Giles stood at the opening to the serpent path that led into Avebury. The twin lines of stones that led up to the huge stone-circle seemed to beckon him. He began walking along the trail the monoliths demarked. He remembered.


"I can't believe you have never been to Avebury before," said Andrea. She wore a pare of gray slacks and a plaid shirt with her hair tied back. The sun shone down making the green of the fields vibrant.

"I never had the chance. I've been to Stonehenge," replied Rupert, who wore jeans and a button down shirt.

"Tourist trap. Avebury is much better. Nearly a mile in circumference, it actually had two inner circles, each as big as Stonehenge. Then there's the serpent's tail. The trail in and out of the circle."

Rupert caught her arm halting her and pulled her close, kissing her.

"Rupert, someone might see," scolded Andrea.


"I'm old enough to be your mother."

"If you were my mother we would both be guilty of breaking a wide variety of laws."

"Rupert, it doesn't look right."

"Andrea, I love you, that cannot be wrong and as to appearances. Fie upon the gaping eyes of those without hearts to see with."

She smiled and kissed him. "Now be quiet and just let this place take you. Walk the serpent's tail and let it guide your thoughts."

Rupert smiled and did as instructed with her warm hand nested in his own.


Giles walked the tail alone. It was cold. With Andrea he had felt life in the stones, energy coursing through him. Now it was silent, still, empty, yet something touched him like a promise or a memory.

He approached the circle proper and walked the edge of the road way over the ancient ditch and into its confines. A medieval village had sprung up in the middle of the circle. A church for a younger faith sat outside the ring. Rupert walked among the towering stones. The sheer mass of rock was impressive. The undressed boulders towered over him. He strolled amidst the works of giants, remembering a warm hand now long cold, a soft voice now silent. He reached out and touched one of the stones. It was electric, his mind burst open in a whirlpool of disjointed thought. He sought an anchor. Andrea's face came into view, he seized at it but it slipped away then a beautiful redheaded face filled his visual field. He clung to it.

"Willow," he said the name allowed. Her image and name anchored the madness. His thoughts settled as his world realigned. He stepped away from the rock without realising his whole life's effaces had shifted. There was a new centre for his life. She at that moment called his name while in the arms of another man.


Rupert settled in the decrepit bed and breakfast.

"Cold stone and dirt," he muttered as he thought back to how the place had once been. Clean and neat as a pin. He remembered back to a long ago time.


He'd led Andrea into the place by her hand and they had waited at the counter while the elderly couple that ran it shuffled out from the living room.

"So you'll be wanting two rooms," said the man.

"Actually, one will do quite nicely," said Andrea.

"One. Oh you're son won’t be staying." The old man smiled.

"Sir, this is my wife," countered Rupert.

"W... W... wife. Your having an old man on there eaa sonny."

"I assure you, I am not."

"Oh my. Well. Please sign the register Mr."


"Well, Mrs Giles, I hope you enjoy your stay," said the plump old woman who pushed her way past her husband and took Andrea's hand. "We run a nice little house here. So are you and your husband newlyweds."

"Awww, Yes. Just married," lied Andrea as she allowed herself to be guided to the room.

"That is so sweet. It is always a pleasure to see just how wonderful love is. If there is anything either of you needs just knock on our door."

"Mr Giles," said the old man. He was skinny with a wind roughened face and wiry lean muscles.


"Your key. Check out time is eleven o'clock, if you stay past that, it will cost you for another day."

"Thank you." Rupert took the preferred key and followed Andrea up stairs.


The sun had barely set but Rupert lay on the bed exhausted by the day's emotions. He wondered what was happening in Sunnydale but surmised that at the hour they were probably all asleep. He closed his eyes and drifted into slumber.


Rachelle wept as she dawned her wedding ground. Her nurse a plump dark hared woman of middle years, had red puffy eyes from her own tears.

"Buck up, little one. Lord Terence is not that bad a match," comforted the nurse.

"Bernese, there is not to be said that will console me. Terence is not William," objected Rachelle. She dragged herself to the side of the room and stared at her reflection in a piece of polished mettle. She was slender and fair skinned with long blond hair and pretty features, marred by her tears.

"No he is not, William. You are a count's daughter and that means you can not always follow your heart."

"I will never love, Terence."

"Hush, little one. He is a well cut man. Do not deny yourself such small comforts as you can find."

"I... Bernice, will he suspect that William and I."

"Shush, my love. If he questions, tell him your maidenhead split one day as you were riding. Tis a common enough thing and all know you have made good use of your father's stables."

Rachelle smiled sadly. "In ways my dear father would not have approved of I am sure. This is a travesty. How can my father succumb to Duke Terrace's in this way."

"You are being foolish, child. What is he to do, refuse the Duke and face his armies. Terrence has holdings twice that of your father's and four times his men at arms. You save him with this."

A knock sounded on the door then it swung open admitting a page. The child spoke. "The wedding precessional is prepared and lady Rachelle's presence is now required."

"Buck up, lovey. It could be worse." Bernice swiped away her charges tears and ushered her out the door.

"Rachelle entered the Duke's chapel. A priest stood at one end of the hall like chamber. The stone work seemed cold and foreboding and the crypts that held her betrothed ancestors flanked the walk way to the front of the room. Duke Terence stood in a tunic of dark blue, embroidered with complex designs and draped with gold and jewels. He was a muscular man of late middle years, with the last of the black in his hair surrendering to grey. His face was handsome enough but a scar cut across one of his eyes, leaving it a milky orb. Rachelle moved to his side and took his arm.

"You look lovely," he said.

"Thank you," she replied with cold courtesy.

Rachelle was hardly aware of the ritual and all too soon found herself laying flat on the Duke's bed her wedding ground a crumpled heap on the floor. The Duke, who was also naked, thrust into her grunting and panting like a beast. He groaned, thrust harder then rolled off her.

"You are now my wife in truth." He stood up. “I must see to the sward drills. I will return later and we can continue then.” He left the room.

Tears welled in Rachelle's eyes. "What small pleasure can one take from this travesty, Nurse. Oh William, if only your clean love's fire were hear to burn away this taint."


Willow sat in the bronze with Buffy, Riley and Xander.

"So I told him if he wanted the demographic data tabulated that quickly he would have to do it himself because I had to get Mr. Thompson's spread sheet finished first," said Buffy.

"So how'd he take it?" asked Riley.

"He sputtered then left. Showed up an hour later being all sorry he'd done the meany thing."

"You know, Buff. If he ever gets too out of hand I could always show up in uniform and take you to lunch. That effects lots’a people." Xander smiled wickedly.

"Thanks but I think I got it. Hey, Will, you still with us?"

Willow continued to gaze emptily at the stage.

"Earth to Willow?" called Buffy.

