Title: Euphoria Author: iridescentZEN

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: Characters are not mine.

Notes: This was written for the Summer of Giles live journal community.

Willow stands before him nearly unrecognizable. Buffy had her hair cut. Anya dyed her hair. Again. And Willow. Willow went absolutely mad.

The smell of dark magic oozes out of her like pollution. Giles knows it is important to stay away from the cloud of toxins that surround her. Breathing it in, letting it settle inside like the old friend it was, would be like chewing on asbestos.

The Coven warned him. They told him what happened and though he had a feeling, he hadn't known for sure. It's hard not to feel guilty for the cracks in the foundation of the Scoobies' friendship that he saw form before he left them on their own, before he threw them out of the nest and hoped upon hope that their instinct would save them, would make them fly.

Then he sees her with hair as black as pitch, veins engorged with magic snaking their way on any exposed flesh like it was charting a map that led to nowhere.

It wasn't that he wanted to leave them. It just seemed like the right time to start working on his own life. No big bad around, no looming apocalypse. Just himself, and a cup of tea enjoyed in the privacy of his flat not teeming with young adults who didn't know how to knock. It was a time for self-analysis, for a decision on what he wanted to do with the rest of his days.

It was silly to think that he could just walk away and leave it all behind. A recently resurrected slayer, a witch sliding on a downward spiral, a chipped vampire that harbored a perverted crush on a human.

Xander and Anya sent him a wedding invitation that he politely and painfully declined over the phone.

The disappointment in their voices had hurt him far more than they would ever know.

The magic the coven imbued him with was pure, light. From a good place. Heaven, Valhalla or perhaps the Elysian Fields. The magic inside Willow is like pus swelling up inside a boil just waiting to explode. There is no place that it comes from that would be accurate to describe. No Hell bad enough. It was the kiss of death, waiting for Willow's lips to pucker and lean in.

The stupid girl had invited straight to her soul.

Giles cannot believe the coldness of her gaze or her utter disrespect for the lives of everyone around her.

It pains him on an emotional level more than physical when his trick works, and she levels her hand in line with his chest. The other vampires, the coven said, though he hadn't understood. The other vampires. Magic fueled by literally sucking the essence out of someone. Using their energy as a pick me up.

What saddens him is not that she is violating him with her probing jolts of magic, it's that she knows how to do it at all. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that Willow would have fallen so far as to let someone else siphon her natural energies in such a perverted fashion.

Willow breaks the connection, the heady euphoria of raw magic too much to take, but she seems utterly resistant to overdose. Still, this was what the coven wanted. They wanted her to feel the pain of the world, the love in the world, and to know that she is not alone in her grief for Tara.

Giles falls to the floor with an audible thud feeling curiously empty. Is that what it felt like to have a child? Once the energy was gone and the baby born there was nothing left of you? He opens his mouth upon seeing her slide down to the floor, overwhelmed with human nature and still talking like she's afraid to stop, but finds he can't join in the conversation.

How do you ask that the world be spared? Her wrath has already been felt in waves of tsunami, in rumbling earthquakes, in the vacuous hole in the world where her misery echoed, soothing the souls of evil old ones imprisoned and impotent but happily content that the world wails on and the pain of the human condition continues.

Willow has nearly killed him, has taken revenge upon Tara's murderer, and become one herself.

Giles is not sure he will get up from this and walk away alive.

It would be worth it if it saves her.

Giles wants to offer forgiveness. To see a flash of the vibrant intelligence that lurked in the depth of her eyes. To see the face the magic is hiding beneath a cruel mask of indifference. The words, "I'm sorry" are not appropriate after the intimate battle they have just waged with one another.

Giles wonders if she comes down off of that high, and they make it through another day if Willow will feel sorry, but it's something only she will ever truly know.