Title: Saving Willow
Summary: Giles must save Willow from an evil order of mages before he loses her and their child forever.
Disclaimer: Standard I guess. Buffy et al are property of FOX and Joss Whedon and whoever else... blah blah blahdon'tSueMeCakes
“I- I- I'm not going,” Giles declared. He narrowed his eyes into a stubborn glare and dumped his suitcase back to their bed.
Willow sighed and rolled her eyes heavenward. That was the third time the clothes had gone from precision folds to unceremonious heap. She pulled a stack of boxers from the top drawer of the dresser they shared and dropped them on the bed. She grabbed an undershirt from the mound of clothes.
“Don't be silly,” she admonished as she gave the shirt a few expert flips and fold. “Of course you're going.”
“It's ludicrous,” Giles grumbled. He put his hands to his hips. “To demand… as if they have any right to demand anything of either myself or Buffy…to demand that we attend such a frivolous an-an- and pointless –“
“Rupert,” Willow interrupted.
Giles looked up quickly at the use of his given name. She smiled and put her hand to his firmly muscled bicep.
“You and Buffy earned this. You deserve the recognition. Let The Council do this for you.”
“It's not like there aren't superior artists in Sunnydale,” Giles grumbled but pulled a pair of slacks from the pile and smoothed them over his arm. “Or that we can't send a picture … or something.”
“Or bring our families,” Buffy called from the living room.
Willow smiled. “She's early.”
Giles' scowl surprised her. “The one time in her life,” he muttered. “Now I can't even make love to my wife before I travel across that bloody ocean.”
An undeniable wet heat flooded her groin. With the first trimester ickies almost out of the way she lived in a constant state of arousal. Almost to the point of annoyance. Excepting that she could always count on her stevedore to help her out.
“I'm not your wife yet,” Willow reminded him. She held up her naked left hand and wriggled her fingers.
Giles dropped the pants into his suitcase and put his hands to her hips. He pulled her and her still concave belly into him. She inhaled happily bringing with it his scent of minty freshness, undeniable masculinity, and soap. She smiled at the warmth he sent through her and looked up at her man.
Giles lowered his voice intimately and touched his forehead to hers. “That is something we will rectify the instant I return from England.” He punctuated the promise with a kiss then pulled back with a wicked smile. “Maybe.”
She couldn't help but laugh. Giles dug the element of surprise when it was in his favor. Willow put her hands to his chest and cocked her head to the side. “Maybe by then I'll have changed my mind,” she teased as she traced a finger over his adam's apple then just below his sculpted lower lip.
“Then I shall have to change it back,” he said then nipped at the sensitive tip.
Willow felt her heart jump.
“You guys aren't doing anything funny up there, are you?” Buffy called.
Giles grinned again and inclined his head toward the closet with a suggestive raise of the brow.
“Just packing,” Willow called back. She lifted her brows in return and wetted her lips.
“Really?” she whispered unable to stop the embarrassed grin
“Need my help?” Buffy called. Willow heard her heels on the first of the tiled steps.
“No,” she and Giles answered as one.
“She's right down there,” Willow whispered. She tiptoed to look over Giles' shoulder. The coast was still clear.
“Yes,” he agreed and trailed his knuckles down her neck and over her collar bones. “And I'm right here.”
“Bu-buffy,” Willow stuttered. The top button of her blouse gave way to Giles' deft touch. “Co-could you –“ another button gone. “- could you go to the store an- and get some-“ his lips on her neck made it difficult to concentrate. “Dramamine?”
If Buffy answered Willow didn't hear. Maybe she moaned aloud, maybe she didn't. She didn't care as Giles pushed her shirt off her shoulders and attacked them with his hot mouth while his free hand teased her sensitive nipples to a rigid peak through the satin of her bra.
Suddenly it was way too hot and he was wearing way too many clothes. With an anxious whimper Willow pulled his shirt free of his jeans and ran her hands underneath the soft linen. She felt the unnaturally smooth and raised skin of his newest scar and then the solid rippling of lean muscles across his stomach. She gave in to her lust and fumbled with his belt, snap and zipper. The sooner he was naked, the better.
“Let me,” Giles said under his breath.
He pulled back from her long enough pull his still buttoned shirt over his head, step out of his shoes, and undo his pants. Willow sat on the edge of their bed and leaned back on her elbows to watch the show. It'd been three months since they'd fought the Crown. Three months since they'd conceived their daughter. Three months of making love when and where they felt. Three months in her life where Willow knew with absolute certainty that this man wasn't going anywhere without her.
She blinked. Unless, of course, she counted to England – which she didn't because he was definitely coming back. But if he didn't come back, what would that make her? Lost? An unwed mother? Buffy would protect him, right? Not that he would need protecting because Giles could definitely hold his own – she frowned. Not that he'd need to hold his own because it was just a few sittings for a portrait – at the Council's compound. Pictures weren't life threatening. Or Visa threatening. But at the compound – The bed sank under Giles' weight as he put a knee by her thigh.
“What is it, darling?” he asked as he pushed her blouse the rest of the way off her shoulders.
The compound. The Council. Without realizing it Willow pushed his hand away and stood. “You're right,” she said and twisted her hands. “I don't see why you can't just send a picture. I-I mean how stupid is it that they're paying for just you and Buffy when you've said so yourself that they've got money coming out their collective wazoos?”
“I don't believe wazoo is in my vocabulary,” Giles said.
Willow's tension eased some under the gentle pressure of his warm hands on her shoulders. But still she continued her worried picking of her nails.
“And you were the one who explained it to me, remember?” he reminded her. He took her hands in his. “I believe you said something about it being a great honor to have our methods recorded and considered as a course of training.”
“I was wrong,” Willow admitted. She sighed in frustration and shifted her weight. “I don't trust them. An-and what if something happens while you're gone? What if this is some big ploy to get our baby?”
His eyes clearly told her that she'd crossed the line from hormonal and stepped into insanity. Willow persisted. “Or, wha-what if they want another test of some sort?”
“There will be no test,” Giles assured her. She didn't miss the stubborn glint in his eyes. He tried to pull her into his embrace.
Again Willow resisted. “No. Don't be stupid, Giles,” she exclaimed and took a few steps away.
“Willow?” Giles said. His eyebrows shot in the air.
She turned and snatched her shirt from the bed. “Well, I'm sorry,” she apologized as she searched for the arm openings. Finding one she slid the shirt on and started at the buttons. “But you have to admit that their motives are… questionable.”
Giles bent to grab his jeans. “Which,” he reminded her, “I distinctly remember saying not more than ten minutes ago.”
Willow nodded. Good. Then it was settled. “Good. Then it's settled.” She flipped the suitcase. What they'd replaced returned to the unruly pile of discards. She looked up at him with her resolve firmly in place. “You're not going.”
Part 2 (a)
It was all so frustrating, the beaurocracy. So time consuming. So damned…stupid. He'd tried to leave a message. “Not coming. Ta, anyway.” That hadn't gone over too well and now he was muddling through the maze of negotiations. Someone wanted them there very badly. So badly it made the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
Giles rubbed the back of his neck and averted his eyes from the three sets that sat on his couch and watched his every move. He struggled to keep an even face, if only for Willow's sake. She had taken too many rides on the hormonal roller coaster for one day.
“Yes, of course,” he said tersely then hung up.