"What, oh yeah well, we should just kill it," said Willow.

Everyone snorted.

"Like, Will, well maybe Mr. Upbridge deserves it but there are better ways for me to get a promotion," joked Buffy.

"Sorry guys. I... Just thinking."

Xander took her hand which brought a startled glance from her but the look in his eyes conveyed the nature of the gesture. "Do what you want, Will." was all he said.

"That's the that. I don't know what I want. I just keep thinking about him and can't stop. I changed the sheets to get rid of his smell and I still can't stop. I've never been this obsessed before, not even in high school."

"Wow. Back it up a bit there, Wills. Who got close enough to smell up the sheets and do I know him and why does Xander know before me?" asked Buffy.

"It well. I've been thinking a lot about Giles."

"Worried about him over in England, all alone. He's probably having a great time," remarked Riley.

"I haven't been worrying about him I've been, well, THINKING about him."

Buffy looked shocked. "You mean out of the tuxedo thoughts?"

"Big time."

"Wow. At least he's of the Y."


"Right, sorry. I mean, Will, like Giles. He's kinda of the dinosaurs."

"He isn't that old Buffy. I, oh, I don't know. This is silly. He probably wouldn't even be interested."

"Are you crazy. That man is head over heals for you," objected Riley.

"Oh Riley, come on," said Buffy.

"Women don't get it," said Xander.

"Yeah. Willow, Giles looks at you like you were a double chocolate fug Sunday and he hadn't eaten for a week. Trust me, you give a green light he'll fall over his own feet getting to you. You just have to decide if it's what you really want. Giles, like, he's older but he still has a heart and it can break."

"We're talking about the same Giles here. British wears a lot of tweed use to work in the high school library?" objected Buffy.

"Look guys, I'm just not into it. I'm heading home." Willow stood.

"Look, Will. You need to talk call, Ok," offered Buffy.

"Thanks, Buff. Bye."


Willow lay in Rupert's bed. She had slept for several hours and was entering a dream cycle when the touch of magic came.


William stormed into the count’s audience hall. He was a well nit man of twenty three, broad chested but not too massive, with a handsome face that though a little round would age into a more classic and noble attractiveness. The simple blue tunic he wore was stained with sweat from the haste with which he'd come.

"Sir William," acknowledged the aged count, who sat on his thrown at the end of the audience chamber.

"You're Grace, Tell me it is a foul deception. Tell me you haven't broken troth with me and given Rachelle to Duke Terence in marriage."

"My son. For even though you are not of my house, and now will never be, I hold you as such. I cannot lie to you. Rachelle has been wed to Duke Terence. He threatened war if I did not Allie my lands with his through marriage. I had no choice." The old man burried his head in his hands. The rich tunic and cloak he wore crumpling as he bent sobbing.

William stood staring. "I am not a great lord with armies but I am of noble birth. I will challenge Terence. What was promised me will be mine!"

"Terence will kill you if you try," said the old count. "He is still hail and has never been defeated in tournament."

"I will not allow this travesty to continue. Rachelle was promised me. She...she is my heart, without her I must needs die."

"Heed me as you once did, son of my heart. If you would face him, learn his habits first, pick your time. No one can be forever prepared."

"Old man, you are no father to me until Rachelle is in my arms but I will heed you. What council have you for the one you have so sorely wronged."


William dawned the patched tunic and picked up the harp and travellers's pack. Terence's castle towered in the distance, a menacing affaire of gray stone battements perched upon a rise of land. William mussed his hair then turned to his squire.

"Zane, you are to go to the village down the road and take a room at the inn. Stable my mount and await me there. Be prepared and walk the horse daily. When I need him, I will need him swiftly. Also find another mount, swift and sure but suitable for a lady. Dress it out with a man's tack. She has never cared for the side saddle." William smiled. "If you hear my horn prepare the horses and have them waiting in the road. You will then know I am pursued and need’s escape. If I have not returned in a moon. All that I own is yours."

"My lord, I see by the resolve in your face it is useless to try and dissuade you. I pray thee be full of care. All I wish is your return. The lady Rachelle is not the only one to love thee," spoke the youth.

"Be ready, my friend." William strode onto the roadway and moved towards the castle gate.


The Brutish guard escorted William into the castle's great hall. It was a vast chamber, cold even in summer, with torches burning in sconces set high on its walls. The Duke and Dutches sat upon thrones on a dias at one end and no other chairs or furnishings existed.

"Duke Terence this minstrel seeks permission to entertain the court," growled the guard.

Terence stared at the minstrel. Rachelle lifted her head in a lack luster way then saw the entertainer's face. Her breath caught, fear filled her eyes mingled with hope and love. She prayed her husband would not notice.

"Very well, minstrel, it is a day of little merit. Play.

William plucked the harp strings and sang in a clear tenor that soon had the entire court entranced. Conversation stilled as all ears turned to hear. William gazed at one beloved face as he played and sang allowing all he felt to enter the words. She stared back at him feeling his music as more than sound and words but as the pure expression of his love. She smiled for the first time since the wedding.

The song came to an end.

"Very good, Very good in deed, Minstrel," cried Terence. Quickly serf, bring wine for our good bard here. I will see you set with meat and bread, good player, and a chamber for your stay in my court. Come make marry. Your silver throat has pleased me greatly."

"Thank you, your Excellency," said William, hiding his hatred behind his smile.

Chapter 8 - LOVES LOSS

Rachelle looked up from the book on her lap. She sat in her own private chambers, which were fast becoming more a scholar's den than the room of a lady of quality. Books filled shelves against the wall and a alchemist’s bench sat on the floor.

"You summoned me, my lady," asked the handsome minstrel who was swiftly become a fixture in the court. He entered carrying his harp.

"Yes, good player. I desire a song to sooth my heart," replied Rachelle.

William took a seat and strummed the cords.

"I dream a dream of beauty fair.
Of flashing eye and golden hair.
Light my dreams, oh lady fair.
Oh one of worth beyond compare."

Rachelle leapt from her seat and silenced him with a kiss. He kissed her back caressing her strong slender body.

"William, I bless each second we share."

"I love you, Rachelle." William grasped her buttocks through the fabric of her tunic.

Rachelle hissed in pain.

"What?" demanded William.

"Terence is... He has odd amusements."

"I will kill him!"

"Yes, but later, my love. I need you to cleans the sickly memory of him from my body and mind."

William kissed her gently and eased her tunic up over her head. Her under tunic followed and soon she stood naked before him. He raced to pull off his own patched and battered tunic then dragged off his boots and hose.

"You are a wonder to behold, my lord." Rachelle traced his firm well muscled form with her eyes.

"As are you, me lady." William ran his hands gently along her side, pausing to massage her small soft breasts. His fingers strayed to her sex and he traced them over her outer lips.

