A Mile In His Moccasins
written by Gileswench


Rating: FRAO
Spoilers: Through As You Were.
Summary: When Buffy and Giles switch bodies, they both learn to see things from a different perspective.
Dedication: To Ragna, for tempting me back to the Stoners fold with this enticing challenge, and to all my fellow Stoners, especially THE fabulous Collie whose insane idea YGTS? was in the first place. And last, but not least, to Rari for her occasionally brutal, but always insightful (or is that inciteful?) betaing.
Feedback Author: Gileswench
Author's Website: Wench's Tavern


Rupert Giles sat sullenly across the desk from Quentin Travers. Giles had never cared much for the man in all the years they'd been colleagues, but at least he'd been able to understand the man's agenda. This was not anything he'd expected.

"You really think I'm going back there? Do you have any idea what you're asking of me?"

"I'm asking that you go back and earn the paycheck we give you, Rupert. I'm asking you to do the thing you seemed so keen on doing this time last year. I'm asking you to go back and watch your Slayer the way you're meant to."

"Buffy doesn't need a Watcher."

"Nonsense, Giles. Every Slayer needs a Watcher, and your Buffy does seem to have her heart set on having you for the job. We fired you, you stayed. We threatened to have you bodily removed and she managed to force our hands so we had to give you two years back salary. She died and you stayed. You'd barely given up and come home when she was back and you were on the next plane to California. We pay you to keep an eye on her and train her, not to mope about Bath ignoring your duties."

"Send someone else, then, and I'll do research or training or some such here."

"Don't think we didn't try. I have personally offered Miss Summers two different Watchers, and she turned both down. I won't repeat what she said. Suffice it to say that her vocabulary remains... colorful. I even offered to send you back."

"I take it her reply was equally colorful?"

"No, but it was illuminating. She didn't say a word; just rang off without so much as a by your leave. I don't pretend to know what sort of quarrel you two have had, but it ends now. The last thing we need is another mentally unstable Slayer."

"Buffy is not Faith."

"No, she isn't. Not yet. And I intend to see that she stays that way. Your flight leaves tomorrow at ten in the morning. You can stay the night here in Council rooms. Anything you need can be sent on to you. You do have your passport with you, do you not?" At Giles' sour glare, Travers allowed himself a smug little smile. "Never mind, we'll just send someone round to fetch it, shall we?"

* * * * *

Giles hated flying. It wasn't because he was afraid the plane would crash or be hijacked to someplace unpleasant, or even the prospect of being trapped in a metal cylinder for hours at a time with no escape. No, it was a far more prosaic reason than that.

There was never enough legroom.

A transatlantic flight always left him stiff and in pain, and that always left him in a temper.

Not to mention that he invariably ended up on the flight with a small unruly child or a squalling baby seated near him. This time it was both. A young mother traveling halfway across the globe with a boy of about six and an infant in arms was seated right across the aisle from him. The boy wriggled and fussed while the baby howled and the mother became more and more frazzled.

Giles shifted uncomfortably again and tried to concentrate on the papers Travers had sent with him about a new demon threat coming to Sunnydale. The last thing he needed to think about was children.

A strange feeling prompted Giles to look up from his papers. He found himself being regarded by the little boy who had decided to come sit next to him while his mother tried unsuccessfully to quiet the baby.

"Will you read me a story?"

"I - a story? I'm afraid I haven't any stories to read that you'd find interesting."

"What's that, then?" The boy pointed a slightly grubby finger at the precious documents spread in Giles' lap. Involuntarily, Giles pulled them out of the child's reach.

"Something grown up that your mum wouldn't want you to hear. Why don't you go back to your seat?"

"It's not as loud here. Zoe won't stop crying. Mummy says it's because her ears hurt. If I could go where I couldn't hear it I would."

"So would I," Giles admitted. "But we can't always do that, can we?"

"Mummy says if I was Zoe, I'd do the same thing, but I don't think I would. Would you?"

"I hope not, but I rather think I might."

"Why?"

"Well, because... Zoe's a baby and she doesn't have any other way of letting people know she's hurt and angry and wants it to stop. As she gets older, she'll learn other ways to cope with her problems."

"It's a stupid way."

"There are worse."

"If I was her, I'd just say."

"If you were her, she'd be sitting next to me right now telling me she would never be so stupid as to yell her head off if she were you. And that's exactly what you'd be doing."

"I'd never!"

"There's a saying among a tribe of American Indians. They say you can never really know a person until you've walked a mile in his moccasins."

"What's a moccasins?"

"A sort of shoe."

The boy frowned as he tried to puzzle out the meaning.

"So if I put on your shoes, I'll know all about you?"

Giles couldn't repress a small smile at the boy's literal interpretation of the phrase.

"It means you can't fully understand someone you're not, so it's best to try not to judge them too harshly."

The mother across the aisle had finally managed to soothe the baby to sleep. She looked up at Giles with a grateful expression.

"Come back here, Antony, and don't disturb the nice man anymore. Now thank Mr...?"

"Giles. Rupert Giles."

"Thanks Mr. Giles," Antony parroted dutifully as he returned to his mother's side.

"Yes, thank you," the mother said quite a bit more sincerely. "I hope he wasn't a bother to you."

"Not at all. In fact, we had a most intriguing philosophical discussion."

The mother smiled and shook her head.

"Your kids are lucky, aren't they? To have such an involved father. My Tim forgets they were born now they're here."

"Oh, I - I haven't any children," Giles stammered.

"I'm sorry. I just assumed, since you were so good with Antony. You seemed like a professional."

"Merely a talented amateur, I assure you."

He gifted Antony's mother with a dazzling smile and returned to his research.

The demon in question looked particularly nasty, but was mainly harmful for the spells it cast when it felt threatened. The spells were unpredictable in nature and effectiveness. Watchers of previous Slayers had written of effects as diverse as felling the Slayer with bolts of lightning to giving her a mild cold that made her lose the beast as she sneezed uncontrollably. As far as he could tell, there was no way to predict what sort of spell might be thrown. The only way to avoid the beasts' magic was to catch it completely unaware.

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose under his glasses. While Buffy had many strengths, subtlety was not one of them.

This whole situation was bound to get worse before it got better.

* * * * *

Buffy sighed as she rinsed the final plate and placed it in the rack to drain. Now all she had to do was take out the garbage, move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, decide which of the five bills that had appeared in the previous day's mail absolutely had to be paid immediately, write the checks for them, and scrub the toilet before it was time to get into her uniform and go to work. At least she'd managed to cook breakfast and feed Dawn before she had to go to school.

"It just never ends, does it?" she grumbled to herself.

Once she got back from work, she would have to do a quick patrol and then come home to another round of dishes and dropped clothing and garbage and yardwork and window washing and all the things she'd simply taken for granted would be done just a year before.

"How did you do it, Mom?" she wondered.

Of course, it had helped that there had been an adequate household income in her mother's day. There had even been a period before Joyce's illness when there had been a maid service once a week to take care of things like scrubbing in the bathroom and heavy duty vacuuming. Now it was a matter of dealing with whatever was growing mold and playing Russian Roulette with the bills.

Giles' fairy godmother check had long gone to full copper repiping and paying the mortgage.

As for Giles himself... no, she couldn't let herself go there. If she let herself think about it, she would hurt, and then she wouldn't be strong enough to deal with all the things that needed her immediate attention. Things like garbage.

She gathered up the bags and headed to front door. She flung the door open and headed out, head down, only to collide into something solid. The obstruction went down with a muffled 'oof' and Buffy stood staring at something she'd never thought she'd see again: her Watcher sprawled on the ground knocked unconscious.

* * * * *

When Giles came to he found he'd been moved inside and laid on the sofa. Buffy was applying a damp washcloth to his forehead.

"I see you're back," she said in a carefully neutral voice.

"Yes, thanks. Did you carry me in here all by yourself?"

"Will helped. I can deal with the weight, but you're too bulky for me to heave you around without either a hand from someone else or a lot of bruises for you. What brings you back to the Hellmouth?"

"I am your Watcher."

"Could've fooled me."

For the first time, Giles heard the bitterness in her voice. Not for the first time, he mentally kicked himself for not calling and testing the waters before coming over.

"I know you must be upset with me, Buffy..."

"Upset? Maybe looking for a different word here. Maybe something like furious. Or possibly not interested." She tossed the washcloth into a basin of water with a splash that overflowed the sides and sloshed onto the carpet. Buffy stood and took the water into the kitchen. when she returned, she held a steaming mug in her hand. "Sit up. I made you some tea."

Giles reached for the mug gratefully and took a sip. He smiled. A dash of milk and one spoon of sugar. She'd made it just right.

"Thank you."

Buffy shrugged. "I figured you'd need it after that tumble. I could take you to the ER if you want. I think I have time before work."

"No, that's all right. No major damage done, I think. Bit of a headache, but I've had my share of those."

The silence grew uncomfortable as Giles sipped his tea and Buffy stared at him resentfully. Her body was curled in on itself defensively on the farthest chair she could find from him.

"So do I get an explanation or are you just going to walk back into my life like you never left?"

Giles set his mug down on the coffee table and rubbed his chin as he collected his thoughts.

"The Council has decided that you do need a Watcher, after all. I know you know this, because Quentin Travers told me he'd spoken to you on the matter."

"And he knows I told him what he can do with his Council and every Watcher in it."

"Yes, so he told me," Giles said failing utterly to suppress a smile. "But he insisted, and since we've worked together well in the past..."

"Operative word 'past', Giles."

"I'm sorry I left, Buffy, but I really felt I had no choice."

"Did you have one in coming back?"

"No. It was this or a disciplinary hearing and unemployment followed by a general blacklisting from every worthy job I might apply for," he told her bluntly. "I won't lie to you. This was in no way my idea, and I fought against it. I felt you needed more time on your own. But I am glad to see you again. I've... um... I've missed you. More than I realized I would, even."

Buffy looked steadily at the floor.

"Where are you staying?"

"I haven't arranged a room yet."

Buffy shrugged.

"Why pay for a hotel? I've got a couch."

"I wouldn't want to impose..."

"Giles, I'm trying here. Don't make me want to hit you more than I do already."

"Who could resist such an invitation?" Giles observed with a wry half smile. "All right, I'll stay, but just for tonight. I don't mind admitting I'm pretty tired from my flight."

"Yeah. Jet lag's a bitch, I hear. Look, I gotta go get changed for work. You could... maybe take a nap if you want. You can even use my room after I go."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. It's okay."

She stood. So did he. They looked at one another awkwardly for a moment. At last Buffy moved to the stairs. She stopped midway up and turned to him again.

"Help yourself if you want some more tea or something. You know where everything is."

Giles watched until she'd finished mounting the stairs and could no longer be seen. He moved to the kitchen. Another cup of tea would be soothing.

* * * * *

"Hey! Buffy! Pick up the pace!"

Buffy looked up, startled.

"I'm sorry, Lorraine. I - I was just... thinking."

"Think about the customers, Buffy."

"Sure. Right. 'Cause that's the Doublemeat way," Buffy smiled, hoping it would impress her boss.

"That's the spirit. Why don't you take over the counter now?"

"Great."

Her smile faded when she saw who was at the front of the line.

"Spike, what are you doing here?" she whispered angrily.

"Got a break coming up, pet? I want to talk."

"I told you it's over. We have nothing to talk about."

"Because you say it's over? What about my feelings?"

Buffy closed her eyes and willed herself not to hit the vampire.

"I have a job to do. You're keeping me from doing it. Go away."

She smiled as brightly as she could and craned her neck around Spike.

"Next, please!"

Spike glared at her.

"This isn't over, Blondie."

He swept out of the restaurant, taking several packets of condiments with him, just because. As soon as he was gone, Buffy let out a relieved sigh. When she looked up, Lorraine was there beside her.

"You need to tell your boyfriend not to visit you at work. You have more important things to do right now."

"He's not my - I mean, I'll tell him. Again. He's not very good at listening."

"Or maybe you're not very good at understanding I mean this. No boyfriends at work."

Lorraine returned to her office. Buffy counted to ten under her breath. She needed this job. She didn't dare lose it in a fit of anger. She pasted on another bright smile and turned back to the line waiting for service.

"May I take your order, please?"

* * * * *

Despite the fatigue of a long flight and yet another knock on the head, Giles found he was too restless to take the nap Buffy had suggested. He wandered from room to room for a while seeing what had changed and what remained the way he remembered it. Some familiar items had disappeared, including several reminders of Joyce. Other things were new and spoke of the youthful tastes and limited budget of the current inhabitants.

When he reached Buffy's bedroom door he laid his hand on it, but didn't open the door. True, she'd told him he could go in, but he didn't feel as if he had the right yet. Not until she had forgiven him.

He turned and went downstairs. He'd been at loose ends before, and recently, but this was different. This was being in someone else's house, and it felt almost as if he was intruding simply by being there at all, let alone when none of the residents were about. Had it really been less than a year since he'd felt as though he belonged in this house as much as the people who actually lived here?

Memories filled his head of spending time in these rooms with Buffy and Dawn and Joyce. Then Buffy and Dawn. And finally with Dawn and Willow and Tara. Then with Buffy again, but no longer comfortably. Their sense of camaraderie had died with her, and wasn't revived when she was.

A sudden desire not to think combined with a habit of trying to be useful and occupied at all times made him decide to do a bit of cleaning while he waited for someone to return.

Perhaps if Buffy came home to a sparkling house and a home cooked meal, she would be less inclined to be angry with him.

* * * * *

As Buffy trudged wearily home she considered Giles' return yet again. It was clear that he didn't want to be in Sunnydale anymore than she was willing to admit she wanted him around.

Or did she?

Part of her did. But part of her didn't. Part of her wanted the safety and comfort that had always been Giles. The one who kept believing in her no matter what dumb mistakes she made, the one who made things right and gave her what she needed to beat the bad things.

But he'd made himself one of the not safe things when he'd left her. If she let him in, he might pull yet another rug out from under her feet and she wasn't sure she'd be able to take another betrayal.

She stopped in her tracks and sighed. She was too tired to deal with this tonight.

"I said it's over, Spike. When are you going to listen to me?"

"When you say what you mean for once."

"I do mean it."

"Then why are you just standing there? Why won't you even look at me when you say it? Why can I smell you -"

"Stop it! No smelling. And really no nothing else. Please."

"Please, she says?" Spike laughed. "Polite was never your style. Don't try to start now. I told you we weren't finished. I have things to say. Now, you can hear me out right here and now or I can come by your place a bit later and tell your friends what you've been up to. What's it gonna be?"

"Fine. Say what you have to say and go away. I have to get Dawn's dinner home to her. And no smushing it this time. We're not going to do that again. Ever."

"Oh yes we are. You won't be able to help yourself. Doesn't matter how many times you tell yourself you don't want it, you do."

"And sometimes I want to throw myself off a bridge, but I figured out that's not good for me and neither are you. Look, I'm tired and Dawn is probably hungry and her dinner's getting cold."

"And I'm sure she's just sitting home with her salivary glands going all into overdrive for another Doublemeat burger. She doesn't want it."

"It isn't a burger. It's the Chicken Strips."

"Yeah. Big improvement."

"It's what I can do."

Spike shook his head.

"You never were any good at anything but the Slaying, were you?"

"Is that what you came to tell me? Can I go now?"

"Fine. Go on."

Buffy took a step forward only to find Spike moving to block her path.

"Y'know," he said, "you're really something. Just break up with a guy without ever even letting your friends know you were shagging the daylights out of him. Maybe I should take a little jaunt to Los Angeles and let your one true love know what you did with me."

"Angel would stake you and you know it. Are we done?"

"You really don't get it, do you? We're not done. We'll never be done."

"I have to go. Let me through."

Spike stepped aside.

"It's not over. You remember that."

He sauntered off in the direction of his crypt. Buffy watched him go with a racing heart. She fought down the tiny part of her that wanted to run after him and make him make her forget everything. She turned her steps for home and willed herself to move in that direction instead.

* * * * *

When she got home, Buffy heard voices in the dining room. She shrugged off her coat and headed there with the Doublemeat bag in her hand for Dawn. Buffy blinked when she walked into the room.

Giles sat at the head of the table with Dawn on one side and Willow on the other. They were just finishing up a meal. Giles looked up and smiled softly at her.

"Buffy. I hope you don't mind, but we didn't wait. Sit down and I'll get your plate."

"You made dinner?"

"Earning my keep, as it were. Go on, sit down."

Buffy sat with a thump.

"I guess I didn't need to bring this home," she said as she put down the fast food bag in front of Dawn. "I thought you didn't have any dinner."

"Hey, I was surprised too. Nobody told me Giles was coming back. Why didn't you say anything?"

"Because I didn't know. Nobody told me, either."

Giles came back and put a plate of food in front of Buffy.

"Here you are. I hope you like it. I was experimenting a bit. There was a rather... unusual assortment in the refrigerator. Still. There it is."

"I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping this week."

"Well maybe you can go tomorrow," Willow suggested. "You're on the late shift, right?"

"It's a double shift. But I could go the day after."

"Sure. I think we can make it till then. Buffy, I'm gonna go to The Bronze. Mind if I take Dawnie? She finished her homework. Maybe you could even come after patrol?"

"Sure. You guys go. I probably won't show, though. Long day. And another tomorrow."

"And I'm guessing maybe some Watcher/Slayer stuff. I mean, they wouldn't have sent Giles back here if there wasn't mystical stuff going on you need to know about."

"Yes, there is that," Giles agreed. "But I'm sure if Buffy wanted to have a coffee and hear a bit of music that we could still manage to talk afterward. Or I could patrol with you. Kill two birds with one stone."

"Go with me? You haven't done that in forever."

"Would it be all right?"

With Willow and Dawn nodding encouragingly, Buffy felt she had no choice.

"Sure. Great. The more the merrier."

"Hey, maybe you can even talk Giles into coming to The Bronze after," Dawn suggested. "Y'know, celebrate that he's here."

"We'll see. I don't know if I'm going yet."

Willow and Dawn left quickly after that with a few more pleas to both Buffy and Giles that they come along to the club after patrol. As soon as they were gone, Buffy shoved her plate away and stood.

"I didn't think it was that bad," Giles observed.

"No. Just... I'm not hungry. That daily Doublemeat Medley really fills you up. And hey, it's my one perk so I take it."

"How are things, really?"

"Okay. Things are okay."

Giles decided not to push the question for the moment. After a moment Buffy spoke again.

"Thanks. For doing that. I know Dawn is sick of fast food, but it's... fast. I don't always have time to cook now I'm working."

"I did a few other things while I was at it. I hope you don't mind."

"Like what?"

"A spot of cleaning. And a bit of gardening. I left the laundry, though. I wasn't certain if anything needed special handling."

"Wow. All that in one day."

"I had the time." He ran a hand through his hair. "You know, Buffy, if you do a little bit every day, it all gets done and frightening things don't grow behind the toilet."

He smiled slightly to let her know he wasn't scolding her.

Every muscle in her body stiffened. How dare he tell her how easy it was?

"Thanks for the hint, Heloise. I'm gonna catch a shower and change before we go on patrol."

She hurried up the stairs before he could answer. Giles blew out a frustrated breath and went to clear the table. Couldn't Buffy see that he was trying to make it up to her?

* * * * *

If Giles had counted on the old routine of patrol to make things easier, he was faced with severe disappointment. Buffy just seemed to get more upset with him every time he opened his mouth. If he talked about demons and his mission from the Council, she glared and snapped. If he tried to talk about her life since he'd left, she shut down entirely. And he wished to heaven his head would stop aching.

Buffy couldn't believe this was the same Giles who had always been the one thing she felt she couldn't do without. One minute, he would only talk about work, as if he didn't give a damn about her. The next he was telling her how to run her life. What gave him the right? And what if Spike decided to show up? If he did, she was completely screwed.

Which meant that he probably would.

"Look, can we just get this over with, Giles? I know what I'm looking for. Scaly, ugly thing with seriously backfirey mojo. If I see it, I sneak up and take it out. Easy."

"It isn't easy," Giles told her with some asperity. "It has caused untold havoc for centuries. Every time it has been seen it has managed to escape, sometimes at the cost of a Slayer's life."

"I don't die so easy. And I never seem to stay dead."

Giles shook his head in frustration.

"I don't understand you, Buffy. You've always been a fighter. Why won't you fight?"

"That's a laugh coming from you, Braveheart. You left. I was stuck here, but I keep on trying."

"Really? Do you?"

"Don't you dare tell me I'm not trying. God, you're right about one thing, though. You never understood me and you never will. And you know what else, I'll never understand you, either."

"No, you won't because you don't see what's right in front of you."

"And you're completely blind! And - and there's a big, scaly demon behind you, Giles!"

Giles spun around wildly only to find himself knocked to the ground with a scaly claw. He tried to warn Buffy to let the thing go until they could catch it unawares, but she was already leaping for the beast. Buffy was almost on the creature when a bolt of magic flew from its gnarled hand and hit Buffy in the chest. It ricocheted to hit Giles as well. As the Slayer hit the ground, her Watcher lost consciousness for the second time since returning to Sunnydale that morning.

* * * * *

When Buffy came to a little while later, she couldn't believe how much her head hurt. Or how tired she felt. She raised one hand to her forehead and was surprised to find so little hair there.

'Great,' she thought, 'that beastie fried my follicles.'

Then she realized there was some object on her face that shouldn't be there. She felt around, still keeping her eyes closed, and found it was a pair of glasses. She pulled them off and sat up. About a second later, she lay down again because her head was spinning. When it stopped, she opened her eyes carefully. Everything was fuzzy. Really fuzzy. And everything felt too big.

She let out a groan, surprised at how low the sound came out.

The next thing she knew there was a face bending over her and a tiny hand expertly checking her pulse.

"It's okay, Buffy. Just lie still a moment."

She knew the voice. She'd heard it before. If only things would stop being so blurred, she'd be able to see who she was talking to. Her companion was female and small and had shortish blondish hair. The voice was talking again. She did her best to concentrate. When would Slayer healing kick in?

"I know this is a bit of a shock, but we'll find a way to sort this out, I promise. Can you try to sit up?"

"What happened? Who are you? And what happened to my voice?"

"It was the demon, Buffy. Why the hell didn't you listen? You just had to attack without thinking, didn't you?"

"It hurt Giles. Is he okay?"

She brought her hand up to her face again and was startled to see how large it suddenly was. She turned it over to look at the ring on the little finger. It was gold with a square cabochon of black onyx. Looking further up her arm, she saw it was encased in a leather jacket that she knew as well as anything in her own wardrobe. Her brain shut down as she stared.

"Here," the woman said. "Put these on and it'll be a bit better."

Buffy accepted the glasses numbly. When they were on, her vision was much better, but nowhere near what she was used to with enhanced Slayer night vision. She looked at the woman.

"That's my body. Who are you and what are you doing in it?"

"Borrowing it while you're in mine, it would seem."

"Giles?"

* * * * *

Somehow the pair made it back to Buffy's house without meeting up with either more demons or anyone they knew. When they got to the door, Giles stood waiting while Buffy rummaged in her pockets for her key. It took both of them a minute to realize what a fruitless task that was. She looked pointedly at Giles. He looked back, confused, then realized the key to the door would be in his care since he was now in Buffy's body. He fished around in her jacket pockets until he came up with the key, then unlocked the door.

Once inside, Giles made tea while Buffy paced the living room. Occasionally she would rub her forehead.

"Giles?" she called to the kitchen.

"Yes, Buffy?" her own voice floated out.

"Could you bring me a few dozen Tylenol with that tea? Your head's splitting."

"That's what it's like when I get knocked out."

"And does your back always feel like this?"

"Like what?"

"Sore and stiff. Is it always like that?"

"Not always," Giles said as he carried the tea tray to the living room and set it on the coffee table with an extra hard thump. "Oh dear. I must remember these things are much closer now I'm so short. Anyway, my back feels like misery because I've been on a very long flight and I've been knocked down twice in less than twenty-four hours. Frankly, I'm relieved it's someone else's problem for the moment. Your back feels just fine."

"Great. So you gonna give it back to me anytime soon? And don't make short jokes while you're me. It's mean."

"It wasn't a joke; it was an observation."

"Fine, quit with the observations, already. And you didn't answer my question."

"I will be delighted to get back into my own skin at the first possible opportunity. Unfortunately, I have no idea how that is to be done."

"So we research."

"We can go to the Magic Box in the morning."

"But what do we do tonight? Why can't we research now?"

"Buffy, take a look in the mirror. You're in no shape to do any effective research right now. You're in a body that has crossed several time zones and been rendered unconscious twice today. Give it a rest."

He rummaged in his suitcase and handed her a bottle of pills from it. She peered at the label curiously.

"What are these?"

"Allergy medication. You'll need to take one of those every day or you'll spend the whole bloody day sneezing my brains out."

"What're you allergic to?"

"Buffy, please. Just take the pills and don't concern yourself with the rest. Now are you taking any medication I should know about?"

"Nope. My body's the picture of health."

"Lucky you."

"Yeah. Lucky me. Giles, what are we gonna do? I don't want to be you and you certainly don't want to be me."

"For now, I suggest we get some sleep. It's late, and my body has been through a lot today. And yours... needs another shower."

Buffy's eyes widened.

"Oh no you don't, Giles! You can't!"

"Buffy, I know what the female body looks like."

"But - but that's my female body! I don't want you to see it naked."

"I'm not precisely eager to have you see mine, either, but I don't see how it's to be avoided and adequate personal hygiene maintained."

Buffy sighed and sat heavily on the sofa. Giles reached for his nose and swore under his breath when he found nothing there. Without a word, Buffy removed his glasses, pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, and handed them to Giles.

"Go ahead. You'll feel better."

He took them, polished the lenses, began to replace them on his face, swore again, and handed them back to Buffy.

"Maybe you could get some sunglasses until you get your bod back."

"I may just do that."

