Title: Tumblin' Down
Author: Elisabeth
Email: dragonydreams@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.dragonydreams.com
Rating: 18
Summary: What if Riley hadn't been there to pull Willow out of harm's way during "Wild at Heart"?
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - please ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Author's Note: Thanks to my wonderful Betas for all your help and encouragement.

Part One

The world ended on a bright and sunny morning in Sunnydale, California.

For Willow Rosenberg it was when she skipped into the crypt her boyfriend locked himself up in when he went all wolfy, only to find him not alone, and naked. In her young life she had never known pain so acute before. The man she loved more than anything had just ripped her heart to shreds.

For Rupert Giles it was when Buffy called him from the hospital. Willow had been hit by a car while crossing the street, with Buffy having to watch from a block away. She was still unconscious. The woman he secretly loved might die without knowing how much she meant to him.


Giles couldn't remember how he got to the hospital. Ever since he hung up the phone after speaking with Buffy he felt numb. He was in complete denial.

"It's not true. It can't possibly be true. Please God, let her be alright," he muttered to himself in various combinations and tones of voice.

He had recently admitted to himself that the feelings he harbored for the redhead were different than the familial feelings he held for the others. He chastised himself, saying that it was wrong, he'd become a pedophile, she could never want him, and other self-recriminating remarks. He had gone and fallen in love with a vibrant young woman who was twenty-five years his junior. She wasn't even as old yet as he had been when she was born. How could she ever look at him as someone to desire?

With all of these doubts and judgments filling his head, Giles was able to hide his true feelings from those around him. He hid the pain he felt watching Willow and Oz fawn over each other. He longed for her to look at him with such love and devotion. Occasionally he would hope that she could ignore his age, perhaps come to love him for it, just as she dealt with Oz's lycanthropy. Then he would drink himself back to reality.

Tonight he didn't have time to wallow in depression and drink. Nothing sobers a man like learning that the woman who holds his heart could be dying, or dead.

Giles rushed through the doors of the emergency room, desperately seeking out Buffy. He finally found her in the waiting room, holding back her own tears.

When she saw him, Buffy rushed to Giles, wrapping him in a comforting hug. After a brief, awkward, hug Giles pulled out of Buffy's arms.

"How is Willow? Is she going to be alright? What happened? Does Xander know?" Giles asked in rapid fire.

Starting with the last question, Buffy replied, "I sent Xander to the vending machines to give him something to do." After a small smile she continued. "The doctor hasn't told me anything yet, even though I've grabbed every single doctor and nurse trying to find out how she's doing. As for what happened…" Buffy couldn't contain the tears any longer. "It's all my fault."

Buffy collapsed in a hard waiting room chair; a bewildered Giles sat next to her. "I highly doubt that," he tried to comfort. "Tell me what happened. You mentioned something about a car accident."

Buffy nodded, tears splashing off her cheeks. "I was on my way to the cemetery to see if Oz was up yet. I wanted to tell him that I hadn't found the other werewolf on patrol last night, but I'd keep looking. Anyway, I saw Willow walking towards me like a block up on the other side of the street. She wasn't watching where she was going and she stepped into the street. I called out when I saw the car coming straight at her, but I was too far away. She stopped and looked up when I called out. She was just standing there in the middle of the street when the car plowed right into her." Buffy broke down into sobs, unable to speak for several minutes. "If I hadn't called out to her then this never would have happened. She would have made it across the street and been fine."

Giles took his sobbing slayer into his arms. "It's not your fault," he tried to reassure her, forcing his voice to remain steady. "As you said, you were too far away. And it sounds like the car was going too fast for Willow to have avoided being… hit. Did you catch the license plate?"

"No, I was too concerned about Willow to even look at the car. I'm sorry, I should have looked."

"No need to apologize. Willow is much more important."

"Yes, she is," Xander agreed, returning to the waiting room, arms laden with candy bars, chips and snack cakes. Buffy and Giles looked at his armload, neither feeling remotely hungry. Xander shrugged. "I didn't know what to get." He dumped the food on the chair next to Giles and sat in the empty one next to Buffy.

"Has anyone informed her parents?" Giles asked, knowing they were on yet another business trip.

"I left a message with their answering service," Xander replied. "They're in Europe, so I don't know if they'll get it."

Giles nodded. He didn't understand how her parents could spend so much time away from their wonderful daughter. Luckily a doctor entered the waiting area before Giles could contemplate any more of Willow's attributes.

Walking up to Buffy the doctor asked, "You came in with Willow Rosenberg, correct?"

"Yes, I'm Buffy. How is she?"

Checking his chart, the doctor answered, "Well, she has a mild concussion, her left hip was fractured, and she has several bruised ribs."

"When can she leave?" Xander asked, knowing his best friend's loathing of hospitals after her last stay.

"Well, she will need to have surgery on her hip to stabilize the broken bones," the doctor began. "We have scheduled the surgery for early tomorrow morning. After that, Willow will need to remain here for at least a week so that she may begin to heal and we can monitor her progress, keep her properly medicated, and begin her physical therapy. She won't be able to get around on her own very easily – depending on the speed of her recovery she will need a cane or crutches to move around. Does she live alone?"

"No, she lives in the dorms with me," Buffy offered.

"The dorms… I see," the doctor frowned. "What floor?"

"Second," Buffy nervously answered.

"Is there an elevator?"

"No, just stairs. Is that a problem?"

"Unfortunately, Willow won't be able to navigate stairs easily for a while. What about her family?"

"They're out of the country," Xander supplied. "Besides, her room's on the second floor there too."

"She could stay with me," Giles offered. All eyes turned towards him.

"And you are…" the doctor asked, wondering who this Englishman was, who was much older than the others, and why he would take the girl into his home.

"Rupert Giles. I am a friend of the family," he bristled.

"He's cool," Buffy backed him up. "He's like an uncle, to all of us."

"Your home doesn't have an upstairs?" the doctor queried.

"Just the loft where my bed is. I have a guest room on the main level, which is also where the bathroom and kitchen are." Giles tried to keep the hope out of his voice. He would like nothing better than for Willow to live under his roof – aside from her sharing his bed, of course.

"That does sound ideal," the doctor reluctantly agreed.

Xander looked like he was going to protest Willow moving in with Giles, but Buffy's bruising grip on his forearm stalled any comments. Instead he ground out, "Is she awake yet? Can we see her?"

"She is awake, but heavily medicated. You may go visit briefly with her, but she needs her rest."

