Tumblin' Down

Part Eleven

Xander made a point to stop by the dorms when he got off work the next day. He had debated going home to shower and change first, but he figured that he should bite the bullet and go see Buffy while he was still on campus. And before he could chicken out.

Buffy was sitting at her desk, trying to think of ways not to study. She didn't want to admit it, but she really missed Willow being there. Not only was Willow a wonderful source of information and school help, but it was so quiet with her best friend gone.

Unable to get the redhead off her mind, Buffy found herself wandering over to her side of the room. She knew that she should probably pack up the rest of Willow's stuff and take it over to Giles', but she wasn't ready to accept the fact that she wouldn't be moving back this semester. She also wasn't ready to see them together, not yet.

A knock at the door made Buffy drop the pillow she had been holding. She placed it back in its rightful place on the bed before answering the door.

"Xander! What are you doing here? And why are you all dirty?"

"Hey Buff. Can I come in?"

"Oh, yeah, sure." The blonde stood to the side so Xander could enter the room.

"I, uh, got a job doing construction on campus," Xander said. "Hence the dirty."

"You… doing construction?" Buffy questioned, an amused look on her face.

"Don't laugh, I'm actually pretty good at it."

"But you didn't just stop by to show me how dirty and sweaty you get at work. To what do I owe this pleasure?" She silently added, 'As if I couldn't guess.'

"You gotta go see them," he blurted out.

"Them?" Buffy casually questioned, pretending she didn't know whom he meant.

"Willow really misses you," he said, sitting on the redhead's bed.

Buffy looked sufficiently guilty. "Me too. But I can't see them, not yet. Not together."

"I don't get it," Xander threw his hands up in exasperation. "Giles and Willow are the most important people in your life after your mom. Why are you avoiding them?"

Buffy sank onto her bed, avoiding his eyes. "You wouldn't understand," she mumbled.

"Try me."

"Where to begin…"

"Start with Giles," Xander suggested, guessing that's where most of her issues lay. "Is it because he's so much older than her?"

"In part." Buffy squirmed. "Doesn't it wig you out that he's old enough to be our father?"

"Sure it does, but he doesn't act like it around her."

"You've seen them… together?"

"Yeah, I stopped by yesterday. They make a good couple, Buff. I didn't want to believe it, but they really care about each other."

"But he's always treated her differently," Buffy protested, hoping that she didn't sound as jealous as she did in her own ears.

"You mean like a grown-up? I noticed that too."

"But she's our age!" Buffy exclaimed. "If he acts like a father to me, and he acts like a father to you, why isn't acting all fatherly to Willow?"

"I can't answer that one."

"I know this is going to sound awful, but Giles has been more of a dad to me than my own has."

"Me too," Xander agreed.

"I mean, he even got fired from the Counsel for his fatherly feelings for me. I just don't understand how Willow can see him as anything other than a father-figure."

"Buffy, you know she had that crush on him through high school," Xander reminded her.

"I was hoping it was a phase," Buffy admitted. "She got over crushing on you."

"Yeah, but not until after we made with the illegal smoochies, several times." Xander countered with a blush.

"Exactly," Buffy said triumphantly. "Once she had a taste of you she no longer wanted to be with you, no offense." Xander shrugged and motioned for her to continue. "What if that's all that she's doing with Giles?"

"You think Willow's using Giles," Xander doubtfully asked. "C'mon, this is Willow. She doesn't use people like that."

"But she and Oz just broke up a couple of weeks ago. They didn't even really break up; Willow found Oz with that skanky ho, they had a fight, she got hit by that car and he skipped town. They haven't had any kind of closure. What if he comes back and tries to get back together with her? Oz is the first guy she ever dated. What if she goes back to him?"

"Willow wouldn't take Oz back," Xander said with certainty. "He betrayed her. He lied to her about sleeping with that wolf chick."

"But she cheated on him with you…"

"Those don't even come close to comparison. Willow and I kissed a few times, that's it. Oz had wild animal sex with Veruca. If she had been some groupie I think Wills could maybe forgive him, someday. But she wasn't. She was another werewolf. And that's always going to make her wonder if she'd be able to compare to someone who knew exactly what he was going through."

"When did you get so insightful?" Buffy asked in awe.

"Just because I don't always act like it, doesn't mean that I don't notice what my friends are going through."

"Then how come you didn't know about me and Riley, Oh Insightful One?"

"I've been busy," he shrugged. "It's not like we've all been hanging out that much lately. I mean, I've got my new job and Anya, and you've got school and slaying and Riley. And Wills can't really go out Bronzin' with us…"

"So she's been stuck spending all of her time with her one-time crush in close quarters without her friends to keep her company, and no boyfriend to distract her," Buffy surmised.

"You got it in one."

"I'm a bad friend," Buffy frowned, staring at her hands. "It's my fault she and Giles turned to the only other person they knew who was unattached."

"It's no one's fault," Xander insisted. "Willow told me yesterday that Giles admitted to wanting her even back in high school. This isn't something new, for either of them."

Buffy's face blanched. "I think I'm getting nauseous again."

Xander couldn't help laughing. "I know, it freaked me out at first too. But it makes sense. They were always doing that smart book thing together. They speak the same language, Buffy."

"What? Nerd?" Buffy slapped a hand over her mouth. "I didn't mean that."

"Yes you did," Xander laughed. "But it's okay. I'm sure they'd both agree with you, but they'd be proud of it. You know what they were doing when I got there?"

Buffy's eyes grew wide with apprehension. "I don't know…"

"They were going through old files of research."

"Oh, man, they deserve each other."

Xander grinned, knowing Buffy didn't realize what she'd just said. She caught his knowing grin and the light bulb switched on.

"Oh God, they really do deserve each other," she said in awe.

Memories flashed in front of her eyes: Willow sleeping at her computer to find the missing bit of info they needed on the web, Giles searching through book after book to find the way to stop that week's big bad, Willow freaking out when Giles was fired, Giles' overwhelming sense of loss when they thought Willow was a vampire and his relief that she was alive. Instance after instance of things that her two favorite people had in common made themselves known to the blonde and she realized how selfish she was being.

"It's been there all along," she whispered in newfound belief.

"You gonna be okay," Xander asked, worried about how Buffy would handle her epiphany.

"Yeah," she slowly smiled. "I think I get what they see in each other now. I'm not saying that it'll be easy seeing them together. I mean, he's still practically my dad."

"It'll get easier once you've actually spent some time with them. Giles can still be your surrogate dad, even if he's Willow's… boyfriend."

"That just sounds so weird. Giles is Willow's boyfriend."

"Tell me about it. He isn't even a boy, he's a man," Xander agreed.

