Surrendering To Fate
Chapter Six - Island Paradise

written by Jolene Beasley




The telephone rang at the Summers/Giles residence at just after one am.

"Hello?"

"Hello, Buffy. Are you still awake?"

"Oh, hey, Giles. Yeah, me'n Willow are watching TV. How did the flight go? I kept expecting you to call and say you'd ended up in Cleveland."

"We're fine, the luggage actually arrived with us, miraculously enough. We' ve just gotten settled in."

"So, what's it like? Hawaii, I mean," she added hastily.

"Much the same as California, it would seem. Of course, it's quite dark here, so I could be mistaken."

"Oh, yeah, you haven't had time for the sightseeing thing, yet, have you?"

"Not really, unless you count the drive from the airport. Ah, your mother wants to talk to you."

"Buffy? Everything okay, honey?" Joyce's warm voice made Buffy smile. She sounded pretty happy.

"Hi, Mom. We're cool here. Aunt Rose is staying for a couple of days, and we 're gonna hang out."

"That's wonderful, honey. Aunt Rose can keep you in line, I'll just bet."

"Hey, *I'm* not gonna tangle with Super-Lucky-Watcher-Head-Honcho-Lady. I'm not stupid."

"Good."

"Sooooo... is the room nice?"

"Very nice. Very plush. And we can see the beach from here."

"Cool. Make sure Giles gets a tan."

Joyce laughed. "I'll do my best. Well, it's late, and we're tired, so..."

"Yeah, you're just wantin' to get to the good stuff. It's okay, I understand. In an *ick* sorta way."

Joyce chuckled at her daughter's innuendo. "Good night, you nutty kid."

"'Night, Mom. Tell Giles good night, too, for me."

"Okay. Love you, honey."

"Love you, Mom. Bye."

Willow leaned over the back of the couch and popped a handful of popcorn in her mouth. Around the crunching, she managed to say, "Everything cool on the island paradise?"

Buffy smirked and grabbed some popcorn for herself. "Paradise-ical, as far as I could tell. But I don't think they've done it yet...they don't have that afterglow-y mellow mushy sound to their voices."

Willow's eyes grew big and she almost spit out her partially chewed snack. "*BUFFY!* You are so terrible! I can't believe you're talking like that about Giles! And your *Mother!*"

Buffy plopped back down onto the sofa with a silly grin on her face. "They' re way too much fun to tease, Will. Just like you."

* * * * *

Joyce shook her head as she hung up the phone. "That child. She loves driving me crazy."

"She loves driving both of us crazy. I've grown quite fond of her incessant teasing." He sat down on the bed beside her and buried his face in her hair, his arms holding her close. "And of her incredibly beautiful mother, as well."

"Sweet talker." She shifted slightly and raised her legs into his lap. He slid a hand around them, holding them securely in place.

"I intend to do much more than talk sweetly tonight." He began kissing her neck, nosing the hair aside to reach that sensitive spot behind her ear.

She gasped as he found it. "Ahhh... you mean, this morning... oh, Rupert, yeah... uh, I thought... you'd be wasted from your, uh, late night with your tavern-lovin' buddies..." She moaned softly and grabbed his shoulders as he lowered her to the bed, still licking and nipping her neck.

"I'm tougher than I look, love. And, I got plenty of sleep the night before, remember, even if you did your inebriated best to interrupt it." His voice, slightly muffled, vibrated against her skin, raising pleasurable goosebumps all over her body.

She replied with a moan as his hands began to follow the goosebumps. He started to untie the belt on her plain white terrycloth robe--the one he had grown so fond of--then stopped with a questioning look.

"Are you wearing one of those... interesting outfits that you described to me over the telephone?"

"Uh huh."

"Lovely... which one?"

"Find out for yourself, tough guy."

"I fully intend to." He resumed his exploration, and growled in appreciation as he caught sight of the ivory teddy she was wearing.

"If you don't like it, I brought the rest, just in case."

"Oh, I like it... I like it... but, how shall I know which one I would like best, since I have no basis for comparison?"

She hummed contentedly. "I guess I'll just have to model them all for you."

* * * * *

Joyce drifted back to consciousness wondering why she couldn't move her arm. A slight move of her head brought her cheek in contact with a tousled head of hair, and she relaxed, smiling with happy contentment. She wiggled her fingers carefully. They weren't asleep, and they still worked just fine. She opened her eyes just enough to surmise that it was far past dawn.

She knew she'd had enough sleep, but she was loath to move from this deliciously comfortable spot. Giles had his arm thrown over her waist, his head buried in her shoulder, his steady breathing ruffling her hair. Somehow he'd managed to get into a position that didn't put pressure on the arm underneath him. He was courteous, even in his sleep. She could have slipped her arm out with a minimum of effort, but she decided she didn't want to. She felt a bit sore from their rather energetic lovemaking, but it was nothing that a good stretch and a walk after breakfast--lunch, to be correct--wouldn't cure.

Her eyes roamed over the lovely male body lying beside her. So strong, yet so gentle, her Rupert always amazed her by maintaining that delicate balance. She'd seen him fight creatures that would make short work of an ordinary man, and yet... the man knew how to make a woman feel loved and cherished.

He murmured something, sounding happily groggy. She tangled her free hand in his hair, noticing the tropical humidity had caused it to curl even more than usual. He moved towards the touch instinctively and purred, the sound vibrating against her skin. She stroked his head until his eyes fluttered open and he was able to say, "Good morning, my love."

"Morning. Or maybe afternoon, I can't tell for sure."

He raised his head to look behind her at the clock on the night stand. "Afternoon. It's quarter past twelve. Merely the first blush of the day."

She laughed softly. "No, I think the first blush of the day occurred about one o'clock this morning, when you discovered Victoria's real secret."

"Yes, well, I--I've never seen crotchless panties before, not even in London during my 'wild youth.'"

"You got over your shock quickly enough."

"Yes. I'm an adaptable sort."

"Yes, you are." She pressed kisses along his forehead and cheek, and gave the tip of his nose a quick peck for good measure. "Very adaptable. Very adorable. I love you, did you know that?"

"I was beginning to suspect. And I love you." He changed position carefully, sitting up with their pillows behind him and allowing her to rest her head against him for a change. "Lord, I'm stiff. You'd think after all the exercise I get keeping up with Buffy I'd forego all that 'morning after' rot."

"I could make several remarks after that straight line, but I'll pass."

"I thank you for your restraint." He closed his eyes and reveled in the feel of warm, happy woman against him. "I've exercised muscles that have seen little use in the past few years. I suppose I should begin a training regimen of sorts, to get into proper shape."

"That's the whole point behind a honeymoon. Training."

It was his turn to laugh. He hugged her tightly, loving her wicked sense of humor. Suddenly his stomach growled, reminding him that their last meal was well over twelve hours ago. He chuckled and asked, "You hungry, love?"

"Starved. And you're obviously 'a bit peckish' yourself."

"What say we call room service, and do a properly decadent brunch on the patio?"

"In our properly decadent white terry robes?"

"Exactly."

"I love how your mind works... and the rest of you, too."

He pulled her up for a smiling kiss. "You make me feel young again, Joyce Anne Giles. I don't understand how, but you do."

"Well, you make me feel wonderfully sexy and desirable, which is no small thing to a forty-one year old mother."

"Only because you are wonderfully sexy and completely desirable."

"You keep this up and we'll never get any lunch."

"Yes, we shall." He rolled away from her and grabbed the bedside telephone. In a matter of seconds their food was on its way. He resumed his reclining position immediately, not wanting to break contact, even for a short time. After a comfortable silence, he sighed and said, "What would you like to do after we dine, love? Visit the beach, or take a tour?"

"Neither one. I had something else in mind."

"Oh, really? What might that be?" He grinned as he said the words, anticipating her answer.

"More training."

* * * * *

They did actually make it to the beach, although it was late in the afternoon. The majority of the tourist crowds had finished baking themselves thoroughly, and had retreated into the various hotels and restaurants to eat and slather themselves with aloe vera lotion. Joyce and Giles walked hand in hand, taking their time, immersing themselves in the tropical atmosphere. He couldn't remember when he'd been more at peace with himself.

A stifled giggle caused him to give his wife with a questioning look. "What?" He gave her hand a quick kiss, smiling at her happy expression.

"I was just thinking... I promised Buffy I'd make sure you got a tan while we were here."

"Ah. I've never seen the importance of increasing the melanin in the top layer of one's skin. It seems to be rather useless."

Joyce laughed aloud. "I think the importance is to prove you were actually here long enough to *get* a tan. Other than that, I agree with you."