"Yes. That is perfect." She played her fingers over his chest and down to his shaft, gently brushing the organ before returning to stroke his upper body once more.

William ducked his head, taking her nipple in his mouth he swirled his tongue around it.

"Haaa," she breathed in pleasure.

William caressed her breasts being carful to avoid the purpling bruise he saw there. He kissed the length of her swan like neck and nibbled the lobe of her ear.

"My love, my love," she breathed.

"Rachelle." He spoke the name like a prayer.

She pulled away and taking his hand led him to her bed. She lay upon the piled blankets, beautiful in her nudity.

William kissed her then trailed kisses to her breasts, while his fingers traced over her thighs and vaginal slit. He parted her lower lips with one finger, feeling her dampness. He spread the wetness up and she gasped. He had no name for the small nub but he had learned gently caressing it brought her pleasure so he did so. Her moisture increased. He kissed her lips once more and brought his manhood to her opening. He entered easily. The feel of her was like the finest silks and satins being drawn across his skin. He moved slowly gently loving her, being everything she said her husband was not.

"William, My William. Yes, like that. Hold me, love me, be mine," she begged.

"For as long as I draw breath I am yours," he swore.

He buried her lips under his own. She tensed beneath him and moaned into his mouth. He sensed her pleasure trembling through her body and she clamped down hard on him. His own release followed seconds later and he held her, his face buried in her hair, until the last wave of pleasure crested and receded. With a sigh of regret he pulled out of her then lay beside her on the bed with her held tight against him.

"I love you, William. How much longer?"

"Soon, my love. I have watched him in training and am almost ready to face him."

"Are you now, boy?" the voice blasted from a tiny gap in the chink in the wall stones.

William leapt from the bed but before he could do more the door burst open and he was surrounded by armed and armoured men.

Terence strode in. "Cuckolding whore," he moved to Rachelle and back handed her across the face.

"No." William tried to lunge but was restrained.

"Take them both to the dungeon. I will decide how best to deal with them later."

"You old monster!" screamed Rachelle.

"Is that the cause, wife? My age. You wish a young cockerel? We shall see?"

"Tis not thy age that I despise, tis thee," spat Rachelle as armed men dragged her from the room.

"We shall see, wife. We shall see."

Chapter 9 - AN EVIL ACT

Tara awoke and traced her hand along the side of her latest conquest. She'd been dreaming of the one that got away. She smiled to think of Willow and the times they'd had before the redhead had caught her indulging her appetite for variety. She smiled at the sleeping form beside her. So much like Willow. Not in looks, this latest one being of the muscular athletic type but in nature. A low self esteem once bolstered by a boyfriend that left her, making her vulnerable to a little flattery and attention. "G... go with wa..wa...what works," Tara muttered. She closed her eyes and drifted back to sleep.


Duke Terence ragged, throwing books around Rachelle's bedchamber, toppling the alchemy table then tearing the sheets.

"Your excellency," one of the guards intruded from the door.

"What?" demanded Terence.

"We have brought the woman you requested."

"Send her in."

"A plump middle aged woman appeared in the doorway. She was handsome and carried herself with a kind of nobility the belied the patched and ragged dress she wore. Her red hair was grey streaked and fell down her back in tight braids.

"Your Excellency." She curtsied as she surveyed the room.

"Do you know why I have summoned you?"

"Your wife has been unfaithful." She said it evenly, stating a fact.

Terence sifted the words, looking for offence but could find no hint of it.

"You scried this in your mirror, Witch?"

"Tis an obvious thing, my lord. You used your might to force a woman, over twenty years your junior, to become your wife. The woman's heart was already given to another and you are now enraged because, what even the rankest novice of my order could have told you would happen, has happened."

"Mind your tongue or I will cut it out, Witch. Age again stands in my way. Were I a young man!"

"Twood make no difference. Her heart is already given. Love is a power that makes a lie of station, age, even gender. Annul your union, let the girl go. Find a woman who's heart is free, great lord."

"She is my wife. Mine! You will set this right, Witch. I command thee, take the youth that is her lover's and give it unto me. And. Yes that will do nicely. See that for eternity he and she will ever be separated by a gulf of years. So in heaven itself they will never know joy together."

"Your heaven is not mine own, lord, but I will not do this thing."

"Would you rather die."


"Then die you shall, after you have watched each of your coven burn. I have tolerated thee because you have been of use to me but do not think I need thee. I will call the holly inquisition and rout out your kind. You will all burn before I am done."

"Your Excellency, you can't," pleaded the woman falling to her knees.

"Yes, Janis, I can. Do not think that bearing me a bastard daughter will protect you, of such children I have a plenty. Now will you cast this spell for me?"

Janis stood slowly. Then lifted her eyes to stare into the Dukes. There was a frighting power in that gaze but the Duke refused to step back.

"I will do this thing but know thee this. I do not make the laws that govern all things, I simply now warn you of them. For each tear this foul deed causes them, you shall shed three, for each moments pain they know, three shall be your lot. No curse do I speak but prophecy most true."

"Fie and away woman. I need not your grim tails of doom. Prepare your spell."


The fire burnet in the centre of the cave. Janis mixed herbs in the caldron and pondered how to save both her coven and the young lovers being brought before her. The guard that watched her seem frightened and ignorant of her art. She opened a pouch of dried rose petals and pored them into the cauldron.

"This spell shall stand until fair love, Aphrodite's power, comes full into the fore.

“Not past the moment that simple truth that god and goddess know and joined in dawn of time to set the wheel's spin.

“One power only there is in truth, shatter of all bonds and conventions.

“One power the clucking tongue makes silent.

“One power a lie to common wisdom makes.

“This power of powers shall this spell to break, when it is accepted and comes full known.

“When fair Venus shines and the only power true is held, this enchantment foul shall be no more."

"Are you ready, Witch?" demanded Terence from the cave's mouth. He held William and Rachelle on the ends of a rope both were bound and gaged.

"I beg you once more, do not do this," pleaded Janis.

"Fie on thee. Make it so, witch."

"I am sorry," Janis spoke to William and Rachelle. "Bring them forward."

Terence dragged his captives to the caldron's side.

"This is a evil deed," breathed Janis.

"Get on with it," snapped Terence.

"By Saternis aged and lame, by Balor of the flaming eye, let times journey twist and bend. By all that is evil, by foulness and hate, let injustice here reign. Forever be love distanced, forever be the journey long. Forever the clucking tongue. Let hate the youth absorb and devour. Let distance stand and hold at bay that which is love and light. By demons’ dark, by evil’s will, grow and burn oh dark some spark."