* * * * *

An hour later, the pair were still sitting on the sofa, sipping tea and trying to decide what to do next. They were rapidly coming to no conclusion at all. Buffy squirmed uncomfortably.

"What is it now?" Giles snapped.

"I - you - well, this body needs to go to the bathroom."

"Then go."

"But Giles..."

"We're both going to have to deal with that aspect of things eventually."

"I know, but I was hoping it would be a little longer before we had to."

"Then you shouldn't have had four cups of tea."

"Y'know, if I didn't have to go so bad, I'd come up with a really great answer to that."

Buffy stood and hurried up the stairs to the bathroom. Once inside with the door locked, she hesitated again. She wasn't really sure how this worked.

"Don't look, Buff," she muttered to herself as she carefully undid the unfashionable wool trousers. Underneath, there was a pair of cotton boxer shorts. Underneath that was the thing she'd never wanted to think about Giles having.

A penis.

And a scrotum.

And all that... guy stuff.

She looked up at the ceiling (which was way too close for comfort now), turned around, pulled down all the cloth, and sat as quickly as she could. It seemed to take forever before she hit the toilet seat with a thump.

"When did your legs get so long, Giles?" she muttered.

She stared resolutely at the opposite wall while she dealt with the situation. Everything felt wrong. She wanted her own body back.

"That's sorta ironic, isn't it?" she mused. "But at least I was used to it."

When she was finished, she reached for some toilet paper and shuddered slightly at the thought that she would have to touch Giles' privates. Still, there was nothing for it. She fished around blindly between the surprisingly well-formed thighs to find what she needed to deal with. When she'd finished wiping the end, she couldn't help looking. It seemed very long.

"Holy moley, Batman!"

* * * * *

"Buffy?" Giles called. "Is everything quite all right?"

"Um... yeah, Giles. Just great. I'll be right down."

Buffy stood quickly and rearranged her trousers. At first, she tried to center all the genitalia over the center seams, but quickly found that was extremely uncomfortable. She stuffed them down the left leg. After all, Giles was the most left-handed person she'd ever met, so it seemed a likely solution.

She washed her hands and hurried down as quickly as she could without tripping over her suddenly large feet.

"See? Just fine. All dealt with and no problems at all. Well, I'm tired. Think I'll head for bed now. 'Night, Giles."

Giles pinched the bridge of his nose.

"You looked, didn't you?"

Buffy stopped and turned. She smiled sheepishly.

"It's not like I could help it, Giles. That's a lot of... stuff... to figure out what to do with."

"Buffy, it's okay. It's not as if you wanted to see that, I understand."

Giles went to shove his hands in his pockets only to discover the pants he had on didn't include that fashion feature. He settled for running his hand through his hair. Buffy sat down and looked at him sympathetically.

"I know. We should be all mature about this and realize it's just body parts and it doesn't really matter. But it's hard to think that way when it's your body parts. Or my body parts. I'm getting confused with what to call whose parts."

"That makes two of us."

"Look, Giles, I already peed with your body. Go ahead and take a shower. Just don't..."

"I know, don't touch anything I don't absolutely have to and keep my eyes shielded at all times."

Buffy laughed slightly.

"That, too. But what I was really gonna say was don't expect the Doublemeat smell to go away. It gets kinda stuck in the pores."

* * * * *

Giles did his best not to look too closely as he undressed. Of course that did make the entire process somewhat problematical. The buttons on her blouse were on the wrong side, he couldn't find the closure on the pants at all for the longest time. Whose insane idea was it to put a trouser zip on the side, anyway?

And as for the bra, when he reached around to the back, there wasn't a clasp. After some moments of searching, he gave up and pulled it awkwardly off over his head.

Then he tried not to give in to the temptation to look down.

The problem only intensified as he slid the panties to the floor and stood naked in Buffy's body all alone in the bathroom.

He steeled his resolve and checked the water temperature before he got in the shower. A moment under the water proved to him that being short was a definite advantage when showering. He could now duck completely under the stream without bending his knees.

He sighed contentedly and picked up the soap.

It was easy dealing with washing his face and shoulders, but once he started to go lower, things became a bit problematical. He wanted to do a thorough job so Buffy's body would be as clean as he could make it, but that inevitably meant touching parts of her body she wouldn't want him to touch. Possibly even looking at them as well.

Well she'd already looked at parts of him she'd never shown any interest in before, so what was the difference?

"You know perfectly well what the difference is," he told himself. "You've been wanting an excuse to look at them for a very long time."

And Buffy had seemed so flustered by having seen his... parts. No doubt she'd been disgusted by the experience because it was him. After all, it wasn't as if she'd never seen a penis before. She'd had lovers. She'd been to bed with at least Angel and Riley. And there was that time he'd been in her dorm room when she came home early in the morning with a ridiculous story about having been in the library all Saturday night. She'd clearly been either at a party or on a date. A date where she'd stayed out all night. That meant there'd been at least three men.

No, the problem wasn't shyness or inexperience. It had to be his body that she found unappealing.

"Well what did you expect, Giles?" he asked himself. "Did you really think she'd take one look and start turning cartwheels for joy?"

He began to scrub harder. Surely the fragrance of hamburgers couldn't cling that stubbornly to the human body if she was cleaning herself properly. He put the soap away and reached for the fruit scented body scrub. This would do the trick, no doubt.

* * * * *

Ten minutes later, the water was running tepid and Giles could still smell burger meat through the scent of guava.

Maybe it was as bad as Buffy said after all.

He sighed and turned off the taps.

He decided to dry off and go to the kitchen for a snack.

After all, while he couldn't fix the aroma from her job, he could at least do something about the amount of weight she'd lost recently. She'd gotten too thin by half and it was time something was done about it.

Besides, it had been a long time since concerns about cholesterol and excess weight had put an end to his greasy fry-ups. A few sausages would be lovely just about now.

* * * * *

While Giles showered, Buffy rummaged through his luggage for something to wear to sleep in. Giles had been right; his body was tired and needed rest. And Buffy's mind was still reeling from the sudden change. It wanted to run away. The combination made for one sleepy... not quite Slayer. Clearly none of her enhanced senses had made the jump into the new body.

"Giles gets all the breaks," she mumbled unhappily as she sorted clothes. "His brains and my superpowers are all in the same place now. Who needs me? And what do I get out of this? A dick. Okay, a big dick. A really impressively big dick. But still, just a dick. It's not like I'm gonna be using it to do anything but pee, anyway. And I swear Giles has the worst taste in clothes of anybody I've ever met! Would it be too much to ask for a shirt that doesn't look like it was designed by Helen Keller? And moss green cords? Please! The AV club would have laughed at someone wearing those in high school."

A sudden thought sent one hand exploring the pockets of the trousers she had on. She found Giles' wallet quickly and opened it up.

"Platinum Visa, huh? Now I know what I'm gonna do tomorrow. Giles, you're getting a makeover."

She stuffed the wallet away hurriedly when she heard footsteps on the stairs. She schooled her face into the picture of innocence before he got there.

"Hey, Giles. Nice shower?"

"Very. Though I still smell of hamburger. I was just going to get a snack."

"And I guess while you're doing that, I should make up the sofa for you to sleep on."

"Won't that look odd to the others?" he asked mildly.

"What do you mean?"

"If I sleep down here, it will look like you've given up your room to me. They'll want to know why."

"Oh. Right. Well, then you can have my bed and I guess I'll sleep down here. Then we can explain stuff in the morning."

"Fine. I warn you, though, your back won't be happy."

"Well what am I supposed to do? Sleep with you?"

Giles' eyes widened. So did Buffy's.

"I... well... I don't suppose we need to go quite that far, "Giles stuttered. "Look, I'll take the sofa. You take the bed. Please. And if Willow and Dawn have questions when they get back... well, I imagine I can find a way to answer them."

"You're sure?"

"Positive."

"Okay."

Giles turned in the direction of the kitchen. He stopped when Buffy called him.

"Oh Giles? Could you tell me something before I go to bed?"

"What did you want to know?"

Buffy gestured to the suitcase.

"What do you wear to sleep in?"

He came over and rooted about until he found a black tee shirt and a pair of sweatpants.

"These should do the trick. Is there anything else you need?"

Buffy took the proffered clothes and hugged them to her chest. She shook her head. Giles placed a comforting hand on her arm.

"We'll find the answer, Buffy."

"And if we don't?"

"We'll find it," he reiterated. "We'll get this sorted out."

Buffy blinked hard and nodded silently. She managed a half smile then turned and went up the stairs without another word. Giles watched her go, his brow furrowed with concern. At last he sighed and went into the kitchen.

* * * * *

When she got to her room, Buffy began to undress for bed. She put the glasses on her nightstand and pulled the oversized sweater over her head. A tee shirt followed that, leaving her naked from the waist up. She stopped for a moment. Giles had taken a whole shower. That meant he'd probably seen her naked. Shouldn't she get the same chance to see him?

She ignored the voice in her head that told her Giles wouldn't have looked at all and if he did it was purely in the interest of cleanliness. After all, he'd been flustered and obviously uninterested when she'd accidentally sounded like she was propositioning him. She hadn't meant it like that. Really, she hadn't.

But did he have to be so grossed out by the idea?

Well, fine. If he'd had a laugh at her body, she was going to have a laugh at his. Besides, she needed to get a good look at him if she was going to act as his fashion consultant. And if she was going to be Giles for any length of time, he needed some nicer clothes.

With that feat of spurious logic accomplished, she shed the rest of her clothes, put the glasses back on and looked into the mirror.

Or perhaps gaped would be a better term.

Angel and Riley had both had great bodies, so did Spike. All three were lean and had muscles to spare. Somehow, though, she'd assumed that a man as old as Giles couldn't have a really great body anymore. Somewhere along the line she'd placed him in the safe category of 'old guy' and decided that he must therefore be flabby and out of shape. Plus there was the way he'd never made a fuss about exercising. She knew that if she hadn't caught him at it, he would never in a million years have admitted he jogged. Even then, she'd put it out of her mind except when she decided he was having a midlife crisis she really needed not to support.

Now, standing naked in front of the mirror in his body, Buffy could see that this was another case of Giles being reluctant to draw attention to himself.

True, his muscles weren't as defined as Angel's or Riley's. And yes, he was getting older. Hard to deny that when there were silver hairs among the tawny ones on his chest and belly. Still, he was muscular and trim. His legs were long and nicely shaped. She knew his arms and back were strong enough to carry a grown girl as if she weighed nothing. That was a fact she'd conveniently shoved to the back of her mind a long time ago, as she did most reminders of her many near brushes with death when she could.

This was a body that hadn't spent a lot of time in the gym, but one that had lived hard. Unlike the unscarred perfection of Angel or the government sculpted youth of Riley, Giles had never liked to show off his physique. He'd always stayed buttoned down and covered up as long as Buffy had known him. Almost like he was wearing armor rather than clothes.

Now that she'd seen him, Buffy began to wonder why he'd felt that was necessary.

It wasn't like this body was something to be ashamed of.

In fact...

Buffy couldn't seem to help herself. It looked so tempting; so exciting. Her fingers took on minds of their own and ran themselves through Giles' chest hair. It felt good. Soft, yet crisp. Slightly ticklish in a good way if she touched it too lightly.

She closed her eyes and caressed the body she inhabited. She stopped when a familiar ache grew in an unfamiliar way. Her eyes opened and she looked down.

She swallowed hard.

She went to her desk. She knew she had a ruler in there.

* * * * *

As Giles sat down to his meal of sausages and onions with a side of fried tomatoes and mushrooms, he realized something. Two things in fact.

For one, he didn't have nightclothes or any bedding for the sofa, and for the other, he was in a body that rebelled against what he was about to put in it.

"Just bloody wonderful," he muttered. "She still won't eat, even when I try to make her from the inside."

Still, he forced a few bites of tomato into his mouth and swallowed them. Small steps. That was the way. A bite here, a high-calorie treat there. If he kept at it, soon Buffy's body would be eating normally again, so she would actually recognize hunger when she got back into her own body. He ate a bite of sausage.

He was going to put some weight on Buffy if it was the last thing he did.

The sound of the door opening startled Giles. Willow and Dawn giggled and gossiped as they came into the living room.

"He was totally checking you out, Dawnie."

"Please! Like I'd ever dance with the Ego that Walks Like an Eleventh Grader!"

"So you wouldn't?"

"Well... only if he asked me."

A flurry of giggles filled the house. Suddenly Willow shushed Dawn.

"We should be quiet. Giles is probably asleep."

"He's not on the sofa."

"Maybe he and Buffy aren't back from patrol yet."

"No, her jacket's here."

"Hmm, I wonder where he is, then."

"You don't think...?" Dawn's voice trailed off as her eyes moved to the top of the stairs.

"What, are you kidding? Of course I don't think. They were barely speaking earlier."

"Unlike a certain pair of witches tonight at The Bronze, who were getting majorly chatty together."

"Well, we're talking, anyway. A little bit. But it was all, y'know, good stuff."

Willow couldn't repress a grin, and a small blush.

"C'mon, admit it," Dawn teased her. "You two were totally vibing."

Giles sat in the kitchen and listened. Later, he couldn't have said what mental imp possessed him, but he decided to say something he had the feeling was long overdue.

He walked into the doorway between the kitchen and the living room and folded his arms under his breasts.

"So, you had a good time at The Bronze?"

"Yeah, Buff," Willow said. "You should've been."

"Well, unlike some people, I had grown up stuff to do. Dawn, what time is it?"

"Huh? Time?" the girl stalled. "I dunno. I don't have a watch on."

"It's after Midnight and you have school tomorrow."

"I know," Willow began, "I should have paid more attention to that, but we were having such a good time... and Tara was there. She talked to me and everything."

"Dawn, go to bed. Willow, don't keep my little sister out so late next time. Well, I'm off to bed, too."

He picked up his suitcase.

"See you in the morning."

"Wait a minute," Dawn protested. "That's Giles's suitcase. Where are you taking it?"

"Upstairs. Don't make me come tuck you in, Dawn."

"W- why are you taking Giles' suitcase upstairs?" Willow asked, clearly not wanting to hear the answer.

"There's something he needs in it. 'Night, Willow."

He mounted the steps with a smug little grin on his borrowed face. At the bottom of the stairs, Willow and Dawn looked confused.

"Buffy cares what time I come home?"

Dawn sounded stunned.

"She's got Giles in her room, and she's taking stuff up to him?"

Willow was clearly perplexed.

The two looked at one another.

"Scooby research, tomorrow?" Dawn asked.

"Oh yeah," Willow answered.

* * * * *

Giles knocked on Buffy's door.

"Can I come in?"

He heard a muffled curse and some fumbling around before his own voice floated out with a less than convincing tone.

"Sure. Great. Door's open."

He slipped into the room quickly only to find Buffy sitting on the bed awkwardly. She was fully dressed, but the covers were wadded up in front of her. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair standing up at odd angles. Her expression was clearly meant to be innocent, but it failed miserably at conveying the concept. Giles pinched the bridge of his nose.

"What's up, Giles?"

"I have the distinct impression I might ask you the same thing."

"I didn't mean to, Giles. It just... how do you control this thing?"

"I'm not sure control is the right word."

"Well, does it have an off switch, at least?"

"Have you tried thinking of something unpleasant? That sometimes does the trick."

"I cannot believe we're having this conversation."

"No more can I. In fact, let's not have it right now, please."

"Okay. You're the one who'll have to live with the rep for being a horny bastard if I can't get this under control."

"Oh for heaven's sake," Giles snapped, "take a cold shower!"

"You don't have to yell at me."

"I thought you might like to know your sister just got home. Do you have any idea how late it is?"

"I was out later than this all the time. You know that."

"Yes, but you were fulfilling your destiny as the Slayer. Dawn was simply out dancing until all hours."

"And she still gets better grades than I did. She did her homework before she went."

"Did you see it?"

"Well... no. But if she wasn't doing it, I'd get a call from the school."

"Are you paying any attention to Dawn at all? She needs you to be involved in her life, Buffy."

For the first time in his life, Giles found himself on the receiving end of a full-blown Ripper glare. He backed up a step.

"Don't you dare tell me about being involved. You were so thrilled to find out I was alive again that you hightailed it out of here faster than a speeding bullet. I needed help and you couldn't get away from us soon enough. Way to shatter my last damn happy illusion, Giles. Until then I really thought you cared about me. Guess I was wrong."

"How many times did you expect me to allow you to use me, Buffy? I was a bloody convenience for you. Fix this for me, Giles. Make that problem go away for me, Giles. Oh, but don't expect anything in return. I didn't matter at all. How long did you think I would stay when it was clear you didn't want me here? Time and again I reached out to you only to find you weren't there."

"I wasn't?" Buffy asked, genuinely confused. "Where was I?"

"With Angel. With your misery. With bloody Spike. Anywhere but with me. Was it really too much to ask that you'd have two minutes for me?"

Giles sat on the edge of the bed, defeat clear in the set of his shoulders. Buffy crawled across the bed to sit next to him, her anger gone as quickly as it had appeared.

"Yeah, it was. It was more than I had to give then. And I can't guarantee I've got a whole lot more now. Giles, you made me the best Slayer you could, but nobody really prepared me to be a grown up. I wasn't supposed to ever have to cope with all of this. I was supposed to be dead, if not from the Master, then from Glory. And if not from her, from some random demon or vamp of the week. I was never supposed to grow up. And I didn't. I died. I was even okay with it. But now..." she shook her head sadly. "Now it's all clean house, be Dawn's mom, prove I'm good enough to flip burgers at Doublemeat Palace, pay the bills on a minimum wage job, and then go save the world. Again. And it never stops. And just when I've given everything I have to give and then some, somebody comes along wanting more of me. There's just not enough me to go around."

Giles took her hand gently and looked into her eyes. They may have actually been his own eyes, but he could see Buffy looking out of them.

"Yes, there is, Buffy. I know it's hard, and you're right, you probably weren't prepared very well for this. But that doesn't mean you can't do it."

"But I can't do it alone, Giles. I never could."

Giles shook his head.

"I don't believe that for one moment. You are an exceptional young woman if only you'll accept the fact."

"Yeah. I know. One girl in all the world, and all that. Or two now, I guess. I'm not even so special that way, anymore."

Buffy stood and paced restlessly. She stopped and faced Giles.

"What's so special about me?" she asked. "I have superpowers to fight vampires, but you and Xand and Will can do it, too. Maybe not as well, but you've all dusted more than your fair share of vamps. I'm not as smart as you and Will. I don't have things under control the way Mom did. I never seem to know what to say or do. Sure, I can dust a vamp in no time flat, but I'm a lousy driver and I go through men like... something that goes through things and is a big disaster. Now I can't even find a group of loser nerds. They're hitting me on my blind side all the time. I don't feel like there's anything exceptional about me, with the possible exception of my incredible lameness as a human being. And now I don't even have being the Slayer to fall back on. If I'm not the Slayer, what the hell am I that's so great?"

"You're Buffy Summers, who is quite possibly the bravest person I've ever met in my life."

"Brave, huh? So brave I couldn't wait to crawl back into my grave as soon as I got out of it."

"Are you doing that now? I don't think so. And certainly, after sacrificing yourself to save the world and humanity twice, you'd earned your rest. You were cheated of it. But you're back. And you've forgiven Willow and Xander and the others..."

Buffy picked at a thread on the bedspread and refused to meet Giles' eye.

"No, I haven't, really."

"But... Willow still lives here. And she talked about Xander and Anya coming here for movie nights... I really thought..."

"Giles, I don't have any right to be mad at them. They were trying to save me. I owe them my life. It's not their fault I didn't want it."

She looked down at herself with a wry smile.

"Whaddya know?" she observed. "that thinking about rotten stuff trick worked. I'll have to remember that."

"It's one I've relied on far too many times," Giles admitted. "And Buffy, you have every right to be angry about what was done to you. You have the right to let people know you're upset and why."

"After all this time, even?"

"It certainly didn't stop you from giving me a piece of your mind just now."

Buffy shrugged.

"It wasn't like I had the chance to finish yelling at you before you left. The guys... it's been months and I've seen them every day. I'd feel pretty dumb saying something now."

"Just think about it."

"When did you get to be touchy-feely share guy?"

"I'll let you know when I do."

They smiled at one another.

"So what are you doing up here, anyway, Giles? You came up here for something and we got sorta sidetracked with your definite lack of need for Viagra and my eternal angst."

"Ah, well... it would seem that I need some form of sleepwear."

"And you brought your suitcase with you because...?"

"Cover?"

"Giles, did you pretend to be me?"

"Well... a little. I'm not sure why."

"And what did you do as me?"

"I... well... I told Willow not to keep Dawn out so late."

"And...?"

"And... well... sort of lead them to think..."

"That we were getting all snuggly up here?"

"No! Of course not!"

"Then what?"

"That... I was sleeping in your room and you were bringing something up to me."

Buffy groaned.

"You didn't!"

"I'm afraid I did. Is it bad?"

"You know what they're going to be doing tomorrow, don't you?"

"What?"

"Researching the history of Watcher/Slayer nookie with emphasis on mind control spells."

"Oh dear lord. Really?"

"Yu-huh. So there's only one thing to do now."

"What's that?"

"Make them think they have something to research while we sit up all night telling each other how to cope with being in the wrong body."

"Buffy," he chided, "that's dishonest."

"But fun and informative. Now, about this whole standing up to pee thing... what's the deal with that?"

* * * * *

When Buffy woke up the next morning, she could feel arms around her. Small, soft, yet surprisingly strong arms with little hands that squeezed lightly at her... where her breasts ought to be.

It took a moment for the previous days' events to become clear in her mind again.

Giles back... funky demon... zapped with whammy magic... bodyswitch.

Bodyswitch with Giles.

Talk with Giles.

Weird sort of semi-girltalk with Giles.

Falling asleep with Giles.

Sleeping with Giles?!

Just sleeping. Only sleep happened. Nothing more.

Only now she lay in bed with her Watcher feeling her up while they were stranded in each others' bodies.

And he was asleep.

"Just when you think life on the Hellmouth can't get any freakier, it does."

She stifled a small groan as her nipple stiffened in response to Giles' ministrations. It wasn't the only thing that was hard.

His fingers were so gentle, so skillful, as they rolled her tight nipple. Part of her knew she had to stop this, but the rest of her refused to do anything about it.

After all, he would be so embarrassed, she told herself, if he woke up to find himself molesting her... or himself, if looked at from another angle, which would be a little funky, but perfectly normal... except it wouldn't be.

Buffy's mind began to swim from the leaps of logic it took to figure out what exactly was going on.

And Giles' hand was moving south.

She bit her lip to keep from making any noise.

His fingers brushed softly over her now aching cock.

The fingers stopped.

They double checked what they had found.

They stopped again.

Buffy kept her eyes firmly shut and her breathing as deep and steady as possible. Giles would be too horrified if she caught him feeling her up, she decided.

She knew the instant Giles realized what he'd been up to. His hand flew away from her crotch, and she felt him roll quickly out of bed.

Buffy continued to feign sleep until she heard Giles hurry to the bathroom and start the shower.

Something told her she would be in there next... and that the water heater wouldn't be involved in any way.

* * * * *

When Giles got out of the shower, he found that Buffy had discretely vacated the room and left her uniform on the bed for him, along with a few notes about how to cope with the job he was suddenly forced to do. Now all he had to do was figure out how to put on a bra and steel himself to wear that ridiculous cap.

He heard the water running in the bathroom again and wondered if he ought to try to talk to Buffy when she was done in there. He hadn't meant to fondle her, really. It was that dream. The one he'd had a million times where he was holding Buffy and she wanted him to make love to her.

Of course, this was reality where she didn't want that.

And where she suddenly had a penis.

His penis.

So at least it wasn't like he was touching another man; just himself, as he had done so many times before.

Except that he wasn't.

He was touching Buffy.

He didn't dare do that again. What if she'd woken up and found him touching her?

He knew she'd have been at minimum terribly upset, and more likely would have become violent.

No, it wouldn't do to let that happen again. He'd just have to sleep on the sofa until they got this mess straightened out.

Now if he could just figure out how to put Buffy's bra on.

He'd taken many a bra off a woman in his life, but he'd never tried to wear one himself. Nor had he paid that much attention on mornings after when the women put their bras back on again. Usually he'd been trying too hard to either impress them with his breakfast cooking skills or convince them they really didn't need to get dressed yet.

Maybe he could do just as well without one. It wasn't as if Buffy's breasts were all that large, after all.

Yes, he would make do without a bra for one day, anyway.

And at least she'd put out a fairly sensible pair of knickers as opposed to the frilly things he'd found himself wearing when they switched bodies in the first place. He wondered if she often wore silky, pretty underthings, or if there was a particular purpose to her choice on the previous day.

Never mind that, he decided, as he slid the panties up his suddenly short legs to his now oddly empty feeling crotch.

That was the part that felt the strangest.

He could deal with being short and having breasts and a voice that suddenly reminded him of being ten years old with its higher pitch, but he missed his penis.

He could only hope Buffy had listened to him about its proper care last night.

And pray that he got his own body back before he had to deal with the horrors Buffy had described when she talked about menstrual cramps.

* * * * *

When Buffy finished her shower and went downstairs, she found Giles was already in the kitchen working on breakfast. She could hear Willow and Dawn moving in their rooms, but neither had emerged to face the day yet. Buffy was somewhat relieved by that. It meant she'd have a minute to talk to Giles about what they were going to say to their friends.

"Hey Watcher-man, what's cooking?"

"Good morning, Buffy. It's an omelet."

"What kind?" she asked as she peered over his shoulder - an operation that was much easier now that she towered a foot over Giles.

"There really isn't a name for it, though Xander called it a kitchen sink omelet when I made one for him once. It's really a bit of everything on hand."

"You made breakfast for Xander? When was this? Inquiring minds want to know, Giles."

"It was a couple years ago. And no, he had not spent the night, nor had anything untoward happened."