"I see. Well, then, I shall try to 'get a tan,' for trophy purposes, if nothing else. That is, if my rather energetic bride will allow me to leave our hotel room long enough to do so."

"That's what I was giggling about. If you don't get a tan, it'll probably be my fault."

He pulled her against him for a firm hug. "I'm sure I'll be able to forgive you."

They stopped to watch the setting sun, and to her surprise, Giles pulled her down onto the sand beside him. She made herself comfortable against him, and they sat without talking as the sun slipped towards the glowing Pacific waters. She had never felt so perfectly content.

A few hundred yards down the beach, they could hear native drums and see the flicker of tiki torches being lit. She recalled something about a luau that had been scheduled for that evening, and she was beginning to get hungry again. Their schedule had gotten seriously disturbed during the past week, and she was ready to get back on track. She turned and looked at Giles, stopping to drink in the happy expression on his face before saying, "Hey, didn't the desk clerk say something about a luau? We have reservations--they came with the room. You wanna go eat, and watch the show?"

He gave her a quick kiss. "Lovely idea. Are we dressed appropriately?"

She looked down at her sundress, then at his khaki slacks and polo shirt. "I think we're presentable, if a little sandy around the edges."

He stood smoothly, offering her his hand. "No more so than the rest will be, after an evening on the beach." He pulled her into a hug, unwilling to relinquish their close contact, even for propriety's sake. "Let's go."

As they approached, they noticed people in native dress scurrying around the beach front, gathering and putting away small tables. Joyce commented, "We missed the native crafts display and the gathering of the fishing nets."

He gazed adoringly at her. "I haven't missed a thing, love."

When they arrived at the thatched pavilion, the native host was just beginning to announce the night's activities. He waved them in with a wide grin--more people meant more profit for the evening, so he was glad to see them--and began his narrative about the history of Hawaii and the tradition of the luau.

After the Imu ceremony--the uncovering of the roast pig that was the main course of the evening--the honeymooning couple settled back to enjoy the native food and marvel at the skill of the singers, musicians and dancers. The evening was highly entertaining, but Joyce watched her husband carefully for signs of boredom. She was afraid that the highly commercialized displays wouldn't interest him. She was wrong.

He turned a delighted smile towards her halfway through the meal, and she realized he was having a wonderful time. She kissed his cheek and squeezed his hand, thrilled that he was happy with her choice. "You look like a typical tourist, you know," she teased.

"Oh, I am. I've never studied Hawaiian history in depth. This is fascinating, even if it is a bit edited for general audience consumption. I think I shall find a library and read up a bit on the islands, while I'm here." His face shifted into a contrite expression, and he looked at Joyce apologetically. "Oh, dear, that would be inexcusably rude, wouldn't it?"

She laughed. "No, Rupert, I love libraries, and museums, and art galleries. I spend six days a week in a gallery, remember, and I wouldn't do that if I didn't like it." She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed. "Besides, anywhere you are is exciting for me."

He dropped his head, blushing slightly, but imminently pleased. "You are too kind, my love. I promise I won't bury myself in musty tomes the entire week."

"Don't worry, I won't let you." She tweaked his nose playfully. "But I won't be offended if we tour the local libraries while we're here. I knew you were a bookworm when I married you."

"And I knew you were an angel when I married you." He punctuated that pronouncement with a sweet kiss and a slight blush at his own boldness.

The emcee, watching the exchange with interest, came over to their table and struck up a conversation. Their loving manner intrigued him, and he was delighted to find out that they were newlyweds. They were immediately surrounded by waitresses in native costume, and were showered with kisses and fragrant leis. Giles' face was flaming red by the time they finished, but Joyce seemed pleased with the attention.

As the applause from the other guests died away, Joyce gave him a reassuring smile. "That's probably the worst of it, hon. That wasn't so bad, was it?"

"As embarrassments go, I suppose it wasn't. You rather enjoyed it, didn't you?" He gave her an adoring smile in return, and gave her cheek a slight caress before looking self conscious and dropping his hand.

"Yes, it's kind of nice to have a little attention now and then. Besides, we 'll probably never see these people again, so why be shy?" She pulled him in for a long, languid kiss, and he forgot all about where he was and responded with eager enthusiasm. As the crowd whispered and nudged each other, they continued to explore each other's mouths, and when they finally parted, she laughed softly. "Oooh, Mr. Giles, you are one great kisser."

"It takes two to do it properly, Mrs. Giles, and I have a talented partner."

They settled back to watch the climax of the show, the fire dancers, but the heat of the flaming batons was nothing compared to the fire in their hearts.

After an hour of dancing to the romantic strains of a native band, Giles held Joyce's hand as they strolled back towards their hotel, full and slightly drowsy. He was surprised to be sleepy, since he was accustomed to staying up into the wee hours of the morning. He noted Joyce's heavy lids as she leaned against him, and decided that sleep was definitely in the forecast tonight. It was just as well, since they'd planned to rise early and take a guided horseback ride through one of the volcanic craters that dotted the island. Joyce had seemed enthusiastic about riding again, and he found himself looking forward to it, as well.

She shivered and he curled his arm around her protectively. "Cold?"

"Not really. Excited. Happy. Giddy." She yawned widely.

He added, with good humor, "sleepy."

She laughed. "That, too. Much as I want to make love with you tonight, I think I'd doze off in the middle of it, no matter how great it was."

"Then we should sleep. We'll have to become accustomed to sleeping together, so let's just call it more "training" and leave it at that, shall we?" He kissed the side of her head gently.

"I love you. You are too good to be true."

"I love you, too. And I'm not perfect, by any stretch."

"You're perfect to me, and *for* me."

Gratitude welled up inside him at her words. How he got lucky enough to find a woman like her, he'd never know. He only knew he'd be thankful the rest of his life that he had.

* * * * *

Bright tropical sun and fluffy white clouds framed the scenery as they arrived at the riding stable. The ranch house at the base of the dormant Haleakala volcano, nestled into the lush scenery, was as pretty as a postcard. White wooden fences and well-kept paddocks lined the long curved driveway. Joyce had to keep reminding Giles to take pictures because he was too engrossed in examining every detail, from the exotically beautiful flowers to the outcroppings of volcanic rock that dotted the grounds.

Soon it was time to mount up and start the ride. They met their guide for the day, David Hiloa, who directed them to two shining palomino horses. They were obviously some of the wrangler's favorites, and he introduced them with great affection as Ipu Kula, which meant gold cup, and I'a 'ula'ula, which was translated as goldfish.

"You can call them I'a and Ipu, for short. They're very good horses, and they like people. If you really want to impress them, sneak them a few carrots from the lunch buffet, and they'll be your friends forever."

David patted Ipu's neck and helped Joyce into the saddle, checking her stirrup length before moving to Giles side. Giles mounted without assistance, feeling the familiar twinge of anticipation in the pit of his stomach as he gathered the reins. He missed riding, and was boyishly excited about the trip.

They were surprised to find only four other people riding along with them. David explained as they rode that they never took out more than six people at a time, in order to insure the pristine beauty of the national park was undisturbed. Giles commented, "That makes sense. Hawaiians seem to be much more aware of the value of their natural resources than Californians."

Joyce laughed derisively. "Why do you say that? Just because there's a water shortage there every summer from people watering their lawns and washing their cars?"

David laughed, then sobered slightly. "Well, another reason is the altitude. I don't want a dozen dizzy, sick people on my hands." He patted the cell phone on his belt. "That's why I carry this."

Giles favored him with another wry smile. "That also makes a great deal of sense."

The horseback ride through the mountains to the crater was breathtaking. They wound through lush tropical forest lands, then upward in a gentle spiral towards the magnificent peak. Waterfalls and hidden pools, tinted with blue, green, and amber from volcanic minerals and specialized algae, greeted them around every turn. The horses were well mannered and quiet, and there were several opportunities for photographs along the way. The ride was long, but the guide called for several walking breaks. Considering that neither Giles nor Joyce had ridden regularly in two decades, that was a good thing.

During one such break, Joyce suddenly turned to Giles and exclaimed, "I love this place! I love you! I even love my horse." She hugged Ipu's neck, then stopped and grabbed her husband for an off-balanced kiss.

"Um, David..." The guide was trying hard not to laugh at Giles' embarrassed face. "...I think my wife is becoming lightheaded from the altitude!"