In a land far away a creature that waited at the mouth of hell heard the call and entwined its power with the spell. A small investment of its long hoarded might that it trusted to pay back many fold, adding to its strength in preparation for the day it would break free and walk upon the world of men.


"I feel it," screamed Terence. Energies leapt around the cave flowing from William towards Terence. The Duke grew younger as the young knight aged before Rachelle's terrified eyes.

"This shall stand until fare Venus's power is fully known," Janis muttered under her breath.

The spell ended, leaving Terence appearing as he had in his early twenties and William, a hail man of nearly fifty with deep creases by his eyes and silver hair.

"There, wife, is this more to your liking?" demanded Terence and he pulled the gage from Rachelle's mouth.

"I hated thee for who though art before and I still hate thee," replied Rachelle.

Terence laughed in her face and turned to William. "Old man, I will be generous. You have a minute to say your goodbyes, then leave my lands and never return." Terence strode from the cave. Janis removed William's gage and went to work on the ropes that bound him.

"It doesn't matter," wept Rachelle.

"It does. I dreamt of growing old with you, not entrapping you with my age. I love you and always shall, but what kind of life could we have with me like - - -."

"I love you. It... We can still run away, still start over elsewhere."

"Beloved. I don't have time. I could never find a way to care for you as you deserve when I am... I love you. Goodbye." William kissed her, wrapping her in his now freed arms one last time, then strode from the cave.

"You have to fix it!" pleaded Rachelle, turning to Janis.

"I cannot. I fear this tragedy may play on for many lives of men. Know thee this though, two pieces of comfort I can give to thee. First, you and William will meet again and again as ages pass. You have loved often before and will love often in time to come. Your destinies are intertwined. Second, the heir to Terence's Dukedom you now carry is not of Terence's seed. Keep this second secret and safe, for the babe's sake and your own."

"How can I live without him."

"Live for the babe and for the time when you will both see this foul enchantment's end. Also child, live for the moon. You are her daughter, come here in her quarters and I shall teach you more.”

"A baby."

"William's baby."

"I will live for the babe and the day I see Terence dead."

"Both worthy causes."


Duke Terence stood fully armoured in plate. The lists were nearly deserted since the main tournament was over. Now as the tournament's campion he took personal challenges. His wife and son sat with the other nobles upon the stands, while peasants milled about beyond the list. He saluted his wife, who barely nodded towards him.

"The boy is five now, two more years and he is my squire, then shalt I remove the poison you have poured into his ears," muttered Terence.

"Hark, Duke Terence. You are a coward and a thief. You force yourself upon unwilling woman because no woman would willingly have you. You are nothing but a petty bully and I challenge you," called a man in chain mail and helm who strode onto the lists.

"Who dares say these things," bellowed Terence.

"Sir William Penhaven. Do you accept my challenge or slink off shamed and cowardly?"

Rachelle sat up on the podium, her heart fluttering. "William," she breathed.

"So, old fool, you challenge me. Very well, I will enjoy this. Sward and shield is my choice. A bit of sport for the serfs."

William walked to the edge of the lists where Zane, who now wore the white belt of a knight, passed him his sward and shield for what he knew would be the last time.

William and Terence met in the middle of the lists, circling each other. Each taking the measure of the man they fought. Terence lunged and William side stepped, slamming the back of his shield into his opponent. Terence turned, presenting his right side. William charged. Terence swung with his sward. William caught the blade with his shield and chopped at his opponent's legs. The armour turned the blow. They separated.

"Tell me, Terence, does she call my name when she lies in your arms?"

"Silence dog," snapped Terence.

"Aww, she does not call out at all in your arms. Such a waste, for I know the fault is not with her."

"Arrrr," screamed Terence. He lunged.

William side stepped and turned so Terence's blind left side faced him. He thrust driving the sward point against the relatively weak chain-mail that protected his opponent's underarm. The blade struck home. William danced back as Terence's shield arm fell useless to his side.

"I will kill you," screamed the Duke who rained blows against William. At first William held him at bay, blocking with shield and sword, then a blow tore his shield from his hand. The next thrust drove through the chain-mail and padded gamberson over his abdomen and spilled William's guts. As the sword drove home William pulled a dagger from his belt and with his last strength drove it into the gap between gorget and breast plate, piercing his enemy's neck. William twisted the blade and blood poured from the wound. Terence staggered back, swayed then collapsed to the ground in a puddle of gore.

William fell to his knees, holding the blade of his enemy’s sward in his hands.

Rachelle and her son raced from the stands. Rachelle knelt and removed William's helm. His hair was silver and his face lined, but it was still the face she loved.

"I am sorry I did not come earlier," he said.

"You came," she replied with tears in her eyes.

"I love you. I will always love you. The boy?"

"Garth. This is the good man I told you the stories about," Rachelle said with tears in her eyes.

The boy stared at him, comprehending more than he could ever let on. He nodded gravely at the father he dared not name. William saw the action and noting the features that blended his own and his love's understood.

"You are both free of him, my love. I only wish."

"Shh, save your strength, a leach will come."

"I have no strength to save. Take Zane into your service. He will be for the boy what I wish I could have been. Live well my love." William slowly toppled sideways, as his life's blood flowed out around the sward."

"William," cried Rachelle.


"Willow," screamed Giles as he jerked awake. He checked the clock by his bedside and tore the phone off the jack. He dialled and waited as his own phone in America range.


"Goddess!" swore Willow as she jerked awake. Dawn's first light was streaming in through the windows. The phone began to ring. She picked it up from the bedside table.


"Willow. Are you all right?"

"Giles. Yeah. I'm... I just had a very strange dream. Are you ok?"

"I... Well... I had a dream you were in danger. It was well..."

"Odd. Do you think it’s something hell mouthy?"

"I do not believe so but... What was your dream?"

"I was a guy and in love with this woman, Rachelle. Really kinda sad. What was yours?"

"I... I was Rachelle. Excuse me Willow, this kind of gender alteration may not be disturbing to you but for me it is somewhat unsettling. I feel a great need to have some scotch and find a rugby match to watch. We can compare experiences when I return."

"Ok, Giles."

"I'd best be."



"William really did love her."

"As she did him, Willow, as she did him."

The line went dead.

"Goddess, what is going on?" asked Willow to the air but the air didn't answer.


Tara woke screaming. "Goddess make it stop, Goddess make it stop."

The young girl at her side sat up and took her lover in her arms. "Tara, it's ok I'm here. I'm here. What happened?"

"Oh Goddess. I dreamt that I was st st st stabbed to d d d death."

"It was just a dream."

"No, no, it wa wa wasn't. Oh Goddess, Casey. Hold me."

"I not letting go."

"Casey. I have things to T t tell yyyou abbout me l l later,' said Tara.


Rupert hung up the phone. It was full night outside. He moved to his suitcase and extracting a hip flask of scotch took a long swallow. The liquid made a trail of fire from his lips to his stomach.