The doctor led the trio to Willow's room and was heartily thanked for his efforts.

Once the doctor left, Xander slowly pushed open the door to the room. Willow was lying propped up in the bed, the harsh lighting making her pale skin appear almost white, especially against her red hair. She tiredly blinked her eyes at the sound of the door opening and wanly smiled at her friends.

"Hey," she quietly greeted them. Buffy and Xander were instantly on either side of the bed, each holding one of her hands. Giles stood at the foot of the bed.

"How're you doin', Wills?" Xander asked.

"I've been better."

"I'm so sorry," Buffy blubbered.

A frown creased her eyebrows as Willow looked at the blonde. "For what?"

"I was too far away, I couldn't help you."

"It's not your fault. I was… distracted," Willow disagreed.

"By what?" Giles asked, having been wondering about this since he heard about the accident.

Tears welled in Willow's eyes and she looked away. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Oz," Buffy suddenly exclaimed and Willow turned nervous eyes to the slayer, afraid that she knew. "No one called to tell Oz what happened."

Buffy reached for the phone next to the bed but Willow's frantic voice stopped her. "No! Please, don't call him."

Buffy immediately sat back on the bed, promising, "I won't. What happened Will?"

"I said I don't want to talk about it. Just don't call him."

Sensing a need for a change of subject, Xander said, "So the doc said you get to spend the next week relaxing at the lovely Sunnydale General Hospital."

"Yeah," she glumly agreed. "After they cut me open and stick pins in my hip."

"But the surgery will make it better, right?" Xander pressed, trying to find the silver lining.

"I guess so," Willow agreed. "I just hate sitting here by myself all day with nothing to do."

"You won't be by yourself all day," Buffy reminded her friend. "I can swing by between classes and patrol."

"And I'll bring by some books that you can read. Perhaps we can even do some research from here," Giles suggested.

"Yeah, it's not like G-Man has anywhere else he needs to be," Xander pointed out. Giles glared at the boy.

"Besides, it's only a week," Buffy reminded her. "I'm sure it'll fly by."

"But what about when the week's over," Willow began to panic. "Where will I go? I can't stay at the dorms or in my parents' empty house."

"If it is alright with you," Giles started, "I told the doctor that you are welcome to stay with me."

"I don't want to impose…" Willow began to say.

"Of course not. You could never be an imposition," Giles warmly smiled. "Unless you would feel uncomfortable living with me."

"No, I just don't want to get in the way of your being a gentleman of leisure."

"In all honesty, I could do with the company," Giles admitted.

"Well then, that's settled," Buffy said.

"No it isn't," Xander objected. "Wills, are you sure you want to live with him? He's so… old."

"Xander, you act as if I have one foot in the grave." Giles sighed.

"Besides, it's not like he has anything better to do than take care of Willow," Buffy defended.

"It'll be fine, Xander," Willow told her oldest friend. "I trust Giles. I know he'll take good care of me." To herself she continued to mutter, "Not that I want to be taken care of. I don't know what he would want to be stuck with me for."

"Perhaps we should leave and allow Willow to rest," Giles suggested, noticing Willow's drawn, tired features. She smiled her thanks.

"Yeah, these meds are starting to get to me – no pain but very sleepy."

"We'll let you get some rest," Xander agreed.

"But we'll be back first thing in the morning," Buffy offered. "You'll have your own cheering section in the waiting room."

"That sounds good," Willow commented, slumping back on the bed.

"Sleep well," Giles fondly addressed the redhead as he slipped out the door. He couldn't wait to get home and begin preparing the spare room for Willow's arrival.

Part Two

Willow was surprised by how quickly her week in the hospital flew by. Her surgery had been a rousing success with no complications. Upon waking she noticed a considerable lessening of pain in her hip, for which she was thankful.

Willow easily fell into a routine for the rest of her time at the hospital. She had her physical therapy sessions starting the day after surgery to get her used to using her hip again. Of course, that first day her exercises consisted only of moving from the bed to a chair and back again.

Her friends also seemed to set up a visitation schedule. Xander would stop by before work to give Willow a cheery outlook for the day. Giles would stop by mid-morning with her textbooks and whatever tome he was working his way through at the moment. They'd talk comfortably at times and sometimes just work on their separate "assignments" until Buffy showed up after class with Willow's new assignments. Giles would politely excuse himself, leaving the girls to chat. Buffy would then catch Willow up on the latest gossip and her progress with the psych TA, Riley Finn.

One thing Willow refused to talk to anyone about was Oz. She wouldn't explain what had her so distracted that she wouldn't notice a car speeding up the street towards her. Nor would she explain how this was connected to why she wouldn't talk about Oz. Buffy had gone to talk to Oz, despite Willow's wishes that he not know about the accident, to find that he'd suddenly left town, the day of Willow's accident.

The time that Giles spent away from the hospital was spent fixing up his home. He was practically giddy at the prospect of Willow living with him. He cleaned his home from top to bottom. He aired out the spare bedroom as it hadn't been used in a long time. He made certain that all of the outlets worked properly and there was one near the bed, or at least an extension cord, so that Willow could use her laptop when she was too tired to get up. He bought new sheets and remade the bed in colors that he thought she'd like. Buffy and Xander helped him to get together enough of Willow's belongings and clothing to keep her comfortable during her stay. He even stocked up on the types of food that he knew Willow preferred.

Finally the day came for Willow to leave the hospital. Buffy and Xander had wanted to go with Giles to pick her up, but fearing that having so many people around fussing over her would upset Willow, Giles insisted he go alone. Therefore he asked them to wait at his apartment, be the Welcoming Committee as it were. At the prospect of making paper banners to strew about Giles' apartment they readily agreed.

Giles was shamed to notice that his palms were slightly damp. He felt like he was picking up his high school sweetheart for their first date, not picking up his young charge. Then again, Willow was no ordinary charge… far from it.

Willow was dressed and waiting in a wheelchair when Giles arrived at the hospital. Her bag was packed and sitting on the bed. Her new light-weight metal crutches were resting against the bed. The only reason she was in the wheelchair was because of hospital policy.

A wide toothy grin split her face when Giles entered the room and he felt his heart skip a beat, knowing that smile was for him.

"Are we ready?" he inquired.

"Are we ever," Willow virtually bounced in her chair. "I am so sick of hospital food. And hospital beds… not the most comfortable. And if you thought dorms were noisy, you've never had to sleep with all of the beeping machines and intercom announcements and people crying out in pain."

