Title: Searching for Stability
Author: Elisabeth
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Willow/Lindsey, Giles
Word Count: 7,311 total
Summary: Willow makes an unexpected friend at the coven.
Timeline: Through "Beneath You" (beginning BtVS S7).
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: My site, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Betas: Gabrielle & Menomegirl

See Awards this story has won.

Searching for Stability

Chapter 1

Willow slowly made her way to the stables after her lessons were finished. Giles was out riding and had asked her to meet him there when she was done. She still wasn't comfortable being around the horses, but she tried to remind herself that Tara had always said they don't really like to eat arms.

The brief smile that had formed at the memory of Tara trying to convince her to go riding faded just as quickly. She would never have the opportunity to go riding with Tara now, or do anything else with her…ever. Tara was gone and Willow had nearly ended the world in her grief.

Willow had been with the Coven for over a month now and, amazingly, they hadn't locked her in a dungeon or bound her powers - at least not yet. She still wasn't sure that they wouldn't do so if they decided she was too much of a risk.

She was even more surprised that Giles was still here. After everything that she had done to him when she was all scary and veiny, he was still being supporto-guy. She imagined that this was what having a real father was like - someone who would love you no matter what you did or who you loved.

Willow's melancholy thoughts brought her the rest of the way to the barn. Someone was riding in the paddock, but it wasn't Giles.

With a sigh of resignation, Willow entered the stables. She could see some horses were in their stalls, but she wasn't sure which one belonged to Giles' stallion.

About halfway down, there was one horse not in its stall. It was tethered to the wall, being groomed by a very attractive man. Not that Willow was suddenly interested in men again, or even wanted to be interested in anyone, but she could still notice he was good-looking. It was hard to deny how well his jeans hugged his ass, or the appeal of the play of muscles beneath his t-shirt.

Chastising her traitorous brain, Willow took a hesitant step forward. Licking her lips, she asked, "Excuse me, have you seen Giles? Rupert Giles?"

The man turned around to look at her and he was just as handsome from the front as behind.

"Not lately," he said, then glanced at a clock on the wall. "He should be back soon, though, I imagine."

"You're American," Willow pointed out, surprised.

He laughed. "So are you," he countered.

Willow blushed. "Yeah. Sorry, I, um, guess I wasn't expecting it. I haven't seen any other Americans here, until now."

"Well then, you must have been in all the wrong places," he said. Wiping his hand on his leg as he came closer, he held it out to Willow. "I'm Lindsey."

"Willow," she said, shaking his hand. It was warm, and rough from hard labor.

"You the one that tried to end the world?" Lindsey lightly asked, not releasing her hand.

Willow blushed again and pulled away. "You heard about that?"

"Hard not to around here," Lindsey said. "Everyone was all in a frenzy when you went dark. If they hadn't been able to reach your friend Giles, I don't know what they would have done."

"You've been here that long?" Willow asked, surprised. She'd assumed that since she hadn't heard of another American being here that he was new.

Lindsey nodded. "Been here going on a year now. I help out in the stables as part of my room and board."

Willow's eyebrows furrowed. "Oh, you aren't just… I mean, you don't just… work here?"

Lindsey laughed again. It was a sound Willow could get used to. "No, I'm here for the Coven's help, same as you."

"But you don't practice magics," Willow said. "At least, you don't feel like someone who practices."

"What do I feel like?" Lindsey teasingly asked.

He was flirting with her! Willow had no idea how to react to that. She decided to ignore it.

She unfocused her eyes and let her senses expand to better read Lindsey. She frowned at what she found. "You have a stain on your soul, but you don't feel evil."

Lindsey smiled. Apparently the rumors about this woman were true. She was powerful.

"Thanks, I think. And I'm not - evil, that is. Or, at least I'm trying not to be," Lindsey admitted.

"But you were?" Willow asked.

"Ah, Willow, you're here," Giles said, interrupting the conversation.

Willow turned to see Giles leading his horse towards them. Only he wasn't looking at her, he was glaring at Lindsey. She caught Lindsey nod slightly out of the corner of her eye as he started to back away.

"Willow, it was a pleasure meeting you, but I should get back to Elphaba over there," Lindsey said.

"Oh, okay. It was nice meeting you, too," Willow said, her displeasure at the conversation ending evident in her voice.

"Mr. Giles," Lindsey acknowledged before returning to brushing the horse.

As Giles led his own horse to a tether, he suggested, "Willow, why don't you go back up to the house? I'll be up in a bit, just as soon as I've rubbed Ambrosius down."

"But…" Willow glanced at Giles' face, at the resolute expression there, and folded. "Fine."

