TITLE: The Sweater
AUTHOR: The Eileen
EMAIL: theeileen@yahoo.com
SUMMARY: Haven't *you* ever taken your boyfriend's flannel shirt or comfy sweater?
DISCLAIMER: Joss is God, we are but humble servants playing with his creation. May Aly & Tony forgive me for what I'm doing with their avatars.
RATING: 12 at most
PAIR: W/G (d'uh)
FEEDBACK: Yes please.
DISTRIBUTION: You know who you are.... if you don't, just ask
TIMELINE: S4 somewhere - you figure it out.
NOTE: Big thanks to Monique who made this 100% better and gave me good focus.
DEDICATION: Also, to all you people who have so kindly said that you admire my writing - I dedicate this, my third solo (yup, that's right only 2 other fics to my name) effort to you and hope you are not disappointed.

Buffy was away at her father's for the weekend, and Xander was, as always these days, with Anya. So Willow gave in to her impulse and stopped by to see if Giles needed help with anything. After a little hesitation, Giles had admitted to some research and a few chores.

"But I don't want to take up your Saturday, Willow," he said. "You must have some plans?"

"No," she replied promptly. At his quizzical smile, she added, "Well, I have a few chores of my own, but..." she trailed off with a smile. "Honestly, there's nothing I'd rather be doing... I like being... uh, helping you, Giles." She winced internally.

'Oh,' she thought sarcastically, 'that was good. Pathetic much? *Try* to be cool,' she admonished herself.

"So what'll be?" she asked. "Research or chores? You know, it's funny, isn't it? It's always more fun to do somebody else's chores than your own. I used to love to help Xander do his and hated to do mine, and he liked doing mine and hated his. I wonder why that is?"

"I have no idea," Giles responded, amused as always by the paths Willow's mind took. "But since my main chore is laundry, I think I'll stick you.. erm, let you do the research part." He pointed to a large pile of books. "I'm trying to find any reference to that spell we discussed last night."

"The obscure, not-sure-it-exists spell?" she asked, eyeing the books with misgivings. "The I'm-not-even-sure-of-the-name spell?" She turned the look on Giles.

He shrugged his shoulders. "It's that or scrubbing the grout in the bathtub. Of course, you don't really have to do anything," he offered. "There's nothing in the, um, Scooby contract," he said with a smile, "that says you have to sacrifice your Saturdays as well as everything else."

"Let's see," Willow said consideringly, "Grout, Spell Research, or my Musicology paper." Willow eyed the books again and then mimed weighing things in her hands. Giles started to chuckle and Willow joined in.

"I'll think I'll take the books. Amazingly, the most attractive option." Still giggling, Willow reached out for the first book and settled into her favorite chair.

Giles started gathering his things. She surreptitiously watched him going up and down the stairs, piling stuff into the laundry bag. Finally, Giles seemed to have everything and headed for the door.

"Willow, what do you want for lunch?" he asked.

"Lunch?" she echoed, looking at her watch. "It's only 10:30."

"True, but I'll be gone about two hours. And for doing all that research, I'll treat you to lunch. What do you want me to pick up on the way home?" he asked.

Willow smiled at his use of the word 'home'. He made it sound like it was *their* home. She wished it was their home. Her face went all dreamy as she pondered that possibility, but focused back in on Giles when he repeated her name.

"Willow? Willow?"

"Oh. How about Thai? We haven't had that in a while," she said quickly, trying to look like she'd been thinking of food and not of him.

"Okay, sounds good. Your usual?" he asked.

She smiled and nodded. It was nice hearing him say that. As the door closed behind him, she wished it wasn't because of all the times they'd ordered take-away for the research parties that gave him an insight into what she liked. She wished.... She sighed and looked dreamily into the distance once again. After a brief moment, she sighed regretfully and tried to focus back on the book in her arms.

Her eyes fell on the armchair and draped over the back was something he missed for the laundry; the sweater he had on last night. Quickly putting the book aside, she grabbed up the sweater and ran outside to see if she could catch him. But she only caught a glimpse of the Citroen as it rounded the corner.

Too late. It seemed like she was always too late.

