Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: This story takes place just after "Wild At Heart." And yes, I know that the library is no longer frequented by the Slayerettes, but work with me, OK?
Feedback: Yes, please! I don't want to sound too eager, but GIMME!!!

The Proposition

Staring dreamily into the distance, Willow Rosenberg was so lost in her daydream she didn't even realize she was tapping her pencil loudly against her open book of spells until she heard a sigh. Snapping out of her daze, Willow's eyes took a moment to focus on the handsome man in front of her as he said in a tone of irritation, "Willow, MUST you do that? It's giving me a headache."

Chagrined, Willow stopped her nervous tic as her face turned a bright shade of crimson. "Sorry, Giles," she said in a humble tone. "I didn't even realize-"

"No, it's perfectly all right, Willow, really. No need to get upset," interrupted Giles hastily, for that's what she was doing. The stress of college life combined with the pressure she put on herself to learn witchcraft at a greater rate than before and the terrible break-up with Oz the day before had all finally gotten to her. Her eyes were brimming with tears, and her breaths started getting faster and more frantic. She suddenly burst into full-fledged tears, sobbing wildly and confusing Giles to the extreme. 'What did I say?' he wondered to himself. Having never been too good with women, he awkwardly moved behind her and stiffly patted her on the shoulder. "Uh... it'll... it'll be all right, um, Willow-" he attempted.

She turned and flung herself in his arms, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and burying her face into the shoulder of his tweed sport coat. "Why can't I do anything right?" she wailed.

"Willow, it was just a pencil. It's really not that important," Giles said, still befuddled.

"No, you don't understand," Willow cried, pulling back and sniffling. She wiped her eyes futilely before continuing, "I just can't do this anymore."

"Do what?"

"Be this perfect little student, Wiccan, girlfriend, fill-in-title-here person!" Willow burst out. "I can't do it. And I'll split apart if I try."

Giles was silent for a moment. 'So she really isn't crying about the pencil?' was what he was thinking, but he said, "Willow listen to me." She shook her head miserably and stared at the floor, but he put his hands on her cheeks and tilted her head up to look at him. He waited until she stopped sniffling and made eye contact and then continued, "I know you're going through changes, and I understand completely, believe me. But you don't have to be a 'perfect little' anything, as you put it. The only thing you have to be is yourself. And you're not going to be perfect. No one is. Perfect people don't have friends because they don't need them. But you have friends, Willow. You do! Buffy, Oz, Xander, me... you can rely on us. We'll all help you through this. You can get through this."

Willow let out a short, bitter laugh. "You think I have that many friends, huh? Well, let's examine them, shall we? One: Buffy. Ever since we moved in together, we have not been getting along. At all. The togetherness is destroying us. She hasn't said two words to me all week, she's been too busy with her wonderful new friend Riley. Two: Oz. Apparently you haven't heard about the incredibly heated, incredibly destructive argument we had yesterday. Oz has left me and this state, probably never to return. Three: Xander. Xander has been oblivious to me for, oh, about a year now. It's been worse since Cordelia left, ensuring that Xander probably just hangs around me to look smarter now. Plus he’s become obsessed with Anya… And Four-" Willow's voice broke as she choked out, "Giles, you're all I've got."

With this dismal proclamation, she collapsed against him again and let out a fresh stream of tears. Giles' arms came up and encircled her back, holding Willow's shuddering body close. "Shhh," he soothed. It's not as bad as all that." Willow again buried her face in his neck and sobbed even harder. 'Oh dear,' Giles thought worriedly.

Through her tears, Willow's mind was working on a whole other level. Giles' strong arms around her and the wonderful texture of his lightly stubbled neck reawakened a longing she had thought left when Oz came into her life. Her sobs died down a little as she became preoccupied with smelling him, under the pretense of being extremely upset, which she had been only a moment before. Oh God... he smelled so good... there was a hint of spicy aftershave blended in with the unmistakably male "Giles" scent she knew so well. Willow sniffled, inhaling deeply in the process. It felt so good in his arms, so safe... she allowed herself the luxury of imagining lying in bed together, wrapped in his arms like right now... but with decidedly less clothing, of course. The image faded and Willow sighed deeply, unhappily, knowing that there was no way it could come true. Picturing Giles, her mentor, her friend (her only friend at the moment) as her lover was a futile exercise born of teenaged virgin angst.

