Rating: NC-17
Summary: In an AU S3, Willow and Giles continue their affair.
Author Notes: The title is from a song by Belle & Sebastian.
Disclaimer: This stuff isn't mine.

Wrapped Up in Books


"What do you think?" She stood in the doorway.

Giles stared, his mouth open, his hand on the door. He didn't even move aside to let her in. Did she look like a freak or something?

"Giles, can I come in?"

A smile burst across his face. "Willow, you look so beautiful." He drew her close and kissed her.

She was happy. Evidently this was a good haircut.

"But why did you do this the day before school starts?" he murmured, closing the door. "However am I going to keep my hands off you in public?"

He always said the nicest things. Then he was kissing her again, his mouth soft and hard and delicious. A few minutes later they were in his bed, and she was under him. Definitely a good haircut.

"What would you like for dinner?" he asked, after they'd made love and napped and made love some more.

"Pizza. Or..." She nuzzled his nipple. She felt the soft skin crinkle and harden as she swiped her tongue back and forth across it. She took it in her mouth. He groaned, and she grinned up at him.

He gave an exhausted laugh and stroked her newly-shorn hair. "Don't get me started again, or we'll never make it to patrol." They were supposed to meet Xander and Oz later.

"We'll just have to come back here after patrol." She pressed her face against his chest and sighed happily.

"You're insatiable."

She worked her way up to his neck, bestowing light kisses. "You make me that way."

"But don't you want to go home early, what with tomorrow being your first day back at school?"

"Our first day back - and I'll be too excited to sleep." She wriggled against him. "I wonder what my first homework assignment will be?"

He chuckled. "Pizza, then." He stroked her back. "I wish I could take you out to dinner."

"Really? Well, that's something to look forward to." She imagined them holding hands across some candlelit table, in full view of waiters and other diners. There were a lot of things to look forward to, once her senior year was over. "I'm gonna be a senior! I feel so grownup and sophisticated."

He smiled indulgently. "If you're grownup and sophisticated, I must be geriatric."

She gave his shoulder a little slap. "Will you stop saying that? You're not old. You're perfect." She hugged him tight - his wonderful naked body, so warm and strong. "I wish I could tell you so you'd really understand, Giles."

That seemed to surprise him. "My love," he whispered. "You make me so happy."

Then she thought of something. She almost didn't want to say it. "Do you think Buffy knows school's starting tomorrow?"

His smile faded. "I don't know, sweetheart."


It never got easier to take Willow home to her parents' house. It felt like a wrenching, felt wrong. And when Giles returned home, it was always difficult to fall asleep, alone in the bed they had just shared. But in the morning, this morning, it was the first day of school, and he felt exceedingly cheerful, knowing he would see her there. It made it easy, delightful even, to get out of bed. In the shower he caught himself smiling. Despite his worries over Buffy, he felt happy. Perhaps that made him a terrible Watcher, but there it was.

Sure enough, soon he was "helping Willow find her books" in the stacks. Well, actually she was accumulating books, but he couldn't help but kiss her - she looked so beautiful, so vibrant. And her skirt was awfully short, which he suspected was entirely for his benefit (though, paired with sneakers, the overall effect was innocent rather than provocative, which only seemed to provoke him the more). But the library was crowded, doubtless the only day of the school year it would be, so he had to content himself with a few furtive kisses, and to briefly suck her lower lip. She never ceased to appear delighted and just a trace surprised that he wanted her.

She looked so happy with her armload of books. She chattered about her new classes as he scanned the volumes for her.

"I think you're going to love that one," he said, tapping the George Eliot at the top of the stack. Their hands touched, and he had the urge to vault over the check-out counter and take her in his arms in front of all the other students. She simply got more adorable by the day. She wore a purple hat atop her sleek new haircut. It took a great deal of self control for him not to reach out and touch her hair.

Later that day, his heart sank when he saw Oz walking down the hall. It turned out the boy had been left back - which was odd, as he was an intelligent lad. Only then did Giles realize how much he'd looked forward to Oz being gone from the high school - although honestly he liked Oz, and felt for his predicament. Besides, Oz had kept their secret for a long time. But Giles could never forget that he had been the other Willow's boyfriend. And he could see that his Willow liked Oz. She had a soft little smile for Oz that was different from the way she looked at him. Perhaps he imagined it. He was a jealous man, though he suspected it would be different if they were a more public couple - or, for that matter, if he weren't going out of town all the time looking for Buffy.

Her face fell every time he had to leave town. And while he was away, she patrolled with Xander, with Oz. Not only did he have to worry about her safety, which he did constantly, but he got to think about her spending evenings with the boy she used to love and the boy she dated in an alternate reality.

It wasn't that he didn't trust her - he did. And whenever she kissed him, whenever they made love, whenever she so much as looked at him or said his name, she made it abundantly clear he was the only man in the world as far as she was concerned. But there were things he couldn't give her - a normal high school romance, eating lunch together in the cafeteria, kissing at the lockers, going to dances. Going on dates. Surely she wanted those things, as much as Buffy had once wanted to be a cheerleader. Sometimes Giles felt as though he'd taken that normal life not only from his Slayer, but from Willow as well.

Sometimes he feared that Willow would later - or perhaps not so much later - feel he'd taken her youth from her, stolen the years that should have been spent in more teenage pursuits. But any time he suggested such a thing, she looked at him as though he were adorably insane. "You think I could be this happy going to a school dance? You think I could love anybody the way I love you?"


"I have a lead," he said. She and Xander were doing homework at the table. "A friend in Oakland has a sketchy report of a young girl fending off a group of vampires about a week ago. There's a plane out in about an hour."

Her face fell, and Xander saw. Giles hated that Xander should see her unhappy because of something he had said. It had taken a long time for him to accept their relationship.

"Look, I don't mean to poop the party here," Xander said, "it's just, you get your hopes all up, and then it's just a big fat raspberry, and I feel bad."

"But it's good that you're looking," Willow said. "You shouldn't give up." She tried to smile. Then she got to her feet and followed him into his office. He shut the door, and she was in his arms. "It's the first day of school," she said. "I wish you didn't have to go." She hugged him hard.

"Oh, I love you," he said, and kissed her. "I'll be home as soon as I can."

"Maybe with Buffy, this time." He loved her for trying to sound hopeful. "Take care of yourself, Giles. You said there might be vampires."

"And you be careful, especially if you go patrolling. If anything should happen to you..." His voice shook.

She touched his jaw. "You'd be cranky?" She smiled.

"Entirely." He kissed her again, and she clung to him.

Christ, it was hard to leave her, even for a day.


"Hey guys," Buffy said with a little smile. Anger flared in Willow, where there should have been only gladness and relief.

They were all sprawled on the pavement looking up at her, who'd barely broken a sweat dusting the vamp that the rest of them combined couldn't slay.

"Welcome home, Buffy," Giles said.

They all went back to his place. It was weird to have everyone there - Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, Oz. Willow was used to it being their private place. She felt kind of naked sitting next to Giles on the sofa, surrounded by the rest of them, when the sofa was one of the places where she and Giles hugged and kissed and had sex. And it was weird having Buffy back.

"I got in a few hours ago, but I wanted to go see my mom first."

"How did you find her?" Giles asked.

"Well, I pretty much remembered the address."

"I mean...how are things between you?" The teakettle had begun to whistle, and he got up and went into the kitchen. Willow followed, and found him leaning against the cupboard, glasses off, tears in his eyes. She put her arm around him. "You okay, sweetie?"

He was trying to get hold of himself. "I'm fine, darling," he whispered. "It's just that I'm..."

"Relieved? Maybe a little bit overwrought?"

He nodded and put his arms around her.

"I know how hard this has been on you," she said.

He smiled that tightly-stretched smile of pain she knew all too well. "It's been difficult for you, as well." He kissed her. "But just think, I won't have to go away again. She's home."

They brought out the teapot and cups and some cookies, and when Willow looked at Buffy, there was that anger again. She'd thought she'd be so happy to have her back - because she'd missed her, and because Giles wouldn't have to go out of town and wouldn't be so worried. She was glad about all that, but she felt irritated, pettily irritated. Buffy had breezed back into town when it suited her, and now everything was supposed to be fine, and they were all supposed to take her back like she'd never left.


The next day Willow went back to Giles's. It was still too early in the semester for her to credibly play the "all night study session" card, so she hadn't been able to spend the night since school started. They were sitting on the sofa, his arms around her, while they listened to some old record he liked by someone named Nina Simone. "This is nice," she said.

"The music?" he murmured.

"The music, and everything..."

"Aren't you supposed to meet Buffy? Go shopping with her?"

She made a grumbly sound against his chest. "I'd rather stay here with you. Besides, I have homework." She'd brought her books, even though she was supposed to meet Buffy. Suddenly she realized she had no intention of going.

He peered at her. "You know I'd love for you to stay, but if you and Buffy have plans..."

"Look, you're her Watcher, but this is between her and me." They both jumped a little at the harshness of her tone. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry...it's just hard to adjust to her being back. I have all these feelings swirling around inside."

"I understand." He kissed her. "Perhaps it'll just take a bit of time for things to get back to normal."

"Or what passes for normal." They kissed again, and again. Awhile later, their clothes were strewn around the floor and the coffee table, and Nina Simone had long finished singing. When they looked at the time, it was already an hour after she was supposed to meet Buffy. She phoned Buffy's mom and told her she'd been held up. Buffy's mom invited her to dinner the next night, and said she was inviting all of them. Sure enough, after she hung up, the phone rang again, and Giles picked it up.

"Hello, Joyce...tomorrow night? Yes, that would be fine..."

After he hung up the phone, Giles scrutinized her again. "I know I'm not exactly blameless here," he said, "but this isn't like you. Canceling on Buffy."

"I know. I am glad she's back, it's just...I don't know." She settled back against him on the sofa. They were still naked, a state that didn't exactly lend itself to detailed analysis of one's motivations. "Maybe I should try doing my homework naked."

He chuckled. "I don't think I'd let you get much done."

She grinned. "Okay, time for clothes."

He didn't mention Buffy again that afternoon. She did her homework, and he sat beside her and read some Watchery texts. But she kept thinking about Buffy. She was her best friend. But Willow had learned to get along without her. She'd had to.


The next day, Buffy was still kicked out of school, and that was almost a relief - which made Willow feel even lousier. They were in the library with a dead-but-alive kitty in a cage, talking about the welcome home dinner. Oz talked about gatherings, shindigs, and hootenannys, and the next thing Willow knew, she'd asked Oz if the Dingoes could play at the party.

"Maybe something a little more intimate," Giles said. "Buffy has just got home. I'm sure she's still feeling a little disoriented." She could tell Giles wasn't thrilled at the prospect of Oz's band playing. For one thing, it really wasn't his kind of music - and besides, he still had some weird jealousy towards Oz, which she found flattering albeit unnecessary. But the idea of an intimate gathering with Buffy just made her feel uncomfortable.

"All the more reason to make her feel welcome," she said. "And a big party says, 'Welcome, Buffy.'"

His brow crinkled as he looked at her, and she could tell she hadn't fooled him one bit. Nonetheless, he went along with the hootenanny.


It wasn't particularly fun at the Summers house, uncomfortably thronged with kids. The Dingoes were loud, and she liked them okay, though Giles's musical tastes had started to rub off on her. Buffy tried to talk to her over the music, and Willow shut her down, then felt bad when she walked away.

Giles still hadn't shown up, and besides, it wasn't like they could be together together in public the way Xander and Cordelia were, making out in the middle of the living room.

"Eeeww," Dawn said. The youngest Summers kept looking dolefully over at them, while almost getting knocked over by carousing teens. Willow knew she had a crush on Xander, and could certainly feel her pain.

"Having fun, Dawnie?" she asked.

"It's an okay party. But I don't think Buffy deserves a party. Me and Mom got along just fine without her royal presence. And I don't believe any of that stuff I heard her tell Mom about being a Slayer. That's like make believe world or something."

Just then Buffy walked up again, and Dawn literally turned her little nose up and marched off. Buffy motioned to Willow that they should go someplace quieter, and Willow let herself be led. "Is everything okay? You seem to be avoiding me, in the one-on-one sense."

"This isn't avoiding," Willow said. "See? Here you are, here I am."

After Buffy walked away, Willow couldn't stop picturing her hurt look. Awhile later she went looking for her.

She found her in her room, packing her bag. "You're leaving again?"

"It's not like anyone will mind."

"Are you kidding? Do you have any idea what you put us through? What you put Giles through? You are not putting him through that again!"

Buffy put her hands on her hips. "What, you speak for Giles now?"

"He would never say it - but somebody has to. Do you have any idea how worried he was? How many times he went out of town on ridiculously slim leads looking for you?"

"Oh, I see - this is about you being inconvenienced!"

The anger turned to a roaring in her head. "Inconvenienced?"

"I'm so sorry you had to do without Giles for a few hours. I'm sorry I had to leave, but you don't know what I was going through."

Willow figured it was about losing Angel. She didn't ever want to know what that felt like. It was what she feared most, what with the danger they faced all the time. "Well, maybe I don't need to understand. Maybe I just need you to talk to me."

"How could I talk to you when you were avoiding me?"

"This isn't easy, Buffy! I know you're going through stuff, but so am I."

"I know that you were worried about me."

God, sometimes Buffy really thought it was all about her. Was it because she was the Slayer? "I don't just mean that. I'm dating, I'm having serious dating with an older man, and I'm studying witchcraft and killing vampires. I really needed to talk to you about all this scary life stuff."

She was trying not to cry. So was Buffy.

"You have Giles for that."

"I know...but you were my best friend."

Buffy's mom came in and saw the bag on the bed, and all hell broke loose - first with more arguing downstairs, and then a more literal hell with a bunch of zombies.

She didn't realize Giles had finally arrived until it was over. "Are you all right?" he asked her. She nodded, but they couldn't hug because Buffy's mom was there.

But Willow hugged Buffy, and everything seemed better.


"So," Buffy said at the Espresso Pump, "things are good between you and Giles?"

Willow grinned. "Really good. Really, really good. It's just...I'm greedy. I wanna be with him all the time. I want everyone to know about us. It's so hard to wait."

Buffy's face clouded - but only a bit.

"I'm sorry, Buffy. I have no right to complain, when you've been through so much, with Angel and all."

Buffy shook her head. "I'm sorry I wasn't here for you. With the witchcraft and everything."

"I'm glad you're here now." It felt good to forgive. Then they called each other a lot of names - harpy and delinquent and tramp and witch and freak. That was fun.

She was happy to be called tramp and witch. She was happy her friend was home.



He was an adept liar. He observed that about himself. Well, he had to lie everyday to the outside world, about being Buffy's Watcher, about being Willow's lover. But now he'd just lied to them both. Parading various herbs on the library counter, talking about a non-existent binding spell. Buffy wasn't terribly forthcoming about the particulars of her defeating Angel. Then she rushed off to take a makeup exam.

It was wonderful Buffy was back at school and that things were returning to some semblance of normalcy. But he'd just lied to Willow, albeit for a good cause, and here she was smiling at him like he was the most wonderful being in the world. "Mmm, sage," she said. "I love that smell." She sniffed the bundle of sage happily, then lifted it to his nose so he could take a whiff. "And marnox root. You know, a smidge of this, mixed with a virgin's saliva, does something I know nothing about. For obvious reasons."

He grinned and leaned across the counter to give her a quick kiss. "Lucky for me."

"But Giles, don't you think I can help with the binding spell? I'm doing pretty good with my spells, aside from that little incident of burning a hole in my bedspread when I turned ice into fire."

He took her hand. "It isn't that - although I do hope you're not taking on too much too soon with the magicks."

"I'm not. I won't. I just really think I can help. I want to."

He cleared his throat. "The truth of it is, Willow...there is no spell." Ah, he felt better already.

"No spell? I don't understand. You lied to me?" Her smile was entirely gone. So much for feeling better.

"I lied to Buffy, and you happened to be there. You see, I have my suspicions that Buffy isn't telling us everything about the night she killed Angel. From what you've told me, I think it's likely your spell may have worked."

She stared up at him. "Really? But that's...wow." Her expression turned pensive again. "But Giles, I'm still back at the part where you lied to me."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I certainly planned to tell you eventually. It's just that you're a terrible liar, and I feared if you knew the truth, Buffy might find out. Now, however, I'm going to ask you to keep quiet, at least for the time being."

"You want me to lie to Buffy?" She drew herself up indignantly. "And what do you mean I'm a terrible liar? I'm a lying expert! I kept us a secret from Buffy and Xander for months. I'm still keeping us a secret from my parents and almost everyone else. I think that makes me pretty stealthy."

He decided not to point out that she was nearly shouting about how stealthy she was. Luckily the library was, as usual, deserted. "I stand corrected. But sometimes you do have a tendency to laugh nervously and make adorable faces when you're hiding something."

"Adorable, huh?" A grudging smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "It is true I don't like to lie to Buffy. But if you think this'll help her, then I'm in. And I promise I won't laugh nervously or make faces, adorable or otherwise."

"Thank you."

"Do you really think my spell worked?" She looked a bit dizzy at the prospect.

"Let's wait and see what we can find out." He wasn't quite ready for her to have access to that much power. He knew what that kind of power could do. He wanted to keep her safe, and yet he didn't want to deny her what the other Willow had, if she wanted it. But it frightened him. This was so much simpler - his darling girl smelling sage and burning bedspreads.

"Sweetie, you look worried." She put her hand on his. "I won't go too fast. I promise."

She had taken to calling him sweetie sometime over the summer. No one had ever called him that before, and it made him feel unutterably cherished and comforted. "There - you see? I can't keep any secrets from you. You know me so well."

She grinned. "And don't you forget it, Mister."


"If I'd known they came that young and cute, I'd have requested a transfer."

Willow had liked Faith until that moment. Now she saw her as a threat. A sexy, skanky threat with red leather pants and a tattoo.

Giles gave a nervous laugh and glanced at Willow. Buffy and Xander looked at her too. And Giles thought she was bad at keeping secrets.

Then Buffy jumped in helpfully: "Giles is spoken for! I mean...speaks four languages. At least."

"That's cool," Faith said. "I was never big with the book learnin'."

Yeah, Willow thought - she's big with wrestling alligators in the nude. Or something like that. Look at the way Xander's fawning over her! Well, she can't have Giles.

She glared at Giles. She'd seen the flattered look on his face when Faith made that "young and cute" comment. Maybe he liked the red leather and tattoo stuff. After all, he had a tattoo. She looked dolefully down at her bluish-gray stockings and orange sneakers. Maybe she should dress all sexy like Faith.

Giles hurriedly brandished a newspaper. "Look, two people have disappeared from the Sunset Ridge District." He handed Buffy the paper, and they talked about patrolling - Buffy and Faith together. Maybe Faith could focus on slaying vamps and leave her boyfriend alone.

"Hey, Will," Buffy said, "I have that health makeup exam. I could use a little coaching."

"Fine," Willow said. "But I need to talk to Giles first. I'll be out in a minute." She was so grumpy, she forgot to add the usual research/cross-referencing alibi.

Buffy turned to Faith. "She needs to talk to Giles about...research."

Willow couldn't help but grin. Buffy had come a long way since she'd first found out they were a couple.

"Yes," Giles said. "Willow helps me out a great deal with research. She's very dedicated."

"Oh, she's dedicated, all right," Xander said, and Buffy socked him in the arm. "Ow..."

"We will talk weapons," Faith called back to Giles as they all left. Damn her.

Giles sat on the edge of the table. "This new girl seems to have a lot of zest." She scowled at him. Zest? Why didn't he just say she was hot and get it over with? "And no, dearest. I'm not even slightly tempted."

She took a step towards him. "Not even slightly?"

"No." He smiled. "Surely you know by now that you're all I want."

"Well, when you put it that way..."

"Are you feeling better now?" he asked.

"Okay, maybe I'm being silly. It's just, I wanted to tell her: Hey, hands off! But I guess we better not tell her about us. She probably won't even be here that long - just until her Watcher gets back from that retreat." His face fell. "Giles, are you disappointed you weren't invited to the retreat?"

"Not really. The last thing I want to do is leave town again, without you." His smile made her feel warm all over. "Do you know what I'd rather do? Why don't you come over tonight. I'll make us dinner."

"Really? What are you going to make?" He usually heated up soup, made sandwiches, got takeout Chinese or had pizza delivered. That was all fine with her.

"I was thinking of pasta and a bottle of wine."

She let her hand graze his knee - though she would've much preferred to push him down on the table and have her way with him. "You want to ply me with alcohol?" She grinned. She didn't drink, but she knew he liked to. Maybe she'd have a few sips.

"Somehow I think serving an underage girl a glass of wine is the least of my transgressions." The way he was eyeing her, she really wished she didn't have to go help Buffy with her exam.

When Willow left the library, she found Faith hitting on Scott Hope by the drinking fountain, while Buffy, Xander and Cordy looked on. "Bitch," she murmured to Buffy.

"You said it, not me," Buffy said. "I have to be nice to her - Slayer solidarity and all that."

"Makes me glad I'm not a Slayer."


"The Council has approved our request," Giles told her and Buffy in the library. "Faith is to stay here indefinitely. I'm to look after you both until a new Watcher is assigned." That didn't exactly make Willow feel like doing cartwheels, though she had to admit, Faith had been through a lot. It scared her, too, that Faith's Watcher had been killed. She couldn't bear to think of anything happening to Giles.

Then Buffy said something that took her mind off everything else. "Angel was cured. Your spell worked at the last minute, Will."

There was no danger of Willow laughing, nervously or otherwise, or making adorable faces. In fact, she pretty much forgot all about that fake binding spell as Buffy told them how she'd had to kill Angel, even though he had his soul back.

