Hunting Ground
Author: Jerri
Rating: 15
Summary: Giles needs some release. He spells it Ripper.

He looked at himself in the mirror, it had been awhile since he had needed to get this out of his system, but there you have it. He had been the perfect watcher, protecting and teaching his charges, even the ones he wasn't supposed to have. An arrogant smirk crossed his rugged face, it was time to cut loose, he needed to be free for at least a few hours. His tight denims looked good, as did the tight white tee. He shimmied slightly as he retrieved his boots and sat to lace them up to the tune of Stairway to Heaven. He was going to go play. The children thought he had a migraine and was going to sleep it off. An amused snort gave lie to that excuse. They wouldn't understand that you can't be controlled all the time. Or at least they wouldn't understand that he couldn't. It was perfectly all right for them to...what was the bloody phrase? Oh well, it didn't really matter. All that mattered was that there was a club that he could frequent and the children would never know that he had let the Ripper out to play. He wanted a few drinks, a few laughs and maybe if he got lucky and he nearly always did, a good shag, again he smirked, not necessarily in that order. He'd take what he could get. Dear Lord, it felt so good to let himself go. I need to let myself do this more often. The stereo died with a flick of the hand, and he left the flat humming. One thing you could say about him, he had better taste in cars now that he was letting his alter ego out.

The little red tramp was really flashy and made great bird bait. He jumped over the door and settled himself in the seat, starting it with a muted roar and tearing out of the car park as if the hounds of hell were after him. The sporty car zipped through traffic with a speed and daring that would have stunned more than one person had they seen it. Short minutes later, he screeched to a halt before the door of The Underground. Swinging himself nimbly out of the car he tossed the keys to the valet and took his claim ticket, tucking it carelessly into his pocket. He bounded down the steps to the cavern like entrance to his favorite pub, giving the bouncer a careless wave and a "Ta Mate" as the burly man opened the velvet gate for him. A grin crossed his handsome face as he recieved the obligatory dirty looks from the people standing in line, waiting for the coveted admittance to the club.

The rebel paused just inside the door, scanning the room for suitable prey. There, red hair shone like a beacon. It was even the right shade for a change. Stopping at the bar, he tossed a smile to the pretty bird pouring out drinks, looking oh so appreciatively at her brief costume. "What'll it be Ripper? The usual."

"Righto, Pet. What's the redhead drinking?" He indicated his target with a tip of his chin.

"Singapore Slings." The blonde's tone was more than just a little disgusted. Why couldn't he look at her that way, but it was always a redhead. "Why don't you give me one of those as well, Luv."

"Coming right up." She basked under his stare as she deftly prepared the sling and poured out a generous helping of scotch. She handed the drinks to him and made a note on his tab. And watched with regret as he approached his target for the evening.He neared the redhead, checking her out. Her hair glowed with health and he could see no signs of competition. She even looked right, from the back at least. He slid the drink in front of her, causing her to jump as the glass made contact with the table. "Here Luv, you looked thirsty."

"Not really, I still have most of my drink left."

Her voice, oh dear lord, it was..."Willow, what are you doing here?"

She swung around to face him, "Giles, I thought you had a migraine." She ran her eyes up and down his form. He grinned in amusement as she checked him out, laughing when she realized what he was wearing. "You're not Giles, are you?"

"Certainly I am, Luv. Why does everyone persist in thinking that I am a separate person. I'm not, you know. I am one man. Admittedly one man who needs to break out of a tweed prison ever so often, but the same man. So, Luv, you never answered my question. What are you doing here? This doesn't seem like your kind of club."

"Tara and I...we have been...we seem to be...well..."

"Having a few problems? Luv I could have told you that it was coming." Ripper slid out a chair and seated himself next to his favorite witch.

"How, I mean why do you say that?" Willow's emerald eyes questioned him.

"Well, it's this way, Luv. You are so very powerful and can accomplish so much, that while Tara has been a practicing Wicca longer, you have the potential. That is going to cause problems. Take it from me. You will be better off without her."