Soon the lush jungle gave way to a rough, moon-like terrain, with squat, scraggly bushes and silversword plants the only vegetation. The silverswords grew in tight bunches, looking much like a terrestrial sea urchin against the black soil. They passed several scenic overlooks, marveling at the eroded lava flows and craters. The picnic lunch near the crater bowl was lovely, the scenery bizarre and unfamiliar, but had its own unique beauty.

On the ride back, they took the opportunity to chat further with their wrangler/guide. He and Giles had an intense conversation about island folklore and mythology, discussing everything from Pele, the goddess of fire, to the elflike Menehunes. Joyce found herself fascinated. The ancient belief in a volcano deity was understandable, considering the island people lived their lives completely at the mercy of nature and geology... and who wouldn't love an elf that finished your work for you while you slept? As they neared the ranch, David suggested that they visit the Kahului Library and read more about island history. Joyce could see that Giles was itching to do just that, so she agreed, with amusement in her voice, to visit the place that afternoon.

And so, instead of lounging on carefully maintained beaches, she found herself listening to her new husband as he read to her out of his beloved books. She curled beside him, content to hear his beautiful, accented voice as he shared tidbits of Hawaiian history and lore with her. His face was alight with discovery, as happy with the written descriptions as he had been with the actual sights of the night before. She could easily imagine sitting like this at home twenty, thirty, even forty years from now, too frail to experience exotic new things in the flesh, yet hearing his dear voice share the world with her. What a lovely picture that made!

A sudden insight came to her, like a flash of inspiration. Life with a man who loved reading would never be dull or uninteresting. He would always have something to share with her. When physical thrills waned and their bodies grew weaker and less virile, the thrill of discovery would never fade...

She realized he was looking at her with a quizzical expression. Ignoring decorum, she leaned over and brushed her lips against his. Seeing his surprised, yet pleased expression, she shrugged and smiled. "You have such a sexy voice. Is it my fault listening to you read turns me on?"

"It does?" He sounded surprised.

"Oh, yeah. Very much so." She trailed her fingers over his, brushing the binding of the book he was holding. "Unless you hit one of those Brit/American pronunciation things. Then I get the giggles."

"Really?" His smile grew wider. "Such as...?"

"Oh, you know. The obvious ones. Aluminum. Schedule. Banana. Those kind of words." She was grinning herself, now.

"Ah. So, if I were reading something... um, romantic, and I happened upon one of those words, you would dissolve into a fit of giggles?"

"Probably, although I can't imagine anything romantic having the word 'aluminum' in it."

He started chuckling quietly.

She ignored him, and continued thoughtfully, "now, 'schedule' could be worked into a romantic poem, but I'm not sure how."

"Joyce..."

"I don't quite know how to work 'banana' into a love sonnet, either..."

"Don't get me started laughing, love, or we'll likely get booted out."

She made a face at him, but relented. "Are you done reading, for now?"

"I think I am. Let's do some sightseeing.""Great idea. Then you can read to me some more."

"If it would amuse you." He smirked, holding out his hand and helping her to her feet.

"Depending on what you read, it just might." She squeezed his hand as they started for the door. The librarian watched them leave, smiling discreetly at their joined hands.

"Oooo, look at this, isn't it exquisite?" Joyce held up a delicately carved mother-of-pearl necklace for his inspection. Their afternoon of sightseeing had developed into a shopping spree as they roamed through the many booths and shops in the area.

He dutifully examined the piece, and nodded. "Hand carved, by the look of it. You fancy it?" He winked at her saucily, reminding her of their illicit activities nearly a year ago. He'd used similar words the night they'd been under the influence of the cursed band candy in Sunnydale. Her affirmative answer had prompted him to break a storefront window and steal the coat she so admired. She was pretty sure he wouldn't do that now, but she knew he'd purchase the necklace for her if she wanted it, no matter the price.

"Good thing the store's open, because I do 'fancy' it. It's gorgeous, and it looks pretty authentic."

"It was probably carved in New Jersey, but it does look rather tropical and festive." Giles reached for his wallet, smiling at the happy gleam in her eye. "I suppose it's just one more of those things you do to prove you were actually *in* Hawaii."

She laughed lightly. How could her daughter call this man stuffy? Not only was he handsome, he was delightful company. She guessed the children mistook his dry humor for disapproval. He always made her feel that she was in on the joke when he teased her. Or maybe, just maybe, she was in love, and that clouded her perspective a tiny bit.

The clerk, being the savvy salesperson she was, produced a tray of earrings for Joyce's examination, and shortly thereafter the couple walked away with a matched set. She determined to wear them to their formal dinner, and he agreed. They shopped the rest of the afternoon away, gathering an impressive amount of clothes and souvenirs before returning to the hotel to dress for dinner.

Just as they were leaving the room, the telephone rang. Giles grabbed it, instantly worried about Sunnydale and his surrogate family. Buffy's cheerful voice put him at ease, and he flashed a smile at Joyce. "Hello, Buffy. Is something wrong?"

"No, worry-wart. Mom said she'd call tonight, but she didn't say what time. We were going to go see a movie with Aunt Rose, and we didn't wanna miss your call, so..."

"So you thought you'd call first? That was fortunate. You caught us..."

"I did? Doing what?"

He frowned at the phone as his new step-daughter giggled wildly at her own joke. "...just leaving for dinner, you silly child. I'd best let you talk to your mother before I become all 'stuffy and Brit-like'."

"Giles, you seem to be adapting to real life. It's kinda scary."

"Thank you. Frightening you was always my ultimate goal. Here's your mother."

Joyce took the phone, removing an earring to do so. "Hey, sweetheart. What's going on?"

"Nothing much. Movie time with the girls. Where are you guys going tonight? Some nice romantic place?"

"I hope so," Joyce said without thinking, then giggled. "It's supposed to be more formal that the luau we had on the beach last night."

"You guys went to a luau? Sounds like you're having fun."

"We are. Maui is beautiful, just like in the brochures. And you'd love the shopping here. I bought some wonderful jewelry."

"Oooo, shopping! My favorite subject. Can't wait to see all the loot! Well, I don't wanna keep you from your dinner. Love you, Mom. Oh, let me talk to Giles again."

"Okay, I love you, kiddo. Bye." She handed the receiver back to Giles, who took it with a questioning look.

"Yes, did you need something else?"

"I just wanna make sure... are you relaxing? Really? No supernatural stuff, or research, or after-hours vamp hunting?"

He chuckled softly. "No, nothing like that. I promise."

"Okay. I just don't want you coming home tireder than you were when you left. Not for those reasons, anyway."

"Buffy..." His voice took on a familiar warning tone.

"I'm just being Concern Girl, here! Don't worry about us. Aunt Rose is a kick. She won't let anything happen to us."

"I'm glad of that, Buffy. Now, we have to go. We have reservations at eight."

"Okay. By the way, I love you, Pop."

He sighed at his newest nickname. At least she wasn't calling him G-man. "And I you, Buffy. Take care."

"You don't like me calling you 'Pop,' Giles?"

"It's... well, it's not my first choice, no."

"It's better than 'the guy who sleeps with my Mom,' isn't it?"

He tried to keep the smile out of his voice. "Good night, Buffy."

"Okay... 'night... Giles."

He hung up the phone, noticing the twinkle in Joyce's eye. She grinned as she commented, "it was your turn, wasn't it? She razzed me last time."

"Let's go quickly, before Xander decides to call."They eyed each other for a split second, then dashed for the door. Ten seconds after they left the room, the telephone began to ring again.

* * * * *

Dinner was wonderful, and it was after midnight when they started back to the hotel. The air was still warm, but there was a gentle breeze blowing from the ocean, and the streets were brightly lit with neon and street lamps. People were walking everywhere, even at that late hour. It reminded Joyce of LA at night--busy and bustling, never sleeping. Kihei was fairly small, but it was active.

Joyce took a deep, satisfied breath and snuggled into Giles' side. "Let's walk. It's a beautiful night."

He looked down at her high-heeled shoes in doubt. "Are you sure you wish to walk ten blocks in those shoes, love?"

She merely laughed. "I *work* in these shoes, Rupert, or shoes like them, eight hours, on my feet, six days a week. A twenty minute walk won't bother me."

"All right, if you insist, we'll walk. You Summers women and your shoes..."

"Don't tell me... Buffy works out in pumps and mules?"

"Ah, I'm not sure what they're called, but I can't imagine walking in them, much less fighting."

"First rule of femininity: Always Look Good In Action. The rest is easy."

He laughed, and she joined him. They had turned off the main thoroughfare and started down the block, not realizing they had ventured into a less-traveled area. They were too involved in pleasant conversation to notice that they were being followed.