"I'm sorry," Willow said.

"It's okay. I've been holding onto that for so long. Felt good to get it out."

After Buffy had gone, Willow said, "You were right, Giles. Poor Buffy." All of a sudden she wasn't breathing so well. "The spell worked. That's kinda scary."

He walked over to her and put his hand on her shoulder. "It's an advanced spell. You should be very proud."

"I'd be a whole lot prouder if I'd managed to reensoul Angel before Buffy had to kill him."

"Granted. It's still quite an accomplishment."

"You wish I wouldn't do the magicks, don't you?" Suddenly she did make with the nervous laughter. "Because right now, I can see your point."

He knelt by her chair. "Make no mistake, it can be a perilous road. It was for me, and I never had anywhere near your power. But I believe you're up to the challenge. Whatever you decide, I'll help you any way I can."

She felt vertiginous, but his gaze steadied her. "All I know is, where magic is concerned, I wanna go really slow."

"That seems wise." He got to his feet.

"And now that Faith is staying in town, and you're going to be her Watcher, temporarily anyway, and she thinks you're all young and cute..."

"Willow, I'm still not the least bit tempted."

If she could reensoul Angel, maybe she could learn not to be so insecure. "Thanks for being patient with my rampant jealousy."

"It's all right. After all, I'm jealous of every boy who looks at you."

"You are? But Giles, you're the only guy who looks at me."

He shook his head and smiled. "Darling, that's what you think."

When he looked at her like that, she had to be kissing him. "I think I need some...research," she said. "Right now." She took his hand and led him into the stacks.

As they kissed, everything felt so fraught, so important. Buffy had lost Angel, and Faith's Watcher had been killed. How could she be concerned with petty jealousies in the face of such things? They were together, that was what mattered.

He was already hard, grinding against her. He pulled off his jacket, loosened his tie, then his arms were around her again. It wasn't enough. She unzipped him and heard his harsh intake of breath. A minute later her pants were down around her ankles and he was fucking her against the bookcases. Her legs felt cold and exposed, and the fear of discovery made her tense. And yet she loved doing this so near to everyone who didn't know about them.

Willow imagined that Faith saw them together, that she saw Giles driving into her, saw the look on his face that said she was the only one. She imagined Faith telling the story of it, like she'd told about the alligators: They were goin' at it right there in the library! Damn, it was hot. Woulda liked to get some of that action, but I knew it wasn't meant to be. He was just too into her...in more ways than one.

He rocked into her again and again. "I love you, Willow," he whispered hoarsely.

"Giles, I love you..." Someday they'd all know how much he loved her.



"You kept the costume? You kept the costume?"

They were spending Halloween night alone together, avoiding the holiday as best they could, considering the way it had turned out last year. But she'd thought she might have a little dress-up fun with him.

"Why are you all upset? I've never worn it again, Giles. And anyway, Ethan Rayne isn't anywhere around, and the costume doesn't do its magic trick without that Janus statue thingy, right?"

"Presumably." His jaw looked all tense. She scooted closer to him on the sofa and stroked his thigh.

"Anyway, it's not like it's a ghost costume. The worst that could happen is I'd turn into some slutty vixen." Giles's mouth opened slightly and stayed that way. She giggled. "Trying to think of a down side now?"

"I still don't understand why you kept the outfit."

"It was hard for me to be overtly sexy back then. That's why I wore the ghost costume over it. But everyone ended up seeing me in the sexy costume, and the world didn't end. I mean, the world did almost end, but not because of my outfit. You know?"

He chuckled. "I think so."

"But I thought this year I could put it on for you only. I thought you might like it."

"You thought right."

She changed in the bathroom, so Giles would get the full effect of her transformation into Leather-skirted Midriff-baring Cleavage Girl. A year ago, of course, she'd worn the outfit hoping Xander would notice her. Or at any rate, that had been the plan, but she'd chickened out. Military Guy Xander didn't seem to notice her sexy outfit - although she supposed it was overshadowed by her being able to walk through him and stuff.

Back then Xander had seemed so close in a best friend way, yet unattainable in that other way. She'd thought he might eventually turn and see her - even though with each passing month it seemed more unlikely, as he chased preying mantis women and Inca mummy girls and Buffy, and Buffy, and Buffy.

Her feelings for Giles had been different. There had been no pain like she'd felt about Xander, because she assumed she didn't have a shot with Giles. So she contented herself with fantasies, and with the way he touched her from time to time, usually in the midst of danger. She contented herself with his respect for her, with how indispensable she was to him, even without Slayer powers.

When Giles told her he loved her, everything changed irrevocably. Soon she couldn't remember why she'd pined after Xander. It felt as if she'd always loved Giles only.

Even though he'd seen her naked a zillion times, this outfit, all low-cut and revealy, made her feel self-conscious. Maybe wearing the outfit again brought her back to who she'd been a year ago, before Giles loved her.

When she marched into the living room, he couldn't take his eyes off her. It made her feel powerful and keyed-up. "Happy Halloween," she said.

"Come here," he said from the sofa.

"First, tell me: do I look better in this outfit now than when you saw me in it before?"

He thought a moment. "Willow, I suspect there's no correct answer to that question. Although I do prefer you corporeal."

"What I mean is...did you think I looked good last year? I know it was before you were in love with me..."

He smiled. "You looked beautiful, Willow. You're even more beautiful now."

She walked towards him. "You were attracted to me then, when I wore this outfit?"

He reached up and grasped her waist. He kissed her bare stomach, ran his tongue along it as she gasped and giggled. He pulled her down on the couch and kissed her. He kept running his hands over her belly, her breasts, her stocking-clad legs. Her whole body felt heavy with wanting him.

"Tell me," she whispered, kissing his neck. "Were you attracted to me then?"

He pushed her down on her back. "Yes," he breathed into her ear - and both of them gave a little start.

"Really?" He looked as surprised as she felt. "You wanted to touch me, back then - I mean, aside from the fact I was incorporeal?"

He kissed her again and again. "Willow...I didn't want to admit it to myself..."

"You wanted me before the older Willow came here?"

"Yes...yes..." He was thrusting against her. She didn't know if he meant it or if he was simply caught up in the moment. She guessed it didn't matter - she knew that right now he believed it.

She squirmed beneath him. He lifted her skirt, and she spread her legs. His hand slid between them.

Her heart was pounding. "Did you want to do this, Giles?"

"Yes...ah, you're wet." He rubbed her roughly, then dug his fingers into the crotch of her stockings and ripped them. They tore loudly, and she gave a cry. "You were so gorgeous when you walked through that wall." He gave a laugh and unzipped himself. He pulled her panties to one side. "Afterwards I thought it a good thing you'd been a ghost. Otherwise I might've been tempted to do this." He thrust inside her. She moaned. She was already close to coming. She thought she could come from his words alone.

"You really wanted me, before?" She wrapped her legs around him, costume boots and all. "Because I always wanted you, Giles. Always."

"I always wanted you, Willow..." He fucked her with long, hard strokes. She rose up to meet his thrusts, and it was just right. She was almost there. "God help me, I always did..."

"Oh god, Giles..." The girl she was a year ago, unloved, unwanted, was coming too, and Giles was fucking her.

"Always," he muttered, moving faster. "Always..." She was still contracting around his cock when he gave a shout and arched over her.

"You know," she said as they lay together breathing heavily, "it got me so excited, what you said. It's okay if it wasn't strictly true."

He touched her face. "You think I only said those things because we were...in the midst of it?"

"Did you?" She found herself holding her breath - it meant more to her than she wanted to admit.

"I was attracted to you last year, when you wore the costume." He rested his hand on her belly. It felt so warm and nice. "It disquieted me. Perhaps more than your being a ghost did."

She hugged him. "That's good to know. I mean, not that it freaked you out...but that you thought of me that way." It made her giddy, knowing he'd found her attractive before the older Willow showed up.

"And before that? Willow, understand...I can't remember what it was like not to want you. I think about you, before...like the first time you saved my life. Do you remember?"

"Pretty hard to forget. The Harvest...that seems so long ago. I remember thinking that was the only time we'd ever have to fight vampires."

"I'll never forget how brave you were. You yelled, 'Get off of him' and threw the holy water. You were so fierce." He stroked her hair. When he looked at her so adoringly, it was hard to remember she had ever felt alone or unloved.

"I couldn't let her hurt you, Giles."

He gave her a long, languorous kiss. "And now when I remember it, it's all mixed up with my love for you. I can't imagine not feeling that way then as well."

"That's how I feel too. Although I had feelings for you, right from the start. Big-time feelings. I thought you were so smart, and so handsome. I mean, you are." She smiled. "Now aren't you glad I kept the costume?"

His eyebrows did that rueful crinkle thing she liked so much. "I'd be lying if I said otherwise."

She studied his face. "It wasn't just the magic part that bothered you, was it? It was that the costume came from him - from Ethan Rayne."

He sat up with a heavy sigh. She sat up too, and waited for him to answer. "You're quite right. And there's something I should tell you. When we were younger, Ethan and I...we..."

"You slept together," she murmured.

His eyes widened. "How did you - "

"When I researched the whole Eyghon thing, the books talked about bacchanals and orgies. I put two and two together."

"And that doesn't bother you?" He brought his face close to hers and scrutinized her.

She kissed him softly. "I don't like to imagine you with anyone but me. But then again, I've been the beneficiary of your considerable experience." He smiled the wonderful relaxed smile she loved to elicit. "I hope you don't wish I were more experienced too, Giles."

"God, no." Well, she hadn't expected that reaction. "What I mean is, you're a wonderful lover...you're wearing me out! But it's difficult enough knowing Xander was your first love, without you having been actually involved with him."

It made her happy that she wasn't the only jealous one. "You're my first love, Giles. That was just a crush, one-sided. It wasn't real, not like this." It didn't feel like jealousy, only curiosity, a desire to know him even better, that made her ask, "But you and Ethan...?"

He considered her question. "He was important to me," he said finally. "But we brought out the worst in each other."

That satisfied her, and really, it explained a lot. "Not like us."

He kissed her. "No, dearest. Not like us."


"I think we should get a limo," Cordelia said.

"A big, expensive limo?" Xander asked.

Willow sighed and took a sip of her soda.

"Oh, that's right," Cordy said. "It must be a drag for you. Our last Homecoming Dance, and you can't bring a date."

"Well, Giles'll be there. We just can't dance or act like a couple or..." She sighed again and put her head in her hands on the bar.

"There, there, Will," Buffy said, patting her shoulder. "If it makes you feel any better, I might not go to the dance at all."

Willow cocked her head and looked up at Buffy. "Why wouldn't you go? You already have your tickets. I mean, unless you don't have a..." She started to say "date," then saw Buffy's new honey Scott Hope, and mangled the word the best she could, "day or two to think about it."

"What's going on here?" Cordy asked. "Did Scott not ask her to the Homecoming Dance yet?"

Then Scott did ask her, which was good, because Willow wanted Buffy to get past her grief over Angel and have a normal dating life, even if she couldn't have a normal dating life. She saw Oz walking through the Bronze, and wondered briefly what it would be like to date a boy her age and be able to do all that normal dating stuff.

Oz, of course, wasn't exactly baggage-free. Only the other week they'd feared he might've gotten out of his cage during the full moon and killed a couple of people. Then they'd had to shoot Oz with the tranquilizer gun, and Buffy accidentally shot Giles with the tranquilizer gun, poor baby. Even though it turned out Oz hadn't killed anyone, and even though she liked Oz, the werewolf thing did seem like a whole lot of trouble. All that aside, Willow didn't want to go to the dance with Oz or anybody in the world but Giles.


Even if they couldn't go to the dance as a couple, they'd both be there, and at least she could get all dolled up and he'd see her in her finery. "You have to help me pick out an outfit," she told Xander after they took their yearbook pictures. "I wanna wow a certain English guy."

Xander made only a slight grimace at the concept. "No problem. Although you could wear a potato sack and he'd be transfixed."


Maybe it wasn't the sort of thing she and Xander should have done together - but heck, they'd been friends forever, and she wanted the male perspective. Sure, Giles seemed to find her irresistible no matter what she wore (and anyway he preferred her naked), but this was her Homecoming Dance, and she wanted to wear something special.

While she changed behind the screen, they chatted about how that jerk Scott Hope had dumped Buffy and left her in the lurch for the dance, and how Buffy and Cordy were feuding over who was going to be Homecoming Queen. But every time she modeled an outfit, he deemed it "nice," and that was getting annoying. Clearly he would never find her beautiful and sexy the way Giles did, apparently because they were friends - or so she'd once heard him tell Buffy, back before she and Giles got together. It really hurt at the time. Now she just thought it was pretty stupid of Xander. He was her oldest friend, but sometimes he bugged her.

She stepped out from behind the screen in her black sleeveless dress. "I know," she said. "'Nice.'"

Xander had put on his tux jacket, and he did look quite handsome. "I was gonna go with 'gorgeous.'"

She was surprised. "Thanks. You, too - in a guy way."

He was staring at her. "Giles is very lucky."

"So is Cordelia. In a girl way." If Xander liked the dress so much, she could only imagine Giles's reaction. She could hardly wait. For a moment she was truly excited about the dance. "I just wish I could dance at the dance, you know?"

Xander walked towards her. "Here." He held out his hands like he wanted to dance with her.

"Thanks. No offense, but it just isn't the same."

There was this look in his eye, all sleepy and driven. He leaned towards her. It took a few moments for her to realize what was going on. His lips almost touched hers, and she turned her head and stepped back. "Xander, what are you doing?"

He seemed to shake himself awake. His eyes widened. "Sorry. God, Will, I'm sorry."

"Now you wanna kiss me? What were you thinking? You know how I feel about Giles. And what about Cordelia?"

"I know. I wasn't thinking. It was a fluke...a clothes fluke. And there'll be no more fluking."

"Darn tootin' there won't." But she was starting to feel bad. He looked so shamefaced.

"You're not gonna tell Giles, are you? I mean, nothing really happened."

Oh boy. That was a really good question.


Giles was sitting in his office having a cup of tea and reading the paper when she appeared in the doorway. He smiled. "Good morning, sweetheart." He didn't always get to see her first thing in the morning.

She didn't smile. She came in and closed the door. "Giles, I need to tell you something. It's not that big a deal, but I need you to know about it."

By the end of that little preamble, he was decidedly apprehensive. Clearly it was a matter of some importance if she had come to tell him about it before first period. "Go on."

She set down her backpack and shifted nervously from foot to foot. "Xander came over last night to help me pick out a dress for the dance."

The image of Willow undressing in front of Xander, and the boy pulling her down on the bed, flashed into his mind. "Yes?"

"And he...tried to kiss me."

Giles's first impulse was to find Xander and beat him to a bloody pulp. But there was that word: "Tried?"

"I turned my head. So, no actual kiss. So nothing actually happened, Giles, and he said he was sorry. He said it would never happen again. But I still thought you should know. I don't want to keep secrets from you." She looked so damn contrite, when she'd done nothing wrong. And all at once, he was feeling rather wonderful.

"You didn't want him to kiss you?"

"Of course I didn't."

He smiled. "Come here." He reached for her, and she leaned down to kiss him. "I'm glad you told me. You've made me so happy."

Her eyebrows scrunched downward. "I have?" He pulled her onto his lap and kissed her again. "I thought you might be mad."

"I was."

She giggled. "Wow, you sure get over being mad awfully fast. I thought I might have to talk you out of beating Xander up or something."

"I'd always feared that if Xander ever decided he wanted you, I might lose you. It's wonderful to find out that isn't the case."

She gave him a long, serious kiss. "For someone so smart, sometimes you're a dummy."

"I much prefer that to the alternative."

Just then the bell rang, and Willow leapt off his lap. "I'm late for class!" She grabbed her backpack and turned to go, then faced him again. "Just so you know, Giles, I love you and only you. You're like, imprinted on me. I don't want anybody else." She bent to kiss him, then hurried off.

He drank his lukewarm tea and smiled.


Xander still looked pretty dejected at the Homecoming Dance - especially since he'd just asked her if she'd told Giles about the not-kiss, and she'd told him she had. "God, he's gonna kick my ass."

"No, he won't. I think he wanted to for about five seconds, but now everything's fine." Willow bounced a little to Oz's band and scanned the crowd for Giles. She wished he'd hurry up and get here so he could see her in her dress. And where were Buffy and Cordelia? The rest of them had planned the limo switcheroo so those two could patch things up. Willow figured Xander might feel better when Cordy arrived. Then again, maybe he wouldn't, since he hadn't told Cordy about the not-kiss and was feeling all guilty.

Finally, here was Giles. It knocked the breath right out of her, seeing him in his suit.

"Hi, Giles," Xander said shakily.

"Xander." Giles grinned at him, and Xander did a double-take.

Then Giles got a good look at her, and he didn't stop looking. "Willow, you look so beautiful." He always said that, of course, but the tone was different. He'd never seen her in such an elegant outfit.

"And you," she said, "you look..." She couldn't come up with adjectives good enough for how good he looked.

They stared at each other, even though they knew they shouldn't - not here, in front of everybody. Willow couldn't understand why everyone at the dance didn't see what was between them.

"I think I'll retreat to the library until the coronation," Giles said.

"I think I'll retreat, too," she said.

They were making out passionately in his office, and might well have forgotten all about the coronation, when the door burst open. Willow was expecting maybe Principal Snyder, ready to fire Giles and expel her - but no, it was two vampires. One of them wore a cowboy hat and looked vaguely familiar.

"Aw, look, Lyle, they're in love! Just like us," the lady vamp said. She was dressed kinda trashy, with pink feathers.

"Warms the heart, don't it, Candy," Lyle said. "Although, ain't that gal a little young for you, Mister?"

Willow bridled. "Hey! Who are you to talk about old?"

Giles got in front of her, and Willow scrabbled around on the desk behind them for crosses, holy water, anything. "What do you want?" Giles demanded.

"We want Buffy!" Candy drawled. "We're gonna win Slayerfest!"

"Slayerfest?" Giles asked.

"Yeah, it's gonna be great!" Lyle said.

Willow slipped Giles a cross, and he advanced on them, brandishing it. Lyle tried to knock it out of Giles's hand, but Willow threw some holy water, and the vamps ran - right into the path of Buffy and Cordelia. They, and their fancy dresses, looked a little the worse for wear.

By the time Buffy staked Candy with a spatula and Lyle ran off, and they'd gotten rid of the other Slayerfest assassins, it was almost time for the coronation. "By the way, Giles," Buffy said, "I left you a phone message when me and Cordy were in the cabin. Didn't you get it?"

Giles looked sheepish. "Sorry. I was...otherwise occupied."

"Sorry," Willow said. She reached up and wiped some lipstick from his mouth.

"Yeah, yeah," Cordelia said. "Big surprise."



"Giles is late," Willow said in study hall. "He's never late."

"He's allergic to late," Buffy said. "I know - he's probably busy planning my life some more. Between him and my mom, I'm lucky if I have a free moment. Do you think you could put in a good word for me and my free moments?"

Buffy had lied to her about where she'd been last night, had lied to Giles and her mom too. What was going on with her? But Willow couldn't keep her mind on that. She kept glancing at the door. "I'm starting to worry," she whispered. "He wasn't in the library this morning. What if something's happened to him?"

Miss Barton came in and stood in front of the class. She clapped her hands. "We're all stuck here, okay? So let's just sit quietly and pretend we're reading something, until we're really sure that old Commandant Snyder's gone. Then we're all outta here!"

At the table behind them, Xander said, "Does anyone else wanna marry Miss Barton?"

"Stand in line," Cordelia said.

"I don't like this," Willow told Buffy. "I'm gonna go call him as soon as Miss Barton lets us leave."

"I'm sure he's fine," Buffy said. "Maybe he just wasn't feeling well. Maybe he has a cold." But she looked worried too.


Willow hurried to his office and closed the door. She sat in his chair and dialed his number. She loved his office. She loved his chair, where he'd been sitting when they kissed for the first time, and where they'd kissed lots of times after that. She waited and waited for him to pick up the phone.

Then he did, and she could exhale. "Hello?"

"Giles? It's me. How come you aren't at school? I was worried."

"When are you coming over?" His voice, low and urgent, hit her like a jolt in the crotch. But something wasn't right.

"I...I can come over soon. After school. Though you know I wanted to study some more for the SATs. Are you okay? You were supposed to watch study hall."

"Was up late listening to music. I overslept. Tried to phone you, but I guess you'd already gone to school." He sounded...different. And yet he sounded the same.

"You were up late playing music?"

"Yeah, great stuff. Want to play it for you right now. Hang on."


He'd set the phone down. A minute later she heard a record playing. "D'you hear it? I've played this for you, haven't I?"

He was cute when he was all enthused. "Yes, sweetie: Cream, 'Tales of Brave Ulysses,'" she said dutifully. "I like it."

"There's my girl. My girl has good taste. Listen to this bit - "

She listened to some swirly guitar. That would be Eric Clapton. Giles really had told her a lot about the music he'd loved when he was growing up.

Then she heard something else - a woman's voice. "Ripper, who's that on the phone?"

"Giles, is that...Buffy's mom? And why did she call you - "

"I'll explain when you get here. When are you coming over, love?"

"Buffy's mom doesn't know about us. Won't she be suspicious if I show up? And what's she doing there, anyway?" She had a flicker of - oh that was ridiculous. She couldn't be jealous of Buffy's mom. They were probably just discussing Buffy's schedule.

"Don't worry about that, darling. I'll take care of it." He'd called her darling a zillion times, yet now he pronounced it differently. It came out dolling, all jaunty and in a different accent. Why was he speaking differently? What the heck was going on? Lust and apprehension battled in her. It all amounted to the same thing.