"But, I love her."

"Do you, Pet, or do you just love the idea of being in love with someone, anyone? Cause I think that is closer to the truth. I think you have been searching for something or someone, and you fell for Tara just to be in a relationship." Ripper casually slid his arm around the redhead's shapely shoulders. Oh yeah, this was gonna be fun. He had hunted redheads exclusively thanks to her, and now, she wasn't a child anymore. She had shown up on his hunting ground and she was the prey. And he never missed what he hunted.

"You," the witch stared at him in fascination, "you're not Giles, but you're not all violent either. How do you do that?"

"Easy Luv, I am just being me tonight instead of what every wanker in the world expects me to be."


"Think about it, do you feel comfortable with me, or do you miss the tweed?"

Finally, she was looking at him, the real him. He grinned as her eyes widened then narrowed with a something. Rotating his shoulders drew her attention to his muscled chest. The tight tee showcased the development that tweed and jackets kept hidden from the world. The green eyes looked him over, carefully. A new expression appeared in those stunning eyes, an expression that spoke volumes. "I don't miss the tweed."

"Truth be told, neither do I. I like to be me sometimes. The man I am instead of the man I am expected to be."

"I can understand that, sometimes I don't want to be `research girl' or `net girl', or even the `witchey girl'. What's wrong with being yourself, or my self as the case may be?"

"Well, in my circumstances, neither Buffy nor Xander would pay much attention to me, if I wasn't who they expected me to be. In your case..."

"You don't have to say it. Vamp Willow, says it all."

"I rather liked the chit, truth be known. Oh yeah, she was a vampire, but she was who she was. There was no pretense, no games. I wish it was easier for us to be that open and honest."

"Honest, that's a concept I have to think about. I've kept so many secrets from so many people that I think I do it automatically. I'm not even sure who I am."

"Right then, I'll just have to help you find the real you." Ripper's eyes sparkled with fun and devilment. "So, Luv do you want to dance, or just sit here and enjoy the company? Or would you rather come with me and we'll explore just who you really are?"

"I think I'd like to find out who me is. If you don't mind I mean. I guess you don't get to come out often, what with the watching and the research, and all."

"Well, Willow, watching can be fun, but I like doing much more." One stake roughened hand took hers and pulled her to her feet. One quick stop at the bar, where he paid his tab and they were out the door. Short minutes later, they were tearing through the night at speeds Willow had never imagined the Englishman could concieve of. The top down, cool night air tearing through their hair, while the throbbing beat of good rock and roll surrounded them. The car zipped through the light traffic, nimbly leaving the competition in it's dust. The redhead laughed with unrestrained joy, as the wind whipped through her hair. The joy on her face was a pleasure to behold. The driver split his time between watching the road and watching the redhead. He had spent much of his life watching and had gotten fairly good at it. He whipped the car around the curves on old highway 101, taking advantage of the freedom while he could. All to soon he would have to dress the part and restrain himself. He would be put on trousers and a jacket and be the slayer's watcher. Be responsible for someone else's livelihood. But until then, he had Willow, his little red tramp and the knackers to pull it off. "Enjoying yourself, Luv?"

"Ripper, this is wonderful. I didn't know that you drove like this."

"Lot you don't know about me, Willow."

"I'm beginning to see that. It just surprises me. You would never talk about your past. I mean, it was off limits, and you seemed so ashamed of what you had done. I guess that you just didn't want anyone to know that..."

"Luv, I didn't want anyone to know about my private life. That way I haven't got a nosy slayer prying into who I see, or where I go. There is no way, that I would want Anya to know about me. She would spend more time speculating on my sex life, than working at the shop." The look on the redhead's face when she heard sex life was priceless. He would have to taunt her about it now and then, just to see her go that interesting shade of red. "Xander calls me G-Man now, what would he call me if he knew about me?"