Willow glanced back at Lindsey, who had moved to stand on the other side of the horse, Elphaba, so he could covertly watch them. He cocked his head in a small gesture showing he understood. Willow nodded in thanks before scurrying out of the barn.


Chapter 2

Willow was waiting for Giles in the sitting room when he returned to the house an hour later.

He poked his head into the room to say, "Willow, I'll be just another moment. Let me grab a shower and we can discuss today's lesson."

"Can we discuss your rudeness too?" Willow snapped.

"Pardon?" Giles asked, stepping fully into the room.

"You heard me," Willow said, looking back out the window from her perch on the window seat.

"Is this about the stable boy?" Giles asked, removing his glasses and cleaning them with his shirt.

"Don't play dumb with me, mister," Willow said, rising. "You couldn't get me away from him fast enough. Am I that toxic to other people?"

"No! No." Giles came closer to her. "Willow, it wasn't you I was trying to keep away from him."

Willow frowned at that. "So you were trying to keep him away from me?" Giles looked uncomfortable. "That's it, isn't it?"

Giles nodded.

"What's so bad about him? I mean, I sensed some dark taints on his soul, but who am I to talk? He's here, isn't he?"

"It's not that simple," Giles said. "Look, I rather desperately need a shower. While I'm doing that, I suggest you use that machine of yours to look up the law firm of Wolfram & Hart." He wrote down the spelling for her.

Willow looked confused, but nodded and took the piece of paper from him. "Wolfram & Hart. Gotcha. Well, sorta. Giles, why am I looking up a law firm?"

"I'll explain everything when I get back, but this will provide you with some basis of understanding for what I'm going to tell you."

"That sounds ominous," Willow said.

"It should. I'll be back shortly," Giles said, slipping away before Willow could ask any more questions he didn't want to answer.

Willow shook her head, but went to the desk where her laptop was set up and Googled Wolfram & Hart.

After looking at the public site, Willow found her way to the real site - the one for people in the know. What she saw sickened her. Evil lawyers helping evil demons (and some evil humans) be… evil.

By the time that Giles returned, hair still damp, Willow thought she had a better understanding of why he didn't want her talking to Lindsey.

"So," she opened, "is Lindsey hiding here because he pissed off Wolfram & Hart or because he worked there?"

"Both, I'd imagine," Giles answered. "He left after turning down a promotion."

Willow came around the desk to sit in one of the chairs by Giles. "So why does him leaving an evil law firm make him someone to stay away from? He's obviously trying to atone for that life if he left."

"It's not that simple," Giles protested.

"It never is," Willow agreed. "Come on, Giles. Who are we to cast stones at someone trying to make up for doing bad things?"

"I'm just not fully convinced by Lindsey's insistence that it's all behind him," Giles admitted. "Not after everything that Angel told me."

"Wait a minute. You've been talking to Angel? About Lindsey? Does Buffy know you've been talking to him?"

"No, Buffy does not know that we've spoken, and it's best that it stays that way. Understand?" He paused, waiting for Willow to nod. "After Lindsey came to the Coven, I was elected to make contact with Angel. It would appear that he and Lindsey have had numerous altercations, to put it mildly, since Angel moved to Los Angeles."

"So you went to Lindsey's enemy to get the lowdown on him?" Willow questioned, crossing her arms over her chest. "Seems like that's a good way to learn only the worst about a person."

"And why are you so quick to want to believe in him?" Giles asked. "You barely know the man. I doubt you could have learned much about each other in the time before I arrived."

"I don't know. Maybe I want to be able to make up my own mind about him without you shoving concerns down my throat. Everyone here knows about me and what I've done, Lindsey included, and he still wanted to talk to me, even after finding out who I was. Do you have any idea how nice it was to have someone here look at me without fear or pity in their eyes?"

Giles' expression softened. "Has it really been that difficult for you here?"

Willow sighed. "No. I know it would be a million times worse back home. But people here do still walk on eggshells around me. It was nice having someone that's not you treat me like a person and not a time bomb."

"And it has nothing to do with the fact that he's an attractive young man?" Giles pressed.

"Hello, gay now. Plus, I'm still in mourning. I can't imagine ever wanting to be with anyone ever again."

"I know that it's hard to believe, but one day you will be ready to share your heart again," Giles tried to assure her.

"Even if that were the case, which I don't see happening anytime soon, you don't want it to be with Lindsey," Willow said.

"Preferably," Giles agreed.

"You know, you can't really stop me from talking to him if I want to," Willow said, softly.

"I do realize that. I just hope that you will take what you've learned about him into consideration if you do decide to pursue a friendship with him," Giles said.

"Thanks, Giles." Willow rose and headed towards the door. Before leaving, she turned and said, "But you can't protect me from everything."

"Doesn't mean I have to stop trying," Giles murmured.