"I'll be there soon, sweetie."

"Brilliant." She could almost hear his smile, fierce and intense.


"Who was that on the phone?" Joyce asked.

He lit a cigarette and bounced delightedly on his heels as Cream played. "That was my girl. She's coming over."

Her face crumpled. "I didn't know you were seein' somebody." She made no move to leave.

"We'll want to be alone, right? So piss off." Tears welled up in her eyes. Like she had any bloody claim on him. Just because her daughter was the Slayer.

"Gee, I can take a hint." Her voice trembled, but she still didn't get up off the sofa. "It's just fun hanging out with you, Ripper."

"Look, I told you - my girl's coming over."

"Somebody I know?" She was trying to sound nonchalant.

He wanted to say, Willow, Willow Rosenberg is my girl. But it was supposed to be this big secret. How fucking stupid that the thing he was proudest of in the world had to be a secret. "She's perfect, is what she is. She's perfect."


Willow had butterflies in her stomach as she knocked on his door. She heard music. He opened the door and stood there smiling, his eyes intent on her. He was wearing his new suspenders that she thought so sexy.

Hey now baby, went the Cream song on the stereo, get into my big black car.

"Come here, darling," he said, and let her in. Her heart began to pound. He caught her about the waist and bent to kiss her. He tasted like chocolate, but also...

She pulled back slightly. "Giles...are you smoking?" The room smelled of cigarettes, too.

He just smiled and kissed her again. She'd always heard that kissing a smoker was like kissing an ashtray, and that was accurate enough. Except this ashtray was a really good kisser. He was making her moan. He pulled her down on the rug. It was hard to remember anything was wrong. It was hard to remember anything at all when he was turning her to jelly.

"You're such a pretty little thing," he breathed between kisses. "My gorgeous girl. I fucking love you." He caressed her breasts through her sweater. "So soft...you're so soft..." He pulled her on top of him, and they kissed some more. She tugged down one of his suspenders. He was licking her neck, then sucking on it, hard, something he'd never done with her. She felt his teeth, and she cried out. It hurt and felt good. It felt different. "Giles, what's going on?"

"Sorry. Did I hurt you?"

"No, that was nice. I mean yes, it hurt a little, but...are you drunk or something?"

"No, although that's not a bad idea. Maybe later." He was kissing her again, his tongue in her mouth. Maybe she was just being silly. Living on the Hellmouth made you see weirdness where it wasn't. Maybe Giles acting this way was just a costume, like her slutty Halloween costume that got him so hot. He was undeniably getting her hot. He was hard beneath her, thrusting up against her, his hands on her ass. He reached beneath her skirt, pulled down her stockings and panties. She moved to one side so he could pull down his suspenders, unzip, remove his pants. She admired his erection, wet at the tip. "You like my cock, don't you?"

"I love it," she managed to say. She moved down his body and took him in her mouth. He gasped. He was hard and velvety and salty. She looked up at him - he was kingly, hands laced behind his head, watching her, his eyes heavy-lidded.

"Come here. I want to fuck you right now." She gave him a long lick, and he groaned. Then she slowly moved up his body, and he guided himself in, slid deep inside her. She moved on him, and he grunted and grabbed her ass. He smacked it lightly. He'd never done that before either. She kinda liked it. But why...why all the new all of a sudden? Was he going through a mid-life crisis or something? If so, maybe she ought to enjoy it. He smacked her a bit harder.

"God! Giles, do that again."

He laughed, and a grin slashed across his face. "My wicked girl." As he kept slapping her ass, she moved on him faster, rising and falling on his prick. "So good," he breathed. He put one hand on her hip to hold her in place, and put his thumb on her clit. "Going to make you come so hard."

She almost did, just from him saying it.

He put his hand under her sweater, pinched her nipple through her bra while he touched her between the legs. She ground against him. "Come for me, darling," he said, with something like a smirk, except his eyes were soft and delighted with her.

She moaned loud and long as she came, squeezing his cock hard. Then she collapsed on him, but he lifted her and set her on the rug on her hands and knees. He drove into her, and she gasped. "Love you so much," he muttered with wet breath against her ear. He smacked her ass again. "Love your gorgeous arse. Someday..." He shoved in harder. "Someday I'd like fuck your beautiful arse."

Her eyes flew open. They'd never done anything like that. They'd never even talked about it, though she'd wondered if maybe he'd done that with Ethan. "You would?"

"Only when you're ready, darling. Want you to love it." He moved faster, and she felt him grow bigger inside her. Suddenly she wanted it. Wanted to try everything, do everything with him.

"Yes, yes..." she whispered as he fucked her hard and fast. "Want to do everything with you..." With one deep thrust, he cried out and was still.

He rolled off her, and she moved into his arms. He stroked her hair. Nothing was different after all. He was her Giles, who loved her and wanted her.

He sat up and looked around the room. He got to his feet and retrieved a pack of cigarettes. "Giles...since when you do you smoke?"

He had a cigarette in his mouth, and he was poised with a lighter. "Does it really bother you, love?"

"Well, it's not good for you." Come on, that's hardly the issue, she thought. Something's up with him. You can't ignore it! But she was wet and sticky between the legs, and still feeling pretty relaxed there on the rug.

He smiled and put the cigarette back in the pack. "There, see? Is that better?"

She sat up, braced for what he was going to do next. "It's just that...well, you're not quite acting like yourself. Except, in some ways you completely are. It's hard to explain."

He was still grinning, still naked from the waist down as he knelt by a pile of LPs. The Cream record had long stopped playing. "Ah, I want you to hear this!" He put another LP on the turntable, then reached for his pants.

They cuddled on the sofa while Jimi Hendrix blared. She didn't think he'd ever played this record for her, but she had to admit, it was pretty good. Then he was kissing her again, and they made little moany sounds in counterpoint to Hendrix's guitar. Little Miss Lover, Hendrix sang, where have you been in this world for so long?, and Giles was down on the floor and spreading her legs. The music pounded around her, and his tongue lapped her, and she was panting and exhorting him and mostly forgetting that anything strange was going on.

The phone rang. Willow groaned, but Giles didn't lift his head. That was fine with her.

The answering machine clicked on. "Giles, are you there?" It was Buffy. "What did you do to my mother?"

"Giles!" Willow said. He mumbled something into her crotch. It vibrated against her clit, and she moaned.

Buffy was still ranting on the answering machine. Mustering all her self control, Willow slid off the couch and made for the phone. "Buffy?" It felt like she was rising through layers of sleep or from deep underwater.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," Giles said, subsiding against the sofa.

"Willow! Is he there?"

She tried to slow down her breathing. She'd stood up so fast, she felt dizzy, and she sank onto the rug, phone in hand. "Yes, he's here. What's going on?"

"I get home from school, and my mother is crying. She keeps saying Ripper was mean to her, Ripper has a girlfriend."

Buffy's voice was still audible on the answering machine, and Giles rolled his eyes.

"Willow, what did he do to her?"

"Nothing, Buffy." She turned to Giles. "Nothing, right?"

He got up and sat beside her on the rug. "Of course not. Only girl I want to do things to is you." He nuzzled her neck.

"I so do not need to hear this!" Buffy said.

Giles took the phone. "Look, your mother invited herself over, supposedly to talk more about your schedule. Once she got here..." He looked puzzled. "Well, neither of us much felt like discussing your bloody schedule. I played her some music, that's all."

Suddenly the enormity of the weirdness hit her. She grabbed the phone. "Your mom has a crush on my boyfriend? She can't have him!"

"I think you're missing the big picture, Will."

Giles leaned in and kissed her neck. "You needn't worry, darling. You're the only one for me..." More kisses.

"Giles...I need to talk to Buffy for a minute."

He looked vaguely wounded. He got up and reached for the pack of cigarettes.

"Buffy, what's happening?" She turned off the answering machine. Giles was hunting through his albums. She lowered her voice. "He's been acting really strangely."

"I'm beginning to see a pattern here. My mom, Giles...and wasn't Miss Barton acting kinda weird in study hall?"

Willow heard Buffy's mom in the background. "I wanna go to the Bronze tonight. Maybe Ripper'll be there."

"Yikes," Willow said. "Do you think this could be a spell or something?" Giles put another record on the turntable.

"I think you guys should sit tight for the time being. Maybe Giles has some books there that might have some answers?"

"They're mostly at the library. But you're right - we better stay here. What are you gonna do?"

"I think Mom and I are going to the Bronze. I wanna see if this is more widespread. Maybe give me an idea of what we're dealing with."

Willow watched Giles smoking and bobbing his head to the music - Pink Floyd? "Sounds like a plan. Call us later, okay?"

When she hung up, he joined her on the rug, cigarette hanging out of his mouth. "I thought you'd never get her off the phone. Spoiling our fun."

"Giles, I want you to listen to me. I think you might be under a spell or something. It's making you act different. Less...mature."

He laughed. "Isn't that a good thing? God, I'm sick of being so fucking responsible. I'm sick of being a Watcher." He stroked her hair. "I just want it to be us, Willow. The two of us, all the time."

"Oh..." She was touched, in spite of herself. "That's so sweet, baby." She'd never called him baby before, but right now it seemed to fit. "But the point is, I'm worried that something's wrong. That something might be hurting you."

"I feel fantastic." He lay down on his back. "You...and the music...everything's right." He took a drag of his cigarette. "Man, I gotta get a band together."

Oh boy. Willow started hunting for research materials, but none of the books she found were useful. Maybe later she'd chance them going to the library.

Several LPs, two chocolate bars, and a bunch of cigarettes later, Giles said, "Let's go out."

"Don't you think we should stay here? I...I should study for the SATs."

"You're a bloody genius, Willow. You'll do great." He took off his striped shirt. Man, he looked damn good in that white undershirt. "Let's go out and have some fun."

In spite of the weirdness, she found she wanted to, very much. "You want to go out? In public, with me? But what if someone sees us..."

"Why should we let your parents or the school or anybody tell us what to do? I don't care what anyone thinks. You're worth the risk."

"Wow..." Maybe she was under a spell, too.


They were actually walking together in the middle of town, their arms around each other. Of course they hadn't run into anyone yet. Willow was poised to leap out of his arms the second anyone appeared. Was she crazy? He could get fired, arrested, deported. He was under a spell. She needed to be the responsible one, and instead here she was, sauntering around in public with her arms around him, and it felt so good.

He was wearing jeans and that white T-shirt. She had the hottest boyfriend in town.

"This is nice," she said. "We shouldn't be doing this. But it's so nice."

He smiled fiercely. "I love you, Willow." He pushed her up against a wall next to some clothing store. He kissed her. They were full-on making out in public. They were going to get in so much trouble. She wrapped her arms around him.

"I love you so much," she said. That seemed to inflame him further. He was grinding against her. Then he sank to his knees.

"We were interrupted this afternoon." He kissed her skirt, right over the crotch. She giggled.

"Giles, come on. Someone's gonna see us."

He lifted her skirt and kissed her through her stockings and panties. He blew hot breath on her crotch.

"Oh, that feels good. But we have to stop...we'll get in trouble..." He rubbed her, and she moaned, tangled her fingers in his hair. She closed her eyes.

Then she heard footsteps. A man was standing right there, watching them. Not just a man - a policeman. She let out a squeak, and Giles looked up. He followed her gaze. "Evening, officer," he said with a sneer. "Enjoying the show?"

"Giles!" God, this was all her fault. She was supposed to be the responsible one, and now he was going to get arrested.

He got to his feet and faced the cop.

"You're under arrest for public...for public ind..." The cop couldn't seem to get the words out. "You know, that thing where two people are doing, you know, the kind of thing you two were doing." Great, Willow thought, he's under the same spell, or whatever it is.

Giles barked out a laugh. "I'm not going anywhere with you." He was grinning in a really scary way. It was turning her on. She was as bad as he was.

The cop aimed his gun at them, and Willow cowered. After years of fighting vampires, were they going to perish at the hands of a policeman?

Giles took a step toward the cop. "Ooh...copper's got a gun." He was jumping around, waving his arms. "You'll never use it, though."

"Will so."

"Giles, be careful!" Willow cried. The cop glanced at her, and the next thing she knew, Giles had grabbed the cop's hand that held the gun, head-butted him and knocked him unconscious. She stared slack-jawed.

He took the gun and stuck it in the back of his pants. "Told him he'd never use it."

She was appalled - and aroused. "Giles! Beating up policemen is not cool!" Although, granted, the cop was acting weird too, and she was glad Giles didn't get arrested. But still, violence - violence against a person, not a demon!

"Don't freak out, love. Don't you see, I'm not gonna let anyone get between us. Certainly not a fucking policeman. I'd do anything for you. I love you so much." He kissed her. "So much..."

Her arms went around him. "Oh, Ripper, I love you..." As they kissed, he eased her down onto the hood of the police car.

"Do anything to keep us together," he murmured. He pulled down her stockings and panties. He unzipped and thrust into her.

Okay, she thought, I'm having sex on the hood of a police car, with a policeman slumped on the ground nearby. Now I am officially a juvenile delinquent. She wrapped her legs around him.

After he shuddered into her, he half-rolled off her, and his hand went between her legs. She didn't think she'd be able to relax enough to come, but she'd been left hanging twice already today, and in spite of everything, when he whispered in her ear, "Come, darling," her orgasm finally caught up with her.

To her surprise, he mounted her again. "Want to fuck you all night," he grunted. She was getting pretty sore, but he felt so good inside her, his big body covering her, and she felt as wild as he was.

When they got down from the police car, the cop was gone. "Eeww," Willow said, "do you think he was watching us?" At least he'd been able to walk away, so hopefully Giles hadn't hurt him too badly.

They started walking, and she started remembering. Buffy had told her to stay put. Buffy was supposed to phone. Should she risk them going to the Bronze? They wandered aimlessly, hand in hand. Then there were people, grownups laughing and roughhousing and acting like kids. A couple of men were throwing candy bars at the crowd. Willow squeezed his hand, then regretfully let go. Then she saw Buffy.

"Willow! I thought you were going to stay home!"

"Sorry. He wanted to go out..." Her voice trailed off when she saw Buffy wasn't alone. Here was Buffy's mom and...Principal Snyder?

"The Bronze was really Fun City tonight," he enthused at her. "You shoulda been there!"

"Hi, Ripper," Joyce said, looking glum and come-hither at the same time.

Giles had just caught a candy bar and was tearing open the wrapper. Buffy grabbed it. "Oy!" he said. "Give it back!"

"You do not need more candy."

"I want it!" her mom said, but Buffy threw the chocolate to the ground and mushed it with her shoe. "We think it's the candy that's doing this," she told Willow. "I ran into Oz at the Bronze - I told him to call Xander and Cordelia and go research this thing at the library."

"I'd like a bit of 'research' myself," Giles said, and nudged Willow.

"Giles," Willow stage-whispered, widening her eyes at him.

"I think you better get him home, Will," Buffy said. "I know what Giles at sixteen was like...Bad-Magic-Hates-the-World-Ticking-Time-Bomb Guy."

"Aw, he's not so bad. He's kinda nice this way. Except for beating up policemen."

Buffy gaped. "Like I said, you better go home."

"You can't order me around," Giles said. "I'm your Watcher, so you do what I tell you. Now, sod off!"

"Don't talk to Buffy like that," Buffy's mom said, bridling in a very unmomlike way. "And where's your girlfriend, Ripper?"

He stared at her. "What are you on about? She's right - " Willow kicked him softly, and he turned. "Hey! Oh, right. Sorry."

"I bet you don't even have a girlfriend," Snyder said.

"I do so have a girlfriend! I have the best girlfriend in the world!" His eyes flicked towards her for just an instant. She couldn't help but smile.

Buffy's mom burst into tears.

"Wow," Snyder said. "You're a real heartbreaker. That's kinda cool."

"For crying out loud," Buffy said. "I can't babysit you anymore!" She turned to go, then turned back. "Not you, Will! Sorry! Just get him home, okay?" She marched off towards the loading dock and started beating up the guys who were giving away candy.

Giles grinned and headed towards the melee. Great.

They all wound up inside the building. It was full of those candy bars, and it smelled like chocolate. Then they saw him - a slender man talking on the telephone. "Ethan Rayne," Buffy said.

Giles stared at Ethan. Willow couldn't read his expression, but he stepped protectively in front of her. She felt a flash of jealousy towards the man who'd been so important to Giles - but it was hard to keep that up, what with being wet and swollen from all the sex they'd been having since afternoon.

"Ripper," he said, with an ironic little smile. He didn't even glance at Willow. She kinda wished he knew about them - even though it was best he didn't, because boy, could that guy make trouble. Ethan fled, and Buffy and Giles hotfooted after, with Willow trying to keep up.

Giles looked way too gleeful when Buffy punched Ethan. Willow couldn't help but feel glad too, but Ripper's violent streak was disconcerting. It would be a big relief when she got grownup Giles back.


After it was all over, and the babies were saved, and Giles was almost eaten by a big snake demon but wasn't, Willow went home with him. She wanted to make sure he was all right, and besides, her parents had eaten a bunch of the candy. She was too afraid to find out what they might be up to.

Back at his place, Giles stripped and got into bed. "Going to fuck you all night."

But when she joined him, he kissed her gently a few times and fell asleep cupping her breast. She watched over him. She hoped he'd be back to normal in the morning, but she loved him, grownup, teenage, whatever he was.

She considered studying some more for the SATs, but he was right - she was prepared. It would be best if she managed to sleep. She did.


When she woke in the morning, he was already awake, watching her with a worried expression, and she knew he was grownup again. Ripper had never looked worried, not for an instant, and she almost wished he could be that kid again, if it could take his cares away.

"How are you?" she asked.

He sighed. "Embarrassed, mostly. That you had to see me like that."

"With me, you were mostly the same. You were still good to me. You loved me."

He put his arms around her. "I do love you, Willow. So much. You're so precious to me. If I did anything to frighten or upset you..."

"Okay, beating up that cop, not your finest hour. But at least you didn't get arrested." He ducked his head, but she took his face in her hands and kissed him. "Giles, you don't need to protect me from that side of you. The things we did...the things we talked about doing...I'd still like to do them with you." She felt suddenly shy, incapable of saying: I liked it when you spanked me, when you bit me...and if you want to fuck my beautiful arse... "I want to do everything with you."

It took a few moments for that to register. His mouth opened slightly. "I don't want to be too rough."

"You weren't. You won't be. I trust you." She grinned. "Although I think you gave me a hickey."

He inspected her neck. "I'm afraid I did, sweetheart. A rather large one."

"I think I like that. I've never had a hickey before." It made her feel rather cheerful. She lay her head on his chest. "But I'm really glad you're your age again. Just think, you were always afraid I'd rather date a teenage boy. Now we know it isn't true."

"Not all teenage boys behave as badly as I did, Willow."

"The point is, I like you best the way you are right now. You're what I want, Mr. Grownup Guy."

He smiled. "You know, I think I believe you."



"This is intolerable," Giles said, and slammed shut the umpteenth book he'd perused. "There's not a word here about Lagos or the glove. We don't have time for this." He got to his feet and tossed the book on the table amid other useless volumes. "Just find out all you can about the demon - its strengths, its weaknesses, its places of origin, and most importantly, what it plans to do with this blasted glove."

Willow just stood there looking at him. Between her eyebrows was a perplexed crinkle he had the urge to kiss. But there was no time for that, either. Mrs. Post was going to report back to the Council on his ineptitude, his substandard library, his supposed American ways.

"Hey, you're not the Watcher of me," Xander said with a slight curl of his lip.

He had no patience for impudent jibes right now. "Then go home. But if you choose to stay, then work." Giles headed into the stacks.

A couple of minutes later, she joined him. "Hey," she murmured, with a little smile. She reached up and touched his jaw with a small, soothing hand.

"I'm sorry if I snapped at you just now. But I need to continue my research. I..." He let his protests trail off beneath her sweet, steady gaze, the delicious upward curve of her lips.

"Because of that mean Mrs. Post? You don't have to prove anything to her, or anyone."

"No?" He was faintly smiling now. How did she do that?

She shook her head, her smile broadening. He touched her cheek, then pulled her close and let out a breath he felt he'd been holding all day. "Better?" she murmured.


"That's good." She let out a mournful little groan against his shoulder. "My eyes are all blurry from research."

"Oh, darling..." He held her at arms' length, then massaged her temples with his fingertips. She closed her eyes and moaned softly. There was nothing for it but to kiss her. Thoughts of Lagos, Mrs. Post, and the blasted glove receded mercifully to a tiny corner of his mind. This was so much better - Willow's mouth warm and wet and open, her hair sleek against his hand.

"Mmm," she said. "Okay, more research."

"Yes," he said, and kissed her again. "More research..."

She grinned up at him. "I mean actual research, Giles. We'll find out about Lagos and the glove yet."

He was grinning too. "You really are the woman of my dreams." The next book they found was the right one.


Xander took a well-deserved break and got a soda from the drink machine. It was late, and he was weary. And pissed off at Giles. What that guy really needed was the number of a qualified surgeon to remove the British flag from his butt.

As he walked back to the library, he thought better of it. That snooty Mrs. Post was giving Giles a rough time - no wonder he was short-tempered. They'd been at this for hours, but sometimes that's the way it worked. The answer could be right around the corner. How cool it would be if he were the one to come up with the scoop on this glove. He downed his drink, then climbed the stairs to the stacks and headed for the occult section.

In this case, however, what was right around the corner was not the answer to the glove mystery, but instead Willow and Giles, sitting on the floor, lost in each other. She was straddling him, and for a moment Xander thought they were actually having sex, the way they moved together, but no, she was wearing pants, so that was impossible.