"Jumpy much? I wasn't asking anything like that.... and really, *really* not about Xander." She turned to start the coffee. "Speaking of Xander, though..."

"What about him?"

"Well, not just Xander. Will and Dawn and Anya and everybody: what do we tell them? About this." She gestured vaguely at her unfamiliar body. "And when do we tell it?"

"Tell what?" Dawn asked as she bounded into the kitchen and stole a piece of bell pepper Giles was about to dice.

"Dawn, stop that! I don't want to chop your finger off."

"Grouchy," Dawn stuck out her tongue at her supposed sister. She turned to face Giles, as she thought. "What are you guys up to? Is it end of the world stuff or something I'm actually allowed to know about? How long are you staying, Giles? You're staying, right?"

Buffy and Giles looked at one another over Dawn's head. A silent conversation passed between them and a mutual decision was reached without a word.

Buffy took Dawn's hand and led her to the breakfast bar.

"Sit down, Dawn. I've got something to tell you."

Dawn clambered onto a stool and eyed her sister warily, sure that she was Giles. Buffy reached out and stroked her sister's hair. It was a gesture she often used to comfort the younger girl.

"Why are you doing that, Giles?" she asked, pulling away.

"Because I'm not Giles. I know I look like him and I sound like him, but I'm not him. I'm Buffy."

Dawn looked wildly from one to the other. Giles just nodded and went back to cooking his omelet.

"You guys are joking, right? People don't just switch bodies like this."

"You know it happened before. Remember when Faith stole my body?"

"No. I remember when Faith stole Buffy's body. You're Giles. She's Buffy. Faith was evil. You guys aren't evil."

"We didn't do this on purpose. There was a demon. A seriously nasty one that's caused all sorts of problems forever with crazy magic. It hit us and when we woke up, I was Giles and he was me."

"So last night it was really Giles who told me not to come home so late?" Dawn looked anxiously to the stove.

"I'm afraid so, Dawn. I really don't know what came over me."

"I do," Buffy said. "I got hit once by this raygun blaster thingie that made stuff invisible, so nobody could see me. I went nuts. I thought since nobody could see me, it didn't matter what I did. It's a sort of a rush not to be responsible for what you're doing. But responsibility's such a big deal with you that you can't even be really irresponsible when you're being really irresponsible, so you used your powers for good instead of evil. Which makes you a way better person than me."

Giles blinked at Buffy.

"Do you know the most frightening thing about that entire theory? I actually understood what you were saying."

"And...?"

"And... I suppose you're right."

"See Dawn, I was right."

"Yes, I'm far the superior person, I agree."

"Hey!"

"You guys really were telling the truth," Dawn said. "There's no way you could make that up if you were just pretending to be each other."

* * * * *

After breakfast, Buffy and Willow walked together to the Magic Box while Giles took Dawn to school and then headed off to work Buffy's job at the Doublemeat Palace.

When the girls got to the shop, they quickly explained the situation to Xander and Anya. All four settled down to research bodyswitching spells. Eventually, Xander had to leave for work, Anya got busy with customers and Willow announced that she had to go to class. Buffy stood up from the table, too.

"Where are you going, G - Buffy?" Xander asked.

"Good save, Xand. I just thought I'd take a break from the research thing. Maybe go get a mocha or something."

"You might want to check out a barber shop on the way," Anya observed.

"I didn't want to rip Giles' face all to pieces trying to shave it. He'd glare at me."

Xander, Willow and Anya shared a bemused smile. Buffy looked crestfallen.

"Okay, so I know it's sorta wimpy, but it's Giles. You've all seen his glare. I don't want to see it directed at me is all."

"Um, Buff, I think you forgot something," Willow smirked.

"What's that?"

"You're wearing his glare now, since you're wearing his face."

Buffy grinned from ear to ear.

"Hey! You're right!"

* * * * *

Giles muttered mutinously under his breath as he lowered the french fry basket into the hot grease.

"How in heaven's name does Buffy put up with this?"

Todd, in the meantime, continued to drivel on pointlessly about half-digested political ideas. Giles thought if he heard the Doublemeat power structure compared to something out of Machiavelli one more time he was going to do serious violence to the boy. Besides that, it was clear that this young cretin thought he was an utter idiot. No. Worse than that: he thought Buffy was stupid. Buffy might have her faults - did have them, in fact - but she was certainly not stupid. Even without her SAT scores it was clear that Buffy's mind was not lacking. She was an excellent strategist, and perfectly capable of learning whatever she felt a need to know.

But this barely post-pubescent twit not only thought he was smarter than Buffy, but that it was his right to tell her so over and over and over again ad bloody nauseum.

Buffy might stand it for herself, but there was no way Giles was going to stand it for her.

And the boy continued to blather on.

"...of course, I'm not saying Nazi Germany was a model society, really, but at least Hitler made the trains run on time, if you know what I mean..."

"Mussolini."

"...but of course... what? Mussolini?"

"Benito Mussolini? Il Duce? Certainly you've heard of him?"

"Of course I've heard of him," Todd answered defensively. "What about him? What does he have to do with Hitler?"

"Aside from the fact that they were allies in World War II? Not that much, I suppose. Their ideologies were actually rather different if you look at them in detail. But that's beside the point. What I was trying to say is that it was Mussolini, not Hitler, who made the trains run on time. A common mistake among the undereducated and the willfully ignorant."

"Wha... how... that can't be right. Anyway, how would you know that? You're a dropout."

Giles smiled. Somehow, Todd didn't find it pleasant.

"I've forgotten more than you'll ever know if you live to be a hundred. And you know why that is? Because I know how to keep my mouth shut and learn from people instead of carrying on about things I know nothing about. And while we're at it, don't you have anything better to do than talk at me? You're at work. Work for a change."

Todd glared for a moment then turned on his heel.

"I'm going on break," he spat as he walked away.

"And you have no idea how close you came to being broken in two," Giles added as he pulled the fries from the grease.

* * * * *

Freed from the labors of research, Buffy headed straight to the mall. If she knew Giles, that credit card in his pocket rarely got used, and was probably paid off in full every month.

"Not this month, unless he's got a big ol' pile of money in his bank account," she grinned. "But first, mocha goodness at Starbuck's."

She stopped and picked up a magazine to scan while she drank her coffee. In deference to the body she inhabited, she decided against Cosmo and picked up Entertainment Weekly instead. She knew Giles would prefer something more intellectual, but she couldn't make heads or tails of Archeology Digest or anything like that. Maybe if she had him there to answer her questions, but not on her own. There was too much she didn't understand. Now if he offered to take her on a dig, that might work. Hands on always made it easier for her to understand things.

Learning about Russell Crowe's latest film, she could do on the printed page.

She sipped her mocha and flipped the pages of her magazine, content to have nothing better to do for once. After a moment, she frowned. When was the last time she'd had to just do nothing? Aside from the months she'd spent in her grave, that is.

When had it been?

Her eyes opened wider when she realized it had been before her mother died.

Since then, she'd had to care for Dawn as well as the world. Her own life had been put entirely on hold. She'd dropped out of school, stopped going to the movies or hanging out at The Bronze. Even the few social events since then had been tainted with her Slayer duties or her obligations to Dawn. Usually both.

Except Spike.

She didn't want to let her mind go there, but it got stubborn on her and insisted on looking at what she didn't want to see.

Spike had been her only release valve in the mess of her life for months now. When she was with him, she could forget responsibility, duty, Slaying, Dawn, and all the things that made life unbearable to her. God, she could completely forget life since he was dead.

"Really great coping mechanism, Buff," she muttered to herself.

Maybe she needed to make the time to do something healthier in the way of escapism.

She couldn't believe how much better she felt with a little time off and nothing important to do in it.

Plus reading a magazine and drinking coffee, while not exactly the healthiest things she could be doing, either, were at least more socially acceptable than having sex with a vampire she didn't even like.

And spending lots of someone else's money had to be the most socially acceptable vice in the country.

She heard giggling at another table and glanced over to see two young women looking in her direction as they consulted one another and blushed. She looked around to see what boy they were admiring, but there wasn't a guy in sight... except her.

They were checking her out.

And it felt oddly good.

It had been a long time since anyone had checked her out.

But they were really checking out Giles, she realized.

Giles. Her Watcher. Tweedman. Safe, old guy Giles.

Couldn't these girls find anyone their own age?

Suddenly it struck her that she'd almost never found a guy her own age.

Angel was more than two hundred years older than she was, Riley was six years older, and as for Spike...

He was a great big mistake that she didn't want to think about anymore.

Plus he was at least a hundred years older than her.

So Giles was... twenty-seven years older. Was that really so far out of the ballpark? It's not like a Slayer could expect to live another thirty years when she was already pushing twenty-one.

Really, a guy Giles' age wouldn't be so bad, as long as he could understand about the whole Slayer thing and protect himself.

But it was all wrong for those girls at the table. They could have the Owen Thurmans and Scott Hopes out there who needed nice, ordinary girls who weren't going to die in the next fifteen minutes. Even Riley had found himself a nice, demon hunting girl who had fully as much chance of living another fifty years as he did.

Those guys were really off limits to a Slayer. She'd fought that idea over and over and over again, but she finally realized the truth of it.

"I can't be normal if I'm the Slayer. I can't have a normal guy in my life."

But for the first time in her life, she didn't mind that so much.

Maybe being boy-free Buffy didn't have to be that bad. And even when everyone else around her coupled off, Giles was there to make her feel less third-wheely.

If he stayed this time. She wondered if he would.

She hoped so.

Maybe it was time to kiss and make up - so to speak.

But first, she so needed to improve his wardrobe.

She stood and headed out of the coffee shop.

First stop, The Gap.

* * * * *

Xander walked into the Magic Box, the way he usually did on his lunch hour. He met Anya at the counter with a kiss.

"So, find anything interesting while I was gone?"

"In the books?" Anya asked. "Of course not. I've been working, just like you. But I have been thinking. About Buffy and Giles and the way they switched bodies."

"Have you seen anything like this before? Ever do this to some schmoe in your vengeance days?"

"Of course not, Xander. The women I helped wanted vengeance. They didn't like the men well enough to want to be them. Usually they just wanted to either hurt or embarrass them badly."

"Okay, so what were you thinking about this, then?"

"I was thinking about what we should do if something like this happened to us."

"Happened to... Anya, this isn't going to happen to us."

"How do you know? Anything's possible on the Hellmouth. We could wake up tomorrow and be each other. This could be just the start of an epidemic. People could be switching bodies left and right all over town. What if I got zapped when I was with Willow or Tara? Would I not want to be with a man anymore? Or if I got changed when I was with you, would I not find you attractive because you don't have a penis anymore?"

"An, calm down. This was a demon attack, remember? It's not an epidemic."

"Well, if we ran into the same demon, what then? Buffy didn't kill it. She was too busy being unconscious... and turning into Giles. That means it's still out there."

Xander took his fiancée by the shoulders and spoke sincerely to her.

"It doesn't matter, Anya. Even if you had my body and I had yours... which is a little strange as a concept, and even disturbing... even then I would love you. It wouldn't change how I feel."

Anya looked at the floor, then up into Xander's eyes. She smiled slightly.

"So... you would still have sex with me even if I had the penis?"

Xander's jaw worked for several seconds before he could reply.

"I... that is... An, I don't know. That's sorta... weird. But, I dunno, maybe?"

Anya frowned and toyed with one of his shirt buttons.

"Then maybe we should close the shop for lunch and do it while we're still ourselves."

"Best plan I've heard all day."

* * * * *

Buffy signed Giles' name to yet another charge slip. She'd worried the first time she tried it. She wasn't entirely sure Giles' body would cooperate with her on that. What if it signed the slip with her name? Or if it just blew a fuse trying to sign both names? Or couldn't figure out which hand to use?

In the end, the body had taken over and she found herself taking the pen in her left hand and signing Giles' name as if she'd been doing it for decades.

Now all she had to worry about was maxing out his card.

Then again, Giles deserved a bit of punishment for abandoning her. And anyway, she was doing him a big favor he didn't deserve.

She'd started with snug-fitting jeans and a few tee shirts in colors other than black, white, and gray. Then had come some cool black boots. Next she'd gotten him some underwear she liked better than his floppy boxers that made her feel as if her new privates were dangling unprotected. He now owned several pairs of stretch boxers in neat colors and some fairly abbreviated briefs in tiger stripe and zebra stripe prints. Then some trendier shirts than he normally wore with tab collars and jewel-toned prints. A selection of earrings followed that. And now, the piece de resistance: a form-fitting black leather suit.

Just one more place would do it.

Lenscrafters.

* * * * *

Late in the afternoon, Xander and Willow, sat around the tarot table researching. Anya joined them in between waiting on customers. The bell over the door jangled as Dawn walked into the room and joined her friends.

"Hey Dawnie," Willow greeted her. "How was school today?"

Dawn shrugged.

"Okay, I guess. It was sorta hard to concentrate."

"What did you do afterwards?" Anya asked. "You know you were supposed to come here right away. You're late."

"I went home to get a snack."

"Was Buffy there?" Xander asked. "Is she okay?"

"I don't think she is," Dawn said. "She was just sitting on the back porch, staring at stuff. Y'know, sorta the way she did right after... she got back. I tried to ask her what was up, but she didn't say anything. It sorta freaked me out."

The others looked at one another, concern clear on every face.

"Maybe someone should go talk to her...?" Willow offered.

"It's probably something about the bodyswitch," Anya theorized. "Maybe she's just upset about that. In that case, the faster we get her back into her own body, the faster we'll fix her problem and the faster she'll be okay again."

"And this wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that she's going to be your bridesmaid next weekend?"

"Well, I can't have a man bridesmaid. That would be silly."

"Xander's having a girl best man," Dawn pointed out.

"And that's more than enough non-traditional gender roleplay for one wedding. Besides, if she's in Giles' body, Buffy won't fit into her dress. It will be far too small."

"Guys," Xander interrupted, "I think we're missing the point here. If Buffy's upset about being too masculine, what we need to do is find a way to make her girly again. You all know how she is. She'll brood until we have a cure, so let's crack the books and fix this mess."

"Couldn't we do it the way we did when Faith stole her body?" Dawn asked.

Willow shook her head.

"That was done with a Draconian Katra spell, so we could reverse it with another katra that just sorta un-katraed things. But this was something different. We have to figure out what was done to undo it. And find someone to do the spell."

Dawn sat. She held her hand out.

"Book me, somebody."

* * * * *

Giles had reached the end of his rope.

He'd been on his feet all day flipping burger patties, dipping freeze-dried potatoes into vats of grease, and dealing with people who ate this unhealthy crap on a daily basis. Several of them claimed an acquaintance with him, which meant Buffy must serve them regularly. They certainly weren't the sort of people he could see her going very far out of her way to know. Not one of them had an idea in his or her head that hadn't been placed there by television.

He began to appreciate how lucky he'd been to have been chosen to Watch Buffy, who, while not inclined to books, was smart and intuitive and unconventional even when she tried her best to be average. As for her friends, Willow was a born researcher and near-genius, and Xander... Xander was no Einstein, certainly, and his social skills were sometimes lacking, but no one could question the boy's courage or his loyalty. Anya might be maddening at times, but her knowledge of the underworld was very useful and every once in a while her bluntness made for a bracing reminder of what they all needed to accomplish. Dawn was a difficult child in some ways, but she showed evidence of the same courage and stubborn determination that had so drawn him to both Buffy and Joyce from the beginning. As for Tara... he was surprised at how much he missed her. She was such a gentle, motherly soul, though there was steel in her backbone if one pushed her too far.

It had been hard to leave them all behind once, let alone twice. He wasn't sure he could do it a third time.

"Buffy! Hey, wake up!" Lorraine called.

Giles startled.

"W-what?"

"Okay, that's it," Lorraine said. "You've been zoning out on me all week long, and today you've been looking at all the equipment as if you'd never seen it before in your life."

"I've been a bit distracted, I'll admit..."

"Distracted? I think you're more than distracted." She handed him a plastic cup. "Fill this. I'm sending Sophie in with you to make sure you don't cheat."

Giles took the cup in a daze.

"Fill this with what?"

Todd began to snicker in the background.

"You've taken this test before, Buffy."

"Is this... you want me to take a urine test? You think I'm on drugs?!"

"I think if you aren't I'm going to be surprised."

Giles drew himself up to his full height, which was now disconcertingly short. Still, he was furious and he knew well that Buffy's face could produce a scowl that had made many a vampire run screaming into the night. He scowled. Lorraine swallowed hard.

"If you think I'm going to go through the humiliation and degradation of pissing into a plastic cup so you can check whether I took a hit off a joint a week ago, you are sadly mistaken."

"It's your dignity or your job, Buffy."

Giles removed his hat.

"Why would I want this pathetic excuse for a job? I can do far, far better for myself than this. The rest of you may be content to wear a hideous uniform and this ridiculous hat, but I am neither an imbecile nor insane. How can you all trade in your souls for a minimum wage paycheck and a daily helping of greasy, unhealthy, unappetizing arterial muck? How you all do this job without resorting to pharmaceutical aid is bloody well beyond me!"

He marched up to Lorraine and thrust the hat into her hands.

"You can take this job and blow it out your ass, madam! I quit!"

The rest of the staff stared, dumbfounded, as Giles stalked off into the night.

* * * * *

At first, he felt good about what he'd done. The nerve of those people! Thinking Buffy was on drugs was beyond laughable. This job, this insult to dignity, was beneath Buffy.

Suddenly, it hit him what he'd done.

He'd quit Buffy's job.

He'd quit Buffy's job without Buffy's permission.

She was going to slay him.

He stopped and groaned in dismay.

All at once he became aware of a presence behind him. He was startled, nearly panicked when he realized he didn't have a stake with him.

Then he smiled.

Of course. In this body he had Slayer strength.

He hoped.

He prayed he knew what he was doing as he kicked out behind him and connected with cold, solid flesh.

"Ow! Bloody hell, Slayer! Watch where you're pointing that thing, will you!"

Giles stood down.

"What are you up to, Spike?"

He really didn't want to deal with Spike.

"We still need to talk, Slayer."

"About what?" Giles snapped.

"About our so-called relationship. About the way you won't tell your little friends how many times you came to my crypt and had your wicked way with me."

"What are you talking about?"

"About you and me and the way you're too high and mighty to admit you did the deed with me. Well you wanted it enough before. Still do, if you're honest which you never bloody are. So cut the crap and come with me and we can break it to the kiddies later on tonight while the bites still show."

Giles stared at the vampire. It took him a long time to find his voice.

"No."

It was all he could manage. He couldn't believe Spike would be saying these things if Buffy hadn't slept with him, but he was horrified at the thought.

"It'll be great. After your friends toss you out like last week's garbage, you can give up all your pretending and be with me, in the dark, where you belong."

Giles decided to play along and see what he could find out.

"And what about Dawn? She can't live in the dark."

"From what I hear, that won't be a problem much longer. You've made a right mess of that, haven't you? Turned her into a bleeding Kleptomaniac. Believe me, Pet, the authorities are going to drag her away from you in about another two minutes at this rate. Face it, you've bolloxed your whole life up and nobody wants to be with you but me. I'm all you've got. Might as well take me while I'm still interested."

"So... you're still interested, Spike? Even after all the bad things I've done?"

Giles moved closer to the vampire. He put his hand on Spike's still chest.

"Well... yeah, I am. Nobody hurts me like you do."

"So you get off on the pain, is that it? Or is it the rush of knowing you're doing the Slayer?"

"You know me too well," Spike chuckled as he pushed his hips closer to the prize.

"That's right, Spike. I know you too well to put up with this bullshit."

Giles brought his knee up with Slayer force between Spike's legs. The vampire crumpled to the ground in pain, clutching his groin.

"And if you ever come near me again, Spike, I'll teach you the true meaning of pain, and I don't mean the kind you like."

"W - what...?" Spike gasped out.

"You don't love Buffy. You just want to brag that you bagged another Slayer the only way you could. All you want is to be in control and get laid. Well find someone else to keep under your thumb. This body is off limits to you."

He walked away as quickly as he could so Spike wouldn't see when he had to stop and retch behind a headstone.

* * * * *

A couple stood arguing at the video display in the adult bookstore.

"What about this one, Xander?"

"No way, An. We are not getting that."

"Why not?"

"'Bi The Book'? Do you know what that means when they call a video something like that?"

"It means it's set in a library or a bookstore."

"Not that part, An. When the term 'bi' is in the title, it means that there's going to be guys... indulging in some excess brotherly love that I really don't want to see."

"How do you know that?"

"I just do, okay."

"What's wrong with it if there are men having sex with each other? You like the ones where two women have sex."

"That's pretty much all of them, An. Except the ones that don't have girls at all, I guess."

"Yes, but you like the scenes. And you expect me to like them when I find them sort of boring. I don't think sex can be nearly as exciting without a penis involved. This has scenes with two penises involved. Maybe more. I find that exciting. Don't you?"

"No! I really, really don't. And we are not getting that one. Find another. One that doesn't have boys... being boys together."

Anya shrugged and put the videotape back on the shelf.

"Fine. You pick something. I need to get more massage oil, anyway."

She looked up towards the oil display, then tugged on Xander's shirt sleeve.

"Xander," she hissed. "Look over there. It's Buffy... I mean Giles."

Xander peered over the film display and swallowed hard.

"He's buying something. Something that seems to take batteries."

The pair ducked down as Giles turned around as if he expected to see someone. When they looked over the top of the rack again, Giles was gone.

"What would Giles be doing buying things here?"

Anya was clearly puzzled.

"He's in Buffy's bod. Maybe he's been slaying."

"What does that have to do with it."

"Well, Slayers... when they slay... they get... y'know. Frisky."

Anya glared daggers at her fiancé.

"How do you know that?"

Xander tried to smile ingratiatingly, but it came out as a grimace combined with a slightly hysterical giggle.

"I don't. Pure rumor. Silly, the things those wacky vampires say when they're trying to throw you off balance."

He watched Anya, desperately praying that she would accept his explanation. He never wanted to tell her about his twenty minutes of passion with Faith.

She scrutinized his face for a long moment, then finally nodded, seemingly satisfied with what she saw there.

"I believe you, Xander."

He blew out a relieved breath.

"Good. Honey, I don't think we really need a movie to inspire us, do we? Maybe we can just head home and forget about movies and Slayers and what the hell Giles was doing in a place like this."

"Okay. Just let me get the massage oil. Did you want cherry or lemon?"

"Surprise me. I love it when you do that."

* * * * *

Buffy moved inside only after it was too dark to see anymore. She headed up to her bedroom in hopes that she wouldn't have to talk to anyone else at least until morning.

She sat on the bed, hugging a pillow to her chest for a long time. She was alone until Giles got back, anyway. Dawn had phoned from the Magic Box to say she'd been invited to spend the night with her friend Janice, and Willow had a late class.

When the door slammed, she barely raised her head at the sound. Giles was back, but she didn't go down to see him.

Not that it mattered since he was on his way up.

"Buffy? Are you there?"

Great. He sounded mad. Had she forgotten to tell him something important about work? She thought she'd covered everything.

He knocked on her bedroom door.

"Buffy, I need to talk to you. Please let me in."

"It's open," she said quietly.

Giles came into the room carrying a sack. One look was enough to tell her he was livid. In fact the last time she'd seen Giles this angry was a day she wished she could forget; the day Giles had discovered that Angel was back from Hell and she hadn't told him about it.

Somehow she knew the first words that were going to come out of his mouth, though she prayed she was wrong.

"I saw Spike."

Buffy winced. Those were exactly the words she hadn't wanted to hear.

"What the hell were you thinking, Buffy? Why Spike? I know you don't love him. He said as much when he spoke to me. If all you want is sex, there are better ways to get it. And if what you're looking for is a toy, then buy a bloody toy and have done with it."

He thrust the bag at her.

She flinched as if he'd hit her.

"As for Spike..."

"I know. I hurt him."

"I don't care what you did to Spike. I care about what you did to you. He was using you, Buffy, and you let him. How could you let him talk that way to you? I've seen you hurt boys badly for less than what he said to me thinking it was you tonight. If Riley had spoken to you that way, you'd have torn him limb from limb, and rightly so. And as for your job - which I'm afraid you no longer have - I cannot believe you lasted a day in that wretched place. The people who work there are cretins and imbeciles, the work is mind-numbingly boring, and the rules are specifically designed to break the human spirit. What were you doing there, Buffy?"

She finally looked up.

"You lost my job?! Dammit, Giles, I needed it! How am I going to pay the bills without it?"

"How were you paying the bills on that paycheck? You knew you had to get out of there; you're too intelligent not to have worked it out. You'll just have to get by on whatever Willow can contribute until you find something else."

"But Will..."

"What about Willow? Surely she's paying rent?"

Buffy shook her head.

"She's in school and her scholarships only cover stuff like tuition and books. She's broke, too."

Giles sat on the edge of the bed. He shook his head in disgust.

"Then she can bloody well get a job just as well as you can. Plenty of people work their way through college. And Dawn is quite old enough to do some babysitting at least, so she can pay for some of her own things."

"But... but you... you said..."

"I said you needed to stand on your own two feet, Buffy. I never said you ought to become the world's doormat."

With that, Buffy burst into tears. She cried uncontrollably, in great, gulping sobs that seemed to start in her toes. Giles ignored his discomfort with the situation and reached out to remove the glasses from Buffy's face and place them out of harm's way. Once he'd accomplished that, he did the only thing he could think of and pulled her into his arms.

"Please don't cry so, Buffy. I didn't mean to upset you. I'm frightfully clumsy at this sort of thing, you know. Shhhh, I didn't mean to scold you. There, there, now. It's just... I know you can do so much better."

Nothing he said seemed to make much difference, so, in the end, he just held her and rocked her until she had cried herself out.

When she was done, he silently handed her Kleenexes until she'd dried her eyes and nose sufficiently to look as though she could talk to him. He passed her the glasses. She half-smiled at him in a watery way as she put them back on and sniffled one more time.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'd already broken up with Spike. He wasn't listening very well, but I'd done it. And this might show you I'd figured out my future wasn't at Doublemeat Palace."