Three figures detached themselves from the shadows and began approaching the oblivious couple, staggering their approach to minimize detection. The first two were still a dozen yards away when Giles' keen hearing picked up the sound of stealthy footfalls. He leaned his head towards Joyce and said in a low, intense voice, "We have company, love, and I doubt they're selling luau tickets."

She kept walking, but sucked in a frightened breath. This wasn't Sunnydale. They probably weren't vampires or demons, but that didn't mean they were harmless. She whispered the first thing that popped into her head. "Buffy will never let us live it down if we get mugged on our honeymoon."

"We'll have to make sure we don't, then." He turned his head slightly, getting a mental picture of where the intruders were by listening to the sounds they made as they grew nearer. She could almost see the change as the warrior inside took over. His face stilled into an impassive mask, and she felt him tense as his muscles prepared for battle.

Giles scanned the area for a defensible position. He needed to get Joyce out of the action, but there were no alleys or doorways within a safe distance. She wasn't exactly helpless, but he wanted her out of harm's way, in case things turned ugly. He spotted a collection of metal trash cans set against a storefront, and decided to head for them. They crossed the street casually as he hissed directions in her ear. "Get behind those dust bins, and make a lot of noise. Use the lids for protection if you have to. I'm going to try and keep them at bay until someone hears the commotion and calls the police."

"If this was LA, I'd say we're sunk, but I don't know how people are in Hawaii. You may still be on your own."

"I'll manage. You stay low."

"Rupert, please be careful. They may have guns."

The figures were now close enough for Giles to evaluate their size. Two large individuals, one smaller. They wore dark clothing, but he couldn't make out any further details. He checked his pockets automatically. He had only a handful of change and his wallet. Even a stake would've been welcome, but he'd forgone carrying one onto the plane. His hand closed around the change in his pocket, evaluating its weight for use as a weapon. It would have to do.

The first assailant reached Giles just as Joyce broke away and rounded the garbage cans. He followed her flight with his eyes briefly, but decided to concentrate on his intended victim. The first mistake was judging the pair at face value. They certainly looked like easy marks. He figured the guy probably carried most of the cash and keys, and since that was what he was after, he focused and snarled, "You know da drill, malahini! Pockets out and hands up!"

Joyce startled the would-be mugger by banging two metal lids together. She started beating on the wall of the building with them, and slammed them together so loud that her ears rang. He snarled at her, but she continued to batter away until one of the accomplices started towards her, intent on keeping her quiet. That was the second mistake.

Giles threw the first punch, taking the large man by surprise. His fist, closed around a handful of heavy change, connected solidly with the thug's jaw, and the man dropped like a stone. He shook his head and tried to rise, but was prevented from doing so by a healthy kick to the ribs. The third blow, a double-handed smash to the back of the head, sent robber number one to dreamland.

Giles dashed over to Joyce, getting between her and the second thug before he got close enough to grab her. He barreled into the man and continued into the side of the building, slamming his opponent against the wall with all his weight. The air left the man's lungs with a whoosh, and he went down, wheezing pathetically.

As Giles turned, the third man, who had stayed hidden until he saw things were going the wrong way, flashed a switchblade and grinned widely. He taunted, in a decidedly mainland accent, "Hey, old man, I got somethin' here gonna put you in your place!"

That was mistake number three.

Giles spun gracefully, disarming the man before he could blink with a snap kick that seemed to come from nowhere. Joyce watched, mesmerized, as Giles squared off with the now unarmed thug. The robber took a martial arts stance, trying to intimidate his victim. Instead of striking an opposing stance, Giles grinned, arms slack at his sides, and the grin was not pleasant. The expression was familiar. Joyce whistled low, and chuckled. Hello, Ripper.

A light came on in the apartment above the store, but the two men in the street were too intent on their contest to notice. Joyce gave a sigh of relief as she heard noises from upstairs. Just then, the out-of-breath robber struggled to his feet next to her. She squealed and slammed both metal lids against the sides of his head. He resumed his previous prone position without further resistance.

There was a rattle at the entrance behind Joyce, and a short, T-shirt clad man threw open the door of the shop, sporting a sawed-off shotgun and a wild-eyed expression. Joyce dropped the lids and threw up her hands, then pointed down at the unconscious bad guy next to her. The second man was still sprawled out, face down, under a street light. The third man was being pummeled into poi by her very ticked-off newlywed husband.

Joyce explained the situation to the armed shop owner, and the small native man watched the final few blows of the fight with great glee. Giles finished his attacker with a knee to the face, and dropped him next to his partner. He stood for a few seconds to be sure they were down for the count, then strode over to Joyce and enveloped her in a comforting hug. She murmured and fussed over his split lip, wiping his mouth with a Kleenex as he caught his breath.

The shop owner stepped over the third motionless figure, keeping his shotgun trained on him for safety's sake. He looked at the two harmless looking tourists with awe. He grinned widely and said, "Looks like those lolos picked on the wrong Haole tonight, buddy. I called the police, they'll be here soon."

Joyce looked at Giles questioningly, never doubting his ability to translate. "A lolo is an idiot, and I am a Haole - a white man."

"And, what am I?"

"You, my dearest, are my mea aloha wahine."

She smiled uncertainly as the native chuckled. He nodded towards Giles and translated, "he said you are his beloved wife."

She rewarded his words with a gentle kiss, mindful of his sore lip. She turned back to the shop keeper, who was watching them with great interest. "And how do I say, "My hero" in Hawaiian?"

The approaching wail of a siren was a welcome sound to their ears.

* * * * *

The Kihei police station wasn't an interesting place. To Giles, it looked much like any other police station in America... tile floors, well-used furniture, and a bevy of tired looking night-shift coppers trying to get stories from victims and perpetrators alike. Unfortunately, he was all too familiar with American police stations... and hospitals.

Joyce seemed intimidated by the idea that they would have to spend an hour 'downtown,' as she called it. They merely had to finish giving their statements, then they would be free to leave. She was looking forward to getting back to the peaceful, happy part of the honeymoon.

At the same time, she was unbelievably proud of Rupert. He not only handled the thugs quite handily, but his concise, calm statement had also gone a long way in speeding their departure. The detective in charge of robberies, a quiet, Chinese-looking man named Chang, expressed his admiration for Rupert's handling of the situation, but cautioned him against trying the heroics again. "We've had a recent influx of street gangs in the past year, but we've gotten them pretty well under control. You must have run into some stragglers."

"Just our luck," Giles commented. Joyce squeezed his hand sympathetically.

"Just stay away from deserted areas after dark. Lahaina and Kihei are full of tourists this time of year, and they can attract some unsavory types." The detective stood and shook both their hands in a friendly fashion. "And, a word of advice, Mr. Giles... those gangs carry guns. If you should end up in the wrong place at the wrong time again, I'd advise you to run, not fight. Let us take care of the bad guys, okay?"

Giles took the warning to heart. He knew he was no match for firearms, so he determined to keep to the main streets and take proper transportation from now on. They both breathed a sigh of relief as they exited the station and got into their waiting cab.

As they started towards the hotel, Joyce let out a breath and murmured, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have suggested walking. It was a stupid idea."

"Now, love, you had no way of knowing. The atmosphere here is wonderfully beguiling. It fooled me, as well. I never for one moment thought we would be in danger. I am as much to blame as you." He tightened his grip on her, glad that they'd survived without injury. Without major injury, anyway.

The cab deposited them directly in front of their hotel. They returned to their room quietly, the sobering memory of their interrupted evening finally taking effect. When they reached their room Giles began to remove his formal clothing. He had managed to remove his tie and jacket before Joyce suddenly turned and threw her arms around his neck, trying to stifle her tears. He responded instantly, and they held each other for a long time, fighting the fear and delayed shock that their brush with danger had caused. He murmured gentle, soothing words to her as she trembled against him.

Finally, she moved away, sniffing a little. She gave him a wry smile, and said, with a self-deprecating tone, "At least I waited until we got back here to fall apart."

"It's all right, love, you've been very brave. It's a relief to have it behind us."

He took off his vest and watched closely as she sat on the bed and removed one shoe, still shaking. Dropping the vest on the back of a chair, he moved over to her and knelt beside the bed right in front of her. She gave him a questioning look that dissolved into a sigh as he took her foot in his hands and removed the other shoe gently. He rubbed her feet, one at a time, and she surprised herself by moaning at the feeling. "I didn't know feet were an erogenous zone," she whispered, ruffling his hair gently, then cupping his face in her hands.