Then they shifted, and he saw they both were fully clothed. And there was a hefty Giles hardon - something he really didn't need to see. At least now he knew why Willow liked the guy so much.

This was like a bad car wreck - he couldn't turn his eyes away. Only it was a really hot car wreck. He'd never seen kissing that looked so much like sex before. He and Cordelia had never kissed like that. These were the kisses of two people who knew each other in the Biblical sense. But that wasn't all. They were devouring each other, but it was somehow reverent. Not that any of this should have surprised him. He'd seen the way they looked at each other.

What surprised Xander was the jealousy that scalded him. Willow was his oldest friend. He'd thought somehow they would always be the ones who shared the secrets - secrets of the first grade, secrets of their screwed up families, secrets of who they'd always been. But he hadn't wanted this with her, hadn't wanted lips and bodies with her, because she was his best friend. How stupid that seemed now.

Now Giles had all the secrets, his tongue deep in her mouth, his hands cupping her breasts, which were small - but the way Giles touched them, Xander could tell they felt really good. He'd only been watching for a minute, but it felt like hours. He was getting more and more disturbed and yes, turned on, and it was so past time for him to get out of here. But as he backed away, he crashed into some shelves, and they turned.

"Hey guys," he said. He'd startled them, but when they saw who it was, they relaxed, looked hazily up at him. He shifted from foot to foot. "Don't you think you oughta save that for someplace more private? Seems kinda risky."

"This usually is private," Willow said, and blushed. She was already blushing, but she blushed more. She looked sexy in that blue see-through shirt with the sleeveless shirt underneath. He remembered how she hadn't let him kiss her.

They clambered to their feet. Giles was looking at him strangely. The look, if he translated correctly, meant: Stupid git, see what you could've had? But all he said was: "Xander, what do you want?" Rather crossly, as if he'd blundered into their bedroom instead of the stacks - which, apparently, was the same thing as far as they were concerned.

"Uh, I was gonna...do some more research about the glove," he said.

"You needn't bother. I've got what I need."

"I can see that," Xander said.

"No," Willow said with a breathless giggle. "He means, we found the glove info."

"What have you got?" Xander tried not to notice that Giles was still hard.

"The probable location of the Glove of Myhnegon," Giles said. "It's housed in the Von Hauptman family crypt." He touched Willow's shoulder, and she shivered. Jeez, they looked like they wanted to get back to it. This was freaky.

"That's the big one over at the Restfield cemetery," Xander said. "I'll go check it out."

"Yes," Giles said, "by all means, go."

Xander couldn't get out of there fast enough, but the image of the two of them writhing together on the floor wasn't easy to forget.

Until, a little later, it was eclipsed by the sight of Angel sticking his tongue down Buffy's throat.


"We know Angel is alive," Giles said. "Xander saw you with him. It would appear that you've been hiding him and that you lied to us."

Willow didn't think she'd ever been so angry. She tried to push the anger down. It hurt to be so mad at her best friend. "Nobody's here to blame you, Buffy," she said in a small voice. "But this is serious. You need help."

Everyone was talking - Giles, Buffy, Xander, Cordelia, Oz - and Willow could barely concentrate, what with the roaring in her head.

"You must've known it was wrong seeing Angel, or you wouldn't have hidden it from all of us," Giles said.

She stood before them with a stricken look. "I was going to tell you. It was just that, I didn't know why he came back. I wanted to wait." Her voice was hoarse, with an edge of desperation. "And since when are you and Willow the only ones who are allowed to keep secrets?"

Giles was silent, his jaw clenched. He's trying not to lose it, Willow thought. Then she lost it. "Buffy, it's not the same thing. We weren't hurting anyone. Angel killed people, and he tortured Giles. He tortured Giles, for hours, for fun!"

"Willow," Giles murmured, and put his hand on hers.

"How could you not tell us?" Willow cried. "We had a right to know."

Buffy's eyes widened. "But he's better now, I swear. He's the one that found the Glove of Myhnegon."

It was finally sinking in that Angel was back, and that frightened her. What if he hurt Giles again, or somebody else? She clutched Giles's hand. She was breathing really fast. Xander and Buffy were yelling at each other. Now Cordy was getting into the act.

"Giles..." she squeaked.

"That's enough," he said. "Now, Buffy understands our concerns, and her actions, no matter how ill-advised, can be understood. Our priority right now is to retrieve the Glove of Myhnegon and try to destroy it. Now, get back to your classes."

Willow knew he didn't mean her. The two of them went into his office, and he was about to shut the door - but Buffy had followed them.

"I know this is a lot to absorb," she said. "But Angel did find the glove, and that was a good - "

"Be quiet," Giles said. "You should've told me Angel was alive. You didn't. You have no respect for me, or the job I perform."

She felt bad for Buffy. Giles could be pretty stern when he wanted to be. But when she gave Willow a beseeching look, Willow said nothing. If she spoke, she was going to cry. Buffy looked like she wanted to say something, then seemed to give up. She turned and left, shutting the door behind her.

Willow threw her arms around him. "This is bad, Giles. We can't leave things like this. I can't."

He stroked her hair. "I know."


Buffy approached her at the lockers. "So on a scale of one to a million, how much are you hating me right now?" Willow tried to smile.

"Zero. You were scared, you kept a secret." She zipped her backpack closed. "The thing is, Buffy, I hate that I have to keep secrets. I'll be so glad when everything's out in the open. He and I...we've been together a whole year. That's a whole lotta lying. It feels lousy to have to lie - especially to lie to your friends. So I figure you must've felt lousy too." She slammed her locker shut. She felt kinda shaky, but it was a relief to try to work things out with her.

Buffy seemed to relax a bit, too. "You're right. I did feel lousy." She smiled slightly. "You know I care about Giles too, right? I want him to be safe. I want all of us to be safe."

"I know, Buffy." But the thought nagged in the back of her mind (or maybe not so far back) that Buffy could still be deluded where Angel was concerned.


"Good old Sunnydale library," Xander said. "Fully equipped with reference books, file cards, and weapons."

"Beauty," Faith said.

Xander had been pissed off all evening, and playing pool hadn't calmed him down. He'd viewed enough illicit smoochies to last him a lifetime, without even taking into account the fact he'd seen Buffy making out with a vicious killer.

So maybe he shouldn't have told Faith that Angel was alive. So maybe they'd egged each other on. "I call crossbow," he said.

"You got it." All the while a little voice in his head kept telling him: slow down, think this through. Maybe he was a little buzzed, being alone with another gorgeous Slayer, all dark lipstick and dark hair, breasts swelling beneath her red top.

Then he heard a faint moan, and for just an instant he thought: great, more illicit smoochies. But it wasn't that kind of moan. They found Giles unconscious on the floor of his office. "Giles, can you hear me?" No response. "What the hell happened?"

"Gee, let me guess," Faith said.

"Stop. Just think a minute. Oh god, Willow's gonna wig."

"Willow? Don't you mean Buffy?"

Panic was short-circuiting the wires in his head. He reached for the phone, dialed. "Right, Buffy. I meant Buffy. Not Willow."

Faith's hands were on her hips. "Right. I get the picture. Secrets all around, right?"

He couldn't stop to think about this, that he'd told Faith something she wasn't supposed to know. Willow was gonna kill him. Hell, Giles was gonna kill him - if he lived. "Yeah, I have a medical emergency. Sunnydale High."

"Screw this waiting crap," Faith said. "Point is, Buffy's ex-meat did this." Just what he needed, another obstinate Slayer in his life.

"It's not Angel's style." But he couldn't convince her, and she split. He waited, holding Giles's head. "Hold on, Giles," he said. "You gotta be okay. Willow loves you so much. Just hold on."


Willow and Buffy were jubilant when they walked into the library. Buffy had slain that Lagos demon in fine style, and they were feeling a lot more best friendy again.

"Giles is gonna be psyched that we showed up stuffy Mrs. Post," Buffy said.

Then they saw Giles on a gurney. Paramedics. Xander. "Causasian male, mid-forties," a paramedic said into her radio. "Blunt object head trauma..."

Willow ran to him. "Giles, what happened?"

"No time for this," the paramedic said. They started to wheel him away.

"Wait," Giles whispered. "Willow...dearest...you and Buffy..."

Buffy was at his side too. "What happened, Giles?"

"You must destroy the glove...use living flame..."

Willow knew she could figure out how to do that, but right now she didn't care. "I'm coming with you."

"You want him to live?" the paramedic asked. "Get out of the way."

"I'm coming with him!"

"Let's go."

In the ambulance, tears streamed down her face. "You're gonna be okay," she kept saying. "Sweetie, you're gonna be okay."

He looked up at her. "Darling...don't cry. Takes...more than...a bump on the head..." He lapsed into unconsciousness again. She kept thinking, we've been together a year, just a year. It's not enough.

She was full of pure panic. And something else - rage. Whoever did this (Angel, or whoever it was) was going to pay. She'd never felt such hatred before. But then he opened his eyes again, and gazed up into her face, and all that bad feeling just dissolved.

"I love you," she said, not caring whether the paramedic heard. Heck, the paramedic probably thought she was his daughter or something. She didn't care about that either.


"A little bump on the head? Have you any idea how many times I've been knocked unconscious?" He was in a hospital bed, and she held his hand. He had a concussion, a headache, and a bandage on his head, but the doctor said he was out of danger.

"You need a safer line of work, Mister."

"No one ever told me being a librarian was high-risk."

She giggled. "You know what I mean." She leaned over and kissed him softly. He reached up and drew her down for a longer kiss. "You must be feeling a lot better, sweetie."

"I'd feel better still if you'd get in this bed with me."

"That wouldn't exactly be stealthy of us."

"Sod stealth." He pulled her down again and kissed her.

"You're tempting me - but you're still weak. I don't want to kill you with pleasure."

He raised his eyebrows. "You're not making it sound less appealing."

"Well, we don't want the nurses walking in on us. I promise, when you're out of the hospital and not all concussed, I'll make it up to you."

Buffy had called and told her what had happened with Mrs. Post and the glove.

"I'm sorry I didn't do the living flame thing, Giles. I just couldn't think straight with you lying there all hurt. I needed to be with you."

"I understand. I'm glad you were with me."

She couldn't stop smiling at him. He was so beautiful, and he wasn't going away, and they would have a future together. He was pale and battered, but he still looked at her as if her presence made everything all right.

"Anyway, Angel already made some living flame, and Buffy said they destroyed the glove after Mrs. Post got burned up. I guess Angel's a good guy after all. At least right now, he is. It's a weird situation."

He nodded. "We'll have to see how that unfolds."

"Here we thought Angel was the one to worry about, when Mrs. Post was the bad guy. If she hadn't had a flamey death, I would've killed her myself."

His eyes narrowed. "Please don't say that."

"Why? If someone hurt me the way she hurt you, wouldn't you want to - "

"Yes, of course. I simply want better for you than that."

"Is this about the other Willow? I can't live my life trying to avoid whatever it is she did, especially since we don't even know what that was."

He grimaced slightly.

"Oh god - you're all concussed and I'm giving you a hard time. Maybe I'm a terrible person, Giles."

"You're the finest person I know." His green eyes on her were so loving, so unflinching.

"That's a lot to live up to. Sometimes I'm afraid I'll do something wrong, and you won't think I'm so great."

With a pained expression, he sat up a bit straighter in the bed. Then he turned that remarkable gaze on her again, clear and steadfast. "Willow, dearest - you know I've done terrible things, and you still love me. I would love you no matter what you did. I don't want you to have to carry the kind of burdens I have. It's not for me, love, it's for you."

She touched his face. "You're the one who's been hurt, and you're taking care of me."

"It gives me pleasure," he said with a smile.

"Oh, I love you..." She loved him so much, it hurt. Sometimes she was awed by his love for her. She vowed to be worthy of it.


"This is a nightmare," Willow said, clutching her SAT results. "My world is spinning." She wondered if her wild evening of police car sex with Giles the night before the SATs had resulted in these less than stellar scores.

"It's not that bad, Willow, really," Xander said as they walked across the lawn. Like every morning when she approached the high school building, her heart had a special little lilt, a Giles-lilt. It never went away, that excitement when she was going to see him. But today it was unfortunately dampened.

"740? Verbal?" she sputtered. "I'm...pathetic! Illiterate! I'm Cletus the slack-jawed yokel."

He waved his own SAT results. "And the fact that your 740 verbal closely resembles my combined scores in no way compromises your position as the village idiot."

They sat together on a bench - although Willow was eager to get to the library. But she didn't want to appear rude and ditch Xander. Besides, she wasn't done moping.

"Hey," he said, "here's something that'll make you feel better. I talked to Faith. And you know, swore her to secrecy about the stuff I let slip when Mrs. Post went postal on Giles."

She had to stop and take a deep breath. It still frightened her to remember Giles in that ambulance, barely able to stay conscious. It was definitely time to try that protection spell.

"That's...that's good. Did you call her?" Willow had been pretty cranky when Xander told her what he'd accidentally said to Faith about her and Giles. At first she'd thought maybe Buffy could talk to Faith, ask her to keep quiet - but Faith wasn't too thrilled with Buffy at the moment, what with Buffy beating her up during the whole Mrs. Post fiasco. And Willow didn't know how to talk to Faith, didn't know if she trusted her.

"Went by her place. She lives in this really crappy motel." Suddenly Xander looked nervous too.

"And you explained to her?"

"Yep. It's handled." He looked at his shoes.

"What did she say? She's not going to tell on us, is she?"

Xander gave a strange laugh. "Come on, who would she tell?"

"Xander - did she say she'd keep quiet?"

He gave her a sidelong look. "Put it this way. She gets that some secrets need to be...well, secret." He looked skittish, as if he wanted to jump up and dash across the lawn, knocking over book-carrying students along the way. What was up with him? Maybe the idea of her and Giles still made him uncomfortable. That would make sense, since he'd just caught them making out in the stacks and all. But she wished he'd be okay with them already.

Cordelia was walking towards them, and if anything, Xander looked even more nervous. "You guys get your scores?" she asked, and he leapt to his feet and jogged towards her.

Oh well, Willow thought - at least Faith was "handled." Whatever that meant.


"Buffy kicked ass on the SATs," she told Giles later that morning, when they were sitting alone at the library table. "She got 1430!"

"It's quite remarkable," he said.

She started to slump a little, thinking of her own scores. He smiled and touched her hand.

"Dearest, you did wonderfully. You're going to have a first-rate education. Not that that was ever in question."

"Not that it'll be difficult to get into UC Sunnydale."

He peered at her, his smile fading. "What are you talking about?"

"That's where I'm going, right? You'll be in Sunnydale, being Buffy's Watcher, so that's where I'll be too."

He shook his head. "What about Oxford and Cambridge? You'd talked of applying there. What about Harvard and Yale and..."

All of a sudden she felt awful, panicky, at the thought of being apart from him. "I'm not leaving you, Giles."

"You've already given up so much to be with me. I'm not going to allow you to give up your education as well."

"You're not going to allow me? You're my lover, not my Watcher." She suddenly realized she'd practically shouted it to the rooftops. "And yes, I said that a little too loudly, and it's a wonder everyone in this whole town doesn't know about us by now, but my position still stands."

He smiled again, leaned over and gave her a quick kiss. "And as your lover, I only want you to have the best of everything."

"I will if I'm with you. And you give up things for me, you know. You're not going to that retreat, for example, and I know you wanted to."

He took off his glasses and set them on the table with a sigh. "I think of Breakers Woods as our place. We'll go again together, sometime soon. And I hardly think missing a retreat is the same thing as passing up the best universities."

"But when I turn eighteen, I want to spend more time with you, not go off to school and - what? Have a long-distance relationship? It's not like you can come with me, what with the Hellmouth and all, right?"

"What with Buffy's excellent SAT scores, she may want to go away to school as well. Possibly Faith could take over here for awhile, and the Council might appoint another Watcher for her."

"Hopefully one who's not all evil this time." She gave a little shiver. She made another mental note: protection spell. But then what he'd said sank in. "You're saying if I went away to school, you might be able to come with me?" The idea thrilled her. She and Giles, really together, and she at some amazing university. She was grinning from ear to ear.

He chuckled. "We don't know all the facts yet. But we'll figure it out."

"Promise? We'll be together?"

"Of course we will, dearest."

She gave a giddy laugh. "In that case, I'm applying to Oxford, and Cambridge, and Harvard, and Yale, and MIT, and..."


"I need a curse," Spike told the shopkeeper. "Something nasty. Boils. I wanna give him boils all over his face. You know, dripping pustules. Let's really go for the gusto here."

"I'm hearing a lot of negative energy, and I bet - "

"Leprosy! All right, a spell that makes his parts fall off. That sounds proper." Would serve Angel right for poisoning Dru's mind against him.

"We don't carry leprosy," she said, just as the front door jingled, and she went to help another customer, a red-haired girl. Spike was tempted to storm off and drink some more - a lot more. But maybe he could drain these two first.

"I need some supplies for a spell," the girl said. "It's for my boyfriend." Then he recognized her. One of the Slayer's pals. Looking rather fetching in a fuzzy pink sweater with lilac underneath.

"A love spell," the shopkeeper said. "Something to make him yours forever and ever?"

The girl smiled. "I don't need think I need magic for that."

Don't be so sure, sweetheart, he thought. You can be with someone a hundred years, and you think it'll last, and then she rips your heart out - unfortunately only metaphorically.

"He's in a risky line of work, and he got hurt recently. I wanna do a protection spell for him."

As the woman gathered roots and herbs for the girl, Spike remembered how Angelus had tortured Giles, and how the Watcher had gone on and on about this girl, Willow. Later, when Spike got Dru out of Sunnydale, once she finished being furious at him (he thought), she told him about her little game with the Watcher, what she'd seen in his head. "He loves the powerful little girl."

"Who, the Slayer?" he'd asked. "Thought he loved the other one, that Willow he kept nattering on about."

"That's right, the powerful little girl. She's more powerful than the Slayer."


As Spike watched the girl pay for her magical supplies, it all made sense. She was a witch. And if she were that powerful, maybe...

After she left, Spike drained the shopkeeper. He felt better already. Dru might have left him, but she was still helping him with her visions. This powerful little girl would help him get Dru back.


Giles was going through some boxes of new acquisitions - musty old mystical texts, mostly. It was one of his favorite tasks, and there were some excellent volumes. Even Mrs. Post wouldn't have looked down her nose at these. Amazing, that even after the woman nearly killed him, he should still think of her insults.

Much as he enjoyed the task at hand, he wondered what was keeping Willow. He'd thought she might like to look through the new books with him, but after school, she'd come into the library and told him she was going to the magic shop, and that afterwards she'd be in the science lab. "I'll come get you when I'm finished," she'd said. They were to spend the evening together, and he found he was impatient for her to come through the library doors again.

Besides which, it occurred to him that she hadn't told him what spell she was working on. He'd been a bit distracted by the books, and perhaps she'd taken advantage of that. He trusted her - but sometimes he worried. He knew how easy it was to be led astray by the dark arts, as witness Mrs. Post, not to mention his own bad example as a youth.

The next thing he knew, he was walking down the hall and opening the door to the science room.

Willow was throwing herbs into a bubbling beaker. "Giles, I told you I was gonna come get you when I was done. I'm kinda in the middle of things." The room smelled pungent.

He scrutinized the bags of herbs and roots on the counter. "What are you conjuring, sweetheart?"

"Oh...it's nothing." She gazed worriedly at her concoction.

"Why don't you want me to know what it is?"

She tossed a few more herbs into the mixture and distractedly said: "It's not because it's dangerous or advanced or anything..."

"Then what?"

She let out an exasperated sigh and turned off the Bunsen burner. She drew herself up indignantly. "I was making you a protection spell, but since you know about it, it's not gonna work."

Now he felt decidedly stupid - yet pleased. "It was for me?"

"Yes...fat lot of good it'll do now."

"Sorry." He looked at the ruined potion, then back at her. "That was very sweet of you."

"Giles, you need to trust me on this stuff, and not be all overprotective."

"You're making me a protection spell, Willow - who's being overprotective?"

"Oh. Good point. I guess we're both overprotective sometimes." She grinned up at him. "Wanna kiss and make up?"

"We weren't really fighting, but I'll take any excuse." He took her in his arms. Thank god she seemed unable to get terribly angry with him, even when he behaved foolishly. She kissed him so sweetly, her arms around his neck. He caressed the small of her back through her soft pink sweater. They were still kissing when a sound - a sob? - startled them apart. An unfortunately familiar figure stood before them.

"Isn't that sweet," Spike said. Remarkably, he had tears in his eyes.

"Oh, this isn't good," Willow said.

"Spike," Giles said, and realized he had neither stakes, crosses, nor holy water on his person. In the library, yes, but not here. Likely, neither did Willow. She grabbed his hand and held on tight.

"I will say this, the two of you are loyal." He gave a shaky laugh and staggered a bit. Spike was...drunk? "You know, he couldn't stop talking about you the whole time Angelus was torturing him. Worrying about your safety and all. And here you are, still together, unlike...some..." His voice shook. "God, I'm so unhappy!" He slumped against one of the tables and started to cry.

Willow sent Giles an incredulous glance. At this rate, they might be able to slip past him, he was so wrapped up in his grief.

"How could she leave me?" Spike wept. "It's all Angelus's fault."

"There, there," Willow said.

Giles shot her a look. "Willow!"

"I can't help it - I feel sorry for him. I know how I'd feel if you ever left me."

"You know that's never going to happen."

Spike looked abjectly at them. "Rub it in, why don't you?" He stalked closer. "I need to borrow the little girl. She's gonna do a love spell for me."

Giles stepped in front of her. "That's never going to happen."