“They did not take the news well?” D'mitri asked.
Giles glanced up from polishing his glasses and shoved his handkerchief in his pocket. He nodded. “No,” he confirmed.
“But it's okay,” Willow exclaimed brightly. “'Cause now, Buffy you won't have to miss class.”
“Yea, for Buffy,” Buffy said and pumped her fist in the air.
Giles hid his smile at Buffy's forced enthusiasm but the amusement was short lived.
“You have definite but face,” Buffy said.
He started to speak but then settled for a nod. His news was less than pleasing.
“This is more than a portrait,” Buffy guessed. She rolled her eyes and sank into her boyfriend. “Just like you said, honey.”
Giles stopped his pacing and raised his brow at D'mitri.
“In Russia, nothing is ever as simple as it seems,” D'mitri answered his look. “To take you to another country for a picture and some discussion on tactics….”
He let his voice trail off into a shrug. Giles sank to his chair and rubbed his forehead. “Yes,” he agreed. “I'm afraid you're right.”
“What did they say?” Willow asked. She moved to his side and massaged his shoulder.
Giles looked up and gave her a quick smile. For the moment she was back. “They said to extend the invitation to our significant others. And then they said if we chose not to that we could expect an envoy here no later than the end of the week.”
“I hate Cow,” Willow grumbled. The massage stopped.
“Indeed,” they agreed in unison.
“Wait,” Anya said with her usual flair of indignance. “You get a two week all expenses paid trip to England and Xander and I get to work here every day in the shop?”
“Actually,” Xander interjected, “it's just you, An. I'm finishing up a few site jobs.”
Giles crossed the store but the tenacious ex-demon remained on his heels.
“Why can't Willow stay?” Anya asked. “She and I could split hours. I'd still make more money because I have seniority –“
Giles pretended to check another price against an inventory sheet. He wasn't too worried about making a mistake. Anya would correct it – over and over and over again.
“Willow's presence has been requested,” he explained. “And honestly, Anya, this is none of your business. I would think you'd be ecstatic at the chance for more hours.”
“Well, what about D'mitri's shop?” Anya persisted.
He stepped around her and headed back to the counter. The council had given them until the weekend to get their affairs in order. Giles frowned. That had been a rather ominous way to end a conversation. “I'm sure it's taken care of,” he assured her.
“But you'll be back, right?” Anya asked bluntly. “They're not gonna try to poison Buffy or kill you or suck all of Willow's powers from her, are they?”
Giles almost smiled. In her own way she was telling him she cared. Yet, in her own way, she'd brought to light the very things that worried him most. Here he was sworn protector of the slayer and her witch and his child and what was he doing but leading them into the lion's den.
Xander walked up behind Anya and squeezed her shoulders. “I'm sure Giles has thought through all this, Hon,” he told his girlfriend, but his dark eyes held a definite question.
“Of course,” Giles lied.
But what choice did he have, really? They either went to the mountain or the mountain came to them – and subsequently disturbed the lives of everyone they cared for. Including Xander's demon. As Willow had put it, there was no avoiding the mountain.
Anya crossed her arms over her chest. “I'll need a raise.”
Giles sighed. Maybe his life would be better if he let the Council take her instead. “I gave you a raise three months ago. The answer's no.”
She shrugged and turned on her heel.
“A girl's gotta try,” Xander joked his apology for his woman.
When Anya disappeared into the back room Xander continued the conversation. His voice was hushed and lacked its usual hyperactive sarcasm.
“You sure about this?” Xander asked. “I mean, Willow hasn't exactly been herself since the Crown.”
“I'm very much aware of Willow's condition,” Giles snapped. He put his hand to his forehead.
They'd kept Willow's pregnancy to themselves in part out of a sense of not wanting to share their secret just yet. The other reason neither of them mentioned was the fear that her battered body would not sustain it. Not even Buffy knew.
Xander put his hands to his low-slung tool belt. “I'm just sayin' that she's been tired and cranky and sick and …ohmygawd, she's pregnant.”
Giles closed his eyes and sighed. Secret exposed.
“Who's pregnant?” Anya asked she returned from the stock room with a box and set it on the counter with a thud.
Giles cringed. Why had he come to the shop? Was it really his time to be tortured again? So soon?
“Willow,” Xander said.
Giles pinched between his eyes. Good show, Giles, he congratulated himself.
“But you're not married,” Anya said incredulously.
He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and snapped closed his briefcase. “Yes, I'm quite aware.”
Xander shook his finger at him and looked angry enough to possibly wag it some more. “See?” he accused. “See? He's not denying it.”
“Of course I'm not, you git,” Giles said through his ‘give me strength' sigh. “But I thought it Willow's place to tell you.”
Xander's lip curled in an expression of disgust and he crossed his arms tighter over his chest. Oh, Please, Giles thought.
“You make me sick,” Xander growled and looked down at Giles over his exaggerated sneer. “Don't you have the decency to even make a commitment? You get my Willow pregnant-“
“She's not your Willow,” both Anya and Giles clarified in equally offended tones.
“- and what Willow and I decide in terms of commitment is no one's business but our own,” Giles finished he held Xander in a steady and he hoped, threatening gaze.
Xander swallowed. “Your secret's safe with us,” he said in a much calmer and complacent tone.
Giles nodded. That was what he'd wanted to hear. Life at the Rosenberg-Giles flat had fluctuated between interesting and downright terrifying and the last thing Willow needed was another reason to…flip out. And lord help him besides.
“Have you thought of names?” Anya asked.
“Um,” Giles scratched his head as her question caught him off guard. “What?”
“The name for your bast-“
“Baby,” Xander buzzed in quickly. He set his stilted smile on Anya and nodded. “It's a baby.”
Giles inhaled and pulled his case off the counter. This was not worth pursuing. “I'm pretending I didn't hear that. And I'm going home. And I will see you in two weeks.”
He almost made it to the door before he heard Anya's cheerful call. Knowing he'd regret it he stopped and looked over his shoulder.
“Congratulations on impregnating Willow,” she said with a happy smile.
The plane bumped and jostled in turbulence Giles frowned at the interruption of his research and reached out to steady his drink. Willow grunted and pulled her knees up even tighter to her chest. In front of her she clenched a small white bag, held at the ready. He gave her a sympathetic smile and put his hand to her knee.
“Feeling better, Darling?” he asked.
She'd mentioned once or twice on the drive to the airport that flying didn't agree with her, but he had yet to see an airsickness case worse than this. Willow gave him a brave closed mouth smile and then burped.
Giles tried to pretend she hadn't just seared his eyebrows. “Soda?” he asked.
She shook her head miserably, mumbled something about hating “the cow” and turned to stare out at the great blue yonder once again.
The seat in front of Giles rocked with movement and Buffy's spry face appeared over the back. She pouted at Willow's green face.
“Want some Dramamine?” she offered.
Willow groaned and waved her away.
“They helped D'mitri,” Buffy said with a shrug.
Giles rolled his eyes at the Russian's responding groan. Honestly. And the man wasn't even pregnant.
“You should sleep, Buffy,” he said. “There's no telling what the Council has in store for us.”
The Slayer shook her head. Her blonde hair flipped with the effort. D'mitrit groaned again. “Can't. Too excited.” A hopeful grin crossed her face. “You think we'll see Prince William? Or Sporty Spice?”