She stood and walked to her desk. A moment later she handed Giles a piece of paper.

"See? I was working on a résumé. Not that I'd gotten very far, but I started it. I was actually counting on getting a reference from Lorraine, but I guess you fixed that. Just so I know, why did I get fired?"

Giles felt the blood rising in his cheeks as he read over the paper in his hand. He might have known nothing could keep Buffy down that far forever.

"You quit. You... um... you refused to take a drug test."

Buffy rolled her eyes.

"Great. That's just peachy, Giles. Do you have any idea how bad that looks to potential new employers? Thanks to you, I'm going to have a hell of a time replacing that paycheck. You've screwed up my one chance to move up."

She sat on the bed again and glared at Giles. He looked sheepishly at her.

"I'm sorry. I suppose I ought to have talked to you before I flew off the handle like that."

Buffy blew out a frustrated breath.

"You were just trying to help me out," she said. "It's not all your fault." She cocked one eyebrow at him. "And I so cannot believe you bought me a vibrator!"

She almost laughed at his blush.

"I - it's... well, actually, I got you... several items. I - I wasn't sure what you'd like best."

"And I'm gonna use this stuff exactly how while I'm in your body?"

"S - s - some things... can be used.... well... Buffy, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I was just so angry, and..."

"And you wanted to make a point so I'd get it. I know. It's okay. I sorta deserved a lot of it anyway. And you're right. I suck at relationships. Maybe it's time I just got myself some battery-operated pals and gave up on men. I always seem to mess things up with the real deal."

"You're young, Buffy. It's not as if many people find their true soulmates by your age. It does, however, help if one sticks more or less to one's own species at any rate. You know what a mistake it is to get involved with a vampire. Why did you do it?"

Buffy shrugged.

"He kept wanting it so much. And nobody else seemed to want me very much. Except you. And the me you wanted wasn't the one I could be right then. I couldn't even pretend to be her. And there was so much... stuff to deal with. I couldn't. And everybody walked on eggshells around me, like they thought I was gonna poof into smoke, but nobody wanted to hear what was wrong. I couldn't tell Will what she'd done to me when she was so proud of it. And now she knows, neither one of us wants to say anything about it. I think she's sorry. I have to think that. Giles, everything fell to little pieces and then you left again. I couldn't take any more. Spike made me forget."

"Forget what?"

"Everything. Bills, Dawn, Slaying, you, Willow and Xander and Anya and Tara and Doublemeat Palace and Heaven and digging myself out of my grave. All of it. It all went away for a little while. I don't like him, and no matter how many times he tells me he loves me, I don't think he likes me, either. But for a little while, I didn't have to care about anything. I didn't have to be me. And now here I am being you. Classic case of 'be careful what you wish for', huh?"

Giles smiled wryly.

"I don't suppose you really want to be me. It's not the most rewarding of occupations. Still, I'd grown rather used to it."

"I didn't mean to make it sound like... and Little Miss Foot In Mouth strikes again. But face it, Giles. You got the good part of the deal."

"How's that?"

"You get to keep your brain, which is way above average and filled with all sorts of useful things to learn and know, plus you get the Slayer strength. What am I left with? My brain which, no matter what you say, isn't anywhere near as smart as yours and your body which has seen a few miles. Not that it's not a nice body. I mean, you've kept it in good shape even if it's a little scarred up in spots and stuff. But it doesn't have super strength or Slayer healing or hyper-impressive hearing and night vision. It's... just a body, which is fine, but not like being the Slayer. It is kinda nice, though, to be able to reach things on the top shelves of stuff. I'll give you that."

"It's nice to know it's better in some way," he observed, "if only in superior reach."

"Don't get snarky with me. You know what I mean. You know so many things I'll never know."

"So you think you have nothing to offer because you don't read five languages and are currently unable to kill demons without getting winded? Why do you insist on thinking so little of yourself?"

"Is there really a reason I shouldn't?"

Giles reached out and touched Buffy on the jaw.

"There's one. Just there."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"That's the spot where you hit me to stop me going to meet The Master in your place. I thought for a moment when I came to that you'd broken it." He smiled fondly. "You were only sixteen and you knew that you were going to your death, but you went anyway. You didn't let a little thing like that stop you."

"So I have a talent for death. Great. Just what I wanted for Christmas."

"That's not what I meant, Buffy. If anything, you have the opposite: a talent for life. Do you have any idea how much I've learned from you since we met? I spent so many years after Eyghon in hiding from the world, from myself, I was damn near mummified when I came here. Then you came along and reminded me that there was so much more to living than duty and rules and... tweed. You made me believe that, perhaps, I could have more. Friendship, laughter, even love."

"That love thing hasn't ever worked out so well for either one of us, has it?"

"Not as yet, I'll admit. But I'm not ready to give up hope, and I don't believe you should either. You're a lovely young woman, inside and out. Any man who can get your love ought to be proud to have it."

Buffy ducked her head as her eyes filled with more tears.

"You think way too much of me, Giles."

"Nonsense. Who's the smart one here?"

"I never said you weren't insane."

"I might have known you'd leave yourself a loophole."

The pair chuckled and leaned against one another. "As loopholes go, I have to say it's one of my better ones." She sat silent for a moment. "Giles?" she said at last, "Why don't we ever hug?"

"We do," he protested. She shot him an amused look. "Well, we do... sometimes. We have a few times..."

"Not many. Why is that?"

"I suppose because we're neither of us very tactile people. We're not inclined to touch casually."

"But I hug Will. And I hug Xander sometimes. I think I've hugged Anya more times than you. That's just wrong."

"Is that what you were brooding about when I came in?"

Buffy shook her head.

"Nah. I just wondered."

Giles smiled.

"If you're hinting that you'd like a hug, you know you can just try giving me one."

"Really? Anytime? No big disaster necessary?"

"Not even a little one."

With that, Buffy wrapped her arms around Giles and laid her head atop his. She sighed contentedly.

"Know what, Giles?"

"What?"

"This is nice. It's nice when we're friends. I don't want to be mad at you anymore."

"I must admit, I'd rather we were past all this misunderstanding, too."

"Then let's be past it. I missed you. A lot. But I think this hugging thing is better the other way around."

"What way is that?"

"When I'm the little one and you're the big one. Makes me feel all girly and protected."

"It does at that. I find I like the feeling myself. It's a nice break from feeling the need to take care of everyone, to be the one being taken care of."

Buffy pulled back, startled.

"I never thought about it, but you must get as tired of that as I do. Who takes care of you, Giles?"

"I do."

"Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. You take care of me a little, and I'll take care of you back."

Giles flashed one of his quick, tiny smiles and blushed.

"Buffy... may I ask you something?"

"Sure, Giles. What?"

"Why is my body wearing a leather suit? I know I didn't own one before."

Buffy grinned sheepishly and held out her arms to display the outfit.

"Surprise? Like it?"

"It's... it's... I suppose it's... a well-made suit. I'm just not quite certain it's... me."

Buffy looked crestfallen.

"I thought you looked good in it."

"Buffy... I'm sure the suit is very nice, but I'm forty-eight years old. A man my age in a leather suit... well, he usually looks a bit of a prat."

"But you don't look all pratty in it. I think you look sorta... sexy."

Giles raised his eyebrows. It took him a moment to find his voice.

"S - sexy...?"

"Don't visit coronaryland over it, Giles. I just meant you look good and you shouldn't hide it. If you'd dressed like this when you first got here, maybe I would've listened to you more."

"If I'd dressed like that when you first met me, you'd have laughed yourself sick. You thought I was Methuselah back then."

"Hey, if you'd worn something like this that first day, I would never have thought you were old. It wouldn't have killed you to wear an earring now and then, either. What was with all the tweed, anyway? I've seen other Watchers, y'know. It's not like it's a uniform or anything. I mean, can you even imagine Wes in one of those awful tweed suits you used to wear with those ugly sweater vests?"

"Why did you get your hair cut like this? Why did you get a job that required you to wear such a hideous uniform?"

"Okay, I started the twenty questions game. You don't get your turn until you answer me."

"This is my answer. Buffy, you could have got a job easily in a dress shop or a sporting goods store or any number of places, yet you chose the fast food restaurant with the most ridiculous uniform there is. You cut off all your lovely hair. I know you've had it around this length before, but it was different... bigger somehow, and it looked better."

"It's easy to take care of that way. I don't spend half my morning blowdrying. And Doublemeat Palace was hiring."

"And I had tweed suits that had plenty of wear left in them. And if I wore them with sweater vests underneath, women paid me little or no attention."

"Miss Calendar paid attention."

"Yes, well, she had quite an eye for... potential."

"So you think I'm trying to not be seen?"

"I do. Or you were until you got into my body, whereupon you seem to have developed an exhibitionist streak."

"You have no idea how many girls checked you out today."

"Th - they did?"

"Yeah, they did. And it felt... kinda nice... even if it was you they were really looking at and not me, and even if they were girls, which is not my usual thing at all, but y'know, it's all good. And there were a couple guys even. That felt better. But, of course, I know that if I was me and not you, those particular guys wouldn't be interested in me anymore. Still. It was nicer than I remembered."

"And I have a new wardrobe out of it. Lucky me."

"Jealous that I was getting all the looks?"

"It seems as if I was the one getting all the looks. You just got to reap the egotistical benefits of the situation.

"I worked hard for my egotistical benefits, buddy."

"Ah yes, I'm sure it was a great burden to you, running up my credit card, trying on clothes. A terrible sacrifice."

"Darn tootin', it was. Do you have any idea how aggressively icksome some men's clothes are? And look who I'm asking. I withdraw the question."

"And I suppose you've never worn anything that wasn't the last word in taste and elegance?"

Buffy shrugged and smiled.

"Can I help it if my fashion sense is perfect?"

"Shall we take a tour through your closet and see just how accurate that theory is? I seem to recall a pair of quite dreadful tie dye trousers..."

Buffy narrowed her eyes at Giles.

"You want me to go borrow some shirts from Xander and wear those?"

"In that case, your sartorial taste is utterly irreproachable."

"My what?"

"Your clothing preferences."

"Knew you'd see things my way."

"So are you ready to talk to me?"

Buffy stared.

"What have we been doing since you got here? Waterskiing?"

"About whatever had you so upset earlier, Buffy."

"Oh. That."

Buffy stood and began to wander around the room, occasionally picking something up and putting it down again without really looking at it. Giles sat patiently on the bed and waited for her to find the words.

At last, she put down a final trinket on her dresser and turned to face Giles.

"Do you get lots of headaches, Giles?" she blurted out.

Giles blinked owlishly and furrowed his brow.

"I do get them, certainly. Between years of eyestrain from late night research sessions, lack of sleep, and the fairly astonishing number of head injuries I've had in my life, I probably get more than the average person does. But I'm perfectly well."

"Is that all? You're sure it's just that stuff? I mean, when was the last time you saw a doctor about it?"

Giles moved to where Buffy stood.

"Buffy... you're shaking. Are you... you think I'm ill, don't you? Buffy, I promise you, I don't have a tumor. I'm not dying."

"That's what I thought about Mom. And then she did."

"Thus proving there are no guarantees in life. But I promise you, insofar as it is possible to do so, that I am going to live a long time yet."

Buffy ducked her head and turned to face her dresser again.

"I know I'm being stupid. It's just... when I - you - I'm not even sure which one of us got it anymore, but I couldn't help thinking... and I know one little headache doesn't mean that much."

"It's all right. I can understand why you would be a bit jumpy about that. I was the same way when my mother died. Except it was stroke I was worried about."

"Your mom died?"

"When I was eighteen."

"Wow. That's harsh. And I feel slightly less like the most pathetic human being on the planet knowing that. That you freaked too."

"It's getting late. Why don't you get some sleep, Buffy? We can talk more in the morning if you like."

"Sure. Great. After all, it's not like my body has anywhere to be tomorrow since you quit my job."

"Nor has mine since you spent every cent I'm likely ever to have on a suit I would never have bought myself."

"But you look so hot in it."

"Good night, Buffy."

"So you're couchbound?"

"I thought it best."

"Oh. Okay."

Giles sighed.

"Did you want me to stay for some reason?"

"No. I mean... sort of," Buffy snorted in frustration. "Look, Giles, I know it's sorta weird, but I slept better last night than I have in a long time. It was kinda like having a really oversized, warm teddy bear with me."

Giles glowered at her.

"A teddy bear? What am I to be next? Your security blanket? Your faithful watchdog?"

"I didn't mean it like that. I just meant... I feel safe with you. I know you're a person, Giles, honest. But I trust you. And in case you haven't noticed, there aren't a whole lot of people I can trust. Maybe I said it all wrong, but what I meant is really a good thing. There aren't that many things that make me feel safe. Please don't be mad at me."

"I'm not as safe as you think, Buffy."

"What? Because you used to be Ripper and raise demons? That was before I was even born."

"Thank you for that reminder that I'm neutered."

"You're not neutered, Giles. In fact, I'm in a position to say now that you're about as manly as they get. I even know now why you always wore such baggy pants when you've got such a tight butt. It's just... you don't do that stuff now."

"No, I don't. But sometimes I'd rather not be reminded what I've become."

"If it makes you feel better, I bet you still could be Ripper if you wanted."

"No, that's too far past."

"Only because you want it to be. Only because you decided to be Giles, who, I have to say, I like a whole lot better."

"You do?"

"A whole lot. I'm officially over the whole bad boy thing. Not interested in guys who just make trouble and hurt people. I've decided it's much more interesting to deal with guys who could be bad, but aren't."

"Sounds to me as if you're only half over the 'bad boy thing'."

"Maybe. But at least I'm over the right half."

Giles laughed silently.

"And that is a great improvement, I must say. All right, against my better judgement, I'll stay."

He took a set of Buffy's pajamas and headed for the bathroom.

"Giles, what are you doing?"

"Going to change my clothes?"

"It's my body. I've seen it before. You don't have to be all stuffy about it."

Giles stared for a moment, then broke out into a loud bark of laughter.

"It is rather silly, isn't it?"

Buffy joined in the laughter as they both began to undress for bed.

They were both still giggling when they climbed into bed and Buffy turned out the light.

* * * * *

The next two days were spent in virtually nonstop research. Every moment any of the gang had free was immediately filled with reading, net surfing, donut eating, and organization of what little evidence had been found. When everybody began to drop with exhaustion, they headed to their beds. If any of the gang had anything to say about the fact that Buffy and Giles shared a bed every night, they kept it to themselves.

On the third night, Giles announced that they all needed a break and told everybody to close their books. Buffy was the first to take him up on the offer. She rubbed her eyes.

"Goodie. I was going seriously cross-eyed here. I swear, Giles, I just got you new glasses, but I'm thinking it's time to hit Lenscrafters again. I think they got the prescription wrong."

"You might try actually resting my eyes once in a while. Go spend some time with Willow or something. I'm going to do a quick patrol and turn in early."

"Be careful, Giles."

"I'll be fine, Buffy. Remember, I train you."

"Yeah, but last night you broke a nail. I don't want to have to redo the manicure again already."

Giles rolled his eyes in reply and was out the door.

Buffy and Willow headed home for a girls' night in. They settled in with ice cream, romantic videotapes, and bare feet. In no time the tape was forgotten in favor of gossip.

"So what's it like, Buffy? Being a guy?"

"Pretty weird, Will. I keep feeling like I need a shave all over, but I don't think Giles would go for that."

"Um... how much shaving are we talking here? We're not talking... like... shoulders or anything, right?"

Buffy smiled.

"The shoulders are just fine. It's not like Giles is an ape guy or anything. Just... I'm not used to being this hairy. Or having... stuff."

"Stuff...?" Willow frowned in puzzlement, then her eyes grew wide as she understood. "Oh! Stuff. Like... stuff. Yeah, that's gotta be weird."

"Weird does about sum it up. I mean, I guess it isn't for Giles 'cause he always had it, but it's the uberfreak for me."

"I wonder how he's feeling not having... stuff."

"He's a little wigged sometimes, but I think the thing that gets him most is not being able to reach stuff... but not like... stuff. I mean like shelves and stuff like that stuff."

"I got you, Buff," Willow grinned. So... you guys haven't been..."

Buffy glared at Willow.

"Gutter brain. It's not like that. It's more a... comfort thing. And an answer strange questions in the middle of the night thing. And sometimes an explain the really funky things we've done with each others' lives thing. I don't think he's into his new wardrobe."

"How do you like your new haircut?"

"Tres Louise Brooks. Not something I was expecting. But I have to admit, it's sorta cute now I'm done yelling at him."

"It's funny, but when I had my First Slayer dream, you had that haircut in part of it. The part with the play. Only it was a lot darker. But I like it even when it's blonde."

"And he said something about the other being too much work to take care of. I think it's revenge for the leather suit."

"He does give you funny looks when you wear it."

"I think it's 'cause I told him I caught some guys checking out his butt when I wore it."

The girls giggled and turned their attention back to the movie. Several minutes later, Buffy turned to Willow with a thoughtful look.

"Hey Will? How do you think Giles would look with a goatee?"

"I'm thinking not happy."

"At least I'm not going to give him another tattoo. Speaking of which..." she rolled up her left sleeve. "Eyghon all gone. I wonder when he did that."

"I dunno, but it was gone when he came back after... you came back."

"You knew this? Why didn't I know this?"

"I just saw. One night. In the kitchen. A - and you were a little distracted then, so that's probably why you didn't see. That and the way Giles is Mr. Layers of clothes."

"He's really not one to show off the goods, is he?" Buffy stared at the movie pensively for a moment. She furrowed her brow and bit her lip. At last she turned to Willow again. "I know what he said to you. That night. Part of it, anyway."

"Buffy, we don't really need to bring this up, do we?"

"I think we do. I think part of why I've been such a big mess is that I've never talked to you and Xander about this. I tried to keep you from finding out where I'd been, and then I didn't want to talk about it when you found out because I didn't want you guys to feel bad. And because I wasn't sure what would happen if I let myself be mad at you."

Willow turned miserable eyes to her friend.

"You know we wanted to save you, right? And I know we didn't and I feel kinda bad about it, but are you really mad? I mean, you get to be alive again. Isn't that a good?"

"Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But lately it's yes more than it's no. So I guess the answer would have to be... sort of. And it's taken me a while to get to this point. Don't get me wrong, Will; I love you guys and I know you were trying to do me a favor. It's just... if I die again... just... let me go. Don't do me anymore favors, okay?"

"Don't make me promise that, Buffy. Please."

"I know you don't want to, but when the time comes again, I really want you to move on and know that I'm okay. And you'll be okay without me, too. Just think, you could live without being in constant danger. Like it was before you met me."

Willow shook her head emphatically.

"It can't be like it was then, and I don't want it to be. Do you even remember what I was like then? Geek girl. Invisible geek girl."

"But safe. You and Xand were going along having your safe, perfectly contented little lives and then along comes Slaygal to stick you in the line of fire."

"The Hellmouth provided the line of fire. You saved us a bunch of times, and helped us learn to save other people. And you didn't just save my life a million times over; you made me like me. Everybody else looked at me and saw... not much. You saw more than just smart and nerdy. You made me see it, too."

"There was always a lot to see. You and Xand... you have no idea what it was like when I became the Slayer. Up to then I was worse than Cordelia was when I first met her. I was shallow and into what everyone else was into no matter how stupid it was because I didn't dare not like it in case nobody liked me. Being sheeplike was safer. Then suddenly, sacred duty, which didn't mix very well with sheepiness. No friends at all. Zip. Nada. And then there was the part where I couldn't tell anyone why I was suddenly spazz girl. Once you and Xander found out... somebody knew. Somebody understood. As much as anybody who doesn't have a sacred duty gig can understand."

"Is that why you and Faith got so... so... for a while there? Did you really think she could understand you better than me?"

Buffy shrugged.

"It was such a rush. Suddenly there was someone who I thought really got it all. And she seemed so confident; so sure of things."

"So psychopathic."

"In hindsight, yes. Definitely of the less than stable. But it was kinda nice for a while not to be the only freak."

"Buffy, you're not the only freak... that didn't come out right."

Buffy laughed.

"It's okay, Will. I got you. So do you promise? Will you let me go next time?"

"Buffy..."

"Please, Will. Next time I want it to end. No bringing me back, no getting anyone else to bring me back."

Willow smiled wryly.

"You had to take away my loophole, didn't you?"

"I know my Willow. Promise?"

"Okay. I promise. But could you promise me something, Buffy?"

"What's that?"

"Don't make me keep this one anytime soon."

"I'll do my best."

The girls hugged fiercely.

"That's one nice thing about being Giles," Buffy commented as she held her friend.

"What's that, Buff?"

"I can hug people as hard as I want and not worry about hurting them. I could get used to that."

"You'll never get used to it, freak girl."

Buffy giggled.

"You know me way too well, Will."

"Buffy? What happens when you and Giles get back to normal?"

Buffy pulled back and looked at the floor.

"I thought we just agreed I was a freak."

Willow rolled her eyes.

"As normal as you guys ever get."

Buffy shrugged.

"I dunno. We haven't talked much about it."

"Well... what do you want to happen?"

"I know... I know I want him to stay."

"Have you told him that?"

"I've hinted. But he always changes the subject. Pretty clear he's not with that program. Almost makes me hope we don't find an answer too soon."

"Maybe it's not that he doesn't want to stay. Maybe it's that he's not so sure you want him to. Did you ever think of that?"

"What are you saying, Will?"

"I'm saying stop hinting and just say what you mean, you big dummy. Come right out and tell him you want him to stay."

"And if he still won't?"

"Then at least you gave it your best shot. Just carpe the damn diem already, Buff."

Buffy squared her shoulders and took a deep breath.

"Okay. This is me getting ready to carpe Giles' diem. I'll do it tonight. I don't want to lose him, Will."

Willow smiled wryly at her friend.

"Were you telling me the truth with that whole 'comfort thing' thing?"

Buffy tried very hard not to blush.

"Could I just take the fifth, here?"

"You want to carpe Giles... like that?"

"Too freaksome?"

"I dunno. It might be just about the right amount of freaksome."

"If I don't freak Giles."

"Buffy," Willow chided. "You've been doing that since tenth grade. Why change now?"

* * * * *

Adrenaline rushed through Giles' veins as the vampire flew into the wall of the mausoleum. He raced forward to pummel the creature of the night into submission. One final kick to the goolies and the vampire was ready for staking. He raised his weapon on high.

Suddenly a pair of preternaturally strong arms grabbed him from behind and lifted him off the ground. He kicked wildly until his foot made contact with the creature's kneecap with a sickening crunch of bone. His assailant fell. Giles rolled to his feet and quickly staked the creature.

He turned to finish off the first vampire.

Which was suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Giles huffed in frustration.

"Well, at least I got one."

He dusted himself off and peered around in hopes of finding another unholy menace to destroy. When he realized there wasn't one, he put up Mr. Pointy and headed back toward Revello Drive, doing his best to ignore the feelings building inside him.

If he'd been in his own body, he'd have been hurrying to the nearest private spot he could find. Someplace where he could touch himself without fear of interruption.

But in Buffy's body...

Giles growled in frustration.

Another night of cold showers and holding Buffy, pretending to be her friend when he wanted to take her in his arms and make her forget every other man she'd ever been with.

Except that there she was in his body, and he in hers.

All philosophical questions aside, the mechanics of the situation were bound to be awkward. Not to mention the strangeness of wanting someone who was, to all intents and purposes, himself. A man.

But she was still Buffy, penis or no.

And he didn't dare touch her. He didn't dare even consider it.

Not that that stopped him.

He shoved the idea to the back of his mind as he had done so many times before.

Though it would keep popping back up.

Part of him wished Buffy might be interested if only so he could try making love as a woman. He had to admit, he was curious about what it was like. Even generalized desire felt different in this body. It was similar enough that there was no mistaking what he was feeling, but different enough that he wanted to know; to understand on a level he wasn't sure he could without having the experience.

This sweet, internal ache was so unlike the demanding and obvious need of an erection. For one thing, he didn't need to try to make it go away or hide it. If there was liquid warmth between his female thighs, nobody would immediately notice it. No wonder poor Buffy was having so much trouble with spontaneous erections; she'd never had to worry about whether anyone noticed that she was sexually excited before. One needed to look for signs with the female of the species. And one could very easily miss or misinterpret them.

He was also disturbed by the apparently direct correlation between losing a kill on patrol and the desire he now felt. Was this something Buffy felt every time a vampire got away? If so, no wonder she had made such seemingly unfathomable choices in men. Perhaps this had contributed to her - for lack of a better word - relationship with Spike. Certainly it explained a good deal of why she stayed with Riley so long after it was clear to everyone else that her heart was no longer in it.

Giles began to find a new level of respect at the way Buffy had managed to keep her feelings at bay for so long with Angel.

And the self control both had shown when he returned from Hell.

Unbidden thoughts of Faith sprang into his head. Giles had been appalled by her attitude toward men and sex. Not that he'd wanted to know about it, but Faith was nothing if not painfully candid about that aspect of her life. Now it occurred to Giles how easily Buffy might have developed the same chew 'em up and spit 'em out way of dealing with men - especially in light of how all her relationships thus far had worked out. But she hadn't. Even in the debacle with Spike, she ended by feeling guilty for hurting him and not even seeing what he'd been doing to her at the same time.

It would have been so easy for her to have decided a long time ago that all she needed or wanted from a man was physical satisfaction, and yet it was clear that she wanted more. That she was going to hold out for more.

He just wished she would allow him to be the one to give it to her.

Even if he was currently a woman.

Giles shook his head to clear his thoughts.

This was pure nonsense. Even if Buffy wanted to be with him it wasn't as if he could accept the offer.

No. Best to get this situation dealt with and head back to England as quickly as possible. Get back to his new life in his new home and let Buffy forget he'd ever been back to Sunnydale.