"Well then, let's get you out of here. Do you have everything?"

"Yep. My stuff's on the bed and I'm all checked out."

"Shall I call an orderly to wheel you out or may I do the honors?"

"No orderlies required. Just hand over my bag and crutches and let's blow this pop stand."

Giles did as was requested, doing his best to suppress the grin threatening to spread across his face. He felt this was a good sign - Willow allowing him to push her wheelchair - to accept his help. In the garage he helped her into his ancient car, quickly stowing her belongings in the back seat.

The drive to his apartment wasn't long, but somewhat awkward in its quiet. Each was lost in their own thoughts. Finally Giles cleared his throat when they were a few blocks from the building.

"I hope you will be comfortable. I don't know how much your friends have told you, but they brought over some of your belongings, including your laptop, to make you feel at home."

"I'm sure it'll be fine, Giles," Willow told him. "It's not like it's going to be forever, just until I can move around easier on my own."

Luckily Willow had turned back to look out the window and missed the frown that crossed Giles' face. He didn't like the idea that Willow seemed to see him merely as some sort of convalescent home.

He pushed his more melancholy thoughts aside as he pulled into his parking space behind his apartment. He was extremely grateful at the moment that his spot was level with the apartment so that Willow could avoid the steps down into the courtyard.

"Hey, where are we?" Willow asked, noticing Giles was parking the car.

"My apartment," he confirmed, turning off the car. "That's right, you've never arrived this way before."

"No," Willow agreed. "We've always come in through the front door."

"Wait right there," Giles insisted as he exited the vehicle. He quickly moved around to open Willow's door for her, assisting her to stand. As she held onto the door and roof for support Giles fetched Willow's crutches from the back seat and handed them to her. Once he was certain that she was able to maneuver the crutches, Giles led the way into the apartment.

"Welcome home," he softly said, allowing Willow enter ahead of him.

Willow smiled and entered her temporary home. Her smile grew as she entered the living room. It was covered in paper streamers and a big Welcome Home banner was hanging from the loft.

"Buffy! Xander! Where are you guys?" she playfully called out.

A moment later they came running down the stairs from Giles' bedroom. His smile immediately faltered.

"Welcome home, Wills," Xander exclaimed, bounding over to his best friend, enveloping her in a hug.

Buffy moved behind Willow and joined the hug. "Welcome home," she added.

"Home?" Willow giggled.

Releasing the redhead, Buffy shrugged one shoulder, "Well, your home away from home."

"And I do hope that you'll feel like this is your home Willow," Giles warmly stated, resting his hand on Willow's shoulder. Willow smiled at him again and he felt his spirits lift. So it was with a light heart, despite the stern voice, that he turned on Buffy and Xander. "And what were you two doing in my bedroom?"

He was answered by two bowed heads. Xander finally said, "We were just hiding."

"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "It's not like we started rifling through your drawers trying to answer the age old question."

Xander elbowed the slayer in the side as Giles looked down his nose at the blonde. "And what question is that?"

"Boxers or briefs?" Buffy grinned.

Giles' face whitened at the thought of these two rifling through his undergarments.

After a beat Buffy let him off the hook. "Just kidding Giles."

The ex-watcher let out a sigh of relief, not noticing Willow's raised eyebrow, nor Buffy's air drawing of a box and the girls' shared conspiratorial smile.

"So, Giles," Willow said, trying to hide the giggle that was trying to burst forth. "You gonna show me my new digs or what?"

Starting out of his embarrassment, Giles turned to Willow. "Please forgive me, you must want to relax. Allow me to show you to your quarters."

'Show you to your quarters,' Xander mouthed to his friends. Doing his best at impersonating an English accent he said, "Yes, Jeeves, show us the way."

Giles thought about retorting, but decided that it would be pointless. With one faltering step Giles led the procession to Willow's new room.

With a flourish Giles opened the door, which also had a handmade sign on the door proclaiming it to be Willow's Room.

Willow hesitantly hobbled into the room, curious to see where she'd be living for the next however-many weeks. A small gasp escaped her lips as she took in the room. Artfully placed around the room were Willow's belongings from the dorm. Her laptop was open on a breakfast tray on the bed. As she moved further into the room she peeked into the closet to find it full of her clothes and she suspected that the dresser would be full as well. Her smile faded when she noticed what was on the bedside table – a photo of Oz.

"It's great Giles," Willow finally said, managing to sound like her perky self.

Having noticed Willow's momentary frown, he asked, "Except?"

"Can you please get rid of that?" Willow gestured towards the picture of Oz.

"Of course," Giles agreed, removing said object. He was beginning to get a clearer picture of what happened that fateful day. Buffy and Xander exchanged a curious look, getting a similar idea about why this happened to Willow, but held their tongues.

"I'm actually kinda pooped. Do you guys mind cutting the visit short so I can get some rest?" Willow asked, sitting on the bed.

"No prob," Xander said, giving Willow a hug before loping out of the room.

"We'll come by tomorrow," Buffy said, giving Willow a quick hug and a sad smile.

Giles escorted the two out and returned to Willow's room. He nervously stood outside the door, lightly knocking to acknowledge his presence.

"Come in Giles," Willow tiredly said. "It's your home after all."

"That may be, but this is your space and I will respect that."

"Thanks," Willow quietly said.

"Do you need help with anything? Can I get anything for you – something to eat or drink?"

"No," Willow shook her head. "I think I'm just gonna take a nap."

"As you like." Giles crossed the room to move the breakfast tray off the bed, setting it off to the side. "Do you want your nightshirt from the hospital or a fresh one?"

"A fresh one would be great," Willow said, the color rising on her cheeks.

Willow watched as Giles moved to the dresser and pulled a nightshirt from a drawer. Willow thought she could almost see him blushing as he handed the garment to her.

"I-is there a-ny-thing else y-you need?" he stuttered.

"Nope, I think I'm good. I'll give a holler if I think of anything."

"Yes, of course, holler." He backed out of the room, closing the door behind him. He stayed leaning against the doorjamb with his eyes closed for several minutes as he unsuccessfully tried not to image Willow changing into her nightshirt. He could hear her slight whimpers of discomfort as she eased her clothes off. He desperately wanted to go in and assist her, but knew that he couldn't. When it sounded like she was finally lying in bed, Giles pushed himself away from the door and headed to the kitchen to make tea.