"Well, there are certain advantages to dating a man…" Buffy trailed off with a blush.

Xander covered his ears, "Blaahh, I don't want to hear about it. I never need to hear what you and your undead 240 year old boyfriend did. Ever."

"Okay, okay," Buffy giggled, knowing how much Xander hated hearing about her relationship with Angel.

"But maybe you could talk about it with Willow," Xander suggested, getting serious again. "I can tell how much she needs your support in this."

"You think she'd stop dating him if I asked?" Buffy perked up.

"No, she'll do what she wants. And she deserves to be happy, even if it's with Giles. She'd just feel better knowing you didn't hate her for dating him."

"I know, you're right. I'll go talk to her, I promise."

"Soon?" Xander pressed.

"As soon as I can. I'm going out with Riley after a quick patrol tonight, but maybe tomorrow, or the day after that."

"Go sooner rather than later," Xander suggested.

"I'll try," Buffy promised.

Xander slapped his hands on his thighs as he prepared to stand. "On that note, I have a shower with my name on it. I'll see ya later, Buffy."

"Thanks for stopping by," she sincerely thanked him.

"No prob. Anything to make Wills smile."

"And you really think seeing me will make her smile?" Buffy nervously asked.

"A thousand watter."

Buffy just smiled in response, hoping that was true, hoping she'd be able to be supportive when she saw them together again.

Part Twelve

It took Buffy another three days to work up the nerve to talk to her friends. She told herself that she was just too busy to stop by, but she knew that wasn't true. Afraid that she would walk in on something she really didn't want to see, she decided to call first.

Holding Mr. Pointy in one hand, needing the familiarity and comfort it provided, and the phone in the other, Buffy started to dial Giles' number. After hanging up twice, she finally managed to dial all seven numbers and let the phone ring. Just as she was about to hang up again she heard the familiar English accent that always made her feel safe.

"Giles here."

"Hi Giles," she weakly greeted her almost-father. "It's Buffy."

"Buffy," he practically sighed her name, relieved to hear her voice. "I'm glad you called."

"Is something wrong? Is Willow okay?" She'd never forgive herself it something had happened to Willow while she was working through her issues.

"Willow is fine. In fact, I'm afraid she'll injure herself in her haste to get to the phone," Giles chuckled. His voice became muffled as he lowered the phone to his chest to ask Willow not to strain herself, saying that she could talk to Buffy in a moment. Buffy smiled at the affection and concern in Giles' voice.

"Sorry about that," he apologized when he returned the receiver to his ear. "We're just both so pleased to hear from you."

"I'm sorry I've been stay-away gal," Buffy responded, knowing it wasn't enough. She had been purposely ignoring her friends.

"That's quite all right, Buffy," Giles tried to reassure her, but she could hear the hurt in his voice.

"No it wasn't. Look, I don't want to do this over the phone. Can I come over?"

"Of course you can come over," Giles repeated for Willow's benefit. Buffy could hear the happy squeal from the redhead in the background. "You're always welcome here, there's no need to ask."

"Maybe. I'll come over now." Buffy said, knowing she needed to do this while she was thinking about it.

"We'll see you shortly. Wait one moment, please." Buffy heard muffled talking again. "Willow says she is excited to see you as well."

Buffy couldn't help laughing quietly at Willow's objections to how Giles had rephrased her remarks in the background.

"Me too. I'll see you both soon." Buffy hung up the phone and took a deep, calming breath before gathering her keys and purse and heading out the door.


Willow was virtually bouncing with excitement, a wide grin lighting her face. "She's really coming over?"

Giles sat next to her, feeling as excited as Willow, but able to keep it inside, although he was wearing a matching grin.

"Yes, she is on her way over now."

"Did she say anything about us? How did she sound? Should I go change?" Willow bubbled.

Giles couldn't resist kissing her, leaning over to silence Willow's excited questioning. Willow readily transferred her nervous energy into a more productive kind, returning Giles' kiss with more passion than he had intended the kiss to hold. Not that he would ever complain about any kiss Willow shared with him.

When he finally pulled back, Giles simply said, "All that she said was that she wanted to come over."

Willow frowned, "That can't be good. She never calls before coming over here."

"Perhaps she was just trying to give us some privacy," Giles offered, doubting the statement even as he said it.

Willow gave him a disbelieving look saying, "I guess we'll find out soon enough."

Giles hated how nervous and defeated Willow became. They both knew that it would be difficult for Buffy to accept them as a couple, but they had hoped that she would have come around sooner.

"Scoot forward," he requested, standing to allow her the room to move. Willow looked at him quizzically, but did as he asked.

"Oh," she gasped when Giles sat in her recently vacated spot and lifted her onto his lap. He pulled her to lean back against his chest and wrapped his arms around her.

"I like this," Willow sighed, snuggling into Giles' embrace.

"Me too," Giles whispered into her neck, affectionately nuzzling the sensitive skin beneath her ear. Willow tilted her neck, giving him better access to one of her more sensitive areas.

A soft moan escaped her lips as Giles began to brush his lips against the side of her neck, mere whispers of kisses. His fingers gently skimmed her belly over her clothing, causing the muscles to flutter with anticipation. Like his mouth, his hands barely touched the fabric. Willow's hand snaked around Giles' head, running her fingers through the soft hairs at the nape of his neck. She tried to pull his head closer for more fulfilling contact, but Giles resisted, reprimanding her with a "Shhh" against her skin. The exhalation of that word sent pleasurable shivers down Willow's spine.

Her hand still on the back of Giles' neck, Willow turned her head to capture his teasing lips with her own. The kisses remained light and teasing, slow and shallow, and incredibly unfulfilling.

"How long before Buffy gets here?" Willow mumbled against Giles' lips.

A knock at the door answered her question, causing both occupants of the couch to groan in disappointment.

"Just a moment," Giles called out as he disentangled his body from Willow's and moved off of the couch.

"I jinxed us didn't I?" Willow rhetorically asked as she tried to calm her racing heart and will away the tingling under her skin.

"Hardly," Giles assured her, kissing the top of her head. "We shouldn't have started anything when we knew Buffy was on her way."

"Oh, sure, be all logical," Willow pouted as Giles answered the door.

"That's our Giles, always with the logic," Buffy said with feigned light-heartedness as she walked into the apartment, having caught Willow's statement.

"Buffy, it's good to see you," Giles greeted the blonde, closing the door behind her and joining Willow on the couch again, this time keeping a respectable distance.

"Yeah, Buff, I've missed you," the redhead added.

"Me too, Wills," Buffy admitted. "How's the hip?"

"Still there. It's getting a little easier to walk. I'm down to one crutch now, soon I'll be able to switch to a cane."