She walked slowly back into the apartment holding the sweater to her chest. She closed the door and leaned back against it. She looked at the sweater and then around the apartment. Assured that no one else was there, for once, she brought the sweater up to her face and inhaled deeply. It smelled so deliciously of Giles. That scent of tea, and spices, and the shampoo he used; everything that was uniquely Giles.

She had stopped denying to herself what she felt for him ages ago. But she could never say anything about it. Her luck with men had not been good, and she couldn't imagine that Giles would... Well, okay she could *imagine*. She imagined all the time! When she was near him - when she wasn't near him - asleep - awake. All her thoughts not involved with school or the Hellmouth, involved him.

And, okay, most of the Hellmouth thoughts involved him, too. Just not in the same way. She didn't imagine him kissing her when she was imagining all the horror the Hellmouth could throw at them. There she imagined him strong, and in control, and vanquishing all the evil the Hellmouth threw at them. *Then* she imagined him kissing her. She sighed.

Imagining was all she felt up to right now. She couldn't handle more rejection. She really couldn't handle *anything* starting with, "Willow, I'll always think of you as a friend..." in that 'good god how do I get out of this?' tone of voice.

Instead, she spent as much time with him as possible. Being his friend. Being there when he needed someone. Enjoying the relationship they did have and occasionally grasping at the few signs that pointed to more than mere friendship between them. She hugged those times to herself. Hugged them in the shape of his sweater.

She rubbed her face across the wool of his sweater. It was softer than she thought it would be. Not really scratchy at all. And while she could imagine that he was holding her, in reality, this was about as close as she was ever going to get to him.

Sure, he'd hugged her once or twice. Okay, exactly twice. And he did seem so concerned when she was hurt. But then, he seemed concerned when any of them were hurt.

She wanted more from him, so much more. She wanted... mmmm, she wanted to feel his arms around her. Not in concern, but in love. She wanted him to hug her because he wanted to be close to her the way she wanted to be close to him. As she buried her face in his sweater, a thought came to her.

It was kind of silly, but... who was here to see how silly she was being? She pulled the sweater away from her face and shook it out slightly. Then she wrapped the sweater over her back, and crossed the sleeves in the front, and cuddled into it.

She sighed, it wasn't the same. She knew it wouldn't be. It was nice, but it wasn't enough.

She smiled self-consciously as an idea came to her. She turned it over in her head and thought, 'Oh, what can it hurt? He's going to be gone for two hours. No one will ever know. It's not like it's a spell or anything, you know, witchy. No one could be hurt. It's just self-indulgent. Can't I be indulgent? Just this once?' With a little effort, she talked herself into it.

Willow unwrapped his sweater from her body and walked further into the apartment. She placed his sweater over the back of the sofa and then removed the top she was wearing, tossing it on the table. Standing there, in just her bra and jeans, she pulled his sweater up to her face and breathed deeply once more. Then with a slight blush at her boldness, she slowly drew on Giles' sweater over her own body.

'Ohhhhhh,' she sighed. It was like being surrounded by him. The sleeves hung well below her hands, and she felt lost inside the sensation. It was a lot closer to what she wanted.

She wriggled inside the sweater for a few moments, but it still wasn't quite enough. Still not close enough to what she imagined. She snuggled into it some more, trying to draw up the dreamstate she liked to fall into. It didn't work.

She bit the tip of her finger in thought as she stood there. Then she got a sheepish smile on her face. Again, her eyes swept the apartment, as if looking for lurking Watchers. Then with a semi-resolute look on her face, she pulled her arms out of the sleeves, and blushing slightly, she removed her bra and dropped that onto her top. Then she pulled his sweater on once more.

Oh yeah, that was it. Much better. Much.

She could feel the softness of the sweater everywhere. She ran her hands over her torso, lingering briefly over her breasts and then down to her waist. She imagined that he was touching her. She gently caressed herself through the fabric and then she hugged herself with shiver. The dreamstate was much easier this way.

She walked around and sat on the couch. Falling into a reverie, her hands began absently caressing the fabric on her arms.

*They were sitting before a fire on a cool autumn evening. She in some filmy dress, he in this sweater and jeans. She was snuggled under his shoulder, as he caressed her arm.*

She smiled sweetly and settled back into the couch more, swinging her legs up off the floor.