Giles closed his eyes and shook his head. “If you're not going to sleep then perhaps we can at least spend this time strategizing.”
He closed his book and wrestled with his seat belt. “Do you think D'mitri's up to moving?”
“Sure he is,” Buffy said brightly. She smiled down at the hidden boyfriend. “Aren't you honey?”
Moments later, with D'mitri and Willow huddled in commiseration behind them Buffy and Giles expounded and expelled theories and courses of action.
“We must never drop our guard,” Giles said. “Not for an instant.”
“Color me en guard girl,” Buffy said, but her eyes didn't quite capture her jaunty tone of voice. She knew when she was being threatened. “Did Willow find out anything?”
Giles grimaced and shook his head. “I'm afraid the council changed its password. Any new files since last month are inaccessible and anything we've downloaded she and I have gone through thoroughly.”
He removed his glasses and ran his hand through his hair. “I'm afraid the council once again has us by the –“
“Balls,” Buffy finished for him.
“Quite,” Giles agreed. He put his specs back on. “Until we see what they have in mind our best course of action is to –“
“Use the buddy system.”
He nodded then twisted to see through the crack between the seats. Willow's grasp on her little white bag hadn't lessened but at least she'd uncurled her legs. What had he dragged her into? He turned back to Buffy and tried to hide his concern with smile. Buffy smiled back and put her hand on his knee.
“We'll be fine,” she assured him. “We'll stick together and we'll trust no one.” Her pretty forehead creased in a frown. “Does this mean no Prince William?”
Without looking Giles reached up and pressed the button for the attendant. He needed a drink. Something without bubbles.
“While we're busy not trusting anyone,” Buffy said. “You might wanna take a look at the suit three rows back.”
The Crown had been easy compared to this. Something wasn't right. She'd never been this sick on a plane before. Her usual motion ickies was more along the lines of queasy stomach after reading in the back seat. What she was experiencing now held no equal. She would take crashing into walls and rocks any day over constant nausea.
Her stomach growled. Willow respected the threat and closed her eyes again. Think happy thoughts, she reminded herself. Not icky thoughts. Icky thoughts lead to icky things – and nooo more icky things are going to happen to me.
She groaned. Saying something like that was inviting the bad right on in.
“You're fine?” D'mitri asked. They rolled their heads until their gazes met
Willow raised a shaky hand to wipe the sweat from her brow. All this couldn't be good for the baby? She tried to calculate her input to output ratio and knew without a doubt that she hadn't eaten nearly as much as she'd… never mind. It wasn't worth another deposit in the white bag.
“No,” she mumbled. “Not fine. I don't know what's wrong with me –aside from the whole barf bag thing.” She took the flat soda off her tray and tried once more to get it past her lips.
It almost felt the way she did when the morning sickness had kicked in. Willow shifted uncomfortably. Only, like ten times worse. Like someone had invaded her body and attacked her from the outside in. If D'mitri hadn't been just as green as she, she might have suspected foul play.
The seats in front of them jostled again and that mere movement brought on another urge to heave. Willow closed her eyes and tried to swallow the sour and hot wave of spit that flooded her mouth. This was bad. Another bead of sweat rolled down her forehead and she let her head roll back against the seat. If she could just sleep – maybe disappear from consciousness for a while, she might find some respite.
A slow spiral started in the center of her eyelids and soon grew until it was not only a visual but a sensation. Too exhausted and ill to fight it, Willow followed it in the hopes that it would lead her to a better state. Besides, it felt good. Like a slow motion merry-go-round would. Except, she tried to frown, that she'd never actually been on a merry-go-round – at least not after her fifth birthday party. Again with the ick factor. She frowned.
There was a whisper in the back of her mind to just let it all go and sleep.
Yeah, she agreed with herself. Sleep. That'd be nice. She felt her head loll to the side. Her hand relaxed and then her jeans were wet with her spilled drink. It didn't matter. The ick was fading and she was sinking into a nice. Warm. Bath. It was all good.
Until it wasn't. Willow lurched foreward, felt the projectile, heard the splat, and then burst into tears. Voices came at her from every direction. Some she recognized and some she didn't. It was when the warm washcloths were pressed to her face and run over her hands that she felt it. Just the slightest click in her soul and then the feel of something easing away. The nausea ebbed and her world came back into focus. The smell of Voban ™ drifted about the cabin.
“Just be still,” Buffy soothed as she pushed away Willow's bangs.
Willow welcomed her friend's cool hand on her forehead and allowed herself a moment of relief. But she couldn't shake it. Something had clicked. Something had released her. And if it released her then that meant it'd held her. A shiver coursed through her body.
“I-I need to change,” she stuttered and tried to stand. Super slayer strength held her down – that, and a seat belt.
The flight attendant brought another towel and a glass of fresh ice water. She gave a bright sympathetic smile. Over the navy shoulder pads Willow saw Giles' worried face.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
Willow nodded and accepted the attendant's offerings. Surprisingly, she felt much better – this close to human, even – if she could just get in her carry-on and change her clothes. She strained to see the latch of the overhead compartment and in the process saw the silent exchange between Watcher and Slayer.
Giles shook away his troubled expression but not before she saw him glare at something or someone in the rows behind them. A jolt of fright went through her. She knew that glare. The tweed upholstered armrest dented under her sudden clinch. She whimpered.
In an instant it disappeared and Giles gave her a quick and reassuring smile. “Let's get you cleaned up.”
Blast , Giles swore. It was Council, he was almost sure of it. He could almost smell them. Can they not leave me and mine in peace? He forced himself to relax and smile at Willow. She needed him and the Council's watchdog wasn't going anywhere – at least not for another four hours. He'd been halfway down the aisle to confront the bastard when Willow's cry had pulled him back.
Despite the mess and her tears by the time he'd worked himself past the curious and helpful passengers and attendants Willow looked almost well. Pasty and confused, but otherwise…of the good. How Buffy and D'mitri had managed to switch seats so quickly was beyond him, but now his Slayer comforted his girlfriend.
“Let's get you cleaned up,” he said then opened the overhead and pulled out her brown leather carry-on.
He didn't have to wonder. Willow was always prepared. He knew he'd find two neatly packed outfits. He pulled out the soft bundle of a summer's dress and sweater along with her make-up case then stood back as Buffy helped Willow from her seat.
“I'll help her,” Buffy said with a pointed stare.
She took the clothes from him. Giles nodded. Of course, he had business to attend.
Slowly, grabbing the seats for balance, Willow led the Scooby train down the narrow aisle. Giles ignored the way the aisle passengers offered sorry smiles but recoiled as his pale red head made her delicate way past. He kept his eyes on the uncomfortable looking blonde man in an expensive suit who shifted in his seat and avoided all eye-contact.
The convoy stumbled and stopped when Willow reached the man's aisle. She jumped to the few inches to the far side of the aisle and her frantic green eyes searched for…what? Giles frowned and put his arm around Buffy's side to at least touch Willow's shoulder. Could she sense the Council as well? Buffy squeezed past her and grabbed Willow's elbow. She widened her eyes at him in question.
“You alright?” he asked.
Willow answered with a shaky nod and a brave smile. Giles felt his heart melt. He loved that smile. He nodded to Buffy and fell back as the two women made their way to the lu.
Then he turned his mind to the business at hand.