"Shall we experiment, then, and see if we might find a few more... unexpected zones of pleasure?" He slid his hands under her skirt, past her thighs and hips, until he reached the waistband of her pantyhose. With admirable dexterity, he slowly pulled the garment down, smiling as she raised her hips to accommodate their further removal. She briefly wondered just how he'd gotten so good at that... pantyhose were always such a pain to get rid of in intimate situations. He made it seem easy.

As he rolled the hose down her legs, he stopped several times to massage her thighs, calves and ankles, watching her closely as the tension began to slip away under his loving hands. When the stockings were completely off, he held out a hand to her, pulling her to her feet. Flutters of excitement danced in her stomach as he helped her remove the rest of her clothing, touching her gently at every opportunity. She returned the favor, unbuttoning his dress shirt and slacks, allowing them to fall to the floor without worrying about wrinkles and creases. The moment was far more important than laundry bills.

He was tall enough that she needed his help in removing the tight T-shirt he habitually wore, even in the warm island climate. She decided to suggest that he leave it off tomorrow, but right now... right now didn't seem to be the right time to discuss it. Soon they were embracing skin to skin, reveling in the contact.

Gentleness soon gave way to urgency. Not since the night of their uninhibited, magic-induced tryst atop a police car had they made love with such complete abandon. Each touch, each kiss was a reaffirmation of their commitment and an expression of relief and gratitude for being alive, safe, and together.

Joyce had never felt so complete in her life. She knew this man, his love, his devotion, but tonight she saw his heart and soul. They were reflected in his eyes as he gave himself to her and accepted the same gift from her. She couldn't help herself as she cried out his name over and over. Her mind had gone to a place of abandon that she'd been precious few times before, and her body felt more alive that she could ever remember. The fear and stress of their misadventure were gone, replaced by a feeling of closeness and excitement that was so intense it was nearly painful. It was more than great sex, it was great *love*.

The tsunami of release washed over them, and the walls reverberated with their ecstatic shouts. When Giles once again became aware of his surroundings, he found himself looking down at her flushed face. She was so beautiful, so completely his, as he was hers.

As Giles' heart rate began to return to its normal speed, he held Joyce tightly, his face buried in her soft hair, her heat an anchor to his enraptured mind. He realized he was babbling incoherently. 'I wonder if she thinks I've lost my mind.' He opened his mouth to ask her, but all that tumbled out was, "Oh, Joyce, oh, God..."

"Rupert..." she whispered his name and pressed her face against his neck. "That... that was incredible."

"Spectacular, my love, my life..." He began pressing soft, careful kisses to her neck, moving to her face and lips, punctuating each gesture with an endearment. She murmured gentle words in response, stroking his back and shoulders. They finally shifted their positions until she lay cradled against his side, his arm holding her in place, legs tangled together. They' d fallen into a habit of talking quietly after sex, at least until one of them fell asleep. It was an almost sacred time; private, relaxed, genuinely intimate.

She ran her fingers through the hair on his chest, smiling happily as she commented, "I've always heard danger was an aphrodisiac. I thought it was just an old cliché."

"Apparently not. I'm more inclined to forego all future encounters with ruffians and switchblades in future, though, and keep the following part intact."

"Oh, me, too. I am *not* a thrill-seeker. But, you have to admit, that was...wow."

He chuckled. "It *was* wow. You are wonderful. Loving you is quite marvelous, and can only get better as we go along."

It was her turn to giggle. "I don't think I could stand better. I barely survived this. I love you."

He kissed her forehead, resting his lips against her for a long moment. "I love you, Joycey." The words were muffled against her skin.

She giggled again. "You're the only person I've ever let call me that."

"Really? I'm honored."

"You should be. I'm a very particular person." She settled against him, feeling drowsy and warm. "And a tired one, even if I wasn't the one fighting bad guys all night."

"You held your own. I was incredibly proud of you, love. I almost laughed out loud when you coshed that wanker with the dust bin lids."

"It was pure instinct. I'm just glad it worked. You had enough to worry about."

"Well, we're not going to stroll down darkened streets at midnight again, I promise you."

"You won't get any argument from me." She sighed. "Mmmm...you are the best pillow..."

He held her until she fell completely asleep. He smiled and let himself join her, feeling happy and safe.

* * * * *

In a dark sedan parked just below the hotel, a man with a cell phone was waiting patiently. The phone rang, and the man answered it quietly. "Mano here."

"Did you find them?"

"Yeah, but they're already back in the room."

"Don't do anything tonight. It's too soon. Even the cops aren't that stupid... if we take them out now, they'll know who did it."

"So, I follow them tomorrow?"

"Right. Put a little pressure on. Maybe they'll leave early, and we can get back to business."

"Trust those stupid malahinis to camp right on top of our stash."

"Well, we'd already have our hands on it, if those stupid low-lifes you hired hadn't bungled the job."

"Who knew this guy was a fighter? He looks like a geek."

"Doesn't matter what he looks like. He's gotta go."

"Yeah. We only got 'til tomorrow night, and then we're screwed."

"I know. Later."

Mano disconnected the call and sat back to take a nap. Honeymooners usually weren't early risers.

* * * * *

Giles woke at just after six thirty am. He glanced groggily at the clock on the night stand before groaning and reaching for Joyce. His hand closed on empty sheets, and he sat up instantly, his heart thudding in his chest. "Joyce? Where are you?"

He was on his feet and searching the room when he heard a key turn in the lock. He sighed with relief as his missing wife entered laden with coffee and pastries. She caught the expression on his face immediately. "What's wrong?"

"I awakened alone. I didn't like it very much." He tried not to look too relieved.

"You were afraid something had happened to me? In the hotel? Without you hearing anything? Rupert, really." She put the food down and went to him, hugging him tightly. "You worry too much."

"Well, it's...it's in my job description to do so." He closed his eyes and relished the feeling of her in his arms. It had unnerved him to find her gone.

She shifted slightly, looking up at him. "Are you gonna eat, or not? I brought jellies."

He grinned in delight. "I knew you were brilliant when I married you, love."

* * * * *

Mano awoke to the sound of a car approaching. He swiveled his neck stiffly, muttering under his breath. His eyes widened as he realized that the people he was supposed to be watching were passing by him in a cab and rapidly getting away. It was brightly daylight, and he cursed as he tried to start his car and get it in gear. By the time he'd turned around and started his pursuit, they were completely out of sight.

He spent some time inventing new and interesting ways to torture his aggravating targets... when, and if, he ever caught up with them. An idea popped into his head, and he grinned as he re-parked the car. If the malahinis were gone, then nobody was in their room. He decided this was the perfect time to sneak in, grab the stash, and make a clean getaway. The boss would be impressed with his initiative.

He opened the glove compartment of the car and began going through his lock picks.

* * * * *

The hotel had arranged a tour of some of the outlying islands, and the flight took off at just after eight o'clock. Joyce had never been in a small plane before, and she had to keep apologizing for the nail prints in Giles' hand as they banked and swooped over the jade green flora below them. Their sea plane stopped at a small, sandy island, and they disembarked for a relaxing morning amid thatched arbors and native music. There were only about a dozen vacationers on their side of the island, and the lush jungle leaned around them from all sides, creating an intimate and decidedly romantic setting.

As they lounged in comfortable chairs in the shade of huge palm trees, Joyce decided that a swim was in order. They'd dressed appropriately, with bathing suits underneath their casual clothing, and there was a cabana nearby for changing clothes. After a little prodding, Giles agreed to join her, and they headed for the water, still a little self conscious about being that unclothed in public.

A few minutes in the warm, clear water made Giles forget about what other people thought. He was a fair swimmer, but hadn't had much practice since his college days. Joyce was delighted with the surf and the scenery, and soon had her husband laughing and splashing along with her. After a while they slogged up to the beach to rest, and Joyce spread their oversized beach blankets in a quiet corner of the beach.

Joyce decided this was a perfect opportunity to sunbathe. She introduced Giles to the joys of applying suntan lotion to one's lover, and he finally realized why a tan was so sought after. The feeling of her hands on his skin, lubricated by the warm lotion, was heavenly. He didn't even mind that he smelled like a coconut. He returned the favor with equal enthusiasm, and they lay side by side, talking happily, until lunch was announced.

* * * * *

Back at the hotel, a uniformed attendant was busy stripping the rooms, putting out fresh towels and making the beds with fresh sheets. When she reached room 203, she found the door unlocked. Being a practical woman, she had no intention of cleaning a room that had already been done. She shouted across the parking lot at the other girls, "Hey! You been in 203 already? The door's open!"

