Part Six

The rest of the day passed quickly in easy conversation. Before she knew it, Willow was getting ready for bed again. She was extremely pleased with the conversation she and Buffy'd had that morning. As she fell asleep she couldn't help thinking that it had felt surprisingly good to talk about what had happened with Oz.

Willow Dreamed…

She was in one of the chemistry labs on campus. Her Wicca stuff was spread before her. Liquids in prime colors were boiling in some of the beakers before her as she prepared to cast a spell.

She incanted, "I conjure thee by Barabbas, by Satanas, and the Devil. As thou art burning, Let Oz and Veruca's deceitful hearts be broken. This way. I conjure thee by the Saracen queen And the name of hell. Let them find no love or solace. Let them find no peace as well."

Willow took a photograph of Oz from where it had been resting among the other spell ingredients. Slowly she brought it towards the flame as she said, "Let this image seal his fate, not to love, only hate."

She looked at the photo again. It was one of the few she had where he was doing that cute little half-smile thing he sometimes did. She had been so happy with him. The last words she had spoken of the spell replayed themselves in her head, 'Only hate.'

Willow dropped the photograph. She may be full of anger and pain now, but she can't bring herself to condemn Oz to a life of pain and hate. As the photo hit the counter the beakers (which she hadn't even realized had been floating) dropped to smash against the counter, startling her.

Tears filled her eyes, again, as she berated herself for not even being witch enough to curse the man who betrayed her.

A voice startled her out of her self-flagellation. "Wow. For a minute there, I thought you might actually play rough." Willow spun around to see Veruca standing by the door. "Sometimes you have to, you know? To keep what's yours, sometimes you have to kill." She paused to look out the window. "How 'bout that? The sun's almost down."

Veruca locked the door with an audible click and began to stalk towards Willow. "Can't say I'm surprised you didn't go through with your little hex. You don't have the teeth."

Willow backed away from the advancing she-wolf. Despite her pain she tried to stand up for herself. "You don't know what I have. You don't know anything about me."

"I know what you love. I have his scent on me right now," she gloated.

Oz burst through the door as Veruca continued to stalk closer to Willow. "Don't touch her again," he demanded.

Veruca preened in the presence of her chosen mate. "Come stop me," she purred. "I like it rough, remember?"

Oz wouldn't give in to her that easily. Not again. "You wanna hurt me, hurt me. You leave her out of this."

Willow didn't know what to make of this confrontation. They'd seem so cozy this morning. Granted Oz had thrown Veruca out as soon as Willow had caught them together, but she'd thought that was out of guilt. Now it seemed like he couldn't stand being in the same room as her. Willow crouched in a corner as they continued to circle each other in the small space of the lab.

"How can I?" Veruca demanded. "She's the reason you're living in cages. She's blinding you. When she's gone, you'll be able to admit what you are."

"You don't wanna find out what I am," Oz insisted as his face began to change to that of a wolf.

"You're an animal. Animals kill," she reminded him, her transformation starting as well.

"You're right." Oz agreed, having come to a decision. He closed the distance between them. "We kill."

He fully wolfed out, as did she. They leapt at each other, rolling around on the ground as they attacked each other with claws and teeth. Oz-wolf pounced and ripped out Veruca-wolf's throat with a growl. Veruca whimpered a final time before her body went slack with death.

Willow, who had been watching from the corner, had tears streaming down her face. She couldn't believe what she'd just witnessed.

Willow reached a hand out in question, hoping to make contact with her boyfriend, hoping that some part of him remained in the animal. "Oz?"

Oz scented her tears, but in his wolf state he didn't recognize the redhead as his girlfriend… just food. With Veruca's blood still dripping from his jaw he sprang at Willow, only to fall flat on his face.

Willow looked up to see that Giles had grabbed Oz's foot, preventing him from attacking.

"Giles," Willow called out as Oz turned on this new threat, moving to attack, but Giles kicked him out of the way. She called out to him again, in warning, in relief. He pulled the gun that had been hanging from his back into his hands and shot Oz with a tranquilizer. Oz tried to get up, but passed out instead.

Once he was certain the wolf was down, Giles rushed to Willow's side. He pulled the sobbing girl into his arms, offering her any comfort he could give. For the first time that day, Willow felt safe. In Giles' strong embrace her tears ebbed and the intense pain she'd been feeling began to recede.


Giles was awakened by the sound of Willow's voice. She was calling out for him with such fear in her voice. He leapt from his bed and rushed down the stairs to her room, heedless to the fact that he wore nothing but pajama bottoms.

He burst through the door of Willow's room, rushing to her side. "Willow?" he softly spoke.

He realized that she was dreaming, and not pleasant ones at that. Tears were sliding down her cheeks as she whimpered and called out to him again. Giles brushed the tears from her cheeks and her hair from her face.

Soothingly he coaxed her to wakefulness. "Willow, I'm here. Let me help you, just follow my voice."

In her sleep-addled mind, Willow recognized that the threat was gone. With one last look at the drugged wolf-form of the man she loved, Willow allowed Giles to pull her to her feet. With an arm wrapped around her, he led her out of the room – out of the dream – and into reality.

Willow opened her eyes to see Giles once again leaning over her prone body, worry in his soft green eyes. A wide smile spread across her face.

Before he could say anything, Willow pulled him down on top of her, embracing him in a tight hug.

"You saved me," she gushed. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Giles automatically replied, his confusion evident in his voice. Afraid his weight would become too much for her, and afraid of his body's betrayal at her breasts being pressed against his bare chest through her nightshirt, he pushed himself off of Willow.

"What did I save you from?" he asked the sleepy girl. He resumed stroking her face and hair as she wrapped one of her hands around his forearm, keeping him beside her.

"Oz," she whispered, frowning slightly.

"What was Oz doing that you needed to be saved?" he warily asked.

"Veruca," she spat.

Giles coughed in embarrassment.

Realizing how she'd answered him, Willow expanded on the topic as best she could. "He killed her. In front of me. I tried to curse them, but I couldn't go through with it. She attacked me; said Oz was hers. Oz stopped her from attacking me and they went all wolfy. But after she was dead, he…" Willow felt the tears well up again. "He turned on me." She took a moment to compose herself as Giles digested what she was saying. No wonder he'd heard fear in her voice when he'd woken.

"And I saved you?" he prompted.

"Yeah," Willow smiled slightly. "You came in and pulled him away when he started to attack me. Then you shot him with a tranq, at least I think it was a tranq. I hope so because as much as he hurt me I don't want him dead, even in my dream."

Giles couldn't hold back the small smile that spread across his lips. Even half asleep and talking about a frightening dream, Willow was babbling.

"Well, I am very happy to have been of service."

"You made me feel safe," she whispered, as if confiding some deep dark secret.

Giles' eyes widened a bit in surprise. His wonder was quickly replaced with contentment. He gave Willow a self-deprecating smile. "I am honored."

Willow could still feel that overwhelming sense of comfort and safety being here in Giles' presence. She didn't want that feeling to end.

When she didn't speak, Giles assumed that it was out of tiredness. He began to stand, to allow her to get some more sleep.

Willow grasped his arm harder, refusing to relinquish her hold.

"Where are you going?" she desperately asked, eyes wide with anxiety.

"I was going to head back to bed. You probably want to get back to sleep."

"Don't go," she pleaded. "What if he comes back? What if he attacks me again?" Her voice began to take on a hysterical edge. "What if he doesn't come at all and SHE attacks me again? You can stop them. Please don't leave me alone."

Giles immediately sat back on the bed with her first desperate plea. He gently lifted her into his arms, wrapping them tightly around her. Willow buried her face in his neck as he soothingly ran a hand over her hair.

"I'm right here," he promised. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll watch over you while you sleep."

Willow's hands clenched on his bare back, pulling him closer to her body. "Promise?"

"I promise."

She pulled back slightly to look into his eyes. "You'll keep me safe," she quietly stated.

Giles was amazed to see such trust in her shining emerald eyes. Even though it hadn't been a question, he answered her. "Always."

Giles eased Willow back down until she was once again lying on her back, her face turned slightly away from his. Her arms were still wrapped tightly around him, as if she were afraid that he'd leave if she let go.

Giles moved to place a kiss on her cheek as she turned her head to face him. Their lips brushed against each other's in a ghost of a kiss.