Part Three

Giles sat at his desk, an old leather-bound book open before him, a cup of cooling tea within reach of his left hand. He tried to tell himself that this was a normal afternoon – quiet apartment and prophecies to research. Unfortunately he wasn't listening.

He could not push aside the knowledge that Willow was resting just down the hall, especially when she began to talk in her sleep. Her voice was muffled with sleep and distance, so Giles tried to ignore it. It wasn't until her murmurs grew more desperate that he stood to intervene.

Standing outside the closed door he could hear her better. Repetitions of "Oh, God, no… Oz… payback… why?" could clearly be heard. Carefully, Giles turned the doorknob and let himself into the room.

Willow was tossing her head on the pillow, whimpering slightly as the pain the violent motion stirred the rest of her body, jarring her damaged hip. Her face was suffused with pain, both emotional and physical, as she was obviously dreaming of something traumatic. Silent tears slid from her eyes.

"Willow," Giles whispered, not wanting to startle her. Without giving any signs of waking she relaxed her thrashing. Taking this as a good sign, Giles sat on the edge of the bed. Brushing the hair off her face he continued to coax her to wakefulness. "Willow, wake up. You're having a bad dream. It's alright."

Slowly Willow's eyelids began to flutter and she opened sorrowful eyes to see Giles' soft, worried gaze upon her.

"There you are," he soothed. "See, it was just a dream."

Willow squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, a tear escaping out the side of one eye. Giles brushed it away with his thumb, as she whispered, "No, it wasn't. I can ignore it while I'm awake, but it all comes back to me when I sleep."

"Ah. This has to do with the car accident?"

"Kinda. More about why it happened."

"It might help to talk about it." Willow shook her head in refusal. "Believe me, it's not healthy to keep things bottled up." Willow looked at him thoughtfully, trying to decide if she could open up to Giles. Then he said something to convince her. "I promise I won't tell the others anything we discuss. This can remain just between the two of us, although I would highly recommend that you share with them. They are worried about you and only want to help."

Willow sighed and slowly nodded her head. She struggled to sit up, suddenly feeling uncomfortable having Giles leaning over her as she lay in bed. Giles stood, allowing her easier movement under the covers, wincing in sympathy at the flash of pain across her face.

"Do you need a painkiller?" he asked.

"That'd be great," Willow accepted.

"Let me make a fresh pot of tea and I'll fetch your prescription."

Willow looked around the room as Giles slipped out. She had to admit that Giles had gone out of the way to make the room comfortable. The dresser was next to the closet, making it easy for her to get everything she needed at once. There was a bookshelf on the wall near her bed so that she wouldn't have to go far for either a text book or a novel.

A part of her felt guilty for putting him out like this. She knew that if she wasn't here to bother him that Giles would be nose-deep in a book, ciphering out some apocalyptic prophecy or other. Then he'd research it to death. Willow had always admired how dedicated he could be when he set his mind to a task, sometimes losing sleep in order to puzzle out a problem. And now his self-appointed task seemed to be playing nursemaid and counselor.

Giles reentered the room carrying a tray with the tea, two cups, milk, sugar, lemon and painkillers. He set the tray on the bed near her feet and moved to set the breakfast tray across her lap before moving the tea tray again.

Once they had both fixed their tea and Willow had swallowed her pills, Giles opened, "When ever you are ready."

Willow momentarily closed her eyes and took a deep steadying breath. Opening her eyes to stare at the cup in her hands Willow said, "I guess you've figured out that the accident had something to do with Oz."

Willow paused and lifted her eyes to see Giles nod.

"You know that other wolf that Buffy was looking for?" Again Giles nodded. "Well, I found her." Willow sniffled. "Oz locked her in the cage with him. They were laying on the floor… naked… scratched."

Giles removed the tray from Willow's lap and set her cup aside to gently take her in his arms. Willow clung to his solid frame, burying her face in his sweater.

"You poor girl," he comforted, running a hand over her hair. "No wonder you didn't want anyone calling him or his picture in here. Why didn't you say anything?"

Willow shrugged against his body. "I don't know. I was embarrassed."

"Whatever were you embarrassed about?" Giles couldn't help asking. Willow was the wronged party – she hadn't done anything to feel shame over.

"He cheated on me," Willow wailed. "I wasn't enough for him."

Pulling back slightly Giles met Willow's eyes in order to make certain she understood what he was about to say. "That is utter nonsense. Willow, put the blame where it lies, with that unfaithful… wolf. It is not your fault that he betrayed you."

"No," she disagreed, having spent many hours thinking about this at the hospital. "I wasn't wolf enough for him. He needed someone more passionate, wilder, not boring old predictable Willow."

"You are neither boring nor predictable, and hardly old," Giles countered. He hated seeing her doubt her wonderfulness. "Oz was probably confused having never encountered a female werewolf before…"

"You're defending him!" Willow snapped, pushing Giles away, her face hardened in anger.

'Shit,' Giles thought, scrambling to find a way out of this situation. "Hardly," he retorted. "I am merely trying to point out that his indiscretion was just that – HIS. He could have warned you that he was going to be locking that other wolf in with him, but I am assuming that he did not." Willow nodded her confirmation. "Did he explain himself at all?"

"He tried. He said that he doesn't remember what he does as a werewolf, but SHE did. He said that he didn't have a choice, that he couldn't let her roam around free to kill."

"A valid point," at Willow's glare he hastened to add, "but I disapprove of his methods. It was wrong of him to lie to you, and everyone, when he said that he had no knowledge of another wolf. I am very sorry you had to witness his indiscretion, but it is better that you now know."

"That's just it, I did know. I knew something was going on, that he was attracted to her, but he was being all elusive and aloof. But that's how Oz always is. Xander said that he probably knew I sensed something, which is why he wouldn't…" Willow ended her ramble with a blush, realizing that she had almost told Giles that Oz wouldn't sleep with her that day.

Giles coughed and removed his glasses to clean them, his brain having filled in what she hadn't said. "Yes, well, I, um, can see why you were distracted that day."

Still unable to meet the other's eyes, Willow and Giles silently picked up their tea cups again and took a sip. The simultaneous action caused Willow to giggle - after she swallowed her tea, of course - breaking the awkward silence. Giles smiled as well.

"Feel better," he asked.

"A little," the redhead admitted. "It still hurts though."

"As it will for some time," Giles agreed.

Both knew they weren't talking about Willow's physical pain either.