"I'll bring her back safe and sound when the spell works. Don't forget, you owe me. I helped to save your life, you know."

"So I'm supposed to put Willow in harm's way? You think that's a fair exchange?" He was braced for Spike's attack - but instead, Spike drooped visibly.

"I just want Drusilla to love me again. Surely you can understand that. The witch understands."

"I'm not really a witch," Willow ventured. "Not yet."

"But Dru said...never mind. Maybe that's yet to come. She's a wonder that way, my Dru. God, Dru..."

He really was pathetic. Love had laid him low. Giles almost felt sorry for him as well - even though his lost love was that insane Drusilla, who'd tricked Giles with a mirage of Willow after Angel tortured him. Still, he remembered how he'd felt when Willow was under that Xander-loving spell. He'd gotten drunk too. But just as Giles was beginning to feel like he ought to offer the fellow some Scotch, Spike's demon face emerged, reminding Giles that he wasn't a fellow at all.

"You can make her mine again!" Spike roared, and lunged at them. To Giles's surprise, Willow had a flask of holy water in her hand, and she pretty well doused the hapless vampire. Spike let out a piteous yowl and staggered back.

Giles hefted a microscope off the table. He poised to swing it if Spike came closer. "Now get the hell out of here," he muttered, "or we're going to kill you right now." It was something of a bluff, but in Spike's weakened state, it might prove effective.

His face reverted to human form. "You're both so lucky, it chokes me to look at you."

"Go," Giles said.

Spike smiled slightly. "You love her? Try to hold on to her." He turned and was gone.

"Oh wow," Willow said. Now that Spike had gone, she shook like a leaf, and he put his arms around her. "I was so scared."

"Darling, you saved us both. But do you ordinarily carry holy water with you at school?"

She shook her head. "I was tinkering with the protection spell. I thought I'd toss in some holy water to add a little anti-vampire kick to it."

"Very clever."

"And see, you could've really used that protection spell, Giles." She hugged him tightly.

"I think you'll find there's another variety of the spell, in which the subject may know about it without breaking it."

"Ooh, really? I'll look it up!" But she just squeezed him tighter and pressed her face into his shoulder.

"Dearest, we'd better call Buffy to let her know Spike's in town. And then, let's go home."

She raised her face, and he kissed her. Make no mistake, he was a lucky man - luckier than most.


"Oh, great," Buffy said when Giles told her Spike was back in town. "Just what I need." But no confrontation ever occurred. Apparently Spike had left town.

"I wonder if he'll get Drusilla back?" Willow asked one night when they lay in each other's arms in his bed.

"I imagine he'll try," he murmured, stroking her hair.

"I do feel bad for him, Giles. Even though he's all 'grrr' and all."

"I know." Oddly enough, Giles hoped Spike would find what he was looking for.



When Giles opened the door, she stood there wearing a red dress he'd never seen on her. It was rather more low-cut than she usually wore, and made of a thin velvety material. "Hi, sweetie." Her smile made her glow.

"Come in, darling. Willow, you look so lovely." But when he'd closed the door and moved towards her, she said, "Wait, wait!" She rummaged around in her backpack and pulled out a sprig of mistletoe. She stood on tiptoe, tried to hold the sprig high above their heads.

How he loved her. He pulled her to him and kissed her.

Soon they were ensconced on the couch, the mistletoe forgotten on the living room table. They would make love, assuredly they would, but it was luxurious to kiss slowly and at length, unhurried. The time they had alone together - her parents out of town - stretched before them like the best Christmas present imaginable.

It had been a rather trying holiday season, ever since Angel had appeared on his doorstep, asking him of all people for help. He and Willow had spent rather a lot of their vacation in the library with Buffy and Xander, researching Angel's predicament. Buffy insisted she and Angel were only friends, but it was difficult not to dwell on the fact that the safety of all of them hinged on Buffy not giving in to her feelings for her former lover. It disquieted him more than he wanted to admit, and it brought back memories of his torture at Angel's hands.

Still, when he'd looked up from the volume he was perusing at his desk, turned and saw Willow asleep in the other chair, book in her lap, such tenderness filled him, there was no room left for fear. He'd watched her sleep, and wondered anew at such grace, at what they shared.

And now, as they kissed on the couch, she massaged the back of his head with her fingertips, making him shiver. No one could touch him the way she did, her hands gentle and unerring. She made sweet little sighing sounds as they kissed, as he caressed her legs. "I love you," he whispered, drawing her closer.

She smiled softly into his eyes. "I love you, Giles." She kissed him again, her tongue slipping into his mouth.

But just as he slid his hand between her legs, making her gasp, there was a knock at the door. An urgent knock - was there any other kind these days?

Neither of them pulled away immediately. Then they did, regretfully, breathing hard. He got up and opened the door. It was Buffy. "Giles, we have to do something. Soon. Now."

"I'm still not sure what," he said.

She barged right past him. Then she saw Willow, smoothing down her skirt and trying to look calm, cool and collected though her face had a tell-tale blush to it. Buffy stopped short. "Sorry, guys...you're celebrating Christmas Eve together. Or, I mean...Hanukkah Eve?" She gave Willow a rueful smile. "You look nice, by the way. That's a pretty dress."

Willow grinned then. "Thanks." He could tell she was a little irked they'd been interrupted, but she hid it well. "So what's going on with Angel?"

"He slipping, Will. I think we're losing him."

So they resumed their research, until something he read aloud about the First's Harbingers caused Buffy to speculate that they might be found at a local Christmas tree lot, and she made for the door.

"Be careful," he told her.

"Call and let us know you're okay, Buff."

"I will!"

Now Giles was thoroughly tense. He smiled faintly at Willow. "You must be hungry. I'll make us some supper."

"In a minute. Come here." He sat beside her on the couch, and she began to knead his shoulders. "I know how rough this is for you, Giles." Her fingers dug in deeper, and he groaned. "It's scary for me too. It's scary to think that Angel might..."

"Shh. That feels so good, Willow."

He felt her lips against his ear. "Everything's gonna be okay," she whispered. Then her wet mouth was on his neck. He turned around, seized her, kissed her hard.

They made love sitting on the couch, she on his lap. She still wore her pretty red dress, and she kissed him deeply and ground against him. After she cried out and collapsed onto him, he fucked her with quick, hard thrusts and followed her over.

Then he did make supper, and they attempted more research on the First Evil, but there wasn't much to be found. He was still on edge about Buffy, out there somewhere, trying to battle the absolute evil on behalf of Angel.

Neither of them wanted to go to bed before they'd heard from her, though it was quite late. They were drowsing in each other's arms on the sofa, when he gave a start and woke fully. His glasses were precariously perched on the tip of his nose, and he righted them. He got up to get a drink of water - but on his way to the kitchen, he looked out the window and saw white flakes drifting down. "Good Lord."

"Wha...?" He turned to see Willow lifting her head with apparent effort. "What is it, Giles?"

He looked out the window again, as if it had been a dream. "It's snowing."

"Really?" She got up and joined him at the window. "Let's go see!" She was positively gleeful.

They went outside and stood there as the flakes came down. Willow gave a shiver, and he put his arms around her. "Real snow and everything," she said. "I've never seen real snow before. This is the best Hanukkah ever!"

He chuckled and kissed the top of her head.

"Just think, Giles...maybe next Christmas we'll live someplace where it snows in the winter. I mean, where it normally does. Maybe I'll be going to school somewhere with regular seasons, and you'll be with me." She held onto him harder then, as if seeking reassurance.

"I'll be with you," he whispered against her hair. "It doesn't much matter to me where we live, so long as we're together."


When she woke later that morning in Giles's bed, Willow felt excited and happy - exactly like a kid on Christmas morning, even though she wasn't supposed to get the Christmas spirit. But here she was, with the man she loved asleep beside her, and she couldn't wait to give him his presents, and it had even snowed and everything. She snuggled into his side and breathed in his scent, all sleep-warmed and comforting. Then he stirred, opened his eyes, and smiled. He always did that, whenever they spent the night together. When he opened his eyes and saw her, he smiled so joyfully, as if he couldn't believe his good fortune to find her there.

"Merry Christmas," she said, and leaned over to kiss his mouth.

"Happy Christmas, Willow. And Happy Hanukkah too, of course."

She bounced a little. "Let's open presents!"

"I'd rather stay in bed awhile. We were up so late..." Buffy had phoned sometime after the snow started, to let them know she and Angel were okay and that the snow was because of him somehow.

"Well, I guess we could wait a bit," Willow said. "This is awfully comfy..." So they lazed in bed awhile, until she could wait no longer. Finally they sat cross-legged on the bed, she in her PJs, he in a robe, with the gifts - two small packages from her, and one large heavy one from him.

Giles unwrapped one of the small gifts, and opened the box. "Suspenders?" They were moss green.

"Do you like them? I admit it's a kinda selfish gift on my part - you look so gorgeous and sexy wearing suspenders."

He smiled and kissed her. "In that case, I like them very much, and will wear them often." The other package contained a small, sweet-smelling bundle. "I take it this is my protection spell?" He lifted it to his nose. "But it smells much more pleasant than protection spells usually do."

"I added lavender. Makes it less smelly."

"Thank you, darling." He kissed her again, and then they started to get a little sidetracked. He pulled away. "You haven't opened your present yet."

She fought the urge to make a joke about unwrapping him, and began to open her gift. When she saw the dark blue box containing two thick volumes, her eyes widened. "Giles! The Oxford English Dictionary? You gave me the Shorter OED!" She admired the two books nestled in their case, and opened the little drawer at the top that held a magnifying glass. "Giles, I love it." She flung her arms around his neck and hugged him, then kissed him resoundingly.

She pulled one of the books from the case and took out the magnifying glass. "I know what I want to look up first." She flipped through the book, and gave a little jump when she found the word: "Watcher!" She perused the definitions with the aid of the magnifying glass. "'One who watches or keeps watch.' It doesn't mention Slayers anywhere."

"It's rather a good thing one cannot simply open up the dictionary and read about the Council of Watchers," he observed.

"Oh, here's another definition: 'One who keeps awake at night.'" She grinned at him. "Well, that's true enough." She scooted back on the bed, sat up against headboard and pillows, and read aloud: "'Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken.' That's Keats." Delighted with her gift, she recited more quotations that used the word watcher.

Giles stretched out beside her on the bed. He began to kiss her neck. She turned and leaned towards him - but he smiled slightly and shook his head. "Keep reading."

A bit puzzled, she turned back to the book and found her place. Her heart pounding, she read to him: "'She kneel'd, A faded watcher through the weary night...In deep perpetual prayer for him she loved...'" While she read, he kissed her neck, licked it and sucked on it. She gave a sigh and closed her eyes. He stopped.

"No, dearest," he said, softly but precisely. "Keep reading."

She sent him a dubious glance. He was smiling.

"You're being very silly, Giles, but okay..." She started reading again. This time his hand closed over a pajama-covered breast, his fingers playing with her nipple. Her voice grew breathy as she read quotes by Dickens and H.G. Wells. She was no longer sure if the words made any sense, only that she had to keep reading so he wouldn't stop. But when his other hand stole between her legs, she moaned and fell silent.

He took his hands away. She let out an outraged groan and glared at him. All the blood in her body was surging into her crotch - how could she read?

"Keep reading."

So she did. He moved down the bed, pulled off her gray pajama bottoms, and began to kiss and lick her. She finished the watcher quotes, and started in on the definition of watchet: "'A light blue color...cloth or garments of this color...'" Her eyes threatened to unfocus, and her reading was full of gasps and sighs. Her hips were moving now, and she wanted so much to let go of the heavy book and the magnifying glass so she could grab his head and push it into her, fuck his mouth. She squirmed and wriggled beneath his tongue, his fingers. Her voice kept blathering on about the watchet, the light blue color, the cloth or whatever the heck it was, it didn't matter so long as he never stopped, never stopped...

Her voice trailed off into a long, loud moan as she came hard against his mouth, clenching around his fingers, as she let the book and magnifying glass drop.

Then he was tearing off his robe and boxers, and lifting her pajama top over her head, and then he was on her, in her. She ran her hands over his sleek, hot back as he took her hard and fast, his cock deep inside her.

Afterwards they rested together. "You know, someday I'm going to do that to you," she murmured against his chest. "Maybe I'll make you translate Sumerian while I'm kissing and licking you, and I'll stop every time you stop talking. See how you like it."

His chuckle rumbled against her ear. "Is that a promise?"

They stayed in bed a long time, making love and talking and sleeping. Well into the afternoon, Willow woke up and began to feel hungry, but she didn't want to wake Giles - he looked so peaceful, so happy. It filled her up with love to look at him. Slowly, so as not to wake him, she leaned down and found her Christmas present on the floor. She opened the other volume of the OED and silently read the definitions of love.



"Can you believe this crowd?" Buffy asked. They were at City Hall, amid possibly the entire population of Sunnydale. "This is great. Maybe we could all go patrolling together later." Some of the concerned citizens carried candles, as well as signs with the slogan "NEVER AGAIN!" below a photograph of the murdered children.

"At least your mom's making an effort," Willow said. "My mom's probably..." Her eyes widened. "Standing right in front of me right this second."

A jolt of adrenaline went through Giles as the rather plain woman made for them. Amazingly enough, this was the first time since he and Willow had become lovers that he'd come face to face with Sheila Rosenberg, the woman he regarded as his future mother-in-law, despite the fact he was probably older than her.

"Willow, I didn't know you were going to be here."

"Hi," Buffy said.

"Oh, hi Bunny."

Willow sent Giles the most imperceptible of glances. It said: do you see what I have to deal with? Giles wished he could put his arms around her, tell her she deserved so much better.

"Mom, what are you doing here?"

"I read about it in the paper, and what with your dad out of town..." Her eyes fastened on her daughter. "Willow, you cut off your hair! That's a new look."

"Yeah, it's just a sudden whim I had...in August."

September, Giles thought. She cut her hair in September, just before school started, and they'd spent the afternoon in bed. His face flushed. Yes, Mrs. Rosenberg, I'm the school librarian who deflowered your daughter.

Just then, Joyce Summers joined them, and she and Sheila greeted each other cordially. Then Sheila turned to him. "There's a rumor going around, Mr. Giles."

For a few horrified moments, Giles thought the jig was up. "Rumor, about...?" He looked at Willow, who fixed wide eyes on him. No, it couldn't be that, could it? "About what?"

"About witches. People calling themselves witches are responsible for this brutal crime."

Ah - she only wanted to talk about murder and mayhem. That was a relief. "Indeed," he said. "How strange."

Willow gave a laugh. "Yes! Strange! Witches!" She made a blustery little "Pfft!" sound with her lips. He couldn't help but smile.

"Well, actually, not that strange," Sheila said. "I recently co-authored a paper about the rise of mysticism among adolescents, and I was shocked at the statistical..." Clearly Willow did not take after her mother. Where Willow glowed, full of life, her mother was cold and humorless, her mouth a thin line.

Luckily the meeting began, cutting off her pretentious babble. The way she treated Willow made him so angry. If he were Willow's parent - well, that was a most disturbing thought, and he let it drop.

The Mayor began his speech, but Giles was distracted by his beloved's proximity. She stood in front of him and slightly to the side - so close he could smell her hair, with its note of sweetness, as well as the slightly herbal scent that often clung to her now, what with her practice of witchcraft. She wore a very short skirt, and it was torture to be this close and unable to touch her. He was getting an erection, as if his prick were trying to reach out to her.

Her mother stood on the other side of Giles, though not as close as Willow. Yes, Mrs. Rosenberg, he thought, I'm the man who buggered your underage daughter a couple of nights ago. Don't worry - she quite enjoyed it. It had been the first time they'd tried it, and at first she had been tense and nervous - but she insisted she wanted it. When they got down to it, she face down on the bed, he sliding in and out of her beautiful arse, his fingers rubbing her clit, she'd groaned so loudly that he'd become alarmed and stopped moving. "Am I hurting you?"

She'd pushed her arse up. "No...god...please don't stop!" He'd resumed his slow rocking into her, his fingers touching her, and she'd writhed under him and moaned gutturally. "Giles...it's so good," she'd gasped, as if she couldn't believe anything could feel so wonderful.

He'd leaned forward and kissed her silken shoulder. "Love you so," he'd breathed.

After her clearly shattering orgasm, and his, she'd nestled in his arms and gazed at him in amazement, and told him how much she loved him, and he'd marveled at how it was always new between them, how there would always be new ways to love each other.

Oh, wonderful. Now he had a sizeable erection. Luckily everyone was focused on the Mayor, and the people in front of him blocked a view of his bulging trousers. Willow, though, glanced back at him, and her eyes flicked downward. She sent him an enticing smile that was half youthful pride at arousing him, half sultry desire, as if she wanted to unzip him right there - and his prick strained against his pants. He glanced over at Sheila, obliviously watching the Mayor. He began to wonder how long this meeting would go on, and if Sheila would take Willow home afterwards, or if he could still take her back to his place as they'd planned.

Just then Joyce took the podium, and things took a disturbing turn. "This isn't our town anymore," she said. "It belongs to the monsters and the witches and the Slayers." Giles stopped thinking (for a little while) about when he'd be able to get his beautiful lover alone.


"I can't believe Buffy's mom said that," Willow said, running her nails lightly over his thigh.

"Yes, it was quite a bombshell." He tried to focus on the road. "And did you wear that short skirt to drive me insane?"

She giggled. "Did it work?"

"You know it did." He stopped at a red light and caressed her legs. "Wanted to lift your skirt and fuck you right there in front of everyone."

Her mouth made an astonished O. "In front of my mother and the Mayor?" She grinned.

"Your mother wouldn't have noticed."

"Good point," she said a bit wistfully. "But sex with an underage girl in front of the Mayor? Probably not the best way to avoid getting arrested."

"True." The light turned green.

"And Buffy would've been scarred for life."

He laughed. "I love you. I want everyone to know that."

"I feel the same way, Giles."


When they were spent and sweaty in his bed, they were more able to concentrate on what had happened at City Hall. "That's weird what my mom said about witches. You don't think witches killed those children, do you?"

"I don't know, sweetheart. The symbol Buffy saw on the children's hands...my research keeps bringing me back to European Wiccan covens."

"That doesn't make any sense. The symbol's harmless - the kind of thing you use for a protection spell, not to hurt people. But hey, that reminds me. There's something I've been meaning to tell you."

A worried line appeared between her brows, and he brought his face close to hers, looked into her enormous eyes. "That sounds ominous."

"It's really not." She smiled a little and kissed him. "It's just that Amy asked me if I wanted to hang out with her and Michael - to do some spells. She knows I'm interested in that sort of thing."

"What did you tell her?"

"That I'm doing an independent study where witchcraft is concerned."

"I'm relieved to hear it." He rolled onto his back and hugged her to him.

"I knew you would be. But I think she was insulted, or maybe she thought I didn't want to share my spells with her. I felt kinda bad. Besides, she's way more advanced than me. I could learn from her. But I don't trust her, since she - or that older Amy - teamed up with Ethan Rayne and all."

"Let's not forget the love spell she did that made you fall in love with Xander."

She cupped the side of his face, smiled softly up at him. "Oh, sweetie, you're not still all traumatized about that, are you? The point is, I may not be able to trust her - but I feel like I owe her in some way. And even Ethan Rayne. Even though they didn't have good intentions. Because of what they did, we're together now."

"Be that as it may...hers is not the kind of magic you want to learn, advanced though she may be." He stroked her hair, and silently thanked them, that other Ethan and Amy who had inadvertently changed his life so much for the better.

When he drove her home, he felt especially wretched to leave her at that house, where Sheila Rosenberg didn't appreciate her, didn't see what a miraculous young woman she was. "I love you," he told her again and again in the car when he parked a block away from her home. "You deserve so much, Willow." He kissed her.

She smiled. "I have so much. I have you."


It had not been a good day. First the police had confiscated the magic stuff she had in her locker, and she got sent to Snyder's office. When she got out, Giles was beside himself - the cops had taken all his books on the occult.

Now she was home, and her mom gingerly picked up a bag of hellebore and peered at it, as she told Willow what a typical adolescent she was. Maybe parental neglect was better after all.

"I'm not an age group. I'm me. Willow group."

"Oh, honey..." Her mom put down the bag of herbs and sat next to her on the couch. "I understand."

"No, you don't. Mom, this may be hard for you to accept, but I can do stuff. Nothing bad or dangerous, but I can do spells."

Her mother told her she was delusional, and actually grounded her. Damn, and she'd wanted to go visit Giles tonight. She should've gone straight to his place after school. He saw her for who she was. He loved and respected her. And she had friends who loved and respected her. Why should it matter if her mom didn't? But damn, why didn't she?

"You're upset, I hear you..." her mother said.

Willow leapt to her feet. "No, Ma, hear this! I'm a rebel. I'm having a rebellion!"

"Willow, honey, you don't need to act out like this to prove your specialness."

"Mom, I'm not acting out. I'm a witch! I can make pencils float. And I can summon the four elements. Okay, two, but four soon." Her mother kept looking at her with that bland, impassive gaze. Apparently she didn't take anything Willow said seriously. Suddenly what she wanted most was to get a rise out of her. "And I'm dating an older man!"

"Oh, Willow."

Great, that was the one thing she really seemed to hear. She imagined telling Giles: Guess what? You've been fired/deported/arrested, all because I had to prove something to my mother. This was very bad. "Satan!" she squeaked.


"I'm dating Satan. That's...the older guy I'm dating. You know, Beelzebub. Well, dating him, worshipping him - pretty much the same thing."

Her mother rolled her eyes. Whew, good save. Eventually she'd find out Satan was a smokescreen - but only after her eighteenth birthday.


"I tried to call you at home, baby. What are you still doing at the library without any books?"