The man's frightened jump gave Giles an extreme happy warmth in his stomach as he clamped his hand down on their stalker's shoulder. Giles applied pressure until the man shifted again. There was no need for words. Knowing that his cover was blown was message enough. For now. Besides, what he truly wanted to do to the bastard would no doubt earn him a few months in lock up.
When he felt the telltale give of muscles and tendons and a satisfying whimper Giles released his hold and patted the man's shoulder amicably. He almost felt sorry for him. Trailing was usually doled out to the lowest on the pole and there was no doubt this fuckwit had cocked it up royally.
Willow filled the minuscule paper cup with water and rinsed her mouth then filled her cupped hand and splashed the cool water into her face. Another involuntary shiver went through her. Something or someone had brought Ripper to the surface and if that hadn't been enough to scare the bejeepers out of her there was the voice to finish the job. It had been clear as…as a voice that wasn't muddled, she guessed.
“Go back,” it'd hissed. Willow shivered. It was all very Amityville. She swallowed and threw another handful of water on her face. It was all very creepy and if she hadn't been covered in…ick, she just might have returned to her seat.
Oh, goddess, she thought mid-reach for the paper towels. What if I'm gonna get sucked into the little toilet? She cast a worried frown to the silver throne . Could Buffy extricate her from the hold of the evil bowl? Or if we're gonna crash and to survive I need to be in my seat?
As quickly as she could Willow shimmied out of her jeans and blouse and into the dress and sweater combo Giles had grabbed. No time for make-up. No need for make-up. Who comes off an eight-hour flight in fresh make-up, anyway? Willow raised her pale face to the mirror and stared back at the pasty skin and raccoon eyes.
The plane caught another patch of turbulence and Willow and her make-up bag lost their balance. She landed shoulder first into the door with a resounding, “Oomph.”
Buffy's anxious call came through the thin door.
“I'm fine,” Willow called and knelt to pick up her case.
A near blinding flash of light shot through her eyes. Oh, give me a brea… Willow felt her arm shoot out and grab the toilet for support and then she felt nothing.
“And no matter what,” Giles said. He smiled up at the attendant who handed him another drink then returned his attention to D'mitri. “No matter what – you are to remain with either Buffy or myself. We – we – we know the council. We know their-“
D'mitri's face, once composed in a soldier's concentration suddenly screwed up in a child's image of pain and he jerked back in his seat with a rather loud, “Aggggh.”
Mutterings of, “Did they have the fish or the chicken?” caught in Giles' ear as he shot from his seat and yelled for the attendant.
A seizure? He flipped through the pages of his brain. Good Lord, how was he supposed to secure D'mitri's head when he was sitting upright in a seat?
Buffy's cry tunnel visioned Giles to the back of the plane. Dammit , he swore under his breath then found himself trapped in the aisle between the flustered attendants. One headed toward him, the other toward the bathrooms. Blast . He could help no one. But, he swung around, he could hurt someone.
Seeing only his intended victim Giles stalked the few rows between him and their tale. He secured one hand under the man's chin then forced him against the back of the seat. Gasps surrounded him and someone tugged on his shoulder.
“Whatever you're doing,” he growled enjoying the way the blonde's eyes bugged with effort to breath. “It stops. Now.”
Even the long scratches the man put on Ripper's forearms did little to ease his hold on the man's neck. He wasn't letting go until he was damned sure he'd made his point. Or, he amended as he saw Buffy's fist hurtling toward him, until his slayer made hers. A dark red pain exploded over his right eye and he stumbled into the seats behind him.
“Bloody hell, Buffy,” Giles groaned and put his hand to his face. In an instant she was all over him, apologizing, pushing him to his seat, apologizing some more. Giles glared up at her.
“I am soooo sorry,” Buffy said. She wrung her hands and turned to the startled attendant. “I tripped over someone's carry-on.” She turned back to Giles. “I am soooo sorry. Are you okay?”
“No,” Giles grumbled. “I am bloody well not okay. You pun-“
“-tripped and caught you with her elbow,” Willow interrupted and hustled him into his seat. “And thank goodness she did or you might have really hurt the poor man you fell into.”
Giles blinked the one eye that wasn't already swollen shut and snapped his mouth closed. Both Buffy and Willow whimpered hopefully at the stunned attendants.
“We are really –“ Buffy started.
“Soooo sorry,” Willow finished.
Minutes later everyone was settled back into their seats with the stern, yet friendly suggestion that nothing else would happen in the rest of the flight. Giles nodded, pressed the ice pack to his eye, and leaned his throbbing head against his seat. He accepted Willow's hand over his but couldn't muster anything better than a dull glare.
There she sat, as fresh and as beautiful, as if she'd stepped out of a commercial. In front of him sat D'mitri, happily sipping his vodka and taking the pillow the attendant offered. What happened to all the vomiting? Giles wondered irritably and shifted in his seat. What happened to the seizures? What the hell was going on?
After the stewardess offered another icy and pointed smile he turned to Willow. “What the hell is going on?”
Willow lifted the armrest between him and nuzzled her nose into his neck. He shifted away from her advances.
“Really, Willow,” he grumbled. “I hardly think now is an appropriate time or place –“ In fact, he'd seldom felt less sexy in his life.
“Then I won't tell you my secret,” she whispered with a sweet smile that didn't quite reach above her mouth. She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows and nodded.
Giles adjusted the crushed ice and turned into her. Despite his annoyance with the entire situation Willow's soft hand on his cheek pulled him into a better place. She kissed his mouth and then rested her chin on his shoulder. Her warm breath fluttered and tickled against his hair.
“There are at least three members of the Council on this plane,” she told him. “And one of them is right across the aisle from you.”
He felt his smile fade but to keep up the façade he nuzzled her cheek. “Are you certain?”
Willow laughed and nodded. To anyone else they were lovers sharing secrets. Which, of course, they were. Giles gave his head a mental shake. Time spent with his love was even rubbing off on his thought patterns.
“The guy you tried to strangle is our friend,” she said and pulled away enough to remove his ice pack and look at his eye. Her full lower lip puffed out in a sympathetic pout. “I think. I don't really remember much after I passed out.”
“You passed out?” Giles asked. His voice rose in alarm but he caught it. He scowled and searched her face for signs of injury. He felt the anger rise in his chest.
“Just a little,” she assured him quickly. A quick smile brightened her gentle features. “But all better now, see?”
“A-and the -?” he trailed his hand to her belly and raised a questioning brow. Surely the peanut, as he and Willow had taken to calling their almost fetus, couldn't be benefiting from her mum's discomfort.
Her tender smile warmed away his anger and her cool hand rested over his. “Safe and sound,” she whispered and then fought a yawn.
“And tired,” Giles added. He slid from her hold and stood once more to gather the pillows and blankets stored overhead.
Despite her plea that she couldn't possibly sleep by the time Giles had cocooned her in the navy blanket and pulled her to his shoulder Willow was for all intents and purposes dead to the world.
He saw through the crack that Buffy too was similarly cocooned and that D'mitri sat sentinel over her in the aisle seat. Giles relaxed somewhat. He doubted very much any force would get past the stalwart soldier. Yet he couldn't rest, not yet, and probably not until they were safe. Back in Sunnydale.