"That's great," Buffy said encouragingly.

"But you didn't call to come over here to ask about my hip, did you?" Willow asked her friend, watching her lower her head slightly with guilt. Willow took the opportunity to swing her left leg off the couch and onto the coffee table, urging Giles to sit next to her.

Catching on to what she was doing, Giles slid his arm around Willow's shoulders. They both knew that Buffy had been trying to cope with their new relationship, so they may as well show her that they weren't afraid to be affectionate around others.

When Buffy had steeled herself and returned her gaze to the couch, she couldn't help blanching upon seeing Giles with his arm around Willow, her head resting on his shoulder.

Buffy stood abruptly, nearly tripping over the coffee table in her haste. "I was wrong. I can't do this yet." She started to rush towards the door.

"Buffy, no, wait," Willow called after her. "Please don't leave, I can't chase after you."

Buffy stopped with her hand on the doorknob. Slowly she turned around. "I'm sorry, Willow, you too Giles, but I just don't think I can handle you two being together. I thought I was okay with it. Xander helped me see that you'd be a good couple together. But thinking about it and seeing it are two completely different things."

Giles had crossed the room to his slayer, torn between wanting to comfort her and offended that she was taking his relationship with Willow so badly.

"Please, just come and sit with us. Tell us what bothers you so about our being together," Giles entreated.

"We won't act all couply," Willow added from her position on the couch. "Just talk to us."

Buffy nodded and allowed Giles to lead her to the leather chair in the corner. Giles then returned to the couch, but remained at the far end from Willow. Buffy let out a small sigh of relief upon seeing this.

"Now how can we convince you that Giles and I make a good couple?" Willow asked her friend.

"I don't know if you can," Buffy admitted.

"Is it just the age factor?" Giles started.

"That's part of it," she conceded. "I mean, last year you were fired from the Counsel for your fatherly feelings for me. Why don't you feel all fatherly towards Willow too? I mean, she's even younger than me!"

"As your Watcher a good part of my job was to protect you, to prepare you for what was to come when you face demons. Much in the way I would imagine parents would prepare and protect their own child. I have never denied that I see you as the daughter I will probably never have. I fear for your safety every day, as any parent would."

"But don't you fear for Willow's safety? Don't you want to protect and prepare her for the dangers our lives hold too?"

"I do, but Willow was not my responsibility, as were you. When she and Xander learned our secret, I feared that she would become a target for being associated with us. Yet time and time again she has proved that she is up to the challenges the Hellmouth has thrown at us." Giles turned his eyes away from his slayer and towards the woman next to him, his eyes shining with affection. "As we constantly found ourselves the sole researchers, I came to learn that Willow had one of the sharpest minds I had come across, sharper than many of the adults I have known. Through our long discussions of topics ranging from books, to demons to the possible benefits of a computer over the written word, she ceased being a child in my eyes, and yet remained someone I never thought I could have."

Willow's eyes were shining with unshed tears, listening to Giles describe his feelings for her. She placed her hand, palm up, on the space between them. Giles clasped her small hand in his, squeezing gently.

"What about Oz?" Buffy loudly asked, needing to break the moment between the two across from her.

"Hmm? What about him?" Willow asked, returning her attention to her friend.

"I know what he did was awful, but what if he comes back and says he wants you back. He was your first love. Can you honestly say you wouldn't take him back?"

"Yes, I can. Oz hurt me, Buffy. There's no going back. I should have learned that lesson the first time. I know that I would always wonder if I was enough for him, and that's no way to live."

"What if you meet someone your own age?" Buffy asked.

Willow and Giles exchanged a curious look. "To whom were you addressing?" Giles asked, amusement in his voice.

"Both of you."

Willow motioned with her hand for Giles to go first. "Buffy, if Willow and I are together, how would we meet someone our own age?"

Buffy glared at her watcher, hating having the irrationality of her question pointed out to her. "Well, someone could try to pick one of you up," she said uncertainly, grasping at straws.

"But we're together, so we'd brush them off, just like if we were the same age," Willow countered.

Buffy was beginning to feel outnumbered. She knew deep down that they made the perfect couple, but she wasn't ready to accept them together yet. Why couldn't they understand that? Why were they taunting her like this?

"Giles had sex with my mom," she blurted out.

Willow raised an eyebrow at the blonde. "I know; you told me. Giles and I have talked about it. We've talked about everything. I know that he has never considered having a relationship with your mom. I know that Olivia is a casual fling. Just as he knows that I would never go back to Oz."

Buffy turned tearful eyes to Giles, "You never even considered dating my mom? Not even after…"

Giles moved to kneel in front of Buffy, taking her hands in his. "I don't mean to hurt you by saying this," he began, "and I mean no disrespect to Joyce. She is a fine woman, and a wonderful mother to you, but you mean too much to me to risk having a relationship with her."


"No, even if Willow and I hadn't discovered our interest in the other was mutual, even if Olivia never returned to Sunnydale, I wouldn't risk hurting Joyce, or you, if she and I had attempted a relationship and failed."

"So you let yourself be afraid of failure instead of taking a chance?" Buffy asked, barely restraining the tears of discovering the impossibility of a long-held dream.

"I admit, I was playing it safe. However, what I feel for Willow is much stronger than anything I have ever felt for Joyce."

Buffy slid to the floor on her knees, crying on Giles' shoulder. "You're never going to be my family," she whispered through her tears.

Giles wrapped his arms around her, wishing he could ease the pain she had unintentionally brought on herself. "No," he replied just as quietly, "not in the legal sense, but I will always love you as if you were my own."

"I love you too," Buffy hiccupped, wiping away her tears with the heel of her hand.

The whistle of the tea kettle startled them. Looking around the room they realized that Willow wasn't on the couch anymore.

"She must have wanted to give us some privacy," Buffy guessed.

"I'll just go help her with the tea. There's no way she's going to be able to manage a full tray, even with only one crutch. Why don't you go splash some water on your face," Giles suggested.

"I must look awful," Buffy said, getting to her feet, following Giles out of the room, continuing into the bathroom when he ducked into the kitchen.

Giles wrapped his arms around Willow's waist from behind as she finished setting the tea cups on the silver serving tray.

"Thank you," he whispered in her ear before dropping a kiss on her neck.

"I thought you could use a minute alone. Makes me wish I wasn't right," Willow said, resting her hands atop Giles'.

"You are very observant," Giles agreed. "It breaks my heart to see her watch her dreams fall apart in front of her. I wish there was something I could do."

"There isn't. Now that Buffy knows the truth, she'll be able to move past it and give us a chance. I hope."

"I'll try," said a voice from the doorway. "I really will. I want both of you to be happy, I just never thought it would be together."