The little witch's face scrunched up as she thought. Being brutal honest about her best friend's habits and ideas, she looked at the sexy man driving the car, "He would think you were possessed, and would make not-funny cracks about it."

"Precisely." He whipped the tramp off the road and onto a smaller road. Willow eeped softly in surprise. She had not noticed they were turning until they had. Ripper drove with a little more caution, but not much. A smile covered his handsome face as he wound through the woods. The perfect prey called for the perfect lair. Short minutes later, he skidded to a halt in front of a small cabin, hidden among the trees. Quickly, he vaulted out of the car, inviting the witch to join him, with a quirk of an eyebrow. "This is lovely, what is it?"

"This, Luv, is my sanctuary. I come here to have privacy, whenever I need to unwind. No one but you knows about it, and I want it to stay that way. I don't need the children barging in on me, when I am alone." He left unspoken the fact that he was seldom alone when he came here. She didn't need to know that, and if he had his way, she would now be there.

The rough hewn exterior hid more than a few secrets. The door opened on a large comfortable room, lined with book cases and an extremely good stereo system. There were soft pillows on the cushy, hunter green sofa. A small wet bar stood in one corner of the room and a set of stairs led up to an open loft. The floor was covered with a thick, soft, champagne carpet and there were several easy chairs scattered around the room. It invited one to make themselves comfortable. Ripper waved a hand in the general direction of the sofa, "Sit down, be comfortable, would you like a drink?" He sauntered to the bar, to pour his own scotch, grinning when he heard her sink down on the butter soft leather couch. He poured a crystal glass full of a deep, red wine, and brought the drinks back to the couch, seating himself beside his target for the evening, and if things went well, for eternity.

Willow accepted the wine glass, rolling the wine within and admiring the color. "I don't drink much you know. I doubt I'll be able to appreciate this wine, but it is very pretty." As she lifted the glass to her lips, the watcher replied, "Oh, I think you'll enjoy it luv." (and the spell that is on it.) He leaned back into the sofa and sipped his scotch as she rolled the bespelled wine around her mouth, obviously savoring the taste.

"So, Luv, we were going to talk about who Willow really is. Is she the witch who loves another woman; or the hacker, who holds the Scoobie gang together? Is she the scholar who teaches others, or perhaps the Jewish Wiccan? Who do you think Willow is?" One hand reached out to grasp her delicate shoulder, comforting her as she sipped and thought.

"I don't really know, I mean, I am all of those things, but...I'm more then that. I can do more and be more than that, can't I?" She drained her glass, and handed it to him, "May I have some more? That is really good."

"Better than you think, Little One. And of course you can have more." He moved to the bar and poured her a fresh glass, refreshing his scotch while he was up. "Willow, what do you want to be? That seems to be a lot of what makes you, what you are." He handed her the glass and smiled as she contemplated the question and the glass with the same concentration. He grabbed the remote control and started something soft playing. He knew the value of good classical music, at a time like this.

The redhead leaned back, sipping her wine as the strains of Ravel washed across her. She was practically purring, she was so content. The hunter slid his hand behind the witch rubbing her neck, aiding the spell in taking hold. She relaxed into his hands, seemingly comfortable to have him handle her. Time to test that theory. He turned her slightly, drawing her back against his chest, rubbing her upper arms and burying his nose in her flower scented hair. She moaned, music to his ears, but he had to take this slow, this wasn't a quick shag, he wanted this to be forever. He couldn't rush things. He breathed softly against her ear, "Willow, are you tired, would you like to spend the night here, and go home in the morning?"

"Actually I am very tired, and I don't want to go home. Tara and I would just fight again. Do you mind if I sleep here?"