The snicker escaped his lips without warning. Since when had he considered Sunnydale safe? He glanced to his right and forced a pleasant smile at the woman who suddenly didn't look all that innocuous. She replied with a tight smile of her own then went back to her magazine. Giles scoffed. Working Parent. A likely cover. He gave her one more look and knew without a doubt he'd recognize her should she show up anywhere else.
With the plane landed and customs passed the four made their jet-lagged way to the front of the airport.
“Wow,” Buffy said as a long black car with tinted windows pulled up to the door. She stood on her tiptoes and scanned the crowd. “We might get to see Willy after all. Check out the wheels.”
Willow grinned just as hopefully. Only instead of Prince William, maybe it was Kate Winslet or Tony Blair. Her heart sped up a little more. She'd had a dream about Tony just the night before. Of course, she'd also had one about their letter carrier, so he wasn't exactly in prime company. She felt her grin take a wicked edge. Still, sex dreams were sex dreams and she couldn't complain and neither could Giles, really.
“You're flushed,” Giles exclaimed and pulled her bag off her shoulder. “Are you sure you're alright? Buffy, take her other bag, will you?”
“I'm fine,” Willow tried to assure him, but soon found herself empty handed while the other three struggled with her carry on, lap top, and suitcase on top of their own and the three cases Buffy'd packed.
“Really,” she said. She suffered Giles disapproving frown and reclaimed her laptop and carry on.
A little fawning was nice, but Giles was taking this to ridiculous proportions. There was no way they'd be able to keep the baby a secret if he kept this up. And now, more than ever, their child needed to be kept hidden.
Willow stopped short, not sure where that thought had come from. She shivered and glanced to either side. To their right she saw the blonde female Council member, to their left another unscrupulous looking man in a business suit. Willow snorted. She'd found another member.
Exactly how many businessmen talked to their watches and let three or four taxis pass them? Someone else was close, someone familiar. In an attempt at discreetness she pretended to wipe her cheek on her shoulder. The blonde stood behind her and to the left. There was a quick raise of an eyebrow between them and then he went back to reading his paper.
“Why don't they just introduce themselves?” she grumbled.
“Because that would be too easy,” Giles answered in his sigh. He looked past the doors and growled as the long dark car pulled away.
“We are to find own way to compound?” D'mitri asked. He looked at the crowd.
Willow shared his frown. In the movies there was always a secret handshake or…little cardboard sign with a name on it.
“And they say Americans are rude,” Buffy declared. She dropped two of the three bags she carried and sat on the edge of one. She checked out her nails then looked directly at the man who talked to his watch. “Hey,” she called.
The dark haired man jumped to attention and scrambled to look less official.
“While you're giving them the blow by blow, do you think you could order up a limo or something?”
“And the Americans have arrived,” he said under his breath.
Willow jabbed him with her elbow, loving the way he rolled his eyes. Even annoyed and embarrassed the man oozed sexy. She grinned. At least to her. Besides, it was time to get the show on the road – to a shower and a quiet place to meditate.
She shook her head again. That was twice an errant thought crossed her head. Not that meditation was a bad idea.
A man, tall and ruddy exited the crowd to their right and extended his arms as though he were greeting long lost relatives. Willow felt a fire of recognition go through her. He'd been in the front row. She remembered tripping over him when she'd boarded the plane. She'd shrugged off the cold prickly he'd given her to pre-flight jitters but now she understood it as her body's response to… a meanie. She edged closer to Giles' shoulder, not trusting the man's smile any more than Buffy could throw him.
“Mr. Giles,” he said and clapped a large hand on Giles' shoulder. “How good of you to join us.”
As if he had a choice, Willow thought.
“As if I had a choice,” Giles said. His voice was cold and dangerous. He moved so that he blocked even more of the man from Willow and Buffy. “Mr?”
“Smythe,” the man supplied. “The Council is very excited to honor you and your slayer.”
Buffy cleared her throat and stepped in front of Giles. “His slayer has a name,” she said. “And she wants a shower and something to eat. So let's just forgo all this pomp and stuff and get to the compound.”
Willow bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. She saw the proud tilt of Giles' head.
Mr. Smythe's smile didn't falter. “Of course, Miss Summers.” He turned to the woman and nodded. She disappeared into the crowd. He flicked his light eyes to Willow.
“And you're Willow,” he said as he stepped forward.
Quick on the draw Giles stepped to block him. D'mitri closed in on her left. In her peripheral she saw the blonde man move toward her. It was all very subtle, but the point was made.
“Miss Rosenberg,” Giles corrected his accent clipped, “is quite exhausted.”
Willow raised an eyebrow at her bodyguards but kept her mouth shut. She was in no hurry to have Mr. Cold and Prickly touch her again. Besides, a little fawning was a good thing once in a while.
“Of course,” Smythe said easily.
A horn sounded from the curb. He put his hand to Giles' arm and swept the other to indicate a black stretch limo. “Our car.”
“I think I need to bury myself in this rug,” Buffy sighed. She slipped off her pump and dug her toes in the plush navy carpet. “Look,” she said with childlike amazement. “It's swallowed my toe.”
“Is that a Fabrege?” D'mitri asked. He nearly floated to the glass case and stared in at the gold encrusted chatchki.
Willow stepped into the great hall and took in the ceiling to floor thick velvet curtains that covered the windows. It didn't matter she was obviously impressed. Everyone was obviously impressed. Everyone except Giles. He just looked tired and pissy.
“You lived here?”
Giles narrowed his tired and red-rimmed eyes and surveyed the room. Willow followed his gaze, still in awe of the dark opulence. Everywhere she looked tapestries looked back at her. Antique tables held antique whatnots. She'd been in a museum like this once. But people actually lived here. The grand hall alone was the size of her parent's house in Sunnydale.
“I studied here,” he said shortly, his voice terse. “I lived about an hour outside the compound. Trust me, this is merely for show.”
She took Giles' hand in hers and gave it a squeeze trying to convey just how safe she felt with him. He tried so hard to keep them safe that times like this, times when they were in the lion's den, must have been almost unbearable for him.
“We'll be okay,” she whispered and looked up at him through her lashes. “I promise.”
The tension in Giles' face lessened visibly and the small warm smile she loved so came to the forefront but instantly retreated when Mr. Smythe entered the room. Giles clenched his jaw and inhaled through his nose.
“Mr. Travers has instructed that you are to be shown to your rooms,” Smythe said and clapped his hands together. “We've readied four suites –“
“Very kind of you,” Giles interrupted, “but we'll only need two of those. Have Miss Rosenberg's and my bags in one room. Miss Summers and Mr. Pentikov in another,” Giles continued his tone telling Smythe he thought no more of him than he would any generic bell hop.
Again Smythe's smile never faltered. “Of course,” he said then stepped forward and put his hand to Willow's back.
A cold shot through her spine something within her shifted. Willow straightened her back and tried to step forward inconspicuously. A shiver shimmied her shoulders and she hugged herself but offered Giles a quick smile. It wouldn't do anyone any good to have him any more upset than he was. Besides, this wasn't anything she couldn't handle.
”I will show you to your rooms then,” he said never breaking contact with her.
Willow frowned and took another step away, this time in front of Giles. If Smythe was so hell bent on touching her, he'd have to go through Giles to do it. She doubted very much that either man wanted that. Although, by the daggers Giles shot Smythe, maybe she was wrong.
