Title: Rain Water Stains
Author: Zagzagael
Rating: U
Word Count: 800
Prompt: 008, The Library
Characters/Pairing (if any): Willow/Giles
Timeline: post-Season Four

He pulled off his glasses and set them on the countertop, pinched the bridge of his nose and simultaneously brought the cup of tea up to his lips. Lukewarm. Grimacing, he set it back down again with a small thump and bent closer to the monitor screen. Pages and pages of overdue books were scrolling past and had been for some long minutes now. How in the name of Fiddler's Green had so many books gone overdue? He reached behind him and pulled the tall stool beneath him and sat, hooking one Brogue heel over the bottom rung, the other leg stretched out straight, one elbow on the countertop and a palm on his forehead. The words were blurry. Oh, spectacles. He leaned back on the stool, fished the white handkerchief out of his pocket and began polishing the lenses.

He looked down; the handkerchief was stained dark red. With a start he dropped it and it fluttered down to the linoleum floor of the library. He hooked the glasses back onto his ears and hunkered down to poke at the handkerchief, it unfolded like fabric origami, revealing splotches of spattered red, dried and crusty in places. He picked it up gingerly by a corner and straightened to his full height, holding the handkerchief out in front of him. He cocked his head – what had he sopped up with that? And why didn't he have any recollection of it? And where was that incessant dripping sound coming from?

With a swooshing snick, the swinging doors to the library opened in and he quickly stuffed the handkerchief back into the front pocket of his trousers.

“Ah, Willow,” he murmured.

“Hi, Giles” she said with a small nervous toss of her head.

“We, uh, seem to have a slight problem at the moment,” he indicated the computer with an incline of his head, but his gaze was fastened on her and his brows furrowed deeply. “Willow?”

She smiled at him, her lips closed.

“You, you're all grown up then?”

She ducked her head, nodding, and her shoulder-length red hair swung closed across her face like a curtain.

He stepped out of the checkout corral and approached her. He came in very close and gently reached out and brushed the hair back away from her face, first on one side, then on the other. He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger and coaxed her face up looking down at her womanly features. Wondering at her closed eyes.

“Willow,” he whispered and her lids fluttered. “I have been waiting for you. You know that?” Her eyes still closed, he indicated the computer futilely, “I need help with all these overdue books. We'll need to contact hundreds and hundreds of people.”

As he watched, her lashes began to glisten, teardrops jewelling each one, precious liquid gems falling from her eyes, rivulets down her cheeks, trailing through his fingers holding her chin, pooling in his palm.

He slid one wet hand out from under her chin and cupped the side of her face; he brought his other hand up and wound his fingers through the thick red locks at her neck. With an aching slowness, time stretched out over years of waiting, he brought his mouth down to hers. She tasted of tears, and mown grass on a summer day, bitter icicles and dry leaves. She tasted of all that.

Beneath his lips she asked him, “Do you think we should, Giles?”

He stepped back, his hands dropping uselessly to his side.

“They all die, don't they? All the women you love? Everyone goes away. Into the ground. It's dark there. And wet.”

“Is that, is that true? Is that a true thing?”

She nodded, her eyes open now, but the tears still running like water.

“Oh, Willow. I am so sorry. So terribly sorry. Here,” he patted at his pocket, it felt damp and he looked down, the front of his trousers was sodden red. He pulled out the handkerchief and it was dripping gore. “Here, here.” He wrung it out, blood spattering his shoes, the floor, splashing onto her pale-stockinged legs. He began to wipe her tears away with it, red smudges painted across her face, smeared across her lips.

And the dripping dripping dripping sound of tears and blood hitting the linoleum, splashing against their legs, woke him.

It was the rain. With a start he opened his eyes, hopelessly myopic in the hazy early morning light. The rain was hitting the open window pane and dripping in great drops down onto the sill, pooling over the edge and onto his bedroom floor, splashing back up against the baseboard, dark splotches of it. A slight damp breeze from the window wafted across his face and settled on his skin like a thin sheen of blood, chilling him to the bone.

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