"Not a bit Luv. I wouldn't have asked if I minded. Let's get you upstairs and into bed." Ripper gently helped her from the depths of the sofa, and led her up the stairs. He absorbed her gasp of shock against his chest when she saw the loft. He was proud of his bedroom, he had worked extremely hard to make it the den of iniquity it was. He looked at the room, trying to see it with her eyes. The large king size bed dominated the room. The furniture was a glowing spanish oak and shone against the dark blue walls sprinkled with silver stars. The moon shone through the huge skylight, and spotlighted the bed with it's pearly light. The sheets were of silk and the hand woven throw had been designed by him. It was of navy silk with mystical symbols of protection and prowess woven into the very fabric. The framed illustrations from the most famous pillow book of all time graced the walls and invited the viewer to take a closer look. And it really wouldn't do for her to look over the bookshelves up here, just yet. Somehow, he didn't think she was ready for his collection of Victorian Erotica.

He led his little redhead to the large dresser and removed a set of ivory silk boxers and a soft tee shirt, giving them to her, then led her to the door that led to his personal indulgence. She oohed as she saw the roman style bath before her.

"Take your time, Luv. Get changed for bed, you can explore all you would like tomorrow." With that Ripper gently shut the bathroom door and left her to it. Hell, I had better get changed or I'll give the chit a heartattack if she realizes there are no knickers on under these. He grabbed a pair of black silk boxers and quickly changed, putting on a robe and waiting for his witch to get out of the bathroom, although, the way she had looked, he might have a problem keeping her out of there.

The door opened and Willow stepped out clad in his underwear. Dear God, she was so beautiful. He had to control himself, remember, forever, not just one night. He led her to the turned back bed and helped her to lay down. He turned out the lights and slipped in beside her, drawing her slight frame to his toned body. The seductive sounds of bolero washed across them and soothed them both into sleep.

Willow sank into the leather couch. Goddess, she had never felt anything more comfortable. She looked around the welcoming room. She could tell that Giles, no, she corrected herself, Ripper spent a lot of time here. There were books everywhere, but unlike the watcher's condo, the topics ranged from the occult to the latest murder mystery. Apparently, both she and the rest of the gang had missed quite a lot about their mentor. The stereo on one side of the room was much more elaborate and complex then anything found in the apartment of their mentor. The redhead looked up and accepted the crystal flute from her host. She rolled the wine around in the glass, admiring it's lovely deep red color. She took a small sip, she had tasted wine before, but didn't much like it. The rich flavor burst on her tongue, seducing it's way down her throat. The witch took a deeper sip. This was wonderful. Willow knew that Ripper had seated himself beside her, but it really didn't matter, all her senses were engaged in the taste of the wine.

All to soon it was empty. What was the protocol? Did one ask politely, or did one what for the host to offer more. She knew manners were important...she decided to ask. If you were polite you almost always got what you wanted. The same was true of this case. The watcher got up and went to the small wet bar and poured her another glass of wine. She couldn't believe how relaxed she was.

All the tension seemed to drain out of her. Hell, er, heck, there weren't even the nervous twinges, she had felt earlier about being alone with Ripper of all people. Concentrate Willow, the man just asked you a question. Now what was it, oh yeah...

"Willow, what do you want to be? That seems to be a lot of what makes you, what you are."

She took the delicate glass from his rugged fingers, noting in passing that he had a remote control in his hand. Wait a minute, Giles owned a remote? She frowned as she tried to concentrate, she must be really tired because she couldn't seem to think at all. The strains of music washed over her, as work roughened hands gripped her shoulder's, pulling her back against the well muscled chest of...shi...shoot, Ripper. It didn't really matter though, whispered a part of her brain. You can trust Giles, he would never hurt you. Again the witch was pulled back to reality by a question...

"Willow, are you tired, would you like to spend the night here, and go home in the morning?" his warm breath swept across her ear.

Willow was suddenly so exhausted. She'd answered him, hadn't she. What was the question again, oh yes. Would she stay the night. Right, her head lolled back as she vaguely heard him urge her to her feet. Then warm hands were pulling her up and guiding her towards the stairs. Ripper has to be half carrying me. Why am I so tired. Oh well, it took to much effort to think about, better to concentrate on getting one foot in front of the other. The little hacker leaned heavily on Ripper's arm as they topped the stairs.