“You have a shower, right?” Buffy asked. “Or a tub? Because eight hours on a plane makes for some unpleasant aromas.”
Smythe assured them they'd find their quarters quite acceptable and when Willow stepped foot in the bedroom, she knew that at least in this aspect, he hadn't lied.
“We have curtains on our bed,” she said knowing full well how awed she sounded. She bound across the room and landed on the feather soft mattress in an ungraceful but giggling mass of arms and legs.
“Oooh, Giles,” she purred. She stretched out her flight and riding kinks as she rolled to her back and spread her arms across the duvet. “Soft. This has to be at least a 7 million thread count.”
He lifted his case to the Queen Anne's high back chair and rolled the combination to the locks. “We need to discuss what happened to you on the plane,” he said.
Willow pouted. He was business guy now. He'd been business guy all day. Or night. Or whatever zone they'd flown through.
The case popped opened and he rooted about a bit before returning his tired gaze to hers. “The blacking out and the information you obtained….”
She frowned. “Not now, okay?” she asked.
“I mean, it's kind of fuzzy and besides,” she said with a pat on the mattress, “this bed is all kinds of soft.”
“I'm sure it's very comfortable,” he agreed then relented and offered a tired tilt of his head.
Willow propped her torso off the bed with her elbows and quirked her eyebrow in an invitation. Goddess, if a man ever needed to relax it was he and she knew just the thing.
Besides, she was in no hurry really to be under Watcher scrutiny. Maybe, if she kept him otherwise occupied he'd forget all about the plane ride and the questions that she no longer had answers to. Somewhere between the plane and the compound the entire flight had turned into a vague dream.
“You'd find out how soft this bed is if you came over here,” she teased then tried to hide her disappointment as the familiar twist of his lips preceded his decline.
“Honestly, Luv,” Giles said. “I'm too worried about you. To say the least the flight here was a miserable experience for you. Perhaps if you rested?”
“Or,” she interrupted him. “We could have a bath? Maybe order room service? Do they have room service in a place like this? I mean with cooks and all? Or should we order pizza? Does Dominos deliver out this far?”
“And I'm exhausted myself. Not to mention no longer as young as I used to be,” Giles continued.
“Just a bath,” she promised then eased off the bed. “Nothing more.”
“I'll even let you go first,” she offered. “And when you're finished there will be tea and a turned down bed waiting.”
Giles' smile eased her regret and he took her arm and pulled her into his chest. Willow closed her eyes and snuggled into his hold. For that instant there was only the two of them in a place far safer than could exist in the physical world.
“You are too good to me,” Giles mumbled into her hair then kissed the top of her head. “I will make this up to you. And you will tell me what you remember from the flight.”
She lifted her face for a quick kiss then pushed away and started the trek to their bathroom. “You bet your britches you'll make this up to me, Mister,” she assured him trying her mightiest to be cheeky.
In a rare moment of Willow finesse she felt her hips sway from side to side in a manner she'd only seen on The Classic Movie Channel. The green spark in Giles' eyes confirmed it.
She stopped at the bathroom door and turned back unable to hold back her excitement. “Was that cheeky? ‘Cause I felt some definite cheekiness coming from my cheeks.”
For the first time in days Giles laughed. “I'm fond of your cheeks,” he noted. “No matter their attitude.”
Willow held out her hand and he reached for her. This time it was she who pulled him in for a kiss. His lips met hers in a quick succession of teasing and resounding pecks, until they stood nose to nose, grinning between kisses. She couldn't help but smile. For one moment in these miserable two weeks, she'd made him forget. She'd helped ease the burden.
Giles' eyes glittered warmth then he looked over her head into the bathroom. Willow felt the subtle change in his aura before he lifted his brow. She edged her tongue to the tips of her lips in anticipation.
“Seems a pity to waste all that space and water,” he said after a martyred sigh. Willow raised her brow and swatted at his chest, but secretly, she loved it when he teased.
With his strong arms firmly around her Giles backed her into the beige and gold bathroom that was easily the size of a dorm room. Its brilliance paled in comparison to the shadowed promise in his hazel eyes.
Giles sighed as the hot lavender laced bath water rose and sloshed onto his chest then stretched his legs out before him. He closed his eyes and groaned at the relief of stretching muscles he didn't realize were cramped and let his head fall back to the edge of the clawed tub. Standing the sides of the functional antique reached mid thigh. Now, as he settled into the healing waters, his shoulders were almost entirely concealed.
It really was seductive, this façade the Council used. Impossibly posh surroundings, people hired to meet your whims, all very boy's club. He frowned. They were bastards, each and every one of them, and he'd do well not to forget that.
“Rupert,” Willow chastised him with mock severity. The smell of toothpaste touched his nose. “Stop that right now.”
He heard the water splash and then felt it rise as she joined him. Her soft skin glided over his as she slid in easily between his legs and rested her lilac scented hair against his chest. He lifted his head and opened his eyes. Smooth skin and enticing thick tendrils of red hair greeted him.
“I can hear you frowning. You're thinking of the wrong things right now,” she said. Her low feminine voice floated straight into his soul.
He fought his grin but couldn't quite hack it and the lazy smile crept to his cheeks.
“Sit up,” he instructed and pulled a washcloth off the side of the tub. Willow pulled her knees to her chest and leaned forward. She handed him a bar of soap over her shoulder He suds the thick cloth then ran it over her thin shoulders and then reached around and washed her neck. He paid particular attention to the rise of her breast. A trail of small white bubbles marked his path.
He dropped the rag into the bath then rinsed the soap from her skin. Tiny rivulets of water raced over her shoulders and down her back. “And what would you have me thinking?” he teased already feeling the blood stir in his loins as she wiggled in closer.
Water droplets fell onto his arm and then to the floor as she placed her smooth hand over his and brought his arm around her. “This,” she said as she folded his hand over her breast.
Giles' heart slammed forward into his rib cage as he felt what he knew to be her small pink nipple harden into his palm. She encircled his other hand and pulled it to her right breast. “And this.”
He heard himself growl and felt his cock nudge her soft hip. He raised his head and then lowered his lips to the silken juncture where her neck met her shoulder and nibbled. Willow shuddered then whimpered as he teased and rolled each hardened nub between his fingers.
Giles caught her sensitive earlobe between his teeth and gave it a gentle tug. “What about this?” he murmured and then trailed his hand down the downy smoothness of her belly.
“That – that's good,” Willow sighed then gasped as he nudged open her thighs and slid his fingers along her slit.
She whimpered again and slid down further in the water. Giles smiled against her shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her tiny middle and pulled her tighter into him. She wasn't going anywhere – at least until he heard his name.
“Let me do this for you,” he whispered as he felt her open for him.
He slid first one finger into her slick channel then ran it up to her blossoming clit. She jumped and pressed the back of her head into his shoulder.
While he teased her nipple with one hand and worried her clit with the other he busied his mouth with the tender flesh of her neck and ear. With the tip of his tongue he traced the light blue vein that ran over her shoulder and then blew across the moistened trail. Willow rewarded him with another shiver and pressed her hips up in invitation.
He pushed another finger through her curls and felt the walls tighten around him. He freed her breast and ran his hand down her side and across her belly. Willow trembled.
“Please,” she whimpered then grasped his hand and brought it to her silky-smooth mound.
With his free hand he coaxed and flicked her hard nub in alternate time with his finger thrust. Every movement, every sound told him exactly how close she was.