"Did you want to try to get some more rest?" Giles queried, uncertain what to do now. What he wanted to do was take Willow in his arms and make her forget all about her cheating boyfriend, but he knew that wasn't an option.

"No, I think I've had all the 'rest' I can stand for the moment." Willow didn't want to dream any more even though her body was still tired. She wished Giles could distract her dreams as easily as he distracted her troubled thoughts.

Needing that distraction she asked, "What were you doing before rushing to wake me?"

"Deciphering prophecy, what else?" he jokingly admitted.

"Giles," Willow mock-gasped. "Did you just make a funny?"

"Yes and no," he admitted bashfully.

"Need any help?" Willow offered.

"If it won't be too taxing on you…"

"What else am I gonna do in this bed?" Willow countered.

Giles desperately tried not to vocalize the images that danced through his head at her words. Oh the things he wanted to do with her in that bed!

Giles stood, slipping his hands into his pockets, clearing his throat. "Right, well then, I'll just go get the books and notes."

Willow watched with an amused look on her face as Giles rushed out of the room. She had no idea what flustered him, and hoped it wasn't what flustered her. Even as she'd said the words, sinful images of Giles joining her in the bed came unbidden to her mind. She pushed those long repressed thoughts out of her head.

She refused to admit, even to herself, that her high school crush on the former watcher wasn't nearly so gone as she would like to believe. There was just something about this man that made her belly flutter. She hadn't noticed it for the last year or so, but then again, she'd had Oz to distract her…

Giles once again returned to the room, arms laden with books and notepads. He momentarily regretted having removed the small desk from the room, but at the time it had seemed like the right thing to do – giving Willow more space to maneuver around the room. He looked around, then to the books in his arms, and bowed his head.

"I had planned on keeping you company as we worked, but it would appear that you are occupying the only available place to sit."

"What are you talking about?" Willow gestured to the half-empty bed. "There's plenty of room to share."

"Are you certain? You won't feel crowded?"

"Of course not. Now quit stalling – there's a prophecy to read about." Willow grinned.

"Alright." Giles moved the tea tray to the dresser and placed the breakfast tray back over Willow's lap.

"Would you like a book or your laptop?"

"Laptop," Willow eagerly said. "I think I'm going through computer withdrawal."

"How dreadful indeed," Giles deadpanned. He handed Willow her laptop, withdrawing his hands as quickly as possible, afraid that he'd catch the same sort of addiction just from touching it.

Willow laughed at his antics, booting it up with a sigh of contentment. Giles shook his head in disbelief and moved around the bed. He stared at the empty space for several seconds before being able to bring himself to gingerly sit on the bed. He toed his shoes off and scooted back against the headboard, stretching his legs out before him.

Giles pulled a book onto his lap and found where he had left off in his notes. He briefly filled Willow in on what they were looking for and soon both became lost in their work.

Giles was startled out of a particularly difficult passage by a weight on his shoulder. He distractedly looked to his side to see Willow slumped against him. A small smile lifted the corners of his mouth as he realized that she had fallen asleep. Instead of leaving, as he told himself he should do, so that Willow may get some proper rest, Giles inched closer to the sleeping girl so that she wasn't leaning over so much. Willow sighed in contentment, wrapping an arm around his and drifted further into sleep.

Part Four

Willow gradually came to wakefulness. She was reluctant to leave the pleasant dream she'd been having of a candlelit bubble bath, soft relaxing music playing in the background.

Willow groaned as her stiff muscles protested the return to consciousness. Her neck was a little sore and her pillow felt harder than she remembered. She also couldn't move one of her arms.

Upon opening her eyes, Willow found that her pillow was hard because it was Giles' shoulder. Her muscles were stiff because she had been sleeping sitting up, and leaning over to the side. She couldn't move her arm because it was wrapped around Giles', their fingers intertwined.

Willow sheepishly looked at Giles' bemused face. "Sorry," she apologized as she moved away from the warmth of his body. Giles reluctantly released his hold on her small hand, which Willow pulled onto her lap.

"There's nothing to apologize for," Giles insisted. "You were tired and needed rest."

"But I didn't need to find it on you. You've been trapped here all this time and it's all my fault."

"I was hardly trapped. I could have moved at any time if I had needed to," Giles once again insisted. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," Willow softly smiled. "No nightmares."

"Wonderful," Giles smiled back.

Willow's stomach chose that moment to remind everyone that while Willow had spent much of the day asleep, it had been neglected. The color rose on Willow's cheeks at the noise. "I guess I'm a little hungry."

"That's understandable. I could do with some food myself. Is there anything you're in the mood for?"

"Soup?" Willow bashfully requested. "Despite all the horrible food in the hospital they never once served chicken soup. And in my head, sick equals soup."

"But you're not sick," Giles reminded her.

"Close enough. Don't argue with the invalid."

Holding his hands up in defeat, Giles conceded, "Fine. Are you going use that excuse to win every argument?"

"Yep," she beamed.

"Right. Chicken soup on the way," Giles said as he set his books aside and moved to stand. "Do you want to eat in here or would you care to join me in the kitchen?"

"Kitchen," Willow decisively said. "I can't be spending all of my time lying in bed, it's not good for my hip. Need to keep moving."

"Very well. I will begin preparing the soup and you can meet me in the kitchen when you are ready."

"Thanks. I'll be in in a minute."

Willow moved the breakfast tray with her laptop still open to the space Giles had just vacated. She then reached for the crutches she had propped up next to the bed. Swinging her body around until her legs were off the bed was a slow and mildly painful process. She sighed with relief once she was balanced on the crutches.

Willow moved to the door. She turned her head towards the kitchen, hearing Giles rummaging around in the fridge and cupboards. She was having second thoughts about the soup if he had to dig that deep to find the can and can opener.

She closed the door and opened the closet to survey the contents. She wanted to wear a skirt, thinking it'd be easier to move around in, but she was shamed to realize that her legs were in desperate need of a shaving. She'd have to try to do it in the morning; she hoped that Buffy had packed her razor. With a sigh she began opening drawers until she found a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt.

Giles was relieved that he had all of the necessary ingredients for chicken soup on hand. It hadn't occurred to him that the girl would ask for soup. But if it was soup she wanted, it was soup she would have.

He had a couple of chicken breasts in his freezer which he defrosted in the microwave and was cooking in the chicken broth on the stove as he washed and cut the carrots, celery and onion. Willow entered the kitchen as he began cutting the vegetables and adding them to the broth.