Chapter 3

The next day, Willow found herself back at the stables. No one was around today, but she thought she heard something at the other end of the barn. She carefully made her way down the row of stalls, trying not to jump as some of the horses poked their heads out to see who was out there. Finally, near the end, she found Lindsey in an empty stall.

"So what's an American lawyer doing mucking out stalls in England?" Willow asked.

Lindsey nearly dropped his shovel at the sound of her voice, not to mention her question. Turning, he pasted a grin on his face. "Two visits in two days, I'm going to start thinking you're sweet on me."

Willow just stared at him with one eyebrow raised.

Lindsey dropped the act. Returning to his chores, he answered, "Hiding."

"From Wolfram & Hart?" Willow pressed.


"Are they looking for you?" Willow asked.

Lindsey threw the shovel against the wall, spinning to face Willow. "I don't know," he practically yelled, causing several of the horses to whinny in distress. "I don't know," he repeated, more quietly this time.

"But they could be?"

"Yeah, they could. They don't like it when people quit," Lindsey said.

Risking a glance at Willow, he was surprised to see no recrimination on her face. Coming closer, he asked, "So, Mr. Giles couldn't wait to tell you to stay away from the evil lawyer?"

"Something like that," Willow admitted. Grinning, she added, "Didn't work."

"I can see that. Is it my irresistible charm?" Lindsey flirted.

Willow shook her head. "I don't like people telling me who I can be friends with. I figure that if you're here hiding from the big, bad law firm, then you can't be all bad. Also, I'm not exactly one to throw stones." She paused, noticing that Lindsey was once again just wearing a t-shirt and jeans, and how good he looked in them. "So, um, did Giles go all parental and tell you to stay away from me?"

Lindsey chuckled. "About 30 seconds after you left."

"Has he always been so mean to you?" Willow asked.

"Nah. He was fine up until he saw me talkin' to you. He said something about not wanting me to interfere with the progress you're making here."

"I don't know what he thinks you could do to do that," Willow said.

Lindsey shrugged. "Maybe he thinks just being around my evil hand will draw you back towards dark magic."

"Evil hand?" Willow asked.

Holding up his right hand, he said, "Evil. A parting gift from my former employers."

Willow blinked. "They gave you an evil hand? What was wrong with the one you were born with?"

"A self-righteous vampire cut it off," Lindsey spat.

"Oh, right. Giles mentioned you and Angel had some problems," Willow said.

"That's putting it mildly," Lindsey huffed. "How do you know Angel?"

"He used to date my best friend," Willow said.

"You're friends with the Slayer?" Lindsey asked. He threw up his hands. "Great, just great. I can't get away from him even here."

"It's not like Angel and I are close or anything. The last time I saw him was when I told him that Buffy was dead. She saw him alone after I brought her back."

"You resurrected a slayer?" Lindsey asked, surprised. He'd heard about it, of course, but he hadn't realized that Willow had been the one to do it. "No wonder you were able to go dark so easily. That was some powerful magic you were practicing."

"Yeah, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, it was a good idea. It worked, after all. We've got Buffy back," Willow tried to say with her usual bravado, but it sounded flat, even to her ears.

"But at what cost?" Lindsey asked.

"Can we not go into this? That's what the coven therapists are for, after all," Willow requested, fidgeting slightly.

"Sure, sorry I brought it up," Lindsey said, moving to retrieve his shovel.

"Do you, um, maybe want to go for a walk?" Willow nervously asked. She was sorry that she'd upset Lindsey, but she really didn't want to talk about the morality of bringing Buffy back. That didn't mean she wanted to stop talking with him, though.

Lindsey perked up. "Yeah, let me saddle a couple of horses."

"No, no, no, no, no. No horses. Walk, like two people walking, one foot in front of the other, walking," Willow babbled.

"Not a fan of horses, check," Lindsey chuckled. "Guess that explains why I hadn't seen you around the stables before yesterday."

"No, horses and Willows are unmixy things," Willow confirmed. "So, do you wanna? Go for a walk, I mean."

"It'd be my pleasure," Lindsey said, grabbing his jacket.


Chapter 4

Giles paused as he passed Willow's room. Her door was slightly ajar and he could hear laughter - male and female laughter.

Hoping he was wrong as to whom her companion was, Giles knocked on her door as he pushed it open.

"Ah, Willow, I didn't realize you were here," he said, watching as Willow's expression turned guilty and Lindsey smirked.

"Hey, Giles. You, um, remember Lindsey," Willow said, sitting up from her reclining position on her bed.

Lindsey stood from his spot on the floor. "Hello again, Mr. Giles."

With a roll of his eyes, Giles said, "Oh for goodness sakes, just call me Giles."