Still... what would happen if he felt the same way about her? Would he be too much of a gentleman to bear her down to the table and... or, better still, against a wall in the back stacks... or would he be just as caught up in the moment as she would? She let her fantasies run rampant for a minute.

Giles suddenly pulled away from her and looked at her very oddly. For a split-second, she thought he had somehow read her mind, but it got worse when she replayed the events from the previous minute and abruptly realized that she had let out a breathy, throaty moan in the throes of her imagined passion.

"What was that?" asked Giles in a strained voice, which only served to intensify her mortification and the answering blush she felt creeping across her face.

Seeing her blush only worried Giles more. 'Was that really a moan? God, she sounded so aroused...' More worrisome than her apparent arousal was his own body's uncontrolled response to it. 'For God's sakes, man, get a hold of yourself!' he mentally chastised, fighting to keep the odd and quite sudden attraction he felt for her out of his voice as he asked solemnly, "Willow? Willow, is there, um, anything you want to talk to me about? Because you can talk to me about, um, anything. Just ask."

Despite his suspicions, he was nonetheless shocked speechless when she finally met his eye again. The hunger and desire he found there were far cries from the meek and mild Willow Rosenberg that he knew... or at least thought he knew. Obviously there was a side to her that he knew nothing of. This realization was backed up when the slim redhead slid her hands, previously on his shoulders, down his chest to his stomach and then around to his back, disappearing under his sport coat. Before she could go any farther, he forced himself to ignore the trails of heat her hands left in their wake and gripped her by the shoulder, forcing her to stop torturing him and look up.

"Willow..." he gasped out, a warning tone nonetheless in his voice.

"Mmm?" she replied innocently, her eyes wrinkling up in amusement at his discomfort.

'Why have I never noticed how young and vibrant she is?' he wondered, but he shoved the thought out of his mind and managed to say, "We can't do this."

"Do what?" she asked coyly.

He ignored her feigned naivete and went on, "This isn't appropriate. I'm twice your age--"

"Angel's more than ten times Buffy's age, and you seem not to have a problem with that age difference."

"You saw for yourself how well that relationship turned out! Besides which, Angel is no longer around."

"Well, I AM around."

"You have a boyfriend."

"Not after yesterday."

"You might make up."

"I assure you, we won't."

"You're just a teenager!"

He knew it was the wrong thing to say the moment it left his mouth. Before he could even begin to construct an apology, Willow stiffened, slowly retracting her hands as her eyes flashed angrily. "Just a teenager, huh?" she said. "Do you think of me as just a teenager when you're teaching me spells, or discussing books with me, or training me? Because I don't feel like just a teenager. Not when I'm with you."

The simple, quiet statement, let out in the heat of the moment, seemed to echo around the totally silent library. Giles was stunned into speechlessness, and upon realization on what she had admitted, Willow blushed again, unable to meet his eye. As the awkwardness stretched out, Willow turned and started gathering up her things hurriedly, as if getting out of there as soon as possible would somehow set things right again. Slinging her backpack over her shoulder and grabbing her spell book, she was turning to go when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She stopped and slowly turned to find Giles looking at her with a slightly sad smile on his face, as if he had come to terms with a subject he had been struggling with.

"No," he said.

She frowned for a moment, trying to decipher his cryptic comment. "No what?" she ventured at last. "No, don't leave? I have to leave. I can't stay here now."

"That's not what I meant," he said quietly. "No, I don't think of as just a teenager. Not just another silly teenager, gossiping about hair and clothing. You're definitely one of the most mature teenagers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and I feel honored that you consider me your friend. You're clever, intelligent, resourceful, respectful, and an absolute computer whiz, which never ceases to baffle me. No, you're not just a teenager. But you are a teenager, and I am over twice your age. I just want you to fully grasp what it is you're proposing."

"I have a very firm grasp on what I'm proposing," Willow said indignantly.

"All right, then, what are you proposing?" Giles asked, crossing his arms across his chest in expectancy.

"I thought we already went over this," Willow said guardedly.

"I ask merely for clarification's sake. I need to be certain we're on the same page, if you'll pardon the librarian's pun."

Ignoring his strained attempt at humor, Willow pondered his question for a minute. The silence stretched on uncomfortably, but Giles did not rush her. He was pleased to know that she was taking it so seriously. A back corner of his mind screamed at him that this was Willow and not just some random person, that she was young and innocent and she deserved someone young and innocent and not an older man like him with his dark, angry past, but he ignored it and listened as she finally answered him.

