Giles lay on his back in the early morning darkness and wracked his mind for any bit of information any fragmented memory that would give him an idea as to Ripper's plan. He sighed in frustration. The bastard had left him sod all in the way of memories, except, of course, the most humiliating ones. He rested his arm over his eyes, brooding accomplished nothing.
“You still awake?” Willow's sleepy voice cut into his thoughts.
The intimate rustle of sheets as she rolled slowly to her side caressed his ears and the silk of her gown against his chest and thigh did little to help his insomnia. He felt his penis stir and twitch to life but the pleasurable warmth didn't reach his brain. His arousal was most likely the last thing she needed to feel. He squeezed his eyes shut and shifted his hips subtly away.
“Did I wake you?” he asked. “I'm sorry.”
“un-uh,” she inflected with a shake of her head. “Just layin' here listening to you swear.” Giles lifted his head and stared at her through dry eyes.
“Did I say that out loud?” he asked
Willow stretched her long neck and rolled her head to either side. Giles watched as a moonbeam glinted off the ivory skin and illuminated her pulse. A silken strap of her nightie slid off her shoulder. “You didn't have to,” she said through her stretch.
She stopped torturing him and settled into a more comfortable position. They lay face to face. She wove her fingers through his chest hair. More blood flowed southward. “Wanna talk about it?”
He swallowed and captured her hand in his. “Not particularly,” he managed as he brought her hand to his mouth and kissed her open palm.
Willow wrapped her fingers around his thumb and gave it a light squeeze then they intertwined fingers and lay in silence. Willow stared at the ceiling and he stared at her. He watched the muscles in her throat move as she swallowed, he watched the rhythmic rise and fall of her silk covered breast. And he fought against the urge to claim her in ways Ripper never could.
She rolled her head to the side and a sleepy smile spread across her face. “I can feel it, you know.”
In a moment of fluster Giles shifted guiltily. “Sorry.”
“It's like this energy,” she explained as she eased herself into sitting position.
Giles put his arm behind his head and traced the smooth lines of her back with one hand. Willow twisted slowly and soon straddled his thighs. Giles stifled a groan.
“Like your aura's reaching for mine,” she whispered and pulled at the elastic waistband of his tented boxers.
Giles lifted his hips and helped her dispose of them but her voice mesmerized him otherwise. She reached between them and trailed her nails down his arousal. He sucked in air between his teeth, closed his eyes, and pressed into his pillow as she traced the pulsating vein that ran the length of his shaft. Giles tensed and thrust upward in invitation. Willow pressed her warm hands into his stomach for balance then lowered herself just enough to bury his straining head within her tight wet folds.
“Like you want to crawl inside me and hide,” she finished softly as she took in the rest of his aching member.
Giles lifted his neck to look between them as his cock disappeared into her and had to close his eyes. He was losing the battle of self-control. This was her show, he realized. Her rules. And she would set the pace. He took a steadying breath then groaned again as she pulled back until he was nearly unsheathed.
Willow took his hand from her thigh and brought it to her breast. Giles teased the already hard nipples through the thin material then, needing more he snaked his other hand beneath the short gown, up her taunt belly and cupped her in his palm. Her nub pressed against his overly sensitive palm. She slid down his length again, then up, increasing her pace.
With a free hand he gripped her hip and ground against the silken friction her body provided, in a silent urge. Willow closed her eyes and pulled her lower lip between her teeth, her hair swung with their rhythm and brushed the tips of her shoulders. Their moans intertwined in the dark room as their bodies joined together again and again in nature's dance.
He sensed more than felt her impending release and murmured encouragements as he splayed his hand across her thigh and found her swollen nub. Moment's later she rolled her head to the side and whimpered the beginnings of her climax. As her muscles clenched and massaged him Giles gave up his control and joined her cry. Mindless of her fragile body he pulled her into his chest and wrapped his weakened arms around her as tightly as he could, reveling in the smells and sensation that she provided. She'd been right, he did just want to crawl into her security and hide.
Willow shifted on his chest then pushed herself away. Confused Giles looked down his chin at her.
“I have to move,” she explained with an apologetic smile. “Kinda sore.”
He nodded and released his hold quickly, but with internal reluctance. He didn't want to be apart from her for an instant.
“Of course,” he managed. He stayed as still as possible as she slid from him and moved to her side of the bed but made sure that some part of him touched some part of her.
“Can I get you anything?” he asked as he slid his hand down her arm.
Willow shook her head and nestled herself into his chest. His hand strayed to her hair. Her soft voice broke the silence. “I'm not gonna let anything happen to you.”
Giles stopped examining the blunt ends of her hair and strained to see her face. “Aren't I supposed to be the one saying that?” he said in attempted humor.
Her fingertips strolled lazily across his chest and stumbled across his still tight nipples. Giles squirmed.
“No way,” she informed him. “This is an equal opportunity relationship.”
Giles smiled and trailed his fingers to her shoulders. “I rather like that.”
Willow lifted a mug of fresh hot tea to her lips and glared at the monitor. The information it showed was less than helpful. She needed dates, darn it, and exact rituals. This wasn't some translocation spell she could cast and hope for the best. This was… big… serious… adult… stuff.
She straightened her back and shifted on Mr. Donut. Well, you're one… little …serious adult, she psyched herself up. This big bad has no idea what it's dealing with. She nodded threateningly at the screen. So there. And then as an after afterthought she added, I hope.
Listlessly she jabbed at her keyboard. She knew the answer wouldn't be there. It never was. Yet it helped her to have something on which to focus – she blushed. Aside from the sleeping naked man just a short stairwell away. She and Giles would have forever to… her stomach danced…do what they just did.
If you survive, a niggling voice reminded her. Willow set her mug aside and peered harder at the page of text. There was no way the world was going to end just because she wanted more make up sex.
Her mind wandered away from the Latin and she idly fingered the collar of her robe. Actually, it hadn't been make-up sex. It was something more… important, more… possessive. She'd needed to know Giles; to reclaim that part of his trinity, the part that Ripper had tarnished. An involuntary shiver shook her shoulders and she promised herself that from that moment on she'd trust her instincts. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, she'd seen and felt the signs of something amiss and she'd ignored them. Willow shivered again.
Never again, she promised herself. Ripper was going to use Giles and she had to stop him. There was no way around it and there was no room for error. Willow closed the top her laptop and sighed. If only she knew what to expect. No one knew, really, and that was the prob--. She sat up straight and looked up to the loft.
Ignoring her protesting body Willow pushed the chair back and took the steps two at a time. She was wrong. Someone knew exactly what was going to happen.
Giles stirred restlessly as Willow straightened his arm and mumbled something incoherent. She murmured soothingly as she slipped his wrist through the slipknot she'd tied with one of his silken ties. Buy the time she'd finished securing his ankles Giles was wide-awake and alternated between an amused and frightened expression.
“You vixen,” he teased as he tugged at the loose restraints. He grinned. “I never knew.”
Willow raised an eyebrow and crawled over his torso. She grabbed the end of the tie and jerked it taunt.
“Willow?” he asked sounding more and more alarmed as she tightened each knot. “What are you doing?”
Willow stood back and admired her work. Giles lay spread eagle and far from flaccid on the bed. The corner of her mouth pulled up in a lopsided grin. She hadn't done half bad.
“Willow,” Giles' pleaded. He sounded sterner than he had in years. “Willow, this isn't funny.”
Her grin widened. Aside from the whole summoning Ripper, this was kinda fun. She lowered her head to hide her smile and took a deep breath. It was a trick she'd learned in drama class. Exhale, hide your true self, inhale, find your character.
“W-we n-need a….some sort of….safe word,” Giles stuttered.
Willow raised her head and looked at him through her bangs. “Shhh, Puppy.”
It was a simple spell, really. An elemental. If the parts of the stories she'd picked up were true, elemental spells and conjuring were Ripper's specialty. And it was Ripper she concentrated on, right? Willow summoned a strong wind and held her arms out. Her robe's sash slipped easily undone and the wind did the rest of the work. She felt the silk slide of her arms and then float and crash against the back wall. She saw Giles' eyes wide with shock and she paced at his bedside, drawing the tips of her fingers across his goose-pimpled flesh.