Oooh, pretty, thought Willow. With the silver stars covered the dark walls,the room was a picture of the night's beauty. She goggled at the walls as she was led to the dresser. handed her a pair of boxers and a tee-shirt and all but shoved her into the bathroom to change. What a bathroom, she would have to look at it when she wasn't exhausted, and the thought of trying that tub out...sheer bliss. Changed, the witch left the sybaritic pleasure palace and re-entered Ripper's homage to the night. He was waiting for her, clad in a robe and ready to help her to the turned down bed. She slid in and snuggled down into the pillows. This is not right ran through her mind as he joined her in the bed, but I am so tired, I just want to sleep. One last deep breath and...

Willow opened her emerald eyes, everything seemed so brilliant and clear, then she realized the skylight directly above her might have something to do with that. The walls of the room were navy and the silver stars shone in the rich morning sun. The redhead snuggled deeper into the warm embrace and settled back to enjoy morning smoochies. The large masculine hand...wait just a minute...masculine? Goddess, what did I do last night? Her thoughts turned to the fight...okay, she remembered fighting with her lover, but how did she get from arguing with Tara to in bed with a strange masculine? Startled eyes looked down at the hand covering her cotton clad stomach, okay, not so strange a masculine. That hand was known to her. That hand belonged to Gil...oh, shi...shoot, he wasn't Giles per se, he was Ripper, or at least he was last night. Think Willow, think. How in the name of the Goddess, did you end up in a strange room, in a strange bed, with a strange Ripper. With deliberate care, the witch went about removing the hand from her stomach and stealthily sliding out of the bed.

Once on her feet, she looked down, relieved to find herself fully clothed in someone else's boxers. Casting a jaundiced eye on the man, still sleeping, she knew who's underwear adorned her. Quietly the witch looked about, seeing an open door, she headed for it. Yes, jackpot, bathroom. Goddess what a bathroom. A person could spend days in here and be happy. The tiled floor led to a Roman style bath. Greenery, living and vibrant with health surrounded the huge marble tub, or maybe pool would be a better word. The back wall to the bath was made of glass bricks. The world was blurry but recognizable through it. Maybe he would just let her move into the bathroom, bad Willow, stop thinking like that. She made use of the facilities and reluctantly slipped out of the room.

Two choices, bed or stairs. No choice, down the stairs she went. The living room brought back memories. Exhaustion, both physical and emotional; two glasses of red wine, good wine, admittedly, but...Remembered Ripper asking her who she was, and not knowing the answer. She still didn't know that one, but she knew one thing, he hadn't taken advantage of her, and he had some valid points. Seating herself on the couch, she thought. With an inherent honesty her brain and her heart came to the agreement...she didn't love Tara, at least she wasn't in love with Tara. The fact was she cared deeply, but it wasn't love. That was hard to swallow, but bitter medicine sometimes worked best. Goddess, she dreaded telling her, but it was only right. There was no way to continue the relationship, with out making it worse. Not a good thing, it was gonna be bad enough as it was. That resolved there was the last important question to deal with...did Ripper have a coffee pot and coffee. She started looking behind doors, the kitchen had to be somewhere.

Ripper had been awake for sometime, luxuriating in the presence of the red head in his arms. Finally, he exulted, at last he could touch the real thing instead of making do with those pale imitations. The flame he held secure against him burned all the impurities and dross away. Before the inner fire had flickered palely, if at all.

She stirred, his green eyes snapped shut in an expert pretense of sleep. God, she snuggled tighter into him, sinking deeper into his embrace. He hadn't been aware that she could get any closer. He stifled a moan as he felt her freeze. One tiny hand touched his.

Gently she lifted his hand from it's resting place on her stomach. Inch by slow inch, the warmth left his arms and his bed. The watcher could feel emerald eyes burning into him. As he rolled into the warmth and scent left on her abandoned pillow, the bathroom door closed with a muted click.