Willow watched him curiously for a minute before speaking. "What'cha doing?"

"Making soup," he answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Looking around, Willow asked, "Where's the can opener? Or did you already put it away?"

"Can opener?" Giles repeated, before turning to the redhead aghast. "Do you mean to tell me that you've never had homemade soup?"

Willow bowed her head and shook it. Raising her eyes back to Giles' she admitted, "My mom always made it out of a can."

"Well then you're in for a treat. There is nothing as good for the mind and body as homemade soup."

"Chicken Soup for the Soul," Willow giggled.

"If you wish…" Giles agreed, not realizing she was naming a popular self-help/inspirational book.

Willow thought about correcting his obvious miss of the reference, but decided to spare him the embarrassment. Instead she took a seat on the bar stool Giles had brought in from the other room and set next to the counter and watched as Giles prepared the meal.

"Did you make any headway with the prophecy while I was, um, asleep?" Willow asked conversationally.

"Some." Giles added the last of the vegetables to the pot on the stove and lowered the heat to let it simmer. He began to wash the cutting board and knife as he spoke. "There had been one passage that had been giving me quite a bit of difficulty, but I finally managed to finish it."

"And…" Willow prompted.

"It was rather a let down, actually," Giles sighed, finishing with the dishes and drying his hands. "This prophecy isn't going to come into fruition until sometime near the end of the 24th century, in Guam."

"Well, hey, at least they'll know about it now," she cheered.

"Yes, I'll condense my notes and add them to my 'future occurrence' prophecy file."

"You have a 'future occurrence' prophecy file?" Willow giggled.

"Of course," he said as if it was the only possible thing to do. "What did you think I did with prophecies we've discovered that wouldn't occur for some time?"

"I never really thought about it," Willow admitted. "Are you gonna put them together in a book? The Giles Codex?"

"The thought had occurred to me," Giles sheepishly admitted.

"I think you should do it," Willow encouraged. "Ooh, I could type up all your notes for you, put them together on a CD-ROM to make it easier for the publisher."

"That isn't necessary, Willow. This isn't something that I have been serious considering. Merely an idea I've been toying with in my spare time."

Giles turned his attention back to the stove, hoping the subject would now be closed. He wasn't sure why he'd admitted such a fanciful idea to Willow. Composing a Codex would take an enormous amount of time and energy.

He stirred the contents of the pot and brought a spoonful to his mouth for a taste. The temperature was certainly correct. He pulled a carrot out and cautiously bit into it – still a little hard. Next he pulled out a piece of chicken. The color was correct, but he needed to cut it to make certain it was cooked all the way through. It was.

"Just a few more minutes," he informed Willow as he turned back to the redhead, whose eyes were glazed over.

Willow was prepared to tell Giles that he really should do the book, but her voice caught in her throat as she watched him. Giles was bent slightly over the stove, the steam from the pot lightly fogging his glasses. He brought the spoon to his mouth and gently blew on the contents before lapping at the broth and then sucking a carrot into his mouth.

Willow had to repress a groan at the simple act. Her nipples pebbled as she imagined that the spoon was her breast that he was lapping at, and the carrot was a nipple he sucked into his mouth and would then continue to lap at. She was so lost in the pleasurable imagery that she failed to notice that Giles was speaking again.

When she felt him looking at her, Willow blinked and asked, "What?"

Giles smiled, glad she had obviously been having pleasurable thoughts. "I just said that dinner will be ready in a few minutes."

"Oh, okay. It smells wonderful."

"Should I ask what brought such a lovely smile to your face?"

"Um, no," Willow wriggled in her chair, her cheeks flaming.

"Alright," he chuckled. Giles tested the soup again and found it to be ready. "Perfect," he commented after biting into a soft carrot.

He took two bowls down and ladled soup into them. He placed them on the table before setting out a couple of dinner rolls and glasses of water. Finally he gave Willow a spoon as he joined her at the counter.

Willow eagerly filled her spoon, blowing on the contents to cool them off, and took a bite. "Ow, ow, yum, but ow." She quickly set her spoon back down and took a big gulp of water.

"Careful, it's hot," Giles teasingly cautioned.

"Yeah, I got that," Willow said, wiping the tears from her eyes. She lifted her refilled spoon, this time giving it more time to cool off before placing it in her mouth. She slowly pulled the spoon back out, savoring every drop that it had contained. Willow closed her eyes as she chewed, loving the softness of the vegetables, the way the tastes blended so perfectly together, warming her thoroughly. "Mmm," she sighed.

Giles was thankful Willow's eyes closed when they did. He couldn't believe how incredibly erotic she could make eating a spoonful of soup appear to be. His eyes were riveted to the way her lips surrounded the spoon, caressing the metal as it slowly retreated from her delectable mouth. And then she vocalized her pleasure…

"You like," he asked, surprised by the huskiness of his voice.

Willow opened her eyes, surprised to find Giles looking at her with what appeared to be lust. She audibly swallowed before she could answer. "It's perfect. Just what the doctor ordered."

"I'm glad to hear that," Giles said.

The meal continued in silence, both wondering if the heat in the room was from the soup or the company.

After they finished eating Willow insisted on helping with the clean-up, offering to dry the dishes as Giles washed them. The remainder of the soup was stored in the refrigerator for another day.

Giles escorted Willow to her room after they finished cleaning up.

"How would you like to spend the remainder of your evening," he inquired.

"I thought I'd check my e-mail," Willow said. "It's probably piled up and my on-line friends must be wondering what's happened to me."

"Of course. Just let me get these out of your way." Giles picked up his books and notepads, double checking that everything was there. "If you need anything, please let me know."

"I will," Willow smiled as she logged into her email account – once again grateful that she'd had Giles' apartment made accessible for her wireless internet.

"I'll see you in the morning then," Giles said. He leaned down to brush a kiss across Willow's forehead before heading out of the room.

"Good night, Giles. And thanks again, for everything," Willow shyly smiled.

Part Five

The next morning Willow was frustrated to realize that she wouldn't be able to shave by herself. The doctor had been adamant that she couldn't get her stitches wet, which meant no baths or showers. Willow sighed as she draped a towel over the toilet and lowered herself onto it. She hated bathing with a washcloth and a sink. Even worse was that she couldn't bend over far enough to shave her legs.