“We won't need a safe word,” she murmured.
Her hand rested above his nipple. She flicked it roughly for affect. Giles groaned and strained the binds. His struggle excited her and brought a new surge of wet heat to her already slick folds. “Nothing about this is gonna be safe.”
Willow stepped away from him and trailed a slow lone hand down the soft material of her slip thin nightie. She caressed the sides of her breast, barely skimming her own straining nipples and then lower, teasing the sensitive flesh of her covered stomach. She kept her hooded eyes trained on Giles' face. He watched her show with uncensored desire.
She ran her palms over her stomach, this time pulling the gown higher with each sweep, baring him glimpses of her otherwise naked body. Deliberately she let the fabric fall back into place then snaked her hand between her now covered thighs. A low moan escaped her.
Giles grunted and licked his lips. Willow smiled then raised her hand. It hovered just before her lips. She flicked the tip of her tongue over her fingertips then stopped.
“You like it when I taste myself,” she asked, keeping her voice low. “Don't you?”
Giles' broken moan was answer enough.
Willow dropped her arm to her side then rested her knee by his head giving him full view. She slid her hand over her thigh, across her stomach and then downward until she felt her own heat. She quickly dipped one finger inside herself then slid it out past her clit and brought her hand back to her mouth.
“I taste like you,” she whispered.
“Yes,” Giles groaned. His erection jumped off his stomach as if it had a mind of its own.
Responding to his cry she didn't hesitate to resume what she'd started and while she set about getting herself off she taunted him, pinched him, writhed before him, but never let him touch her. Willow straddled his chest, and worked at herself hands, alternately squeezing and pinching until she felt the tide rise.
“Please,” Giles begged, his muscles taunt from strain against what bound him.
Tempted to see her own orgasm through she almost lost sight of her goal. This was still Giles. She needed Ripper. She raised to her knees and positioned her wet center over his anxious mouth.
“Is this what you want?” she asked and lowered herself just enough for him to barely taste. He lapped greedily at the air between them.
Just as quickly she pulled away his reward his chest so that she now faced his throbbing cock. Her hands cleared the path for her breasts and Willow slid forward. She stopped when his aching erection lay nestled between her cheek and shoulder. His entire body convulsed when she rubbed her smooth cheek against the rigid muscle, eased away the foreskin, then licked his near purple head. The precum droplets were salty sweet on her tongue. He bucked his hips upward.
“Or is it this?” she asked in the stillness. She took him halfway into her mouth, until she heard his relieved sigh, then pulled off. He groaned his displeasure and lifted his hips to prolong contact. Willow repeated the maddening process until the voice she wanted to hear sounded in the dark.
“Someone's been naughty.”
Willow took her time as she eased into sitting. She smiled over her shoulder then went back to work on his throbbing member until it jerked in her hands. Willow slid down his groin making sure to rub her swollen lips against him then crawled off the bed and turned to face him. Ripper leered down at her, he obviously enjoyed the show.
“Didn't think I'd see you again, Pet,” he said.
“You were wrong,” Willow said. She slid the straps of her gown off her shoulders and let the thin material puddle at her feet. She stepped out of the pool of silk and approached the bed once more. Idly she twirled a thick lock of hair and cocked her head to the side.
“Let's loosen these straps, Luv,” Ripper suggested. He lifted his chin in persuasion and raised his brow.
Willow slowly shook her head no then knelt by the bed. She bent forward and flicked her tongue across his nipple to moisten it then secured her teeth around the straining nub and tugged. A laugh of ‘yes' and strained muscles were her reward.
“I wanna help you,” she whispered as she raised her head and looked into his face.
He returned her look with one of distrust. “Prove it.”
Willow licked her lips and pressed on, this time caressing his stomach and moved until she had his balls in her hand. The thrill of power brought another smile to her lips. Maybe Evil Willow was onto something.
He grunted as she gave them a quick squeeze.
“Whatsa matter, Puppy?” she asked innocently as she trailed her fingers back to his navel and swirled the light splash of honey colored curls. “Is Willow too rough?”
She nipped at his nipple again earning another pleasured groan then crawled between his legs. She bit and sucked her way up his thighs, sometimes breaking the skin, sometimes not, but always leaving a mark. Ripper bucked and growled.
“Dontcha wanna play?” she asked.
Not as gently as she could she grabbed his erection and brought it back. She closed her eyes and ran her face up and down its rigid length, just missing it with her lips. When she ventured to look she saw that the muscles in Ripper's neck stood out as he strained his head forward to see the action below.
“Untie me,” he demanded. “I'll show you rough.”
Willow paused and pouted her lower lip. “You don't like my game?”
“I think you'll like mine better,” he promised.
Willow let his penis drop back to his stomach without much ceremony and slid off the bed. The closet was steps away. Without looking back at him she sauntered to it.
She opened the door and studied the almost anal arrangement of ties and belts that lined the door. With an evil feeling smile she chose the belt Buffy'd bought Giles for his birthday. Ripper would definitely get off on being submissive to his Slayer's gift.
A true pout threatened and her confidence wavered for an instant. Ripper, she reminded herself. Not Giles. She pulled the belt off its hook and doubled it.
“That depends,” she said nonchalantly then snapped the crisp leather together. “Does your game involve whips?”
He hurt. All over. The muscles in his arms, Giles stretched one leg, yes, his leg, that hurt, and chest. They all hurt. He grimaced and tried to sit. It was then that he noticed the welts on his stomach and thighs. His frown deepened and he gingerly spread his legs. Bite marks? Oh, dear Lord.
The door nudged open and the telltale rattle of dishes and cups, along with the delicious aroma of hot tea and muffins, signaled Willow's return. He hoped. Her bright and nervous face peeked around the door.
“Oh,” she said with her typical nervous enthusiasm. She and the tray she carried edged carefully into the room. “You're up. Good.”
Giles cocked his brow at her but didn't move to cover himself. “Willow,” he said sternly.
“'Cause I was beginning to think you were gonna sleep all day,” she blustered along. “Don't wanna do that. Nope. ‘Cause it's a beautiful day outside.”
She hurried across the room and set the tray on the edge of the bed.
“Muffin?” She held a large one out to him. “Chocolate chip. Your favorite… I think.”
Her brows twisted in concern. “They are your favorite, aren't they? If they're not I've got blueberry downstairs. I- I wasn't sure, really, so I ordered both. I mean it's not like they'd go to waste with Xan- ”
“Willow,” he said again, this time with less severity.
“And there's juice, too,” she added weakly and rearranged their napkins.
Giles waited. Finally, when there was nothing else to concentrate on she looked to him and exhaled. An uncertain smile played at her lips. It lost. The muffin found its place back on a plate.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Research?” she asked hopefully. She twisted her hands nervously in her blouse.
Slowly, Giles turned and put his feet to the floor. He winced and put his hand to his back.
“Th-that was Buffy,” Willow said hurriedly. “N-not me.”
Giles felt he should have snapped his neck with the speed and ferocity he turned it to her.
“When she beat you up,” Willow explained. “Not this morning. ‘Cause we were… alone.”
She pulled a towel off a nearby chair and held it out. “Towel?”
Giles held up his hand to decline her offer then straightened his back. His body stretched and popped and sent reminders that he was really much too old for games of bondage and punishment. He stopped mid-stretch. “Are these belt marks?”
“Don't you wanna take a shower a-and eat first?” she countered. There was little difference between her hair and her face. Again the muffin was thrust at him. She looked so nervous and guilty that Giles relented. He'd take confirmation of what he thought he remembered much better when he felt…fresh.
Giles adjusted the showerhead to its hardest pulse and winced as the steaming spray cut into his bruises and welts. He put his arm against the wall and leaned into the water letting it wash away the morning's hold on him.