He closed his eyes and let her sweet voice caress him, tried to pretend it was her lips against his ear instead of the black phone receiver. "I've been trying to do some online research, but without you, I'm hopeless."

She laughed softly. "Oh, sweetie...I'd come right over if I could. I'm not even supposed to be on the phone."

"I hope you're not grounded for very long, darling." Blasted woman, he thought. How dare she get in our way?

"But hey, I could help you from this end. You can link up to my laptop."

That sounded vaguely dirty - or perhaps it was not being able to be with her that made him long for her so fiercely. They'd made love last night, but he craved her. He was about to tell her what he was going to do to her in the stacks tomorrow, but he reminded himself that her mother might discover she was using the phone, so time was of the essence. "We are talking about computers, Willow. Do you really think you can explain it so I'll understand?"

"You're the smartest person I know, Giles."

When Xander and Cordelia came into the library a bit later, they found him conducting research on the Internet, with Willow's aid. "You and Willow having cybersex?" Xander asked. "Shame on you."

"Very funny," Giles said. "Look at this."

Buffy came in soon after, and they all crowded around the computer screen, as the identity of the supposedly murdered children unfolded. He and Buffy were about to go warn Joyce about Hansel and Gretel, when Amy's magically-inclined and eyelinered friend Michael staggered in, beaten and bloody. "I was attacked!"

"By whom?" Buffy asked.

"My dad. His friends. They're taking people out of their homes. They're talking about a trial down at City Hall. They got Amy."

"Willow..." Giles said. "Buffy, I - "

"Go," she said. "We'll go to my mom's."

When he reached Willow's house, no one was there. Her room showed signs of a struggle, and he broke out in a cold sweat. He tried to phone Buffy's house, but there was no answer. He drove home and picked up ingredients for a spell to make the demons appear in their true form. Then he sped to City Hall. Spell or no, he thought, I'll kill them if they've hurt her.


"Thanks for saving me," she said later that night, as they lay facing each other. "Again, I mean. I've lost count of all the times you've saved my life."

He touched her face tenderly. "You've saved my life a number of times as well."

"But this is the first time you've saved me from being burnt at the stake." Her life had flashed before her eyes when the flames rose, while poor Buffy yelled, "I'm sorry, Will!" She'd seen Giles's face in her mind's eye, and prayed that she would live to be with him and learn witchcraft and do all the things she wanted to do.

And then there he was, wielding a fire hose, and doing a spell that turned those two little kids into a big demon. Afterwards her mom had been bewildered, Buffy's mom contrite. Xander and Cordy had wandered in - they'd been knocked out back at the Summers house when Buffy got chloroformed.

Then they'd all hunted for Amy, now a scampering rat. "Tomorrow I guess I need to buy a little cage, until I can figure out how to derat Amy. Good thing you still had that cage for the zombie cat, in the meantime."

"It's good of you to take care of her." He kept touching her face, looking at her as if she might vanish at any moment. "God, when I saw you tied to that stake, the flames nearly...are you sure you're all right? I still think I should have taken you to the hospital."

"I feel fine. Better than fine, after that seeing to." She grinned, but he still looked troubled. "Giles?"

"I know she's your mother, and I shouldn't speak ill of her - but that blasted woman! Trying to burn you at the stake! Not to mention grounding you."

She kissed his jaw, his neck. "Well, the grounding was a drag, but the burning part at least was just a spell." Then she remembered something. Compared to almost dying, it didn't seem like much, but still... "Giles, I nearly spilled the beans about us to my mom. She made me mad, and I wanted her to see me, you know? To get who I am."

He just stroked her hair and gazed into her eyes. "I understand."

"You're not mad?"

"You did say nearly. Besides, I want everyone to know about us. It's hard to keep it a secret, when I'm so proud of what we have together." He kissed her.

"Anyway, I told her I was dating Satan. That got her mind off it." She giggled at his puzzled expression, then hugged him tight.


"Do you think we should throw a birthday party for Buffy?" Willow asked. She'd just finished reading a chapter of her European history textbook, and Giles looked up from the Sunday paper as if he'd forgotten she was there.

"What? Buffy's birthday?"

"Her dad's taking her to the ice show, but maybe we should do something too. She doesn't seem to want a party. I can see that a surprise party would be out, after what happened last year." She smiled. "Bet you wish it were my eighteenth birthday already."

But he didn't smile. "Quite," he said abstractedly.

"Giles, is everything okay?" she asked, for perhaps the third or fourth time in as many days. Lately he'd seemed distracted, absent - except when they made love, when he was, if possible, more passionate than usual, as though he wanted to blot out everything with the feel and taste of her. Not that she was complaining about that, but he hadn't smiled much in the past few days, and when he did, it looked like it hurt his face.

"I'm fine," he said, and began to lift the paper again.

She set her book on the table. "You sure? You seem...I don't know."

He folded the newspaper and placed it on the table. He picked up his cup of tea, doubtless stone cold by now, and took a sip.

"Giles?" He always talked to her. She didn't know what to do if he wouldn't, and she felt panic rise in her chest. "Please. I know something's wrong."

He took off his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt - first meticulously, then furiously. Finally, glasses back on, he gazed gravely at her for a full minute or more. "Yes," he said finally. "There is something." He got up, walked over to where his briefcase was propped against bookshelves, reached inside and pulled out a small brown case.

He returned to the couch and opened the case. It contained a syringe and a vial of yellow liquid. For a moment, she thought: what, he's taking drugs now? But that couldn't be it. Was he sick, taking medication? She couldn't help but think she was still wildly off base, and she waited for him to explain.

He put the case on the table, faced her. "The Cruciamentum is a test given to the Slayer when she...if she reaches her eighteenth birthday. The Slayer is disabled and then entrapped with a vampire foe whom she must defeat in order to pass the test." He spoke in his most reserved tones - not the way he usually spoke when the two of them were alone.


"A Slayer's strength and coordination...they're blocked by the drug." He gestured at the case. "It's an organic compound of muscle relaxants and adrenal suppressers. The effect is temporary."

"So you're going to tell Buffy about this test, and then give her the drug?" Buffy wasn't gonna like this. So much for a happy birthday. But if Giles explained it to Buffy, she might go along with it.

He was vigorously cleaning his glasses again. "I shouldn't have told you. Please, you mustn't tell anyone, especially Buffy. She mustn't know." His face had gone ashen.

"What do you mean? She shouldn't know about it until you tell her?"

He was still cleaning his glasses. When he put them back on, he didn't look at her - he kept his eyes on that case with the needle and the drug in it. "She can't know. That's part of the test. There's a large blue crystal, with a flaw at its core. I'm to hypnotize Buffy with the aid of the crystal, administer the injections and direct her to the old boardinghouse on Prescott Lane, where she will face a vampire named Zackary Kralik. As a mortal, he murdered and tortured more than a dozen women before he was committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. Robbed of her powers, Buffy must use cunning and resourcefulness to - "


He looked at her, and she could see the misery in his face now, making him look years older.

"Giles, the Council wants you to drug Buffy without her knowledge, and put her in danger?"

He nodded.

"But that's awful. You can't do that."

"Naturally I don't want to do it, but..."

"This is crazy! I know you. I don't believe you're capable of such a thing."

His jaw tensed. "Willow, in matters of tradition and protocol, I must answer to the Council. It's my duty - "

"It's your duty to Buffy not to drug her and put her in danger, Giles. I should think that would be obvious."

"My role in this is very specific." His voice was maddeningly quiet and restrained.

"Will you quit being so British for a second?" Her voice rose. "Happy birthday, Buffy - let me jab you with a needle and take away your Slayer powers. Here's a nice criminally insane vampire for you, just to make sure your eighteenth birthday is as horrific as your seventeenth. Giles, you can't - "

"Do you think I don't realize it's a barbaric ritual?" Finally he was yelling too, and that was almost a relief. Still, they rarely fought, and she hated this. "It's an archaic exercise in cruelty. But what can I do? I'm her Watcher. This is expected of me. My hands are tied."

"What, you're just following orders?"

His eyes widened as if she'd slapped him. "Did you just call me a Nazi?" His accent had slipped a bit, and she heard a trace of Ripper.

"I'm sorry," she said. "But come on, Giles, you know I'm right about this."

"You simply don't understand the complexity of the situation."

Suddenly she didn't feel so bad about calling him a Nazi. "Oh, I see. I'm good enough to be your semi-secret girlfriend, good enough to have sex with - but when it comes to the big decisions, I'm still just a kid who couldn't possibly understand. You get to express your reservations about my Wiccan studies, and I'm supposed to listen, but apparently my opinions don't matter. And neither do Buffy's, if you can consider doing something like that to her without telling her."

He just stared at her, and strangely, he didn't look so miserable anymore. "You're quite right," he said at last.

"You mean, you're admitting our opinions don't - "

"No, Willow. What I mean to say is, you're absolutely right. I can't do it. I won't."

"You won't?"

And there it was, finally, that glorious open smile. How she'd missed the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when he smiled like that. "To hell with tradition and protocol. It's wrong, and I won't harm Buffy." He gave a laugh. "What a relief."

She laughed too, and put her arms around him. "I knew it. I knew you wouldn't do it." She let out a big breath. It was such a relief. "God, I hate fighting with you, Giles."

He took off his glasses and tossed them on the table. He kissed her.

"I'm sorry I called you a Nazi. Still love me?" She gazed into his beautiful green eyes, and he regarded her with such tenderness and yes, such respect.

"More than ever, dearest. You've stopped me from making one of the biggest mistakes of my life."


When Giles came back to the library in the afternoon, after his little excursion to the old boardinghouse on Prescott Lane, Willow and Buffy were sitting at the table, books in front of them, but chatting instead of studying. "...the ice show," Buffy was saying.

"You and I can go together if you want. I know it's not the same as going with your dad, but..."

"That'd be nice. Thanks, Will."

"Hi, Giles," Willow said with a big grin. Ever since their quarrel, and his decision not to go ahead with the Cruciamentum, she looked at him as if he were her knight in shining armor - when, in fact, he felt she was the exemplary one, for making him see how wrong it would have been to follow the Council's orders.

"So did you tell Quentin Travers I didn't want my birthday present?" Buffy asked. That was what she'd taken to calling the test, after he explained what they'd had in store for her.

"First I said I wanted to inspect the boardinghouse. They had no objections - until I staked Kralik. Then I told Travers there would be no test."

"I'm so proud of you," Willow said.

"Thanks, Giles," Buffy said. "How'd he take it?"

Giles sank into a chair. "He fired me."

"What?" they chorused.

"It's all right," he murmured. "It's not like I'll be going anywhere. But there will be a new Watcher."

Buffy slowly shook her head. "I don't know what to say."

"Now when you say fired, do you mean fired?" Willow asked.

He smiled. "I realize it's a bit of a shock."

"A bit? I'm reeling. How can you be fired? That's so wrong."

"What about me?" Buffy asked. "I'm not fired too, for not doing the test?"

"The Council talks a good game, but you are the Slayer. Faith too, of course, but you're infinitely more reliable. The Council needs you, test or no test."

"Lucky me." She gazed at him steadily. "Giles, you really came through for me. I'm sorry it cost you your job."

"I'm ashamed to say that I probably would've gone through with the test, but Willow put things into perspective."

Her eyes shining, Buffy turned to Willow. "Then I guess I owe both of you."

Willow allowed herself a proud little smile. "It's not like you haven't saved our lives about a zillion times, Buff."

"That's just what we do for each other," Buffy said.

After Buffy had gone, Willow said, "Don't get me wrong, Giles - I'm thrilled you didn't do the Cruciamentum, and that Buffy didn't have to go through all that. But I feel sort of responsible for you getting fired."

"Love, please don't. You were right to say the things you did. Had I gone through with the test, who knows what might have happened? Buffy might not have survived, and I don't think I could've lived with myself." He felt strangely light. He hadn't abandoned his calling, after all - he would still guide Buffy, but without the strictures of the Council. Perhaps later it would sink in and he would feel worse about it - and it's true he would not take kindly to a new Watcher hanging about - but he didn't regret what he'd done.

Willow still looked a bit glum.

"It's all right, sweetheart. Please don't feel badly."

"Well, it's just...you've been fired! You're unemployed! You're...between jobs."

"I do still work here in the library."

"I wouldn't count on that. Chances are I'll come up with some bright idea to lose you this job, too." But a smile spread across her face. "Speaking of which, you wanna go fool around in the stacks?"

He chuckled. "I thought you'd never ask."

In the stacks, she flung her arms about him and stood on tiptoe to kiss him. This adorable girl in the pink skirt and yellow sweater, yellow tights and white sneakers, and on her head a multicolored knit hat with a pompom on the top - she was fully his partner, and he relied upon her, trusted her, more than anyone. He could well imagine what Travers would think if he knew how much influence Willow had over him - he'd think him insane. But she had helped save the world more than once, which was more than Travers could boast.

"You're so wonderful," she whispered between kisses. "So brave, defying the Council."

She was so light in his arms, and yet she had power, a considerable strength of will, even as she yielded to him so sweetly, tilting her head back as he kissed her.

"Hey," she breathed, "you know that Buffy's birthday is also the anniversary of the first time you and I..."

"I know. I'll never forget." All at once he had to have her. He pulled her close and began thrusting against her. Then he reached between her legs and rubbed her, already wet, always so wet for him.

Her eyes heavy-lidded, she unzipped him, and he yanked down her stockings and panties. He thrust into her hot wetness, took her hard against the shelves.

"Always need this," he whispered. "Doesn't feel like a year, does it? I can never get enough of you, of being inside you..."

She gasped, and he felt her clench around him. He moved faster, plunged in deeper, and her open mouth trembled.

"Yes," he whispered, "darling girl..." With one last thrust, he came hard and long, biting his lip to keep from moaning.

"Yep," she said as they adjusted their clothes, "that's another good way to get you fired. Or worse."

"Just a little while longer, and it will be your birthday too. And after all, there may be an up side to my being fired as Watcher."

"I didn't want to say it," she whispered. "I hate to think of abandoning Buffy. But yeah."

He couldn't quite imagine leaving Buffy in the care of another Watcher, to go to another city with Willow. They would have to see what the next few months would bring.



"Boy, you're lucky you weren't at school last night," Willow said. "It was crazed." She turned to look at Giles, his bruised face, the gashes on his cheek, ear, neck. She wanted to put her arms around him, gently stroke his face and kiss him - but they were sitting outside at school, at the lunch table. Willow had a paler bruise on her face, a gash on her eyebrow. Buffy had bruises, her arm in a sling. Only Oz was bruiseless, though she and Giles had shot him full of tranks last night when he was all wolfy. Oz had almost pounced on her before she could shoot him again, and Giles had grabbed him just in time.

"You guys look pretty thrashed," Cordy said. "I'm glad we gave it a miss."

"I don't know," Xander said. "I wish I could've helped. Sitting it out makes me feel like Useless Donut-Buying Guy."

"On the bright side," Buffy said, "the donuts are always much appreciated."

"And on the even brighter side," Cordy said, tucking her arm into Xander's, "you're my Useless Donut-Buying Guy."

Xander looked as if he weren't sure if she'd complimented him or insulted him. "All this talk about donuts is making me hungry," he said quietly. "I'm gonna grab a snack. Anyone want?"

"I could eat," Oz said.

Willow wasn't hungry, didn't need anything except to sit there and look at Giles, and know they were still here, still alive. Sometimes she was afraid they weren't going to make it. That she'd never turn eighteen or graduate high school, that she and Giles wouldn't get to be together, she wouldn't go to college or become a full-fledged wicca.

Partly it was wanting it all so much that made her afraid she wouldn't have it. Part of it, of course, was the apocalypsey stuff - like the Sisterhood of Jhe who opened the Hellmouth, plus the side order of reanimated juvenile delinquents they'd had to contend with. She and Giles had been at the Restfield Cemetery last night, and while he was asking the Spirit Guides for some clue about how to stave off the end of the world, she'd spotted that bully Jack O'Toole hanging out with a couple of guys whose faces didn't look so good. "Hey, Giles," she'd said uneasily, "I think there are a couple of dead guys over there."

"What?" he'd asked, as the Spirit Guides gave him the brushoff in Latin. "Dead guys? You mean, vampires?"

"Well, vampire faces are usually well-preserved. These guys are sorta rotting away."

"That's not good," he said, opening his bag and pulling out his axe.

"Maybe we should go get Buffy." But the guys were walking towards them. Giles got in front of her.

"That you, Mr. Giles?" drawled Jack O'Toole. "Whatcha doin' hanging out with a young thing like Willow?"

"Some hanky panky going on," one of the guys, whose face was mostly gone, screeched happily.

"I might ask what you're doing spending time with what looks very much like two reanimated corpses," Giles said.

"You got something against dead people?" a burly dead guy asked. He looked vaguely familiar. Was his name Bob?

"We need a girl in our gang," Jack said. "Wanna join, cutie? All you have to do is die." He brandished a large knife.

"Yeah, we could use a girl!" the guy with the really decomposed face enthused.

"Uh, no, thank you," Willow said. "But hey, Jack's not dead."

O'Toole lifted his shirt - there were bullet holes across his stomach. "Drive-by three weeks ago."

"Thank you," Giles said. "That's all I needed to know." He lunged forward, swinging the axe. Jack O'Toole's head rolled on the ground. His body toppled. Willow wished the guy would go poof, but he didn't.

"Hey!" the burly guy yelled. "You killed our buddy! We're gonna kick your ass!"

Willow felt almost bad for the dead guys as Giles made short work of them.

"Come on," he said, "let's get out of here."

"Should we bury them?"

"We'd better get inside. The Sisterhood of Jhe might be at large."

She stared down at the dead guys' now extremely dead corpses. "I wish they would go poof, Giles."

He briefly put his arm around her, squeezed her tight. "I know. I'm sorry you had to see that. I couldn't let them hurt you."

"I've seen so much," she said. "But there's always something new, isn't there?"

It turned out the end of the world was scheduled for that same night. They gave Oz a mickey, and she half-dragged, half-led him into a little room near the boiler room. When she got back, Giles had moved the library tables and chairs out of the way and painted an inscription on the floor for the binding spell from the Hebron's Almanac. They began lighting the candles.

"Once it's ready," he said, "you're to stay back and let me finish the recitation."

"Giles - "

"Don't argue. I want you safe. Who knows what's going to come up from beneath us."

What came up was that three-headed monster, which had gotten a lot bigger since the first time the Hellmouth opened. Willow cowered by the door as much as she could, while the others chopped away at the creature and fought the Sisterhood of Jhe. Please let us not die, she kept chanting to herself, amid the shrieks of the monster and the shouts of her lover and friends.

Afterwards she and Giles went back to his place and patched each other up, applied alcohol and antiseptic, bandages and ice packs. There was no way she going home that night. Her parents wouldn't notice her absence anyway. She and Giles slept curled in each other's arms and tried, during the night, to avoid bumping each other's sore places. No sex, just holding each other, glad they and the world hadn't died.

In the morning they were a lot sorer, their bruises darker, but they turned to each other without a word, kissing cautiously so as not to hurt each other, touching and stroking, her hand on his cock, his fingers playing with her slippery folds. As they lay side to side, he eased into her, and they looked into each other's eyes, doing that memorization thing of how it felt to be alive and together, for however long they managed it. The lesser worries of her underage status seemed just that, so much lesser, compared to the danger, the violence they faced. But while they had breath, they could wring pleasure from each other's bodies, could get sloppy wet and loose with ecstasy. They could love each other, and so they did.



Willow burst through the library doors. "Giles, look - early admissions packets!" Giddily she waved a fistful of envelopes and brochures. "I got into Harvard and Yale and hey, how do you feel about Germany?..." Then she saw he wasn't alone, and her smile faded.

He was surging with love and pride - and the certain knowledge that he wasn't about to move to Germany, not even for her. "Willow, that's wonderful."

"Sorry," she said. "I didn't know you were busy."

"That's quite all right..." He had to bite back the word darling. He wanted to tell her he loved her, wanted to hold her close. He could hardly wait to discuss the various schools she might attend, plan where they might live together, come autumn. Instead he said: "The Council has sent a new Watcher."

She glared at the interloper. "Does Buffy know he's here?"

"Not as yet."

Wesley Wyndam-Pryce stepped forward. "And this is...?"

This is the brilliant and beautiful girl with whom I hope to spend the rest of my life. "One of Buffy's best friends. She's been invaluable in the fight against evil."

"Indeed," he said. "And she knows about Buffy's...role?"

"She's the Slayer," Willow said stoutly, and the new Watcher flinched. That made Willow grin a little. "You want me to tell Buffy he's here?"

"Thank you. That's marvelous news, Willow," he added, "and I'm not at all surprised."

She smiled broadly then, turned and made for the door.

"Do you think it's wise to involve outsiders?" asked his replacement.

"Willow's not an outsider," Giles said, and then wondered if he'd betrayed himself by his tone. No, the berk was too absorbed looking through books in a box on the table to have noticed. Giles had a feeling that would prove to be generally true about the fellow. Nonetheless, he was happy. Not that he wanted to abandon Buffy to this arrogant novice, but the future looked wide open to Giles. He and Willow might soon live together in new surroundings, and the prospect pleased him unutterably.


Now there was a new Watcher to take Giles's place (which was impossible, because no one was like Giles), and Willow was starting to feel like she'd been replaced too. Buffy was spending all her time with Faith. She'd blown off their study session and even waltzed right out of the chem test to hang out with her new best friend. Well, that was just fine. Clearly Willow could leave town with Giles after graduation and have nothing to feel guilty about. Buffy would have Faith and the new Watcher to keep her company, and forget all about her. Maybe she already had.

