IN ANY KIND OF LIGHT
Willow raised herself onto her elbows and stared down at Giles' sleeping face. They'd just intended to lie there together for a while before leaving the library.
Instead, she'd tried to ignore the pale sunlight that was making its way across the room. A quick glance at the clock had let her relax in the dawning light and stare down at the man she was going to marry.
His eyes opened and he smiled. "Good morning."
"Barely." Seeing his look, she smiled and shook her head. "Barely morning. Most definitely good."
"I take it we fell asleep?" He sat up, fumbling for his glasses.
"Either that or we succumbed to some spell and there are going to be some majorly embarrassing pictures of us making the rounds."
"It's rather frightening that either option is plausible, isn't it?" He chuckled and pulled her into his arms. "Is it wrong to admit that I was petrified this day would never come?"
She shook her head then leaned in to kiss him. It was soft and fleeting, but full of promise. "This is going to be one of the few days in Sunnydale that I'll actually be looking forward to sundown."
He laughed softly and hugged her closely. His breath was hot against her neck, sending shivers of desire along her spine. "I love you Willow."
She pulled away, gazing into his clear green eyes. "I love you, Rupert."
They held each other's gaze for a long moment until Giles started laughing. "I'm sorry," he managed finally. "I just kept wondering if I had the same goofy, lovestruck smile as you. And I realized I did."
She laughed as well. "Goofier."
"We should get dressed and back before anyone worries."
Willow pouted. "I was hoping…"
"Hope all you wish, little one. I'm saving myself until I'm married." He pulled her to him, ignoring his body's discomfort and inhaled the delicate scent of her. "Now. Let's get dressed and I'll take you home."
Buffy yawned and took a bite of her toast. She looked up as the door swung open to reveal a very embarrassed Willow. "Hey. How's my Watcher?"
"And did we sleep well?" She grinned at Willow's blush. "We did sleep, right? I'd hate for you to be exhausted on your wedding night."
"There was sleeping."
"Maybe after a shower and change of clothes." She nodded. "Xander still asleep?"
"Yeah. Although I did get him to move to the bed. Wake him up when you're done and we'll go get food."
"We have food."
"Willow? A - it's your wedding day. That's like the big pamper. B - you so don't want me to cook, and C - you have Giles food. That's by no means real food."
Willow laughed. "Okay, okay." She started for the stairs then stopped, coming back to hug Buffy tightly. "I love you, Buffy."
"I love you too, Wills." They hugged for a long time, reinforcing their friendship.
"Is this a girl thing or can I play too?" Xander stepped up and wrapped his arms around them both. "I love you guys."
Willow pulled back, tears of happiness running down her cheeks. "This doesn't bode well. I'm going to be a blubbering mess."
Xander shook his head. "You'll be a beautiful bride." Leaning forward, he kissed her cheek. "Now, did I hear something about food?"
Giles stood in front of the bathroom sink, staring at himself. His body was still damp from the shower and the water droplets reflected in the fluorescent light.
His hair, though slightly graying, was still predominantly its natural color. The lines around his eyes and mouth were mostly from smiling, a tribute to his wife-to-be, his Slayer and their friends.
His bare chest and stomach were more muscle than fat and the majority of the scars, scrapes and marks his job provided had faded. Only his tattoo - the Mark of Eyghon - stood out in stark relief against his pale skin.
"I don't know what you see, Willow," he whispered to the empty room, "But I'm bloody glad you do."
Turning away from his reflection, he pulled the towel from its position, slung low around his waist, and dried himself off. His tuxedo was hanging in the next room, a towering symbol of the step he was about to take.
Slipping into his robe, he walked into the main room. "Shower's yours, Ev."
"Your cousin has stepped out. But don't worry Ripper. I didn't tell him why we needed out privacy."
Giles froze. "Hello Ethan."
"You've really got to work on those heartfelt emotions, my boy. Otherwise, a man might feel unloved."
"Bugger off. I don't have time for you today."
"I know. Marrying the little witch, all against Daddy's wishes. I'm actually quite proud of you, Ripper. I wasn't sure you still had it in you." Standing, Ethan strolled over to the garment bag and pulled it open. "Perhaps I should have guessed."
"What do you want, Ethan?" His tone was bored, though Ethan's trained ear picked up the worry underlying it. "As you mentioned, I have rather important plans this evening."
Ethan turned back to him and smiled. "Believe it or not, old boy, I wanted to wish you luck. I rather like her, you know. She seems to keep the old Ripper a little bit alive."
"I appreciate the…"
"I hope you'll be happy, Rupert."
The use of his real name shocked Giles to silence.
Ethan laughed softly. Stepping closer, he extended his hand toward his old friend. Giles reached at out and shook it. "Besides, you're more fun to torture just when you think everything is about to go right." Releasing Giles' hand, he left the hotel room. "Give your bride my best. Or at least, as close as you can get."
Willow sat on the huge four poster bed, ignoring everything around her. She kept staring down at the diamond on her finger.
Life had certainly managed to turn out completely different than she'd ever imagined. Her gaze lifted to the burgundy, crushed velvet chaise lounge that was draped with more lace, ribbon and silk than any one woman should wear.
Above that, suspended from a hook, hung what seemed to be miles of white silk, cascading toward the floor. She heard the door open and pulled her robe together.
"Can I come in?"
"Kind of you to ask." Willow smiled at Cordelia, who was already shutting the door behind her. "Sure."
"I thought you might need some help. And, since Buffy deserves some Angel brooding time and Faith has the taste of a Nashville whore, I thought I was your only hope."
"You can make me beautiful?" Willow asked hopefully.
"Nope." Shaking her head, Cordelia sighed. "You already are. But I can make you look amazing. Giles may not even recognize you."
"Promise to tell him I'm the one in the white?"
Cordelia laughed. "He'll probably guess." Tugging on Willow's hand, she guided her over to a small vanity. "You know, as nice as the view outside this place is, can I ask why? I mean, first of all, no mirrors. And secondly, well, isn't this where Angelus tortured Giles?"
"Well," Willow closed her eyes as Cordelia snapped open a tube of something and began applying it to her face. "The no mirrors I just forgot about, to be honest. But it gives us a chance to bond, right?"
"Right." Cordelia's smirk came through in her voice.
"Besides, we did some research and this place has a history of romance straight out of a novel. There was quite a scandal when it all came out. But Giles assures me that true love won out in the end." She smiled briefly for a moment. "And the other…" Willow's forehead wrinkled. Cordelia smoothed cream over the skin in reprimand and Willow relaxed. "It's about forgiveness, I guess. And moving on. What happened was hard on him, mostly because he felt that he let Buffy down. He's supposed to be willing to die to protect her, yet he wasn't able to keep the secret."
"Doesn't that bother you?"
Willow sighed softly. "They used Jenny against him. Took the embers of his love for her and fanned them to life." She opened her eyes. "If it happened now, I know it would be my face he'd see."
"And he'd let Buffy down again?" Cordelia blushed. "That so didn't come out right."
"He shares a special bond with Buffy." Willow's face was serious and Cordelia stopped her movements to pay close attention. "It's stronger than a lover. Stronger even than a father. She's part of his…his reason, for lack of a better word. Buffy's kind of like a religion he puts all of his faith into."
Cordelia frowned slightly. "So, if Buffy is his reason for…believing?" Her tone was light, even though the question was not. "What are you?"
There was no hesitation in her reply. "His reason for living."
Giles paced the length of his hotel room as Evan got dressed. "It's after two."