He couldn't get it out of his head – his Willow, naked and brandishing his belt like a tamer's whip. And she'd liked it. He'd liked it – never mind how out of his mind ecstatic Ripper had been. Bliss. Sweet lust filled bliss. Still, he could hardly grasp that Willow had done half the things he thought he remembered, and then to top it off, had left him – Ripper-- highly unsatisfied. Her revenge? Not that it wasn't deserved… that and so much more.
Giles groaned and turned the water to cold. He doubted he could handle another go right then. There were things to prepare, issues to discuss, debilitating fears to pretend he didn't have. Despite the fact that he would be the conduit, Willow and Buffy needed his calm. They all walked a very fine line and of the three, he was the one who couldn't afford to cross it. Wouldn't it be just his luck to finally win the girl and then die?
“Bloody typical,” he muttered sudsing his hair with a fury usually reserved for battling Satan. “And I'll probably get knocked unconscious as well.”
“We could get you one of those helmets,” Willow's chipper voice interrupted is self-depreciation.
“Aggggh,” Giles yelled very near to losing his balance. Could a man not tear himself down in peace? He grabbed the washcloth from the rack in a vain attempt to cover himself.
“You know, the kind challenged kids wear?” she explained lamely. Clearly the joke lost its luster.
“Bloody hell,” he swore as soapy streams of water invaded his eyes. Forgoing decency Giles slapped the washcloth to his face and dug at the stinging orbs. “No tears formula my British arse.”
“You forgot your towel,” Willow said meekly. She held the fluffy navy one from the bedroom out for him to see. Wilting under his glare she set it neatly on the closed toilet and started to back from the room.
She gestured to a vague point outside the bathroom. “I- I gotta go… make a call,” she faltered.
“Good show, Giles,” he muttered when she'd gone. He shook his head, turned the temperature all the way to freezing and buried his head once more in the punishing spray.
Willow chewed at a piece of her muffin and watched as Giles studied her over his mug of tea. He'd taken the news quite well, she thought. Maybe. He hadn't said a whole lot. He couldn't be mad. Could he? Maybe she'd gone too far with the belt – or it could have been the biting. And what in the world was a safe word, anyway? She swallowed suddenly very uncomfortable and shifted on Mr. Donut.
“What you did was very dangerous,” he said.
“But fruitful,” she offered with forced brightness. His judgmental brow chased away her hopeful smile. Willow frowned and sank back in the chair.
“Be that as it may, there certainly –“ He stopped. “What I'm trying to say is –“
He pulled off his glasses and studied them intently as he polished the lenses. Finally he looked up. “I'm embarrassed, Willow,” he finished quietly. “I-I realize you did what you thought you had to do, but –“
She blinked her bright eyes and bit the left side of her bottom lip. “But you didn't like it.”
His glasses had barely enough time to settle back on his nose before he pulled them off again. “Whether I liked it or not is entirely besides the point – and if that happens again, your choice of gags --“
“ --The website said panties – an-and I'd only worn them a few minutes,” Willow interrupted in self-defense.
She cringed at Giles' cringe. So maybe they hadn't been such a good idea… but certainly more appealing than his gym socks.
A knock sounded and Giles lowered his voice as he crossed the living room. “You were in danger Willow-”
He opened the door to Buffy's smiling face which rolled into an annoyed pout as he moved away without greeting her and turned back to Willow. “-and- and that's one thing I won't have.”
“Hello, Buffy,” Buffy greeted herself sarcastically as she stepped into the flat. “Glad you made it over here in record time. No problem. Willow said it was important. D'mitri and I can lick whipped cream off each other any time. Muffin? Thanks, a girl cannot live by whipped cream alone.”
“At least not intentionally,” Giles finished. “Hello, Buffy. Do mind the crumbs.”
Buffy grabbed a blueberry muffin off the kitchen counter and peeled off the top. Giles frowned at the crumbs she left sprinkled in her wake.
Willow rolled her eyes. Typical Giles. Thank goodness Buffy was there to…buffer? Willow smiled at her own joke, noted Giles' raised eyebrow, then replaced it with a suitably somber expression.
“Did I interrupt something?' Buffy asked. “'cause I have someone…thing I could be doing until you guys patch things up with smoochies.”
“Giles is being unreasonable –“ Willow explained.
“I'm being very reasonable,” Giles cut in. He rubbed his forehead and when he no longer obscured his face it was one of concern. “The thought of you in danger….”
Willow succumbed to the contriteness that surrounded her soul. Fine. So she was a stubborn bad dominatrix. And spoiled. And completely undeserving of such a caring souled man. She felt her annoyance dissolve. Yet the fact remained she'd done what had to be done. They'd needed information and she'd found a way to get it.
“What'd you do?” Buffy asked sidling up to her Watcher and eyeing Willow suspiciously.
“No-nothing,” Giles assured Buffy too quickly.
“Tied Ripper up and tortured him until he spilled,” Willow announced proudly. “– his guts,” she amended quickly off Giles' loss of color and Buffy's wide eyes.
Buffy turned to Giles. “Do I wanna know?”
“Not unless you wish to be plagued by nightmares,” Giles muttered.
Willow rolled her eyes more than ready to put the morning's events behind them and move on to the evening's impending disaster. She cleared her throat and pushed a notebook to the forefront of the coffee table. “I did learn a few things.”
“So did I,” Giles mumbled before he had to disappear into the kitchen.
Buffy took up the notebook and perused the notes Willow'd made. “Scrunchie works as a what ring?”
Willow blushed and snatched the notebook back. With a hasty scribble she crossed through the incriminating unrelated notes. Buffy moved to the side of the chair and looked over her shoulder.
“This,” Willow instructed and circled the relevant information. “Full moon, how to channel the whole evil bi-product thing –which is good, because…”
“Because why?” Buffy narrowed her eyes.
Willow cleared her throat.
“Giles,” Buffy called at Willow's hesitation and guilty refusal to meet anyone's eyes. Her tone took on a more insistent tone. “Willow's planning to channel evil bi-product. We're not fine with that, are we?”
Giles returned from the kitchen with considerable more color and the look of reproach Willow'd come used to that morning. He looked much more comfortable in his skin than he had moments before. “Finally, another voice of reason.”
Willow sighed heavily and tossed the notebook back to the table. She would have stood angrily, but it would have hurt too much so she settled for sitting up straight…as straight as she could, anyway.
“It's not like I'm anxious to do this,” she snapped. “I don't want Giles to get possessed any more than I wanna be a recycling bin. I really don't. But I'm the only one who can help us if it should come to that. Which I really hope it doesn't by the way, ‘cause possession and then bursting into flames? … I'm guessing no fun. If you two have a better idea, please. Chime in.”
She glared at the two who faced her. Their matching stares took some of the wind from her self-righteous sail. She sank back into the cushions.
Giles faltered for words then sighed. He looked almost as miserable as she felt and crossed the few feet between them propped himself on the arm and slid his arm around her shoulder. Willow closed her eyes against the sudden tears and leaned into his hold, accepting his tacit apology and giving him one of her own. Couldn't life ever just be easy?
“What do I do?” Buffy asked gently.
Willow sniffed and wiped her eyes. “You keep Xander and Anya and Ripper away from me until I can destroy the Crown,” Willow explained simply.
Buffy opened her mouth.
“Ripper told them to hide Myop's Crown,” Willow she provided hastily.
“Shouldn't we ask them where they hid it?” Buffy asked.
“They won't remember,” Giles said. His strong hands tenderly kneaded the back of Willow's neck as he spoke. “At least not until the appointed time.”
“Magicks,” he explained.
Buffy scowled petulantly then turned her attention back to Willow.
“I'm not exactly immune to the whole Myop thrall,” she pointed out. “What's to say that I'm not gonna jump on that ‘let's save the Crown' bandwagon?”
Both she and Giles looked to Willow for an explanation. Buffy did have a remarkable ability to break something down into its most pressing questions. Willow faltered. He faltered.
“Because if you do then Giles will die,” she said when she'd regained some composure.