Giles got kidnapped by the demon Balthazar (who was supposed to be dead according to the stupid new Watcher, who got kidnapped too). Willow didn't find out about it until after Buffy and Angel saved them. Every time something like this happened - apocalypses or vampires or kidnappings - Willow was so afraid this would be it, that they were going to lose each other, and she wouldn't get to be with him always like she wanted more than anything. Just a few more months, and she'd be eighteen and she'd graduate. Just a few more months, but it felt like forever.

Then everything went kablooey with Faith. She accidentally killed somebody and tried to blame it on Buffy. The Scoobies got together after school - in the cafeteria, so Wesley wouldn't know - to discuss the situation. "Maybe we should all talk to Faith together," Willow said.

"You mean, like that intervention thing we did with Buffy?" Cordy asked. "That went well."

"Hey, I'm right here," Buffy said, glaring at her.

"See what I mean? She's still crabby about it."

"Faith is too defensive for a confrontation like that," Giles said. "She'll respond better to a one-on-one approach."

"Well, I can be the one...on her one," Xander said. Cordelia raised her eyebrows at him. "Let's rephrase. I think she might listen to me."

"Why would you think that?" Buffy asked.

"Are you forgetting that I'm the one who convinced her to keep quiet about that secret situation?"

"You mean the secret situation about Willow and Giles that you blabbed to her in the first place?" Cordy asked.

"But if she's such a loose cannon," Willow said, "maybe she might not keep quiet about us, Giles."

"I wouldn't worry about that right now," he said with a reassuring smile. "I suspect we're the last thing on her mind."

Willow figured that was true enough. Faith had never said a word to her or Giles about their relationship, and she always had the feeling that Faith didn't find them that interesting (despite her initial flirting with Giles), and that Buffy was the only one she thought worth her time.

"The point is," Xander said, "she listened to me, and she did keep quiet."

"I don't know, Xand," Buffy said. "It sounds like a long shot."

"I agree," Giles said. "If you still want to be of assistance, Xander, I need some help with research. There's still the business of the Mayor and Mr. Trick to attend to."


Xander went to see Faith anyway, and she probably would've killed him if Angel hadn't intervened. Then Wesley and some of the Council guys tried to take Faith back to England, but she escaped. Still, she killed Mr. Trick and saved Buffy's life - so she was more or less back in the fold. Giles and Buffy were determined to help her, though Willow figured she was probably unhelpable. She'd murdered someone and accused Buffy. She'd hurt Xander. Willow kinda wished the Council had locked her up.

And in the midst of all that, Xander and Cordelia broke up.

"You slept with Faith?" Willow asked as he moped on a bench outside school.

"Could you say that a little louder, Will?"

"Sorry. But - you slept with Faith? What were you thinking?"

"It was wrong, I know. It was just that one time, when I went to her place and asked her to keep quiet about you and Giles. She'd just gotten in from patrol, and she was kinda wired. It just happened. I was gonna tell Cordelia, but it was a one-time deal, so I thought, what's the big?"

"What's the big?" Willow shouted down at him. But Xander looked so shamefaced - and his poor neck was all bruised. She sat next to him on the bench. "So Cordy found out, huh?"

"She was asking about what happened the other night, when Faith was, you know, strangling me on the bed. I guess she thought it was strange that there would be...bed-like activities, out of the blue. Cordy figured Faith would've just killed me, not made it all sexy and stuff. Or maybe I just looked really, really guilty. You'd think almost getting killed would be enough punishment."

"She feels betrayed." Willow felt badly for Cordelia. She thought she would die if Giles ever cheated on her - but she felt sure of him. Still, Cordy had probably felt sure of Xander too. It had to really hurt.

"Hey, maybe you can talk to her on my behalf?"

"I don't know, Xander. You tried to kiss me that one time. It seems to me you just were in a cheating frame of mind or something."

He ducked his head. "Maybe. Maybe Cordy and I just aren't right for each other."

Willow felt bad for him too. Not that he was blameless, but Faith seemed to leave a trail of mayhem wherever she went.


Cordelia looked pretty miserable at first, too, though she hid it behind loud laughter and perfect sunny smiles. Her old friends like Harmony didn't seem to want to hang out with her anymore. "Great," she told Willow at the lockers. "The stigma of Xander Harris is still with me, even though I've come to my senses."

"So there's no chance you guys'll get back together?"

"Not a chance. He cheated, and then he lied about it. And he cheated with that skanky murdering Faith."

"Well, to be fair, she hadn't murdered anybody back when they..."

Cordy's face fell - and sad Cordelia was pretty much the saddest thing Willow had ever seen.

"Okay, not helpful. Sorry." Willow closed her locker.

"Tell me this," Cordy said. "He says he only cheated the once. You're his best friend - did he tell you anything? Did he ever hit on anybody else?"

"I didn't know about the Faith thing. But..."

Cordy nodded. "Go on. I need to know."

"He tried to kiss me once. He was helping me pick out an outfit for the Homecoming dance. It didn't happen, though - I stopped him."

"Because you're not a lying, cheating worm like he is." They walked down the hall and out the front door. "Thanks, Willow. For being honest about it."

"No problem." It seemed like they were actually friends now. She never would've expected that.

As they walked across the lawn, that new girl Anya joined them. "How's it going?" she asked.

"Just discussing the lying, cheating worm I used to date," Cordy said. Poor Xander, Willow thought.

"Don't you just wish guys like that would - " Anya said, but Cordy cut her off.

"The only thing I wish for is a date with Wesley, as soon as possible."

"Really." Anya sounded underwhelmed - she must've met him.

"Really?" Willow asked. "You really like him?"

Cordy smiled - a smile that said the Dating Slayer was back in action. "Oh, yeah. He's like Pierce Brosnan or something. That accent..."

Giles has an accent, Willow wanted to say, but not in front of Anya.

"Who is that Wesley guy anyway?" Anya asked. "He doesn't teach here, does he?"

"He's...a friend of Mr. Giles," Willow said. "From England."

"Whatever," Anya said. "The point is, he's a guy. And guys are all lying, cheating worms. Don't you wish - "

"It's obvious Wesley is nothing like Xander," Cordy said. "And moving on with a much hotter guy is the best revenge."

"That is not the best revenge!" Anya said.

"You really think Wesley is hotter than Xand - " Willow said, but Anya interrupted her.

"Boy, are you a glutton for punishment," she told Cordy. "You think the answer to your man problems is another man? I can't be bothered with you."

"Hey, what's with the 'tude?" Cordy said, but Anya went poof - just vanished.

They stared at the spot of lawn where she'd stood, then at each other. "Where'd she go?" Willow asked.

"Yeah, I was about to tell her off." Cordelia shrugged. "Speaking of Wesley...now I understand that whole Watchery English guy thing you're so into. Of course, Wesley's not all old like Giles, and he's still an actual Watcher, again not like Giles."

Willow drew herself up indignantly. "Hey! Could we have less with the dissing of my boyfriend?"

"Sorry. I was thinking we could double date or something."

"Cordelia, Giles and I can't go on dates until I turn eighteen and graduate."

"Oh, right." Cordy grinned. "Well, that doesn't stop me from dating Wesley!" This was gonna be one spectacular rebound, Willow thought.


"I can't believe Cordelia likes Wesley," Willow said.

"I can't believe I just kissed you and you're talking about Cordelia and Wesley."

She smiled. "Good point. Sorry."

He kissed her again. He tasted so good, like tea and...was it possible to taste like books? He didn't eat them, after all, but somehow he tasted like words and knowledge and...she stopped trying to figure it out beneath his wonderful mouth.

All the early admissions packets were spread out on the table next to the couch, but she and Giles had gotten a little sidetracked. "So sweetie, what do you want to do, when we move...wherever it is we move to?"

"I've given that some thought," he said, though the way he was nibbling on her ear, thoughts were not high on her list of priorities. "Perhaps I could work at a library...not at the school you're attending, of course, but another one in the area."

"Good idea..." She caressed his hair, drew him in for another kiss. The idea of the two of them actually living together in a new city where she was going to college made her so excited she could barely stand it.

"Or I might start a business. Perhaps an antiquarian bookshop, or even a magic shop..."

Her eyes widened. "A magic shop? Oh, I like that idea, Giles."

He grinned. "I thought you might."


"Something else you should know," Faith told the Mayor. They were meeting in her motel room, though he said he was gonna set her up at a swankier place. "Something maybe you can use."

"I'm all ears," he said. "Well, not literally. Knew a demon once, was all ears. Must've been hard to keep 'em clean." He was seized with laughter. For someone so evil, he was kinda goofy.

"The ex-Watcher, Giles - he's screwing Buffy's friend Willow. Been going on a long time."

He shook his head. "What's that man thinking? He's old enough to be her father."

Faith cupped the side of his face. "Givin' you any ideas?"

He took a few steps back, shook his head. "Now Faith, I'm not that kind of man. Unlike Mr. Giles, apparently."

"You could get him thrown out of the country for that. Or thrown in jail. Then where would they all be? The new Watcher is a joke."

"Yes, I suppose I could have Mr. Giles deported or arrested. But since I'm going to end up having him and all the rest of them killed, it seems slightly redundant. Still, it's dandy information to have, Faith. I can tell I hired the right girl. You're not just strong. You're smart and resourceful."

Faith smiled. She'd always envied B. her relationship with Giles - which seemed a lot better, clearer, than whatever he was doing with Willow. Faith could always get sex, but the rest of it was another story. It felt good to have a fatherly type to make with the praise.


"Jealousy clearly is the tool that Iago uses to undo Othello," Ms. Murray said. "But what's his motivation? What reason does Iago give for destroying his superior officer?"

Buffy heard Nancy thinking: Cassio has my place. Twix my sheets, he's done my office.

"Well, he was passed over for promotion," Buffy said. "Cassio was picked instead, and people were saying that Othello slept with his wife." This telepathy thing was great.

Discussing this play is making me all hot and bothered, Willow thought. The things Giles did to me the other night when I was trying to study...well, I suppose if I'd really wanted to study, I shouldn't have tried reading in his bed...

Buffy glanced over at Willow, who sat there looking perfectly demure in her T-shirt with the cartoon cat on it. Buffy tried to block out the disturbing Giles-sex-thoughts and listen to what the teacher was thinking about Iago's spurious motives.

Making me read Othello aloud while...god, his mouth on me... Willow thought. And every time I stopped reading, he stopped...he got me so excited...

Buffy turned and looked at her again. Willow sent her an innocent little smile, though her cheeks were flushed.

Need to concentrate on class, she continued. But I wonder what Giles is doing right now. Think I'll go pay him a visit after class...

Nancy was talking about Iago, and Buffy couldn't catch the teacher's train of thought. Now Willow was remembering how she'd turned the tables on Giles, making him read a scene from Othello while she...okay, that was a mental picture she'd really never wanted to have.

And when he'd stop to moan, I'd take my mouth away...drove him crazy...

This telepathy thing sucked. And suck was a word Buffy wasn't going to be using again any time soon.


Later that day, after Buffy visited Angel and discovered she couldn't read his mind (though she'd really wanted to, what with the recent kissing of Faith and all), she came back to school and found Willow and Giles having a heated discussion at the library table. "I'm only saying that you need to be extra careful," he said. "If anything had happened to you..." I love her so much, he was thinking. I need to keep her safe.

"I am careful. And I can't believe you're still all upset about that." He's so sweet, she was thinking. But I don't want him to worry.

"I'm sorry, but I don't take kindly to you being attacked. And what with Faith working for the Mayor now..."

"But Buffy killed those vamps," Willow said. "It was fine." It was scary, she thought. I don't wanna die before I even graduate high school.

It had happened a couple of weeks before. They'd just left the Bronze, and Willow had been walking a bit ahead of Buffy and Xander. Then a vamp appeared and actually said, "Willow Rosenberg?", before lunging for her throat. There were only two vamps, and Buffy had easily taken them out. They thought it might've been the Mayor's doing - which seemed especially likely when they found out he was Faith's boss.

I couldn't stand it if anything were to happen to her, Giles was thinking.

"It's okay, Giles," Buffy said. "I'm not gonna let anything hurt her."

Giles did a double take. "I must say, this new ability of yours is most disconcerting."

"Giles told me what the aspect of the demon turned out to be," Willow said. "I guess it could've been a worse aspect." She's really telepathic, she thought. I sure hope she can't hear me thinking about how Giles and I just had sex in the stacks...

"You had what?" Buffy asked.

"Sorry, sorry!" Willow said, and began to think frantically: Need to not think about sex with Giles. Even though he was so amazing in the stacks just now...uh oh... She ducked her head.

Meanwhile, Giles was thinking, How beautiful she is. And how wonderful she felt just now when we...

"Hey, you guys, get a room!" Buffy said. This just couldn't get any yuckier.

The two of them looked guiltily at her. "Sorry," Giles said.

"Sorry," Willow said. "I...I better go anyway. I'm supposed to tutor Percy."

"I wish that odious little man weren't forcing you into tutoring," he said, clearly glad of a change of subject. "It's taking up far too much of your time." I'd like to throttle that twisted little homunculus, he thought.

"Aw, it's not so bad. I kinda like tutoring." Oh good, Willow thought, I'm not thinking about having sex with Giles. I sure wouldn't want Buffy to hear me thinking about those times he "fucked my beautiful arse"...

"Stop that!" Apparently it really could get yuckier. Buffy's skin was starting to crawl. "Willow, you're wigging me out!"

Willow blushed furiously. "I'm just gonna go find Percy..." She leapt to her feet.

"I...I'll be back," Giles told Buffy, without really looking at her, and followed Willow. "What were you thinking about?" he asked her.

"Naughty, wrong thoughts," Willow said, and both of them smiled ruefully as they went through the double doors.

Buffy sank into a chair. She so didn't need to know about their apparently rip-roaring sex life. Maybe Willow could come up with an amnesia spell when this was all over.


She spread her legs wider for him, her small hands moving in his hair. Kissing and licking her, he looked up: she was resplendent in the red-pink silk nightgown (one of his birthday presents), though it was hiked up to her stomach, and her head was thrown back against the pillow. His fingers moved inside her silky wetness as his tongue teased her.

"God...don't...stop..." Willow said through gritted teeth. He would gladly never stop, stay as long as possible between her milky thighs, her spicy smell and taste enfolding him, loving her with fingers and tongue. He stroked her inner thigh, so soft, and she whimpered and clutched at his hair. He licked her faster and just slightly harder, his fingers stroking into her. She cried out, squeezing his fingers hard, more of her delicious wetness seeping out onto his hand as she thrust up with her hips and pushed his face into her.

"Darling," he murmured as the last spasms wracked her, "oh, Willow..." He climbed up her body and lifted the nightgown. "Time to take this off," he muttered, and her arms lifted as he pulled it over her head. He tossed the bright silk aside and thrust into her. Kept his face close to hers as he fucked her, looked into her beautiful eyes, big and green, the pupils dilated. She reached up and pulled him down to kiss her.

"Does it feel different?" she asked.

"Different?" He was half out of his head with the feel of her, so tight and wet around him, her body soft and warm beneath him.

"Now I'm...you know...of age."

He had completely forgotten, but remembering made him smile. "It's always just you, Willow. It's you." He said the words in time to his fucking. "It's you, you're so beautiful, it's you and I love you, I love you completely..."

"Oh..." she breathed, and tears sparkled in her eyes. "I love you, Giles..." She pulled him closer, she kissed him and he was almost there, pounding into her, there.

When he came back to himself, she was smiling at him. "Really, isn't it a little different, now you're no longer arrestable? I mean, you're still fireable, from the library, but just for a little while longer."

"It is nice to know the police won't be bursting in at any moment."

She giggled. She was kissing his chest, and the giggling tickled. He smoothed her fiery hair.

"Happy birthday, Willow."

She looked up, still grinning. "I guess you've been having a pretty happy birthday, too."

Like last year, there had been a small party at the Bronze, but this year Angel was present. Oz made an appearance, as did Cordelia, though she and Xander seemed unable to stop sniping at each other. This year Giles saved his gifts to give Willow when they got back to his place - the nightgown and matching wrap, the bracelet, the spell book. He had a feeling she liked the last gift best of all, but she'd tried on the negligee, and that had led promptly to bed. It was a happy birthday indeed. "You're eighteen," he said, and now he was grinning too. If they could just make it through graduation, just stop the Mayor's Ascension, everything awaited them, everything they'd waited over a year for.


A couple of days later she came into the library waving her acceptance letter into Oxford. "Willow, that's wonderful," he said, and they would have immediately discussed the possibility of moving to England, if Wesley hadn't been hovering. It was rather amazing that Principal Snyder had never asked what this man who was not a member of the faculty was doing spending all this time in the library. It was, on the other hand, a testament to Wesley's obliviousness that he hadn't figured out he and Willow were involved. Giles was glad of this, as he feared Wesley might report him to the Council - who, in turn, might have him deported.

"I'm gonna go find Buffy and tell her," Willow said. "Just think - I could learn, and have scones!"

When she'd gone, he remembered himself at her age, how unenthusiastic he'd been about Oxford, and how he'd dropped out. She made him feel better somehow about his own wayward youth, as if he got to experience it again through her. Not that he was trying to recapture his youth, because god knows he wouldn't want to go through that again - but her happiness was his happiness.

"So Willow might be going to Oxford," Wesley said, looking up from his reading.

"Possibly." Giles tried not to sound overly enthused.

"As for Buffy, she'll remain in Sunnydale."

He was probably right about that, but his officious tone always got Giles's back up. "She has applied to other schools, you know. It isn't fair that her opportunities be curtailed."

"It's her duty."

Giles sighed. He didn't want to abandon Buffy to this prat. But the idea of moving home to England with Willow - or, for that matter, moving anywhere with Willow - made him irrepressibly happy.


Then the Mayor had her. All his fault. He'd thought Willow had stayed with Buffy and Angel. He and Wesley had driven off in the van, distracting the vampires - distracting them from Willow, he'd thought.

How his heart had sank when they reconvened at the library, and she wasn't there. "Where is Willow?" he'd barely dared to ask.

"We thought she was with you," Buffy said, the dismay on her face but a fraction of what he felt.

"They must have grabbed her when she hit the ground," Angel said.

"I swear I won't let them hurt her," Buffy said. Even now, she didn't look at Giles when she said it - because Wesley was there. God, he was tired of the deceit. It was idiotic.

"We go back," Xander said. "Full-on assault."

"They'll kill her," Giles said, yanking at his tie to loosen it. He couldn't breathe. He should never have let her go tonight. It was too dangerous - but she'd looked so pleased at the chance to use magic to help them get the Box of Gavrock. How she'd smiled at him before she'd walked away from the van. She'd worn her sheepskin coat over her favorite new dress, long and dusty rose, with the sun and stars on it. She loved it because she thought it made her look like a real witch, and because he liked to run his hands over its velvety material when she wore it. She was the sun and the stars to him. Why had he let her go?

"Giles, you know I'm right about this," Wesley was saying. They were arguing about making a trade - Willow for the Box of Gavrock. Anything, he thought, anything to get her back. "You'd sacrifice thousands of lives?" Wesley asked. "Your families, your friends?"

Giles walked towards the vessel that contained the twice-blessed sage and the essence of toad. Willow had left instructions for Xander and Oz to prepare the Breath of the Atropyx. Some down and dirty black magic, she'd said, rolling her tongue over the word black, and she'd smiled.

"It can all end right here," Wesley said. "We have the means to destroy this box."

Giles took the vessel from the pedestal and smashed it on the ground. Wesley goggled at him.

"I'm making the call," Giles said.


Willow was scared, yes, and she knew how worried Giles would be, and Buffy, and Xander - and yet this was exciting. To leaf through the Books of Ascension, to tear out the pivotal pages and tuck them into her boot, to stand up to Faith - all made her feel strong and useful, as if she was doing exactly what she was meant to do. In the midst of the danger, she felt a stillness, a confidence.

"Waiting for your geriatric boyfriend to ride to the rescue?" Faith asked. "Seems kinda unlikely."

"I'm not afraid of you," Willow said.

Of course, when Faith put a knife to her throat, she was terrified. But she was used to fear by now.


When Giles saw Willow with Faith's knife at her throat, it was all he could do to stop himself from crying out her name and begging them to let her go - which, he was fairly certain, would only lead to Faith killing her in front of him. The cafeteria was dark, but he could see how Willow grimaced each time Faith tightened her grip. "Unless you want Faith to gut your friend like a sea bass..." the Mayor said, and Giles clutched the baseball bat he wished he could use to bash the Mayor's head in - and yes, Faith's too. He'd never felt so helpless.

"What kind of a life can you offer her?" the Mayor asked, and through the buzzing in Giles's ears, he became aware that he was speaking to him as well as Angel. "I see skulking in the shadows." Mayor Wilkins glanced at Giles. "She's a blossoming young girl, and you want to keep her from the life she should have until it has passed her by. My God! I think that's a little selfish."

He knows, Giles thought, and cared not in the slightest. He didn't care what happened to him, so long as Willow was spared. Then the Mayor said, "Make the trade," and Faith pushed Willow forward, and Giles could breathe again. He was about to put his arm around her, when the door opened.

"Nobody moves!" Snyder said.


Afterwards in the library, Willow sat cross-legged on the counter with Buffy and chattered excitedly about her adventures. "So Faith was like, 'I'm going to beat you up,' and I'm all 'I'm not afraid of you,' and then she had the knife which was less fun. And then I told her, 'You made your choice, Buffy was your friend...'"

"But you're all right?" Giles interrupted.

"I'm fine, Giles. And aren't you thrilled that I took a gander at the Books of Ascension, volumes one through five?"