"Rupert, would you calm down? Your sunset isn't until 9PM. You've got a wait ahead of you."
"There are pictures."
"Which will take two hours, roughly. That's still a good five hours away."
"And the meeting? The…the veiling?"
"Fifteen minutes maximum."
Giles sank onto a chair, careful not to crease his tuxedo. "Why is there never a Hellmouth emergency when I actually need something to do?"
"You could go talk with your parents." Evan smirked. "Or you could explain why Ethan Rayne was here earlier."
Giles' eyes narrowed. "That reminds me…cousin."
"I didn't invite him in."
"That excuse only works with vampires." His green eyes were shining with mischief, his intent to torture his cousin a bit perfectly clear. "You should know better than to let Ethan anywhere he wants to be."
"No, I should and do know not to get on his bad side. I also know that he has his ways of getting people to give up information they have no intention of parting with. And the longer and harder you resist the worse it is for you when he's finished." Evan looked sternly at his cousin. "You forget he paid me a visit after you'd disappeared into the Watcher's Compound."
"How could I forget? Not only did Ethan show up on my doorstep and create something of a stir, I had to listen to you whine about the hangover you had for three weeks." Giles leaned back into the chair and smiled. "So how did he slip past your expert defenses into the room?"
"He asked politely." Evan looked down as he buttoned his shirt, unwilling to meet his cousin's gaze. "What did he have to say?" Then with a sly smile, he looked up. "Or do?"
"Well, first he pinned me to the bed and took advantage of me, then he tied me up in the shower and had his way with me, then…" Giles laughed at his cousin's frightened look. "I'm kidding. You know, it's a good thing for you that there's no way I could find another rabbi in time."
"So he didn't…"
"Good heavens, no!" Shaking his head, he tried to stifle his laughter. "He was quite the proper gentleman, which was hard enough to believe, and he wished me the best."
"Funny, he *looked* like Ethan," Evan mused.
"That he did." Giles glanced at his watch. "Are you ready yet?"
"It's almost half past."
"This would already be done with, you know. But no, you had to invite a vampire to an outdoor wedding." Taking his jacket off the hanger, Evan headed into the bathroom to get away from Giles' pointed gaze. "You have no one to blame but yourself."
Giles sighed in exasperation and looked at his watch once again. "Just hurry up."
Cordelia held up her compact and let Willow see the finished result. The redhead drew in her breath, startled at the subtle transformation.
Her eyes looked huge, lined with a soft charcoal and a faint green shadow frosted over with a shimmering white. Her cheeks were flushed with a combination of a light dusting of blush and her own excitement. Her lips were shiny with gloss, tinged just the slightest pink. "Wow."
"You look amazing, Willow. Just like I promised."
"I take back every mean thing I ever said about you, Cordy. Thank you." She tilted the mirror, continuing to stare at herself. "I mean, I look…wow."
"Did you want me to do your hair?"
"No, later. After you're dressed. Besides, with the heat, we don't want it falling. You're okay here in the mansion, it's pretty cool, but outside you'll just droop."
"You paint such an attractive picture." She snapped the compact closed and impulsively hugged her friend. "I'm glad you took a chance on Xander, even if it hurt at the time. Otherwise you wouldn't be here today and I hate the thought of that."
"Stop it!" Cordelia pulled away and grabbed for some tissues. "I'm not going to let you ruin my masterpiece with tears."
"Right then. No crying." Standing, Willow walked over to the lingerie draped chaise lounge. "Buffy took me shopping. I have no idea what half of this stuff is."
"Well, it appears to be all satin and lace, so there shouldn't be anything too out there." When she noticed Willow's look, she blushed yet again. "You can't live in LA and not noticed the very odd lifestyle of several of the residents around you. Sheesh. I didn't say I used them on Xander."
Willow's eyes widened yet again and Cordelia stormed out of the room. Laughing softly, she picked up the corset then looked over at the clock. 3PM. Only a few hours left to go.
Giles and Evan stood in the lobby of the hotel, trying to look inconspicuous in their tuxedoes. The high chandeliers favored them with soft lighting, giving them both a hazy romantic air. "Leave it to your father to make everyone late."
It was a great credit to his patience that he wasn't pacing the floor, wearing a hole in the sumptuous carpeting. He glanced up as the elevator dinged softly, hoping to see his parents stepping out of the car. Marguerite smiled at them both and came forward, dressed elegantly in a calf length burgundy gown. "Well, had I known I had such handsome escorts waiting, I would have hurried."
Giles looked down at the floor, struggling to reign in his temper. He could feel the anger rising, calling to the Ripper inside him, but he tamped it down with the ease of practice. "Where is he?"
"He says he's not coming." She raised her chin. "He said, and I quote, that he'd rather be skinned alive by a chaos demon than witness this heinous union. He said that until you come to your senses and do the right thing, he'll be unavailable to you."
"Do you think that's a promise I could get in writing?"
"The right thing?" Evan asked quietly.
"He wants me to…never mind. Suffice it to say, as far as I am concerned, I am doing the right thing." Giles looked up at the balconies that lined each floor, searching for and finding his father standing in the shadows. "And when you see him next, Mum, let him know that there are few worse ways to lose a son."
Willow closed her eyes, trying hard to concentrate, as she ran the words to the spell through her mind. There was no way to practice this, it simply had to be done, but she was nervous about performing a spell - any spell - just hours before her wedding.
Glancing down at her watch, she gasped. Almost four. Well, that decided it then. She had no choice but to do it now and hope that it all turned out for the best. Her intent was pure. Her heart was sure. She said the words quickly, carefully and precisely then opened her eyes.
And saw her reflection, wavering against the stone walls. She was dressed all in white. White stockings encased her legs, the seam carefully dividing the back of her leg. The tops of the thigh-high silk stockings were attached to garters, white lace trailing up the top of her thighs to the delicate satin trim of her bustier.
Satin ribbons laced up the front, hiding the hooks that held the material, and her body, carefully in place. It dipped low in the front, showcasing the creamy flesh of her cleavage. Her dress revealed nothing, so she'd very deliberately chosen something that would give Giles an eyeful before he moved on to a handful or a mouthful.
She giggled, turning sideways to see the satin trim of the simple, french cut panties she wore. They were very basic, but a much sexier cut than she normal wore, barely showing beneath the layers of silk, satin and lace that now covered her.
The reflection began to fade as she let her concentration slip. She'd seen that she looked good, perhaps better than good, and her attention had left the spell and moved on to the thought of mere hours from now when she could stand before another bed and let her husband remove all the carefully applied garments with his knowing fingers.
Willow looked back at the spell mirror as it faded away, catching one last glimpse of her very happy smile.
Giles stopped the car and sat for a moment, staring up at the mansion. He'd chosen the location deliberately, needing to replace that horrible night with one filled with love and peace. It was also, in a sense, a very final farewell to Jenny.
Endings and beginnings.
"You alright, cousin?"
He released the steering wheel from his tight grasp and nodded. "Just thinking."
"Well, it's four. You've only got a few hours left to pace. We'd better get you started again."
Smirking, Giles climbed out of the car then walked around to the passenger's side to help his mother. Evan joined them and they walked silently toward the mansion.
"You know," Xander's sarcastic voice reached them as he stood. "It's a wedding, not a funeral. I'm almost positive that happiness is allowed. Or is this some sort of strange Jewish ritual I've just interrupted?"
"I'm so glad I cam all the way from England to have my religion mocked," Evan sniffed haughtily. "Americans."