A psychic charge zipped through the air and Buffy's entire demeanor changed. She straightened her shoulders and set her pixie face into a determined glower. “I'm not gonna let that happen.”
Giles sighed and snapped closed the book Willow studied under her pert nose. She looked up with a questioning blink and Buffy stretched lazily on the couch. PBS had clearly lost its allure.
“Right,” he announced. “If this is to be the last day of my life, then I'm not spending it watching a fund raiser and reading drivel. Come on then,” he said briskly and extended a hand to his woman. “On your feet. Both of you.”
“Okay, Mary Poppins,” Willow said. She bobbed her head to either side. “Why?”
“We are going out,” he informed her. “Buffy will call-“
“Do you think we should, Giles?” Willow interrupted. She looked over his shoulder at the stack of books he'd pulled for research. Still she took his hand and let him pull her from the seat. “We might find something.”
“Sure we should,” Buffy chimed in. She flipped off the couch and grabbed Giles phone. “I'll call D'mitri. We'll bond. The four of us.”
Giles opened his mouth and raised a finger but a knock sounded at the door and stopped Giles from telling Buffy that he hadn't actually been inviting her anywhere. As usual, without waiting for him to answer the door swung open. Anya tugged Xander in by his barely spare hand. Two precariously balanced paper bags obscured the rest of him.
A perturbed frown replaced Giles' hidden smile. Both Buffy and Willow moved between Giles and their guests.
“Anya,” Giles said. “Why aren't you at the shop?”
Anya flopped on the couch and grabbed a notepad to fan herself. “Because Xander broke your air-conditioner and now it's hot–“
Giles rolled his eyes. Of course. Why not?
Xander stumbled toward the counter and heaved a sigh of relief once the bags were out of his hands. He turned to Giles and rubbed his hands together. Giles could almost smell the gears turning. Whatever story he was coming up with was bound to be a good one.
“Already got an electrician buddy of mine set up to look at it,” Xander said with a decisive nod.
Giles stared for a moment at the dark haired young man who stood before him.
“What?” Xander ran his hand across the end of his nose. “I can't be responsible?”
Giles blinked and shook his head. No story? No inane explanation? Dear Lord, the world is ending. “I- I'm sorry,” he stuttered his apology. “I was waiting for the tale of how you and Anya were using it in some sort of sexual…thing.”
“Xander and I talked about that –“ Anya said from the couch. “And we've decided that there is a time and a place for everything.”
Xander nodded. “That's right, G-man. You're looking at the new poster couple for self-control.”
Both Willow and Buffy's eyes were wide as they fought laughter.
“That's…great,” Buffy managed. She looked to Willow. “Isn't it?”
Willow's lips trembled. She nodded.
“Be that as it may,” Giles felt compelled to lecture about …something…. “Perhaps it might be better for business if we remained open for business?”
Anya shook her head. “I figured it out. No one was coming in. It was costing you more having me work than you would pull in -- based on my daily projection.”
“Am I correct in understanding that you are turning down money?” Giles clarified. He felt the suspicious line deepen between his eyes and took a protective step away.
Willow had already crossed the room and was now busy dumping the contents of the paper bags on the counter. Buffy was now strategically halfway between Xander and Giles with one eye trained steadily on the ex-vengeance demon who now flipped through Cosmo.
“Your standard groceries as far as I can tell,” Willow announced.
Xander eyed her skeptically. “Yes,” he confirmed. “Groceries. From the grocery store. Where one goes to buy food.”
“Xander wanted to restock Giles' refrigerator,” Anya explained. She dog eared a glossy page and looked up to the stunned crew. “I thought it was a good idea.”
In a flash Buffy was across the room and held Xander to the floor with the heel of her pump. Willow murmured a few words and the blanket Giles had thrown across the back of the couch was secured itself around Anya.
“Hey,” she yelled and fought to free her hands from her side. “Let. Me. Go.”
Giles watched, more than impressed as Buffy and Willow worked as a well-lubed machine. Quite like something from Charlie's Angels. Giles' Angels. He would have laughed had there not been a threat to his very existence. Still, a small one did escape.
“Search ‘em, Willow,” Buffy called.
“Already on it,” Willow said. She straddled Xander and ran her hands under his shirt.
“Hey,” Anya hollered again. She struggled to sit up.
“Yes,” Giles agreed when he saw her hands sneak under Xander's belt. He no longer felt like laughing and took a step off the landing. “Willow. Hey.”
“Nothing there,” Willow said with a nod. She pulled her hand from his shorts' pocket. Buffy nodded and released her hold.
“Hey.” It was Xander's turn.
“I will have you know that there's a whole lot of plenty there,” he defended his manhood as he struggled to his feet. He pulled at his shorts and put his hands to his hips.
“What about her?” Buffy asked nodding to Anya who stilled struggled under the blanket.
“Search ‘er,” Willow said.
“Is this necessary?” Giles asked. He for one was not in the mood for an all you could see Anya buffet.
The women ignored his question and he looked to Xander for some solidarity. The boy still struggled for air and was bent almost in two trying to hide…Giles narrowed his eyes and raised a possessive brow. Xander backed himself into a barstool and shrugged.
“You see how calm you stay with Willow wiggling all over you,” he mumbled and tugged the edge of his gaudy t-shirt over his obvious arousal.
Giles shook his head. The boy was hopeless – although, the groceries were a fine idea. He looked past Xander and at the scattered contents. Krispy Kreme? Giles' heart felt lighter and more forgiving already. Perhaps the boy wasn't quite beyond saving.
Anya's offended shriek jerked Giles into the present. “Xander. Are you going to let these two… harpies… search me?” she demanded.
“Will there be Jell-O?” Xander asked.
No, thought Giles. No hope…. He perked up as a jar of pickles caught his sight. Mmm. Gherkins….
“It's for Giles, Anya,” Buffy tried to soothe her.
“And that makes it even all the more twisted,” the ex-vengeance demon snitted. She took a few hobbles back and away.
As the threesome twisted and pulled Giles went to the counter and grabbed a bag of chips. He ripped it open, pulled out the stool next to Xander's', and sat. Watching writhing toned bodies and luscious hair flipping actually wasn't a bad way to spend his probable last day in existence. He nudged Xander and offered him the bag.
“Kinda brings a tear to your eye, doesn't it?” Xander asked unable to remove his from the trio who had by now tumbled to the floor and were pulling at the blanket.
“Had we the presence of mind to get out the video camera you realize we'd be very rich men,” Giles agreed. He munched absently at the salt and vinegar chips. A shoe flew through the air.
“I find my wealth in the simple things, really,” Xander noted. He inclined his head toward the petering floorshow.
Buffy stood and pushed her fallen hair from her eyes.
“She's clean,” she breathed to Giles then limped across the room to reclaim her pump.
“Yeah,” Willow agreed as she rubbed the scratches that formed across her arm. “And a really dirty fighter.”
Anya shot them both drop-dead looks and pushed her dress back into place. She marched forward until she glared into Giles' nostrils.
“What the hell was that about?” she demanded.
“That was about the gods granting me my fondest desire,” Xander said. He flinched long before her porcelain hand landed on his chest.
“Precisely,” Giles agreed. He took a few protective steps away and toward Willow. “But not in the perverse manner Xander made it seem,” he hastened to add.
“Sorry, Anya,” Willow apologized. Even Giles saw that her smile lacked its usual…sincerity. She adjusted her shirt. “We were checking for the Crown.”
“What makes you think we might have it?” Xander asked.
Buffy joined the group. “You two were acting all responsible – talking about self-control –“ she started.
“—And you brought food,” Willow supplied with a small shrug. “We were afraid you'd wished to grow up or ..something.”
“Yes,” Giles agreed. He polished his glasses. “I'm afraid the evidence was quite…not in your favor.”
Anya snorted derisively. “Believe me,” she assured them. “If I had the Crown, the last thing I'd wish for would be adult responsibility.”
“Indeed,” Giles muttered.