Giles froze. His entire body was tingling from that brief contact. His brain was screaming at him to move away, distance himself from temptation. Yet his body was straining to lower his head that fraction of an inch and take her mouth in what was sure to be a mind-numbing kiss.

As always, his brain won the argument. He tried to push himself back, prepared to start apologizing.

Instead he found himself in heaven as Willow raised her head that same fraction of an inch to press her lips against his. She softly brushed her lips against those of the man above her, barely touching them to his. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips, wetting his as well, so small was the distance between them. Her tongue was barely back in her mouth when she pressed hers firmly against Giles'.

While he had been debating whether or not to pull away, Willow had been having a similar mental debate. Sure she'd fantasized about kissing Giles for years, but she'd just lost her boyfriend. He was only in her room now because of her nightmare. Yet he'd saved her in her dream. He'd made her feel safe. For some reason her subconscious had chosen Giles to be her savior, not Buffy, not the slayer. She decided that her subconscious must know what it was doing, so she pressed her advantage, so to speak.

Giles moaned into her mouth, giving in to his deepest desire. He moved his lips against hers; reciprocating the pleasure he was receiving. He pulled her bottom lip between his, sucking gently, earning him a moan in return. He felt his body thrumming with heat and desire. Reluctantly he released her lip, offering one more solid kiss before pulling away.

His eyes searched out Willow's, nervously looking for any sign of regret, or worse, repulsion. He found only desire, contentment, and a hint of disappointment for having had it end. He breathed a sigh of relief.

"Willow, I…" he started to say.

Willow cut him off by placing a finger against his lips. She smiled at him. "I'm not sorry. And I don't want to analyze it yet. Let's just get some sleep."

Giles returned her smile, not really wanting to ruin this moment with talk either. "Alright."

He stood and prepared to return to his bed, but Willow's voice stopped him.

"Where are you going?"

Giles turned back to her. "Bed?" Willow shook her head. "But you said…"

Willow patted the empty space next to her. "Here."

Giles' eyes opened wide. "Are you certain?" he choked out.

"Just to sleep. You'll keep me safe."

Even as he crossed to the empty side of the bed Giles wasn't certain that statement was true. Who would protect her from him? What if he couldn't keep his hands off her? 'She's still injured you prat,' he told himself. 'You aren't going to try anything in your sleep.'

He slid under the covers, pulling them up to his chin. Willow wished she could roll over and snuggle into him, but she could barely roll onto her side. She smiled as she remembered what her PT told her about sleeping on her side.

"Can you hand me that extra pillow?" she asked her bedmate. He looked at her quizzically, but reached behind his head for the spare pillow. He started to hand it to her.

"Wait, put your hand on the bed first." He did, still unsure of what she was doing. Willow grasped his arm and pulled herself onto her side, facing him. She winced momentarily as she adjusted to the new position. "Okay, now hand me the pillow."

Giles watched as the pillow disappeared beneath the covers. He saw her upper leg lift a bit under the covers and stay there. He guessed that it was between her legs. He couldn't help but envy that pillow.

"Now come here," Willow requested, holding her arm out to him. Giles raised an eyebrow at her request, but found himself unable to refuse. He inched his way closer to Willow, lying on his back next to her.

Willow shifted a little closer until she was able to rest her head on his chest. She draped her arm over his chest and he was forced to settle his around her shoulders. Willow sighed contentedly, ruffling the hairs on his chest with her breath.

"Good night, Giles."

"Good night, dear Willow."

Giles felt Willow's breathing slow as she returned to sleep. He felt her breasts pressing against his side and the pillow that was between her legs against his. He was grateful that Willow was able to sleep so easily. At least one of them should get a good night's sleep after all.

Part Seven

"Rupert, are you coming?" Willow called from the bedroom.

"I'll be there in a moment. I just need to finish locking up," he called back.

Giles finished turning off the lights and made sure the front door was locked before proceeding to the bedroom. He paused in the doorway, observing the scene before him. Willow was sitting under the covers, several pillows behind her back propping her up. She was reading a novel, always a novel before bed. Her face lit up as she tried to stifle a laugh at something she was reading.

Willow looked up when she finished the paragraph she was reading. She smiled at Giles and lifted the bookmark from the covers to mark her page before closing the book and setting it on the nightstand.

"I was starting to think you were never coming to bed," she teased.

Moving into the room, Giles observed, "You seemed to be entertaining yourself well enough without me. I'm amazed you even noticed I wasn't here."

"I always notice when you're not here," she lovingly commented. Willow hungrily watched as Giles began to change into his pajamas. She loved watching as he stripped out of his clothing, even if he would be covering his toned body again.

Giles looked up at her when he was stripped down to his underclothes. He was always taken aback by the desire he'd see on her face for him.

"Shall I continue changing or do you want to finish for me," he cautiously asked. He knew from experience that just because she may look at him with lust didn't mean she was in the mood to act on it.

Willow sighed and averted her eyes. "Keep going."

Wordlessly he continued. Willow kept her eyes downcast as Giles slipped into bed with her. He slid over to lay next to her on his side. His hand moved to cover hers on her extended belly.

"It's alright, darling," he comforted her.

"I shouldn't get your hopes up like that," she argued.

"My hopes haven't been dashed," Giles insisted, stroking her belly lovingly. "You carry all of my hopes and dreams already."

"It won't be long now," Willow said, a soft smile replacing her frown.

"Less than a month," he agreed. Whenever they spoke of their child he couldn't keep the awe out of his voice. Giles had never allowed himself the luxury of imaging children in his life, aside from Buffy. Now here he was, with a beautiful wife, who was carrying their child. He couldn't be happier.


Giles resisted waking for as long as he could. It had been a long time since he'd had such pleasurable dreams. He felt the body lying against his side, the warm breath exhaling against his bare chest, the curves under his arm, the hair tickling his shoulder.

"Willow." Her name was a soft exhalation, a sigh of regret, a reminder that it was just a dream.

"Mmmm." She answered him even in sleep. "Fifteen cantaloupes in the watermelon patch."

Giles' eyes popped open at the mumbled sentence. First of all, because he wasn't expecting to find a warm, sleeping body in bed with him. Secondly, because the warm body belonged to Willow. And thirdly, because what she said made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Turning his head, Giles' eyes confirmed what his body had already told him. Willow was curled around his body. From her deep even breathing he assumed that she was still asleep. A smile curled his lips. He bent his head to brush a soft kiss against her hair.

Willow began to stir as her pillow started moving. She'd heard her name, but the voice was too far away to answer. Something brushed against the top of her head and she moved her arm to swat it away. Instead, she hit something.

Willow opened her eyes and turned her head to see what she had hit. Her eyes widened as she saw Giles rubbing his scruffy cheek.

"Oh my gosh, Giles, I'm so sorry," she apologized, trying to raise herself onto her elbow. She winced at the slight pain radiating from her hip at the action.

Giles pressed her back down against him. "I'm alright, Willow. Just a little startled."

"I'm so sorry. I mean, here I am, sleeping practically on top of you and then I go and hit you in my sleep."

"Were you able to sleep well?" he asked, changing the subject rather than try to deflect her apologies.

"Better than I have in a long time," she admitted. "You?"

"The same," he softly smiled. "No more nightmares?"

Willow shared a pleased smile with him. "Not a one. I told you that you'd keep me safe."

"I doubt that my presence was what kept the nightmares at bay. It is more likely that you were simply exhausted."

Willow's brows drew together in confusion. 'Why did he do that?' she wondered. Too sleepy to try to answer the question herself, she went ahead and asked him. "Why did you do that?"

"Do what?" Giles retorted, not sure what he could have done already to cause Willow to frown like that.

"Brush off your protecting ability. If I say that you kept the nightmares away then that's what happened. You don't need to get all… modest… and self-deprecating. I slept better than I have since the accident last night and that's because of you."

Willow's resolve face had slid into place by the end of her little speech and Giles couldn't help smiling at her tenacity.

"All right, fine, you win," Giles conceded, the grin evidencing his amusement with her outburst.

"Don't patronize me." Willow plopped her head back down on his chest. She unconsciously began tracing patterns through the hair coving Giles' chest as she pouted. "I'm not a child."