"Gods," he looked at his hand, it shook. Turning on the T.V. he checked all six channels for any kind of sports. Finally he settled for a classic Bond film and sat down to watch it.

"With everything else now I have to deal with gender issues. Bloody hell! This trip is worse than facing the bleeding hell mouth," muttered Rupert.

Willow had the same dream. He thought. Not a dream old man, You know enough to know that. Oh bloody hell! It's too late and I'm too drunk. Willow had the same dream. He smiled.

Chapter 10 - MERLIN’S TRUTH

"Come on Rupert. You're being so poky," teased Andrea as she led him along the trail that rose from the sacred well at the hill’s base up Glastonbury tor.

"Poky. Poky!" Rupert laughed and leapt after her. Catching her he spun her around and kissed her. He ran his fingers through her hair, which despite his objections she had died to remove the silver.

The kiss broke and she smiled at him.

"Happy love," he asked.


He took her hand and walked with her the rest of the way to the top. The wind whipped around them and white clouds scuttled by overhead in a blue sky. The short grasses that clung to life on the exposed hill top were flattened by the wind. They looked out over the countryside that fell away in a mosaic of fields separated by roads and stone fences.

"Andrea, I love you," said Rupert.

"I love you too." She turned to face him.

"I... well... That is to say...There... Oh bloody hell." Rupert knelt and pulled a ring from his pocket. "Andrea I would be honoured. Oh gods, I had a whole speech memorised but it has left me. I love you, will you marry me?"

Andrea stared at him open mouthed. "Rupert in twenty years I'll be - - -"

"I don't care now and I won't care then. I love you, that is all I know and I want us to spend our lives together."

"I can't give you children."

"I don't even like children."

"Rupert, I don't know what to say."

"Say yes."

Andrea took the ring and tentatively put it on her finger. "Rupert, I."

"Shhh." Rupert stood and embraced her from behind, holding his chest tight against her back, nestling his cheek against hers. Together they looked out from what might have been Avalon, island of apple trees, land of the immortals, resting place of Arthur Pendragon, and for that moment, they were as eternal as legend in each other’s arms."


Rupert stared out from the tor top alone.

"It is difficult to miss someone, isn't it?" asked a cultured but oddly accented voice.

Rupert turned to find himself staring at an old man with long white hair and a bushy beard, dressed in a tweed suit. His blue eyes held compassion and an odd merriment.

"Excuse me, but how would you know I was missing someone?" asked Rupert.

"It's all over your face, dear boy. Wife?"

"Fiance, it was a long time ago."

"Time. Fie upon time, it is a cheat and an illusion. Of course it also is a healer, so it isn't all bad."

Rupert smiled. There was an odd infectious quality about this man. He couldn't help but like him. "True. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking."

"Me, most folks, they just call me Kestrel."

"Odd name, if you don't mind me mentioning it."

"My parents were rather keen birders."

"I'm Rupert, Rupert Giles."

"Rupert. Solid name that. So your missing an old love."

"Saying goodbye in a way."

"Sure you shouldn't be saying hello."


"Love’s a funny thing. It's got a kind of powerful magic to it. Always fresh and new, but ancient like a tree springing up from a root. The root may run deep, deep, deep, but the tree's just a sapling."

"I don't follow."

"Of course you don't. Not really your stile to follow. Remember the Tarot, Rupert. The fool and magician stand side by side, though they are at the two ends of the major arcana."

"Who are you?" demanded Rupert.

"There you are," remarked a pretty woman of about fifty. She looked very Saxon with graying dark hair, dusky skin and brown eyes."

"Just having a word with Rupert here, love," replied Kestrel.

"Hello Rupert. Call me Nini, all my friends do."

"Hello Nini. You two are?"

"Don't it beat all. Tell you Rupert, first time a saw this little trollop I thought ‘if I was only twenty years younger’. Then turned out didn't matter to her and I'll tell you, I've felt twenty years younger ever since," said Kestrel.

"Yes well."

"You know, Rupert. If she loves you it won't matter to her."

"What... How... I... Kestrel? A kestrel is a merlin, Nini Ninian?"

"I told you he was clever, love," said the old man.

"We were rather obvious, dear," replied Ninian.

"But you imprisoned him," objected Rupert.

"Don't believe everything that fool Mallory wrote. There comes a time that a father must withdraw and let his child make his own choices. So it was with Arthur and I. I watched over him from a distance. Pity Gwen turned out to be such a tramp but what can one expect?"

"You can't be. You're just legends."

Merlin grinned. "Maybe I'm a daft old man having the stranger on. Maybe I'm a vacationing druid that lent his body to the spiritual force known as Merlin, Thoth, Thrice greatest Hermes and other names, so we could speak at this place and time. Maybe I'm a figment of your imagination, telling you to get moving, old man. Does it matter? You love the girl, you have a chance to end a centuries old curse. Get moving, there is nothing but cold stone and dirt here for you."

"How can I be with her when I'll grow old and be... She deserves a man to grow old with, not another aging father to care for."

"Always the same with these two. I can't burden the other. Touching in a way, I guess," said Ninian. "Now listen to me youngster. Love is no burden. It is better to be with one you love for a short time than one you do not for a life time. Besides, do you think love is such a week and feeble thing that a little thing like time can change it. Go on. You have a choice, death or life, choose, you've played silly games long enough."

The couple turned and started down the hillside. Rupert stared out, the sky was turning gray and the fields were drab below him. He descended the slope. Stopping at the sacred spring he drank before moving on. "Merlin Ambrosias, impossible!" he muttered to himself but he couldn't quite believe it. "Bloody hell, I'm not that far from the airport, time to cut this short. Cold stone and dirt. Time to live again Giles old man."

Chapter 11 - JOURNEY HOME

Willow read the last letter. It spoke of how she loved him and how she cursed the years that separated them but this was for the best. She dumped the gold ring out onto her hand. The small diamond set in platinum sparkled as she moved it back and forth.

"Poor Rupert." she opened a news paper clipping that also occupied the envelope and read it.

Andrea O'Mally wife of the Late Frank O'Mally died early this morning in a crash on the M5. Willow scanned the details then noted the year 1980.

"Poor Rupert." She lay the letter on the night-stand. Returning to his hidy hole she lifted out a leather bound diary. "I have to know how you coped. I'm sorry Giles but I have to because I lo... Willow what are you thinking?"

She opened the diary.