Xander smiled and nodded. "Mocking. It's our national past time, eh G-man?" He fell in step with them. "Everything's on schedule. Willow's folks are working with Oz and Faith, setting everything up. Angel and Buffy set up the protection wards. Wills is getting ready."
Giles stopped, allowing his family to go on ahead. "Cordelia?"
"Helping Willow. No mirrors, so we sent our best soldier to the front."
"Just about to change." Xander stopped and frowned, digging his toe into the ground. "I was…can we talk? Just for a minute?"
Evan and his mother had already escaped into the cool of the mansion. Giles nodded. 'Of course." For a moment, Xander's worried gaze sent a shiver of fear down Giles' spine. What if he loved her? What if she'd changed her mind? What if…?
Shaking out of his reverie, Giles met Xander's eyes. "Sorry, I'm a bit preoccupied today."
"That's sort of what I wanted to talk about."
This time the fear wrapped around his heart and began to tighten. "Yes?"
Sighing, Xander sank down onto one of the steps. "I have issues…with this. And most of them have been dealt with. I mean, Wills got the advanced curriculum through the MIT outreach program, so you…she didn't get cheated out of school. And the baby thing…" He winced slightly as Giles did the same. "I know it was horrible, but I keep thinking it was maybe for the best."
Giles stood silently, staring out at the calm summer afternoon. Only the pulse throbbing in his jaw indicated that he was listening.
"She's my best friend, Giles. She has been forever. No other woman has ever meant as much to me. No one can hurt me like she can."
When he spoke, the words were tight and clipped. "I'm assuming there's a point?"
Xander looked up, startled at his harsh tone. "Yeah. There is."
"Get to it?"
The younger man took a deep breath. "Her loving you? The thought of it? The truth of it? I expected it to hurt like hell. And it did, for a little while. But I wanted you to know that I know you guys are good…right. So I wanted to, I don't know, give you my blessing."
A small, relieved smile quirked Giles' lip. "Why does this feel far more important than her parent's approval?"
"Because I love her more than they do. Almost as much as you do."
Giles extended his hand to help Xander to his feet. "Shall we go get you ready?"
"Sure thing, G-man."
He rolled his eyes, "Xander…"
"I know, I know. Stop with the G-man."
"That too. But more importantly? Keep it at almost."
Willow unhooked her watch, checking the time before slipping it into her make-up case. Almost five. Two hours until pictures. Four until the ceremony. She'd heard Giles and Xander walk by, discussing something Xander had found during some research.
It was calming, in it's way, making the day seem normal. If she closed her eyes, she could almost picture all of them in the library, hunting down information on the demon of the week. She sat carefully on the bed, leaning back against the pillows, pulling the robe close around her body.
Lately she hadn't been very good at waiting. Since she'd lost the baby, she'd felt more than ever that she needed to find the important things in life and make them happen. But today…today was worth waiting for. She sighed softly, closing her eyes and giving in to the faint tugging of sleep.
The fire crackled to life across the room, filling the large room with the comforting smell of burning wood and warmth. Willow stared across the expanse of the bed, wondering what was going on. A comforting rush enveloped her and she realized she was dreaming or, if the feeling was to be trusted, remembering. She looked up, noticing the man standing near her, leaning casually against the hearth. "It's not decent that I be here."
"You should leave then."
It was her own voice answering him. She looked down at the gray uniform and white apron she wore then into the mirror of the vanity nearby. It was her own body she was standing in, even though she knew it was not.
"I should. But, as we have learned, when I am near you I am prone to forget what I should do." Willow looked back at him, her eyes wide in amazement. He was Giles. He looked and sounded almost exactly like Giles, only the soft pacing of his words making the distinction. "You entrance me."
"I do nothing of the sort." She leaned over and began straightening the bedspread. "You are the one who has put me under a spell. You romance me with flowers and poetry, knowing that I have no defenses against you. You weave your love around me as though it were a spider's web."
"I?" He moved away from one fire, heading toward her to be consumed by yet another. "I go through my life pretending that I don't see you every time I close my eyes. Acting as though I don't hear your voice on the wind. You are a witch of the highest order." He reached down and stilled her hand. "Look at me, Rachel."
"If I look at you, Russell, I shall not have the strength to look away." She continued to stare down at their clasped hands, her body beginning to tremble. "And if I cannot look away, I will lose myself in your eyes. And then where will we be?"
"Lost in my bed." His low, husky voice sent a shiver through her.
"Your wife's bed." She pulled her hand away, pressing it to her lips in an effort to stop the sob that threatened to escape her. "You think that simply because she is out with your children today that I will so willingly fall into your arms and your bed?"
"You need my touch as I need yours. We complete each other, Rachel. You feel the connection between us, binding us together. I did not wish to marry Annabelle. I did so because our parents encouraged the union. I had a duty to be with her. Had I known that I would meet you, I would not have rushed so foolhardily into this marriage. A marriage of convenience."
"Convenience?" She smiled bitterly, even though she knew she had no right. "A marriage for convenience's sake, does not result in two children, Russell. You love your wife, as you should. I am a passing fancy."
He grabbed her hand once more and turned her to face him. His green eyes flashed with anger and hurt, his feelings for her quite obvious on his face. "Do you think so little of me? Of us? Do you truly believe that I only want you in my bed?"
"If I believe that is all you want, I can go on from day to day. To know…to know that you love me and cannot be mine is pure torture. It is having my heart ripped from my chest every time our eyes meet. And if I love you…if I let you take me to bed I will not be able to meet the next day without you. If I have you, Russell…if I let you have me, my heart…I would have to leave you. At least like this I can still be near you, still hear you, still touch you."
"The touching is not enough, my love. Regardless of whether you let me make love to you, my sweet Rachel, what is between us will continue to grow until we are unable to resist."
"And how will giving myself to you change it? Russell, you are married. You are a father. You have a duty, an obligation. You cannot be mine by any stretch of the imagination." Tears clouded her eyes and she bowed her head. "I cannot let reality slip into my dreams. They are the only place I can have you completely. And if we were to do this, I would then…" she shook her head, sending crystal tears scattering. "No."
He nodded and stepped back. "I understand. I do not like it. I want you beyond all reason. I love you with a piece of my heart I thought long dead. But I will honor your need to keep the distance between us." He pulled off his glasses and cleaned them thoroughly with his cloth. She watched his strong hands guide the material over the glass, noticing the easy play of muscles.
She wanted nothing more than to feel those hands on her bare flesh. It was what she dreamed of each night when she closed her eyes. It was the need that burned inside her. "Russell…"
"Rachel," he sighed, reaching for her, clutching her tightly. She was crushed to his chest, her face tilted up to his. His eyes danced with love and firelight. "I will honor your request, my dear. But please? So I do not find myself going mad, may I kiss your lips once? May I taste the sweet nectar of your kiss?"
"I find I cannot resist you," she breathed, standing on tiptoe to meet his lips. The kiss was tender at first, a soft melting of lips, both of them far too shy to press for anything more.
Willow's whole body was attuned to the feelings and emotions of the couple she was a part of in this dream moment though they were so obviously at least a hundred years away. The thought that she and Giles seemed to have a destiny of their own sent her heart racing as quickly as hers - or rather Rachel's - was.
Her lips trembled beneath his and he pulled away reluctantly. Her eyes were dark with arousal, her lips slightly swollen from the prolonged contact. "I must leave you," she whispered.
"That you must," he admitted.
"Then why can I not go?" She raised a hand to his lips to trace their outline. "Why do I wish never to leave your embrace? Why does my resolve fade in the light of your love?"