Let her find someone young and strong without all the baggage of forty years of demon hunting. Someone who would actually want to wear that blasted leather suit.

Someone who would still be of use to her in a years' time.

Lord, but he wanted a drink!

Unfortunately, Buffy's body had a very low resistance to alcohol and Giles didn't dare take the chance of getting drunk in his current state.

"Just bloody wonderful," he muttered. "If I was me it wouldn't matter what stupid thing I did to myself."

With another sigh, he turned onto Revello Drive and headed to Buffy's door.

He stopped in his tracks when he felt an odd sensation in his gut.

"Not now, Spike," he growled.

"If not now, then when?" Spike taunted. "I could practically smell you down the block. You know I can make you feel better. Or are you waiting for Watcherboy to make the naughty feelings go away?"

Giles spun around to face the vampire.

"What do you know?"

"Touchy. I know he's here, and looking a right prat, too. Trying to rediscover his lost youth from the sound of things. Leather suit, earring, snazzy new specs, it's pathetic."

Spike lit a cigarette.

"Is he doing it for you?" he asked. "Trying to make you notice him? Or has he already got you into bed?"

"That's none of your business, Spike. Nothing I do is any of your business."

"Is that right? You're the one made it my business."

"Just... go away."

"Is that what you really want? Or do you want me to scratch your itch for you? You know he won't be up to the job."

"So... you think I should sleep with you because nobody else will?"

"Well it's not as if they're lining up round the block now, is it? Face it; I'm it, Pet. It's me or a plastic pal who's not so fun to be with. So which is it gonna be?"

"If this is your idea of sweetalk, you're gonna be pretty lonely, Spike."

"Well so are you if you don't quit playing games, and you don't care for being alone."

"I'm not playing games. And you know what, Spike? There are worse things than being alone."

"You're a fuckin' tease, you are. Look, I know you needed your little show of independence after Soldier boy and all, but you've made your point. I know you, and I know what you need."

Giles laughed and crossed his arms over his chest.

"What I need? You know what I need? Go on, Spike. Tell me what I need. This should be good."

"You need a man with a bit of monster in him. Someone who can be as ruthless as you. Someone who won't give out in a hurry. Someone with plenty of passion, lots of imagination, and the guts to make you stop playing games long enough to admit he's what you want. You need someone to let you know who's in charge and make it stick. Someone as dark as you. Someone who knows what the kill is like and how it makes you burn. That's what you need, Slayer, and I don't see a whole lot of takers. And if you think Giles can take you on and make you like it..." the vampire dissolved into giggles. "No, I'm sorry, I'll be alright in a tick. Just... the idea... of Giles... you'd break him into little tweedy pieces in no time."

"Then maybe it's a good thing he's not going to be here much longer."

"Oh, now I get it! You just don't want Daddy to find out who you've been shagging! Look, just put Giles on the plane already. You're all grown up. You don't need him mucking up your life. I been tidying up the place since you and Captain Cardboard blew it sky high, so you can come by the crypt anytime."

"You really don't get it, do you?"

"Get what?"

"That this isn't about Giles. That this is about self respect. Maybe... maybe you have a point with some of what you say. Maybe... I... need some darkness. But there's light, too. And goodness. Humans need those things. Can you give me that? Can you give that to anybody for long? All summer you kept an eye on Dawn, but now... when was the last time you even spoke to her? Face it Spike, you're not a man with a bit of monster in him; you're a monster with the face of a man. If you want someone to be with, go find yourself a vampire girl or a demon. This whole thing is sick and it's pointless. If you keep this up, it can't end well. Just do yourself a favor and stop this."

Giles walked away Spike called after her.

"You can't just walk away from this, Buffy! I know you need me!"

Giles turned back and shook his head.

"You don't know me at all, really. And you have no idea who you're talking to."

He turned again and strode back to the house, leaving a confused vampire in his wake.

* * * * *

Buffy checked herself in the mirror one more time. She was still Giles. She was surprised at how much that still startled her whenever she looked. After all, she was a foot taller than she used to be and had male body parts, so she had no idea why she should still expect to see her own face looking back out of the mirror. But she did.

She took off her glasses and cleaned them again. She put them back on her nose and looked at herself again. She smoothed her hair and straightened her collar one more time.

"Great, Buffy. You're never going to impress him with his own face."

And yet she wanted to impress Giles. She wanted to make him want to stay with her so maybe she could make him see how she felt about him.

At least she could show him she was taking good care of his body during her impromptu stay in it.

His body.

She began to half hope she could talk him into trying romance while they were still switched. Not that he'd be likely to want that, she reminded herself, but just because it must be so... different to have sex as a man. She wondered what it would be like. Guys always liked it so much, after all. Once in a while, she'd actually wondered if she would like sex more if she was a man. Now here she was being a man, and it didn't look of the likely that she would find out.

At least she thought she'd learned something about guys by being one. She'd found out in the shower that some touches were more erotic in this body than she'd expected.

Then again, that might be something only about Giles, and she didn't dare ask him in case he was embarrassed.

Okay, time to be honest. She wasn't sure she could work up the courage to ask him, either. It wasn't like she wanted to let him know she didn't know what was normal and what might be particular about him when it came to guyness.

After all, why would he be interested in her if she didn't know whether it was something normal or odd that he seemed to have very sensitive nipples?

Besides, to ask him things like that might encourage him to ask her some very embarrassing questions in return.

What if he'd heard the squeak she couldn't help making whenever... but he wouldn't have done that.

Would he?

Buffy pushed that thought to the back of her mind. It was too embarrassing to even consider. After all, it had made both Riley and Spike laugh at her. She wondered if Angel or Parker would have laughed if they'd done the thing that caused that reaction. She really didn't want Giles laughing at her.

Anyway, he couldn't have heard the squeak. She couldn't do that to herself, so that meant he hadn't.

She sighed in relief. Her secret was safe.

Then she frowned.

Was that what she really wanted? To be safe from Giles? Was that part of why she'd turned to Spike so many times when Giles had last been around? Now that she thought about that time, she had to admit there was a pattern emerging. When she was angry with her friends or when Giles tried to prod her back onto her feet, she turned to Spike. When being a grownup seemed too difficult to handle she turned to Spike.

When Giles showed her tenderness and understanding... she walked away and turned to Spike. When Dawn needed her to be the mother she didn't know how to be, she turned to Spike.

When she did or said or felt something she thought she shouldn't, that was when she sought out the vampire.

Now that she'd actually talked to Willow and made her promise to let go next time, it was like a huge weight had rolled off her shoulders. Another had gone when she admitted she did find Giles attractive.

Still a few boulders left to deal with, but having just two of them gone had already made a huge difference. She had to admit that Giles had taken care of a third when he quit her job.

Best of all, she didn't want to find Spike over any of it. She realized what she'd really been using him for; why she put up with all his manipulation and ran again and again to someone so obviously bad for her. Why she'd treated him so badly, too.

She couldn't wait to tell Giles what she'd figured out.

But she didn't have long before he'd be home. She needed to set the mood.

* * * * *

When Giles walked in the front door, he heard music playing. He recognized the singer as one Buffy had spoken of as romantic. He was puzzled.

Sitting on the coffee table was a teapot and a pair of cups along with a plate of cookies.

Giles smiled slightly. He remembered how much he'd enjoyed his late night cups of tea with Buffy in the days when she used to check in with him after patrol.

"Buffy?"

"Hey, Giles."

He looked at her sitting on the sofa. She seemed oddly nervous. He raised an eyebrow and sat on the coffee table next to the tea tray.

"All right," he sighed, "what have you done now?"

"Done?"

"Is it a piercing, an alarming mode of transportation, or a date?"

"None of the above, Mr. Suspicious. I just thought some tea and post patrol bonding might be sorta... nice. Wouldn't it?"

"Well... um... yes, it would be nice. Thank you, Buffy. That's very... thoughtful of you."

He moved to sit next to Buffy. She scooted a bit closer as she leaned over to pour the tea.

"It's been too long, Giles. I missed just sitting and talking like this. I - I've missed you."

Giles smiled tightly and set his teacup down.

"Buffy..."

"No, please. Don't say anything yet, okay? We've been sort of dancing around this whole thing ever since you got back. I know I drove you off last time..."

"You hardly..."

"Oh yes I did. I really did. The mess I was in... I didn't know how to do anything else. And then Spike..."

"You don't have to explain that, Buffy. I - I can understand. After all, Spike is... is good looking and, as you say, he's always there. It's not surprising that..."

"Giles. Shut up. You're not getting it. I didn't really get it until just a little while ago, so there's no way you can understand it. Spike was my punishment."

"Punishment...? For what, precisely?"

"All of it. Being mad at my friends. Not wanting to deal with Dawn. Being such a big loser I can't even die right. Making you go away. That was... it wasn't until you were gone. I even held out a few days after you left, just in case you changed your mind and I didn't have to be punished for that."

"You didn't make me go away, Buffy."

"Maybe. But I sure couldn't talk you into staying, could I?"

"If anyone could have, it would have been you."

Buffy stood and moved to the fireplace.

"And I blew that one, didn't I? My fault. See?"

"It's hardly..."

"Let me finish, Giles. I know I didn't exactly welcome you back with open arms, and I know I've been a pain the whole time you've been here. But in case I haven't made it clear, I want you to stay. Y'know, after... we get back where we belong in body terms."

"I can't..."

"You get your turn later. Right now, I'm doing the talking. Look, I know you left so I'd have to grow up and deal on my own. And I know I said I couldn't do it without you. I said it and said it and said it. And I believed it. I don't anymore. I can do this on my own. I can be the Slayer and be strong and battle evil without you... as soon as I get my body back. You were right. I don't need you. Maybe I never really did. I mean, Will can do the research and Xand can whittle stakes with the best of them. And if a prophecy in Latin or Greek or Ancient Sumerian comes along, Wesley's just a phone call away. So I'd be okay if you left again. I just don't want you to go. Right now, even if I'm a little freaked being a guy and not being the Slayer, this is still the happiest I've been since Willow resurrected me. And it's because you're here and we're... being friends. So I'd really like you to stay, Giles. Please? Will you?"

Giles stood and stuffed his hand in his pocket. He massaged the back of his neck with the other as he crossed to her.

"Buffy... I... as pleased as I am to hear you say all that, you must understand... I can't just... pack up and move back here because you want to be friends. It isn't that simple."

"I don't see why not. All the time you lived here before, you almost never got in touch with anyone in England. And you have the Magic Box here. You should be here to keep an eye on your investment. Unless... you don't have another Slayer over there in England, do you?"

"No, I don't," he smiled. "Nor do I have any romantic entaglements in Bath, in case you were going to ask about that."

"Must've read my mind. And even if I don't need to be Watched all the time, you're still my Watcher. Aren't you supposed to be Watching me at least sometimes?"

"You begin to sound like Quentin."

Buffy glared at him.

"Wash your mouth out. I just don't see why you can't do this. I thought... I thought you liked me."

"I do, Buffy. I always have done."

"Goes both ways, y'know. Even when I don't say it... or even show it, I really do care. A lot."

"I know."

"Then what's the holdup? Why can't we just cut to the happily ever after?"

"H - happily...Buffy...?"

"Oh. I guess I forgot to say the part where I'm sorta crazy about you in a man/woman sort of way, too. Which I kinda am. So what do you say?"

* * * * *

Buffy bit her lip nervously as she waited for Giles to answer. He lowered his head and stuffed both hands in his pockets. After an endless moment, he spoke.

"This is very sudden."

"Love's like that sometimes."

"Yes. Yes, I suppose it is."

"Well...?"

Giles returned to the coffee table and sat on it, indicating to Buffy that she should sit on the sofa again. She moved warily to the seat and waited with tense shoulders as he gathered his thoughts.

"Sometimes... there are other factors which need to be considered, Buffy."

"Factors? What factors? There aren't any factors here, Giles. There's just you and me. So do you want to be with me?"

"I do... very much... but..."

"But what? What's the hitch? If I want you with me and you want you with me, why are you still sitting there looking like somebody squished your puppy? Isn't this where we kiss or something?"

"You... you want to kiss me? Like this?"

"Well, yeah. Y'know, 'cause it's still you in there. 'Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds'."

Giles goggled frankly.

"You're quoting Shakespeare?"

"Before you get too excited, let me tell you it was in the chick flick Will and I watched earlier. Sense and Sensibility. Which also got me thinking how Alan Rickman-like you are. Only cuter. Anyway, I remembered because it's what's going on with us. Lots of alterations, but we're still the same people and I'll still feel the same way about you when we get back to being our normal selves. I know how I feel. It's not gonna change. What about you?"

Giles stood and walked to the window. He looked out on the night, running one finger over the glass.

"My feelings don't matter much in this case. I will leave as soon as we find a solution to our current situation. And I very likely won't be back again."

"You don't... want to be with me?"

"It isn't a matter of what I want, Buffy."

She stood and strode to his side.

"The hell it isn't! Either you love me or you don't. What's going on, Giles? What aren't you telling me?"

"I'm no use to you, Buffy. You said yourself that you don't need me."

"I said I have other people who can do stuff for me. But it's a whole lot more convenient to have you here. You can do all the stuff it takes three or four other people to do, but that's not the important thing. The important part is where when you're not here, I'm miserable. Isn't that useful enough for you? I like training with you, and nobody can make out those musty books like you can."

"That's just the problem; I won't be able to do that much longer."

"But you're okay. You told me. You said you're not sick. Were you lying when you said that? You're not... please tell me you're not..."

"No, Buffy, I told you. I expect to live for quite some time yet."

"Then why are you making it sound like you're planning to have tea with the Grim Reaper in about an hour? Stop scaring me and just tell me what's going on."

He looked up at her with sad eyes and took her hand.

"It's not something life-threatening, Buffy. It's just... I've had so many head injuries, it was bound to have some sort of effect eventually. I started having trouble with my vision."

"You've always had trouble with your vision, Giles. You've been wearing glasses as long as I've known you."

"Yes, but this is... I'm going blind. In a few months' time, I won't be able to see at all anymore."

Buffy stood stock still for a moment. At last she blinked and turned away, wiping her palms on her jeans.

"And I guess not too many ancient Sumerian scrolls get made into books on tape," she said with an attempt at a laugh that failed miserably.

Giles looked at the floor. He'd always understood Buffy's need to joke in the face of danger or tragedy, but that didn't mean it didn't hurt.

"Not many, no."

Buffy found the nearest chair and sat heavily.

"What can we do?"

"Nothing, it seems. I've seen several doctors and they all agree the case is hopeless."

"How long have you known about this?"

"Does it really matter?"

"How long, Giles?"

"Since August."

Buffy was silent as the tears welled up in her eyes. Giles began to speak again.

"That's why I left in the first place. Even then, it took me a couple months to work up the nerve to walk away. Then you were back. I had to see you. It might well have been my last chance. I wanted to stay then, but I couldn't. I couldn't become one more burden in your life. So I left."

"You bastard. You told me it was because I wasn't being grown up enough and all the time it was because you didn't want me to know this?"

"What was I to do? Stay and be just one more thing you didn't want to deal with?"

"So that makes it okay for you to just say it's all my fault you were leaving? Didn't I have a say in it?"

"It wasn't your problem."

"Like hell it wasn't! You're my Watcher. And what about Dawn? I thought you cared about her, but you just left her alone with a bunch of screwed up teenagers and a vampire. Didn't you care what happened to her?"

"Of course I cared. And she knew I was a phone call away."

"And an ocean. And a continent or two. That's a pretty long way in an emergency."

"Well it's a pretty long way across town with a white cane and a guide dog."

"So you ran away. We'd have taken care of you, Giles. Didn't you know that?"

"Like you all did before? I've been injured many times without assistance from any of you. Not that I blame you. You were young and thoughtless, as all young people are."

"We're not as young as we used to be. And you never gave us a chance. You never asked for help, and the few times one of us thought to ask, you turned us down. It's not fair."

"Life isn't fair, in case you hadn't noticed. And there was nothing you could do."

"So you're going to just crawl into a hole and disappear? Real mature, Giles. There's stuff we can do."

"Like what? Did one of you become a qualified surgeon in my absence? Perhaps Xander perfected a new treatment for my particular condition behind my back and I missed the article in The Lancet. What on Earth do you think you can do?"

"We can research. See if there's something the doctors you talked to don't know about. Maybe find a different way of dealing with this, or at least slowing it down. Oz didn't get control over his wolfy side by going to your average GP. And if we can't find a way to fix it, we can still be here for you. I can still be here for you. I've got enough of me back so I can do that now."

Giles stared stubbornly at the floor.

"No. I've taken a lot from you over the years, Buffy. Your anger, your resentment, even your occasional heartlessness. But I won't have your pity."

Buffy moved to his side.

"Then it's a damn good thing I don't do pity, isn't it?"

She lifted his chin to make him look at her.

"This sucks, Giles. And once it sinks in, I'll probably hate this just as much as you do. But we're gonna fight this thing, just like we've fought all the other things that we couldn't fight."

"And if we can't win this time?"

"Then we go down fighting. Like always."

"This isn't life and death, Buffy."

"Which is a good thing, since I'm a little tired of life and death and life again. If we can't stop this thing, we'll learn to deal. Doesn't change a thing."

"It changes a great deal. If... when this happens, I shall be very vulnerable. I'll become a liability to you. And if I'm your lover as well as your Watcher I shall be a popular target for demons."

"Then we better find a way to fix your eyes, 'cause I'm not giving you up. Not unless you tell me you don't want me." She faltered slightly. "You... do want me, right?"

"Yes, of course I do," Giles assured her.

"Good. So I want and you want."

The two stood looking a bit nervously at one another for a long moment.

"So what do we do now?" Buffy asked.

"I'm... well, I'm not quite sure."

"Well, we're done fighting, right?"

"I believe so."

"And we're... together, right?"

"I... I... I think so. Are we?"

"Yeah. I mean, I think so, too. So we must be."

"Yes. We must be."

He ducked his head with a shy smile as Buffy bit her lip. Neither one seemed to know quite how to react now that they'd worked things out. At last Buffy came up with an answer.

"Tea," she suddenly blurted out. "The tea's getting cold. I'll go make more."

* * * * *

She picked up the teapot and hurried to the kitchen. When she got there, she leaned against a counter, her heart racing. Togetherness with Giles. She wanted it desperately. But now that she was faced with it, she found herself almost panicked at the strangeness of the concept.

Turning resolutely, she lit the burner and put the kettle on. There really wasn't anything to be scared of, she reminded herself. Giles knew her at her worst as well as her best and he still cared. And she could say the same of herself about Giles. She'd seen him well and ill, drunk and sober, determined and defeatist. Hell, at this point she'd even seen him both flaccid and erect.

Which was sort of the problem, wasn't it?

As much as she'd been curious about making love as a man, there was still the fact that she wasn't sure she wanted to make love to a woman. Herself, in fact. She wasn't even sure if the fact that it was her body she was considering making love with made it more or less skanky.

Meanwhile, out in the living room, Giles was in a twin panic.

As much as he wanted to be with Buffy, and as curious as he was about lovemaking from a female point of view, he wasn't entirely sure he could perform when faced with a penis instead of a vagina to pleasure. The fact that it would be his own penis only made matters more confusing rather than less.

And what if he got carried away as he sometimes did in bed? What if he hurt Buffy since he couldn't judge Slayer strength accurately?

What about birth control? What if she got him pregnant?

Giles sat heavily and tried to calm himself.

Making love was a completely natural thing. He loved Buffy. She loved him, as difficult as it was for him to really grasp the concept.

But she'd been with two different vampires. They had super strength and centuries of sexual experience. Even when he got back into his own skin, might she not find him a bit... disappointing?

* * * * *

Buffy groaned. She wasn't sure she could do this. She didn't know how to control a penis. What if she couldn't find where to put it? What if she missed? What if he wanted her to try oral sex on him? Her stomach filled with a battalion of butterflies.

The kettle boiled.

* * * * *

Giles began to pace. What if he froze up in bed? What if he didn't come for her? What if she wanted to try something... exotic?

He nibbled a cookie absently as he tried to think what Buffy might consider normal sex, considering some of the fairly abnormal partners she'd had.

* * * * *

Buffy swallowed hard as she remembered the night of the band candy spree. Her mother had had sex with Giles that night and she'd ended up with a pair of handcuffs. Was that the sort of thing Giles liked in bed? Would he expect her to want something like that, too? And she hadn't slept with anyone but Spike since her return from the grave, so unless Giles had some condoms hidden in his suitcase, she wasn't sure what they would do about birth control.

She picked up the teapot and headed back out to the living room.

Now if she could just figure out what to say when she got there.

As Buffy walked through the door, Giles moved to take the teatray from her. Their fingers touched briefly and both started as if hit with an electric shock. Giles nearly spilled the contents of the tray to the floor, but managed to steady himself and move the tray to the coffee table. The two sat next to one another on the sofa and Giles poured the tea.

Buffy took the cup from him gratefully.

"I don't know why I'm so nervous," she laughed.

"If it's any comfort, you're not alone. This all happened so... so suddenly."

"And all backwards, bodywise."

"Which does add to the confusion, I must say."

Buffy put her teacup down and turned to face Giles more squarely.

"So what do we do? About all the stagefright?"

Giles took a sip of tea then set his cup down, too.

"Perhaps it would be best if we took things a little more slowly from now on. Take a bit of time to... adjust before we take the next step."

"Is that what you really want? To take it slow?"

"Don't you?"

"Yes. And no. You?"

"There's no rush, you know."

"No, I guess there really isn't."

Buffy's gaze dropped to her knees. Giles reached out and lifted her chin.

"What is it? Did I say something wrong?"

Buffy took his hand in hers.

"Of course not, Giles."

"But...?"

She smiled wryly.

"You know me way too well. Okay, okay, I just... there's this little piece of me that doesn't want to wait."

"In case something happens to one of us?"

"Well... yeah. That's part of it."

"And the rest would be, what?"

"Sort of really morbid curiosity?"

To her great surprise, Giles began to laugh.

"What's so funny?" she demanded.

"You," he told her. "You never fail to surprise me."

"But, in a good way, right?"

"More often than not," he grinned.

Her eyes narrowed, but her lips insisted on curling into a smile. A moment later, they were both laughing. A moment after that, Buffy pulled Giles into her arms and rested her cheek on the top of his head.

"I know this is gonna sound a little funny, but... I want to know what it's like. For you. How it feels."

"Are you sure? Because I have to admit, I'm awfully curious, myself. But it would be fine with me if you wanted to wait until... well until we're more ourselves."

Buffy lifted her head, then looked down at Giles. Her face looked back at her in nervous anticipation.

"Hey," she said, "love is not love which alters when it alteration finds."

She leaned down and pressed her lips to his.

The kiss was tentative and a bit hesitant on both sides, but warm and sweet all the same. Her hands moved to cup Giles' cheeks as his slid up to wrap around her neck, his fingers treading through her hair. Buffy pulled back from the kiss and rested her forehead against his.

"It already feels different," she laughed softly.

"Yes, it does," Giles agreed. "I never realized how large I must seem."

"Well, you're a big guy," Buffy said. She blushed deeply when she realized how it must have sounded. "I mean... tall... and... well..."

"Buffy?"

"Yeah?"

"I know how big it is. It's mine, remember?"

Buffy stared at Giles for a moment before bursting into laughter. Giles joined in almost immediately. They giggled helplessly for some minutes, holding each other all the while. Whenever one began to calm, the other went into a fresh gale of laughter and set the first off again. At last, they sat sprawled on the sofa, still holding one another, the belly laughs having been reduced to the odd giggle.

Giles wiped away a tear that had formed on Buffy's face.

"That *was* a happy one, wasn't it?"

"I haven't laughed that hard in a long time," she replied. "And yes, happy tear. I can't believe you made a dirty joke."

"It wasn't a joke," he huffed. "It was an observation. And I know a great many more dirty jokes than you might think."

"Okay, okay, you don't have to prove you're not stuffy... as if you could."

"Stuffy I may be, but at least I usually know how to act my age."

"And I don't? When didn't I act my age?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Buffy."

Buffy stared at him.

"Are we having our first fight already?"

Giles sat back and pinched the bridge of his nose.

"If you'll recall, we had our first fight the day we met and we've battled it out ever since. Did you really think that was going to change?"

"Maybe? I thought at least we could get to the afterglow without a squabble."

"I wasn't squabbling."

"So that age acting crack wasn't about me?"

"No. If anything, it was directed at Spike."

"Spike? You're making out with me and thinking about Spike at the same time?"

Giles shrugged.

"I have what you Americans would call 'issues' with him, I suppose."

"Because...?"

Giles sighed. He knew Buffy wouldn't let him off the hook easily.

"He was your last lover, and he's a vampire, and he's... very unlike me."

"And you think you can't measure up? Is that it? Giles, I hated what I was doing with him. It made me feel dirty and sick. Why would I want someone like him? And what does that have to do with acting his age, anyway?"

"How old do you think Spike was when he was turned?"

Buffy shrugged.

"I dunno. I guess I never really thought about it. Thirtyish?"

"Look a bit closer and I think you'll find he looks older than that; probably closer to forty. And he still dresses like Billy sodding Idol."

"And he acts like a punk kid, yeah, yeah, I know. So what?"

"So... he looks like a prat."

Buffy's eyes widened.

"This isn't even about Spike, is it? This is about the leather suit. You think you look like a jerk in it, don't you?"

"I never said that..."

"Yes you did, a million times. And I kept on wearing it. Is it really that important to you?"

"It's just... yes, it bothers me a great deal."

"Then I won't wear it anymore. We can even donate it to Goodwill if you want. But before we go that far, do you think you could tell me what the problem is?"

She reached out to stroke his hair.

"Whatever it is, you can tell me, and I promise I won't tell anyone else. I just want to know. What's the big?"