Entry 1

"I don't know why I am keeping this journal. With all my duties as watcher and the journals I must write in that capacity one would think I would have had enough of writing. I simply know I must record these events. I cannot believe what has occurred this day. I, Rupert Giles, have become a pervert! A disgusting paedophile bereft of all moral sense. My only salvation is I have not acted on my urges. The object of my desire is a young girl, Willow Rosenberg, by name. She is, simply put, extraordinary. Intelligent, warm, friendly with a supple beauty that will become breathtaking when she grows into herself. She came to the library to welcome this stranger newly arrived from a distant land. To extend a friendly hand. She shines like the sun. Oh Gods, how am I suppose to cope? I must deny myself. I am English after all.

She has a spark so much like one I encountered long ago. Do I see a distant echo and in memory of a happier time read more into this than there is. Who can say. All I know is this disturbs me greatly. A fifteen year old is hardly appropriate fodder for the fantasies of a broken down old man.

Entry 2

Willow knows about the Slayer and to her credit wants to help. Fate seems determined to make my life more difficult. She will be assisting me in researching. The girl has courage in addition to her other virtues. As Hamlet said "Be all my sins remembered."

"Goddess, Rupert, All these years." Willow returned to reading.


Rupert settled into his seat by the window. An elderly couple took their seats beside him.

"Hello, sonny," said the man. He had the wiry strength of a life of hard work but a smile that said he had few regrets. His clothing consisted of wool slacks and a tartan top with the top two buttons undone.

"Hello," replied Rupert.

"Tomas, don't pester the man," challenged his wife as she settled in the isle seat.

"Just being friendly, dear."

"I'm going to try and sleep."

"Um... Excuse me, Mam, but If you would prefer the window seat. I always have difficulty sleeping on air craft and if we switched I would disturb you less."

"Disturb me? How?"

"When he needs the loo, dear. You remember the trip over," said the old man.

"Hardly got a wink with that youngster prancing up and down the hole time."

"He got up twice, dear heart, and you spent most of the flight snoring in his ear."

"I do not snore, Tomas Humphrey. It is a kind offer though young man and if it's no trouble."

"None at all." Rupert stood and the three passengers rearranged themselves. In minutes the woman was snoring softly in the window seat."

"That's my Emily. Sleeps anywhere. I guess she picked it up cause she was born during the blitz," remarked Tom.

"A bit before my time."

"Was a tough one, I'll tell you. Jerry had us against the boards. Sometimes it seemed like for everyone you shot down they put up five more."

"You served."

"RAF, fighter command. Flew a Hurricane. Honey of a plane, though the Spit wasn't bad either."

"Really. It's not often you meet a world war two vet now days."

"Yup. I'm the last of my old squadron left kicking. Signed up right at the start too."

"That would make you."

Tomas smiled. "Eighty five, sonny."


"Owe it all to Em." the old face softened as he smiled at his wife who still snored softly.


"Son, you a married man?"


"Don't give up on it. Right woman will keep you young."

"Perhaps." Rupert smiled condescendingly.

"Son, listen to an old man. This is real. I worked as a vet for a lot of years, small animal mostly. I saw pets that had no business surviving pull thought and you know why?"


"There owners loved them that much. Weren't nothing I did. Didn't always work. Sometimes nature just runs its course, but it happen enough I believe it. I saw dogs and cats that weren't that bad but the owners didn't really care. The animal gave up then I's see these poor beasts hanging to life by a thread but the owner was there talking to them, loving the little things and by god they pulled through."


"Folk are no different. I met Em when I was forty. She was a pretty little thing, all smiles and legs that could make you drive your car up a tree."

"Well um..."

"Relax lad. Truth is truth. I was pretty much the confirmed Batchelor. Came close a couple of times but never found the right one. Em applied for a job as my receptionist/ nurse. She smiled at me and she had the job. Spent the next couple of years dancing around it, pretending like it was just work but twern't. Fell for the little thing, then finally got up the courage to risk telling her when some young whippersnapper almost took her from me. She felt the same. Been together ever since. I stick around cause Em wants me to.

"Came close to checking out last year. Heart attack but I just said no. Em needs me. Won't go until she's ready to leave."

"Thank you," said Rupert.

"For what, son?"

"Hope." Rupert closed his eyes. Tomas looked on with a smile playing at the edges of his mouth.


Entry 235

I feel such rage. I did not pursue my suit because I feared rejection, now she is farther from me than ever. How could the finest and fairest of all woman kind prefer the company of her own sex.

I could face her being with Oz. Young men to young women should be joined and he was good for her. She blossomed with him and smiled. That smile was life itself. But Tara. I watch Willow mope and how can this be. Is there no justice. I rage the most because of timing. Tara appeared when Willow was wounded and wormed her way into her affections.

Would I have minded this direction had Willow been strong and made the decision in strength. Perhaps, but I think not so much. This is wrong! I must hide my feelings and prey she finds that this new facet of her personalty grows dull before it becomes a thing of habit. Gods and goddesses, for the sake of all men who love women, do not let the fairest of that sex be stolen from us!

"Goddess, Rupert. No wonder you didn't take it well." Willow smiled. "Fairest of that sex. Wonder what Cordy would have to say to that?

"A facet that grows dull. A good description."


Rupert dreamt. He was a older woman in seventeenth century cloths ending it with a young enthusiastic lover. A young man rejected in his suit for an older woman. An old man, a doctor in the American west, sending the young woman that loved him into the arms of another man for fear of the age difference. The theme repeated in all possible combinations and each time he sensed something dark grow. It was like some corner of the hellmouth revelled in the misery and grew stronger each time love was denied.

He awoke with a start.

How to tell her? He thought. What if she says no, or is disgusted. Suppose it is the same thing all over again.

"Awake there, son?" asked Tomas.

"Well yes."

"You should here this. It's a fine bit of writing." The old man held up a copy of Dune and read.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it is gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I remain."

"Who are you?" asked Rupert.

Tomas smiled. "If there is darkness, can it exist without something to balance it. I'm just an old vet who's seen enough to know his way around a few corners."

Rupert fell silent and slipped back into his own thoughts.


Willow opened the second leather bound volume. There was also a photo album filled with pictures of her. She'd blushed at some of the poses Giles had caught. "Never knew anyone took a shot of me in the vamp outfit. May have been a bit binding but can't argue the results." she smirked and opened the journal.

Entry journal B # 1

I drive my jealously down and watch her walk hand in hand with Graham. I like the lad. He has pulled Willow out of the dive she was in, in a sense rescued her. This runs deeper than her preference but touches the person she is and I am glad to have her back. She will never be mine but so long as the dream survives I can survive. She told me what the final straw between her and that T thing was. Foolish woman, cheating on Willow like that with some fopsy she picked up in a gay bar no less. How could anyone be fool enough to risk losing something so good and noble in such a way. Gods how I hate my age. It crushes me this weight of years, drives me down. It denies me even the hope of joy. I would give all I am to be twenty five again. To walk hand in hand with her along the beach. To feel her lips touch mine and have her gaze at me the way she did Oz or Graham. What sad words are ‘It might have been’.