He knew he should be - but he was too overwrought. But she looked so pleased with herself. "Is there anything you can remember that could be of use to us?" he asked.

"Well, I was in a hurry, and what I did read was kind of over-involved. If you ask me, way over-written. There were a few pages that looked kind of interesting, but I didn't have a chance to read them fully." She produced some folded pages and handed them to him. "See what you can make of them?" She grinned proudly, and he smiled.

"This is your night for suave, Will," Buffy said. "You should get captured more often."

"God, no," Giles said.

"Well, let's hope there is something useful in those pages," Wesley said frostily. "The Mayor has the Box of Gavrock. As of now, we are right back where we started. Wouldn't you say?"

That was true enough, but Giles didn't care. She was safe.

He took her home with him that night. Her parents seemed to pay less and less attention to what she did. By the time they reached his place, it was already very late, and her adrenaline had worn off. They went straight to bed, and she quickly fell asleep, her arm flung across his chest. He stayed awake and listened to her breathe until it was nearly dawn. Finally he slept.

When he woke, she was already awake, and looking so fresh and happy. "How long have you been awake?" he asked.

"Awhile. I've been thinking serious thoughts, Giles." But she positively glowed.

He kissed her. "Tell me."

"Not until you're really awake." She cuddled against him. He was fully awake now, though his body had other ideas than a discussion - which Willow quickly noticed and took full advantage of, stroking his prick, making him moan. She mounted him with a grunt, and he forgot all about serious thoughts until they lay damp and spent in each other's arms.

"So there was something you wanted to tell me?" he asked, and they began to laugh.

"Giles, this is serious," she said - but neither of them could stop laughing. Finally she composed herself as best she could, considering her hair was tousled and she was naked, and wet between the legs. "I've been thinking...this is something we need to decide together, but I feel very strongly that I want to stay in Sunnydale."

His desire to laugh left him abruptly. "You're not serious." But she nodded. "After what happened last night, I'm inclined to think I should take you as far away from here as possible."

"I know it was scary, for both of us. But Giles, that's not who we are - to run away from scary stuff. That's not who I wanna be. Besides, without us to stop apocalypses and all, who knows how long we'd get to be together? The world might get sucked into hell or something, and then where would we be?"

"In hell, apparently," he said, and she smiled.

"You know what I mean. I want to help people. I want to fight evil. UC Sunnydale's a good school - and besides, I want to continue my study of witchcraft, and what better place to learn?"

"Those are all excellent points," he said.

She peered at him. "What do you think?"

This is the life she wants, he thought, and who am I to stop her? "I think you're an amazing woman - and a very brave one."

"But Giles, I don't want you to be disappointed. You were looking forward to leaving Sunnydale. I don't want to take that away from you." She gazed at him with such tender concern, her fingers stroking his shoulder.

"Willow, I agreed to leave with you because I didn't want you to stay and limit your opportunities for my sake. If this is what you really want, we'll stay." The idea frightened him rather a lot, after what they'd just been through, and yet it felt right. They would stay in Sunnydale and do the work they were meant to do.

She kissed him. "We'll keep each other safe, Giles."

"Bloody right, we will." He held her close.


Later that day, Willow came into the library. "I just told Buffy. Then we went and had mochas. She's really happy that we're...that I'm gonna stay." Her eyes flicked over to Wesley, who was sitting at the table and appeared lost in contemplation of the pages she'd torn from the Books of Ascension.

"I'm glad to hear it," Giles said. He was exhausted from last night's ordeal - but here she was in her red overalls, alive and well, and grinning about the future. That was all he really needed.

"Buffy and I are gonna go to UC Sunnydale together. It's gonna be great."

"I hope that makes up somewhat for her being unable to attend Northwestern," he said.

"So you're good with the plan?"

He smiled. "I am."

Just then the bell rang. "Oh, I have to go to class." Beaming fondly at him, she went.

Wesley looked up. "Mr. Giles," he said, "is there something going on between you and the Rosenberg girl?"

Giles sat on the edge of the table. He lifted his cup of tea to his lips. Finally he said, "I might well ask the same about you and Cordelia Chase."

The fellow blanched. "Touché, Mr. Giles." With alacrity he lowered his head and resumed reading.

Giles took another sip of tea. If we can only make it past graduation, he thought, there will be no more skulking in the shadows.


"Sorry I'm late," Willow said, as Giles took off his glasses and bent to kiss her, then let her in the apartment. "I was at Buffy's. She's in really bad shape - Angel broke up with her."

"Oh, dear." He took her hand and led her to the sofa. "She must be devastated. Do you think I should talk to her?"

"Definitely. She's gonna need a lot of support, Giles. Right now, though, she's more about the crying than the talking." And when she had talked, she'd sobbed: I was gonna have a drawer, at Angel's place. Like you have, at Giles's. And okay, I still don't entirely want to imagine you and Giles together, but it's really beautiful too, what you guys have...and I was gonna start spending the night at Angel's, like you do at Giles's... Willow had felt so bad for her, and so thankful for what she had with Giles - and a little afraid, too, because it sounded like Angel broke up with Buffy because of the stuff the Mayor said, and he'd said it to Giles too, some of it.

He was looking at her now, with an expression she couldn't read - tender and attentive, but there was something almost solemn in his eyes that crinkled at the corners, in the set of his mouth. She traced his lips with her finger, then kissed him. He responded, but chastely, as if he were thinking about something else.

"Poor Buffy," she said. "She's so upset...but I think in the long run, this is best for her."

"I agree."

Suddenly she wished he had said, No, it wasn't for the best, Angel was wrong to have broken up with Buffy. "You do? I mean...the Mayor said all that stuff to them about their relationship, and even though he's evil and all, it made a lot of sense...for them, but not for us. Right?" I can't lose the drawer I have here, she thought, can't lose spending the night. I don't ever want to lose any of it. I need everything, every moment with him.

He was silent a long minute. Then, quietly, he said, "Mayor Wilkins was right about one thing at least. This skulking in the shadows, it isn't fair to you. Tonight, for instance."

"What? You mean the prom? That doesn't matter to me. I mean, it'd be nice if we could dance together, but at least we'll both be there, and you can see me in my dress, and then afterwards we'll come back here..."

He looked so serious, and it didn't help the rising panic she was feeling. To think she'd felt jealous of Buffy because she was gonna go to the prom with Angel, and now she and Angel were broken up, and what if Giles...

He gazed into her eyes. "Willow, I love you."

"I love you, too." Her voice sounded small. She had a flash of herself telling Buffy: Giles broke up with me too, and the two of them polishing off all the ice cream in Sunnydale, between sobs.

"You deserve so much more than I've been able to give you. I need to change that." Oh god, she thought. Here it comes.

Instead he said, in an impulsive rush, "Willow, marry me. Let's get married right away, as soon as you graduate. If we...when we survive the Ascension." He pulled a little box from his pocket and opened it. An honest-to-goodness ring sparkled at her.

"You wanna...I was afraid you were gonna..." It was taking her a minute to catch up from the scenario she'd expected, but he gazed at her expectantly, his eyes, his whole face so open to her. Her eyes were suddenly full of tears, and she was laughing. "Yes, yes..."

For a moment he looked stunned, and then he laughed too. "You will?"

"Giles, of course I will. I told you last year I wanted to marry you, at Breakers Woods, when you told me you wanted to."

He sat closer to her. "Darling...this ring...it belonged to my grandmother. The older Willow told me that the other Giles gave her this ring when they became engaged. I know you can't wear it until after graduation, but I really want to see you wear it now."

She nodded and nodded, and held out her hand. He slipped it on her finger, but she couldn't take her eyes off Giles, the way he was smiling at her. Then they were hugging and kissing and crying a little, and she couldn't believe how lucky she was. They talked giddily of their plans, and agreed to keep quiet about their engagement - "Our engagement!" she crowed - a little while, so as not to rub it in Buffy's face. Willow didn't look forward to telling her parents, but after graduation, she would.

"Do you think you could be happy living here?" he asked, with a sweeping gesture to indicate the apartment. "Or we could find another place..."

"Giles, I love it here." She looked at the comfy green couch they were sitting on, the Tiffany lamp she loved, the pretty fireplace, Giles's artifacts and statuettes, his books on the shelves. My home? she thought. Not just a drawer, but all of it, ours. "I would love to live here with you," she said, and reached for him, kissed him passionately.

Then the phone rang, and they groaned. But as Giles picked it up, Willow thought: this will be our phone, in our living room...and the thought so transported her, it took a moment for Giles's words to register: "A monster at the dress shop?" He sighed. "Very well, we'll meet you at the library."

They tried not to beam too ecstatically at the library, with the rest of the Scoobies and Wesley there. At any rate, ecstatic beaming was kinda inappropriate while watching a video of a poor guy in formal wear getting mauled by a hellhound. Buffy looked so miserable. Willow couldn't wait to tell Buffy about her engagement and to show her the ring - when she was feeling better.

She tried to focus on the task at hand, but when she was hacking into Tucker's email account and Giles leaned over her shoulder to look at the computer screen, she couldn't help but turn and feast her eyes on him, the man who wanted to marry her, and a smile burst across his face that he tried to douse, with little success. That she could make him smile like that, Willow thought, was one of the great joys of her life.


That night at the prom, after Buffy killed the hellhounds, Willow was happy that Buffy got to dance with Angel after all - plus she scored a nifty umbrella for being voted Class Protector. But she felt a little crestfallen when Cordelia, in her slinky dress, danced with her Watcher guy. "It doesn't seem fair that Cordy and Wesley get to dance together and we can't," she told Giles as they stood by the snack table. He looked so scrumptious in his tux, she couldn't wait to be alone with him. She wondered if it would always be like this, when they were married - if being around him would always make her ache for him. She couldn't imagine ever feeling any other way.

"I'd love to dance with you right now," he said. "Despite the fact this version of the Rolling Stones song isn't nearly as good as the original."

She grinned. She didn't think she'd stopped grinning since he'd proposed to her.

"You're so beautiful," he murmured. "You look so elegant with your hair up."

"Do you really like my dress?" It was the first time she'd dared to wear something cleavagey in public (not counting the time with the Halloween dress), and she did think the long, dark red dress with matching shawl was pretty.

He nodded emphatically. "Although I've noticed both Xander and Oz giving you the eye."

"Really? They were checking me out?" She glanced over to where Xander and Oz were talking to some girls she didn't know too well. Xander was over-animated, Oz just the opposite. They looked good in their tuxes, though not nearly as gorgeous as Giles. And they were dateless - which, technically, she was too, except secretly not. Sometimes she wondered why Oz never seemed to date. Even though he was a werewolf, he was nice, and it didn't seem right that he should be alone, just because she, unlike that other Willow, had skipped straight to Giles instead of dating him first. But that thought, like most thoughts tonight, only made her turn to Giles again. "We're engaged," she whispered.

"We are indeed."

Later they danced close in his living room, his old records that she now knew by heart on the stereo, the Nina Simone songs and the Al Green and the Marvin Gaye. She put her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder as they swayed together, as he held her and caressed her bare arms and back. She felt grown-up in her grown-up dress, dancing with her fiancé who looked better than anyone had ever looked in a tux. "My fiancé," she said, and looked up to see him smiling down at her, and then they kissed, one of those kisses where the whole world stopped, in the non-apocalyptic sense.

They went upstairs and undressed each other, and Willow felt like the luckiest girl in the world to be the one to take that tux off him. They lay side to side and made love staring into each other's eyes, and it was as if, she thought, they were looking into their future together, a long, long future, if she had anything to say about it, the Mayor and the Ascension be damned.



They packed up his books, and much of the library's regular collection. They packed up his office: more books, his diaries, teacups, thermos, the little statues on his desk, framed pictures on the walls, clippings and postcards on the corkboard. She would miss this room, where they had kissed for the first time, and so many times since.

The books, Giles's collection anyway, would live with them in the apartment after graduation, and that was something to look forward to. So much to look forward to, if they managed not to die in the next few hours. Living with Giles, being married to Giles. Studying magic, going to college, waking up every morning next to Giles. Going to restaurants together, holding hands in public. Kissing in public.

As they stood in their special place in the stacks for the last time (if things went according to plan), the bookcases looked so strange and naked. "I'll miss this place," she said, touching a bare shelf with her fingertips. "We don't really have time to do this, do we?"

He kissed her, pushed her up against the empty shelves. His eyes were heavy-lidded. "Need you," he murmured, and then his hot mouth was on her again. "Need this."

She clutched him hard. "Giles, I'm scared..." Everything felt like it was coming apart. The Ascension. Angel almost dying, and Buffy saving him with her own blood. Buffy putting Faith in a coma. We can't die, she thought. We just can't, not now, when we're so close to having everything.

"We're going to be all right," he said - yet as he kissed her urgently, as he grabbed her breasts, slid his hand between her legs, she felt his fear too, that this might be their last time together. He unzipped her pants, yanked them and underwear down, and then he was on his knees, his mouth on her.

She watched him, his face intent as he licked her, fucked her with his fingers. "I love you," she whispered. Her hips were moving now, and she fucked his mouth until she shattered.

He held her steady through every sweet aftershock. Then he pulled one of her pant legs all the way off, unzipped himself. He sat down on the floor and drew her onto his lap. As he thrust up into her, as she rode him, she kept whispering, "I love you, Giles..."

"Always," he muttered, his voice hoarse, "darling, sweetheart, dearest love..." He managed to keep his voice low, though she could feel he was close, his cock growing even bigger inside her. With one last thrust, he froze, his eyes on hers, his mouth open and contorted. Then they held each other tight, and she wished they could stay like this, joined, in this place that felt like it was theirs.

They shakily stood and adjusted their clothes, kissed one last time and then once more, she tasting herself on him. "Shall we?" he asked.

"Are you really gonna be okay with this?" She touched his cheek. "I know how much you've loved this library. I mean, aside from the Hellmouth being under it and all."

He smiled slightly. "I'll miss this place too, Willow. But I don't need to look back. I'm too busy looking forward to our life together."

"When you put it that way," she said, "let's get this place ready to be blown up."


Giles had thought, briefly, of sending her away, of buying her a plane ticket for somewhere safe until the battle was over. But he knew that wasn't what she wanted, wasn't the way she intended to live. He could only pray she got to live at all.

When she donned the maroon cap and gown, it was so difficult to watch her walk to her seat with Buffy and the others. They didn't say any special goodbye or wish each other good luck. "I'll see you in a bit," she'd said, and smiled. She was so brave. He'd touched her shoulder. Then she'd turned and walked away.


She ended up sitting with Buffy on one side of her, Cordelia on the other. Cordy kept wiping her mouth. "Something wrong?" Willow asked, as the processional played. "I mean, besides impending doom?"

"Let's put it this way," Cordy said. "Remember that conversation we had awhile back, when I said I understood the attraction to Watcher type guys?"

"Yeah?" She and Wesley had sure looked cozy at the prom.

"Well, I was clearly experiencing some temporary insanity." She wiped at her mouth again, which wasn't doing her lipstick any favors. "Your Watcher type guy...does he know how to...I mean, can he..." Cordy wrinkled her nose. "Never mind."

Yes, Willow thought, my Watcher type guy knows how. He really knows how. She was still wet from having sex in the stacks, could still feel him. Please let us not die, she thought.

Although the one bright side to dying would be that she wouldn't have to tell her parents she was marrying Giles.


It all happened so fast - after Mayor Wilkins' speech, that is, which seemed to drone on forever. She saw Larry die, saw the giant snake Mayor eat Principal Snyder. That most of them survived seemed a miracle.

Afterwards she walked hand in hand with Giles through the melee of fire trucks, paramedics, wandering students. "Happy graduation, Willow," he said, and kissed her. Nobody seemed to notice or care that the librarian was kissing her. After all, there was no more library, or high school. They were decidedly upstaged.

They sat on a bench in front of what was left of the school. He put his arm around her, and she leaned into him. "This feels so...ordinary," she said. "I mean..."

"I know," he murmured. "At long last."

"I hope Wesley's gonna be okay."

Giles nodded. "He was whimpering rather a lot."

The others trudged up to them. "Well, that's the most fun you can have without having any fun," Cordelia said.

"How about the part where we kicked some demon ass?" Willow asked. "I didn't hate that." Giles stroked her hair, and she felt sleepy. The air still smelled of smoke.

"Here, here," Xander said.

"You guys want to take off?" Buffy asked. "I think we've done pretty much all we can."

"Are you okay?" Willow asked. It didn't seem right that she should feel so warm and safe and contented, and meanwhile Buffy had lost Angel once again - though not in as horrible a way this time, at least.

"Yeah, I'm okay," Buffy said. "I could use a little sleep though. If someone could just wake me when it's time to go to college, that'd be great."

College! Willow grinned. She could hardly wait. But first she needed to sleep. She closed her eyes and rested her head on Giles's shoulder. He was complimenting Buffy on a good campaign. His melodious voice soothed her.

When Oz said something about surviving high school, she opened her eyes. Giles was smiling gently at her. She'd loved high school - in large part, because of this man who loved her. "Let's go home," he said.

They said goodnight to their friends, and then they went home to their apartment.


They had a small wedding ceremony at the apartment, a couple of weeks after graduation. Buffy was there, but not Dawn, though she begged her mom to let her go. Joyce was taken aback by the news. A couple of days after Buffy told her, she blurted out in the middle of dinner: "So that was his girlfriend?"

Xander postponed his road trip to be at the wedding. Oz was there too, but Cordelia had already left for Los Angeles.

They went to London and Paris for their honeymoon. They held hands as they walked down the street, or Giles slung his arm across her shoulders. They kissed on park benches, in restaurants and antiquarian bookstores. They couldn't get enough of being out in the world together.

They didn't visit the Council offices, but at the British Museum, Giles introduced his new wife to his former associates. They may have looked surprised at first, but they were gracious.

Willow's parents, especially her mother, had not taken kindly to the news that she was marrying Giles. They threatened not to pay her college tuition. She'd laughed and reminded them that any college she wanted to go to would gladly give her a scholarship, and besides, Giles would happily pay her way. When they got back from their honeymoon, her mother not only told her they intended to pay her tuition, but offered to buy her a car. As UC Sunnydale was five miles away, Willow accepted - but she didn't think they'd be inviting her and Giles over for dinner anytime soon.


He was having tea in the garden when she got home. "Giles!" Grinning, she hurried to him. She was a whirl of colors, red hair, peach T-shirt with see-through violet over it, long purple skirt, green necklace, green bag that she dumped on the table as she leaned down to kiss him.

"Hello, sweetheart," he said, kissing her, ruffling her hair. Her new haircut, with its shaggy look, kept drawing his hand, but then he had always loved to touch her hair. My wife, he thought, and the word never ceased to elate him.

"How was your day, sweetie?" she asked, pulling up a chair.

He couldn't wait to tell her his big decision, but opted to get the lesser news out of the way first - the news she wasn't going to like. "My old friend Olivia called this morning, after you'd gone. She's in town for a few days."

"Olivia?" Her eyes narrowed. "You mean, Olivia who was kinda your girlfriend?"

"She wasn't my girlfriend. She was..." There was no need to get into it. "Yes, that Olivia."

"What did she want?"

"Just to look up an old friend." She had been flirtatious - Couldn't come to sunny Cal without looking up old Ripper - until he told her he'd gotten married. Lucky girl, she'd said, sounding a bit taken aback.

"That's just great. Are you planning on seeing her while she's here?"

"I thought she might meet you." It might be an uncomfortable situation at first. He could see Olivia looking askance when she saw how young Willow was. But surely she would see how well-matched they were, and then it would be all right.

Willow's grouchy expression softened. "Well, just so long as she knows you're a married man."

"Very happily married," he said, and she smiled.

"I'm happy, too, Giles. So happy." She touched his knee, moved her hand up slightly to rub his thigh.

"I'm glad. And I have some exciting news. I've decided to rent the magic shop."

"Really? That's wonderful!" Then a worried crinkle appeared between her brows. "But isn't it a bad omen that you can take over the place because the owner was killed by a demon? I mean, the owners of that place do tend to get killed a lot."

"But on the bright side, the rent's quite low, and the profit margin is high."


"I thought you liked the idea of my running a magic shop."

"Well, of course I do, what with my being a witch, or trying to be. But I don't like the idea of you putting yourself in danger."

He cupped her cheek. "Love, if it's safety you're after, we might have left Sunnydale."

"I see your point. I just don't want anything to happen to you."

"I'll be all right." He kissed her. "Now tell me about your first day at university."

Her eyes widened, and she bounced in her chair. "I can't wait to start classes tomorrow. I got all my courses except for modern poetry - I had to change to ethnomusicology."

"Sounds interesting."

"And you should see the size of the library, Giles. You'd love it there." She waggled her eyebrows. "Hey, maybe one of these days we can make out in the stacks."

"Any time you like." It occurred to him there were also a number of places in the magic shop where he and Willow might enjoy themselves.

"I'll miss you at school," she said. "I think all that sex in the stacks added a certain something to the learning process."

"Indeed." He took a sip of tea, but he was starting to feel rather flushed. He imagined laying her across the table at the magic shop and having his way with her.

"You know, the collective intelligence at UC Sunnydale is like this penetrating force. I can feel my mind opening up and letting this place thrust into and spurt knowledge into..." Now he was feeling well and truly overheated. She grinned mischievously. "I accidentally said that to Buffy earlier, but I made a mental note. I thought you might appreciate it more."

"Come here, darling," he growled.

"Thought you'd never ask." She jumped up and sat on his lap. He was hard for her even before she started wriggling on him. "My handsome, wonderful husband." She made little sighing sounds as they kissed. "I love you, Giles."

"Willow, I love you." My wife, he thought, my beautiful wife. He picked her up and carried her inside their apartment.

The End
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