"Yes, sir," Lindsey agreed, failing to keep a smug look off his face.

"Willow, may I speak with you alone for a moment?" Giles requested.

Willow slid off her bed and with an apologetic look at Lindsey, stepped into the hallway after Giles, closing the door behind her.

"I thought I asked you not to see that boy," Giles said, trying to tamp down his anger.

"I thought I told you I wanted to make up my own mind about him," Willow countered, crossing her arms in defiance.

"So you brought him up to your bedroom?" Giles sneered.

Willow gaped at him. "What kind of slut do you take me for? We're just hanging out. Talking. He's easy to talk to. We're comparing war stories, if you must know."

"What? He's telling you of his work for evil, murderous demons?"

"Not all demons are evil, you know," Willow said. "They can't help being born demons. And sometimes they need lawyers too."

"So, now you're going to defend the rights of demons?" Giles asked. "After everything that you have seen, how can you not believe that demons are inherently evil?"

"Oz wasn't evil," Willow spat. "Oz was just Oz, who happened to turn into a werewolf three nights a month. Have you learned nothing from the Initiative?"

"How dare you compare me to those…those poseurs!" Giles raged.

Giles paced away, and then back. "Why are you letting him get between us like this?"

"I'm not the one being intolerant," Willow insisted. "Maybe if you were a little more open-minded and actually tried talking to the guy instead of just about him, then maybe you'd see he's not so bad."

"Is it really that important to you?" Giles asked, carefully.

"Yeah, I think it is," Willow said.

"Fine, then invite him to stay for supper," Giles suggested.

"What?" Willow couldn't believe how quickly that conversation (argument) had changed.

"I won't say it again," Giles said.

"Right, okay, I'll ask him," Willow rushed to say. "Thanks, Giles."

"Don't thank me yet, we still have to make it through the meal." With that, Giles continued on to his original destination, his room.

Willow slipped back into her room, finding Lindsey sitting on her bed with an open book, upside down, in his hands.

"So, do you want to stay for dinner or what?" Willow asked, grinning.

"I don't know, is it going to be anything like what just happened in the hallway?" Lindsey asked, setting the book aside.

"Oh, I'm sure Giles will have lots of pointed questions about your work in LA," Willow assured him.

"In that case, how can I say no?" Lindsey asked.

"You don't have to, you know," Willow said, sitting next to him. "I'd understand if you want nothing more to do with me. It's not like I'm some potential girlfriend or anything."

"What makes you so sure of that?" Lindsey asked, meeting her eyes.

Willow's breath caught at the undisguised lust that flashed in his eyes. She nearly fell off the bed in her haste to get up.

"Oh, no. No way is this happening," she muttered to herself.

"What's wrong?" Lindsey asked, hurrying to stand before Willow.

Willow shook her head. "I…I can't. I'm not ready. I'm not…"

"You're not what?" Lindsey asked, brushing her hair away from her face. "Why can't we go out if we like each other?"

"Because I'm gay!" Willow blurted out. Lindsey's eyes widened in surprise, but Willow wasn't looking at him. "Oh, and how about because my girlfriend's murder is what caused me to nearly end the world?"

"I didn't know, I swear," Lindsey said, torn between wanting to comfort Willow, but not being sure if she'd reject it. "It's just…I thought I saw something there, in your eyes. I'm sorry, it must have been wishful thinking on my part."

"Don't get me wrong, you're a good-looking guy. Really good-looking. Who knows, maybe if it wasn't so soon after…after Tara, maybe I'd be interested. There were guys before her."

"There were?" Lindsey repeated, hopefully.

"Yeah, there were. But I can't be with anyone right now. You get that, right?" Willow asked, meeting his eyes.

"Yeah, I get that. Come here."

Lindsey opened his arms and Willow gratefully accepted the hug. She tried to deny how good it felt to be in his arms; he was warm and solid, and so very different from Tara.


Chapter 5

It had been two days since the Most Awkward Supper Ever, as Willow called it in her head, and she hadn't seen Lindsey since. She was starting to fear that Giles had succeeded in scaring him off.

Granted, she hadn't made her way down to the stables in those two days, but why should she always have to go to him?

Just as that thought finished forming in her head, she saw the very man she'd been thinking about, leaning against a tree.

Grinning, she went over to him. Later she would totally deny it if anyone noticed the spring in her step as she approached Lindsey.

"Lindsey, hey. Are your ears burning?" Willow greeted him.

"Hey yourself," Lindsey returned. "Why, were you talkin' about me?"

"No, but I was just thinking that you probably never wanted to see me again after that dinner," Willow said.

Lindsey grinned. "Giles has got nothing on my daddy when it comes to being a judgmental asshole."

"Then where have you been?" Willow asked.