"You could not fade in any kind of light, my beloved Rachel. You shine like the sun in my dark life. But if you remain, I can promise you only that I will find it harder and harder to resist you. My sweet love, if you wish to run, run now while I still have the strength of will not to chase you."
Rachel pulled out of his arms and took a step backwards, instinctively straightening her uniform. She turned to leave, glancing in the mirror and catching his image. His face was a reflection of sadness, of the heart-wrenching burden of goodbye. He looked, quite likely, as she felt.
"Russell?" She asked softly.
"I need you, Rachel. I love you."
She turned back to him, her eyes a mirror of his love for her. "You make me burn with fires hotter and brighter than any on Earth. Love me?"
He took her in his arms, wrapping her in his embrace. She tilted her face up to his; her eyes closed in something quite like bliss. His lips found hers and he parted her lips with a darting tongue. She gasped, surprised by the casual flick. She opened her mouth to his exploration, sucking delicately at his tongue as it invaded her.
Russell groaned delightedly. Her hands hovered over his shoulders before settling on his shirt, and sliding hesitantly down his back. She pulled back slightly, worry tainting the desire in her eyes. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, my love. You can do no wrong." He kissed her softly on the corners of her mouth. "It was a manifestation of my pleasure. You touching me, Rachel, your hands send me to heaven."
"I fear I have not done this before. I am quite unsure of myself." She gave a soft laugh, one that held no malice or self-pity. "You will guide me?"
"My sweet love, I have every intention of guiding you." His hands ran down her arms, heating her through the thin fabric of her uniform. She stood still, enjoying his masterful touch, gasping slightly as he raised his hands up to her shoulders then over to her collar.
His fingers stilled at the top button of her uniform, save for the trembling of his hands. She smiled. "I thought you would be quite skilled at the art of seduction, sir." She reached behind her and untied the strings of her apron. "You wear the air of it so well."
He slipped the apron off her, tossing it across the foot of the bed. His hands again reached for the buttons of her dress, beginning to unhook them with precision and tenderness. He watched her face as he unfastened the first few, feeling the heat rise inside him at her look of bliss. As his hands moved lower, though, he could not help but gaze at the beautiful body he was unveiling so reverently.
Her skin was pale like cream, warm and, he would wager, quite delicious to taste. He guided the gray material away from her shoulders, sloped so delicately. The dress fell to the floor, rewarding him with a view he knew he would never forget.
Her stockings were a pale gray, attached to a simple white corset and garter. They reflected her position, not the finest quality by any means, but on her exquisite body, they were like a masterpiece. "Rachel, I fear that I have misjudged this situation quite badly."
Her heart stopped beating and she felt as though the floor beneath her should open up and admit her to hell in truth instead of just in thought. "I see."
She attempted to bend down to retrieve her fallen dress and, if there was forgiveness in this universe, some of her dignity. His hands stopped her, not allowing her to look away. "I had thought, hoped perhaps, that I could love you this once and sate the craving in my heart. But I see now that I shall never tire of the look of you or the need for you."
She swallowed hard, feeling her body relax and tighten at the same time, his words sending new emotions and desires through her. "I feared you found me…lacking."
"The only thing I wish to find you lacking it these garments." His fingers found the tie of her corset and loosened it, licking his lips as her breasts escaped the confines of the whalebone and expanded to their deliciously natural state. "And, once lacking those, I hope to leave you lacking nothing."
He undressed her slowly and carefully, setting each piece of lingerie aside as though it was some sort of holy garment. She stood before him finally, nude and slightly self-conscious. "You have me at a disadvantage now, sir."
He nodded. "I have found that the best way to become accustomed to a new experience is to deal with it first hand. Learning is a tactile sensation." He let his eyes caress her. "Would you like to undress me, my Rachel?"
She could not speak, the license to touch him when she had struggled so hard with herself not to, was overwhelming. How many times had she walked behind him in his great library and wanted to brush his hair at his neck? How many nights had she stood outside his bedroom door and wished she had the courage to walk inside?
"I would die to touch you." She reached up and loosened his tie, separating the material and pulling it from his collar stays. She undressed him as he had her, setting each piece aside carefully. When she managed to bare his chest, she lost her control, dropping his shirt to the floor. His chest was a golden hue, sprinkled with brown and golden hair, woven through with the slightest bit of gray. His muscles were defined, though they did not stand out in high relief.
She wondered briefly how he managed to be so fit, working at a desk all day as he did. The question fled her mind, however, when he captured her hands and raised them to rest on the skin she was staring at so intently.
"I cannot have your death on my conscience, little one. Touch me."
His head rolled back as her hands danced over his skin, brushing the sensitive tips of his nipples and tangling in the hair that led down to his slacks. Her shaking hand stilled at his thick leather belt. He watched her though eyes narrowed in desire, wondering at her pause. Suddenly he realized she had no practice at such a thing. Even as the nanny, she only had two girls to take care of. No experience.
The heady rush of being the first man that she had seen in such a state nearly buckled his knees. He put his hands over hers, both in an effort to help her and to steady himself. He undid the belt, using her hands to do all the work. She pushed the dark leather aside and touched the button of his slacks.
"I admit to having some fear of what I shall find when I release you," she whispered, leaning forward to brush his chest with a kiss. He moaned her name, struggling to control his body. He was suffering, watching her naked flesh as she seduced him with her shy, simple movements and now she insisted on experimenting. "Will it hurt?"
"I intend to have you so lost in the feeling of pleasure, you won't even notice the pain." He ran his hands down her back, holding her to him. He made sure to keep his body's reaction away from her, determined not to scare her too badly. "But to do that, I need time. And I'm afraid that if I continue to hold you like this, my need for you will outweigh my good sense."
"I thought we had gone past good sense some time ago, my dear Russell." She giggled. "Shall I put you out of your torment then?"
"The tormenting is not going to end, love. It's just beginning."
She smiled, her fear suddenly dissipating. He would not hurt her. She undid the fly of his slacks and, without looking, guided them to the floor along with his undergarments. Kneeling before him, her head bowed, she removed his shoes and socks then moved back to stand.
Russell reached down and offered his hand. She accepted it gratefully and stood, finally allowing her gaze to traverse his entire body. She gasped softly as she reached his waistline and below, amazed at what she saw. He seemed far bigger than she would have admitted to imagining he would be, longer, thicker and…she looked at it quickly once more before looking away again. It was more than she ever expected.
"I do not know that I…"
He kissed her, capturing the statement between them. Her arms wound around him reflexively, and she pressed her body to his. His hardness was caught between them, rubbing the smooth flesh of her stomach. She slid a hand down to his waist then to his stomach to touch the hard flesh.
He groaned, her name leaving his lips in a rush. "Darling, I fear that if you do that much more, this tender moment shall end before it has a chance to begin."
"I cannot touch you?"
He touched her bottom lip, alleviating the pout. "You can. I hope that you will. But first, I must touch you." He lifted her easily, setting her on top of the bedspread. She lay back against the pillows.
Submerged in Rachel's maelstrom of desire, Willow felt her own consciousness spiraling away. She looked up at the man leaning over her, seeing Giles so clearly in his face. Reaching up with gentle hand, she stroked his face. "I love you," she whispered with her own last thought
He smiled easily. "And I love you, my Rachel. Now lie back and let me love you."
Rachel nodded and closed her eyes. His fingers trailed over her breasts, brushing the already hardened nipples and making them grow even tauter. Bending his head, he followed the unseen trail he'd made with his tongue, capturing the hard bud between his lips.