"We are happy, Buffy," Willow said.

"I can see that," Buffy reluctantly admitted.

"Come," Giles said, picking up the tray. "Let's have some tea and relax."

"You know, tea is not the answer to everything," Buffy joked, following Giles back to the living room.

"Oh, you'd be surprised," Willow bantered, bringing up the rear.

"Not you too," Buffy groaned. "Giles, you've corrupted her."

The laughter of three voices could be heard throughout the small apartment.

Part Thirteen

The next two weeks rushed by in a flurry of activity. With all of the emotional drama encompassing their lives, they were surprised to realize that it was nearly Christmas.

Buffy and Willow were able to spend some quality time re-bonding in the age-old fashion: shopping. Even though Buffy would make faces and cringe when Willow insisted on visiting every lingerie shop in the mall, it was done in the most playful manner. Especially when Willow pointed out that Buffy could shop there too.

Giles also insisted on at least one shopping trip with him, alone, so that he and Buffy could spend some quality time away from the apartment, and slaying, to reaffirm their relationship. Their trip to the magic shop wasn't entirely unexpected for Buffy, even if the reason behind it freaked her out a bit.

While Buffy, Willow and Giles went Christmas tree shopping, Xander planned his own holiday surprise. Using the key he had been given as a child, Xander let himself into Willow's parents' house. It took him about an hour to unearth the menorah Willow had been given as gift by one of her aunts, but eventually he found it.

He returned to Giles' apartment to find a beautiful, full, balsam fir set up next to the fireplace.

"Hey, Xan, hurry up, we were waiting for you to start decorating," Willow invited.

"Yeah," Buffy agreed. "What was so important that you couldn't come with us?"

Placing his surprise in Willow's lap, Xander explained, "I needed to pick something up for Wills."

Willow looked at her oldest friend, the question clearly written across her face. Her hands explored the plastic bag in her lap, feeling the familiar shape beneath her fingers. Her face lit up. "Is this what I think it is?"

Xander's smile lit up his face as well. "Open the bag and see."

Willow carefully pulled the plastic away, revealing her menorah. "Where on earth did you find this?"

"In one of the boxes in the back of your closet," he shyly admitted.

"What'cha got?" Buffy asked.

"This is my menorah. I haven't seen it in years. I got it as a gift at my Bat Mitzvah, but I never had a chance to use it before. We always just used my parents' menorah." Willow pushed herself off the couch and wrapped Xander in a big hug. "Thank you, Xander."

Xander returned the hug. "I thought you might be wanting it, seeing as how Hanukkah has already started."

"I was just going to skip it this year," Willow shrugged, stepping back from her friend.

"Well, now you don't have to," Giles said, taking the menorah and placing it on the fireplace mantle.

"There are candles in the bag too." Xander added. "Not much use for a menorah without candles."

"Well, lets light those puppies," Buffy said excitedly.

"Not till after sunset," Willow corrected, placing the candles next to the menorah.

"Why?" the blonde asked.

"Because that is the way it is done," Giles answered. "Until then, we have a tree to decorate."


The next day was Christmas Eve.

Joyce prepared a special dinner for everyone. Buffy had been nervous when she'd told her mom about Willow and Giles' new relationship. After the initial surprise, she had been amazingly supportive. When Buffy had tried to express her own beliefs about whom Giles should be with, Joyce had laughed. She told Buffy that she had no interest in being anything more than friends with Giles, and she never had. In fact, since everyone else was bringing a date, she would as well. There was an art dealer in town that had been flirting with her, so she had invited him to Christmas Eve dinner.

The food was delicious, the atmosphere comfortable, and the company heartwarming. The evening was filled with love and laughter, embarrassing stories and fond memories. Tokens of friendship were exchanged amongst those closest to them.

Eventually Buffy and Riley left for a quick patrol. Xander and Anya left to have sex, which Anya had proudly proclaimed as Xander hushed her out the door. Joyce escorted her date back to his hotel. And Willow and Giles returned home to exchange their own gifts.

Willow insisted that Giles wait in the living room while she prepared his present in her room. Giles was grateful for the opportunity to dash up to the loft to retrieve Willow's gift. He was nervous about her reaction and hoped that she wouldn't take it the wrong way.

Giles felt the fluttering of anticipation in his stomach when he heard his love call out, "Rupert, I'm ready."

Willow wasn't in the living room when he descended the stairs, so he proceeded down the hallway to Willow's bedroom. He found himself in front of a closed door. A smile spread across his face as he knocked.

"Come in," Willow invited.

The anticipation he had been feeling upstairs escalated as Giles opened the door. His breath caught at the sight before him. The room was bathed in candlelight. There were clusters of both red & green and blue & white candles, but Giles didn't notice. His eyes were transfixed on the woman on the bed.

Willow was reclining against the headboard wearing a beautiful red silk robe that Giles had never seen before. She could feel her body temperature rise as Giles raked his eyes over her body.

Fingering the sash holding the robe closed, Willow sultrily asked, "Aren't you going to unwrap your present?"

Giles blinked to pull himself out of his lust-induced thoughts. On his second attempt to speak he said, "Perhaps you should go first, or else you may not get to yours tonight."

Willow's giggle was music to his ears. She held out a hand to him, inviting him to join her on the bed. As he sat, Giles placed a beautifully wrapped box on her lap.

Giles watched her intently as Willow unwrapped the box and lifted the lid. A curious smile spread across her face as she sifted through the magickal ingredients she found. She pulled out a piece of paper and read the words carefully written on it.

"A spell?" she asked.

"A strengthening spell to be exact," Giles confirmed.

"Strengthening spell," she repeated in awe. "You want me to heal myself with a spell?"

Giles nodded. "I know you haven't been practicing magicks since the accident, and I am guessing that you have missed it."

"Yeah, I have," Willow agreed. "But isn't this cheating?"

"I'm not suggesting that you cure your injury with magick."

"Then what…"

"I am suggesting that you use this spell to speed the healing process; encourage the bone and muscles to knit faster."

"You just want to get into my pants faster," Willow said knowingly, the desire in her eyes and voice letting him know that it was what she wanted as well.

Running a hand along the edge of Willow's robe, Giles said, "And the purpose of your present to me would be…?"

"Touché," Willow conceded.

"Speaking of my present…" Giles began, openly leering at Willow's reclining form, amusement in his voice. "You bought yourself lingerie?"

Willow set the magick supplies aside and slid to the edge of the bed, the silk easing her movements. She huskily whispered in his ear, "It's what's under the lingerie that counts."

Giles felt his breath catch and his half-formed erection spring to life at her words. "Show me," he breathed.