Once she was sufficiently clean Willow dressed in another pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Even though she hadn't been wearing her sneakers lately, having begun wearing "real" shoes, Willow figured she'd be able to move around better in the flat, rubber-bottomed sneakers than in her healed boots.

She was sitting in the kitchen with a bowl of cereal and a mug of tea when Giles padded his way down the stairs. He looked deliciously disheveled in his bathrobe with his hair rumpled.

He started when he saw Willow sitting at the counter. 'She really is here,' he thought in amazement, having feared that her stay was yet another dream.

"Oh, um, good morning, Willow," he greeted the redhead.

"Mornin' Giles," Willow brightly returned. "There's tea," she pointed to the pot sitting on the counter with her spoon.

Giles gratefully filled a mug and brought it to his face, inhaling the aroma, before taking a sip. "Perfect," he sighed.

He set the mug on the table and prepared his own bowl of cereal before joining Willow.

She waited until he was settled before lightly commenting, "Now who would have thought that I would be up and dressed before you?"

Giles imparted a rueful smile before saying, "Normally I would be properly dressed by now, but I was up rather late, reading."

"Anything interesting?" Willow perkily asked.

Giles hoped that the blush he felt wasn't visible. He'd been up late reading over his personal journals – especially the entries focusing on the woman before him. He'd needed to see for himself if the attraction he felt for Willow was something new; that the feelings he'd experienced in her close proximity yesterday weren't some fluke brought on by his need to care for her. He was relieved, and ashamed, to see that he had in fact been harboring feelings for her for quite some time.

Not wanting to tell this to Willow though, he said, "Not especially."

Willow had noticed the color in his cheeks and neck before he'd spoken. She raised an eyebrow at his answer, but wasn't about to press him about his late night reading habits. She'd learned that lesson hard way from being friends with Xander forever.

"Oh, okay," she said. Changing the topic, she asked, "So what're we doing today?"

"We?" Giles looked up at her confused.

"We, you and me," Willow clarified. "It's not like I'm going to be hobbling around campus, right? You've got books and research and stuff to do, so I'll be helping you out."

"That really isn't necessary, Willow. Life isn't all about research and books and…"

Willow grinned at his response, cutting him off, "You don't really spend your days buried in books do you?"

Giles looked aghast. His eyes darted around the room, feeling like his cover had been blown. "Well, there's only so much research that needs to be done…"

"Relax Giles," Willow laughed. "I didn't really think that was ALL you did all day." Giles let out a sigh of relief. "I mean, how many hours a day are you expected to do research when there isn't a big bad that needs to be taken care of."

"I fear that I am letting you all down in some way," Giles admitted.

"Nah," Willow waved the idea off. "If it makes you feel any better, I won't tell the others what you really do with your days." Willow patted his hand reassuringly.

"Thank you," Giles gratefully sighed.

"So… what do you really do all day?" Willow asked conspiratorially.

"I, ah, I usually start the day off with a run – hence the bathrobe during breakfast. I run errands, I sometimes watch the telly, I read, and yes, I do research."

"Well, don't let me get in the way. I can entertain myself," Willow insisted, continuing to mumble to herself, "been doing it my whole life."

"If you're certain you don't mind…" Giles began, not wanting to leave Willow alone on her second day in his home.

"No, go," Willow insisted. "Running is important – keeping the body fit and limber…" Willow couldn't help picturing Giles' muscles all taught from exertion, a fine sheen of perspiration covering his face and torso as she spoke, her words dwindling as the picture became more solid.

Luckily Giles missed the look in her lust-glazed eyes as he had turned to wash his, and Willow's, dishes. By the time he turned back Willow had composed herself.

"Alright, then," Giles consented. "I'll just go change." Giles dashed upstairs, returning several minutes later dressed in sweats and a t-shirt, a towel around his neck.

"I shan't be more than an hour, most likely less," Giles informed the redhead, who was now resting on the couch. "Can I get anything for you before I leave?"

"If you don't mind," Willow began, hating to ask for help. "Could you bring out my laptop? I want to email my professors to see if I'll be able to do the work from home or if I'm going to have to drop this semester."

"Of course," Giles agreed. Upon returning with the requested item he asked, "Do you think that will happen? That you'll need to retake this semester?"

"I hope not. Most of my profs are pretty cool, only requiring you to show up for exams. And I can get the class notes from some of my friends or through the Student Center. The only one I may have to take during the summer is Intro Psych. Professor Walsh is a real stickler for the rules, but Buffy's almost dating the TA for the class, so maybe he can help convince her to give me some leeway."

"Buffy's dating a TA?" Giles asked in amazement. She hadn't mentioned to him that there was a new beau on the horizon.

A guilty expression crossed Willow's face. She nibbled on her bottom lip as she said, "Uh, yes?"

Giles turned his eyes heavenward. "Well, it's nice that she feels the need to keep me up to date on what's going on in her life."

"I'm sure it's not that," Willow quickly assured him. "She's probably just keeping it quiet, ya know, after the Parker situation."

"I suppose…"

"And I also kinda knew because Riley came to see me in the hospital and asked for advice on how to get to know Buffy better."

"The boy came to you?" Giles was impressed; maybe this boy won't be so bad after all.

"Yeah. He knew he liked Buffy but he didn't really know much about her and wanted to know the best way to approach her." A slight frown crossed Giles' face – he was wary of people wanting to know too much about his slayer. "Don't worry," Willow rushed on, "I didn't say anything that would betray any secrets. Just normal girl info."

"I'm probably just being paranoid. I think it's amenable that he would take the time to ask the people closest to Buffy how to get into her good graces. And I'm sure she'll tell me when the time is right."

"She will," Willow beamed. "I'll make sure she does."

"On that note…" Giles made ready to leave.

"Right," Willow nodded. "Have fun."

"I'll try," Giles wryly agreed.


After emailing her professors, Willow decided to bite the bullet and swallow her pride. She called Buffy to ask her for a huge favor.

The blonde showed up at the apartment half an hour later with a drug store bag in her hand. Knowing Willow wouldn't want to get up to answer the door, Buffy waltzed right in.

"The cavalry is here," she announced.

Leaning heavily on the arm of the couch, Willow stood to greet her friend. "Thanks so much for doing this Buffy. I really hate to ask, but I didn't see any other way."

"Pfft," Buffy waved the apology off. "Hey, what are best friends for? You want to do this now?"

"If you don't mind…"

"Of course I don't mind. After you," Buffy gestured towards the hallway.