"I know that you're not a child," Giles agreed, quickly adding, "And I'm not trying to patronize you. I was merely trying to be logical."

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that there's no room for logic in bed?"

Giles had to suppress a groan, not only at her words, but also at what her gentle touches were doing to him. "Not lately," he admitted. Not wanting to delve further down that line of thought, Giles returned to the earlier subject. "For the record, I slept better last night that I have in a long time as well."

Willow looked back up at him, happiness radiating from her eyes. "Really?"

"Really." Giles began to stroke her hair gently, the situation becoming increasingly dangerous.

"Did you dream?" she asked.

"I did, but I don't recall what now," he lied. He wasn't ready for Willow to know the kind of life he dreamed of with her.

"Me either," she sighed. "I know they weren't bad this time though."

"I believe you said something about cantaloupes in the watermelon patch," Giles teased.

A hand flew up to cover her mouth in embarrassment. "I did? I don't even know where that came from. Oz always used to tease me about talking in my sleep."

"I hadn't realized I was awake until you did," Giles softly admitted.

"So you were dreaming about me?" Willow pressed, pleased with that thought.

"I was." Giles moved his hand to trace her jawbone, memories of Willow lying pregnant in his arms close to the surface.

"Good dreams I take it," she smiled, leaning into his touch. She was amazed at how comfortable she felt lying here with Giles, like they were old lovers spending the day in bed. 'Woah, where'd that come from?'

"Very." Giles didn't want ruin the comfortable mood that had settled between them, yet he knew that they needed to discuss the kiss from last night. "Willow…"

"Here it comes," she groused.

"What?" he asked in surprise.

"The Talk."

"We do need to talk," he agreed.

"So that you can tell me that it was a mistake?" she accused. She couldn't keep the sarcasm out of her voice. "It was an accident. We were caught up in the moment. It can't happen again."

"Are you quite finished mocking me yet?" Giles asked, trying to keep the pain out of his voice.

Willow was startled at his tone of voice. She was so sure he was going to deny what had happened. She nodded mutely.

"Yes, we were caught up in the moment. And yes, it was an accident." Giles placed a finger over Willow's lips when she was going to interrupt. "But I don't think it was a mistake."

"You don't?" she mumbled under his finger.

"No, I don't. My conscience is telling me that I should, that it was wrong to kiss you when you were in so much pain over your break up with Oz, yet my heart can't deny how right it felt."

"That was your only concern… that it was too soon after Oz?" she asked, still not believing that he wasn't denying what had happened.

"There were more, but that was the main one."


Giles cut her off. "The others are of no importance. Now, do you feel it was a mistake?"

"Not at all. It felt right, like it was supposed to happen. I've always wanted to kiss you," she shyly admitted, "and I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by."

Giles thought his heart had stopped for a moment before it felt like it was going to pound its way out of his chest. She'd thought about kissing him before!

Willow watched the stunned disbelief turn into pleasure on his face. It was obvious that he'd thought about it before too.

"And here I thought I was the only one harboring unrequited feelings," Giles virtually purred.

Willow felt a shiver run down her spine at his tone of voice. "No, they're requited. They're very requited."

Willow reached up and pulled Giles' head down to hers. This kiss conveyed the hunger and longing that had been building inside them for years. Feelings that had been repressed out of necessity – due to age, or circumstance, or significant others – rushed to the surface and escaped through their joined lips.

The position was a little uncomfortable, so rather than break the kiss, Giles slowly rolled Willow onto her back, settling himself next to her. Willow whimpered softly into the kiss as her body settled into the new position.

"Sorry," Giles mumbled against her lips.

"Don't worry about it," she reassured him, pulling him back to her eager mouth.

A ringing telephone eventually broke through the lust-filled haze surrounding Willow's bed. As it was Giles' apartment, he heard it first and reluctantly pulled away from the woman in his arms.

"Hey, where do you think you're going, mister?" Willow protested, panting heavily, and trying to pull him back to her.

"The phone is ringing," Giles informed the redhead.

"Can't the machine get it?" Willow pouted.

"What if it's Buffy?"

"You'd better get it," she sighed, finally releasing him.

Giles hurried to the kitchen, catching the phone on its last ring before the machine would have picked up.

Willow heard his somewhat annoyed greeting of, "Giles here." She giggled, pleased that he was as reluctant to get up as she was.

She lay back on the bed, contemplating what had just occurred. 'I kissed Giles! And it was amazing. Who knew he'd be such a good kisser. Of course I always imagined he would be, but wow. It's sure is nice to be proven right.'

Willow was still lost in her thoughts with a silly grin on her face when Giles returned to the room. He took a moment to admire her. She looked radiant – thoroughly kissed.

Willow felt his eyes on her and looked up. "Not Buffy?"

"Not Buffy," he confirmed. "That was your Rehab clinic calling to remind us of your appointment this afternoon."

"Oh joy," she sighed. "I suppose I should get up, even though I was really enjoying myself right here."

"As was I. But we do need to get on with our day," Giles agreed. "Would you like some breakfast?"

"I could definitely eat," Willow acknowledged, her stomach growling at the mention of food.

"Do you need help getting up?"

"No, I can do it. I'll meet you in the kitchen in a few minutes."

Giles gave her a quick kiss, because he could, and headed into the kitchen to gather together the breakfast supplies as Willow maneuvered herself out of bed and the bathroom before joining Giles for a leisurely breakfast.

Part Eight

The radio alarm sounded the arrival of a much anticipated day, two days after Willow's physical therapy appointment. Willow made a noise of disapproval for being awoken in such a rude manner. She lifted her head to glare at the clock over Giles' chest, reaching out her too-short arm to turn it off.

Giles chuckled as he reached behind him to silence the offending alarm. Wrapping his arm back around the redhead he asked, "Better?"

"Much," Willow sighed, snuggling closer to Giles.

They had been sharing a bed every night since Willow's nightmare of Oz and Veruca. Willow had claimed that she had slept better with him there, so it made sense for him to continue sharing her bed. They both knew that was just an excuse, but since it was what they both wanted, they used it.

"You do know that the alarm went off for a reason," Giles pointed out, turning on his side to face Willow.

"Yeah," she smiled. "Today I get my stitches out." She whispered this last statement, afraid that if she said it too loudly it wouldn't happen.

"A big day," Giles agreed. "One that deserves a hearty breakfast. We can't have that doctor of yours thinking that I'm not taking good care of you."

Willow snaked her fingers out to capture Giles' pajama top and pulled him closer. "Oh, I think you're taking very good care of me, Nurse Giles."

Before he could protest the title, Willow had succeeded in pulling him into thought-stopping kiss. It never failed to amaze him how passionate their kisses could be. In fact, it still amazed him that Willow wanted to kiss him at all, let alone share her bed with him. Granted all that they had done in it was sleep, and kiss, but it was an incredible honor nonetheless. One that he didn't take lightly.

"What time is your appointment?" Giles rasped when they finally separated.

"It's at 10:00."

"We must get up then," Giles regretfully said, pulling away from Willow and standing.

"Aw," Willow pouted momentarily, then broke into a grin at Giles' amused expression. "So what's on the menu this morning Nurse Giles?"

"Must you call me that?" he whined. "You make me feel like I should be behind some kind of glass window holding a clipboard, doling out medication."

"Yes, I must," Willow grinned. She slowly eased her body out of the bed and followed him into the kitchen. "You're the one nursing me back to health, so suck it up and take it like a man, Nurse Giles." She stuck her tongue out at him.

"So long as I don't have to wear some kind of white uniform…" Despite the exasperated tone in his voice, Giles' eyes sparked with amusement.

"Get with the times, old man," Willow teased. "In this day and age nurses wear scrubs."

"Old man?" Giles sputtered. "Old man? Can an old man do this?"

Giles abandoned his breakfast preparations to swoop Willow off her stool and into his arms, kissing her soundly.

"Giles," Willow squealed in the half a second she had before Giles' mouth had descended on hers. Her arms snaked around his neck, holding his shoulders tightly.

"I take it back," Willow said when she could speak again. "You're not old."

Giles granted her a truly Ripperish grin. "Don't you forget it."

He gently set her back down on her stool and returned to the business of making omelets.

"Keep reminding me like that and I won't."

"Do you want to go freshen up while I finish preparing breakfast," Giles offered.