"One of the horses got loose. Had to go chase her down. I ended up having to camp out in the woods overnight," Lindsey explained.

"Oh, well, that's good. That you found her, I mean. You did find her, right?"

"Yeah, I found her alright," Lindsey said. "She's back in her stall, recuperating from her adventure."

"Good. That's good," Willow said.

"You done here for the day?" Lindsey asked, nodding towards the building Willow had just exited.

"Yep, so done."

"I thought I might try giving you a riding lesson, if you're free."

"What did we say about horses and Willows?"

"That they're…unmixy. Just so you know, that's not a real word," Lindsey teased.

"Doesn't matter, it's still not happening," Willow insisted.

"Have you ever actually been on a horse?" Lindsey asked.

"There was a birthday party pony incident when I was four. I'd rather not talk about it," Willow said huffily.

Lindsey rubbed his hands together. "Then I'd say it's high time you tried again, on a real horse. Those rent-a-ponies are mean-spirited things anyway. Come on." Lindsey started walking towards the stables.

"Lindsey, I really don't want to ride a horse. I've been perfectly happy not riding all this time. No need to start now," Willow said, following him despite her protests.

"How about if you just come and make friends with one of the horses? Then you can decide if you still don't want to ride," Lindsey offered.

"I don't have to get on?" Willow warily asked.

"I'm not gonna hoist you up on her back against your will. Scout's honor."

"You were a boy scout?"

Lindsey laughed. "No, not really. Not much use for them in the trailer park."

"Trailer park?"

"That's a pity party for another day," Lindsey said.

"I can take a hint," Willow said, holding her hands up in concession. "Unlike some people."

"You know, horses are really just as afraid of you as you are of them," Lindsey said, ignoring her last remark.

"Uh huh, yeah, sure."

"They really can be nervous creatures," Lindsey insisted. "Remember when you found me cleaning the stall the other day?" He paused until she nodded. "When I threw the shovel against the wall, the horses got scared. Loud noises, sudden movements - horses don't like those things."

"But they have those big teeth," Willow nervously said.

"Big flat teeth," Lindsey pointed out. "Horses are herbivores."

"Promise?" Willow's voice was small.

"I promise."

They'd finally reached the stables, and when Willow held back, Lindsey captured her hand and drew her inside.

Stopping before a stall, Lindsey clicked his tongue, drawing the inhabitant to the door. He rubbed the horse's muzzle in greeting.

"Willow, I'd like you to meet Nessa. Nessa, this here's Willow," Lindsey said.

"Hi," Willow nervously said, giving a little wave.

Lindsey grinned and pulled a piece of carrot out of his pocket. "Here," he said, giving it to Willow.

"Um, I don't think I really want to eat a carrot you've been carrying around in your pocket," Willow said. "No offense."

"It's not for you," Lindsey said, laughing. He took her hand and opened it, palm up, placing the carrot on her open hand.

When he started to draw her hand towards the horse, Willow jerked back. "What are you doing?"

"Not me. You're going to give Nessa that carrot. Best way to befriend a horse is to give them a little treat. I happen to know that Nessa here is partial to carrots," Lindsey confided.

Slowly, Lindsey drew Willow closer to the stall. Whispering in her ear, he said, "Just remember to keep your hand flat, and try to relax."

"Right, relax. That's easier said than done," Willow muttered. "Good horsey, nice horsey."

Nessa had withdrawn a bit as Willow and Lindsey neared, but Lindsey held Willow's hand steady where Nessa could reach it.

Willow's body was stiff in front of Lindsey and he almost felt bad for putting her through this imagined torture. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Willow squeeze her eyes shut.

"Willow, open your eyes," he whispered.

"Uh uh." Willow shook her head, eyes shut tight.

"You'd rather be surprised when she goes for the carrot?" Lindsey asked.

Willow's eyes popped open and she glared up at Lindsey, who merely smirked down at her.

During their exchange, Nessa had poked her head out to investigate the treat. She sniffed at Willow's hand for a moment before lifting the carrot up with her lips, causing Willow to giggle.

"That tickled," Willow said, still laughing as she lowered her hand.

"Not the end of the world?" Lindsey asked.

"No, not the end of the world," Willow agreed, looking up at him. "That's way scarier. Plus, I still have all of my fingers."

"Maybe you should trust me a bit more," Lindsey suggested.

"Maybe I will," Willow agreed, reaching out to pet Nessa's muzzle.


Chapter 6

Summer passed into autumn and Willow and Lindsey's friendship continued to grow and deepen. Willow knew that Giles still had misgivings, but she was determined to remain friends with Lindsey, and Giles decided it wasn't worth the energy to keep up his protests.