Giles pressed himself to Buffy's side and wrapped his arms around her waist. Buffy allowed him the time to gather himself despite the growing frustration at not knowing what was going on in his mind. When he finally spoke, he didn't even look up at her.

"It reminds me of a time I'd like very much to forget."

He took her left hand and touched the long fingers gently. Buffy stared at their joined hands. She frowned, trying to connect the dots in her mind. She remembered a sunny spring day when Giles' left hand had been bandaged and splintered and Oz steered Willow in a wheelchair. All at once, she understood and squeezed his hand lightly.

"It's gone," she told him quietly.

"It's really the trousers, more than anything else," he admitted. "The jacket's actually not bad."

"But the pants make you remember. It goes in the morning."

Giles looked up at her, gratitude and relief shining in his eyes. Buffy couldn't help leaning down to kiss him again. This time she lingered longer than she had before.

* * * * *

"You do know," she commented when she pulled back, "life would be a lot easier if you ever told people what you were thinking."

"Says Miss Pot to Mr. Kettle."

"Giles?"

"Yes?"

"Shut up and kiss me."

Buffy nibbled softly at Giles' lips, teasing, tasting, exploring. She tentatively snaked the tip of her tongue out to encourage him to open to her. With a tiny, slightly startled sound, he did. The touch of his small, pointed tongue against her now broad one thrilled Buffy even as the confusion rose in her mind again. She pushed away the voice in her head that told her she didn't like girls that way and reminded it firmly that this wasn't a girl, but Giles. Her Giles. She redoubled her efforts, much to Giles' combined confusion and delight.

Warm lips and an insistent tongue filled his senses. His own fingers caressed his as yet unfamiliar body. His nipples stood up and begged for attention as warm desire flooded between his thighs. He pulled his mouth from Buffy's and began to kiss and nibble along her slightly bristled jawline up to her earlobe. He tugged gently at the earring with his teeth. He smiled and did it again when Buffy gasped at the sensation.

She groaned and shifted as she hardened under Giles' ministrations. The combined feeling of power and an odd vulnerability was still strange to her. An erection was such a strong image, and yet so exposed, it frightened her a little bit. She swore she would never laugh again when she saw a hard penis spring out of a man's underwear. Not that she'd ever meant it as a bad thing; just the sight could be vaguely comical despite the erotic pleasure it gave. Still, it couldn't have been very good for Riley's ego that that had been her first reaction.

She hoped Giles wouldn't laugh when the moment came.

Oh great! Buffy could feel herself deflating at the thought. She pushed the unpleasant thought resolutely to the back of her mind and attempted to focus on Giles nibbling her neck.

He certainly knew where all the sensitive spots were. She moaned softly when Giles grazed his teeth just under her ear. She took hold of his face and devoured him with kisses. She could feel herself rehardening. She moved to straddle Giles' lap.

She stopped and looked down at him.

"I'm too big to do this now, aren't I?"

"A bit," Giles giggled. "And I think this might be a good time to move this to a less public venue, don't you?"

"My room?"

She stood and held out her hand to him. He took it and raised his other hand to her cheek. Giles stood on his toes to reach Buffy for a kiss.

"Lovely," he said. "Oh, and before we go much further... how far can we go?"

"That sort of depends," Buffy said. "You didn't happen to pack any condoms, did you?"

"I hadn't any idea I was going to end up in bed with anyone on this trip."

"End up? I thought you wanted to be with me."

"Of course I do. I love you. I simply meant I didn't expect to sleep with anyone when I came here, so I didn't prepare for it. That's all I meant. It's not as if you're any better prepared, is it?"

"No, I'm not," she admitted. "So what do we... prepared..."

She frowned for a moment, then began to smile.

"What is it, Buffy?"

"I'm not prepared, and you're not prepared, but someone here is."

"Surely Willow doesn't have any use for condoms."

"No, not her. Dawn."

Giles' eyes widened.

"Dawn?" he sputtered. "Are you telling me that Dawn has already... good lord, Buffy, she's fifteen!"

"Calm down, Giles, she's not... I don't think. It's just... I know I've blown it with her in a lot of ways, and I don't want her to have to go through what I did. With Mom. She was sure I wouldn't until she found out I had. And what if I'd been going out with some ordinary guy when I decided to just say yes? What if I'd just gotten carried away with someone who could be a daddy? I want to make sure Dawn doesn't have to worry about that, at least."

"I doubt your sister will be so impulsive. She's an intelligent girl."

"So am I, or at least you keep telling me so. Didn't stop me. I'm just making sure that if she makes as rotten choices as I did, she doesn't have to deal with as much fallout as I did. If I learned one thing from you, it's that an ounce of prevention is better than a whole shitload of cure."

"At least you learned something."

"But you don't approve. You don't think I should have given them to her."

"I didn't say that."

"But you're thinking it. A lot."

"What I was thinking was that I ought to have understood both you and Dawn rather better. And I was thinking that since this is really a lucky thing for me, I ought to accept it a bit more gracefully."

Buffy blinked.

"Did you really just admit I was right and you were wrong about something?"

"Don't get used to it."

As she glared down at Giles, Buffy got a wicked idea. She reached down, picked Giles up, and threw him over her shoulder in a fireman's carry.

"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" he demanded through his giggles.

"I think I'm getting in touch with my inner caveman - without beer this time."

"This is something else you had better not get used to unless you want to try it from the other angle when I get my body back."

"Yeah, yeah, promises, promises."

She carried him to her room and flipped him unceremoniously on her bed. She leaned down and kissed him hard.

"Stay right there, sweetie, while I get the condoms."

She turned to leave, then turned back.

"And if there's a little less in the way of clothes in the way when I get back, I wouldn't hate that."

Giles grinned and pulled his blouse off. He stilled when he realized Buffy had only crossed the room rather than leaving it. She was rooting around in a grocery bag.

"Buffy? I thought you said..."

Buffy turned and blushed through a sheepish smile.

"Well... I got them for her. I just hadn't actually given them to her yet."

"Why not?"

"I couldn't figure out what to say. And I couldn't just tell her the condom fairy left them in her room while she was asleep, could I?"

Giles laughed until he rolled to his side clutching his belly. Buffy glared at him.

"Well you try figuring out what to tell your little sister when you give her a box of rubbers!"

"Luckily, I never had to do that." He held out his hand to her. "Come here, Buffy. We can figure that out later."

"We? Really?"

"You'll give the talk, but I'll help you work out what to say, if you like."

"Teamwork?"

She returned to the bed and crawled onto it. Giles got up onto his knees and draped his arms around Buffy's neck.

"Now come here," he said, "and let's not worry about that for tonight. Dawn's out, and Willow's... where is Willow, anyway?"

"Out for the rest of the night. It's just you and me."

"This smells of a setup."

"Only a little bit of one. Dawn didn't know."

Giles rolled his eyes.

"Wonderful."

Buffy grinned at him.

"Y'know, you kinda are. So tell me, Giles, have you been going braless this whole time? Or was tonight a special occasion?"

"I - I haven't really got the hang of them, I'm afraid."

"They're sort of a pain, I know. I'm not wearing one, either."

"Good. I know things aren't as firm as once they were, but, well.. it's good to know I don't require that level of support yet."

"You're doing just fine in that department, stud guy. Check it out."

She began to unbutton her shirt as Giles leaned forward to kiss her again. Soon both were shirtless and Buffy lay back. Giles followed her down, kissing her all the while. Buffy wrapped her arms around Giles and kissed him back with everything she had. She couldn't believe how tiny - how fragile - he seemed in her body. Nor could she believe how large she felt. The whole situation still felt odd, but being with Giles, in whatever form, also seemed very right.

And his kisses were making it difficult to think at all.

"Buffy," he murmured as he nipped her earlobe.

"Uh huh?" she breathed in reply.

"Touch me, please."

"I thought I was touching you. See? Hands on you, attached to me."

Giles snorted and plucked the glasses off her nose to put them out of the way.

"Then use them a bit. Don't be afraid to show me how your body likes to be touched; how you like to be kissed. I want to know what excites you most and this is the perfect opportunity to show me."

She ruffled his hair affectionately.

"You never stop with the research, do you?"

"Not so long as it does you any good."

Buffy rolled them over so she was on top and bent to nuzzle at his throat. She ground her awakening length against Giles' thigh. She gasped when she felt small, soft fingers deftly rolling one nipple and then the other. It was amazing to her how similar the sensation was to the familiar feeling when she was in her own body. It gave her the nerve to cup one of the small breasts below her and give the nipple a gentle tweak.

When Giles whimpered and kissed her harder, Buffy smiled and repeated the caress.

Buffy felt her confidence surge. She moved her kisses from Giles' lips to his throat, and then to his ear. At last she rolled them to their sides and nibbled on the nape of Giles' neck.

He squeaked.

Giles felt a flood of desire as well as embarrassment. Buffy pulled back and rubbed her nose against his.

"Like that?" she grinned.

"Do you always make that noise when somebody does that to you?"

"Every single time. But it feels so good."

"It certainly does. Though I imagine it's a bit alarming to men."

"But it won't alarm you now, right?"

"Would you do it again?"

Buffy grinned as she leaned over to make Giles squeak some more.

* * * * *

Soon both grew too heated to continue wearing pants. Giles stripped his off and turned to help Buffy remove her jeans. She couldn't wait to get them off. Her erection had gone from somewhat uncomfortable to actually painful in the confines of the form fitting denim. Giles quirked an eyebrow at her when he saw the straining briefs underneath.

"Tiger stripes?"

"I thought they were more manly for bedtime fun than zebra stripes. Anyway, you're wearing my purple thong so you don't get to complain."

"You need to do some laundry," he told her as he slipped them down his legs. "They're not terribly comfortable."

"I could have told you that. And these were fine when I started out, but they're pretty anti-comfortable now."

She hooked her thumbs into the elastic at her hips and removed her underwear, too. She stifled a giggle as her penis sprang out. Giles leaned over and kissed her.

"I love to hear you laugh," he said.

"So you're not mad? That I laughed?"

"Of course not. If you're laughing, you're enjoying this. I want you to enjoy it. Besides, I sometimes have to stop myself laughing when I take off my underwear. It looks a bit silly."

"So you don't have a problem if I laugh at your dick?"

"Is it a particularly laughable one?"

"No. It really isn't."

"Then I assume it was the moment rather than my privates."

"Yeah, it's kind of a moment thing. You really don't mind?"

Giles smiled and took Buffy's hand in his.

"Will you just relax? Laughter is fine, so long as it isn't meant as an insult. Now, are you ready for the condom, or do you want to play a bit yet?"

"I - I don't know how much more I can play if you want... y'know... to... I mean... this still feels really weird."

"Do you want to stop?" Giles asked levelly, though every nerve in him screamed both yes and no at the same time.

Buffy shook her head.

"No. I want to. It's just sorta of the freaksome. I think maybe I better put it on. If you still want to, that is."

"Yes, yes I do," he answered a bit quickly.

"You're sure? 'Cause we could stop if you aren't."

She bit her lip, a little unsure what she wanted his answer to be.

"I'm sure," he said with more confidence. "Just..."

"Just?" she prompted.

"I know this is a dreadful cliché, but... be gentle with me?"

"I'll do my best," Buffy promised. "But you might need to give me a couple pointers. Are you ready?"

Giles took her hand and guided it to the triangle of curls that hid his sex. She found him wet and willing.

"You tell me."

"I think you're ready," she said wryly as she slipped her thumb over the tiny bump of his clitoris. At Giles' answering gasp of pleasure, she smiled and rubbed again. "Like that?"

Giles ground himself against Buffy's hand wantonly. As strange and confusing as the very internal sensations of female pleasure were to him, he knew what was about to happen. He wondered vaguely if Buffy was multi-orgasmic before his mind clouded entirely with need. A moment later, he shouted his release. Another whimper followed each pulse of his sex.

Buffy pulled him into her arms and held him as he trembled with the unfamiliar feelings he'd just experienced.

"That was... that was... I have no words for it," Giles breathed.

"You don't need them," Buffy reminded him. "I know exactly how you feel right now."

She kissed his sweating brow and reached for a foil packet. Giles stilled her hand.

"Allow me."

"Ever the gentleman, huh? Even when you're the lady."

Buffy lay back and allowed Giles to take over. He worked Buffy's foreskin back and swiped his thumb over the head of her cock, coating it with the large drop of precum. Buffy gasped and thrust her hips involuntarily. Somehow she'd never been able to grasp the idea that something that big could be so sensitive. Giles gently urged her back down with a few soothing words and a hand on her hip. He ripped open the packet and rolled the condom onto Buffy. She frowned slightly.

"These really aren't all that comfortable, are they? In fact, this is one tight squeeze."

"It's a bit like a sausage casing. Then again, if they were roomy enough to be comfortable, they wouldn't work, would they?"

"All I know is I'm going on the pill ASAP. Hey, you could take the exam for me. Ever wanted to know what a visit to the gynecologist is like?" she grinned at him.

"I leave that pleasure entirely up to you," he giggled in return. "So we'd best find a cure soon."

"Coward."

She stuck her tongue out at Giles. He licked it with his own and pulled her into a deep kiss. Buffy rolled to lie atop him, cradling him between her thighs. They stopped kissing and looked down where their hips met.

"I think we're a little backwards again," Buffy said with a slight frown.

They repositioned so Giles cradled Buffy. They kissed again and again, raising their mutual desire to fever pitch. Giles pulled his knees up in silent invitation. Buffy drew up slightly on her hands and knees. Their eyes met. Buffy could see her own nervousness reflected in Giles' eyes. She smiled at him.

"I love you," she told him. "No matter what."

"I love you, too."

Buffy balanced on one hand and took her cock in the other to guide it into Giles waiting depths. She froze.

"And just so you know, I've never had anything this big in there. I hope it fits."

"Thank you for putting me so entirely at my ease."

He braced himself as Buffy moved the tip of her cock to the cleft of his core. She rubbed it against his entrance, looking for the right spot. When she found it, she tried to move forward, but found Giles had tensed so much that it was almost impossible to gain entry.

"Hey," she soothed him, "it's okay. I won't hurt you, Giles."

"I - I want it, but..." he turned his head to hide his frustration.

"But it's not easy for you to open up this way. You're not used to letting anyone in, are you? Giles, this is what love's all about; letting someone in. It's just... a lot more literal for a girl than for a guy."

"I do love you, Buffy," he told her softly. "I want to let you in, figuratively as well as literally. I just... perhaps we could..."

"Do you want to wait after all? I mean, we could, if you need to."

"No, I don't want to wait. I know exactly how you feel right now, and I wouldn't wish that frustration on anyone. And I want this; I honestly do. I want you. But I'm having a little trouble with... I think it's the position that's the trouble."

"So you just want to change positions? We could do that. So... um... how do you want it? Do you want to be on top?"

"Or possibly... like this."

Giles rolled to his stomach and pulled up onto his knees. He took hold of the headboard. Buffy moved behind him and kissed his back.

"Doggie style, huh? Okay, if it works for you. But I just want to remind you when your knees start to give out, this was all your idea."

Giles spread his legs a bit more in preparation as Buffy caressed him gently from behind.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

She ran her fingers across Giles' sopping nether lips. She smiled at his groan. He still flinched slightly, though. Buffy continued touching him until she felt him begin to relax under her ministrations. Soon he was thrusting back against her hand. She gently spread the swollen pink lips and inserted a finger into his waiting warmth. Giles mewled at the welcome invasion and clutched the headboard tightly. Buffy pressed a kiss to each soft buttock before her and slipped the finger out. She repositioned herself and placed her cockhead at Giles' tight entrance.

As the tip slipped in, Buffy groaned. She held Giles hips as he pushed back against her. Even through the latex, she could feel how snug and warm it was to be inside Giles. No wonder so many guys were in too big a hurry to get to this part. It was dominance and homecoming in one sweet thrust. She surged forward until her groin was pressed firmly against Giles soft rump. Her balls hung down, heavy and exposed, against Giles' hungry vaginal lips.

"How's that?" she asked a bit breathlessly.

"Very strange," Giles admitted, "but wonderful."

"I know what you mean."

She began to thrust, gently as she could manage at first. Giles met her every stroke with one of his own. The swing of Buffy's balls felt strange to both, but Giles soon decided he enjoyed the way they caressed his clitoris on every stroke. What he was having the most trouble getting used to was the way his breasts swayed as well.

Then again, with the wonderful feeling of fullness Buffy's cock was providing, and the constant stimulation to his clitoris, Giles soon found he didn't much care what his breasts were up to. He pushed back against Buffy wantonly and began to vocalize.

Buffy couldn't believe how much it excited her to hear Giles moan, whimper, and beg her to fuck him harder. She sped up the pace and did some talking of her own. She told him how good it felt to be inside him, how much she wanted to make him come. Her words only made Giles move faster and cry out more.

He clutched the headboard harder as his cries turned incoherent. Buffy moved as fast as she could, drilling into Giles fiercely. She could feel her balls swelling and then contracting as the first wave of sperm surged through her penis. She yelled at the strange, yet exciting sensation. As the second wave hit, she could feel Giles begin to come, too, milking her with his internal muscles. Wave after wave coursed through both. Then, as suddenly as it had arrived, the fury left.

Giles' knees gave out and he fell to the mattress in a sweaty heap taking Buffy with him. They lay there, utterly drained, until Buffy somehow found the strength to roll off of Giles and pull him into a tight embrace.

"So," she panted. "Was it good for you?"

"Good? I think I broke your bed."

Buffy looked over his shoulder at the piece of her headboard on the pillow and laughed.

"You're paying to replace that, buster."

She bent down and kissed him deeply. He returned the kiss eagerly. At last, Buffy pulled away gently.

"I think I need to take this thing off before it falls off," she observed. "Then I think I need to fall seriously asleep."

"If I might recommend," Giles said, "I think a shower might be a good idea for both of us."

"Sounds yummy," she agreed. "Then sleep."

"You're all alike," Giles huffed in a mock aggrieved tone. "Once you've had your way, you can't be bothered to stay up and talk."

"Hey, it takes a lot out of a guy," Buffy protested teasingly. "Besides, I was up for a long time and we talked then."

"I've been up longer."

"Well, it was my first time. I couldn't help it if I was a little trigger happy. Was I...? Giles, did you get enough?"

"You were wonderful," Giles assured her as he leaned up to kiss her.

The pair moved to the bathroom. Buffy disposed of the used condom while Giles started the water in the shower.

As they cleaned up, they shared kisses and warm caresses. Buffy felt herself begin to stir slightly again. She pulled Giles closer and kissed him deeply. Before things could get any further, though, the front door slammed and deliberately loud footsteps were heard on the stairs. Buffy relaxed her hold on Giles slightly and groaned in frustration.

"I guess Will's home."

"I thought you said she was out for the night."

"Not all the night, the night. Just as long as The Bronze was open the night. I thought you got that."

She reached out and turned off the taps. The pair left the shower and toweled off, then grabbed their robes and scampered into Buffy's room as soon as they were sure the coast was clear.

In her own room, Willow smiled. It was good to hear those two laughing.

* * * * *

The next morning, everybody met up at the Magic Box for another round of research. While Giles immediately threw himself into the work, Buffy found it difficult to concentrate. She couldn't stop her mind from thinking about the night before. And that morning when they had repeated the exercise in a somewhat quieter fashion. Each was still a little awkward with the body parts they were using, a bit hesitant about some things that wouldn't bother them if they were in their own bodies, but the lovemaking was still exceptional. It was warm, and tender, and wildly passionate.

But now that they sat at the tarot table with their friends, she kept waiting for Giles to make some sort of announcement about the change in their status. Either that or for Willow to blurt out something that would force them to blush and admit they were now lovers. Of course Giles made no such statement, and Willow seemed to have drunk deeply from the fountain of discretion. Nothing was said. A small part of Buffy began to panic that she'd dreamed the whole thing.

Suddenly, she felt something under the table around her ankle. She jumped slightly and peeked over to see Giles keeping a careful mask of indifference on his face. She felt the movement again. A smile spread across her face as she realized what was going on: Giles was playing footsies with her.

"Who gave you that happy, Buff?" Xander asked from across the table.

"Huh? H- happy?" Buffy stalled.

"That big ol' smile you had a minute ago. I thought maybe that Watcher whose diary you're reading might have something to do with it. Did he run across this beastie, too?"

"Oh, that. Um... no, *she* didn't. No joy."

"But you were smiling," Anya insisted.

"It was... something other. Not Watcher stuff."

"Oh yes it was," Xander teased. "Admit it, Buffy. It's Giles."

"What do you mean?"

She peeped at Giles who continued to bury his nose in a book, though she could see the color rising in his cheeks.

"Come on, Buff. We're all feeling it. It's like old times in the library. The circumstances may be pretty freaky, but it's great to have the old gang doing the Scooby thing just like we used to. Of course back then, Giles wouldn't have been caught dead in a skirt, and you would have staked yourself before you covered that much skin with clothes of any kind, but still... it feels good. Makes me wonder where we lost this. Having Giles back - even if he's being more Ruthie than Rupert... we're glad you're back, Big Guy. Buffy missed you, y'know."

"Yeah, I did," she agreed.

She smiled warmly at Giles. He looked up from his book and gave her a shy grin.

"Well, it's nice to be back," he agreed. "I missed all of you, as well."

Buffy ducked her head to cover her blushes when she felt Giles' foot against her own again. Nobody else noticed because they had returned to their research.

* * * * *

The day wore on much as the days before it had. The gang engaged in research that seemed to lead nowhere. Various members of the group came and went as they were required to be elsewhere. Even Tara arrived to help, since Willow had informed her of the situation the night before. At last Buffy couldn't sit still anymore and headed for the training room. She needed to work off the frustration in a physical way.

She was still pummeling the punching bag with everything she had when Tara walked into the room half an hour later. She stopped and smiled at her friend.

"Hey, Tara. Taking a break from bookishness?"

"I wanted to talk, if that's okay."

"Sure," Buffy said. She stilled the bag and began to unwrap her knuckles. "I could use a break anyway. Giles is in good shape, but he's not exactly the Slayer."

Tara went to sit on the couch as Buffy got herself a cup of water.

"So what did you want to talk about?" Buffy asked when the silence had stretched on for several seconds.

"How are you doing?" Tara asked. "Really?"

Buffy thought about the question.

"Really? That's hard to say. Frustrated, confused most of the time, mad at that stupid demon, but, at the same time, I can't think of when I've been happier. Having Giles back - even in this really weird way - is great. Tara, can I ask you something really crazy?"

"Hellmouth crazy, or Buffy crazy?" the witch grinned.

"Sorta both crazy."

"Good thing I brought chocolate, then," Tara observed. She pulled out a bar and broke it in two, handing half to Buffy. "Go ahead. Ask."

Buffy took the candy and nibbled at it in a distracted fashion. She paced the room, then returned to the couch and flopped down on it next to her friend.

"Do you think I could be gay?" she blurted out.

Tara blinked. This was not the question she'd been expecting from Buffy.

"Is there a reason you think you might be?"

Buffy stood and began to pace again.

"I don't know. But... it's complicated."

"Is this a Giles question?"

"What makes you ask that?"

"He's here and he's suddenly a girl. It seemed the likeliest reason you'd ask that. Besides, I saw Willow last night. She didn't say anything, but she was smiling way too much. Something happened between you and Giles, didn't it?"

"You could say that," Buffy blushed. "You could say that a lot."

"So you and he... made love?"

"And how."

"And you liked it."

"It was... incredible... like nothing I've ever felt before. But he's a girl, and I never thought I'd want to be with a girl - no offense, Tara, I'm totally okay with it for you... it's just... I'm saying this all wrong."

"I don't think there's a lot of right and wrong in this, Buffy. At least, not an objective kind. There's only what you feel. Do you love Giles?"

"I never knew how much before."

"Will you still love him when he's a man again?"

"He's Giles," Buffy replied simply. "I love him no matter what."

"And you don't have big, burning passion for, say... me or Willow or Anya or Jennifer Lopez?"

"Again, no offense, but not interested. Especially in JLo."

"Then I don't think you're gay, Buffy. You're just really and truly in love."

"That's a relief," Buffy breathed. "Not that... I'm sorry, Tara. Again, I don't have a problem with anyone who is gay... it's just..."

"It's just you want to enjoy the Gilesy goodness when he's back to being Giles again?"

"Something like that."

The two sat on the couch and ate their chocolate happily.

"This is way better," Buffy observed.

"Better?"

"Than the last time I told you I was sleeping with someone. No more tears this time. I like who I'm sleeping with and I like how we're sleeping together. Plus, chocolate. Definitely the superior confessional experience."

"I like it better, too. Happy Buffy is good. I've missed her."

"Speaking of missing... you and Will. What's the what?"

"There's talking. Some talking."

"I know. But is there anything else I should know about? Any looking or, say, touching?"

"Buffy!" Tara blushed despite her smile.

"Hey, I keep on telling you, when are you gonna tell me?"

"When there's something to tell."

"Tara, do you want a piece of advice from probably the single most screwed up source in the world?"

"I don't talk to my father anymore."

"Okay, second most screwed up. As in me."

"Buffy, you're not screwed up. What is it?"

"Am too. And it's this: I know Willow hurt you, and I totally understand why you're afraid to get back together with her. I would be, too. But she's better now. And you guys just seem... so right. I know she wants you back."

"So your advice is forget it and take her?"

"Not forget. Just try to forgive."

"As in 'love means never having to say you're sorry'?"

"No. As in sometimes love means forgiving the unforgivable. Like Giles and me."

"I - I want to. But I don't know if I can."

"Just think about it, will you? She tries not to say, but she's really hurting without you."

Before Tara could answer, the door opened and Xander stuck his head in.

"Guys, I think you need to come out here. We found something."

Buffy and Tara stood.

"What is it, Xand? Did Giles find a way to swap us back?"

"He's triple checking now, but he seems pretty excited. He completely forgot his tea in midsip."

"That's a good sign," Tara said as she squeezed Buffy's hand comfortingly.