Willow made her way down the hallway and entered the bathroom. She retrieved the towel she had used earlier and draped it over the toilet again. She sat down and prepared to remove her sweats.

"Um, Buffy, could you grab a pair of boxers out of my room?" she asked with a blush.

"Are we doing the whole leg or just your calves?" Buffy asked.

"Oh, um, the whole leg, if you don't mind," Willow embarrassed asked. "Some of my skirts are above the knee."

"Why don't we just put a towel over your lap then. Then you can wear a pair of real shorts when we're done."

"I guess…" Willow agreed. She still couldn't believe she had asked Buffy to do this. As the redhead worked on overcoming her embarrassment, Buffy went to the kitchen to heat the wax.

Buffy understood Willow's embarrassment about asking this favor. As far as she knew, Willow had never been to a beauty salon for a full body treatment.

She knew how difficult it was for Willow to ask any kind of favor, so to ask for something this personal was a big deal. Buffy was happy and relieved that Willow had asked her. She wanted Willow to be able to trust her with what was really bothering her, and this was a good step in the right direction.

By the time Buffy returned to the bathroom with the hot wax Willow was pants-less with a towel across her lap and her resolve face on.

"You ready?" Buffy asked.

"You bet'cha," Willow said.

Buffy propped Willow's feet on the overturned garbage bin and swathed an area of her calf with the wax, covering it with a strip of cloth.

Deciding to distract herself from the physical discomfort with some emotional discomfort, Willow began to relate the events of the day of the accident to Buffy.

Buffy listened silently, adding the occasional supportive comment, as Willow proceeded to tell her about finding Oz with Veruca, the other wolf. Buffy had suspected that Oz must have done something awful to drive Willow to such distraction and then suddenly leave town. No wonder Willow had protested so strongly to any mention of Oz this past week.

Buffy told Willow of Oz's departure the night of the accident. She didn't know if Veruca had gone with him or not, but she hadn't been looking for her either. She made a mental note to ask around after the singer/werewolf. Buffy wasn't sure if it would be better if Veruca was still around or not. Would it be more painful for Willow to accidentally run into her or to know that she and Oz were together? If she was still around, Buffy thought she might 'accidentally' fill her gun with silver bullets instead of tranquilizers during the next full moon.


Giles returned home at some point while the girls were talking. He'd planned on showering right away, but realized the girls were in the bathroom. The door was closed so he couldn't make out what they were saying, but he assumed that Willow's occasional yelps weren't serious as Buffy was with her.

He knocked on the door, saying, "Willow, I'm back. When you and Buffy are finished in there, please let me know so that I may shower."

"Okay Giles," Willow called back, laughter in her voice at Giles' guesses for why Buffy was in here with her.

"Hi Giles," Buffy called out too. "We're almost done in here."

"Hello Buffy," Giles greeted his slayer. "Very well. I'll be in the living room."

The girls broke into a fit of giggles as Giles' footsteps retreated. Willow raised her good leg and ran her fingers over her now smooth, hairless skin.

She sighed and grinned at Buffy. "Thank you so much again for doing this. It was above and beyond the call of duty."

"Nonsense. What are best friends for if not the occasional beauty treatment bonding session?"

"Beauty treatment bonding session?" Willow giggled.

"Yep," Buffy grinned. "Next time I'll give you a facial, or a manicure."

"Buffy, you know I don't care about all that pampering stuff," Willow protested.

"So what? You've been through an ordeal and you deserve some pampering."


"Nope, no buts. Don't make me use slayer strength to force you into some relaxing fun. It's not like you can outrun me," Buffy teased.

"Fine," Willow sighed. "Beautify me."

"Later," Buffy promised. "We should probably give Giles back his bathroom."

"Yeah, he must be all sweaty from running."

"Giles, runs? Like for exercise?"

"I guess so," Willow confirmed. She looked at her sweat pants in a pile on the floor next to her, then to the towel in her lap. "Um, Buffy?"

"Yeah, Will?"

"Could you, um, get me a skirt or shorts or something?" the redhead slowly asked.

"Oh, duh," the blonde responded. "Of course. Give me a sec."

A minute later Buffy returned to the bathroom with a pair of shorts in hand. She helped slip them over Willow's feet and the redhead pulled them up to the hips. Using one hand on the sink to push herself into a standing position, and the other pulling the shorts up, Willow was able to finish dressing. Buffy hung the towels back up and tossed the used waxing materials in the up-righted trash while Willow dressed.

Giles looked up from the newspaper he was reading as the girls' voices drew closer. He felt his breath catch as Willow entered the room. Despite the crutches aiding her movement, he was drawn to her shapely legs. Were they always so creamy and long?

"Bathroom's all yours," Willow announced.

"Hmm? Oh, yes, thank you," Giles replied.

"So I hear you've taken up running," Buffy teased.

"As you very well knew," he countered.

"I did?" the blonde questioned. She vaguely remembered him coming home from a run during that whole demon roommate Kathy fiasco. "Oh, right. So you're still doing it?"

"Yes," Giles tiredly replied, frustrated by Buffy's lack of memory of his life. "I find it to be a great way to start the day."

"Good for you." Turning to the redhead now seated on the couch she asked, "Anything else I can do for you before I leave?"

"No, you've done more than enough already. Thanks so much again Buffy."

"Anytime. Bye guys." Buffy gave a small wave and left to the good-byes of her friends.

"Might I inquire as to what Buffy helped you with?" Giles ventured.

"She, um, helped me with a personal problem," Willow hesitantly said.

"Nothing's wrong I hope," Giles asked, his voice full of concern. He sat on the couch near her.

"No, nothing bad, I promise," Willow immediately said. "She just, ah, waxedmylegsforme," she said in a rush, holding up her good leg for inspection. "And I told her about Oz."

Giles chose to ignore the beginning of her admission, not wanting to think about her soft, smooth, silky legs. "I'm glad you were able to talk with her."

"Yeah, me too," Willow shyly admitted. "You were right. It felt good talking about everything with Buffy. I feel like a weight has been lifted."

"As I hoped it would." Giles squeezed her hand gently, the back of his fingers grazing her bare thigh. Their eyes met and a moment of understanding passed between them.

Giles stood quickly. He coughed and stuttered, "I-I should go… and shower… now."

Willow's look of confusion softened and she nodded her head. "You've earned it. I'll see you when you're done."

"Of course," Giles agreed. He headed off to the bathroom for the first of what was sure to be many cold showers.


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