While the coven and Giles were helping Willow gain control of and confidence in her power, Lindsey helped to make Willow feel human. He never once looked at her with fear in his eyes the way her teachers did.

Which was one reason Lindsey found Willow in his room when he returned from a ride one afternoon. Of course, he didn't see her until after he'd already stripped off his shirts in preparation for a shower.

"I brought a flower through the Earth from Paraguay," she said.

Lindsey spun around, looking for the source of the familiar voice. He found Willow sitting on the floor at the foot of his bed.

"You don't say," he commented, moving to sit beside her, his shirtless state forgotten in his concern over the false cheerfulness in her voice.

Sounding distant, she added, "The root systems are all connected."

"And this makes you sad?" Lindsey asked, taking a hold of her hand.

Willow rested her head on his shoulder. "I think I'm going to have to leave here soon," she confided.

"What? I didn't think you were ready to go back yet," Lindsey said, not ready for her to leave him.

"I'm not," Willow agreed. She sat up and met Lindsey's worried eyes. "Something's coming. Something really bad. I saw it. I saw the Earth's teeth."

Lindsey brushed a piece of hair behind her ear. "Willow, darlin', you're not making any sense."

"I know it makes no sense, but welcome to my life," Willow said, giving in to the urge to touch Lindsey. It was only when her hand was resting on a bare chest - and she felt the shiver that went through him at her touch - that she realized Lindsey wasn't wearing a shirt.

"Lindsey, where's your shirt?" she nervously asked.

"Don't go changin' the subject," he teased, having enjoyed the feel of her hand on bare skin just a bit too much. His attraction to Willow had never gone away, just been ignored.

"I'm not," Willow protested. At Lindsey's raised eyebrow, she conceded. "Okay, maybe I am, but the subject needed changing. I don't want to go home before I'm ready, and even though I don't know when that will be, I know it's not now. There, subject closed. Now, why aren't you wearing a shirt?"

"Alright, we can let your concerns about going home wait for another time," Lindsey conceded. "And I'm not wearing a shirt because I didn't see you when I came in and I was going to go take a shower. In case you hadn't noticed, I stink."

"I wasn't gonna say anything…" Willow teased. "Do you, um, wanna go do that?"

"Not if you need me," Lindsey said. He covered her hand that was still resting on his chest with one of his own.

Willow's breath hitched at the desire that passed through Lindsey's eyes. She had tried to deny her growing attraction to him for months now, but she suddenly couldn't deny it any longer. Not in the face of having to leave him.

As the moment stretched on, Lindsey slowly leaned towards her.

"I do," Willow whispered, closing the distance between them.

When their lips finally met, Willow whimpered, her nails digging into Lindsey's chest. Lindsey's free hand slid up to cradle the back of Willow's head as the kiss went on.

"I need you so much," Willow confided when they finally parted. "So much more than I ever thought possible."

"You have no idea how long I've waited to hear you say that," Lindsey said. Pulling Willow into his lap, he claimed her mouth again.

Willow had wrestled with her attraction to Lindsey. She felt that it was a betrayal to Tara's memory not only to desire someone so soon after her death, but a man to boot. Then again, how could Willow ever love another woman after Tara?

It wasn't until she was confronted with the reality of having to leave Lindsey behind that she realized just how deep her feelings for him had grown.

When Lindsey's hands slipped beneath her top to roam over her back, pulling her closer at the same time, she could feel he was hard beneath her; she told her brain to shut up.

Breaking the kiss, Willow leaned back and removed her shirt and bra.

Lindsey's eyes widened in surprise and delight. "Are you sure?" he asked.

Willow nodded, blushing at her boldness. "I want you, Lindsey."

"Then let's do this proper." He kissed her briefly, then encouraged her to stand.

Sitting her down on the bed, Lindsey knelt beside her and removed her boots and socks before removing her jeans.

"Make yourself comfortable," he encouraged her while he hastily removed the remainder of his own clothing until he was left in just his boxers.

Willow had stretched out on the bed and distracted herself from her own near-nakedness to watch Lindsey undress. She held out a hand for him to join her, which he eagerly did.

As Lindsey kissed his way from her mouth down towards her breasts, she breathlessly reminded him, "I haven't done this in a long time."

"Been livin' a celibate life for a while myself," Lindsey confided.

"Not what I meant," Willow managed to say as Lindsey did something wonderful with his tongue against her nipple.

"I know," Lindsey said, switching to the other breast. "Just enjoy this for what it is. I'm sure it'll all come back to both of us."

"You're doing great so far," Willow keened.

As good as what he was doing felt, she needed to touch him. She pulled his mouth back up to hers, and he settled his body over hers. Her hands roamed over his back, occasionally dipping beneath his boxers to squeeze his ass, which caused Lindsey to thrust against her.