Before the other girls could reach her, she was roughly shoved aside by a man in dark clothing. He held the lapels of his coat up to hide his face as he knocked her to the ground and disappeared around the corner of the building. She didn't even have time to cry out. The other attendants froze in terror, then ran screaming for the manager.

When the shaken woman finally got to her feet, she eased the door open and looked inside the room. She gasped in disbelief at the sight that met her eyes.

* * * * *

"Rupert, this was perfect."

"Very much so, love. And the meal was excellent."

"The company was, too."

"Yes." He squeezed her hand as the plane began to land. "It was."

"Do you really want to go to dinner with the Sorensons? I won't be upset if you don't."

They had met an older couple on the island during the meal, and the conversation had drifted to artifacts and island history. Mr. Sorenson was Professor of History at the University of Hawaii, and the two men seemed to hit it off immediately. Mrs. Sorenson was pleasant and kind-faced, and the two couples had tentatively agreed to meet for the evening meal.

"I'm sure we'll have a lovely time. It's only for an hour or so. I think I can share you for that long."

She gave him a quick kiss and flinched as the plane touched down. Her relief was plain as they rolled to a stop.

"There, now, that wasn't so bad, was it?" He helped her out of her seat and gathered the bags containing their wet clothing. As they exited the tarmac, they were surprised to see Detective Chang waiting for them. Giles approached him with a concerned expression. "Hello, again, Detective. I'm not going to pretend I'm pleased to see you."

Chang grunted in amusement. "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Giles. I was hoping I wouldn't see you two again, either. Come this way, please, I have to talk to you."

* * * * *

Giles surveyed the mess in their room with a practiced eye, looking for tell-tale signs of demonic activity. He found none, and decided that this was a purely human venture. It was obvious the perpetrator had been looking for something. The mattresses were turned upside down and slit open, and every drawer was removed and emptied. Detective Chang told them the robber had been interrupted by the cleaning crew before he'd finished his mission.

Joyce looked at the mess in dismay. "It's gonna take me a little while to find out if anything is missing. I'll have to straighten up before I can be sure."

Giles picked up a shopping bag and peered into it. "Strange. They weren't interested in our recent purchases. These haven't been moved."

A theory was forming in Chang's mind, but he decided to keep it to himself until he could do more investigation. "Mr. Giles, it might be a good idea to move to another hotel. Two crimes in two days seems a little excessive, even for the tourist season."

Giles looked at him with a blank expression. "Surely this is a coincidence, detective. We've never been here before, and I hardly think we pose a threat to local criminals."

Chang smiled slightly. "Only if they accost you unexpectedly at night."

Joyce giggled, then sighed and flopped into a chair. "I guess we won't be going on that hike this afternoon. Shoot. I was looking forward to it."

Giles looked around and began picking up clothing and toiletries. "It shouldn't take that long to clean this lot up."

"Why don't you just move into the next room, then? It's unoccupied at the moment. Then you won't have to worry about replacing the bed. The hotel can do that after you gather your things." Chang gestured towards the adjoining door.

They agreed, and began packing.

* * * * *

Down the street, the thug known as Mano was watching the room through high-powered binoculars. He quickly dialed a number on his cell phone and spoke rapidly when the other party answered. "Hey, boss, the malahini's are moving out of the room. It worked."

"Good. Get someone in there ASAP. We've got less than twenty-four hours."

"Consider it done. We'll be in Cancun by the weekend, boss."

"You'll be in Cancun. I'm going to Europe. I've had it with sand and sunburn."

* * * * *

The hiking trail they took was obviously designed for tourists with little or no physical prowess. Giles strolled comfortably the entire way, relishing the chance to relax and unwind after the rather tense events of the past two days. He held Joyce's hand and talked about everyday things... closet space, storage for the books still in boxes at his apartment, Buffy's college... anything that popped into their minds. The scenery was beautiful.

There were streams everywhere, picturesque and inviting, and Joyce finally persuaded him to go wading in one of them. The water was surprisingly cool and refreshing, and they spent about a half hour dangling their feet in the water and admiring the abundant flora. They used their guide brochure to identify the plants and trees, and fell in love with the strawberry guava and paperbark trees that dotted the landscape.

Farther along the trail, they found several fantastic overlooks. Giles took quite a few pictures, including one he was rather proud of... a shot of Joyce gazing into the rolling rainforest with an enigmatic smile on her face. 'If that snap comes out as well I hope, I shall have it framed,' he thought to himself happily.

They picnicked at the end of the trail, climbed a lookout tower for more exquisite views, then made their way back, stopping at the Heritage Gardens on the way. They browsed for another hour, entertaining each other with their mutual love of botany. Joyce ordered several different kinds of plants to be delivered after they returned home, then they reluctantly started back to their rooms to change for dinner.

They had no idea they were still in danger.

* * * * *

After three hours of fruitless searching, a very frustrated criminal was back on the telephone with his mysterious boss. "It's Mano. There's nothing in that room, man. We did everything but pull out the tub, and the stash isn 't there!"

The man on the other end swore viciously and consulted his layout of the hotel. "We've searched every room in that section! The only place we haven't looked is..." He swore again. "Room 205."

Mano rolled his eyes heavenward. "That's the new room the malahinis moved into!"

The voice on the phone was cold. "Take 'em out. I'm tired of this game. If they're not history by midnight tomorrow, *you are.*"

* * * * *
"This is a nice place."

Giles looked around carefully. The restaurant was elegant, if a bit overdone. He suspected that it would be over-priced, as well. It reminded him of a thousand places he'd been, trying to impress someone or another. He smiled down at Joyce and nodded in agreement. No use sharing his disheartening thoughts with her.

Suddenly, she waved. The Sorensons waved back, and stood waiting for them. Giles sighed and escorted Joyce to the table. They exchanged polite greetings, and settled in to order their meals.

Karl Sorenson quickly gave his recommendations. "There are only three things worth the price in this place. The rest are a waste of time and money. They do an excellent swordfish, the New York strip is perfection, and they have an incredible recipe for Hawaiian chicken. Ironic, that."

Giles chuckled, and they all ended up with the fish.

After the meal, conversation drifted onto mythology, and they had a lively discussion about Pele and the belief that human sacrifices brought good luck. Joyce commented, "we certainly need our luck to turn around. We've had two brushes with bad guys since we've been here."

Giles related the story of their two mishaps, and Angela Sorenson looked shocked. "That's terrible! The island is usually relatively crime-free. I'm so sorry you aren't enjoying your visit."

"Oh, we're enjoying it..." She quirked a smile in Giles' direction, and he returned it with a grin and a blush. "...but it would be a lot more fun if people would stop trying to steal stuff from us."

"That seems awfully strange. You two are so quiet. It's not like you're going around flashing hundred dollar bills and smoking fat cigars!"

They all laughed at the image, and Giles shook his head in confusion. "It certainly seemed strange to Detective Chang. He seemed to be mulling things over when we talked last."

Karl leaned back decisively. "I know Harry Chang. He's a sharp one. He'll have it all figured out before long."

"I hope so. I don't relish a third encounter with the seedier side of Maui." Joyce's voice shook a little, and they all nodded in sympathy. They understood her fear.

The conversation moved to more pleasant topics, and they chatted companionably for the next half hour. At last, they rose from their table and started for the door. Karl insisted on treating the newlyweds, and after a brief protest, Giles finally agreed, accepting the gesture graciously. The four of them exited the restaurant, bidding their farewells, and exchanging invitations to visit each others homes.

Giles looked up as a car approached, its headlights flaring and obscuring its identity. He took it for their cab, and stepped up to the curb expectantly. Only his extremely well tuned reflexes kept them from being run over as the car swerved onto the sidewalk. He pulled Joyce with him as he jumped away, and they fell sprawling into the flower bed that surrounded the grounds. The car careened into the sign in front of the restaurant, flattening it to the ground, then sped away amid screeching tires and rubber smoke.

The shouts of bystanders registered vaguely as Giles rolled to his knees and helped Joyce to sit up. Karl's now familiar voice exclaimed, "Oh, my God, are you two all right?" as he and Angela ran up to them, horrified looks on their faces. Karl turned and asked the crowd of frightened diners, "Did anyone see the car? Get a license plate number?" The people murmured and shook their heads. It had happened too fast.

Kind hands helped the two battered mainlanders to their feet. Someone had called the police, and by the time they had brushed themselves off and made sure that there were no injuries, the familiar shape of a Maui squad car made its appearance.

Giles sat in a cordoned-off area of the restaurant and sipped a glass of water as he recounted the story to the uniformed man in front of him. He dropped his head wearily into his hands when he was finished, and told the officer, "this is the third statement we've had to give this week. I'm beginning to think someone doesn't want us in Maui."