Willow's hand slipped up Giles' thigh, stopping just shy of the straining material below his belt. "You don't want to do it yourself," she asked with the most sinfully tempting pout on her lips.

Giles leaned forward to slowly lick the protruding lip, his hand moving hers to rest on his very obvious arousal. "Maybe next time," he said in a voice filled with need.

Willow kissed him hungrily, massaging him through his pants. Giles didn't even try to restrain the moans Willow's mouth eagerly absorbed.

Pulling back, Giles panted, "So do I get to see the rest of my present?"

Willow smiled and got up on her knees. She motioned for Giles to take her place against the headboard. Giles instantly scooted back, his face alight with boyish enthusiasm.

Willow continued to tease Giles for a several long seconds. Slowly she pulled the end of the sash, releasing the loose knot. However her other hand was holding the material together, so nothing was yet revealed to Giles' hungry eyes. Just when she thought he was going to tell her to hurry up, Willow dropped her hands and arched her back, the silk easily slipping from her shoulders, revealing a matching red satin and lace nightie that barely reached the tops of her thighs.

Despite the lesser amount of clothing, Willow felt the heat in the room escalate under the look in Giles' lust-darkened eyes.

"You like?" she asked, not the least bit surprised by the sultriness of her voice, given the look she was receiving.

"You're a goddess," Giles honestly told her. "A more beautiful creature could not possibly exist compared to you. Come here."

Willow crawled towards him, allowing him a view of her cleavage as she moved up the bed and over his body, straddling his legs.

"You think I'm beautiful?" she questioned, removing his tie.

Giles ran his hands over her body, the satin sensuously moving against her skin as he traced the curves still hidden from his eyes. "You, my love, are radiant. A fire goddess whose spell I've fallen under."

Willow continued to undress the man beneath her. Her fingers eagerly unbuttoned his shirt. Even though she had seen him shirtless, and usually slept next to him that way, she had never gotten him that way herself, and she relished uncovering his flesh with her own hands.

"No spell," she denied. "Just love."

"Love?" Giles questioned, hope filling his eyes as his hands stilled on her hips.

Willow finished with her buttons and met Giles' eyes. Nervously biting her lip she nodded her head. "Yes, love. I… I love you, Rupert Giles."

Giles searched her eyes, afraid to find some sign of resignation. When all he saw was her nervousness and undeniable love, he lowered his lips to hers, taking her mouth in a slow, sensuous kiss. His full name on her lips, accompanying the words he had longed to hear for years, nearly sent him over the edge.

Willow had expected such a revelation to result in a fierce, passionate kiss. This kiss, however, was not what she had expected. Oh, it was passionate, no denying that, but instead of inflaming her, it turned her to mush. Willow felt her muscles slowly melting, her bones turning to butter, as Giles teased her mouth slowly with his, his tongue languorously moving against hers. Willow whimpered at the intense pleasure he was invoking, her body going limp in his arms.

Before she knew what had happened, Willow found herself on her back, with a nearly naked Giles pressed against her side wearing nothing but a pair of dark blue, tented, silk boxers.

Meeting her disoriented eyes, Giles proclaimed, "I love you, Willow Rosenberg. As if you didn't know."

"I suspected," she grinned, tracing the lines of his face she so dearly loved. "But it's still good to hear."

Giles kissed her forehead, her nose, her cheeks, her chin, down her neck, on downward, murmuring, "I love you," against her skin between each kiss.

When the material of Willow's nightie halted his progress, Giles looked up at his love. "May I finish unwrapping my present?"

"You may," she smiled, sitting up.

Resting his hands against her hips, Giles drew the soft material up Willow's body and over her head. He helped her to lie back down, admiring the beauty before him. "A goddess," he softly repeated. He loved the way her body flushed under his praise.

Dipping his head, Giles took one rosy nipple into his mouth, lovingly tasting and teasing her flesh. Willow's breathy moans excited him beyond belief, as did her hands that roamed as far as she could reach. The groan of pleasure Willow emitted when he switched breasts had him grinding his hips against the bed, needing some kind of friction to offer him some relief from his nearly painful erection.

Trying to ignore his own body's needs, Giles skimmed a hand down over Willow's tense belly to run through her curls and on down. He found her hot and wet for him. He moaned against the breast in his mouth and easily slipped a finger inside his love.

Willow's hips arched up at the pleasurable intrusion. She ignored the slight stab of pain the motion caused, the pleasure quickly drowning it out. Her hands blindly sought to return the pleasure she was feeling, sliding beneath Giles' body in search of the erection she knew must be painful by now.

Giles automatically lifted his hips, getting to his knees, as he felt Willow's delicate hand trying to move under him. He gasped and rested his forehead against her chest when he felt her trace the outline of his erection through his boxers, the silk caressing his sensitive flesh.

Giles crushed his lips to hers when Willow's hand slid inside the opening of his boxers to touch his flesh. She lightly stroked him in time with his hand's movements inside her. Giles had added a second finger by now and his thumb was beginning to stroke her clit in small, rough circles. Willow traced the head of his erection with her thumb in a similar motion, dipping beneath the foreskin to capture the moisture there, spreading it into his flesh as she slid back down to the base, before repeating the motion.

Giles could feel his orgasm nearing. Reluctantly ending the kiss he desperately told her, "Willow, love, I don't think I can last much longer."

Squeezing him lightly, Willow said, "So don't."

She recaptured his mouth, redoubling her efforts to bring him release. Giles seemed to redouble his efforts as well, wanting to bring her over with him.

Willow broke the kiss this time in order to vocalize her pleasure. She was finding it difficult to continue a smooth motion on Giles as she felt her inner muscles begin to clench. Her grip on him tightened briefly as her body went rigid, the pleasure washing over her. Giles thrust into her hand, taking her distraction for what it was. He grunted against her neck as he felt his balls draw up and his body jerk as he climaxed in her hand, staining his new shorts.

They stayed as they were, hands around and inside of each other, as they came down from their highs. Both were panting harshly when Giles rolled onto his back, withdrawing his hand and causing Willow's to be pulled away as well.

Turning his head to look at Willow, Giles said, "Now that's what I call a present."

Willow blushed, despite their recent activities. "I'm glad you liked it."

"I don't think I can move from this bed," Giles admitted, knowing he'd have to in order to get them cleaned up.

"Don't need to," Willow said, innocently.

"I need to get cleaned up and changed," Giles pointed out.

"Check the nightstand," Willow smiled.

Giles lifted his head enough to see that on the nightstand was a pitcher of water next to a bowl with a washcloth in it.

A wicked grin spread across his face. "Plan this did you?"

"Hey, goddess here, remember? We tend to know these kinds of things beforehand."