She cried out, arching up to his mouth. The heat surrounded her like a roaring fire, dancing along the surface of her skin. He smiled quickly against her flesh before bringing his teeth very gently into play. They worried the hard tip for a moment before he was again suckling her.
Her hands wound into his hair, holding his head to her breast. He moved it slightly, loosening the hold so that he could move and lavish the same attention to the other side. Her chest tingled with the coursing blood he set moving in her veins and she could feel the intense heat begin to slip down her body and center in her stomach.
Tugging gently, she pulled his head up to hers and kissed him deeply, her tongue dueling with his. She could feel his surprise and smiled, proud of herself. "You inspire me to new things," she managed to say breathlessly as they broke the kiss.
"Let me inspire you to heaven then," he offered, kissing his way across her jaw, down her neck and into the valley between her breasts. His tongue paid a bit more attention to the dark red tips that ached with unfulfilled need. When she moaned, he made his way across her stomach until he reached the mound of dark red curls.
He breathed deeply, inhaling her scent and imprinting it on his soul. As he exhaled, he sent the tumble of hair dancing and she shivered with pleasure. Slipping his hand along the inside of her thigh, he parted her legs, his thumb caressing the pale skin.
Heaven indeed. He moved between her legs and parted the dark lips of her sex with the same skill. She wanted to brace herself for the intensity she knew would wash over her when his tongue touched her, but she didn't want to cheat her counterpart out of the first ocean of delight that would wash over her.
The tip of his tongue was like an arrow pointed directly to the center of her nervous system. He swiped a lick lazily across her throbbing clitoris, and she felt her body wracked with the pleasure/pain of her orgasm. She lost herself in the wave of it, calling out his name as her fingernails dug deeply into the flesh of his shoulders.
He grinned cockily as he looked up at her. "Perhaps you should find something less likely to suffer permanent damage to hold on to?" He did not mock her, although she sensed the teasing in his voice. He would often tease her, but he never treated her as anything less than an equal.
Until tonight. Tonight he treated her as though she were some sort of treasure. He moved his head down again, his tongue continuing to work it's magic on her. She writhed against him, aching for further contact. As amazing as the sensations coursing through her felt, she ached to feel his skin against hers.
She was about to comment when his tongue pressed hard against her and she felt something fill her in a way she'd never experienced before.
"Russell!" she gasped, squeezing her muscles tight against the invasion of his finger. He groaned in return, slowly beginning to pump her with a smooth, rocking motion. She nodded, licking her lips and rolling her head from side to side.
Encouraged, his thrusts grew faster and deeper, moving in her passage, his whole mind wrapped around the fact that he was loving her, making love to her. Suddenly, her muscles grew incredibly tight and her second orgasm buffeted him. Pulling his hand away carefully, he softly kissed her along the smooth lips of her sex. He moved up her body, pinning her beneath him. His erection was still held back, his worry that he would frighten her away from this. And for him, at least, the situation was growing far more critical.
Rachel looked up at his face, flushed with excitement and glistening from his banquet of her. "I want to feel you above me. I want to feel you along the length of me. I want you, my sweet love."
Hesitation claimed her as she felt the tip of his cock press to the lips of her opening. He smiled lovingly at her nervous face. "I've wanted nothing but you since the moment I met you. Even though I knew it was wrong. Even though I fear we can have no future."
"We don't need a future," she assured him, arching her hips to feel more of him. "We have now."
Russell shivered with need and nodded, sliding himself slowly inside her. Her slick passage welcomed him, although it was still tight. He stopped as he felt her maidenhead, looking into her eyes. "Rachel?"
She nodded, unable to speak from the pressure of his body inside hers. Her skin seemed electric as they rubbed together, thrusting and moving, writhing and stroking, kissing and loving. He buried himself inside her, needing to memorize every detail to remain with him the rest of his life.
They thrust together in wild abandon, each calling out their lover's name, needing to hear the words of love as they made them truth. Rachel wrapped her legs around him, forcing her body tight against his and felt yet another wave of warmth wash through her. Russell grunted and forced himself against her, her hips grasped tightly in his hands as he emptied his essence inside her.
They collapsed in a sweaty, tangled heap, both breathing with difficulty. Rachel smiled and turned her head to the side, her eyes catching the clock.
He felt her stiffen underneath him and all of the joy rushed from his body. He gazed down at her, worry and pain in his eyes. "Was it so that you regret it already, my lady?"
"It is nearing six, my good sir," her voice was a mixture of joy and tears. "The lady of the house will be home soon and I must not allow the bed to be found in such disarray. I fear the master of the house would punish me if that were to happen."
He carefully rolled away from her; sorry that they would not have time for reflection and decisions. "The master of the house might enjoy punishing you…perhaps late at night, alone in his bedroom?"
She began dressing, trying to hide her blush. "I would not dare to presume…"
She turned and smiled fully at him. "I think I would very much like to be punished by him." She stared at him for a moment out of time before looking once again at the clock. "I must hurry. I doubt the lady of the house would allow the kind of punishment that you have in mind were she to find us here together."
He stood as well, dressing slowly, frowning as her stunning from was locked up once again in her uniform. "Rachel?" He reached out to stroke her cheek. "My love…"
She kissed his palm, trying to convey to him that she understood everything in his heart. "Indeed sir. But the time. It is nearing six."
"It's almost six! Willow! Willow!"
Her eyes opened slowly and she blinked rapidly as the head poised above her moved and the bright overhead light shone in her eyes. Sitting up with a yawn, she managed to focus on Buffy, Cordelia and Faith who were all gathered around the bed. "What?" She asked sleepily.
"It's almost six. You have to finish getting ready." Buffy tugged on her hand and helped her off the bed. "We have to get you dressed and do you hair and touch up your make-up."
Willow nodded, watching Buffy as she and Cordelia descended on the vanity like a pack of vultures. Faith moved beside Willow and smiled knowingly. "Nice dream?"
She grinned. "Very nice."
"The prospect of wedding night sex with Tweed-man wasn't enough for ya? You had to dream it as well?"
Willow patted Faith's hand and stood to join the other two girls. "Who said I was dreaming about Giles?"
Oz and Xander sat on the window seat of the small room Giles was pacing. After several minutes, Oz spoke. "Has the carpet done something wrong?"
Xander raised his eyebrows. The last time he'd heard Giles snap like that was…well, pretty much never. "A little on edge there?"
"I hate waiting."
Angel walked into the room, staying close to the walls opposite the windows. "The cake is set up, so is the champagne. There are a couple of girls who work for Willow's dad ready to lay out the food when it gets closer."
"Are they cute girls?" Xander asked.
"Very attractive." Angel nodded. "Although," he started as Xander bolted from the room. "I should probably have told him that being almost 250 years old, girls, to me, is a relative term."
Oz snickered. "So, what all do we have to do tonight? And is it a good idea to be packing?"
"No, Buffy and I have set up a protection ward around the house that should keep out any unwanted supernatural or demonic elements. We've also got the pathway lined with small poles…"
"Sharpened at one end to a razor sharp point?" The werewolf nodded at Angel's smile of assent. "Okay then."
Giles glanced down at his watch and closed his eyes tightly. "Is the photographer here yet?"
"Not yet." Angel tried to hide his grin. "You look a little pale, Giles. Maybe you should sit down."
Oz agreed and slipped off the window seat to grab Giles' arm and guide him to a chair. "It's nothing to worry about. You're marrying the woman you love. It's smooth sailing."
His green eyes met Oz's over the top of his glasses. "Exactly. It's all gone quite smoothly. Don't you see that that's the problem? We're on a Hellmouth!"