Willow touched a rumpled piece of the paper. The small disturbed area had obviously been struck by water. She turned the page, knowing for the first time with certainly what her future held and as she always had, preparing for it.


Rupert retrieved his car from the long term parking lot at L.A. X and stared towards Sunnydail.

So it is decided, Giles. He thought. You won't tell her. Love her from afar, no matter what. You had your chance with Andrea. She deserves a young man to grow old with, not a decrepit old reprobate like you. To everything a season but she shouldn't have to face clucking tongues when she steps out with her man. Or the rigours of age in a husband that should still be young and vital. As if she'd even be interested.

The citreon was long dead and Rupert's new vehicle made light work of the drive. He pulled into a pub off the highway with a large sign advertising authentic English decor and cuisine.

"Bloody Americans. Probably an over glorified burger joint with horse-brasses nailed to the walls." Rupert got out of the car and moved towards the Tudor style building. Entering he found it dimly lit and cozy. Booths lined the wall and tables filled most of the floor. A pair of dart boards hung on one wall and a soccer game played on the T.V. mounted on the ceiling over the bar. Rupert took a seat.

"Hello sir, what can I get you today?" asked a pleasant looking thirty something woman with long brown hair wearing a t-shirt and jeans.

"Do you have Strongbow cider?"

"What self respecting pub wouldn't?" she asked after taking note of his accent.

"A... A pint please and a menu."

"Yes sir. Might I suggest the house speciality. Meat pies, they are quite extraordinary. We have beef and chicken."

"Very well, a beef pie please."

Rupert leaned back. The place was warm in a way that reached further than the surface. It was in many ways like some one had taken a little piece of his homeland and dropped it in America. He inhaled and a delicious sent made his mouth water.


"You should have children a life, a chance to grow old with someone," said Andrea in his memory. In his mind's eye he saw her remove the ring he'd given her and lay it on the table.

"I don't care about children. I love you. I want to be with you. The rest doesn't matter," a much younger Rupert pleaded.

"It does to me. I explained all this in my letter but it was cowardly to tell you like that. You gave me back my life, Rupert. I love you, so now I give you back yours." Andrea stood and walked out of his flat never to return.


Rupert blinked to keep tears from welling in his eyes.

"Here you go sir," said the waitress. "Is everything all right?"

"No, but it is nothing you can assist with, thank you for your concern." Rupert picked up his fork and pressed it into the pastry. It crumbled, releasing a mouth watering sent of spices and herbs. He bit into the first fork full and his eyes closed in near orgasmic rapture.

"Good?" asked the waitress.

"Magnificent. I have only once tasted their equal."

"Really? Where?"

"Many years ago in a pub in York called the Golden Ram."

"Really! Stay right there and enjoy your meal sir, there is someone you have to meet." The waitress practically ran from the room. Rupert sipped his cider and took another bite of the pie.

Minutes later the waitress returned leading a twenty something man by his hand.

"Jeremy, this is the man who ate at the Ram," said the waitress.

"Hello," said Rupert.

"Hello, you really use to eat at the Golden Ram in York?"

"Yes. They too had extraordinary meat pies."

"Did you know an inn-keep called Old Willy."

"Very well in deed. I heard he died though, great pity, the man could cook."

"And you feel my pies are as good as his."

"Without a doubt. Why?"

Jeremy smiled. "He was my grandfather. When dad sold the pub, we kept his recipe books. Everything I serve is based on them."

"That is marvellous. I thought I tasted the last of those meat pies. Something so fair it is a shame to deny one self..." Rupert face went blank.

"Sir," asked the waitress.

Rupert stood pulled out a twenty and dropped it on the table. "I have to go. I will return, you have a wonderful place here."

Rupert raced from the pub leaving half his meal behind.

"What an odd man?" said Jeremy.

"Or a lucky one," said the waitress with a knowing smile. Come on honey, you have to get some more of those pies baked for the evening rush." She kissed him and Jeremy moved back to his kitchen.


Entry journal B # 101

Today I leave for England. I know Andrea won't be there but it is as much as I can allow myself. Sweet Willow will be staying in my home, sleeping in my bed. I can only hope something of her remains upon my sheets when I return. Am I coward or realist? Or both. This love is like a flame and I a moth. I dare not fly too close but I can not stay away. I thrill to the thought of her. I know she will find a new love, but she has now gained wisdom. She has told me she will wait for the wound left by Graham's leaving to heal before seeking out another companion.

‘Companion,’ what a term, how euphemistically she warns me that she refuses to limit herself to either gender. I wonder if she knows that I know her true meaning. It matters not, so long as she choose from a position of strength. Still I admit, I feel a man would serve her better. A kind man with a knowledge of the art to be the yang to her ying. She has just rung the bell and I must hide the journal and go.

Willow sat on the bed staring at the empty page that followed. "Rupert," She whispered. She checked the clock he was due in under an hour. "Well, Willow, what do you want?" she asked herself.

"You can A, hide all this away and pretend you never found his little stash, or B, stop being a foolish little girl who cares what other people think and make a choice."

"Which will it be?" asked an accented voice from the bedroom door.

"Giles!" gasped Willow.

"There was an open seat on an earlier flight. I see my privacy means rather less to you than I might have hoped."

"Giles. I'm sorry. I... I... I started reading and couldn't stop."

"And now you know. Willow, I have loved you since that day seven years ago when you entered my library. Perhaps I have loved you for centuries. If you choose, we can return to how things have been. Pretend you never read my journals, never found out.”

Willow leapt from the bed and silenced him with a kiss. "Five hundred years is too long a time, Rupert. I felt it too, all through high school, all through university. I've dreamt of holding you. I - - -."

Rupert kissed her. There lips parted and there was passion in the action. His hands traced over her cloths, exploring as he'd always dreamed of exploring. He broke the kiss. "May I remove the road from myself. Frankly, I need to shower."

Willow smiled. "You are an unselfish man. Go on, but hurry."

Rupert raced into the shower while Willow removed the journals and letters from the bed and turned down the sheets. She lit a candle on the dresser then striped off her own cloths. With a teasing smile she hung her brasier on the doorknob. "And I don't even have to pay for it."

She'd posed on the bed facing the door when she heard the shower turn off. A minute later Rupert stepped into the room. He was naked and his hair was still damp. He paused and his breath caught at the sight of her.

The candle light painted Willow's skin golden and her red hair seemed to flame. Her slender body with its perky breasts was perfection itself and her legs stretched out beneath her long and lean.

"Enjoying the view, Mr Giles," asked Willow, in her best school girl voice.

"Gods and Goddesses all. You are lovely. More beautiful than I ever imagined.