Joyce moved to his side comfortingly. They heard someone enter the room, and looked up as Detective Chang came towards them. He nodded at the beleaguered couple, spoke briefly with the policeman who'd taken their statements, then came and sat across from them. "I probably don't have to tell you this, but it looks like your problems are more than just simple robbery attempts. Someone wants you out of the way, my friends. Do you have any ideas who that might be?"

Giles was bewildered. He had few human enemies, and most of them were either dead or members of the Watchers Council. The only exception was Ethan Rayne, and the straightforward approach was hardly his style. Ethan preferred to rely on subterfuge and magic to accomplish his purposes. Giles was at a loss to come up with a reason for an open attempt on his life. He had even less idea who might want to hurt Joyce.

They talked for a while, throwing ideas about, then Detective Chang stood, signaling that the session was over. Joyce sighed in relief. She wanted to run and hide, but she pushed that thought away. She didn't want Rupert to see her being childish.

They started for the door, and Giles stopped short, his head cocked to one side as something new had just occurred to him. "What if we aren't really the target, or at least, weren't at first? What if they're looking for something they think we have, or something in one of the rooms at the hotel..."

Chang smiled broadly and held up his hand. "You've read my mind, Mr. Giles. I'm going to send two uniforms back with you tonight. They'll help you search the room you're in and the one you just vacated. Maybe we'll find something, maybe we won't, but it won't hurt to have them stationed nearby the rest of the night, just in case."

Giles started to protest, but Joyce silenced him with a hand on his arm. "That sounds good to me, Rupert. I want to get to the bottom of this."

"All right." His shoulders slumped slightly. He really didn't want to share the rest of the evening with two police officers, but he knew he had little choice. It was either coppers or robbers... might as well take the lesser of two evils.

Detective Chang escorted them to the police cruiser, and waved as the officers drove them out of the parking lot. He turned the case over and over in his mind. Giles' theory had closely paralleled his own. He just hoped he could find out what they were looking for before the Gileses got hurt... or worse.

* * * * *

After over two hours of searching, the two policemen and the two honeymooners came up with a handful of change, two combs, assorted rubber bands and a souvenir wristwatch with a shark on its face. The cops had taken up their stations, one in the squad car parked across from their room, and the other in the empty room next door. There was an adjoining door between the two rooms, and Giles reluctantly agreed to keep it unlocked. It made him extremely nervous to do so, since he had never been overly impressed with the abilities of local police forces. If someone overpowered the officer, they would have easy access to the next room, as well as the element of surprise.

They undressed for bed, self-conscious for the first time since they'd arrived. Giles was tempted to put a chair under the unlocked doorknob. He would *not* feel comfortable being intimate knowing a stranger was only a few steps away. He knew from Joyce's expression that she felt the same. They sat on opposite corners of the bed for a few minutes, feeling miserable, then turned to one another and said, simultaneously, "this is ridiculous!"

They laughed at that, and it broke the tension in the room. Giles slid his feet under the covers and patted the bed beside him invitingly. "Come here, my dear, and let's get some sleep. We'll soon be rid of all this silly business, and then we can enjoy the rest of our stay."

She slid next to him obligingly, and sighed as he wrapped his arms around her. "When we've been married twenty years, we'll look back on this night and laugh our heads off."

He grunted in agreement and reached to turn of the bedside lamp. As they shifted together, finding a comfortable position, Giles noticed how the parking lot lights reflected off the curtains, making them glow around the edges. It was the last thought he had before descending into a warm cocoon of sleep.

* * * * *

A muffled thump woke Giles from a comfortable, deep slumber. He froze, his eyes darting back and forth in the darkness, searching for the source of the sound. When several moments passed and there was no further noise, he began to relax. His eyes passed over the window curtain, and he stiffened again.

There was no light reflecting from the parking lot. The room was completely dark.

He shifted, hoping to avoid waking Joyce, but the loss of his warmth against her side brought her to groggy awareness. "Rupert..."

He shushed her as quietly as he could, then pressed his lips to her ear. "The car park lights are out. I heard something, and it woke me. Don't move unless I tell you to, please, love?"

She nodded her agreement, her eyes wide with fear. Giles slid silently from the bed, keeping low. He crept over to the chair and reached in his pants pocket for his version of brass knuckles... a handful of change. Once he reached the window, he carefully pulled the curtain back. He could barely make out the police cruiser across the parking lot, and he couldn't tell if the officer was there or not. He decided not to take a chance that he was.

He eased back to the adjoining door, watching it carefully for signs of movement. He employed his idea of bracing a chair under the doorknob, moving in achingly slow increments in order to do it quietly. When the door was reinforced, he returned to the front and placed the same makeshift barricade in place. He allowed himself a sigh of partial relief, and edged back towards the window. The window was vulnerable. It needed to be protected. But how?

He knelt, pondering the problem, then a sudden thought struck him. Grinning to himself in the darkness, he padded over to Joyce and whispered something in her ear. She smiled with him, and they began laying a trap for their potential guests.

* * * * *

Mano almost laughed at how easy it had been to take out the uniform in the car outside. He'd strolled up to the clueless cop and asked him for a light. How stupid could cops be? When the cop handed his lighter through the half-open window, Mano had pulled him violently against the door frame of the car and knocked him out. He had unlocked the car door and shoved the unconscious man over, arranging him so he wouldn't be seen from the walkway or the street.

He figured there was another cop in the room with the malahinis, so he was glad he'd brought reinforcements. There were three good-sized thugs in his employ, all of them scrappy street fighters, although not in *his* league, by any means. He needed bodies, big ones, and he really didn't care if they got hurt or killed, as long as he got what he was after.

He gave his none-too-brilliant hired hands their instructions, and watched as they got into their positions. A carefully aimed air rifle pellet put out the safety light across from rooms 203 and 205, and it made very little noise doing so. Now the target area was immersed in a satisfying pool of blackness. It was time for "The Shark" to go to work!

Mano took one of the hired musclemen with him and approached room 203. First, they had to eliminate the second cop. Since he wasn't outside, he had to be in the room. He'd send the two morons into 203, while he and the other goon took on the malahinis. As soon as they took out the second cop, they'd come through the pass through door. He waved his two thugs to 203 and began working on the deadbolt lock. He didn't trust these ham-handed buffoons to do it silently. As soon as 203 was unlocked, he moved to 205 and repeated the exercise, taking half the time since the locks were all the same design.

He stood and squared his shoulders. The hired thugs were ready. He nodded, and they simultaneously kicked their respective doors in. The thug entered 205 first, and Mano followed closely, using the big man's body for a cover. It was perfectly executed, and sure to catch the occupants by surprise.

The surprise was his as his accomplice slipped on something and hit the ground like a ton of bricks. Mano kept his feet--barely--and lunged out of the way of the falling man. His feet encountered something that felt like pencils lying on the floor. In seconds, he joined his hired thug on the floor.

Someone on his left whacked him with something heavy. His head reverberated as he tried to make out his assailant in the darkness. By the swiftness and weight of the blows, he judged the attacker to be a man. He bit his tongue to keep from yelling "Ow!" every time the object connected. He decided to try to get to his feet. That wasn't wise, because the heavy square object caught him under the chin and sent him flying out the door and onto his back. His partner in crime flew out seconds after, and landed on top of Mano with a grunt.

They scrambled to a sitting position and stared at the open door. No lights, no sound, no movement. He was stunned. Here he was, a master of several martial arts, plus being a tough bastard as well, and he and his accomplice had been sent packing by a skinny malahini. He was furious. He lurched to his feet, snarling, and started for the door, pulling his favorite switchblade from his pocket as he approached.

The door slammed in his face and almost broke his nose. He dropped the knife, stopped biting his tongue and started cursing violently. He stepped back, blood streaming down his face, and it was then he spied the window. Glass. Large. Vulnerable!

Mano grinned and gave his burly accomplice quick instructions. The man grinned back. He liked crashing through things.

Mano stood back and watched as the thug executed a perfect shoulder block against the fragile glass. It broke easily, and the big man kicked and punched the rest in before grabbing the window frame and swinging his feet inside like an Olympic athlete on the uneven bars. Mano just had time to be impressed before he heard a tremendous crash and faint feminine laughter.

"Okay, ya wanna play rough, do ya?" he shouted at the room, not caring if he was heard. His other two guys had to be waiting in the next room, so he yelled, "We're goin' in, boys!" and kicked the door open, his lucky nickel-plated .45 automatic in his hand. He took careful aim and demanded, "Okay, everybody out, or I start shooting!" It wasn't the most eloquent thing he'd ever said, but it was all he could think of. His head was still pounding.