Angel was about to say something when a very perturbed Xander stormed back into the room. "Girls, despite your freaky vampire standards, are not over the age of forty. Ever." He ignored Angel's smile and turned to Giles. "You look like crap."
"Thank you Xander."
"Your Dad is here."
"Nothing like feeling as good as I look." Giles sighed. "Where?"
"Hanging out with Willow's Mom." A sly smile brightened the teenager's face. "Getting lectured."
Color seeped into the older man's face. "Well, suddenly the day is starting to look promising." He glanced at his watch once again. "Quarter to seven. Is the photographer here yet?"
Oz headed for the door. "My turn to escape the insanity."
Buffy, Cordelia and Faith stood back and stared at Willow. Her auburn hair hung softly around her face, framing it delicately. Her makeup had been touched up, keeping the ethereal glow about her. Cordelia surveyed the dress with a critical eye, making sure nothing was wrong.
The entire dress was made of silk, and it hung, shimmering, on Willow's lithe form. The neckline was a soft scoop, not showing any cleavage, but highlighting the simple diamond drop that hung from a thin, almost invisible chain. "The necklace looks good on you. Keep it."
"You can't afford diamonds anymore, Cordelia."
"Fine then, your something borrowed."
Buffy stepped forward and straightened the neckline. The fabric clung loosely to her shoulders, bunching slightly at the slope then tightening and thinning out to long, tapered sleeves. Taking a small cross pin from her dress, Buffy lifted Willow's arm and pinned it inside her sleeve carefully. "It belonged to Giles' grandmother. She was a watcher. Marguerite asked me to make sure you wore it. Your something old."
Faith was skeptical of the dress when she'd seen it hanging, but on Willow, she had to admit the understated look came across well. The princess seams curved across her breasts and down her trim waist, flaring out at the hips and cascading down to the floor. She looked almost unreal, so pale and beautiful. "Well, I guess it's up to me to say it."
"Say what?" Willow asked softly.
"You look dressed to kill, Willow. Only not in the real killing sense because the outfit just wouldn't do. But you're going to give the old man a heart attack." Stepping forward, she offered Willow a small box. "Although if he can keep up with you in the bedroom, I'm guessing he can survive just looking at you."
Willow opened the box slowly, completely at a loss for what it could contain. Inside was a pair of startlingly blue sapphire earrings. "Wow."
"They were my Watcher's. She gave them to me for a gift before she died. I…I want you to wear them. I mean, I know you got your something borrowed already, but I…it would mean a lot."
Impulsively, Willow hugged the younger Slayer. "I'd be honored to wear them." Releasing Faith, she took a deep breath. "Old, new, borrowed, blue." She lifted her foot, showing off the modest heels. "Sixpence - a real one - in my shoe. I guess…I guess that's it then." The four girls stared at each other, emotions running high. "I've faced vampires, demons, monsters and Principal Snyder. Why the hell am I so scared to go out there now?"
Cordelia laughed softly. "I don't know, because all the guys look really, really good in their tuxes." The other girls looked at her, slightly shocked. "Well, what can I say? Once you look at Xander that way, it's easy to appreciate the good in just about anyone."
A soft knock on the door startled the girls. Faith shrugged and moved to open it. Xander stood there with Oz and Angel. "The photographer's here. He sent us to get you guys."
Faith let the door swing open, smiling as all three men - including the vampire - caught their breath. All three of the girls looked stunning in their dark green dresses, but not one of them could hold a candle to Willow's simple, shining grace. "Oz, I think we both made a very bad decision in letting her get away."
Xander's simple statement brought a blush to her cheeks. "Shut up, Xander."
He shook his head. "You look amazing Willow. I've never seen anyone look more beautiful." Suddenly realizing who else was in the room with her, he swallowed hard. "Er…Cordy, uhm…"
"It's all right Xander. This once, I agree with you." She moved forward and laced her arm through Xander's. "Let's go."
They left and Oz shook his head. "He's right, Willow. You're beautiful. Well, even more beautiful. If that's possible."
"Thank you, Oz."
Faith stepped up to him and took his arm. "At least you didn't get a shut up."
Angel smiled. "You know, I've been alive a long time, Willow. Other than Buffy, I don't think there's a thing in this universe that compares to you."
Buffy slapped his arm. "You're not supposed to mention me."
He slipped his arm around her waist, leading her from the room. "I couldn't lie."
"Well, look at this. It's just me." Willow stared down at her feet, gathering her resolve for a moment before looking up.
Giles stood there, looking dignified in his tuxedo. Her breath caught in her throat as she stared at him. He returned her intense gaze, his eyes sweeping over the dress quickly before meeting hers again. "Quite suddenly, all my education has left me and I can't think of a word to say."
"He said using about twenty words."
He shrugged. "Poets have written enduring sonnets that lack your lyrical quality. God himself has made sunsets and sunrises that pale in comparison. I can't imagine anything lovelier than the sight of you right now."
"Wait till you see what's under my dress," she promised.
He laughed and finally stepped into the room. "I don't suppose I could get a sneak peek?"
She moved into his arms, staring up into his shining green eyes. "I don't think we have enough time. Besides, I thought you were saving yourself until you were married."
"I could be persuaded…" He bent his head, his warm words brushing across her lips. "If you felt like persuading."
She licked her lips, considering the option. Finally, she shook her head. "No. If we did that, I would bet money my parents would walk in. And that would be rather embarrassing." She touched his face with a gentle hand. "I love you, Rupert."
"And I love you, Willow." His kiss was short and sweet, promising so much more in the night to come. "Shall we go endure the torture of picture taking so that we can get to the important things?"
He shook his head, guiding her from the room. "The wedding night."
The photographer shouldered his camera, his eyes narrowed. "You're sure you don't want any outside pictures while it's still light?"
"Positive." Giles asserted. "We'll be able to have plenty during the ceremony. There will be plenty of light provided."
"And when is this supposed to start?"
Evan took Willow's arm and started to lead her from the room. "Soon." They stepped into the garden and he raised his hands to adjust her veil carefully. "We're all going to come out here. Rupert will lift your veil and look under it, making sure we haven't switched you with his cousin Hildeguarde and then we'll start the procession. Any questions?"
"Make him happy."
"I intend to." She smiled as he walked away, her heart beating rapidly. She was going to get married. Little Willow Rosenberg was about to become Mrs. Rupert Giles. A soft giggle escaped her. Who would have thought she'd have vampires to thank for her husband?
"Willow?" Evan's voice reached her. "We're coming out now."
The men from their small gathering came out into the small courtyard, forming a small circle around her. Her father took her right hand and Xander took her left. She could feel Oz and Angel behind her as she smiled at Evan, standing off to her right and Giles, gazing down at her like she was a dream. "I love you."
"Because I'm not Hildeguarde?" She whispered.
"Well, that's definitely one of the reasons." He looked at Evan. "All right. You haven't switched her with some strange doppelganger."
"Not for lack of trying." He adjusted his prayer shawl and smiled at Willow. "Are you ready, my dear?"
Soft music from the mansion danced in the air as Faith, Oz, Cordelia and Angel walked slowly toward the appointed spot. They walked carefully, mindful of the girl's dresses, the somewhat rocky terrain and the thin fabric that covered the chuppa. It was Willow's great-grandfather's prayer shawl - or tallis - and her father had insisted she use it. She'd willingly agreed, remember the old man with fondness. He'd called her Red what seemed like a million lifetimes ago.