"Need to be inside you," he panted.

"Yes," Willow agreed, shoving blindly at his boxers. Together they managed to get them off him, and her panties too.

Lindsey scrambled for the bedside table, desperate to find the condoms he'd bought in hopes that this would one day happen.

"What are you looking for?" Willow asked, running her hands over his body.

"This," Lindsey said, holding up a condom triumphantly.

"Oh, right, good thinking," Willow said, having nearly forgotten about protection. "Should I ask who you bought those for?"

"You," Lindsey said, now properly sheathed. "Only you."

"Good answer," Willow said, kissing him again.

Sliding a hand down Willow's body, Lindsey eased a finger inside her, finding her wet and ready.

"More, please, need you," Willow begged after just a minute.

Wordlessly, Lindsey withdrew his finger and guided his cock to her entrance. With rocking motions, he slowly buried himself fully in Willow's heat.

"Goddess, that feels good," Willow panted. With a lift of her hips, she encouraged Lindsey to move.

Move he did. Lindsey began a fast pace, knowing he should go slowly to make the most of this, but he was too turned on to go slow; he'd wanted this for too long. If the sounds Willow was making were any indication, she was enjoying the fast pace just as much as he was.

Mouths fused together, Lindsey slid one hand between them, pressing his thumb to Willow's clit, encouraging her towards the completion they were both chasing. He was so close, and he was determined to take Willow with him.

Willow knew she wouldn't be able to hold back for long, so when Lindsey's calloused thumb began to circle her clit, Willow was a goner. She pulled him close as she called out his name, riding out the waves of pleasure.

Watching Willow's pleasure was all that it took to send Lindsey over the edge. He buried his face in her neck as he joined her in release.

They lay that way, recovering, for many long minutes. Finally, Lindsey found the energy to lift his head and languidly kiss Willow before rolling off her and disposing of the condom. Then he immediately pulled her back into his arms.

"That was just…wow. I have no words for how great that was," Willow said, resting her head against Lindsey's damp chest.

"I'm a bit speechless myself," Lindsey agreed. "Thank you," he said, dipping his head for a kiss.

"Mmm… I should be thanking you," Willow said, pressing her body against his.

Lindsey ran his fingers through Willow's hair, feeling more content than he had in a very long time.

"That was good-bye, wasn't it?" he asked, bringing them back to reality.

Willow sighed. "Not just yet, but soon."

"When do you have to leave?"

"I don't know. A few weeks, maybe? I didn't exactly get a timetable for the badness that's coming," Willow admitted.

Tipping Willow's face up to meet his eyes, Lindsey said, "Then we'll just have to make the most of the next few weeks."

"I'll need to spend extra time at my lessons, because I'll probably need the magic when I get home," Willow said, regretfully.

"We'll find the time. I don't want to take away from your preparations. Giles would kill me if I did," Lindsey promised.

"Giles can't know about this," Willow insisted. "He's never really warmed up to the idea of us being friends, and he'd go way British and stern if he found out about what we're doing."

"Don't worry, I'm in no rush to tell him," Lindsey said with a nervous laugh. "It's none of his business, anyway."


Chapter 7

"It's time," Giles stated simply over breakfast two weeks later.

That statement didn't need any clarification.

"No, I'm not ready," Willow protested. "I'm not. Just ask anyone in the coven."

"I've spoken with Mrs. Hartness and she agrees that you're ready enough. Granted, you could stand to spend a few more weeks, or months, under their tutelage, but there simply isn't time. Whatever this thing is that's coming, it's already on the move," Giles insisted. "You're needed in Sunnydale."

"Have you told them that?" Willow bitterly asked. "They hardly ever want to talk to me when they call here or when you call them. What makes you think they're ready for me to come home?"

"They're your friends, of course they want you home," Giles said.

"I'm not so sure about that," Willow said.

"You certainly won't solve your differences if you remain here," Giles pointed out.

Giles sipped at his tea while Willow toyed with her food. "I-is this about Lindsey?" Giles hesitantly asked.

Willow sat up straight, and then relaxed again. "What makes you say that?" Willow nonchalantly asked.

Giles sighed. "Your reaction gave you away, I'm afraid." Willow guiltily looked at her uneaten breakfast. "I know that it will be difficult leaving your new friend, but distance does not need to end the friendship."

"I know that," Willow pouted.

"It is still just friendship between you, I hope," Giles said.

"It's always been friendship," Willow said, which was technically the truth.

"Please don't make me ask it," Giles requested.

"What? Have we had sex? Are we lovers?" Willow practically shouted, getting a satisfactory blush from Giles.

"Yes, that," he acknowledged, cleaning his glasses.