"Yeah, I probably should. Just think, after today, no more sink baths."

"And I know how much you will miss those," Giles sarcastically replied.

"Not a whit." Willow tossed over her shoulder as she exited the room.

By the time she returned, clean and dressed, Giles had a feast of cheese omelets, toast, orange juice and tea waiting for her.

"Yum," Willow commented, taking in the spread. "You didn't have to go to all this trouble."

"It was my pleasure," Giles said, helping her to sit before joining her at the counter. "This is a big day for you and you deserve to be well fed for it."

After the meal Giles quickly showered and dressed. Before he left his room he double checked to make sure his present was well hidden. He knew Willow was going to love his surprise.


"Do you want me to come in while the doctor removes the stitches?" Giles asked as they sat in the waiting room.

"No, I should be fine. It's just a few pulls – no blood. There's some stuff I need to talk to him about anyway." Willow hoped that he couldn't see the faint blush tingeing her cheeks.

"All right." Giles squeezed her hand. He wondered what she could have to ask the doctor that she didn't want him to hear, and caused her to blush. "If you change your mind you'll send for me?"

"Of course."

"Willow Rosenberg," a nurse called into the waiting room.

"Here," she said, easing her body out of the chair to follow the nurse down the hall.

Willow changed into the hospital gown, leaving the opening in the front as instructed, and sat on the examination table. Just as she was beginning to wish that she'd brought a book or magazine with her there was a knock on the door and the doctor entered.

"Good morning, Willow."

"Good morning, Dr. Ashman."

"Are you ready to get rid of those stitches?" he asked, looking over her chart.

"You bet'cha," Willow grinned.

"They haven't caused you any problems have they?" the doctor asked, donning a pair of plastic gloves. He sat on a stool next to Willow, motioning her to lie back. He separated the gown enough to have access to her left hip.

"Only in the non-bathing sense," Willow commented. "The stitches themselves behaved."

"That's good to hear. They look it. You obviously followed the care directions to the letter."

"That's me, practical, reliable girl," Willow agreed, for once not feeling that these are bad things to be.

Dr. Ashman stood to retrieve the tools needed to remove the stitches. He saw that Willow seemed to have steeled herself for what was to come when he returned to her side. He smiled to himself at the concentrated look on her face.

"Keep in mind that you will need to continue to care for the area where the stitches are being removed to prevent scarring."

"I know," Willow said. "I read the pamphlets. I'll need to wash the area carefully and rub a medicated ointment gently over the scars to minimize their permanency."

"You have done your homework," Dr. Ashman chuckled.

"I like to be prepared." Willow winced as the doctor began to gently tug the stitches free from her body.

"If only all of my patients took such care of their injuries…" Dr. Ashman wistfully commented.

"Um, speaking of being prepared…" Willow hesitantly began, deciding this as good a time as any to ask.

"Yes?" Dr. Ashman prompted, continuing his work.

"How long, um, how long should I wait… How long do I need to wait before I can have sex?" The end of her question came out in a rushed whisper.

Dr. Ashman blinked and momentarily paused his actions at her question. That wasn't what he had been expecting her to ask him. From what he understood from Willow and her friends, she had been injured in a car accident after breaking up with her boyfriend. He briefly wondered how she could have met someone new so quickly that she'd be asking this question. Pushing aside his personal questions, he answered her professionally as he returned to his task.

"Some time, to be blunt. Your hip has sustained major trauma, Willow. Even with the surgery it will take time for the bones to heal and adjust to the pins that are now there. It's been how long since your surgery… two weeks?" Willow nodded, her bottom lip caught between her teeth. "Three months is the average time I recommend waiting for such an activity."

"Three months," Willow repeated, disappointment evident in her voice.

"That will of course be dependent upon the progress of your recovery," Dr. Ashman continued. "We will be meeting again in a month and I can give you a better estimate at that time."

"Okay," Willow agreed. "How are things going down there?"

"Just about done," the doctor said, removing the last stitch. "There, done." He wiped the area where the stitches had been with an antiseptic, making sure they were clean before covering them with a gauze bandage.

"More bandages?" Willow questioned.

"For a time, yes. This area of your hip will still be sensitive, especially after being tugged at this morning. You should still take particular care of this area for the next several days."

"But I can take a bath, right?" she eagerly asked.

"Yes," the doctor chuckled. "You may take a bath. You may need some assistance getting in and out of the tub because you won't be able to put your full weight on your left leg while climbing in or out."

Relief washed over Willow's face. She knew exactly how she was going to spend her afternoon. "I can live with that condition. Are we done?"

"Yes. Please stop by the front desk on your way out to schedule an appointment to come back in a month's time. When you feel you are ready, you may stop using one of the crutches, but only if you are comfortable. Don't push yourself to try to heal faster than your body is ready to. I know you don't want to do anything to slow down your healing progress."

"That's for sure," Willow agreed. "Thanks, Doc."

"Good day, Willow."

Dr. Ashman handed Willow her clothes before leaving her to some privacy.

Giles stood when he saw Willow coming down the hallway, a smile on her face. He met her near the door.

"Everything went smoothly I presume?" he asked, slipping an arm around her shoulder.

"Blue skies all the way," Willow agreed. "I just need to make a follow-up appointment and then we're outta here."


"Do you know what you would like to do this afternoon?" Giles asked once they were back in the car.

"Absolutely," Willow confidently said. "I will be wiling away my afternoon in a bubble bath."

"I had a feeling you'd say that," Giles teased.

"Oh, and how did you know," she countered.

"You've been talking about that blasted bath for days now," he reminded her.

Willow giggled. "Oh, yeah, I forgot."

"Were you able to discuss everything you needed to with your doctor?" Giles carefully queried.

"Yep. He said that I have done an excellent job of taking care of my stitches and that I should be able to get rid of one of the crutches in a couple of weeks if I feel stable enough."

"Is that all you discussed with him?" He doubted it; otherwise he could have held her hand while her stitches were being removed.

"No, but that was kind of personal, if you don't mind," she admitted.

His heart sank; he had hoped that they could discuss anything with each other. "Of course, I'll respect your privacy."

"It's nothing bad," she assured him. "And you'll find out eventually. I'm just not ready to share yet."

"All right. Anything else he said that I should know about?"

"Well, he did say that if I plan on taking baths, that I will need some assistance getting in and out of the tub since I can't put my full weight on my left leg."

"He did, did he?" Giles leered slightly at the blushing redhead next to him. "I think I am up to that challenge."

"Who said I was going to ask for your help?" she impishly countered. "Maybe I was talking about Buffy or Xander."

"I highly doubt that you want Xander to see you naked, nor Buffy."

"And who said that I'm ready for you to see me naked?" she continued to tease him.

"Oh, um, I hadn't thought of that," Giles soberly replied, a slight frown creasing his eyebrows. "Of course… I didn't mean to presume…"

"Relax, Giles," Willow told him. "I'm ready."

Luckily Giles had just pulled into his parking space. He turned his head and caught the lustful look Willow was fixing on him. His breath caught and the depth of the emotion he saw on her face, knowing her statement meant more than simply preparing for a bath. He silently prayed that his body would behave itself so that he would be able to do this for her.

Willow watched as his eyes changed from bright-eyed shock to lust-darkened yearning. Her heartbeat quickened at what she saw and she desperately wished it were two months later.

Willow found her voice first. "We, we should go inside." She fumbled with the door handle for a moment before her fingers obeyed the command to open the door.

Seeing Willow move brought Giles out of his thoughts. "Right. You've got a bathtub with your name on it."

Giles quickly exited and moved around the car to assist Willow in getting out. Once she was safely on her feet, he went ahead and opened the door for her.

"Wh-why don't you g-go ahead and change into your robe while I prepare the bath," Giles suggested.

"Yeah, I'll do that," Willow quietly agreed.

Giles dashed up to his room to retrieve the gift he had purchased for Willow for this day. He brought it with him into the bathroom as he began to fill the tub with hot water.

While he waited for the tub to fill he paced. The enormity of the situation laying heavily on his shoulders. 'I'm going to see Willow naked,' he gleefully thought. It wasn't the way he had imagined his first time seeing her sans-clothes would be. In his mind, he had always imagined that he would be the one to get her into a state of undress. He had often imagined what her face and body would look like as he sometimes lovingly, sometimes desperately, peeled the clothing from her body.