So the plan hadn't been to spend the entire afternoon watching both Xander and Anya and Buffy and her D'mitri chap snogging, but Giles couldn't complain. Much. He was indeed surrounded by the people who cared for him most. Quite surrounded, actually. He grunted.
“I am sorry about my van not working, Mr. Giles,” D'mitri said from the back seat.
Giles glanced in the rearview and gave a brisk nodded. The man didn't deserve the ‘me, too' Giles had on the tip of his tongue so he settled for non-verbals.
“Giles doesn't mind, sweetie,” Buffy assured him. She wrapped her arms around her new boyfriend's neck and kissed his cheek. She smiled at Giles' reflection. “Do you?”
“No,” he assured her. “Contrary to popular belief, a compact sports car is indeed roomy enough for six full grown adults. Xander, would you mind, please, removing your foot from my back?”
“Actually,” Willow corrected him gently, “that's Anya's elbow.” Her green eyes shimmered sympathetically and she and put her hand on his thigh.
“Don't sweat it, G-man,” Xander said. “In a few more blocks we'll be at my folks. The rest of us will take my parent's car.”
“I don't like their car,” Anya complained. “It stinks of French fries and forgotten sports equipment.”
Giles rolled his eyes as Xander and Anya bantered but clung to the shred of good humor Willow's soft hand on his leg afforded him. He gripped her hand in his and brought it to his lips still unable to fully grasp the risk she would take to protect him. With a sideways glance he took in her naturally hopeful expression, alabaster skin and fiery hair. In her he found his peace and he wouldn't let that go.
“Don't worry,” Buffy said when the last of the troop had climbed out of the Tramp. “I'll fill them in. And if anything should happen, I've got my soldier boy here to help me keep things under control.”
“We don't think anything's going to happen until the moon rises,” Willow said. “So, my guess is we're free until sundown.”
Buffy nodded. “We'll meet back at your guys' place at sundown.”
Giles took in their exchange and felt his throat muscles constrict. These two women, one of whom he'd been sworn by duty to protect and the other he'd chosen as his life partner, were risking everything, their lives, their futures, for him. In an effort to conceal the tears that sprang in his eyes, Giles put his hand to his forehead and traced the lines years of being on the giving end of such devotion had etched.
“That okay, Giles?” Buffy asked.
Giles blinked quickly and nodded. “Yes, of course. Sundown,” he said and brushed away imaginary dust from the dash. He faltered a quick smile at his slayer and then grabbed Willow's hand.
“Later then,” Buffy waved. “Your guys' place.”
Giles pulled into the non-existent traffic enjoying the newfound space of his compact car and the easy silence of his companion. Willow lifted her chin and closed her eyes to the afternoon sun and smiled. As the suburban streets turned into a small stretch of highway Giles could go no further without commenting.
“Penny for your lovely thoughts,” he teased.
“Who says they're lovely?” Willow asked. She laughed as yet another lock of hair whipped across her face.
“Your lovely smile,” he said.
“It's crazy,” Willow admitted. “I mean, we're probably going to die tonight – but I've never been happier.”
“And I should thank whom for this?” Giles asked smugly. Truth be told, at that moment he felt the same.
His smug smile faded. “At the risk of sounding vain, I was hoping that you'd say me.”
“Well, yeah, you,” Willow back pedaled. She leaned over and kissed him. Her lips were smooth against his cheek. “Always you… but… it was what she said.”
Giles slid his arm behind Willow's shoulders and took in the blushing young woman. Smooth skin, long legs, and a soul so pure – he was in awe that she'd offered herself to him.
“What was that?” he hedged.
“It's silly,” Willow said shyly.
Giles waited and watched, as he'd been trained, patiently while she studied her hands and made a few false starts. Finally, she blurted out,
“She said, ‘your guys' place'. And I know that it's totally not our place – because that's just… wow. Like… you know, completely nothing I would expect and there's totally no pressure, but I…I liked it.”
An embarrassed smile toyed with her lips when she finally lifted her eyes to his and shrugged. “I said it was silly.”
She turned quickly and pointed to the sky. “Look. Birds.”
Giles smiled. ‘Your guys' place,' had sounded so natural that he hadn't even noticed. Of course it was their place. He'd kidnapped her and she hadn't fussed. They shared a bathroom and he suspected, a razor. He'd waded happily through her hand wash only pieces of lace for almost two weeks, planned his comings and goings around hers, and divided the Sunday paper between them over their morning tea and bagels. He hadn't even minded that she'd moved a few pieces of furniture and added a few stylish throw pillows about the living room. Of course it was their place. It'd been their place forever.
“It's not silly,” he assured her. He checked his mirrors and changed lanes. He had a few things he wanted to say to her and none of them on the expressway.
“Where are we going?” Willow asked as he pulled off the highway and took a left onto a lesser-traveled road. He took a right into Denny's parking lot and turned off the engine.
Great, she thought. Way to go, Willow. Way to freak out someone else. Smooth.
“Are you hungry?” She asked attempting to cover her nerves. She looked over her shoulder at the restaurant. “Not that I couldn't eat at Denny's but –there's this little café in the next city…that has…good….”
Giles' tender expression stopped her babbling. He turned in his seat and cupped her cheek in his hand. She couldn't help but close her eyes and lean into the caress. He had the affect on her. He always had. Each touch, no matter how casual had always left her wanting more, wanting to steal a bit of the security he provided so she could bring it out on rainy days. She smiled as he drew his knuckles across her cheek and traced her jaw.
“Open your eyes,” came his full voiced request. Willow complied and waited.
He was a man with much on his busy brain, she didn't need the pensive expression to tell her that. Giles' mind never rested. Like hers, except for when she was with him. They thought too much and too hard. She frowned. Like now, she was thinking about thinking when she really should be….
“I've been thinking a lot lately,” Giles said. Willow felt a smile tug at her lips. “I adore that you live with me. I adore waking up every morning to your sweet face. I've been in love with you for years and I will love you for the rest of my life. A-and I want you with me. You ease my soul, Willow.”
Giles ran his strong hand over her hair and then gently gripped the back of her neck. He and Willow drifted forward until their foreheads met. He brushed his thumb across her cheek taking a warm tear with it, then gave her mouth a soft and possessive kiss. Needing more of him Willow rested her hand on his forearm and returned his kiss twofold.
“And this isn't in any way an official proposal because lord knows that I would most certainly not do such a thing in the parking lot of a Denny's –“
Willow heard the blood rush to her ears and then leave her head. “Proposal?” she managed.
“An-and, I certainly wouldn't expect an answer right away…in fact, logically, we're months away from entertaining such an idea, but –“ he wavered a moment then gathered his thoughts. “But life is too short and too precious, and when you love someone and want them with your forever, it's best not to waste time.”
Willow watched his lips move and even heard the words. They sounded lovely, like a Gaelic song. The intrinsic melody of his voice carried them beautifully through the air and into her ears, but for that brief instant she understood nothing. She blinked and shook her head. Radio Giles came back into tune.
She blinked yet more tears replaced the ones she'd tried valiantly to forbid. She couldn't form thoughts, much less words. She could only feel. Love, both overwhelming and subtle ribboned through her body. Another tear spilled.
“I-I just wanted you to know,” Giles said quietly, the emotion strained his voice, “that it is very much my intention to marry you.”
Willow's heart stuttered in her chest then slammed forward. Marry? Oh, goddess. Oh, goddess. Is this happening? To me? Willow Rosenberg? Without warning her chin quivered. Not officially, of course, but, wow. Marriage? To Giles? Buffy'll be in black a-and maybe Xander could be…. Somewhere a modicum of self-control reared its head.
She swallowed and when she finally was able to talk her voice shook. “A-and when you officially ask, it is very much my intention to say yes.”
As Giles suspected, and the blaring stereo confirmed, a few of the gang had already made it to his flat when he and Willow returned from their drive. He smirked at himself. Whom was he kidding? Drive? They'd spent five hours in a hotel that overlooked – he smiled and pulled Willow back to him for a kiss – who cared what it overlooked? They hadn't seen past the bed.