"That would be none of your business," Willow informed him.

"I was afraid that was the case."

"Why? What do you still have against Lindsey? And how did you know?"

"It was something Mrs. Hartness commented on the last time we spoke. She said something about how your aura had shifted. Your grief was lifting, your soul was calmer."

"Really?" Willow hesitantly asked.

"Yes. As much as I may hate to admit it, Lindsey seems to have had a positive effect on your…recovery," Giles said.

"Can I tell him you said that?" Willow asked, grinning.

"Absolutely not." Giles was grinning too, despite the hard tone.

Sobering, Willow asked, "When do I leave?"

"The day after tomorrow," Giles answered. Willow shifted in her chair, her intentions obvious. "Go on and tell him."

"Thanks, Giles." Willow was out the door before she'd finished speaking.


Willow found Lindsey in his room, reading on the bed.

She didn't even say anything, just straddled him and kissed him hungrily. Lindsey kissed her back just as eagerly, tossing his book aside.

Willow writhed against him, causing him to harden beneath her. She opened his jeans and pulled his cock free, stroking him while she reached for the condoms.

"What are you…?"

Willow cut off Lindsey's words with a kiss.

"Talk later," she insisted, rolling the condom over him.

Willow raised her skirt and shimmied out of her panties before sinking down onto Lindsey.

"Talking's overrated," Lindsey agreed, kissing Willow again.

Willow rode Lindsey hard and fast. She was desperate for him. She didn't want to lose this, lose him.

It wasn't long before they were crying out each other's name in release.

Pressing his forehead to hers, Lindsey asked, "When do you go?"

"Day after tomorrow," Willow confirmed.

"So soon?" Lindsey choked out.

Willow nodded. "Giles just told me. Oh, and he knows about us."

Lindsey groaned. "And he's okay with it?"

"Apparently you've been good for me," Willow confided, touching his face. "Mrs. Hartness said so. It's hard for him to argue with her."

"Still, he must be thrilled to get you away from me," Lindsey pouted.

"Yeah, probably, but we don't have to stop being friends just 'cause I'm leaving," Willow said. "We can still talk and email and stuff."

"It won't be the same," Lindsey said, running his hands over Willow's back.

"But it'll be better than nothing, right?" Willow desperately asked. "Please don't make me lose you completely when I leave."

"What? Hey, now, no." Lindsey kissed her. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking about how hard this is going to be for you. I'm just feeling sorry for myself. I don't want to let you go."

"You could come with me?"

"No, I can't."

"You don't want to?" Willow asked, moving off of Lindsey.

"I do, of course I do," Lindsey insisted. He quickly disposed of the condom and tucked himself away. "I'm not ready to leave here, yet."

"You think I am?" Willow cried. "I'm in no way ready to go back, but I don't have a choice."

"Says who? Giles?"

"Well, yes, and the coven. There's something big coming and I'm needed in Sunnnydale," Willow said.

"So they're prepared to throw you to the wolves in order to serve their greater purpose?" Lindsey pressed.

"It's not just their greater purpose. This is who I am. This is what I do. I help fight the big bads that threaten the Hellmouth. I've been doing it since I was sixteen and I'm not about to stop now," Willow insisted.

Lindsey sat back with a slight smile on his face, the fight gone out of him.

"What's that look for?" Willow asked.

"It sounds to me like you know what it is you have to do. What you're ready to do," Lindsey said, stroking a thumb against her cheek.

Willow thought about what she'd just said and smiled. "Yeah, I guess I do. I still want you to come with."

"I know. A part of me really wants to, but I can't. I still have Wolfram & Hart after me. I need to keep working on getting out from under their radar, and the Hellmouth would not be a safe place for me."

"Right, I almost forgot about them," Willow said.

"It's easy to, here," Lindsey agreed. "But I'm only safe while I'm on the grounds. I can't forget that."

"Forever?" Willow asked.

"No, we've been working on a way to keep me shielded wherever I go, but the research isn't complete. We're getting closer, though," Lindsey promised.

"Okay, good. I'd hate to think you were trapped here for the rest of your life. Not that it isn't great here, but it could start to feel like a prison."

"It already was, until you wandered into my barn."

Willow blushed and buried her face in his neck. "Why do you say things like that?"

"Because it's true. You have no idea how much meeting you has meant to me," Lindsey said, drawing her into a kiss.

"Same here." Willow kissed him again.

"When do you have to be back?" Lindsey asked.

"Don't care," Willow said, kissing his neck. "Giles knows I'm here. I don't think he expects me back today."

"Then let's spend the day in bed, and I want you to spend the night. I want to sleep with you, even if it's just this once," Lindsey proposed.

"There's no where else I'd rather be," Willow said.

The End

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