He'd never imagined that it would be under these circumstances. How was he expected to keep his emotions at bay when confronted with her completely bare skin? Was he supposed to ignore the fact that a beautiful woman, for surely could be nothing short of gorgeous, was to be naked in his arms. Perhaps he wouldn't have to ignore it so much as look at the situation in a different light.

Giles poured a generous amount of bubble bath from Willow's present into the tub as his mind continued to wrestle with the situation.

Willow was still fragile. He knew that she would most likely be embarrassed by the situation they were in. He doubted that this is how she imagined she would first be naked with him as well. Yet it was what was necessary for her to have the bath she so desperately wanted.

A light rapping on the door announced Willow's presence. Giles stopped his pacing and turned his resolved face to greet Willow. She looked so small wrapped in the terrycloth robe between her crutches. In that moment, Giles knew he could do anything for her.

Willow was oddly relieved to find Giles pacing when she reached the bathroom. She'd been questioning the rationality of having Giles assist her with taking a bath as she'd changed.

Part of her was embarrassed at having to need his assistance period. The greater part of her doubts was her own insecurities. 'Giles is going to see me naked,' she thought nervously.

Willow had always felt that her body left much to be desired. She was thin, slightly bony after her hospital stay, with pale flesh dotted with freckles. She knew that she wasn't as developed as many girls her age were, including Buffy and Cordelia. Would Giles still want to be with her after seeing her naked?

Maybe she was being presumptuous that he even wanted more of a relationship with her. What if he wasn't thinking far enough ahead to want to sleep with her? She realized that she had been the aggressor with most of their kisses so far. What if he was only being polite and he didn't really want her?

Willow shook her head as she tied the belt closed on her robe. She was being ridiculous. Giles wouldn't lead her on like that. Besides, she'd brushed against his arousal often enough in the last couple of days to know that he desired her, or at least his body did. She smiled as she made her way to the bathroom, and Giles.

"It smells wonderful in here," Willow commented upon entering the room. "Roses?"

"Um, ah, yes," Giles confirmed, pulling himself out of his musings. He presented her with the gift bag.

"Prezzie!" Willow exclaimed, moving to sit on the closed toilet.

"In honor of your first bath post-surgery," Giles said, presenting the gift with a flourish.

Willow clapped her hands with child-like glee. "What do we have here?" She mumbled as she pulled the tissue paper out of the bag, dropping it on the floor. "Ooh, rose scented bubble bath, which I see you already opened."

"I hope you don't mind," Giles apologized with a small smile.

"Not at all. There's more!" Willow proceeded to pull out apple scented shampoo, a loofa, and a rose scented candle. "Thank you Giles! I'd jump up and give you a hug if I could," she gushed.

"I'm glad you like it."

"Of course I do, I can't wait to try them out." Willow said excitedly before the reality of the situation hit her again.

Giles silently turned the water off, testing the temperature one last time before turning back to Willow. "No time like the present," he shyly said.

Willow sagely nodded. She avoided looking at him as she pulled the tie on her robe and shrugged out of it. Her hands moved to cover her exposed body as she awaited Giles' reaction.

Giles noticed Willow's trepidation as she disrobed and tried not to watch her – a difficult task. He rolled the sleeves of his shirt up to his elbows as he waited. He heard the heavy material hit the porcelain of the toilet and took that as his cue. He raised his eyes. Even trying to hide within her skin, Willow was beautiful.

As he exhaled the unknowingly held-in breath, he said, "You're beautiful."

Willow's entire demeanor changed. She sat up a straighter and her face was lit up with her smile. "You think so?"

"Yes." His voice still held a sense of awe that sent delightful shivers down Willow's spine. "Let's get you to your bath."

Willow reluctantly moved her arms, preparing to wrap them around Giles as he bent to pick her up. He tried to ignore the delightful sensations running up his arms where her bare skin touched his and concentrated on not dropping her. Kneeling next to the tub, Giles lowered Willow into the water, hiding her body beneath the bubbles.

Willow sighed with pleasure as she released her arms, allowing them to slide into the tub. Giles allowed himself the pleasure of brushing his hands along her body as he removed them from water.

"Do you want me to go?" he nervously asked, handing her a small rubber pillow to sit on, hoping that she'd say no.

Willow reached out and caught an arm before it was completely out of the tub. "Stay," she shyly requested.

"May I bathe you?"

"Mmm, that'd be nice." The heat of the water was relaxing Willow as she lay her head against the tub.

Giles quickly retrieved Willow's gifts. He excused himself briefly, only to return with an empty pitcher. He filled the pitcher with water from the tub before requesting, "Sit up."

Giles tilted her head back and poured the water over Willow's hair, he repeated the process until it was thoroughly wet. He set the pitcher aside and uncapped the apple shampoo, pouring a generous amount into his hands. "You can sit back now," he informed Willow before working the shampoo into her hair.

Willow played with the bubbles surrounding her, pulling them over her body, making sure she was covered, despite Giles' previous view of her. She relaxed against the tub as Giles proceeded to wash her hair. At first she felt a little silly having him do this for her, but she quickly changed her mind. She'd had other people wash her hair before, at the beauty salon when she had her hair cut, but it was nothing like this.

Giles worked the shampoo into a lather as he massaged her scalp. Using small circles, his strong fingers kneaded Willow's scalp beginning along her hairline and around and up to the top of her head, releasing any tension in her body as he cleaned her fiery hair. The pleasure-filled moans Willow couldn't contain only spurred him on.

"Mm, Giles, where did you learn to do that," Willow moaned.

"I have my sources," he silkily replied. "Now sit up again."

Willow whimpered in protest as he removed his hands, rinsing them in the water. "Don't wanna."

"How do you propose I finish washing you if I can't rinse your hair?" he asked, filling the pitcher with water.

"Good point," she agreed, using the sides of the tub to pull her body into a sitting position.

"Close your eyes." Using his free hand to keep the soapy water from her face, Giles proceeded to rinse her hair.

"This is heavenly," Willow sighed.

"I'm glad you're enjoying it. You can sit back now."

Giles picked up a washcloth and poured some bath gel on it. Starting with her shoulders, Giles began to wash the rest of her body. He ran the cloth over one shoulder and over her chest to the other, back to the bit of chest exposed above the water before dipping below. He held his breath as his cloth-covered hand ran over first one breast and then the other.

A long, low moan made its way out of her throat as the rough texture of the washcloth ran over her breasts. Willow arched into his touch, trying to prolong the contact.

Giles grinned at her reaction and lingered on her breasts for a few more minutes before running the cloth over each of her arms. He rewashed her breasts as he continued his downward motion. He flitted over her fluttering belly and purposely bypassed the juncture of her thighs. Instead he lifted her right leg out of the water and ran the cloth from hipbone to toes. Then he repeated the process, although much slower and at a lower altitude, with her left leg. When he neared her pelvis again he paused and chanced a look at Willow's face to see if he should continue.

Willow met his questioning eyes, dark green boring into light. With her bottom lip between her teeth she nodded. Keeping their eyes locked, Giles ran the cloth over her sex.

Willow's body was on fire. She wanted nothing more in that moment than for him to abandon the washcloth and touch her. But at the same time, she knew they weren't ready for that yet.

Giles saw the emotions play over Willow's face. He felt the almost imperceptible lift of her hips, encouraging his touch, but her face belied her body's response. He could see the war being waged between her eyes. Being the gentleman he was, Giles went against instinct and retraced his path back up Willow's body.

As he returned to her head, Giles abandoned the washcloth and lowered his head to capture Willow's lips. She moaned into his mouth, brushing her tongue against his lips, inviting his out to play. An invitation Giles was more than happy to accept.

Many minutes later Willow pulled out of the kiss and leaned forward again. "Don't forget my back," she impishly said, handing Giles the washcloth from the bottom of the tub.

"Wouldn't want to forget that," he mumbled, somewhat put out to have the kiss end.

As he finished, Willow asked, "What time is it?"

Giles retrieved his watch from the sink. "It is nearly one o'clock."

"We need to get me out of this tub then," Willow announced. "Buffy and Xander are supposed to be coming over around two."