“You ready for this?” he asked against her still swollen lips.
Willow nodded and picked an imaginary thread from his shirt. He didn't have to see her eyes to feel the resolve in them.
“Let's do it, then,” he said and reached for the doorknob then stopped.
God, but he didn't want to do this, to open himself up to a Ripper beyond his control, to hurt Willow. He turned back to her. He could only hope his words would be enough of a buffer for whatever pain he would cause.
“Whatever happens tonight, whatever I – he- says or does, know that I love you,” Giles said. He hated how his voice trembled and caught in his throat. “And that I don't want to hurt you.”
“You won't,” Willow said emphasizing the subject. She squeezed his fingers and offered up a smile that sent heat through his veins then nudged him with her shoulder and raised a flippant eyebrow.
“Now,” she said with a shake of her red head. “Let's get in there and get this over with. We'll show this big naughty evil who's bad.”
His smile returned and scratched absently at his arm. Tonight was going to be good. The sound of heels on cobblestone and a familiar, ‘Yo, G-funk,' drew their attention to the courtyard. Xander and Anya loped their direction, hand in hand. Giles saw Willow's eyes brighten upon their friends' arrival, he saw her raise her hand in a friendly wave, and then he saw nothing.
“Another kiss?” Ripper asked and pulled Willow into his chest.
He grinned at the sweet smile and uplifted innocent face she offered him then gripped his fingers into her arms and jerked her up to him. Her surprised gasp didn't fool him. He'd seen what was in her, what she'd kept hidden: his Willow liked it rough and that was exactly what he was going to give her.
“Giles,” Willow said with a squirm and frown. “You're hurt – “
He cut off her complaint with a punishing kiss. He forced his tongue against her teeth and dug into the soft flesh of her arms until she let him in, let him claim her mouth once again. It wouldn't do to have her mind on someone else.
He pulled away, pleased with the rapid rise and fall of her chest. Pleased by the flare of anger he saw in her green eyes. Pleased by the gradual slide he saw them take into something else - something much more dangerous. Someone much more his style. Someone who owed him….
“Ripper,” Willow whispered.
“Miss me?” he asked then grabbed her elbow and started toward the berk and the bint with Willow close behind. It served a double purpose, really, he got to have her hot body more or less pressed into his and it got her away from the bloody door.
It wouldn't do to have the slayer around to mess things up. He'd hate to have to wish her dead – especially with what he had planned for her and the witch later. Threesomes broke up the monotony. He grinned and clapped Xander on the shoulder as he passed. It was going to be a very good night indeed.
Damn. Damn and double damn, Willow swore. He'd left no room for her to escape. She tripped after him and into his back and cried out in alarm with the hopes that Buffy would look out the window and see their retreating backsides. She needed Buffy. There was no way she could destroy the amulet without the slayer to protect her. This wasn't supposed to happen this way, she groused. We were supposed to all be together.
“No fair,” she mumbled then almost tripped as Ripper pulled her forward and around a row of hedges out of sight of the flat. There had to be something, some sort of spell that would slow them or knock out Ripper, or just transport her to a tropical island where men named Versilius brought her drinks with little umbrellas in them. She flipped the mental pages of her mind.
“Go ahead and try something,” Anya said with merry exuberance. “I want to see if my binding spell worked.”
Willow felt her mouth fall open in betrayal. She'd never liked that demon. “You bound me?” she gasped.
Anya grinned merrily and held up a ribbon wrapped package. The poppet's red hair shown in the streetlight.
Ripper released Willow's arm and threw a possessive arm around Anya's thin shoulder. His hand rested just above her breast. “Couldn't have you fuckin' up the works, could we, Luv?” he asked. He pulled Anya in for a kiss but kept his eyes on Willow.
Willow struggled to maintain an even expression, it was Ripper kissing Anya. No biggie. The two deserved each other, she tried to tell herself. It didn't work. Her Giles's lips were secured to the walking tact bomb. Ripper's grin told her that she failed miserably at hiding her feelings. She allowed herself an open scowl.
“Don't you worry, Pet,” he assured her when he broke the kiss. “When the time's right we'll let you go.”
“B-but… I proved to you that I was gonna help,” she tried. “I used scrunchies a-and panties… an- an –“
“Didn't your mother ever tell you that it's not nice to tease?” he tsked. Willow opened her mouth but he cut her off again. “Get in the car.” His tone left no room for argument.
Liked you better when I was beating you with a belt, she thought but relented and slunk into the back seat with an already waiting Xander. She crossed her arms over her chest and sunk into the seat.
“Isn't it great, Wills?” Xander asked. He grinned manically. “No more Zeppo. No more being the useless sidekick who gets his assed kicked.”
In the front seat Ripper demanded the crown. It glinted in the night as Anya pulled it from her blouse and held it out to him. Willow tried not to be distracted by the seductive grin the bitca troll from hell gave her man – uh, not Giles precisely but if they did anything then it'd be her man's body. She shifted uncomfortably.
“How can you watch him paw your girlfriend?” she asked. There was no reason to keep the disgust from her voice. Xander was too busy listing his wishes to notice, Anya wasn't complaining, and Ripper couldn't care.
Xander shrugged and rested his forearm on his elbow. “It's all good,” he said easily.
“It's not all good, Samuel L. Jackson,” Willow grumbled but she knew complaining wouldn't help.
There was nothing that could help – at least until Anya unbound her powers. The best she could hope for was that Buffy was suddenly psychic and picked up her distress signals. And to top it all she couldn't see Anya's hands.
Anya turned in the front seat and smiled at Willow. “Would you like for me to turn that Oz fellow into a pig when I get my powers back?”
“What? – No,” Willow snapped .
Anya brightened. “Or maybe a hermaphrodite? I never did get a chance to try that one.”
“Sounds like it'd be too much fun,” Xander piped in. He looked thoughtful. “Willow'd want to punish him not give him a lifetime of easy sex.”
“Just… stop,” Willow demanded. “Th-that's so mis-informed an-and gross…And besides, I don't want to hurt anyone.”
“Still got a thing for the wolf, Luv?” Ripper asked. He looked at her in the rear view.
There was no way to miss the dangerous gleam in his eyes and for a moment Willow wondered who'd win in the alpha male contest – Giles as possessed Ripper of Oz in the height of the full moon. Either way it didn't matter as long as her Giles came out on top.
She swallowed a whimper. It'd only been a few minutes, but she missed Giles. Giles would know what to do. “That's none of your business,” she mumbled and turned her attention to the dark and blurred scenery.
They headed west toward the ocean.
“I think it is,” he assured her.
His low growl sent a shiver through her stomach. The small ball of fear that lived within her churned and she crossed her arms over her belly in a protective gesture. Maybe the whole Evil Willow bondage thing hadn't been such a good idea. So far it'd earned her information that hadn't helped and a world of humiliation. Willow narrowed her eyes and returned Ripper's treacherous glare.
He surprised her with a sudden smile. “There's my girl.”
Ripper licked his teeth and returned his attention to the road. He'd seen the angry rise and fall of her breast, the telltale splotches on her cheeks, and it pleased him. He needed her angry. He needed her vulnerable. And he also needed to up the ante.
“You realize,” he drew out, “that you can back out any time.”
He didn't have to look to know that the sweet little furrowed brow worked overtime. He could feel it. “I think I've figured out a way to divide the overflow between the bint and berk ‘ere.”
For effect, and because it felt damn good, he slid his hand up Anya's thigh. Anya graced him with yet another bright smile. Gods, he loved magic.
“But –“ Willow sputtered. “You- you'll kill them.”
He shrugged. “Maybe the boy, but this one's pretty strong.” He brought his hand to Anya's chin and then lips.
“I said I'd do it,” Willow's strained voice sounded from the back seat.
It was either tears or anger… or both. Ripper wanted to laugh. He did. Of course she'd do it but it never hurt to play a few mind games. They led to such interesting things in the bedroom. He smirked and pressed the accelerator. He'd show the witch a few uses for a belt and those damned elastic bands.
