Giles walked towards the water dispenser at the end of the hospital hallway only to turn immediately and head back the way he came. Willow sat on one of the drab olive couches, wringing her hands as she divided her attention between looking from him to the door Jo had been rushed through and then back again. Finally, her face showing her own frustration and tension, she got up and stood in Giles’ path, forcing him to stop.
"She’ll be okay." What should have been an attempt at consolation came across so weakly that it sounded more like a request for consolation than an actual statement.
Giles looked at her and started to speak, only to close his mouth and simply put a hand on Willow’s shoulder.
The sound of the door swinging open caused them to look up expectantly, but the nurse coming out ignored them. Their heads dropped in disappointment.
"Is it me or has she been in there for hours? It didn’t seem so hard when I got the bullet out of Buffy."
He looked up sharply, but Willow’s face was simply a picture of misery. He frowned and then shrugged slightly. "They are doing what they have to," he said.
"Sure. I just wish they’d do it faster. What do they say? Not knowing is the hardest part?"
"I believe ‘No news is good news’ is what people like to apply to a situation such as this."
"Makes sense." Willow nodded. "Except when it’s bad news after all."
"There’s no reason to speculate. We don’t know anything at this point. We simply have to wait," he said calmly.
"‘Simply’. Not the word that comes to my mind right about now. She could be dying."
"Or she could not be," he said emphatically. "She wasn’t shot in the heart. There is a chance, a good chance that she’ll survive."
"And that’s why you’re doing a slow marathon through the hall?"
"I won’t deny that I’m extremely worried."
They heard the door at the end of the floor again, but when they turned to look, it was just the nurse going back in.
"Buffy should be home by now," Willow said, looking up at the clock on the wall.
"I’m sure she is, but..." he paused, "I don’t expect she’ll be back quickly. The others will need to know what happened."
"Lessa," Willow said painfully.
"And Sarah and Katrina. And even though Deborah and Elspeth are alive, their lives will never be the same. And Jo..." He stopped himself.
They looked at each other.
"All of this still seems so unreal," Willow said. "Just a few hours ago, everything was right with the world. Okay, ‘right’ might not be the correct word, what with wars, destruction of our environment, gays not being allowed to get married... but on a smaller scale we were doing okay, weren’t we? You and Buffy, Xander and Carrie, me getting things under control, a decent Council, no prophecy or apocalypse on the horizon…. Things were getting better?"
He nodded understandingly. Taking her elbow, he encouraged her to sit again, reluctantly forcing himself to do the same. Knee to knee, they continued their conversation in lowered tones.
"And then suddenly, bam," Willow admitted guiltily. "I can do magic again. And some of my best friends are dead. Only not in that order."
"Willow..." Giles began, but she held her hand up.
"I know, Giles. It’s not my fault. I did my best. Blah, blah, blah. But it wasn’t my best. My best could have done better. My best managed to almost destroy the world."
"That was an exceptional moment and you were using borrowed power as well. We don’t expect that kind of power from you constantly."
"But you did. When we needed to defeat the First, Buffy said that I had to do it… that I could. And I did."
"And maybe it was too much to ask of you."
"Maybe you should have asked the same now." Her voice was bitter.
"Perhaps. If so, it would have been our fault, not yours," he said meaningfully.
Willow looked up shocked. "No Giles, I didn’t mean it like that."
"I know," he said with a sad smile before becoming serious. "But if you are to blame, then what about me? I…"
"Mr. Giles?" A doctor in green scrubs approached them wearily.
Giles rushed to his feet. "Yes, Doctor? How is she?"
"Hmmmmmm." Ethan sighed blissfully in the darkness of his hotel room.
His eyes were closed, his arms and feet stretched out as he floated over the bed. He touched the covers every now and then when his body quivered. "I really needed that," he said to the empty room. "As an appetizer."
A smile slowly grew on his face.