Never one to let the main chance pass him by, Ripper allowed himself, both a smile and a moment of thought. I must move very carefully. If I push her to far, I could lose her. Losing her is unacceptable, ergo, no pushing. He had pushed as far as he dared with the spell last night, but she had needed the break from the tension and strain. She had been so tense, he thought she was likely to crumble. As much as he wanted to shag her blind while her defenses were down, he hadn't. She was Willow, she needed to be held and comforted, and he had. Still, it wouldn't pay for her to figure out that she was witched into exhaustion. She is just powerful enough to make him very sorry, even if his intentions were good.

Anyway, he had her,, with him. All he wanted to do was sink into her softness and warmth, and never move again. But, if he pushed to hard, she would leave...and he would play bloody, merry hell, getting her into his arms again. The possibility she would tell the others and make his life as Ripper completely untenable.

The quiet snick of the lock on the bathroom door, reached his ears. His face was hidden from sight, and he clutched her pillow like a small child would clutch a beloved teddy. The light sound of her footsteps on the stairs relieved him of the need to feign sleep. She was uneasy and he knew she would have questions about the previous night. The logician in him wasn't worried, her behavior could and would be explained away with catch words like; stress, tension, and relief combining to leave her exhausted and muzzy. If he did it right, the red head would belong to him. He would own her passion and loyalty. Treasures, truly beyond price. Long minutes later he heard her movements downstairs. He could hear doors opening and closing. It was time to face the witch and begin to claim his reward.

Ripper rolled out of the bed with an agility that belied his age. Quickly he strode to the closet, and selected casual clothes. Jeans and a tee shirt paired with his docs. He donned the apparel rapidly and headed for the stairs. A single glance around the great room convinced him that the noises he heard were caused by Willow taking his kitchen apart in a search for caffeine. Knowing Willow as he did, this translated to coffee.

He paused in the door, laughed silently at the picture before him. The hacker stood, precariously balanced on the counter, searching the uppermost cupboards. That beautiful face was screwed up in an expression of total exasperation. Delicate hands pawed through the obscure items. The watcher forced a sober look onto his face, although he knew his green eyes twinkled with merriment, "Looking for something in particular?" A loud eep and windmilling arms made it clear, that possibly he should have made some sort of racket. He leapt to catch her, and did...barely. Large hands braced Willow's shapely butt, steadying her, until she regained her balance.

Surprised emerald eyes shone down at him. A slight wiggle reminded him to move his hands. Slowly, he removed his hands, regretful at the loss of contact. "I was looking for a coffee pot." The frustrated witch glared down at him. "I found coffee beans in the freezer, so there must be a coffee pot."

"What's wrong with this one?" Giles held up a glass and silver assemblage.

"That's a coffee pot?"

"Yes, Willow, that is a french press." He restrained a laugh as the redhead pouted and clambored off the counter. Hands deftly assembled the pot and removed the coffeebeans from the freezer compartment. His lips curled into a smile as the spice mill turned coffee beans into grounds. In short order, the aroma of freshly brewed espresso filled the streamlined kitchen.

The witch stood near the stove. He could see her chest rise as she inhaled deeply. A wistful expression crossed her face as she waited for him to pour her a cup of the fragrant brew. "Willow, have you given any thought to our conversation last night?"

He smiled gently as his... she blushed, "Yes...I hate to do it, but I have to tell Tara it's over. I'm not very proud of myself, but you were right. I don't love her." The witch sighed, forlornly. "I've used her." The powerful witch gave way to the hurt child, "Giles, I hurt her, she just doesn't know it yet. Goddess, what have I done?"

The girl crumpled into Ripper's waiting arms. Caught in his tight embrace, she sobbed into his chest. Conflicting thoughts ran through his mind as he stroked her taut back. He hated it that she was in pain, but... Finally, a hiccup signaled the end of her tears and the beginning of her future.