"All right, this is my proposition," she said with finality. "If we get involved, it obviously couldn't go too far. I mean, I do like you a great deal, but I can't really see myself marrying you. I assume that goes for you, too?" At his nod, she continued, "So we get involved, but we keep it a secret. Th council would most definitely object, and Buffy would flip out, too." Willow let out her breath in a relieved sigh at having said all that, and then added unnecessarily, struck by a moment of tentativeness, "There you have it. Ummm... that's, uh, my proposition."

It didn't take him long to figure out the main point. "So you're going to use me for sex."

Her face brightened. "Yeah, basically."

"May I ask a question?"


"Why me? I'm not exactly in the prime of my life. Can't you find someone else, at college for instance, who you can be with instead?"

She sighed in frustration. "All the boys at college want relationships. I mean apart from sex."

"All of them?" Giles asked, surprised. "Have you tried the fraternities?"

She ignored his most recent question and answered a different one. "I want you. I mean, really want you. I trust you, feel safe around you. You're handsome, dignified. We have common interests. I mean, really, what college boy is going to engage me in a conversation about ancient Welsh demons?"

He had to admit, she had a point there. "All right... so how do you propose we go about this?"

Her face lit up in an excited smile. "So you agree to my proposition?" she asked eagerly, still clutching her spell book to her chest.

Despite all the logical, sane reasons why he should refuse totally, the strange, inexplicable desire he felt towards her was growing at an exponential rate. It was all he could do to refrain himself from kissing her right then. He found himself nodding. "I agree," he declared decisively.

Her smile got even wider and she all but hopped up and down with glee. He couldn't help but laugh at her almost childlike response to the ironically adult situation.

"So..." she said expectantly after calming down somewhat.

He caught her suggestion and, surprised, said, "What, now? Here?"

She shrugged in an offhanded manner. "Sure, why not?"

"Because anyone could just walk in here, that's why!"

"Oh, Giles, please. It's Saturday morning. I'll bet everyone's still in bed."


Annoyed slightly by his hesitancy, Willow searched for a compromise. "Well, what if we went into the stacks? In some obscure section that no one ever uses except you and me."

Giles thought it over. He supposed it was feasible. "All right," he acknowledged. He met Willow's gaze and recognized the desire there, all too familiar with the need and slow aching burn spreading through him. He repressed a chuckle. If anyone told him when he woke up this morning that he would be standing here, attracted beyond belief to this girl he had know for years, he would have laughed uproariously and then told them to sit down, they were hallucinating. And yet here he was, and the moment felt oddly, oddly right. As if they had been heading to this point all along.

Giles realized that Willow had at some point stepped closer to him so that their bodies were now mere inches away. He felt like he was drowning in her eyes. A piece of her titian hair separated from the shoulder-length mass to fall across her eyes. He unconsciously reached up and slowly, torturously, brushed the lock back behind her ear, grazing across her cheek in the process, eliciting a tremulous gasp from Willow. Her eyes fluttered closed and she leaned into his touch, his hand sliding down her jaw and neck to grip her shoulder. Leaning forward to nuzzle her neck, Giles was momentarily surprised when she turned her head to meet his lips with hers. The light, feathery contact took his breath away, and, desiring more, he deepened the kiss, parting her mouth experimentally. She responded in kind, pressing her body against his.

It was quite possible that they might not make it to the stacks, Giles mused in a back corner of his mind. All semblance of thought, however, disappeared as Willow slipped her tongue inside his mouth, causing him to groan and bear her down to the floor, the haze of desire claiming them.

Willow gazed contentedly up at the ceiling, drowsily contemplating the tiles. Row after row of them, all mutely staring back down at her. What would they say, she wondered, if they could talk? What would they say after having observed what just went on? Would they be shocked, perhaps, at the lustful occurrence? Congratulatory? Intrigued?

She was distracted from her useless line of thought when Giles shifted beneath her. She lifted her head from its makeshift pillow on his bare chest and rolled over so that she was on top of him and they were eye to eye.

Pulling her down into a kiss, Giles said, "You know, I do believe that this proposition is the best one you've ever made."

Her laughter was abruptly cut off.

The End
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