When the four stopped and turned back to face everyone else, Evan began walking slowly. Xander followed him at a sedate pace, concentrating hard on keeping his balance. He wasn't about to stumble and fall and ruin his best friend's wedding.
Giles stood tall as he began walking between his parents. His father was stiff at his side, having not said a single word since he'd arrived. He longed to ask him what had made him change his mind, but something told him that it irritated his father far more when he didn't. Marguerite smiled proudly. Her heart told her that this was right. And if it inflamed the Watcher's Council, well…so be it. As far as she was concerned, they deserved it.
Buffy measured her steps in her head, mapping them out like a very simple battle plan. Her best friend was getting married. Her Watcher was getting married. She glanced up and saw her mother joining the small crowd and smiled. At least her mother would have a surrogate daughter getting married. Letting her eyes stray over to Angel, she felt a deep sadness temper the glow of happiness she felt. She shook her head imperceptibly. Today was Willow's day. No sadness allowed.
Sheila and Ira flanked Willow, walking beside her at a measured gait. Given the choice between her mother's advice and being with her friends, she was happy with her decision to go with the people closer to her. But her Mother's presence at her side sent a warm feeling through her clammy skin. She glanced at her parents, her heart swelling. They loved her, for all their faults. And some day, if she was lucky, she'd be doing what they were doing right now.
Evan smiled at the small congregation, his focus on Giles and Willow standing before him. "We have come together tonight to celebrate the union of these two people. To join in matrimony Rupert Edward Charles William Giles…"
Xander barely stifled his giggle, faring far better than Buffy who managed to let hers escape. "Sorry," she whispered. "He's just got a name for every layer of clothing."
Evan attempted to keep from smirking, but failed miserably. Clearing his throat, he continued. "Son of Randolph and Marguerite Giles. And Avarah, daughter of Irah and Samar.
Willow smiled as he spoke her Hebrew name, wondering if she should have mentioned it to the non-Jewish members of the ceremony.
"Willow?" She focused her attention back on Evan. "Do you come willingly to this union?"
"And who walks beside you?"
"Until this moment, my parents. After this moment, my husband."
Evan nodded and Willow stepped forward to join Giles under the canopy of the chuppa. "Love is forgiving. Love is accepting. Love endures. Through all the horrors of life, we seek refuge in love. May you find the refuge you seek in one another."
Evan said a few more words, lost in the night air and falling on deaf ears. Even though they had spent the last few hours together taking pictures, their eyes saw nothing but each other. Their ears heard nothing but the sweet rush of their love flowing between them. Evan reached out and touched Giles lightly on the arm. He started then blushed.
"You have the ring to seal this agreement?"
Giles turned and accepted the plain gold band from Xander and held it out to Willow. "Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring, in accordance with the Law of Moses and Israel." He smiled down at her, noting the tears glistening in her eyes. He gently placed the ring onto the forefinger of her right hand. She sobbed softly as he then took it off and placed it on her left ring finger.
"I love you." She sighed softly, turning to take the ring from Buffy. Holding it out to him, she took his hand and spoke. "Behold, you are consecrated unto me with this ring, in accordance with the Law of Moses and Israel."
She repeated the gesture with the ring, finally bringing it to rest on his left hand. She stared at the simple adornment, the emotion of the moment finally catching up to her. She held tightly to both of his hands and he struggled for words. "You are my light, my love, my heart."
"And you are mine." She smiled gently then spoke, the Hebrew rolling easily off her tongue. "Ani l'dodi, v'dodi li."
Giles quietly repeated the words, translating them. "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."
The small gathering of friends and family gazed on in a mixture of awe and delight, so caught up in the love that seemed to encircle the couple. Evan watched them all, being the outsider, and noted the mixture of happiness and loss that seemed to fill each person there. He noticed Giles glance over at his Slayer quickly with a private smile just for her, the other woman in his life. He also caught Willow meeting the eye of Ethan Rayne, hiding on the edge of the gathering. She didn't smile or frown, but her meaning was quite clear.
As soon as Ethan passed into the gathering darkness, Evan smiled. "By the power vested in me by the state of California and according to the traditions of Moses and Israel, I now pronounce you husband and wife." When the couple just continued to stare at each other, he sighed. "You may now kiss the bride."
"I intend to." Giles stepped closer, wrapping his arms around Willow's small form. His lips hovered above hers for a breathless second before descending down and meeting hers softly. Her arms slipped around his neck and she arched toward him, needing to feel him to stop the trembling of her limbs.
When they broke apart, everyone gathered around them, hugging and wishing them all the best. Xander caught Willow in a tight hug. "Happy Hanukkah."
"It's the only Jewish thing I know."
She kissed his cheek. "Mazel tov, Xander."
"That too then." He placed his hands on her shoulders and looked at her. "I'm happy for you, Wills."
"That means the world to me." She smiled and hugged him once more.
He blushed and returned the embrace before stepping back and allowing Oz the opportunity to see her. His green eyes were shining with happiness. "Mazel tov, Willow."
"I hope it's everything you deserve." He grinned gently. "And if it's not, you give me a call around the full moon, all right?"
She nodded, trying to swallow the tears that threatened to spill over. "I don't think that will be necessary, but I'll keep it in mind."
Angel touched Giles' shoulder as he pulled away from his mother's hug. He turned to face the vampire, his face placid. "Angel."
"I…I know that there's always going to be this between us, but I wanted to let you know that…"
"I think we've gone past the need for apologies, Angel. I can't forget what happened." He glanced over at Buffy and Willow, both oblivious to the conversation. "But I can deal with it, with her help. And, while we'll never be friends, I'm perfectly content to call you an ally."
"Fair enough." Suddenly, Angel's heightened senses reacted and he glanced at Buffy, Faith and Oz. All of them seemed to have had the same feeling. "We should move the party inside."
The Slayers nodded. "Food and drinkage." Buffy paired Faith with Willow's parents and Oz with Cordelia and Xander. She took Willow by the arm and guided the party back to the mansion.
Willow shivered. "The protection spell was broken, wasn't it?"
"It could be just an overload on the barrier. There are a lot of animals out tonight. Some of them real and not demonic. We'll just go inside and take care of the partying."
Evan caught up to them and handed Willow her great-grandfather's shawl. "You should keep this somewhere special." He fell in step with them, letting Giles, his parents, Buffy's mother and Angel bring up the rear. "Is everything all right?"
"Absolutely." Buffy nodded. "The spider sense is quiet now that we're away from the spell. Although the need for cake is growing oddly stronger."
"There's cake and snacks and drinks, all kosher." Evan laughed at Buffy's wrinkled nose. "Don't knock it until you try it, Slayer." Putting his arm around Willow's shoulder, he hugged her briefly. "And let me say congratulations. You've made several women in the Watcher's Compound stables very, very unhappy."
"Yay me," Willow laughed. "Has Mr. Giles said a word since he got here?"
"Nope." Evan moved away as they reached the doors, opening them for the two girls. "And you don't have to call him Mr. Giles, you can just call him Dad."
As they all gathered in the living room, Evan addressed the group. "At this time, we're all going to have to fend for ourselves for just a bit. The bride and groom are going to disappear for a bit," he glared at them, mock threat in his eyes. "Hopefully not too long. This is called yichud, or seclusion. In the olden days the marriage was consummated at this time."
The group of Slayerettes groaned. Xander shook his head. "Man, they're bad enough, we don't need the entire Jewish church encouraging them!"
"I said historically, Xander. I'm sure Willow and Giles are far more in control of their baser instincts than that."
Faith smirked. "He doesn't know them very well, does he?"
Giles took Willow's hand and led her down the dark hallway. "We'll be back."