*He was telling her of his day. Nothing much exciting, just the conversation of two people completely connected. He turned her head towards him and kissed her gently.*

On the couch, Willow tilted her head up and sighed.

*Then he drew her onto his lap and ran his hand from her cheek to her shoulder, down her arm to her hip. It rested there for a moment and then stroked further down to her thigh...*

Willow's own hand, following Giles' imagined one, hit denim. The dream fractured. She wasn't wearing a filmy dress. She was wearing these stupid jeans. She glared at her pants, as if they were at fault. 'I wish...' she started. A very impish gleam came into her eyes.

'Do I dare?' she thought. She looked at the ceiling as if for inspiration. It was no help at all.

She stared back down at her legs. Sensibly clad legs. She was always sensible. Her feet hit the floor with up with a thump. 'No I'm not!' she thought with a rebellious frown. 'And okay, the last time rebellion - vampireMe. Which was bad. But not all bad.' She mused on Percy for a moment. She frowned again. Not all good, either.

'Okay, but this time...' she continued the internal argument, 'This time, there's no witchy stuff here. No spells, no potions, no other people. Just me. It won't hurt anybody. It can't hurt anybody. It's only imagining.' With a somewhat wavering resolve face, she removed her shoes, socks and then, finally, her jeans, which she tossed haphazardly over the couch. She didn't notice that the jeans knocked her top and bra on to the floor.

She smoothed the wool down over her body. His sweater hung down well below her hips. He was so much taller than she was. She scrunched the sleeves up her arms a bit so her hands were free and ran her hands over her body again. From shoulders, down arms, over hips and to the skin of her thighs.

She grinned with a secret glee and a good dollop of embarrassment. She couldn't really believe she was doing this. But it was bound to make the fantasy that much better. She just knew it! She lay back down on the couch and then ran her hands up and down her arms. Then she brought her hands up to her face and breathed deeply of the scent again.

She smelled Giles on her hands. She felt his sweater against her skin. She sank back into the fantasy where she had left off. With eyes closed, she set to expanding on the basic scene she had set up before. She kept her hands covering her face and drank in his scent. "Hmmmmm," she half-moaned, half-sighed, as her hands fell to her sides.

She became so caught up in her fantasy of Giles, the cuddle on the couch and this sweater touching her that she completely failed to notice the door opening.

Giles only got three steps into his apartment, back for the forgotten bottle of laundry detergent, when he saw the clothes on the floor.

There were Willow's jeans. Her shirt. Her BRA?

'What the hell?' The thought was interrupted by a small moan from the couch. Giles bolted over and opened his mouth to give out a yell. But what he saw took all the breath out of him.

There was Willow. Stretched out on his couch. Wearing nothing but *his* sweater and a very dreamy smile on her face. She sort of gave a wriggle and sighed again. His eyes became riveted by her long, lovely, *bare* legs.

With the next sigh that Willow gave, she flung an arm over her head and the sweater rose up a little, drawing his eyes to the meeting of sweater hem and flesh. They lingered there for a moment but then he made himself stop looking at that.

It wasn't easy.

He shifted uncomfortably and his mind tried to tell his body that every sophmoric fantasy he'd had in the last months was NOT coming true. His body was arguing the point. Vehemently. It was winning.

And it was precisely because of that argument between mind and body, that as soon as she'd walked through his door this morning, he'd decided to do his laundry.

Over these last months he was more and more, uncomfortable around Willow. Physically uncomfortable, as well as emotionally. When the others were around, he could maintain some semblence of control! But when they were alone... All attempts at pretending he didn't feel more for her than friendship were getting useless. All he wanted to do was touch her, do things with her, do things *to* her. He was a grown man for God's sake. He kept telling himself that. He should have more control.

He would frighten her. He would shock her. He would disgust her. She wouldn't want someone like him, used and broken, when she could have any man at all. He frowned at the thought of that Tara girl and amended his thought to, any *body* at all.

And yet... here she was, lying on his couch, wearing his sweater. She looked like she was dreaming. But of whom? True it was his sweater, but did that mean...

As he was trying to decide what to, back out the door and pretend he'd seen nothing; back out the door and come back in more noisily; say something? Willow moaned slightly and drawled, in an amused voice, "Oh Rupert."