"If we must…" Giles reluctantly agreed, a slow smile spreading across his face. He began to drain the tub as he reached for a towel. He took a minute to try to figure out the best way to get a wet Willow out of the tub without becoming soaked himself. Finally he opened the towel across his chest, holding one end in each hand. Making sure that the towel didn't dip into the retreating water, he once again knelt next to the tub and reached in, pulling Willow into his arms. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and Giles lifted her over the edge of the tub, and stood her on her feet. Keeping his hands on her hips as she steadied herself on her right leg, Giles turned his head away allowing Willow as much privacy as possible to dry herself.

"Can you stand on your own?" he asked.

"Kind of. Why?"

"I'm going to let go so that I can get your robe."

"Okay. Go for it."

Giles left her side for a second to retrieve Willow's robe and was back before she knew he was gone. He helped her into the robe from behind, then reaching around her, he tied the belt and held her in his arms.

Willow leaned back against Giles' solid frame. She turned her head to look up at him. "Thank you. That was the best bath I've ever had."

"You're more than welcome," Giles said, dipping his head for a brief kiss. When he pulled back he picked Willow up in his arms again and carried her to her bedroom.

"I can walk you know," she chided, snuggling into his arms.

"I know." He gave her a sheepish grin. "I just like having you in my arms."

"Aw, that's so sweet." Willow's fingers played with the hair at the nape of his neck until he set her down on her bed.

"I'll just go get your crutches then," Giles said, backing out of the room.

"I'll be here," she called back.

Part Nine

Willow was dressed and seated on the couch when Xander bounded into the apartment, without knocking.

"Hiya Wills," he greeted the redhead, dropping down next to her on the couch and pulling her into a quick hug.

Willow tried not to wince at the jostling as she returned his greeting, "Hey Xan."

"So how was the big day?" he good-naturedly asked.

Willow blushed, remembering her recent bathing at Giles' hands. "It was wonderful," she sighed.

"Geez, Will, there's no reason to get all misty over getting some stitches out."

"Stitches, right," Willow agreed, sobering. "I'm just really happy that they're gone."

"Did it hurt?"

"Not really. There was some tugging…" Willow paused as Xander began to turn a little green. "It didn't hurt. I'm a little sore now from the skin being pulled though."

"Sore from what?" came a feminine voice from behind.

Willow turned her head to see Buffy closing the apartment door, setting her backpack on the floor.

"Hey, Buff."

"Hey, Wills. I say again, 'Sore from what?'"

"Stitch removal," Xander answered, making a face.

"How was the bath?" Buffy slyly asked.

Willow ducked her head as her face turned bright red. "What bath?"

"The one you've been dying to take for the last two weeks," Buffy reminded her.

Giles, who had overheard Willow and her friends from his loft, decided to intervene. Walking down the stairs, he said, "Ah good, everyone's here."

Willow sent him a grateful look and mouthed, 'Thank you.' He nodded imperceptibly, turning his eyes back to their guests.

When Willow returned her eyes to Buffy she received another look which clearly said, 'Girl talk later.'

Xander's eyes were slightly glazed over from all the talk of Willow and baths, so he wasn't able to send Willow any silent messages.

"Yes, the troops are gathered. Is it time to circle the wagons?" Buffy wryly asked.

"I should probably be asking you that question," Giles returned, sitting in his favorite chair. "Anything interesting turning up on your patrols?"

"P-patrol?" Buffy squeaked. "Oh, um, patrol… nothing unusual. I see a vamp, I slay a vamp." She sat up straight, hoping no one caught her slip.

"Oh, Buffy," Giles sighed in disappointment, realizing that his slayer was shirking her duties.

"How's Riley?" Willow knowingly asked.

"He's good," Buffy shyly admitted, looking at her hands.

"Who's Riley?" Xander piped up.

"Buffy's new boyfriend," Willow answered.

"He's not a vampire is he?" Xander cautious asked.

"No!" Buffy exclaimed. "Why would you ask that?"

"Well… Angel," Xander gestured. The girls gave him withering stares and Xander suddenly felt very small. Thinking on his own track record he asked, "He's not some other kind of demon is he?"

"No, he's your average, ordinary, human guy." Buffy stated, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Xander, I wouldn't dig too deep if I were you," Willow told her oldest friend sympathetically. Then she whispered, "Anya."

Xander looked properly chastened.

"Are we finished categorizing everyone's significant others?" Giles wearily asked from his corner.

"Yes, Giles," the three on the couch said together, then burst into giggles. Giles rolled his eyes.

"Let me summarize then," he offered. "Buffy has been too busy with her new boyfriend to notice anything unusual on patrol. Xander has been too busy with Anya to know about Buffy's new boyfriend and Willow had her stitches out today. Does that about cover it?"

"Uh, yeah," Buffy nodded.

"Right then, I'll leave you to catch up with Willow. I have some errands to run anyway," Giles said as he stood.

"Hey, Xan, would you mind getting me a soda?" Willow asked her friend. Wanting a moment alone with Giles she suggested, "Buffy, why don't you go grab something to drink too."

Buffy gave Willow a strange look, but shook it off as she joined Xander in the kitchen.

"What was that all about," she whispered from the relative privacy of the kitchen.

Xander shrugged. "Roommate stuff?"

They poked their heads through the window between the kitchen and living room just in time to see Giles quickly kiss Willow's smiling mouth; her hand rested on his chest.

Xander opened and closed his mouth several times before sound would come out; his eyes were wide as saucers.

"That was just a friendly, 'I'll see you later' kiss, right?" he desperately asked the blonde.

Buffy shook her head to clear the image from her eyes. She felt slightly nauseous. "Oh, God I hope so."

Nervously they risked another glance, relieved to see that their friends were only speaking quietly now. The subtle glow that remained on their faces unnerved the occupants of the kitchen.

Xander quickly grabbed a couple of sodas out of the refrigerator, handed one to Buffy and headed back to the living room.

Giles abruptly stood when Xander and Buffy entered the room.

"Are we interrupting anything?" Xander snidely asked.

"Of course not," Giles replied.

"Nope. What would you be interrupting?" Willow nervously asked.

"I don't know. You tell me."

Willow and Giles shared a nervous glance. One that didn't go unnoticed by Buffy.

"Are you two, like, together now?" she quietly asked.

Giles removed his glasses, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket to clean them, avoiding looking at Buffy. Willow paled and her eyes grew wide – a sure sign that she had something to hide.

Willow and Giles hadn't really discussed what was happening between them, so neither was sure how to answer. They both wanted to believe that they were a couple, but they weren't certain of the other's feelings.

Willow decided to take the initiative. "Kind of." She sighed with relief when Giles took her offered hand, squeezing it reassuringly.

"Kind of?" Xander spluttered. "How can you 'kind of' be together?"

"We haven't really discussed it," Giles supplied, returning his glasses to his face.

"But there have been smoochies," Willow admitted.

"Ugh, bad visual place," Xander protested, covering his eyes.

"Buffy?" Giles quietly entreated the slayer. She hadn't said anything since posing her assumption. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," she quietly answered. She swallowed, the said a little louder, "I'm happy for you."

Buffy wasn't sure how she felt about her best friend getting together with her watcher, but she knew better than to say anything else before she had a chance to examine her feelings. Just because she'd always considered Giles to be like a father to her didn't mean the others felt the same way. She grabbed Xander's sleeve and started pulling him out the door.

"Come on Xan, let's get you out of here before you put your foot in your mouth."

"But… but didn't you hear what they said?"

"Yes, I did. But we need time to absorb everything. Then we can give them our full support," she calmly explained. A little too calmly.

"Thank you, Buffy," Giles said, feeling a tremendous amount of pride for his surrogate daughter.

"Yeah, thanks," Willow agreed.

"We'll see you guys later."

Buffy pulled the still protesting Xander out of the apartment, leaving the couple alone.

"That went better than I expected," Willow sighed as Giles settled next to her on the couch, pulling her into his arms.

"That it did. Although that wasn't the end of it I'm sure," he agreed.

"You know Xander's going to bring up the age thing." Willow pointed out.

"And Buffy will question my patriarchal role in the group."

"And how soon this happened after Oz…"

"So how will we answer them?" Giles uncertainly asked.

"I don't know. Like you said, we haven't really talked much about what's going on here, aside from the fact that we both want to kiss each other."

"That I do," Giles agreed, demonstrating his point for several minutes.