Finally he pulled into the empty beach lot. He didn't bother to take the keys from the ignition. If his plan worked he had no need for a car. He snorted. Even if his plan failed there was no need for a car. The dead didn't drive. Ripper lifted himself from the seat and jumped easily over the door. He pulled Willow from the back, barked a few orders to his scrambling minions and set out for the dunes with his witch close behind him. It was good to be king.
The clear night sky twinkled with countless stars, the ocean's surf called to him, and the sand massaged his now bare feet. He'd lost his shoes somewhere, kicked them off a few dozen yards back, and knew precisely in what order the rest of his clothes would follow. Magicks were best done sky clad, and if three beautiful naked people (two of them women) were at his side, mores the better. Ripper hazarded a grin over his shoulder at his woman.
To Willow's credit she hadn't pissed and moaned about the hurried pace he'd set despite the fact that each time she stumbled he jerked her faster behind him. That soft and winsome exterior was just that. There was more to her and he couldn't wait to bring it out again – to groom her true self until the candy shell she lived in disappeared.
Behind Willow he saw Xander and Anya struggling to carry his supplies and keep his pace. He almost laughed – Xander was already sky clad. The moon's light accented his impressive arousal. The boy was eager, anxious to please and be more than what he was. It was too bad he'd probably die. It never hurt to have blind devotion on your side
Anya deposited the box she carried onto Xander's already full load then lifted her arms and pulled her dress over her head. The ocean wind lifted then wadded the flimsy fabric behind her as she let it go and spread her arms to welcome the nature on her skin. Her small perky breasts jutted toward the sky and jiggled as she spun around and rejoiced in …what, he wondered. The powers she thought she'd reclaim?
This had been too easy. They'd worn their weak spot on their sleeves and he'd read and played them all. His slayer and her need for a normal life, how easily she'd lunged for the brass ring of ignorance. All of them, really. He'd offered them what they could least resist, but his piece de resistance was the witch and her delusions of love. How he'd revel in destroying that. There was no conquering love, no moment in history where the myth of true love had worked its so-called magick. At least not in his world. There was lust and there was passion but he had no use for that tender, soul searing love a disgusting part of him clung to. Annihilating Willow's spirit would kill that annoying tumor. It was a death he would welcome.
He gave Willow's elbow another jerk. “Keep up, Luv. You don't wanna miss this.”
A few more yards north and then another ten or so east and he crested a hill that hid a flat stretch of moonlit beach. Ripper rolled his tense shoulders then bent his neck from side to side, satisfied with the sound of popping of bursa. There was where he would come into power – or not.
It took mere minutes for Anya and Xander in all their naked glory to help Ripper prepare for his greatest spell yet. Willow knew she shouldn't peek, she knew it was terribly poor form to check out your best friend of seventeen years when the world was at an end, but she couldn't help it. Despite her burning cheeks Willow couldn't avoid staring.
“Got your eyes full?” Ripper asked.
Willow jumped guiltily and looked to her feet. She hadn't seen or heard him come up behind her.
“Should I remind you to whom you belong?”
Her hair hit her cheeks as she shook her head. No reminder was needed. As archaic as the term was, she knew exactly to whom she belonged. And it wasn't Ripper. She didn't dare argue, though. Finally the gods had blessed her with a plan and angering Ripper would only destroy its fragile beginnings. The sooner she was unbound, the better.
She looked up. The crown hung around his neck – within grabbing distance, but she didn't dare. Not yet. The sand made escape to precarious and she had no way to destroy the damned thing yet. The largest rocks she'd seen were behind her.
“When do we start?” Upon his arched eyebrow she hastened to add, “W-with the ritual?”
“As soon as we're sky clad,” he said. Clearly he enjoyed her discomfort.
“Then we'll orgy –“
Blood swirled around the walls of her stomach and her knees weakened under her weight. She looked up to him barely able to get the word from her lips. Surely he hadn't said…“Or-orgy?”
The glint in his green eyes told her exactly what she didn't want to hear. Orgy. Naked Ripper. Naked Xander. Naked Anya. Naked me. Oh, gosh. She'd read about it, avoided mentioning it when she and Giles had studied together in years past, but she once suspected that it would be something she'd participate in. Some believed it would make the ritual more powerful. With Ripper the power was control. She fought her trembling chin and lost but remained otherwise silent.
His hand was surprisingly gentle on her chin as he drew her face up to his. For a moment Willow dared hope her Giles had somehow broken through. The set of his lips, the slant of his hard eyes, and one word convinced her otherwise.
Willow brought her hand to her neck and grasped at her collar. She whimpered then swallowed.
“I can help.” Ripper's threat hung in the air. “It's not like I haven't seen.”
Willow felt her cheeks burst into humiliated flames.
“Or tasted,” he continued.
She damned the tear that escaped her eyes then fought the urge to grab the monster that lorded over her and plead for Giles'. Giles was buried somewhere within and the only way she could save him was to play along. She inhaled and licked her lips with a nod. If saving him meant orgy, then an orgy it would be. She raised her shaking hands and unfastened the top button of her blouse and endured his growled commentary until finally she stood naked in the moonlight. Her knees shook and another tear fell.
C'mon, Rosenberg. You can pull some dignity into this somehow, she chastised herself. To avoid his lecherous expression she focused on the bonfire Naked Anya and Naked Xander were constructing. A voice in the back of her mind called out to Xander to be careful with himself.
“Come on,” she mumbled and took a shaky step forward. The sand beneath her spread and waned but she managed to keep her footing. “Let's get this over with.”
Ripper nodded. He'd won yet another battle in his side game to break the purity from the little tree. The victory tasted sweet. He followed his witch down the slope and into the area Xander and Anya had happily arranged. He left a trail of shirt and t-shirt behind him. Eyghon's mark glowed a fierce red in the night. The girls could take off his pants. A familiar warmth surged to his loins at the mental image of the witch and the demon on their knees before him. Hell, throw in the bloody boy, as well. The bloke had earned some fun.
A masculine groan broke his generous mood. A small rage tightened his jaw when he looked beyond the stack of firewood. His demon already had her silken hand around Xander's rigid shaft and massaged his length.
Xander's nose cracked behind his fist and he landed on his back with a satisfying thud. A small stream of blood coursed from the boy's nose to his upper lip and the mere fact that he dare bleed so damned little enraged Ripper. There were lessons to be learned and he was the one to teach them.
“Get up,” Ripper growled.
His foot landed in Xander's side with another satisfying crunch. Blissful fury blinded him. He aimed again and once more met the fleshy resistance of the lad's stomach. The resounding injured grunt fueled his passion. He dropped to his knees over Xander's tight waste and landed another punch to the boy's jaw. The Crown's now warm metal shifted and bit into his chest. Damn, but it felt good.
“I – I'm sorry,” Xander gurgled his apology and wrestled his arms free of Ripper's leg hold and tried to protect his face.
Willow's scream suddenly came into tune and in the distance he realized that she tugged at his shoulder. For a brief moment he registered the sweet sting of her nails in his back and then a sudden rush of air and blur of flesh as Anya rushed her.
Ripper rolled off Xander and to his knees in time to see the demon tackle his witch and force her to the ground. His heart pounded into his chest in exhilaration as the two firm naked bodies struggled and rolled in the sand.
“Good show, ladies,” he said under his breath. In the background he heard Xander groan and retch. It was when he saw Anya get the upper hand and draw back her small fist that he decided to intervene. He liked his women's faces pretty and in tact. A black eye would not do. He stood and caught the fist just before momentum took it forward.
“Ah, ah,” he tsked at Anya's stunned expression. He helped her to her feet, kissed the air above her forehead and motioned toward Xander.
Willow's breasts rose and fell enticingly with her gasps for air but she swatted away the helping hand he offered. Ripper laughed. The fire was there. Gods, but he loved the anger he saw in her eyes. He also loved the soft patch of red curls she struggled to cover. He'd have that soon – if the crown didn't kill them all. Struck by that thought he brought his hands to his belt and tugged it free of his jeans. Her gasp and wide eyes were a visual and auditory symphony.
