Greg observed Willow and Xander as they looked over the menu, making their selections from the diner’s breakfast fare. He was glad that they’d taken his suggestion for where to eat, because driving to the Strip to visit them at their hotel would not have made for a pleasant end to his morning. Not with the graveyard CSI’s having hounded him all night for their samples. He was only one person, as he reminded them repeatedly. And no matter how awesome of a person that might be, he still couldn’t do things any faster than the machines let him.
Willow leaned over and said something to Xander, pointing to the menu. They still looked pretty much the same as they had the last time he saw them like this – face to face. Willow’s hair was shorter, yeah. But other than that the only thing he could see that was different was that they’d gotten older. The softness of youth had long since faded away. There were little lines on their faces that hadn’t been present at –
Greg’s thoughts ran into one another, coming to a crashing halt in his head. Jesse’s funeral. Had it really been that long ago? Time had a way of flying. He could remember hugging them goodbye before his aunt and uncle drove him to the airport to catch his plane. Then…nothing. For six months he hadn’t been able to work up the urge to write to either of them. Jesse’s death was just too fresh and they were reminders of that, at no fault of their own.
Then, one day he’d sat down and started writing. From there, they hadn’t stopped. Letters had given way to e-mails more often than not and they had traded pictures. He got the feeling a lot that there was more to their life than they let on to him, but he’d always assumed they’d tell him about it one day. They never had and eventually he’d stopped trying to find the hidden meanings of the things they’d write. The way they’d dance around something, telling him about it but never really saying what exactly it was.
Right now, all he could feel was a sense of giddiness at seeing them both again. It was enough to chase away the exhaustion that he felt after a night spent in the hectic lab. He was even drinking some of the crap coffee that they served here, just for the caffeine boost to keep him going. After this, he’d run home and grab a couple hours’ sleep and then meet up with them somewhere for something. If they wanted, that was. He’d have to ask. But it was his only day off and he wasn’t going to waste it sleeping when he hadn’t seen them in years!
“So – you’re here to see the sights? Lose some money? Drink until you puke?” he asked, unable to take the silence any longer. Willow looked up, her smile so much more sure and teasing than it had been the last time they’d all been together like this. She wasn’t shy anymore, not this Willow. The Willow he had known would have blushed fire engine red last night when he picked her up and kissed her. This Willow just took it in stride with a smile.
“Well, I don’t know about the drinking until we puke –“ Xander began.
“—or the losing of the money,” Willow finished for him with a grin. “But we’re going to definitely see the sights. This is the first vacation we’ve had in, wow, ever?”
Xander nodded. “’Ever’ sounds about right. Unless you count that time we all drove up to LA to help with that thing.”
“That wasn’t exactly very vacation-y or relax-y. Was sort of hell-y, remember?” she responded with a shrug and a wrinkle of her nose. Greg didn’t have a clue what they were talking about and all of a sudden he had that same feeling he’d had in the past – they were discussing things that he wasn’t supposed to know about.
“No speaking in secret code in front of me, guys. Might hurt my feelings,” Greg teased lightly. Xander’s mouth snapped shut and Willow laughed softly.
“Sorry. Was just…a thing.”
“A thing. I get that,” Greg nodded. “We have those at work sometimes. Lots of things, in fact.”
Of course, those were the ‘confidential, can’t discuss with anyone’ things; not regular life type things. Still, he let it slide.
The waitress came and took their order and Greg found himself asking for a refill on his coffee. It wasn’t of the same quality that he normally drank, but it was all that was keeping him fit for human companionship right about now.
“So what do you guys want to do while you’re here?” Greg found himself asking after she’d left. “I’m off tonight, so we can hang, you know, if you want.”
“Of course we want,” Willow laughed. “We came here to see you, mostly. The rest is just…bonus.”
Well, that was good to know. They apparently didn’t have any high expectations on things that they had to do while they were in town. Which left them open to his own personal brand of tour-giving… that he would be figuring out as he went along. Greg made a mental note to get online before he crashed to get some ideas of things to show them.
“Well, I do need to sleep a little before I’ll be up to doing much of anything,” he admitted to them with a rueful grin.
“Ah, the trials and tribulations of the old,” Xander nodded. “We understand. You need your beauty rest. You’re not young anymore.”
“Don’t tease the old man, Xan,” Willow chastised, the wink she threw in Greg’s direction well worth the teasing he was enduring.
“Call me what you will – but I can’t give you the full Greg Sanders tour of Sin City if I’m falling asleep on my feet, if you know what I mean.”
Willow laughed. “Full Greg Sanders experience, hmmm?”
Greg shrugged in a ‘what can I say’ manner. “You’ll have to see it to believe it.”
The laugh that came out of Xander’s mouth was just this side of disbelieving and Greg shot a smirk in his direction.
“So – tell us what you’ve been up to.”
And that was how their catching up breakfast began. He started by telling them about how he was working slowly towards getting out in the field. Then it was their turn. They were leaving Sunnydale, but they hadn’t decided where to go yet, it turned out. The vacation was just something to do while they figured out what came next in their lives. What they’d been doing prior to this, however, was as much of a mystery as it ever had been. Not school. Work and just…living – Willow’s words, not his. She said it in a tired voice that made Greg not want to ask anymore questions just because she didn’t really sound all that happy to be talking about it.
He couldn’t blame her, he supposed. There were some things in his life that he didn’t want to talk about too much, either. In fact, he was sort of happy neither of them brought up the lab explosion during the hour and a half they sat there eating and talking.
“So – I will meet you guys in the lobby of your hotel at seven-ish?” Greg asked as they were standing up from the table.
“Seven sounds good,” Willow said with a smile. “Maybe it won’t be so hot that late in the day.”
Greg snorted. “It isn’t going to cool off until the season changes. Summer is… painful here.”
“All the more reason to get back to the hotel and spend the day in that air conditioned goodness,” Xander spoke up. “We’ll see you later.”
Greg’s eyes flickered shut as Willow wrapped her arms around him in a hug. A part of him had missed this – not just the closeness with her and Xander, but really with anyone. Working graveyard shift didn’t exactly lend itself to closeness. He leaned into the hug and held on a moment longer than might have been right, but Willow didn’t seem to mind. She just pulled back when he let go and gave him a little half-smile that said maybe she understood.
Only when he was walking back to his car did Greg realize that he’d never asked her what she’d needed to speak to Griss about that morning.