* * * * *

Buffy took a deep breath and followed her friends out to the main room where Giles continued to read avidly. He moved from one volume to another with a surety that made Buffy's heart skip a beat. She hated to think that he might not be able to do what he loved best if they didn't find the answer to his eyesight problems.

The others held their breaths and waited for him to glance up from his research. At last he looked up and sought out Buffy's eyes. He smiled warmly.

"I've got it," he told her.

"What? What have you got?" she asked eagerly. She moved to sit next to him.

"I can't quite believe it myself. Here I've been reading and rereading these Watcher diaries for any information I can find, and the answer has been staring at me for two days at least. The first clue was in the diary of Augustus Greer, a Scotsman from Aberdeen with the most appalling handwriting. Anyway, he and his Slayer, Wilhelmina, met up with our fiend in 1856 in Bavaria..."

"Giles. I don't have time for War And Peace, here. Just tell me, already."

"Oh, yes, of course," he stammered. "Well, it seems from several accounts of meetings with the creature, that if the Slayer wasn't killed outright by the spell, it was reversed in a few days on its own. We don't have to do anything. Just wait it out for another day or so and we'll wake up in our own bodies."

"Just like that? No spells, no fuss, no muss?"

"Not even a bit of muss."

Buffy couldn't sit still. She stood and grabbed Giles into a bear hug. Giles glared as his feet dangled a foot off the ground.

"You're enjoying this entirely too much, you realize," he grumbled affectionately.

"Portable Giles. It's a good thing, on a temporary basis."

She held him tighter. After a moment of hesitation, he returned the embrace with enthusiasm. Willow and Tara grinned. Xander goggled. Anya returned to the register as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

"Okay, this is some sort of victory over the monster thing, right?" Xander asked. "Am I right?"

"No, Xander, as a matter of fact, you're quite wrong," Giles assured him as Buffy lowered him to the ground.

"So... you two are..." Xander gestured vaguely with his hands so as not to have to say the words.

"Breathe, Xand," Buffy advised. "And yes, we are."

"But you're not... not while..." again, Xander used a vague gesture to get his meaning across.

"I really think that's none of your business," Giles said firmly.

"Oh God. That means you are. While you're all backwards."

"I don't see what the problem is," Anya piped up helpfully. "You said you would if it happened to us."

A chorus of raised eyebrows met Xander. He giggled nervously, then turned on his fiancée.

"I said maybe, An. Maybe. Not the same thing as yes."

"Okay, hetero boy, we hear you," Buffy teased. "And we're still doing the one from column A, one from column B thing. We just switched columns is all. Shakespeare wrote a whole poem about it."

"Yes, well, I'm not entirely sure this was the situation he had in mind," Giles corrected her.

"I know, but it works. And hey, if the sonnet fits, I say wear it."

"Come on, Xander," Willow cajoled. "Tell them you're okay with this. You know you will be."

"On one condition," Xander said. He approached Buffy and Giles with a fierce look on his face. "You two are the best friends I have, along with Will. You have to promise never to break up, because I don't think I could ever choose sides, here. Besides, whichever one of you I didn't choose, could hurt me. So, is this a forever thing?"

Giles smiled up at Buffy as she answered for both.

"Yeah, Xand. It's a forever thing."

"Then in that case..."

Xander hugged Buffy tightly. When he finished he turned to Giles and hugged him, as well, lifting him off the ground.

"Whaddya know! Buffy's right. Portable Giles is a cool thing."

"Xander, I may be half your size right now, but I have Slayer strength."

Xander put Giles down. He gave a sheepish grin.

"Sorry, man. I just got carried away in all the good news."

Buffy gave Giles a hard look. He did his best to ignore it, but he found he couldn't. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. The others watched in consternation.

"There's some not so good news, too, isn't there?" Xander asked.

"You don't have to tell us now if you don't want," Willow assured Giles. "You could wait. Or not tell us at all if it's not our business."

"No, Buffy's right. If I'm to stay, you'll know pretty quickly anyway. You'd better all sit down."

Buffy gave his hand a reassuring squeeze as they all returned to their seats. He smiled tightly at her, but squeezed back gently.

A few minutes later, everybody was scanning books again. Willow sniffled as she read and the others all sent worried looks to Giles when they thought he wasn't looking. When Giles stood to get himself another cup of tea, Buffy followed him into the corner of the room.

"You okay?" she asked him quietly. "I know that was sort of rough, telling them."

Giles poured his tea and added the milk and sugar. Buffy could tell from the set of his shoulders that he was still uncomfortable after the confessions of the last half hour.

"I'm okay," he told Buffy at last. "Or I will be, at any rate."

"Liar. Come on. We need to talk."

Buffy ushered Giles into the training room. The Scoobies watched the couple until the door shut behind them. At last Willow gave in and burst into tears. Tara moved to take her hand.

"It's not fair," Willow declared brokenly. "This shouldn't have to happen to Giles. Not now, when he just got together with Buffy."

"When should it happen, then?" Anya asked tartly.

"An," Xander said, "I don't think that's what Willow means. And we're not gonna let this happen. Giles is gonna be okay. We'll find something."

It was left to Anya to bring up the question nobody wanted to answer.

"What if we don't? What if there isn't anything we can do? If Joyce died, Giles can go blind and we might not be able to stop it. What happens then? He can't be Buffy's Watcher if he can't see."

Tara took one look at the set of Willow's jaw and decided it was time to intervene.

"We'll think about that when the time comes, Anya. Right now, let's just assume there's something we can do and look for it. If there isn't, then we'll all look for ways to help Giles adjust. Willow, I think it might be helpful to check out some medical websites. Maybe there's a new treatment Giles' doctors just haven't heard about."

Willow pulled her laptop out and booted it up as Xander and Anya returned to their books. Tara moved to the counter.

"What are you doing?" Anya asked. "We're all working. Why aren't you reading?"

"Because I have a phone call to make."

"If it's long distance, you'll have to pay for it when the bill comes."

Tara rolled her eyes.

"Okay, Anya. I'll pay for it."

She turned to the phone and dialed.

* * * * *

Buffy sat on the couch and watched Giles prod at the punching bag with a contemplative finger.

"Was I wrong?" she finally asked. "Shouldn't I have said anything? Did I violate the guy code or something?"

"No, no, it's alright," he said in a distracted manner.

Buffy sighed.

"Okay, I obviously screwed up. Could you just tell me how so I don't do it again unless it really, really needs doing?"

Giles didn't answer this time. Buffy stood and moved to his side.

"I know you're not heavy into the sharing, and I know you don't want them to feel sorry for you, but it's not like they wouldn't notice after a while. This way they get to help us look for a cure. And if... if we can't find one..."

"Then Willow can cry every time she sees me and Xander can pull obstacles out of my path while I can still see them, and Anya can shout at me because she doesn't understand that blind and deaf are different things."

Buffy flinched at the bitterness in his tone.

"I'm sorry, Buffy," he sighed. "It really was the right thing to do, I know. It just makes things... so..."

"Real. Yeah, I know," she told him. "I took away your place where you could pretend things were okay, didn't I?"

"With the best of intentions, I know, but yes."

Without another word, Buffy took Giles in her arms and kissed the top of his head. She held him close, hoping that her arms could express what her words never seemed able to convey. From his answering embrace, she knew he'd accepted her apology, and offered one of his own. At her warm caress in return, he relaxed. At last, Buffy pulled back and led Giles to the couch. They sat very close and continued to hold one another.

"I wish I knew what was to be done," Giles said miserably.

"We'll figure it out. It's what we do."

"Now who's lying?"

"Come on, you know it's true. We'll find a way to fix your eyes and kill that stupid demon for making me know the humiliation of wearing your shoes."

"Hey!"

"Shh. I'm lying to you. And then we'll go away somewhere on a nice, long vacation where there's a beach for me and musty museums for you and a five star hotel with big soft beds for when we get together at night. And while we're gone, Faith will be taken out in a prison riot so a new Slayer will be called and sent to the Hellmouth. She'll be majorly kickass, but really dogly so I don't have to worry about her stealing my guy. Then the Council will send me a gold watch and I can retire and make pretty babies by the overflow method with you."

"Really? How many babies is that, precisely?"

"How many would you want it to be?"

"That many? You'll never see your feet again."

"Of course, you get all the diaper changing and butt wiping duties."

"Poor Junior will have to settle for being an only child."

"Thought you'd see it my way," she giggled as she cupped his cheek. "Everything will be great. Honest."

"I almost believe you."

Buffy bent down and kissed Giles softly.

"Whatever happens, it's you and me. Believe that."

"I'm beginning to."

A soft tap came at the door, followed almost immediately by Tara's head peeping into the room.

"Is it okay if I come in for a minute?"

"Sure, Tara. What's up? You guys find something already?"

"Maybe."

Giles blinked.

"That was fast. What have you discovered?"

"It's not so much a what as a who," Tara explained. "Mrs. Wilmot. She was a friend of my mother's, back home. She knows things. Healing things."

"A witch?" Buffy asked.

Tara shook her head quickly.

"An herbalist. She knows how to cure all sorts of things. And she knows a little magic, too. She helped me learn after my mother died, but mainly she knows herbs and things like that. Depending on the cause, she might be able to fix this."

"Why didn't this come up when my mom got sick?" Buffy wondered. "You all said magic and medicine don't go together. How is this different?"

"We don't know that it is yet," Tara answered. "She might not be able to do anything. She's never been able to cure a tumor with herbs, so I didn't even bring it up then. There were better things to try. Things that worked. This time, it may be the only option we have."

"And you think a pinch of tarragon will fix Giles' eyes?" Buffy asked skeptically. "I was thinking more there might be an operation or a pill. Or a chant. Chants work for some things."

Giles' hand moved to his nose to remove his glasses. He fluttered his fingers in frustration when he found, once again, they weren't there. He stood, ran his hand through his hair and began to pace.

"Of course!" he exclaimed. "I ought to have thought of this avenue of inquiry before."

"Sticking spices in your eyes? No offense, Tara, but I don't get how this is gonna work when medical science is baffled."

Giles returned to Buffy's side and gave her a bemused smile.

"I know this seems a bit strange, Buffy," he told her, "but some folk remedies have been found to have a solid medical basis. Not everything, of course, but a surprising number of the old poultices and mixtures can be quite effective when used properly. This just might work."

"Then we'll try it," Buffy said quietly. "If you think it can work, I think it can, too. And hey, if it doesn't cure you, maybe it'll be yummy on a salad."

"I rather doubt it; most of these concoctions taste quite foul," Giles said with a smile. He turned to Tara. "Can you get in touch with your friend?"

"I already did. She's on her way. She'll be here in a few hours."

"That fast?" Buffy asked. "How's she getting here? Magic carpet?"

Tara shook her head.

"Private jet. Her son made a killing in real estate in the eighties. Not a literal killing, though. Nobody died for real."

"It's sad we have to spell that out, isn't it?" Buffy mused.

* * * * *

That evening, while they awaited the arrival of Mrs. Wilmot, Buffy and Giles caught Dawn up on what had been going on. She took the news of her sister's new romance calmly.

"I knew that already," she said. "You guys have been sleeping together since Giles got here. It's about time you said something."

"We weren't..." Giles sputtered. Then his eyebrows raised and he gave a silent laugh. "Alright, we were, but not like that, Dawn."

"We only just figured it out last night," Buffy clarified. "So are you cool with it? Think you can stand to have Giles around a lot more?"

"You're not gonna go away again, are you?" Dawn asked.

"I'll have to for a short time, to tie up loose ends in England and get all the red tape cleared away so I can stay here legally, but after that, I intend to stay... indefinitely."

"So are you guys getting married or what?"

Buffy and Giles looked at one another, twin expressions of startled confusion on their faces.

"I - I don't know," Buffy said at last. "I hadn't really thought about it. What about you?"

"I... hadn't really thought about it either. Did you want to?"

"I dunno. You want to?"

"Well I suppose we could, if you like."

"But we don't have to," Buffy added hastily. "I mean, it's no big deal if we don't."

"No, no, I suppose it isn't. People do stay together without it, don't they?"

"Yeah. Like... okay, I can't think of anyone, but I know it happens. Not that there's anything wrong with getting married."

"Nothing wrong with it at all."

"Except when it doesn't work out. That can get ugly."

"Oh yes, very ugly, as you say."

"Like Mom and Dad. I don't want that to happen to us."

"So is that a yes or a no?"

"Did you ask yet?"

"I think I may have done."

"Um... okay."

"So that's a yes?"

"I think it was."

"Well, then, that's settled."

The pair hugged gently. Dawn rolled her eyes.

"If anyone ever asks you about the proposal, make something up," she recommended. "They'll never believe this."

* * * * *

Xander and Tara stood leaning against the wall at Sunnydale airport outside the area for passengers and personnel only. Just beyond the turnstile they could see a coffee bar, but there was no way to reach it. They had no idea how much longer they would have to stand there, waiting for Mrs. Wilmot to arrive. Rock, paper, scissors and thumb wrestling had long ago worn out their power to amuse. At last they had turned to reciting lines from movies and guessing the source.

"Um... laugh while you can, monkey boy," Tara said.

"The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. Duh!" Xander returned. "You can't go home again, but you can shop there."

"Was that your quote, or are you being extra Dada today?"

"In the words of Grandpa Simpson, a little from column a, a little from column b. Didn't you ever see Grosse Pointe Blank?"

"Wasn't that about a hit man?"

"No, it was about two hit men. And a girl. And Eighties rock. And the humiliation of high school reunions. Your turn."

"Okay... his recipe for duck a la banana goes with him to the grave."

"Now who's being Dada?"

"Didn't you ever see Four Weddings and a Funeral?"

"Please! As if! That's a chick flick, and I don't do chick flicks."

"What makes it a chick flick?"

"If it's got Hugh Grant in it, or there's a wedding in the title, that pretty much makes it wrong for a man to see it. Or if it stars Susan Sarandon."

"So The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a chick flick?"

"Ah, no. See, that's Susan Sarandon in her pre-Thelma and Louise period, so that's alright."

"So a movie about a man who can't understand marriage is a chick flick, but one about a mad scientist in women's underwear building a muscle man as his personal snugglebear is manly?"

Xander took a breath to answer, then paused.

"You've changed, Tara."

"I - I have?"

"It's not a bad thing. Actually, it's a good one. I like this Tara. You're confident now, but you're still nice. It's cool. Not that you weren't cool before, just... it's easier to get to know you now."

"Well, I think I learned a lot with you guys. It's hard to hang with the Scoobies and stay too shy."

"I think there's something about Buffy that brings out the inner exhibitionist. Okay, in my case, that didn't take much, but you should have seen Willow in the old days."

"Shy?"

"The shyest. Almost as shy as you used to be."

There didn't seem to be much to say to that, so Tara stayed quiet. The silence stretched out, but not uncomfortably. At last, Tara stood straighter and craned her neck. Xander followed suit, despite the fact that he didn't know what he was looking for.

"What is it, Tara?"

The girl grinned and pointed.

"There she is. Mrs. Wilmot." She waved wildly to her friend.

Xander peered in the direction Tara was waving. He started slightly.

He goggled at the woman. She was very short, and very nearly as wide as she was tall. Her thinning hair had obviously been dyed that vivid shade of red and was permed within an inch of its life. She was dressed in black polyester stretch pants and an oversized chambray shirt with the American flag sequined over the breast pocket. She strode firmly, her small, wheeled suitcase following obediently in her wake.

"That's your herbalist friend? Are you sure?"

Tara rolled her eyes and moved closer to the turnstile.

"Mrs. Wilmot!" she called. "Over here!"

The strange little woman smiled broadly when she saw Tara and hurried over, wheezing as she went. With her free hand, she was already opening her pocket to draw out a cigarette. Xander could now see nicotine-stained fingers and worried anew.

"How do, Miss McClay," the woman muttered around her cigarette as she pulled the girl into a bear hug. She pointed to Xander. "That your young man?"

"No, he's not."

"In fact, I'm marrying someone else entirely on Saturday," Xander hurried to explain. "I'm just a friend. Xander. Xander Harris."

Mrs. Wilmot shook her head.

"That's too bad, Tara honey. He's good looking. So, where's the patient?"

"We'll take you to him," Tara said. "Oh, and there's a slight complication I should probably tell you about, but not until we get to the car. People around here, they wouldn't understand."

"Can I take your suitcase?" Xander offered.

"Thank you kindly, but if it's all the same to you, I'll keep it myself," Mrs. Wilmot insisted. "I don't let nobody but nobody touch my medicine cabinet. Let's go, children. Time's a-wasting."

She marched out the door with Tara and Xander following behind. For a moment, Xander worried he'd be blinded when they got out the door and the sun hit the huge Old Glory sequined to the back of Mrs. Wilmot's shirt. He waved away a plume of smoke from her cigarette when she stopped to light up.

"I really hope she knows what she's doing," he muttered under his breath. "And what the hell is Giles gonna make of her?"

* * * * *

Buffy, Giles, Dawn, Willow and Anya sat in the living room nervously awaiting Mrs. Wilmot's arrival. Conversation was at a minimum among the group. Buffy kept an arm around Giles as much for her security as his. The fact that he leaned against her in front of their friends told her just how worried he was. If this didn't work, they knew there were few likely possibilities for a cure. Willow's research had turned up nothing in the conventional medical community.

When the kettle began to whistle, Willow headed for the kitchen to make some tea. Dawn followed saying something about getting out some cookies. A moment later, Dawn stuck her head into the room to ask Anya to help her. A few hand gestures and raised eyebrows later, Anya got the hint and left the room. Buffy smiled wryly after her.

"That was in no way unsubtle," she observed. "Those guys should never consider a career in spydom."

"Still, they meant well, one assumes."

"One knows. How're you doing? Really?"

"Really? I feel as if I might be sick."

Buffy smoothed his hair and held him a bit tighter - but not too tightly.

"Need a bucket?"

"If I need to, I imagine I'll be able to make it to the toilet."

They sat quietly for a moment. Buffy stroked his head the way she had always found comforting when her mother had done it for her. Giles felt his stomach settle a bit. He took a deep breath and pulled back.

"You gonna be okay now?" Buffy asked.

"I think I'll manage."

He squeezed her hand gratefully, then grimaced when Buffy winced.

"Sorry. I'm afraid I don't know my own strength."

"It's okay," she told him as she flexed her injured hand. "It takes getting used to. You've really done a pretty amazing job of not breaking stuff... most of the time."

Just then the door opened and Tara and Xander led Mrs. Wilmot into the room.

Buffy tried not to let her heart sink at the sight of the strange little woman, but lost the battle when Mrs. Wilmot lit up a cigarette and sat heavily in one of the armchairs.

"So you're her and she's you?" Mrs. Wilmot asked.

Buffy and Giles looked at one another, then at their visitor.

"Um... yeah, that's about it," Buffy replied. "Um... look, not to be all bossy, but... the smoking? We... don't have any ashtrays. Sorry."

"Oh don't worry about that, honey," Mrs. Wilmot said with a wave of her pudgy hand. She rooted around in a pocket of her suitcase and pulled out a small aluminum tray. "I always carry my own, just in case."

Buffy and Giles exchanged a worried look. They turned as one to Tara.

"Could we talk to you a minute?" Buffy asked. "Alone?"

"Um... sure."

"We'll be right back," Giles assured Mrs. Wilmot as he and Buffy ushered Tara out of the room.

When they got to the kitchen, Willow was just putting the teapot on the tray.

"So, Buffy? What do you think? Can she help?"

"We're not sure yet. Tara, I don't want to make you think we aren't grateful, but this woman... I have to ask..."

Tara smiled.

"She's a little off putting, I know, but she really knows a lot. If you just give her a chance, she can probably help."

Buffy looked to Giles.

"What do you want to do, Giles? They're your peepers. Think you can trust her with them?"

Giles leaned back against the counter and put his hands in his pockets. He frowned at the floor for a moment. At last he looked at Tara.

"Has Mrs. Wilmot ever dealt with anyone with my particular condition before?"

"Not exactly, but she helped people who were losing their sight from other things. She couldn't cure them all, but even the ones she couldn't save their sight entirely kept their vision a lot longer than the doctors expected. I think she can at least buy you some time."

"How much time?"

"I don't know. Maybe a few weeks. Maybe even a few months. Or she might be able to cure you entirely. I really don't know."

"Has she ever made things worse? I don't mean to be rude, but I have to ask."

"Not that I've ever seen or heard. She won't take cases she doesn't think she can help with."

Giles nodded and looked at the floor again.

"Since it would seem that this is my only option for the moment, I'll take it."

"Okay," Buffy nodded. "We try it. But I don't want a housefull of smoke. She takes her cigarettes outside."

* * * * *

The group returned to the living room as a nervous clump. Willow put the tray down on the coffee table and retreated to Tara's side. Anya sat on the arm of Xander's chair and Dawn took a spot on the floor next to them. Giles took a deep breath and moved to Mrs. Wilmot's chair with Buffy.

"I assume you'd like to perform an examination, Mrs. Wilmot?"

She shook her head emphatically.

"Not you, her," she said pointing at Buffy. "She's got your eyes, so she's the one I have to look at. Come here, girl."

Buffy looked nervously at Giles. He nodded encouragingly. She removed her glasses and knelt on the floor before Mrs. Wilmot. She was relived when Mrs. Wilmot stubbed out her cigarette, but tensed when the odd woman began to touch various spots on her face and throat with a look of intense concentration in her watery gray eyes. Giles put a comforting hand on Buffy's shoulder as he watched the proceedings anxiously.

The rest of the group instinctively leaned toward Buffy and took up similar protective positions with those nearest them. Every nerve in the room was taut.

At last Mrs. Wilmot nodded and settled back in her seat. She indicated she was finished. Buffy moved to the sofa and Giles sat beside her.

"You're getting headaches, aren't you?"

"Some," Buffy replied.

"Blurry vision?"

"Once in a while," she admitted. "Not much unless I read too long."

"And you do a lot of that, don't you?"

"The last couple days. Most of the time, I can resist the temptation to do brainy stuff, but Giles is research guy, so I know he did it a lot even when he wasn't here."

Mrs. Wilmot glared at Giles.

"You've done a lot of damage you didn't need to. Makes this harder to fix."

"Can you fix it?" Giles asked.

Buffy took his hand as they waited for the answer. Mrs. Wilmot contemplated the pair for a further moment in which Buffy thought she might need the bucket she'd so cavalierly offered to Giles earlier.

"Not a damn thing I can do until you both get back where you belong," Mrs. Wilmot answered at last. "I'll probably be able to do it then, but when your energy is this divided, it's tricky. I might blind you in one go, this way. How long until you unswitch?"

"Perhaps a day or two," Giles told her. "Can you stay that long?"

"Long as you've got a bed for me to sleep in and good coffee in the morning," she said with a laugh. "Nowhere I need to be most of the time. And I can watch my stories anywhere. Any of you watch Passions?"

* * * * *

Later that night, Buffy and Giles lay curled in one anothers' arms. Mrs. Wilmot had been given Willow's bed and Willow was camping out in Dawn's room in a sleeping bag. Buffy sighed and pulled Giles closer.

"Don't worry so, Buffy," Giles told her softly. "It'll be okay."

"But what if it's not?"

"It will be. It happens to every man once in a while."

"Great. I get to be the world's first impotent woman."

"You're not impotent, Buffy. You're merely distracted."

He leaned up and kissed her warmly. Buffy tried not to react, but couldn't resist kissing Giles back. When his lips parted, she took the invitation eagerly. They kissed and petted for long minutes. At last Giles pulled back and smiled at Buffy.

"Still feeling impotent?"

"You know exactly how impotent I'm not feeling, Giles. Wanna test drive it?"

"Can I be on top this time?"

"I think something could be arranged."

They giggled and went back to their caresses.

* * * * *

The morning sun streamed through the peach colored curtains. Out in the hall, Buffy could hear voices and movement. She pulled the covers more firmly over her head to block out all knowledge of the fact that day had dawned. She snuggled further into her pillow.

It was furry.

It wasn't furry when she went to sleep the night before.

It was also now fleshy and making a regular thumping sound under her ear.

Buffy sat up hurriedly. She looked down at Giles still asleep next to her. She greedily took in all the details of his rumpled brown hair and unshaven jaw. With a tiny, excited squeal, she decided to wake him up.

"Giles? Giles?" she whispered. No response. "Wake up, Giles. Sweetie? Rupert?"

He blinked at the sound. He tried repeatedly, but couldn't get his eyes to focus properly. A pair of glasses found their way into his hand and he put them on. He found his fiancée grinning down at him.

"Buffy...? The spell wore off in the night, then," he mused. "I must say, I like waking up to this particular vision," he added as he pulled Buffy close. "Have I ever told you how beautiful you are?"

"Nope. And I'm sure a guy with your impressive vocabulary can come up with lots and lots of words to tell me," she laughed. "Oh, and let me take this opportunity to tell you that I like waking up to a naked Watcher. You're all cute and rumpley in the morning."

"Cute and rumpley? Oh, and is your interest specific to the particular naked Watcher in your bed, or will any naked Watcher do?"

"Well, I can't imagine Wesley getting as rumpley as this, and pretty much every other Watcher I've ever met is either dead or a friend of Travers', so I guess I'm stuck with you."

Giles pulled Buffy down for a deep kiss. She reveled in the feel of his strong arms around her, his soft lips against hers, the sheer bulk of him. This felt right.

"I've decided something," she said when she finally pulled back. "It's good to be me."

"Not as good as it is to be me," Giles told her as he rolled them over. "Because if I'm me, I get to have you."

"Just so we're clear," Buffy said, "this having would consist of... what exactly?"

She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes and softly ruffled his chest hair with her fingertips. Giles groaned and kissed her again.

Soon their kisses and caresses had grown fevered. Each explored the other with a confidence they never had with any other lover. Each knew what the other wanted, what would please them best. By the time Giles was inside her, Buffy had already decided this was her best sexual experience of all time, and it was far from over. She moaned as Giles gave a firm thrust. Both stiffened when a knock came on the door.