Giles forced himself to move enough to retrieve the items on the nightstand and lovingly ran the cloth over Willow's hand and between her thighs before discarding his boxers and tending to himself. He stood to return the items to the nightstand. He extinguished the candles before turning down the covers and helping Willow under them. He then joined her, pulling her against his sated body.

"You know," Willow casually said, "I think that I should start doing that spell tomorrow."

Giles chucked, pressing his lips to hers in a quick kiss. "Eager for more are we?"

"Oh, yeah," Willow confirmed, lovingly caressing his chest. "Aren't you?"

"Always," Giles admitted. "But this was more than I ever hoped for so soon."

"Do you think it was too soon?"

"No. It was perfect."

"Yeah, it was." Willow leaned up to kiss him before snuggling into his side and drifting off into a contented sleep.

Part Fourteen

"Rupert, could you please pass me the notes on the Nelcropian prophecy," Willow asked, not even looking up from her laptop.

Giles smiled, his heart still skipping a beat whenever he heard his given name on his love's lips. He stood from his chair on the other side of the room. Picking the requested notes up from the couch where they had been left earlier, Giles crossed to the table Willow had taken over. Books were scattered around the tabletop, pieces of paper stacked between volumes, with Willow's laptop nestled among them.

New among old, technology working with ancient texts, different mediums used to bring about one goal.

Giles stepped behind Willow, setting the papers down to her left, saying, "Here you are."

"Thanks," Willow automatically responded.

Giles rested his hands on Willow's shoulders, absentmindedly beginning a light massage as he looked over her shoulder at the computer screen.

"Ahh, Thank You," she said in response to the massage. Her hands dropped to her lap and she rested her head back against Giles' chest.

In the nearly two weeks since Christmas they had barely been able to keep their hands off each other. They were like a couple of teenagers, discovering the opposite sex for the first time. Any and every opportunity that presented itself to touch the other was taken.

They had promised themselves, and each other, that today they would try to behave and concentrate on inputting Giles' notes into the computer. Which is why Giles had been sequestered in his chair in the corner of the room while Willow diligently typed away at her laptop in the center of the room. The physical distance seemed to be working rather well, for the fifteen minutes that they were able to stay apart.

Willow didn't even realize that she had put them in the dangerous position of being next to each other when she had requested Giles to bring her the notes. As tended to happen, she had been immersed in what she was working on and had only processed that the notes she needed were closer to Giles than to her.

She debated being upset with herself for creating the situation of being distracted from her task. Then Giles slipped his hands down her chest to cup her breasts and kissed her in an upside-down kiss and she no longer cared. Work be damned, her lover was touching her.

Giles knew that they had agreed to behave themselves today, but he simply couldn't resist not touching Willow when he was so close to her. It was only going to be a momentary massage. Honestly. But then she abandoned her work to relax against him and he was doomed. His hands moved of their own volition to cup her breasts and her mouth was just too inviting.

The upside-down angle was a little uncomfortable, so at Willow's moan of encouragement, he moved swiftly to lift Willow into his arms, setting her on one of the smaller stacks of paper on the table.

Willow's arms instantly went around his neck, pulling his mouth back to hers. She loved the way he kissed her; the way his lips would soften and mold to hers. His hands alternated between holding her face, guiding the kiss and resting on her hips, allowing her to take control.

Time seemed to stop. Nothing existed except for the feel of the other pressed against them. The kisses only pausing occasionally in order to breathe.

Which is why they failed to notice Xander enter the apartment half an hour later.

"Geez guys, don't you ever come up for air?" he teased, having walked in on a similar scenario at least twice before in the past two weeks.

Giles immediately started to pull back out of embarrassment at being so caught, again. However, Willow's hands were on his face, insisting that he not end the kiss so abruptly. She gently separated their mouths, licking his lips as she pulled away. She licked her own lips, holding Giles' heated gaze, silently promising more once they were alone again.

"Hi Xander," Willow greeted her friend, finally breaking the eye contact, but keeping her legs firmly wrapped around Giles.

Xander could feel the sexual energy, like a living thing, floating around the couple before him and he suddenly wished he was at home with Anya.

"I take it we're feeling better," he leered at Willow, noticing her legs were still wrapped tightly around Giles.

"Much better," she purred. It was true; since she'd started doing the healing spell she'd noticed a marked difference in her hip. It wasn't that she had been in a lot of pain before, but she was definitely moving around easier now. She was still being careful, sitting on a pillow to keep her hips a little more elevated, using the beautiful cane Giles had given her as a Hanukkah gift, and taking it easy as much as possible.

Giles finally managed to will away the erection Willow had so easily brought about and disentangled himself from her limbs. Willow pouted slightly as Giles lifted her by the waist to help her stand before he backed away from her completely.

"Yes, Willow has been taking very good care of herself," Giles agreed. They weren't ready to share with Xander, or Buffy, that they were using magick to speed her recovery along.

"Lots of hands on, tender loving care, right," Xander quipped, crossing the room to flop down on the couch. Luckily he had managed to 'flop' on the only open space on the seat cushion.

"What are you guys working on here anyway?" he asked, taking in the tornado of papers and books around the living room. "Every time I come over here it's, 'Nothing to research,' or 'Working on a personal project'. What gives?"

Willow and Giles exchanged a look. Willow knew that Giles didn't want to tell the others about the book they were compiling information for.

"Just organizing some old research," Giles said as casually as possible. He knew the boy meant well with his questions, but he wasn't ready to reveal his possible book plans to him yet.

Knowing Giles' sensitivity to this subject, Willow rushed to change it. "Hey, not that I'm not thrilled to see ya, but shouldn't you be at work?"

Xander eyed her critically for a minute, but shrugged off any strange vibe he picked up. "Someone had written a bunch of strange markings all over the site so they shut down for the day to get rid of them."

"Strange markings?" Giles asked, his Watcher training kicking in. "Did you happen to see them?"

"Yeah, I saw them," Xander said. "I'm the one who found them. Why would anyone want to repeat the same set of 3 markings in all over the site?"

"Can you draw them?" Giles asked, excited by the possibility of some kind of ritual that needed to be researched.

"Already did." Xander finally grinned, pulling a napkin out of his pocket.

Willow hobbled over to look at the drawing along with Giles. Shaking her head, she couldn't help asking, "A napkin?"

Xander shrugged noncommittally. "You know me, I used what was handy. So does it mean anything G-man?"

"Undoubtedly," he mumbled.

While Giles drifted towards his library, Willow guessed, "They probably used the construction site because it's a nice big open space."

"Yes," Giles agreed, picking several volumes up off a shelf. "And possibly for the supplies as well. Were any of them missing?"

"Not that I noticed, but then again, I don't keep track of inventory," Xander mused.