“Rupert,” she whispered.
“Yes,” he groaned then buried his forehead in her shoulder in an attempt to fight his own release. This had to be hers.
She said his name again, this time louder, a plea.
He pinched her clit and plunged his fingers in her tight channel once, maybe three times more, and then he heard the telltale gasp. He felt her hips rise and freeze as her womanhood tightened then pulsated around him. Her sweet voice cried out her release and then she sank into him trembling and struggling for enough oxygen.
“Shhh,” he soothed and pulled her across his thighs and cradled her in his arms. Willow nuzzled her nose into his chest then lifted her full pink mouth for a kiss. Without hesitation Giles claimed her partially opened lips, savoring the wet sweetness. He moved his hand from her thigh and cupped the gentle curve of her breast.
Willow pivoted and wove her fingers through his hair, holding him steady as her small tongue darted against his. Giles let her explore and shivered as she ran her tongue over his gums and then flicked it lightly across the bubble of his top lip. He knew he should wait, let her come down from her release, but he needed her.
He ran his hands over her smooth wet waist then gave her hip a suggestive tug. His heart skipped a beat when she looked up at him through lowered lashes then nodded. Gingerly she turned in the tub and hooked her legs around his waist. She reached between them and grasped his straining penis in her small hand then pumped him three times in succession. Her brow knitted together in rapt concentration.
Unprepared for the intriguing contrast of tender and wanton Giles sucked in air between his teeth and bucked up to meet her strokes.
“God, Willow, yes,” he grunted and threw his head back as she grasped him again, this time faster. “Let me ….” the rest of his sentence was lost in a groan.
Willow nodded then using her legs pushed away from him. Giles felt the loss of contact like he would a blow to his stomach. He watched for a second, confused at the separation, as Willow bit her lip then rose from the water like Venus on the half shell. She held out her hand to him then gave his arm a gentle tug. Giles stood, slowly, his aching cock leading the way.
Still keeping hold of his hand Willow turned and pressed her back into him. She brought his arm around her waist. “Like this,” she whispered then leaned forward and grasped the tub before her.
He groaned at the view. Her sweet heart-shaped bottom led to her straight and tiny waist. Drops of water formed a tiny puddle at the small of her back. Needing to touch her Giles smoothed his hands across her back and then dug his fingers into her hips. In one smooth movement he pushed into her tight heat. He hissed with pleasure as she bucked and then tightened around him, then held his breath, praying that he wouldn't cum just yet.
When he had himself as in control as he was going to get Giles started in a steady rhythm. He watched in fascination as his cock disappeared and reappeared, each time glossed with her juices. She moaned and tossed her hair onto her shoulders and mumbled encouragement to take her faster and harder and he did not disappoint.
He reached around and fumbled for her clit all the while trying to hold off as long as he could. Finally, just as he felt the white heat leave him, Willow ground herself into him and cried out. Giles joined in the chorus for an instant blinded with his own release. He pushed himself farther into her then before he fell pulled them both to their knees.
He slid from her body's clutches as she melted into the tub and draped her arms over the side. They matched each other gasp for gasp and then Giles sat and pulled her to him. He kissed her shoulder and enjoyed their silence.
“Giles?” Willow said after a few minutes of afterglow had passed. She lifted his hand from the water and interlaced their fingers.
“I'm getting all wrinkly.”
He grinned and then laughed. “There's a soft bed that awaits us,” he said then reluctantly pushed himself out of the now lukewarm water.
Quickly he dried himself and secured the towel around his waist. He grabbed a thick white towel from a stack and held it out for Willow. She stood, her body pink from pleasure, and allowed him to wrap it around her. They'd made it halfway to the bed when a knock sounded at the door.
“No,” he heard Willow whimper.
“Giles,” Buffy called from outside their room. “We've got trouble.”
“So soon?” Willow asked.
She lifted her eyebrows hopefully to Giles. Maybe she meant there was no soap…or that they were out of hot water…or that D'mitri had gone lost somewhere on the property.
“Just a minute,” Giles said and reached for his discarded trousers.
Willow allowed herself an indulgent smile at his bared bottom as he bent to step into his wrinkled pants. Muscles lean from years of training stretched and rolled beneath his pale skin. She grinned. He had a dimple.
“Perhaps you should get dressed?” Giles suggested, although Willow had to admit he did so reluctantly.
“Giles –“ Buffy called again. There was no mistaking the impatience in her voice. Willow pulled Giles's shirt off the bed and hurried to button it.
When she was suitably covered she nodded and Giles pulled open the door. Buffy stomped in.
“Where's D'mitri?” Willow asked. She leaned up on her tip-toes and tried to see around the door's corner.
“Trailing a group of wanna be watchers,” Buffy explained. She paced anxiously. “We saw them walking across the courtyard with that guy from the plane.”
A frown line appeared between Giles's eyes and he stopped drying his hair.
“It looked like more of a –“ she paused, obviously searching for the right word, “-a –“
Willow squinted. She saw Buffy's lips moving, she heard Giles' voice, deep with concern, but none of it made sense. Not good, she thought as the room swirled around her and a cold fear gripped her stomach. She reached out for something, anything to hold her up as her world grew dark around the edges. She was going to pass out.
Better than throwing up, she thought somewhere in the recesses of her mind. And then there was pain. Through her head, a scream arose and she was sure that if it reached one more decibel her brain would explode. Desperate to balance the pressure somehow Willow dropped to her knees and screamed in solidarity.
“Oh, crap,” she managed and toppled to her side and then it was gone.
“Oh, my God, Willow,” Buffy cried out.
Giles whirled around just in time to see Willow pitch forward and stare into nothingness. Her mouth, frozen in a grotesque imitation of a scream, eased into a slack jaw listlessness as her forehead dug into the thick pile carpet. Her ashen skin contrasted vividly with the burgundy rug.
He froze, pulled from his body, and watched Buffy fall to Willow's side. Neither girl looked strong enough to lift the other, yet still Buffy lifted Willow's dead weight into her arm. A tingle started in his calves and stung upward. Giles felt his chest heave with his efforts to breath. Dead weight.
“No,” he called out and lunged forward to his knees and pushed Buffy off Willow. The slayer grunted with the impact of his palms to her shoulders.
“Breath, Willow,” he yelled as he pulled her onto his lap. Her head rolled to the side and her unblinking eyes stared at the edge of their bed.
“Is she alive?” Buffy demanded. She was back on her knees and hovered over both of them.
He pushed his head tighter to her breast and searched her clammy wrist for a pulse. He almost collapsed in relief as the sound and feel of blood as it coursed through her body greeted his senses. Both were strong. “Help me get her into bed,” he grunted and struggled to his knees. Buffy nearly lifted them both.
“What's wrong with her, Giles?” she demanded as he arranged her above the covers then grabbed the throw from the foot of the bed.
He shook his head still barely beyond the fact that he hadn't lost the one thing that was his salvation. “It looks like a trance of some sort,” he finally managed and pulled the throw around Willow's chin. “I hope.”
“What do we do?” Buffy asked. Already she paced the room. “Should I call 911?” She shook her head and pulled her fingers through her hair in frustration. “Do you guys even have 911?”
Giles sat on the edge of the bed and brushed his hand over Willow's eyes, closing them, then grasped her hand in his. He couldn't help but to touch her belly urging their child to stay strong.