“The moon is high,” Anya said.
Ripper paused then looked to the sky. It was time. “Get my supplies,” he ordered and turned on his heel. When this was over he'd have all the time he wished with his witch.
Willow exhaled a shaky breath and fell back on the sand. Her ribs and tailbone protested sharply and her heart raced. She wasn't sure if it was in relief or terror. She closed her eyes. Anya's perky voice broke her respite.
“Sorry about that,” she apologized. “But I can't let you hurt Ripper.”
Willow opened her eyes and found herself looking up at Anya and her swinging breasts. “Go to hell,” Willow groaned.
“Oh, now,” Anya said with more good nature that Willow ever remembered hearing from the ex-demon. She circled behind her and kneeled to push up Willow's shoulders. “Let's not be testy.”
“Look,” Anya said once Willow was up far enough to see ahead. Willow followed her sparkling eyes. “The ritual's begun.”
Xander struggled to his feet, wobbled a bit, then stumbled to his position. Behind him Ripper, now stripped of his jeans spread his arms wide and chanted toward the ocean. The sound of the waves seemed to expand in her ears. She licked her lips in expectation. Despite the danger, her skin tingled and excitement bubbled in her heart. Magicks, malign or benign, thrilled her and Ripper's control over the elements was…
Wrong and terrible , she told herself firmly.
He turned, giving her a full view of his muscular backside and raised his arms over his head. The muscles in his shoulders rippled and strained under his smooth skin.
A strong breeze stirred and blew bits of sand into the air. Willow lifted a hand and pulled her hair from her eyes. The seduction of his raw beauty and power while in the throes of magicks tugged at her.
“Come on,” Anya urged and tried to pull her off the ground. “You need to be with Ripper when he gets to the fire.”
Willow struggled to standing. Anya wrapped her hand around her wrist and started forward. Willow grimaced but tugged her back. She needed her powers if her plan was to work, if anyone were to survive.
“Unbind me,” she said quickly then forced a calm and hopefully sincere smile. “Ripper said you would when it was time.”
She could tell the ex-demon wavered as she looked between her master and Willow.
“It's okay,” Willow lied. She put her free hand on Anya's thin shoulder. “I'll behave. I wanna be a part of this now.”
Anya smiled and nodded. She released Willow's hand and nearly skipped to the box. Willow smiled at her as she would a child and nodded as Anya held up the poppet. Relief and something much more intimate surged through her as she saw Anya's lips move and the ribbon fall from the doll. She inhaled deeply and accepted her birthright of power back into her soul. A calm settled around her shoulders.
Before Anya could return Willow cut a door through the circle and took her place next to Ripper. The words to the spell she'd been failing at so miserably in the past few months rolled effortlessly through her mind. Without her supplies it was a long shot, but the power felt right. This would work because it had to.
Ripper turned to the tripod of driftwood and motioned to Anya. She scurried forward with a ceramic bowl in hand and shoved it in Willow's unsuspecting grasp. Willow recognized the contents by the sweet and hot smell of Jax Tail and Womb of Etheria. Anya scurried to a point opposite Xander.
Ripper continued his chant and raised his hands to his neck. His strong voice rang out above the din of waves and wind.
“I combine elements three,
I call to thee spirits of Myop.”
He unclasped the Crown and held it over the bowl. Sand swirled around Willow's legs and she shifted uneasily. Her spell had to be timed just right, her mind scurried furiously to figure out just when that would be.
“Fill me. Grant my wish.”
For the briefest of instants the Crown stay suspended above the bowl then clanked home. The reaction was immediate and the bowl glowed red around her fingers. Willow yelped in surprise. In the distance thunder rumbled.
“Fill me,” Ripper called again.
He turned back toward the ocean. Willow's heart leapt. It was the perfect time. In her peripheral she saw both Xander and Anya open their mouths to alert Ripper. As the Latin spilled from her lips she skimmed the Crown from the herbs and clutched it to her chest.
Please, goddess, she prayed and then shouted as loudly as she could, “In darkness gods, give us the sun.” She squeezed her eyes closed and turned away from a crack of sound.
The flash was instant and blindingly white and for a moment within their dune the night became day. Xander, Anya, and Ripper cried out in shock and pain and twisted their bodies from the sudden light.
Willow tossed the bowl aside and pumped her legs as hard as she could to get away from Ripper and his posse. The window of opportunity was as short as it was brilliant and there was no way she'd miss it without a fight. Still, her mind rejoiced.
She struggled against the sand as Ripper's enraged scream followed her. Damn it, where were those rocks? Adrenaline disoriented her and she ran a few steps in the wrong direction before realizing her mistake.
“Bitch,” Ripper's cry sounded from her right.
She felt the ground vibrate as he pounded toward her. Willow screamed and barely dodged his flying tackle and took off the other way with both Xander and Anya at her heels.
“That's mine,” Anya grunted and lunged forward. She caught Willow's foot and they both went down.
Willow kicked savagely and rolled to her side to avoid Xander then struggled to her feet again. Where are those damned rocks? She thought wildly. Where's Buffy?
The sound of the surf called her and Willow followed it as best she could considering that Ripper grabbed after her catching patches of skin here and there. Her lungs screamed and pounded in protest as she gasped for more air and tried to pick up her pace. She couldn't out run him but she was small and wily. She hoped.
Finally the rocks she'd remembered came into view and with a fresh burst of energy she pressed through the yards that separated them. Giles' salvation was feet away. He growled. Willow felt his arms around her knees and then saw the ground rise to meet her face. She'd barely time to swallow sand before Ripper jerked her to her back. She clutched the Crown with both hands and twisted and turned as best as her body would allow.
Ripper's weight pushed her back into the sand and his erection pressed into her stomach. She grunted as the sharp edges of the Crown dug into her palms.
“Is this what you want?” Ripper asked as she writhed for her freedom. His breath came in short spurts but his strength didn't wane. He pushed his cock harder into her stomach and then slid down. “To be taught a lesson? I could have made it so nice for you.”
Willow felt the silken skin of him against her stomach and then her thighs then gave into the panic that nipped at her spirit. She would not be a victim twice in one night, dammit. She bucked and struggled against him and his efforts to… her mind refused to acknowledge what his efforts were. The Crown pinched deeper into her hands and belly.
Ripper seemed to delight in her struggles. He reached between them and tried to pull the amulet from her hands. Willow gripped it tighter and ground her teeth as her own blood seeped through her fingers. She would give up her hand before she lost Giles.
“Give me the Crown, Witch,” he commanded through clenched teeth. Eyghon's mark was obscenely bright in the shade of the rocks.
She didn't expend any energy with an answer. Her mind was too busy searching for spells that would somehow get him away from her. She was no match for his power and he'd more than likely come back with something stronger and more punishing. The best she could hope for was an expertly guided knee or….
Ripper's eyes went wide and then narrowed in an expression of disbelief and pain. He raised himself up on one shaking arm and looked between them. Willow ceased her struggle long enough to look down her stomach to see blood puddled in and around her navel. It took a second for her to register that the end of the Crown was firmly imbedded in Ripper's – Giles' – stomach. He gasped and rolled to his side.
Guided by forces unseen Willow pulled the now crimson necklace from his wound and hurried to her feet. She stumbled toward the rocks intent on one thing but two figures in the shadow caught her attention. Xander and Anya. Willow swore. She'd forgotten about them. She searched the landscape for a rock solid enough to crush the stone. She stumbled over one, bent to pick it up and then turned. Xander and Anya were too close. Her heart sank and then she did the only other thing that she could.
Ripper gasped for breath. The pain of cut flesh was nothing compared to the slow motion torture of knowing his future would be dragged to the ocean's depths with the undertow. Myop's Crown with its cheap chain sparkling like a comet's tail sailed through the air and landed in the waves he'd summoned. He closed his eyes with an agonized bellow and his hold on Giles broke.
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