"Xander, can you draw where these markings were located on the construction site?" Willow asked, knowing that their positioning may be important.

"No prob." Xander found a blank page on one of the legal pads lying around the room and made a rough blueprint of the site layout.

"That's what I figured," Willow mumbled when Xander presented his drawing.

"What?" he asked.

"They're in a triangle. Three by three."

"And that's bad…" Xander guessed.

"Not necessarily. It depends on what the symbols mean. Three is a powerful magickal number though, so three powerful symbols, repeated three times…"

"Means something big is brewing," Xander finished.

"Uh-huh. You want me on the net?" Willow asked Giles, who was lost in one of his books already.

"Yes, please. Xander, you may look through this book."

"May I?" he repeated with false enthusiasm. "Oh goody gumdrops."

Giles simply glared at him.


Several hours later they were still working on deciphering the symbols. There had been several arguments over the meaning of the symbols.

Buffy walked in on one such argument.

"Hey, guys, what's with all yelling?"

"Giles doesn't want to believe that these are Etruscan pictograms." Willow fumed.

"That is not what I was saying," he argued. "What I said, is that we don't know what form of Etruscan they used to perform their ritual."

"Whoa," Buffy interrupted, secretly loving the verbal sparring. "Ritual?"

"Oh, hello Buffy," Giles belatedly greeted his slayer.

"Hi. There was a ritual with Etruscan symbols?" Buffy asked.

"Yeah, at my construction site. We found these three symbols repeated in a triangle on the site. They closed it down to remove them." Xander explained.

"Can I see?" Buffy requested, holding her hand out for the drawing.

Giles reluctantly passed it over, not ready to give it up just yet.

"Oh, hey I know these." Buffy casually said. Three pairs of eyes turned to her. "The vamps I dusted last week wore them on a crest-like thing on their jackets. I thought it was kinda lame, like a fraternity emblem."

"Seeing as how the Etruscan alphabet was derived from the Greek alphabet, that makes sense." Willow pointed out.

"And why am I just now hearing about these vampires?" Giles asked, managing to look offended and sound disappointed at the same time.

"I didn't think it was a big deal," Buffy rolled her eyes. "How was I to know the frat vamps were up to no good?"

"Buffy, any time vampires form a club they've got to be up to no good," Xander said.

"Well, at least we know that they're vampires," Willow optimistically said. "Now we just need to figure out what they were doing."

"Buffy, when you patrol tonight, see if you can find any more of these vampires. If you do, see if you can get any information out of them."

"Right, because I'm sure they're just dying to share their secrets with me," she sarcastically replied.

"In the mean time," Giles continued, ignoring her remark, "I believe a trip to Willy's might be in order."

"It's been a while since I've beat Willy up," Buffy cheerfully agreed.

"Right then. Buffy will talk to Willy and then patrol. Xander why don't you go with her. Willow and I will stay here and continue to work on deciphering the symbols."

"You sure we can trust you to do your assignment?" Xander asked with a waggle of an eyebrow.

"Of course we can," Willow said with a blush. "We're not totally ruled by our hormones."

"And on that note," Buffy said, heading towards the door. "We have demons to find and a snitch to beat up."

"We'll see you later," Xander said, following Buffy out the door.

"Have we really been that out of control?" Giles nervously asked Willow.

"You're asking the wrong gal," Willow said, sliding her arms around his waist. "I don't think we spend nearly enough time listening to our hormones."

"You're insatiable," Giles grinned, loving it.

"Darn tootin'." Willow proudly agreed. She silenced any further remarks with a long overdue kiss.

Part Fifteen

Giles insisted that the best way to try to figure out what the "frat vamps," as Buffy had called them, were up to, would be to explore the construction site themselves. Willow made a show of protesting, but was just as eager to see the symbols in their intended use. They only hoped that the remainder of the construction crew hadn't finished removing all of the symbols yet.

When they were nearly at the site, Willow was struck with a thought, causing her to grab Giles' arm.

"What if they've already performed the ritual?"

This was an idea that Giles had been mulling over himself. They had been so caught up in trying to figure out what the ritual was for that they hadn't considered whether or not it had occurred yet.

With a sigh he agreed, "It's more likely than not that it has been."

"I know. It's not very likely that they went to the trouble of drawing the symbols without using them. Unless they were simply trying to plan ahead?" Willow ended on a skeptically hopeful note.

"And how many vampires do you know who plan ahead like that?"

"Well, there was Angelus. And sometimes Spike…"

Giles turned amused eyes on his girlfriend. "That was meant to be rhetorical."

"Oh, sorry," Willow apologized. She jerked upright in her seat, recalling that the blond vampire hadn't made any kind of retaliation against Buffy for taking away his opportunity to be indestructible. "You don't think Spike had anything to do with this, do you?"

"It's a possibility," he reluctantly agreed. "We haven't seen him for a while, not since the debacle with the Gem of Amara. Perhaps he's found a new way to annoy us."

"But joining a fraternity?" Willow said disbelievingly. "That doesn't sound like the Spike we all know and loathe."

"Agreed. But it is a possibility to keep in mind. He has been known to recruit other vampires to do his dirty work."

They pulled up in front of the construction site and were relieved to see it abandoned. They didn't know how they would explain their nosing about to a bunch of construction workers.

Getting out of the car, Willow asked, "Do you think there's anything left?"

"Let us hope." Giles pulled back a loose part in the fence, holding it for Willow, before crawling in after her.

Looking at the blueprint Xander had drawn earlier, Willow moved in the direction of where one set of symbols had been made.

"Well, it's still here," Willow commented, looking down at the burned markings on the ground. It was easy to see how the lines could be mistaken for spray paint, but upon closer inspection, it was obvious to one trained in the use of magicks that these were the remainder of markings burned into the earth.

"What could do that?" Willow asked. She knew the markings were left by fire, but she wasn't sure what would have to have been burned.

"Most likely the symbols were laid out with an herbal mixture. Traditionally the herbs would then be lit as a chant was being performed." Giles informed her, kneeling next to the markings, careful not to touch them.

"Then we're too late," Willow sighed.

"It would appear so. Now we need to determine what ritual was performed so that we will know how to combat whatever is thrown at us."

"Do you know what it says now that you can see the markings up close and personal?"

"They appear to be a more modern dialect. If I'm not mistaken, the letters in English would be: V-H-U."

"V-H-U? What does that stand for?" Willow asked.

"Vampire Healers Union," answered a voice behind them.

Willow and Giles had been so absorbed in studying the burn markings before them that they had failed to notice that the sun had set and the site was now being illuminated by streetlights.