“You don't understand,” Buffy said. She stopped before him. “I have to do something. Something's happening to Willow. Ever since the Crown, she hasn't been well.”
She turned and put her hands to her hips. Giles licked his dry lips and reached to smooth Willow's bangs from her forehead. It was best not to disturb someone in a trance he knew, but during times of stress, times when he was frightened, he needed to feel her.
“What if that Crown thing left something with her?” Buffy suggested as she turned back. “Some little trace of possession or – whatever?”
Before Giles could respond Willow struggled for air. In her fight to inhale she lifted her shoulders off the bed and dug her nails into Giles's arm then gasped.
“The baby,” she managed. Her green eyes danced with terror and pleaded into his.
Giles's stomach knotted in fear and he gripped the tender flesh of Willow's arms. What was wrong with their baby?
“The Council wants our baby.”
“Oh, God,” Giles managed. He dragged Willow into him wanting nothing less than to surround her and his child, to make them disappear into safety. He damned the council.
Willow struggled some and pushed herself back. She swallowed but didn't try to stop the tears that stained her now pale face. “They want our baby,” she strained her voice a broken whisper. Her face crumpled and took his heart with it.
Giles shushed her and cradled her to him as she sobbed. Giles fought his emotions. Tears of rage and frustration stood at the ready, just waiting for the go ahead . He swore silently. What had he done?
“Don't let them,” Willow begged. He pulled her into his chest and still that wasn't close enough. “Not while I breathe,” he vowed into her hair.
Buffy's small white hand covered both of theirs. Giles looked up, startled that he'd forgotten she'd been in the room.
“Don't worry,” she said looking down at both of them with clear hazel eyes. She radiated calm and resolve. “I'm not gonna let anything happen to your baby.”
If she heard, Willow gave no indication. Giles felt her grip on him tighten and the body and soul he'd loved merely moments before trembled again in his arms. He tightened his hold on her and watched Buffy back toward their door.
“I'm gonna go check on D'mitri,” she said and gestured toward the hallway. “See if he found out anything about that little troop of morons – or our guardian angel.”
“He's dead,” Willow's muffled and broken voice came from his chest.
Buffy stopped short. Giles watched the blood drain from her face and then return in an obvious rush as Willow clarified, “Our guardian. He's dead.”
The door bust open.
Giles pushed Willow back and jumped in front of the bed, intent upon protecting her just as Buffy whirled and brought her leg around in [some sort of deadly kick]. D'mitri pulled his head back just in time.
“Don't … do that,” Buffy breathed. Slowly she lowered her fists.
His heart already through his chest Giles sagged back to the mattress and felt behind him for Willow's hand. Small and comforting it enclosed the tips of his fingers.
D'mitri apologized then closed the door behind him as he entered the room. “He was not a watcher,” he explained. “I heard that much.”
“He was sent to protect me and the baby,” Willow mumbled. She sat up and swiped the back of her hand across her eyes. New tears sprung forward but didn't fall.
“Sent by whom?” Giles asked. He lowered his voice.
“And why?” Buffy added.
Giles didn't take his eyes from Willow. She knew, she'd known since the plane ride. A small spark of irritation eased the cold in his stomach. Color slowly faded into Willow's cheeks but the tears remained. Her hand strayed to the small curve of her belly. She turned her shining eyes to Giles. Giles winced at the accusation he saw in them.
“Because of who we are.”
“But who sent him?” Buffy asked.
“The Order of the Blessed,” Willow answered. But her gaze never left Giles. “Why didn't you tell me?
Giles wilted another inch inside. It had been such a long time ago – could nothing ever truly be laid to rest? He closed his eyes and folded his arms across his still bare chest. She knew. Her eyes told him that he no longer had any secrets.
Willow pulled her knees to her chest and turned away from her audience. Thankfully Buffy and D'mitri took their leave under the guise of a little recon. The door closed with a muffled click and she heard Giles's uncertain and self-conscious movements in various places around the room. His weight bowed the thick mattress beside her but he didn't touch her.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” she finally asked when the silence grew too unbearable.
She heard the forced and distant laugh in his voice. “I wasn't planning to, no,” he admitted. The bed jostled as he ran his hands through his hair.
Willow squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to close off his explanation, to ward away the sting of betrayal. Another tear slipped through her lashes and she swiped angrily at it.
“Willow, you must understand –“ he started.
“Why?” she interrupted and sat up. “Why do I have to understand? What is there to understand? You abandoned your baby and his mother,” Willow cried. She took a step back. “You let them die.”
He closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side as if her words had struck him like a physical blow. “I didn't let them die,” Giles snapped. He ran both hands through his hair and swore.
Willow struggled to get her legs past him and slid off the bed and out of his reach. She clenched her fists at her side and took another step away torn between unable to stand his touch and wanting nothing more than to be drawn into his embrace and assured that everything was fine.
“It was over twenty years ago – I was in my Ripper days… but even then I knew enough to try to shelter them from what I was doing –Christ,” he looked up at her.
Willow looked away. She didn't want to see the sadness and regret in his eyes.
“I wasn't terribly interested in being a father back then. There was Ethan and Eyghon, and my family to defy. In fact, I was never entirely sure the baby was mine – his mother wasn't exactly….” His voice trailed off. “None of us were.”
Willow blinked, trying to accommodate the picture he painted. She shook her head. Giles would never - But Ripper would.
“But it didn't matter to me,” he continued. “If it brought shame to my family then I was for it.”
“And what better way to rub it in than to put the two of them up here – in your father's house,” Willow finished for him.
Giles nodded then padded across the room to the bar. He worked his jaw furiously. “I viewed it as my calling card.”
His voice trailed off with the memory then he shook his head and picked up a crystal carafe. Willow resisted the urge to follow him and smooth away the lines that creased his forehead. She needed to know this – she deserved to know this.
Giles continued his story as he poured himself a drink. The amber liquid seemed to soothe his nerves. “I was told that Melinda took off,” he said with a shrug. “She turned up a few weeks later – dead.”
The ice rattled in his glass and he paused to study what remained of his drink. “Heath died shortly after,” he said quickly as if the speed would take away the bite of the words. “Crib death they said.”
Willow licked her lips. “Crib death? And you believed them?”
He tossed back what was left in his glass and reached for the bottle. The liquid blurbled into the glass and broke the heavy silence of the room. “Why wouldn't I?” he asked with a shrug. “Addicts overdose. Babies,” he looked into his glass. “Babies die. I know it sounds cruel, Willow, but you need to understand where I was – who I was back then. I hadn't let myself care for the child or his mother. Once they were here, safe I thought, I made no effort. I was no father.”
“Why–“ her voice broke. She licked her lips and tried again. “Why'd you come back?”
Giles ran his hand through his hair and took another drink before he answered. When he turned to face her Willow's heart ached. For once he looked every bit his forty-two years. “You know why,” he said.
“I had a choice of prisons,” he said after a long pause.
Willow felt her jaw drop as indignation replaced disjointed sorrow. She knew she was going to sputter but it didn't stop her from speaking. The past hit too close to home for her comfort. “Bu-but they killed your family,” she managed. “Your girlfriend and your baby – how could you stand to be around the very people who-“ She stopped at Giles's shocked expression. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “You didn't know.”
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