"Yeah," Buffy sighed. "But this millenium?"
Willow giggled. "I don't think they trust us to keep our libidos in check, Mr. Giles."
"And for that, they're probably quite smart. Mrs. Giles."
She stopped walking, staring up at him with wide eyes. "I'm Mrs. Giles now." Her smile widened into a dazzling grin. "Well, Rosenberg-Giles. But Mrs. Giles, nonetheless."
He opened one of the doors that lined the hallway, pulling her into the dark room. "Shall I kiss the bride again?"
"Please do." She melted into his arms, her lips finding his easily. His tongue moved into her welcoming mouth, delving into the heat that surrounded him. Her short nails raked down his back, only a soft, erotic touch through the tuxedo jacket.
Pulling back from her kiss, he caught his breath. "I want to make love to you, Willow, but I want to do it right."
"Well, you haven't gotten it wrong so far."
He chuckled. "I meant that I don't want it to be a hurried groping in a dark room while everyone out there is speculating how long it's going to take us." His fingers danced along her cheek, and she leaned into his soft touch. "You know they're already taking bets."
"Of course. They wouldn't be Slayerettes if they weren't. Although from the look on my parent's faces, I don't know if I want to go back out there. I guess they realize we weren't sleeping in separate rooms after all" Her grin faded slightly "I know what you mean though. I want our first time to be special. Like our first time was." She kissed him softly, brushing his firm lips with her tongue. "All right, husband of mine. We'll hold off on the hanky-panky until tonight…later tonight." "Well," he grinned devilishly. He ran his fingertips over the soft swell of her breasts, delighted with her gasp of pleasure. "Maybe not all of the hanky-panky."
Willow pulled away from him and tugged him toward the door. When they reached it, Giles stopped and turned around, realizing what room he was now in. He released her hand and surveyed the darkened, empty space. Sensing what the room was, Willow crossed her arms in front of her chest in a protective gesture and gave him the time he needed.
His lips quirked up into a gentle smile. His whisper was barely a breath, but Willow heard it and echoed his soft statement. "Goodbye, Jenny."
When they returned to the main room, the small group was awash in hors d'oeuvres, discussion and, much to Cordelia's dismay - and Xander's delight - dancing. Grateful that all the Slayerettes seemed to be occupied elsewhere during their arrival, Giles pulled Willow into his arms and a slow dance. They waltzed around the room, lost in each other's eyes.
He felt a soft tap on his shoulder and stepped back, allowing Ira the opportunity to dance with his daughter. Buffy tapped Giles on the shoulder. "I don't want a dance, Watcher-guy. I just want to thank you."
"Won the bet, did you?"
She straightened proudly. "Yup. Nobody knows my Watcher like I do. Except Willow." Her face flushed and she stammered, trying to get her way out of the sentence. "And she knows you ways I don't want to know about…and haven't ever wanted to and I don't want to be thinking about this anymore."
He laughed, hugging her. "Don't worry, Buffy. I don't automatically assume you mean things the way you say them. If I did that, I believe we both would have died of embarrassment long before now."
She laughed with him. "Thanks. But I lied."
"Oh?" His eyebrow raised.
"Yeah. I do want that dance."
Xander touched the side of his glass with a fork, gathering everyone's attention. "All right, you guys. I know I want cake and I've got to make this speech before I can get it. And I'm sure that the fifteen minutes they had wasn't enough to slake their other appetites, so I'm guessing that Giles and Will want to get to the cake so they can get the hell out of here. Pun intended."
Staring at the newlyweds, Xander smiled. "I've known Willow all of my life. I could tell you all the wonderful things she's done in all those years, but I'm preaching to the choir here, for the most part. Suffice it to say that she's a pretty amazing woman."
"She's been a woman for a long time, longer than I think any of us knew. She sees things that made her grow up, even though she retained the childlike innocence that makes her exactly who she is."
He swallowed, feeling his tears start to well up. "That said, let me reiterate that, being Willow's best friend for so long - being her protector, her confidante, her first crush - I wasn't about to hand her over to just any guy. Luckily, except for a first major misstep - after me, of course - she lucked into two great guys."
Willow smiled over at Oz, then turned her attention back to Xander.
"One of those guys was lucky enough to marry her today. I could say the same great things about Giles, to a certain extent. He's one of those types of guys that puts the rest of the world before what he wants. He's there for the people who depend on him. He's willing to put up with anything for the people he loves. He's a mentor, a teacher and, most importantly, a friend."
"And all in all, they're both pretty amazing. And they make a wonderful team. An unbeatable team. And every once in a while, they let us be a part of that and share what it is that makes them…everything that they are with the rest of us."
"I'm proud to call them both friends. And family." Xander raised his glass to the couple, staring at them through champagne and tears. "Mazel tov."
Everyone raised their glasses and chorused the words, almost every eye glistening with tears. Willow moved forward to hug Xander, Giles not far behind. After the brief embrace, Xander cleared his throat. "Can I have cake now?"
Buffy, Faith, and Cordelia all huddled around Willow, placing the finishing touches on the outfit she was wearing to wherever Giles was taking her. It was an emerald velvet dress with a sweetheart neckline, giving a hint of cleavage. The short skirt flared out at mid thigh and she twirled around. "Do you think he's going to like it?"
Faith laughed. "Do I think you're going to be wearing it all that long? I'll be surprised if it stays on long enough to get you to wherever he's taking you."
Willow blushed. "That would be okay."
"Wills!" Buffy laughed. "You hussy."
She nodded her agreement. "I've been waiting a long time for this, Buffy Summers. So hush." She grabbed her small overnight bag and took a deep breath. "Am I ready?"
Cordelia handed her the bouquet. "You have to throw the bouquet. Get all our hopes up."
Willow nodded. "I'll give you guys some time to get downstairs. But not too long. I have plans for tonight."
The three girls left the room, a mass of forest green giggles. Willow followed at a more sedate pace. She peeked over the railing of the stairway. Cordelia, Buffy, and Faith stood at the base of the stairs, anticipation lighting their faces. "Okay, Wills."
"Wait!" Cordelia glared at the two girls. "No Slayer-y powers. Keep it fair."
Buffy and Faith pouted for a minute then gave themselves back over to the excitement. "Deal." They said in unison.
Willow turned her back to the railing. Whispering softly to herself, she tossed the bouquet then turned around. It separated into three equal parts, each floating down to the eager hands of the three friends. Cordelia raised an eyebrow. Shrugging, Willow couldn't help but grin. "You said no Slayer powers. You didn't mention witchcraft."
Faith raised the flowers and took a deep breath. A slow smile crossed her face and she glanced slyly over to the group of male Slayerettes. Willow couldn't suppress her grin as she noticed Oz's faint flush.
She walked down the stairs, her heart near to bursting. Giles stood at the bottom, much like a prince out of some fairy tale. Or Rhett Butler in that scene from Gone With the Wind. He extended his hand to her and she took it willingly. "Are we ready to go?"
He glanced at the remaining members of their group, all coupled off although perhaps not on purpose, at least not quite yet. "I would say our work here is done."
"Does that mean we have work to do elsewhere?" She let him take her case, noticing he was busy admiring her new dress as much as he had admired the gown she'd worn shortly before.
He sighed. "We could do work, although I would much rather play. I hear that all work and no play make Giles a dull boy."
"You could never be dull. But I do agree to a certain extent."
She trailed her fingers casually across the bulge beginning to stir in his tuxedo slacks. "I'm much more interested in the playing."
Next: Climbing Heaven
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