"But is it more than just kissing feelings?" Willow asked when her mouth was free.

"Yes," Giles softly admitted. Willow's eyes widened in hope, as his hand began to caress her hair. "I promise that I won't rush you to do anything you're not comfortable with, but I would love to have a relationship with you Willow."

Willow didn't resist the urge to kiss him before giving her own answer. "Is it too soon after Oz? I honestly don't know. I don't have a whole lot of experience in the relationship department to know when too soon to move on is after having your heart broken. I want to be with you, I love waking up in your arms and I love kissing you. Is that enough to build a relationship on? Because I'd like to do that."

As much as he knew the answer might pain him, Giles had to ask, "Do you still love him?"

"Of course," Willow sadly admitted. "Am I in love with him? I don't think so. It's kinda hard to stay in love with someone after seeing them cheat on you and then skip town without so much as an explanation or a good-bye. What about you… and Olivia?"

"I was never in love with Olivia," Giles admitted.

Willow feigned shock, "Giles!"

He ruffled her hair. "You know as well as I that people don't always get together out of love. Olivia and I are friends, sometimes more, but nothing serious, and never for long."

"So you just sleep with her when you're on the same continent?" Willow asked, honestly curious. This is a side of Giles she'd never seriously contemplated before.

"Without being crass, yes. Willow, you must understand…"

Willow cut him off, "I get it. No need to get defensive. You were lonely."

"Yes, I was. Especially with you lot off discovering your own paths. So when Olivia mentioned that she would be in California…"

"You agreed to see her." Giles nodded. "I'm glad she was able to make you feel better. I'm sorry we kind of abandoned you when school started."

"You had a lot going on," he reminded her, grateful that she wasn't condemning him for his actions. "You had to adjust to living in a dorm and college life and… everything."

"That's no excuse," Willow protested. "You're our friend and we neglected you."

"If you're offering to make it up, I'll take it under consideration," Giles playfully offered.

"I think I'm up for the challenge." Willow met Giles' mouth, teasing his tongue with her own, making promises for future payments.

"Three months," she panted when they separated.

"Three months for what?" Giles asked, his kiss-fuzzy brain having no idea to what she was referring to.

"Until we can, you know, be together," Willow blushed and stammered.

Giles' eyes grew bright and he lifted an eyebrow in comprehension. "Why three months?"

"Doctor's orders," Willow said.

"That's why you didn't want me to come in with you?" Giles was floored that she'd already had the foresight to ask the doctor about making love with him.

"Yeah." Willow's blush deepened. "Just in case you wanted to… I wanted to make sure it wouldn't interfere with my healing."

"Three months," Giles repeated, suppressing the groan of disappointment, of desire. Her admission that she wanted him was enough to make him want to carry her to her bed and spend hours pleasuring her.

"At least it'll give us time to get to know each other as a couple," Willow giggled, reading Giles' expression for what it was.

"And to get your friends used to the idea of us being together," Giles agreed.

Willow began to giggle, drawing a questioning glance from Giles. "Sorry," Willow apologized, catching her breath. "I was just thinking that you should prove to Xander how not old you are the same way you showed me."

Giles joined her laughter this time. "I don't know that I'd be able to carry him around the apartment as easily."

"Then you can just carry me around in demonstration," Willow suggested.

"Now that I'd be happy to do. I love having you in my arms."

Willow sobered. "Xander will come around, eventually. Once he realizes that you make me happy, he'll be all for it, so long as he doesn't have to see it."

"Buffy won't be so easy to convince." Giles lamented.

"I know. She was pretty wigged when Olivia was in town and realized that you have a personal life that doesn't revolve around her."

"I remember. She couldn't wait to get out of the apartment," Giles mused.

"I think some part of her actually wanted you to get together with her mom," Willow told him conspiratorially. Giles looked at her in shock. "After the whole mind-reading thing when she found out about you two the night of Band Candy, after she stopped freaking out over the idea of her mom having sex with you, in public, she kinda warmed to the idea. Not of you two having sex, but, well, you know she already sees you of like a surrogate father, and her mom's her mom. I think that in her mind she wanted her mom and "dad" to be together."

"Did she tell you this?" Giles asked in awe. He had never even considered Joyce as possible dating material, even after she found out about Buffy being the Slayer, or even after that night when they were acting like teenagers. One of the main reasons he'd always considered her off-limits was the very fact that she was Buffy's mother. Should they have a relationship, and it not work out, it would have devastated Buffy even more.

"No, she never said it out loud. But best friends can tell this kind of thing from what isn't said. She'll be fine with us once she gets over the fact that you won't become a part of her family. Then she'll just have to deal with the fact that her father-figure is dating her best friend."

"That may take some time," Giles sighed, knowing how stubborn his slayer could be when things don't go as she planned.

"I know. But we've got time to wait."

Part Ten

"Willow, I told you that this isn't necessary," Giles stated for the fifth time in twice as many minutes.

"And I told you that I wanted to do it," the stubborn redhead repeated.

"I can live without out it, really," Giles once again protested.

"But why should you have to?" Willow countered.

"We don't even know if it would be acceptable," Giles admitted.

"It will be," Willow grinned. "You are the best researcher I know. Why wouldn't the Counsel want to publish a compendium of prophecies?"

"Because I put it together," Giles said with a frown. "It's no secret that the Counsel and I are not on the best of terms at the moment, what with them having fired me."

"Well then we can shop it around and once they see what a wonderful book you've put together they'll be crawling on their hands and knees to get you to come back," Willow excitedly said.

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We haven't yet begun."

"There's no time like the present," Willow offered. She rubbed her hands together. "Let's see those prophecies."

"Very well," Giles sighed, inwardly thrilled that Willow wanted to work on this project with him. He unearthed a file box containing some of the last three years' worth of prophecies that won't come to fruition for many years to come. Even though he'd often toyed with the idea of compiling them into a book, he'd never given it serious consideration. This was only one of the many good things to come of his burgeoning relationship with Willow.

It had been a week since Buffy and Xander had discovered that he and Willow were now a couple. Seven long, tension filled days. The more time that passed, the more worried Willow grew. She knew that it would take her friends some time to adjust to her relationship with Giles, but she thought she would have heard from at least one of them by now.

She had suggested beginning working on the book as a means to distract herself. No matter how often Giles reassured her that they would come around, Willow couldn't help thinking about her friends' distance. Having a project to work on would, hopefully, keep her better distracted.

The box that Giles dragged over to the couch, which Willow had long ago claimed as hers, appeared to be packed to the brim. When the cover was lifted off her suspicions were confirmed.

"All of those files are for future prophecies," Willow asked in awe. There had to be at least 20 packed file folders in the box.

"This is only the first box, with the earliest prophecies," Giles sheepishly admitted.

"I take it back," Willow said, the tone of awe still slightly evident in her voice. "This book needs to be published like yesterday." She looked up at Giles. "You really set aside every possible future prophecy didn't you?"

Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them in his embarrassment. "I thought they might be useful one day," he sheepishly admitted. "It was silly of me, I know…"

"No, it wasn't," Willow reassured him. She wanted to stand and pull him into a hug, but instead pulled him down to sit with her, keeping a grip on his hand. Making him meet her eyes, she asked, "How many times did we stay up late searching high and low for the prophecy that would explain what was going on? How many different texts did we have to rifle through to find all the pieces of those prophecies? Just think how much time we could have saved if someone had thought to gather all of the information together when they first came across it and put it all together in one place."

"Far too many nights," Giles agreed. A wistful look passed over his face as his hand moved on its own to cup Willow's cheek. "Although I wouldn't trade a single one of those long nights where you and I would be the only ones doing the research."

Willow's eyes teared slightly at the expression on his face. She'd loved those nights too. Giles would be sitting surrounded by books, skimming the pages for that one pertinent bit of information as she sat at her computer scouring the web for that same bit of missing information. Xander would often be with them, but he usually passed out after only a couple hours of research. They'd never told Xander that they knew about his "naps" during research. It was their little secret.

"I loved those nights," she whispered, leaning into his caress. "I had such a crush on you. So it was great for me to be able to spend all that time basically alone with you. You always treated me like a grown-up, expecting me to be able to work on my own and find what was needed. Even if I didn't, you never made me feel like that was my fault."

