tara, Luv, you have just become an official member.”
“I like to be of use to the group,” she whispered. “And I th-think I should get back to Willow now.”
When she stood, he took her gently by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Willow is very lucky to have you.” She glanced away timidly, but he made sure to hold her gaze. “Don’t let anyone make you think the two of you shouldn’t be together. Especially not any of us. Especially not an old man who is both delighted by, and perhaps a little jealous of, what the two of you will make and accomplish together.”
Tara blushed under his sincere stare. “Thank you, Mr. Giles.”
“Are you sure they can handle it?” Willow asked again.
Giles sighed. She was still avoiding looking at him. “They’re only going to the magic shop to pick up ingredients we don’t already have for the spell. They have a list. Yes, I think Buffy and even Xander can handle that. Or would you rather they were the ones to stay here and finish researching the merging spell.”
“Some of those things can be complicated,” she muttered under her breath.
The Watcher put his book down and purposefully crossed the room to where she sat. “I know you’re upset with me,” he said, standing in a way that gave her no escape.
“Why the ‘bloody hell’ would I be upset with you?” Willow directed the irritated grumble at the book in her lap.
Giles sat down next to her and pulled off his glasses. “I can accept the surprise and ridicule of Buffy or Xander for my display last night. You, on the other hand, have been in the company of that drunken prat entirely too many times to be at all shocked.”
“He’s usually a fun drunken prat to be with.”
“Willow, Tara came to see me earlier.”
Her eyes finally shot up to look at him. “She did? What did you tell her?”
He smiled slightly. “She came because she doesn’t want either of us to be unhappy. And she told me that my remark upset you more than I’d ever dreamed it might.”
“What did you expect, Giles? I was ready for the others to freak, but I thought, I hoped, you’d be different.”
“At the time,” he pushed his glassed back on and stared seriously at her, “the only thing I expected was to be passed out within the next few moments.” The young witch frowned. “And all I was trying to express was my surprise at myself for being so blind. I should have seen what Tara meant to you.”
Willow looked up at him guilty smile. “Well, I guess I can’t blame it all on you. It’s not like I was sticking to a pattern. You’ve only ever seen me show interest in people of a distinctly male persuasion.” She ran her hand suggestively along his chest as emphasis.
“Thank you for noticing,” Giles sniped sarcastically.
The redhead giggled, then her deep green eyes became hopeful. “So… You’re okay about Tara?”
“She is a lovely girl. And very insightful. It was she who put the pieces together that we were being manipulated by Adam and Spike,” he growled the last name with a dark flash in his eyes.
“You want to hunt him, don’t you?”
“Better I find him than one of the others. What’s one more blot on my soul?”
Willow frowned at him. “Spike may not be able to hurt us, but he’s not harmless or innocent. I know that. Even with his games, we don’t have to be afraid of him.” She put a hand over his. “I don’t like how angry you get when you think about him.”
Giles took a deep breath. “Yes, I know. And we have more pressing matters at the moment. Have you found anything more on the spell?”
“Only this one extra passage. It says that to strengthen the spell’s hold we should,” she turned a page in the book to read, “make a sacrifice of essence, one unto the other.”
A slight blush crept up the Watcher’s neck. “Y-yes, I am aware of that addendum. It is an optional step to perform before this kind of spell in order to create stronger bonds between the participants. Not a requirement.”
The witch frowned in confusion. “But, shouldn’t we do everything anyway? Just in case.”
“W-Willow,” Giles ran a hand through his hair and across the back of his neck, “I’m quite sure you and I already have.”
Willow’s blush was instantaneous. “Oh… oh. It’s talking about… Oh!” Then a thought struck her. “But, Giles, when we… You never… sacrificed.”
He let the tiniest Ripperish smile slip. “I believe, in this context, you would be the one who sacrificed unto me.”
“I did, didn’t I?” the redhead couldn’t stop a delighted grin at the memory. Then she whispered, “What about the others?”
Giles nodded, “As I said, this step is only suggested as a precaution. I am certain that the existing bonds we have will be more than adequate. Along with our…”
“Love,” Willow supplied with an amused chirp.
The Watcher gave a long-suffering sigh. “…There is also the strength of your life-long friendship with Xander. As well as the remnants of my bond to Buffy as her former Watcher.”
“You still are,” the redhead whispered.
“And the shared history we all have,” he continued, letting her statement pass. “As long as we can execute the spell correctly, it should work.”
“We’ll do it, Giles. I know we can.”
He smiled at her conviction and stood to return to his preparations.
“Giles?” Willow called after him. She glanced away when he turned to hear her question. “Do… do you like Tara?”
He smiled kindly and crossed the space between them to put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Luv, if I were to scour the globe in search of a more beautiful soul to entrust your care to, I would never find a better match for you than that dear young woman.”
Willow’s eyes shimmered with moisture as she stared up at him. “Wait here,” she squeaked after a moment, and ran to his desk, grabbing up his phone. “Tara,” she said when the line picked up. “I’m at Giles’… Yes, everything is better now. We think we’ve figured out how to defeat Adam… I promise to call and tell you everything before we go try. But, first, I need to ask you a question… Giles just said the sweetest, most amazing thing about you. Can I please be allowed to give him a kiss for it?... Of course, you get to say. You’re my girlfriend… I love you! Call you back soon.” She hung up and ran back to the somewhat stunned man. “Tara says this is from both of us,” Willow beamed before wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him down into her kiss.
The older man couldn’t help but surrender to the warmth and love she poured out to him. His arms slid around her of their own accord, pulling her tightly against him. The pair didn’t notice when the door opened.
“Oh God, not again,” Xander groaned teasingly. “Leave them alone for two seconds….”
“Hey, don’t you have a girlfriend?” Buffy added in a slightly accusing tone.
Willow grinned at them, “Tara knows.”
Next to her, Giles cleared his throat and brought his handkerchief to the pair of glasses that had somehow gotten into his hand. He glanced up at them as innocently as possible with the flush still on his cheeks. “Were you able to find a magick gourd?”