Slowly they turned around to find half a dozen vampires, all wearing the same symbols on their chests in full game face. Giles stood and pulled Willow into his arms.

"Vampires have healers? And you've unionized?" Willow couldn't help asking, the idea too bizarre to believe.

"Of course we do, and have," the leader said condescendingly. "Just like any other creature, we sometimes require a bit of additional healing that our bodies cannot provide themselves."

Giles was sufficiently intrigued to lessen his fear of the situation. "Healers?" he questioned. "You use magicks to heal others of your kind?"

"As do you," one of the other healers confirmed, nodding his head in Willow's direction.

Willow couldn't help looking down at her, magically enhanced, healing hip. In awe, she whispered, "You can tell I've been using magick to speed my recovery?"

"Of course. As could anyone who can sense magick use."

"Have you always been in Sunnydale," Giles asked, wondering how this Union could have existed right under his nose without his knowledge.

"No, we go where we are most needed," the leader replied.

"And you were needed here," Willow surmised. "Why now? Wouldn't you constantly be needed here on the Hellmouth?"

"With a slayer present, there really isn't much for us to do. There is no need for healing once becoming dust."

"Then you were called here," Giles guessed.


"By whom?"

"That'd be me, mate," came a well-known voice from behind.

The humans spun around to find Spike leaning against a pile of two by fours, a freshly lit cigarette hanging from between his lips.

"Spike," Willow gasped. 'I knew it, I just knew it,' she thought.

Remembering the vampires who were now behind them, the couple shifted around so that they could see both Spike and the Healers.

"Spike, what are you up to now?" Giles wearily asked.

"*I* am not up to anything," Spike drawled. "Would I be in need of healers if I was?"

Giles raised an eyebrow as if to say 'If you caused yourself injury, then yes.'

Spike simply rolled his eyes in answer and took a drag off his cigarette. "Sit down kiddies, let uncle Spike tell you a story." He paused for dramatic effect. "Fine, don't sit. So there I was, minding my own business, watching the slayer." When Giles looked like he was about to interrupt, Spike cut him off. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Watcher. I'm a vampire; it's what I do.

Like I was saying, there I was, standing around minding my own business, when I get ambushed by these military blokes. Shoot me full of electricity and knock me out they did. Where do I wake up? Some bleeding cell in a demon lab. Well, let me tell you, William the Bloody is no lab rat. Tricked them I did. I made it out of there with guns on my heels."

"That's all very exciting, but where do these fellows come in?" Giles interrupted, not at all impressed the bleached vampire's escape.

"I'm getting to it," Spike snarled. "Right, so I get away and head straight for the campus, knowing the slayer was behind my captivity. Just my luck, no one was home. I was starving, I hadn't eaten in who knows how long while I was knocked out. It was easy getting invited into some co-ed's room … your generation is really so friendly, Red. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I go in for the kill only to be stopped by the worst bloody headache I've ever had the displeasure to experience. Didn't take long to figure out that those commandos had done something to me while I was their unwilling guest."

"And that's where you come in?" Willow addressed the lead healer.

"Yeah, I'd heard about the VHU back when I was trying to figure out how to cure Dru," Spike answered. "I gave them a chant and here they are."

"A-and you fixed whatever it was that made Spike unable to bite?" Giles nervously asked.

"It took some very strong magicks, but yes, we did," the leader proudly stated.

"What was it?" Willow asked, her natural curiosity getting the better of her. "What made you unable to bite?"

"Would you believe a sodding computer chip?" Spike said incredulously.

Willow eyes widened, equally appalled and curious. She was a computer geek after all. "The 'commandos' found a way to modify your behavior with a computer chip?"

Spike grimaced and nodded.

"Fascinating," she exhaled. Noticing the golden eyes staring at her and the low pitched growling directed at her she was quick to add, "Wrong, but fascinating nevertheless."

"Willow, love, don't drool over the technology in front of the vampires, please." Giles whispered in her ear.

"Well, look at this," Spike drawled. "Looks like Daddy's been acting rather unpaternal."

"Shut up, Spike," Giles barked. "Must you be so crude?"

"Yeah, I must." He licked a canine. Unabashedly running his eyes over Willow, taking in her use of a cane, he continued. "Can't say as I blame ya. Better to catch 'em while they're young and weak, easier to train that way."

"I imagine that's what the military thought of you," Giles returned.

Spike sucked in an unneeded breath, not liking the comparison. Seeing he wouldn't ruffle Giles, he turned on Willow. "So I take it wolf-boy dropped you. Can't see you leaving the mutt for the geezer." Spike smirked as the color rose on Willow's face.

"You leave him out of this," she fumed. "Yes, Oz is gone. And I couldn't be happier. I have Giles now and I couldn't imagine my life without him."

"There's no need to defend ourselves to him," Giles said comfortingly, knowing now was not the time or the place for an altercation with the blond menace. "We've discovered what we came for, lets go home."

"You're right," Willow blew out a breath, calming herself. "I believe we have unfinished business at home anyway."

"That's right, go home and snog your girl," Spike leered. "Nothing more here to concern yourself with."

"I assume that you will be leaving town now?" Giles directed his question to the lead healer, who had been watching the scene with amusement.

"Not just yet. Spike may not be the only vampire who has been so violated. We shall remain until we are certain we are no longer needed."

"And do you expect us to simply look the other way?" Giles asked.

"We are not here to cause trouble," the leader assured them. "We are healers, not fighters."

"Oh, um, if you're sticking around, do you think you could find somewhere else to do your rituals?" Willow nervously asked. "It's just, the construction crew had to shut down today to try to remove the symbols and my friend is on the crew…"

"The energies here are perfect for what needed to be done," the leader informed Willow.

"Yeah, but this is the Hellmouth. Shouldn't there be strong energies other places too? There are some nice clearings in the woods on the edge of town. If you need big spaces and natural materials then what could be better than being out in nature?"

"We will search for another location, but I make no promises."

Willow smiled her thanks.

"And I will ask Buffy to leave you be, unless you provoke her," Giles promised.

"Thank you." The leader made a small bow of acceptance and dismissal. He gestured to the others and led them away.

"Not me," Spike spoke up. "I plan on stickin' around and causing all kinds of mayhem. Just you wait."

"Oh, be quiet," Willow shushed him. "No one cares what you're doing."

"I wouldn't be too sure 'bout that, Red." Spike sauntered towards her. "Seeing as how I plan on gettin' even with the slayer for my bein' captured, I think you'll start to care."

"Well then I'll tell Buffy to feel free to dust you at first sight," she innocently grinned.

"Spike, you've done what you came for. If you're finished gloating and strutting about, we have… things to return to." Giles put his arm around Willow's waist and ushered her back to the car.


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