"Buffy? Giles? Are you up yet?" came Dawn's voice.

"Um... yeah," Buffy managed as Giles dissolved into giggles against her neck.

"Hurry up. Tara's here and she's making pancakes."

"Tell her we'll come as soon as we can," Buffy said a bit breathlessly.

As soon as her sister's footsteps had retreated, Buffy wriggled against her lover.

"Better get a move on, big boy," she grinned.

"Hang on, then," he said, "and we'll be eating pancakes all too soon. Finesse will just have to wait."

With that he began to pump fiercely into Buffy. She gasped and held him as close as she could. They kissed to swallow their mutual cries of passion. Soon Buffy could feel the wild need for release growing in her. She could see the same need in Giles' face as he pounded harder than ever inside her. His hips moved even faster.

The fury hit them both at the same time. Buffy wondered at the sight of Giles, her cool, in control Giles, in the throes of orgasm. His flushed face and pounding heartbeat delighted her. His soft cries as he did his best not to let the rest of the house know what they were up to seemed the sexiest thing she'd ever heard. Even through the haze of her own climax she found his intoxicating.

At last, it was done. Giles stroked Buffy's cheek gently and smiled down at her. She closed her eyes and leaned into his caress.

"That was fantastic," he panted.

"And no breakage this time," she grinned back. "Come on, we'd better hit the showers and go eat breakfast."

She gave him one last, lingering kiss before he rolled off her and dealt with the condom.

"At least this answers one question," Buffy said as she chose clothes for the day.

"What's that?"

"The hot sex wasn't all about the switch. This bodes well for married life."

* * * * *

During breakfast it became clear that, hard as they'd tried to be discreet, everybody knew exactly what Buffy and Giles had been up to. Between the merry giggles Willow and Dawn shared, the disapproving sniffs of Mrs. Wilmot, and Tara's gentle, sympathetic smiles, they felt a bit awkward. All in all, they were relieved when breakfast was done.

Buffy moved to clear the table, but Tara stopped her.

"I have a clean up crew already," she said. "I think Mrs. Wilmot will be able to do something for Giles today. You should be with him."

Buffy turned at a sound behind her only to see Dawn clearing plates while Willow filled the sink with hot, soapy water.

"Thanks guys," she breathed in relief. "I really do want to be with Giles today. Sort of hold his hand."

"Or maybe other body parts I don't want to think about Giles having," Dawn piped up.

"In front of Mrs. Wilmot?" Buffy replied with a withering glare. "Eeiw. Willow, you have the soap. Feel free to wash my sister's mouth out."

She turned on her heel and went into the back yard where Mrs. Wilmot had already dragged Giles for another consultation. Buffy moved to Giles' side and took his hand. He smiled tightly and gave her hand a slight squeeze in return.

Mrs. Wilmot, in the meantime, muttered to herself as she scanned a tattered notebook and organized jars of herbs. Buffy and Giles watched her nervously. At last, Buffy couldn't take the not knowing anymore.

"Find anything?" she asked.

The old woman grunted and nodded, but said nothing. Buffy waited as patiently as she knew how, but had to ask another question when several more minutes had passed without further information.

"What is it? Is it gonna work?"

"Not much of a one for waiting, is she?" Mrs. Wilmot asked Giles. "That's the trouble with young folks now. Rush, rush, rush. Can't be bothered to take their time over anything. Instant gratification, that's what they're after. Well, Missy, this takes as long as it takes and your questions only make it take longer."

Giles pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes.

"I'd like an answer to Buffy's question, myself," he said in a dangerous tone.

Mrs. Wilmot met his eye with amusement.

"So there's a backbone in there, after all. I was beginning to wonder. Yes, I've got something. It'll take a couple hours to prepare. Why don't you take your girl somewhere else for a while? But no caffeine for the next two hours."

"Will it mess up the cure?" Buffy asked.

"Nah. It's just bad for you."

* * * * *

Buffy couldn't believe she was strolling down the street with her honey on a sunny day. It had been a long time since she'd done that. She'd forgotten how good - how normal - it felt. So there'd been a few odd looks from the passers by and a couple comments about cradle robbers and gold diggers that Buffy wouldn't have heard without her enhanced Slayer hearing, but there'd been some approving and even jealous looks as well. On balance, Buffy decided to exert her famous powers of denial to deal with anyone who didn't like her choice of partner. If she was happy, and he was happy, what did it matter what anyone else thought? She slipped her arm around Giles' elbow and leaned closer to him.

"So where're we going?" she asked at last.

"Somewhere I think you'll like."

"Cryptic guy," Buffy grumbled. "Can you give me a hint? Is it bigger than a breadbox?"

"Yes."

"Yes which?"

"Yes, it's bigger than a breadbox. And yes, that is your hint."

"Are we getting anywhere near it?"

"You're really not much of a one for waiting, are you?" he teased. "It's not far. We'll be there soon."

Buffy tried to glare at him, but Giles looked so happy, even boyish, she couldn't help smiling instead.

"You're lucky I love you so much," she informed him, "'cause you're about the biggest pain in the butt I've ever met."

Giles just grinned at her and led her into Weatherly Park.

"Okay, I know this place already," Buffy said impatiently. "Killed about a zillion nasties here, caught that aspect of the demon, found Hansel and Gretel. This place has sort of lost its charm for me."

"Trust me, Buffy, there's something you'll like a bit further on."

"I've been over this whole park I don't know how many times on patrol. There's nothing here I haven't seen."

Giles just took her hand and walked faster until Buffy almost had to trot to keep up with him.

"It's just over here," Giles told her when they reached a row of trees near the back of the park.

"I've seen these trees, Giles. Pretty standard tree-like things. Bark, leaves that fall off in the aptly named Fall, an occasional bit of sap in the spring. Trees. Nothing special."

"Not the trees, Buffy. Behind them."

Giles parted some low-hanging branches and indicated to Buffy that she should step through them. She did, though she raised her eyebrows at Giles as she followed his instructions.

Once through the line of trees, though, her eyes went wide at the sight before her. There was a tiny clearing surrounded by the trees that everyone else thought marked the edge of the park. In this small place, wildflowers bloomed in abundance. Everywhere she looked, Buffy saw more flowers.

"When did this get here?" she asked.

"I can't tell you that," Giles said, "but I found it shortly after you and Willow went off to college. I had a lot of time to myself, then, and I went wandering one day. I was feeling a bit lonely and sorry for myself, so I just went wherever my feet took me, as it were. The next thing I knew, I was at the back of Weatherly Park, and I saw a flash of something behind one of the trees. When I went to investigate, I found myself surrounded by poppies. It all looked so cheerful..."

"It made you feel better?" Buffy guessed. "When we were staying away in droves?"

"Actually, that first time, if anything, it made me feel worse. I was a bit offended that anything dared to look so bright and happy when I wasn't. But after a time, I found myself wanting to come back. It became something of a ritual to come here about once a week and just daydream for a while."

"What did you dream about?" Buffy asked as she wrapped her arms around Giles' waist.

"Any number of things. What I might have done with my life if I hadn't been born a Watcher, changes I would make if I was head of the Council, how good it would feel to hold you and kiss you... and how satisfying it would be to turn you over my knee and give you a good spanking. I thought about chucking it all and going back to England. And I wished with all my heart that we were back in the library at Sunnydale High. Silly, really. One can't turn back the clock."

"If you could, would you do it?" Buffy asked curiously.

Giles looked down at Buffy. He drank in her sweet face filled with both affection and concern. He smiled and shook his head.

"No," he answered, "I don't believe I would."

"But if we went back, maybe I wouldn't do so many stupid things that hurt you."

"There were mistakes enough on both sides, Buffy. And most of yours were a result of having a great deal of growing up to do. I had some of that to do as well."

"Giles, you're grown up. You've been grown up as long as I've known you. You were grown up way before you came here."

"In some ways," he said. "In others... I feel as if I put that on hold along with my studies when I was twenty one. Of course, I went back to Oxford. But for the rest... I'm not entirely sure I ever picked that up again until I came to Sunnydale. In some ways I feel as if I've been growing up alongside you."

"Is that why you did it?" she asked, her hand rubbing involuntarily across his left forearm. "Because you decided you were too grown up for Eyghon now?"

"What...? Oh, that! It was silly, really. I just looked at it one day and it hurt too damn much. I thought of you and I thought of... of Jenny, and how much both of you were harmed by it. How I'd lost you both before I'd ever really had you. I just couldn't bear to look at it again."

"You still miss her, don't you?"

"Don't you miss Angel?"

"Yeah. Sometimes." She snuggled closer to his chest. "And sometimes not. Right now, I'm really not. But it's okay if you are. Missing her, that is. I don't think you miss Angel all that often."

"Not that often," he admitted as he wrapped his arms tighter around Buffy. "And this is most definitely not one of those times."

* * * * *

Willow and Tara both decided to skip classes so they could watch over Giles' cure. Dawn complained when she was told she had to go to school anyway, but she did finally go. About an hour after her departure, the doorbell rang and Willow found Xander and Anya on the doorstep.

"Don't you guys have to work?" Willow asked as she ushered them in.

"I tried," Xander said. "But after the fifth time I hammered my thumb instead of the nail I was aiming for, the boss sent me home to sleep it off."

"Couldn't concentrate, huh?" Willow smiled wryly.

"That's a much better way of putting it than the one Carlos came up with. You don't even want to know what that was."

"Construction workers can be very crude," Anya supplied helpfully. "They often ridicule their co-workers' sexuality."

"What about the Magic Box?" Tara asked, as much to change the subject as to learn the answer.

"Oh, that," Anya said with a wave of her hand. "It's closed for illness in the family. Giles is family. He's ill."

She glowered fiercely, daring anyone to argue the point. Nobody did.

The four went into the dining room and sat around the table. After a moment, Tara got up to make tea for those who wanted it. By mutual unspoken consent, they stayed away from the topic on all their minds. The conversation flitted from one inconsequential matter to another.

"This is silly," Anya said at last. "None of us is saying what we want to. We're all worried about Giles, but nobody will come out and talk about it. I want to talk about it. I need to talk about it. I feel bad. Like I might throw up."

"I know," Xander told her, "We all feel like that, An. That's why we're not talking about it. So we don't feel quite so barfy."

"That's stupid. Not talking about things doesn't make them go away."

"Talking about them doesn't do that either," he reminded her.

"No," Tara agreed, "it doesn't make them go away. But sometimes it helps anyway. What did you want to say, Anya?"

The former demon looked around the table a bit sheepishly.

"That I felt bad. I said that already. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't the only one."

"You're really not," Willow said. "I feel all tumbley in my tummy, too."

"Good."

The others shared bemused looks. They understood what Anya meant, even if she did phrase it badly.

The door opened and every head turned to watch Buffy and Giles file through it into the house.

"What are all of you doing here?" Giles asked.

"Circling the wagons," Xander told him. "We wanted to be here for you, big guy."

Anya launched herself across the room and pinned Giles' arms to his sides with a fierce bear hug.

"Yes... well... thank you all," Giles said as he carefully extracted himself from Anya's embrace. "But I can manage if you have other things to do - as I'm sure you all do. There's really no need to stay."

"It's gonna be pretty boring from what Mrs. Wilmot said, anyway," Buffy added. "And you know what they say: a watched poultice never heals."

"Who says that?" Willow asked.

"They... do. People who do say that."

Tara got the hint.

"In that case, why don't we go get some lunch and come back later?" she suggested. "We could have a pizza party tonight in honor of Giles' recovery."

"What if he doesn't recover?" Anya asked.

"We'll see you later. I'll bring the pizza and the beer," Xander volunteered as he steered his tactless love out the door. Tara and Willow followed in their wake. Soon the house was empty except for Buffy and Giles. Giles heaved a sigh of relief.

"Thank you for that," he said to Buffy.

"I know you wanted to be fuss-free, but you'll have to get used to it if you're staying. They're pretty crazy about you, y'know."

"I'd forgotten how... intense they can be."

"I'm not going anywhere," Buffy told him in no uncertain terms.

"Buffy..." he began.

"Uh uh. No way. Honestly, Giles, you're just like a cat sometimes."

"A cat?"

"When I was a little girl, we had a pet cat once. Every time it got sick, it disappeared and my dad would have to drag it out from under the bed or something to take it to the vet. This one time, it vanished into thin air and we didn't find it for a week. That was when the stink started coming from under the house. Mom never let me have another pet. If I let you, you'd duck out of this and disappear, wouldn't you?"

"I would not!" he protested. When she raised an eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest, he caved. "I might think about it, but I wouldn't do it. You'd find me and hurt me and make me do this anyway."

"Scratch the hurting part. I think I've done enough of that already. But the finding and making, definitely."

"All right. Lead me to my doom," he joked dryly.

Together they went into the back yard to find Mrs. Wilmot. The lady in question was mixing herbs rapidly and muttering to herself. When she saw Giles, she took a deep puff on her cigarette and smiled.

"Almost ready," she told him. "Now, Buffy, you spread out some old newspapers around that lounge chair. Mr. Giles, take your shirt off."

"I - I beg your pardon?"

"Go on, honey, you ain't got nothing I haven't seen before. I been married. Go on, this gets a little messy. You don't want to ruin that shirt."

Buffy and Giles shared a long, nervous look. At last, they both gave a mental shrug. There wasn't a lot of choice. Buffy began strewing newspapers around the chair and Giles unbuttoned his shirt.

Within minutes, Giles was ensconced, topless, in the lounge chair with a nearly scalding poultice over his eyes. As Mrs. Wilmot had predicted, glops of the rank herbal mess seeped from the cloth they'd been bound in, dripping onto the chair and down Giles cheeks. At first, Buffy did her best to keep the rivulets of herb juice from running down his throat to his shoulders, but even she had to give up after a while. She finally draped an old towel across his shoulders to soak up the mess as it fell.

Later, she could just throw the towel away. She was sure she'd never get the smell out in the laundry.

In the meantime, she stayed with Giles, holding his hand and talking to him.

Every half hour, Mrs. Wilmot removed the poultice and replaced it with a fresh one.

The day dragged on tediously. Giles did his best not to get snappish, but that was difficult between the smell, the wretched heat across his face, the growing chill across his towel-draped chest, the enforced immobility and the complete deprivation of his sight. He held onto Buffy's hand as if it was an anchor, keeping him from floating off his emotional moorings.

Buffy talked of everything she could think of until she was hoarse from the exercise. She stroked Giles' hair and held on tightly to his hand. All she wanted to do was to find something to hit - or at least scream at - but she knew Giles needed her to be strong and adult. She could hit something later. Or maybe Giles would need some help in the shower after this.

That was something to hang onto in her mind.

Eventually Dawn returned from school. She offered to relieve her sister from Gileswatch duty, but Buffy would have none of it.

"You need a break, Buffy," Giles told her. "You've been at this so long you're making my throat sore when you speak."

Buffy shook her head stubbornly.

"Not moving," she croaked. "Not shutting up, either. Dawn can get me a drink and we can take turns talking to you, but I'm not leaving. I'm staying right here with you."

Just then, Mrs. Wilmot puffed her way out of the kitchen and handed Buffy a mug.

"Drink up, dearie. It's lemon tea with honey for your throat. You'll sound better when you've had that. Probably feel better, too," she said kindly.

Buffy took the mug with a grateful smile. Maybe Mrs. Wilmot had some redeeming features after all.

"Thanks. Now I don't have to go at all."

"Just drink it, Buffy," Dawn told her. "You sound like a frog."

"A frog who can ground you for life."

"Did I say a frog? I meant a supermodel."

The sisters smiled at one another. Dawn took up talking, telling Giles about her day at school. Buffy sipped her tea but never let go of Giles' hand.

It was nearly nightfall when Mrs. Wilmot removed the final poultice and told Giles the treatment was over for the day.

"Just for the day?" Buffy squeaked. "Isn't it done for... ever?"

"We'll see," Mrs. Wilmot said. "But he probably needs another couple treatments and then a little follow up down the road. It took a long time to get things to this point, it'll take a while to fix completely. Don't you fret. He'll be good as new in a short time - if this today did any good at all."

Giles toweled the remaining gunk off his face silently. He reached for his glasses and his discarded shirt. He put his glasses on and took them off several times, changing his focus from things as close as his hand to as far as could be seen from the garden.

Buffy and Dawn watched nervously from the sidelines. Mrs. Wilmot lit up yet another cigarette. Buffy fumed at the thought that she could be so unconcerned with how her cure had worked. She watched as Giles blinked one last time and shook his head. At last, he placed his glasses firmly on his nose and turned toward Buffy.

"I'd best shower before the others get here," he said quietly.

Buffy moved to his side and put her hand on his arm. She looked up at him with large, worried eyes. His demeanor didn't seem right if he was any better.

"Are you okay? Didn't it do anything?"

He smiled down at her softly.

"I think we may just have something to celebrate after all," he told her.

Buffy launched herself into his arms and squeezed as tightly as she dared without hurting his ribs.

"Don't ever scare me like that again, you creep!" she admonished him. A moment later, she pulled back and made a wry face. "Okay, into the shower with you, pronto. You smell gross."

She dragged him into the house, both grinning widely. Dawn followed, almost dancing in her excitement. Mrs. Wilmot shook her head and laughed under her breath at the comical display. Then she set about cleaning up. This was what she had set up as a healer to do. She took a satisfying drag on her cigarette and looked up at the darkening sky.

"Did you see that, Abel? Another couple like that and maybe I'll be found worthy to see you in the hereafter. Just you wait for me, hear?"

* * * * *

That night passed merrily with the Scoobies. Everybody ate too much pizza - including Buffy who found herself remarkably hungry on her return to her own body. She limited herself to only one beer, however. The Slayer metabolism that allowed her to keep trim on a high calorie diet and to heal at astonishing speed had the unfortunate side effect of lowering her resistance to alcohol. Still, she had plenty to be thankful for, she decided. She was alive and well and herself again, Giles was home with her and his eyesight had already improved, Dawn was rapidly losing the angry, slightly desperate edge that had been her trademark for so long, and Willow and Tara were talking again. She began to wonder how she had gone so long without appreciating the miracles around her.

Giles smiled warmly at her. He reached over with a napkin to wipe a stray bit of cheese from the side of her lip as she leaned in to steal a kiss. Xander made a rude sound and told them to get a room.

"Xand!" Willow admonished him.

"What? I'm kidding," Xander said. "You know me, I kid. So, Buffy, Giles, when's the wedding?" he joked.

"As soon as I get my affairs in England settled," Giles informed the room calmly. "That is, unless Buffy wants to wait."

"Why wait?" Buffy asked. "We're not getting any younger. I say let's do this thing."

The Scoobies stared with their mouths open, except for Dawn who grinned wider than the Cheshire Cat. Even Mrs. Wilmot looked surprised.

At last Willow gave a shriek of joy.

"Really? No way, you guys are really gonna do it? Get married?"

"Sure are, oh maid of honor," Buffy grinned.

Xander continued to stare, shellshocked.

"You guys aren't kidding, are you?" he asked at last.

"We're not kidding," Giles confirmed.

"And it's really gonna be as soon as you can do it?"

"Yup," Buffy agreed. "Are you gonna be cool with this?"

A dangerous grin spread across Xander's face.

"Can I plan the bachelor's party?"

Buffy and Giles looked dubiously at one another. A few changes of expression later, Giles turned to Xander.

"You may plan the bachelor's party - so long as you keep it within reason,"

"What's within reason?"

"No hookers, no strippers, no cigars, and minimum booze," Buffy ordered.

"That sounds quite reasonable," Anya agreed.

"Excuse me, but I believe this is my bachelor's party we're planning," Giles objected. "I agree to no strippers, hookers, or cigars, since I don't want any of those, but I reserve the right to get stinking drunk if I so desire."

"Darn tootin'!" Xander added.

Buffy glared at Giles, signaling her disapproval. Giles returned her look with a raised eyebrow and pursed lips. At last Buffy backed down with a grudging look.

"Okay, okay, you can drink like a fish if you want," Buffy agreed. "And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to kill things and make the world safe for humanity. Coming, Giles?"

"Of course," he replied.

As soon as the two were out the door, the rest of the Scoobies huddled closer together. They had wedding night pranks to plan. They were all amazed at how fiendish Mrs. Wilmot could be.

* * * * *

It was a quiet night on patrol. Buffy and Giles had wandered through four graveyards without encountering a single vampire, demon, or necking couple. They decided to take a turn through Weatherly Park before returning home.

That was when their luck changed.

A woman, huddled in terror, was being pinned against a picnic table by a scaly demon. Buffy recognized it immediately as the one who had zapped her and Giles a few nights before. The beast had its back to them. Buffy gestured to Giles that he should move left while she took the right flank. Giles drew a sword silently from its sheath. He nodded to Buffy. She moved boldly into the creature's line of vision.

"Hey! Scaly!" she called. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"

The demon unfolded to its full height. It stood nearly seven feet tall. It hissed and extended a claw at Buffy. She rolled swiftly, barely managing to duck the bolt of magic that spat forth from the beasts' claw. Before the creature could regroup, Giles had swung his sword in a wide arc. The blade sliced cleanly through the demon's neck and sent its head tumbling to the ground. A moment later, the rest of the body followed with a loud thump.

"Huh," Buffy said. "I guess the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

She and Giles turned their attention to the terrified woman at the table.

"Are you alright?" Giles asked.

"I - I think so," the woman said. "What was that?"

Buffy and Giles looked at one another. At last, Buffy spoke.

"A... stunt man. We're rehearsing for a new independent horror film, called...uh..."

"Sunnydale Swamp Creatures," Giles supplied with an ingratiating smile.

"Well... we'd better make sure Fred here is okay," Buffy added. "What with the... stunt and all. We'll take it from here. You don't have to stay."

The woman backed off slowly, then turned and broke into a run. As soon as she was gone, Giles turned to Buffy.

"An independent horror film?"

"It wasn't so bad until you came out with that lame title."

"Well what did you expect? I thought I did pretty well for the spur of the moment."

Buffy shook her head.

"You are so out of excuse practice. How are you on grave digging detail?"

"I beheaded it. I rather think it's your job to bury the damn thing."

"Hey, I was decoy. That should earn hazard pay."

The pair bickered amicably as they disposed of the defunct demon.

* * * * *

The next couple of months passed in a whirl for Buffy. Xander and Anya were married successfully, despite the attempt of a demon to ruin their big day. Giles' treatments continued daily for a week, after which Tara was taught how to make the poultices and told to administer them once a week until Giles' eyesight was fully restored. The regimen was so successful that soon Giles only needed glasses when he was reading. He and Buffy were both pleased with the result; Buffy because she got to see Giles' eyes more fully more often, and Giles because, while he appreciated the clear vision tremendously, he never quite knew what to do with his hands if he didn't have glasses to use as a prop.

Within a few weeks, Willow and Tara began to date again. Everyone had high hopes that this time they could make it work.

Mrs. Wilmot returned home, but promised to come back for Buffy and Giles' wedding. Despite the rocky start they'd all gotten off to, everyone was sorry to see her go.

Spike showed up sporadically for a few weeks, but once he was certain Buffy was serious in her refusal to see him, he disappeared. Rumor had it that he was on his way to Prague and that Drusilla had been sighted there. Buffy wasn't sure whether to hope Spike found her or not.

Buffy spent a week in abject misery when Giles had to go back to England to make suitable arrangements for his permanent return to Sunnydale. Since he was to go back as her Watcher, the Council did all in their considerable power to speed things along. What ought to have taken several weeks, was accomplished in one.

When Giles came home, he and Buffy spent a whirlwind two weeks organizing their wedding. The affair was kept quite small; virtually Scooby only. The honeymoon destination was kept secret from even the best man - Xander, and the maid of honor - Willow. The honeymoon suite was prank free.

* * * * *

Quentin Travers sat at his desk going through his morning mail. He methodically dealt with Council business from all over the world. One query after another was answered. One dispatch after another read. At last there was only one piece of mail unopened: a small package from Sunnydale. Travers wondered what on earth Giles could have sent him.

Remembering his reception the last time he was in Sunnydale, he considered asking the bomb squad to take a look at it.

At last, he gingerly opened the package himself. Inside was a smaller box, an envelope, and something wrapped in bright pink tissue. He decided to start with the box.

Inside that was a small slice of cake, such as might be served at a wedding. Travers wondered at the meaning. He opened the tissue-wrapped package.

Inside that was a small silver picture frame. Inside the frame was a photograph of the Slayer and her Watcher in formalwear looking entirely too affectionate.

Travers turned to the envelope, hoping against hope that it wouldn't be what he thought it was.

It was what he feared.

A wedding announcement for Buffy and Rupert Giles who had been married a week ago.

A personal note had been added to the bottom of the card.

Quentin (it read),

We couldn't have done this without you. Thank you for all your help.

RG

ps: Buffy sends her usual regards.


The color drained from Travers' face. In the entire history of the Watcher's Council, a Watcher had never openly married his Slayer.

He poured himself a stiff drink.

* * * * *

Buffy lay in bed drawing lazy circles on her husband's bare chest.

"I wish we could stay here another day or two," she sighed. "This has been of the blissful."

Giles pressed a light kiss to her forehead.

"I wish we could stay here forever, but we can't."

"I know. Lots of responsibilities to resume. And I'm ready to resume them. Besides, I start my new job next week, remember?"

"My wife, the aerobics instructor. Are you going to play that appalling noise you call music for classes?"

"Anyone who actually owns Bay City Roller albums does not get the right to criticize my taste in music."

"We still have a few hours of honeymoon left. Are we really going to spend them arguing about music?"

Buffy shrugged.

"That or something else... unless you have any better ideas...?"

Giles growled and rolled atop Buffy. She shrieked with laughter.

Moments later, the room was filled with the sound of Buffy squeaking.

END