"Yes?" he responded without thinking.

Willow's eyes flew open and met his stunned gaze. She immediately scrunched her eyes closed and clutched her fists. 'This is not happening. This is not happening,' she chanted silently. Her whole body seemed to draw in on itself.

Giles opened and closed his mouth a few times. "U-u-uh.." he stuttered out. She cracked an eye and her whole body slumped back.

"Oh no," she moaned. "T-this *is* happening. I can't believe it! The one and only time I ever give in to..."

"U-um, W-willow?" Giles started. "Willow, are you all right? Uh, what *are* you doing?"

Pulled out of her railing at the fates, Willow sat up and threw a pillow over her legs. "I - I - I - I..." she stammered, "I-I have n-no decent explanation for this."

She buried her head in her hands. "Ohhh," she wailed, "I have never been so embarrassed in my life. And I've been friends with Xander since I was five!" Her sweater, well, okay, his sweater slid over her shoulder, allowing him a glimpse of creamy skin. Her beautiful auburn hair hung down, curtaining her face from his view.

"Willow," he said uncertainly, wanting to reach out a hand to stroke her hair, but afraid to touch because, because... A small voice in the back of his head spoke up, 'Because why, you nit? She's on your couch in your sweater saying your name. Do the math!' A flare of hope went off in his chest.

He sat on the couch, next to her. Willow murmured something, but it was muffled by her hands. This time he did reach out, and he brushed her hair gently back from her face and off of her shoulder, letting his hand linger there. "Willow," he said again, only this time it came out a husky whisper; he seemed to have no control over his voice.

She looked up at him, shyly, the flush still coloring her face. There was embarrassment in her face, yes, but there was something else too. Something that made that flare in his chest go off again.

"What are the chances you'll accept 'something hellmouthy' as an excuse?" She looked at him pleadingly. His eyes met hers, and he smiled at what he saw there.

"Non-existent," he said gently touching her hand and then he took the first step. "The Hellmouth doesn't grant these sorts of wishes." He looked at her, his eyes tender and sort of wistful.

"Um, y-you... I... m-my sweater... W-why," he finally asked plainly.

Willow, looking into Giles' eyes, felt hope blossom so quickly it took her breath away. A tremulous smile crept out, and she whispered, "It smells like you."

He reached forward and drew a hand across her face, marveling at the softness of her cheek. It was softer than he'd ever dreamed. She leaned into his touch.

"You like that?" he questioned hesitantly.

She took a deep breath and replied, "I love that." Her voice barely trembled, but she felt like she was going to break into a million pieces at the touch of his hand.

He looked into the beautiful green eyes of the woman he'd loved for so long and who was finally looking back at him with the same kind of love in her eyes.

"This is my favorite sweater," she said and rubbed her fingertips across the sleeve briefly. The neckline slipped a bit more. She went to tug it back up, but he reached out and stopped her hand. Looking intently in her face for any hesitation, he pulled her into his lap. She came easily and looked back at him with equal intentness.

"I think it just became my favorite, too," he said, cupping her face, "but only if you're wearing it."

He bent down and kissed her. She closed her eyes and surrendered to the ecstasy of their first kiss. Her arms crept around his neck and pulled him closer. When they broke the kiss a few minutes later, Willow sighed and laid her head on his chest.

"This is better than research," she said contentedly.

"Yes, it certainly beats doing the laundry," Giles grinned. He trailed a finger along the neckline of the sweater again, and Willow shivered in delight. "You have no idea how long I've wanted to do this," he commented, dropping another kiss on her upturned face.

"No longer than I've wanted to," she disagreed.

"I don't think so," he said wryly. "Let's just say, some of my early research was on California penal codes."

Willow giggled and pulled his head down. She whispered in his ear, "Section 261.5." He looked at her with shocked tinged with delight.

"What?" she said pertly. "Aren't I the research girl?" Her eyes shone with mischief.

Unable to resist, Giles pressed another kiss on her lips. And then another. And another. She strained her body against his, wanting only to held as close as possible. The reality was far better than her dreams. She could feel his hands caressing her back, stroking her with the softness of the wool.

'I really do love this sweater,' was her last coherent thought sinking into an onslaught of delicious sensation.

The End


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