"Better now?" The watcher tore a paper towel from the roll, and gently dried the tears from her pale cheeks. He handed it to her as she sniffled. He kept one arm firmly around her shaking shoulders as he used the other to pour the coffee. He soon had them seated on the sofa, two steaming cups of coffee on the table before them. The still sobbing witch dropped her head onto his shoulder.

"Willow, you never meant to harm anyone. It's not in your nature to intentionally inflict pain on another person." Ripper smoothed the hair on the redheads brow. "Think, Tara isn't completely guiltless in this, you used each other. You gave her acceptance. She gave you someone who needed you. I don't believe she did it intentionally, anymore than you did." He took Willow's hand, comforting her with his touch. "From what I have observed, she would never have been able to deal with either her life or her family difficulties, if not for you. You gave her a boost to her confidence that has changed her life for the better."

"But I don't love her."

"No, you don't and anyone who knows you at all, was well aware of that fact. Xander has expressed his doubts on more than one occasion. Anya lives in fear that you will go after Xander..."

"But, I wouldn't...would I?"

"No, I think you are very well aware of how happy Xander is with Anya. I know that you love Xander and would never do anything to harm him."

"I already learned that lesson the hard way."

"I know." Ripper gently removed the empty china mug from her hands. Once there was nothing to grasp, her delicate hands trembled with nervous energy. She was on an emotional rollercoaster and he had to convince her to expend that energy in a positive way. "Willow, I have the utmost confidence in you. Yes, you took a wrong turn, but you'll put it right."

"I hope I can, but...Goddess, Giles, how do I get back on the right track when I've gotten so far off it. Heck, I completely derailed the entire train."

Ripper's libedo immediately screamed--`By looking at me'. Ripper's brain however was still functional and he restrained himself. "By finding where you are comfortable, and by making the choice to move on, instead of dwelling on the past."

"But...I don't know how to move on, and...and I just don't want to deal with this...with Tara right now."

"Then don't"

"But I have to go home."


"Well, I just...don't I?"

"I don't see why. You are quite welcome to stay here as long as you'd like. I can tell the group, I have to attend a meeting with a colleague from the council. I see no reason for you not to call Tara. You can tell her you've gone away to think things through. No one know's about this place, so you shall have all the peace and quiet you need to think and decide what your next step shall be."

"Are you sure you won't mind my being underfoot?"

"Willow, you could never be in my way." The watcher casually leaned towards his redhead, and oh-so-casually kissed her forehead, while in his mind and heart he exulted. She would stay. He had won the second battle, soon...soon he would win the war, and she would be his...

The redhead strolled throught the forest, periodically, she would lay her hand against a tree. He thought she might be communing with the massive old trees. Ripper looked his fill. She was dressed in one of his tee-shirts and a pair of sweatpants, rolled up to keep from tripping her. She belonged here, in this primal setting...with him. The watcher subtly guided their steps and soon they stepped out of the forest into a magical glade. There was a casting circle incised in the center of the lovely clearing.

Willow spun in delight. She seemed to be trying to absorb every detail at once. her delicate face was wreathed in a smile. "Giles, this is wonderful. How did you know it was here?" Emerald eyes closed as the witch sought and connected to the underlaying magickal energy, that flowed through the circle. Her eyes snapped open, she was giddy, almost intoxicated by the well of power she felt. Her hair crackled and tiny golden sparks flashed in her clear green eyes. She spun to face the British sorcerer. "What is this place?"

"I rather suspect this of being one of the sacred places for the old ones. The Chumash and those who came before." He grinned, "Intoxicating, ain't it? To feel the energy streaming through your veins, burning at your nerve endings. Just begs to be used, doesn't it?"

"I can feel it. It makes me feel so alive,"

The little witch stepped into the circle. A gentle wind came from everywhere and nowhere, to lift her hair in a flowing stream. It tugged at her oversize clothes, molding them to her delicate form.

She raised her arms in a graceful supplication to the Goddess. "Hear me. I am your child Willow. Goddess, place me where I belong, put me on the path, you would have me walk. Show me the destiny I should seek. As I will it, an it harm none, so mote it be."