He saw a figure approaching with its hands held high, and he grinned triumphantly. His face fell when he recognized his break-in buddy, looking like he'd just jumped through a window and landed in something equally breakable. Shards of glass, bits of wood and some white, gooey substance clung to his hair, face, and clothes. He waved his upheld hands slightly and said, "It's me, boss, don't shoot me!"

"Where are the malahinis?" Mano was just about ready to shoot the guy anyway, just because he needed to vent a little.

The big man shrugged. "I never saw nobody. I fell on something, and I couldn 't get up right away. Man, it hurt, too!"

"It's gonna hurt a lot worse if we don't find our targets. Look around. Find out where they are."

They searched the room and came up empty. They noticed the pass through door, and decided to take a quick look. Their accomplices should have secured the room by now, but you never knew. These malahinis were tricky. Mano turned the knob slowly, finding it unlocked and motioned for his partner to get ready. The door flew open, and the lights came on suddenly, blinding them both momentarily. Mano watched as a big native policeman and the thug squared off.

There was no sign of his other two goons... they'd probably panicked and took off. He decided to let his buddy have some fun, and he leaned against the door frame, chuckling to himself, his handgun dangling at his side. He wasn't too worried... he was quick on the draw, just like in the old mainland westerns he used to watch.

Suddenly, Mano realized he no longer held the weapon. He looked down at his hand, blinking stupidly at the empty palm. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He spun. Then he saw stars. The carpet rose to meet him, and he kissed it thoroughly before passing out.

Joyce came out of the bathroom just as the cop finished his thug with a high kick. As Giles held the shiny nickeled .45 at Mano's head, just in case, the cop handcuffed his vanquished opponent and picked up his hand-held radio. He grinned as he called for another car to help him haul his bad guys to the station. Just as he finished his call, his partner, sporting a bloody temple and a sheepish look, appeared in the doorway, his weapon drawn warily. The second cop relaxed as he took in the scene. The first one started laughing, and said, "hey, partner, you really threw yourself into the part, didn't ya?"

The second policeman grinned. "Nobody told me there'd be stunt work involved, bruddah."

For the second time, Giles and Joyce found themselves in the police station with Detective Chang, but this time the mood was considerably lighter. Although they still didn't know why the thieves were after them, they felt relieved that the people that had been attacking them had been caught.

Chang sat back in his chair and sighed. "I have a pretty good idea what they were looking for, Mr. Giles... Probably drugs of some sort, and you two were in their way. Whatever it was, the stuff is gone. Someone probably found it and is sitting on the beach at Cancun right now. We may never know, but I still have a lot of work to do before I can close this case."

"What shall we do now? I doubt if we'd be comfortable going back to the hotel." Giles looked at Joyce, seeing her nod in agreement.

Chang pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Hmmm. Maybe we can arrange for you to stay in another hotel for the rest of the time. One with a little better security."

"That would be wonderful. Thank you." Giles smiled at Joyce reassuringly.

"By the way, Mr. Giles, what did you hit that Mano guy with? His face was covered with bruises."

Joyce started chuckling. She opened her purse and pulled out a sock full of change. "The first time, I was the one that hit him... with my purse. It had this in it, so it was pretty heavy. Rupert took care of the other man bare-handed." There was obvious hero-worship in her voice.

"Well, I did have a hand full of coins for added weight. Then I used the sock to knock that fellow out while he was standing in the doorway between rooms." Giles finished modestly. "I don't think I'll ever travel again without an abundance of pocket change. Quite an effective weapon." He paused, regret flashing across his face. "I'm afraid the other man damaged several items in our room when he crashed through the window."

"We pushed the table right up to the window, and I smeared the table top with night cream. Slickest stuff on earth. He slid right into the night stand... broke the lamp, too." Joyce barely kept from giggling.

Giles gave his wife an admiring glance. "It was also her idea to put her makeup pencils in front of the door. I had no idea she owned so many!"

Joyce managed to look indignant. "Being beautiful is hard work."

"You make it look easy, my love."

She flashed him a flattered smile. "Mmmm. You're so sweet."

Chang watched them with great amusement. They really were a cute couple.

"Will that be all, Detective?" At Chang's nod, Giles rose to his feet and held out his hand to Joyce. She accepted it gratefully and stood, giving him a heated look that would've melted titanium. Giles almost forgot that the Detective was in the room, then said, in a preoccupied voice, "Um, then, ah, if you're finished with us, I think we need to find another room, and get some rest."

Detective Chang was a pretty sharp guy. He had a sneaking suspicion that 'rest' wasn't in the forecast for the couple in front of him, so he didn't waste any more time. He sent them back in a squad car to pack, and had a reservation waiting for them by the time they finished. He called the Gileses and told them the name of the hotel, and as he hung up the phone, he remarked to one of the cops that had helped them, "I bet they'll never forget *this* honeymoon, bruddah."

* * * * *

It was nearly dawn by the time they finished checking into the new hotel. Giles was impressed with Detective Chang's selection. Valet parking, uniformed doorman, supercilious concierge, and a room with a devastatingly beautiful view... this place had it all. He shuddered to think what the cost would be. Whatever the cost, his lovely bride deserved to enjoy their remaining two days in peace and quiet, and he was going to see to it that she did so. She was worth any added expense he might encounter.

After the bellhop left with sizable tip in his hand, they examined the room, finding several amenities that had not been available at the other hotel. Joyce's eyes lit up with excitement as she saw the huge whirlpool tub. "Oh, Rupert... I have a feeling we're gonna like this place."

"It is quite elegant. We should call and thank Mr. Chang for finding this place for us."

"Later." She pulled him towards the king size bed and gave him a searing kiss. "Much later."

"You don't want to unpack?"

She made it clear that she didn't, and he stopped asking silly questions.

Sometime later that day, Giles realized they needed to call home and give Buffy their new location. Joyce agreed, and the telephone was soon ringing at the Summers-Giles residence.

A breathless voice answered, "Heh-heh-hello..."

Giles was instantly alarmed. "Buffy? Is that you? What's wrong?"

"Nuh... huh... hang on..." He heard the sound of Irish music in the background. Puzzlement was plain on his face, and Joyce began to worry, herself, at his expression..

"What's going on, Rupert? What's that noise?" She could hear faint sounds coming from the receiver.

"It sounds Celtic... yes, hello, Buffy? Are you all right? What on earth is going on?"

Buffy started laughing. "We're step dancing, Giles, don't have a cow. Willow was just out of breath."

"Step dancing? Irish step dancing?" Giles looked at Joyce. Joyce looked stunned.

"Yeah, Aunt Rose is teaching the whole gang. You oughta see her, Giles, she' s like Riverdance! Xander's getting pretty good at it."

"Ah. Well, Buffy, we've changed hotels... let me give you the name and number..."

"Okay, just a minute, I have to go find a pen." She put the telephone down, and Giles could hear Aunt Rose's strong voice clearly.

"Well done, Alexander! You have the most limber ankles. Willow, dear, you might try the more traditional steps, like this... one, two, three, four... see how easy that is? Angel, come here, let's show them how it's done!"

He shook his head in bewilderment. An eighty-year-old woman, step dancing. With a vampire. An amazing person, that Aunt Rose.

"I'm back, Giles. How's mom? You guys getting any sleep?"

He was sure she didn't expect an answer to the second question. "She's fine. Take this down, and I'll let you speak with her." He rattled off the name and phone number of their new hotel, then handed the phone to Joyce.

"Buffy, honey? How are things going? You sound like you're having a good time with Aunt Rose."

"She's the greatest, Mom! You wouldn't believe... oh, hey, I gotta go. It's time for the big finish. Talk to ya later, 'kay, Mom? Love you! And Giles! Bye!"

Joyce stared at the phone for a moment, then hung it up gently. Giles began to grin at the absurdity of their conversation. "She seems to be fine, doesn 't she?" he commented.

Joyce slid behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. She nuzzled his neck lovingly, and murmured, "She is. And so are we."

His eyes began to lose focus, so he closed them. She was trailing kisses and nips behind his ear, down his hairline and up to the other ear. Her hands brushed across his chest, ruffling the hair and raising goosebumps. Shakily, he asked, "we are... what, my love?"

"Fine." She moved her attentions lower, and was rewarded with his low moan.

"Ahhhh, more than fine, Joycey... wonderful."

"Rupert?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Have you ever made love in a hot tub?"

Read the next chapter: Home Sweet Home