Willow smile at him and he had no trouble focussing on that lovely face. He moved to the bedside and kissed her, allowing his finger tips to brush up her side.

Willow ran her fingers over his chest, toying with the dusting of hair they found.

"Willow," whispered Rupert when he broke the kiss. He kissed and licked his way down the length of her neck then over her shoulders. His hands stroked over her body pausing to massage her breasts.

Willow breathed deeply. She didn't know if it was experience, anticipation or compatibility but Rupert touch sparked something in her that flamed up like nothing she'd ever experienced. She reached out stroking her hand over his erection.

"Haaa," breathed Rupert. He moved from her nipples and kissed over her abdomen to her sex. Parting her folds with his tongue he made one long languid lap along her vaginal slit.

"Uggg," gasped Willow.

Rupert kissed her upper thigh and slowly worked his way down her leg. Caressing and kissing all the way.

"Oh god! Rupert," gasped Willow.

"Yes?" asked her lover who parted her vaginal folds with a moistened finger and stroked her length.

"Ummmmmm. What have I been missing."

Rupert smiled at her and worked his way back up her leg, this time lapping twice at her sex before starting down the other leg.

"I want to ride you, Rupert. I want to love you and feel you fill me. I want to hold you and touch you all over. I want to pull tight around you and feel your seed shoot deep into me. I want to love you until neither of us can go on. Then I just want to hold you until we can start again."

Rupert kissed his way up her thigh and once more parted her lower lips with his tongue. Her juices were sweat with a tangy after taste. He batted his tongue over her clitoris.

"Awwwww, Oh, Rupert. No not like this. Lay down on your back."

"Are you sure?" Rupert teased, then he took her clitoris in his mouth and gently sucked.

"Ugggggg." Willow pulled away. "Up here," she ordered and patted the bed beside her.

Rupert wiped his mouth on his arm and lay on his back where she indicated. Wordlessly Willow took a condom from the night stand and slipped it over the head of his penis. She took his manhood into her mouth used her lips to unroll the condom as she swallowed him. Backing off she ran her tongue around the head.

"Awwwg." Rupert ran his fingers through her silken hair. She tickled his testicles, swallowed him once again, then kissed her way up his body stopping to tease his nipples with her tongue.

"I love you," she whispered as she positioned herself and slowly slid his manhood into her vagina.

"I love you." Rupert’s face almost glowed as he spoke the words he'd held in check so long.

Willow kissed him and his arms went around her. His fingers played through her hair. She leaned back his penis deep within her. Rupert looked at her towering above him. She was everything, beauty, majesty, life itself. He caressed her small perfect breasts with one hand as he stroked her clitoris with the other. The sensation of her on him was beyond belief.

"Willow," he roared as his orgasm welled up. Fire filled him, melting ice that had too long encased regions of his heart. Tears sprang into his eyes as the foolish restrictions of masculinity melted under the barish of pure emotion.

"Rupert," screamed Willow, her own orgasm taking her. She too cried, allowing emotion to flow freely. She gazed at him and knew nothing else mattered. She collapsed against him and he held her close and safe and warm.

Much later she moved to his side and snuggled in to the crook of his arm.

"Willow. I want there to be an us. A long term, rest of our lives, us. But as it is you who will face the greatest challenges if this continues, I do not want you to feel obliged. I - - -" began Rupert.

Willow rose on one arm and kissed him ending his sentence. "Rupert, I'm not a fifteen year old girl anymore. I know there may be problems but it's not like I've never been in a relationship that was a challenge. I mean, Oz was a werewolf and Tara, that's pretty self evident, then Graham. Some times he'd channel automatically, while we were... um... Involved. Kinda weird to start with one guy at the wheel and finish with another."

"So you truly believe there can be an us."

"I know there is an us, if we both let it happen." Willow smiled at him.

Rupert took the envelope from the night stand and shook the ring out onto his palm. "Willow, I know I bought this ring for another."

"Did you really, Rupert. Do the bodies we wear make that much difference?"

"No, not really. Though I have no intention of calling you Andrea and don't you even think of calling me Rachelle. There is enough confusion in our lives already."

Willow smiled. "Rupert and Willow, it's a good fit. Actually, a very good fit.” She reached down and toyed with his penis.

"Willow, allow me this moment?"

"Of course."

"Willow Rosenberg, I never thought this ring would know another hand. If you would though, I want to share my life with you."

Willow held out her left ring finger and Rupert slipped the diamond ring onto it. He kissed her and stared into her beautiful smiling face. For only the second time in his life he felt complete, all the deep aching voids inside filled.

Willow snuggled into her fiance. She was home, warm, safe, cherished and complete.

This time they both knew there was no turning back. They both accepted that their love could and would overcome all the clucking tongues, all the conventions and problems.

In unison they whispered those words most powerful. "I love you." Willow caressed Rupert's side and he kissed her. Their love was more than bodies but both had a sense there was a lot of time to make up for.


Deep in the hellmouth something screamed. The accumulated energies of broken hearts and never beans had been almost enough for it to break free but now a huge part of its hoarded wealth of misery was ripped away and thrown upon the winds. It remained imprisoned, unable to spread despair and terror until another time.


Buffy opened Giles’ door with her key and carried the tea and muffins up to the bedroom in silence.

I'll break her of this sleeping in business, she thought. Stepping into the bedroom the first thing she noticed was two lumps in the bed.

Oops! Thought Buffy. Curiosity forced her to take a second look.

"Oh my god!" she gasped, seeing Giles.

Willow blurrily opened her eyes and looked at her friend. "Buff?"

"Willow, it's, I mean, you talked about him, but really?"

Willow shifted in the bed, gently extracting herself from Rupert's arms. Standing she paused to smile down at his sleeping form and brush a lock of hair back from his eyes.

"We should go downstairs. He's so jet lagged." Willow picked her robe up off the back of a chair and ushered Buffy out the door.

"Will, I mean, wow," said Buffy when they took seats on the couch.

"I kinda told you I was thinking about it."

"So is this kinda a one night fulfill the curiosity thing or..."

Willow held out her had with the engagement ring.

"Wow! Like, Wow. Fast work."

"No, very slow work, Buffy, very slow work. Can you be happy for us?"

Buffy smiled at the entreaty on her friend’s face. "You know I can. It won't be easy you know that don't you?"

"Nothing worth having ever is."

Buffy got a devilish expression in her eyes. "So tell me. What's he like?"


"Come on, you don't expect me to believe he was so jet lagged all you two did was sleep? Spill."

"Well Buff," Willow blushed. "I... er... a... e... u..."

Buffy laughed.

"What's so funny?"

"Will, you just made vowel sounds. Maybe you’re ready to think with your heart a little again. Hurry up and set a date."



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