The small pits around the circle burst into flame, soaring into the air, making an arch over the witch's head. Ripper smiled as he felt the magic flowing to the witch. The Goddess had answered the wiccan's prayer. He could only hope the answer was the one he hoped for. Slowly, the brilliant flares died, and Willow turned to face him. Ripper felt the rare sensation of alarm, as he looked into inky black eyes. Oh Gods, what was she going to do now? She lifted her delicate little hand and....

"Er...Uhm...Willow...Luv, do you suppose you could put me down. I've never been that fond of flying." He landed with a small thump in front of the witch. "Willow, what..."

She raised one hand to silence him. He felt his jaw click shut. "I have somethings to say to you. First," her black eyes burned through him, "Spells on Willow? Bad...way bad, unless I say it is okay. Second, you are my destiny. I get to keep you on the straight and narrow from now on."

"But, Willow, how did you..."

"Know you witched me? Ripper, you sadden me." She raised one delicate eyebrow. "A sorcerer of your experience. The Goddess told me exactly what you did. The only reason you're still standing, is she also told me why."One tiny hand touched his cheek, "You love me."

"Willow, I..."

The tiny thing before him, stood on tip toe and kissed him, softly on the lips. Dear lord, it felt like she burned a hole right down to his heart and stamped `property of Willow' on it. When had he lost control of this thing between them, he wasn't quite sure, but he knew he didn't like it. Manfully, the watcher tried to extract himself from his witch's embrace, but she was having none of that. Her arms twined themselves around his neck, as she pressed herself into his body. Ripper could feel her soft curves pressing against him as she teased his tongue with her own. "Willow, we should go back to the cabin..."

"No, we stay here, and I claim you where the Goddess gave you to me." The stern tone made it clear, he was going nowhere. Not to mention the resolve face currently glaring at him. "Here, then, but..."

"Ripper shut up." Suiting actions to words the redhead stopped his mouth with a mind searing kiss. Her nimble fingers twisted slightly, and suddenly, he was laying in the center of the circle, his shirt was just, gone, as were his jeans. He was clad in boxers and and a smile. Well he would be if he felt like smiling right now. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. He wasn't supposed to be helpless. The Ripper was supposed to be in control. He was the dominant one, not the submissive. How was he supposed to handle this? He strained his neck to see the redhead sauntering over to him. Her body moved with a serpentine grace that both captivated and repelled him. At last the slender figure stood over him, she looked down at him and smiled, it was a smile he had seen before, but not on the face of the woman of he loved. Ethan had worn that smile when he placed the mark on his...he began to remember things, things he had allowed himself to forget in his pursuit of the witch. Jade eyes stared into jet black ones, seeking to pierce the veil of magicks. Try as he might, he couldn't.

One slender finger traced a path down his chest. A dulcet voice spoke softly, "Do you feel helpless? Out of the loop? Maybe even out of control?"

"Let me up, Luv. We can talk about this."

"I don't think so. You aren't ready yet." His body was covered by a rush of sensation. She played with his nerve endings, forcing him to feel things that he had no desire to feel. Finally, he whimpered. She pierced his soul with those eyes. "Do you feel helpless?"

Whatever was holding him down, released his head enough for a vigerous nod. "Yes, Willow, I don't like feeling this way."

"Good, now you know how that feels. I don't know where we go from here, but you had to know what helpless feels like. And I know, you will never again use magick against me without my knowledge and consent, will you?"

"Willow, I swear, you'll never have to worry about me bespelling you again."

"Good." One casual wave of her hand and he was clothed and free. One small hand reached for his. She looked up at him from emerald eyes, "Ripper, stop squirming, you love me. And you have for a very long time. We are soulmates. I was put on this earth to guide you."

"Oh, and Mr. don't think we won't be having a talk about redheads. There will be no more of that. I am the only redhead in your life from now on." The sounds of the scolding redhead faded into the distance as they returned to the cabin, to begin their search for the future.

The End.



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