"I saw no reason to treat you like a child when you didn't act like it. I knew, I do know, how smart you are. Why would I want to stifle that intelligence under reprimands and low-expectations?"

"You treated Xander like a child," Willow pointed out.

"Xander acted like a child," Giles countered. "If he were to demonstrate that he could handle more responsibility I would give it to him."

"Xander's good at self-fulfilling prophecies. He behaves as he thinks he's expected to. If you act like he's going to mess up and not follow through then that's what he'll do. Why do you think he did so poorly in school? His parents and teachers never expected him to succeed, so he didn't try to change their minds. I've always known that he could do better than he was. I've always encouraged him, but it wasn't always enough," Willow ended sadly.

"And here I thought you only encouraged him because of that crush you had on him for years," Giles chided, trying to lighten the mood.

Willow's cheeks flamed. "You knew about that?"

"It was obvious in everything you did. Every look you gave him. How he managed to miss it for so long is a mystery to me." Giles ducked his head as he admitted, "I sometimes used to wish that someday you'd look at me with that much longing."

"Mr. Giles," Willow mock-gasped, "you were lusting after a minor?"

"Only until you turned eighteen," he smirked.

"Lucky for you I'm nineteen now," Willow grinned.

"A fact I am constantly grateful for, and plan to take full advantage of."

Giles closed the remaining distance between them, which had shortened remarkably during their last exchange, to capture his temptress' mouth.

Willow wrapped her arms around Giles' neck, pulling him closer until he was seated between her legs. Her right leg, which had been hanging off the side of the couch, drew up until it was resting across Giles' lap, her foot hooked behind his hip. Giles had his right hand wrapped in Willow's fiery tresses as his left rested on the thigh on his lap. His thumb made small circles on the thigh under his hand in time with his tongue's plundering of her mouth.

Unconsciously, Giles' hand began to work its way up Willow's thigh, running along the crease between her hip and leg. Willow moaned at the contact.

Giles' mind tried to figure out what the body had done to draw such a wonderful sound from the woman in his arms. Unfortunately, when the mind realized where the hand was, it pulled not only the hand, but the entire body away.

Willow whimpered in protest as Giles scooted away from her as if he'd been shocked.

"What's wrong?" she panted.

"I don't… I'm sorry." Giles didn't know how to explain that he'd gone too far, touched her too intimately.

"What are you sorry for?" Willow asked, having no clue as to what had gone wrong. She'd been thoroughly enjoying herself. "Stopping?"

Giles gestured with the offensive left hand towards Willow's right leg, which was once again hanging off the side of the couch.

"You didn't like my leg being around you?"

"I didn't even notice it," he admitted.

"Then what?" Willow asked, exasperatedly.

"My hand," Giles practically yelled. "I shouldn't have been touching you like that."

"Did you hear me complaining?" Willow asked, a huskiness evident that wasn't there a minute before.

"Well, no," he admitted. "But you could have," he weakly explained.

"You're not being too forward," Willow assured him, taking Giles' right hand in both of hers. She brought it to her lips, kissing the back of it before licking and nipping at his fingertips. "Don't worry, I'll let you know if you've gone too far. But honestly, there's nothing that you could ever do or want that I won't be ready for."

Willow took Giles' thumb in her mouth, laving the pad with her tongue, keeping her eyes locked with Giles'. The look of lust in her eyes was matched and surpassed by the look in his. Giles felt his heart rate and breathing increase at the erotic act. His body ached for it to be another part of his anatomy being pleasured by that perfect mouth.

Willow withdrew Giles' thumb, smiling at his groan of disappointment, certain that she'd made her point. "No more pulling away?"

"No more pulling away," he conceded.

"Good. Now hand me that first folder."


They had only been organizing the information in the first folder for an hour when there was a knock at the door. Giles looked up startled, not used to having people take the time to knock.

"Are you expecting anyone?" Willow asked.

"Not in particular," he answered, standing to see who was calling.

He was pleasantly surprised to see Xander standing outside his door with his hands in his pants pockets, looking nervously at his feet.

"Hey, G-man," the young man shyly greeted his friend and mentor.

"Xander," Giles welcomed him in with a gesture of his arm, closing the door behind them. "What brings you here?"

"And why'd you knock?" Willow asked from her position on the couch.

"I, um, figured that since you're a couple now you wouldn't want us just barging in all the time," he admitted.

Giles moved to stand next to Willow, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Then you're okay with us being a couple," Willow asked, trying to keep the hope out of her voice.

Xander was now standing next to the couch in front of Willow. He sat on the coffee table so that he could look into her face.

"Promise me that this is what you want. That you're not just trying to live out some fantasy like with me."

"It is," Willow told him without hesitation. "I want to be with him. He makes me happier than I can ever remember being. This has nothing to do with the crush I had on him in high school. How did you even know about that?"

"C'mon, Wills, I've known you forever. Who can read you better than me?" Willow raised an eyebrow as if to say 'What about my crush on you?' Xander read her expression correctly. "Except when it came to your feelings for me."

Willow smiled, a big toothy grin. "You and Giles were both so oblivious to how I felt about you for so long."

"Me and Giles?" Xander questioned.

Willow giggled. "He knew about my crush on you and you knew about my crush on him. No wonder I was dating Oz, he was the only one who knew how I felt about him."

Both men tensed slightly at the mention of Oz, both afraid that Willow would become upset at the mere mention of his name. They both breathed a sigh of relief when Willow giggled again at her own joke.

Speaking for the first time since the boy entered, Giles asked, "You've truly accepted us?"

Xander looked up at the man he'd considered a father and a friend. He made a mental note to try to change the father notion in his brain. "Willow is the smartest person I know, no offense, and if she says that you make her happy, then who am I to begrudge her that happiness."

Willow squealed in excitement, pulling Xander over into a hug. "Thank you."

"Okay, ow. Note to self, don't make Willow happy when sitting two feet away from her unless you want to go deaf."

"Sorry," Willow apologized, releasing her hold on her friend.

"No prob. A little hearing loss is worth it to see you smile."

"I couldn't agree more," Giles said affectionately. Willow turned her head to smile up at her boyfriend.

Xander watched the silent communication and knew that he'd made the right decision. They obviously had very real feelings for each other and he didn't know two people who deserved to be happier.

Xander cleared his throat when his friends hadn't looked away from each other after a minute.

"Sorry," Willow mumbled, returning her attention to her friend.


"I'm glad it only took you a week to figure things out," Willow said. "I was starting to wonder if I'd lost both you and Buffy."

Xander sheepishly looked at his lap. "I don't know about Buffy, but I figured things out the next day. I've just been busy."

"If busy's name is Anya, then I don't want details," Willow grinned.

"Only at night. I got a job," he admitted. "One that's going to stick I think."

"Xander that's wonderful," Giles said, pride evident in his voice.

Xander looked at him gratefully, wishing his own father had reacted so supportively to the news. 'No, not fatherly,' Xander reminded himself. 'Uncle-y?'

"That's great, Xan. What is it?"

"Construction." Willow looked at him with disbelief. "I know, I've never been big on the whole manual labor thing, but this is different. For one thing, I'm getting paid and the money isn't half bad. And this isn't carting around heavy books and weapons, no offense Giles."

"None taken."

"I was hired to work on this crew to build the new Cultural Center at UC Sunnydale. It's hard work, but I like it. I never thought I'd say this, but there's something gratifying in knowing you're using your body to help build something that people are going to use one day. That sounds silly, doesn't it?"

"No, it doesn't," Willow assured him, proud that her friend had finally found some direction in his life.

"And hey, just look at the muscles I'm growing with this job," Xander goofily grinned, flexing his arms.

"Anya must be in seventh heaven," Willow commented.

"Yeah," Xander agreed with a slight blush. Desperately wanting a change of subject, he asked, "So what were you guys doing when I got here?"

Willow got a wicked gleam in her eyes causing Xander to rush to add, "Unless it was kissing. I don't need to hear about kissing."

Willow taunted him with her silence for a little while longer. Giles took pity on Xander. "We were sorting through some old files I've been collecting."

"You sure know how to live it up," Xander dryly commented.

"Would you rather hear we were kissing? 'Cause we were doing that earlier," Willow teased.

Xander groaned, throwing his hands in the air. "I just can't win."



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